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Showing posts from October, 2011

A very slow awakening to a seismic shift to the new class war

Frank Rich used to write an regular op-ed column in The New York Times.   He is now at New York Magazine.  Rich is no young radical hot-head, so his latest column "The Class War has Begun" is ever so more valuable as an insight into a change of thinking in the USA about the Occupy Wall Street movement and its effect - perhaps long-lasting.
"What’s as intriguing as Occupy Wall Street itself is that once again our Establishment, left, right, and center, did not see the wave coming or understand what it meant as it broke. Maybe it’s just human nature and the power of denial, or maybe it’s a stubborn strain of all-­American optimism, but at each aftershock since the fall of Lehman Brothers, those at the top have preferred not to see what they didn’t want to see. And so for the first three weeks, the protests were alternately ignored, patronized, dismissed, and insulted by politicians and the mainstream news media as a neo-Woodstock for wannabe collegiate rebels without a ca…

President Assad. Gadaffi Mark II?

Whilst there are increasing calls to now "do" the same thing in and to Syria to what was done to Libya over the last months - culminating in the dictator Gadaffi being killed - not all that much is known about President Assad.   He certainly isn't a barking mad, erratic individual as Gadaffi clearly was.
The Telegraph (in London) met with Assad and conveys an "interesting" portrait of the Syrian leader....
"When you go to see an Arab ruler, you expect vast, over-the-top palaces, battalions of guards, ring after ring of security checks and massive, deadening protocol. You expect to wait hours in return for a few stilted minutes in a gilded reception room, surrounded by officials, flunkies and state TV cameras. You expect a monologue, not a conversation. Bashar al-Assad, the president of Syria, was quite different.
We drove straight up to a single-storey building the size of a large suburban bungalow. The President was waiting in the hall to meet us.

In his sma…

Former Gitmo Chief Prosecutor tells it as it is

When the Chief Prosecutor at Gitmo says torture was being used at the facility - now "celebrating" 10 years of its existence - and that Bush Administration officials should be pursued for encouraging torture of inmates, then you know that something definitely needs to be done.
"The former chief prosecutor for the US government at Guantánamo Bay has accused the administration he served of operating a "law-free zone" there, on the eve of the 10th anniversary of the order to establish the detention camp on Cuba.

Retired air force colonel Morris Davis resigned in October 2007 in protest against interrogation methods at Guantánamo, and has made his remarks in the lead-up to 13 November, the anniversary of President George W Bush's executive order setting up military commissions to try terrorist suspects.

Davis said that the methods of interrogation used on Guantánamo detainees – which he described as "torture" – were in breach of the US's own statut…

Libya ripe for the picking

Perhaps not surprising, but it didn't take long for the tentacles of capitalism to take off for Libya.    A country ripe for the picking.....
"The guns in Libya have barely quieted, and NATO’s military assistance to the rebellion that toppled Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi will not end officially until Monday. But a new invasion force is already plotting its own landing on the shores of Tripoli.

Western security, construction and infrastructure companies that see profit-making opportunities receding in Iraq and Afghanistan have turned their sights on Libya, now free of four decades of dictatorship. Entrepreneurs are abuzz about the business potential of a country with huge needs and the oil to pay for them, plus the competitive advantage of Libyan gratitude toward the United States and its NATO partners.

A week before Colonel Qaddafi’s death on Oct. 20, a delegation from 80 French companies arrived in Tripoli to meet officials of the Transitional National Council, the interim governme…

Waste not, want we "celebrate" 7 billion of us

Read the rather startling and frightening stats in this piece and you will readily appreciate that certainly those with the means in the world not only must do something to address the waste of food, but one can actually save money by being judicious in what one does with the food we have.

"Remember when your parents told you that you needed to finish your dinner, eat your greens or not play with your food because ''there are starving kids in Africa''?

Well, with the world's population set to hit 7 billion tomorrow, there are now twice as many starving kids in Africa and other Third World countries and we are still wasting just as much, if not more, food in the First World.

