Monday, May 31, 2010
Saturday evening, as the flotilla was leaving the vicinity of Cyprus, I began a live blog post there. Sunday afternoon, as the flotilla neared the Levantine coast, Siun took over. Her firedoglake post ended up collecting information almost in real time, as the most serious attack by a foreign power in history on a collection of boats flagged by NATO members unfolded.
On May 16th, I noted that the freighter, MV Rachel Corrie, was leaving Irish waters, to join vessels already in the Mediterranean.
On May 20th, in light of Elvis Costello's cancellation of an Israel concert tour, I speculated that it might be time to consider gathering artists together to create a 2010 version of the pivotal protest album from 1985, Sun City. That album helped galvanize resistance to the South African government policy of Apartheid.
On May 22, I noted the absence of mainstream media, especially in the USA, toward the gathering of vessels for the flotilla, and wondered how the approach of the the small fleet to the Gaza coast might be covered.
On May 25, I wrote about the assembly of boats, their problems, and the mounting evidence that the IDF would forcefully attempt to commandeer the vessels. I was concerned.
On Saturday May 29, I began the live blog, which was passed on to Siun yesterday, during her regular Sunday afternoon slot.
Others have also contributed diaries at firedoglake on this.
I've learned a lot from the process of writing about this. Foremost, perhaps, is that in spite of the stated IDF intention of isolating the vessels from being able to emit real time information during the attack, they were unsuccessful. As in the demonstrations in Iran in the wake of their farcical election last year, people managed to bypass jamming and blackouts, through workarounds or through discovery that government jamming had holes in it.
Twitter, through hundreds of cell phones on board the vessels, described the attacks in terse tweets from bloodstained decks. These tweets were passed back and forth between twitter sites throughout last night, as they aggregated incoming news from many early sources.
The Turkish video feed from the large cruise ship, where most casualties occurred will become iconic, even as the IDF releases their night vision videos that seek to purport the IDF was responding to a "lynch mob" as it opened fire on dozens of unarmed civilians, attempting to defend themselves from a brazen, illegal act in international waters.
Norman Finkelstein's 2009 book about the 2008-2009 Gaza invasion is titled This Time We Went Too Far. It is an apt title. Many of us have experienced how friends or relatives finally stopped straddling the fence over how Israel conducts itself, as we and they witnessed the barbarity of the IDF assault on schools, hospitals, clinics, fire departments, bakeries, dairies and houses in the besieged Gaza enclave.
This time, the IDF went too far in ways that may be pivotal. Juan Cole, writing this morning, observes:
It is worth noting on Memorial Day that the Israeli attack deeply complicates the task of the US military in the region. It is a propaganda boon for Sunni extremists and Shiite activists such as Muqtada al-Sadr in Iraq, and for the Taliban in Afghanistan. It undermines the authority of the Egyptian and Jordanian governments, which have US-brokered peace treaties with Israel, treaties that are deeply unpopular with ordinary people in both countries. That some demonstrations are being held in front of US consulates and not just Israeli ones tells us who will get the blame for Netanyahu’s machismo.
Turkish-Israeli relations, already in an abysmal state, might never recover. Turkey has recalled its ambassador to Israel. The attack on several NATO-related vessels, in international waters, and without provocation, as noted above, is unprecedented. Turkey will be right to bring this before the NATO North Atlantic Council, which meets about once per week. The United Nations Security Council is meeting right now about the attack, with the Secretary General having already made a harsh statement.
As I noted in Siun's live blog diary last night:
If the flotilla was actually moving away from the coast when boarded, after having responded to IDF enquiries regarding intent and course, this is a lost cause for the Israelis to defend. They have no claim that their response was appropriate.
Some, if not all, of the vessels were giving out position reports up to the boarding. The record of these is indelible. The Turks will surely bring this fact up to the North Atlantic Council this week, and it may have been brought up today at the UN Security Council.
A Daily Kos Diary, analyzing NATO responsibilities regarding Turkey in this matter, has hundreds of comments, Here is the key part of NATO doctrine that might pertain directly to actions after this attack:
Israel's attack on the MV Blue Mamara, a Turkish vessel, means they just attacked a member of NATO. According to the NATO Charter, Article 5
The Parties agree that an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all and consequently they agree that, if such an armed attack occurs, each of them, in exercise of the right of individual or collective self-defence recognised by Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations, will assist the Party or Parties so attacked by taking forthwith, individually and in concert with the other Parties, such action as it deems necessary, including the use of armed force, to restore and maintain the security of the North Atlantic area.
If you think there is wiggle room in that definition, you would be mistaken. Article 6 is explicit about where attacks will trigger responses. Vessels in the Mediterranean Sea are mentioned explicitly.
The Israeli Prime Minister has cut short a North American trip that was to conclude with a White House meeting Tuesday. He's had to return home to prepare for the Third Intifada, and to attempt to salvage diplomatic relations with a number of counties besides just Turkey.
Within the American progressive community Israel has always had and still has staunch supporters of every action by the IDF or Israeli government. But those numbers were severely diminished by this highly criminal attack. But, as a commenter at Mondoweiss observed this morning:
There are now 4 diaries on the rec list at Daily Kos condemning the Israeli piracy. Even during Cast Lead, this didn’t happen.
Other lefty blogs that generally avoid discussing Israel/Palestine issues at all will, should they continue to blind themselves in this matter, lose readers and influence.
A very important article recently appeared in the New York Review of Books. In The Failure of the American Jewish Establishment, by Peter Beinart, the author explains in detail how the large family size and emigration into Israel of ultra Orthodox inhabitants and their growing influence on internal Israeli politics will inevitably force young American Jews who are liberal to forsake support for the Zionist state and its brutal expansionist goals. The article has caused quite a stir, to say the least.
Israel has succeeded, in last night's attack, in further isolating itself as an increasingly rogue nation. Some are even predicting an implosion there, similar to those of Apartheid South Africa, or of the Warsaw Pact communist governments.
