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Showing posts from August, 2009

The Dream.......46 years later

CommonDreamsreports and records:

"Today marks the 46th anniversary of the March On Washington. On Aug. 28, 1963, over 200,000 people marched for civil rights and, at the Lincoln Memorial, heard Martin Luther King deliver his "I Have A Dream" speech.

"I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character."

The enemies of press freedom to blame for journalists who disappear

Reporters Without Borders reports on those brave journalists who simply "disappear" whilst discharging their duties to report to the world on whatever assignment they are on. Remember......without an ever-vigilant press, or media altogether, Governments are free to do whatever they want away from public gaze.

"As the world marks the 26th International Day of the Disappeared on 30 August, Reporters Without Borders has provided a grim reminder that nothing has been heard, sometimes for years, of scores of journalists, who have been kidnapped, arrested or simply kept “appointments” that turned out to be traps.

“Whether carried out by agents of the state or local criminals bent on settling scores, the many disappearances of journalists highlights the fact that the enemies of press freedom have no hesitation in using the most cowardly and despicable methods to gag journalists. We restate our support for the families of the disappeared and we share the pain they suffer in t…

Yep, Oil Did It!

Many said that Britain's interests in obtaining Libyan oil was the prime motivation in the recent release of the Lockerbie bomber on humanitarian grounds.

The suggestion was met with indignation by the UK's Foreign Secretary.

The TimesOnLine now reports in "Lockerbie bomber 'set free for oil'" that, yes indeed, political considerations, principally access to oil in Libya, drove the deal to release the convicted bomber.

"The British government decided it was “in the overwhelming interests of the United Kingdom” to make Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi, the Lockerbie bomber, eligible for return to Libya, leaked ministerial letters reveal.

Gordon Brown’s government made the decision after discussions between Libya and BP over a multi-million-pound oil exploration deal had hit difficulties. These were resolved soon afterwards.

The letters were sent two years ago by Jack Straw, the justice secretary, to Kenny MacAskill, his counterpart in Scotland, who has been …

Two way traffic?

Credit to Larry Wright, The Detroit News

It's a matter of how you communicate

Stephen M. Walt is the Robert and Renée Belfer Professor of International Relations at Harvard University. He is a respected academic who gained a degree of fame with the book he co-authorised, the best-selling The Israel Question.

In a piece "Actions Speak Louder Than Words" on FP which ought to be compulsory reading for all US politicians - as indeed all politicians in whatever country - Walt rightly highlights that it's not what one says but the actions which count. That message is particularly important given that the Americans, in particular, have said one thing and acted totally otherwise. Just think urging countries to follow the rule of law and then act contrary ro that with things like Gitmo, renditioning, torturing prisoners, holding people for years without trial, etc. etc.

"Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, has reportedly penned a "searing critique" of efforts to improve U.S. relations with the Muslim world via "strateg…

Some sound and timely advice from Arch. Tutu

"The lesson that Israel must learn from the Holocaust is that it can never get security through fences, walls and guns" Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu of South Africa told Haaretz Thursday.

Commenting on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's statement in Germany Thursday that the lesson of the Holocaust is that Israel should always defend itself, Tutu noted that "in South Africa, they tried to get security from the barrel of a gun. They never got it. They got security when the human rights of all were recognized and respected."

Read the full Haaretz article here. Failure by the Israelis to listen to, and adopt, Tutu's sage advice will almost certainly result in a myriad of problems for Israel, not the least of which it's very existence.

Middle East Talks? Doomed at Birth

As there is talk in the media about some sort of resolution of the present stand-off between the Israelis and the USA with respect to the on-going building and expansion of settlements by the Israelis - as well starting up, yet again, talks between the Israelis and Palestinians - Seth Freedman, writing from Israel in "Obama’s Middle East breakthrough? Dream on" on The First Post, says there is more than considerable reason for scepticism:

"News of Barack Obama's apparent breakthrough in the Middle East peace process makes for great copy, but the announcement's beauty is only skin deep. His 'success' simply amounts to having forced Prime Minister Netanyahu to agree to a freeze in settlement construction as a means to get both sides - Israelis and Palestinians - to the negotiating table.

