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Showing posts from October, 2010

Obama.......No he can't!

The Obama electioneering slogan "Yes, we can" during the 2008 Presidential campaign seems destined to desert him and his Party at the mid-term Congressional elections next week. If the opinion-polls are right, the Democrats will lose big-time. It's a subject taken up by The Independent's Rupert Cornwall in Washington in his piece "Yes we can, Obama said. But can he?":

"For Barack Obama, the past is mere prologue. From January 2011, the President will be part of an entirely new political play in Washington. Unless every poll in these last days of the mid-term election campaign is wrong, next week's vote will force him to deal with a world in which Republicans have a majority in the House and near-parity in the Senate – and in which his plans for the presidency will have to take quite a different tack. For Mr Obama's first term, at least, the time of sweeping political change is at an end."

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"The conventional wisdom in Washington …

Israel: Some tongue in cheek introspection

From an op-ed piece "Three cheers for Israel's right" by Carlo Strenger in Haaretz:

"At this point the Western world is looking at Israel with a complete lack of understanding. Is it just a banana republic, something like a failed state? Or is it just behaving like a spoiled child, as Tom Friedman lately argued? Or is it an ethnocracy that, unsuccessfully, tries to hide ethnic cleansing and colonial ambitions behind protestations that it is under existential threat?

Israelis, in turn, feels misunderstood: After all, their country faces very real threats: Iran keeps calling for Israel's destruction, and may become a nuclear power. Hezbollah is armed to the teeth with rockets, and it has shown that it is willing to use them against Israel's population centers. Hamas rules Gaza, and its official position is that it will never accept Israel's existence. So why doesn't the world understand us?


The answer is, in the end, quite simple. It is the great achievem…

Teleconferencing medicos, war and the human cost

The news out of Afghanistan and Iraq about the military serving there is usually directed to the death of serving personnel. What is largely overlooked are the wounded and all the ramifications flowing from that. It is a dimension highlighted in a piece in The Washington Post reporting on how teleconferencing between medicos is helping wounded military people - whilst at the same time recording the extensive sort of the injuries suffered by serving men and women.

"Every Thursday afternoon doctors, nurses and medics gather in a conference room at the military hospital here, linked by telephone or videocam to colleagues at all the combat hospitals in Afghanistan, and at military hospitals in Europe and the United States. Over two hours, this virtual assembly of about 80 people reviews the care of every U.S. service member critically injured in Afghanistan in the previous week.

Among the 13 discussed at one recent meeting, nine will have permanent disabilities: Two lost one leg;…

Aghanistan: The True Facts

Those countries with troops in Afghanistan keep on telling us that it is essential that the war there continue to eradicate terrorists and make the war-torn country safe from insurgents. Any embedded journalists are pretty sanguine or mute in any reporting by them of what is happening on the ground.

Jeremy Scahill and Rick Rowley travelled Afghanistan, not embedded....and their report on the situation there does makes for sober reading. Both men appeared on Democracy Now. Read the transcript, in full, here, but Scahill's answer to one question captures the situation in the country - and is worth publishing here in full:

"Well, first of all, what’s abundantly clear from traveling around the Pashtun heartland—the Pashtun areas of Afghanistan are where the Taliban have their strongholds, and also Rick and I traveled in areas that are really heavily populated by members of the Haqqani network, which is the insurgent group that the United States government most closely …

Burma: You call that an election?

In "Why Is Burma Holding an Election?" Slates reflects on the upcoming so-called "election" in Burma:

"As predictable as Burma's election outcome might be, it is likely to attract considerable international press coverage. The last time Burmese politics made headlines, in 2007, thousands of monks were swarming into the streets of Rangoon, the country's largest city and former capital. The mass protests, which snowballed into the weeklong "saffron revolution," were put down with brutal force by the country's military junta, which bludgeoned and gunned down dozens of unarmed protestors, including a Japanese photojournalist.

Now, three years on, the government is seeking a mandate at the ballot box. Why, after 48 years of autocratic misrule, are Burma's military rulers holding elections?