Two things are certain though. Twitter, as a driver of non-MSM instant information has come of age.
And firedoglake, thanks to Siun and the commenting community there, has once again led the way in live blogging a pivotal moment.
Sunday, May 30, 2010
Israelis Board American Boats, Turkish Ship in International Waters - Tweets Report 3 Murdered, Over 30 Injured by IDF - Updated
Eighty miles of the coast of Gaza:
From Mondoweiss Twitter page:
RT @r7y6: The Qur'an is being read for the dead on board. May Allah bring peace to their souls.#flotilla via @TwiddleEastNews
16 minutes ago via TweetDeck
RT @SubMedina: People killed on #flotilla. Pleading for help can be heard in English & Hebrew.
19 minutes ago via TweetDeck
RT @ismpalestine: People have been killed on the #flotilla.
25 minutes ago via TweetDeck
RT @r7y6: The message being repeated in Hebrew:"Israeli navy, we need help,we are civilians, we have critically injured ppl" #flotilla
25 minutes ago via TweetDeck
RT @avinunu: A day that will live in infamy. #flotilla
28 minutes ago via TweetDeck
RT @GazaFreedom: "We need help. Don't use violence against us,we are civilians" - Woman aboard #Flotilla
29 minutes ago via TweetDeck
RT @Jew4palestine: Watching IHH Insani Yardim Vakfi @livestream http://www.livestream.com/insaniyardim (lady screaming we have people hurt)
29 minutes ago via TweetDeck
RT @avinunu: Turkish TV live feed from Mavi Mari: "We have 3 people killed" #flotilla #Gaza
29 minutes ago via TweetDeck
RT @ShipToGazaGr: Live ammo fired against the ships from helicopters and zodiacs - both pass ships boarded by israeli forces #flotilla
35 minutes ago via TweetDeck
That was the USSR. Apparently, this remedy was used four times. It worked three of them.
But that was on the earth's surface, not a mile deep in the ocean, and then a further several thousand feet into the ocean floor:
Crooks & Liars has been discussing this proposal this morning. The strongest argument against nuking the leaks seems to be this:
I have been involved in sub-surface and tunnel shot testing at the Nevada Test Site (NTS) - timing and firing engineer - I have explained why this won't work, and yes, take a look at Baneberry Event - December 1969 - that was an estimated 50 barrels of water that flashed to superheated steam - it fissured through solid granite strata!!! Further, drilling to 18,000 feet is absurd. Our shot holes were between 3,000 and 5,000 feet) And as you drill (a shot emplacement hole is not going to be less than a three foot diameter hole - You need very specialized equipment to drill that diameter hole - the time to drill that would be months - AND you would be drilling a very large hole - IN THE SEA FLOOR! You could NOT keep it dry and the water WILL flash to superheated steam! Opening up more leaks.
Anyone who has been around these things, particularly at the NTS will tell you how absurd this idea is. And the folks at DOE, Los Alamos, Sandia, and Livermore know that this is not practical or possible in any way, in a sub-sea environment. I wish people who have not been around these devices, nor involved in testing them, would PLEASE STFU!
Saturday, May 29, 2010
The run to the coast will probably begin about 10:00 p.m. Alaska time tonight. The Israelis have announced they intend to conduct electronic warfare on the flotilla, shutting down all outgoing communication from the vessels until they have boarded the vessels, forcibly ended resistance and movement of the vessels, and confiscated all electronic transmitting or recording equipment, including all personal and vessel computers.
Until that breach of international law occurs, here is the live feed from the flotilla. You will be able to see action aboard until the Israelis begin their electronic warfare attack. There are several American citizens aboard:
As Joe recounted this and other details of what has gotten him to be next-door-neighbor to the most bizarre political joke in American history (move over, Aaron Burr), I was laughing so hard in Wasilla’s Mekong Restaurant, that my bean-thread noodles were getting all over the place.
What WOULD you do?
Joe had met earlier in the morning with Wasilla’s current mayor, Vern Rupright. Apparently, they both laughed a lot at the sight of the hasty, 15-foot tall fence addition the Palins impetuously and somewhat clumsily erected Tuesday along the lot line.
The lot line problem is an example of how the Palins sometime create their own complications. The lakeside lots of both the properties McGinniss is leasing, and the Palins’ own, are wide by local standards – almost 200 feet of beach. The house McGinniss occupies is 10 feet from the lot line of the Palins’ property. Joe’s place was on the lake for many years before the Palins built theirs ten feet from the adjoining line, 20 feet from what is now Joe’s office.
Why did the Palins build so close to their neighbors that a headache might crop up at an inconvenient time in the future? Who knows?
Joe’s here to do a job: write a book about the political milieu from which Palin emerged. It might end up being the best book yet about Alaska. His Going to Extremes is the most durable of the spate of books that attempted to describe the gold rush atmosphere in the far north, as the Trans-Alaska Pipeline was being built.
If investigative reporting is snooping, then that’s part of the territory. How would we have gotten some our best books on politicians, were it not for brazen reporting? All the President’s Men, The Best Democracy Money Can Buy, Screwed, and Dude, Where’s My Country? - all involved a bit of snooping, as have many other great books about politicians’ lives.
We’re all used to the Palin modus operandus of throwing her family members out onto the national stage, one by one, or in various combinations. As long as she and her handlers feel they are in control of the pandering, there is no limit to how sleazy of a venue she will find for them. OK, maybe there is a limit – she likes to get paid when she whores out the family.
She likes to get paid a lot.
Maybe that was part of why Palin went all Pamela Gellar on facebook about her new neighbor:
Spring has sprung in Alaska, and with this beautiful season comes the news today that the Palins have a new neighbor! Welcome, Joe McGinniss!
Yes, that Joe McGinniss. Here he is – about 15 feet away on the neighbor’s rented deck overlooking my children’s play area and my kitchen window. Maybe we’ll welcome him with a homemade blueberry pie tomorrow so he’ll know how friendly Alaskans are.