While any kind of concession on the part of the hardline Israeli government must be seen as a positive sign, past form is the best guide as to how the latest round of peace …

The Really Good Life - post the US Govt. [US$173 billion] Bailout

Abby Zimet writing on CommonDreams:

"Now that we've bailed out massive insurer AIG to the tune of $173 billion, it's gratifying to see its new CEO Robert Benmosche making good on our faith in him. A few days after taking the job, which pays up to $10.5 million - 3 in cash, 4 in stock, 3.5 in bonuses - he went on vacation at his Croatian villa, with its 12 bathrooms, Italian tiles, French tapestries, wine cellar, vineyards and sweeping view of the Adriatic. While there, he is working hard, sometimes making three calls a day! Given that, he cannot understand the ire of those "lynch mobs with pitchforks" who begrudge him his life.

"At the end of the day none of us are entitled to anything. It is what we earn."

Afghanistan Apocalypse

Whilst we await the results of the so-called recent presidential election in Afghanistan - with increasingly more and more reports casting doubt on the integrity of the voting which took place - the predictions for the War in Afghanistan seem to be becoming more gloomy and dire by the day.

Robert Dreyfuss, writing in The Nation in "Afghanistan Apocalypse" says:

"Yesterday afternoon at the Brookings Institution, four analysts portrayed a bleak and terrifying vision of the current state of affairs in Afghanistan in the wake of the presidential election. All four were hawkish, reflecting a growing consensus in the Washington establishment that the Afghanistan war is only just beginning.

Their conclusions: (1) A significant escalation of the war will be necessary to avoid utter defeat. (2) Even if tens of thousands of troops are added to the US occupation, it won't be possible to determine if the US/NATO effort is succeeding until eighteen months later. (3) Even if the Uni…

Teddy Kennedy: The Real Deal

Acres of newsprint has already been written in relation to the passing of Teddy Kennedy.

Forget about the some of the hyperbole and clearly incorrect claims [one notable one that Kennedy was the "son of Camelot"] but this tribute by Robert Scheer in "The Real Deal" writing in The Nation is sober and seems nuanced:

"The light has gone out, and with it that infectious warm laugh and intensely progressive commitment of the best of the Kennedys. Not, at this point, to take anything away from the memory of his siblings—Bobby, whom I also got to know, was pretty terrific in his last years—but Sen. Ted Kennedy was the real deal.

Unable to move with his brothers’ intellectual alacrity, sometimes plodding in impromptu expression but smooth and skillful while reading from a script, the youngest Kennedy made up for his shortcomings early in his Senate career by resolutely working the substance of issues. His principled determination, plus his capacity to truly care about …

In Love and War

From CommonDreams:

"As poignant testimony that life goes on, even in Gaza, Rana and Mahmoud al-Zourby were recently married in a bittersweet union, the bridegroom in his wheelchair, the bride guiding him. Though Mahmoud lost his eyesight and right leg in the Israeli assault on Gaza, Rana says this marriage is like any other - "a life-long commitment, for better or worse."

"No bomb can ever take his heart." – Rana al-Zourby, on her new husband."

Bottled Water loses its lustre

The Boston Globe reports in "Bottled-water scam finally feels squeeze on the decline" on the over-hyped fad of drinking bottled water:

"We don't miss the water when the cash runs dry. Bottled water, that is. That refreshing news came recently as Nestle reported nearly a 5 percent drop in bottled water sales in North America and Western Europe. That company bottles water under the familiar names of Poland Spring, Perrier, S. Pellegrino, and Deer Park.

Pepsi’s Aquafina and Coke’s Dasani reported declining or weakening bottled-water sales as well. The president of Pepsi’s North American bottling group, Rob King, said in a July conference call, “In just a tough economic environment, one of the first things that a shopper can do is consume tap water as opposed to purchasing bottled water.’’

The sad part is that ending the bottled-water fad took a recession, when common sense should have kicked in long ago.

While some bottled water does come from the natural springs and mount…

Must Read Report

The Report just released about the CIA's torture methods, will doubtlessly lead into various "interesting" directions.

Former lawyer, Glenn Greenwald, who now writes on Salon, says:

"I wrote earlier today about Eric Holder's decision to "review" whether criminal prosecutions are warranted in connection with the torture of Terrorism suspects -- that can be read here -- but I want to write separately about the release today of the 2004 CIA's Inspector General Report (.pdf), both because it's extraordinary in its own right and because it underscores how unjust it would be to prosecute only low-level interrogators rather than the high-level officials who implemented the torture regime. Initially, it should be emphasized that yet again, it is not the Congress or the establishment media which is uncovering these abuses and forcing disclosure of government misconduct. Rather, it is the ACLU (with which I consult) that, along with other human right…

On Obama: The fruit loops out there....

