Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Keith Punts Don Waaaaay Downfield

Run, do not walk, over to MSNBC to see Keith Olbermann's blog in which he hoists Don Rumsfeld on several simultaneous petards. The video from his show tonight is supposedly even more spectacular but, as a print guy from way back, the Slangwhanger-in-Chief will limit his encomium to the non-multimedia extravaganza that is text.
Disaster Capitalism

The privatisation of aid after Katrina offers a glimpse of a terrifying future in which only the wealthy are saved
How to Make Money Out of Misery
Naomi Klein
Wednesday August 30, 2006
The Guardian

The Red Cross has just announced a new disaster-response partnership with Wal-Mart. When the next hurricane hits, it will be a co-production of Big Aid and Big Box. This, apparently, is the lesson learned from the US government's calamitous response to Hurricane Katrina: businesses do disaster better.

"It's all going to be private enterprise before it's over," Billy Wagner, emergency management chief for the Florida Keys, currently under hurricane watch for tropical storm Ernesto, said in April. "They've got the expertise. They've got the resources." But before this new consensus goes any further, perhaps it's time to take a look at where the privatisation of disaster began, and where it will inevitably lead.

The first step was the government's abdication of its core responsibility to protect the population from disasters. Under the Bush administration, whole sectors of the government, most notably the Department of Homeland Security, have been turned into glorified temp agencies, with essential functions contracted out to private companies. The theory is that entrepreneurs, driven by the profit motive, are always more efficient (please suspend hysterical laughter).

We saw the results in New Orleans one year ago: Washington was frighteningly weak and inept, in part because its emergency management experts had fled to the private sector and its technology and infrastructure had become positively retro. At least by comparison, the private sector looked modern and competent.

But the honeymoon doesn't last long. "Where has all the money gone?" ask desperate people from Baghdad to New Orleans, from Kabul to tsunami-struck Sri Lanka. One place a great deal of it has gone is into major capital expenditure for these private contractors. Largely under the public radar, billions of taxpayer dollars have been spent on the construction of a privatised disaster-response infrastructure: the Shaw Group's new state-of-the-art Baton Rouge headquarters, Bechtel's battalions of earthmoving equipment, Blackwater USA's 6,000-acre campus in North Carolina (complete with paramilitary training camp and 6,000-foot runway).

I call it the Disaster Capitalism Complex. Whatever you might need in a serious crunch, these contractors can provide it: generators, watertanks, cots, port-a-potties, mobile homes, communications systems, helicopters, medicine, men with guns.

This state-within-a-state has been built almost exclusively with money from public contracts, including the training of its staff (overwhelmingly former civil servants, politicians and soldiers). Yet it is all privately owned; taxpayers have absolutely no control over it or claim to it. So far, that reality hasn't sunk in because while these companies are getting their bills paid by government contracts, the Disaster Capitalism Complex provides its services to the public free of charge.

But here's the catch: the US government is going broke, in no small part thanks to this kind of loony spending. The national debt is $8 trillion; the federal budget deficit is at least $260bn. That means that sooner rather than later the contracts are going to dry up. Insiders call it the "homeland security bubble".

When it bursts, firms such as Bechtel, Fluor and Blackwater will lose their primary revenue stream. They will still have all their hi-tech gear giving them the ability to respond to disasters, while the government will have let that precious skill wither away - but now they will rent back the tax-funded infrastructure at whatever price they choose.

Here's a snapshot of what could be in store in the not-too-distant future: helicopter rides off rooftops in flooded cities at $5,000 a pop ($7,000 for families, pets included), bottled water and "meals ready to eat" at $50 a head (steep, but that's supply and demand), and a cot in a shelter with a portable shower (show us your biometric ID, developed on a lucrative homeland security contract, and we'll track you down later with the bill).

The model, of course, is the US healthcare system, in which the wealthy can access best-in-class treatment in spa-like environments while 46 million Americans lack health insurance. As emergency-response, the model is already at work in the global Aids pandemic: private-sector prowess helped produce life-saving drugs (with heavy public subsidies), then set prices so high that the vast majority of the world's infected cannot afford treatment.

If that is the corporate world's track record on slow-motion disasters, why should we expect different values to govern fast-moving disasters such as hurricanes or even terrorist attacks? It's worth remembering that as Israeli bombs pummelled Lebanon not so long ago, the US government initially tried to charge its citizens for the cost of their own evacuations. And, of course, anyone without a western passport in Lebanon had no hope of rescue.