We found out the good news today. Upon my family’s return this morning from endorsement rallies and speeches in the Lower 48 states, I finally got the chance to tackle my garden and lawn this evening! So, putting on the shorts and tank top to catch that too-brief northern summer sun and placing a giddy Trig in his toddler backpack for a lawn-mowing adventure, I looked up in surprise to see a “new neighbor” overlooking my property just a stone’s throw away. Needless to say, our outdoor adventure ended quickly after Todd went to introduce himself to the stranger who was peering in...
Joe announced to Todd that he’s moved in right next door to us. He’s rented the place for the next five months or so. He moved up all the way from Massachusetts to live right next to us – while he writes a book about me. Knowing of his many other scathing pieces of “journalism” (including the bizarre anti-Palin administration oil development pieces that resulted in my Department of Natural Resources announcing that his work is the most twisted energy-related yellow journalism they’d ever encountered), we’re sure to have a doozey to look forward to with this treasure he’s penning. Wonder what kind of material he’ll gather while overlooking Piper’s bedroom, my little garden, and the family’s swimming hole?
Welcome, Joe! It’ll be a great summer – come borrow a cup of sugar if ever you need some sweetener. And you know what they say about “fences make for good neighbors”? Well, we’ll get started on that tall fence tomorrow, and I’ll try to keep Trig’s squeals down to a quiet giggle so we don’t disturb your peaceful summer. Enjoy!
Palin neglected to write about Todd’s encounter with Joe the Writer, in which Todd berated McGinnis for his long article early last year, which took apart what Sarah Palin still claims to be her major achievement as governor of Alaska – AGIA, her increasingly unlikely scenario for construction of a trans-Alaska natural gas pipeline, a project blogger and former legislator Andrew Halcro calls "the great white whale in the room."
After my Wednesday lunch with Joe, we went down to the Wasilla Lowe’s, and purchased some security equipment for the rental house. I went over and helped him set some of it up. He showed me how Todd had started remodeling the upstairs of the house, when Todd wanted to have it rented out to somebody, probably from Newscorp. Todd never got around to remodeling the part of the home, down in the basement, from which a meth lab had operated next door to the Palins for months, if not longer. Here's Shannyn Moore's description of some of the house's pre-Joe the Writer history, and Palin's weird reaction:
The home Joe McGinniss is renting used to be an Oxford House from 2005 until 2008. The tenants were men recently released from prison who were recovering addicts. What? No fence to protect sexy Sarah in her tank top? Dear God! Who was lurking in that house watching her children play?
The Palins themselves rented the home McGinnis is staying in for six months in 2009, but weren’t interested in purchasing it. They didn’t want to spend the money. Last October they were “done with the house”. During the election, the Secret Service guarded the Palin home from the backyard now occupied by Mr. McGinnis. Here’s a hint, Sarah – if you want to dictate who lives in the house, you should have probably bought it first.
It’s predictable Palin.
Sarah has a habit of shooting down hill. One of my daughter’s friends has a black eye from shooting down hill while bear hunting. It’s not just a proverbial lesson, it’s a literal one.
Last week, she attended a funeral with her youngest daughter. I called her daughter a “human shield”. Sarah validated my metaphor with her attack on Joe McGinnis. She evoked provocative images of herself, then accuses a respected journalist of “peering” at her young daughter. “I’m hot! He’s a pervert!”
Ask David Letterman how accusations of pedophilia work out. Initially, Dave looked like he’d gone too far with his tasteless joke. But her strike back about having to protect her fourteen year old daughter from David Letterman? No one was buying her manufactured outrage. She quit a three weeks later.
Todd’s unfinished carpentry upstairs looked to me to be better-than-average trailer court kitsch. In other words, like a lot of Wasilla remodel jobs. And like a lot of Wasilla remodels - unfinished.
Even though I’ve lived in Wasilla for over 25 years, I’d never been this close to the Palin cult compound. During the period between Palin’s selection as John McCain’s 2008 running mate and her July 3rd 2009 resignation, I must have been asked a couple dozen times by various people if I had been there, or if I wanted to go over there for some announcement or another. I stayed away. Having seen the place up close now, though, I can only say that the pictures one sees do not do the brazen, in-your-face aura of this set of unfinished, partially finished and weirdly realized buildings anything close to justice. The property reminds me of nothing else around here. It is more reminiscent of the Branch Davidian complex in Waco – before the fire – than anything in Wasilla.
And Joe is set up to work on the book. With the fence looming over the south-facing windows, the Palins can, from the top floor of the main house, look down on Joe, typing away on his MacBook Pro, even if he can’t see them. No doubt they’re already installing, probably with Newscorp help, instruments in the cult compound that can decipher Joe’s keyboard strokes.
I did have the satisfaction, while helping Joe deal with a stream of intruders coming down his driveway, of watching my dog, Strider, go over to the Palin’s yard and leave a present. I gave him an extra treat when we got home.
If you click on the title of each of the verses, you are taken to my garage band page. Click on the green forward arrow. A new window opens. You can then go to the old window, and click back and read the words, as the music plays:
by Ann Chandonnet
Waves of memory.
Welding things together.
A wake for a wake.
Waves breaking on black rocks
around Bligh Reef.
A thrum of engines.
It’s Valdez back.
It’s Valdez back.
No matter where you went it was black.
Slick waves breaking.
A thrum of engines.
We’re leaking some.
Going to be here awhile.
Waves breaking black and thick.
We’re going to be here awhile.
And if you want to say you’re notified.
It’s not a matter of “if.”
It’s a matter of “when.”
Slick waves breaking.
Dead on the beaches, all curled up.
Some of those still alive are blind.
It’s not a matter of “if.”
We’ve fetched up,
And we’re going to be here awhile.
Sad is too mild a word.
The high costs of being here.
But we’re going to be here awhile.
Dark foam, dark rocks, slick.
No matter where you went it was black.
Dead on the beaches, all curled up.
Organism against mechanism.
