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Showing posts from March, 2009

Navy to shoot ship carrying food for Tigers

The actions of the Government of Sri Lanka know no bounds - whilst the world, outrageously, sits back and does nothing - including an intention to bomb a vessel bringing food for the Tamils - as The Island Online reports:

"The Navy said yesterday that it had been alerted about a ship carrying the International Red Cross emblem about to sail to Sri Lanka from Britain carrying 2,000 tons of food for the beleagured LTTE in the guise of food aid to the people trapped in the Mullaitivu district.

Sources said this was a Tiger ruse to rouse international opinion against the Sri Lanka government.

Naval sources said that the Sri Lanka Navy would open fire on the vessel named ‘Vananga Man’ if she enters Lankan territorial waters. She is scheduled to leave Britain on March 26.

According to the Navy, the vessel is carrying the International Red Cross emblem. An organization named British Tamil Forum had said the ship would enter Sri Lankan waters despite the Navy’s protest.

The Navy has inquired…

Now why is that not surprising!

The accusations against the IDF in relation to its action in Gaza are wide-spread - from many quarters.

It was said that the IDF would investigate what are, in the main, very serious allegations.

Given Israel's attitude to thumb its nose at anyone who dares criticise it, it comes as no surprise to read in Haaretz that the IDF has shut down its investigation into any misconduct by soldiers:

"Military Advocate General Brig. Gen. Avichai Mendelblit on Monday instructed the Military Police Investigation unit to close the inquiry into soldiers' accounts of alleged misconduct and serious violations of the army's rules of engagement during Operation Cast Lead.

He said it was unfortunate that the soldiers, who discussed their Gaza experiences in private on Feb. 13 at a military academy session which was later leaked verbatim to the media, had been careless about accuracy.

"It will be difficult to evaluate the damage done to the image and morals [of the armed forces] in …

Join Winnies war and mind your language

"Winston Churchill might be well known for the battles he waged in the name of the Allied forces, but it is the lesser-known war he declared on the desecration of the English language that still rages.

At the height of the Battle of Britain, with war all around him, Churchill barked out an edict banning bureaucratese, legalese, officialese, jargon and other gobbledegook in favour of plain English. To him it was the fastest method of conveying concise, unambiguous messages to command.

As a practising plain English editor and writer, I can assure you this battle is coming at us on many fronts, from the supermarket shelves to our national capital. It is fed by intellectual vanity, fear of looking dumb, pesky lawyers (of course) and a public that has been bludgeoned into submission by its heavy, dull, self-important pedantry. This enemy of clarity and friend of the obscurantist feeds off our numb acceptance of it in our everyday lives.

Speaking of pesky lawyers, here's a sample of s…

Iraq: Forget about getting at the truth!

The UK Government has announced that it will undertake an inquiry into the Iraq War once all British troops are out of the war-torn country - some time in the middle of this year.

Will such an inquiry ever reach the truth? Highly unlikely, as Yasmin Alibhai-Brown says in her op-ed piece "It is now impossible to trust any 'official' inquiry into Iraq" in The Independent:

".....all the key players who lied grievously and sexed-up evidence have got away with it. More sickening still, the once conjoined twins Tony Blair and Alastair Campbell are today endowed with respect. Blair struts around the world stage believing himself to be a Mandela figure, a peace prophet. Campbell gets plaudits for his panache, a novel, his wit, intelligence and cockiness."

No less importantly, she begins her piece by highlighting why we won't ever learn the truth:

"I watched a report on Fallujah last week on Sky News by Lisa Holland for which she deserves our gratitude and a …

Whatever crown there was.....has slipped

Many in the world have looked to the US as a "leader" - of the so-called Free World, commercially and on all range of levels including the movie industry, technology and trends.

If the halo was ever justified - probably not!, certainly as far as many around the globe would have thought - it certainly has slipped mightily. Just think the reverberations of Wall Street, and the entire financial and economic mess in America, presently spinning around the world.

It is a theme that Nobel economics prize winner, Paul Klugman, takes up in his latest op-ed piece "America the Tarnished" in the NY Times:

"Ten years ago the cover of Time magazine featured Robert Rubin, then Treasury secretary, Alan Greenspan, then chairman of the Federal Reserve, and Lawrence Summers, then deputy Treasury secretary. Time dubbed the three “the committee to save the world,” crediting them with leading the global financial system through a crisis that seemed terrifying at the time, alth…

Behind the Scenes with Barack Obama

President Obama held a news conference the other day. At the beginning he read off a teleprompter. So much for the great communicator! That aside, for correspondents to gain access to the news conference, what that all involves and what then happens, is explained in this piece - being the transcript of the radio broadcast on Correspondent's Report on ABC Radio National - by Michael Rowland:

"A presidential press conference is as stage-managed and tightly choreographed as a Broadway show.

