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Showing posts from April, 2009

The Land of No Smiles

Renowned documentary photographer Tomas van Houtryve entered North Korea by posing as a businessman looking to open a chocolate factory. Despite 24-hour surveillance by North Korean minders, he took arresting photographs of Pyongyang and its people—images rarely captured and even more rarely distributed in the West. They show stark glimmers of everyday life in the world’s last gulag.

Go, here, to FP's web site to view the photos. A rare insight indeed!

Obama: 100 days......and counting!

"Nobody feels like hanging out tinsel to mark Barack Obama's first 100 days – least of all the President himself. After the cheering crowds in Grant Park and the choked-up crowds on Inauguration Day went home, he has been left with a depression, a slew of wars, and an unravelling climate. Mario Cuomo, the former mayor of New York, said politicians "campaign in poetry, but govern in prose" – and Obama has had to hit the prose hard. So now George W Bush has been dispatched to torture only the English language, has change come to America?"

So begins a piece "To be the new FDR he must stick to his ideal" by Johann Hari in The Independent.

Hari undertakes an analysis of the pluses and minuses of Obama's 100 days in office. It's not all the hype might suggest.

As Hari says:

"Yet somehow, no-drama-Obama remains impressively Zen and sweatless in the middle of this whirlwind. Should we have "faith" he will do the right thing? Absolutely no…

Waterboarding the Rule of Law

Steve Weissman writing in "Waterboarding the Rule of Law" on truthout.org:

"Asked what he thought of Western civilization, the nonviolent Mahatma Gandhi famously replied, "I think it would be a good idea." Unless millions of Americans now demand better, we can say the same of "the rule of law." What a good idea it would have been, but - like the tooth fairy - it will not exist, not when competing priorities get in the way. The balancing - and trimming - is well on its way.

Should a special prosecutor hold Bush, Cheney, Rice and Rumsfeld accountable for violating the law against torture when they specifically authorized waterboarding, sleep deprivation, stress positions and sexual humiliation of detainees? "No one is above the law," President Obama repeatedly tells us. But, prosecuting Bush & Co. would tear the country apart, the Republican chorus chimes in. And it would create a precedent for prosecuting future presidents whose policies w…

Thumbs down to Obama

Ever-increasingly, one is seeing disenchantment creeping in with the new US president Obama. Yes, he was touted as almost being the Messiah when elected - something quite unrealistic and unattainable given the myriad of problems confronting the United States - but he allowed the hype surrounding his campaign to almost put him on a pedestal.

Chris Hedges, writing on truthdig.com in "Obama Has Missed His Moment":

"Barack Obama has squandered his presidency. He had a fleeting moment to challenge the casino capitalism and financial recklessness of our economic and political elite. He could have orchestrated a state socialism that would have provided a safety net for tens of millions of Americans faced with dislocation and misery. The sums he has doled out to Wall Street could have been used to force companies to keep workers on the job or create new banks to open up credit. But he lacked the foresight and the courage to challenge entrenched power. And now we are heade…

Do you live in a liveable, lively or boring city?

There are surveys, of one sort or another, of almost anything. Their utility and value must be questioned.

One of the latest surveys, just in, is a rating of the most liveable cities in the world. The Independent in a piece "Clean, safe and a little bit dull... the world's most liveable cities" not only lists the so-called top liveable cities - look out for surprising results - but reflects on the criteria in making the assessment:

"The songbook of the world's most likeable cities needs an urgent rewrite. "We will always have Dusseldorf"; "I love Zurich in the springtime"; "Tulips from Vancouver"; "Maybe it's because I'm a Frankfurter that I love Frankfurt so". In a survey of the world's most liveable towns, published yesterday, European cities dominate but not the European cities that you might imagine. Paris comes only 33rd, between Adelaide and Brisbane. London comes 38th, jointly with Yokohama.

The city…

Israel's Gitmo: Visiting Daddy in Prison - A Palestinian Ordeal

Israel touts itself, and its supporters claim, it to be a democracy - with all that entails. Due process, equal rights for all, etc. etc.

Well, notwithstanding all the "noise", Israel's actions, certainly in many material respects, are not those of a country which applies the rule of law and due process.