Sad is too mild a word.
Hundreds of variables.
A thrum of engines.
Awake. Hundreds of variables!
A wake, a spreading pool.
Thousands of possible scenarios:
night, engines, ice;
single hull, dark waves, a reef beneath.
The cry of gulls.
Rock against metal,
hands against a flood,
organism against mechanism.
Should be on your radar there.
Wednesday, May 26, 2010
Today, Col. Wright is afloat with the Gaza Flotilla, in the eastern Mediterranean Sea. She wrote the following essay early Wednesday:]
Break the Israeli Siege of Gaza or Attack at Sea, Detention Camps & Deportation
----- by Ann Wright
Break the Israeli Siege of Gaza or Attack at Sea, Detention Camps and Deportation-
What will it be and What Will YOU Do About it?
By the time you read this, we will be on the high seas of the Mediterranean (we hope the seas will not be too high).
Our two U.S. flagged Free Gaza boats, will join two other passenger ships, a 600 passenger ship from Turkey sponsored by the Turkish humanitarian organization, Insani Yardim Vakfi (IHH) and a 50 passenger ship from Athens sponsored by the European Campaign Against the Siege and the Greek/Swedish Ships to Gaza campaign, to sail to the shores of Gaza to break the Israeli naval blockade of the 1.5 million citizens in Gaza.
Four cargo ships from Ireland, Greece, Algeria and Turkey, will carry a total of 10,000 tons or 2 million pounds of construction materials for the housing of 50,000 made homeless during the 22 day Israeli attack on Gaza that killed 1440 Palestinians and wounded 5,000.
Many of us would like to see our boat renamed “The Audacity of Hope” as that is what we want to see from the Obama administration-- courage to challenge the Israeli government on the siege of Gaza. It would be a really brave, bold move as every U.S. presidential administration since the formation of the State of Israeli in 1948 has blindly given free-rein to Israel in whatever actions it wishes to undertake no matter if the actions are a violation of international law. The carte blanche given to Israel by the United States has been dangerous for Israel’s national security as well as for the national security of the United States.
Probable reaction of Israeli Navy Ships-Bow shots, ramming or boarding
In less than 48 hours, the Israeli Navy will probably fire U.S. made ammunition and rockets in international waters over the bows of two U.S. flagged boats and one Greek boat with U.S. citizens aboard as well as citizens from 13 other countries and over the bows of the Turkish 600 passenger ship.
Ironically, on one passenger ship will be Joe Meaders, a U.S. citizen who is a survivor of the Israeli air and naval attack on a United States Navy ship, the USS Liberty, in 1967 killed 34 U.S. sailors and wounded 173. The Israeli government has never acknowledged, much less apologized for, the deaths of these sailors, nor the destruction of the USS Liberty.
According to Israeli media (http://www.jpost.com/Israel/Article.aspx?id=176491), the Israeli military is preparing for our arrival off the shores of Gaza. The Israeli navy has been practicing its plan for preventing us from docking in Gaza, a plan that probably includes demanding by radio that the ships change course away from Gaza, firing weapons in front of the ships, ramming the ships and sending well-armed boarding parties onto the ships.
Israelis prepare a detention camp
As our 8 ship flotilla prepares to depart Greece and Turkey to break the Israeli naval blockade of Gaza, the Israeli military is preparing a detention camp for the flotilla’s 700 delegates from 20 countries who are passengers on four of the ships.
Those passengers include Hedy Epstein, an 85 year old holocaust survivor, Parliamentarians from Germany and Ireland, two former diplomats from the United States, a retired U.S. Army Colonel, authors, journalists, activists, businesspersons and clergy.
Additionally, the military has identified a warehouse in the Ashelod area, just over Gaza’s northern border that will be used to detain the 700 passengers on the 8 ships.
Taking a page from the New York City police who put over 1500 persons into a filthy, unclean warehouse on a pier in New York City during the 2004 Republican convention, the Israeli government no doubt will make the surroundings as difficult as possible for us.
The Israeli government has extensive experience in warehousing dissent, as over 10,000 Palestinians are in Israeli jails and prisons, including juveniles who are arrested regularly in nighttime raids in villages of the West Bank.
20 passengers on the May, 2009 Free Gaza boat trying to break the siege were imprisoned for 10 days before they were deported from Israel. They included Nobel Peace Laureate Mairead Maguire and former U.S. Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney.
Wish us luck as we challenge the Israeli, Egyptian, European Union and United State’s unlawful siege and collective punishment of 1.5 million Palestinians in Gaza!
What will you do to help break the siege of Gaza?
Tuesday, May 25, 2010
The Turkish government sent a secret message to Jerusalem Monday, May 24, threatening reprisals if the Israeli Navy prevents the "Freedom Flotilla" of nine boats from reaching the Gaza Strip on May 27 for the avowed objects of breaking Israel's blockade on the Hamas-ruled territory and delivering humanitarian aid. DEBKAfile's military and intelligence sources report that the Turkish message was an ultimatum to Israel threatening retaliation against Israeli interests. It is backed by the unreported presence of one or more helicopters on one or more of the Turkish vessels for challenging Israeli Air Force support for the naval blockade.
The Debka File report goes on to indicate that Turkish Intelligence is involved with the Turkish aspects of participation in the multi-national flotilla of nine vessels, which range greatly in size:
This foundation is quietly sponsored by Turkish intelligence and all its operations, including the Gaza flotilla, the most ambitious yet for breaking the Israeli blockade on Gaza - drawn from the prime minister's office in Ankara.
Israel has imposed a 20-nautical mile closure on the Gaza coast and vowed to prevent the Turkish-led flotilla from entering port.
The potentially most provocative aspect of the plans for dealing with the confrontation the IDF has announced it is planning for the flotilla, may be this:
Our sources report Erdogan has approved a plan of action whereby when Israeli warships and naval commandoes board the vessels to prevent them reaching Gaza, the helicopter carrying the leading activists will take off, fly over their heads and land in Gaza. The assumption is that the Israeli Air Force will not dare to intercept the helicopter and bring it down while still offshore for fear of an international outcry against a purported humanitarian mission.
