Sunday, May 24, 2020

Reply to a Zionist about Palestinian "anti-Normalization"

I do find this issue of "anti-normalization" somewhat interesting.  I wonder how it compares, for example, with the approaches taken by indigenous groups in the USA, who certainly did lose a lot of land from the 1600's to 1900.  However, it is also my understanding that by 1905 such Americans were all officially made US citizens, and following anti-discrimination laws passed in the 1960's, they are legally entitled to buy land anywhere in the USA, just like any other US citizen, and among other activities for which discrimination is legally forbidden among US citizens "regardless of race, religion, ..."  That may not always work, but at least they can take it to court where discrimination of many kinds is supposed to be illegal.

I read a few of the stories that came up in the search you suggest, and then the recent article I've linked at bottom popped up, describing the discriminatory Israeli planning process, which expands Jewish enclaves, but not Palestinian towns, all across Israel and Palestine.  For several decades now I had heard that it was impossible or nearly so for Palestinians in the west bank to buy land or get building permits, while Israeli Jewish West Bank settlements keep expanding, tapping more water sources, and making it necessary for Palestinians to cross checkpoints on foot to go from one Palestinian area to the next, while Israeli Jews drive on freeways above it all.  Noam Chomsky has described the West Bank, a central area of the Palestinian State recognized by about half of the UN countries, but possibly being fully annexed by Israel soon, as increasingly isolated and separated Palestinian "bantustans," separated by Israeli civilian and military settlements and facilities to which Palestinians are not permitted entry.  That is indeed the way it looks on maps I have seen, and I've seen videos of checkpoints on TV.  Many people I read, mostly Jews, use the terms "bantustans" like that, as well as the terms Ethnic Cleansing and Apartheid State.  Some even use and try to justify the term Genocide, whose definition sometimes overlaps Ethnic Cleansing.

In his book, Knowing Too Much, Norman Finkelstein debunks the claim that Palestinians fled their homes in 1948 because of orders given by other Arab countries.  Historians in the early 1960's went through radio archives and could find no evidence of the alleged orders.  In the early 1980's, a expat former Israeli foreign minister wrote a book describing the extensive planning process which had gone into the Palestinian ethnic cleansing in 1948.  As of now, Finkelstein says, the only dispute among serious historians is how much was planned and how much was accidental.  Among the stories I have read, mostly written or spoken by Jewish writers such as Chomsky and Finkelstein, the most authoritative historian of Palestine is said to be Ilan Pappe, whose 2006 book is titled "The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine."  He is also an Israeli expat.  Chomsky spent several years in Israel just after it was recognized, but nowadays, like many Jews who say things unacceptable to the Israeli government, has been detained or denied entry.  Another such Jew is Ariel Gold, member of Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), who tried to visit Israel a few years ago, but was detained and ultimately had her visa revoked, by the very man who Israel is now sending to be UN Ambassador.

Finkelstein also writes that the arabs of Jordan were primarily nomadic in 1948, whereas the arabs of Palestine had long been settled mostly in towns and villages, where the vast majority have lost their homes and possessions since then.  To this day, there remain Palestinian arabs in refugee camps in several other countries in the middle east, and they get little or no respect from other Arab countries, as well as Israel, just like you say.  Though it may be that disrespect of Palestinians and Palestinian Refugees by other Arab countries is more a matter of government policy than the attitude of Arabs generally ("in the street").  Egypt, and most of the Arab kingdoms are client states of the USA, and seek alignment with US policies, as well as alliances with Israel, which might also be called a client state of the USA, as it accepts US military and diplomatic assistance.  Many people I read feel that Israel (through the Israel Lobby, described in a book of that title by two Jews, Mearshimer and Walt) is the ultimate motivation for US endless wars/regime change operations in the middle east.  Chomsky puts the shoe on the other foot, saying that it is US Military Planning which requires Israel to be protected to continue US hegemony in the region (he has denied the importance of the Israel Lobby).

