Monday, February 26, 2024

Destroying Cities And Killing Civilians - Post-War Berlin Photos By Roman Vishniac

We met long time friends in Berkeley Wednesday at the Magnes Collection.  While looking at the pictures in the current exhibit, I couldn't help but think about Gaza and Ukraine.  

The photographer was: 

"Roman Vishniac (1897–1990), a Russian-Jewish modernist photographer, [who] lived and worked in Berlin from 1920 to 1939. On the eve of the Second World War, he extensively documented Jewish life in Central and Eastern Europe. After fleeing Nazi Germany, he found safety in New York City and became a US citizen in 1946. The Roman Vishniac Archive, which The Magnes acquired in 2018, also includes thousands of photographs taken after World War II in the United States, Europe, and the Middle East." [From the Exhibit and also the Magnes Collection website]

Some of the pre-war pictures were up, but the main exhibit was of pictures Vishniac took in Berlin in 1947.  That's two years after the war in Germany ended.  Much of the debris has been swept up and carted away, though some still likes in piles.  People walk, seemingly calmly, in front of bombed out buildings.  

 Berlin and Dresden were both bombed heavily in WWII by the US and British air forces.

On the 1943-44 Berlin bombing raids from Wikipedia:
"On February 15–16, important war industries were hit, including the large Siemensstadt area, with the centre and south-western districts sustaining most of the damage. This was the largest raid by the RAF on Berlin. Raids continued until March 1944.[25][26][27]
These raids caused immense devastation and loss of life in Berlin. The November 22, 1943 raid killed 2,000 Berliners and rendered 175,000 homeless. The following night, 1,000 were killed and 100,000 made homeless. During December and January regular raids killed hundreds of people each night and rendered between 20,000 and 80,000 homeless each time.[28] Overall nearly 4,000 were killed, 10,000 injured and 450,000 made homeless.[29]"

"The bombing of Dresden was a joint British and American aerial bombing attack on the city of Dresden, the capital of the German state of Saxony, during World War II. In four raids between 13 and 15 February 1945, 772 heavy bombers of the Royal Air Force (RAF) and 527 of the United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) dropped more than 3,900 tons of high-explosive bombs and incendiary devices on the city.[3] The bombing and the resulting firestorm destroyed more than 1,600 acres (6.5 km2) of the city centre.[4] Up to 25,000 people were killed.[1][2][a] Three more USAAF air raids followed, two occurring on 2 March aimed at the city's railway marshalling yard and one smaller raid on 17 April aimed at industrial areas."

We could add to this the atomic bomb in Japan, and stories about Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq.  There were/are battles and massacres in the former Yugoslavia, in various parts of Africa, in South America.  

The United Nations was supposed to help end such wars, but it's structured so that the large powers have veto power over crucial decisions.  Certainly the arms dealers play a huge role in all these wars, though there were wars before capitalist corporations took over the technology of killing.  

We also have to figure out how and why psychopaths find their way to power and control of militaries and the budgets to arm them.  Is there a way to overcome this?  

Is all this simply embedded in our DNA?  

[This post fits into the series I'm doing on the Israeli-Gaza war, though it's not part of 'plan' I had for those posts.  You can link to those posts at the Israel-Gaza war tab just below the orange header above.  Here's the same link.]

Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Subbing In San Francisco- USS Pampanito

The grandkids had contradictory ideas about  where they wanted to go yesterday.  She was more willing, but he adamantly didn't want to go to the Children's Creativity Museum.  

I googled 'San Francisco for kids' and pointed out that we could go visit a submarine.  Immediate mood change.  

So we got the 28 bus and rode it to Fisherman's Wharf.  

The USS Pampanito SS-383 is a WWII Balao Class Fleet Submarine.

There were something like 80 men aboard, and a sign outside said they were gone for long periods of time without a shower.  But on the tour we saw two showers.  One for the crew and one for the officers.  My granddaughter asked about that after the tour.  The lady said that the men who worked in the engine room and got oily and the cooks got to take showers, as well as the officers.  But water had to be rationed.  

Q:  Couldn't they use saltwater?

A:  When they surfaced, and it was safe, the men could just jump into the water.

Sleeping quarters for the crew.  There was one bed for three crew members since two were always on duty.  

This was the kitchen for the crew!

I saved this image below at higher resolution, but I still don't think you can read it.  So here's a link to a site on How Submarines Work.  It has a better animated version of how it takes on water to dive.

From the lower part of the sign below: 

"The United States submarines and the men who served on them represented less than 1.6% of America's al naval force during WWII, yet was responsible for sinking 55% of Japanese naval and merchant marine flees.  This extraordinary record was nt without cost.  Almost 23% of the submarine force was lost, comprising more than 3.500 men and 52 submarines."

