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A Knight on a Gray Horse A Knight on a Gray Horse
by Gush Shalom
2008-08-14 09:51:56
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OH DEAR, what has happened to the knight on the white horse?

This week, many of Barack Obama's admirers were shocked. Up to now, it had been believed that the huge sums of money flowing into the coffers of his campaign came from anonymous citizens, each sending a check for 100 or 200 dollars.

Now, alas, it has been disclosed that a large part of those millions actually came from big donors - the very same huge corporations, their CEOs and lobbyists, who have corrupted the democratic process in previous contests. They spread their largesse generously and simultaneously among all the candidates from left to right, so as to be on the winning side whatever happens.

Obama had promised to put an end to the old, dirty corporate funding-for-influence system. Now it appears that he participates in this corrupt system himself.

What a disappointment.

FOR ANYONE living in the real world, the disappointment cannot be that big.

The modern election campaign is an insatiable monster. It devours huge sums of money. Those who innocently believe that such sums can be raised from small and anonymous contributors are deluding themselves. That is quite impossible.

Obama did indeed receive many donations from ordinary citizens, and that is a positive sign. But if he had refused to accept contribution from the large donors, who are necessarily self-interested donors, he might as well have given up his candidacy. He would have been drowned by the flood of his opponent's poisoned TV ads, without the capability to reciprocate.

The United States is a huge country, and any significant change in its system needs years - if not generations, unless there is a revolution. In the democratic system, a single leader can effect only small changes - if any at all.

A real politician never looks like a real politician. Obama is a real politician. He is not a knight on a white horse. He is, at best, a knight on a gray horse.

But there are many shades of gray. All the way from almost white to almost black.

In response to the old observation that there is only a small difference between man and woman, the famous French reply was: "Vive la petite difference!"

It is difficult to guess how big the difference between a President Barack Obama and a President John McCain would be. But one of these two will not be elected alone - after an American presidential election, thousands of other important positions change hands. Enough to mention the president's prerogative to appoint Supreme Court justices. After eight years of President Obama, this vital institution would look vastly different from the court after eight years of President McCain.

Therefore, the cynical statement "They are all the same" is out of place. There is a difference.

So if some of the illusions of the black wunderkind's adulators have been shattered and everybody has been returned to the real world - they had better make their decision at the ballot box in a realistic way.

IN THIS respect there exists an interesting similarity between the American campaign and the Israeli one. If some speak there of McObama, one can speak here of Molivni.

Tzipi Livni is running against Shaul Mofaz for the leadership of the Kadima party and almost certainly for the Prime Minister's job after the departure of Ehud Olmert.

Here, too, there is a temptation to say "They are all the same". What is the difference between the two?

Much has been said and written about this: both candidates (like the two others who are also running) present themselves at the Kadima primaries without submitting a program, without proposing solutions for the main problems, without providing answers to any of the fateful questions facing the country.

SO IS - or is there not - a difference between them? There certainly is. As significant as that little difference.

Mofaz has a lot of experience. Livni has hardly any. But it is hard to say which is worse.

Mofaz has been Chief of Staff of the IDF, Minister of Defense, Minister of Transportation. In all these jobs he has distinguished himself only in one respect: that he did not distinguish himself. In all of them he was mediocre or less.

He never did anything that will deserve a mention in the annals of Israel. His sole military victory was over the inhabitants of the Jenin refugee camp during the operation "Defensive Shield", when one of the strongest armies in the world overcame a few groups of juveniles equipped with pistols and some rifles.

He never voiced an original idea. Nobody can remember a single sentence of his, except the statement "The Likud is home. One does not leave home" - exactly one day before he left the Likud and jumped on the Kadima bandwagon.

As against the rich "experience" of Mofaz, the lack of experience of Tzipi Livni stands out. If Mofaz is a page covered in second-rate text, Livni is an almost blank sheet of paper.

