Friday, May 31, 2013

You Can't Please Them All

I got some positive response to my article on AIPAC that appeared today (see the next post, below), but not everyone was appreciative.  The following email message was from someone who called himself "Sam Peloton":

It's because of KAPO shit like you that I am glad we have Israel

How AIPAC Rules

from the COUNTERPUNCH Weekend Edition May 31-Jun 02, 2013
(and a slightly edited version at MONDOWEISS June 1)

Asymmetric Political Warfare
How AIPAC Rules

Last week the Senate passed Resolution 65, mandating a new round of sanctions against Iran and promising to support Israel if it should choose to launch a unilateral war.  The bill contradicted explicit US policy in a number of areas:  it imposed secondary penalties on US allies; it lowered  the bar for military action to Israel’s preferred language of “nuclear capability” rather than acquisition of a nuclear weapon; and it interferes with the attempt to reach a diplomatic resolution to the nuclear impasse at a delicate time.  No wonder Secretary of State John Kerry implored Congress not to pass the bill when he testified before the Senate Foreign relations committee last month.

Nevertheless, the Senate bill came to a vote on May 22, and the result – in a roll call vote – was 99-0 in favor of the bill.

"War Tax at the Gas Pump"

Last year I wrote an article titled War Tax at the Gas Pump that was published in several local newspapers and on the Web.  The point was that consumers were paying higher prices for gasoline because of the tightening sanctions regime targeting Iran and the effects of heightened war fears in the Middle East from US and Israeli threats against the Islamic Republic..

Lately, there have been widespread reports of lower-than-expected gas prices this summer and it might be tempting to conclude that the the analysis was misplaced.  However, as is well known, petroleum is a fungible commodity with a global market and a common international trading value.  Lower upward pressure on price is the result of depressed demand from the world-wide economic slump and more supply coming on line in the US from newly-open oil fields and large-scale natural gas fracking.

So the original argument still holds.  At whatever global price of a barrel of oil, it will be higher than otherwise if Iranian petroleum is kept off the market or traded at a higher cost necessary to evade US-imposed sanctions. There is also likely to be a general "risk premium" from the elevated chance of regional war that adds to the market price of Middle East oil.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Returning to the Middle East

I leave for Beirut on June 6 and arrive in Jerusalem, via Amman Jordan, on June 14.  
The situation is very tense now from the spillover of the Syrian Civil War and the inflaming of sectarian hostilities in Lebanon's fragile and fragmented society. There is also an increasing risk that Israel may seize the opportunity to widen the war in order to settle its score with Hezbollah or have a trial run for an attack on Iran.

Traveling again was part the reason for starting this blog.  In the past I have regularly sent emails back to friends in the US reporting on the situation in Palestine and the region.  I hope to continue doing that, but from now on also making use of the blog format where I can post photos and links to articles.  If you are interested, you can "subscribe" to this blog through the gadget at the right.

Jury Duty

I got called for jury duty yesterday in Suffolk Superior Court and was chosen for a panel in the trial of a Latino man accused of multiple rapes and assault.  It's possible he is guilty -- and the crime is certainly a heinous and violent offense.

However, when I was called before the judge and asked if there was any reason I could not render an unbiased verdict, 

---I said:  "I believe the criminal justice system and the prisons are prejudiced on the basis of race and class."   

---Would that affect my decision as a juror? the judge asked.  

---I replied: "I could not in good conscious send anyone to jail, regardless of the alleged crime and the evidence, while so many corporate, banker and political criminals remain free and uncharged."  

---The judge: "You are dismissed."

Thursday, May 23, 2013

With Cavafy in Alexandria

Loved, idealized voices
of those who have died, of those
lost for us like the dead.
Sometimes they speak to us in dreams;
sometimes deep in thought the mind hears them.
And, with their sound, for a moment return
sounds from our life’s first poetry---
like distant music fading away at night.
          Translated by Edmund Keeley & Philip Sherrard

THIS BLOG takes its name from a famous description by E.M. Forster of the Alexandrine poet C.P. Cavafy as "a Greek gentleman in a straw hat, standing absolutely motionless at a slight angle to the universe".
Cavafy (Konstantinos Petrou Kavafis, 1863-1933) was an ethnic Greek living in Egyptian Alexandria, who toiled as a clerk in the Irrigation Service (Third Circle) of the Ministry of Public Works by day -- and crafted exquisite poetry by night.