Two subs were lost on October 24, 1944 and another on October 25.  The last one was lost on August 6, 1945 - the day the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, three days before the Japanese surrendered.  

The kids enjoyed the visit to the sub a lot.  And we kept them occupied on and around Fisherman's Wharf for several hours before getting the bus back home.  

A benefit of the 28 bus is that it stops, along the way, at the Golden Gate Bridge visitor center. 

Friday, February 16, 2024

Philanthropy, Benjamin Franklin, Daniel Defoe

 I'm reading Benjamin Franklin's Last Bet by Michael Meyer.  Since my bookclub discusses Ike's Gamble Monday, this title seemed like a possible follow-up.  

Basically, in his will Franklin left 1000 £ to his two cities - Boston where he was born, and Philadelphia where he moved after leaving Boston.    The money was to be used to make loans to men starting up in the trades.  (Franklin himself had been helped by people when setting up his print shop.)  They had ten years to pay the money back at 5% interest.  He calculated that this money would grow over two hundred years to a much larger sum.  I haven't gotten far enough into the book to know how successful this was.  I do know that after 100 years, the Boston fund had a value closer to what Franklin had calculated than the Philadelphia fund.  But the Boston fund had made fewer and fewer loans. The author also tells us that Franklin hadn't figured on mechanization and industrialization replacing small tradesman with factories.

But that's not what this post is directly about. Rather it's about Franklin's devotion to the idea of charity.  

Inspirations:  Mather and Defoe

"There was also a Book of Defoe's," Franklin remembered in his memoir, "called An Essay on Projects,  and another of Dr. Mather's, call'd Essays to do Good which perhaps gave me a Turn of Thnking that had an Influence on some of the principal future Events of m Life. . . .

"A bankrupt Daniel Defoe wrote An Essay upon Projects while hiding in Bristol from a London creditor empowered to imprison him.  Published in 1697, two decades before Robinosn Crusoe  brought him fame, Projects laid out Defoe's ideas for social improvement.  These included the education of women, the creation of unemployment benefits, a lottery to benefit charity, fire insurance,  proportional taxation based on income, mortgage interest capped at 4 percent, and a public assistance scheme called the Friendly Society for Widows."  (pp. 124-125)

Franklin Fund Raising Tips

"'I therefore put my self as much as I could out of sight,'  he related in his  autobiography, 'and stated it as a Scheme of a number of Friends, who had requested me to go about and propose it to such as they thought Lovers of Reading. [He was collecting money to build a library.] In this way my Affair went on more smoothly, and I ever after practis'd it on such Occasions and from frequent Successes can heartily recommend it.  The present little Sacrifice of your Vanity will afterwards by amply repaid.'"

"As much as he downplayed his own philanthropy, Franklin came to realize that sometimes the best way to get people to donate to your cause was to publish the names of those who had already contributed."

"By convincing the state assembly to match any amount raised up to £2,000, Franklin secured 'an additional motive to give, since every man's donation would be doubled . . .'"

I guess folks who study philanthropy know this, but I didn't realize such practices went back to Franklin.  I suspect some aspects might be even older than Franklin.  

There are a lot of fascinating tidbits about Franklin, about the beginnings of the nation, and other random ideas.  Here's one quote from the book that made me pause and think:

"In 1800, ten years after Benjamin Franklin's death, only one American in twenty lived in a town of more than 2.500 people.  Four out of five Americans farmed land." (p.107)

Wednesday, February 14, 2024

Rachel Epstein Book on John Haines - May the Owl Call Again

 Someone left a link to this book in a comment on a totally unrelated post - at least I didn't see any connection.  

But Rachel worked in the University of Alaska Anchorage bookstore for many years and put together many (100?  200?) forums in the bookstore.  Usually there was an author (or two) speaking, but sometimes it was on a topic of current interest.  

They were small intimate affairs where the audience had lots of opportunity to interact with the speakers.  

These soirees were exactly what should be happening on a University campus.  

I'm sure this is a noteworthy book so I'm delighted to let people know about it.  

From the Amazon page.

"Alaskan poet John Haines has been gone for more than a decade now, but his singular voice stays with me—the deep quiet of it and its enchantment, the spareness of his lines—Li Po transposed to the far north. Much else is here to muse on and admire—his charming letters to Rachel Epstein, photos of his homestead in Richardson, transcripts of talks given, memoirs of a vanished Alaska, selected essays, notes on the imagination’s relationship with the natural world, even recollections of his service on a destroyer in the Pacific toward the end of WW II. May the Owl Call Again is a moving and memorable collection, and at its heart is Haines’ haunting poetry.

