juan cole

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Yes, I’m spending too much time on facebook. Why? Well, it’ so easy. One waits for comments on your posts, posts on your comments, comments on your comments, and finds some posts, some comments, interesting even if you don’t comment back. It’s one gigantic blog where everyone is posting and commenting at the same time. The stream of information is sweeping by at an alarming rate. A hot topic one day disappears into the next. It’s information overload! But fun. Still, is it largely a waste of time? Not necessarily.

It can be a channel into interesting topics. Sam Harris has a FB page which I looked into and found an interesting two hour long debate between Harris and Shermer on one side and Chopra and Houston on the other. Juan Cole has a page. And Barney Frank. Then there’s Karen Armstrong with her Charter for Compassion. Countless others. Too much of course, and how does one pick and chose?

The net result is I ignore this blog. Not that I don’t have enough to do besides facebook. The Norway UU church keeps me busy. The stewardship campaign is beginning and there’s hardly anyone to run it. A flurry of emails amongst Chris Davis, Kathi Pewitt, Deborah Crump, Richard Beal, and me, plus a couple of phone calls from Chris to me, finally resolved a date for our kickoff meeting: April 16th from 5:30pm to 7pm. And then there’s all the church’s financial stuff with me as treasurer. Then there’s OUR financial stuff.

Enough for now. I’ve got to think about food and interact with Cynthia regarding the food, plus check our provisions.

Oh, but I’m reading an interesting philosophical book by James P. Carse, “Breakfast at the Victory: The mysticism of ordinary experience”. Fascinating but difficult. The need for silence. The heading for the sixth chapter is one of my favorites. It’s from the Rig Veda X:129:

Then even nothingness was not, nor existence.
There was no air then, nor the heavens beyond it.
What covered it? Where was it? In whose keeping?
Was there then cosmic water, in depths unfathomed?
Then there was neither death nor immortality,
nor was there then the touch of night and day.
The One breathed windlessly and self-sustaining.
There was that One then, and there was no other.
In the beginning desire descended upon it –
that was the primal seed, born of the mind.
The sages who have searched their hearts with wisdom
know that which is kin to that which is not.
But, after all, who knows, and who can say
whence it all came, and how creation happened?
The gods themselves are later than creation,
so who knows truely whence it has arisen?
Whence all creating had its origin,
he, whether he fashioned it or whether he did not,
he who surveys it all from highest heaven,
he knows — or maybe even he does not know.

Now I gotta go.

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More Juan Cole stuff this morning. He’s making a good argument that these new Obama administration airline passenger screening measures are casting too wide a net and will end up alienating people. Also, they tell al-Qaida which countries not to send bombers from. For example, Indonesia and India aren’t on the list. And why is Cuba on the list?

It’s hard to find a discussion of these issues on the American media which is so scared it might be called ‘liberal’ that it constantly bends over backwards to appease the republicans, who are mostly right wing now, with vanishing numbers of ‘moderates’. So, it was refreshing to hear, thanks to Juan Cole, a different analysis of these new screening measures brought to us by, yes, you guessed it, AlJazeeraEnglish.

Here’s a 24 minute video from AlJazeeraEnglish with the title, “Inside Story – New airline security measures: Safe or discriminatory? – 5 Jan 2009″

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So, if Obama’s rhetoric is high minded and progressive, are his actions more like a continuation of George W. Bush’s policies? In other words, is Obama becoming W-ized?

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Juan Cole offers some sobering news this morning which raises significant questions about the viability of the Obama-McChrystal plan for Afghanistan. Here’s his third paragraph:

The past two weeks have seen the situation in Afghanistan deteriorate palpably, raising significant questions about the viability of the Obama-McChrysstal plan for the country. The chain of catastrophes has been reported in piecemeal fashion, but taken together these events are far more ominous than they might appear on the surface.

And here’s his first paragraph:

You probably won’t see it in most US news outlets, but on Monday morning in Kabul and Jalalabad, hundreds of university students demonstrated against US strikes this weekend that allegedly killed a number of civilians. I want to underline the irony that the students in Tehran University are protesting Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, while students in these two Afghan cities are calling for Yankees to go home. Nangarhar University in Jalalabad only has a student body of about 3200, so ‘hundreds’ of students protesting there would be a significant proportion of the student body.

