Category Archives: Israel

1000 Words: The War Species

I take no side in the latest Middle East dust-up. Of course, “dust-up” is almost an insulting term considered some 4000 people — mostly innocents — have died in the Israeli-Hamas War.

It’s not that I take no side in any war. For instance, I’m four-square in favor of Ukraine kicking the living shit out of the Russian invaders in their war. These two wars are the ones we, in this holy land, pay exclusive attention to. Your neighbors and relatives’ll wring their hands and moan about what a horrible and dangerous world we live in based only on their knowledge of those two conflicts while remaining unaware that some 110 wars, as defined by international law, are raging to one extent or another around the globe.

That’s right: one freaking hundred and ten wars are turning tens of thousands of soldiers into hamburger and hundreds of thousands, even millions, of mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles, brothers, sisters, dear friends, and acquaintances into grieving, juddering wrecks.

These numbers come from the Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights. The postgraduate school in  Switzerland monitors all the shooting wars going on across this mad planet, a hobby that keeps its faculty and students busier than celebrity gossip mongers, if that can be possible. The Geneva Academy finds that the hottest spots in the world are Africa and, natch, the Middle East where, together, some 45 wars are flaring as you read this. The vast majority of us don’t give the slightest damn about bloodshed in Africa, so long as it doesn’t interfere with the continuous flow of oil, precious metals, or other resources that allow us to play incessantly with electronic devices, scoot around in our cars, sink our retirement savings into, or hoard to keep out of Chinese hands. By such means, we can pretend that all is well outside our borders until, as occurred nearly two weeks ago, thugs and hoodlums started whacking the crap out of each other with moms, babies, nurses, doctors, professors, sanitation workers, cabaret singers, poets, and other bystanders suffering a shockingly outsized share of the bodily damage.

Well, maybe not so shockingly. Consider the fact that in World War II, the crème de la crème of organized human slaughter, the estimated number of deaths ranges from 45 to 85 million. Nobody could ever really pin that number down because, well, our technology was so good and the ferocity with which we used it so over the top that entire big cities were wiped off the map. It would have been as if Houston or Chicago were leveled, with countless Louisvilles, Oklahoma Cities, Sacramentos, Newarks, Albuquerques, and more disappearing under clouds of thick, black smoke. Sure, millions of soldiers died but their number was dwarfed by the incineration and butchering of just plain folks. Census and identification records similarly were scorched into ash so who knows how many people ceased to be in Dresden or Nagasaki.

Again, not that I particularly blame the Allies for unleashing their murderous fury. The Axis Powers were vicious, sociopathic mass murderers who had to be stopped and the only hammers we had against them were rifles, cannons, tanks and, ultimately, atomic bombs. But avid homicidal maniacs like Britain’s Air Marshall Arthur “Bomber” Harris and the US Army Air Corps’ Gen. Curtis LeMay both acknowledged their side had to win, otherwise each would be strung up as war criminals had the contest turned out differently. The lesson? If you want to win a war, your generals had better be more bloodthirsty than their generals.

As stated in this global communications colossus time and again, it’s my deeply held belief that we humans love the hell out of war. It excites us, moves us, even tumesces many of us in certain anatomical locales. Speaking of world war, the Great War, which necessarily had to be renamed World War I, was America’s first big foray into international mayhem. Being that our non-indigenous populace at the time hadn’t experienced waves of foreign troops sweeping across our soil, ravaging our homes, plundering our goods, and raping a large swath of our citizenry, the song “Over There” became a huge hit, parades for departing troops were held in most big cities, young men longed to enlist, and their moms and lovers urged them on to become heroes. Next thing anybody knew, thousands of American soldiers were being shipped back, armless, legless, paralyzed, poison gassed, filled with shrapnel and bullets, and mentally and emotionally crippled by the blood and guts they’d witnessed.

Who knew?

Well, anybody should have. Only we humans like to forget all the lessons of war just as soon as the latest war is ended. Then we go back to romanticizing it, even cherishing it.

That’s certainly what the young warriors of Hamas and the Israel Defense Forces do — and have done for decades. And it’s what we did when Vietnam was gradually becoming a recognizable term in 1964 and ’65. Both Hamas and the IDF can cite atrocities and provocations by the other side as justification for their martial zeal. Many Palestinians have been trying to destroy Israel and eliminate Jews in the Middle East since before the Hebrew homeland was established in 1947. And Israelis, the Holocaust still fresh in their memories, respond to every insult or attack in a manner that makes the original offense resemble a mosquito bite, Israel’s message being, Don’t fuck with us or we’ll fuck back with you times ten.

All wars are justified by the warring parties. All wars are fought for god and freedom. Yep, even the Nazis and the militarists of Japan told their respective people the blood they were about to shed was a task blessed by god and that liberty would be the reward.

Hitler and Goebbels said so. Tojo said so. Roosevelt, Churchill, Stalin and every other leader urging his country to take up arms said so. Says so.

What Hamas did was indefensible. What Israel is doing in return is similarly so. Neither side needs me to endorse it.