One year ago, New Orleans's working-class and poor citizens were stranded on their rooftops waiting for help that never came, while those who could pay their way escaped to safety. The country's political leaders claim it was all some terrible mistake, a breakdown in communication that is being fixed. Their solution is to go even further down the catastrophic road of "private-sector solutions."

Unless a radical change of course is demanded, New Orleans will prove to be a glimpse of a dystopian future, a future of disaster apartheid in which the wealthy are saved and everyone else is left behind.

· Naomi Klein's book on disaster capitalism will be published in spring 2007.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Forecasting Today's War from 1869

Last week saw the Second Anglo-Iraqi War endure longer than US troops were in World War II. The Brits, like Thursday's child, have far to go. Their WWII lasted 5 years, 11 months, 10 days while ours was "only" (ha!) 3 years, 8 months, 6 days.

Back when the current war was being promoted in the higher socio-political circles of the capitalist imperial capital on the Potomac, a little bird told the Slangwhanger- in- Chief to consult a certain not-uncelebrated account of the czarist imperial capital on the Moskva during seven years of Napoleon's wars. Pursuing that providential advice, he came across the following equivocal text.
Combat and Tranquility
By Countess Konstantia Garnettovna,
writing over the name of Levtol Stoy
Transfigured into English by R. G. Stonelower,
Mount Tabor, Ltd., 1880

"Well, Senator, so Kuwait and Syria are now just family estates of the Husayns, as the CIA insists on spelling their name. But I warn you, if you don't tell me that this means war, if you still try to defend the infamies and horrors perpetrated by that Antichrist -- I really believe he is Antichrist -- I will have nothing more to do with you and you are no longer my friend, no longer my 'faithful slave,' as you call yourself! But how do you do? I see I have frightened you -- sit down and tell me
all the news."

It was in September [of either 2002 or 1811; the records simultaneously differ and are duplicative at significant points], and the speaker was the well-known Annette Scherer, Social Secretary to and favorite of the Princesses Royal, Jenna and Barbara. With these words she greeted Senator Beauregard Claghorn, a man of high rank and importance, who was the first to arrive at her reception. Annette had had a cough for some days. She was, as she said, suffering from la grippe....

All her invitations without exception, ... delivered by messenger that morning, ran as follows:

"If you have nothing better to do, Senator or Representative, and if the prospect of spending an evening with a poor invalid is not too terrible, I shall be very charmed to see you tonight between 7 and 10 -- Annette Scherer."

"Heavens! what a virulent attack!" replied the Senator, not in the least disconcerted by this reception. He had just entered, wearing an exquisite $1,500 bespoke wool suit, and had ... a serene expression on his flat face. He spoke in that refined middlebrow accent in which our grandfathers ... spoke ..., and with the gentle, patronizing intonation natural to a man of importance who had grown old in society and in Congress. He went up to Annette, kissed her hand, presenting to her his bald, scented, and shining head, and complacently seated himself on the sofa.

"First of all, dear friend, tell me how you are. Set your friend's mind at rest," said he without altering his tone, beneath the politeness and affected sympathy of which indifference and even irony could be discerned.

"Can one be well while suffering morally? Can one be calm in times like these if one has any feeling?" said Annette. "You are staying the whole evening, I hope?"

"And the reception at the English ambassador's? Today is Wednesday. I must put in an appearance there," said the Senator. "My daughter is coming for me to take me there."

"I thought today's reception had been canceled. I confess all these festivities and fireworks are becoming wearisome."

"If they had known that you wished it, the entertainment would have been put off," said the Senator, who, like a wound-up clock, by force of habit said things he did not even wish to be believed.

"Don't tease! Well, and what has been decided about the UN dispatch? You know everything."

"What can one say about it?" replied the Senator in a cold, listless tone. "What has been decided? They have decided that Husayn has burnt his boats, and I believe that we are ready to burn ours."

Senator Claghorn always spoke languidly, like an actor repeating a stale part. Annette Scherer on the contrary, despite her forty years, overflowed with animation and impulsiveness. To be an enthusiast had become her social vocation and, sometimes even when she did not feel like it, she became enthusiastic in order not to disappoint the expectations of those who knew her. The subdued smile which, though it did not suit her faded features, always played round her lips expressed, as in a spoiled child, a continual consciousness of her charming defect, which she neither wished, nor could, nor considered it necessary, to correct.

