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Showing posts from August, 2007

His Story

"Two months ago, I took a stand that changed my life forever. As a Soldier, a JVB Protective Service Agent, and a Sniper with the Army who had been in Iraq for a year (running over 250 combat missions), I refused to continue to be a part of the occupation. I regret nothing. This is my story. Currently, as I write this I am sitting in Kuwait, on "stand-by" to return to the States sometime hopefully this week. After getting out of the brig last week, I’m now scheduled to be discharged from the Army within the month. I'm looking forward to joining forces with anti-Iraq-War movements, such as Courage to Resist and Iraq Veterans Against the War.

What led me to this place in my life?"

So begins "My Story" - by Eleonai "Eli" Israel, on "Courage to Resist" and reproduced on Information Clearing House. It's an insight into what has led a US soldier to take the stand he has. Read it all here. last!

Justice, just at the last minute, has been done! Kenneth Foster's death penalty has been commuted to a life sentence by the Governor of Texas. The background to the Kenneth Foster "story" can be found in a MPS posting, yesterday, Execution of a non-murderer.

Meanwhile, The Nation addresses the whole issue in a piece "Evolution in Texas":

"There are many Americans who do not believe in evolution. And it is probably fair to say that a disproportionate number of them reside in Texas.

But it is from Texas that we gain confirmation of the absolute certainty that human evolution is a reality.

When George Bush was governor of Texas in the 1990s, he approved executions with impunity, sending to death those who might have been innocent and those who might have been guilty, those who had repented and those who had not, those who had adequate representation and those whose lawyers slept through the trials, those who had the mental capacity to understand their crime…

More Shame, More Sorrow

"In the administration of George W. Bush, the Republican Party has achieved the greatest combination of idiocy and evil in human history.

The Republicans have bogged America down in a gratuitous and illegal war. The war has destroyed Iraq, killed between 650,000 and 1,000,000 Iraqi civilians, displaced 4,000,000 Iraqis, and littered the country with depleted uranium. Bush’s war remains unwon despite its five year duration and $1 trillion in out-of-pocket and incurred future costs.

Bush’s invasion of Iraq is a war crime under the Nuremberg standard, a direct counterpart to Hitler’s invasion of Poland. Both were based on lies and deception, and the declared reasons for both were masks for secret agendas.

Bush’s invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, his planned attack on Iran [], and his support for Israel’s attack on Lebanon and genocidal policies toward the Palestinians have radicalized the Middle East and Muslims worldwide. Ame…

Execution for a non-murderer

The US legal system, so called, is often totally unjust and bizarre. The laws of the State of Texas are quite extraordinary, as the case of Kenneth Foster - a non-murderer who is due to be executed today - shows. The Independentexplains a law which on any statute book of a country other than the US would be condemned as backward, outrageous and against all tenets of anything remotely according to notions of justice.

"A 30-year old man, Kenneth Foster, is set to be executed today for a murder which he not only did not commit, but which the authorities in Texas accept was carried out by another man in 1996.

The trial judge, the prosecutor, and the jury that sentenced Mr Foster to die admit that he did not murder the victim Michael LaHood. But, under a controversial "law of parties", in Texas an associate of a perpetrator can be found co-responsible in a capital case. The law imposes the death penalty on anybody involved in a crime where a murder occurred.

This is how…

Untold devastation and dislocation

The immediately previous posting relating to the Israelis counselling the Americans not to attack Iraq was probably prescient - although the Israelis doubtlessly had their own agenda - but the consequences of the Iraq War have been horrendous.

Agency France Presse [reproduced on Common Dreams] puts the human devastation and dislocation caused by the Iraqi War into graphic context:

More than four million Iraqis have fled their homes because of sectarian violence, the largest population movement in the Middle East since Palestinians left the new state of Israel, the United Nations refugee agency said on Tuesday.

“An estimated 4.2 million Iraqis have been uprooted from their homes, with the monthly rate of displacement climbing to over 60,000 people compared to 50,000 previously,” UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) spokeswoman Jennifer Pagonis told journalists.

More than two million Iraqis are displaced within their own country, with around half being uprooted following the February …

A warning and counsel ignored.....

While George Bush & Co ramp up the anti-Iran rhetoric - which all sounds ominous and all too familiar to what was being articulated pre the Iraq War - today comes news that Israel counselled the US not to attack Iraq and rather concentrate on Iran.


"Israeli officials warned the George W. Bush administration that an invasion of Iraq would be destabilising to the region and urged the United States to instead target Iran as the primary enemy, according to former administration official Lawrence Wilkerson.

Wilkerson, then a member of the State Department's Policy Planning Staff and later chief of staff for Secretary of State Colin Powell, recalled in an interview with IPS that the Israelis reacted immediately to indications that the Bush administration was thinking of war against Iraq. After the Israeli government picked up the first signs of that intention, Wilkerson says, "The Israelis were telling us Iraq is not the enemy -- Iran is the enemy."


High-tech tyranny

It's being described as high-tech tyranny. Two internet search giants, Yahoo and MSN, have signed up to the latest attempts by China to censor and control the blogs of online users.

They've also agreed to provide hardware to make it easier for government surveillance online.

It's not the first time Yahoo has collaborated with the Chinese government.

Yahoo has admitted it's been handing online users' information over to Beijing for years.

Rights groups say China then uses that information to imprison and torture scores of dissidents.

Yahoo says it is just obeying local laws.

That doesn't wash with the World Organisation for Human Rights (USA). It's now suing Yahoo on behalf of jailed Chinese dissidents.

Morton Sklar heads the organisation's American office. He spoke with Fran Kelly, presenter of ABC Radio National's Breakfast program, from Washington this morning - here.

Meanwhile, an article backgrounding the issue can be read, here, on the organisation…

John Howard losing on all fronts

Crikeyreveals something not widely picked up by the mainstream media - John Howard isn't seen as the best economic manager of the Oz economy:

"It’s barely had a run, but a fascinating Ipsos Mackay poll for Meet the Press released on Sunday put Labor in front as better economic managers.

The ALP hasn’t stolen John Howard’s crown yet. The polls found more voters believe federal Labor would be the better economic manager -- 39% to 36%. A high 25% of voters remain undecided.

Where their votes fall will be crucial -- but the Government can’t draw much encouragement from a second Ipsos poll which found 24% of voters saying they were more likely to vote Labor as a result of the rate rise.

Yesterday, Galaxy found that only 32% of voters believe that the $17.3 billion surplus announced last week is a product of "good financial management" – instead, 51% believe the Government has "mainly achieved this surplus through tax rates being too high".

And the news just gets wor…

How to build an illegal settlement......

Whilst Israel speaks of seeking some sort of accord with the Palestinians - or least the Abbas Fatah group, as distinct to Hamas in Gaza - it continues, unabated, in building settlements in the West Bank.

The way a settlement comes into existence, and grows, is clearly explained in a piece written by dissident Israeli architect, Eyal Weizman, published on SocialistWorkeronline:

"The occupied West Bank, 1999. A group of Israeli settlers complain that their mobile phone reception cuts out on a bend in a road from Jerusalem to their settlements.

The mobile phone company Orange agrees to put up an antenna on a hill overlooking the bend.

The hill happens to be owned by Palestinian farmers, but since mobile phone reception is a “security issue”, the mast construction can go ahead without the farmers’ permission.

Other companies agree to supply electricity and water to the construction site on the hill.

In May 2001 an Israeli security guard moves on to the site and connects his cabin to the w…

Iraq: A different coup?

That Iraqi PM al-Maliki is somewhat on the nose with the powers-that-be can be seen from the criticisms and barbs directed at him.

He is now confronted with another twist to the "story" of Iraq - as Arianne Huffington in The Huffington Reportreports:

"As we all await the Petraeus Report on the state of the surge, we may also need to be anticipating the Allawi Coup.

I'm talking, of course about Ayad Allawi, longtime C.I.A. asset and former interim prime minister of Iraq. He's making quite the PR push to get his old job back, penning an op-ed for the Washington Post, hooking up with Wolf Blitzer on Late Edition on Sunday, and even putting the high-powered GOP lobbying firm Barbour Griffith & Rogers on a $300,000 retainer.

It says everything you need to know about who the true power holders in Iraq are that Allawi, who has a "six-point plan" for Iraq that involves replacing the current Prime Minister, is campaigning in Washington -- not Baghdad. He clearl…

Another disastrous outcome for the Coalition of the Willing

It's bad enough that the people of Afghanistan and Iraq have been devastated by the wars underway in their respective countries - thanks to the foreign forces in both countries. It's equally bad for the troops and their families fighting there. More troubling, on a much great world-wide basis, is that opium-production has grown hugely in Afghanistan this year - with all that entails apart from providing funds to the Taliban.

The Independentreports:

"Britain faces a war on two fronts in Afghanistan, following the revelation that the province where British troops are deployed has become the biggest source of illicit drugs in the world.

In an annual survey of opium production released yesterday, the UN reported that Helmand province had produced 48 per cent more opium compared to its record-breaking crop last year. Opium production in Afghanistan as a whole will reach a "frighteningly new level" at 8,200 tons, 34 per cent higher than last year, the report said.


No loss!

Whether it be a disintegration of the Bush "team" or not, the resignation of his Attorney-General Gonzales is "interesting".

The Salon take on the resignation "Why Did Gonzales Resign?":

"When Alberto Gonzales swiftly turned heel on the stage at the Department of Justice without answering questions about his resignation as attorney general he left behind yet another lingering cloud of mystery. What is he not telling about his resignation?

The true story may be something like the denouement of Edgar Allan Poe's "The Purloined Letter," which was in plain sight all along, a solution that can, as Poe wrote, "escape observation by dint of being excessively obvious; and here the physical oversight is precisely analogous with the moral inapprehension by which the intellect suffers to pass unnoticed those considerations which are too obtrusively and too palpably self-evident." To be excessively obvious, Gonzales' resignation, followi…

Bill Moyer's farewell to Karl Rove

Karl Rove, George Bush's brain, as he has been called, has, certainly openly, left the scene at the White House.

Veteran journalist, Bill Moyers, having referred to what others said about Rove post his announced retirement,reflects on Rove this way:

"....There is, of course, more to be said. What struck me about my fellow Texan, Karl Rove, is that he knew how to win elections as if they were divine interventions. You may think God summoned Billy Graham to Florida on the eve of the 2000 election to endorse George W. Bush just in the nick of time, but if it did happen that way, the good lord was speaking with a Texas accent.

Karl Rove figured out a long time ago that the way to take an intellectually incurious draft-averse naughty playboy in a flight jacket with chewing tobacco in his back pocket and make him governor of Texas, was to sell him as God's anointed in a state where preachers and televangelists outnumber even oil derricks and jack rabbits. Using church pews as prec…

Some "interesting" questions about 9/11

With the sixth anniversary of 9/11 upon us in a couple of weeks, Robert Fisk's latest piece in The Independent is worth pondering, or at least reflecting on....

"Each time I lecture abroad on the Middle East, there is always someone in the audience – just one – whom I call the "raver". Apologies here to all the men and women who come to my talks with bright and pertinent questions – often quite humbling ones for me as a journalist – and which show that they understand the Middle East tragedy a lot better than the journalists who report it. But the "raver" is real. He has turned up in corporeal form in Stockholm and in Oxford, in Sao Paulo and in Yerevan, in Cairo, in Los Angeles and, in female form, in Barcelona. No matter the country, there will always be a "raver".

His – or her – question goes like this. Why, if you believe you're a free journalist, don't you report what you really know about 9/11? Why don't you tell the truth – that …

A Most Inconvenient Truth

Sooner or later the truth will be out - even if not fully. In politics to ascertain what has been going on is not always that easy to establish.

The gassing of the Kurds by Saddam has always been trotted out in support of showing how evil the Iraq dictator was and well got rid of. Now, it seems that it's not all that simple and the hand of US politics and hypocrisy in relation to Iraq, and the gassing of the Kurds, has been revealed in a new book, as The Nation reveals:

"If the United States ever possessed a shred of moral authority for the invasion of Iraq, it came from Halabja, a Kurdish town of about 70,000 people nestling in a bowl in front of the towering mountain chain that fringes Iraq's northeast frontier with Iran. Halabja was once famous among Kurds as the "city of poets," and the townspeople were known for their love of books. It is doubtful that George W. Bush had ever heard of the poets, but he did find it useful to know that in 1988 Halabja…

And this is our police "at work"?

The Haneef case in Australia has attracted much attention. Leaving aside the disgraceful conduct of the Federal Government in the whole affair - notably the Attorney-General and Immigration Minister - the release of the transcript of the police interrogation of Dr. Haneef is not only pathetic but highlights the ineptitude of the Federal Police "interrogator". Ignorance is a word which comes to mind when considering the seemingly decent police interrogator.

David Marr, writing in the SMH, analyses the interrogation and what it tells us about the police and Immigration Minister:

"Geography was not one of my better subjects at school," Detective Sergeant Adam Simms of the Joint Counter-Terrorism Team admitted to the prisoner in the sixth hour of the interrogation. "Bangalore, where's that in relation to Pakistan?"

As good a reason as any for the Australian Federal Police to be so furious this week at the release of the transcript of the second interrog…

Blogs to You!

The debate continues! Newspapers in decline or the world of news and comment changing, dramatically, with the advent of on-line journalism and the ever-pervasive blogs?

It's a on-going discussion, and analysis, which will continue for some time, but there is no getting away from the fact that the dissemination of news and opinion-forming pieces - if not downright simple politicking - is undergoing huge changes. Just think of move.on in the US and GetUp in Australia.

A veteran newspaper man puts the whole thing into perspective in this most interesting piece, "Bogs to You" in [well worth subscribing to by the way]:

"A good newspaper, I suppose, is a nation talking to itself,’ said the great American playwright Arthur Miller in 1961, and now the technology is in place to allow that conversation to happen in real time.

Blogging, podcasting and video sharing on sites like YouTube are dramatically changing the media landscape, allowing a host of …

Reflections on comparing Iraq and Vietnam....

George Bush has drawn a long-bow, or most likely got it totally wrong, in attempting to draw on parallels between or lessons from the present Iraq war and the ill-fated Vietnam one.

How the people around him deal with the present situation in Iraq isn't without interest either - as veteran journalist Robert Parry explores in this piece on his blog

"Now that President Bush has invited comparisons between Iraq and Vietnam, a parallel could be drawn between Gates and Clark Clifford, the Defense Secretary who took over the job in March 1968 at the height of the Vietnam War and persuaded President Lyndon Johnson to start down the road toward a negotiated settlement.

Like Gates, Clifford replaced a Defense Secretary (Robert McNamara) who was tied to an increasingly unpopular war. McNamara was considered as much an architect of the Vietnam War as Gates’s predecessor (Donald Rumsfeld) was of the Iraq War.

In another parallel, it was learned later that McNamara harbore…

The problem isn't Maliki

Notwithstanding the White House trying to put a positive spin on things in Iraq, seeking to shift blame onto Iraqi PM al-Maliki and Osama bin Laden, etc. etc. there seems little doubt that Iraq is an unholy mess on just about every conceivable level.

The IHT has an incisive and spot-on Opinion piece putting the entire Iraq fiasco into context:

"Blaming the prime minister of Iraq, rather than the president of the United States, for the failure of U.S. policy, is cynical politics, pure and simple. It is neither fair nor helpful in figuring out how to end America's biggest foreign policy fiasco since Vietnam.

Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki has been catastrophic for Iraq ever since he took over from the equally disastrous Ibrahim al-Jaafari more than a year ago. America helped engineer Jaafari's removal, only to get Maliki. That tells you something important about whether this is more than a matter of personalities. Jaafari, as it…

AIPAC tactics under attack

AIPAC - a pro-Israeli lobby group - is said to be the #2 lobby group in the US after #1, the NRA, the gun lobbyists. Bear in mind that the NRA does not seek to influence US foreign policy. AIPAC's tactics, and effect, have been the subject of criticism, no more so than by people such as Professors Mearsheimer and Walt, both respected scholars at prestigious universities.

More troubling that the mere hard-line lobbying pro-Israel lobbying of AIPAC, is the epithet it always throws out at Jews who dare speak out or criticise it or Israel. They are invariably labeled Jewish anti-semites or self-hating Jews.

It is therefore refreshing to read this moderated and cogently argued piece, by a Jew, "AIPAC is Hurting Israel, Jews, and Middle-East Peace", on The Huffington Post:

"The Jewish communities around the world have made wonderful contributions to civil and human rights. In addition, no community has a better record of standing up for and actively being involved…

Minister's incompetence exposed!

Immigration Minister Kevin Andrews, a lawyer [crikey!], has displayed his incompetence in all its glory the last weeks. In fact he has all along demonstrated what an appalling and poor Minister he is in his present portfolio - as also in his previous portfolio of Employment and Workplace Relations. Apart from being the narrow-minded, religiously-driven, one-eyed individual he appears to be, he certainly doesn't come within a bull's roar of being capable of holding office as a Minister of the Crown - as Mike Carlton backgrounds in his weekly piece in the SMH:

"To give him the benefit of the doubt, it might just be that soapy Kevin Andrews, the Immigration Minister, is as thick as two planks.

That would be the kindest explanation for the trail of chaos he leaves behind as he bumbles along through the dismal affair of Dr Mohamed Haneef and the vanishing visa.

Then again, it is also possible that he set out deliberately to distort the public case against the good doctor by…

Voting....with emotion?

We vote - and in some countries are required to do so by law - but do we do so with emotion? Nah! you say. Well, a US professor begs to differ, as he has detailed in a new book, The Political Brain.

Mark Colvin, presenter of ABC Radio National's PM program interviewed the author-professor, Drew Westen:

"Mark Colvin: When we all go to the polls in this year's federal election, will your decision be based on facts or emotions?

Most of us would probably answer facts, but recent advances in brain science suggest that we vote much more emotionally than we may imagine.

Drew Westen is Professor of Psychology and Psychiatry at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, and he's written a book investigating these advances, called The Political Brain.

A supporter and adviser to the Democratic Party, he argues that "the question for Democratic politics isn't so much about moving to the right or the left, but about moving the electorate".

Read a fascinating interview, here

No "spark" in downtown Baghdad

That things are going from bad to worse in Iraq is clearly seen from this piece from Newsweek. How on earth the Coalition of the Willing see all of this winning the hearts and minds of the local populace is hard to see. George Bush can speak about comparisons with Vietnam, and others about "progress" in the war-torn country - whatever that might mean! - but in the final analysis all independent assessments conclude that Iraq is a total basket-case.

"Electricity output in Iraq has been slightly lower this summer than last year. For the fifth year since the 2003 invasion, Iraqis sweat out sleepless nights on their roofs, seeking to escape the heat inside their homes. They see food spoil in warm refrigerators and go without water as household electric pumps sit idle. Televisions can't be used to keep kids from going out into the dangerous streets. Those who can afford a generator or tap into a neighbor's can get power for as long as they can pay the increased p…

Putin and Russia 2007 style

President Putin has just restored observation flights and is on the path of arming Russia in the fact of the US and Nato countries placing nuclear weapons in Europe close to the Russian borders. Not offensive says George Bush. President Putin obviously doesn't think so.

More troubling, as The Economist highlights in its piece, a successor to the old KGB - Putin's old stomping ground - is alive and well in Russia:

"On the evening of August 22nd 1991—16 years ago this week—Alexei Kondaurov, a KGB general, stood by the darkened window of his Moscow office and watched a jubilant crowd moving towards the KGB headquarters in Lubyanka Square. A coup against Mikhail Gorbachev had just been defeated. The head of the KGB who had helped to orchestrate it had been arrested, and Mr Kondaurov was now one of the most senior officers left in the fast-emptying building. For a moment the thronged masses seemed to be heading straight towards him.

Then their anger was diverted to the stat…

Iraq: the NIE Report and Robert Fisk....on it all going downhill

The news out of Washington, today, is that an intelligence report has determined that all is not well in Iraq, in particular any political stability there.

The Washington Postreports:

"Iraq remains "unable to govern" itself effectively and hobbled by the absence of strong leadership, and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's inability to broker political accord continues to make him vulnerable, according to a new U.S. intelligence report released today.

Seven months after President Bush ordered more U.S. troops to the country, "there have been measurable but uneven improvements in Iraq's security situation," the report concludes. . If U.S. forces continue their current strategy, security "will continue to improve modestly" over the next six to 12 months but violence will remain high and political reconciliation will remain elusive.

The report , determined that while some Iraqi security forces "have performed adequately," overall they "h…

Fox News "attacks" Iran

All the fears about Rupert Murdoch and his potential influence over the Wall Street Journal are doubtlessly correct. Witness Fox News - a company in the Murdoch stable - on what seems to be its effective declaration of war on Iran - all too, too familiar to the hype and rubbish put out by Fox pre the Iraq War. Remember that it was Murdoch who so famously supported the Iraq War and claimed that one outcome of the War would be that oil would cost US$20 a barrel. Today's price? US$69.26. It was over $75 recently.

Watch the video clip here. Be appalled!

Yikes! That's some inflation!

Zimbabwe continues to go backwards on all levels - not the least economically, politically and in human rights. The world sits idle by probably because, one, it's Africa, and secondly, Zimbabwe has no oil or anything like minerals of value to the West.

The BBC reports on the latest, staggering, inflation numbers in Zimbabwe:

"Zimbabwe's annual rate of inflation jumped to 7,638% in July according to the first official figures to be published for three months.

The Central Statistical Office said inflation had more than doubled since May - the last official data released.

Since then the government has ordered shopkeepers to slash their prices and arrested anyone who has failed to obey.

Last month, the International Monetary Fund warned annual inflation could reach 100,000% by the end of the year.

The Consumer Council of Zimbabwe has said the real year-on-year inflation is far higher than the official rate - claiming it was nearer 13,000% in June."

Living with blinkers on....

Anyone who has visited the US will know that both newspapers and TV is a wasteland insofar as any international news is concerned. Aside from any American notion that what happens outside its borders is irrelevant to the US, the media obviously sees no need to "educate" its readers or viewers. Then again, why should the media if there isn't any "demand" from the populace?

Columbia Journalism Review makes the point in a revealing piece:

"From April 1 to June 29 of this year, coverage of the war in Iraq was down across the board, as compared to the first three months of the year. That’s according to the latest quarterly report from the Project for Excellence in Journalism, which has been tracking which stories get the most play in the national media.

“In all, the policy debate [over Iraq] filled 7% of the space or airtime in the quarter,” the study says, “down from 12% in the three months of the year.”

But not all war coverage, even when it’s down, is cr…

Shielding the President's eyes....

How to shape political thinking? How to assess what the people are saying? Simple proposition one might have thought - certainly for a politician, and certainly a President or a PM.

It seem that President Shrub needs to be sheltered from the people - that is, people who haven't been vetted from being with eyesight of the President or might be seen on TV in any footage of the George W addressing the people. Protestors can forget it if they think they might even get within earshot of the President.

There is a Manual on all of this at the White House, as The Washington Postreveals:

"Not that they're worried or anything. But the White House evidently leaves little to chance when it comes to protests within eyesight of the president. As in, it doesn't want any.

A White House manual that came to light recently gives presidential advance staffers extensive instructions in the art of "deterring potential protestors" from President Bush's public appearanc…

Those Exclusive Brethren

The revelation, today, that PM Howard and Treasurer Costello have met with members of the Exclusive Brethren gives one cause for concern. They may be a so-called religious group, but their activities and "ways" are shady to say the least. The politicians can't so easily brush off their meetings with the EB, more especially as they were instrumental "players" in Howard's electorate last election.

The ABC Radio National program, Background Briefing, went into a background of the organisation last year:

"They shun contact with the world. Not just with technology, books, radio and TV, but also other people. They do not vote, because voting interferes with God's right to ordain who rules. But Satan has infiltrated democracy and the Exclusive Brethren have started putting money and time into political campaigns."

Read a transcript of the program, and read relevant documents, here.

A BBC report on the sect, back in 2000, can be read here.

Speaking out....

It may be only a small step but US troops who have returned from Iraq now speaking out may be a sign of visible tide turning in America. Of course, what the troops are saying, so publicly, gives the lie to all the White House PR that things are looking up, hang in there until the Commander in Iraq presents his Report, etc. etc.

That the entire Iraq "venture" has been an unmitigated disaster, on every level, appears beyond doubt - as any reading of the media, generally, or publications, reports or blog on line, readily testify.

Watch the US troops speak out on YouTube here.

When the Occupation Gets Really Filthy

Israel's development of that wall - surely the joke of the year when it is called a "fence" by the Israelis and its apologists - continues unabated. The whole exercise, together what is being undertaken in relation to establishing settlements in the West Bank, gives a lie to any thought the Israelis might have [apparently none!] in moving out of the West Bank in any peace settlement with the Palestinians.

IPS describes and shows in graphic terms in a piece "When the Occupation Gets Really Filthy" the havoc the Israeli incursion is causing to the local Arab population:

"In the orange glow of another sunset, AwadAbuSwai, 36, stands underneath a towering fig tree, a sample of its fruit in his hand. He peels back the bright green skin to expose crimson jelly and seeds inside

"The Israeli military came inside the valley and cut about 50 apricot and walnut trees since May. And now, they are coming to cut more trees. This is all because of what they are bui…

Troubling Jose Padilla case revisited

Paul Craig Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan administration. He was Associate Editor of the Wall Street Journal editorial page and Contributing Editor of National Review.

With governments around the world tightening so-called anti-terrorism laws - a notable example being Australia with some of the most draconian and problematic laws - this piece by Roberts on the very vexed and troublesome Jose Padilla case in CounterPunch bears a close reading:

"Jose Padilla's conviction on terrorism charges on August 16 was a victory, not for justice, but for the US Justice (sic) Department's theory that a US citizen can be convicted, not because he committed a terrorist act but for allegedly harboring aspirations to commit such an act. By agreeing with the Justice (sic) Department's theory, the incompetent Padilla Jury delivered a deadly blow to the rule of law and opened Pandora's Box.

Anglo-American law is a human achievement 800 years in the making. …

Latest: Terrorism Index updated

Not surprisingly, Foreign Policy magazine's Terrorism Index released in the last hour shows that things are getting worse on the terrorism front and, not surprisingly, the so-called surge in Iraq isn't working:

"....FOREIGN POLICY and the Center for American Progress once again turned to the very people who have run the United States’ national security apparatus during the past half century. Surveying more than 100 of America’s top foreign-policy experts—Republicans and Democrats alike—the FOREIGN POLICY/Center for American Progress Terrorism Index is the only comprehensive, nonpartisan effort to mine the highest echelons of the nation’s foreign-policy establishment for its assessment of how the United States is fighting the war on terror. First released in July 2006, and again last February, the index attempts to draw definitive conclusions about the war’s priorities, policies, and progress. Its participants include people who have served as secretary of state, national s…

Starving Gaza - with horrendous consequences!

Chris Hedges is well-versed in the affairs of the Middle East. He is a former Bureau chief in Jerusalem of the NY Times.

The last weeks have seen Gaza isolated even more than previously. Right-thinking people have said that even putting to one side the horrendous humanitarian crisis caused by this siege and isolation, the political outcome, long term, is bound to be a disaster.

Hedges writes [in truthdig.comhere] about the effect of the effective siege in graphic terms:

"The effects of the siege are disastrous. Palestinians in Gaza are not allowed to travel abroad. They cannot enter Israel for work. They do not fish off the coast because Israeli gunboats open fire at any vessels that are more than a mile offshore. Gaza has seen 75 percent of its factories closed since June, with the loss of 68,000 jobs, according to the World Bank. There is a 70 percent unemployment rate, and 1.1 million of the 1.5 million Palestinians in Gaza depend on U.N. assistance to survive. The boycot…

Bye-Bye Baghdad

The other day 7 soldiers, serving in Iraq, wrote in the NY Times about their experiences in the war-torn country: see yesterday's posting on MPS.

Now, publishes a piece "Bye-Bye Baghdad" written by one of those contractors we read about - the ones said to be earning a small fortune working alongside, or instead of, the military in Iraq:

"I have been living and working in Baghdad for the past 16 months and will be leaving next week for good. I am one of those overpaid Department of Defense contractors, or, as some would call me, a “war profiteer.” Yes, I have profited. I am out of debt and have money saved. But it has cost me. I am a changed man. I have become hardened. I almost feel like a zombie.

Although I work in Baghdad, I have no idea what Baghdad looks like. I have been told by soldiers that it is “like one of those Mexican border towns.” I don’t live in the “heavily fortified” Green Zone, which, although heavily fortified, has been getting hit with …

Israel turns away refugees from Dafur

Refugees from Dafur have either been turned away at the border to Israel or actually expelled from the country - something one might have thought Israel would not do given its own "birth" out of the Holocaust and all those Jews displaced by the War. A true dilemma!

The Washington Post reports:

"Israel closed the door Sunday on a surge of asylum-seekers from Sudan's Darfur region and from other African countries, the largest influx of non-Jewish refugees in the modern history of the Jewish state.

Authorities announced that they had expelled 48 of more than 2,000 African refugees who have entered illegally from Egypt in recent weeks. Officials said they would allow 500 Darfurians among them to remain, but would deport everyone else back to Egypt and accept no more illegal migrants from Darfur or other places.

The announcement, raising new concerns over the refugees' safety, heightened a debate in Israel over what responsibilities a nation created by survivors of gen…

Iraq: Seven US soldiers speak out

We don't often get the opportunity to hear, let alone read, what the soldiers "on the ground" in Iraq have to say on what is happening there. Listen to the politicians and it will mostly be spin - and probably be flawed information if not downright lies.

It is therefore welcome, and refreshing, to read what seven US soldiers have to say in "The Iraq war as we see it"- as published in the IHT:

"Viewed from Iraq at the tail end of a 15-month deployment, the political debate in Washington is surreal.

Counterinsurgency is, by definition, a competition between insurgents and counterinsurgents for the control and support of a population. To believe that Americans, with an occupying force that long ago outlived its reluctant welcome, can win over a recalcitrant local population and win this counterinsurgency is far-fetched.

As responsible infantrymen and noncommissioned officers with the 82nd Airborne Division soon heading back home, we are skeptical of recent pres…

Tossing fuel on the fire

The Israelis are, doubtlessly, celebrating the fact that the US will extend military aid to Israel over the next 10 years to the extent of US$30 billion. Long term this aid will come back and bite the Americans on the bum - as also the military aid to be given to Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

How the US electorate will respond to this generous aid given that its own infrastructure has been seen to be wanting - witness the recent bridge collapse - is hard to know at this stage. David Lindorff, writing in CounterPunch, addresses the issue:

"According to a new Associated Press report, the US is offering Israel a record $30-billion 10-year military aid package.

Let's ignore for a moment the AP story's irony-free comment that "Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns said the package was meant to back peace-seeking countries like Israel and moderate Arab states in the region to counter U.S. adversaries such as Iran." (Israel is a "peace-seeking…

An evaluation of Australia in 2007

The New Statesman has a 4 pieces on Australia under the banner "Focus on Australia [here].

One of the pieces,"Still the Lucky Country" - an incisive and perceptive one - has been written by Julianne Schultz, editor of The Griffith Review. She writes:

"Over the past decade under John Howard's leadership, Aus tralia has become a much more cynical, unimaginative and materialistic place. Gone is the sense of crafting a unique environment, characterised by cultural diversity, openness, inclusiveness, Aboriginal reconciliation and a creative yet pragmatic approach to policymaking. The spirit captured by the Sydney Olympics and beamed to the world in 2000 has dissipated. That outward-looking, self-confident Australia has become defensive, socially and culturally divided and domestically complacent. It still works better than most places, but it is no longer a demonstration project on the future.

