Skip to main content

Posts

Showing posts from April, 2011

"Mission Accomplished". Not!

Tomorrow, Sunday, marks the 8th anniversary of the now infamous statement by George Bush that "Mission Accomplished" had been achieved in Iraq. Remember all the hype surrounding the nonsense statement? Standing on the deck of a warship, Bush dressed in air force gear, etc. etc.

The Nation reviews the statement - and no less importantly, what some of the so-called pundits said at the time.

"In my favorite antiwar song of this war, "Shock and Awe," Neil Young moaned: "Back in the days of Mission Accomplished/ our chief was landing on the deck/ The sun was setting/ behind a golden photo op." But as Neil added elsewhere: "History is a cruel judge of overconfidence."

Nowhere can we see this more clearly than in the media coverage of the event. Even today, nearly eight years later, the often "overconfident" reporting from Baghdad and Kabul sometimes takes your breath away. At least two U.S. soldiers have been killed in Iraq this wee…

A delusional wish-list

Writing his regular blog on FP, professor of international relations at Harvard, Stephen Walt reflects on America's wishful thinking in foreign relations.

"A realistic foreign policy seeks to deal with the world as it is, shorn of political illusions. Realists emphasize that even close allies often have conflicting interests, that cooperation between states is difficult to achieve or sustain, and that the conduct of nations is frequently shaped by some combination of fear, greed and stupidity.

Above all, realists warn against basing policy on wishful thinking, on the assumption that all will go as we want it to. Yet the pages of history are littered with episodes where leaders made decisions on the basis of false hopes, idealistic delusions, and blind faith. And I regret to say that there's no shortage of this sort of wishful thinking today."

Read on, here, for Walt's "Top 10 Examples of Wishful Thinking in Contemporary U.S. Foreign Policy." One examp…

The White House = A Glass House?

It is said that people in glass houses ought not throw stones! It's perhaps a lesson the White House should take on board. The Obama Administration is at pains to criticise those governments which deny press freedom or the ability for the media to report openly. So, what to make of this threat from the White House? - as FAIR reports. Aah, when it comes to double-standards American foreign policy is virtually impossible to beat!

"The San Francisco Chronicle is apparently in trouble with the White House for posting video of a protest against the White House's treatment of suspected WikiLeaks source Bradley Manning. The Chronicle's Carolyn Lochhead reports:

The White House threatened Thursday to exclude the San Francisco Chronicle from pooled coverage of its events in the Bay Area after the paper posted a video of a protest at a San Francisco fundraiser for President Obama last week, Chronicle editor Ward Bushee said. White House guidelines governing press covera…

What climate-change?

Credited to Pat Bagley, Salt Lake Tribune

Absurd! - Pure and Simple

Open your newspaper or watch TV and you will be treated to the latest revelations via WikiLeaks documents. This past week much has been revealed about Gitmo, the number of prisoners there and the extraordinarily poor, if not false, material available to the authorities relating to the imprisoned inmates.

As if the whole situation wasn't disgraceful enough, now farce enters into the picture. The New York Times reports that lawyers for prisoners have been advised that even if documents have been leaked that they remain classified and must therefore be dealt with as such.

"Anyone surfing the Internet this week is free to read leaked documents about the prisoners held by the American military at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, to print them out or e-mail them to friends.

Except, that is, for the lawyers who represent the prisoners.

On Monday, hours after WikiLeaks, The New York Times and other news organizations began publishing the documents online, the Justice Department informed Gua…

Petraeus at the CIA: Can He Tell It Straight?

There is more to the appointment of General David Petraeus as head of the CIA than might, at first blush, meet the eye. For one, there is the conflict of interest he has as the one-time Commander of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. And that just the beginning!

"The news that President Barack Obama has picked Gen. David Petraeus to be CIA director raises troubling questions, including whether the commander most associated with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will tolerate objective analysis of those two conflicts.

What if CIA analysts assess the prospects of success in those two wars as dismal and conclude that the troop “surges” pushed so publicly by Petraeus wasted both the lives of American troops and many billions of taxpayer dollars? Will CIA Director Petraeus welcome such critical analysis or punish it?