—Marc Hudson, poet, translator, and an emeritus professor at Wabash College.

His most recent book of poems is East Of Sorrow.

May the Owl Call Again bears witness to the last years of Haines' life—his thoughts, humor, melancholy, a profound awareness of Alaska’s rhythms, and his struggles with engagement in a broken world. But, above all, it is a meditation on friendship and the solace of intimacy that can be found in the handwritten page. It’s a testament to care, the aches of connection and solitude, and the consolation of finding kinship with another. I found myself reading it all at once and walking away with a profound sense of gratitude for Epstein sharing this Haines with all of us. 

—Freya Rohn, poet and founder of Ariadne Archive"

For Anchorage folks I'd recommend calling Writers' Block bookstore ((907) 929-2665to order it if it's not in.  Buy Alaskan authors writing about Alaskan people from local Alaskan bookstores.  

Tuesday, February 13, 2024

Why Making Real Time Sense Of Israeli-Gaza War Is So Difficult - Part IV Hamas

This is Part IV on this topic.  Previously:

Preview:  GUERRILLA WARFARE - A brief discussion of guerrilla warfare, then you can watch the classic film on the Algerian war for independence from France:  The Battle Of Algiers.

Part I of this series is here.  It identifies and briefly discusses the following topics I think important to be aware of when confronting the Israeli-Gaza war.





Part II is here.  It looks at:





Part III is here.  It covers





Part IV, in the end focuses on Hamas, mostly on the 1988 Hamas Charter and the 2017 update.   It has been the most difficult one for me.  I had never read the Hamas Charter of 1988 or the revised charter of 2017.  

And to be clear, I'm just scratching the surface.  My point in these posts is NOT to teach anyone about this subject, but rather to reinforce the idea that few people know the many issues, the complicated histories, the religious nuances, the political machinations to have a strong basis to form anything but the most tentative opinions on the Israel-Gaza war.  Including me.  

But what I've found preparing this post is that Hamas appears to be an extreme Islamic organization not that different from ISIS and the other organizations that want to set up states that adopt laws directly from their interpretation of Islam.  

Doing this research in English is a handicap though. It's relatively easy to find information online about Hamas from Western sources, but finding English reports from Arab or Islamic sources takes a little more work.  Then comparing translations to make sure that what you have is relatively authentic takes longer.  

11.  HAMAS

I've been stuck on this one for several weeks.  I looked up Hamas.  I couldn't find a Hamas website.  I found other sites that posted Hamas' 1988 Charter.  Most are from Western institutions.  Here are two:

Yale University Law Library

Wilson Center 

But I did find one by what ostensibly is an Muslim/Palestinian site:

The Journal of Islamic Studies (I got access to this journal through JSTOR, "a digital library of academic journals, books, and primary sources founded in 1994" that is not directly open to the public.  I have access through the University of Alaska Anchorage library.  If you don't have a university access, you might also try your local library to get access through them.)

The first 'Topic' in Part I of this series of posts is called  Propaganda, Misinformation, and Disinformation.  It's there to remind readers that there are nations out there trying to  misinform the world, even to obliterate any sense of verifiable truth, to create opportunities to change the world to their advantage.  

So, with that in mind, I wanted to make sure what I was reading was real, that it was not propaganda intended to make Hamas look bad.  I've reviewed the various versions of the key document - The Hamas Charter.  They basically say the same things, though different translations use different wording.  For example, it's called a Covenant in one translation, a Charter in another, and a Manifesto in yet another.

I went to all that trouble because I found the Charter (the Islamic Studies version's word) to be alarming.  It's in the same mold as ISIS documents - an Islamic extremist document that weaves Islamic justifications for everything it says. Its tone is:  "We know the Truth and anyone who differs from us is wrong." [See, for example Article 11.]  It calls for the Israeli government to be destroyed and for an Islamic state of Palestine to take over all the land that is now Israeli, Gaza, and the West Bank.  

So I wanted an Arab, Muslim, or Palestinian version to compare to the Western translations.  As I said, while the translators used different words and phrasing, the basic tone and content is the pretty close in the three I looked at.  

It's the kind of document that gives Right Wing Israelis like Netanyahu easy justification for their need to wipe out Hamas.  Because Hamas' goal is to wipe out Israel.  That doesn't give Netanyahu justification to kill tens of thousands of Palestinians who are not Hamas supporters.  But I suspect that Netanyahu feels Palestinians are all Hamas or Hamas sympathizers.  And, again, the Charter gives ammunition for that sort of interpretation.  It tells us that every Muslim is obligated to join the fight to throw out the Jews - including women and children.  [Note:  the 2017 revision distinguishes between Jews and Zionists.]