In fact, a quarter of the food the developed world wastes would be enough to feed the Third World. How's that for a sobering fact. Feel like eating your greens now, or are you still not sure how it relates to you?

Let's look at how fast the world's population is rising. Last wee…

There is one law for the rich....and one for the poor

Glenn Greenwald, lawyer and now well-known blogger, at Salon, and commentator, has just had a new book of his released, "With Liberty and Justice for Some".  

An excerpt:

"As a litigator who practiced for more than a decade in federal and state courts across the country, I’ve long been aware of the inequities that pervade the American justice system. The rich enjoy superior legal representation and therefore much better prospects for success in court than the poor.

The powerful are treated with far more deference by judges than the powerless. The same cultural, socioeconomic, and demographic biases that plague society generally also infect the legal process. Few people who have had any interaction with the justice system would dispute this.

Still, only when I began regularly writing about politics did I realize that the problem extends well beyond such inequities. The issue isn’t just that those with political influence and financial power have some advantages in our judi…

Health! A human right!

Interesting new report just released by the United Nations.    Conclusion?  Health is a human right.   And why not?
"A report presented to the United Nations General Assembly this morning by Anand Grover, UN Special Rapporteur on the right to health, which exposes the adverse effects criminalization and legal restrictions have on various health issues, is an important milestone for those working to promote sexual and reproductive health and human rights worldwide. Building on existing research and analysis, this report poses a fundamental challenge to laws and policies that limit access to abortion, dictate a woman’s conduct during pregnancy, restrict comprehensive sexuality education, and act as a barrier to contraception and family planning information and services. It examines the disproportionate impact these laws and policies have on those who already suffer human rights violations and the denial of adequate heath care (e.g., women, impoverished peoples) and emphasizes indiv…

Following the income surge...for the 1%

The figures speak for themselves...and go a long way in showing why there is an ever-growing Occupy Wall Street movement.    Fairness is a word which immediately comes to mind when one reads how the top 1% in the USA have reaped a veritable bonanza in the growth of their income......compared to the rest of us.

"Income for the richest Americans has grown 15 times faster than for the poor since 1979, a government study showed, as a poll out Wednesday highlighted deep anxiety over uneven wealth distribution a year ahead of US elections.

The income disparity, and concentration of more than 80 percent of US income wealth in the top 20 percent of earners, highlights the volatility in the race for the White House as President Barack Obama's Republican challengers push plans to reduce taxes for the wealthy as a way to prime the sluggish economy.

From 1979 to 2007, the wealthiest one percent of Americans more than doubled their share of the nation's income, from nearly eight percen…

The ever-changing standing of America in the globe

Professor Stephen Walt, writing in The National Interest, reflects on America's standing in the world over the years, but more particularly how things are shaping up in the future.    Bottom line it will be China which will dominate the world.  Not the USA.   That era has well and truly passed.

"The past two decades have witnessed the emergence of new power centers in several key regions. The most obvious example is China, whose explosive economic growth is undoubtedly the most significant geopolitical development in decades. The United States has been the world’s largest economy since roughly 1900, but China is likely to overtake America in total economic output no later than 2025. Beijing’s military budget is rising by roughly 10 percent per year, and it is likely to convert even more of its wealth into military assets in the future. If China is like all previous great powers—including the United States—its definition of “vital” interests will grow as its power increases—an…

Now it's Rupert the Scrooge. Journos have to pay to read their own pieces

Ah, good sound capitalism - forget about the underlying Occupy Wall Street movement and the big-money makers - and here is Rupert Murdoch, already rightly on the nose, now requiring his journalists to pay to read what they have written "hidden" behind a paywall.
"It might be a new digital experience for readers but News Ltd staff are outraged that they'll have to pay to access their own work, reports Adam Brereton

News Limited staff are unhappy after being required to pay to read their own content behind The Australian’s new paywall. In an email sent to News staff last week, corporate affairs have offered the same three-month trial being marketed to ordinary punters, but with a "special staff discount of up to 50 per cent".