It is bad enough to read that gun-toting individuals have been attending town hall meetings at which Obama has been speaking, but the looneys out there have been having a field day accusing the new president of a range of things.

The Economist tries to put the whole thing in some sort of context, whilst giving some examples of the extreme views and positions taken by seemingly far too many Americans:

"Some of Barack Obama’s detractors content themselves with arguing that he is a bad president. Others go further. “Birthers” insist that he was not born in the United States and is therefore constitutionally barred from being president. Yet Mr Obama’s birth certificate says he was born in Hawaii, and there is not a shred of evidence to the contrary. There is even an announcement of his birth in the archive of the Honolulu Advertiser, a local newspaper. Yet the internet crackles with theories as to how all this was faked so that, 48 years later, Mr Obama could impose a socialist state o…

Sink or swim?

Credit to Daryl Cagle at MSNBC

Continued: Lockerbie - and those doubts

The debate about the soundness of the finding of guilt of the Lockerbie bomber - or the alleged one - continues, and it looks like it will do so for quite some time.

consortiumnews.com has a piece which details the myriad of doubts cast over the verdict of guilt of one of the two presented for trial. That in itself, as the author points out, is more than curious, given that essentially the same evidence was led against both accused.

"The truth about what happened at Lockerbie appears quite a bit more complex than the cookie-cutter version presented by the mainstream media. Several longtime observers of the al-Megrahi case have concluded that it has always been weak, at best.

According to British journalist Hugh Miles in a 2007 article for London Review of Books, many “lawyers, politicians, diplomats and relatives of Lockerbie victims now believe that the former Libyan intelligence officer is innocent.”

Miles quoted Robert Black QC, an Edinburgh University professor emeritus of S…

Lockerbie's [600 page] hidden evidence

Whether it be a media beat-up or not, there are many [principally in the US] outraged by the release of the convicted Lockerbie bomber, whilst there is much considered opinion that the now released bomber is innocent.

The Morning Star reports:

"Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi's release on compassionate grounds, although welcomed by many campaigners in Britain, means we are no further forward in terms of establishing the truth regarding the Lockerbie bombing.

For many, Megrahi was a convenient scapegoat, deflecting attention away from a wealth of evidence which would bring into question the official version of events.

This suspicion has deepened with the suggestion that Megrahi had been forced to withdraw his appeal against conviction or be refused leave to return to Libya to see out his dying days.

An estimated 600 pages of evidence, much of which may prove Megrahi's innocence, has been withheld from the public."

And:

"Despite the large amount of evidence pointing to …

What? Ethnic cleansing?

Jewish lobby groups know no bounds! Now, as The Guardian reports, pro-Israel groups in the US are claiming that Obama is engaged in ethnic cleansing by seeking the cessation of the building of settlements. In fact, he is being anti-semitic, they claim.

"Hardline pro-Israel groups in the US have been confronting President Barack Obama's demands for a halt to settlement expansion by accusing him of promoting the ethnic cleansing of Jews and jeopardising Israel's security.

Members of Congress allied with Israel and powerful lobby groups in Washington are also trying to shift the focus of administration policy from the Jewish settlements, arguing they are not an obstacle to peace, to demands for Arab governments to recognise Israel.

The strategy, intertwined with a similar campaign by Israeli politicians and officials, has taken on added urgency because of Obama's demands, first laid down during a testy meeting in May with the Israeli prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu…

Movies: Mike Moore does it again

AlterNet reports:

"Two years after his last critique of the nation’s governing bodies in 2007’s ‘Sicko,’ agitprop documentarian Michael Moore is back with a new movie — and this time, his target is the economy. In a just-released teaser clip for Capitalism: A Love Story, Moore puts on his trademark baseball cap to go after corporate America.

“It’s a crime story,” Michael Moore says of his latest documentary, in a recent interview with Entertainment Weekly. “But it’s also a war story about class warfare. And a vampire movie, with the upper 1 percent feeding off the rest of us. And, of course, it’s also a love story. Only it’s about an abusive relationship.”

“I made this movie as if it was going to be the last movie I was allowed to make,” the Michigan native concluded before adding “Oh, and by the way, it’s a comedy.”

The film is already up for the top prize at the Venice Film Festival, which takes place Sept. 2-12 in Venice, Italy.

Moore’s latest will also headline at the Toronto film…

Obama: Sanguine v Anxiety

The voices are getting louder, the polls not looking so good and the attacks more and more strident.

Obama is facing the test of whether all that smooth rhetoric whilst campaigning - and speeches since then aided by a teleprompter - are translating into something being seen to being actually done. The report card to date isn't all that impressive - especially as one sees policies of the Bush Administration continuing.