The Petraeus appointment also suggests that the President places little value on getting the straight scoop on these key war-related issues. If he did want the kind of i…

Elderly Holocaust survivor takes on AIPAC

AIPAC is variously described as either the largest and strongest lobby group in the USA - or the second, after the gun lobby.

Either way it's influence in lobbying for Israel - the organisation is virtually joined at the hip to whatever Israel does, good, bad or even indifferent - knows few parallels or strength. Congressmen and Senators fear the organisation's influence in their re-election.

Now, here comes an elderly Holocaust survivor to take on AIPAC - and invite others to join her.

"At the end of one of my first journeys to the Israeli-occupied West Bank in 2004, I endured a shocking experience at Ben-Gurion Airport. I never imagined that Israeli security forces would abuse a 79-year-old Holocaust survivor, but they held me for five hours, and strip-searched and cavity-searched every part of my naked body. The only shame these security officials expressed was to turn their badges around so that their names were invisible."

****

"The vicious discrimina…

Things are changing in the neighbourhood

It hasn't taken all that long, as a fallout from the Arab Spring, to see alliances and political positions change in the Middle East. This one, below, by Egypt, is certain to shake up the region - and leave Israel in an odd situation, much of it of its own making.

"Egypt is charting a new course in its foreign policy that has already begun shaking up the established order in the Middle East, planning to open the blockaded border with Gaza and normalizing relations with two of Israel and the West’s Islamist foes, Hamas and Iran.
Region in Revolt

Egyptian officials, emboldened by the revolution and with an eye on coming elections, say that they are moving toward policies that more accurately reflect public opinion. In the process they are seeking to reclaim the influence over the region that waned as their country became a predictable ally of Washington and the Israelis in the years since the 1979 peace treaty with Israel.

The first major display of this new tack was the deal E…

Sri Lankan Government stands condemned

In the light of a UN report challenging the Sri Lankan Government - as also the Tamils - on their conduct during the recent crack-down by the government on its Tamil population, Sam Parri, a spokesperson for the Australian Tamil Congress, writes on the subject and the situation in Sri Lanka today.

"When the war came to a bloody end on May 18, 2009, Sri Lankan government puppets were quick to continue the propaganda, claiming all was well in Sri Lanka, encouraging Australian tourists while discouraging Australia from accepting Tamil refugees.

The reality was different. Hundreds of thousands were held in military-run internment camps, disappearances were rife, and rape and torture occurred. There was a reason the number of Tamil refugees arriving by boats in Australia had suddenly sky-rocketed.

The unrelenting campaigning by the Tamil diaspora and human rights groups finally forced Ban to establish a panel of experts last year to assess the mounting allegations of war crimes. Sri Lank…

The shameful conduct of medicos at Gitmo

It seems like some medicos forgot all about the Hippocratic oath when they were at Gitmo. It's called blind-eye disease or not letting inconvenient truths intrude on their conduct as, first and foremost, medicos. The Independent reveals shameful medical "practice" by some doctors at Gitmo.

"US government doctors who cared for the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay deliberately concealed or ignored evidence that their patients were being tortured, the first official study of its kind has found.

A detailed review of the medical records and case files of nine Guantanamo inmates has concluded that medical personnel at the US detention centre were complicit in suppressing evidence that would demonstrate systematic torture of the inmates.

The review is published in an online scientific journal, PLoS Medicine, and is the first peer-reviewed study analysing the behaviour of the doctors in charge of Guantanamo inmates who were subjected to "enhanced interrogation" tech…

Twitter in China at your own peril

The Australian PM has just visited China and gone through all the diplomatic niceties with her hosts - even if recent WikiLeaks documents show that China looks with scorn on Australian visitors who raise the question of human rights, or the lack thereof, in China. After all, why let principles intrude on trade which is to the considerable mutual benefit of the two countries?

Coincidentally, human rights is a subject Nicholas D Kristof takes up in his latest op-ed piece "Great Leap Backward" in The New York Times:

"Since China is in the middle of its harshest crackdown on independent thought in two decades, I thought that on this visit I might write about a woman named ChengJianping who is imprisoned for tweeting.

Ms. Cheng was arrested on what was supposed to have been her wedding day last fall for sending a single sarcastic Twitter message that included the words “charge, angry youth.” The government, lacking a sense of humor, sentenced her to a year in labor camp.