I managed to get hold of a rare ticket for Barack Obama's big performance last the week. Along with nearly 200 other reporters it gave me a seat in the ornate White House East Room, a few rows back from the presidential podium.

Actually getting there marked the end of a marathon journey.

Reporters lucky enough to get a seat were told to arrive four hours before the media conference began so they could clear White House security and pick up their credentials.

If nothing else it allowe…

Spanish judge to hear torture case against six Bush officials

If Bush & Co thought that leaving the White House and the end of the George W Administration would see the end of any issues in relation to their actions whilst in office, they ought to think again.

The Guardian reports that a Spanish judge is following up whether Bush officials were engaged in torture policies:

"Criminal proceedings have begun in Spain against six senior officials in the Bush administration for the use of torture against detainees in Guantánamo Bay. Baltasar Garzón, the counter-terrorism judge whose prosecution of General Augusto Pinochet led to his arrest in Britain in 1998, has referred the case to the chief prosecutor before deciding whether to proceed.

The case is bound to threaten Spain's relations with the new administration in Washington, but Gonzalo Boyé, one of the four lawyers who wrote the lawsuit, said the prosecutor would have little choice under Spanish law but to approve the prosecution.

"The only route of escape the prosecutor might have…

Newspapers’ Self-Inflicted Wounds

David Sirota is the best-selling author of the books “Hostile Takeover” (2006) and “The Uprising” (2008). He is a fellow at the Campaign for America’s Future.

Writing on in "Newspapers’ Self-Inflicted Wounds" he analyses how it is that newspapers have ended up in the parlous state they have - or disappeared altogether in some cities.

"First, financially strapped newspapers undermined their comparative advantage by replacing audience-attracting local exclusives with cheaper national content. Then, the providers of that national content diverted resources from tough-to-report investigative journalism that builds loyal readership and into paparazzi-like birdcage liner that unconvincingly portrays politicians, CEOs and their minions as celebrities.

“In place of comprehensive, complex and idiosyncratic coverage, readers of even the most serious newspapers were offered celebrity and scandal, humor and light provocation,” says journalist-turned-director David Simon,…

Seymour Hersh: Syria Calling

One cannot easily dismiss Seymour Hersh when he writes something. He is a foremost journalist who is, usually, on the money.

He writes in The New Yorker:

"When the Israelis’ controversial twenty-two-day military campaign in Gaza ended, on January 18th, it also seemed to end the promising peace talks between Israel and Syria. The two countries had been engaged for almost a year in negotiations through intermediaries in Istanbul. Many complicated technical matters had been resolved, and there were agreements in principle on the normalization of diplomatic relations. The consensus, as an ambassador now serving in Tel Aviv put it, was that the two sides had been “a lot closer than you might think.”

At an Arab summit in Qatar in mid-January, however, Bashar Assad, the President of Syria, angrily declared that Israel’s bombing of Gaza and the resulting civilian deaths showed that the Israelis spoke only “the language of blood.” He called on the Arab world to boycott Israel, close any Is…

Down Mexico Way....

Scott Horton, writing in Harper's Magazine, is right when he says that the "story" of what is happening in Mexico is under-reported:

"The most under-reported story of the last year is, simply, the turmoil in Mexico. We’ve heard about kidnappings and assassinations, usually followed by warnings that the troubles in Mexico may well “spill” across the border, and newspapers in the border states pay the issue more attention, but for the last several years a nominally conservative government in Washington has responded to the pleas of a conservative, pro-American government in Mexico City with a shrug of the shoulders and talk about building a fence on the border. Anyway, talk of “spilling across the border” is stupid. The seat of the Mexican problems is in the United States, not vice-versa."

With suggestions that the country could become a failed-State it is more than timely to establish what is going on there. Read Horton's piece here.

Please tell me, where is Israel headed?

John Meirsheimer - he of the book The Israel Lobby fame - writing on Stephen Walt's blog under the headline "Please tell me, where is Israel headed?":

"The Palestinians, of course, will remain locked up in Gaza and a handful of enclaves on the West Bank. In essence, Netanyahu and his two key ministers -- Ehud Barak (Defense) and Avigdor Lieberman (Foreign Affairs) -- are committed to creating a Greater Israel, which will cover all of the territory that was once Mandate Palestine.

