The "Holy Land" seems to be doing what it historically does best -- going up in smoke amid border clashes and tit-for-tat, eye-for-an-eye, Levitican retribution and hostilities. The only way to even write about the never-ending, mindless violence surrounding Israel is to start with the latest news and work backward a month, then a year, then a decade, then a century, then a millenium. Sometimes, I think the global community is simply going to ignore this whole area, allow these brothers of Abraham to kill each other off, have a quick funeral for the Middle East, and then get on with the daily job of being a human in the twenty first century.
This is probably why I normally avoid writing about Israel/Palestine. It's a no-win situation. If you speak critically of modern Israel, suddenly you're an anti-semite in the U.S. If you speak critically of Palestine, you get blamed for having no historical perspective of the situation.
Growing up in the Detroit area, I found this out very early in life. I remember getting angry rebukes from some in the Arab community for even mentioning the name Israel to them -- to them, it is Palestine and always has been -- until the Zionists invaded 60 years ago and called it Israel. If I referred to the country as Palestine to Jewish people, I'd get a reverse lesson in mindless history.
These history teachers were not poor, brainwashed, Palestinian teenagers who believe that becoming a suicide matyr is their best option for their lives -- nor was it some Orthodox Jewish settler on vacation. These people were well-educated professionals and business owners.
I was literally amazed one day speaking to a Lebanese business owner who seemed perplexed about the Jewish exodus from Hitler's Nazi Germany. I was trying to say that one cause for the formation of the state of Israel was WWII and Hitler. He had never heard of it. I guess they omit that holocaust lesson in schools in Beirut.
In the U.S. we seem to always get the news that Hamas or Hezbollah did some terrorist act -- and then, this is how Israel has reacted to it. This is what is happening now. Hamas took a hostage, Israel rolled into Gaza. Hezbollah took 2 hostages, Israel is now bombing Lebanon. Next, we can all start blaming Syria and Iran for supporting Hezbollah and the shit can really hit the fan.
By the way of a domestic note, Conneticut Senator Joe Lieberman explained his past and continuing support for Bush's Iraq war by saying that Saddam supported terrorists this very morning on the national syndicated radio show, "Imus in the Morning." I found it very intriguing that Senator Lieberman conspicuously never even mentioned Israel once in his carefully contrived explanations.
Didn't Saudia Arabia TV have suicide martyr telethons before September 11th to show support for Intifada groups (terrorists) to the Israeli occupation, too? I guess it's lucky that Bush is such good friends with the house of Saud, or we'd be mired down in their desert, too.
In the end, it's a matter of perspective. In 2004, the Israeli government did swap over 400 prisoners for a single businessman who had been taken hostage. Now, after some towns in the Gaza strip have been decimated for one IDF soldier and Lebanon has been bombed for two others, it's going to get much worse before it ever gets a little better again.
This month's Rolling Stone magazine labels 15-year-old Ava Lowery as a Super Girl. I agree with RS and told her as much on her Peace Takes Courage blog. While I just became aware of this Alabama teenager's courage and website today from a blog entry on Veterans for America, she was thrust into the national media spotlight for her flash animations that asked people to think about Bush's Iraq war and its consequences. She was interviewed briefly on CNN in June when her "What Would Jesus Do" flash animation prompted some to send her death threats. View that CNN interview in WMV or MOV file format.
During the CNN interview, the news bunny asked Ava Lowery, "How did you even know about the Iraq War?" That question really bothered me. It almost sounded as if she was disappointed that CNN hadn't done its job putting the public to sleep -- or -- amazed that a teenager whose older classmates are required by law to register with the Selective Service in order to qualify for any college financial aid should instead be living in the BushWorld Unreality Matrix, just shopping and playing videogames with her girlfriends.
Well, Ava Lowery has been thinking for herself for more than a year, doing her own research, and has created over seventy flash animations during that time. For the most part, her flash animations are not goofy, humorous animations. They ask you to think.
IMHO, the one truly humorous flash animation is called "The 32%" and highlights some of the hateful or misguided statements in email she received after the WWJD animation became widely known. It's soundtrack is appropriate -- Dueling Banjos.
