Skip to main content

Posts

Showing posts from July, 2007

The crisis deepens - significantly

In meeting with UK PM Brown at Camp David yesterday, George Bush said at a press conference, that "freedom and justice" was something all people of the world aspired to.

How the Iraqis are supposed to respond to that is hard to fathom given that the country, thanks to the invasion of the country, has created apparelled hardship for the citizenry. Things were certainly not that bad before the Coalition's Shock and Awe attack on Iraq.

The latest report by Oxfam and the NGO Coordination Committee in Iraq paints a bleak picture of the devastation wrought on the people of Iraq - as this Guardian Unlimited piece explains:

"One third of the Iraqi population needs emergency aid because of the humanitarian crisis caused by war and ongoing violence, according to a new report.

Around 8 million Iraqis are in urgent need of water, sanitation, food and shelter, a joint report (pdf) released today by Oxfam and the NGO Coordination Committee in Iraq said.

The document said that …

Welcome to Richistan, USA

The commentary is that the economies of most Western nations are traveling well. Share-market gyrations aside, people are said to be better off, credit is readily available, etc. etc. Things like affordability of housing and severe [credit] debt for many is mainly swept aside.

The Observer [reproduced on AlterNet] posits another picture altogether - of the American scene - of the ever-increasing divide between the rich and the poor. It is, in fact, a world-wide phenomenon.

"On the surface, Mark Cain works for a time-share company. Members pay a one-off sum to join and an annual fee. They then get to book holiday time in various destinations around the globe.

But Solstice clients are not ordinary people. They are America's super-rich and a brief glance at its operations reveal the vast and still widening gulf between them and the rest of America.

Solstice has only about 80 members. Platinum membership costs them $875,000 to join and then a $42,000 annual fee. In retur…

MI5 and those renditions

Little needs be added to this piece from The Guardian on the role of MI5 in renditioning - other than disgust and revulsion at the actions of the Americans with the apparent support and assistance of the Brits.

"An Iraqi who was a key source of intelligence for MI5 has given the first ever full insider's account of being seized by the CIA and bundled on to an illegal 'torture flight' under the programme known as extraordinary rendition.

In a remarkable interview for The Observer, British resident Bisher al-Rawi has told how he was betrayed by the security service despite having helped keep track of Abu Qatada, the Muslim cleric accused of being Osama bin Laden's 'ambassador in Europe'. He was abducted and stripped naked by US agents, clad in nappies, a tracksuit and shackles, blindfolded and forced to wear ear mufflers, then strapped to a stretcher on board a plane bound for a CIA 'black site' jail near Kabul in Afghanistan."

Go on to read the fu…

Exodus of mass proportions

Iraqis were rightly jubilant that they, against overwhelming odds, beat Saudi Arabia in the final of their football match played in Jakarta earlier today . As the young woman commented in an interview on Radio National's Breakfast program this morning, it was great for the Iraqis to celebrate for once - in other words, something positive amongst all the war and misery presently afflicting Iraq.

Not so happy news for Iraqis is the ever-continuing exodus from the country, as veteran reporter, Patrick Cockburn, reports in The Independent:

"Two thousand Iraqis are fleeing their homes every day. It is the greatest mass exodus of people ever in the Middle East and dwarfs anything seen in Europe since the Second World War. Four million people, one in seven Iraqis, have run away, because if they do not they will be killed. Two million have left Iraq, mainly for Syria and Jordan, and the same number have fled within the country.

Yet, while the US and Britain express sympathy for the…

Eh? President Petraeus?

Trust Frank Rich in his weekly column in the NY Times [only available in the newspaper itself or on line against subscription] to put into context George Bushs' absence from the Oval Office the other day whilst he underwent a medical checkup and treatment.....and by the way the medicos reported that they could find no brain!

"There was, of course, gallows humor galore when Dick Cheney briefly grabbed the wheel of our listing ship of state during the presidential colonoscopy last weekend. Enjoy it while it lasts. A once-durable staple of 21st-century American humor is in its last throes. We have a new surrogate president now. Sic transit Cheney. Long live David Petraeus!

It was The Washington Post that first quantified General Petraeus’s remarkable ascension. President Bush, who mentioned his new Iraq commander’s name only six times as the surge rolled out in January, has cited him more than 150 times in public utterances since, including 53 in May alone.

As always with this Whit…

Noam Chomsky: The cold war between Washington and Tehran

When Noam Chomksy writes or speaks people listen. They may not necessarily agree with him, but the man and his views are not be taken lightly - or ignored. After all a survey has shown him to be seen as one of the most respected people in the world.

Chomsky has just had a new book, "Interventions", published. Common Dreams has an extract [republished from ZNet]:

"In the energy-rich Middle East, only two countries have failed to subordinate themselves to Washington’s basic demands: Iran and Syria. Accordingly both are enemies, Iran by far the more important.

As was the norm during the Cold War, resort to violence is regularly justified as a reaction to the malign influence of the main enemy, often on the flimsiest of pretexts. Unsurprisingly, as Bush sends more troops to Iraq, tales surface of Iranian interference in the internal affairs of Iraq-a country otherwise free from any foreign interference, on the tacit assumption that Washington rules the world.

In the Co…

His Israel Question revisited

The release, exactly 12 months ago, of Antony Loewenstein's book "My Israel Question" [MUP] caused near-enough to a firestorm. It says something about the book itself, and the interest in the subject-matter, that the book went to 3 reprints. It recently was short-listed in the NSW Premier's Literary Awards for 2007.

One most satisfactory outcome of the book, if nothing else, has been that the discussion of the vexed topic of Israel, the Palestinians, how Israel deals with the Palestinians and the Israel Lobby [in the US, Australia and elsewhere] has, at long last, been given air-play in the media - and alternative voices, to the shrill ones usually heard, now seen and read.

''I can think of few books about Israel and Palestine, written by an Australian, as important as Antony Loewenstein's brave j'accuse. In challenging the propagandists to give up their addiction, he is a truth-teller bar none.' --John Pilger

'This is one of the be…

The real stats on Iraq

Drawing on material published by the US Lenin's Tomb reports on the real stats relating to Iraq:

"The trends continue to be supported by the coalition's data:
The rate of attacks is at an all time high, weapons cache finds are at an all time high, attacks are still directed overwhelmingly at occupying forces, but as the Iraqi police and army are trained and put into combat situations, they are taking a bigger brunt of the violence.The attacks on civilians remains the smallest wedge of all attacks. Resistance attacks are still concentrated in four provinces where the occupiers are most active, of course, and least present where the occupiers have given authority to regional parties. Once again, the areas under almost complete insurgent control are the areas most likely to have working electricity, which is telling.
Support for a divided Iraq remains extremely low, predictably highest among the Kurds. One welcome new trend is a dramatic decrease in sectarian incidents reported…

Hollywood goes to war.....that War!

Hollywood has, traditionally, played it very carefully when making movies in relation to war and global conflicts. That is not to say that movies depicting the Russians or Arabs - never said so explicitly - as "baddies" haven't been made, almost, seemingly, as part of some sort of propaganda.

The Iraq War appears to have changed things, for as The Independent reports, a slew of movies dealing with the War are about to hit our screens:

"Not so long ago, Hollywood was famously shy of telling stories ripped straight from the headlines. The movies, after all, are a form of escapism, first and foremost. Who wants to go to the multiplex to get more of the same depressing images being broadcast on the evening news?

Film-makers and studio chiefs preferred to take a more oblique route to commenting on the pressing events of the moment, especially when it came to questions of war and peace. They transferred the conflict to an earlier time, or to another culture, or simply kep…

The 15 greenest cities in the world

No doubt there would be many countries - or certainly their politicians - which claim to have a green city. It's all a matter of prospective in the final analysis. However, grist [an online environmental news and commentary site] has determined what it regards as the 15 greenest cities in the world - in a rather, and perhaps somewhat surprising, collection:

"These metropolises aren't literally the greenest places on earth -- they're not necessarily dense with foliage, for one, and some still have a long way to go down the path to sustainability. But all of the cities on this list deserve recognition for making impressive strides toward eco-friendliness, helping their many millions of residents live better, greener lives".

To find out whether your city made the mark, read on here.

Diplomacy - Lift that veil?

The TV debate / discussion on CNN between Democratic candidates for the US presidency the other day highlighted the issue to whom, and how, dialogue ought to be had with governments of other countries. Talk openly to, say Iran, or do it all behind closed doors? Then again, should any discussion, open or otherwise, be held even if the US considers the "foreign" government abhorrent?

This is an issue and question taken up by John Nichols in a piece, "Clinton, Kissinger and theCorruptions of Empire" in The Nation:

"Of all the corruptions of empire, few are darker than the claim that diplomacy must be kept secret from the citizenry.

This hide-it-from-the people faith that only a cloistered group of unelected and often unaccountable elites – embodied by the nefarious and eminently indictable Henry Kissinger – is capable of steering the affairs of state pushes Americans out of the processes that determine whether their sons and daughters will die in distant wars…

Yikes....now they're looking to attack Syria!

One would have thought that the Bush Administration had not only learned something from the Iraq debacle - no other word for it - but that one cannot just attack or march into countries because its policies don't find favour with the Bushies.

Seems not! If this piece, from Counterpunch, is right, even if somewhat diminished in their influence, the neo-cons are still banging on with their discredited policies and are now trying to turn their attention, and that of the White House, to possibly attacking Syria.

"Neocon officials in the Defense Department call them "low-hanging fruit"--- as though countries were produce ripe for picking and eating. The term refers to nations targeted for regime change that might be achieved with minimal strain, at least when compared with the effort needed to topple the regime in Iran. Some neocons are beginning to concede that the effort might not be feasible at this time (not that they would be climbing the tree and plucking the f…

Shared despair in divided Hebron

The impact of the wall Israel is constructing around itself, and often through Palestinian land or cities, continues unabated. Shamefully, the world ignores what is happening, the human cost involved and what the long-term effect is sure to be.

Hebron is a city, and its people, critically effected by what the Israelis are doing - as this piece, from TheWashington Post, so graphically explains:

"The barrier Israel is constructing in the largely rural West Bank is effectively separating Arab from Jew along much of its 456-mile length. But the broader project of disentangling the two peoples in the absence of a peace agreement is failing in urban areas such as Hebron, where the most radical elements of Islamic and Jewish nationalism are gaining strength.

Within Hebron, the separation is enforced not only by Israeli barriers but also by military checkpoints and curfews intended to protect the roughly 700 Jewish settlers living within the city's most historic and religiously im…

A forgotten country - Burma!

Whilst the world sees the war in Iraq grind on, fighting in Afghanistan continue unabated and various geo-political issues flare up from time to time around the globe, countries like Burma are either simply overlooked or slip under the radar.

That Burma is a country beset with a myriad of problems and issues which can no longer be ignored, is taken up by The Independent in this piece on what seems to be a "forgotten" country:

"Burma suffers a political, human rights and humanitarian situation as grim as any in the world today. The country is run by an utterly illegitimate government that spends 50 per cent of its budget on the military and less than a $1 (50p) per head on the health and education of its own citizens.

The thugs and impostors who rule the roost practise some of the most egregious human rights abuses known to mankind. Rape as a weapon of war, extra-judicial killings, water torture, mass displacement, compulsory relocation, forced labour, incarceration of …

The Iraqisation of Afghanistan

This from the Mother Jones issue of July / August:

"Last year suicide bombings quintupled, attacks on international forces tripled, and support for the Taliban grew. According to CNN terror analyst and Taliban expert Peter Bergen, there are 10 entirely avoidable mistakes made by the Bush administration."

The Mother Jones piece lists the 10 mistakes here. It doesn't make for happy reading.

Reframing the war in Iraq?

That things aren't going well in Iraq is almost a given. Whether to withdraw or somehow come to some conclusion in the country is now the subject of debate in the US. To withdraw 160,000 US personnel it was said yesterday would take one year to complete. Meanwhile, the appetite by Americans for the war is ever diminishing.

George Bush doesn't seem to be getting the message - or, not for the first time, living in his own fanciful world. Speaking at a military base yesterday Bush suggested that the "fight" in Iraq was to defeat alQaida - for not to do so would endanger the US. Never mind that a report out just last week referred to the strength of alQaida being in Pakistan - not Iraq. Also not to be overlooked is that it is said that al Qaida only accounts for 15% of attacks in Iraq.

In his on line column Watching Washington, on NPR, Ron Elving suggests that Bush is now reframing the war in Iraq in terms of having to defeat Osama bin Laden:

"It …

Now it's outsourced intelligence

We've all known that much of the military and associated work in Iraq has been outsourced - often to companies and characters with more than a dubious record. Not coincidentally, these very same contractors have been closely allied with the White House.

Now, The Nation magazine reveals that intelligence has also been out outsourced:

"The unprecedented involvement of private corporations in the Iraq War has been well documented. Private soldiers working for Blackwater USA, Triple Canopy and others provide security services against military-level threats, and they regularly engage in combat. But what is not generally known is that the secret side of the Iraq War and the larger "war on terror" is also conducted by private corporations, fielding private spies. The reach of these corporations has extended into the Oval Office. Corporations are heavily involved in creating the analytical products that underlie the nation's most important and most sensitive nationa…

Climate change in action....

Forget about Al Gore and his message. Forget too the sceptics about climate change. It's upon us whether we like it or not. Witness the weather all around the globe. Where it is supposed to be hot it's cool, if not downright cold, and wet. Winter in some regions is the most severe for years. It seems like the weather patterns have gone berserk.

Take Britain. It has had unprecedented rain with devastating results. The Independent comments on what has befallen the British Isles:

"Flood-ravaged Britain is suffering from a wholly new type of civil emergency, it is clear today: a disaster caused by 21st-century weather.

This weather is different from anything that has gone before. The floods it has caused, which have left more than a third of a million people without drinking water, nearly 50,000 people without power, thousands more people homeless and caused more than £2bn worth of damage - and are still not over - have no precedent in modern British histor…

The world's stupidest Fatwas

Pretty everyone knows that Salman Rushdie copped one - a fatwa on his life. It meant he was subjected to virtually 24 hour security wherever he went.

Bizarre as it might seem, Foreign Policy [FP] has collected what it describes as the world's stupidest fatwas. As the magazine notes:

"No central authority controls doctrine in Islam, one of the world’s great religions. The result? A proliferation of bizarre religious edicts against targets ranging from Salman Rushdie to polio vaccinations."

Globalisation backlash in rich nations

We've all seen the TV footage. Protesters at a conference somewhere in the world ranged up against a phalanx of police. The main object of the protesters has been globalisation, with all that entails, and climate change.

Those protesting have, almost invariably, been labeled long-haired radicals or lefties. Politicians have simply been dismissive. It now seems, if the FT /Harris poll [as reported on FT.com] is anything to go by, that rich nations are now also against globalisation.

"A popular backlash against globalisation and the leaders of the world’s largest companies is sweeping all rich countries, an FT/Harris poll shows.

Large majorities of people in the US and in Europe want higher taxation for the rich and even pay caps for corporate executives to counter what they believe are unjustified rewards and the negative effects of globalisation.

Viewing globalisation as an overwhelmingly negative force, citizens of rich countries are looking to governments to …

The 21st century comes to electioneering

The "little man" had a chance at confronting the Democratic contenders for the US Presidency yesterday. In a venture between CNN and the video-sharing YouTube, "ordinary" people could challenge the presidential hopefuls on a range of topics. No sanitised debate here. Just plain and direct questions.

The NY Times reports this unique event - surely a first this century in harnessing technology to old-fashioned electioneering - this way:

"Facing an unusual series of video-recorded questions from Americans — by turns toughly worded, highly emotional, and simply offbeat — the eight Democratic presidential candidates sparred tonight over race, gay marriage, Darfur and troops in Iraq, while also still finding ways to trade the verbal jabs that typify traditional debates.

The televised debate was unusual from the start: A man speaking on a homemade video — and not the usual television anchorman — opened the forum, sponsored by CNN and the video-sharing Web site Y…

The Barrier to Peace.....

The "issue" between Palestine and Israel continues unabated. Now, ex PM Blair is set to play some sort role in an attempt to resolve the issue between the 2 peoples.

Barry Lando, writing in truthdig.com, suggests that Israel, and the West, must first address the issue of the "birth" of Israel and the displacement of the Palestinians then living in Palestine before it became the State of Israel. That brings with it a myriad of issues, not the least the growing numbers of Palestinians in Israel now.

"Forget about Hamas, the wall, Gaza and the occupied territories. There can be no peace in the Middle East until Israel and the Palestinians deal with one key issue: the Palestinian demand that Israel recognize their right of return. That demand is based on the Arab charge that the Zionist state created the refugee problem in the war of 1948-49 by a brutal campaign of ethnic cleansing. It’s an accusation that Israel’s leaders have consistently rejected. Jewish …

The Invisible Government

You may not like him, you may disagree with him, but it is hard to ignore the fundamental propositions put forward by John Pilger. Pilger researches his stuff well and knows his facts. Yes, what he often says, makes one uncomfortable. To ignore Pilger is to ignore what is happening around us. And so it is relation to a talk given by him recently, " The Invisible Government", reported on ZNet.

"The title of this talk is Freedom Next Time, which is the title of my book, and the book is meant as an antidote to the propaganda that is so often disguised as journalism. So I thought I would talk today about journalism, about war by journalism, propaganda, and silence, and how that silence might be broken. Edward Bernays, the so-called father of public relations, wrote about an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country. He was referring to journalism, the media. That was almost 80 years ago, not long after corporate journalism was invented…

Are newspapers going the way of the Dodo?

The endless discussion [debate?] about whether we are witnessing a demise of the newspaper as we know it alongside the ascendancy of blogs and news on the internet, continues unabated. It's most likely too early to say how will come out the winner, if there ever will be one.

One thing is certain. Newspapers have considerably "lost" the influence and clout, and journalists of standing, they once enjoyed. This is the topic of an article by Russell Baker "Goodbye to Newspapers?" in the New York Review of Books:

"The American press has the blues. Too many authorities have assured it that its days are numbered, too many good newspapers are in ruins. It has lost too much public respect. Courts that once treated it like a sleeping tiger now taunt it with insolent subpoenas and put in jail reporters who refuse to play ball with prosecutors. It is abused relentlessly on talk radio and in Internet blogs. It is easily bullied into acquiescing in the designs o…

Iran: Chose your unhappy ending!

Iran, the country, its President and its nuclear ambitions, float in and out of the news. It is hard to determine to what extent that is the fault of the media. Whatever the reason, it would seem it Iran, and all that goes with the country, is certainly at the moment a potential boiling cauldron.

The Economist reflects on and considers where things are at in its cover story this week "The Riddle of Iran". The 3 options it suggests as possibilities on where things are headed aren't particularly "happy" ones either for the region or the world as a whole.

"What Iran is doing at Natanz is entirely illegal. It has signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and says its nuclear aims are peaceful. But having spent decades deceiving nuclear inspectors, it is disbelieved even by its friends. A year ago this month Russia and China therefore joined the rest of the UN Security Council in ordering Iran to stop. It carried on regardless. The Security Council fol…

Dumb - and continuing to be so

The world may not like Hamas - but they exist. Ignoring them, as the latest pronouncement from the US and EU declares will happen, as reported in the IHT, seems plain dumb. But that isn't anything new.

"The United States and the European Union on Thursday held firm to their refusal to deal with the Palestinian movement Hamas as former Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain prepared to start his new job as Middle East peace envoy."

So, now what? Just be an ostrich and continue to refuse to even meet with an elected government? Former US Secretary of State, Colin Powell, seems on the money when he is reported in the same IHT piece thus:

"But in Washington, former Secretary of State Colin Powell said the quartet should find some way to talk to Hamas.

"I don't think you can just cast them into outer darkness and try to find a solution to the problems of the region without taking to account the standing that Hamas has in the Palestinian community," P…

Bush and Co on the march....

Assuming that even just half of this piece in Dar Al-Hayat is true, then the world is about to witness more than turbulence in the Middle East in the next months. One might have thought that the US and its allies had had enough trauma and come to sufficient grief in Iraq. It would seem not!

"Those betting on a quick U.S. exit from Iraq and a change in President Bush's Iran policy would do well to read the recent report from the U.S. intelligence community - reports that indicate a plan of using Iraq as a base of operations from which to launch attacks against regional threats to U.S. interests.

Six years after the attacks of September 11, U.S. intelligence indicates that Al Qaeda is as much a threat now as then, aided by the U.S. war on Iraq and the growth of fanatic movements. It also indicates that the U.S. is losing on several fronts against Al Qaeda - a group that has clearly reconstituted and reorganized itself over the past couple of years.

In addition to threats from…

Justice goes west in Australia

Little needs to be added to this insightful and thought-provoking piece by Julian Burnside QC in TheAge, on the case of Mohamed Haneef, his initial detention, release on bail and then taken into custody when his visa was cancelled.

All Australians ought to be truly alarmed by what has happened here. It's a slippery slope when events such as those which have occured in the Haneef case go unchallenged.

"The treatment of Mohamed Haneef is very disturbing. He spent 12 days in custody waiting to be questioned by police and he was held under provisions that do not appear to contemplate such lengthy detention without charge.

When, eventually, the police started questioning Haneef, they apparently found out no more than they already knew: he had given his cousin a pre-paid SIM card that still had some credit. Haneef could no longer use it because he was leaving England. A year later the SIM card was found in a car used by a terrorist.

It is a thin-looking case that will depend on …

Stand up President Ahmadinejad

The media savages him. He is scorned by many. It is said that many of his countrymen don't like him let alone approve of his random pronouncements. Who? President Ahmadinejad. True, he has made totally outrageous statements. The UN wants to order sanctions against his country, Iran. But, who is this man actually?

One person has sought to find out, in this rare insight into the man, published on Mother Jones:

"YossiMelman is one of the most interesting intelligence correspondents around. He covers intelligence and national security issues for the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz and is the coauthor, with Meir Javedanfar, of The Nuclear Sphinx of Tehran: Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the State of Iran (Carroll & Graf, 2007).

In their book, Melman and Javedanfar provide an in-depth look at the personality of Ahmadinejad, his religious beliefs, and the continuous cat-and-mouse game being played by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and Iran. Their book also describe…

Making it look like you're busy

George Bush has called for yet another conference on the Middle East conflict. To what precise end is entirely unclear. Condi Rice - she with no credibility in the region - will chair the meeting.

Tony Karon, writing on his blog, Rootless Cosmopolitan, puts the whole exercise into context:

"In his latest effort to look busy on the Israeli-Palestinian front, President Bush has now proposed a regional conference to be chaired by Secretary of State Condi Rice, in which Israel would join its Arab neighbors at the table. But lest this sound like a peace conference, don’t be fooled. Its purpose, a U.S. official told Haaretz, will be “to review progress toward building Palestinian institutions, look for ways to support further reforms and support the effort going on right now between the parties together.” If that sounds mushy, that’s precisely the intention. It’s all about “looking busy” without actually doing anything; “bolstering” a new Palestinian regime whose purpose in Israeli…

And this is a lesson in democracy?

The US is hell-bent on bringing democracy to anywhere in the world, especially the Middle East. The Australian Treasurer just last week solemnly pronounced that the Iraq War was intended to bring democracy to Iraq.

Now.....voting is part of the democratic process! Right? Well, yes, but perhaps not in America itself - as this piece in AlterNet clearly explains. There they are trying to cull the voter-lists and even dissuade people from having the right to vote. All shades, again, of the chicanery which characterised the US elections in 1999 and 2003.

"The Justice Department is pressuring 10 states to purge their voter rolls, while states are ignoring laws to help low-income Americans register to vote.

State welfare offices across the country are not offering millions of low-income Americans the opportunity to register to vote when applying for public assistance despite a federal law requiring them to do so, according to an analysis of a recent federal voting registrati…

US: Moving toward the end of constitutional democracy?

"Unless Congress immediately impeaches Bush and Cheney, a year from now the US could be a dictatorial police state at war with Iran.

Bush has put in place all the necessary measures for dictatorship in the form of "executive orders" that are triggered whenever Bush declares a national emergency. Recent statements by Homeland Security Chief Michael Chertoff, former Republican senator Rick Santorum and others suggest that Americans might expect a series of staged, or false flag, "terrorist" events in the near future.

Many attentive people believe that the reason the Bush administration will not bow to expert advice and public opinion and begin withdrawing US troops from Iraq is that the administration intends to rescue its unpopular position with false flag operations that can be used to expand the war to Iran.

Too much is going wrong for the Bush administration: the failure of its Middle East wars, Republican senators jumping ship, Turkish troops massed on norther…

Deluded.....and living in la la land!

We know that there are still people out there who believe George Bush is all goodness, the Iraq War is being successfully fought and those darned Muslims have to be brought into line.

So, to research how conservative right-wing Americans think, a journalist from The Independent joined a cruise organised by the right-wing organisation "National Review".

"The Iraq war has been an amazing success, global warming is just a myth – and as for Guantanamo Bay, it's practically a holiday camp... The annual cruise organised by the 'National Review', mouthpiece of right-wing America, is a parallel universe populated by straight-talking, gun-toting, God-fearing Republicans."

Read on..... and stop your jaw from dropping open as you discover and learn about people who probably still believe the world is flat. One can only wonder........

Iran: Here they go again.....

Not content in having caused all the mayhem and political fallout of the Iraq War - and with his "popularity" and that of VP Cheney in the doghouse - it seems George Bush and the White House have Iran in their sights again.

Yes, perhaps Iran is behaving badly in the Middle East - hard to determine, objectively - but another war? But then, reports out of the Middle East yesterday claim that the Sunnis fighting in Iraq come from Saudi Arabia. Take on that country too? Perhaps not! Oil, you know!

The Guardianreports:

"The balance in the internal White House debate over Iran has shifted back in favour of military action before President George Bush leaves office in 18 months, the Guardian has learned.

The shift follows an internal review involving the White House, the Pentagon and the state department over the last month. Although the Bush administration is in deep trouble over Iraq, it remains focused on Iran. A well-placed source in Washington said: "Bush i…

Who's Sorry Now?

Perhaps with more than a tad tongue in cheek, Maureen Dowd, writing her column in the NY Times [not available on line unless by subscription] raises the critical question of taking responsibility for one's actions:

"There’s not much lately that we’d like to import from China.

Certainly not the yummy steamed buns stuffed with shredded cardboard soaked in a caustic agent used to make soap. Or the tasty toothpaste laced with an antifreeze ingredient. Or the scrumptious seafood with a chemical kick. Or those pet foods with kibbles and bits of poison.

But there is one thing made in China we could use: mea culpas of high officials.

Zheng Xiaoyu, a top regulator who helped create China’s Food and Drug Administration, accepted $850,000 in bribes from drug companies and became enmeshed in the mistakes that flooded the market with dangerous drugs. Before he was executed Tuesday, he wrote a short confession titled “How I Look on My Mistakes.”

“Thinking back on what has happened these years, …

The disjuncture of two worlds......

Whilst the politicians talk about progress in Iraq - albeit slowly and whatever that all means anyway - the reality on the ground is another matter altogether. There is an obvious disconnect between what the military are saying, the politicians pronouncing and the people of Iraq experiencing. The latest revelatory piece on Iraq and the way the Americans act there - see the link to The Nation piece here - is no less than horrific.

TomDispatch [reproduced on truthout.com] has this piece looking at the "disjuncture" of what the US is doing in Iraq and what is actually happening in the country itself:

"Thousands of stories to tell - and no one to listen.
"In violence we forget who we are"
- Mary McCarthy, novelist and critic

1. Statistically Speaking

Having spent a fair amount of time in occupied Iraq, I now find living in the United States nothing short of a schizophrenic experience. Life in Iraq was traumatizing. It was impossible to be ther…

The Meaning of "Global Terror"

There are bomb attacks and other terrorist acts being perpetrated around the world. Not regulary, but sufficient to attract media attention, especially post 9/11. How these attacks are reported and the underlying message sought to conveyed is another matter altogether.

It's a topic William Bowles takes up in an interesting piece on Information Clearing House:

"Y‘know it’s amazing really, considering that for centuries Europeans have been invading other countries, enslaving their peoples, ripping off their resources and in the process impoverishing much of the planet. And what is more, moving in and taking up residence without so much as a ‘by your leave’ let alone being put through an intensive examination upon their arrival.

Inevitably therefore, a time would come when through sheer force of circumstances, the descendents of our former overseas possessions would make the hazardous and brave trek to these shores in search of a better life or even to save their lives, largel…

Can One Live without China?

Is there anything these days which hasn't been made in China? It would seem not!

FP [Foreign Policy] posed the question:

"Is it possible to go for a whole year without buying any products made in China? One woman in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, wanted to find out. FP spoke with author Sara Bongiorni about her new book, the hidden role China plays in our everyday lives, and what it’s like to be a mother of two without a coffee maker."

FOREIGN POLICY: So first, tell us about your book, A Year Without “Made in China”. What motivated you to write it?

Sara Bongiorni: I used to be a business reporter, and I would see this trade data coming from the U.S. Commerce Department each month. You see billions and billions of dollars worth coming in, and you can’t really make sense of it. It’s just so huge, and I felt very disconnected from that information.

So then this impromptu idea just popped into my head. It was two days after Christmas at the end of 2004, and my husband and I were in …

Some "mixed bag"! - with lies thrown in for good measure

George Bush asks the American people for patience in the Iraq War. For what is not really spelt out. His own scorecard on how things are going in Iraq is hardly encouraging. And then there are the continuation of all those lies.

Arianna Huffington in her The Huffington Reporttakes Bush to task in the clearest terms:

"So to hear the president and the White House spin it (and the media dutiful report it), the interim progress report on Iraq the administration will submit to Congress today is "a mixed bag."

According to Bush's scorecard, progress on eight of the 18 benchmarks set by Congress in May has been "satisfactory," on another eight it has been "unsatisfactory," and two are too close to call.

And this, according to the president, "is a cause for optimism."

That's like a doctor telling you that while your child has shiny hair he also has a brain tumor -- and you coming away thinking the doctor's report is "a mixed ba…