I first became aware of Palestine in 1969, when the Jewish Communist uncle of a friend of mine started to tell me about the Nabka. Before he could answer my first question, my friend's mother shut him up.  All my other friends in that era (1963-1980) were Jewish also, and over time I some of them questions also, because I wanted to know.  It often didn't end well, and may have been one more brick in the path toward getting a Jewish girlfriend, which did several times seem possible and desirable.  If it hadn't been for Israel, I possibly would have converted to Judaism because of such desires.  I thought about it several times over the decades.  For many years, I subscribed to Rabbi Michael Lerner's Tikkun.  But now I'm quite happy being Unitarian/Freethinker, and reading articles frequently at Mondoweiss...published by yet another Jew.  I discovered Anti-Zionism in 2007 at the US Social Forum, in a seminar hosted by some group similar to JVP.

But don't worry.  Neither Trump nor Biden sees anything good about BDS.  Biden explicitly rejected it recently, though everyone I know believes Americans have free speech rights to boycott anything they choose, especially for political purposes, and some state laws against BDS have been annulled by US courts on this basis.

Monday, May 18, 2020

Woody Allen vs Mia Farrow

After checking these things out, I side completely with Woody Allen.  I believe he is a fine human being as well as one of the greatest movie makers of all time (in fact, he's #1 in my book of movies, which I've seen all I could buy, and I'd like to see them all).

Mia Farrow is a monster.  It was clear from her movie performances as well.  She's unhinged, selfish, insane, willing to destroy her ex-husband (and even her young child) simply to win a custody battle.  And with all Woody Allen movie fans as collateral damage.  I simply cannot understand what Woody ever saw in her.  I could barely stand her performances either (though they may have added some bite).  Diane Keaton and the others are so much better, and real people.

Leading up to the key custody battle, it is totally and utterly implausible that Allen would have sexually abused his 7 year old daughter.  Even if he had some kind of problem, which there has never been any other evidence of.

It's almost unreal.  They had 4 children and adopted 10 others.  (I believe this was mostly Farrow's idea.)  Allen was certainly some kind of foolish martyr/saint for putting up with all this as long as he did.

Ronan Farrow, who defends his mother at the expense of Allen,  is a jerk.  He's also been willing to destroy anyone and anything to get ahead.  Most haven't kept up with this, but his leading story about Weinstein, which was the first to paint him as a rapist and not mere harasser, failed basic journalistic standards and was ultimately dismissed in court.  Ultimately Weinstein was convicted on other grounds.  I'm not trying to defend Weinstein anymore, he obut I think generally he produced excellent movies and seems to have had a positive influence on Michael Moore, who made gems under Weinstein's watch, but has now descended into producing crap like Planet of the Humans.

I one subscribed to New Yorker but after their role in boosting Russiagate I decided not to renew (I would have cancelled, but I'm too disorganized for that).  I see it just as a gossip rag now, run by the deep state for social control.

I believe there has been some crap in #MeToo also.  Certain people were brought down for no good reason including Franken and Keiller.  I certainly wouldn't trust Ronan Farrow to get the stories straight.  It seems to me the big chips have been taken down mostly on the left rather than the right.  Those on the right who were brought down (like Ailes) were on borrowed time and oxygen anyway.  The selective punishment aspect of #MeToo thing smacks of Epstein-like setup, entrapment, and control, which is what ScandalMania is generally I believe.  We need to focus on processes more than people, policies more than scandals.  A helpful media would help that focus rather than distract.  Of course we don't have a very helpful mass media, what we have is Manufacturing Consent.

But even I can't live without mass media altogether.  I simply understand and try to watch out for it's limitations.  On international affairs especially, NYTimes may be more wrong than it is right, but sometimes it works and I'm still looking for something better.

Here's a Woody Allen and Mia Farrow Timeline from the NYTimes.

The Times on Ronan Farrow.