With Obama's attempt to introduce health reform, he is encountering brickbats galore apart from offensive attacks from various quarters.

Bob Herbert, writing in "Voices of Anxiety" in The NY Times, perhaps reflects thinking in the US:

"The president may be sanguine, but the same cannot be said of the general public, including some of Mr. Obama’s most ardent supporters. The American people are worried sick over the economy, which may be sprouting green shoots from Ben Bernanke’s lofty perspective but not from the humble standpoint of the many milli…

Democracy doesn't mean freedom

OK, the elections in Afghanistan have taken place. Now the world awaits the result.

Meanwhile, veteran journalist, author and commentator Robert Fisk in a piece in The Independent "Democracy will not bring freedom" questions what sort of democracy one might look to in countries such as Afghanistan:

"We still think we can offer Afghans the fruits of our all-so-perfect Western society. We still believe in the Age of Enlightenment and that all we have to do is fiddle with Afghan laws and leave behind us a democratic, gender-equal, human rights-filled society.

True, there are brave souls who fight for this in Afghanistan – and pay for their struggle with their lives – but if you walk into a remote village in, say, Nangarhar province, you can no more persuade its tribal elders of the benefits of women's education than you could persuade Henry VIII of the benefits of parliamentary democracy. Thus the benefits we wish to bestow upon the people of Afghanistan are either ch…

1 to Nethanyhu, 0 to Obama

Obama has spoken of the America's desire that Israel cease its building and extension of the ever-growing settlements - the source of so much friction in the on-going Israel-Palestinian conflict.

As Obama has seemingly stopped in his tracks from doing anything to halt Israel's actions in relation to the settlements, The Washington Post reports that Nethanyhu has garnered support for standing up to the US president:

"For five months, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has been fending off U.S. pressure to halt the expansion of West Bank settlements. Now he is reaping dividends for his defiance.

Although Israeli leaders have historically been reluctant to publicly break with the United States for fear of paying a price in domestic support, polls show that Netanyahu's strategy is working. And that means that after months of diplomacy, the quick breakthrough that President Obama had hoped would restart peace talks has instead turned into a familiar stalemate.

Arab stat…

The GOP and "freedom of speech" out of control

For non-Americans observing what is said and done in America can mostly be more than vexing and amazing. Freedom of speech is one thing, as also the apparent unfettered right to bear arms, almost no matter where or in whatever circumstances, but the seeming legitimacy given to the loony right-wingers or shock-jocks, is truly astounding.

Brit Johann Hari writing in The Independent in "Republicans, religion and the triumph of unreason" comments on the state of play in the US in relation to a number of matters:

"Since Obama's rise, the US right has been skipping frantically from one fantasy to another, like a person in the throes of a mental breakdown. It started when they claimed he was a secret Muslim, and – at the same time – that he was a member of a black nationalist church that hated white people. Then, once these arguments were rejected and Obama won, they began to argue that he was born in Kenya and secretly smuggled into the United States as a baby, and the…

Hilary.....and that man!

Credit to Theo Moudakis

What, If He's Innocent We Can't Execute Him?

To watch the American judicial system from afar is more than amazing.

Some of the pronouncements made by judges, including those on the Supreme Court, are not only astounding but breathtaking.

Just read the following from CommonDreams.org and try and not choke when reflecting on the fact that this has been said by a judge, a lawyer [?] and human being:

"After 18 years on Death Row, Troy Davis will finally get a chance to prove his oft-stated innocence in a killing after the Supreme Court took the rare step of ordering a federal court in Georgia to re-consider his case. The decision comes after seven witnesses recanted their testimony against him, several people implicated a main witness as the killer, and 27 former prosecutors and judges filed a brief supporting Davis. Astonishingly, in a dissent from the court ruling, Justice Antonin Scalia argued that "actual innocence" is no reason not to execute someone. In light of his remarks, we again welcome Sonia Sotomayor, …

Amidst mayhem and threats......an election?

Tomorrow [Thursday] sees Afghanistan hold its second election in recent years.

Whilst there are several candidates for the Presidency, the omens for the election are far from encouraging. Leaving aside the violence already occurring in the country - even in downtown Kabul - not to be overlooked is the Taliban which has openly threatened that if it sees those with purple marks on their finger [indicating that they have voted] that they will cut off that finger. Some incentive to go and vote!