"When an enemy occupies some of the Muslim lands,   Jihad becomes obligatory for every Muslim. In the struggle against the Jewish occupation of Palestine  the banner of jihad must be raised. (Article 15) (emphasis added)

The Muslim woman has a role in the battle for the liberation which is no less than the role of the man, for she is the factory of men. (Article 17)"

And, presumably, because the Charter seems to justify Netanyahu's stated goal to wipe out Hamas, there's even an Israeli Missions Around the World website which has a page of quotes from the Hamas charter.  

These would appear to be parts of the Charter that Israel would like to share with the world to make their point that Hamas is a terrorist organization whose goal is to wipe out Israel and Israeli Jews and that Hamas will never give up that goal. And thus Israel feels justified in taking extreme action against Hamas.  

So, these are some of the worst things Israel thinks are in the Charter.  But are they accurately portraying the charter?  I'm going to offer you, in the charts below, on the left the Israeli wording and on the right the wording from the Institute of Palestinian Studies.  In some cases I added a little more from the Palestinian translation in [brackets] to give the citation a bit more context.  Again, you can read the whole Charter at the links above to the Yale Library version, The Wilson Center version, and the Islamic Studies Journal. (You'll probably need to get access through a library for the last one.)

I'd note that a revised Charter was publicized in 2017 which I'll address below.  But first let me offer you what Israel says is most offensive along with the same sections as translated by the Institute of Palestinian Studies in the Islamic Studies Journal.  

Israeli Translation  Institute for Palestinian Studies Translation
Goals of the HAMAS: "The Islamic Resistance
 Movement is a distinguished Palestinian 
movement, whose allegiance is to Allah, and 
whose way of life is Islam. It strives to raise the 
banner of Allah over every inch of Palestine." 
(Article 6)
Differentiation and Independence Article 6:
The Islamic Resistance Movement is an 
outstanding type of Palestinian movement. 
It gives its loyalty to Allah, adopts Islam as a

system of life, and works toward raising the 
banner of Allah on every inch of Palestine. 
[Therefore, in the shadow of Islam, it is 
possible for all followers of different religions 
to live in peace and with security over their 
person, property, and rights. In the absence 
of Islam, discord takes form, oppression and
destruction are rampant, and wars and battles 
take place.]
On the Palestinian side I've added a little more of what they wrote in [brackets] to give more context. 

Israeli Translation  Institute for Palestinian Studies Translation
On the destruction of Israel: 

"Israel will exist and will continue 
to exist until Islam will obliterate it,
just as it obliterated others before it." 
Israel will be established and will stay 
established until Islam nullifies it as 
it nullified what was before it. The 
Martyred Imam Hasan  al-Banna 
(may Allah have mercy upon him)

Israeli Translation  Institute for Palestinian Studies Translation
"Ranks will close, fighters joining other 
fighters, and masses everywhere in the
Islamic world will come forward in
response to the call of duty, loudly
proclaiming: 'Hail to Jihad!'. This 
cry will reach the heavens and will 
go on being resounded until liberation
is achieved, the invaders vanquished
 and Allah's victory comes about." 
(Article 33) 

The ranks join the ranks and the Mujahids join

Mujahids and other groups which come forth 

from everywhere in the Muslim world answering

the call of obligation, repeating “come to Jihad” "

-a call bursting forth into the heights of the Heavens,

reverberating until the liberation is completed and 

the invaders are rolled back and the victory of Allah 


Israeli TranslationInstitute for Palestinian Studies Translation
The exclusive Moslem nature of the 
area: "The land of Palestine is an
Islamic Waqf [Holy Possession]
consecrated for future Moslem
generations until Judgment Day. 
No one can renounce it or any part, or
abandon it or any part of it." (Article 11)
The Islamic Resistance Movement [firmly] believes 
that the land of Palestine is an Islamic Waqf [Trust] 
upon all Muslim generations till the day of Resurrection.  
It is not right to give it up nor any part of it.  (Article 11)
[Neither a single Arab state nor all the Arab states, 
neither a King  nor a leader, nor all the kings
 or leaders, nor any organization -Palestinian or Arab- 
have such authority because the land of Palestine is an 
Islamic Trust upon Muslim generations until the day
of Resurrection. And who has the true spokesmanship
for all the Muslim generations till the day of Resurrection?] 

Israeli Translation  Institute for Palestinian Studies Translation
The call to jihad: 
"The day the enemies
 usurp part of Moslem land, Jihad
 becomes the individual duty of every
 Moslem. In the face of the Jews' 
usurpation, it is compulsory that the 
banner of Jihad be raised." (Article 15) 
Jihad for the Liberation of Palestine is Obligatory 
When an enemy occupies some of  the Muslim 
lands, Jihad becomes obligatory for every Muslim. 
In the struggle against the Jewish occupation of 
Palestine, the banner of Jihad must be raised.