In the midst of a conversation on political matters Annette burst out:

"Oh, don't speak to me of France. Perhaps I don't understand things, but France never has wished, and does not wish, for war. She is betraying us! The US alone must save the Middle East. Our gracious Preznit recognizes his high vocation and will be true to it. That is the one thing I have faith in! Our good and wonderful Preznit has to perform the noblest role on earth, and he is so virtuous and noble that God will not forsake him. He will fulfill his vocation and crush the hydra of terrorism, which has become more terrible than ever in the person of this murderer and villain! We alone must avenge the blood of the just ones.... Whom, I ask you, can we rely on?... Germany with her commercial spirit will not and cannot understand the Preznit's loftiness of soul. ... She wanted to find, and still seeks, some secret motive in our actions. What answer did the UN get? None. The Germans have not understood and cannot understand the self-abnegation of our Preznit who wants nothing for himself, but only desires the good of mankind. And what have they promised? Nothing! And what little they have promised they will not perform! Germany has always declared that Husayn is invincible, and that all Europe is powerless before him.... And I don't believe a word that German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder says, or German Opposition Leader Edmund Stoiber either. This famous German neutrality is just a trap. I have faith only in God and the lofty destiny of our adored Preznit. He will save the Middle East!"

She suddenly paused, smiling at her own impetuosity.

"I think," said the Senator with a smile, "that if you had been sent instead of our dear Rumsfeld you would have captured Schroeder's consent by assault. You are so eloquent. Will you give me a glass of whisky?"

Continue for half a million words across seven years of history...
Preznit's Signing Statement to Judge Taylor

Upon being shown a copy of Federal District Judge Anna Diggs Taylor's ruling in ACLU vs. NSA (Case #06-CV-10204), Preznit G. W. Bush -- breathing laboriously, his tongue sticking out between his teeth, his brow furrowed with effort -- painstakingly scrawled the following signing statement:

"I did not read this alleged decision. I am not going to read this. I am not going to have anybody read this to me. I forbid my staff and the entire unitary Executive Branch to read this. You can tell by their responses that Attorney General Gonzales and Whine House spokesman Tony Snow have already not read it, and I affirm that all of us in this Administration will continue not to read it. This decision does not exist. It is a figment of the imagination of the self-loathing Godless welfare-cheater atheist gun-outlawing agnostic home-school-hating Muslim terrorist-supporting hippie Commie dope-fiend pinko bedwetter black-loving Al Qaeda-befriending liberal business-trashing traitor anti-American socialist pro-abortion gay homosexual wimp-dog Lesbyterian coward media that hates our soldiers, our values, and our Commander-in-Chiefness. Laura, put the goddam thing down and don't try to explain anything."

Friday, August 18, 2006

Moribund on the Right

Though there is much to dispute in the below train of thought, there is much to admire. The repeated, extensive and now recognized failures of the neo-cons and libertarians to grapple with the real world unfits them for government. However, the Slangwhanger-in-Chief foresees more hope for "capitalism with a human face," that is to say, socialism properly adapted (more linguistically than structurally) to the modern situation. And as a footnote, never let it be forgotten that the US Libertarian Party was invented in the 1970s in order for young Republican hipster-wannabes to smoke dope with a clean conscience.
The Unmourned End of Libertarian Politics
By Michael Lind
Financial Times August 17, 2006

The most epochal event in world politics since the cold war has occurred - and few people have noticed. I am not referring to the conflict in Iraq or Lebanon or the campaign against terrorism.

It is the utter and final defeat of the movement that has shaped the politics of the US and other western democracies for several decades: the libertarian counter- revolution.

Between the 1930s and 1960s, the US and other liberal democracies adopted their own versions of modern welfare state capitalism. By the mid-20th century, in every western democracy, the legitimacy of the welfare state was accepted by mainstream parties of the right as well as the centre and left. But not by the libertarians. Unlike Eisenhower, Nixon and other "modern Republicans", America's libertarians did not seek a more fiscally responsible welfare state. They wanted to abolish the welfare state altogether and replace it with an "opportunity society" or "ownership society". They were revolutionaries - or more precisely, counter-revolutionaries, seeking to restore an idealised Victorian world of laisser faire capitalism.

The libertarians launched a massive intellectual and rhetorical assault on modern government from the 1970s onward. Their formidable forces included influential economists such as Milton Friedman, the Nobel Prize winner, and Martin Feldstein, who chaired Ronald Reagan's Council of Economic Advisers; think-tanks such as the Cato Institute; and affluent pressure groups such as the Club for Growth and Americans for Tax Reform, whose leader, Grover Norquist, famously said that government should be shrunk until it can be drowned in a bathtub.