The IDF, in information it has let out on its plans, has indicated involvement in the operation of personnel trained to deal with large numbers of unwilling prisoners:
Jerusalem has not yet replied to the Turkish ultimatum. It is standing fast as yet - barring provocations or shooting from the convoy to gain media attention - by the decision to block the flotilla's entry to a Gazan port. The vessels will be diverted to an Israeli port, if necessary by Israeli naval units boarding them, and the people aboard detained at a special camp thrown up to house them.
The Navy is preparing an operational plan to stop the flotilla of nine ships – loaded with hundreds of international activists and thousands of tons of supplies – which are scheduled to try and break the sea blockade on Gaza by anchoring in the newly-expanded port later this week.
In addition, the IDF has established a joint taskforce together with the Israel Police, the Foreign Ministry and the Prisons Service to coordinate efforts to stop the flotilla and manage the potential media fallout.
There are many reporters among the hundreds of passengers in the flotilla, and they hope to be able to get information out to the world on the inevitable confrontation in real time:
Meanwhile, the ECESG said the flotilla will arrive by Friday, among those travelling are 36 journalists working for 21 news agencies, and the boats are equipped with wireless sat transmitters, so the journalists can capture the Israeli pirates terrorizing and attempted kidnapping of the crew, passengers.
Confirmation of heavy Turkish pressure on the Israeli government has also made it into the Israeli mainstream media:
Turkey urged Israel on Tuesday to lift its blockade of Gaza and allow a Turkish-led convoy of ships carrying humanitarian aid to enter the Hamas-controlled enclave.
An international flotilla carrying some 10,000 tons of medical equipment, housing material and other supplies is expected to reach Israeli waters by Friday, according to a Turkey-based humanitarian aid group leading the effort.
Speaking to reporters at a news conference during a UN meeting on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said his government had been in touch with Israel about the aid convoy.
"Acting calmly is necessary rather than raising already heightened tensions," he said. "The blockade on Gaza should be lifted."
He added: "We don't want new tensions ... We believe Israel will use common sense towards this civilian initiative."
There have been indications that the IDF forces intend to conduct electronic warfare against the flotilla at the time of the confrontation, blacking out all communication between the vessels and the outside world, and that they will then seize all electronic devices on board the vessels, as Israeli police and intelligence units have similarly confiscated computers, video equipment and other items from Israeli and Palestinian peace activists in recent months.
The MV Rachel Corrie, carrying the biggest cargo load in the flotilla, has been reported to having had to pull into a Portuguese port for repairs, but more recently, it has been reported "off the coast of Spain." However, it does not appear that this ship has yet entered the Mediterranean Sea.
Since Sunday, the Israeli government has launched an intense campaign intended to project two ideas - that the residents of Gaza get everything one could possibly need, and that the flotilla is directly supporting the terrorist Hamas network. They've even set up a twitter site at the Foreign Ministry (run by Avigdor Lieberman) as part of the campaign.
The U.S. media is beginning to cover this story, with an article by the Associated Press, and an op-ed in The Hill, by Iara Lee, who will be on board one of the flotilla vessels.
Earlier today, it was announced that the former Archbishop of Jerusalem will be joining the flotilla:
Sources participating in the Freedom Flotilla aid convoy stated that father Hilarion Capucci, the former archbishop of Jerusalem, joined the convoy sailing for the besieged Gaza Strip.
The sources said that father Capucci arrived in the Turkish city of Antalya on Sunday to join hundreds of participants in the convoy.
For his part, deputy head of the international committee for breaking the siege Mohamed Sawalha said that the participation of father Capucci has a symbolic importance for he is one of the most prominent Palestinian national figures who stood in the face of the Israeli occupation.
This is shaping up to be one of the most fascinating confrontation stories in recent years. No doubt the
press relations propaganda section of the Israeli Embassy in Washington DC is gearing up to spin the story as it is already being spun by the Israeli Foreign Ministry in Tel Aviv, should American media start covering this more closely.
Meanwhile, the best site I've found for quick updates is the Free Gaza Movement's twitter page.
images: Turkish cruise ship Mavi Marmara, with crowds for send-off Sunday; MV Rachel Corrie, underway; Archbishop Hilarion Capucci
Planting corn transplants:
Judy, on our floating dock last Saturday, preparing to monitor water quality on Neklason Lake:
Water quality monitoring tool bags:
A lone loon in the distance:
Towing the dock back to shore, after the electric motor gave out. Strider is very intrigued:
Sunday, May 23, 2010
Gov. Sean Parnell holds a huge lead over his nearest challengers in the race to be the Republican nominee for governor, while Democrat Ethan Berkowitz holds a smaller but still substantial lead in his race.
The hot race in the August Alaska primary, however, may be among Republicans running for lieutenant governor. There, candidates Jay Ramras, Eddie Burke and Mead Treadwell are all tightly bunched, with a huge number of undecided voters.
The new polling numbers are from the political consulting firm Strategies 360 and its DRM Market Research polling arm. The poll was not paid for by any candidate, said David Shurtleff of Strategies 360.
The poll was conducted May 13-17 of 375 likely primary voters and has a margin of error of +/- 5 percent.
"Parnell and Berkowitz appear to be runaway front-runners, and with the relatively low levels of undecideds in those races, they are the overwhelming favorites to face each other in the governor's contest this Fall," said Don McDonough, lead analyst with DMA Market Research.
The Democratic Party races were less competitive, with Sen. Hollis French of Anchorage trailing former House Minority Leader Ethan Berkowitz by a substantial margin, but still well ahead of businessman Bob Poe.
In the Democratic lieutenant governor race, Diane Benson had an even bigger lead over new candidate Denise Michels. Benson has run two state-wide races in recent years and holds a substantial advantage in name recognition over competitor Michels, the mayor of Nome.