Time reports in "Visiting Daddy in Prison: A Palestinian Ordeal" on just one case of a Palestinian - in breach of the Geneva Convention for an occupying power - imprisoned in an Israeli jail for 2 years now and not having been charged with any offence. He is one of over 10,000 prisoners!

"Spending time with her dad requires that six-year-old Jinan undertake a bizarre and arduous odyssey. Usually, she travels alone, but last Monday, the Palestinian girl with the rosebud smile and bouncing energy was accompanied by her younger sisters, Dania, 4, and Noor, 2, on the journey to the Israeli prison that holds her father.

At home in the beleaguered West Ban…

And you wonder why they take the position they do?

Can one blame the Palestinians when they say they will only negotiate with the Israelis on certian terms - given the background of Israel's actions as detailed by The Washington Post in a piece "Israel built, planned 9,000 homes on war-won land":

"Since capturing the West Bank and east Jerusalem in the 1967 Mideast War, Israel has built homes for about 470,000 Israelis there, including some 190,000 who moved to east Jerusalem.

From January 2006 to January 2009, roughly the period of the Olmert government, Israel built some 5,100 homes in West Bank settlements and issued bids for another 500 housing units there, said Hagit Ofran of Peace Now. Another 560 structures, including stone houses and mobile homes, were erected in dozens of unauthorized settlement outposts, Ofran said.

In the Palestinian-claimed areas of Jerusalem, the Olmert government issued bids for 2,400 homes for Israelis, she said. About one-third of the city's 750,000 residents are Palestinians.

In the…

Silence over Sri Lanka

Geoffrey Alderman, writing in Comment is Free in The Guardian, asks why do those in the international community who expressed outrage over Gaza stay silent while Tamils die?

It's a very pertinent and relevant question as the devastation and bloodshed in Sri Lanka continues. Some of the answers lie in Alderman's piece.

"In Sri Lanka a bloody conflict is reaching its bloody conclusion. Some 30 years ago, the Tamil population that inhabits the north and east of the island began an insurrection against the government, establishing for this purpose an organisation known as the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. The ultimate aim of the Tamil Tigers was to establish an independent Tamil state, thus partitioning the island. The means chosen to bring this about was to create terror and mayhem throughout the island, and, if necessary, beyond it. Not content with common-or-garden political assassinations and random murders, the Tamil Tigers pioneered the use of the suicide bomb and t…

Has the Sun-King's WSJ lost its Soul?

In a piece in The Nation, Scott Sherman suggests that Rupert Murdoch hasn't taken a wrecking-ball to the Wall Street Journal since acquiring it. However....

"But the Journal has changed in very significant ways. Quite a few Journal watchers--including many people who left the paper but continue to care deeply about it--are reading it with disquiet and unease. They see a newspaper whose coverage of the financial crisis, while impressive in many respects, lacks analytical rigor; a newspaper that is running shorter articles; a newspaper whose copy-editing standards have declined; and a newspaper that is abandoning a rich tradition of long-form narrative journalism.

One picks up the Journal these days with relief and sadness--relief that the newspaper is not an amalgamation of the Murdoch-owned New York Post, Fox News and The Weekly Standard; and sadness that reporters who once wrote finely textured, emotionally affecting feature stories on a universe of subjects now produce, in…

Money for Nothing

"On July 15, 2007, The New York Times published an article with the headline “The Richest of the Rich, Proud of a New Gilded Age.” The most prominently featured of the “new titans” was Sanford Weill, the former chairman of Citigroup, who insisted that he and his peers in the financial sector had earned their immense wealth through their contributions to society.

Soon after that article was printed, the financial edifice Mr. Weill took credit for helping to build collapsed, inflicting immense collateral damage in the process. Even if we manage to avoid a repeat of the Great Depression, the world economy will take years to recover from this crisis.

All of which explains why we should be disturbed by an article in Sunday’s Times reporting that pay at investment banks, after dipping last year, is soaring again — right back up to 2007 levels.

Why is this disturbing? Let me count the ways....."

Who is writing this? None other than Paul Krugman, Nobel Prize winner for economics, in h…

Clinton’s Mideast Pirouette

Roger Cohen is at it again!