One News Limited employee told New Matilda he thought the payment was "a bit of a joke … why should we have to pay for something we worked to produce?"

Although staff have been aware of the switch to paywalled content for some mo…

The on-off "affair " with the iPad

Mondoweiss, a blog well worth reading and subscribing to, has a somewhat whimsical piece by Phil Weiss "My wife forswears the groovy Ipad forever".
"I came down to breakfast at my parents' house yesterday and my wife said, "Have you seen my Ipad?" "Have you looked in the car?" "All through it." "What about your bag?" She rolled her eyes.

I went out to the car and searched it top to bottom, under the seats, etc. I was a little frantic. Not again. Four months ago my wife fell asleep on the train and someone snatched her Ipad out of her bag. We bought her another one.

On Saturday there was a funeral in my wife's family in Philadelphia and we'd driven around from one event to another with the Ipad in the front seat. I'd locked up, at the church, and at the club for the reception, then later at the mourning family's house-- but the windows were down a little because the dogs were in the back. Then my wife had opened th…

Whack! Take that Tony!

"The prospect of a vote on statehood for Palestine in the U.N. is reinvigorating multi-lateral Middle East diplomacy. However, there remain considerable complications -- notably, Tony Blair. Barely pausing from sending Tornado F3's to release Shadow missiles over Iraq, Blair blithely glided into the position of Mid-East Peace envoy for the Quartet in 2007, without betraying a hint of irony. His stoicism and blinking affability have incongruously led to his recent label of persona non grata in the West Bank and Gaza.

    Blair doesn’t seem to notice that he has been lobbying against a vote for Palestine in the U.N. these past few weeks. Just as he hasn’t seemed to notice that, rather than tour the Middle East with credible experts and peace brokers, he has been seated across from power with the J.P. Morgan representative at his elbow. The same J.P. Morgan that has been footing a bill of £2 million in consultancy fees to Mr. Blair. To call this a conflict of interest would be a…

The Iraq War: The end of a debacle

Whilst scores of contractors [?] will remain in Iraq after the just announced withdrawal of US troops from Iraq by year's end, one thing is clear.   The invasion of Iraq has been shown to have been a debacle and those neo-cons who urged Bush on to rid Iraq of Saddam have been shown to have been utterly wrong.
"The Iraq war is over. Buried by the news from Libya, Barack Obama announced late on Friday that all US troops will leave Iraq by 31 December.

The president put a brave face on it, claiming he was fulfilling an election promise to end the war, though he had actually been supporting the Pentagon's effort to make a deal with Iraq's prime minister Nouri al-Maliki to keep US bases and several thousand troops there indefinitely.

The talks broke down because Moqtada al-Sadr's members of parliament and other Iraqi nationalists insisted that US troops be subject to Iraqi law. In every country where they are based the US insists on legal immunity and refuses to let troo…

Libya: Watch them line up....

It takes someone like Robert Fisk to write about the death of Gadaffi - and how not that long ago the dictator was one of our friends.    Read Fisk's critical analysis, in The Independent, here.

Of course Libya is rich with oil reserves.    So, one should not be surprised that Western countries are on the move - to move into Libya!

Remember, he was our buddy not that long ago

Double-standards writ large

"Anyone who tried to argue that both sides have blood on their hands, and that there were those Palestinian prisoners who were sentenced to cruel and totally disproportionate jail terms, was pilloried. Or that their prison conditions were unbearably harsh, without furloughs or even one phone call over a period of decades and sometimes without family visits for years. That in Israel you can murder seven Palestinians and get frequent furloughs. Or set up a Jewish terror underground and get out in a flash. Or smash the skulls of bound and shackled terrorists and be granted a pardon without a trial. In this same country where the rule of law prevails, someone who transported a terrorist to his attack must sit in jail for life, while someone who kills a Palestinian is sometimes even spared a trial."

Gideon Levy, writing in Haaretz, in relation to the release of the soldier Gilad Shalit and 1027 Palestinians held in Israel, many for decades.

Revealed: Drone "airports" around the globe

Welcome to the world of drones and whats is now revealed to be "airports" for them around the globe.    Scary stuff - as we embark on yet another dimension to make our planet less safe by giving those in power more armaments to cause suffering and mayhem.    AlterNet and TomDispatch brings us up to date on the move to warfare by, as it were, remote.

"They increasingly dot the planet.  There’s a facility outside Las Vegas where “pilots” work in climate-controlled trailers, another at a dusty camp in Africa formerly used by the French Foreign Legion, a third at a big air base in Afghanistan where Air Force personnel sit in front of multiple computer screens, and a fourth that almost no one talks about at an air base in the United Arab Emirates.

And that leaves at least 56 more such facilities to mention in an expanding American empire of unmanned drone bases being set up worldwide.  Despite frequent news reports on the drone assassination campaign launched in support of A…

The utterly, utterly appalling cost of the Afghan war

Will the politicians stand up and be counted for what they have wrought?     This piece from Media Lens details the "cost" of 10 years of war in Afghanistan.
"Ten years later, the violent consequences of the invasion of Afghanistan are truly appalling. A Stop the War video, ‘What is the true cost of the Afghanistan war?’ details some of the appalling statistics:

9,300 Afghan civilians have been killed by International Security Assistance Forces, i.e. Nato.

380 British soldiers are dead.

£18 billion of UK taxpayer’s money has been spent.

The war is costing Britain £12 million per day. The same amount could employ 100,000 nurses (at £21,000 annually) and 150,000 care workers (£15,000).

A study by Brown University in the United States estimates an unimaginable combined sum of up to $4 trillion to fight the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

In Afghanistan, ‘cautious estimates’ of the total civilian death toll exceed 40,000 people, of which:

25.6%  killed by ISAF forces.

15.4%  killed b…

Welcome to really, really Big Brother 2011 style!

If your thought the concept of 1984 and how it impacts of our lives was bad enough, then what Electronic Frontier Foundation is reporting on what the FBI is up to, should be of grave concern.

"NextGov.comis reporting that the FBI will begin rolling out its Next Generation Identification (NGI) facial recognition service as early as this January.  Once NGI is fully deployed and once each of its approximately 100 million records also includes photographs, it will become trivially easy to find and track Americans.

 As we detailed in an earlier post, NGI expands the FBI’s IAFIS criminal and civil fingerprint database to include multimodal biometric identifiers such as iris scans, palm prints, photos, and voice data. The Bureau is planning to introduce each of these capabilities in phases (pdf, p.4) over the next two and a half years, starting with facial recognition in four states—Michigan, Washington, Florida, and North Carolina—this winter.

Why Should We Be Worried?

Despite the FBI’s c…

Gadaffi: The West's cosy,and chilling, relationship with the dictator

Obama has expressed satisfaction, and a degree of pride for America's involvement, in seeing the end of Col. Gadaffi's "reign" in Libya.   Bad man!   Dictator!   Done terrible things to his people over all the years of his regime in Libya.     And of course there is Tony Blair blathering on in much the same vein as Obama.

Hey... wait a minute!     You guys were in bed with Libya when Gadaffi became the "good" guy some few short years ago.   For example, there are many photos of Blair actually physicaly embracing Gadaffi.  No more telling, and chilling, is this report from RT earlier this month.

"Files discovered in a Libyan government office show that the CIA enjoyed a very close relationship with Libyan intelligence services during Muammar Gaddafi's rule. Other documents indicate that British intelligence also played a role.

A set of documents dating from 2002 to 2007 uncover the extent of co-operation between Moussa Koussa, Libya's then intell…

Nothing going for or positive about GM crops

Despite what its proponents claim a report just in gives the thumbs down to GM crops.  Genetically modified crops fail to increase yields let alone solve hunger, soil erosion and chemical-use issues.
"Genetic engineering has failed to increase the yield of any food crop but has vastly increased the use of chemicals and the growth of "superweeds", according to a report by 20 Indian, south-east Asian, African and Latin American food and conservation groups representing millions of people.