The Obama administration will surely try to push Netanyahu to change his thinking about a two-state solution and work to give the Palestinians a real state of their own. The Israel lobby, however, will adamantly defend Israel's right to do whatever it wants in the Occupied Territories and make it impossible for the president to put significant pressure on Israel. Netanyahu, like all Israeli leaders, understands this basic fact of life. He knows that he will just have to say a few nice wo…

Jeff Halper speaks in Australia

The Israeli- Palestinian conflict is an issue that has divided opinions since the state of Israel was formed in 1948. What are the obstacles to achieving peace in the Middle East? Dr. Jeff Halper is an Israeli academic and activist who is no stranger to controversy. On his recent tour to Australia, the Australian Jewish News refused to advertise his lectures. This would come as little surprise to Halper, who is a vocal critic of Israel's actions in Gaza and the West Bank. Halper claims that Israeli policy towards the Palestinians is akin to apartheid, and that the issue of settlements are intrinsically linked to a wider policy to disempower the Palestinian people. As co-founder of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions he is actively involved in the non-violent protest of demolitions of Palestinian properties on what Israel deems is illegal land.

Jeff Halper grew up in Hibbing, Minnesota (alongside a young Bob Dylan) and throughout the 1960s was involved in the civil right…

The Two Toxics?

Australian PM met President Obama at the White House this past week.

The meeting of great minds......or perhaps something else?

Cartoon by Peter Broelman on

How the West lost its way in the East

Kabul was taken in days, but then the 'liberation of Afghanistan' became a slow-motion disaster. Patrick Cockburn, who has reported on the conflict for The Independent since 2001, has charted the fatal mistakes in his latest piece:

"After seven long years in which it seemed a sideshow to the bigger conflict in Iraq, the war in Afghanistan has reached a critical point. The US must now choose how far it will become further embroiled in a messy conflict which affects its relations with Pakistan, India and the wider Middle East including Iran. At a moment when the world is convulsed by the worst economic disaster since 1929, Washington will have to decide if it really wants to invest time, money, military and political resources in beating back the ragged bands of Taliban who increasingly control southern Afghanistan".

The Real Economic Crisis

Robert Dreyfuss writing in The Nation:

"Today I want to highlight an example of remarkably good and important journalism, namely, a story in the Washington Post by Karin Brulliard that opens the door, a crack at least, on the effects of the worldwide economic crisis on the most vulnerable: people who live in Africa and other "least developed" countries.

The story is called: "Zambia's Copperbelt Reels from Global Crisis."

It's important because it points out that the effects of the crisis, while bad here at home, are magnified a hundred-fold in many poor countries, which are being pushed over the brink toward societal disintegration.

First a quote:

Mines here in Zambia's Copperbelt region drive this poor nation's economy, but a plunge in global trade has slashed demand for the copper used to construct electronics and houses in the United States and Asia. That is prompting mines here to slow and shut, limiting tens of thousands of Zambians' access…

Some choice as Foreign Minister

"Imagine a country that appoints someone who has been found guilty of striking a 12-year-old boy to be its foreign minister. The person in question is also under investigation for money-laundering, fraud and breach of trust; in addition, he was a bonafide member of an outlawed racist party and currently leads a political party that espouses fascist ideas. On top of all this, he does not even reside in the country he has been chosen to represent.

Even though such a portrayal may appear completely outlandish, Israel's new foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, actually fits the above depiction to the letter."

So begins a piece by Neve Gordon in The Guardian.

What makes the piece so compelling [read it, here, in full] is that the newly appointed FM for Israel is so unsuitable to be appointed to the position that one can readily see the direction the new Government will take despite the new PM's talk about peace with the Palestinians. Pipe dream would seem to be the appr…

A "lost" voice of hope for youth in Iran

"I had to ask a staff member in the state library to help me because I couldn't figure out how to use the printers. While showing me the procedures she asked where I came from. "Iran," I answered. "That's awful. How come Iranians support terrorism?"

"We do not …," I murmured, having reservations about whether to stand up for my nation (and my identity).

I wish we, the Iranian youths, had a Fox News of sorts to broadcast our voice. I wish we had the media to show that we are not President Ahmadinejad; that Mohammad Khatami is not Ahmadinejad.

