Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Depression and Anxiety in Israel, Iran No Longer Needs Imported US Wheat, DOD Microchips

David Brooks
Martin Indyk
Reza Aslan

"Hey, you probably heard about this on the news. Now being reported that the terrorist organization Al Qaeda is in financial ruin. To give you an idea what bad shape they're in, today I saw a terrorist buying a shoe bomb at Payless." – Jay Leno
"Sarah Palin got an iPad and she was complaining that it's not really that absorbent." –Bill Maher

"These people wake up angry. Glenn Beck today is furious about the volcanic ash cloud from Iceland. He knows it's Obama's fault, he just can't figure out how." –Bill Maher

David Brooks's opinion piece deals with people who regularly surf the Internet, the other two are about Israel, Iran, and relations with the US. They flesh out the brief arguments that I have made on the subject, especially Martin Indyk, who was ambassador twice to Israel, and is probably the most knowledgeable person in the US on this subject. Neatly summed up, the current situation is: "That an issue of as much strategic import to Israel and the United States as Iran could be subordinated to the demands of Netanyahu’s right-wing government underscores the growing divide between the Obama administration and the Netanyahu government.

The president views curbing Iran’s nuclear program and resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as two sides of the same coin. In order to isolate and pressure Iran, he believes he needs to unite Israelis and Arabs with the rest of the world in a grand international anti-Iranian coalition.

The common threat is there — Arab leaders are at least as concerned as Netanyahu about Iran. But the inability to make progress on the Palestinian issue enables Iran’s leaders to play to the Arab street, claiming they are the real supporters of the Palestinian cause through sponsorship of violence and terrorism and threats to destroy Israel. The tension also gives Iran the opportunity to use Hamas and Hezbollah proxies to provoke conflict with Israel, with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad seen as the hero.

Netanyahu rejects these linkages. He argues that resolving the Palestinian problem won’t change Iran’s intentions or placate the Arabs; that it is Israel’s use of force that deters Hamas and Hezbollah; and that the split with the United States over building in East Jerusalem only encourages Tehran to believe that Obama will restrain Israel from striking Iran’s nuclear facilities.

Whoever is right, there is no denying the reality of a fundamental disagreement, one that has poisoned relations between the American and Israeli leaders."
"How do you know when there’s a real crisis in U.S.-Israel relations? It’s when the president of the United States convenes a nuclear security summit to curb Iran’s nuclear ambitions, and the Israeli prime minister declines the invitation." - Martin Indyk
And an article in today's NY Times on celebrating Israel's Independence Day in Jerusalem illustrates how the current impasse is affecting the mood of the country: "But there is something about the mood this year that feels darker than usual. It has a bipartisan quality to it. Both left and right are troubled, and both largely about the same things, especially the Iranian nuclear program combined with growing tensions with the Obama administration.

“There is a confluence of two very worrying events,” said Michael Freund, a rightist columnist for The Jerusalem Post in a telephone interview. “One is the Iranian threat, an existential threat. Add to that the fact that for the first time in recent memory there is a president in the White House who is not overly sensitive to the Jewish state and its interests. You put the two together and it will affect anyone’s mood, even an optimist like me.

Personally, I think this is a good thing. Living under the threat of nuclear annihilation produces a sense of anxiety. Many people in the US and Russia have grown up with it and have since dedicated themselves that nuclear weapons need to be contained, if not eliminated from the world. Hopefully, both people in Israel and Iran will come to the same conclusions, and that it not take 50 years to get there.

My other contention is that people with right wing ideologies are good to hear from as a reference source, as a direction we do not want to go, and that they never should be allowed to be in charge of a government, as Benjamin Netanyahu is finding out. In the US we were supposed to have learned that lesson from the last Bush administration, but a vocal minority is trying to reverse course, stepping way, way back into an imagined history...

Someone in Iran released the news about the latest efforts the government is using to crack down and further limit the reformer's voices, how they are preparing for the anniversary of last year's fake election: "The Iranian authorities on Monday suspended two prominent opposition political parties, banned a newspaper and handed down prison sentences to three reformist political figures, in the latest sign that the country’s hard-line rulers aim to crush any official political representation by the reformist movement...  The move was widely understood as a precursor to a full legal ban... The suspension was not a surprise, as many of the parties’ members had already been arrested or jailed. But it suggested that the authorities might be moving more aggressively to stamp out reformist political groups as the anniversary of last June’s election draws closer." This news item is a companion piece to the post from yesterday, helping to illustrate my point, and came out right after I had some readers from Tehran, which I thank them and welcome them to come back. Now, I'm not saying that this tiny blog has any international influence, merely pointing out the coincidence that took place in my imagination...

Because a bad piece of news should be balanced by something good, Iran also announced that it is able to export a few million tons of wheat to the Arabian Gulf states, which, hopefully, will help feed people who are starving in places like Yemen. I also wrote yesterday about the UN announcing that it was going to stop a lot of food aid because of lack of funds... During the last two years, there was a serious drought in Iran and they had to import wheat, mostly from the US. Evidently, there are no sanctions on food going to Iran, and this little known fact wasn't widely reported. Food is a secret form of diplomacy, do not listen to the rants being broadcast from that man behind the curtain...

News of the weird today comes courtesy of TPM and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Because sometimes you just can't make this stuff up, even while wearing our tinfoil hats: "The Georgia House Judiciary Committee took up a bill last week that would "prohibit requiring a person to be implanted with a microchip," and would make violating the ban a misdemeanor.

A woman who described herself as a resident of DeKalb County told the committee: "I'm also one of the people in Georgia who has a microchip." Apparently no lawmaker took this as a warning sign, and she was allowed to continue her testimony.

"Microchips are like little beepers," the woman told the committee. "Just imagine, if you will, having a beeper in your rectum or genital area, the most sensitive area of your body. And your beeper numbers displayed on billboards throughout the city. All done without your permission."

"Ma'am, did you say you have a microchip?" state Rep. Tom Weldon (R) asked the woman.

"Yes, I do. This microchip was put in my vaginal-rectum area," she replied.

No one laughed. State Rep. Wendell Willard (R), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, asked her who had implanted the chip.

"The Department of Defense," she said.

Willard thanked the woman for her input, and the committee later approved the bill.

See? Life is not like a box of chocolates, it is more like a body full of microchips, transmitting away...

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