In a piece headed "As Afghanistan Votes, Will the Taliban Win?" The NY Times has a selection of pieces from people in Afghanistan giving their perspective of the elction. Go here to read the 4 reports.

Meanwhile, over at The Nation Robert Dreyfuss, writing in "Karzai, the Pashtuns, and the Taliban" on the election says:

"The prospects for Afghanistan's election on Thursday are murky, at best.

The Taliban are threatening to disrupt the vote in areas south and eas…

No justice here!

"The last person to see Syed Mehmood Hashmi as a free man was his friend Mohammed Haroon Saleem, who on June 6, 2006, drove Hashmi to London's Heathrow Airport, walked him to the security checkpoint, and watched him hoist his bag and head for the gate. But Hashmi never made his flight. At passport control, constables pulled him from the line and told him they had an extradition warrant on behalf of the US government. He was to be charged with aiding Al Qaeda.

Today Hashmi, who is 29, sits in a windowless cell, in solitary confinement. He is not allowed to watch television or listen to the radio or read a newspaper unless it is at least 30 days old and censored. He is not allowed to speak to guards, other inmates, or the media, or to write anyone but his attorney and his family (once a week on three single-sided pages). The only people cleared to visit, besides his lawyer, are his mother and father, but he couldn't see them for three months after he was caught shadowboxing …

Critical Warning: Asia facing food crisis

It's more than a timely warning - especially for those in the world who are satisfactorily housed and have an abundance of food and water available to them.

The Guardian reports in "Asia facing unprecedented food shortage, UN report says":

"Asia faces an unprecedented food crisis and huge social unrest unless hundreds of billions of dollars are invested in better irrigation systems to grow crops for its burgeoning population, according to a UN report published today.

India, China, Pakistan and other large countries avoided famines in the 1970s and 1980s only because they built giant state-sponsored irrigation systems and introduced better seeds and fertilisers. But the extra 1.5 billion people expected to live on the continent by 2050 will double Asia's demand for food, says the report from the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the World Bank-funded International Water Management Institute (IWMI).

A combination of very little new land left for cul…

The Truth Warrior

There are few academics in the US who can bring to bear the sort of knowledge, background and expertise that Professor John Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago can. Now known, with co-author, Stephen Walt, as the author of the best-selling book The Israel Lobby, Mearsheimer's expertise extends beyond the Middle East.

In an excellent piece in the Sydney Ideas Quarterly, Antony Loewenstein profiles Mearsheimer:

"With the death of Samuel Huntington last year, Mearsheimer’s prominence in the field is virtually undisputed. Huntington, the author of the controversial Clash of Civilisations, was a spur to Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt's even more controversial book, The Israel Lobby and US Policy. Walt, from Harvard University, explained in the magazine Foreign Policy, that although both of them often disagreed with Huntington, 'some of his own writings contain similar warnings about the distorting influence that ethnic groups could have on US foreign policy'."…

Biking Out of Iraq

As the news out of Afghanistan increases, so correspondingly, does the reporting out of Iraq diminish even more. That there are increasing sectarian bombings in the country - with large numbers of deaths and injury - hardly rates any media coverage.

One can't help be left with the impression that what the Coalition of the Willing would have us all believe is that things are going along pretty well now in Iraq. If only it were so!

TomDispatch.com in a posting "Biking Out of Iraq" details where things are at:

"The Bush administration invaded Iraq in March 2003 with a force of approximately 130,000 troops. Top White House and Pentagon officials like Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz were convinced that, by August, those troops, welcomed with open arms by the oppressed Iraqis, would be drawn down to 30,000-40,000 and housed in newly built, permanent military bases largely away from the country's urban areas. This was to be part of what now is called a &…

Water! A Human Right?

Water! It's a commodity that many people take for granted.

In the US, the almost universal habit of providing water at the restaurant table - and far too large a glass to boot - sees a lot of water simply wasted. Just observe how many diners either actually drink any of the water in the glass let alone finish the glass.

IPS [Inter Press Service] now reports in "Should Water Be Legislated as a Human Right?" that the powers-that-be have realised that something has to be done about the availability and access to water:

"The growing commercialisation of water - and the widespread influence of the bottling industry worldwide - is triggering a rising demand for the legal classification of one of the basic necessities of life as a human right.

"We definitely need a covenant or [an international] treaty on the right to water so as to establish once and for all that no one on earth must be denied water because of inability to pay," says Maude Barlow, a senior …

Israel imposes yet more restrictions

The Israelis have always tightly controlled who enters Gaza. So much for the much-vaunted withdrawal of the Israeli's from the tiny strip of land!

