Monday, October 04, 2010

Simply Amazing, 2010 NL West Edition

Bruce Bochy was right; following the 2010 Giants was often times torture. But the pay-off today was so sweet - finally back in the playoffs, after seven long years of baseball irrelevance.

I think most Giants fans would agree, that while the Barry Bonds teams were special and full of great characters, this newest incarnation of the Giants is one which we find very easy to root for, as a collection of homegrown talent and gritty, "glue" players came together in real unity to put together a fantastic regular season of baseball.

Some of my thoughts on this team...

Best Offseason Acquisition/Best Hitter: Aubrey Huff
Signed to a now-absurd, 1-year $3 million deal, Huff kept the clubhouse loose all season with his youthful exuberance and penchant for immature hijinks. His presence and personality kept the guys from getting too tight when the torturous year seemed longest and toughest.

I had my doubts when I saw a spring training feature about his tattoos of the Autobots and Decepticons logo on his back shoulders, but man, Huff came through all year long and was easily our most consistent hitter. I used to follow this guy back when he was coming up with Tampa Bay because I liked his sweet lefty swing, but thought he was pretty much washed up after last season. Boy, was I wrong.

Huff played 157 games splitting time between LF, RF and 1B - without complaint - and hit .290/.383/.508 (including a ridiculous .315/.408/.540 mark on the road and .294/.373/.506 against lefty pitching), scoring 100 runs and putting up a stellar 80:88 BB:K ratio.

For shits and giggles, he led the team in batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, runs, home runs, RBIs, walks and funny quotes to beat writers. He freaking stole seven bases without being caught!

**Buster Posey and Freddy Sanchez had higher batting averages, but did not amass enough plate appearances to qualify for the batting crown.

Aubrey Huff, by every measure, was our most important offseason acquisition and best hitter.

Best In-Season Acquisition: Pat Burrell
Now this guy, I thought for sure, was done for after hitting .202/.292/.333 for Tampa Bay after hitting .221/.315/.367 in 2009.

I guess there's nothing quite like coming back home.

Signed off his couch by the team he rooted for while growing up in the Bay Area, Aubrey Huff's former college teammate injected an important veteran presence into the clubhouse, helping keep the guys loose while being able to draw upon his postseason experience (check out this World Series ring, guys!) and combining with Huff to add some much needed plate discipline to a middle-of-the-order that had been severely lacking in patience.

He also hit .262/.361/.507 in 333 plate appearances, including 12 home runs in August and September that were some of the biggest hits the Giants received all season.

Best Pitcher: Matt Cain
Believe it or not, the longest tenured Giant, baby-faced Matt Cain. I remember sitting in the parking lot of Donnelly Park (Turlock, CA) with my buddy Zacky Farms in September of 2005, listening to Jon Miller call the game on the radio near the end of a long and meaningless season, but with hope growing in our hearts as we listened to the young phenom Cain shut down the Cubs in a scintillating two-hit complete game effort.

Fast forward to 2010, and with his more heralded teammate Tim Lincecum experiencing a slight downturn in performance, Cain stepped into the role of staff ace, leading the Giants during a 14-start stretch (up to his meltdown on Friday night) when the G-Men went 12-2 and made up precious ground against the hated Padres.

During all those years of miserable run support (he went 7-16 in 2007 despite a 3.65 ERA and 1.26 WHIP in 200 innings and 8-14 in 2008 despite a 3.76 ERA and 1.35 WHIP in 217.2 innings) Cain never pouted and always took the ball without complaint, setting a great example for a pitching staff that finally fulfilled the exorbitant expectations placed on them this year. More than any other player, this run is for Matt Cain.

"The Glue" - Position Players: Juan Uribe
He was extended more than he should have been, filling in at various points for Edgar Renteria, Pablo Sandoval and Freddy Sanchez, playing acceptable defense at three positions and accumulating more at bats than he had since 2002.

While his rate stats didn't stand up to last year's outstanding performance, he carried the team for stretches during the early run, was always out there when we needed him, and hit a lion's share of important home runs to lead this team to victory. Sabermetric statistics can't account for actual real life events, like Uribe home runs that gave us the lead in wins we could not have spared.

I'll never enjoy "jazz hands" more than when Uribe knocked one out of the park.

"The Glue" - Pitchers: Brian Wilson
Wilson improved his performance in every way in 2010, setting a career high (and tying Rod Beck's club record) with 48 saves, putting up a 1.81 ERA and establishing the tone for a bullpen that was essential to our winning ways, and record-setting performance in September.

He led the majors with 10 saves of more than one inning. Never refused the ball, no matter how often he'd pitched in the days leading up to the game.

Best playoff beard ever.

Most Inspirational: Andres Torres
From just trying to make the team out of spring training to taking over as our everyday center fielder and lead-off hitter while putting up a completely unexpected .268/.342/.480 line in 559 plate appearances, Torres came out of nowhere and proved that hard work and perseverance count for much in this world.

He played excellent defense at all three outfield positions, but most importantly, provided Bruce Bochy with a realistic option that allowed for the benching of Aaron Rowand.

He came back from an appendectomy in ten days. He won the Willie Mac Award.

Most Valuable Player: Buster Posey
...And a child shall lead them.

I can't wait for Thursday.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

King Felix

The grueling six-month MLB regular season ends on Sunday, and the only thing I'll bother writing about - because it's occupied much time on my brain of late - is Felix "El Rey" Hernandez, and the merits of his claim to the 2010 American League Cy Young Award.

If you don't fanatically love baseball, you'll probably want to skip this one.

For those of you who don't know (or more likely, don't care) I've been running a 12-team six-keeper fantasy baseball league, known affectionately as the KNIFE PRTY (points only, bitches - I say fuck rotisserie and head-to-head) for something like 11 years, and I also happen to be a huge, die-hard, obsessed and psychopathic San Francisco Giants fan.

Last year, my team's pitching staff boasted both Tim Lincecum, one of my favorite players and the reigning two-time National League Cy Young Award winner, and Felix Hernandez, whom I've paid close attention to since he debuted as a baby-faced 19 year old in 2005. Sadly, due to roster restrictions, I could only keep one of the two starting pitchers (what, I'm going to let Hanley Ramirez and Ryan Howard go?) and I made the gut-wrenching decision to... put Lincecum back in the free agent pool and keep Hernandez. I won't go into the soul-torturing decision-making process, but let's just say, I've had no regrets.

I've also closely followed the career of one Carsten Charles Sabathia, who used to be one of favorite players before he became a soulless mercenary for the New York Yankees, because he's around my age and grew up near me in NorCal (¡209!) and I remember hearing of his exploits back when I was a baby-faced high school student. Legend has it he buzzed one of my buddies in the face when facing each other in a regional game, and as a left-handed batter facing a 6'7" and 300 pound teenager throwing 99-mph darts, with much less control than he has now... well, that's the type of story you don't forget.

Believe it or not, I've also closely followed the career of David Price, not just because I'm a baseball nerd, but because I had the pleasure of interviewing him back in 2005, when he was entering his junior year at Vanderbilt and touring with the amateur Team USA squad in New England, at the same time I was producing a documentary series, with my buddy P.J. Moynihan, about amateur baseball up in New Hampshire. He was a nice dude, and I'm glad to see he's doing so well in the big leagues.