One thing is clear: The junta is less interested in establishing a true democracy than in making a bid for international legitimacy and buying off dissent …

Black humour

Credited to Cameron [Cam] Cardow, Canada

The Boot

"Make no mistake about it, my friends. A perfect storm has gathered of racists, homophobes, corporatists and born agains and they are on fire. Two years of a black man who secretly holds socialist beliefs being the boss of them is more than they can stomach. They've been sick to death since the night of 11/04/08 and they are ready to purge. They won't need a rope and tree this time to effect the change they seek (why bother when a nice shoe on another's skull will do just fine, thank you)."

Tough and fighting words [on truthout, here] .....about the forthcoming mid-term elections in the US from someone not fearful of calling a spade a shovel. Mike Moore, famous for his documentaries on various aspects of American life. Moore calls what the winning GOP might do, putting "the boot" into a range of things, from healthcare to unions, to wages, etc. etc.

Hey, look where all the money goes

From CommonDreams:

"In 2009, the U.S. government spent some $650 billion on its military. This is more than the next 46 highest-spending countries combined. Much of this treasure ended up in the hands of profit-driven weapons manufacturers. In the following short film, directed by filmmaker Iara Lee, Cultures of Resistance takes a brief look at the current state of what President Eisenhower famously called the "military industrial complex." With the United States waging two wars overseas at the same time that millions of people are out of work at home, those pushing to reel in government spending and balance the budget would be wise to look carefully at bloated and unchecked military spending."

Direct and to the point!

Gideon Levy, op-ed contributor to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, is doubtlessly a troublesome gad-fly for Israelis - but ought to be labelled its conscience.In the fulness of time he will be seen to have been as such.

His latest op-ed [in fact, in full below] is yet another exemplary piece by Levy:

"The voice of joy, the voice of rejoicing is heard in Israel: The Americans and British have also committed for war crimes, not only us. WikiLeaks' revelations have inflamed all our noisy propagandists: Where is Goldstone, they rejoiced, and what would he have said? They were relieved. If the Americans are allowed to do it, so are we.

Indeed, the Americans are not allowed, and neither are we. When the traffic police stop a driver for speeding, the argument that "others do it" will not help him. When Richard Goldstone exposes war crimes in Gaza, the claim that "everyone does it" will not help us. Not everyone does it, and when they do, they should be excoriated and …

Durrrrr.....

Fox News takes a leaf out its program The Simpsons:

"Today, the unreal spectacle of outraged talking - but clearly incapable of thinking - heads at Fox News schooling our first black president on racial sensitivity. Do these people actually believe the crap they say?"

Go here, on CommonDreams, to see what Abby Zimet is talking about in his piece "Fox News Deep Thinkers Want to Impeach Obama For Offending Rosa Parks, Or Something".

Not a track record to follow up on

A political commentator in the US suggests wheeling in Bill Clinton and the former US ambassador to Israel to kick-start the so-called Middle East peace talks.

Stephen Walt comments in his blog on FP:

"One of the silliest things ever written was F. Scott Fitzgerald's statement that, "There are no second acts in American lives." Fitzgerald obviously wasn't around to witness the lives of Oliver North, Elliot Spitzer, G. Gordon Liddy, Elliott Abrams, or Madonna's entire career. I'm even betting Tiger Woods manages a pretty successful second act after his own embarrassing melodrama.

If Fitzgerald were alive today and studying the United States' Middle East policy, he'd never have written such a silly line. I refer to Laura Rozen's latest Politico column, entitled "On the Mideast: Waiting for Superman." Rozen suggests that the Obama administration is thinking about bringing former Clinton-era official Martin Indyk into the government to…

Two dire warnings......

If this isn't the direst of warnings, it's hard to imagine what is.......

"A growing number of creatures could disappear from the earth, with one-fifth of all vertebrates and as many as a third of all sharks and rays now facing the threat of extinction, according to a new survey assessing nearly 26,000 species across the globe.

In addition, forces such as habitat destruction, over-exploitation and invasive competitors move 52 species a category closer to extinction each year, according to the research, published online Tuesday by the journal Science. At the same time, the findings demonstrate that these losses would be at least 20 percent higher without conservation efforts now underway."