She first came to notice as somebody who climbed on Sharon's wagon at a very early stage, a fact that testifies to her sharp political senses. She has held several junior positions, and at long last reached the foreign office. The job of Foreign Minister in Israel, as in other countries, is a very desirable one: one just cannot fail. One is often in the limelight, one gets photographed in impressive international settings, one receives important foreign guests, and few people realize that foreign policy is made by the head of the government - the President (in the US and France) or the Prime Minister (in Britain and Israel).

Once every few days Livni meets with Abu Ala, the Palestinian representative, to tread the water of the fictitious negotiations. After more than a year, not a single article of the absurd putative "shelf agreement" has been settled. At this pace, peace can be expected in a century or two.

Where do Mofaz and Livni stand with regard to national policy? There is no doubt about Mofaz: he is a quintessential militarist, a man of the Right in every respect, obsequious to the Orthodox religious establishment, toadying to the settlers. His election would mean, at the least, a total freeze of policy and the accelerated expansion of the settlements. In short: permanent war.

About Livni nobody knows what she really thinks: lately she has tried to outflank Olmert - sometimes on the right, sometimes even on the left. Like almost every foreign minister, she now radiates moderation. That comes with the office. But not so very long ago she was talking about the "Oslo criminals", meaning Yitzhak Rabin and his partners. Now she talks about "two nation-states" and draws the picture of a Jewish demographic state. All these are nowadays safe and tried slogans. As Prime Minister, she can surprise us in any direction. Impossible to know in advance.

Some might say: we know Mofaz, so we shall not vote for him. Livni we don't know yet. So let's give her a chance. Between the two, Livni may be preferable.

ABOUT THE Kadima primaries, one can say that they are a joke wrapped in a farce inside a comedy (with due apologies to Winston Churchill for the paraphrase.)

When Ariel Sharon left the Likud to set up his new party, he attracted refugees from all the other parties, those who felt that their advancement in their own party was blocked. The slogan could have been: Opportunists of all Parties, Unite! Shimon Peres and Haim Ramon came from Labor, Olmert, Livni, Meir Sheetrit and, at the last moment, Mofaz, came from the Likud. They had nothing in common except the hope that by clinging to Sharon's coattails they could get into the Knesset and the government.

Only later, much later, did there come into being something resembling (with a bit of imagination) a party. Functionaries brought friends, vote-contractors brought hundreds and thousands of ballot-mercenaries, whole blocs of voters. These are the 70 thousand "registered members". It is they who will vote in the primaries for the party chairman, who will almost certainly become Prime Minister.

This is a caricature of democracy. It confirms Churchill's dictum that "democracy is the worst form of government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time."

The thought of a few hundred bought votes deciding who will be the next Prime Minister of Israel is quite horrifying.

ALL THE polls show that Livni has a very great lead over Mofaz as far as the general public is concerned, and a good chance to win the Knesset elections. But Mofaz has a great advantage in the Kadima primaries, owing to the voting blocks acquired from contractors. He promises to set up a rightist-nationalist-religious coalition in the present Knesset, so that there will be no need for general elections until 2010.

So what about peace? The occupation? Economic policy? Social problems? Education? Health care?

Who gives a damn?

permlink   http://zope.gush-shalom.org/home/en/channels/avnery/1218314678/


      
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Emanuel Paparella2008-08-14 18:49:28
Obama the savior who will deliver us from ourselves, Obama the prophet who will speak truth to power, Obama the White Knight ready to slay the dragon. They all sound to me as back-handed compliments; a way of mocking Obama’s character while seeming to compliment him. We know full well why he is being mocked: because he is really one of us as American as…Britney Spears and Paris Hilton. On closer reflection, Obama is not being attacked for being a dark knight from a strange land. He’s being attacked for being a white knight from right here in America. Otherness is comprehensible only in terms of sameness. In the superficial mindless society in which we live we look in the pond and see ourselves. Obama is being ridiculed not because we see a calculating Machiavellian politician who will not sacrifice the good to the excellent, but because he is a classic contemporary superficial unthinking male diva; all too American. He is us. It is a form of self-hatred otherwise known as narcissism.