Saturday, May 16, 2020

The Bipolarity of Extremism

I first started thinking of this bipolarity with regards to Zionism.  But then I saw equally clearly that it applies to all Extremist Nationalisms and Identitarianisms, including Nazi, White Supremacy, Fascism, Neoliberalism, and so on.  For every Identity, there are some who subscribe to an Extremist version, and all Extremists sound and act pretty much the same.

So I'll just refer to the Extremist nationalism or identitarianism of the generic N people, who could be anyone.  God could be any tribal deity or unquestioned principle.

The Manic

We N's kick ass.  We know what we want (it's in our founding documents, revelations from God to select leaders, and daily affirmations) and we will get it.  Real soon.  We are on the way right now.  Nothing and no one will stand in our way.  Sissy rules of fair play don't apply to us, we are on a special mission from GOD and the ends justify the means.  We're God's chosen people, and we're smarter, stronger, tougher, and more resilliant than anyone else.  Any against us are fools and their corrupt masters.  They know they are weak shits.  They know their time is up.  They will tremble as we approach.  We will clean up the disaster of their corrupt laziness, and build the shining city on a hill that will be as a beacon to all right minded people.

The Depressive

No one, ever, has been more unfairly marginalized, criticized, demonized, or insulted as we have been.  Discrimination and violence against us is legendary, even before we became a people in ancient times we were being abused for standing up for goodness and truth.  Our unique place in the world, as a scapegoat for the corruption and meanness of others, means we need a special place for ourselves, not subject to the whims, evil, and cross examination of others.   A place where we can just be ourselves.  Suffering as much as we are, we can't go on otherwise.  [And back to the top...]

How Communism is Different

There can be extremist versions of Communism, such as the original Maoism*, but Communism per say is not an extremism or extremist identity, though often accused as being such.  (The same is true of Judaism and Jewish Identity; they are not extremist per se, they simply have an extremist version called Zionism.)

Communism does not respect any form of Extremist Identitarianism.  All people should be united in achieving the ultimate goal of Communism (from each according to their abilities, and to each according to their needs).  That pair of universal principles for material human society was expressed by both The Apostle Paul and Karl Marx.  The principles have no specific realization, they are both clear and indefinite at the same time, and are to be continuously defined and improved on by human society.  All good universal principles are like that, such as Equality and Love.

Communism respects personal identities so long as they are positive and inclusive and not demanding of unwarranted special privileges at the expense of others.  Communists do not believe in states or regions defined by ethnicities.  States or regions are defined by every person in them.  There is no way to escape or be protected from injustice or inequality.  It must be fixed whenever, wherever, and however it exists, and it is the job of all good people, working together through coalitions, to do so.

The very word Communism comes from the same root as Common, meaning all or universal, as in the US Contitutional phrase of Common Good.

Communists are accused of promoting Class Warfare, pitting Workers against Owners, but it's an illusion.  Owners are not some alien race, they are merely individuals exercising the false and socially destructive principles of Capital Ownership.  People who are currently exercising those foul principles are free to choose to abandon them righteously and join us.  It is the Capitalist Class who are the true Class Warriors, and they've been winning, mostly, though everyone knows it can't go on forever.

I first heard Zionism being called Extremism by an old leftist Jew (he insisted it was true by definition) and nearly everything I've learned about Zionism and Israel and Palestine and has been through writers who are Jewish at least in the ethnic sense.  People like Noam Chomsky, Norman Finkelstein, Philip Weiss, and Aaron Mate.  I admire and keep trying to emulate their objectivity and passion for justice and truth.

"Whenever you put some people ahead of others," the old leftist Jew said, "you have supremacism, which is a form of extremism.  Everyone understands to some degree what being put down is like, we've all had that experience in some way, and so we can and should all work together against discrimination and for equality.  But no other group is ever going to be satisfied with having your group, as a group, ahead of all others.  Therefore it is an extreme position.  Zionism says Israel is firstly for the Jews, they can immigrate freely by merely proving they are Jewish, but people from other groups cannot immigrate freely, even if they lived there before and left involuntarily."