Instead, Australians have jettisoned much of their carefree larrikinism …

Racism is alive and well in the US ...The Jena Six

This piece, from Counterpunch, clearly highlights how racism and a poor legal system is alive and well in the USA.

The "story" makes for appalling reading as it shows, all too clearly, that whilst some progress has been made in America to eradicate racism, bigotry is still rampant - and the justice "system" is not addressing the problem. Of course, bottom line, it is the people of the US who must confront the underlying scourge of racism and prejudice.

"Almost a year ago, in the small northern Louisiana town of Jena, a group of white students hung three nooses from a tree in front of Jena High School. This set into motion a season of racial tension and incidents that culminated in six Black youths facing a lifetime in jail for a schoolyard fight.

The story that has unfolded since then is one of racism and injustice, but also of resistance and solidarity, as people from around the world have joined together with the families of the accused, lending legal …

Evidence points to Israel having started Lebanon War

The Israel PR machine has always pumped out the line that Hezbollah started the Lebanon war last year. The Western media has mainly just accepted that as the fact.

Now, evidence is emerging that, in fact, it was the Israeli who started the War. Only last weekend Haaretz editorialised to that effect.

As Jonathan Cook writes on Anti

"It has been left to the Israeli media to begin rewriting the history of last summer. Last weekend, an editorial in the liberal Haaretz newspaper went so far as to admit that this was "a war initiated by Israel against a relatively small guerrilla group." Israel's supporters, including high-profile defenders like Alan Dershowitz in the US who claimed that Israel had no choice but to bomb Lebanon, must have been squirming in their seats.

There are several reasons why Haaretz may have reached this new assessment.

Recent reports have revealed that one of the main justifications for Hezbollah's continuing resistance – that Israel …

The mind-numbing cost of war

The figures speak for detailed by Katrina Vanden Heuvel in this piece in The Nation on the breathtaking and mind-numbing cost of the Iraq War:

"The National Priorities Project (NPP), a research organization that analyzes and clarifies federal data so that people can understand how their tax dollars are spent, continues to be an invaluable resource when it comes to translating the costs of the Iraq War.

$456 billion has now been appropriated for the war through September 30, and that's a difficult number to get a handle on. But as I've written previously (here and here), NPP spells out exactly what every state and district has paid towards this catastrophe and describes the spending priorities that could have been met with those same resources.

For example, $456 billion could have provided over 48 million children with health care coverage for the length of the War; built 3.5 million affordable housing units; 45,800 elementary schools; hired 8 million addit…

Debt culture gone awry...

The last days have seen world stock markets a sea of red. Billions of dollars have been wiped off the value of companies around the globe. The horror word is debt - and a fear that the end of the downturn hasn't been reached yet. The potential fallout of all of this is hard to presently gauge.

What we in the West don't read about is how the turbulence of the last days has been viewed in the Middle East.

Hamid Varzi is an economist and banker based in Tehran and in an op-ed piece in the IHT writes:

"The U.S. economy, once the envy of the world, is now viewed across the globe with suspicion. America has become shackled by an immovable mountain of debt that endangers its prosperity and threatens to bring the rest of the world economy crashing down with it.

The ongoing sub-prime mortgage crisis, a result of irresponsible lending policies designed to generate commissions for unscrupulous brokers, presages far deeper problems in a U.S. economy that is beginning to resembl…

The Chinese check out the Old World

With all those Chinese gaining increasing wealth, the tourism industry, worldwide, must be salivating at the prospect of all those tourists visiting their respective countries. It would seem it might be like an endless tide. There is no doubt that the Chinese are already out there visiting the Old World:

"Chinese tourists have recently discovered Europe as a destination. SPIEGEL traveled with a group who covered 11 countries in 14 days by bus, snapping the sights and buying up brand names. But for some the Old World was a disappointment, full of lazy Italians and slovenly French."

And this is what you call American justice?

The US government via the prosecuting attorney crows about the conviction secured of Jose Padilla. It's a trial which has been keenly observed for a host of reasons, not the least of all the alleged basis for the charges against Padilla. No less importantly, is the background to the trial as explained by Amy Goodman on Democracy Now [and reproduced on AlterNet]:

"On Thursday, the jury in the Jose Padilla terror trial has found the American citizen guilty of conspiracy to support Islamic terrorism overseas. His sentencing is set for December 5 and he faces possible life in prison.

The FBI initially arrested him in Chicago in 2002 after he got off a plane from Europe. For a month he was held as a material witness. Then Attorney General John Ashcroft made a dramatic announcement -- the U.S. government had disrupted an al-Qaeda plot to set off nuclear dirty bombs inside the United States. At the center of the plot, Ashcroft alleged, was Padilla.

President Bush then classified …