Sand2008-08-14 20:13:15
See how Obama fits into this. http://www.counterpunch.org/whitney08142008.html


Emanuel Paparella2008-08-14 22:17:54
As previously mentioned in my article on Barack Obama (see http://www.ovimagazine.com/art/3138) what our shallow rationalistic culture finds puzzling about him is that consummate ability of his to entertain and examine dispassionately both sides of a coin before arriving at a fair judgment. As Aristotle insightfully pointed out some 24 centuries ago, that is a sure sign of a truly intelligent and educated person as distinguished from the charlatan and the demagogue and the propagandist: the ability to entertain two contradictories ideas in order to evaluate them under the light of reason and thus arrive at a more nuanced and less biased opinion. Sadly, in today’s Western world, which thinks itself “enlightened”, as Solzhynitzyn also pointed out in his Harvard lecture of 1977, for which he became a personal non grata in the US, we are comfortable with “herd-thinking” otherwise known as “political correctness” thinking, wherein only one side of the coin is examined and pondered and those who espouse the other side are promptly demonized and caricaturized. It is group thinking and “cleverness by half” abetted by Machiavellian and Orwellian political thinking.

For example, in the context of the present crisis in Georgia, about which at least one article has appeared in Ovi, the silence of the Finns, who surely read this magazine based in Finland, is quite deafening. Yet, they know first hand, or ought to remember by direct experience, the ancient tactics of Russia vis a vis its neighbors. That silence deprives us of half of a complete picture which would allow us to get at the truth of the matter rather than being smothered by demagogues dishing out ideological propaganda and biased opinions. Sadly, collective silence too eventually becomes herd-thinking by default.


Sand2008-08-15 05:47:05
In reference to "herd thinking" one should be very careful about assuming the Russians are always the bad guys and the USA is the main source of freedom and enlightenment.


Sand2008-08-15 06:16:24
This from an article in Counterpunch by Mike Whitney:
The American-armed and trained Georgian army swarmed into South Ossetia last Thursday, killing an estimated 2,000 civilians, sending 40,000 South Ossetians fleeing over the Russian border, and destroying much of the capital, Tskhinvali. The attack was unprovoked and took place a full 24 hours before even ONE Russian soldier set foot in South Ossetia. Nevertheless, the vast majority of Americans still believe that the Russian army invaded Georgian territory first. The BBC, AP, NPR, the New York Times and the rest of the establishment media have consistently and deliberately misled their readers into believing that the violence in South Ossetia was initiated by the Kremlin. Let's be clear, it wasn't. In truth, there is NO dispute about the facts except among the people who rely the western press for their information. Despite its steady loss of credibility, the corporate media continues to operate as the propaganda-arm of the Pentagon.
Former Russian President Mikhail Gorbachev gave a good summary of events in an op-ed in Monday's Washington Post:
For some time, relative calm was maintained in South Ossetia. The peacekeeping force composed of Russians, Georgians and Ossetians fulfilled its mission, and ordinary Ossetians and Georgians, who live close to each other, found at least some common ground....What happened on the night of Aug. 7 is beyond comprehension. The Georgian military attacked the South Ossetian capital of Tskhinvali with multiple rocket launchers designed to devastate large areas....Mounting a military assault against innocents was a reckless decision whose tragic consequences, for thousands of people of different nationalities, are now clear. The Georgian leadership could do this only with the perceived support and encouragement of a much more powerful force. Georgian armed forces were trained by hundreds of U.S. instructors, and its sophisticated military equipment was bought in a number of countries. This, coupled with the promise of NATO membership, emboldened Georgian leaders into thinking that they could get away with a "blitzkrieg" in South Ossetia...Russia had to respond. To accuse it of aggression against "small, defenseless Georgia" is not just hypocritical but shows a lack of humanity."
Russia deployed its tanks and troops to South Ossetia to save the lives of civilians and to reestablish the peace. Period. It has no interest in annexing the former-Soviet country or in expanding its present borders. Now that the Georgian army has been routed, Russian president Medvedev and Prime Minister Putin have expressed a willingness to settle the dispute through normal diplomatic channels at the United Nations. Neither leader is under any illusions about Washington's involvement in the hostilities. They know that Georgian President Mikail Saakashvili is an American stooge who came to power in a CIA-backed coup, the so-called "Rose Revolution", and would never order a major military operation without explicit instructions from his White House puppetmasters.



Emanuel Paparella2008-08-15 15:02:06
For a more balanced nuanced and less ideologically-driven view on American Russian relations see the editorial below from The Nation:

http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/20060308_vandenheuvel_russian_relations/


Sand2008-08-15 16:18:37
To defend Georgia's right to massacre a considerable number of its non-aggressive citizens is no different than to apply that judgment to the people of Darfur. The difference is that the Russians acted.


Sand2008-08-15 16:33:57
Incidentally, the article at
http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/20060308_vandenheuvel_russian_relations
says nothing whatsoever about the situation in Georgia.


Emanuel Paparella2008-08-15 17:07:01
But to know the previous history and the context is to arrive at a wise and balanced view of the situation rather than one based on one's political biases and ideological prejudices.


Sand2008-08-15 17:09:26
It is also interesting, at the same site that Paparella recommends, there is an article about the Georgian situation at http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/20080812_georgia_war_a_neocon_election_ploy/?ln


Emanuel Paparella2008-08-15 17:15:33
The silence of the Finnish readers in this forum (if there are any)on Russia's violation of a sovereign democratic nation posed to become part of the EU and NATO is indeed perplexing. Not that the EU in general has raised much of fuss either. There are obvious economic interests involved by way of the oil pipeline running through Georgia. As Jefferson said, those who give up their freedom for economic interests eventually lose both.


Sand2008-08-15 18:06:46
It must be that the Finns are so impressed with Bush's violation of Iraq's sovereignty that they felt that the "free" USA set the standard for all nations and thereby had to live with them.


Emanuel Paparella2008-08-15 18:28:21
I wonder if the Finns have appointed you as their Grand Spokesperson or have you appointed yourself?


Sand2008-08-15 18:55:36
I wonder if you ever can ever suppress your incessant desire to piss on me and listen to what I say.


Sand2008-08-15 20:25:47
This continuous insistence that I must be appointed for my activities and comments – as someone interested in clear and correct writing, as someone concerned about the established facts of history, as someone concerned about concise and correct truth, and now as someone desirous of treating Finland with decency and respect – it never seems to occur to you that these are the responses of a person who has the integrity to desire things done properly from an inherent quality of character. No, you feel someone has to be required by an authority to display such activity.

This is rather interesting and revealing. Your obvious obeisance to authority may betray that you yourself were the recipient of a telephone call from an authority – perhaps some disciplinarian of official Catholic status who noticed I was rather a nuisance exposing the latest perverted activities of a goodly number of members of the Catholic hierarchy. “Let’s call somebody to see if we can whitewash this mess” they said. “How about Paparella? He’s very good at blustering. He may be a bit clumsy with language but he’s got a fair reference library left over from his PhD effort and can paste together all sorts of odd authoritative quotes to cover up the awful things the church as been involved in. And, of course, he has no problem throwing in a lie or two to skew the gullible minds. And character assassination comes to him naturally. Let’s give him a ring and appoint him.”

Sounds possible.


Emanuel Paparella2008-08-15 21:46:59
Obviously the voices in your head have been visiting again...


Emanuel Paparella2008-08-15 22:01:49
P.S. On possible counsel may have been that you start a blog of your own dedicated to the egregious smearing and bashing of the Catholic Church, name calling and argumenti at hominem, distortions of historical facts, devious and demagogic intellectual tactics, character assassination, universal atheism, the rationalizing of what ought never be rationalized, and the intellectual bullying of all those who disagree with one's rationalistic "enlightened" pet opinions. Considering your track record in this forum, it is certainly possible.