Saturday, May 22, 2010
How Will the Global and U.S. Media Deal with the Gaza Flotilla's Encounter with the Israeli Navy?
I'd want Joe on the bridge of the MV Rachel Corrie with me. Along with every other living survivor of the attack on the U.S.S. Liberty, Joe believes the Israelis meant to sink a U.S. ship and somehow cover up the evidence.
The MV Rachel Corrie is not a U.S. ship, but several U.S. citizens are joining the flotilla, including two former high-ranking State Department officials:
Ambassador Edward L. Peck, who served as a paratrooper during two tours of wartime active duty; spent 32 years in the Foreign Service; including stints as Chief of Mission in Iraq and Mauritania, Deputy Director of the Cabinet Task Force on Terrorism at the Reagan White House, and State Department Liaison Officer to the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the Pentagon; and after retirement was Executive Secretary of the American Academy of Diplomacy.
Mary Ann Wright is a retired United States Army colonel and retired official of the U.S. State Department, known for her outspoken opposition to the Iraq War. She is most noted for having been one of three State Department officials to publicly resign in direct protest of the March 2003 invasion of Iraq.
Other Americans will be participating, along with hundreds of Europeans and some Turkish peace activists.
But none are as important as Joe Meador.
II. When it comes to that moment when, in international waters (as was the case with the Liberty) the flotilla, which will have been monitored since untying from Cypress by aircraft and helicopters, half the Israeli Navy and the flotilla come over opposite horizons and into view with each other, nobody can foresee what will happen next. The Israelis claim they have a right to intercept the convoy. The backers of the convoy are subject to whatever the skippers of the small flotilla deem to be most prudent as the scene rapidly unfolds. They are licensed mariners who have agreed to abide by certain rules to obtain and keep their professional credentials.
Essentially, they have to be as careful when the Israelis approach them as a similar flotilla might have to be should Somali pirates hail them on the high seas. Should the flotilla attempt to keep on steaming straight toward the Gaza wharves, the Israeli Navy has announced that it is in training for the encounter.
Will it try to pick them off one by one?
Should the large MV Rachel Corrie be used as a 21st Century ram at the head of a frantic charge, hoping that one of the Israeli torpedo or missile boats doesn't have a projectile with the word "Caterpillar D-9" painted onto its dull, deadly metal?
III. I don't know the answers. But I would like to see some of the media attention on this show that the reporters are informed enough about the context of the flotilla to give us some honest journalism.
As the flotilla passes Malta, a lot of pressure will be brought upon those responsible for the joining of vessels in the Eastern Mediterranean, to pursue some channeled plan or to disband. Will the U.S. take a role in this? The vessels are flagged at a lot of places, none of them in the USA.
The European media, which is sort of lurking around this story, will be onto it once the MV Rachel Corrie passes Gibraltar, which will be soon. The US media will ignore it as long as possible.
Update - Saturday 11:00 a.m: Haaretz is reporting today:
Three ships carrying pro-Palestinian activists have set off from Turkey to Gaza on Saturday, as part of the nine-ship 'Freedom Flotilla' convoy, a large attempt by international aid groups to breach the Israeli blockade of Gaza.
Meanwhile, an Israeli flotilla has set off from shores of Herzliya as a response to the pro-Palestinian convoy. The banners the Israeli ships carried noted Gaza rocket fire toward Israel and displayed photos of captured IDF soldier Gilad Shalit.
And here's an Irish-Palestinian video that shows images of some of the other flotila vessels, and gives a rough route map for the various vessels and a projected rendezvous somewhere south of Cypress:
Friday, May 21, 2010
Not only did Sen. Begich lie to Dennis and me then - February 2009, he has not yet addressed Wednesday's announcement by NOAA's North Pacific Fisheries Council that they will allow a 60,000 fish per year Chinook bycatch, which will be an increase from the current average bycatch. But we can relax, because NOAA/NMFS is calling this increase a "decrease," so everything will just work out, see.
And, they will trust industry to police itself. That's working out so well right now in the Gulf of Mexico, isn't it, NOAA?
Here's a joint release from peoples devastated by this decision:
* Bering Sea Fishermen’s Association*
* Kawerak, Inc. *
* Tanana Chiefs Conference*
* Yukon River Drainage Fisheries Assoc.*
Contact: Mike Smith, Tanana Chiefs Conference (TCC), (907)378‐2687
Myron Naneng, Association of Village Council Presidents (AVCP), (907)952‐5021
Loretta Bullard, Kawerak, Inc., (907)304‐4059
Karen Gillis, Bering Sea Fishermen’s Association (BSFA), (907)279‐6519
Becca Robbins Gisclair, Yukon River Drainage Fisheries Assoc. (360)303‐1866
Bering Sea Pollock Fishery Gets Priority Over Alaska’s Salmon Fisheries
New Chinook Salmon Bycatch Management System Preserves Status Quo, Won’t Reduce Bycatch
Today Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke approved a plan proposed by the North Pacific Fishery Management Council (the Council) to manage Chinook salmon bycatch in the Bering Sea pollock fishery. The plan, called Amendment 91, allows the pollock fishery to catch up to 47,591 Chinook salmon in any year, and up to 60,000 Chinook salmon in any two out of seven years without penalty if they participate in an industry run “incentive plan.”
Groups throughout Western Alaska endorsed a lower cap including AVCP, the Alaska Federation of Natives (AFN), TCC, Kawerak, the Western and Eastern Interior Regional Subsistence Advisory Councils (RACs), the Federal Subsistence Board, the Alaska Board of Fisheries, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Department of State and the Yukon River Panel.
“Amendment 91 completely ignores the unanimous recommendations from across Western Alaska for a cap of around 30,000 Chinook salmon,” said Myron Naneng, President of the Association of Village Council Presidents, “Western Alaskan tribes as well as those responsible for managing our fisheries in‐river spoke loudly and clearly, but our requests fell on deaf ears to both the Council and the Secretary of Commerce.”