The so-called miracle crops, which were first sold in the US about 20 years ago and which are now grown in 29 countries on about 1.5bn hectares (3.7bn acres) of land, have been billed as potential solutions to food crises, climate change and soil erosion, but the assessment finds that they have not lived up to their promises.

The report claims that hunger has reached "epic proportions" since the technology was developed. Besides this, only two GM "traits" have been deve…

It all depends on where you sit in the pecking order

Credited to Pat Bagley, Salt Lake Tribune

It's not all that it seems in Syria

The West is effectively laying low in relation to Syria other than the occasional accusatory comment about President Assad.

But was really happening there.     In this piece by Jeremy Salt on Counterpunch he lists some 23 reasons why we ought to be a tad sceptical about what is being reported to us, and certain givens with regard to this Middle Eastern country.

"As insurrection in Syria lurches towards civil war, the brakes need to be put on the propaganda pouring through the Western mainstream media and accepted uncritically by many who should know better."

Three examples of what Salt writes about:

"1. Syria has been a mukhabarat (intelligence) state since the redoubtable Abdel-Hamid Al-Serraj ran the intelligence services as the deuxième bureau in the 1950s. The authoritarian state which developed from the time former Syrian president Hafez Al-Assad took power in 1970 has crushed all dissent ruthlessly. On occasion it has either been him or them. The ubiquitous presenc…

A photographic tour of Teheran

"Tehran is a visual feast. Part 1970s time capsule, part ideological showcase, part cultural battleground, Iran's capital city is also, regrettably, a tough place in which to take good photographs. The city draws remarkably few foreigners these days, so any visitor with a camera is quickly noticed. Because official Iran asserts a monopoly over the country's image, pro-government basijis -- a plainclothes militia -- can be relied upon to turn up unfriendly, unannounced, and obstructive if you turn your camera on a sensitive subject. Nevertheless, when visiting Tehran -- as I did most recently when reporting for FP this past June and July -- I have always enjoyed taking in its aesthetic ironies. The strong reactions I elicited whenever I pulled out my camera renewed my admiration for the Iran-based photographers who make the tense political atmosphere and cultural fault lines in this great city palpable. The following selections from the wire services serve to illustrate t…

Ho what if my husband (President Assad) is killing people

Bottom line I guess it's one perspective on what is important in the world and one's moral compass.   It would seem that the wife of President Assad, of Syria, isn't at all concerned if her husband has been responsible for the death of some of her husband's protesting citizens.

"Vogue magazine famously called her a "rose in the desert", while Paris Match proclaimed she was the "element of light in a country full of shadow zones". But when Syria's glamorous First Lady invited a group of aid workers to discuss the security situation with her last month, she appeared to have lost her gloss.

During the meeting, British-born Asma al-Assad – who grew up in Acton and attended a Church of England school in west London – came face to face with aid workers who had witnessed at first hand the brutality of her husband's regime. Yet according to one volunteer who was present, the former investment banker and mother of President Bashar al-Assad's …

Twitter: What is happening

There can be no doubt that Twitter is a force to be reckoned with.   It goes beyond being a simple means for social networking.  
In a considered piece in Le Monde diplomatique, Mona Chollet records that Twitter has taken a different approach from the other social media. It seems to be turning into a public news agency, faster and more collective than traditional media. "Internet use became commonplace at least 15 years ago, but some people still cannot grasp that it is a user-created medium. The web is presented as a convergence of pre-existing means of acquiring information, but French researcher Dominique Cardon objects to that view; he thinks it just applies traditional media models, including editorial control, to the net, and regards the public as passive (1).

