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Showing posts from May, 2010

No other word for it. Thuggery. Israel's Kent State

A lot has already been written about the unprovoked Israeli attack on an unarmed boat, in international waters, headed for Gaza carrying humanitarian aid for the besieged Gazans.

At the time of writing the death toll is said to be some 19 deaths and countless injuries.

Here is one of the first responses from Realistic Peace in Israel-Palestine:

"Having worked on the issue of Israel and its myriad conflicts for many years, one gets used to tragedy and even to stunningly abhorrent behavior. And indeed, I have seen more than enough of both from all sides in this conflict.

But every once in a while, things take a turn, and that turn is punctuated by a singular, stunning event. The murderous raid on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla this day was one such event."

And:

"The bottom line is that Israel raided these ships with commandoes, and the end result was a great deal of needless bloodshed. And apparently, according to the IDF spokesperson, as reported by journalist Gregg Carlstrom, t…

Beyond just Memorial Day

Lisa Millar is one of the Australian ABC's correspondents in the USA.

In a piece on The Drum on the ABC's web site, reflecting on the upcoming Memorial Day in America this weekend she has some observations, given that she is a "foreigner", perhaps more acute than otherwise, of what true memory really embraces.

"When I was here in my first term as a correspondent, the wars were just beginning. The nightly news would broadcast stories from those far away places in the Middle East. Young soldiers and marines would stand in front of the camera and send messages back home, talk about the challenges of facing this difficult enemy and reinforce their commitment to being there.

There would be stories from the communities they'd left behind, the towns where just about everyone was related to or knew someone who had gone to war.

There was Killeen near Fort Hood where I stood in the high school's corridor looking up at the stars hanging from the ceiling - silver for ea…

Hearing absent voices in the Middle East discourse

Perhaps most in the West ought to sit up and take notice of the words of leaders in the Middle East all too sadly missing in the discourse and narrative of that troubled region.

FP's Middle East Channel report makes for worthwhile reading:

"This week, Charlie Rose was in Damascus and conducted high-profile interviews with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal. The Bashar interview echoed many of the points previously made on the Channel by Joshua Landis in his piece 'What is behind the Scud scare?' in which he described how Bashar's Syria views its strategic decisions largely in a context of an assymetric power imbalance with Israel. Bashar noted about the U.S. in this vein that:

They don't understand that we want peace. But if you want peace, it doesn't mean--to sign [sic] peace treaty, it doesn't mean we sign capitulation agreement. That's what they don't understand. There is a big different between capitulation agree…

One of our greater books....and the "missing" author

"The celebrations will last the summer, as befits the 50th anniversary of the book that British librarians a few years ago voted top of a must-read list before you die (ahead of the likes of the Bible, Orwell's 1984 and Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, to name but three others in the top 10). There's just one problem. The guest of honour at the party almost certainly won't show up.

To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee's haunting and inspiring novel about the collision of childhood innocence with the realities of race and racial injustice in the Depression-era South, was first published in July 1960. Since then, it has sold about a million copies a year, become a fixture on every school reading list in the country, and been translated into 40 languages. But Lee herself more or less vanished from the face of the earth. She is 84 now, and living in a retirement home in the small, God-fearing town of Monroeville where she was born. It is a place of 7,000 inhabitants…

Reporting at its best.....exposing the worst

As you read this post, there is a flotilla of boats with some 800 people aboard - including members of the EU Parliament - steaming toward to Gaza to deliver 10,000 tones of purely humanitarian aid for the Gazans.

Israel has vowed to block the boats. As is its wont, Israel is again out there attempting its usual PR spin.

Thankfully, the Al Jazeera journalist is just that - in its finest tradition:

Obama: A man not up to the task

As Obama attempts very belatedly tackles the BP oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico, writing on TomDispatch in "The American Century Is So Over", Dilip Hiro asserts that Obama can now be fairly judged a failure on foreign affairs matters:

"Irrespective of their politics, flawed leaders share a common trait. They generally remain remarkably oblivious to the harm they do to the nation they lead. George W. Bush is a salient recent example, as is former British Prime Minister Tony Blair. When it comes to foreign policy, we are now witnessing a similar phenomenon at the Obama White House.

Here is the Obama pattern: Choose a foreign leader to pressure. Threaten him with dire consequences if he does not bend to Washington’s will. When he refuses to submit and instead responds vigorously, back off quickly and overcompensate for failure by switching into a placatory mode.