In his latest op-ed piece in The NY Times "Clinton’s Mideast Pirouette" he writes:

"The sparring between the United States and Israel has begun, and that’s a good thing. Israel’s interests are not served by an uncritical American administration. The Jewish state emerged less secure and less loved from Washington’s post-9/11 Israel-can-do-no-wrong policy.

The criticism of the center-right government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has come from an unlikely source: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. She’s transitioned with aplomb from the calculation of her interests that she made as a senator from New York to a cool assessment of U.S. interests. These do not always coincide with Israel’s.

I hear that Clinton was shocked by what she saw on her visit last month to the West Bank. This is not surprising. The transition from Israel’s first-world hustle-bustle to the donkeys, carts and idle people beyond the separation wall is brutal. If Clinton c…

Torture? It probably killed more Americans than 9/11

In the light of the uproar about the released Memos dealing with the CIA's torture of prisoners - and where the buck stops for sanctioning it - a piece in The Independent by Patrick Cockburn [winner of the 2009 Orwell Prize for journalism] raises a few critical questions and issues:

"The use of torture by the US has proved so counter-productive that it may have led to the death of as many US soldiers as civilians killed in 9/11, says the leader of a crack US interrogation team in Iraq.

"The reason why foreign fighters joined al-Qa'ida in Iraq was overwhelmingly because of abuses at Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib and not Islamic ideology," says Major Matthew Alexander, who personally conducted 300 interrogations of prisoners in Iraq. It was the team led by Major Alexander [a named assumed for security reasons] that obtained the information that led to the US military being able to locate Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the head of al-Qa'ida in Iraq. Zarqawi was then killed by…

Gaza, remember

One could almost say that Gideon Levy, who writes for Haaretz, is Israel's conscience.

In his latest column, "Gaza, remember?" he says:

"Gaza is besieged. There are no building materials. Israel and the world are setting conditions, the Palestinians are incapable of forming a unity government, as is needed, the money and concrete are nowhere to be seen and the Abu-Aun family continues to live in a tent. Even the $900 million promised by the United States is stuck in the cash register. It's doubtful whether it will ever be taken out. America's word.

It's exactly three months since the much-talked-about war, and Gaza is once again forgotten. Israel has never taken an interest in the welfare of its victims. Now the world has forgotten, too. Two weeks with hardly a Qassam rocket has taken Gaza completely off the agenda. If the Gazans don't hurry up and resume firing, nobody will take an interest in their welfare again. Although not new, this is an especial…

Justice!

With credit to R. J. Matson at The New York Observer

It's Torture....and to be Investigated!

It is astounding that Obama, a lawyer and one-time law lecturer, and his "team" at the White House, thought that having released those now infamous Memos about torture that that was the end of the matter - let see that some sort of investigation had to be undertaken. Just to "move on" simply wasn't an option!

In "Time to Come Clean" Nicholas D Kristof writing in the NY Times says:

"President Obama worries that the commission will be a distraction, but the truth is the opposite. Revelations will continue to trickle out — including a new hoard of photos of abuses scheduled to be released by May 28 — creating a constant roar of charges and counter-charges. Liberals will jab Mr. Obama from the left, and Dick Cheney from the right, until the president resembles St. Sebastian (the human pincushion). Mr. Obama won’t be able to escape torture.

“He’s trying to get it off the news cycle, and that’s not going to happen,” said Elisa Massimino, chief execut…

A Tibetan Blogger, Always Under Close Watch, Struggles for Visibility

TheNY Times reports:

"WOESER, a Tibetan poet and blogger whose every word is of great interest to the Chinese authorities, described the nightmare that jolted her awake shortly before a reporter arrived for what some might describe as a foolhardy interview."

And:

"Her books are banned here, and the blog she has kept since 2005 is currently blocked. Still, with foreign media banned from much of the Tibetan plateau, Ms. Woeser’s blog, “Invisible Tibet,” has become one of the few reliable news outlets for those able to circumvent what is cynically referred to as The Great Firewall."

Read the complete piece about this remarkable woman here.

Dershowitz spews racism, bigotry and bile.....

“The worst two hours of my life.”