(*As of this writing, it's unclear whether Maoism has any meaning at all, except for an ad hoc description of Communism with Chinese Characteristics, whatever than happens to be.  The original Maoism from Mao Zedong had a very clear but fairy tale picture of what society must be like, such as small farming and industry only, and Maoists would stop at nothing to get it, both being clear signs of an Extremism.)

Friday, April 3, 2020

The Conspiracy

Where are the conspiracy theories, you probably weren't asking yourself.

Well, here's a good start (below).

Curiously, there were two military pandemic "simulations" in the months leading up to the Wuhan outbreak, code named "Event 201" and "Crimson Contagion."

One included a novel Coronavirus.

These exercise simulations go way back.  This time if not every time before, it was determined that the US lacked sufficient ventilators to deal with peak infection.  These simulations virtually modeled what we are seeing around the globe today: social distancing, semi lockdowns, etc.  And strangely 1 million people went "missing."  Dissidents?

Fort Detrick was closed by CDC last summer for safety violations, then opened in November as a result of Pentagon lobbying.  Immediately after being reopened, the local newspaper reported two containment breaches.

Detrick was also at the center of the 2001 weaponized Anthrax attacks that infected 23 and killed 5.  Ever stonewalled, the FBI gave up the investigation in 2010 and many findings were classified.

Just prior to those Anthrax attacks, a simulation had been done involving an Anthrax-like agent, codenamed "Dark Winter."  People involved in that exercise 19 years ago were also involved in the simulations last year.

Thursday, April 2, 2020

Self Doubt

During March 2020 I was obsessed more than usual over the possibility I might be wrong, and that this wrongness might lead others to take risks with COVID-19 more than they should have.  This was true both during emails to friends and posts to my Blogger account.

In many cases, after long mental deliberations, I took those risks of being wrong anyway.  My blog doesn't seem to get a lot of readers, let alone enough respect for people to change their ways because of it.  Nobody turns to this blog for medical advice, the purpose is to foster deeper thought.  I hope to bring up points which get lost in normal discourse, but may lead somewhere useful if explored deeper (not just by me, but by others taking them further).

Then I've been torn by the concern that maybe I should take down earlier articles that didn't emphasize the risks enough.

In fact, my earliest articles on COVID-19 might very well be wrong.  But I can't take them down for another reason: I still hope they are right!  And countervaling many panic-driving media accounts that lead people to the meme "We're All Gonna Die!" instead of "We can minimize this catastrophe by working together in different ways."

I think my position has now shifted pretty much in line with MoonOfAlabama, who I was criticizing earlier for shifting his position.

I've noticed this, and decided it was worthy of comment, but not for serious soul searching of the kind "maybe I shouldn't be blogging at all."  At least not yet.

The funny thing was, I was among the first of my friends calling for staying away from large gatherings.  From late February until mid-march.  Then my friends went way past me in fear, it has seemed, largely driven by mass media accounts which naturally focus on individual horrifying stories that seem to contradict statistical evidence (such as, old people are more vulnerable).  Stories focus on young and healthy people who have died, contradicting the mass of other evidence that continues to show older and sicker people being more at risk.

Friday, March 27, 2020

Where governments fail the COVID-19 test most

I most fault poor government leadership as being responsible for problems of the following kinds:

1) Not having sufficient supplies of all kinds, including hospital beds, ventilators, and tests.
2) Not having enough trained personnel.
3) Not having a way to keep people fed, housed, and cared for during a mandatory lockdown.  This might include actual food deliveries to everyone.
4) Not sufficiently studying viral/bacterial disease transmission, pandemics, control measures, and the infection disease processes, and not sharing this information transparently.  (What was wrong with the Chinese tests that the US refused?  And what exactly is the reliability of these tests?  What social measures produce the most benefit?)
5) Not ensuring universal sick leave and healthcare
6) Not reproducing social graces (such as coughing into your sleeve, not going to work sick) and good health practices (getting enough sleep, getting enough exercise, proper nutrition).  I've been complaining about these things, as related to respiratory diseases in particular, for years and notably just back in January regarding travel I made in December, where a nearby passenger was coughing continuously, which she just wrote off as "COPD."  I believe I got sick twice from a boss who was coughing constantly, which he wrote off as "allergies."  I find it curious that these things were happening to me in the two years prior to COVID-19.  People had gotten so lax--and that probably explains a lot of how this pandemic started.  I have had a number of very bad colds, so bad I might have wished they were flus.  Notably that was occurring to me around 2007-2009.  A lot of those were exacerbated by my own poor behaviors, often not getting enough sleep (I could almost foresee getting sick every time I stayed up way too late, which I was often doing in those years, when I was still living like a highly paid adolescent).
7) Not starting to measure everyone's temperature going into large gatherings or public transportation.

I would fault governments less for not ordering mandatory lockdowns.  If the people aren't being provided for, it's actually the people who are sacrificing of themselves to do that.   Merely ordering a lockdown represents pretty close to a zero on the government's side.  Actually having prepared for it, and managing it, and thereby making it a success is something else--the kind of government we don't usually see.

I'm not at all happy about giant corporate slush funds as a way of "managing the crisis."  That's managing the economic crisis for a few fat cats who intend still to be on top afterwards--and possibly more so.

Leaders should understand that a $1200 check might help with food and such for a few weeks, but it's nothing like a replacement income for most people, who on average earn about that much every week and now could be looking at months or years (?) of unemployment.  Weeks seems a lot too small if this is anything like the crisis the media keeps describing.  Months seems to have worked in China, which had a response no capitalist country can match.  I hope, along the lines of all the arguments I've made previously, that the media is wrong about this, and that it is actually more in line with pandemics we've seen before like the recent SARS and H1N1, especially after the paltry (and sometimes of negative benefit) measures we've applied so far--still more than was ever done before.  But the precautionary argument is that even if the media has overblown this, which I believe is likely, it still may be bigger than we've seen in a long time and will exhaust our already overloaded medical industry in some places, so extreme measures like lockdowns may make sense in some places at some times.  The media can certainly endlessly cite apparently authoritative sources justifying extreme measures..  Are there qualified people who think differently?  From my sources, I believe so, and I'd love to see debates with few boundaries, like the ancient Royal Society, along with a little less concern about shielding the public from uncertainty through vetting.  That uncertainty is getting through anyway, leaving us with no way to judge (while I suppose I could spend more time reading freely available scientific could say "my" lack of being informed is my fault...but even reading scientific papers is nothing like debate...and one could argue that even published papers reflect the establishment concerns because they paid for it).

It irks me more than a little when the needs of people to get out and make a living are simply shuffled off as business concerns or economics concerns--which are certainly not as important as life.  Many people nowadays don't have a big business employer, who might have a huge slush fund of money in foreign banks.  They are self-employed, gig workers, people who live on tips, and small business owners who don't have a giant cushion of savings to rely on.  A complete lockdown or even social distancing will mean economic catastrophe to many, and will cost lives as well as creating destitution, just as Trump says.  Notably, people in these categories tend to be Trumpers themselves, and think Trump is very doing well by promising (so far) to keep the state of emergency limited, as compared with many Democrats implicitly calling for complete lockdown now which could last months, or whatever some particular medical authority says.  For various philosophical reasons, we can argue that life is more important than anything, but this quickly collapses to absurdity if taken to extreme.  Balance requires considering many factors including total lives spared as well as the quality and duration of lives lost or spared.  There may be nothing that justifies saving the wealth of the obscenely wealthy, ethically they might as well give it all to save just one old sick person (and sometimes do, if it is the same wealthy person) but obscene sacrifices by many many non-wealthy people may not be justified to save only a few very sick people who were about to die anyway and spare them just for a few more months.  Is that the case this time?  I doubt it and fear intense if not extreme measures may be justified, but most of the sacrificing should be done at the top--which is unlikely.  Rich people naturally command a capitalist economy, and if it doesn't work out, they should be the first to pay for that failure, but rarely do.  Given that the rich won't in fact pay for it, I don't think it's ethical to burden the non-wealthy too much either.  There is life, and then there is living.  That has always been my line, and I'm sticking to it.   Where the balance is, needs to be a matter of great, informed, and unlimited debate every time--it is not simple.  But most of the debate doesn't happen, instead people simply stereotype their adversaries as either bleeding hearts or business shills and so we have division without rationality, which tends to work to the advantage of the business shills, they always seem to win at the name calling game.  We the others should have a better game, generally.