Equally disturbing and of concern is this report from The Guardian:

"Rising food prices and shortages could cause instability in many countries as the cost of staple foods and vegetables reached their highest levels in two years, with scientists predicting further widespread drough…

Rule of Law? What Rule of Law?

What a damning indictment of the American justice system when a so-called trial at Gitmo has all the hallmarks of not even approaching something akin to the rule of law. Just reflect on what the Americans would say if another country went through the sham detailed here in this piece on The Huffington Post:

"This morning I sat in a U.S. military commissions courtroom in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and watched the first child soldier charged by a Western nation since World War II plead guilty to crimes he was never seriously accused of. If the guilty plea of Omar Khadr this morning was a face-saving effort by the U.S. government, it was a sad day for the rule of law in the United States.

Omar Khadr is the 24-year-old Canadian who's spent a third of his life in U.S. custody without trial after being accused of helping his father's al Qaeda associates build improvised explosive devices when he was just 15. He was taken to Afghanistan from Canada by his father at the age of nine. …

Secrets of Centenarians

All too often the elderly, or senior citizens, are out of sight and out of mind. But with modern medicine facilitating longer life, there are many more centenarians amongst us.

They have something worthwhile contributing....and to listen to!

Salute to The New York Times for a multi-media feature of a number of centenarians which it has headed "Secrets of Centenarians - Life before, during and after 100".

Germany's Foreign Ministry condemned. Pro-Nazi!

What is being described as an explosive book about the German Foreign Ministry is about to be released. It again lays bare the wholesale complicity and active participation of so much of the German people and Nazi administration - that is to say, the German Government - in the Holocaust.

Spiegel International reports:

"Historians have found that the German Foreign Ministry was far more deeply involved in the Holocaust than had been thought. A new study commissioned by former minister Joschka Fischer in 2005 is due to present its findings this week, and concludes that diplomats went on covering up the past for decades."

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"The experts' verdict is damning. "The diplomats were aware of the Jewish policy throughout," they write, "and actively involved in it." Cooperating in mass murder was "an area of activity" of ministry staff "everywhere in Europe."

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"The historians' findings about the ministry in the post-war Wes…

WikiLeaked documents: The fall-out

CommonDreams writer Abby Zimet makes a compelling point and asks a very pointed question about the revelations flowing from the Wikileaked documents:

"A stunningly cogent editorial from the Guardian on Wikileaks' Iraq War Logs, the brutality they exposed and the legal and moral obligation to investigate U.S. forces' complicity in it. How appalling that no U.S. official - or mainstream paper - has yet to make such a demand."

Over at The Independent, op-ed writer Yasmin Alibhai-Brown makes some telling and relevant observations:

"I wonder if some staunch supporters of the Iraq war will now think again about the purpose and execution of that illegal and vainglorious expedition. The sanctions and war killed, maimed and destroyed more civilians than Saddam did, even during the most diabolical periods of his rule. Blair, Bush and their armies have never had to face proper, international judicial interrogations. Now imagine good Muslims worldwide, who know all about unive…

Al Qaeda's deadly exploitation of children

As people wade through the avalanche of some 400,000 documents "released" by WikiLeaks at the weekend, a variety of revelations make for disturbing reading - none less so than what The Bureau of Investigative Journalism reports on Al Qaeda's deadly unconscionable exploitation of children:

"One of the most disturbing stories in the war logs is the callous use of children as suicide bombers by al Qaeda in Iraq. The files detail how insurgents recruited children who, as innocents, could gain greater access to targets. But these innocents were killed.

There are numerous references in the war logs to the use of children by insurgent groups. The youngest mentioned is just 10 years old, and they are used as spotters, to plant IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices) or even fire rockets. The children, more often than not, died."

Ahhh.....reflection!

Credited to Mr Fish, truthdig.com

A bitter harvest

From "Palestine's Olive Harvest Horror" on CounterPunch:

"Last Friday was the official start of the olive harvest season in the Israeli-occupied West Bank as gunfire and real fire once again heralded its opening. Hundreds of trees were burned by settlers as Israeli soldiers looked on. Fire trucks were prevented from helping put out the blaze in what has become an annual ritual of despoiling land by those who have illegally settled on it.

