By now, you’ve probably heard about New York State’s new tax on bagels, which can be summarized thusly:
In New York, the sale of whole bagels isn’t subject to sales tax. But the tax does apply to “sliced or prepared bagels (with cream cheese or other toppings),” according to the state Department of Taxation and Finance. And if the bagel is eaten in the store, even if it’s never been touched by a knife, it’s also taxed.
Folks are justifiably outraged—but perhaps this represents an opportunity.
As the NYT reminds us, taxes can shift consumer behavior. (One of the arguments for the high tax on cigarettes, for instance, is that it can help discourage smoking.)
So, my proposal: Let’s not tax all bagels, but only the bagels with offensive flavors: blueberry, chocolate, strawberry, even fuckin’ bacon.
Traditional bagel varieties: plain, onion, garlic, poppy seed, and (for the daring) “everything bagels,” will be exempt from this tax.
My goal is to further prevent the bastardization of Jewish culinary culture. Also, I consider these variations on the bagel to be an affront to the palate.
Bottom line: If you can’t put lox on it, then by definition it’s not a bagel.
Awesome! The latest issue of Intelligence Report—the magazine published by the Southern Poverty Law Center—is devoted entirely to rightwing conspiracy theories.
Among the recommended articles is this compilation of ten of the most popular conspiracy theories currently circulating on the radical right and, “increasingly, on points of the political spectrum much too close to the center for comfort.”
Actually, more than a few of them can also be found on the left side of the political spectrum: 9/11 was a government plot, the High-frequency Active Auroral Research Program (HAARP) is a secret weapon (and yes, I’m thinking of you Hugo Chavez.)
Also unsurprisingly, a common element among these theories is the nefarious Jewish/Zionist/Neocon Cabal. For instance, on the subject of “gun confiscations”:
Within Patriot subculture, the gun-confiscation fear sometimes dovetails with other conspiracies of an anti-Semitic flavor. Proponents of gun control in these instances are seen as representing a New World Order cabal run by Jews. At the website Real Zionist News, for example, a New York State gun control law aimed at protecting police officers was described as “the first step toward confiscation.” According to the site, “The real agenda is to disarm law-abiding GENTILES, whom Zionist Jews fear will soon discover Jewry’s anti-American, freedom-hating mission.”
But, what about the gun nuts who founded Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership? C’mon, rightwing conspiracy mongers, can’t we all get along?
Chas Freeman–aka, Saudi Arabia’s mouthpiece in the United States–is still ranting about the power of the Israel Lobby after the Obama administration rescinded its plan to appoint him the head of the National Intelligence Council last year.
In a newly-published interview with the Palestine Note, Chas blames the 9/11 attacks on U.S. support for Israel, and makes clear whom he believes was responsible for the decision to invade Iraq:
What distinguishes Iran from Iraq, where many of the same people were in the lead of arguing that there was some reason to attack, and generating disinformation, false intelligence and generally mischaracterizing the situation so as to promote the possibility of an attack, is that unlike Iraq where this was basically done by American partisans of Israel, when the Israelis themselves I believe had their own doubts about that target, this time the cooperation between the American flacks for Israel and Israel itself is open and entirely above-board.
Comments like that stick in my mind after reading Peter Bergen’s book, The Osama Bin Laden I know: An Oral History of Al Qaeda’s Leader. In that book, Bergen recalls his reaction to a videotape released by Al Qaeda in mid-August 2001:
Osama Bin Laden: “if we look into the most sensitive departments of the government, whether it is the Pentagon, the State Department or the CIA, you find that it is the Jews who have the first word inside the American government. Consequently, they use America to execute their plans around the world.”
Bergen: “This last comment from bin Laden is quite illuminating. I was always puzzled by the fact that bin Laden, who had declared war on the ‘Crusaders and the Jews’ in 1998, had hitherto not attacked Israeli or Jewish targets. After the 9/11 attacks, I came to realize that for bin Laden, and his rabidly anti-semitic colleagues, the Pentagon was a Jewish target.”
It’s a deadly circular logic: Pundits such as Freeman believe that the U.S.-Israeli relationship is not in America’s best interests. The only explanation or this continuing relationship, they reason, is the power of “American partisans of Israel” in the U.S. government. And yet, the perception of “Jewish control” of the U.S. government is a prime motivator for terrorist attacks against America.
It never occurs to these people that a more effective anti-terrorism strategy would be to stop validating anti-semitic conspiracy theories.
Ok, this is beyond creepy. According to Iranian news agencies ,a female commander of the pro-government Basij militia, Zohreh Abbasi, has said that her unit has introduced a special program that allows baby girls to be registered as members of the militia and receive training.
Abbasi says that in the past six years, 23 baby girls had been trained as Basij members through “Koranic, cultural, educational, and military” classes.
“In this regard Basij mothers register their baby girls 40 days after they were born at the Hossein Haj Mousaee unit by presenting documents and IDs.”
She added that two babies have recently been born and that work is under way to prepare a dossiers for the new “Basij babies” and enroll them in the special program.
The “Truthers” are weighing in on the Ground Zero Mosque controversy (just what we needed). Kevin James Barrett–a former lecturer at the University of Wisconsin and a member of the Scientific Panel for the Investigation of 9/11 (SPINE)–has penned this open letter to Obama, which is making the rounds on the Intertubes:
The best means of repentance and reparation, in my view, would be for the U.S. government to fund and build a new mosque at Ground Zero covering the entire World Trade Center site, with twin minarets looming above in memory of the Twin Towers’ destruction by genocidal Islamophobes. The minarets should be more than 700 feet in height, which would make the new structure the world’s tallest mosque. This mosque should house a 9/11 Truth Museum documenting the evidence that 9/11 was carried out by U.S. and Israeli insiders, not Muslims. It could include such artifacts as the laughably bogus “last will and testament of Mohammed Atta,” pieces of airplane wreckage from earlier crashes that were planted at the alleged 9/11 crash sites, WTC structural steel samples showing melting and evaporation caused by explosives, videos and other objects seized from the Israeli Mossad team that filmed and celebrated their colleagues’ destruction of the World Trade Center, unflattering wax figures of such 9/11 villains as Dick Cheney, Larry Silverstein, and Benjamin Netanyahu, and samples of nanothermite-laden World Trade Center dust.
Meanwhile, the Pew Research Center has released a poll noting that a growing number of Americans (20 percent) believe that Obama is a (gasp!) Muslim. In response, the Washington Post provides this public service: “a majority said they learned this from the media. But the media are not alone when it comes to promoting or insinuating falsehoods about the president’s religion and, by extension, his birthplace. We’ve collected a list of lawmakers whose comments have helped fuel the debate. Most either said outright that the president is a Muslim, that he is not a U.S. citizen or appeared to leave open the possibility that either falsehood could be true.” (Top of the list, Sarah Palin).
Writing in the NY Daily News, Ramzi Kassem offers this view explaining the persistence of the “Obama is a Muslim” myth:
One must view it as commentary on his perceived “otherness.” As a black male, Obama belongs to what is arguably – from a historical perspective – the most reviled and oppressed group in our society. Moreover, he carries a foreign, even Muslim-sounding name. But explicit racism is no longer in vogue in mainstream America. These polls show that people are circumventing the taboo by using Islam as a proxy for race. The Muslim male, as he exists in America’s collective psyche, is today’s ultimate “other,” a menacing adversary with whom we are locked in existential struggle….For those who continue to feel estranged from a President who is not white, labeling Obama as Muslim is the sole available substitute for racial epithets that are no longer tolerated.
(That’s an argument I can sympathize with, given the tendency to use criticisms of Israel and Zionism as proxies for anti-semitism.) If you’d like to read classic example of this perceived “otherness,” check out this uber-creepy editorial from the conservative Washington Times on “Why Obama is a Cultural Muslim,” complete with this photo:
And, to complete the conspiracy theory community trifecta, we hear from the “Deaders” — the term I’ve created to describe folks, like Talibanette journalist Yvonne Ridley–who are convinced the Osama Bin Laden is still alive.
Moonbat author Maidhc Ó Cathail publishes this Deader Manifesto in the Tehran Times, and detects a Jewish conspiracy:
According to U.S. and British intelligence officials, al-Qaeda’s media wing, As-Sahab Foundation for Islamic Media Publication, has been run since 2001 by Adam Gadahn, a California-born convert to radical Islam who now goes by the name Azzam al-Amriki. Gadahn found his way to the Islamic Society of Orange County while living with his grandfather, Carl Pearlman, a board member of the Anti-Defamation League. Ostensibly a civil rights organization set up to fight anti-Semitism, the ADL is “little more than a de facto adjunct of the Israeli government” which has even been caught spying on American critics of Israel.
Adam’s parents changed their surnames to Gadahn in the mid-1970s. The name refers to the Biblical warrior Gideon who, with the aid of trumpets and clay jars, defeated Israel’s enemies.
As Antiwar.com editor Justin Raimondo put it, Adam Gadahn is “an awfully odd figure, whose sudden evolution from a nice Jewish boy into Osama bin Laden’s Goebbels is just a little hard to take.”
As you’re probably aware, Jeffrey Goldberg wrote a cover story for the Atlantic, making the case that, absent any change in the status quo, an Israeli strike on Iran is inevitable.
Equally inevitable was the response from the usual suspects, such as Glenn Greenwald and Juan Cole, who declared that the publication of the article made the magazine “a de facto party to the neoconservative and Israeli campaign to initiate a global war with Iran.”
Blogging over at Time, Joe Klein—a longtime critic of those proposing an attack against Iran— nonetheless defends the publication of Goldberg’s article:
Glenn Greenwald displays his usual inability to understand what journalism is all about in his latest attack on Jeff Goldberg–which is so flimsy that I assume Greenwald only undertook it in order to continue his recent vamping about Goldberg’s alleged politics. The boy does need his vendettas to amp the hits on his site.
In this case, he has taken a mistaken assumption from one of Jeff’s New Yorker pieces–that Saddam Hussein had a nuclear program–and inflated it into the hilariously grotesque notion that Jeff’s excellent cover story in the Atlantic about Israel’s desire to take out the Iranian nuclear program is an act of propaganda.
It isn’t. It’s an act of journalism. Goldberg allows Bibi Netanyahu–who seems truly damaged in Jeff’s piece–to speak for himself. The result is chilling. Netanyahu compares Iran’s possible acquisition of a nuclear weapon to the holocaust. Can’t walk around the block with Bibi without hearing about the Nazis, apparently–but Greenwald stupidly mistakes Goldberg’s reporting of this fact for his agreeing with this fact (and whether he does or not is irrelevant)
I don’t know where Jeff Goldberg stands on attacking Iran. I suspect he may be more in equivocal about it than I am–but then, I’m vehemently opposed. No matter what Jeff thinks, his Atlantic piece has no secret agenda….
Juan Cole, however, does believe in a secret agenda. In what I believe is his most conspiratorial post ever written (which says a lot), Cole sees a Jewish-Military-Industrial-Complex plan to remove Obama from office:
What should a poor warmongering Neoconservative do? This political grouping includes WASPS such as former CIA director James Woolsey and former UN ambassor John Bolton, but at its core is politically active and extremely wealthy Jewish former Democrats who broke with their party in the 1980s to become war hawks in Republican administrations, and most of whom are rooted in Rightwing Zionism as exemplified in the thought of prominent fascist theorist Vladimir Jabotinsky.
They have more assets than is visible on the surface. They have perhaps half of America’s 400 billionaires on their side. They have the enormous military-industrial complex on their side. They have the Yahoo complex of besieged lower middle class White America on their side. They have the Israel lobbies on their side. They have important segments of the Oil and Gas lobbies on their side. They have the whole American tradition of permanent war on their side. They should not be underestimated.
It is not so hard to get up a war. You position the war as inevitable. As Right. As Necessary. You reimagine the poor weak ramshackle enemy as a science fictional superpower, months away from possession of a Neutron Bomb that could Destroy the Universe. It has to be done. We are in danger.
Goldberg is trying to make an Iran war seem highly likely if not inevitable, if not now then in the near future….A Netanyahu attack on Iran would reduce Barack Obama to a one-term president, which may be what Goldberg and his fellow conspirators are really aiming for.
It’s fascinating how myths about “Jewish power” still influence international affairs. A decade ago, China sought closer relations with Israel because it believed that Jewish and Israeli lobbies could open doors for them in Washington. And now, we have this report about warming diplomatic relations between Greece and Israel:
Sources add that Papandreou appears interested in promoting his policies both in Israel and the Arab world when moderate Arab powers are concerned about both Iran and what some analysts term Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s “neo-Ottoman” initiatives, with Papandreou consequently seeking a mediating role in the Middle East peacekeeping process.
Aside from Greek diplomatic aspirations to play an expanded regional role…. the government is concerned to engineer a quick re-entry to world global financial markets to refinance its crushing debt burden and believes that the U.S.-Jewish lobby could play an important role in this effort.
Guess they didn’t read the news about Harvard dumping investments in Israel in favor of Turkish bonds. (Sorry, Greece.)
Turkey’s popular film franchise, Valley of the Wolves, will be releasing a new installment on November 5th, in more than 100 countries.
In light of recent events, the plot of the film should come as no surprise:
The hero of the series, Polat Alemdar—a gun-toting agent with a fondness for sharp tailoring—and his men go to Palestine in the wake of Israel’s attack on the aid flotilla. Following much effort, Polat and his men capture the Israeli commander, named Moshe Ben Eliezer, who planned and managed the raid.
Played by Necati Şaşmaz—who had never acted before—whose voice is dubbed by another actor, Polat is sometimes described as the Turkish James Bond. Millions of young Turks idolize him, imitating his mannerisms and speech.
“Valley of the Wolves: Palestine” is projected to cost over $10 million, making it one of the most expensive Turkish films ever.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) has published three reports this month critical of the Palestinian Authority (PA). First, this 101-page report faults the PA for failing to prevent violence against Palestinian women and girls. Next, HRW declared that the Palestinian Authority “should stop giving a wink and a nod to rocket attacks against civilians and take immediate steps to halt them.” And, one week ago, HRW issued this press release:
Calling civilians to a location that the opposing side has identified for attack is at worst human shielding, at best failing to take all feasible precautions to protect civilians from the effects of attack. Both are violations of international humanitarian law.
On Monday, the BBC reported that the IDF had warned Wael Rajab, an alleged Hamas member in Beit Lahiya, that that they were preparing to attack his home, and that a call was later broadcasted from local mosques for volunteers to protect the home.
“There is no excuse for calling civilians to the scene of a planned attack,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “Whether or not the home is a legitimate military target, knowingly asking civilians to stand in harm’s way is unlawful.”
Various media have reported that other Palestinian officials and armed groups have voiced support for these tactics. In a visit to Baroud’s house on Sunday, Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority reportedly said: “We are so proud of this national stand. It’s the first stop toward protecting our homes … so long as this strategy is in the interest of our people, we support this strategy.”
“Prime Minister Haniyeh and other Palestinian leaders should be renouncing, not embracing, the tactic of encouraging civilians to place themselves at risk,” said Whitson.