C.C. Sabathia and David Price happen to be Felix's main competition for the AL Cy Young this year. These are some relevant statistics for all three:

Felix Hernandez
34 Starts, 6 Complete Games, 1 Shutout
249.2 Innings, 194 Hits, 80 Runs, 63 Earned Runs
17 HRs Allowed, 70 Walks, 232 Strikeouts
13 Wins, 12 Losses
2.27 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, 70.5 VORP, 6.1 WAR

C.C. Sabathia
34 Starts, 2 Complete Games, 0 Shutout
237.2 Innings, 209 Hits, 92 Runs, 84 Earned Runs
20 HRs Allowed, 74 Walks, 197 Strikeouts
21 Wins, 7 Losses
3.18 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 51.6 VORP, 5.5 WAR

David Price
31 Starts, 2 Complete Games, 1 Shutout
207.2 Innings, 170 Hits, 71 Runs, 63 Earned Runs
15 HRs Allowed, 79 Walks, 187 Strikeouts
19 Wins, 6 Losses
2.73 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 54.5 VORP, 5.3 WAR

**VORP is a Baseball Prospectus created statistic that stands for VALUE OVER REPLACEMENT PLAYER and is a run-based figure that assigns a numerical positive- or negative- value for players compared to a hypothetical, AAA-level player available to all teams.

WAR is similar to VORP, but uses Wins instead of Runs as the net positive- or negative- value assigned to a player.

Looking at those metrics, Felix has a sizable advantage over Sabathia and Price in every one, except Wins and Losses.

Let's also make note of this... with three days of games left in the regular season:

Seattle Mariners have scored 507 runs (Last in AL and lowest figure in over 40 years)
New York Yankees have scored 843 runs (1st in AL)
Tampa Bay Rays have scored 795 runs (3rd in AL)

Hernandez has received 3.5 runs of support per game, Sabathia has received 6.6 runs of support per game and Price has received 5.3 runs of support per game.

Now, does anyone wonder why Hernandez has a mediocre 13-12 record?

I'll just say, I discount Price from this race early on because he's made fewer starts and has pitched 42+ and 30 less innings than Hernandez and Sabathia. While Price has had a wonderful season, that's a huge innings disparity that his peripheral stats can't make up for in the Cy Young conversation.

Hernandez went 3-0 with a 0.35 ERA against the Yankees, the highest scoring team in baseball, while Sabathia went 3-0 with a 0.86 ERA against the Mariners, the worst offensive team to take field since my parents were children.

Hernandez went 5-1 with a 0.63 ERA against the AL East, a division that boasted the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 6th highest scoring teams in the AL, while Sabathia went 8-3 with a 3.41 ERA against the same division, boosted by a 5-1 mark against the Orioles, whom he made 6 starts.

12 of Sabathia's 21 wins came against the Mariners, Orioles, Athletics and Orioles who rank 14th, 13th, 11th and 9th in runs scored.

7 of Hernandez's 13 wins came against the Yankees, Red Sox, Rangers and Twins who rank 1st, 2nd, 4th and 5th in runs scored.

People want to give Sabathia extra credit for pitching his team through the rigors of a pennant race, but what about the pressure of pitching for a team that scored two or fewer runs in 15 of 34 starts? The Mariners scored 0 runs in 7 of Hernandez's last 12 starts.

By every measure known to man, Felix Hernandez has been the best pitcher in the American League. I don't write this to denigrate either Sabathia or Price, who've both had fantastic years and will have the pleasure of pitching for their teams in the postseason while chasing a World Series title... but there is no doubt in my mind that no one has pitched better than Felix Hernandez during the 2010 regular season, and only an adherence to outdated modes of thinking will result in anyone but El Rey winning the American League Cy Young Award.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Greenwald Says It Best

Link here.
One can express all sorts of outrage over the Obama administration's depressingly predictable defense of the Israelis, even at the cost of isolating ourselves from the rest of the world, but ultimately, on some level, wouldn't it have been even more indefensible -- or at least oozingly hypocritical -- if the U.S. had condemned Israel? After all, what did Israel do in this case that the U.S. hasn't routinely done and continues to do? As even our own military officials acknowledge, we're slaughtering an "amazing number" of innocent people at checkpoints in Afghanistan. We're routinely killing civilians in all sorts of imaginative ways in countless countries, including with drone strikes which a U.N. official just concluded are illegal. We're even targeting our own citizens for due-process-free assassination. We've been arming Israel and feeding them billions of dollars in aid and protecting them diplomatically as they (and we) have been doing things like this for decades. What's the Obama administration supposed to say about what Israel did: we condemn the killing of unarmed civilians? We decry these violations of international law? Even by typical standards of government hypocrisy, who in the U.S. Government could possibly say any of that with a straight face?

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Happy 4/20

And linked here, the true story of how 420 came into its current connotation.

Of course it happened in Northern California.

R.I.P. Guru

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Blush

"I want to serve you well and true the way some very dull people want to serve their country and even sadder people want to serve their God. But sometimes are very happy at it. You're a very small god with a face that breaks my heart."

Ernest Hemingway

Friday, December 04, 2009

Winter Thoughts

There is a science to all things
a method that strips clean
desires that breed dreams
and innocuous fiends.


I have a vision that frees me
escaping this prism
that has trapped light, thought
and my imagination.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

The Days Shift into December

Another year nears its close, as 2009 has mere weeks left before its expiration date. Fewer and fewer things are left to look forward to during this calendar year, which sounds depressing on the surface, but hey, there are only 28 days left. What could you possibly cram into that amount of time?

Well, there's this new project I'm working on, which is only supposed to last 10-12 weeks. Pre-production can be a real bitch, and I hear December ain't the friendliest broad in the world. Real cold.

A possible weekend trip to Atlantic City with a couple of friends.

There's Christmas, and my first trip back to California since March. A weekend getaway to Los Angeles, to see old friends and party like a man who needs desperately to party like a rock star for a weekend. I'm counting on Sang to deliver the goods, at least for one night. It'll also be good to recoup with my family for a week and do as close to nothing as possible. Looking forward to grubbing on Mama Kim's food.

Then there's New Year's Eve. I will be in New York this year, which is a mixed bag. There's the inevitable pressure of finding something "cool" and "fun" to do, without getting sucked into the "too cool" vibe of the many, many, many open bar parties happening around town.

"Help me find the price of humility."

Mostly, I can't wait for this year to end. It's been a long one. I have big plans for 2010. It's going to be a great year.

I want to be a tourist. I want to be a stranger.

Monday, November 23, 2009

To This City

You were born in a time of giving thanks
a spring baby it seems
So appropriate
because from you springs forth dreams
The dreams of your family
your own dreams of aspiration
they gather in your heart and yearn
for destiny

Where bright lights glisten
Where love beckons
Where trees sway in the wind
A place called Brooklyn.

And I hope you realize
I think of you daily
It's different worlds we live in
but love like this is rare
I keep track of all the buskers
and street musicians
(I know)
you're going to make an amazing movie someday

Your dreams beckon
For I know your heart
Belongs to this city
Where we first met.

Where the summer treated us
like newfound children
Celebrating the start of something
neither had expected
And I retrace the steps
we drew with our footprints
These daily interactions
with the 'hood that you left

The wind still carries your scent
Or so I imagine
And I dream
Of when I can hold you again.

The bright lights glisten
and love beckons.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Clipse - Popular Demand



The boys are back.

Big ups to Tuna for the link.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Cataclysm

The luckiest man in the world has no idea
What it's like to be in my position
I've had my share of tragic visions
My share of tragic stories and bad collisions
This life bears the fury of my decisions
With the winds blowing through this conjuration
Casting shadows in all directions
What a cataclysm...

What a motherfucking cataclysm!