Hot Air

They Love The Fight

Here’s a blurt: If you’re taking sides in the latest episode of the Israeli/Palestinian Hatfield/McCoy Feud, you’re part of the problem.

Gaza Violence 2014

Whose Explosions Do You Prefer?

Political Chairs

So, here comes news that Evan Bayh maybe, possibly, we’ll see, wants to be governor again. He’s sitting on a cool $10 million in his campaign war chest, which is the finest and best qualification for elective office in this holy land.

No one knows for sure if Bayh’s hot for the state’s top hot seat, but he ain’t sayin’ no way, mang. Bayh’s playing it coy by saying he’s too busy sending his sons off to college right now and he can’t be bothered with thinking about high offices. I believe him; surely, the lads needs their bags packed, their hair combed, their blue jeans pressed, and care packages prepared as they move on toward this next big step in their lives. Who else is going to handle those chores other than Indiana’s former senator and governor?

Generally, when pols play coy, that means they’ve made their minds up already and are merely waiting for the most opportune moment to announce their shiny new campaigns. And Bayh’s tilt for guv will be as shiny as any money can buy. Experts say his big wad makes him a formidable foe for the current occupant of the Hoosier guv’s mansion, Mike Pence. All Pence has going for him is a record of delivering to Indiana voters precisely what he promised them when he ran in 2012.

I call it a toss-up at this extremely early stage of the game.

Evan Bayh

Who? Me? Aw, I dunno.

Pence’s name, BTW, is still being bandied about by touts who are trying to dope out the 2016 presidential race. Smart guys here and there tossed his name around during the 2008 and 2012 contests, although no Pence for Prez activity ever crashed the nation’s internet servers.

Add to that the fact that Pence’s predecessor as governor, Mitch Daniels, also was seen as Republican presidential candidate timber. So what is it about Indiana governors that make them potential Oval Office occupants? Just off the top of my head, Indiana’s not a state infested with crime syndicate figures whose reach extends into the sitting Governor’s pockets, so Daniels, Pence, et al appear free of scandal in that sense. I’d always felt one of the main reasons Mario Cuomo never really ran hard for president was because his necessary dealings with New York’s mobsters would be thrown in his face at every campaign stop.

Indiana, too, is among the most anonymous of states. The Hoosier governor can go about his business without the corporate news media prying into his every orifice on a daily basis. So even if Pence, for instance, sabotages the state’s own Superintendent of Public Instruction, Glenda Ritz, national wags and wonks will simply shrug and say, So what? It’s Indiana.

All an Indiana governor has to do is look presentable, stay out of whorehouses and opium dens, and play coy about his presidential ambitions and next thing everyone knows he’ll be plumped as the next big thing. Hoosiers, BTW, are southern enough to appeal to a general electorate that prefers its presidents to sound more like Jimmy Stewart than Enrico Fermi, but not so much so that one can conclude they’ve just climbed down off a watermelon cart. Bill Clinton’s twang almost made him sound too southern for America’s liking, only his hillbilly patter was ameliorated by his Georgetown, Oxford, and Yale background. Pence and Daniels sound just right.

And, maybe, so does Bayh. Surely Bayh knows a return to the governor’s mansion will ignite talk of the White House for him. Here’s a safe bet: Should Bayh wrest the job away from Pence in 2016, and should Hillary Clinton let the White House slip through her fingers that same year, he’ll be a front runner for the Democratic nomination for president in 2020.

If I Were A Rich Man

John Oliver, for my money, is now outdoing his former boss, Jon Stewart, in the area of trenchant political commentary spiced with humor and smart-assed-ness. Oliver’s fairly new show, Last Week Tonight, is the go-to source for current events on the teevee today.

The other day, he explained why Americans vote against their own interests and in favor of those of the uber-rich time and again. My lefty friends constantly ask on the interwebs why we support policies that’ll benefit, say, the Koch Bros. while screwing ourselves. The answer’s simple. I’ve said it time and again and John Oliver said it too. Listen:

Ball Of Confusion

I know, I know, my pious friends and loyal readers are going to want to kick me in my ample posterior for this. And what follows will merely be a preaching to the choir among my fellow non-believers, but I thought I’d share this chart prepared by graphic designer Andy Marlowe diagramming the many contradictions found in the Bible.

Bible Contradictions

Each arc represents a refutation, repudiation, or outright denial of some statement found earlier in the text that is the basis for the worldview of more than a billion people on this Earth.

“The truth,” reads the Gospel of John, Chapter 8, “shall make you free.” OTOH, that statement’s surely negated elsewhere in the Bible.

[h/t to Maryll Jones.]

Hot Air

Endless Hate

Fran Lebowitz once described the strife in Northern Ireland as history’s greatest nag. I believe she wrote that line in her book, Metropolitan Life.

I’ll agree with her to an extent: The Troubles, as they’re known in that neck of the woods, are rivaled and in recent decades have been surpassed in producing frustration around the globe by the Arab/Israeli feud. It’s worth noting that both squabbles are rooted in religion.