"That’s what a Palestinian friend from the West Bank said after what was at times a hateful, nasty 2-hour long harangue by Anne Bayefsky, Jon Voight, Elie Wiesel, Alan Dershowitz, Natan Sharansky and Shelby Steele. “I just listened to 2 hours of demonization of Palestinians and Muslims fueled by racism and hate,” said my clearly shaken friend.

I already posted some choice quotes by Jon-the-new-Holocaust-Voight. The tour de force of the session, ostensibly on anti-semitism but really promoting anti-Arab/Palestinian/Muslim hate, was Alan Dershowitz. (Although conservative African American scholar Shelby Steele, who gets plenty of applause from a room filled with white people, reaches a whole new depth in his theory about the end of white supremacy and the deep shame of people of color regarding their own inadequacies.)

Dershowitz is the schoolyard bully all grown-up, very smart and even angrier. Watching him, you feel like he might explode. Like…

Durban II Postscript

What some might now regard as some sort of infamous Conference - the Durban II Conference in Geneva - has just concluded.

A postscript is called for....

Navi Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in her concluding Statement [see here] amongst other things says:

"The final document of this conference – the Conference product, if you like – also says the Holocaust must never be forgotten and deplores anti-Semitism along with Islamophobia and all forms of racism, xenophobia, racial discrimination and related intolerance. But already the propaganda machine is starting to wind up to term this conference a failure, a “hate fest and all the rest of it.” This is extraordinary. Yet no one has really written up the true story of this Conference – a strange rough and tumble affair full of smoke and mirrors, I must admit, yet very definitely a success story, with plenty of good will as well as plenty of bad will of the type I have described just now.

I want to say at this point parti…

Robert Fisk's World: Everyone wants to be an author, but no one is reading books

It's the weekend and perhaps timely to curl about with a good book.....

Veteran writer and journalist and commentator Robert Fisk - in his latest piece in TheIndependent - wonders whether our dependency on computers is destroying our ability to ‘deep read’:

"I blame technology. The internet, email – neither of which I use – and the accursed laptop. I curse the laptop for two reasons. Firstly because I use it. Secondly because it encourages hopeless authorship. It's not that everyone with a laptop thinks they can write a book. The problem is that everyone with a laptop does write a book."

Continue reading here.

So, how well was the Iraq war reported?

Just as the last 2 days have seen over 140 people killed in suicide bombings in Iraq, Patrick Cockburn, one of the few journalists to actually report for The Independent from Iraq over all the years, ponders on how well the war was actually reported:

"Journalists are departing from Iraq. In Baghdad US newspapers and television are slimming down or closing their bureaux. The British media always had a slighter presence but there is less and less coverage of the war. This might be justified by saying there is no war to cover, but Iraq is still the scene of a horrendous amount of violence with suicide bombers killing at least 144 civilians in the past two days.

The main reason for reduced foreign interest in Iraq is that the US is pulling out by the end of 2011 and its forces will have left the centre of Iraqi cities by the end of this June. US military casualties are a fraction of what they once were. British troops will soon finally depart from Basra.

Iraq is still one of the most da…

Branding evil

We have heard it before........Israel on a PR drive to boost its image post its bloody onslaught into Gaza a few months ago.

Seems like it didn't work. Reuters reports in "Israel strives to re-brand image":

"When people have a better understanding of who we are, then they understand our actions in Gaza better," said Ido Aharoni of the foreign ministry, who heads the Brand Israel project."

As if evil, and war, and everything which goes with it, is a matter of branding or calls for a PR exercise!

Sri Lanka, in the midst of its bloody war with its Tamils, is following Israel down the same path.