To coincide with the beginning of the harvest, the international relief agency Oxfam released its report, “The Road to Olive Farming: Challenges to Developing the Economy of Olive Oil in the West Bank” in Jerusalem.

Oxfam indicates that Palestinian olive oil production contributes $100 million annually to some of the poorest, most disadvantaged families and communities in the West Bank. It is a primary source of revenue for the economy and nearly half of all agricultural land use is devoted to it. As one of the territory’s major expor…

Israelis: Yet more egregious conduct

That Israelis have shown little compassion for the people of Gaza is unarguable. Contrary to international law, the Israelis have meted out collective punishment to Gazans.

News today of yet further conduct by the Israelis really goes too far. A side-question is what the UN and nations of the world will do about Israel's egregious conduct. TheInternational Middle East Media Centre reports:

"Nearly two years after the devastating Israeli invasion of Gaza that left 1400 dead and over 30,000 families without homes, many of the schools that were destroyed in the invasion have yet to be rebuilt. Now a United Nations effort to rebuild schools in Gaza has been cut short by the Israeli military, which refuses to give the UN permission to build several schools.

The Israeli military claims that the schools could be used by Hamas to plan terror attacks against Israel. This, despite the fact that multiple UN and international investigations have found no evidence that Hamas has ev…

Robert Fisk: The implications of the WikiLeaks

No one knows the Middle East better than Robert Fisk, veteran journalist, author and commentator, who has lived in Beirut for some 30 years plus. Who hasn't he met and where hasn't he been? His assessment - as detailed in his latest op-ed piece in The Independent - and the experience he brings to bear on the just released documents by WikiLeaks cannot be ignored.

"As usual, the Arabs knew. They knew all about the mass torture, the promiscuous shooting of civilians, the outrageous use of air power against family homes, the vicious American and British mercenaries, the cemeteries of the innocent dead. All of Iraq knew. Because they were the victims.

Only we could pretend we did not know. Only we in the West could counter every claim, every allegation against the Americans or British with some worthy general – the ghastly US military spokesman Mark Kimmitt and the awful chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Peter Pace, come to mind – to ring-fence us with lies. Find a man who'…

Afghanistan: Yes, what about their women?

The issues in relation to Afghanistan grow by the day - as also the consequences of the war, not only in that country, but also in Iraq.

One of the issues often now touted for foreign forces being in Afghanistan - now that many of the other reasons have been shown to have been hollow - is that to leave would expose the women to the diktats of the Taliban. Yes, it is a critical issue.....but is what is going on now in the war-torn country helping them now?

Nicholas D Kristoff - who writes an op-ed column for The New York Times and also has his own blog - has actually been in Afghanistan and writes cogently about the Afghan women in his latest piece "What About Afghan Women?"

"The best way to end oppression isn’t firepower but rather education and economic empowerment, for men and women alike, in ways that don’t create a backlash. As I wrote in my last column, schooling is possible even in Taliban-controlled areas, as long as implementation is undertaken in close consulta…

It's safer to be circumspect blogging in the Middle East

"Iran is far from alone in locking up bloggers. Governments across the Middle East are increasingly twitchy about their citizens’ online activities. As internet use in the region has soared—up 19-fold since 2000, compared with a fivefold rise in the rest of the world, according to Internet World Stats, which monitors global internet usage—so the number jailed for what they do on the web has shot up too.

According to Reporters Without Borders, a Paris-based watchdog, at least 17 “netizens” are in jail across the Middle East: eight in Iran and the rest in Bahrain, Egypt, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Syria and the United Arab Emirates. China may be the biggest online represser, but the Middle East is not far behind."

So writes The Economist in a piece "Don't be too cheeky" on the hazards of being a blogger and blogging in countries of the Middle East.

Yes Virginia, its being an occupier

The reasons for terrorism and radical Muslims is keenly debated by those interested and knowledgeable, in the topic. The ignorant simply conclude that "they hate us".