The Bering Sea pollock fishery catches Chinook salmon as bycatch while fishing for pollock. These are the same salmon whose return we await each year, including those from the Yukon and Kuskokwim Rivers, Bristol Bay and Norton Sound, as well as Cook Inlet and the Pacific Northwest. These salmon cannot be retained by the pollock fishery and therefore must either be thrown back into the water—dead after hours in the nets—or saved for donation to food banks.
In 2007, the pollock fishery caught over 120,000 Chinook salmon as bycatch, in contrast to the 10‐year average (1997‐2006) of 43,328. According to recent estimates over 50% of the Chinook salmon caught as bycatch are bound for Western Alaska.
Low returns of Chinook salmon throughout Western Alaska have caused severe economic distress in recent years as subsistence harvests are restricted and small commercial fisheries are eliminated. The Yukon River Chinook salmon fishery was declared a fishery disaster for the 2008 and 2009 seasons by the Secretary of Commerce. “It is beyond unjust that the pollock fishery will be allowed to continue catching Chinook salmon virtually without limits offshore while in‐ river families sit on the banks watching their food and income swim by. This conservation burden should not be borne by rural residents, commercial and sport fishers alone,” said Becca Robbins Gisclair, Policy Director for the Yukon River Drainage Fisheries Association.
The 60,000 upper limit approved in Amendment 91 has only been exceeded three times in the past eighteen years, and essentially preserves the status quo. Even the 47,591 cap in essence preserves the long‐term average bycatch. “Amendment 91 does little more than preserve the pollock fishery’s current bycatch numbers. The Council and National Marine Fisheries Service missed an opportunity here and disregarded their obligation to actually reduce bycatch. All that has been accomplished is to put the current numbers in regulation,” said Karen Gillis, Executive Director of the Bering Sea Fishermen’s Association.
Amendment 91 relies on a system of industry run incentive plans to reduce bycatch below the stated cap levels. However, the plans operate outside of Council/agency control with no guarantees of bycatch reduction. The plans have changed already from what was presented to the Council when they voted to approve Amendment 91 last April. “By relying on industry incentive plans as the primary means of bycatch reduction, the Council and NMFS have once again allowed industry to self regulate. We’ve seen how well this has worked for the banking and oil industries. [emphasis added]
Its irresponsible to leave the management of our precious salmon resources to an industry that just a few years ago, when regulatory measures were relaxed, caught over 120,000 Chinook salmon in one year,” said Loretta Bullard, President of Kawerak.
A coalition of Western Alaska groups had asked the Secretary to reject Amendment 91 because it did not meet NMFS’s legal requirements to reduce bycatch, nor the needs of subsistence users, nor the United States’ obligations under the Yukon River Salmon Agreement, and international treaty with Canada. “In approving Amendment 91, the Obama Administration has chosen to prioritize the economic interests of the pollock fishery over the needs of salmon users throughout the state. In doing so they’ve ignored an overwhelming message from Alaska’s tribal governments that the bycatch reduction measures of Amendment 91 will not provide our people and Chinook salmon populations with the protection they need and deserve. This is a very sad day for our Chinook salmon and the people who depend on them,” said Jerry Isaac, President of Tanana Chiefs Conference.
Sen. Begich, doesn't seem to have a way to distance himself from the outrageous actions by Sen. Lisa Murkowski, after she single-handedly undercut a move in the U.S. Senate to raise the liability cap on oil spills from $75 million to $10 billion. Soon after Murkowski's action, Begich defended her. On TV, since then, he has spouted a bunch of mush, meant to mean nothing and to stall, on behalf of big oil:
On KTVA TV:
On Sen. Imhofe's Youtube channel:
On Shannyn Moore's Radio show on KUDO-AM Thursday (hour 2, at about 38 minutes):
Moore: I want to get with you in the next day or two and talk about this $75,000,000 or $10 billion dollar cap, and express my wishes that if we are going to have a cap for liability, that we make it at the exact same level that we have the windfall profits taxes.
Begich: Well, that’s an interesting idea.
Begich: I’ll say this. One - I think the cap is way, way too low. Two - I think there needs to be, uh, how we develop that cap needs to be representative of their assets, their profits and the volume that they’re producing; in other words, low volume - high volume - there should be a formula. I’m not afraid to put high caps on them, but let’s do it and making sure that they’re going to pay it, and that it equals what they’re doing in damage.
Moore: In looking at the damages, I don’t think there should be a cap. If you can’t pay, you can’t play, and there should just be a ......
Begich: I hear you, I hear you ...
Moore: And, OK, if they want to cap it, who’s going to pay after it’s 10 billion or 20 billion or 30 billion - who’s going to pay it? It’s going to be the Federal government that’s going to have to pick it up.
Begich wanders off into more pablum......
Thursday, May 20, 2010
After Elvis Costello, Carlos Santana & Gil Scott-Heron Cancel Israel Concerts - Time for Sun City Album 2010?
Then there are occasions when merely having your name added to a concert schedule may be interpreted as a political act that resonates more than anything that might be sung and it may be assumed that one has no mind for the suffering of the innocent.
I must believe that the audience for the coming concerts would have contained many people who question the policies of their government on settlement and deplore conditions that visit intimidation, humiliation or much worse on Palestinian civilians in the name of national security.
I am also keenly aware of the sensitivity of these themes in the wake of so many despicable acts of violence perpetrated in the name of liberation.
Some will regard all of this an unknowable without personal experience but if these subjects are actually too grave and complex to be addressed in a concert, then it is also quite impossible to simply look the other way.
Sometimes a silence in music is better than adding to the static and so an end to it.
I cannot imagine receiving another invitation to perform in Israel, which is a matter of regret but I can imagine a better time when I would not be writing this.