Israeli Translation Institute for Palestinian Studies Translation
Rejection of a negotiated peace settlement:
"[Peace] initiatives, and so-called peaceful 
solutions and international conferences are 
in contradiction to the principles of the Islamic 
Resistance Movement... Those conferences 
are no more than a means to appoint the 
infidels as arbitrators in the lands of Islam... 
There is no solution for the Palestinian 
problem except by Jihad. Initiatives, 
proposals and international conferences 
are but a waste of time, an exercise in futility." (Article 13) 

Initiatives, Peace Solutions and International Conferences

The initiatives conflict, what are called "Peaceful 

Solutions" and "International Conferences" to solve 

the Palestinian problem.As far as the ideology 

of the Islamic Resistance Movement is 

concerned, giving up any part of Palestine

is like giving up part of its religion.There is no 

solution to the Palestinian Problem 

except byJihad. The initiatives, options, and 

international conferences are a waste of time 

and a kind of child's play. 

The Palestinian people are nobler than to be 

fiddling with their future, rights, and destiny.

Israeli Translation  Institute for Palestinian Studies Translation

Condemnation of the Israel-Egypt 

Peace Treaty:
"Egypt was, to a great extent, removed 

from the circle of struggle [against Zionism] 

through the treacherous Camp David 

Agreement. The Zionists are trying to 

draw other Arab countries into similar 

agreements in order to bring them 

outside the circle of struggle. ...

Leaving the circle of struggle against

 Zionism is high treason, and cursed be 

he who perpetrates such an act." 

(Article 32) 

[World Zionism and Imperialist powers try with 

audacious maneuvers and well formulated plans 

to extract the Arab nations one by one from the 

struggle with Zionism, so in the end they can deal

 singularly with the Palestinian people.] It already

 has removed Egypt faraway from the circle of 

struggle with the treason of “Camp David," 

and it is trying to extract other countries by 

using similar treaties in order to remove them from 

the circle of struggle.”

Again, above, for the IPS translation I've added with [brackets] the previous sentence that the Israeli translation left out.  

I did the same with the quote below.  

Israeli Translation  Institute for Palestinian Studies Translation

Anti-Semitic incitement:
The Day of Judgment will not come about 

until Moslems fight Jews and kill them. 

Then, the Jews will hide behind rocks 

and trees, and the rocks and trees will 

cry out: 'O Moslem, there is a Jew 

hiding behind me, come and kill him." 

(Article 7) 

[Even though the Islamic Resistance Movement 

looks forward to fulfill the promise of Allah no matter 

how long it takes because the Prophet of Allah 

(saas) says:] The Last Hour would not come until the

 Muslims fight against the Jews and the Muslims 

would kill them, and until the Jews would hide 

themselves behind a stone or a tree and a stone 

or a tree would say. Muslim or Servant of Allah 

there is a Jew behind me; come and kill him;

 but the tree of Gharqad would not say it, for it is

 the tree of theJews (Bukhari and Muslim).3

The Israeli site has a few more quotes and then a summary of the Israeli issues with the charter.  You can see that here.

The language of the 1988 Hamas Charter basically calls for an Islamic state - ISIS like - to take control of all the area now occupied by Israel and the Palestinian territories.  It calls for getting rid of all the Jews.  It says attempts at Peace Treaties are useless.  Little, perhaps none, of the Charter is reasonable for Israel to accept as written.  It's essentially a declaration of war.  No country in the world, that has the power to oppose it,  would accept a close neighbor who says similar things about them.  

A revised Covenant was published in 2017. Hamas says that it is merely the consolidation of various changes made by leaders over the years, but which hadn't been codified in a single statement.  

I've read several versions and explanations of the differences between it and the original 1988 Charter.  The Guardian's overview, which came out in 2017, is perhaps the most succinct and direct (though not necessarily the most accurate.)

"Hamas has unveiled a new political programme softening its stance on Israel by accepting the idea of a Palestinian state in territories occupied by Israel in the six-day war of 1967.

The new document states the Islamist movement it is not seeking war with the Jewish people – only with Zionism that drives the occupation of Palestine.

The new document also insists that Hamas is a not a revolutionary force that seeks to intervene in other countries, a commitment that is likely to be welcomed by other states such as Egypt."

Here are some other analyses of the changes: (let me warn you - these are not easy reading)

My main takeaway after reading the Hamas Charter is to sadly shake my head about those who have championed Hamas.  You can only support Hamas if all you know about them is that they are fighting to stop Israeli atrocities.  But if you read their Charter, even with the 2017 modifications, you know this is a radical Islamist extremist group that only recognizes their version of Islamic doctrine.  

The idea that Hamas is fighting to give Palestinian culture its land and culture back seems to me to be terribly wrong.  There never was a strict Islamic state ruled by Islamic law in Palestine.  Not under the British and not under the 400 years of control by the Ottoman Empire. 

There are so many trails to follow to understand this.  For instance, how did Hamas come to power in Gaza?  Here are two links to start your research on that question:

Wikipedia's History of Hamas 

Al Jazeera - History Illustrated, The Story of Hamas And Its Fight For Palestine 

Those two citations are not meant to be exhaustive or even adequate.  They just give a sense of the history that led to Hamas' official formation until now.  

Everyone knows about the Hamas attack on October 7 so I don't have to discuss that, except to put it into the context of Topic #10 GUERRILLA warfare and terrorism.  The point is often for the militarily weaker side to commit acts of terror to provoke the more powerful enemy to make horrible counter attacks that will make them look bad in public opinion.  Hamas was wildly successful in this objective.  

The Israeli response has been a public relations nightmare.  But my sense is that the far right in Israel simply assumes that an anti-Semitic world will disapprove of anything they do.  That logic lets them do terrible things.  

But I'd remind them that much of the world saw Israelis as heroes after the 1967 war and when they made the Entebbe rescue.  


Topic#12 (it was #13) was at the end of the last post as a heading that I postponed to this post - it made more sense after discussing Hamas.  But as I work on this, I don't think the title clearly expresses the issue I'm wrestling with.  And as I try to flesh it out, it seems it really should be part of Part V.  

It will deal, not so much with options from here, but with the question of how should those options be evaluated.  What criteria should be used?  What factors should be considered?

And to be clear, my ignorance of all of this, while perhaps lower than the ignorance of most people, is still vast.  I'll be raising questions more than supplying answers.  

Sunday, February 04, 2024

Why Making Real Time Sense Of Israeli-Gaza War Is So Difficult -Part III

Preview:  GUERRILLA WARFARE - A brief discussion of guerrilla warfare, then you can watch the classic film on the Algerian war for independence from France:  The Battle Of Algiers.

Part I of this series is here.  It identifies and briefly discusses the following topics I think important to be aware of when confronting the Israeli-Gaza war.





Part II is here.  It looks at:





[Part III was going to include a section on Hamas.  But that has turned out to be lengthier than I first imagined.  The Hamas Charter is pretty explicitly an Islamic call to overthrow the State of Israel.  But in the spirt of topic 1 in Part I - Propaganda, Misinformation, and the Obliteration of Truth, I needed to be sure I was not being misled and then I wanted to present it in a way that showed different translations to assure readers as well.  So I'm going to make that Part IV. And I'll probably add a Part V to organize my thoughts after doing all this research and writing.]  


I don't have a lot to say about this, other than to say it is an important factor that has helped empower Netanyahu and the Israeli political right wing.  From a Brookings Institute report:

"The over one million people who immigrated to Israel from the former Soviet Union in a wave from the beginning of the 1990s have changed Israel to its core — socially, politically, economically, and culturally. Within the first six years, they formed what became a large secular nationalist political camp that secures right-wing rule to this day."

The immigration of Ultra Orthodox US Jews also plays an important role - especially in the policies of taking Arab land in the West Bank and turning it into Jewish settlements.   While their numbers are tiny compared to the Russian immigrants, their interest in settling in the West Bank exacerbates conflicts with Palestinian Arabs.  


Ignorance by itself is not bad.  We are all ignorant about many things.  Just go in any library and peruse the book titles.  Some topics you know well.  Others not at all.  The important things about ignorance are:

  1. You are aware of your ignorance
  2. You don't act as though you know what you're talking about on subjects you're ignorant on
  3. You recognize that expertise in one area doesn't give you expertise in other areas
  4. What we know, what science uncovers, is merely a model of reality.  That model is often incomplete and new discoveries require changes in our models.  So what you learned in the past may be out of date, or it may have been wrong in the first place.

My basic point here is that lack of knowledge, and the lack of awareness of one's ignorance, combines with Topic 1:  PROPAGANDA, MISINFORMATION, OBLITERATION OF TRUTH, to make thinking out the Israeli-Gaza situation even harder than it already is.  The rest is some background to own ignorance.

Ignorance doesn't mean stupidity.  It means that someone hasn't been exposed to certain knowledge, information.  Perhaps one has lived in one location forever and been around people who mostly look and think and behave like them. 