Emanuel Paparella2008-08-15 22:10:03
P.S. One possible ideal model for such a blog could be that of the Church or the Flying Spaghetti Monster (FSM) which you have previously enthusiastically endorsed and manifested to the readers of this magazine. You could declare yourself the Grand Inquisitor and Censor and proceed to the intelellectual torturing of all the deviants and heretics from the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.


Emanuel Paparella2008-08-15 22:16:12
P.S. On obeisance to authority, what would you call the penchant to quote exclusively from publications which expouse only extreme leftist biased and unbalanced views and authorities such as Michael Whitney of Counterpunch?


Sand2008-08-15 22:31:03
Wow! Didn't that one tip your tea tray! Perhaps there really was a germ of truth in it?


Emanuel Paparella2008-08-15 22:46:00
You have unwittingly put your finger on your inveterate and nefarious intelletual habit: to take a germ of truth or even a half-truth and present it as the whole and absolute truth and then change again when it is expedient to do so. Language used as an instrument of power and manipulation of others. Socrates would have put you in the company of the Sophists; moreover, you would not have lasted more than one month in an academic career where you'd have acquired the reputation of an eminent charlatan.


Sand2008-08-15 23:02:12
Since you obviously class yourself as an academic, Paparella, I would be honored not to qualify.


Sand2008-08-16 09:22:00
In general summary, your total lack of comprehension and appreciation of language, logic, integrity, regard for truth, understanding and appreciation of history and basic human motivations and basic needs gives you monumental stature in regard to ignorance, stupidity and just plain ineptness in dealing with reality and decent human interaction. You are a sorry mess, Paparella, and it seems your age and your brittle fossilized mindset precludes any possibility of an epiphany to make you see the world as it is before the final curtain falls.


Emanuel Paparella2008-08-16 11:28:33
Monumental statement indeed exemplifying the nexus between the poetics of bovine excrement and defecation and the act of demagogic bullying. The voices must have been visiting again. Do not listen to them and remember the dictum of Socrates: villany runs faster than death and she is leary to let go once she has you in her grip. That is indeed the issue, for character is indeed destiny and we die the way we live.


Sand2008-08-16 11:39:21
A fine demonstration of your Xerox mind with it's limited capacity for originality. Your comment on another thread is almost exactly duplicated with a pasted suffix of classical crap to hide the boring repetition.


Emanuel Paparella2008-08-16 11:49:57
Remember "gotcha"? How many times did the parrot on your shoulder repeat that meaningless utterance? Meanwhile you have so far failed to take the challenge of the bet on whether or not your implication regarding my Ph.D. is true or slanderous, as many other things peddled as truth and fact by you. I repeat the challenge and I can wager on the fact that you will never pick it up.


Sand2008-08-16 11:57:50
In your consistent moronic simplicity you keep insisting I doubted your PhD. I never have. I congratulated you with your PhD since you so closely associated yourself with those other PhD holders who you claim were responsible for the Holocaust and had a similar turn of mind.

My "Gotcha" exclamation was over your inability to permit anybody but yourself to have the last word in a discussion and it was totally valid.


Emanuel Paparella2008-08-16 12:01:10
As usual the challenge is not picked up and is buried under a barrage of garbage and crap.


Emanuel Paparella2008-08-16 12:04:48
You ought to stop listening to all that crap from the voices in your head. It does no good to the health of one's soul and mind to listen to liars.


Sand2008-08-16 12:07:59
Xerox again. It's becoming clearer at each interchange that if you are not a piece of mindless AI software you are the nearest human equivalent.


Emanuel Paparella2008-08-16 12:15:53
By the way that "you so closely associated yourself with those other PhD holders who you claim were responsible for the Holocaust" besides being a pure fabrication of the voices in your head, is also gramatically incorrect. The "who" should be "whom." Gotcha.

Are we having fun yet with the juvenile Punch and Judy show?


Sand2008-08-16 12:41:54
OK, P. I have other things to do than play kindergarten games with somebody not up to it. Go play with yourself.


Emanuel Paparella2008-08-16 14:36:23
ok S., you do likewise but don't bully yourself too much or you risk becoming a masochist too, and stay away from those nasty voices...; they are up to no good.


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