So I t…

Maybe it's not the 51st State

Credited to Mike Keefe, The Denver Post

Step up to the plate "birther" nutters

Leaving aside whether Obama demeaned himself by going on TV to "prove" his birth, as an American, in Hawaii, one might have thought - wishful thinking? - the "birthers" might slink off into then dark with their tails between their collective legs. No such luck! They are now buoyed with new questions.

"It proves nothing. It could be fake. It’s all so fishy. Aren’t there multiple layers on the scanned document released by the White House? Why did it take so long to produce?

The people who do not believe that President Obama was born in the United States showed Wednesday that a good conspiracy theory is like a coal mine fire: something that can’t be doused in a day.

The president, pestered by “birthers” since he began running for the White House, finally felt compelled to try to put an end to the controversy, providing his original birth certificate for the first time.

“Yes, in fact, I was born in Hawaii, August 4, 1961, in Kapiolani Hospital,” Obama told the …

Goldman Sachs, and others, in the dock

As more and more is investigated the clearer it seems that some of the Wall St. titans, and others in the USA, can be said to have largely contributed, if not actually caused the GFC.

AlterNet explains in "How Wall Street Thieves, Led by Goldman Sachs, Took Down the Global Economy -- Their Outsized Influence Must be Stopped":

"For all the damning evidence you’ll ever need about Wall Street corruption, take a look at the recent report from the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, “Wall Street and the Financial Crisis: An Anatomy of a Financial Collapse” (PDF). The 650-page indictment reveals the myriad of ways Wall Street lies, cheats, steals and defrauds on a routine basis. Arguably the report is as revealing as the Nixon tapes or the Pentagon Papers. Unfortunately, it’s too technical to get widely read. So here are the Cliff Notes.

This study, broken into four case studies, forms a biblical tale of how toxic mortgages were born, nurtured and spread lik…

Street Eats

We have all seen, if not actually partaken, in so-called street food.

FP has a delightful photographic montage, here, of the way the world eats out, from Cairo to Indonesian volcanoes.

What Rule of Law?

Glenn Greenwald, lawyer, blogger (on Salon) and commentator undertakes a clear analysis of the latest WikiLeaks-released documents relating to Gitmo. It doesn't make for pretty reading on any score as Greenwald enumerates a number of glaring issues raised by and from the documents, not the least this one:

"Perhaps most important of all, these documents conclusively underscore the evils of the Obama administration’s indefinite detention regime. Just last month, President Obama signed an Executive Order directing that dozens of detainees held for years at Guantanamo continue to be imprisoned indefinitely without any charges: either in a real court or even before a military commission. Although indefinite detention was one of the primary hallmarks of Bush/Cheney radicalism, this order was justified by the White House and its followers on the ground that the President knows of secret evidence that shows that these detainees are Too Dangerous to Release, yet cannot be prosecute…

The absurdities and scandal that is Guantanamo

From CommonDreams a succinct summation of Gitmo:

"More from the New Yorker's Amy Davidson on what we learn from Wikileaks' Guantanamo files - the illogical, illegal and often absurdist reasons many were held there - Casio wristwatch, anyone? - the indefensible mission creep they represent, and Obama's responsibility therein. Dismaying.

"And so we sacrificed our values and our moral standing for goals that were increasingly—vanishingly—distant from the ones we had been told were so urgent; or for no real reason at all... Obama never effectively challenged the image of Guantánamo as a sort of Phantom Zone of super villains, rather than the humiliating hodgepodge it is."

A more than timely call for investigating the Sri Lankan Government

The Sri Lankan Government has taken up the tactics of the Israeli Government - and look is advising the Sri Lankans - in the way it deals with criticism of its actions let alone the way it has dealt, and continues to deal with, its Tamil population.

Now a more than timely call by the UN for an investigation of both the Sri Lankan's actions against the Tamils and the conduct of the Tamils.

"The United Nations is calling for an investigation into whether war crimes charges should be laid in relation to the civil war in Sri Lanka.

The UN released a damning report yesterday into the deaths of tens of thousands of civilians during the final months of the war.