Despite the humor with which she channeled that spate of hatemail, I must say it also takes extraordinary courage on her part to take such an active stand for peace in the face of it all. I remember receiving my own share of hatemail, mainly before the 2004 election. Some of it made me a little nervous. I'm a grown man, but Ava is a teenage girl.
I hope her ongoing story inspires you as much as it did me, today. I'm rarely impressed. I'm mostly snarky and cynical. Yet, Ava Lowery is an impressive person in my book. Maybe there is hope for a sane future.
Welcome to Swamp Gas in the Imajica. Similar to the You Can't Make This Shit Up (YCMTSU) section, Swamp Gas will focus solely on news and items of interest in the sunshine state of Florida.
They say, "All the nuts in America roll downhill to Florida." So let's just see how true that phrase really is.
Click on the Swamp Gas logo for the smelly menu.
Swamp Gas v. 010
WEST PALM BEACH
This little five week old kitten almost became Meow Mix kitty bits after it apparently survived a trip through a running wood chipper. According to veterinarian, Dr. Salvatore Zeitlin, the kitten did suffer a neck fracture, broken front legs and a partial scalping. However, the kitten, now named "Chipper" should recover and be ready for adoption. Awww video included on source page.
Muffy, a nine year old Burmese python, is officially the longest python in North American, measuring over 22 feet. "A person goes to a pet shop and buys a baby python. It's cute. You feed it mice. Pretty soon, you feed it rats. It's not long before this creature is too big for the average person. And it's dangerous," said Muffy's keeper, Bob Colishaw, owner of Captain Bob's Excellent Adventure. What the heck are they feeding Muffy now, children from the neighborhood?
Here's a story of robotic bureaucracy meeting crabby neighbors. Jack Garrison got warned of fines of almost $1,400 for a barking dog violation and four squirrel-related infractions: squirrel at large, squirrel on the beach, squirrel defecating or urinating on public or private property and squirrel disturbing the peace. One problem -- Jack doesn't own a dog or any pet squirrels. I didn't realize there were so many squirrel-related laws. Squirrel on the beach ... isn't that a mixed drink?
I started out to write an update on Bush's domestic NSA spying program. So, I sought out to find some appropiate images. This resulted in my visual epiphany, shown above.
When I first read news that the NSA domestic spying activities were in place well before the September 11th, 2001 terrorist attacks, I had two reactions. First, I thought how disingenuous Bush is when he says that he ordered the program be put in place to "protect the country." He's taking credit -- or blame, depending upon your perspective -- for something he had little to do with. Second, parts of the ongoing news reports are wrong.
After doing some simple bricklayer-level research on my own, I discovered that not only was the NSA program not a secret, but also that is has been planned for some years and has been practically advertised since the beginning, before Bush took office. Whether the corporate media is lazy, too stupid to use google, or has some other reason for not reporting on this -- you decide.
In March 2005, the GWU archive published the declassified version of the NSA's "Transition 2001" report. A culmination of studies going back to 1999, the report was finally published by the NSA in December 2000. Download the PDF file.
While I know some people will take the time to read the 42-page report, others will not. Obviously some corporate news reporters have not, to be sure.
Some people will complain that they didn't see this coming -- pointing out that the report was classified in December 2000 and only declassified and published at GWU in March 2005.
That sounds like a reasonable excuse, until you notice that the National Security Administration itself published a press release about the privatization efforts, and even naming the program in the PR. "Project Groundbreaker" was advertised in June 2000.
As any government agency would, the NSA solicited contracts for Groundbreaker. In July 2001, the 5-year, $2 billion contract was awarded to CSC, who created the "Eagle Alliance" team. How secret is Eagle Alliance? They have their own website to advertise the project.
Why did I have a visual epiphany with the images above? I saw the cars in the parking lot at the vast NSA complex and the vast number of people in Mecca making the Hajj. I thought how oddly similar they looked.
Then, I thought how odd that both iconic images were black boxes. If they are stained black from crude oil now, will they both turn red sometime in the future?