Whilst those who claim that because of being occupiers that that is an underlying reason for terrorism - by no means an "excuse" - are often dismissed as plain wrong, it is a subject taken up by Robert Pape in the Argument section of FP:

"Although no one wants to talk about it, 9/11 is still hurting America. That terrible day inflicted a wound of public fear that easily reopens with the smallest provocation, and it continues to bleed the United States of money, lives, and goodwill around the world. Indeed, America's response to its fear has, in turn, made Americans less safe and has inspired more threats and attacks.

In the decade since 9/11, the United States has conquered and occupied two large Muslim countries (Afghanistan and Iraq), compelled a huge Muslim army to root out a terrorist s…

Glaring disparity

Trust a Swiss banker! Credit Suisse has undertaken an analysis of wealth in the world....and the distribution of it. The disparities are extreme, as AlterNet highlights in this piece on the banker's Report:

"The Credit Suisse figures show that total global net worth, despite the 2008 global economic meltdown, has rocketed up 72 percent since 2000.

The world’s 4.4 billion adults, notes the new Credit Suisse research, now hold $194.5 trillion in wealth. That’s enough, if shared evenly across the globe, to guarantee every adult in the world a $43,800 net worth.

But the world’s wealth, of course, does not stand evenly divided, and the new Credit Suisse study, to its credit, neatly breaks down the arithmetic of our staggering global unevenness.

We now have, at the wealth spectrum’s uppermost reaches, just over 1,000 billionaires and another 80,000 “ultra high net worth individuals” worth over $50 million each. We can add into this wealthy summit still another 24 million adults w…

Iraq: The facts and unwelcome exposure of the truths

No comment called for, other than what is revealed from the documents leaked by WikiLeaks ought to come as no surprise to anyone who has followed the war in Iraq. That said, the revelations are both shocking, disgraceful and appalling. The Guardian summarises it all in "Iraq war logs: secret files show how US ignored torture":

"A grim picture of the US and Britain's legacy in Iraq has been revealed in a massive leak of American military documents that detail torture, summary executions and war crimes.

Almost 400,000 secret US army field reports have been passed to the Guardian and a number of other international media organisations via the whistleblowing website WikiLeaks.

The electronic archive is believed to emanate from the same dissident US army intelligence analyst who earlier this year is alleged to have leaked a smaller tranche of 90,000 logs chronicling bloody encounters and civilian killings in the Afghan war.

The new logs detail how:

• US authorities failed …

A potent protest

University of Michigan students walked out of a speech by an IDF soldier in a potent silent protest Wednesday.

An effective protest at Israel's actions. That damn awful Wall is not only a blot on the landscape but signifies everything which is rotten in and with Israel and how it "deals" with the Palestinians - both inside the country and in the occupied territories.

An Israeli [and lizard] in Bali

Etgar Keretwas one of the most prominent guest speakers at the recent Ubud Writers and Readers Festival. His attendance was made even more special as Israel and Indonesia don't have diplomatic relations - and one of his sessions saw him in discussion with Palestinian writer Suad Amiry: see previous post here on MPS.

Back in Israel, Keret writes about his time in Ubud in the on-line journal The Tablet:

"The Swiss guy with the funny hat sitting next to me on the balcony of the Indus restaurant is sweating like crazy. I can’t blame him. I’m sweating quite a bit too, and I’m supposed to be used to temperatures like this. But Bali isn’t Tel Aviv. The air here is so damp that you can actually drink it. The Swiss guy tells me that he’s between jobs now, which gives him time to travel. Not too long ago, he managed a resort hotel in the New Caledonian Islands, but he was fired. It’s a long story, he says, but he’ll be glad to tell it to me. The Turkish writer he’s been trying to hit …

Maggie T rides again.....but even worse!

As one country after another confronts issues in relation to their faltering economies, measures to get back to some even keel seem to get more extreme and drastic.

Britain is the latest country to bring down a severe budget - which is destined to crimp the country for years to come. It's a theme which Johann Hari takes up in a piece "A colder, crueller country – for no gain" in The Independent:

"Margaret Thatcher is lying sick in a private hospital bed in Belgravia but her political children have just pushed her agenda further and harder and deeper than she ever dreamed of. When was the last time Britain's public spending was slashed by more than 20 per cent? Not in my mother's lifetime. Not even in my grandmother's lifetime. No, it was in 1918, when a Conservative-Liberal coalition said the best response to a global economic crisis was to rapidly pay off this country's debts. The result? Unemployment soared from 6 per cent to 19 per cent, and the …

The value of nature's resources = $ trillions annually

The headline above will doubtlessly take people's breath away..... or the question of who says?.... or the next question, of how does one calculate such a thing?