The report finds fault with both the Sri Lankan government and the Tamil Tigers, but suggests the government was responsible for most of the deaths.

An estimated 330,000 people were trapped between the two sides as they fought fiercely in the last months of the long war in 2009.

The battles between the government and the Tamil …

Why is the West treating Syria differently from Libya?

More than a valid question? Why is the West treating Syria differently from Libya given that their respective leaders - aka despots and dictators - have turned on their people by attacking them? Wasn't that a prime reason for going into Libya to aid the so-called rebels?

"An authoritarian Arab ruler unleashes his security forces and irregular militia gunmen to crush peaceful pro-democracy protests, killing hundreds of people including women and children.

Does the West a) issue statements condemning the excessive use of force; b) seek U.N. sanctions and an International Criminal Court investigation; c) provide practical support for pro-democracy protesters, d) intervene militarily?

The answer, to many human rights campaigners, seems to vary unacceptably depending on the state concerned.

Western powers which took up arms against Muammar Gaddafi in Libya, citing the United Nations principle of the responsibility to protect civilians, have confined themselves so far to verbal o…

American Government "investments" abroad - and having it both ways!

Intriguing analysis in this piece on TomDispatch about how the US Government "invests" money overseas in supporting corrupt regimes and despots whilst also funding those seeking to undermine those very same governments or dictators.Sensible and worthwhile?

"Imperial powers hedge their bets. The most striking recent example we have of this is in Egypt. While the Pentagon was pouring money into the Egyptian military (approximately $40 billion since 1979), it turns out -- thank you, WikiLeaks! -- that the U.S. government was shuttling far smaller amounts (millions, not billions) to various “American government-financed organizations” loosely connected with Congress or with the Democratic and Republican parties. Some of that money, in turn, was being invested in “democracy-building campaigns” aimed at teaching young Egyptian activists how to organize a movement against their autocratic ruler, how to make the best use of social networking sites, and so on.

In other words, i…

Trump must be trumped and dumped

Surely the GOP can't even begin to be serious seeing Donald Trump as a presidential contender......and even if the electorate is beholden to someone like Trump, with all his supposed money and TV appearances, the repersussions for America - and the world - were he to gain office, are too grim to contemplate. The man is simply not up to the task. Worse still, as this piece in The Nation so clearly shows, the emperor's clothes have to be removed to reveal the real Trump.

"In a recent column, Johnston points out that in examining four years of tax returns he discovered that Trump paid no taxes in two of them.

“He pays little to no income tax because he does these real estate deals that allow him to take—as a professional real estate developer—unlimited paper losses like depreciation against income he gets from NBC for his show,” says Johnston.

He’s also had more business bankruptcies than wives, and Johnston says Trump’s bravado about his wealth and business acumen co…

An unwarranted halo

The late Pope Paul II had quite a following even amongst non-Catholics. He seemed less remote and in touch with the people, Catholic or not. Now, his successor is to bestow a sainthood on Paul next Sunday. But is it really warranted? Maureen Dowd poses a valid question-mark over the late Pope.

"Certainly, John Paul was admirable in many ways. After he became pope, he was a moral force in the fight against totalitarianism, touring his homeland and giving Poles the courage to resist the Soviet Union. When Lech Walesa signed an agreement with the Communists recognizing Solidarity, he used a pen etched with the face of John Paul.

After Communism collapsed, John Paul offered a stinging critique of capitalism, presciently warning big business to stop pursuing profits “at any price.”

“The excessive hoarding of riches by some denies them to the majority,” he said, “and thus the very wealth that is accumulated generates poverty.”

As progressive as he was on those issues, he was …

GItmo: WikiLeaks reveals 150 innocents imprisoned at notorious prison

Thanks to WikiLeaks, we get to know things we ought to, but Governments hide away from the public's gaze. Today a number of newspapers, including the Washington Post and the UK's The Telegraph reveal, via papers emanating from WikiLeaks, that some 150 innocent people have been incarcerated at Gitmo.

"Al-Qaeda terrorists have threatened to unleash a “nuclear hellstorm” on the West if Osama Bin Laden is caught or assassinated, according to documents to be released by the WikiLeaks website, which contain details the interrogations of more than 700 Guantanamo detainees.