Libertarians proposed to privatise Social Security, replacing government pensions with individual savings accounts. Healthcare, too, would be provided by individual "health savings accounts". Public education, a legacy of the 19th century, was another target of the libertarian counter-revolutionaries, who proposed giving citizens vouchers for private schools. The libertarians also targeted labour market regulation, calling for abolition of the minimum wage. This would be combined with mass immigration, which would drive down wages further.

In the mid-20th century, welfare-statism was the "third way" between democratic socialism on the left and big-government conservatism that accepted the welfare state but sought to limit its costs. But in the 1970s and 1980s, the political spectrum shifted to the right. Not only communism but also democratic socialism vanished as plausible options because people no longer believed that the nationalisation of whole economies made any sense. At the same time, moderate conservatives who had made their peace with the welfare state were outflanked on the right by the radical libertarians.

Suddenly the former political "centre", social democratic welfare-state capitalism, was redefined as the "left" and the former "right", big-government conservatism, was now considered the "centre". In the 1990s, the term "third way" meant, not Swedish social democracy, but the pro-market "neo-liberalism" of Bill Clinton and Tony Blair, which would have been considered moderate conservatism in the 1950s . In the US, the Democratic Leadership Council echoed the free-market, small-government rhetoric of the libertarian radicals. "The era of big government is over," Mr Clinton declared. But he spoke too soon. In the past decade, the US public has rejected every element of the libertarian counter-revolution. The first proposal voters rejected was the privatisation of schooling. Because US education policy is dominated by states and cities, this issue was fought at the local level. It turned out that most conservative Republicans as well as Democrats were content with their suburban public schools. Again and again, voucher proposals went down to defeat.

President George W. Bush made Social Security privatisation a central part of his legislative agenda. Americans, alarmed by the stock market slide, rejected the idea and frightened Republican politicians dropped it. Neither has the Bush administration exerted itself over another libertarian proposal, health savings accounts, which almost certainly would be rejected by risk-averse voters. Indeed, to the horror of libertarians, Mr Bush and the Republican Congress created the prescription drug programme for the elderly, the biggest expansion of socialised medicine in the US since Lyndon Johnson presided over the creation of Medicare in 1965.

And the labour market? Here again, the libertarians have been completely routed. Against libertarian opposition, Congressional Republicans recently sought an increase in the minimum wage, coupled with cuts in the estate tax. And against libertarian opposition, swelling popular demand for an end to illegal immigration has forced both parties to support measures to police America's chaotic borders.

For nearly a decade, the Republican party has controlled Washington and most state legislatures. And yet every big proposal of the libertarians has been rejected by the public and their elected representatives. Their only temporary achievement has been tax cuts, which are likely to be rolled back at least in part to reduce the deficit in the years ahead. With the disappearance as a significant force of the libertarian right, the centre of gravity inevitably will shift somewhat left in matters of political economy. But we will not see a restoration of the mid-20th century pattern because there will be no revival of the socialist left. The demise of both socialism and libertarianism pretty much limits the field to moderate social democracy and big-government conservatism. The limitation of options on the horizontal left-right spectrum is accompanied, however, by a growing vertical, top-bottom divide between an elite committed to globalisation and mass immigration and a populist, nationalist majority. If this replaces the older horizontal left-right divide, then we may see a third, "third way" - one which positions itself between the crudest forms of populism and utopian forms of transnationalism.

The libertarian moment has passed. It will not come again, and its defeat as a force in US politics will change the definitions of right, left and centre - not just in the US but also, the world.

--The writer is senior fellow at the New America Foundation and author of The American Way of Strategy (Oxford University Press, ­forthcoming October 2006)

© Copyright The Financial Times Ltd 2006

Monday, August 14, 2006

God Deliver Us

The Slangwhanger-in-Chief's knees are bent in constant supplication to the deity at hand. He keeps praying that Hillary is too smart to run. The personal vitriol quotient from the right will drown out any issues, as it did over health care in 94.

And there is no enthusiasm for her among real Democrats. She's Humphrey to Feingold's McCarthy and hence irreparable, no matter her level of skill. By turning against the war Kerry and Edwards weren't pandering, they were acknowledging the flow of history, an act at which politicians are notoriously ungraceful.