Inside Israel, the response to this latest cancelation is more strident than the responses to the withdrawals of Santana and Scott-Heron:
Costello’s cancellation drew an angry response from his Israeli fans. “There is an enormous group of people in Israel who are humanists and hunger for peace, who yearn for a normal life and are prepared to make painful concessions. And they are also sworn culture-lovers,” one disappointed ticket-holder, Shai Lahav, wrote in the Maariv daily, noting that he had listened to Costello every day since he was 15. “With this miserable decision of yours, it is this group of people you have weakened.”
“Sometimes, a musician ought to focus just on music. At least that is a field in which he has some knowledge,” Lahav wrote.
Ah, yes, Israel, where everyone just wants to focus on the music. No doubt, somebody is preparing a Tel Aviv performance of Die Meistersinger von Nurnberg as I write, eh? I seem to remember that the greatest violinist of all time, Jascha Heifetz, had a negative experience in Israel, while attempting to "just be a musician, focusing on the music":
On his third tour to Israel in 1953, Heifetz included in his recitals the Violin Sonata by Richard Strauss. At the time, Strauss was considered by many to be a Nazi composer, and his works were unofficially banned in Israel along with those of Richard Wagner. Despite the fact that the Holocaust had occurred less than ten years earlier and a last-minute plea from the Israeli Minister of Education, the defiant Heifetz argued, "The music is above these factors ... I will not change my program. I have the right to decide on my repertoire." Throughout his tour the performance of the Strauss sonata was followed by dead silence.
Heifetz was attacked after his recital in Jerusalem outside his hotel by a young man who struck Heifetz's violin case, Heifetz resorting to using his right hand to protect his priceless violins from the crowbar. As the attacker started to flee, Heifetz alerted his companions, who were armed, "Shoot that man, he tried to kill me." The attacker escaped and was never found. The incident made headlines in the press and Heifetz defiantly announced that he would not stop playing the Strauss. Threats continued to come, however, and he omitted the Strauss from his next recital without explanation. His last concert was cancelled after his swollen right hand began to hurt. He left Israel and did not return until 1970.
And current Israeli Culture Minister, Livor Limnat, seems to be taking the strength of Costello's written statement as something that needs to be sternly addressed:
Israeli Culture Minister Limor Livnat said a singer who boycotts Israeli fans “is not worthy of performing in front of them.”
When Gil Scott-Heron was approached by people encouraging him to terminate his agreement to perform in Israel, he was reminded that he had performed on the groundbreaking 1985 album, Sun City, which notified the world that prominent artists were ready and willing to commit against the South African apartheid state, even giving up some of the most lucrative contracts available at the time.
[A] music industry insider confirmed that the winds could be shifting. The music executive, who spoke on condition of anonymity in light of his ongoing business ties with artists, said that in recent months he had approached more than 15 performing artists with proposals to give concerts in Israel. None had agreed. The contracts offered high levels of compensation. He called them “extreme, big numbers that could match any other gig.” [emphasis added]
Horowitz' Mondoweiss article is titled "What's Hebrew for 'Sun City'?" In the comments, the Mondoweiss community, one of the most fascinating commenting families around, debates whether a cultural boycott of Israel, organized to the level of that in the 1980s directed toward South Africa, might or might not be a good thing.
Madonna. Paul McCartney and Leonard Cohen have all performed recently in Israel. Elton John will perform there next month. Will Elton John sing about Bono's "Palestinian Dream"? Will Sir Elton show the courage of Heifitz, and play from banned repertoire?
Are there enough prominent artists out there, upset by continuing Israeli apartheid, West Bank expansion and by the inhumane siege of Gaza, (where the inmates receive only 40% more calories per day than did laborers at Auschwitz) to come up with an album that might rival Sun City or The Concert for Bangladesh, in cultural impact?
Perhaps not in 2010. But the album will be made soon. The impetus for breaking on through to the other side on this might happen as soon as late May or early June, when we witness the response to the nine-vessel Gaza blockade-running mission.
Wednesday, May 19, 2010
According to the Foundation, "John will attend a number of music workshops in Brazilian and Afro-Cuban musical styles. For his upcoming CD, John will work collaboratively with Brazilian composer and pianist, Jovino Santos Neto."
John's dedication to his students at the University of Alaska Anchorage is as legendary as is his strictness with them, as he beats it into his students' minds (percussionists will understand the term "beats it") that UAA isn't a slacker school if you're contemplating learning from Prof. Damberg.
John commissioned my work, The Skies Are Weeping, for his percussion ensemble. So far we've only accomplished one movement, Dance for Tom Hurndall, with his great chamber group, the UAA Percussion Ensemble, but - who knows?
II. Just two weeks after he was awarded the prestigious Michael Ludwig Nemmers Prize from Northwestern University, Alaska's foremost composer, John Luther Adams, has been the first composer to receive the Rasmuson Foundation's Distinguished Artist award. This is fitting, as so many Alaska artists who have inspired John in his sometimes lonely work here have also been awarded this honor, beginning with poet John Haines.
III. I've been trying to convince Eric Bleicher, my student and assistant, to learn John Luther Adams' Mathematics of Resonant Bodies. Eric is one of John Damberg's students. I don't know if anyone from Anchorage has ever performed music by JLA at UAA. Last fall, the Juneau-based Crosssound Festival performed JLA's Make Prayers to the Raven at UAA. It was well received. I've contemplated approaching the faculty about putting together a concert of JLA's music at UAA, but don't feel the support would be very strong. Too bad, because John's music is tremendously powerful.
Here's part of a performance of Mathematics of Resonant Bodies:
Walter Oliveres, warming up at Thursday's Anchorage Civic Orchestra dress rehearsal:
Alaska's leading independent commentator, Shannyn Moore, with Alaska's leading classical pianist, Juliana Osinchuk, after last Friday's Anchorage Civic Orchestra concert. Juliana judged Shannyn's playing in some piano competitions when Shannyn was in high school:
Strider, a Cessna 180, the canoe, and a can of Pabst, given to me by some UAA music students after Friday's concert:
Alder Catkins over Neklason Lake:
First new flower of Judy's rock garden:
The greenhouse Tuesday at noon: