Friday, January 27, 2006

Hamas Victory : the Artificial Sweep

Hamas's stunning victory and the lopsided Parliament is in large part the result of an electoral system that gives results even more disproportionate than the US or Canadian First-Past-The-Post system.

The Palestinian system featured two tiers (1) multi-member districts and (2) a national proportional list. The multi-member districts reward parties with greater discipline and punish ticket- splitting. More than 100 Fatah members ran as independents and there were several smaller lists which appealed to Fatah voters

Hamas has won apparently 76 seats, Fatah 43, and other parties and independents 13.

Here are the national proportional results which give a far different picture of public opinion in Palestine.

Hamas 434,817 (30 seats)

Fatah Movement 403,458 (27 seats)

Martyr Abu Ali Mustafa (PFLP) 41,671 (3 seats)

The Alternative 28,779 (coalition of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP), the Palestinian People's Party, and the Palestinian Democratic Union Party) (2 seats)

Independent Palestine (Mustafa Barghouti) 26,554 (2 seats)

The Third Way 23,513 ( 2 seats)

(Doesn't include votes for list that didn't make the threshold.)

The Meaning of the Hamas Victory

An excellent analysis from Ami Isseroff of MidEast Web

All indications are that the "militant" Hamas movement has swept the Palestinian elections, winning a majority in the Palestine Legislative Council (PLC) and putting themselves in position to form the next government. The current PNA government has resigned. Mahmoud Abbas will remain President, at least for now. The upset was feared, but not expected. The conventional wisdom was that Hamas would gain influence in the government, but would not control it. Pre-Election polls and exit surveys generally showed a slight advantage for Fatah, and indicated that neither side could govern without a coalition. Until a few hours ago, everyone was breathing sighs of relief. Not any more. The current results seem to give Hamas a solid majority. They could form a government without the Fatah. I didn't see that one coming, and I bet nobody else did either.


Yesterday, Wednesday, January 25, was without a doubt a great day for Palestinian democracy. Elections were fairly orderly and relatively fair. One person was killed in a Fatah election-related feud on the day before the election. The Hamas used mosques to get out the vote, the Fatah urged PNA employees to vote for them, but the elections were reasonably fair. The results may be a disaster for peace and for the Palestinian people.

To understand the potential gravity of the event, we need only examine the Hamas record of suicide bombings, and their charter and the Hamas history.

Calling the Hamas "militant" is more than an understatement. It is like saying Stalin was an "outspoken activist." Hamas began about 1985 as a seemingly innocuous charity and religious group that even got the support of the Israeli government. However, when the first Intifada started, Hamas turned militant. They drew up their charter, which explains their views on negotiations and what might be called "the Jewish question." It is hard to imagine a more racist and terrifying document. Some quotes:

"Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it."
"The Islamic Resistance Movement believes that the land of Palestine is an Islamic Waqf consecrated for future Moslem generations until Judgement Day.It, or any part of it, should not be squandered: it, or any part of it, should not be given up. "

"There is no solution for the Palestinian question except through Jihad. Initiatives, proposals and international conferences are all a waste of time and vain endeavors."

"After Palestine, the Zionists aspire to expand from the Nile to the Euphrates. When they will have digested the region they overtook, they will aspire to further expansion, and so on. Their plan is embodied in the "Protocols of the Elders of Zion", and their present conduct is the best proof of what we are saying."

Article 7 of the charter explains their view of the role of Islam regarding the Jews:

Moreover, if the links have been distant from each other and if obstacles, placed by those who are the lackeys of Zionism in the way of the fighters obstructed the continuation of the struggle, the Islamic Resistance Movement aspires to the realisation of Allah's promise, no matter how long that should take. The Prophet, Allah bless him and grant him salvation, has said:

"The Day of Judgement will not come about until Moslems fight the Jews (killing the Jews), when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees. The stones and trees will say O Moslems, O Abdulla, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him. Only the Gharkad tree, (evidently a certain kind of tree) would not do that because it is one of the trees of the Jews." (related by al-Bukhariand Moslem).

A collective paralysis of will allowed the world, including Israel, to allow participation of the Hamas in elections, even though such participation is expressly forbidden by the Oslo interim agreements that supposedly form the basis for the existence of the Palestinian National Authority. Annex 2, Article III of the Oslo Interim Agreement states:

3. The nomination of any candidates, parties or coalitions will be refused, and such nomination or registration once made will be canceled, if suchcandidates, parties or coalitions:

1. commit or advocate racism; or

2. pursue the implementation of their aims by unlawful or non- democratic means

An organization that cites the forged Protocols of the Elders of Zion in its charter is racist, and an organization that sends suicide bombers to explode in public places is pursuing the implementation of their aims by nondemocraticmeans. Unfortunately, banning the Hamas would have made the elections undemocratic.

True, the Hamas was making pacific noises and ran on a mild platform. Eternal optimists like myself can look for hope in that, but these noises did notresult in any fundamental change.

Everyone will now look for whom to blame. Most of the parties can look in the mirror. We all understood that following the death of Yasser Arafat, it would be difficult to keep the Fateh and the PLO alive, because nobody else, including Abbas, has the charisma and prestige of Yasser Arafat. The difficult was made impossible, however, by the actions of Abbas himself, the Fateh, The Palestinians, the USA and the quartet partners, and Israel.

Abbas invited the Hamas to participate in the elections. Like US President Lyndon Johnson, he wanted his opponents inside the tent, pissing out. However, Abbas's rivals were not any old political group, but an armed militant organization. He didn't make disarmament a condition of participation, thereby losing his chance to disarm the Hamas peacefully. He didn't make abrogation of their charter a condition of participation. He failed to do anything that would strengthen his own position. Instead of presenting the Israel disengagement as a hopeful fruit of moderate policies and international support, he went along with the Hamas propaganda that the disengagement was won by the "martyrs." Abbas failed to act against corruption and anarchy in the Palestinian government. giving Palestinians the certainty that a vote for Fatah was a vote for more of the same. Fatah failed to unite behind Abbas, instead finding every way possible to undermine his position and generating a good deal of the anarchy that plagues the Palestinian community.

To counter the Fatah, the Palestinians failed to strengthen any of the moderate alternatives, instead throwing their support to the most militant and reactionary group.

The USA supported Abbas openly, a fact that came to light in the last days before the election. In Palestinian society, that was virtually the kiss of death. The US and the quartet failed to prod Abbas and the Fatah to make the necessary reforms, and failed to help them build a government network of social services that could compete with and counter the Hamas. They issued vague and contradictory threats against the Hamas rather that making it clear
that the Hamas must lay down its arms, abrogate its charter and accept the principles of the Oslo agreements. It is too late now, for the Palestinian police may now effectively be replaced by the more motivated, and perhaps better armed, Issedin el Qassam brigades.

Israel did everything wrong as well. Contradictory threats were issued on a weekly basis, declarations made, and declarations reversed. If the Palestinian people had understood that a Hamas victory means the end of international aid programs, and the beginning of a new and aggressive Israeli security campaign,perhaps it would have made a difference. On the other hand, the Palestinians might feel it doesn't matter. The occupation in the West Bank is sufficiently miserable for their taste, and they don't see much improvement in their life.

Other than the disengagement, Israel didn't offer Abbas anything he could take home to his constituents.

In Israel, the Hamas victory could generate a wellspring of support for the right and extreme right. Israel is having elections too. True, the Likud is forecast to get only 14 out of 120 Knesset mandates according to the latest polls. However that could change rapidly. The growing power of the right outside the Likud has been overlooked. As polls show fairly consistently, The
National Union Party and Yisrael Beteinu may garner 11 mandates together, the NRP 3, and ultra orthodox parties another 15, with 22% of voters still undecided. With 42 mandates for the right even before the election of the Hamas, a government of the extreme right is not impossible in Israel. The prospect of such a government facing a Hamas-controlled government is not

Perhaps the Hamas, like Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert, will have an epiphany in office. Perhaps they will see that "from here, it doesn't look the same as it did from there." Nonetheless, it is certain that we are in for "interesting times." At least, it was pleasant to be optimistic for a few days.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Giant Steps Goes Graphic

John Coltrane's "Giant Steps" is a just masterpiece. And now it is the inspiration for a digital animation video by Israeli grad student Michal Levy.

Levy writes

When I listen to music I see colors and shapes and when I watch visual art I hear sounds.I wanted to express my sensing of shapes colors and music in this short movie.

I have chosen a short Jazz piece, which I have known for many years of my playing the saxophone: "Giant Steps" by John Coltraine. Coltrane made a major break through with his album "Giant Steps" in the year 1959. It was the first time in the history of Jazz music that someone based his music on symmetrical patterns, which stemmed from a mathematical division of the musical scale.

The structural approach of John Coltraine to music is associated with architectural thinking. The musical theme defines a space and the musical improvisation is like someone drifting in that imaginary space.

Check it out.

What Levy decscribes sound like synaesthesia, a condition wherein one experiences stimulus in one sense in response to real stimulus in another sense.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Dishonoring King

Nominees for those who most dishonored Martin Luther King with stupid, reactionary, and racists comments.

Nominee Number 1

blogger David Nallee
What he never envisioned was the replacement of that obviously flawed social order with a subtler but even more oppressive system of economic, cultural and political apartheid, supported to a large extent by the same people and groups who were his allies in his fight against racism.
Nominee Number 2

The ISM website reprints an article denouncing the Religious Action Center for Reform Judaism for hosting a ceremony honoring Martin Luther King Jr. at the Israeli embassy in Washington.

The article commemorates the legacy of Martin Luther King than to post an article accusing Jewish progressives of being racial supremacists. In fact, it uses the conspiracy language and paronoid style of the anti-Semitic right "Jackson is today allowing [Goodman's] anti-racist legacy to be used to legitimize institutionalized racism and violence. Thus he ingratiates himself with the Zionist movers and shakers who dispense campaign money and respectability in the Democratic Party."
Nominee Number 3

James Dobson dedicated his entire Focus on the Family show on MLK Day to a speech by balck conservative Star Parker attacking "entitlement programs" for the poor,

Sunday, January 15, 2006

A little blog browsing

Jim Fallows (not the US writer) has a nice guest post on bluegrass on normblog. He writes that his "first exposure to the music was a British 'Bluegrass' compilation of Monroe, Doc Watson (hmm), Merle Travis (?) and Hank Snow(?!?!). All great music, sure, but some of it somewhat stretching even the most broadly defined limits of the genre." That compilation was surely stretching things, but some might wonder if Fallows is too restrictive in reading Allison Krause and Nickel Creek out of the bluegrass world.

Jerry Trimmell posts an old Bob Curtright column about Wichita and finds some great pictures to illustrate Curtright's points.

David Aaronovitch has a new blog. while Paul Anderson has a blog devoted to his-progress book on Orwell in the Tribune.

Chuck at Monumental Mistakes informs us of an unique calendar

Kansas Anarchists Exposed! Calender Signing Party

Jan. 21@ 8pm, Free Solidarity Center 1119 Mass Lawrence

“We'’re celebrating the release of the 2006 kansas anarchists exposed calendar is hott off the presses and in our hands! Spread the word thathis full-sized wall calendar with beautiful black and white photographs of nude and semi-nudkansas anarchiststs is available now for only $8 a piece (or $6 each for an order of 10 or more). We'’re having a party with food, party favors, and of course, those who have posed in the calender to sign yours.”

To order,

Chris Mooney has Intersection a new blog on science and politics. It's part of Science Blogs. this seems to be the new trend. Single author blogs are out. Multiple authors blogs and blog centers are in.

Chip Berlet on the lessons of Harry Potter and Justice Sunday.

what I learned when my wife and I attended the Harry Potter film.
  • Certain actions are evil, but evil is not based on heredity or nationality.
  • • Real heroes sometimes set aside their personal quest to help others in danger.
  • We should welcome people from different cultures and nations into our midst.
  • • Friendship includes taking risks to support our friends and standing up for them in a crisis.

The alternative lessons presented by some of the Christian Right.

  • The moral struggle is not between ideas that support goodness and ideas that spawn evil, but between "secular supremacists" and Godly Christians.
  • God is against gay men and lesbians signifying their commitment of love through marriage.
  • • God is against abortion.
  • God wants us to put judge Samuel Alito on the Supreme court.

We also learn that liberals and non-Christians threaten America and that we should pray that "not secularism or unbelief or a hostile supreme court [should] prevail against" God's word.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Defending Frank and the Democrat's Real Problem

It wasn't too surprising when the right wing attacked Tom Frank's What's the Matter with Kansas. But recently some self-proclaimed liberals have been criticizing Frank, saying that the Democrats really don't have a problem with white working class voters.

Benjamin Ross has a really excellent article on Frank's critics in the latest Dissent Democrats and Middle America: What's the Real Problem?"

Here's a taste

[Frank's call for a] renewed populism has aroused a storm of objections. Some critics doubt that working-class voting habits have changed. Others accept the reality of the shift, but take issue with Frank’s diagnosis of the cause. Still others, the most numerous, do not dispute Frank’s account of the facts, choosing instead to challenge the legitimacy of any effort to change those facts.
The first critics are those who challenge Frank's facts.