I was one of those 22 million people who voted for Khatami in 1997 when he was elected president of Iran. Intentions to vote for Khatami aside, what my friends and I shared were being Iranian and being fed up with the fanaticism present in Iran.

Those who voted for Khatami were Muslims, non-believers, Christians, gays and first-time voters. We had mostly grown up in the first decade after the 1977 revolution;…

Obama follows Bush......with more of the same

Each day he occupies the Oval Office reveals that despite all the hype and expectations heaped on Obama, that, bottom line, he isn't all that different from his discredited predecessor George W.

Example #1. The Washington Post reports:

"Civil liberties advocates are accusing the Obama administration of forsaking campaign rhetoric and adopting the same expansive arguments that his predecessor used to cloak some of the most sensitive intelligence-gathering programs of the Bush White House.

The first signs have come just weeks into the new administration, in a case filed by an Oregon charity suspected of funding terrorism. President Obama's Justice Department not only sought to dismiss the lawsuit by arguing that it implicated "state secrets," but also escalated the standoff -- proposing that government lawyers might take classified documents from the court's custody to keep the charity's representatives from reviewing them."

Example #2. It is all in t…

9/11 Mark II?

The way in which the GFC has impacted on people and cities is amply shown in two pieces.

First, Tom Englehardt on in "A Second 9/11 in Slow Motion" reflects on the change of NY on "on the street":

"Now, understand, in New York City, there's nothing strange about small businesses going down, or buildings going up. It's a city that, since birth, has regularly cannibalized itself.

What's strange in my experience -- a New Yorker born and bred -- is when storefronts, once emptied, aren't quickly repopulated.

Broadway in daylight now seems increasingly like an archeological dig in the making. Those storefronts with their fading decals ("Zagat rated") and their old signs look, for all the world, like teeth knocked out of a mouth. In a city in which a section of Broadway was once known as the Great White Way for its profligate use of electricity, and everything normally is aglow at any hour, these dead commercial spaces feel like …

The signs are all negative

It looks like President Obama isn't too sure, or confident, about securing a peace-deal between the Israelis and Palestinians.

The NY Times reports this from yesterday's press conference:

"QUESTION: Mr. President, you came to office pledging to work for peace between Israel and the Palestinians.


QUESTION: How realistic do you think those are hopes are now, given the likelihood of a prime minister who’s not fully signed up to a two- state solution and a foreign minister who’s been accused of insulting Arabs?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: It’s not easier than it was, but I think it’s just as necessary. We don’t yet know what the Israeli government is going to look like. And we don’t yet know what the future shape of Palestinian leadership is going to be comprised of.

What we do know is this; that the status quo is unsustainable. That it is critical for us to advance a two-state solution where Israelis and Palestinians can live side by side in their own states with peace…

Urgent Need for Peace

One has to wonder what is propelling NY Times op-ed columnist Roger Cohen to write - and the Times to publish - so regularly on the topic, but again his latest piece "The Fierce Urgency of Peace" addresses the Israel-Palestine conflict and the need for a resolution there.

"Pressure on President Obama to recast the failed American approach to Israel-Palestine is building from former senior officials whose counsel he respects.

Following up on a letter dated Nov. 6, 2008, that was handed to Obama late last year by Paul Volcker, now a senior economic adviser to the president, these foreign policy mandarins have concluded a “Bipartisan Statement on U.S. Middle East Peacemaking” that should become an essential template.

Deploring “seven years of absenteeism” under the Bush administration, they call for intense American mediation in pursuit of a two-state solution, “a more pragmatic approach toward Hamas,” and eventual U.S. leadership of a multinational force to police transition…

It's in the numbers

Just two "interesting" stats which have been reported today:

*** The ILO says that 90 million jobs need to be created, worldwide, by the end of next year in order to avoid a global job crisis

*** there were some 7200 drug-related deaths in Mexico in 2008 [see the IHThere].

Last week Apple reported that it had sold some 30 million iPhones and iTouches up to the end of 2008 and there had been some 800,000 downloads of Apps from the iTunes Store in the 8 months post release of Apps.

Some Truths About Guantanamo Bay

Lawrence B. Wilkerson was chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell and is chairman of the New America Foundation/U.S.-Cuba 21st Century Policy Initiative.

One can, therefore, assume, that he knows what he is talking about.

Writing in The Washington Note [reproduced on] he says:

"There are several dimensions to the debate over the U.S. prison facilities at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba that the media have largely missed and, thus, of which the American people are almost completely unaware. For that matter, few within the government who were not directly involved are aware either."