However, unlike Israelis, those holding foreign passports have hitherto been permitted access to the West Bank. Until now that is!

The National reports in "New Israeli rules curb travel from West Bank" that now foreigners, in breach of international law and the Oslo Accord, are to be restricted from going into the West Bank:

"In an echo of restrictions already firmly in place in Gaza, Israel has begun barring movement between Israel and the West Bank for anyone holding a foreign passport, including humanitarian aid workers and thousands of Palestinian residents.

The new policy is designed to force foreign citizens to choose between visiting Israel, including East Jerusalem, which Israel has annexed illegally, and the West Bank. In most cases, travel between the two areas will no longer be possible.

The new regulation…

Rupert will get you - one way or the other!

Credit to Danziger in The NY Times

So that's where the money went!

"In numbers that Paul Krugman has called "truly amazing," a recently updated paper by a Berkeley economist finds that income inequality in the U.S. is at an all-time high, surpassing even the inequities of the Depression. Professor Emmanuel Saez found that, during the feed-the-rich Bush years of 2002-2007, the top 1 percent of Americans enjoyed two thirds of the income growth."

from CommonDreams.org

Afghanistan: Is this what we are fighting for?

With elections coming up in Afghanistan next week - and the corrupt Pres. Karzai probably going to win re-election - it will be recalled that one of the reasons the US and its allies are fighting in the already war-torn country is to enshrine democratic values, etc. etc.

One does have to wonder! Is this the sort of country worthy of pouring untold billions of dollars into aside from the human cost in lives and injury?

The Guardian reports in "Afghanistan passes 'barbaric' law diminishing women's rights":

"Afghanistan has quietly passed a law permitting Shia men to deny their wives food and sustenance if they refuse to obey their husbands' sexual demands, despite international outrage over an earlier version of the legislation which President Hamid Karzai had promised to review.

The new final draft of the legislation also grants guardianship of children exclusively to their fathers and grandfathers, and requires women to get permission from their husba…

Yes, newspapers are still needed

As the debate continues about what to do as newspapers increasingly disappear - and there is discussion about charging users accessing newspaper content on line - Jeff Sparrow, writing on newmatilda.com [an excellent Australian online publication] discusses the Australian experience, especially the fact that the first-class ABC [not to be confused ABC in the USA] is free:

"It's true that the internet poses new challenges to the media, but they are not entirely without precedent. When radio came to Australia, that technology seemed as magical as the web does now, a wondrous and instantaneous format capable of transforming life in a big country with a small population. Yet it quickly became apparent that there was no obvious business model under which private operators would use radio to its full potential. Who would broadcast to the bush, for instance? Who would establish a serious newsroom, rather than simply producing light entertainment? From very early on, it was apparent t…

The growing numbers of militias in the USA

As if the USA isn't confronted with enough issues to keep it focused on those alone - health care, the economy, unemployment, the war in Afghanistan, etc. etc. - today sees a Report issued by the respected Southern Poverty Law Centre on the growth of militias in the country.

The Report, in speaking for itself, reflects something very threatening happening and trend in America:

"The 1990s saw the rise and fall of the virulently antigovernment "Patriot" movement, made up of paramilitary militias, tax defiers and so-called "sovereign citizens." Sparked by a combination of anger at the federal government and the deaths of political dissenters at Ruby Ridge, Idaho, and Waco, Texas, the movement took off in the middle of the decade and continued to grow even after 168 people were left dead by the 1995 bombing of Oklahoma City's federal building — an attack, the deadliest ever by domestic U.S. terrorists, carried out by men steeped in the rhetoric and conspirac…

A worthy Prize.....and priceless [!] brickbats

It has just been announced that renowned author, journalist, commentator and filmmaker, John Pilger, is to be awarded the Sydney Peace Prize.

Before the ink has been dry on the page, out come the usual suspects to attack not only Pilger but those who have made the Award. Stand up members of the Australian Jewish community - and take a bow!

What is "interesting" is how Pilger is pilloried. The verbiage used, as on one other Australian web site written by an ignoramus [not worthy of mentioning or linking to] which refers to Pilger as "the man is a joke among the serious-minded."

Er, ahem! The naysayers might care to just take a look at Wikipedia [here] to inform themselves of the large number of doctoral awards to Pilger and the huge number of awards he has garnered over the years to make him the most awarded journalist.

