January 4th, 2009

waiting
  • bispo

We're Not in Springfield Anymore, Michelle.

h/t Phil Singer
The Rothenberg Political Report has a flier from the 2004 Senate primary in Illinois (click on the image for a larger version):

I really found the "Barack is the most qualified to represent Illinois in the U.S Senate!" and "If elected Obama will be the only African American in the U.S Senate!" lines the most interesting. The Obama campaign spent so much time playing down race and defending his qualifications. Oh - the things that have changed in only four years.
bispo_blog
time

Obama is losing a battle he doesn't know he's in.

The president-elect's silence on the Gaza crisis is undermining his reputation in the Middle East

Barack Obama's chances of making a fresh start in US relations with the Muslim world, and the Middle East in particular, appear to diminish with each new wave of Israeli attacks on Palestinian targets in Gaza. That seems hardly fair, given the president-elect does not take office until January 20. But foreign wars don't wait for Washington inaugurations.

Obama has remained wholly silent during the Gaza crisis. His aides say he is following established protocol that the US has only one president at a time. Hillary Clinton, his designated secretary of state, and Joe Biden, the vice-president-elect and foreign policy expert, have also been uncharacteristically taciturn on the subject.

But evidence is mounting that Obama is already losing ground among key Arab and Muslim audiences that cannot understand why, given his promise of change, he has not spoken out. Arab commentators and editorialists say there is growing disappointment at Obama's detachment - and that his failure to distance himself from George Bush's strongly pro-Israeli stance is encouraging the belief that he either shares Bush's bias or simply does not care.

The Al-Jazeera satellite television station recently broadcast footage of Obama on holiday in Hawaii, wearing shorts and playing golf, juxtaposed with scenes of bloodshed and mayhem in Gaza. Its report criticising "the deafening silence from the Obama team" suggested Obama is losing a battle of perceptions among Muslims that he may not realise has even begun.

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peggy

French Justice Minister Gives Birth Without Naming Father


France's justice minister Rachida Dati has given birth to a baby girl after refusing to name the child's father.

Her daughter, Zohra, was delivered 15 days prematurely by caesarean section in a maternity clinic in Paris.

Miss Dati, 43, has admitted that she has a "complicated" private life, and that the father of her first child would naturally be a subject for speculation.

French internet chat rooms and blogs have been inundated in recent months with rumours about her private life.
Miss Dati confirmed rumours of her pregnancy to reporters in Paris last summer, adding: "I will say nothing more for the moment about the father."

The speculation appears to have been of little concern to the Moroccan-born politician, who has said she has no wish to be a role model. She said recently: "I left school at 16, my family was not privileged and I struggled for many years. My life is not a beautiful story."

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(and S 2)


This post is approved by Carme Chacon, the Spanish Defence Secretary. :)
(pic was taken in April)

Queen Francoise

*sighs*

Bill Richardson withdraws for consideration for Obama's Cabinet


The Associated Press contributed to this report.

New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, tapped in December by President-elect Barack Obama to serve as secretary of Commerce, has withdrawn his name for the position, citing a pending investigation into a company that has done business with his state.

"Let me say unequivocally that I and my Administration have acted properly in all matters and that this investigation will bear out that fact," he said Sunday in a report by NBC News' Andrea Mitchell. "But I have concluded that the ongoing investigation also would have forced an untenable delay in the confirmation process."

A federal grand jury is investigating how a California company that contributed to Richardson's political activities won a lucrative New Mexico state contract.

A person familiar with the proceedings has told The Associated Press that the grand jury is looking into possible "pay-to-play" dealings between CDR Financial Products and someone in a position to push the contract through with the state of New Mexico.

Richardson said he plans to continue in his role as governor. "I appreciate the confidence President-elect Obama has shown in me, and value our friendship and working partnership. I told him that I am eager to serve in the future in any way he deems useful. And like all Americans, I pray for his success and the success of our beloved country."

Obama said Sunday he accepted Richardson's decision to withdraw with 'deep regret.'

"Governor Richardson is an outstanding public servant and would have brought to the job of Commerce Secretary and our economic team great insights accumulated through an extraordinary career in federal and state office," Obama said.

Richardson, 61, was United Nations ambassador and energy secretary during the Clinton administration, and he is in his second term as New Mexico's governor. He also served seven terms in the House of Representatives.

