Notebook, 27 January 2015: SYRIZA’s Next Moves

For a long time, I haven’t focused on unfolding election results like I zeroed in on last Sunday’s parliamentary elections in Greece. SYRIZA’s significant not because it a leftist government, after all, socialists have ruled in Greece for a long time, but SYRIZA has posted the first anti-establishment party I can ever recall posting a win. If the definition of radical is anyone who demands structural change in the political economy, then SYRIZA qualifies. (Radical is frequently (mis)used as a synonym for militant, and most Americans haven’t grasped the difference, even though they have been electing right-wing radicals since 1980.)
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Notebook, 11 September 2014: “I’m sorry, I’m gonna interrupt you right now.”

Without indulging overmuch the impulse either to go all tribal and join hands in yet another warm and fuzzy celebration of Amerikan Patriotism or go the other way and exclaim that America Had It Coming! (both of which are valid points of view―and if you don’t like hearing that, feel free to leave right now), here’s my 9/11 remembrance.

At the time, my workday frequently stretched from late morning, through the swing shift right into the graveyard shift in the wee hours of the morning, so I was still at home getting ready to leave for work and as usual, watching CNBC’s Squawk Box, hosted by Mark Haines at the time. The CNBC studios which, if I recall correctly (I don’t bother with CNBC anymore), are located in Fort Lee, New Jersey, right across the Hudson River from Manhattan. CNBC used to broadcast video of the New York City skyline regularly, especially as they cut to, or returned from, commercial breaks, if I recall correctly, so I believe they were the first to break the news..They didn’t quite realize that it was an attack until the second plane hit the south tower, though Joe Kernan was skeptical from the start that an airplane would have flown into the building accidentally under what were ideal flying conditions Much as I hate to grant him credit on anything, he was right.

Mark Haines led the coverage, along with David Faber and Kernan, Faber had just reported that Lehman had upgraded Goldman Sachs (with a hefty measure of “meh”) though apparently he had been working the phones trying to find out and report what was happening. Kernan, was going on and on about some guy’s haircut (now there’s some news you can trade on).

When they were ready to go, Haines had been in the midst of an interview with Oakmark Select Fund’s Bill Nygren.

Beginning at 4:10, here’s how I found out:

Needless to say, I was very late to work that day, though it was certainly a day (like the Kennedy assassination) where I still recall exactly where I was when I heard the news. In that vein, when I finally did get to work, I remember Dan’s, my immediate supervisor, words when I entered: “it fell,” as I walked in the door. I knew exactly what he meant. Shortly afterwards, I ran out to the nearest Staples to see if I could get ahold of a radio in order to keep up with breaking developments. The last one they had, a Sony clock radio, is sitting on my desk as I type this, a personal historical artifact, and yes, I fully realize how lucky I am that this clock is the only physical consequence of my 9/11 experience. I was two degrees of separation away.

Of the 8,276 injuries and fatalities from terror attacks on US soil in the period from 1970 to 2011, 2,977 of these (just the fatalities) resulted from the attacks in New York City, Shanksville, Pennsylvania and Washington DC that day. In revenge,,however, America has directly and indirectly killed about one million people. The carnage continues to this day, 13 years later.

Notebook, 7 August 2014: Crossroads

As I write this, negotiators from Israel and Hamas are in Cairo wrestling with yet another set of issues resulting from the colonialist view that treating weaker peoples however you like is OK―as long as you can get away with it. However, today Hamas in Gaza is out in force marching in support of their negotiators and their demands, while Netanyahu lines up US support to avoid being hauled before the ICC on war crimes charges. In the meantime, the negative fallout from Israel’s latest war on Palestinians continues to spread. Predictably, Operation Protective Edge looks to possibly be an even bigger political disaster for Israel than Cast Lead, though Israel may not care.
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Notebook, 3 February 2014: Bleeding

Bleeding: Consistently losing chips through bad play, possibly resulting from tilt (Emotional upset, mental confusion, or frustration in which a player adopts a less than optimal strategy, usually resulting in poor play and poor performance).

When a player is consistently losing chips, they are “bleeding chips.”

Wikipedia Glossary of Poker Terms

And as one Tweep replied, “I can only say No s–t Sherlock
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Notebook, 8 January 2014: Review of Goliath, by Max Blumenthal

Before Blake Hounshell left Foreign Policy Magazine for Politico, he once tweeted something to the effect that he was wondering then if the entire body of “academic” foreign policy literature was best avoided. (I, who spent many hours immersed in it – they’re a stuffy, verbose lot – told him he wasn’t missing much.) The treatment of policy by elites in the US, from Fareed Zakaria (and almost uniformly throughout all the US press) through the corps of lobbyists over at The Council of Foreign Relations (and the rest of American officialdom), suffers from a sterile abstraction. Much needed, Max Blumenthal’s Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel is a glorious thumb-in-the-eye to all that. He covers a lot of territory here, almost all of it from the ground in Palestine. What he finds there isn’t a pretty sight to behold. Insulated by the shallowness of “balanced” press treatments of the Middle East, ordinary Americans can live out their entire lives unaware of what the street wisdom in East Jerusalem, Nablus and Ramallah (or, for that matter, in Cairo, Benghazi, Tehran, Kabul or Baghdad) has to teach us. Blumenthal hit the pavements of Israel and the occupied West Bank to tell it.
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Notebook, 29 August 2013: Parliament on Syria

Watching the British Parliament debate British involvement in a US-led bombing campaign in Syria as a response to gas attacks, I’m hearing slippery slope and pie-in-the-sky arguments in favor, but the opposition is less articulate. Their arguments roughly break down thus:

  • The conflicting demands of international law, a violation of the Chemical Weapons Convention vs breaking international law by intervening in the internal affairs of a sovereign state, the latter needs to be given the greatest consideration.
  • No conclusive evidence of a gas attack has been, as yet, been presented.
  • There’s no real plan. “Sending a message” seems to be enough justification for conservatives, but what exactly does that accomplish?

It is also apparent that neocon baggage and what amounts to a criminal record as long as your arm in the tawdry abuse of humanitarian intervention by the West, even while both sides are skeptical of the credibility argument.

What’s not being mentioned is how the West sat back after episodes like when Saddam Hussein used chemical weapons on Kurds in northern Iraq.

We intend to remain seized of the matter.

Notebook, 26 June 2013: American Exceptionalism?

“Russia can neither be grasped by the mind, nor measured by any common yardstick. Russia’s status is special: no attitude to her other than one of blind faith is admissible.”

“He who is not with us, absolutely and without reserve of any kind, is against us, and should be treated as an enemy alien.”

The first is something I’ve quoted before; the poet Feodor Tyuchev singing his devotion to Mother Russia — the Third Rome. The latter was proclaimed by our own “progressive” hero, Teddy Roosevelt.

So much for freedom of conscience.