In his first year-plus in office, Barack Obama has provided us with enough examples to summarize his leadership sty…

Hell in the Islamic Republic

Roger Cohen, op-ed writer for The International Tribune and The New York Times, was one of the few journalists to be in and report from Teheran, Iran, on the upheaval following the obviously rigged election in Iran last year. It was graphic, and what happened in Teheran, tragic, to say the least.

In his latest column he writes about a regime which seems to be no better than the much-hated reign of the Shah some 40 years ago. However, he suggests that if we want to help the people of Iran that to isolate the country is going to achieve nothing - just to the contrary!

"If you believe that Iran is not eternally condemned to veer from a monarch’s to a theocrat’s repression, and that its centennial quest for pluralism is unquenchable, speak out about abuse but pursue engagement because isolation only serves the horror merchants. Shun the realist and idealist bravura for the gray area where things get done.

Iran is weaker now than before the election. Its renewed interest in Brazi…

Anyone for Facebook? [with lack of privacy and all]

Credited to Nate Beeler, The Washington Examiner

Amnesty's report condemns 'politicisation of justice'

Perhaps no surprise that in Amnesty General's Annual Report it condemns the "politicisation of justice".

BBC News reports:

"Amnesty International has criticised the "politicisation of international justice" in its annual report, which documents torture in 111 countries.

The human rights group accuses powerful governments of subordinating justice to political self-interest and of shielding allies from scrutiny.

It expresses particular concern over possible war crimes committed during fighting in Sri Lanka last year.

The report also criticises the UN for its failure to intervene.

Thousands of people were killed during the war, and a UN spokesman described the situation in northern Sri Lanka at the time as a "bloodbath".

But Amnesty says that "power plays" at the UN Human Rights Council led to member states approving a resolution drafted by the Sri Lankan government, complimenting itself on its success against the Tamil Tigers.

"By the end of…

Wellwishers

The world spends countless and mind-boggling trillions of dollars on armaments whilst in many parts of the world, really modest sums of money could make a material difference to the lives and well-being of people.

ABC Radio National's Breakfast program, presented by Fran Kelly, highlights how one couple, with commitment and starting out with little, have succeeded in making a substantial difference to villagers in Ethiopia.

"As Australia struggles with the ongoing drought, spare a thought for Ethiopia, where millions are affected by food and water shortages. It's frustrating because the solution for Ethiopian villagers is simply to dig a well, but that costs about $6,000 -- money the villagers don't have.

You might remember a couple of years ago I spoke with Ross Allen. He and his wife Marianne started the Wellwishers movement, and they're directly responsible now for bringing clean water for the first time in their lives to over 100,000 people."

Go here to he…

Look out for what looms up ahead

Robert Dreyfuss, writing in The Nation raises more than a valid question of where the US is heading, militarily, in the Middle East - and what it's objectives are.

"A secret military directive signed last September 30 by General David Petraeus, the Centcom commander, authorizes a vast expansion of secret US military special ops from the Horn of Africa to the Middle East to Central Asia and “appears to authorize specific operations in Iran,” according to the New York Times.

If President Obama knew about this, authorized it and still supports it, then Obama has crossed a red line, and the president will stand revealed as an aggressive, militaristic liberal interventionist who bears a closer resemblance to the president he succeeded than to the ephemeral reformer that he pretended to be in 2008, when he ran for office. If he didn’t know, if he didn’t understand the order, and if he’s unwilling to cancel it now that it’s been publicized, then Obama is a feckless incompetent. Take y…

Caste casts a tragic shadow over cupid

All too sadly, caste still carries sway in many countries, such as India. The consequences are often devastating.

The Washington Post reports on a situation of cupid in India which led to the deaths of a couple who eloped - and what followed.

"No one in this village visits Chanderpati Banwala's home, which stands at the end of a lane full of sleeping buffaloes and overturned wooden carts. The boycott began three years ago when her son eloped with his sweetheart, a neighbor from his clan.

But the marriage was short-lived. Village elders declared the relationship incestuous, a violation of ancient Hindu rules of marriage because the two were descendants of a common ancestor who lived thousands of years ago. As the couple tried to flee town, the young woman's family chased them down and dragged them out of a bus on a busy highway. The groom, Manoj, was strangled, and his bride, Babli, was forced to drink pesticide. Their bodies were dumped in a canal."

Continue reading h…

Confirmation of what we knew [suspected?] all along

The Guardian reports on a forthcoming book which clearly establishes that Israel was more than keen to assist South Africa during the horrid apartheid regime with no less than nuclear weapons.

"Secret South African documents reveal that Israel offered to sell nuclear warheads to the apartheid regime, providing the first official documentary evidence of the state's possession of nuclear weapons.

The "top secret" minutes of meetings between senior officials from the two countries in 1975 show that South Africa's defence minister, PW Botha, asked for the warheads and Shimon Peres, then Israel's defence minister and now its president, responded by offering them "in three sizes". The two men also signed a broad-ranging agreement governing military ties between the two countries that included a clause declaring that "the very existence of this agreement" was to remain secret.

The documents, uncovered by an American academic, Sasha Polakow-Suransky…

And, yes, what about those wars?

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan continue unabated - as also in Pakistan and probably Yemen now too - yet the American public seems indifferent to them.

It's a subject taken up by Glenn Greenwald in his latest Salon blog entry:

"The Washington Post's Fred Hiatt ponders how little attention our various wars received during the primary campaigns that were just conducted: "You would hardly know, from following this year's election campaign or the extensive coverage of last week's primaries, that America is at war. . . . those wars, and the wisdom of committing to or withdrawing from them, have hardly been mentioned in the hard-fought campaigns of the spring." Hiatt is right in that observation, and it's worth examining the reasons for this.

One significant cause of America's indifference to the wars we are waging is that those wars have virtually no effect on the overwhelming majority of Americans (at least no recognized effect), while they impose a …

Forged passports, and an assassination, a "mistake"

Greg Sheridan is the Foreign Editor for Rupert Murdoch's "The Australian" newspaper. To say that he is an apologist for anything Israel says or does is a mild understatement. Whilst he hasn't disclosed it, he has been to Israel courtesy of Australian and Israeli Jewish bodies.

Yesterday, Australia, rightly, expelled an Israeli "diplomat" - most likely a Mossad agent one would assume - because of Israel's use of forged Australian passports when in Dubai a few months back to assassinate an alleged Hamas operative. Forget about the fact that in addition to that infraction, the killing amounted to an extra-judicial killing in a foreign country.

How does Sheridan address the expulsion in his column in The Australian? He describes it an "overreaction" and "bad mistake" on the part of the Australian Government, and then concludes his piece with this astounding proposition:

"Whether this bad decision was the sign of governme…

It's not as cold as it ought to be.....

Lewis Gordon Pugh, an environmental campaigner, has swum 1km across a glacial lake on Mount Everest to highlight the impact of global warming.

He only wore swimming trunks, goggles and a swimming hat to face the 2C waters of Pumori Lake at 17,000ft (5,300m).

Pugh has been nicknamed the “human polar bear” for his cold water swims.

Europe: There goes the good life

Europe has traditionally been seen as encompassing many countries with a wonderful social security system, excellent health schemes, an urbane and relaxed lifestyle and generally a reasonably good life. No more, it seems.

The New York Times reports in "Europeans Fear Crisis Threatens Liberal Benefits" on
reality-check time in Europe:

"Across Western Europe, the “lifestyle superpower,” the assumptions and gains of a lifetime are suddenly in doubt. The deficit crisis that threatens the euro has also undermined the sustainability of the European standard of social welfare, built by left-leaning governments since the end of World War II.

Europeans have boasted about their social model, with its generous vacations and early retirements, its national health care systems and extensive welfare benefits, contrasting it with the comparative harshness of American capitalism.

Europeans have benefited from low military spending, protected by NATO and the American nuclear umbrella. They…

Google: Too big for its own boots?

With Google in the news because of its collation of private information about householders as it undertook its camera-work as part of Street View, The New York Times poses the not unimportant question in "Sure, It’s Big. But Is That Bad?" of whether Google, being the mammoth corporation it is,with significant reach into so much of our activities on line, needs to be curbed.

"Can monopolies exist online, when competition is only a click away? What constitutes anti-competitive behavior in the complex networked economy, where the very size of big companies allows them to operate more efficiently, and thus grow even bigger? Are consumers harmed if various services are bundled together, but everything is free?

Google executives acknowledge the scrutiny. “We’re getting larger, and we have been very disruptive within some industries,” says Alan Davidson, head of United States public policy at Google. “We know we have a giant bull’s-eye on our backs.”

UN biodiversity report calls for global action to prevent destruction of nature

More than sobering information [read this, naysayers!] revealed in a UN report, as reported by The Guardian:

"Species losses around the world could really cost us the Earth with food shortages, floods and expensive clean up costs."

And:

"Around the world the picture is as bad or worse: the International Union for the Conservation of Nature believes one in five mammals, one in three amphibians and one in seven birds are extinct or globally threatened, and other species groups still being assessed are showing similar patterns.

Simon Stuart, a senior IUCN scientist, has warned that for the first time since the dinosaurs humans are driving plants and animals to extinction faster than new species can evolve."


Obama: Oh, the hypocrisy!

"As a parent, I can also imagine the terror I would feel if one of my family members were rounded up in the middle of the night and sent to Guantanamo without even getting one chance to ask why they were being held and being able to prove their innocence. . . .

By giving suspects a chance -- even one chance -- to challenge the terms of their detention in court, to have a judge confirm that the Government has detained the right person for the right suspicions, we could solve this problem without harming our efforts in the war on terror one bit. . .

Most of us have been willing to make some sacrifices because we know that, in the end, it helps to make us safer. But restricting somebody's right to challenge their imprisonment indefinitely is not going to make us safer. In fact, recent evidence shows it is probably making us less safe."

Who would you think might have said that? None other than Pres. Obama - who has now, quite hypocritically, won for himself the right to de…

You have to hand it to Texas.....

Texas is many things - much of it not especially positive- but now another dimension has been added to this southern US State. It's revised curriculum for school kids.

BBC News reports:

"Education officials in the US state of Texas have adopted new guidelines to the school curriculum, which critics say will politicise teaching.

The changes include teaching that the UN could be a threat to American freedom, and that the Founding Fathers may not have intended a complete separation of church and state."

And:

"Students in Texas will now be taught the benefits of US free-market economics and how government taxation can harm economic progress.

They will study how American ideals benefit the world but organisations such as the UN could be a threat to personal freedom.

And Thomas Jefferson has been dropped from a list of enlightenment thinkers in the world-history curriculum, despite being one of the Founding Fathers who is credited with developing the idea that church and stat…

UK move something others could well follow

Scott Horton, writing in "New U.K. Government Opens Formal Torture Inquiry" on Harper's Magazine, rightly concludes that the enquiry on torture to be set up by the new UK Government could well be emulated by the Obama Administration - as also complicit governments in torture and renditioning.

"How does a newly elected government concerned about civil liberties and the accountability of its predecessor react to credible claims that intelligence operatives were involved in the torture of prisoners? Britain’s new foreign secretary, Conservative William Hague, shows the way. The Guardian:

'A judge will investigate claims that British intelligence agencies were complicit in the torture of terror suspects, William Hague, the foreign secretary, said tonight. The move was welcomed by civil liberties campaigners and may put pressure on the Labour leadership candidate and former foreign secretary David Miliband, who was accused by Hague, while in opposition, of having somet…

Don't condemn......Talk!

The Turks and Brazilians have concluded a deal with Iran whereby Turkey will process Iran's nuclear material. One might have thought that that would gain plaudits from those countries which have condemned Iran for its alleged nuclear ambitions and the fear of it destabilising the Middle East. Sanctions have already been imposed on Iran.

Rather than the Turkish-Brazilian deal being seen as a positive, the US has condemned it and vowed to seek even stiffer sanctions against Iran at the UN.

Stephen Walt, writing his blog on FP says that the US ought to welcome the move and start talking with the Iranians.

"Here's why I think the United States should welcome the deal. The only feasible way out of the current box is via diplomacy, because military force won't solve the problem for very long, could provoke a major Middle East war, and is more likely to strengthen the clerical regime and make the United States look like a bully with an inexhaustible appetite for a…

A child's wish: 'I want no one else in Israel ever to be hurt by a landmine'

It was always known, although Israel initially denied it, that it dropped an unprecedented number of landmines in Southern Lebanon when it invaded that country a few years back.

Now, The Independent reports:

"The Knesset [Isreali Parliament] has been moved to begin clearing some of its 260,000 mines by a remarkable 11-year-old. Donald Macintyre meets him".

Yes, you read that correctly - an astounding 260,000 landmines. There are many countries, Israel not being one of them, who have signed up to ban the use of landmines.

As the young campaigner says:

"Nor is he impressed by security arguments in favour of preserving the mines. "People are always inventing a new story not to remove the landmines." Accepting that a minority of the mines may have to remain at some of Israel's borders, he says: "There should not be mines where people travel."

Read the piece, in full, here.

Welcome to "justice" [and Death Row] Texas style!

Words fail.....in the land which professes that it has a judicial system which protects its citizens, a proper rule of law and lectures other countries on the failings of their court system.

The New York Times reports on "justice" in Texas [yes, a cowboy State]:

"A good way to end up on death row in Texas is to be accused of a capital crime and have Jerry Guerinot represent you.

Twenty of Mr. Guerinot’s clients have been sentenced to death. That is more people than are awaiting execution in about half of the 35 states that have the death penalty.

“People who are well represented at trial do not get the death penalty,” Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has said.

So what is Mr. Guerinot’s secret?

It seems to boil down to a failure to conduct even rudimentary investigations, said David R. Dow, a law professor at the University of Houston and the litigation director of the Texas Defender Service, which represents death row inmates, including not a few of Mr. Guerinot’s former clients.

“…

Whacking the politicians.....loud and clear

The primaries just concluded in the USA have seen the traditional political parties whacked by the electorate. But why?

Glenn Greenwald, writing his blog "Why do voters hate incumbents?" on Salon proffers his reasons for the politicians being on the nose. Remember too, that although UK PM Gordon Brown's Labour Party wasn't at all popular, the opposition Conservatives were unable in the recent election to gain an outright majority of votes and seats in the House of Commons.

"It makes perfect sense that the country loathes the political establishment. Just look at its rancid fruits over the past decade: a devastating war justified by weapons that did not exist; a financial crisis that our Nation's Genuises failed to detect and which its elites caused with lawless and piggish greed; elections that seem increasingly irrelevant in terms of how the Government functions; grotesquely lavish rewards for the worst culprits juxtaposed with miserable unemployment a…

They're at it again! This time urging war against Iran

Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Neck Deep: The Disastrous Presidency of George W. Bush, was written with two of his sons, Sam and Nat.

He now writes in "Itching to Fight Another Muslim Enemy", for consortiumnews, on the beating of drums, by politicians and the media, for an attack on Iran:

"If you read the major American newspapers or watch the propaganda on cable TV, it’s pretty clear that the U.S. foreign policy Establishment is again spoiling for a fight, this time in Iran

Just as Iraq’s Saddam Hussein was the designated target of American hate in 2002 and 2003, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is playing that role now. Back then, any event in Iraq was cast in the harshest possible light; today, the same is done with Iran.

Anyone who dares suggest that the situation on the ground might not be as black and white as the Washington Post's editors claim it is must be an “apologis…

Bishops: If they are not employees what are they?

The Catholic Church has a lot on its plate at the moment - including being sued for the actions of one of its bishops.

The position of the Church? Bishops are not employees of the Church. Eh?

TimesOnLine reports:

"The Vatican will today make its most detailed defence yet against claims that it is liable for US bishops who allowed priests to molest children, saying bishops are not its employees and that a document from 1962 did not require them to keep quiet.

The Vatican will make the arguments in a motion to dismiss a federal lawsuit on jurisdictional grounds filed in Louisville, Kentucky, but it could affect other efforts to sue the Holy See.

Jeffrey Lena, the Vatican's lawyer in the US, said the Vatican would assert that bishops are not its employees because they are not paid by Rome, don't act on Rome's behalf and are not controlled day-to-day by the pope — factors courts use to determine whether employers are liable for the actions of their employees."

This won't get far.....

Credited to Daryl Cagle, MSNBC

Sri Lanka slammed

It's perhaps not surprising that the actions of the SriLankan government are so very similar to those of the Israeli State. Always deny everything, challenge any independent investigation of anything - including making it almost impossible for reporters to act as true journalists - and disassemble.

Now the International Crisis Group's Report on Sri Lanka is in - and it slams the country. The Independent reports:

"An investigation into the last months of Sri Lanka's bloody civil war released yesterday claims that government forces were responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands more civilians than previously estimated, and targeted hospitals and humanitarian operations as part of their final onslaught on the rebel Tamil Tigers.

According to the International Crisis Group study, many thousands more people may have died in the operation than UN figures have suggested, with as many as 75,000 citizens unaccounted for, and almost all of the deaths in the so-called &q…

WikiLeaks: Speaking to the man behind it

WikiLeaks is cursed by Governments and corporations alike. Not surprising when one considers that the whistleblowing web site has revealed much critical information and data which governments and corporations would much rather remain under wraps.

We know the web site and its revelations. But who is behind it?

Phillip Adams, in his program Late Night Live on ABC Radio, interviews Julian Assange:

"WikiLeaks, the whistleblower website, has, in just three years, gone from a small, secretive organisation to a recognised media player; breaking stories about corruption, crime and lack of accountability among political and corporate interests. But it's also attracting the attention of Internet lawmakers. What happens when the notion of a free press comes up against the idea of regulated information?"

Sweet victory over Nestles....and saving the orang-utan

Ah, Nestles (already the subject of much criticism in relation to the products it sells in Africa) was taken on by Greenpeace, using social media, with respect to the company's use of palm oil in making one of its chocolate products - with a by-product of orang-utans dying in Indonesia.

The Agereports:

"Environment group Greenpeace has claimed social media led to its success in a campaign that linked global food giant Nestle's chocolate bar Kit Kat to deforestation in Indonesian rainforests and the destruction of orang-utan habitats.

Today in Malaysia, Nestle announced a partnership with not-for-profit organisation The Forest Trust (TFT), promising to adhere to responsible sourcing guidelines for palm oil.

In a Greenpeace report titled Caught Red-handed, launched on March 17, Greenpeace exposed Nestle's use of Indonesian logging company Sinar Mas and subsidiaries including Asia Pulp and Paper to obtain palm oil.

Palm oil is used as an ingredient in Nestle chocolate product…

Plan B? An emerging power diplomacy in the Middle East?

An interesting analysis - reflecting possible wider ramifications - by David Rothkopf in FP on the deal brokered by Turkey and Brazil whereby Turkey will process Iranians nuclear material.

"Whether the deal brokered by Turkey and Brazil with Iran ultimately actually defuses the stand-off between Tehran and the international community remains to be seen. And even if it does, it seems unlikely to actually stop Ahmadinejad & Co. from continuing surreptitious efforts to cultivate nuclear weapons capability -- especially given the Iranians' decision to simultaneously announce that they will continue their enrichment program in any event. Indeed, it, like the sanctions program the United States has been engineering, seems more likely to simply hit the "pause" rather than the "reset" button, thus buying the one commodity the Iranians want most: time.

That said the effort is significant on another level. It represents the return of Plan B both to Middle Eastern …

Robert Fisk: Silenced for speaking the truth about Guantanamo

The travesty that is Gitmo, and everything associated with it, rightly, won't go away!

Robert Fisk, writing in The Independent, reveals what is going on in a trial of a Canadian - who the Canadian authorities have seemingly abandoned.

"I began my column last week with the words "We know all about Guantanamo". I was wrong. Courtesy of the Toronto press – until a few days ago, when half of them were censored out of the drumhead courts martial that pass for "justice" in this execrable place – I have been learning a lot more.

Because the case involves a Canadian citizen – and because the Canadian government is doing sod-all for its passport-carrying prisoner – it hasn't been getting a lot of publicity on this side of the Atlantic. It should.

Omar Khadr was 15 when he allegedly – the word "'allegedly" is going to have to be used for ever, since this is not a fair trial – shot and killed a US Special Forces soldier in eastern Afghanistan in July …

Kicking an own goal!

Brilliant diplomacy! The Israelis clearly show that the country isn't the democracy it claims to be - because Chomsky has written and spoken of Israel. So, refuse him entry, not into Israel, but to the West Bank. So, now the West Bank, like Gaza, is under Israeli siege too.

Promised Land comments:

"According to Chomsky, what bothered Israeli officials at the Allenby crossing was not only his views, but the fact that he intends to visit the West Bank, and not Israel. Later it was said that the IDF authority might end up granting him a visa. But whatever way this affair ends, it is clear that Chomsky made a better case against Israel today than in anything he said or wrote. He practically proved that the Palestinians are far from being autonomous, and that the West Bank is in reality under siege, with Israel dictating who and what might leave or enter.

When the Spanish clown Ivan Pedro was denied entry by the Shin Beit into the West Bank, some people tried to make a national …

Missing in action!

Credit to R. J. Matson, The New York Observer and Roll Call

Karzai comes to DC: Oh what a merry dance!

Karzai comes to town....Washington. So, what does the Administration do?

Maureen Dowd puts her finger on the pulse in her latest op-piece for The New York Times:

"Everybody here lies.

But with the arrival of Hamid Karzai, the mendacity blossomed into absurdity.

The question for the Obama White House is not whether it can grow to appreciate the caped capo who runs Afghanistan. (President Obama can’t stand him.) The question is whether Karzai will fall for all the guff they’re throwing at him.

Ambassador Karl Eikenberry and Gen. Stanley McChrystal were paraded into the White House press room to pretend as though their dispute about the efficacy of the surge, given Karzai’s serious flaws as a partner, has been put to rest. (It hasn’t.)

The administration crooned a reassuring lullaby to the colicky Karzai: that it has a long-term commitment in Afghanistan (it doesn’t) and an endgame there (it doesn’t) and that it knows that the upcoming Kandahar offensive will work (it doesn’t).

Asked …

Google: Way beyond a mere search

We all know that the company Google, and Googling, now go with use of the internet.

But Google, the company, has, as we now discover, gone way beyond being the mere vehicle for searching the net. AFP reports [as reproduced on Salon] that Google has intruded on our personal space in a disturbing way:

"The company has accumulated about 600 gigabytes of people's online activities transmitted over public networks.

Google says it has scooped up snippets of people's online activities broadcast over unprotected Wi-Fi networks during the past four years.

The admission made Friday is likely to raise more worries about potential privacy breaches as Google gathers volumes of personal information through its search engine and other services.

Google picked up fragments of e-mails and Web addresses while its cars were photographing neighborhoods for the "Street View" feature on its mapping service.

The company says it only recently discovered it has accumulated about 600 gig…

A refreshing take on the internet....from an unusual source

The French Foreign Minister, Bernard Kouchner, has not shown himself over the years as being some sort of liberal thinker or libertarian.

It is therefore more than refreshing to read his op-ed piece "The Battle for the Internet" in the International Herald Tribune:

"In 2015, 3.5 billion people — half of mankind — will have access to the Internet. There has never been such a revolution in freedom of communication and freedom of expression. But how will this new medium be used? What obstacles will the enemies of the Internet come up with?

Extremist, racist and defamatory Web sites and blogs disseminate odious opinions in real time. They have made the Internet a weapon of war and hate. Web sites are attacked. Violent movements spread propaganda and false information. It is very hard for democracies to control them. I do not subscribe to the naïve belief that a new technology, however efficient and powerful, is bound to advance liberty on all fronts.

Yet, the distortions are th…

Oh Great! "Expect war for 5-10 years more"

What could be more sobering, or of greater concern, than to read in the US The Army Times [reproduced on CommonDreams], that a senior US military man says that we can expect war for 5-10 years more:

"For the next "five to 10 years," the military likely will remain engaged in the same kinds of conflicts it has been fighting since 2001, said Marine Corps Gen. James Cartwright.

"There is nothing out there that tells us we won't be wrapped up in these conflicts for as far as the eye can see," Cartwright said at the Center for Strategic and International Studies-sponsored forum. (AFP/Getty Images/File/Chip Somodevilla)The vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs on Thursday told a conference in Washington that "no one I know thinks we'll be out of" these kinds of conflicts any time soon.

"There is nothing out there that tells us we won't be wrapped up in these conflicts for as far as the eye can see," Cartwright said at the Center for Strategi…

America's Ten Most Corrupt Capitalists

AlterNet goes where others may fear to tread - identifying, and then detailing, what it says are America's ten most corrupt capitalists.

The List will surprise......including Warren Buffet being on it.

"The financial crisis has unveiled a new set of public villains—corrupt corporate capitalists who leveraged their connections in government for their own personal profit. During the Clinton and Bush administrations, many of these schemers were worshiped as geniuses, heroes or icons of American progress. But today we know these opportunists for what they are: Deregulatory hacks hellbent on making a profit at any cost. Without further ado, here are the 10 most corrupt capitalists in the U.S. economy."

Read the piece, in full, here.

Food for thought.....if it was you who was affected

In a piece "Blowback: Why They Try to Bomb Us" on truthdig David Sirota asks some penetrating and pertinent questions:

"Imagine, if you can, an alternate universe.

Imagine that in this alternate universe, a foreign military power begins flying remote-controlled warplanes over your town, using onboard missiles to kill hundreds of your innocent neighbors.

Now imagine that when you read the newspaper about this ongoing bloodbath, you learn that the foreign nation’s top general is nonchalantly telling reporters that his troops are also killing “an amazing number” of your cultural brethren in an adjacent country. Imagine further learning that this foreign power is expanding the drone attacks on your community despite the attacks’ well-known record of killing innocents. And finally, imagine that when you turn on your television, you see the perpetrator nation’s tuxedo-clad leader cracking stand-up comedy jokes about drone strikes—jokes that prompt guffaws from an audience of tha…

Governments have no place in monitoring the internet

The Sydney Morning Herald publishes an op-piece by blogger Antony Loewenstein on Government's trying to monitor the internet:

"We live under the illusion that governments can protect us from the evils of the world.

Paedophilia, extreme violence, lessons in self-harm and suicide, race hatred and terrorism. We have every right to expect governments to monitor hate and terror sites and arrest and prosecute those who aim to do harm to others.

But censoring the internet will have no effect on insulating us from these horrors. It's false security, comforting election-cycle rhetoric to convince fearful parents and scared teachers.

And that's just in the West.