Read this rather astounding piece, and its revelations,in full,here.

Wilkerson concludes:

"But al-Qa'ida will be back. Iraq, GITMO, Abu Ghraib, heavily-biased U.S. support for Israel, and a host of other strategic errors have insured al-Qa'ida's resilience, staying power and motivation. How we deal with the future attacks of this organization and its cohorts could wel…

Latest financial "medicine". Good or bad?

President Obama has just told the people of America that he sees progress in the current economic quagmire. Where that optimism comes from is hard to say other than the US Treasury Secretary having made a statement yesterday on quarantining toxic debts - in a seemingly one-sided public-private investment vehicle - and consideration being given to taxing excessive executive bonuses at 90%.

Joseph E. Stiglitz is University Professor at Columbia University. Among many books, he is the author of Globalization and Its Discontents. He received the Nobel Prize in Economics in 2001 for research on the economics of information. Most recently, he is the co-author, with Linda Bilmes, of The Three Trillion Dollar War: The True Costs of the Iraq Conflict.

Writing in Project Syndicate [reproduced on CommonDreams] the professor questions the Admininistration's moves in bringing the current financial mess, and the fallout from it, into some sort of order:

"Let's be clear: President Barack…

Hitchens: An Army of Extremists

There is often much not to like about writer, journalist and commentator Christopher Hitchens. In some ways he is a chameleon who takes himself far too seriously.

That said, in a piece in Slate "An Army of Extremists" he reflects on how rabbis in Israel are radicalising Israeli soldiers the whole settler movement. As an aside, the use of "settlers" is a misnomer and implies small groups of people living in tents or fairly makeshift accommodation. Certainly there are instances of that but in the main in the West Bank the Israelis have built fully functional towns or small cities with many have something like 60,000 inhabitants.

Hitchens writes:

"The zealot settlers and their clerical accomplices are establishing an army within the army so that one day, if it is ever decided to disband or evacuate the colonial settlements, there will be enough officers and soldiers, stiffened by enough rabbis and enough extremist sermons, to refuse to obey the order. To…

A "partner for peace?"

Israel's centre-left Labor party has voted at a conference to join a coalition government led by Benyamin Netanyahu, the prime minister-designate and Likud leader.

The move provides the parliamentary majority necessary for government, which will include the nationalist Yisrael Beitenu, led by Avigdor Lieberman, the foreign minister-designate, and the orthodox Jewish Shas party.

Ehud Barak, the Labor leader, says that his party will provide balance to a right-wing government, while others argue that Labor itself is moving to the right.

Al Jazeera has 3 commentators reflect on what this new coalition means. Meanwhile the news agency also reports on the new Israeli PM's claim that he seeks peace with the Palestinians and will be a "partner for peace". But on what terms and where would it leave the Palestinians? The prognosis isn't good.

Entry into the USA.....You had better be on song!

Entry into the US may depend on whether you have been heard or seen to espouse political views which don't accord with those of America. Forget about freedom of expression, etc. etc. It's all a dangerous and slippery slope.

The ACLU has challenged the barring of an academic to the US as it records:

"The American Civil Liberties Union is in a federal appeals court today to present arguments in the case of a Swiss professor and leading scholar of the Muslim world who was denied entry to the United States based on his political views. The ACLU is arguing that the government's exclusion of Professor Tariq Ramadan is illegal and was motivated not by anything he did but by his vocal criticism of U.S. foreign policy.

"By denying visas to prominent foreign scholars and writers simply because they were critical of United States foreign policy, the Bush administration used immigration laws to skew and stifle political debate inside the U.S.," said Jameel Jaffer, …

Using the Web to Reunite Refugees

The plight of refugees is never far away but seemingly under the radar in the media - unless some sort of tragedy comes to light like a ship drowning with refugees. It follows with so many people on the march somewhere around the world that families are often lost to one another. Add to the mix of refugees those who simply flee terror a la as in Darfur or famine and natural disasters.

Now, an attempt is being made to locate and re-unite refugees - using the "power" of the internet.

As Spiegel International writes:

"Facebook is great if you want to find long-lost classmates. But what if you're a refugee looking for family members? A new Web site seeks to provide those displaced by war or disaster with a platform to search themselves -- provided they have Internet access."


"More to the point, though, you also have a decent chance of finding that cute girl who sat next to you in the fifth grade -- the one you haven't seen in 15 years. That, at leas…

Horrific 'Guardian' reports will stoke international pressure for Gaza war crimes investigation

From Mondoweiss:

"The Guardian has published three videos with statements from Palestinians supporting allegations of Israeli war crimes in the Gaza assault. The Guardian says Israeli soldiers used Palestinian children as human shields for tanks, targeted medics and ambulances, and used drones to fire missiles, sometimes killing whole families. Ilene Cohen writes:

I think we can by now safely move beyond the word "allegation." Among the conclusions:
In a report released today, doctors for Human Rights Israel said there was "certainty" that Israel violated international humanitarian law during the three-week war in January, with attacks on medics, damage to medical buildings, indiscriminate attacks on civilians and delays in medical treatment for the injured.

"We have noticed a stark decline in IDF [Israeli Defence Forces] morals concerning the Palestinian population of Gaza, which in reality amounts to a contempt for Palestinian lives," said Dani Filc, c…

Israel's Most Revolting Law?

Uri Avnery has been a long-time critic of Israel. He is an Israeli writer and peace activist with Gush Shalom.

He writes in his latest piece "Israel's Most Revolting Law" on CounterPunch:

"The most important sentence written in Israel this week was lost in the general tumult of exciting events."

So what are these words and what context were they said? The words were:

"The State of Israel is at war with the Palestinian people, people against people, collective against collective.”

Read what occasioned these words to be said - read the Avnery piece, in full, here - and as he writers says:

"If we are at war with “the Palestinian people”, this means that every Palestinian, wherever he or she may be, is an enemy. That includes the inhabitants of the occupied territories, the refugees scattered throughout the world as well as the Arab citizens of Israel proper. A mason in Taibeh, Israel, a farmer near Nablus in the West Bank, a policeman of the Palestini…

Afghanistan: West Stares into the Abyss

Afghanistan is on the brink of chaos. That is the stark message from local leaders, the US military and development workers in the troubled country. The elected government, they warn, can no longer compete with the Taliban.

As the US steps up its commitment to sending more troops into Afghanistan and calls on its allies to also do so, this piece from Spiegel International paints a grim picture of the situation in war-torn country:

"Internal reports by the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) paint grim pictures of the situation. US generals say that they are seeing a "significant challenge from insurgents" in Wardak, and their commander-in-chief, President Barack Obama, recently responded with a simple "no" to the question of whether the United States and its allies are currently winning the war in Afghanistan."


"The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for…

Now physicians accuse the IDF

Whilst Israel keeps trotting out the canard that it has the "most moral army in the world" and that those IDF T-shirts which have gained notoriety in the last days were "tasteless" [mmm!] now Physicians for Human Rights has come out with yet another damning accusation of the IDF.

Reuters reports in "Israeli troops violated medical ethics-rights group":

"An Israeli human rights group said on Monday the military violated medical ethics codes during its Gaza offensive, the latest accusation against the conduct in combat of Israel's military.

Physicians for Human Rights-Israel (PHR) described alleged incidents which "reveal that not only did the (military) not evacuate besieged and wounded families, it also prevented Palestinian (medical) teams from reaching the wounded".

PHR's report followed accusations by other human rights groups and Palestinians that Israel's actions during the 22-day offensive in the Palestinian coastal enclave, …

Is the West watching?

That things are going awry in Pakistan is probably an understatement. Sad to say the West still seems to believe that the new President and his Government should be supported. Perhaps closer scrutiny would be in order. More to the point, too, is that diplomats get things terribly wrong - that is to say, emphasising that which doesn't deserve it.

That is a subject taken up by Mustafa Qadri in an op-ed piece "Pakistan's clear message to the West" in the LA Times. Qadri is Pakistan correspondent for the Diplomat magazine and He writes in relation to the recent protests leading in the restoration of Pakistan's Chief Justice:

"Despite millions of dollars spent by the State Department on opinion polls in Pakistan, there has been a catastrophic failure to understand the local mind-set. As recently as Monday, that failure was in evidence when President Obama's envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Richard C. Holbrooke, praised …

Airports: What security?

The killing of a bikie at the Qantas Domestic Terminal at Sydney Airport yesterday raises a question that travellers the world over must mull over whenever they check in and are subjected to some of the absurd security checks. The US probably take first prize for idiocy. A handkerchief through the x-ray machine?