Ken Silverstein, in Harper's Magazine, in "Washington Lobbyists Cash In On War in Sri Lanka" writes:

"Predictably, Washington lobbyists are making out quite well from the war. In January, the firm of Patton Boggs was retained by the Embassy of Sri Lanka, with “a fixed fee of $35,000 per month, payable quarterly in advance,” according to the contract. Dem…

Sri Lanka a problem for us all

With the news out of Sri Lanka getting worse by the day - for example, see a Washington Post piece "UN says nearly 6,500 civilians killed in Sri Lanka" here] Joseph Traub a director of policy at the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect, writing an op-ed piece in The Age "Sri Lanka a problem for us all"[reproduced from the Washington Post] says:

"When we think of mass atrocities, we think of regimes, or their proxies, massacring defenceless citizens, as in Rwanda or Darfur. The situation in Sri Lanka is more complicated, morally and legally: this is a situation of armed conflict in which both parties are acting in ways that pose a grave risk to innocent civilians. The rebels answer to no one and the Sri Lankan Government has been able to operate with virtual impunity because it is fighting "terrorists". Even Western states that usually condemn violations of international law have given the situation a wide berth.

But states engaged in combat …

Rice, Cheney OK'd CIA use of waterboarding

Pleasingly, responsibility, or at least the ok for, waterboarding torture is reaching up into the upper echelons of the Bush White House.

CNN reports that a Senate finding implicates both Condi Rice and VP Cheney:

"Top Bush administration officials gave the CIA approval to use waterboarding, a controversial interrogation technique, as early as 2002, a Senate intelligence report shows.

On July 17, 2002, national security adviser Condoleezza Rice, who later became secretary of state, said the CIA could proceed with "alternative interrogation methods," including waterboarding, when questioning suspected al Qaeda leader Abu Zubaydah.

The decision was contingent on the Justice Department's determining the method's legality. A week later, Attorney General John Ashcroft had determined the "proposed interrogation techniques were lawful," the report said."

Meanwhile, Obama, rightly, faces increasing pressure to pursue the torturers. Just one small example is …

Investigate yourself....and come up trumps!

Whoever heard of an investigation of yourself, in particular where there are serious allegations against you, which can be anything other than tainted?

Well, the good ol' Israeli IDF did just that. It investigated the allegations of misfeasance during the Gaza War. And, surprise, surprise, the IDF came up trumps! Not one blemish or infraction.

Not on! says Israeli Human Rights Group B'Tselem. In its latest bulletin itreports:

"On the 22.4.08, the Israeli Military made public the conclusions of five internal investigations held by teams headed by officers, who “were not a direct part of the chain of command, and who were appointed by the chief of staff to investigate several issues in regards to which questions were raised during the fighting." The military did not publish the investigations themselves .

The chief conclusion of the investigations is that “the “IDF acted in accordance with the principles of international law, while keeping a high professional and…

Nobel Laureate Accuses Israel of 'Ethnic Cleansing'

In the very week that the Israelis - as also some other Governments - loudly throw around all sorts of epithets about the Iranian President and his appearance at Durban II in Geneva - principally that he is racist - what could be more ironical than this from Agence Press France [reprinted onCommonDreams]:

"Nobel peace laureate Mairead Maguire on Tuesday accused Israel of "ethnic cleansing" policies in annexed east Jerusalem, where the municipality plans to tear down almost 90 Arab homes.

Nobel peace laureate Mairead Maguire speaks during a press conference in the Silwan neighborhood of east Jerusalem. Maguire on Tuesday accused Israel of "ethnic cleansing" policies in annexed east Jerusalem, where the municipality plans to tear down almost 90 Arab homes. (AFP)"I believe the Israeli government is carrying out a policy of ethnic cleansing against Palestinians here in east Jerusalem," said Maguire, who won the 1976 Nobel prize for her efforts at reaching…

Dozens of Prisoners Held by CIA Still Missing, Fates Unknown

The depths - and illegalities? - of the Bush Administration, and its CIA's actions, become more extraordinary by the day.

ProPublico - journalism in the public interest - in "Dozens of Prisoners Held by CIA Still Missing, Fates Unknown" reports:

"Last week, we pointed out that one of the newly released Bush-era memos inadvertently confirmed that the CIA held an al-Qaeda suspect named HassanGhul in a secret prison and subjected him to what Bush administration lawyers called "enhanced interrogation techniques." The CIA has never acknowledged holding Ghul, and his whereabouts today are secret.

But Ghul is not the only such prisoner who remains missing. At least three dozen others who were held in the CIA's secret prisons overseas appear to be missing as well. Efforts by human rights organizations to track their whereabouts have been unsuccessful, and no foreign governments have acknowledged holding them. (See the full list.)