Well, the UN has in a report just issued by it - as The Independent reports in a piece which ought make everyone sit up and take notice.....urgently!

"Nature and the services it provides are worth trillions of dollars annually to human society, and governments and businesses must formally recognise this to halt the continuing degradation of the natural world, a groundbreaking UN report said yesterday.

The enormous economic value of forests, freshwater, soils and coral reefs, as well as the social and economic consequences of their loss, must be factored into political and economic policies in all countries, according to the new study of The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (Teeb).

It suggests, for example, that the value of human welfare benefits provided by coral reefs is between $30bn (£19bn) and $172bn annuall…

Google does it again....catching up with 2000 years of history

One can criticise Google as much as one likes - as MPS is wont to do and did so only yesterday - but for whatever negative things it does, there are positives too - as this piece "Google to bring Dead Sea Scrolls to modern world" in The Independent reveals:

"The 2,000-year-old Dead Sea Scrolls, some of the oldest, historically richest and most fragile religious texts in the world, are to be made available to more than a billion internet users thanks to a plan to put digitised images of the manuscripts online from next year.

One side effect is that the delicate parchment and papyrus fragments on which the text is written will not need to be exposed to the damaging effects of light and air to be read, thanks to the collaboration between Google and the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA).

Sixty-three years after a Bedouin shepherd first discovered one of the scrolls in a cave near the West Bank village of Qumran, close to the Dead Sea, they will be available to a readership un…

Palin: Carrying her ignorance with pride!

It takes the acerbic pen of Maureen Dowd, writing her regular latest op-ed piece in The New York Times "Making Ignorance Chic", to rightly challenge what sort of person aspiring presidential candidate Sarah Palin is.......ignorant! And proud of it!

"At least, unlike Paris Hilton and her ilk, the Dumb Blonde of ’50s cinema had a firm grasp on one thing: It was cool to be smart. She aspired to read good books and be friends with intellectuals, even going so far as to marry one. But now another famous beauty with glowing skin and a powerful current, Sarah Palin, has made ignorance fashionable.

You struggle to name Supreme Court cases, newspapers you read and even founding fathers you admire? No problem. You endorse a candidate for the Pennsylvania Senate seat who is the nominee in West Virginia? Oh, well.

At least you’re not one of those “spineless” elites with an Ivy League education, like President Obama, who can’t feel anything. It’s news to Christine O’Donnell that the …

Four countries, four economies.......

The world isn't looking all that good economically.

Overnight the British Chancellor of the Exchequer has taken a razor-blade to the country's budget - as Yahoo News reports:

"Britain outlined the sharpest cuts to public spending since World War II on Wednesday — slashing benefits and cutting public sector jobs with an austerity plan aimed at clearing record debts that swelled during the global financial crisis.

As many as half a million public sector jobs will be lost, about 18 billion ($28.5 billion) axed from welfare payments and the pension age raised to 66 by 2020, earlier than previously planned."

Across the Channel, the French are facing their own economic, and political woes - as The New York Times reports here.

Down Under, Australia has largely avoided the GFC - except that underlying the economic prosperity, as the Salvation Army reveals in a Report just released, there are many who are not sharing in the wealth of the country:
2 million Australians now live in…

A sign of the times

Credited to Joe Heller, Green-Bay Press-Gazette

Some introspection and analysis wouldn't go astray

Politicians, especially those in Western countries, are at pains to highlight the threat from terrorism, in particular those said to be Muslin extremists. There are doubtlessly Muslim militants - but does anyone really pause to reflect on what may underlie the cause for at least some of the radicals?