As a fully retired and debt free homeowning person, I do not personally need a supplemental income stream.  But I feel very much for those who do, and where this is going for them, and the future of my country.

This is not to say all social security recipients are in my nice boat.  Many many have "retirement jobs," in fact nearly everyone I know (except me) does.  My mother worked to age 76.  My brother-in-law is still working at 80 plus.  And if they don't, their whole ship may sink under mortgages and other loans.  This is because they don't have paid off everything like me.

Therefore, it seems to me, one of the best things governments could do would be defer all debts and rent payments while a person remains unemployed.  And when that person gets employment again, payments resume with the same size payments, not a lump sum back payments which they can't possibly meet.

Then what about the modest landlords who live on rents?  Yes, that's part of the problem every layer of society pretty much lives paycheck to paycheck just with different kind of paycheck.  So the whole house of cards collapses if you pull one card from the bottom.

But anyway, people who live on rents would have their rents and debts deferred also.

But if we're tossing around trilions, it surely would be better for government to pay everyone's rent  or mortgage and other debts for the duration of their unemployment, than to inject trillions at the top.

This is not to say I wouldn't support the most radical idea of all, a debt jubilee.  I merely can't conceive of it happening.  Yet.

Free government-paid treatment of COVID-19 would be a good idea also, not to mention healthcare as a right.

Speaking of negative benefits, they include these:

1)  Panic crowds at stores with key items sold out  (Limits should have been in place months ago, along with mandated production of key items.)
2)  Doctors closing (so you need to go to overloaded urgent care centers which may be full of infected people).
3)  Obsessive measures which cause more damage than they are intended to prevent.  I still believe most of the concerns about sterilizing everything continually, even your own phone, are overblown, waste time, and distract from more useful measures.  It's possible the current procedures for dealing with COVID-19 require too many facemasks (over a dozen, I've read) to be practical and use up limited supplies of facemasks.

Wearing a mask

The conventional advice administered by CDC and WHO is that people who are not sick with COVID-19, and not caregivers of such a sick person, should not wear a mask.

The justification is that an improperly used mask, does not appreciably help, and might make matters worse:

1) Lack of seal means all the germs are being sucked in through the gaps anyway.  And unless N95 or better, lost can still come through the mask itself.

2) Handling the mask, assuming it was worn around sick people, could offload vast numbers of germs onto the hand or face itself during removal.

There are now many who dispute these claims.  As in all my previous pontifications, I don't know where the truth is buried, I'm only trying to ask important questions.

One argument is that since many people with COVID-19 are asymptomatic, and they may be asymptomatic for 2 weeks (or whatever), we should all be wearing masks just in case, to help prevent spreading the virus.   Others even dispute the claim that wearing masks does not help the individual.  Matt Stoller, for one, is strongly pro-mask (though I'm not sure if he makes both arguments).

It's easy to see that a mask might not be perfect.  But this isn't a test of perfect (though many binary reasoning people think it is).  It's a test of probabilities.  If you could lower your risk of getting sick by 50%, or even 25%, merely by doing something cheap and simple, wouldn't you?

Although in this case, you could also argue that while a mask might be cheap (if you already had some, they're simply not available now mostly) they are a big pain in every way, to put on, to take off (and then where do you put it, germs and all?), and while you are wearing it.

I'm inclined to follow the CDC/WHO guidelines in this case and at this time.