I could hope against hope and try to limit
Spilling my blood in admiration
Of the feats of heroes and drastic villains
Deciphering dreams like a fortune teller
Am I a gypsy or a mathematician?
Counting stars in the sky while I lose my vision
You'd think I was trying to earn commission
For every lost scenario and dead ambition

What a cataclysm...
What a motherfucking cataclysm
What a goddamn turn of events
What a cataclysm...
What a motherfucking cataclysm
What a goddamn cataclysm

Am I a dope fiend or a drug addiction?
Finding comfort while reeling through a bad transition
We've had our mysteries and our shared condition
But the beauty lies deep in this tradition
Of sharing dumb stories and dumber bitching
I feel myself coming down, my brain it thickens
My veins harden up and I feel a kicking
Within my stomach and my small intestine

What a cataclysm...
What a motherfucking cataclysm
What a goddamn turn of events
What a cataclysm...
What a motherfucking cataclysm
What a goddamn cataclysm

I am a mystery to myself and in ways a burden
Uncontrollable at times and weak in spirit
I wish this mirror did more than reflect
The confusion in these eyes are hidden
Help me help myself in situations
When I lack direction and supervision
A grown man playing host to conversations
Swirling in my brain without cohesion

What a cataclysm.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Thursday, May 14, 2009

White New York

Jayson Werth: Professional Thief



Jayson Werth is a stud, no question, but this is one more reason why Russell Martin gets no respect from me. The guy's stolen three bases off you, and you don't even pay attention to him?

Go Giants!

Fuck the Dodgers and their serious lack of discipline.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Monday, May 11, 2009

Steroids

You give me the opportunity to earn $22 million a year by taking steroids, I’ll shoot the pharmacist if I have to. I’m not saying it’s right. I’m not saying I shouldn’t be punished for shooting the pharmacist. I am saying it is self-righteous to pretend that I don’t have the same human failings that these guys do, and further, if you are insisting that you don’t have them, I don’t believe you.

Bill James

Thursday, May 07, 2009

What a Joke

Source.:
President Obama on Thursday offered a more detailed look at his 2010 budget proposal, which includes recommendations to cut funding for 121 federal programs and save $17 billion in 2010.

"There is a lot of money being spent inefficiently, ineffectively, and -- in some cases -- in ways that are actually pretty stunning," Obama said.

The $17 billion in savings amounts to roughly 0.5% of the more than $3.5 trillion in spending approved for next year, or 1.2% of the projected $1.4 trillion deficit next year if the president's overall budget is adopted.

Obama said it nevertheless is real money -- even by Washington standards.

"To put this in perspective, this is more than enough savings to pay for a $2,500 tuition tax credit for millions of students as well as a larger Pell Grant -- with enough money left over to pay for everything we do to protect the National Parks," he said.

Our president loses more and more credibility by the day. Take a look at the chart that accompanies this article:


The government will take $426 billion from the people in the name of individual income taxes, while $290 billion goes to TARP legislation (a.k.a. Troubled Asset Relief Program, a.k.a. give the banks your hard-earned income)and $317 billion goes to national defense (a.k.a. stimulate the economy by making defense contractors very very rich). Oh, and what the fuck does "Other" mean, and why does it account for $546 billion (a.k.a. more than 25% of the overall projected spending)?

I know it's been two months since I last posted - who knows if anyone still comes by. But I think I'll start up again.

Monday, March 09, 2009

It's About Time

Source:
Secularism is gaining ground in the United States, eating away at the percentage of Americans who identify with the Protestant Christianity of the founding fathers, a poll published Monday showed.

The percentage of Americans who adhered to no particular religion jumped from 8.2 percent in 1990 to 15 percent last year, the third American Religious Identification Survey (ARIS) conducted over 10 months last year by pollsters from Trinity College in Connecticut, showed.

When the survey was conducted in 2001, 14.1 percent of respondents said they were not religious.

"Americans are slowly becoming less Christian... The challenge to Christianity does not come from other world religions or new religious movements, but rather from a rejection of all organized religions," said a report of last year's survey, in which 54,461 people took part.

The percentage of Christians in the United States declined slightly between 2001 and 2008 from 76.7 percent to 76 percent, after seeing a precipitous fall since 1990, when 86.2 percent said they were Christian.

Welcome to the world of rationality.

It's about time more people realized that organized religion only encourages divisiveness and intolerance while keeping us from uniting around the things we share and have in common.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Hello Snow


Props to the AP photog who shot this.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Karl Rove: One Fat Straw Man

From today's Greenwald column:
In 2005, the dignified statesman who disdains straw men because they "cheapen" rather than "enrich" the "dialogue of our age" said this:
Liberals saw the savagery of the 9/11 attacks and wanted to prepare indictments and offer therapy and understanding for our attackers.
There, Rove was respectfully and substantively critiquing the widespread belief among liberals that the way to address the threat from Al-Qaeda was to offer them complimentary therapy sessions so that they could explore their anger issues. If I recall correctly, providing free psychologists to Osama bin Laden and his followers was one of the central planks in the Democratic Party platform, so Rove had not only the right, but the responsibility, to critique that widely held position.

As for Rove's claim that Obama was invoking a blatant "straw man" when Obama decried "a philosophy that says every problem can be solved if only government would step out of the way; that if government were just dismantled, divvied up into tax breaks, and handed out to the wealthiest among us, it would somehow benefit us all": someone should tell Rove about this person called "Grover Norquist" -- unquestionably one of the most influential movement conservatives in the last two decades -- who famously said: "I don't want to abolish government. I simply want to reduce it to the size where I can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub."

Based on this one column alone, any decent society that had even the most minimal standards of honesty and dignity for its political discourse would forever shun Karl Rove.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Gideon Levy On Israel's Next Prime Minister

Source, and quoted in full:
Benjamin Netanyahu will apparently be Israel's next prime minister. There is, however, something encouraging about that fact. Netanyahu's election will free Israel from the burden of deception: If he can establish a right-wing government, the veil will be lifted and the nation's true face revealed to its citizens and the rest of the world, including Arab countries. Together with the world, we will see which direction we are facing and who we really are. The masquerade that has gone on for several years will finally come to an end.

Netanyahu's election is likely to bring the curtain down on the great fraud - the best show in town - the lie of "negotiations" and the injustice of the "peace process." Israel consistently claimed these acts proved the nation was focused on peace and the end of the occupation. All the while, it did everything it could to further entrench the occupation and distance any chance of a potential agreement.

For 16 years, we have been enamored with the peace process. We talk and talk, babble and prattle, and generally feel great about ourselves; meanwhile the settlements expand endlessly and Israel turns to the use of force at every possible opportunity, aside from a unilateral disengagement which did nothing to advance the cause of peace.

With the election of a prime ministerial candidate who speaks of "economic peace," the naked truth will finally emerge. If, however, Tzipi Livni or Ehud Barak are elected, the self-delusion will simply continue. Livni herself is enamored with futile, useless and cowardly negotiations, and Barak has long abandoned the brave efforts he made in the past. The election of either will only perpetuate the vacuum. The world, including Washington, will breathe a sigh of relief that for once, Israel has elected a leadership that will pursue peace. But there is no chance of that happening.

The record of each of these candidates, and the positions they have championed until now, proves that what has been will continue to be. Livni and Barak will rush to every photo opportunity with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Hosni Mubarak of Egypt and King Abdullah of Jordan. The Americans and Europeans will be pleased, but nothing will come out of it other than the sowing of a few more illusions. We will move from war to war, uprising to uprising, settlement to settlement, and the world will continue to delude itself into thinking an agreement is within reach. Hamas will grow stronger, Abbas weaker and the last chance for peace will be irretrievably lost.

Netanyahu would offer something else. First, he is a faithful representative of an authentic "Israeli" view - an almost complete distrust of Arabs and the chance of reaching peace with them, mixed with condescension and dehumanization. Second, he will finally arouse the world's rage towards us, including that of the new U.S. administration. Sadly, this may be the only chance for the kind of dramatic change that is needed.