If he had been confirmed by the Senate as secretary of Commerce, he would have taken over a sprawling department that oversees the National Weather Service, the Census Bureau, economic development programs and more.

One of the nation's most prominent Hispanic politicians, Richardson had pledged at the time of his nomination — in English and Spanish — to work to renew the economy.

Obama on Sunday gave no indication whom he might name to replace Richardson as the nominee but said "we must move quickly to fill the void left by Governor Richardson's decision."

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*edited* ugh html fails
Calvin &amp; Hobbes

Va. Governor Kaine to Become DNC Chairman


Va. Governor Kaine to Become DNC Chairman



Virginia Gov. Timothy M. Kaine will become chairman of the Democratic National Committee later this month, serving as the top political messenger for Barack Obama's administration even while he finishes his final year in the governor's mansion, several sources said.

Kaine, who emerged as one of Obama's vice presidential finalists this summer, will operate from Richmond in a part-time capacity until January 2010, when he will become the full-time DNC chairman. Kaine is constitutionally barred from running for reelection.

A personal friend of the president-elect, Kaine is a gregarious chief executive who is known to relish political combat and helped put Virginia in the Democratic column for the first time in almost 50 years.
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Source

As the world looks elsewhere, death toll rises in Gaza

Israeli ground troops and heavy armour have moved deeper into the Gaza Strip, in effect cutting the territory in two.

Supported by a naval, air and land bombardment, forces have taken up positions on either side of Gaza City, and along a major east-west road.

The Palestinian health ministry says 70 people have been killed since the ground operation began. One Israeli soldier has been killed.

Earlier, US Vice-President Dick Cheney defended the Israeli ground assault.


He said air attacks were not enough to destroy rocket sites and added that Israel had not sought US approval for ground operations.

Israeli President Shimon Peres rejected calls for a ceasefire but insisted his country did not intend to re-occupy Gaza or crush Hamas.

The Palestinian Authority President, Mahmoud Abbas, said he was doing all he could to stop Israel's "vicious aggression".

A European Union mission has flown to the region. The bloc's foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, said the crisis represented a failure of diplomacy.

At least 32 missiles were fired into southern Israel from Gaza on Sunday. Two people were lightly wounded in the Eshkol region, while one woman was slightly injured in Sderot.

'Face-to-face battles'


As night fell, blackouts plunged much of Gaza into darkness. However, the flashes of explosions could be seen from the northern border, and the regular sounds of gun and artillery fire heard.

During the day, the fighting appeared to move away from the northern end of the territory, towards more populous areas in the west, correspondents say.

Later, Israeli military sources and witnesses said Israeli tanks and heavy armour had taken up positions on either side of Gaza City, in effect cutting Gaza into two parts, from the Karni crossing to the Mediterranean Sea.

The town of Beit Hanoun was also reportedly surrounded.

Hamas officials and witnesses report major fighting in five areas: east of the Jabaliya refugee camp; in the Zeitoun area; near the site of the former Jewish settlement of Netzarim; in the centre of Gaza; and on the outskirts of Khan Younis.

Hamas said its fighters were in some cases engaged in "face-to-face battles" with Israeli soldiers.

Earlier, the Israeli military said the militants were not engaging its troops in close combat but using mortars and improvised bombs.

The Palestinian health ministry says 509 Palestinians, mostly civilians, have been killed since the Israelis began their assault on Gaza eight days ago.

It says 21 of the 70 people killed since the beginning of the ground offensive were children. Some 2,500 people have reportedly also been wounded.

The figures could not be independently verified. Israel is refusing to let international journalists into Gaza despite a ruling by its a supreme court to admit a limited number of reporters.

Hamas officials say that 10 of its fighters have so far been killed.

The Israeli military says one of its soldiers has been killed and 34 wounded in the ground offensive, three of them seriously. It believes about 80% of the Palestinians killed were Hamas members.

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time

As My Son Goes to War, I Am Fully Israeli At Last


By Yossi Klein Halevi
Sunday, January 4, 2009; Page B01

 

JERUSALEM

"I just heard on the news that Gavriel's base has been shelled," my wife, Sarah, said to me last Tuesday, referring to our 19-year-old son, a member of anIsraeli army tank unit waiting on the Gaza border for the order to enter. And, she added in a deliberately calm tone, "A soldier was killed." We texted Gavriel, and within five minutes he called, safe. How, Sarah asked, did families survive war before cellphones?