Yet the nature of the internet has become clear, especially with the advent of Web 2.0 and its user-friendly tools. Thanks to blog platforms, users with no programming skills can self publish. The resulting standardis…

One loser....and lots of big winners

Is it any wonder that there is a vibrant and ever-growing Occupy Wall Street movement?   
 Exhibit 1!
Goldman Sachs has just announced a big loss for its third quarter.  A mere US$425 million.   BUT,  the employees, let alone the executives of the firm, won't bearing any loss, just to the contrary.
"Today’s Goldman Sachs earning reports provides a valuable lesson on how things really work inside Wall Street’s largest investment houses. Goldman Sachs had an awful three months, losing $428 million in the third quarter of 2011, and yet it continued to shovel billions into the bonus pool it will share with its employees at year’s end.

 Through the first nine months of 2011, Goldman set aside $10 billion in its compensation fund. If Goldman’s 30,000 employees split that bounty evenly, that would work out to $333,000 per person—plus the billions more Goldman will no doubt set aside in the last few months of the year.

Of course, the receptionist inside Goldman Sachs doesn't receive…

Someone (The Los Angeles Times] gets it

Whilst the US, taking a leaf out of Israel's book, has now engaged in extra-judicial killings - think, the killing of an alleged terrorist in Yemen recently - on show is the inevitable double-standard.     The Americans are outraged that Iran is alleged to have been involved in aiming to kill the Saudi ambassador in Washington.    
The Los Angeles Times gets it......that there are double-standards at play here.
"Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr. announced Tuesday that federal authorities had foiled a plot backed by the Iranian government to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the United States on American soil. Two men, one of whom is apparently a member of a special operations unit of Iran's Revolutionary Guard, were charged in federal court in New York on Tuesday. Holder called the bomb plot a flagrant violation of U.S. and international law. And Preet Bharara, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, said, "We will not let other countries use our soil …

No other word for it. Barbaric!

For a Westerner it is hard to come to grips with a woman, or indeed a man for that matter, being sentenced to 90 lashes.    The crime?     Appearing in a movie which the authorities - Iran in this instance - don't like.
"An Iranian actor has been sentenced to one year in prison and 90 lashes for her starring role in Australian film My Tehran for Sale.
In an outcome that could have been lifted from the pages of the movie's script, Marzieh Vafamehr was arrested in July and received her sentence at the weekend, according to reports quoting Iranian opposition website

The exact nature of the crime she was charged with is unclear and the Iranian embassy in Canberra did not respond to The Age's request for comment. Vafamehr often appears with a shaved head and no headscarf in the film, which also explores cultural oppression in Iran and taboos such as drug use."

OWS movement grows.......worldwide

This weekend has seen the Occupy Wall Street movement go global.    In Rome, alone, some 200,000 people turned out to protest.
Mike Carlton, writing his regular op-ed column in the SMH, very succinctly puts the movement into context.
"We must all hope that the Occupy Wall Street movement is the first wave of a great global uprising against the greed, stupidity and incompetence of the world financial system. It is early days, but the signs are that it might be. Increasingly, the guitar players, hipsters, and starry-eyed dreamers who kicked it off are being joined by middle-class, Main Street Americans infuriated by the havoc brought to their lives by bankers and governments.
Surely now we must recognise that the 1980s capitalist model has run itself off a cliff, as it was always bound to do. Call it Reaganomics or Thatchernomics or supply-side economics, whatever you like, but unshackling the banks to let them rip'n'tear in an explosion of debt upon debt has been an unmiti…

That alleged Iran attack.....It just doesn't stack up!