In September 2007, Michael …

Lost in Translation?

Stephen Walt - Professor of International Relations at Harvard - writing on his blog as part of FP:

"The Obama administration has said that a purely military victory is not possible in Afghanistan, and promised to devote greater attention to civilian "nation-building." Journalist/historian Gareth Porter questions the feasibility of this approach, pointing out that the United States lacks anywhere near the number of Pashto speakers that such a strategy would require. I'l let him take it from here:

Pashtuns who represent about 42 percent of the population of Afghanistan. It is in the Pashtun southern and eastern regions of the country that the complex insurgency that has come to be called the Taliban has been able to organise and often effectively govern at the village level in recent years.

'If all you are going to do is kill the bad guys, then you don’t need a lot of Pashto speakers,' said Larry Goodson of the Department of National Security and Strategy at th…

Professor [who else, but Dershowitz?] plumbs new depths

There are many, including this MPS, who regard Alan Dershowitz an absolute disgrace - not only for some of the views he spews [he doesn't articulate!] but his behaviour, which reflects badly on the lawyers, the Harvard Law School, where he "teaches" and Jews generally. And that isn't to forget that it has been established that he is a plagiarist.

Now, Dershowitz has plumbed new depths in hisaccusations levelled at Nobel Peace Prize winner, Archbishop Desmond Tutu. IOL reports:

"Tutu is a bigot and a racist," said Derschowitz about the Nobel Peace Prize winning South African archbishop. He is "blind, deaf and dumb when it comes to issues of Israel".

So, there you have it! Of all the people who might be "attacked" the professor goes for Tutu. Check out Tutu's criticism of Israel here.

On the subject of bigotry and racism, Irfan Yusf, writing in newmaltilda in "Does One Moron Really Ruin The Whole Conference?" righ…

Publish and be damned, Mr Cheney

Philipe Sands QC is a barrister in the Matrix Chambers and a professor of international law at University College London. He is the author of Torture Team (published by Penguin).

Writing an open letter to former VP Cheney in Comment is Free in The Guardian, Sands says:

"Dear Mr Cheney,

Last night, you appeared on Fox News' Hannity show, calling for an "honest debate" on the benefits of the Bush Administration's "bold" interrogation programme. You seem unhappy with last week's publication of four new legal memos authorising torture, so you referred to reports that have not yet been declassified "that show specifically what we gained as a result of this activity". You told Hannity:

"I know specifically of reports that I read, that I saw, that lay out what we learned through the interrogation process and what the consequences were for the country."
Of course, you have a terrific track record on the intelligence material that you have…

The Pulitzer-winning investigation that dare not be uttered on TV

And people wonder why the media is so often on the nose!

Glenn Greenwald, writing in Salon, raises an interesting question in his piece "The Pulitzer-winning investigation that dare not be uttered on TV":

"The New York Times' David Barstow won a richly deserved Pulitzer Prize yesterday for two articles that, despite being featured as major news stories on the front page of The Paper of Record, were completely suppressed by virtually every network and cable news show, which to this day have never informed their viewers about what Barstow uncovered. Here is how the Pulitzer Committee described Barstow's exposés:

'Awarded to David Barstow of The New York Times for his tenacious reporting that revealed how some retired generals, working as radio and television analysts, had been co-opted by the Pentagon to make its case for the war in Iraq, and how many of them also had undisclosed ties to companies that benefited from policies they defended.'

By whom were t…

Behind Bars in Iran

It's a paradox! At the very same time Iranian President Ahmadinejad is lecturing the world on racism, prejudice and injustice, his own country has convicted and sentenced an American-Iranian to 8 years jail in a trial, held in secret, said to have lasted all of 15 minutes.

The NY Times has an interesting background piece "Behind Bars in Iran" on being imprisoned in Iran:

"When Roxana Saberi, a 31-year-old Iranian-American journalist, was arrested in Tehran in January, her parents were told it was because she tried to buy alcohol. Details about her detention in the notorious Evin prison near Tehran were sketchy. But her case was speeded up this month when she was charged with spying, then convicted and sentenced in a short trial.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has reportedly instructed the prosecutor to give Ms. Saberi a chance to mount a full defense, presumably during her appeal. Was he paving the way for Ms. Saberi’s eventual release, or was he simply trying to unde…

That Conference. Not going a bad call

Barbara Crossette, United Nations correspondent for The Nation, is a former New York Times correspondent and bureau chief in Asia and at the UN.