The Palestinian Authority, another mendacious facade, will finally collapse, and Israel will face the non-partner it has wanted and sought all these years. The world may not rush to embrace Netanyahu as it would the "moderates" - Livni or Barak, who have led Israel to more unnecessary wars than Netanyahu, the "extremist" - while the real difference between them is almost non-existent.

Lifting the veil will lead to a crisis situation, which unfortunately is the only one that can bring about change. We must hope that both Kadima and Labor do not join a Netanyahu government (regrettably, another futile hope), as Israel's exposure will then be that much starker. A government composed of Netanyahu, Shas and Avigdor Lieberman will not, of course, have to deal with an opposition of Netanyahu, Shas and Avigdor Lieberman, and may therefore behave differently once in power than one might expect. Have we mentioned Menachem Begin?

But even if Netanyahu is the same old Netanyahu, this will be an opportunity to place the right's policies under the microscope. Let's see him stand before Barack Obama and speak of the grotesque idea of "economic peace," or wage foreign or security policies according to his stated positions. Let's see him answer just what exactly his vision is for 20 to 30 years down the road.

In due course, his anticipated failure may just hasten an alternative route, on condition that Kadima and Labor do not join the government and bring us another year of fraud. The lemons may yet yield lemonade - maybe the establishment of a right-wing government will remove all of the masks for good. The alternative, known and expected by all, is far more ambiguous, dangerous and threatening.

So let Netanyahu win. There is no alternative at this point anyway.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

These Shoes Were Made For Throwing

Source:
Muntadher al-Zaidi, the Iraqi journalist on trial for throwing his shoes last year at then-President George W. Bush, said the former American leader's "bloodless and soulless smile" and his joking banter provoked him.

Al-Zaidi threw both of his shoes at Bush during a December news conference with Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki in Baghdad. Neither shoe hit the president, and other people in the room quickly knocked al-Zaidi to the ground before security officials arrested him.

He explained his actions in an hour-long appearance on Thursday at the Central Criminal Court of Iraq. Asked if anyone pushed or motivated him to do this, al-Zaidi said he was spurred on by the "violations that are committed against the Iraqi people."

"I could only see Bush and feel the blood of the innocents flow under his feet, as he was smiling that smile -- as if he had come to bid farewell to Iraq and with the last support and more than 1 million martyrs," al-Zaidi said. "At that moment, I felt this is the man who killed our nation ... the main murderer and the main person responsible for killing our nation."

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Elections in Israel

"To the victor belong the spoils."
- Senator William Learned Marcy, b. 1786-1857

Source:
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni's Kadima Party was forecast to eke out a surprising victory in Israel's election Tuesday, but exit polls showed strong support for hard-line rivals that will make it difficult for her to form a coalition government.

The exit polls announced on Israeli TV stations said the centrist Kadima had a narrow edge over Benjamin Netanyahu's hard-line Likud Party. The results, if confirmed, marked a stunning turn of events for Netanyahu, who had held a solid lead in opinion polls until just before the parliamentary election.

At Kadima's election night headquarters, the crowd erupted in cheers when the results came out, with some supporters jumping up and down, giving each other high fives and hugs, and screaming and whistling. Netanyahu's party also claimed victory, saying it was in a better position to put together a parliamentary majority.

A hawkish coalition would complicate things for President Barack Obama, who is promising an aggressive push for peace by his administration.

Israelis vote for parties, not individuals. Since no party won a parliamentary majority, the leader of one of the major parties must try to put together a coalition with other factions -- a process that can take up to six weeks.

The exit polls predicted that ultranationalist Avigdor Lieberman, an advocate of stripping Israeli Arabs of their citizenship, would play a key role in the next coalition.

I've Just Begun

Saw Slipknot perform for the first time last week, at Madison Square Garden. I was happy to see a band I should have seen a decade ago, and felt that Slipknot gave a good, if imperfect, performance. For all the criticism they take, some of which is deserved, Slipknot certainly make an impression - visually and aurally.

Some photos of the show, grabbed from Flickr.com.







Friday, February 06, 2009

Drowning In It All

Paul Krugman and Nicholas Kristof, two of the few remaining mainstream voices who have both credibility and intelligence, write about the current stimulus package.

I'd like to note that I am opposed to government-sponsored stimulus spending, in general, but especially when the recipients of our taxpayer dollars are Wall Street investment banks.

I have not examined the provisions of this particular stimulus bill, but many economists - including Krugman - have been saying for months that the only way for government to short-circuit the current recession is to drastically increase spending, which would theoretically lead to increased consumer confidence and spending. Excerpts below.

Today's Krugman:
Over the last two weeks, what should have been a deadly serious debate about how to save an economy in desperate straits turned, instead, into hackneyed political theater, with Republicans spouting all the old clichés about wasteful government spending and the wonders of tax cuts.

It’s as if the dismal economic failure of the last eight years never happened — yet Democrats have, incredibly, been on the defensive. Even if a major stimulus bill does pass the Senate, there’s a real risk that important parts of the original plan, especially aid to state and local governments, will have been emasculated.

Somehow, Washington has lost any sense of what’s at stake — of the reality that we may well be falling into an economic abyss, and that if we do, it will be very hard to get out again.

It’s hard to exaggerate how much economic trouble we’re in. The crisis began with housing, but the implosion of the Bush-era housing bubble has set economic dominoes falling not just in the United States, but around the world.

Consumers, their wealth decimated and their optimism shattered by collapsing home prices and a sliding stock market, have cut back their spending and sharply increased their saving — a good thing in the long run, but a huge blow to the economy right now. Developers of commercial real estate, watching rents fall and financing costs soar, are slashing their investment plans. Businesses are canceling plans to expand capacity, since they aren’t selling enough to use the capacity they have. And exports, which were one of the U.S. economy’s few areas of strength over the past couple of years, are now plunging as the financial crisis hits our trading partners.

Meanwhile, our main line of defense against recessions — the Federal Reserve’s usual ability to support the economy by cutting interest rates — has already been overrun. The Fed has cut the rates it controls basically to zero, yet the economy is still in free fall.

Today's Kristof:
So this is what the Senate seems to be coming down to: keeping bridges and throwing students out the window. The effort to prune the stimulus package to make it more palatable to Republicans is focused on slashing money for education.

The proposed cuts, by various accounts, include $40 billion to help states (in large part with education budgets), possibly $14 billion for Pell grants, and $14 billion for other education programs (though late word from the Washington Post is that the Pell grants may have survived). The argument is that these would be ongoing programs, not a short-term stimulus, and conservatives are very wary of expanding education programs in ways that will increase the federal presence in the education space or the burden on taxpayers. They particularly don’t want Headstart and school construction in the stimulus. Mel Martinez says: “I love schools; I love children,” but he adds that such measures “don’t belong in this bill.”

He’s wrong, for a couple of reasons. First, the priority has to be to get the stimulus passed, and it’s better to err on the side of a big stimulus than a small one. I lived in Japan from 1995 through 1999 and saw how crucial it is for a government to act decisively – and, rather like Colin Powell’s doctrine of “overwhelming force” – with real power in confronting an economic crisis. Tim Geithner, Ben Bernanke and Larry Summers were all close students at the time of Japan’s mess, and that’s why they’re all determined to get enough of a stimulus and avoid a lost decade. And constructing schools or paying Headstart teachers delivers just as much economic stimulus as a new bridge or road; indeed, the economic multiplier effect is probably greater in low-income communities than in America as a whole.

Second, I’m increasingly of the view that our nation’s top priority — which I used to think was a national health care system — must be revitalizing our education system. The good suburban schools are great, and do just as well as Singapore’s or Hong Kong’s. But our inner city schools are a disaster, and they fail the students and our country’s economic future.