However, the shocking human cost of obtaining this intelligence is also exposed with dozens of innocent people sent to Guantanamo – and hundreds of low-level foot-soldiers being held for years and probably tortured before being assessed as of little significance.

The Daily Telegraph, along with other newspapers including The Washington Post, today exposes America’s own analysis of almost ten years of controve…

Iraq War: Of course it was all about oil!

It's now there in black and white - as detailed below. As the sceptics and those speaking the truth always maintained - as against the nay-sayers - the Iraq War was all about oil. Pure and simple.

"Afghanistan may be the graveyard of empires, but Iraq is home to a graveyard sense of humor. Iraqis wonder aloud whether the U.S. and Britain would have invaded Iraq if its main export had been cabbages instead of oil.

However obvious the answer, a remarkable array of American pundits and pseudo-savants have resisted giving the oil factor any pride of place among the motives behind the U.S./U.K. decision to invade Iraq in 2003. To this day, the Fawning Corporate Media (FCM) continue to play the accustomed role as government accomplice suppressing unwelcome news.

So, if you don’t tune in to Amy Goodman’s Democracy Now or read the British press, you will have missed the latest documentary evidence showing that Great Britain’s Lords and Ladies lied about how big oil companies, like …

It all depends which despot you are......

Stephen Walt, professor of International Relations at Harvard, makes more than a valid point when in his blog on FP he highlights the difference between how Ghadafi is being treated as against Mubarak. And then there is Syria. One primary reason for acting against Ghadafi was that he was attacking his own people. So, isn't that what Assad is doing in Syria? - with serious loss of life. Once again, double-standards at play.....

"According to the New York Times, the U.S. government is actively trying to find someplace for Muammaral-Qaddafi to go, where he (and presumably his family) can be comfortable and secure from prosecution. The idea, obviously, is to "build him a golden bridge" to retreat across, and thus hasten his removal from power.

In a different story, the Times also describes how the Mubarak family in Egypt is getting accustomed to life in jail.

So let me get this straight: one former dictator ultimately decides not to unleash massive force agains…

The lawyer, law lecturer and President who doesn't know the law

It is astounding that someone like Obama can have made the statement he did about Private Manning, the man accused of leaking information to WikiLeaks. Remember that Manning hasn't even seen the inside of a court. And no less importantly, the Obama statement is made by a lawyer, one-time law lecturer and now President aka the Commander-in-Chief.

Glenn Greenwald, in his latest piece for Salon, rightly take Obama to task:

"Protesters yesterday interrupted President Obama's speech at a $5,000/ticket San Francisco fundraiser to demand improved treatment for Bradley Manning. After the speech, one of the protesters, Logan Price, approached Obama and questioned him. Obama's responses are revealing on multiple levels. First, Obama said this when justifying Manning's treatment (video and transcript are here):

We're a nation of laws. We don't let individuals make their own decisions about how the laws operate. He broke the law.

The impropriety of Obama's pu…

A critical and more than timely call

Whilst the Arab world is in turmoil and Israel continues it's relentless action against its own Arab population, the expansion in settlements and oppressing Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza - not to speak of all the hype and PR already in place for the visit for the Israeli PM to Washington shortly - there comes an important call from some 60 Israeli intellectuals which ought not be ignored. What are they going to label these people? Self-hating Jews? Anti-Zionists?

"A declaration signed by dozens of prominent Israeli academics, writers and artists welcoming a Palestinian state on the basis of Israel’s 1967 borders was presented Thursday at the site of Israel’s 1948 proclamation of independence.

As the well-known Israeli actress Hanna Maron, who lost a leg in a Palestinian attack, read out the declaration outside Tel Aviv’s Independence Hall, protesters heckled the gathering, calling the participants traitors.

The declaration, which was issued in expectation of mo…

Er, no! Not the real Holy Week

Credited to Mike Lester, Rome News-Tribune, Rome, GA

Two worlds.......poles apart

Who says there isn't a widening gap between rich and poor.

Coincidentally, 2 pieces published today which highlight the contrast between rich and poor in the USA....

First from Mother Jones:

"The recession is far from over for millions of Americans, but prosperity has returned to the nation's boardrooms and corner offices. After two years of declines in the wake of the financial crisis, executive pay is skyrocketing. CEOs at the country's 200 largest companies earned an average of 20 percent more last year than in 2009, according to recent corporate filings. By comparison, average pay for workers in the private sector rose just 2.1 percent last year—nearly the smallest increase in decades.

While some CEOs, such as Apple's Steve Jobs, took symbolic $1 salaries last year, many kept drawing outsized checks. Below, we list 10 of 2010's most egregiously overcompensated executives. They're selected not just on the size of their pay packages, but how much more they w…

Chomsky: Who Owns the World?

In his inimitable style and acute analysis, Noam Chomsky asks some pertinent questions for people, everywhere, in this year 2011 - with all that is going on in the world, including the so-called "Arab Spring.".

"The democracy uprising in the Arab world has been a spectacular display of courage, dedication, and commitment by popular forces -- coinciding, fortuitously, with a remarkable uprising of tens of thousands in support of working people and democracy in Madison, Wisconsin, and other U.S. cities. If the trajectories of revolt in Cairo and Madison intersected, however, they were headed in opposite directions: in Cairo toward gaining elementary rights denied by the dictatorship, in Madison towards defending rights that had been won in long and hard struggles and are now under severe attack.

Each is a microcosm of tendencies in global society, following varied courses. There are sure to be far-reaching consequences of what is taking place both in the decaying industrial…

A critical question: Patient or simply a consumer?

"Here’s my question: How did it become normal, or for that matter even acceptable, to refer to medical patients as “consumers”? The relationship between patient and doctor used to be considered something special, almost sacred. Now politicians and supposed reformers talk about the act of receiving care as if it were no different from a commercial transaction, like buying a car — and their only complaint is that it isn’t commercial enough.

What has gone wrong with us?"

Paul Krugman, writing his latest op-ed piece for The New York Times asks the very critical question above. Read his full piece here.

Wanted: Fiercely independent journalists

We are all being cheated and denied a truly independent media. Think Murdoch and the disgraceful antics of his personnel - hacking? - and the one-sided and biased reporting and commentary published in his newspapers. And then there is his Fox News, about which the less said the better.

We need journalists with courage - and proprietors who will back them.

"The obligations of the media are to inform, to scrutinise and to hold governments to account for decisions made in our name. The public interest should be at the centre of decisions taken in media organisations and should inform the culture of media organisations.

But the mainstream media are notorious for letting the public down. Why can’t the mainstream media fulfil this role adequately? Well the answer lies in timidity, conformism, a cynical and unwarranted sense of superiority in relation to the public, and vested interest.

There is little room for new ideas in the mainstream media. You see copycat rundowns and copycat angl…

These olive branches don't represent peace

Yet another outrageous infraction by Israelis - seemingly with the Government closing a blind-eye at the very least - of and in relation to Palestinians in the West Bank. Steal the Palestinians' olive trees. Crime at its most blatant.

"The immoral wealthy have a new and tasteless toy: ancient olive trees adorning the gardens of their villas.

According to an investigative report by journalist Maya Zinshtein published in the Haaretz Hebrew edition on Monday, for around a decade now, illegal trade in ancient olive trees - including uprooting, stealing and smuggling them from the West Bank into Israel - has been flourishing.

It is a market worth millions of shekels a year, in which a single tree can command tens of thousands of shekels. The Haaretz report uncovered suspicions of criminal activities in this regard, along with an ugly greediness for pet trees that has nothing to do with the love of the land and its arboreal species.

Olive trees, one of the most beautiful and sym…

One year on...zippo oil spill legislation. Money speaks!

Conceded by everyone to be the worst oil-spill in history, one would thought - nay, assumed - that the US Congress would jump to it to put in place oil-spill legislation. And what have they done? Nothing!

"In the year since the worst environmental disaster in the nation's history, Congress hasn't adopted any major laws on oil and gas drilling -- despite introducing more than 150 bills to improve the safety and oversight of offshore drilling and holding more than 60 hearings to discuss the spill's causes and consequences with regulators, oil company officials, grieving relatives and Gulf-area fishermen."

****

"In January, President Obama's oil spill commission released a slew of recommendations for changes that would seek to ensure safer drilling operations, provide better spill response, lift the existing liability cap on oil companies and secure funding for coastal restoration efforts in the Gulf. Yet though bipartisan leaders of the commission have…

Joke of the Year.....Donald Trump for President

Credited to Daryl Cagle, MSNBC.com

One grope too far

As officialdom goes to extremes about security at airports - last night in Sydney, Australia, 2000 people were evacuated from a terminal at the airport because 16 people had got through the scanner without being checked, and then those 2000 had to spend the night in Sydney - the TSA in the USA has gone to heights and lengths which ought to cause riots at airports. There are limits, as Maureen Dowd rightly highlights in her latest op-ed piece "Stripped of Dignity" in The New York Times:

"A young computer programmer on his way to a pheasant-hunting trip last November offered a cri de coeur about government groping.

“If you touch my junk,” he told the T.S.A. agent at the San Diego airport just before he abandoned his trip, “I’ll have you arrested.”

It’s hard to feel safe in the skies when you have to worry not only about terrorists but our own air-traffic controllers conking out, watching movies and making boneheaded mistakes. A controller’s error on Monday evening put Mic…

Throwing the book at well-known author

From The New York Times:

"An investigation by “60 Minutes” casts doubt on the accuracy of the inspirational best seller “Three Cups of Tea” by Greg Mortenson, saying it is filled with inaccuracies. It also says that Mr. Mortenson’s charitable organization, the Central Asia Institute, has taken credit for building schools that don’t exist.

The report, which will be broadcast Sunday night on CBS, questions the veracity of one of the most gripping stories in the book, Mr. Mortenson’s account of being lost in 1993 while mountain-climbing in rural Pakistan. Mr. Mortenson wrote that he stumbled upon the village of Korphe, where he was cared for by local residents, and that their kindness inspired him to build a school. The “60 Minutes” report draws on observations from the porters who joined Mr. Mortenson on his mountain trip and dispute his being lost. They say he only visited Korphe a year later.

The news report also says that some of the schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan that Mr. Mor…

The "Arab Spring": Following the money

This piece from Le Mondediplomatique puts into context, and analyses, the reasons for what is now being dubbed the "Arab Spring" in an ever-growing number of countries in the Middle East.

"The reasons for the Arab spring go deeper than immediate demands for freedom and democracy. The protesters want to end the political economy and the authoritarian regimes in place since the 1970s.

Monarchies in the Arab world have been absolute, and life-long presidents (with hereditary office) ruled the republics, because they created a supreme power above both state and post-independence institutions (1). They set up and controlled their own security services to ensure that their powers would endure; the services escaped parliamentary or government supervision, and their members could reprimand a minister and impose decisions. It costs money to run such services, and the clientelist networks of one-party states. The funds derive not from public budgets, as do those for the police and …

Who better to win the Bald Archy Prize?

Probably Australia's most prestigious, and controversial, art prize, is the Archibald. In true Oz tongue-in-cheek style there is also the Bald Archy art prize, etc. etc.

This year's winner of the Bald Archy couldn't be more appropriate.

"A painting of Julian Assange taking a leak has won this year's Bald Archy prize.

The caricature by French artist Xavier Ghazi portrays the WikiLeaks founder with his trousers around his ankles, urinating into a top hat with the US flag on it.

The Bald Archy - a parody of the Archibald Prize for portraiture - is a competition of humorous works of art, making fun of Australian celebrities and politicians.

The exhibition and prize is advertised as the only one in the world judged by a sulphur-crested cockatoo named Maude."

Government and the cosy relationship with oil interests

It will come as no surprise that in this instance, the UK government was in a very cosy relationship with oil interests - of course, totally contrary to what the government was saying at the time. It's wonderful what a successful FIO application can yield. The Independent reports in "Secret memos expose link between oil firms and invasion of Iraq".

"Plans to exploit Iraq's oil reserves were discussed by government ministers and the world's largest oil companies the year before Britain took a leading role in invading Iraq, government documents show.

The papers, revealed here for the first time, raise new questions over Britain's involvement in the war, which had divided Tony Blair's cabinet and was voted through only after his claims that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.