Glenn Greenwald ponders the question in a recent column "They hate us for our occupations" on Salon:

In 2004, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld commissioned a task force to study what causes Terrorism, and it concluded that "Muslims do not 'hate our freedom,' but rather, they hate our policies": specifically, "American direct intervention in the Muslim world" through our "one sided support in favor of Israel"; support for Islamic tyrannies in places like Egypt and Saudi Arabia; and, most of all, "the American occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan" (the full report is here). Now, a new, comprehensive study from Robert Pape, a Unive…

It's the look....and who you are pandering to

Politics is as much about perceptions as actually doing something. And in this 21st century the images out there can become very important.

It's something Obama, and his advisors, have obviously taken to heart - but not for noteworthy reasons! From in "Obama expands his Islamophobia to include Sikhs as well" on Ali Abunimah's blog:

"US President Barack Obama has ruled out a visit to the Golden Temple in Amritsar, sacred to Sikhs, because Obama does not want to wear the head-covering that is required as a sign of respect in case it makes him look like a Muslim."

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".... during the [election] campaign two Muslim women enthusiastically attending an Obama rally were required to move out of camera shot, so that the Post Racial candidate would not be pictured with them.

More recently, Obama has repeatedly failed to stand up to Islamophobic incitement ginned up about the planned lower Manhattan Islamic Center and has basically hung American Muslims out t…

Watergate II in the making?

An interesting comment on who holds the power in the US. Needless to say, it all ends of up with who has the money - and clout!

Robert Reeves writing on truthdig:

"What is the most powerful political operation in the country in this 21st century? It's the United States Supreme Court. The men and women in black are on their way to deciding their second national election in just the first decade of the century.

In the year 2000, the justices stopped the counting of votes in the presidential election. This year they tilted (or mutilated) congressional elections by ruling—in the case called Citizens United—that corporations are people, only more so. What they ruled was that corporations (and unions) or groups they sponsor have the right to anonymously pump millions of dollars into campaigns. Citizens, you and me, can give much smaller amounts, but we have to reveal our names and addresses—"transparency" they call that.

There is, to say, a heated debate going on about all…

Now Google wants to muscle into our travels

As if Google wasn't already having a pretty wide effect on our lives, it now appears that it plans to expand into travel-related matters - in the process of harnessing technology, thereby probably changing the way we travel and arrange it.

The Traveller section of the SMH reports:

"Stand by for a new era of online travel research, where you can get options, prices, images and other key information with one quick search.

Google is experimenting with technology that will allow it to provide much richer search results, eliminating the need for consumers to trawl through multiple sources or cross-reference information from several sites.

Travellers will, for example, be able to look at a map and see actual prices for hotels in a given area (along with images and information on facilities and nearby attractions), with the ability to click through to make a reservation via a third-party booking site.

There will also be a new landscape for flight bookings if US regulators approve Google&…

Afghanistan

As Australia's Parliament debates the war in Afghanistan and maintaining Australian troops there - and, unusually, all members are not bound to vote with their respective parties - it is clear that the war-torn country is nothing short than a disaster.

"In nearly every Congressional and Senate race, these are the issues that explode into attack ads, score points in debates and light up cable talk shows. In poll after poll, these are the issues that voters say are most important to them this year.

Notice anything missing on the campaign landscape?

How about war? The United States is now in its ninth year of fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq, the longest wars in American history. Almost 5,000 men and women have been killed. More than 30,000 have been wounded, some so gravely they’re returning home to become, effectively, wards of their families and communities.

In those nine years, the United States has spent more than $1 trillion on combat operations and other parts of the war effo…

Germany confronts Hitler and its citizens' guilt

It will take a long time for the Germans to eradicate the guilt the country suffers for the Holocaust. Of course the present generation can't be held responsible for the actions of their forbears. But then again it cannot be forgotten that the wider German community embraced the Nazis and can be said to have been complicit in and supporters of the actions of their Government. As Paul Johnson records in his book "History of the Jews" there were some 1.2 million railroad workers in Germany during the war. And they didn't observe the cattle trucks shipping their human "cargo" to the concentration camps? - and tell anyone?

An exhibition has just opened in Berlin on which The New York Times reports in "Hitler Exhibit Explores a Wider Circle of Guilt":

"As artifacts go, they are mere trinkets — an old purse, playing cards, a lantern. Even the display that caused the crowds to stop and stare is a simple embroidered tapestry, stitched by vill…

Osama's message.......