Obama fails to make the mark.....and worse, follows Bush

As some "mark" the so-called "milestone" of Obama having been in office for 200 days - what is there to celebrate given that it is a 4 year term? - increasingly Obama is being shown to be no different to his predecessor let alone meeting the promises he made during the presidential campaign last year.

Scott Horton, writing in The Guardian in "Obama's torture hangover", writes:

"Barack Obama gained the presidency with promises to restore America's fidelity to international law. A lawyer and law professor, he attacked the Bush administration's legal shortcuts in the "war on terror" and made a pledge to close Guantánamo. Since his inauguration, he has offered lofty rhetoric and reiterated pledges to end the Guantánamo camps, forbid torture and end the process of "extraordinary" renditions involving black sites. But his actions fall remarkably short of his words."

More troubling is what emerges from another piece "T…

Former PM: Get Real!

The piece will draw criticism from the usual suspects, but for the former Australian PM, Malcolm Fraser, to write - and for that matter The Age to publish the piece - about how Israel, and the rest of the world, must see things for what they are in the Middle east, is more than encouraging.

As Fraser, rightly, says, like it or not, Hamas was democratically elected, and refusing to acknowledge that fact and engage in negotiations with it, is to the detriment of the entire Middle East. Furthermore, Fraser, again rightly, says that Israel must be stopped from developing those wretched settlements in the West bank and East Jerusalem.

"Australia could urge, as others have done, that Hamas be brought in from the cold. But do we have the courage? In doing so, we would be a real partner of the US contributing to peace in the Middle East and removing an important source and inspiration for fundamentalist terrorists.

"Fear of criticism from the Jewish lobby in Australia has so far prev…

Will that be a cofffe or a laptop?

Our world - well, at least in America, if The New York Times is to be believed in this piece "Breakfast Can Wait. The Day’s First Stop Is Online":

"Technology has shaken up plenty of life’s routines, but for many people it has completely altered the once predictable rituals at the start of the day.

This is morning in America in the Internet age. After six to eight hours of network deprivation — also known as sleep — people are increasingly waking up and lunging for cellphones and laptops, sometimes even before swinging their legs to the floor and tending to more biologically urgent activities."

Another blow to a more civilised way of life?

Renditioning won't go away

The San Francisco Chronicle reports in "U.S. battling CIA rendition case in 3 courts":

"The Obama administration is fighting on multiple fronts - in courts in San Francisco, Washington and London - to keep an official veil of secrecy over the treatment of a former prisoner who says he was tortured at Guantanamo Bay.

The administration has asked a federal appeals court in San Francisco to reconsider its ruling allowing Binyam Mohamed and four other former or current prisoners to sue a Bay Area company for allegedly flying them to overseas torture chambers for the CIA.

Obama administration lawyers also argued that Mohamed's attorneys had violated secrecy procedures by writing a letter to President Obama, accompanied by a blacked-out document, asking him to disclose their client's treatment. A federal judge ordered Mohamed's lawyers to answer contempt-of-court charges in May that were punishable by up to six months in jail, but has since dropped those charges.

Most…

'There is no refuge, no place to go to deal with your grief'

The Independent writes:

"In the first ever unauthorised dispatch from an officer on the frontline, one young Captain offers a brutally honest account of life in Afghanistan, revealing the pain of losing comrades, the frustration at the lack of equipment, and the sense that the conflict seems unending and, at times, unwinnable

The author's name has been withheld".

Read the blunt dispatch here.

Troubling, and a wake-up call to politicians who so readily launch into war.......

Forget about text books......

Nothing is forever!.....as this piece in The NY Times reveals in "As Classrooms Go Digital, Textbooks Are History":

Now it is text books, traditionally used by school students everywhere, which are under challenge, and probably extinction, as teachers and their pupils use online facilities via their laptops.

"At Empire High School in Vail, Ariz., students use computers provided by the school to get their lessons, do their homework and hear podcasts of their teachers’ science lectures.

Down the road, at Cienega High School, students who own laptops can register for “digital sections” of several English, history and science classes. And throughout the district, a Beyond Textbooks initiative encourages teachers to create — and share — lessons that incorporate their own PowerPoint presentations, along with videos and research materials they find by sifting through reliable Internet sites.

Textbooks have not gone the way of the scroll yet, but many educators say that it will n…

A rare insight into Gaza

Hamas is deemed a terrorist organisation by many countries around the world. Yet, as a democratically elected party, it governs the 1.5 million people in Gaza.