Apparently, this latest press release was the last straw for our favorite defender of truth, justice, and free speech, Norman Finkelstein. He’s just written an article for Counterpunch (of course) titled, “Human Rights Watch Must Retract Its Shameful Press Release”:
In what must surely be the most shocking statement ever issued by a human rights organization, HRW indicted Palestinian leaders for supporting this nonviolent civil disobedience.
Why this headlong rush to judgment?
Was HRW seeking to appease pro-Israel critics after taking the heat for its report documenting Israeli war crimes in Lebanon?
After Martin Luther King delivered his famous speech in 1967 denouncing the war in Vietnam, mainstream Black leaders rebuked him for jeopardizing the financial support of liberal whites. “You might get yourself a foundation grant,” King retorted, “but you won’t get yourself into the Kingdom of Truth.”
HRW now also stands poised at a crossroads: foundation grants or the Kingdom of Truth? A first step in the right direction would be for it to issue a retraction of its press release and an apology.
Similar fighting words can be found over at the blog of Helena Cobban, “a writer and internationally syndicated columnist on global affairs” who contributes to the Christian Science Monitor, Boston Review, New York Times, Salon, and the Economist.
Cobban sits on the Middle East advisory committee of Human Rights Watch–and, not so long ago, she was defending her colleagues against the smear attacks of “Israel’ s blindly ardent defenders.”
But, hey that was then, this is now. HRW’s latest publications have prompted her to denounce “Sarah Leah and the rest of HRW’s very comfortably paid apparatchiks” and to lash out against “Human Rights Watch’s august leaders sitting in their comfy homes in New York.” (By the way, what’s the view from Cobban’s window? “The fall colors here in central Virginia are just spectacular this year.”)
Cobban argues no crime, no foul since “there has been no suggestion of any coercion being applied on anyone to participate in this quite voluntary human-shielding action.”
Maybe Cobban should pay a visit to the Crimes of War Project website, which, just prior to the invasion of Iraq, published this important reminder about prohibited behavior during times of war:
They further include prohibitions against the use of human shields or hostages, whether voluntary or involuntary, and whether by attackers or defenders, in order to protect military objectives.
Both attacking and defending military forces have independent and non-derogable legal obligations toward civilians in the course of combat operations. Their respective obligations merit equal emphasis in media reporting and commentary as well as in monitoring by human rights organizations and other concerned individuals, non-governmental organizations, and governments and international institutions.
They key words here are “voluntary or involuntary.” There’s a reason for that prohibition. By holding governments accountable–even for “volunteers”–it (hopefully) minimizes civilian casualties in times of war. And by including “voluntary” human shields under that umbrella, it prohibits governments from later claiming that civilians herded into military facilities were there of their “own free will.”
Bending these rules sets a deadly precedent, whether it’s done by the Palestinian Authority or Israel.
Wow, I can’t believe that people fell for that fake “yellow badges” story in Iran. I mean, really, why would anyone expect the worst from a theocratic government that denies the Holocaust and executes teenage homosexuals?
Still, as to be expected, Juan Cole was in full smug mode after the story was retracted:
The whole thing is a steaming crock….There are still tens of thousands of Jews in Iran, and expatriate Iranian Jews most often identify as Iranians and express Iranian patriotism. I was in Los Angeles when tens of thousands of Iranians immigrated, fleeing the Khomeini regime. I still remember Jewish Iranian families who suffered a year or two in what they thought of as the sterile social atmosphere of LA, and who shrugged and moved right back to Iran, where they said they felt more comfortable.