Crikey editorialises on the Sydney incident and the whole over-zealous security "nonsense":

"The amount of taxpayer money soaked up by the post 9/11 pretence at airport security must run into the hundreds of millions. How many shoe searches? How many sheep yard herds of frustrated travellers shuffling toward hypersensitive metal detectors? How many confiscated nail files? All for our own good of course.

All just slivers of comfort and convenience willingly sacrificed in the noble cause of fighting terror and making the skies safe for the innocent traveller. What piffle.

If one thing is proven beyond doubt by the bikie brawl at Sydney airport it is that the …

From Teheran to Tel Aviv

"With his bold message to Iran’s leaders, President Obama achieved four things essential to any rapprochement.

He abandoned regime change as an American goal. He shelved the so-called military option. He buried a carrot-and-sticks approach viewed with contempt by Iranians as fit only for donkeys. And he placed Iran’s nuclear program within “the full range of issues before us.”

By doing so, Obama made it almost inevitable that one of the defining strategic issues of his presidency will be a painful but necessary redefinition of America’s relations with Israel as differences over Iran sharpen. I will return to that below."

So begins an op-ed piece one simply would not have seen in the NY Times even a while back. Is it fair to say that the recent Gaza war has changed things? The above was written by none other than one of the Time's op-ed columnist Roger Cohen, himself a Jew.

How things have changed for the better. Doubtlessly Cohen and the Times will get more than f…

IDF: No moral army there!

As ever-worsening news emerges of the way Israel's Defence Forces conducted themselves during the recent onslaught into Gaza - and the IDF says it will investigate the allegations - Gideon Levy, op-ed writer at Haaretz says in a piece "IDF ceased long ago being 'most moral army in the world":

"The IDF is incapable of investigating the crimes of its soldiers and commanders, and it is ridiculous to expect it to do so. These are not instances of "errant fire," but of deliberate fire resulting from an order. These are not "a few bad apples," but rather the spirit of the commander, and this spirit has been bad and corrupt for quite some time.

Change will not come without a major change in mindset. Until we recognize the Palestinians as human beings, just as we are, nothing will change. But then, the occupation would collapse, God forbid. In the meantime, prepare for the next war and the horrific testimonies about the most moral army in the world.&q…

Toxic R Us

"Barack Obama prides himself on consensus, soothing warring sides into agreement. But the fury directed at the robber barons by the robbed blind in America has been getting hotter, not cooler. And that’s because the president and his Treasury secretary have been coddling the Wall Street elite, fretting that if they curtail executives’ pay and perks too much, if they make the negotiations with those who siphoned our 401(k)’s too tough, the spoiled Sherman McCoys will run away, the rescue plan will fail and the markets will wither. (Now that Mr. Obama has made $8,605,429 on his books — including $500,000 for letting his memoir be condensed into a kids’ book — maybe he’s lost touch with his hole-in-the-shoe, hole-in-the-Datsun, have-not roots.)"

In the style of writing one has come to expect from Maureen Dowd, in her latest op-ed piece "Toxic R Us" in the NY Times she effectively challenges what Obama and his Treasury Secretary are doing - or rather not doing! - in the…

More People in Love Than Previously Thought

It's Monday.....and why not start out the week with something pleasant for once.

Love flourishes! Who says? LiveScience in a piece "More People in Love Than Previously Thought":

"Romeo and Juliet would approve: A new study found that romantic love can stand the test of time.

Though it is widely held that romance and sex must ultimately yield to friendly companionship over time, new research found that's not the case. Instead about 13 percent of people reported high levels of romance in their long-term relationships, in a new study published in the March issue of the journal Review of General Psychology.

Researchers analyzed data from surveys of more than 6,000 people, including some in newly-formed pairs and many in marriages of more than 20 years. The scientists found that a surprisingly high number of people were still very much in love with their long-term partners, though the researchers drew a distinction between romantic love, which can endure, and passio…

Obama: A "Katrina moment"?

Now that Obama has settled into office - well, at least a little - there seems more than a little disquiet as people see a marked difference between the presidential candidate and him actually in the Oval Office. Man of decisive action? No! Generally adopting the mantle of the man in charge? No there either!