Need I say more? Perhaps read the whole article and weep?

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Juan Cole has a nice piece on the contrast between the two Joe Wilson’s, one called Bush a liar for stating Iraq bought yellowcake uranium from Niger, and the other called Obama a liar for stating that the health reform would not cover illegal immigrants. Well, the first Joe Wilson was right: Bush lied when he said Iraq bought yellowcake uranium, and for pointing out that lie Joe Wilson was vilified by his government. The second Joe Wilson was wrong: Obama told the truth when he said illegal immigrants will not be covered. (In fact, the illegal immigrants will pay but will receive no benefits, just as happens when they must pay into social security.) Obama accepted the second Joe Wilson’s apology. Bush, especially Cheney, never accepted the truth and tried to destroy the first Joe Wilson’s reputation. Read Juan Cole’s excellent analysis of this, and see the funky graphics by Befunky.com.

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A Poem

This is by the Persian poet Sa’adi (1210 – 1290)

‘Human Beings are Members of a Whole’

Human beings are members of a whole,

In creation of one essence and soul.

If one member is afflicted with pain,

Other members uneasy will remain.

If you have no sympathy for human pain,

The name of human you cannot retain.

It graces the entrance of the Hall of Nations of the United Nations building in New York City. I copied it from Juan Cole this morning. And he copied it from a statement on Iran by engaged scholars. Well worth a read or at least a scan. There are forty signatures.

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Here’s my old “buddy” Joan Baez, singing We Shall Overcome, partly in Persian, in support of the Iranians campaigning for more rights. Hat tip to Juan Cole. (Back in 1962 I went to the Brookline Public Library in Brookline, Mass., with a friend and watched the young Joan Baez do some songs.)

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Believe it or not, Bush will be gone now in a matter of days. Well, we elected him! Here’s Willie Shakespeare:


“Ye gods, it doth amaze me,
A man of such a feeble temper should
So get the start of the majestic world,
And bear the palm alone. (1.2.129)

Why, man, he doth bestride the narrow world
Like a Colossus; and we petty men
Walk under his huge legs, and peep about
To find ourselves dishonourable graves.
Men at some time are masters of their fates:
The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars,
But in ourselves, that we are underlings. (1.2.135)”

Thanks, Juan Cole, for “W.’s Twilight: A Man of Feeble Temper”. Great reading!

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Juan Cole this morning displayed this article from the Sunday Times of London and suggested all his readers do the same. Here it is!

From The Sunday Times
January 11, 2009

Israel’s bombardment of Gaza is not self-defence – it’s a war crime

ISRAEL has sought to justify its military attacks on Gaza by stating that it amounts to an act of “self-defence” as recognised by Article 51, United Nations Charter. We categorically reject this contention.

The rocket attacks on Israel by Hamas deplorable as they are, do not, in terms of scale and effect amount to an armed attack entitling Israel to rely on self-defence. Under international law self-defence is an act of last resort and is subject to the customary rules of proportionality and necessity.

The killing of almost 800 Palestinians, mostly civilians, and more than 3,000 injuries, accompanied by the destruction of schools, mosques, houses, UN compounds and government buildings, which Israel has a responsibility to protect under the Fourth Geneva Convention, is not commensurate to the deaths caused by Hamas rocket fire.

For 18 months Israel had imposed an unlawful blockade on the coastal strip that brought Gazan society to the brink of collapse. In the three years after Israel’s redeployment from Gaza, 11 Israelis were killed by rocket fire. And yet in 2005-8, according to the UN, the Israeli army killed about 1,250 Palestinians in Gaza, including 222 children. Throughout this time the Gaza Strip remained occupied territory under international law because Israel maintained effective control over it.

Israel’s actions amount to aggression, not self-defence, not least because its assault on Gaza was unnecessary. Israel could have agreed to renew the truce with Hamas. Instead it killed 225 Palestinians on the first day of its attack. As things stand, its invasion and bombardment of Gaza amounts to collective punishment of Gaza’s 1.5m inhabitants contrary to international humanitarian and human rights law. In addition, the blockade of humanitarian relief, the destruction of civilian infrastructure, and preventing access to basic necessities such as food and fuel, are prima facie war crimes.