For days we waited for a cabinet decision: Will there be a land invasion or a new cease-fire? The politicians began to bicker while our soldiers waited on the border, in the rain and the mud. Anything but this, I said to Sarah. Not another Lebanon War, which, like Gaza, began with an impressive show of Israeli air power but ended with Hezbollah leaderHassan Nasrallah predicting the imminent end of "the Zionist entity." If we don't win this time -- deliver an unambiguous blow if not topple Hamas entirely -- our deterrence will further erode, inviting more rocket attacks and encouraging the jihadist momentum throughout the Middle East.

And then I caught myself: How can I be hoping for an outcome that will send my son into battle? This is my first experience as the father of a soldier, and now, after 26 years of living in Israel, I finally understand the terrible responsibility of being an Israeli. I had assumed that I'd become initiated into Israeliness when I myself was drafted into the army as a 34-year-old immigrant in 1989. But perhaps only now have I become fully Israeli. Zionism promised to empower the Jews by making them responsible for their fate; the price for that achievement is to be prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice for one's commitments.


I know Gaza from a previous conflict. During the first intifada of the late 1980s, when Palestinians revolted against the occupation, I was part of a reservist unit that patrolled Gaza's refugee camps. There I learned that there is no such thing as a benign occupation, as Israelis had once deceived themselves into believing. Our unit not only arrested terrorist suspects but also dragged people out of their beds in the middle of the night to paint over anti-Israel graffiti and rounded up innocents after a grenade attack just to "make a presence," in army terminology. At night, in our tent, we argued about the wisdom of turning soldiers into policemen of a hostile civilian population that didn't want us there and which we didn't want as part of our society.
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A majority of Israelis emerged from the first intifada convinced that we need to do everything possible to end the occupation and ensure that our children don't serve as enforcers of Gaza's despair. That was why I initially supported the 1993 Oslo peace process that took a terrible gamble on Yasser Arafat's supposed transformation from terrorist to peacemaker. And even after it became clear that Arafat and other Palestinian leaders never intended to accept Israel's legitimacy, I supported the unilateral withdrawal from Gaza in 2005, simply to extricate us from that region, knowing that we would not receive peace in return.

And now my son is fighting in Gaza. The conflict he and his friends confront is far worse than my generation's experience in Gaza. In our time, we were confronted with mere rocks and Molotov cocktails; my son faces Iranian-supplied anti-tank weapons -- one more price we will pay, along with the missile attacks on our towns, for the Gaza withdrawal, just as the Israeli right had warned.

Still, I don't regret that withdrawal. If Israelis are united today about our right to defend ourselves against Gaza's genocidally minded regime, it is at least partly because we are fighting from our international border. My son and his friends have one crucial advantage over my generation's experience in Gaza: They know, as we did not, that Israel was ready to make the ultimate sacrifice for peace, uprooting thousands of its citizens from their homes and endorsing a Palestinian state. My son confronts Gaza knowing that its misery is now imposed by its leaders. He knows that his country was even prepared to share its most cherished national asset, Jerusalem, with its worst enemy, Arafat, for the sake of preventing this war. That empowers him with the moral self-confidence he will need to get through the coming days. The face of my Gaza enemy was a teenager throwing rocks; the face of Gavriel's Gaza enemy is a suicide bomber.

But we are hardly free of moral anxiety. Even as I pray for Gavriel's physical safety, I pray too for his spiritual well-being: that his tank doesn't accidentally shell civilians, that he isn't caught in some terrible mistake, which can so easily happen in a war zone where terrorists hide behind innocent people.

For the past eight years, Israel has fought a single war with shifting fronts, moving from suicide bombings in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv to Katyusha attacks on Israeli towns near the Lebanon border to Qassam missiles on Israeli towns near the Gaza border. That war has targeted civilians, turning the home front into the actual front. And it has transformed the nature of the conflict from a nationalist struggle over Palestinian statehood to a holy war against Jewish statehood. Except for a left-wing fringe, most Israelis recognize the conflict in Gaza as part of a larger war that has been declared against our being and that we must fight.

But how? Even some right-wingers are saying that we should have declared a unilateral cease-fire after the initial airstrike and then dared Hamas to continue shelling our towns, rather than risk another quagmire. And even some left-wingers are saying that we should now destroy the Hamas regime and then offer to turn Gaza over to international control or, if possible, an inter-Arab force led by Egypt. Every option is potentially disastrous. Most Israelis agree on two points: that we cannot live with a jihadist statelet on our border, and that we cannot become occupiers of Gaza again.

The despair of Gaza is contagious. One friend, a Likud supporter, said to me, "I don't know what to hope for anymore."

Meanwhile, I try to reassure myself about Gavriel's safety. Growing up in Jerusalem during the suicide bombings in the early 2000s, he has already known danger, intimacy with death. A 13-year-old acquaintance was stoned to death, and was so mutilated that he could be identified only by his DNA. A friend lost the use of an eye in a bus bombing on his way to school. At least now, Gavriel and his friends can defend themselves. Perhaps one reason most of them volunteered for combat units was because now the generation of the suicide bombings can finally fight back.

Just before the conflict in Gaza began, I happened to visit Gavriel at his base. His unit's barracks had been turned into what young Israelis call a "zula" -- a hangout. There were muddy couches, chairs without backs, a darbuka drum, a TV (Jay Leno was on). It could have been a teenage scene anywhere in the West, except that hanging on the walls were Hamas banners captured by the unit's veteran members in a previous round of fighting in Gaza. In a corner of the room hung a photograph of a fallen soldier. Across the bottom someone had written, "What was the rush, Shachar? Why did you have to leave us so soon?"

Even now, perhaps especially now, I feel that our family is privileged to belong to the Israeli story. Gavriel, grandson of a Holocaust survivor, is part of an army defending the Jewish people in its land. This is one of those moments when our old ideals are tested anew and found to be still vital. That provides some comfort as Sarah and I wait for the next text message.

 

Yossi Klein Halevi is a senior fellow at the Adelson Institute for Strategic Studies of the Shalem Center in Jerusalem and the author of "At the Entrance to the Garden of Eden: A Jew's Search for God with Christians and Muslims in the Holy Land." 

washingtonpost.com.
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time

Propaganda war: trusting what we see?

By Paul Reynolds 
World affairs correspondent, BBC News website

I srael has tried to take the initiative in the propaganda war over Gaza but, in one important instance, its version has been seriously challenged.
 
 
 
 
 
 

The incident raises the question of how to interpret video taken from the air.

Israel released video of an air attack on 28 December, which appeared to show rockets being loaded onto a lorry. The truck and those close to it were then destroyed by a missile.

 

This was clear evidence, the Israelis said, of how accurate their strikes were and how well justified. A special unit it has set up to coordinate its informational plan put the video onto YouTube as part of its effort to use modern means of communications to get Israel's case across.

The YouTube video has a large caption on it saying "Grad missiles being loaded onto the Hamas vehicle." As of Saturday morning UK time, more than 260,000 people had watched it.

Different version

It turned out, however, that a 55-year-old Gaza resident named Ahmed Sanur, or Samur, claimed that the truck was his and that he and members of his family and his workers were moving oxygen cylinders from his workshop.

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(no subject)

Key Democrat: No stimulus by inauguration
House’s Hoyer sees package being sent to Obama in mid-February

WASHINGTON - Congressional Democrats said Sunday that President-elect Barack Obama probably will have to wait until next month before getting the chance to sign an economic aid bill his team once hoped would be on his desk by his swearing-in Jan. 20.

“It’s going to be very difficult to get the package put together that early,” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland said. “But we certainly want to see this package passed through the House of Representatives no later than the end of this month, get it over to the Senate, and have it to the president before we break” in mid-February.

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&#39; jules
  • schmiss

It don't matter if you're black or white, doo doo doo doo, nah nah, OOH!

Reid Defends Himself From Racism Accusations

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was forced to defend his support for African-American politicians in a testy exchange with David Gregory on "Meet the Press" Sunday.

In a discussion of Senate appointee Roland Burris, Gregory repeated a claim of Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich that the Nevada Senator had opposed three other black potential replaces for President-elect Barack Obama.

"He's making it up," Reid said.


Gregory went on to say that people close to Burris were suggesting that "Reid doesn't want an African-American to succeed Obama." Reid gave a lengthy and impassioned defense of his history of promoting black Senate politicians. Anyone accusing him of racism, he concluded, is "part of the Blagojevich spin." Watch:


(the race bit starts at 7:40 or so)

Source

Further reading:

Crooks and Liars: David Gregory Thinks Confronting Politicians Only Matters With Democrats

Emptywheel: Blagojevich, Reid, and Rahm: Who Is Distorting Claims about Jesse Jackson Jr.?
MISC - moustache

Panel to declare Franken winner of Senate race

A state election board on Monday will announce Democrat Al Franken has defeated Republican incumbent Norm Coleman in Minnesota's U.S. Senate race, state officials told CNN Sunday.

The canvassing board on Monday will say a recount determined Franken won by 225 votes, Secretary of State Mark Ritchie told CNN.

However, Coleman's campaign, which contends the recount should have included about 650 absentee ballots it says were improperly rejected in the initial count, has indicated it will challenge the certification.

Coleman campaign manager Cullen Sheehan said his team believes the recount process was broken and that "the numbers being reported will not be accurate or valid."

"The effort by the Franken campaign, supported by the secretary of state, to exclude improperly rejected absentee ballots is indefensible and disenfranchises hundreds of Minnesota voters," Sheehan said.

After the results are certified, Coleman's campaign will have seven days to file a challenge.

The initial count from the November 4 election put Coleman, a first-term senator, 215 votes ahead of Franken -- known for his stint on NBC's "Saturday Night Live" and as a former talk-show host on progressive radio network Air America.

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beautiful, beautiful sauce

Glenn Greenwald being his usual brilliant self

Orwell, blinding tribalism, selective Terrorism, and Israel/Gaza

Former McCain-Palin campaign spokesman and current Weekly Standard editor Michael Goldfarb notes that Israel, a couple of days ago, dropped a 2,000-pound bomb on a Gazan home which killed a top Hamas leader . . . in addition to 18 others, including his four wives and nine of his children. About the killing of those innocent civilians, Goldfarb writes (h/t John Cole via email):
 
"The fight against Islamic radicals always seems to come around to whether or not they can, in fact, be deterred, because it's not clear that they are rational, at least not like us. But to wipe out a man's entire family, it's hard to imagine that doesn't give his colleagues at least a moment's pause. Perhaps it will make the leadership of Hamas rethink the wisdom of sparking an open confrontation with Israel under the current conditions."

That, of course, is just a slightly less profane version of Marty Peretz's chest-beating proclamation that the great value of the attack on Gaza is to teach those Arabs a lesson: "do not fuck with the Jews."

There are few concepts more elastic and subject to exploitation than "Terrorism," the all-purpose justifying and fear-mongering term. But if it means anything, it means exactly the mindset which Goldfarb is expressing: slaughtering innocent civilians in order to "send a message," to "deter" political actors by making them fear that continuing on the same course will result in the deaths of civilians and -- best of all, from the Terrorist's perspective -- even their own children and other family members.
 
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"I was trained from an early age to view this group as my group, to identify with them emotionally, culturally, religiously.  Maybe that -- and not an objective assessment of these events -- is why I continuously side with that group and see everything from its perspective and justify whatever it does, why I find the Dick Cheney/Weekly Standard/neoconservative worldview repellent in every situation except when it comes to Israel, when I suddenly find it wise and vigorously embrace it."

Those who defend American actions in every case, or who find justification in attacks on Israeli civilians, or who find simplistic moral clarity in a whole range of other complex and protracted disputes where all sides share infinite blame, are often guilty of the same refusal/inability to at least try to minimize this sort of ingrained tribalistic blindness.

* * * * *

Still, there is a substantial difference between, on the one hand, basically well-intentioned people who are guilty of excessive emotional and cultural identification with one side of the dispute and, on the other, those who adopt the Goldfarb/Peretz psychopathic derangement of belittling rage over widespread civilian deaths as mere "whining" or even something to view as a strategic asset. The latter group is a subset of war supporters and evinces every defining attribute of the Terrorist.

Those who giddily support not just civilian deaths in Gaza but every actual and proposed attack on Arab/Muslim countries -- from the war in Iraq to the Israeli invasion of Lebanon to the proposed attacks on Iran and Syria and even continued escalation in Afghanistan -- are able to do so because they don't really see the Muslims they want to kill as being fully human.
For obvious reasons, one typically finds this full-scale version of sociopathic indifference -- this perception of brutal war as a blood-pumping and exciting instrument for feeling vicarious sensations of power and strength from a safe distance -- in the society's weakest, most frightened, and most insecure individuals.

Here's right-wing blogger (and law professor) Glenn Reynolds revealing that wretched mindset for all to see:

“Cycles of violence” continue until one side wins decisively. Personally, I’d rather that were the Israelis, since they’re civilized people and not barbarians.

Or, as Goldfarb put it: "it's not clear that they are rational, at least not like us."


If you see Palestinians as something less than civilized human beings: as "barbarians" -- just as if you see Americans as infidels warring with God or Jews as sub-human rats -- then it naturally follows that civilian deaths are irrelevant, perhaps even something to cheer. For people who think that way, arguments about "proportionality" won't even begin to resonate -- such concepts can't even be understood -- because the core premise, that excessive civilian deaths are horrible and should be avoided at all costs, isn't accepted. Why should a superior, civilized, peaceful society allow the welfare of violent, hateful barbarians to interfere with its objectives? How can the deaths or suffering of thousands of barbarians ever be weighed against the death of even a single civilized person?

So many of these conflicts -- one might say almost all of them -- end up shaped by the same virtually universal deficiency: excessive tribalistic identification (i.e.: the group with which I was trained to identify is right and good and just and my group's enemy is bad and wrong and violent), which causes people to view the world only from the perspective of their side, to believe that X is good when they do it and evil when it's done to them. X can be torture, or the killing of civilians in order to "send a message" (i.e., Terrorism), or invading and occupying other people's land, or using massive lethal force against defenseless populations, or seeing one's own side as composed of real humans and the other side as sub-human, evil barbarians. As George Orwell wrote in Notes on Nationalism -- with perfect prescience to today's endless conflicts (h/t Hume's Ghost):

All nationalists have the power of not seeing resemblances between similar sets of facts. A British Tory will defend self-determination in Europe and oppose it in India with no feeling of inconsistency. Actions are held to be good or bad, not on their own merits, but according to who does them, and there is almost no kind of outrage — torture, the use of hostages, forced labour, mass deportations, imprisonment without trial, forgery, assassination, the bombing of civilians — which does not change its moral colour when it is committed by ‘our’ side ... The nationalist not only does not disapprove of atrocities committed by his own side, but he has a remarkable capacity for not even hearing about them

For those who evaluate moral questions from that blindingly self-regarding perspective, anything and everything becomes easily justifiable.



UPDATE: The Israeli Supreme Court several days ago ordered the Government to allow reporters into Gaza, yet Israel continues to block all journalists from entering. The reason, as casual_observer notes in comments, is clear:

The reason Israel has done this must be that they will do whatever they must--including ignoring their own high court--to limit evidence that Gazans are indeed human beings and that they are suffering the horrors that occur when war is unleashed on densely-packed urban civilians.

Israel knows full well that reporting from Gaza turns Gazans from vague abstractions to suffering human beings. And they will not allow that reality to be communicated to the world.

Especially in the American media, there is a constant focus on the effects on civilians from the rocket attacks on Southern Israelis -- as well there should be, since that is an important part of the debate. But everyone should also be permitted to view the devastating effects on actual human beings from these Israeli bombing and artillery raids in Gaza. This truly horrific video -- purportedly of a recent Israeli bombing of a civilian Gazan market -- has been widely cited. I can't and don't vouch for its authenticity (UPDATE: there's good reason to believe it's not from an Israeli attack), but it's certainly reflective of the carnage in Gaza. It's much easier to undervalue the suffering imposed on The Other when you don't have to see it.

-- Glenn Greenwald

<a href="http://www.salon.com/opinion/greenwald/2009/01/04/terrorism/index.html">

I'm consistently impressed with how lucid, well-researched and well-reasoned this man's writings are.  I highly HIGHLY recommend going to the source because there are tons of embedded links which I have no idea how to transfer.  This was my personal favorite:  http://draftgoldfarb.blogspot.com/
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