First radio, then television, and then the internet have made it easier to escape such isolation and to learn more about the world and the people in it.  [And I'm not saying that never having been more than 100 miles from your home is necessarily a bad thing either. Being grounded in a geographic location can give someone connections and insights that people without such permanence lack.]

Spending a year as a student in Germany made me see things I could never have seen had I stayed home.  I don't mean so much that I saw Germany and Europe, but more that I saw my life growing up in California from a whole different perspective.  Learning that I could exist reasonably well without using English also rearranged my brain.

When I first arrived to teach English in Thailand so many years ago, I was gaining ability in my Thai language skills, and rapidly learning about my community and Thailand.  It took me six months before I realized:

The more I knew, the volume of what I didn't know, grew ten times faster.  My ignorance wasn't growing, just my awareness of my ignorance was growing..   

As a blogger, I'm reminded daily about how much I do not know.  I'm constantly googling to learn more about the background of someone or something I know little or nothing about.  It's a constant fight to resist unconsciously filling in, from my prejudices, what isn't said about something I learn about in the news or online.  I write something and then realize I don't know if it is true or not and have to verify it.  

The internet makes such fact-checking much easier than it ever was before, but I come to this having spent years painfully tracking references in bound volumes that then led me to track down the books and journals that might hold the answer.  I've had to go through articles by people who make conflicting arguments, and then had to look for more evidence that would give one side more likelihood of being accurate than other positions.  

A friend pointed out that he's not so sure the internet makes it easier because there's so much disinformation.  Experience in critical thinking and sleuthing is important on the internet.

That's why Topic 9 - IGNORANCE is closely related to Topic 1 (in Part I) PROPAGANDA, MISINFORMATION, OBLITERATION OF TRUTH.   And why Propaganda is the very first topic.

Without a substantial foundational web of of knowledge, it's hard to figure out 

  • where to store in your world view every new bit of data
  • how to evaluate its accuracy
  • when and how to shift your own understanding of a particular subject

10.  GUERRILLA WARFARE - I covered this as much as I think I will  in a previous post that invites to you see the movie The Battle of Algiers.  Here's the link to that post, which was like a sneak preview to this series of posts.  


I've just finished reading Michael Nolan's Ike's Gamble.  It's 258 pages focused on President Eisenhower's policy toward Egyptian leader Gamal Abdel Nasser from 1954-1959.  Nolan uses a vast volume of State Department files that only have been recently made public, reviewing the memos sent by different State Department officials as well as other correspondents and notes taken by people then and there.  

I understand the people protesting Israeli killing of tens of thousands of Palestinian civilians.  I  understand and share the frustration of US citizens who object to the US supplying weapons to Israel to carry out the attacks.  I get that people want President Biden to pressure Netanyahu to call a cease fire.  I think that is a legitimate request.  But the people who then condemn the Biden administration and say they won't vote for him because of Israel, well those folks I don't get at all.  

There is so much going on behind the scenes that we know nothing about, that we really have no idea of exactly what the Biden administration is doing to try to stop the attacks in Gaza.  The Nolan book makes that point very clear.  It also makes it clear that they may or may not be doing things that will help the situation improve.  

[Sorry, a bit of editorial here:  But for sane US citizens to argue that Israeli policy is a good enough reason to not vote for Biden, when the alternative is Trump, suggests to me incredible shortsightedness.  There is nothing that Trump will do to improve the situation of Palestinians.  Nothing.  He's cozied up to Netanyahu.  He helped to move the Israeli capital to Jerusalem, something Palestinians vigorously opposed.  In fact, it's clear he would do his best to end the US experiment in democracy.]

Here's a  Tweet that makes the same point on a different subject that also reminds us that much goes on behind the scenes that we will only learn about much later on if ever.


This was originally going to follow the section on Hamas.  Since I'm moving Hamas to the next post, it makes sense to move this one as well.  But if your curious - be my guest and think out, even write down what you would write on this question and see how similar your ideas are to what I'll write.  That's always a good way to move from a passive to an active reader.  


Hope to see you soon with Part IV.  I'll make this link live when it's ready.  

Thursday, February 01, 2024

Does The 14th Amendment Section 3 Apply To Trump?

 In one of the amicus briefs before the Supreme Court, attorneys Vikram Amar and Akhil Amar makes a very compelling case that Section 3 does in fact apply to Donald J. Trump.  But he adds to the debate the historical background to the language in the Section.  I encourage you to read the Brief.  It's written in very clear and plain English and tells a remarkable story of why it was written to disqualify people like Donald J. Trump from the Presidency.