But a cautious centrist with enormous personal baggage is no Democrat for 08. The 06 midterms and the 08 presidential are going to be about repairing the ravages of Bush, and Clinton doesn't have enough distance from him on the main issue (Iraq) while the rabid psychosis against a powerful woman will obscure any other policy differences.

Maybe it ought not to be like that, but it is. She's poison for a variety of reasons, all of them good sound Democratic ones.

Friday, August 04, 2006

The Return of the Old Lie

Virginia Woolf was only artistically right when she said, “The modern world began on or about December 1910.” She referred to painting and poetry and they are, like all arts, always the canary in the coal mine. The bursting of forms in images and languages was both liberating and threatening; the few people who knew anything about these esoteric and disparate happenings at the time wondered what they meant.

In our era, the wretched violence and physical disrespect contained in hip hop and rap music preceded, foreshadowed, and expressed a sick American spirit that would go into Afghanistan and Iraq not knowing what was wrong with itself and convinced, in fact, that nothing was wrong.

By general agreement, August 4, 1914 is, in political and economic terms, the beginning of the modern world. As railway-rolling German armies slipped across the Belgian border in the morning fog, world trade stood at levels so high they would never again be reached until the 1990s. German chemistry, English poetry, French painting, and Italian music had just begun to achieve artistic heights that in some ways have never been repeated. The illusion of civilization was everywhere robust and growing.

And it was everywhere shattered in a relatively brief period of time. At Christmas 1914 there was a spontaneous truce on the Western Front, with singing and international football. By 1919 the consensus figure for total military dead is 9 million, apparently excluding post-war early veteran deaths from wounds, exposure, malnutrition and despair. Britannica gives 13 million civilian dead. Then there are the estimated 8 million killed in the Russian Revolution and Armenian Genocide, which it is difficult to exclude conceptually from the war’s cost.

Finally, “The global mortality rate from the 1918/1919 pandemic is not known, but is estimated at 2.5% – 5% of the human population, with 20% of the world population suffering from the disease to some extent. Influenza may have killed as many as 25 million in its first 25 weeks; in contrast, AIDS killed 25 million in its first 25 years. Influenza spread across the world, killing more than 25 million in six months; some estimates put the total killed at over twice that number, possibly even 100 million.” –Wikipedia, “Spanish flu”

A figure often cited for the flu epidemic is 70 million dead worldwide, and again it is difficult to exclude these from the effects of the war. On an US Census-estimated 1920 world population base of 1,960 million, 100 million war deaths gives humanity a 5% mortality rate. Though this pales in efficiency by comparison to nature’s unaided estimated 25% mortality rate during the Black Death around 1350, the impact of 100 million manmade deaths is no paltry achievement.

Celebrating it, however, is another matter. Early in WWI the English high-society magazine Punch published a poem by a Canadian lieutenant-colonel that would enter the pantheon of official patriotism from Canada to the US to Britain to South Africa to Australia and New Zealand. This sentimental effusion is, in Virginia Woolf’s terminology, definitively pre-1910.

Dr. John McCrae
May 3, 1915

In Flanders Fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead.
Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch, be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die

We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Relatively unknown in the US, perhaps because of its familiar use of Horace’s OdesIII.2.13, is the infantryman’s answer in true modern poetry to the high schmaltziness of the medical corps given above. The usual Horace translation is, “Sweet and Fitting it is to Die for your Fatherland.” Using one of the distinguishing tropes of modernism Wilfrid Owen shows death so realistically that he savagely undercuts any notion of glory.

On the 92nd anniversary of the beginning of the War to End All Wars (which was swiftly followed, as Sellar and Yeatman pointed out in 1066 And All That, by “the Peace to End All Peaces,”) it is right and proper to remember the dead. All of them, civilians in equality with military.

Owen was killed eight days before the end of the war in yet another senseless offensive. McCrae predeceased him by ten months, of pneumonia, a little early for the Spanish flu but just as fatal.

By Wilfred Owen
8 October 1917 - March, 1918

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of tired, outstripped Five-Nines that dropped behind.

Gas! Gas! Quick, boys! – An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling,
And flound'ring like a man in fire or lime . . .
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.
In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie; Dulce et Decorum est Pro patria mori.
Invincible Ignorance

Blessed Tom Tomorrow in the Village Voice:

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Racing to Armageddon

How Israel's gung-ho leaders turned victory into calamity

Our government, in its desperation to outgun its predecessor, spurned a glorious chance to come out of this with honour

Nehemia Shtrasler
Thursday August 3, 2006

The Guardian

There was one moment during the war when we had the upper hand. It was the moment when Israel had succeeded in striking Hizbullah with strong and surprising force, Haifa was peaceful and the number of casualties was small. That was the right moment to stop the war, declare victory and move on to the diplomatic track.