Frank Rich, writing his regular column in the NY Times wonders whether Obama is already having his "Katrina moment" as someone dubbed it:

"A charming visit with Jay Leno won’t fix it. A 90 percent tax on bankers’ bonuses won’t fix it. Firing Timothy Geithner won’t fix it. Unless and until Barack Obama addresses the full depth of Americans’ anger with his full arsenal of policy smarts and political gifts, his presidency and, worse, our economy will be paralyzed. It would be foolish to dismiss as hyperbole the stark warning delivered by Paulette Altmaier of Cupertino, Calif., in a letter to the editor published by The Times last week: “President Obama may not re…

Worried about apartheid? Too late, Mr Olmert, it’s already here

Tony Karon, writing in The National:

"In a remarkable interview last November, the Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert cautioned that unless it could achieve a two-state solution quickly, Israel would “face a South African-style struggle for equal voting rights, and as soon as that happens, the state of Israel is finished”. The reason, he said, was that Israel would be internationally isolated. “The Jewish organisations, which are our power base in America, will be the first to come out against us because they will say they cannot support a state that does not support democracy and equal voting rights for all its residents.”


"Even as Israeli officials admitted last week that they were hoping to “rebrand” Israel’s image abroad, the Israeli media were reporting that six Israeli soldiers who had fought in Gaza were alleging that men in their units had indiscriminately killed Palestinian civilians because of what they said were permissive rules of engagement. There is only so m…

That [AIG] bonus furore

Who hasn't read or heard about the US$165 million bonus which AIG executives took for themselves. Whether it is capitalism gone mad, plain excess or ineptitude in the light of the current GFC doesn't really matter in the end. AIG and that bonus is etched in people's minds.

As Governments around the world grapple with excessive remuneration for executives - many of them plain duds and even getting a "packet" when they walk away from the wreck - the way the Obama administration has dealt with the AIG debacle has, rightly, attracted criticism. Now the US wants to tax excessive bonuses or payments at 90%.

In his usual way Nobel Prize [for economics] winner, Paul Krugman, puts it all in context in this piece in the NY Times:

"Preliminary thoughts on the tax bill:

1. It’s not the way you should make policy — it’s clumsy, and it will punish some innocent parties while letting the most guilty off scot-free

2. But — there wasn’t much alternative at this point. A…

“Internet monitored and controlled, even in democracies”

A troubling report from Reporters Without Borders:

"After joint appeal with Amnesty International for an end to online censorship, Reporters Without Borders issues report on “Enemies of the Internet” Reporters Without Borders today issued a report entitled “Enemies of the Internet” in which it examines Internet censorship and other threats to online free expression in 22 countries.

“The 12 ‘Enemies of the Internet’ - Burma, China, Cuba, Egypt, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tunisia, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Vietnam - have all transformed their Internet into an Intranet in order to prevent their population from accessing ‘undesirable’ online information,” Reporters Without Borders said.

“All these countries distinguish themselves not only by their ability to censor online news and information but also by their virtually systematic persecution of troublesome Internet users,” the press freedom organisation said. Reporters Without Borders has placed 10 other governments “un…

The [Israel] Lobby Falters

It is hard to forget the opprobrium Walt and Mearsheimer attracted when their book The IsraelLobby was released last year. It became a best-seller - and rightly so - but needless to say the usual suspects, a la the ever-more offensive Alan Dershowitz and the like, couldn't contain their vitriol about the book and, more particularly, the authors personally. Of course, it is now accepted that to criticise Israel means not to debate or challenge whatever is being said or written, but rather to attack, personally, the author of the so-called anti-Israel missive - usually characterised as anti-semitic or anti-Zionist by the personal "assassin" .

The Chas Freeman affair in the US has shown up the Israel Lobby in its worst light - bearing in mind that Freeman has, himself, said that it was the Israel Lobby which was at its worst in the lies and distortions about him.

Writing in the London Review of Books, Mearsheimer reflects on the Freeman affair:

"An even more impo…

Did anyone ask Afghan women?

President Obama has drawn some praise for his suggestion that the US might be prepared to talk to the moderate Taliban in war-torn Afghanistan. It might be a good idea although it has to be said that the country is almost certainly a narco-State and a failed one at that. No less importantly, Patricia Lalonde [the chairwoman of Mobilization for Elected Women in Afghanistan (MEWA)] in a piece "Did anyone ask Afghan women?" in the IHT asks whether the women in Afghanistan would be prepared to have any Taliban-influence in their country.

"I have just returned from Afghanistan and I am struck by the news: There’s talk about negotiations with the moderate Taliban. President Barack Obama announced it this week, and the message has been relayed by European leaders.

Let us first be clear: Either we’re talking about those Taliban whose moderation means 10 lashes instead of 100 for women who show their ankles, and maybe we can negotiate them down to five, or we’re talking …