Yeah, Iran does sound like a great place to live. And, my suspicions were further confirmed by a post by Matt Barganier over at the Antiwar.com blog. Reflecting on the 13 Jews who were accused of spying for Israel and arrested in 1999, he writes:
I’m sorry, but this doesn’t sound like the Third Reich to me. First, to paraphrase Woody Allen, even paranoid tyrants get spied on. I’m sure that Israel, for perfectly understandable reasons, has plenty of spies and other operatives in Iran. I’m equally sure that these particular fellows were railroaded, given the fact that they were released so quickly. But that’s the amazing part – three were acquitted right off the bat, and all had been released, three under direct pardon from the Aya-freaking-tollah, within a few years of their arrest…13 Jews were executed between 1979 and 1998, but again, a lot of people are executed in Iran for a lot of reasons, and 13 isn’t genocide.
Hey, thanks Matt! On behalf of Jews everywhere, I’m profoundly relieved to hear that the Iranians are equal-opportunity executioners! You should write ad copy on behalf of the Iranian government (“Visit Tehran: No Executions of Jews Since 1998!”) I guess over at Antiwar.com and Informed Comment, a theocratic regime that doesn’t commit genocide is considered “progressive.” It kind of reminds me of that Onion article about Patrick Buchanan a few years back:
Eager to gain momentum in the fight for delegates, Republican presidential hopeful Pat Buchanan reached out to gay voters Monday at a stump speech in South Carolina, pledging that he would not incinerate homosexual Americans if elected. “In a Buchanan presidency, gays would not be incinerated,” Buchanan said before a crowd of 2,000 in Spartanburg. “I will not rule out public floggings, horse-propelled skewerings, iron-bar impalings or churchyard genital chainsawing, but I will draw the line at incineration.”
But, I digress…After reading these posts, I was half-prepared to pack my bags and move to Iran myself, since, according to Juan Cole, it’s sooo much nicer than that whole fake, sterile LA scene. But, then I read this account, by an Iranian Jewish ex-patriate in LA that Juan Cole apparently neglected to speak with:
There had been a noticeable increase in the amount of anti-Semitism coming from the Iranian press beginning around 1993. By 1995, Jews were accused of bringing AIDS into Iran and causing economic chaos….That same year, Fayzollah Mekhubabt, a 78-year-old cantor in a Teheran synagogue, was taken to prison. His eyes were gouged out before he was executed. Mekhubabt was buried in a Muslim cemetery. His family was forced to disinter his remains in order to bury him in a Jewish cemetery.
And, then there’s this report from the JTA:
Despite the official status of Jews as a tolerated minority, several Iranian Jews living in America interviewed by JTA attested to popular, even “rampant,” anti-Semitism in Iran in the form of job discrimination and the destruction of personal property. “You lived quietly and into yourself,” said one Tehran native who moved to the U.S. in 1982 and asked to remain anonymous. He described the communal philosophy as “You don’t bother them; they don’t bother us.”
Jews in Iran try to “minimize contact” with their Muslim neighbors “out of fear of exactly these kinds of incidents,” he said, referring to the arrests. In 1998, Iran executed a 60-year-old Iranian businessman for allegedly spying for Israel, according to Human Rights Watch. A year earlier, two people were hanged after they were convicted of espionage charges, according to Amnesty International. In 1996, an anonymous Iranian Jew testified in the U.S. …that he was imprisoned for more than two years because he was suspected of spying for Israel.
The man reportedly said he had been arrested, held and then released “suddenly, with no explanation.” But he said he was “under constant surveillance” and told to leave Tehran. His case was “extreme,” he told the committee, but exemplified the “constant state of fear” in which Iranian Jews live.
And, then, of course, the text of a letter sent by Iranian Jews to their president:
How is it possible to ignore all of the undeniable evidence existing for the exile and massacre of the Jews in Europe during World War II? Challenging one of the most obvious and saddening events of 20th-century humanity has created astonishment among the people of the world and spread fear and anxiety among the small Jewish community of Iran.
Ya know, if you want to make the case against bombing Iran, be my guest. I also happen to believe it would be a bad idea. (So, in fact, do Iranian Jews.) But don’t make your case by whitewashing the Iranian regime. You can oppose a war and oppose theocratic fascism at the same time.