The challenge to Frank’s facts comes in a widely circulated paper by Princeton political scientist Richard Bartels, who cites polls showing that Democrats have lost more votes in the last fifty years in the upper third of the income distribution than in the lower third. (Bartels’s figures are for white voters outside the South.)

Bartels’s argument is based on a flawed definition of the working class. Whether one seeks the working class of Marxist theory or the ordinary people of American populism, they are to be found in the middle of the income distribution and not just at the bottom. Indeed, polling experts David Gopoian and Ralph Whitehead found that only 19 percent of the bottom third voters in Bartels’s sample were over thirty years of age and actively working. Thirty-five percent were retired, and substantial numbers were disabled or unemployed.

Gopoian and Whitehead point out that only 40 percent of whites with less than a college education voted for Kerry in 2004.
Frank was written a long, and to my reading throroughly convincing, refutation of Bartels study.
It can be found on Frank's site.

The second school of critics say that the Democrats real problem is foreign policy not economics.
A second group of critics claims that Frank ignores the issue of national security. Ever since the Vietnam War, voter preference polls have shown a strong Republican advantage on foreign policy. This suggests that at least part of what turns working-class voters against the Democrats is a worry that the party is unwilling to use force when needed to keep America secure. If this is the case, Democrats can win back support by imitating the hawkish Republican positions that voters like—thus the recent spectacle of Hillary Clinton positioning herself as an opponent of withdrawal from Iraq.

An argument so straightforward and grounded in such clearly established facts must be taken seriously. In this case, though, it cannot be accepted. The Republican advantage on foreign affairs represents a cultural preference much more than a policy preference.

The Republican advantage on national security arose during the Vietnam War, and it persists to this day in the conceptual shadow of that war. Why did voters turn against antiwar Democrats? Surely it was not because they liked the Vietnam War. It was because they didn’t like the antiwar movement. In other words, it was culture.

The third set of critics
the largest group of Frank’s critics, those who accept Frank’s facts but deny the legitimacy of his argument. They see it as condescension to say working-class cultural conservatives are being swindled by leaders who talk about religious values but deliver tax cuts for the rich. By what right, they ask, does Frank instruct others to think in the voting booth about economics rather than, say, sex roles? Both right-wing and left-wing advocates of cultural politics pursue this line of argument, with the main difference between the two versions being that leftists dress up their argument by accusing Frank of having an elitist theory of “false consciousness.”
What unites the critics Ross says is that "Frank’s populism makes so many Democrats uncomfortable because it challenges the party’s identification with middle-class cultural themes."

BTW, visit the Dissent website and subscribe. Dissent is one the must-read journals on the democratic left.

On Friday the 13th

From an email from CSICOP, the publishers of Skeptical Inquirer magazine.

How did thirteen get such a bad reputation? To understand, one needs to know the history of twelve, says CSICOP Senior Research Fellow Joe Nickell. "The number twelve has traditionally represented completeness in mythologies and religions around the world," says Nickell. "There are twelve months of the year, twelve chief gods of Olympus, twelve signs of the zodiac, and twelve apostles of Jesus. Thirteen exists just one digit beyond twelve, and is symbolic of the first departure from divine completeness or the initial step towards evil."

Friday has an equally bad history, Nickell points out. According to some traditions, Eve gave the apple to Adam on Friday, the great flood began on a Friday, the Temple of Solomon was destroyed on a Friday, execution day was Friday in ancient Rome, and Good Friday exists because it is the reported day of Jesus' crucifixion. An English schoolboy allegedly proved mathematically that thirteen, when examined over a 400-year period, falls on Friday more than any day of the year. (He was thirteen years old at the time, of course.)

Yet the number 13 has a lesser-known role as a lucky number: At the birth of our nation, thirteen colonies formed the original United States of America, a baker's dozen is considered a fortunate bargain, and if you are Jewish, age thirteen is your lucky time for a bar or bat mitzvah.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Friends with Low Wages

American Rights at Work has new--and very funny--Flash video to expose Wal-Mart’s anti-union and anti-worker violations. The cartoon, “Friends with Low Wages,” features (a parody of) Garth Brooks and a new take on one of his classic hits. Garth recently signed an exclusive distribution deal with Wal-Mart and you may have caught him in one of the TV ads he did for Wal-Mart over the holidays.

Click the graphic to the right.

Or this url