My thinking shifted partly after reading The Race Between Education and Technology, by Claudia Goldin and Lawrence Katz, one of last year’s most important books. As I wrote at the time, they argue that the central reason America became the most important economy in the world was its emphasis on broad education, at a time when Europe educated only the elites. Yet that edge has disappeared, and America is the only country today where parents are more likely to graduate from high school than their children. If we want to maintain America’s economic greatness, then we need roads and bridges, yes, but we also need a more educated work force.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Old Dreams

We walk miracle miles emphasizing all the while
The dalliance of mischief in agonized smiles
We break out the charm and put out alarms
We'll find another reason to hold off the dawn
We take life one chunk at a time, like paragraphs
Live one minute at a time and we're moving fast
We creep steadily towards a better path
Different routes end up working out in different crafts
The dark cloaks over your shoulders in a killing swath
Tearing down the white picket fences of your epitaph
The last breath we take can be another memory
Recycling constantly in waking reveries

Can we...
Can we disguise the old dreams?
As life falls apart at the seams
With a dollar on the ground you can't reach?
Can we disguise the old dreams?

We can shine brighter than diamonds in a heart of glass
The blood is pumping out at full volume and falling fast
Our history towards astonishing things
Twisting forth and gleaming and quickening me
Life moves forward even with your head in the grass
Snaking, nah, undulating towards you like a seismograph
We move indiscreetly like light moves forward
Bouncing off the surface of a prism we've formed
Life stabs back with a whispering plea
Knocks you back and over, your head is unclean
You twist yourself and lower expectations and dreams
You call yourself a word, the meaning's lost on me

Can we...
Can we live our lives just as we preach?
As life kicks the back of your feet
Tripping over rocks we can't see
Can we disguise the old dreams?

Teach us of the world, times of peace and times of war
Trembling in terror at the newest massacre
Are we the latest martyrs? Are we the latest foils?
Are you the one and only? Are they the last to fall?
Life moves forward and death moves forward
Locked in a dance eternal with no reward
Caught in machinery, you step through the scenery
Littered by blood and mayhem and thievery
Have we discarded the ways we've maintained
The sum of human knowledge, the ethics we've ingrained
Within our selves and children, our hope for the future
Is falling into quagmire and looking for solutions

Can we...
Can we recall our old dreams?
Can our lives measure up to a speech?
Can we testify that we are still free?
Living in a huddled mass of defeat
Can we live by our old dreams?

Have you ever tried swimming in quagmire?
Have you ever fed on the hearts of the young?
When the windows blow out and death creeps in
Will the lions of your mind rescue you from hellfire?
I have walked often in the valley of the sullen
Where victims of desire and the trophies of the fallen
Surround us in the corridor with songs of devotion
Walking towards the cliff where we meet the horizon
Looking at the sun whispering for inspiration
My pupils dilate with a dimly lit sensation
My tongue is raw, the buds are bitter and torn
But if we bow our heads our dreams will die alone.

Someone Smack Somebody

Source:
Despite crippling losses, multibillion-dollar bailouts and the passing of some of the most prominent names in the business, employees at financial companies in New York, the now-diminished world capital of capital, collected an estimated $18.4 billion in bonuses for the year.

That was the sixth-largest haul on record, according to a report released Wednesday by the New York State comptroller.

While the payouts paled next to the riches of recent years, Wall Street workers still took home about as much as they did in 2004, when the Dow Jones industrial average was flying above 10,000, on its way to a record high.

Some bankers took home millions last year even as their employers lost billions.

The comptroller’s estimate, a closely watched guidepost of the annual December-January bonus season, is based largely on personal income tax collections. It excludes stock option awards that could push the figures even higher.

The state comptroller, Thomas P. DiNapoli, said it was unclear if banks had used taxpayer money for the bonuses, a possibility that strikes corporate governance experts, and indeed many ordinary Americans, as outrageous. He urged the Obama administration to examine the issue closely.

“The issue of transparency is a significant one, and there needs to be an accounting about whether there was any taxpayer money used to pay bonuses or to pay for corporate jets or dividends or anything else,” Mr. DiNapoli said in an interview.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Congratulations, America

Harper's Index: GWB Special

Source:

Number of news stories from 1998 to Election Day 2000 containing “George W. Bush” and “aura of inevitability”: 206

Amount for which Bush successfully sued Enterprise Rent-A-Car in 1999: $2,500

Year in which a political candidate first sued Palm Beach County over problems with hanging chads: 1984

Total amount the Bush campaign paid Enron and Halliburton for use of corporate jets during the 2000 recount: $15,400

Percentage of Bush’s first 189 appointees who also served in his father’s administration: 42

Minimum number of Bush appointees who have regulated industries they used to represent as lobbyists: 98

Years before becoming energy secretary that Spencer Abraham cosponsored a bill to abolish the Department of Energy: 2

Number of Chevron oil tankers named after Condoleezza Rice, at the time she became foreign policy adviser: 1


Date on which the GAO sued Dick Cheney to force the release of documents related to current U.S. energy policy: 2/22/02

Number of other officials the GAO has sued over access to federal records: 0

Months before September 11, 2001, that Cheney’s Energy Task Force investigated Iraq’s oil resources: 6

Hours after the 9/11 attacks that an Alaska congressman speculated they may have been committed by “eco-terrorists”: 9

Date on which the first contract for a book about September 11 was signed: 9/13/01

Number of Middle Eastern, South Asian, and North African men detained in the U.S. in the eight weeks after 9/11: 1,182

Number of them ever charged with a terrorism-related crime: 0

Number charged with an immigration violation: 762

Days since the federal government first placed the nation under an “elevated terror alert” that the level has been relaxed: 0


Minimum number of calls the FBI received in fall 2001 from Utah residents claiming to have seen Osama bin Laden: 20

Number of box cutters taken from U.S. airline passengers since January 2002: 105,075

Percentage of Americans in 2006 who believed that U.S. Muslims should have to carry special I.D.: 39

Chances an American in 2002 believed the government should regulate comedy routines that make light of terrorism: 2 in 5

Rank of Mom, Dad, and Rudolph Giuliani among those whom 2002 college graduates said they most wished to emulate: 1, 2, 3

Number of members of the rock band Anthrax who said they hoarded Cipro so as to avoid an “ironic death”: 1

Estimated total calories members of Congress burned giving Bush’s 2002 State of the Union standing ovations: 22,000

Percentage of the amendments in the Bill of Rights that are violated by the USA PATRIOT Act, according to the ACLU: 50

Minimum number of laws that Bush signing statements have exempted his administration from following: 1,069

Estimated number of U.S. intelligence reports on Iraq that were based on information from a single defector: 100

Number of times the defector had ever been interviewed by U.S. intelligence agents: 0

Date on which Bush said of Osama bin Laden, “I truly am not that concerned about him”: 3/13/02


Days after the U.S. invaded Iraq that Sony trademarked “Shock & Awe” for video games: 1

Days later that the company gave up the trademark, citing “regrettable bad judgment”: 25

Number of books by Henry Kissinger found in Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz’s mansion: 2

Number by then–New York Times reporter Judith Miller: 1

Factor by which an Iraqi in 2006 was more likely to die than in the last year of the Saddam regime: 3.6

Factor by which the cause of death was more likely to be violence: 120

Chance that an Iraqi has fled his or her home since the beginning of the war: 1 in 6

Portion of Baghdad residents in 2007 who had a family member or friend wounded or killed since 2003: 3/4

Percentage of U.S. veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan who have filed for disability with the VA: 35

Chance that an Iraq war veteran who has served two or more tours now has post-traumatic stress disorder: 1 in 4