The minutes of a series of meetings between ministers and senior oil executives are at odds with the public denials of self-interest from oil companies and Western …

Double standards....yet again

The other day the media was condemning Ghadafi for using cluster bombs on his own people. It is clearly an outrage deserving of the strongest condemnation. However, did you hear the same outrage when Israel used cluster bombs when it invaded Southern Lebanon a few years ago? Those bombs have continued to cause death and injury to this very day.

Now, Israel is yet again using white phosphorous - it used it in the attack on Gaza in Operation Cast Lead - as it attacks the Gazans. And the outrage and condemnation from any quarter? Just silence!

"Ihab Keheal, head of the justice department’s medical examiner’s office in the Gaza Strip, has stated that examinations conducted by his office have unveiled evidence indicating that the Israeli army used white phosphorous and other internationally prohibited weapons in its latest operation in Gaza.

Making his comments in a press statement released Monday, Keheal said that the bodies of Palestinians killed in the latest escalations…

US gets a negative [and problematic] rating

Assuming one can give Standard & Poors any credibility - remember, the rating agencies were all bullish, probably bordering on fraud, in rating a host of companies and investments on Wall St. pre the GFC - the US economy is confronted with some real issues. It has been downgraded to "negative" from "stable".

"Ratings agency Standard & Poor’s has delivered a stunning vote of no confidence in US political leaders to come up with a solution for swollen budget deficits with its decision to cut its outlook on US government debt to “negative” from “stable” for the first time in history.

S&P has thrown into sharp relief the political polarisation which is crippling Washington by questioning whether the “gulf of differences” between Republicans and Democrats over how to reduce the country’s yawning budget deficit can be resolved. There was a risk, it said, that US policy makers might fail to reach agreement on how to address budgetary challenges by 2013, …

Thomas Friedman back to his old theme and mantra

MPD is no friend or follower of Thomas Friedman, columnist for The New York Times and author. It is difficult to take him seriously. He is glib and whilst he seeks to convey knowledge about an array of topics, the reality is that he is far from across the ins and outs of politics in foreign countries.

FAIR reports on what seems to be a recurring Friedman theme and mantra:

"Tom Friedman, writing today about the Arab Spring (4/13/11--the same column Jim Naureckas critiqued for FAIR Blog here):

Another option is that an outside power comes in, as America did in Iraq, and as the European Union did in Eastern Europe, to referee or coach a democratic transition between the distrustful communities in these fractured states.

It's been a while since I've played an organized sport, but if any coach or referee did anything resembling what the U.S. has done in Iraq, they would be removed from the league, and probably put in jail.

That analogy sounded familiar, though. Turns out he&…

BP stands condemned

It's hard to believe that 20 April sees the first anniversary of the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Despite the BP spin-meisters seeking to assure everyone that things are now pretty good in the Gulf, nothing could be further from the truth and facts.

"April 20, 2011 marks the one-year anniversary of BP's catastrophic oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. On this day in 2010 the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded, causing oil to gush from 5,000 feet below the surface into the ninth largest body of water on the planet.

At least 4.9 million barrels of BP's oil would eventually be released into the Gulf of Mexico before the well was capped 87 days later.

It is, to date, the largest accidental marine oil spill in the history of the petroleum industry. BP has used at least 1.9 million gallons of toxic dispersants to sink the oil, in an effort the oil giant claimed was aimed at keeping the oil from reaching shore.

Critics believe the chemical dispersants were used simply …

Obama, Trump and the 2012 presidential election

For non-Americans to see that someone like Donald Trump is even under consideration as a presidential nominee for 2012 is startling. Then again, there is also Sarah Palin in the GOP - rather her Tea Party - pack.

Not that Obama is travelling well. Just to the contrary.

"The latest Gallup Daily tracking three-day average represents a new low for Barack Obama, with just 41 percent of Americans approving his job performance as president. This matches his previous lows in August 2010 and October 2010, just before the mid-term elections, and it is significantly down from his 2011 average of 48 percent. The president’s disapproval rating now stands at 50 percent, the highest point since August last year. In contrast, George W. Bush’s approval rating at this stage of his presidency stood at 70 percent (April 2003), and the average for US presidents in the ninth quarter stands at 57 percent.

Disconcertingly for the White House, his ratings have plummeted among independents, fr…