He tells us that many aspects of the Constitution and its Amendments are not merely theoretical , rather they are there in response to specific"the event, the evil, the mischief" and that Justices did best when they 

"Over the centuries, America’s best constitutional interpreters, both on and off the bench, have generally excelled when they first spotted and then heeded the key historical episode—the event, the evil, the mischief—that prompted a given patch of constitutional text.

For example, the Constitution forbids those under age thirty-five from the presidency. Why? Because of a concern about dynasties—young favorite sons of famous fathers, such as William Pitt the Younger, the British prime minister in 1787, who took office at age 24. The Constitution’s requirement that a president be “natural born” had nothing to do with C-section babies or Shakespeare’s Macbeth, and everything to do with the Founders’ anxieties about European noblemen who might seek political power in America. Article I’s rules for congressional membership were crafted with Englishman John Wilkes in mind, as were the later rules of the Fourth Amendment. The first sentence of the Fourteenth Amendment repudiated specific language in Dred Scott. The equality commands of Section One of the Fourteenth Amendment aimed especially at ending Black Codes in the Deep South. In affirming fundamental rights from state and local abridgment, Section One had centrally in mind—among other things—the urgent need to protect freedom of speech, freedom of worship, and the right to keep guns for personal protection."

Much of the brief discusses the historical events that cause Section 3 to be written the way it was:  John Floyd's actions, as President Buchanan's Secretary of War to move soldiers from and ammunition to Southern and his attempts to prevent the newly elected President Abraham Lincoln from being sworn in as President by Congress.

In the end, this momentous case is easier than it may at first seem, once one understands the historical events that triggered Section Three.

The insurrectionary betrayals perpetrated by Floyd and other top officials in the lame-duck Buchanan Administration went far beyond the abandonment of southern forts. They also involved, through both actions and inactions of Floyd and his allies, efforts to prevent President-elect Lincoln from lawfully assuming power at his inauguration.

Even before the inauguration, alarms rang out in Congress about the First Insurrection already underway. On February 1, 1861, Pennsylvania’s Representative John W. Killinger declared on the House floor that “preparations are actually threatened to take possession of this Capitol, and prevent the inauguration of the President elect. So far has the conspiracy progressed, that it . . . holds within its grasp the sworn officers of the Government. . . . Before Mr. Lincoln is inaugurated, this District will be the theater of commotion, and it may be, of violence.”11 Later that month, Killinger’s fellow Pennsylvanian James Hepburn Campbell echoed this point about oath-breaking insurrectionists: “[T]his treasonable conspiracy, to resist the inauguration by force of arms, . . . has drawn within its fatal vortex chiefs of the Cabinet.”12 And on February 18, 1861, Floyd’s successor in the War Department—Joseph Holt, himself true to his oath—confirmed that oath-breaking insurrectionists such as Floyd had indeed aimed to prevent the inauguration: (emphasis added)

But in one obvious and high-profile respect, Section Three as enacted went far beyond the early draft. It referred to all insurrections, past and future, and not merely to “the late insurrection” of the 1860s. It laid down a rule for the benefit of generations yet unborn—for us today, if only we are wise enough and faithful enough to follow its words as written and intended. (emphasis added)

Why is this important?  I imagine most readers have already figured it out.  Amar is showing the Justices that the language in Section 3 are based on actions that are almost identical to Trump's.  They leave no ethical way for the Justices to sidestep the fact that this Section was written to prevent people like Trump who had sworn and oath to protect the Constitution and then violated that oath by, Floyd's case and Trump's, trying to prevent the certification and inauguration of a duly elected President.  Not only in the 1860s, but "to all insurrections, past and future."

In addition to providing the story of Floyd, Amar also highlights the fact that Colorado, like every state, has the power to create its own election rules.  And Amar goes through, in Part Two, a list of twenty questions that have been raised by this case.  

In Part Two, we shall canvass a wide range of issues raised by this case and explain why many of them are easy. Of course the president is an “officer” covered by Section Three. Of course a detailed congressional statute is not necessary to implement Section Three. Of course an ineligible person is ineligible unless and until amnestied. Of course a person can engage in an insurrection with words as well as deeds. Of course an insurrection can begin locally. And so on.

Will five justices find this and other arguments persuasive?  We already know that Justice Thomas' wife strongly supported the insurrection and he has not recused himself from this case so far.  But what about the others?  

Leaving Trump off the ballot in Colorado well might make any difference.  Colorado has been more blue than red lately and Biden is likely to win there.  So those Justices who generally don't let the constitution get in their way to support the far right, could go along in this case.  But if Colorado doesn't have to put Trump on the ballot, how many other states - particularly purple states - copy them?  That will be the rub members of the Court's staunch right wingers.