Belfast Riot

Scene From 2013 Belfast Riot

When all is said and done, after all the combatants have railed on and on and on and on about injustice, tyranny, chaos, violence, revenge, and many other horrors that, oddly enough, feature predominantly in most of the world’s religions’ charter documents, both fights are built upon a foundation of the belief that the son of a bitch over there worships god in the wrong way.

Because, you know, the omnipotent creator of the Universe needs to have his ego stroked in just the right way or else all hell’s gonna break loose.

I have friends and acquaintances rooting for both sides of the mess in the Middle East. I read and listen to their theses and am struck by how eloquent they are in describing their respective enemies as bloodthirsty beasts. All of them make compelling cases for their willingness to lob missiles at each other or park car bombs next to the other side’s elementary schools.

Israeli Airstrike in Gaza

My God’s Better Than Yours — Gaza, 2014

This holy land likes to place itself in the middle of these internecine hubbubs. Americans of Irish ancestry for the last half century or so have thrown scads of money at the Catholic side in No. Ire. Christians and Jews, of course, are four-square behind Israel while Arabs in America, by and large, sympathize with the Palestinians. Each side has a strong lobby, prowling the halls of Congress and donating cash to countless political candidates.

We are, after all the Arsenal of Democracy. Or, more accurately, simply the Arsenal.

Little wonder, then that every denomination of our currency features the words, “In God We Trust.” All the dough we earn arming seemingly every side in every set-to around the world comes emblazoned with that motto.

God and guns — a winning business formula.

The Pencil Today:


Leave it to Mark Twain: “I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.”


So, the Monroe County Community Schools Corporation is going to spend a quarter of a million dollars installing security cameras and buzz-in doors at local schoolhouses.

New MCCSC boss Judy DeMuth has made it clear her administration’s top priority is “safety.”

The Herald Times in an editorial today says, “…[T]here really is no amount too high to pay for student safety.”

Who Needs Teachers When You Have Security Guards?

Yes indeed, our children will be safe. Not necessarily educated, considering the recent massive cuts in school funding, but safe.


Speaking of silly things like book larnin’ and other socialist plots, the Monroe County Public Library faces a $600,000 shortfall for fiscal year 2013.

Plenty Of Books But Where Are The Guns?

Thankfully, the philosopher-statesmen in the Indiana statehouse have enacted a concealed carry law permitting patrons to bring their artillery into the library.

Library hours may be cut. Staff may be slashed. Books and materials acquisition will be curtailed.

But we’ll be safe.


Just to prove I’m not totally down on this holy land in the year 2011, allow me to take you back to the year 1900.

The late Howard Zinn in his excellent “A People’s History of the United States” tells of the “Rules for Female Teachers” a Massachussetts small town board of education issued a 111 years ago:

  1. Do not get married.
  2. Do not leave town at any time without permission of the school board.
  3. Do not keep company with men.
  4. Be home between the hours of 8:00pm and 6:00am.
  5. Do not loiter downtown in ice cream stores.
  6. Do not smoke.
  7. Do not get into a carriage with any man except your father or brother.
  8. Do not dress in bright colors.
  9. Do not dye your hair.
  10. Do not wear any dress more than two inches above the ankle.

There. I wonder if the kids were as safe then as they are today, though.

Oh, and Number 11: Crush Your Abdomen


Cowboy Rick Perry may have had some trouble in recent weeks expressing himself in terms that speakers of the English language can fathom. Some have accused him of being overwhelmed by the complicated task of speaking.

But yesterday, speaking to the Republican Jewish Coalition, he proved himself far superior to the outmoded concept that words have, um, meaning.


The Republican candidates for president had gathered ’round to tell America’s Jews how much they love, love, love them.

This despite the fact that most Jews in this holy land vote Democrat. But the Republicans are the party of god and in these United States god is the Judeo-Christian big man.

Over the centuries, Christians may have gotten a lot of mileage blaming the Jews for inspiring the crucifix logo design. Still, Christians see Jews as their forefathers, albeit mean, old step-forefathers.

So, the party of god sent its best and brightest to the RJC’s tsuzamenfor in Washington to court voters.

The only GOP contender not to show up was Ron Paul, who wasn’t invited. He has committed the unforgivable sin of calling for a cutoff of aid to Israel. Cowboy Rick also has come close to uttering that dastardly line.

Perry last month called for slashing foreign aid to all countries “to zero” and then making them prove they are loyal, malleable, and/or starving enough to death to earn back our largesse. Naturally, reporters later peppered Perry with questions about our best pals in the Middle East. “What about Israel?” came the query from all sides. “Even Israel,” Perry said.

It would be interested to see how Perry could talk his way out of that one.

He did his best.

Perry told the RJC that the several billion dollars the US government ships to Israel each year is not “foreign aid.”

Golly, foreign aid, Cowboy Rick implied, is money we flush down the toilet for countries full of brown people and folks who are not sufficiently enamored of our sacred system of predatory capitalism.

The dough we send to Israel, the Cowboy explained, is, well, “strategic defensive aid.”


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