Credited to Spooner, The Age, Melbourne

Remembering Niemoller

It is easy to remain silent when one thinks it doesn't really effect one personally. It was that very thing that led Pastor Niemoller, in Germany during the Nazi era, to utter his now famous words:

"First they came for the Communists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew. Then they came for me, and no one was left to speak for me.”

Award-winning journalist Robert Koehler reflects on Niemoller's words in a piece "Then They Came for Me" on CommonDreams:

"Speaking out a year ago against the idea of holding civilian trials for terrorism suspects, Liz Cheney captured the paranoid arrogance of the past decade with stunning efficiency:

“This demonstrates conclusively that we are going back to a pre-9/11 mentality,” she said.

Oh the horror! Fair trials, rule of law, habeas corpus, Mi…

A National Digital Library

The attraction of a national digital library is immense.........the equivalent of the Library of Congress.

It's an issue taken up at a conference at Harvard earlier this month - as reported in The New York Review of Books:

"The purpose of this meeting is to discuss a question of vital importance to the cultural life of our country: Can we create a National Digital Library? That is, a comprehensive library of digitized books that will be easily accessible to the general public. Simple as it sounds, the question is extraordinarily complex. It involves issues that concern the nature of the library to be built, the technological difficulties of designing it, the legal obstacles to getting it off the ground, the financial costs of constructing and maintaining it, and the political problems of mobilizing support for it.

Despite the complexities, the fundamental idea of a National Digital Library (or NDL) is, at its core, straightforward. The NDL would make the cultural patrimony of th…

Childhood 2010 style

Babys' first words seem to have almost inevitably been "dada" or something like it. Now, it would appear that an infant's first words will include "iPhone". Yes, welcome to 2010!

It's the subject of a piece "Toddlers’ Favorite Toy: The iPhone" in The New York Times:

"Apple, the iPhone’s designer and manufacturer, has built its success on machines so simple and intuitive that even technologically befuddled adults can figure out how to work them, so it makes sense that sophisticated children would follow. The most recent model is 4.5 inches tall, 2.31 inches wide and weighs 4.8 ounces: sleek, but not too small for those with developing motor skills. Tap a picture on the screen and something happens. What could be more fun?

The sleepy-eyed toddler who called for the iPhone from his crib is one of hundreds of iPhone-loving tykes starring in videos posted throughout the Internet, usually narrated by parents expressing proud wonderment at …

Yet another dire warning about the availability of food

One has to wonder when the world will wake up. Whilst people are starving or dying from preventable diseases - think malaria and contaminated water - report after report from this or that agency or body warns that the world must do something about climate change, farming practices and the sustainability of food-supplies. It all seems to fall on deaf ears!

Now the UN has issued another warning that global farming practices pose a "recipe for disaster".

"The United Nations top official on the right to food has called for wholesale changes in farming methods to safeguard the environment and ensure everyone has enough to eat.

Olivier De Schutter, the UN special rapporteur on the right to food, said in a statement to mark World Food Day that there is currently "little to rejoice about," and "worse may still be ahead."

"As a result of climate change, the yields in certain regions of sub-Saharan Africa are expected to fall by 50 percent by 2020 in co…

Wikileaks: No "intelligence sources" comprised says US Defence Secretary

On what is reported to be the cusp of Wikileaks releasing some 400,000 pages of documents, it will be recalled all the outrage, especially by the USA, when the last batch of documents were released last July.

It seems weren't all that bad or dire - as ArmyTimes reports what US Defence Secretary has now come out and said:

"No U.S. intelligence sources or practices were compromised by the posting of secret Afghan war logs by the WikiLeaks website, the Pentagon has concluded, but the military thinks the leaks could still cause significant damage to U.S. security interests.

The assessment, outlined in a letter obtained Friday by The Associated Press, suggests that some of the Obama administration's worst fears about the July disclosure of almost 77,000 secret U.S. war reports have so far failed to materialize.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates reported these conclusions in an Aug. 16 letter to Sen. Carl Levin, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, who had requested a Pent…