We condemn the firing of rockets by Hamas into Israel and suicide bombings which are also contrary to international humanitarian law and are war crimes. Israel has a right to take reasonable and proportionate means to protect its civilian population from such attacks. However, the manner and scale of its operations in Gaza amount to an act of aggression and is contrary to international law, notwithstanding the rocket attacks by Hamas.

Ian Brownlie QC, Blackstone Chambers

Mark Muller QC, Bar Human Rights Committee of England and Wales

Michael Mansfield QC and Joel Bennathan QC, Tooks Chambers

Sir Geoffrey Bindman, University College, London

Professor Richard Falk, Princeton University

Professor M Cherif Bassiouni, DePaul University, Chicago

Professor Christine Chinkin, LSE

Professor John B Quigley, Ohio State University

Professor Iain Scobbie and Victor Kattan, School of Oriental and African Studies

Professor Vera Gowlland-Debbas, Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Geneva

Professor Said Mahmoudi, Stockholm University

Professor Max du Plessis, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban

Professor Bill Bowring, Birkbeck College

Professor Joshua Castellino, Middlesex University

Professor Thomas Skouteris and Professor Michael Kagan, American University of Cairo

Professor Javaid Rehman, Brunel University

Daniel Machover, Chairman, Lawyers for Palestinian Human Rights

Dr Phoebe Okawa, Queen Mary University

John Strawson, University of East London

Dr Nisrine Abiad, British Institute of International and Comparative Law

Dr Michael Kearney, University of York

Dr Shane Darcy, National University of Ireland, Galway

Dr Michelle Burgis, University of St Andrews

Dr Niaz Shah, University of Hull

Liz Davies, Chair, Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyer

Prof Michael Lynk, The University of Western Ontario

Steve Kamlish QC and Michael Topolski QC, Tooks Chambers

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Bloody Gaza

I found this on Juan Cole. It’s an interview with a Norwegian physician on the scene in Gaza. Believe it or not, it was done by CBS News.

Watch it and blame it on Hamas! Hey, that’s what Bush does as well as most of our media.
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Juan Cole tells it the way it is. Here’s his last paragraph:

The Israelis on Saturday killed 5% of all the Palestinians they have killed since the beginning of 2001! 230 people were slaughtered in a day, over 70 of them innocent civilians. In contrast, from the ceasefire Hamas announced in June, 2008 until Saturday, no Israelis had been killed by Hamas. The infliction of this sort of death toll is known in the law of war as a disproportionate response, and it is a war crime.

UPDATE: I keep hearing in our MSM that Hamas must stop its rocket attacks on Israel. It’s interesting that the first Israeli killed by a rocket from Hamas since the June ceasefire was killed after the Israeli’s launched their attack on Saturday. Now Hamas is launching mortars and rockets towards the Israeli towns. This is happening in response to the Israeli attacks, not the other way around. The only Democrat who is pointing this out is, of course, Denis Kucinich.

A Little Background: A disaster was waiting to happen, and no-one was doing much about it. There was of course a date for the end of the ceasefire – December 19th. As that date approached both sides sought to improve their relative positions, to test some new rules of the game. Israel conducted a military operation on November 4th (yes, you had other things on your mind that day), apparently to destroy a tunnel from which an attack on Israel could be launched, Hamas responded with rocket-fire on southern Israeli towns. That initiated a period of intense Israeli-Hamas dialogue, albeit an untraditional one, largely conducted via mutual military jabs, occasional public messaging and back-channels. Again though the main reliance was on Egypt – by now in an intense struggle of its own with Hamas. When Hamas pushed the envelop with over 60 rockets on a single day (December 24th), albeit causing no serious injuries and mostly landing in open fields (probably by design), Israel decided that it was time for an escalation. That happened today [Dec. 27] – on a massive scale – with an unprecedented death toll.

Robert Fisk

Here’s a cell phone video:

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