Now, as we all know, not only did the Israelis pound the small piece of land, Gaza, during the recent Gaza War, but in effect, the place has been under blockade by the Israelis for nearly 2 years. All reports out of Gaza by NGO's speak of the hardship the people are suffering - be it lack of food and water or basic amenities, let alone building materials to re-build what the Israeli bombs destroyed.

Antony Loewenstein provides an otherwise rare insight into Gaza in a piece in The Nation, following a visit to Gaza which ended last week:

"Israel's recent war against Gaza has been condemned by virtually every human rights group in the world. An Israeli NGO of combat soldiers called Breaking the Silence released a report in July, based on the testimony of veterans of the Gaza campaign, that found excessive violence an…

Not so fast, Rupert!

A few days ago Rupert Murdoch, when presenting the latest accounts for his News Corp. - not a good "result" by the way - asserted people would have to pay if they wanted to read quality journalism on the net.

Hold on, Rupert! The reaction from your prospective customers has been less than favourable - as The SMH reports:

"Readers of the Rupert Murdoch-owned news.com.au website have panned his announcement that pay walls are to be erected around all News Corp-owned news websites.

A comment thread attached to a report about the announcement contained about 140 replies from readers – most of then opposed to the move and many of them threatening to quit News Corp websites when charges are applied.

The reaction of Bill of Bendigo was typical of the type of response on the thread: “I'm clearing my bookmarks right now,” he wrote. “Bye Bye.”

The thread was later removed from the story and buried, although the link itself was still live at the time of writing.

Speaking during…

Afghanistan: A very, very long haul - a decade in fact!

The Americans, and its allies, are presently bogged down in Afghanistan. British opinion is beginning to question their country's involvement in the conflict. Meanwhile, the human cost in deaths and injuries for the US continues to grow at a fairly alarming rate.

Not to minimise the human cost, the monetary one is tremendous. It also now is becoming apparent that the US will be bogged down in Afghanistan for what some say could be up to a decade - as The Washington Post reports:

"As the Obama administration expands U.S. involvement in Afghanistan, military experts are warning that the United States is taking on security and political commitments that will last at least a decade and a cost that will probably eclipse that of the Iraq war.

Since the invasion of Afghanistan eight years ago, the United States has spent $223 billion on war-related funding for that country, according to the Congressional Research Service. Aid expenditures, excluding the cost of combat operatio…

Palin's wackiness

The debate in the US on reforming its disfunctional and poor health system - well, at least for the over 45 million who don't have any health insurance - is hotting up.

The opponents to the sort of reforms Obama is pushing are becoming more strident and extreme in their opposition.

The latest to come out against the reform is none other than "our" Sarah Palin, one time Governor of Alaska and VP on the Sen. McCain ticket for the 2008 presidential election.

Read Palin on TPM and ponder.......this woman is seriosuly being touted as a presidential candidate in 2012?

"In a new posting on her Facebook account, former Gov. Sarah Palin (R-AK) made a dire statement about health care reform -- that it could result in an Obama-created "death panel" killing her infant son with Down Syndrome:

'The America I know and love is not one in which my parents or my baby with Down Syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama's "death panel" so his bureaucrats can …

Apt!

Dark days for China's liberals

RConversation reports:

"The people in this picture are not dissidents. They are civil rights lawyers who have been trying to work within the bounds of China's legal system and constitution to help ordinary Chinese people who are neither rich nor powerful nor politically connected. They have not been trying to organize an overthrow of the regime. Yes they're liberals in the Chinese political context - similar to how the ACLU and the EFF are liberal within the American context. Their rough equivalents in American political culture would be NPR-listening liberal democrats who work in public interest law with a lot of pro-bono cases and class-action lawsuits."

Troubling indeed! Perhaps we shouldn't be all that surprised. Continue reading the piece, in full, here.

Seeing and calling things as they really are

The fact that the Israelis want to erase the Nakba from the Palestinian's narrative, others see things very differently. And then there are all those settlements that keep on creeping onwards and outwards. Meanwhile, the Israelis posture about what they are doing or are prepared to do. One need not be cynical, and sceptical, to conclude that whatever the Israelis might say, their actions speak for themselves.

Two perspectives, from different parts of the world.

First from the San Francisco Chronicle:

"Peace will remain elusive so long as Israel's approach to Palestinian refugees is to erase them from history; when Palestinian property in the West Bank continues to be expropriated and developed for Israel; or when Palestinian families must be uprooted and their homes demolished because they are not Jews. The pressure of the Obama administration on the Israeli government must not wane. Beyond the call to freeze all settlement activity, President Obama should insist on e…