This opportunity came when the G8 convened in St Petersburg on July 14, two days after the fighting broke out. The G8 formulated a four-point plan, and nothing could have been better for Israel. According to that plan, the three Israeli soldiers abducted to Gaza and Lebanon would be returned unharmed, the Katyusha rocket fire against Israel would stop, Israel would halt its military operations and pull back its forces, and it would also release the Hamas ministers and MPs.

The G8 statement declared that the full responsibility for the crisis fell on Hamas and Hizbullah and asked the United Nations security council immediately to formulate a programme for the full implementation of resolution 1559. The statement called for the deployment of the Lebanese army in south Lebanon and suggested looking into the possibility of bringing an international force into the region. Israel and Lebanon were also asked to launch diplomatic talks.

The international atmosphere was also pro-Israel, even among the hostile media. Israel received international legitimacy for its response to the killing and abduction of its soldiers inside its sovereign territory, and all the politicians, especially Ehud Olmert, the prime minister, were amazed at how much the world loved us.

But Olmert and Amir Peretz, the defence minister, did not know when to quit. They wanted to show the public that they, the "civilians", were more courageous than their predecessors, Ehud Barak and Ariel Sharon. That is why they continued the war in order to attain goals that from the outset were unattainable.

This does not mean that if Israel had adopted the G8 proposal, the problem of Hizbullah would have been resolved. That would not have happened. That can only be resolved at the diplomatic level, with an Israeli-Syrian-Lebanese agreement. But at least it would have prevented us from deteriorating to the current situation, with its accompanying feeling of failure, the dead and the wounded, the attack on Israel's moral standing, the hatred towards it throughout the world and the damage to Israel's military deterrence.

Israel has not managed to crush Hizbullah and, worse, it has strengthened Hizbullah's standing in Lebanon and the Arab world, which are seeing how a tiny guerrilla organisation has succeeded in standing up to the mighty Israel defence forces and causing Israel serious losses among its civilian population. That is a dangerous precedent.

The Olmert-Peretz plan was to shell and demolish south Lebanon and south Beirut until the Lebanese public demand that its government vomit Hizbullah out from its midst. It appears that, like a number of other Israeli leaders, they did not understand how much killing, poverty and distress people are willing to take, as long as their honour is not harmed, as long as they are not humiliated. And indeed, instead of demanding that Hizbullah be dismantled, the people of Lebanon want revenge, and they want it now. That is their response to the killing of 750 civilians and the destruction of thousands of homes, bridges, roads, villages and towns, setting Lebanon back by 20 years.

Now, after the tragic events in Qana that killed some 60 civilians, even Israel's greatest ally has changed direction and says it wants a speedy ceasefire. Fouad Siniora, the Lebanese prime minister, has declared that Hizbullah's victory is the victory of the entire Lebanese people and that if Israel remains in south Lebanon, he will turn the Lebanese army against it. Siniora even spoke about a ceasefire without any agreement.

Other Lebanese, too - including some who are firm opponents of Hizbullah, such as Walid Jumblatt and Amin Gemayel - have also condemned Israel. Based on what has happened in the field, nothing remains of the grandiose goals of the beginning of the war.

Soon we will start to long for the excellent agreement offered by the G8 at the beginning of the war.

Today that, too, is unattainable.

--Nehemia Shtrasler is a columnist for the Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz, where this article first appeared.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

DC Zoo and August Market Doldrums

(Demand Function Deltas)

Microsoft learns PCs are over

Pepsi jumps Coke in market value

Panda tickets no longer needed

Disney repents of creative efforts

Corporate thugs loot worker pensions

Panda tickets no longer needed

McDonalds brand found “tired” in Europe

GM, Ford dive down the crapper

Panda tickets no longer needed

IRS: rich dodge $5 trillion taxes

Pro-war Dems betray the country

Panda tickets no longer needed

Condi’s ceasefire not upheld by Israel

Shia to explode Iraqi standoff

Panda tickets no longer needed

Raul takes Cuba, WalMart quits Krauts

Busch sales flatten, GE flees States

Panda tickets no longer needed

Old stalwarts fade, new ones suffer

What once was precious now is dross

Panda tickets no longer needed

Panda tickets no longer needed