Number of all U.S. war veterans who have been denied Veterans Administration health care since 2003: 452,677

Number of eligibility restrictions for admission into the Army that have been loosened since 2003: 9

Percentage change from 2004 to 2007 in the number of Army recruits admitted despite having been charged with a felony: +295

Date on which the White House announced it had stopped looking for WMDs in Iraq: 1/12/05

Years since his acquittal that O. J. Simpson has said he is still looking for his wife’s “real killers”: 13

Minimum number of close-up photographs of Bush’s hands owned by his current chief of staff, Josh Bolten: 4

Number of vehicles in the motorcade that transports Bush to his regular bike ride in Maryland: 6

Estimated total miles he has ridden his bike as president: 5,400

Portion of his presidency he has spent at or en route to vacation spots: 1/3

Minimum number of times that Frederick Douglass was beaten in what is now Donald Rumsfeld’s vacation home: 25


Estimated number of juveniles whom the United States has detained as enemy combatants since 2002: 2,500

Minimum number of detainees who were tortured to death in U.S. custody: 8

Minimum number of extraordinary renditions that the United States has made since 2006: 200

Date on which USA Today added Guantánamo to its weather map: 1/3/05

Number of incidents of torture on prime-time network TV shows from 2002 to 2007: 897

Number on shows during the previous seven years: 110

Percentage change since 2000 in U.S. emigration to Canada: +79

Number of the thirty-eight Iraq war veterans who have run for Congress who were Democrats: 21

Percentage of Republicans in 2005 who said they would vote for Bush over George Washington: 62

Seconds it took a Maryland consultant in 2004 to pick a Diebold voting machine’s lock and remove its memory card: 10

Number of states John Kerry would have won in 2004 if votes by poor Americans were the only ones counted: 40

Number if votes by rich Americans were the only ones counted: 4

Portion of all U.S. income gains during the Bush Administration that have gone to the top 1 percent of earners: 3/4

Increase since 2000 in the number of Americans living at less than half the federal poverty level: 3,500,000


Percentage change since 2001 in the average amount U.S. workers spend on out-of-pocket medical expenses: +172

Estimated percentage by which Social Security benefits would have declined if Bush’s privatization plan had passed: –15

Percentage change since 2002 in the number of U.S. teens using illegal drugs: –9

Percentage change in the number of adults in their fifties doing so: +121

Number of times FDA officials met with consumer and patient groups as they revised drug-review policy in 2006: 5

Number of times they met with industry representatives: 113

Amount the Justice Department spent in 2001 installing curtains to cover two semi-nude statues of Justice: $8,650

Number of Republican officials who have been investigated by the Justice Department since 2001: 196

Number of Democratic officials who have been: 890

Number of White House officials in 2006 and 2007 authorized to discuss pending criminal cases with the DOJ: 711

Number of Clinton officials ever authorized to do so: 4

Years since a White House official as senior as I. Lewis Libby had been indicted while in office: 130

Number of U.S. cities and towns that have passed resolutions calling for the impeachment of President Bush: 92


Percentage change since 2001 in U.S. government spending on paper shredding: +466

Percentage of EPA scientists who say they have experienced political interference with their work since 2002: 60

Change since 2001 in the percentage of Americans who believe humans are causing climate change: –4

Number of total additions made to the U.S. endangered-species list under Bush: 61

Average number made yearly under Clinton: 65

Minimum number of pheasant hunts Dick Cheney has gone on since he shot a hunting companion in 2006: 5

Days after Hurricane Katrina hit that Cheney’s office ordered an electric company to restore power to two oil pipelines: 1

Days after the hurricane that the White House authorized sending federal troops into New Orleans: 4


Portion of the $3.3 billion in federal Hurricane Katrina relief spent by Mississippi that has benefited poor residents: 1/4

Percentage change in the number of Louisiana and Mississippi newborns named Katrina in the year after the storm: +153

Rank of Nevaeh, “heaven” spelled backward, among the fastest growing names given to American newborns since 2000: 1

Months, beginning in 2001, that the federal government’s online condom fact sheet disappeared from its website : 17

Minimum amount that religious groups received in congressional earmarks from 2003 to 2006: $209,000,000

Amount such groups received during the previous fourteen years: $107,000,000


Percentage change from 2003 to 2007 in the amount of money invested in U.S. faith-based mutual funds: +88

Average annualized percentage return during that time in the Christian and Muslim funds, respectively: +11, +15

Number of feet the Ground Zero pit has been built up since the site was fully cleared in 2002: 30

Number of 980-foot-plus “Super Tall” towers built in the Arab world in the seven years since 9/11: 4


Year by which the third and final phase of the 2003 “road map” to a Palestinian state was to have been reached: 2005

Estimated number of the twenty-five provisions of the first phase that have yet to be completed: 12

Number of times in 2007 that U.S. media called General David Petraeus “King David”: 14

Percentage change during the first ten months of the Iraq war “surge” in the number of Iraqis detained in U.S.-run prisons: +63

Percentage change in the number of Iraqis aged nine to seventeen detained: +285

Ratio of the entire U.S. federal budget in 1957, adjusted for inflation, to the amount spent so far on the Iraq war: 1:1

Estimated amount Bush-era policies will cost the U.S. in new debt and accrued obligations: $10,350,000,000,000

Percentage change in U.S. discretionary spending during Bush’s presidency: +31

Percentage change during Reagan’s and Clinton’s, respectively: +16, +0.3


Ratio in 1999 of the number of U.S. federal employees to the number of private employees on government contracts: 15:6

Ratio in 2006: 14:15

Total value of U.S. government contracts in 2000 that were awarded without competitive bidding: $73,000,000,000

Total in 2007: $146,000,000,000


Number of the five directors of the No Child Left Behind reading program with financial ties to a curriculum they developed: 4

Amount by which the federal government has underfunded its estimated cost to implement NCLB: $71,000,000,000

Minimum number of copies sold, since it was released in 2006, of Flipping Houses for Dummies: 45,000

Chance that the buyer of a U.S. home in 2006 now has “negative equity,” i.e., the debt on the home exceeds its value: 1 in 5

Estimated value of Henry Paulson’s Goldman Sachs stock when he became Treasury Secretary and sold it: $575,000,000

Estimated value of that stock today: $238,000,000


Salary in 2006 of the White House’s newly created Director for Lessons Learned: $106,641

Minimum number of Bush-related books published since 2001: 606

Number of words in the first sentence of Bill Clinton’s memoir and in that of George W. Bush’s, respectively: 49, 5

Minimum number of nicknames Bush has given to associates during his presidency: 75

Number of associates with the last name Jackson he has dubbed “Action Jackson”: 2

Number of press conferences at which Bush has referred to a question as a “trick”: 14

Number of times he has declared an event or outcome not to be “acceptable”: 149

Rank of Bush among U.S. presidents with the highest disapproval rating: 1

Average percentage of Americans who approved of the job Bush was doing during his second term: 37

Percentage of Russians today who approve of the direction their country took under Stalin: 37

Monday, January 19, 2009

Dissent = Death in Russia

Source:
A Russian human rights lawyer renowned for his work on abuses in Chechnya was shot to death Monday by a masked gunman who followed him from a news conference, officials said. A young journalist who tried to intervene also was gunned down.

The broad-daylight shootings of lawyer Stanislav Markelov and journalist Anastasia Baburova prompted grief and outrage in a country where lawyers and journalists who challenge the official version of justice are frequently targeted.

Markelov had fought the early release of a Russian colonel whose killing of a Chechen woman in 2000 put names and faces on the gruesome rights abuses in the war-wracked region. His death Monday angered many Chechens, already upset by the release of last week of the military officer.

Colleagues drew comparisons with the 2006 killing of investigative journalist Anna Politkovskaya — a client of Markelov's and a fellow enemy of rights abuses in Chechnya and across former President Vladimir Putin's Russia.

"This is a horrible, frightening crime," said Tatyana Lokshina of the Human Rights Watch.

Prominent rights activist Lyudmila Alexeyeva called the shooting "a disgrace for Russia," the Interfax news agency reported.

Markelov, 34, was shot near a building where he had just held a news conference, about half a mile (1 kilometer) from the Kremlin, said Viktoria Tsyplenkova, a spokeswoman for the Investigative Committee of the Moscow prosecutor's office.

Markelov was shot in the back of the head at close range by an attacker who followed him after the news conference, wore a stocking-style mask and had a silencer on his gun — clear signs of a planned killing, state-run RIA-Novosti news agency reported, citing an unidentified law enforcement official. Police also reportedly said there were several witnesses.

Anastasia Baburova, a freelance journalist in her mid-20s who had worked for the newspaper Novaya Gazeta newspaper, was shot when she tried to intervene after Markelov was attacked, said Andrei Lipsky, a deputy editor. Another Novaya Gazeta editor, Sergei Sokolov, later said she died on an operating table.

Anna Politkovskaya was murdered in 2006 after years of reporting on, and criticizing Russian conduct in, Chechnya. She never hesitated to remind her audience of the horrors of war; she cautioned against giving government too much power to limit civil liberties and conduct clandestine business. It is widely believed that her death was ordered by an unnamed Russian politician, most likely working at the behest of Vladimir Putin. Markelov was her attorney and ally in the battle for human rights in Russia.

Martin Luther King Day, 2009

I say to you today, my friends, that in spite of the difficulties and frustrations of the moment, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal."

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at a table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a desert state, sweltering with the heat of injustice and oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day the state of Alabama, whose governor's lips are presently dripping with the words of interposition and nullification, will be transformed into a situation where little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls and walk together as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.

This is our hope. This is the faith with which I return to the South. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

This will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with a new meaning, "My country, 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim's pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring."

And if America is to be a great nation this must become true. So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania!

Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado!

Let freedom ring from the curvaceous peaks of California!

But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia!

Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee!

Let freedom ring from every hill and every molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

When we let freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, "Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"

Cease-Fire

Source:
Palestinians have been venturing out to survey the devastation of Israel's war on Gaza as separate ceasefires called by Israel and the Palestinian fighters appeared to be holding.

Israeli troops and tanks were on the move on Monday, heading away from some key points in Gaza towards the border, but it remained unclear whether they would withdraw completely for the Palestinian territory.

Al Jazeera's Barnaby Phillips, reporting from the Israel-Gaza border, said Israeli military sources were saying that it was largely reservists who were leaving Gaza.

"Regular troops, by and large, are holding their positions and will remain alert, they will remain poised, to deal with any violation, as Israel sees it, of the Israeli ceasefire," he said.

"Given that the Israelis were always very unforthcoming about exactly how many troops were in Gaza at the height of the fighting, it is difficult for us to say how quickly they will leave."

Israeli army radio quoted unnamed military officials as saying that troops would pull out of Gaza by the time Barack Obama, the US president-elect, takes office on Tuesday.
Current estimates have the death toll at over 1,300 Palestinians, plus over 5,000 injured, and 13 dead Israelis. It is very convenient timing that the cease-fire was agreed to mere days before the inauguration for President-elect Barack Obama. Despite it all, let's be thankful that this temporary peace has been agreed to, for the time being.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Friday, January 16, 2009

"I don't know, but today seems kinda odd..."

Brilliance as a flow chart.

Check out the link if you ever spent an afternoon humming along with Ice Cube, back in the day...

The Accusations Fly

In my opinion, nothing does more to undermine the arguments of the pro-Israel faction than their constant accusations of "Anti-Semitism" against those who would disagree with them. Not only does this stifle any semblance of intelligent and civilized dialogue, it unfairly clouds the reputations of those who seek truth and discourse while trivializing real anti-Semitism, which sadly still exists in this world.

Nothing could highlight this better than the exchange below. In response to the recent Bill Moyers piece on Israel and Gaza, posted on this blog a few days ago, Abraham Foxman, the National Director of the Anti-Defamation League, sent Mr. Moyers this letter:
Mr. Moyers,

In less than a thousand words, you managed to fit into your January 9 commentary: (1) moral equivalency between Hamas, a radical Islamic terrorist group whose anti-Semitic charter cites the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, and Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East and perhaps America’s greatest ally in the world; (2) historical revisionism, asserting that Canaanites were Arabs; (3) anti-Semitism, declaring that Jews are “genetically coded” for violence; (4) ignorance of the terrorist threat against Israel, claiming that checkpoints, the security fence, and the Gaza operation are tactics of humiliation rather than counter-terrorism; and (5) promotion of an individual, the Norwegian doctor in Gaza, who has publicly expressed support for the September 11 attacks.

I have seen and read serious critiques of Israel’s military campaign in Gaza, and I have disagreed with many of them. Your commentary, however, is different, consisting mostly of intellectually and morally faulty claims that do a great disservice to the PBS audience. It invites not disagreement, but rebuke.

On one point you are correct – “America has officially chosen sides.” And rightly so. Fortunately for our nation, very few of our citizens engage in the same moral equivalency, racism, historical revisionism, and indifference to terrorism as you. If the reverse held, it would not be a country that any decent person would want to live in.

Sincerely,

Abraham H. Foxman
National Director
Anti-Defamation League

Mr. Moyers' response is quoted below:
Dear Mr. Foxman:

You made several errors in your letter to me of January 13 and I am writing to correct them.

First, to call someone a racist for lamenting the slaughter of civilians by the Israeli military offensive in Gaza is a slur unworthy of the tragedy unfolding there. Your resort to such a tactic is reprehensible.

Earlier this week it was widely reported that the International Red Cross “was so outraged it broke its usual silence over an attack in which the Israeli army herded a Palestinian family into a building and then shelled it, killing 30 people and leaving the surviving children clinging to the bodies of their dead mothers. The army prevented rescuers from reaching the survivors for four days.”

When American troops committed a similar atrocity in Vietnam, it was called My Lai and Lt. Calley went to prison for it. As the publisher of a large newspaper at the time, I instructed our editorial staff to cover the atrocity fully because Americans should know what our military was doing in our name and with our funding. To say “my country right or wrong” is like saying “my mother drunk or sober.” Patriots owe their country more than that, whether their government and their taxes are supporting atrocities in Vietnam, Iraq, or, in this case, Gaza.

Contrary to your claim, I made no reference whatsoever to “moral equivalency” between Hamas and Israel. That is an old canard often resorted to by propagandists trying to divert attention from facts on the ground, and, it, too, is unworthy of the slaughter in Gaza. Contrary to imputing “moral equivalency” between Hamas and Israel, I said that “Hamas would like to see every Jew in Israel dead.” I said that “a radical stream of Islam now seeks to eliminate Israel from the face of the earth.” And I described the new spate of anti-Semitism across the continent of Europe. I am curious as to why you ignored remarks which clearly counter the notion of “moral equivalency.”

And although I specifically referred to “the rockets from Hamas” falling on Israel and said that “every nation has the right to defend itself, and Israel is no exception,” you nonetheless accuse me of “ignorance of the terrorist threat against Israel.” Once again, you are quite selective in your reading of my essay.

Your claim that “the checkpoints, the security fence and the Gaza operation” [I used the more accurate “onslaught”] are not humiliating of the Palestinians is lamentable. I did not claim that these were, as you write, “tactics of humiliation rather [emphasis mine] than counter-terrorism,” but perhaps it is overly simplistic to think they are one and not the other, when they are both. Also lamentable is your description of my “promotion” of the Norwegian doctor in Gaza when in fact I was simply quoting what he told CBS News: “It’s like Dante’s Inferno. They are bombing one and a half million people in a cage.” The whole world has been able to see for itself what he was talking about, and as one major news organization after another has been reporting, is reeling from the sight.

And, to your claim that I was “declaring Jews are ‘genetically coded’ for violence,” you are mistaken. My comment – obviously not sufficiently precise – was not directed at a specific people but to the fact that the human race has violence in its DNA, as the biblical stories so strongly affirm. I also had in mind the relationship between all the descendents of Abraham who love the same biblical land and come to such grief over it.

From my days in President Johnson’s White House forward, I have defended Israel’s right to defend itself, and still do. But sometimes an honest critic is a government’s best friend, and I am appalled by Israel’s devastation of innocent civilians in this battle, all the more so because, as I said in my column, it is exactly what Hamas wanted to happen. To be so indifferent to that suffering is, sadly, to be as blind in Gaza as Samson.

Sincerely,

Bill Moyers

Check the video for yourself and make up your own mind.

The Tragedy of the Past Eight Years



Some of the best commentary I've ever heard from Chris Matthews.

Mr. Bush, don't let the door hit your ass on the way out.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Another Day, Another IDF Attack on the U.N.

From today's New York Times, hardly a dependable source for objective information about the Israeli/Gaza conflict, information about another attack by Israeli Defense Forces against the United Nations Relief & Works Agency. Today Israeli forces are alleged to have attacked UNRWA Headquarters with white phosphorus shells - a clear violation of international law and an action that deserves serious investigation by the international community.
Israeli forces shelled areas deep inside Gaza City on Thursday, hitting the headquarters of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency and injuring at least three people among the hundreds taking shelter in the compound, according to United Nations officials and witnesses.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert of Israel expressed regret for the strike but said that Israeli forces were fired on by Hamas militants from just outside the United Nations compound and then ran inside to take cover, according to Mr. Olmert’s spokesman, Mark Regev. “It is absolutely true that we were attacked from that place,” Mr. Olmert said in broadcast remarks, according to Reuters.

A spokesman for the Relief and Works Agency, Christopher Gunness, said that the Israelis had been provided with the GPS coordinates of all United Nations facilities in Gaza. He said that two buildings were ablaze and that there were five fully laden fuel vehicles at the site.

In the attack on Thursday, Mr. Gunness said, the Israelis used phosphorous shells, according to Bloomberg. “The Israelis have shot three phosphorus shells against the compound, where hundreds of civilians are being sheltered,” he was quoted as saying.


The Israeli military would not give precise details of its latest ground operations in Gaza City on Thursday, but a spokesman said that “fierce fighting” was under way “relatively deep inside Gaza.”


More information on the attacks can be found through Al Jazeera, the only international news organization with actual journalists inside Gaza.
Three hospitals and a UN compound have been bombed by Israel as troops continue to advance into the densely-populated Gaza City.

Around 500 people were sheltering in the Al-Quds hospital in the city's southwestern Tal Al-Hawa district when it was bombed by Israeli jets and set ablaze on Thursday morning.

Hospital officials said the fire was sparked by a "phosphorus shell".

"We have been able to control the fire in the hospital but not in the administrative building," one hospital official said.

"We hope that the flames don't spread again to the wings of the hospital."

Two hospitals east of Gaza City were also hit by Israeli shells as Gazans fled tanks advancing into the city.

The Israelis also bombed a UN compound in Gaza City, setting fire to warehouses of badly-needed food and medical aid and prompting international outrage.

Around 700 Palestinians were sheltering in the UN complex at the time of the strikes which left two civilians and three staff members injured.

Adnan Abu Hasna, a spokesman for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), said fires were still raging hours after the attack and "tens of millions of dollars worth of aid" had been destroyed.

John Ging, the director of UNRWA operations in the Strip, also accused the Israelis of using phosphorus shells.

"They are phosphorus fires so they are extremely difficult to put out because, if you put water on, it will just generate toxic fumes and do nothing to stop the burning," he said.

Israel insists all weapons used in the conflict comply with international law.

UNRWA officials said they would evacuate the complex.

Ehud Olmert, the Israeli prime minister, justified shelling the UN headquarters claiming armed Palestinians within it had fired at Israeli troops first.

"It is absolutely true that we were attacked from that place … but the consequences were very sad and I apologise for it," he said.

However, Christopher Gunness, a spokesman for UNRWA, robustly denied that Palestinian fighters were among refugees sheltering there.

"At no stage during the fighting today did any Israeli official pick up the phone and tell us there were militants in our compound.

"We always take action against militants ... there were no militants in our compound and now they [the Israelis] are changing their story, saying militants were 'in the vicinity'," he said.

Gunness called for a "proper investigation" into the incident.


Louis Michel, the European Aid Commissioner, also condemned the bombing of the UN complex, branding it "unacceptable".

"I am deeply shocked and dismayed to learn of this incident ... I have made it very clear that all sides must respect international humanitarian law.

"It is unacceptable that the UN headquarters in Gaza has been struck by Israeli artillery fire," he said.

Notice how the Times article conveniently omits the strongly worded quote from Chris Gunness refuting Israel's claims about Palestinian attacks originating from UNRWA headquarters and essentially accusing IDF of attacking the building without cause.

Hip-Hop For Gaza

Musicians, hip hop artists, poets, and visual artists concerned about the ongoing attacks on Gaza are coming together for two public performance events this Sunday, January 18th, in the spirit of Martin Luther King weekend, to highlight the dire human rights violations in Gaza. Featuring video messages from Palestinian musicians Shadia Mansour and DAM. The events will be "bridged" by a Subway Freedom March leaving Alwan for the Arts at 7:30pm and ending at Sugarland in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

The MLK Day weekend events will be to raise money for Gaza Humanitarian Relief. Hip-Hop artist and activist Immortal Technique and other Prominent Musicians, Artists, and Poets will perform and speak at these two sister events.

Some of the confirmed hip hop performers and speakers include:

HANDS OFF GAZA: Immortal Technique, G.O.D, M1 from Dead Prez, Aalikes, Rebel Diaz, Remi Kanazi, Tahani Salah, Khalil al Mustafa, Hasan Salaam, Marcel Cartier, Sabreena Da Witch, and DJ Johnny Juice (Public Enemy)

I (HEART) GAZA: DJ Unconquer'd, Rebel Diaz, DJ K-Salaam, Remi Kanazi, Koba, Queen Godis, Sabreena Da Witch, DJ Oja, Donny Goines

HANDS OFF GAZA: Excerpts from the documentary "Peace, Propaganda, and the Promised Land," poets and artist performances and invited speakers: 5-7 pm, Alwan for the Arts, 16 Beaver St, 4th floor (between Broad and Broadway)Manhattan. $20 suggested donation… no one turned away.

I (HEART) GAZA: A night of hip hop, dancing, and artistic resistance. 9pm- 4am at Sugarland 221 N 9th St (between Driggs Ave & Roebling St) Williamsburg, Brooklyn. $10 ($5 if you go to HANDS OFF GAZA)

100% of the money raised at the events will be donated for humanitarian aid to Gaza through MAP UK and Anera.org.

For more information on the sponsors visit:

http://www.myspace.com/shadiamusic

http://www.freepali.com

http://www.hiphoparabia.net

http://www.thinkpep.net

http://www.alwanforthearts.org

http://www.fatimacouture.com

Wednesday, January 14, 2009