Having spent time in numerous repressive states, such as Cuba, Egypt, Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia and China, there is no indication that these nations are any better at protecting their citizens from the darkest recesses of the internet or the mind. Millions of users find ways around filtering services provided by Western mult…

Accountability it certainly isn't

Jeremy Scahill is the author of the New York Times bestseller Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army. He is currently a Puffin Foundation Writing Fellow at the Nation Institute.

In his latest piece "Obama on Civilian Deaths in Afghanistan: "I Am Accountable" on The Nation he writes:

"During his White House press conference Wednesday with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, President Obama addressed the issue of civilian deaths caused by US operations in Afghanistan. "I take no pleasure in hearing a report that a civilian has been killed," said Obama. "That's not why I ran for president, that's not why I'm Commander in Chief."

"Let me be very clear about what I told President Karazi: When there is a civilian casualty, that is not just a political problem for me. I am ultimately accountable, just as Gen. McChrystal is accountable, for somebody who is not on the battlefield who got killed," said Obama.

Th…

A shameful and shamefaced celebration

From CommonDreams:

"Today is Jerusalem Day, wherein oblivious Israelis celebrate the "unification" of a city whose "unity" is not recognized by the international community, where Arab East Jerusalem and 28 Palestinian villages were erased to make way for Jewish homes and three-quarters of Palestinian children now live in poverty. From Haaretz, a look at Israeli denial on the subject of Palestinian repression, and the cost on both sides.

"The nation that oppresses another nation forges its own chains." - Karl Marx"

They were quite right all along

Who can forget the storm Walt and Mearsheimer caused, first with their piece on the Israel Lobby in the London Review of Books, and then with their book - which became a best-seller - on the same subject.

The authors were accused of anti-semitism for claiming that the Jewish lobby used its influence with US administrations to shape America's pro-Israel policy.

Now, Walt rightly points out in the latest posting "Wish I'd said that ... (wait a minute ... I did!)" on his blog on FP that he and Mearsheimer were right all along:

"From the New Yorker profile of Haim Saban:

"His greatest concern, [Saban] says, is to protect Israel, by strengthening the United States-Israel relationship. At a conference last fall in Israel, Saban described his formula. His 'three ways to be influential in American politics,' he said, were: make donations to political parties, establish think tanks, and control media outlets."

Presumably Abe Foxman will now denounce Saba…

Google to the rescue of journalism?

First Google was instrumental in killing the newspaper business. Now it is trying to reverse that...for commercial reasons.

James Fallow, writing in The Atlantic, explains in "How to Save the News":

"Plummeting newspaper circulation, disappearing classified ads, “unbundling” of content—the list of what’s killing journalism is long. But high on that list, many would say, is Google, the biggest unbundler of them all. Now, having helped break the news business, the company wants to fix it—for commercial as well as civic reasons: if news organizations stop producing great journalism, says one Google executive, the search engine will no longer have interesting content to link to. So some of the smartest minds at the company are thinking about this, and working with publishers, and peering ahead to see what the future of journalism looks like. Guess what? It’s bright."

A perspective not often heard or seen

The position of the Israelis in its ongoing conflict with the Palestinians gains most media attention. Rarely does one read a reportage from or a perspective of those on the Palestinian side.

"Ask Palestinians why there is no Gandhi in their movement, and often the answer comes: but there are several, and Mustafa Barghouti should be recognized more widely as one of them."

A medical doctor, born in Jerusalem in 1954, trained both in the old Soviet Union and in the US, he is the advocate of a strong, non-violent push to a two-state deal with Israel. He got his break in the show biz of American opinion last Fall on the Daily Show. His B. D. S. campaign this Spring in the world press and on American campuses stands for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions to bring the pressure of international attention and law on the Israeli government.

Mustafa Barghouti has set his own course in the famous Barghouti family and in Palestinian politics. With Edward Said and others in 2002, Must…

Addiction a la iPhone style

Forget about hash or ice.......is the iPhone the addiction of 2010?

Demographer Bernard Salt writing on The Australian:

'There can be no doubt that the arrival of new technologies has had a powerful effect in shaping work, life and relationships in the 21st century.

But the impact of mobile phones, SMS and social media such as Facebook and Twitter, as well as smart phones such as the iPhone, go beyond the way we work and the way we form relationships.

New technology is forging new protocols and new, somewhat bizarre, social behaviours.

Do you check emails on your iPhone on weeknights when you are home with your family? What about on weekends? Do you zone out of a family conversation to "just check your emails"?

Do you take your iPhone on holidays so that you can keep track of what's happening on the work front?

Have you checked your iPhone at a family wedding? What about at a funeral?

You have, haven't you? Is nothing sacred?

Why do you need to look at your iPhone all day…