Writing in The Nation in "America's UN Boycott Backfires" she says:

"The Obama administration and the United States as a whole will be haunted for a long time by the decision to boycott a United Nations international conference on racism and intolerance starting today in Geneva.

A brief five-paragraph statement announcing the decision was released by the State Department on Saturday evening while everyone was focused elsewhere: this time on the summit of the Americas in Trinidad and Tobago. There, paradoxically, White House officials were happy to stress to reporters the importance the president placed on racial diversity and multiculturalism."

Down in Australia, the Sydney Morning Herald editorialises in "Surrendering the Floor" on the same subject:

"Far better for Western and Israeli diplomats to have gritt…

Where’s Rev. Wright When You Need Him?

Chris Hedges in his latest op-ed piece "Where’s Rev. Wright When You Need Him?" in truthdig.com. has a simple message for the US president:

"The Obama administration’s decision not to prosecute CIA and Bush administration officials for the use of torture because it wants to look to the future is easy to accept if you were never tortured. The decision not to confront slavery and the continued discrimination against African-Americans is easy to accept if your ancestors were not kidnapped, crammed into slave ships, denied their religion and culture, deprived of their language, stripped of their names, severed from their families and forced into generations of economic misery. The decision not to discuss the genocide of Native Americans is easy if your lands were not stolen and your people driven into encampments and slaughtered. The doctrine of pre-emptive war and illegal foreign occupation is easy to accept if you are not a Palestinian, an Iraqi or an Afghan.

“The Obama ad…

State of Play: A Portrait of the Journalist as a Fallible Man

At a time when newspapers are struggling to survive along comes a movie about reporters.

Alyssa Rosenberg, writes in a piece in The Atlantic, "State of Play: A Portrait of the Journalist as a Fallible Man" about the movie :

"“People tend to forget that my presence runs counter to their best interests,” Joan Didion wrote in her introduction to Slouching Towards Bethlehem, in a passage that has become an unfortunate and clichéd summation of the character of reporters. “And it always does….writers are always selling somebody out.”

What Didion neglects to mention is that the people journalists sell out, and hurt, can include themselves. On film, and in print, Didion’s description is convenient. It’s easy to slot reporters into one of two roles: the hero who has to resort to unscrupulous tactics for the sake of the People’s Right to Know; or the sycophant who lives on the cocktail-party circuit and churns out flattery instead of copy. Movies tend to prefer the former, pun…

Krugman's Simple Message: A Government of Monsters

A message can't be more pointed and direct than that of Nobel Prize winner [for economics] Paul Krugman - writing in the NY Times under the headline "The Conscience of a Liberal":

"Back from a partly medical absence. Before I do some economics posts, I think I ought to say something about the torture memos — namely, that there is now no way to view the people who ruled us these past 8 years as anything but monsters. We had all these rationalizations of torture over the “ticking clock” and all that — then we learn, for example, that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded 183 times in one month.

I really don’t even want to think about all this. But this was our government — and these people might be back."

What hypocricy!

Israel has been at the forefront in seeking to have other nations boycott the Durban Review Conference due to start in Geneva on 20 April.

The US, Canada, the Netherlands and Australia, amongst others - to their shame - have fallen into line and won't be attending the Conference.

Interesting, then, to read this blog "Promised Land" by Noam Sheizaf, a journalist in Israel's “Maariv” daily paper.

He writes:

"I have often claimed here that the public atmosphere in Israel is becoming more and more racist towards Arabs. A good example of this can be found in the comments (“talkbacks”) on all major internet sites."

Read the posting, in full, here, for examples of strident racism alive and well in Israel.

Talk about people - Israel - in glass houses!

Update [21 April]: Predictably, the address by Iranian President Ahmadinijad to the Conference in Geneva has attracted criticism and mainly European delegates walking out on the speech. The President accused Israel of…