Informed commentary would have it that that the much-touted US claim to have thwarted an Iranian plot to kill the Saudi ambassador in Washington doesn't stack up.  
Glenn Greenwald atSalon:
"The most difficult challenge in writing about the Iranian Terror Plot unveiled yesterday is to take it seriously enough to analyze it. Iranian Muslims in the Quds Force sending marauding bands of Mexican drug cartel assassins onto sacred American soil to commit Terrorism — against Saudi Arabia and possibly Israel — is what Bill Kristol and John Bolton would feverishly dream up while dropping acid and madly cackling at the possibility that they could get someone to believe it. But since the U.S. Government rolled out its Most Serious Officials with Very Serious Faces to make these accusations, many people (therefore) do believe it; after all, U.S. government accusations = Truth. All Serious people know that. And in the ensuing reaction one finds virtually every dynamic typically shaping d…

Sri Lanka: Something rotten in the island-State

Notwithstanding an attempt by the Sri Lankan government to entice tourists and that peace has no come to the once war-torn country, there remains something very rotten in the island-State.

"In late September, the government of Sri Lanka released 1,800 former Tamil Tiger fighters.
Colombo claimed they had been rehabilitated as President Mahinda Rajapaksa told them at a ceremony in the capital:

"I hope you will work for peace and ethnic harmony in this nation of ours. We must not dwell on the bitter past, but look to a prosperous future."

Many other former fighters remain incommunicado, housed in secret camps away from international inspection or human rights protection.

This is occurring in "democratic" Sri Lanka, a nation still deeply divided along racial and political lines.

The over two years since the official end of the country's brutal civil war has seen an attempted re-branding exercise by the Rajapaksa regime, including the encouragement of a vibrant tou…

Libya: The ravages of war

Need anything be said about the ravages of war?     This photo - more here - was taken in Sirte, Libya, "home" of Muammar Gaddafi.

And the winner is.....Occupy Wall Street!

What a change a few days can bring.    From the media effectively ignoring the Occupy Wall Street movement, now we see it more than reported on, and the likes of Eliot Spitzer - one-time Attorney-General for New York - writing and declaring in Slate that the Occupy Wall Street has won!

"Occupy Wall Street has already won, perhaps not the victory most of its participants want, but a momentous victory nonetheless. It has already altered our political debate, changed the agenda, shifted the discussion in newspapers, on cable TV, and even around the water cooler. And that is wonderful.

Suddenly, the issues of equity, fairness, justice, income distribution, and accountability for the economic cataclysm–issues all but ignored for a generation—are front and center. We have moved beyond the one-dimensional conversation about how much and where to cut the deficit. Questions more central to the social fabric of our nation have returned to the heart of the political debate. By forcing this n…

Milton Gendel’s Society Photos

Vanity Fair has a wonderful photo montage of what is described as Society taken by Milton Gendel.

"A fixture in the postwar social world of the European elite, photographer Milton Gendel used both the refinement and the extravagance of his private life as the material for his high art. Gendel’s prolific portfolio chronicles his many friendships (with such aristocrats as Queen Elizabeth II and Princess Margaret), marriages, and residences over the years, as he made his career out of capturing the beauty and transience of fleeting moments. To coincide with the openings of  the “Milton Gendel: A Surreal Life” exhibition at Rome’s Museo Carlo Bilotti, on October 4, and “Milton Gendel: Portraits” at the American Academy in Rome, on October 19, takes a look back at some of his most iconic subjects and scenes."

Go here to view the 16 photos, including one of Salvador Dali.

So say all of us! Less than 5% want mobile / cell phones on planes

Can there be any doubting that despite what airlines might think, only a very, very small percentage of people want mobile / cell phones on planes.
"Less than 5% of passengers want in-flight mobile and internet access according to a survey by search engine,

The September survey, which questioned 1300 frequent travellers, found that more than 30% of travellers would actually be put off airlines offering these services.

Objections included disturbance from people talking on phones and interruptions from emails and social networking sites while travelling.

Meanwhile, 62% of travellers are still concerned about the safety risks of having mobile phones on board despite assurances from airlines."

Who says there is American exceptionalism?

The idea that the United States is uniquely virtuous may be comforting to Americans. Too bad it's not true.

Professor Stephen Walt, of Harvard, writing in FP [as re-produced on Information Clearing House]:

"Over the last two centuries, prominent Americans have described the United States as an "empire of liberty," a "shining city on a hill," the "last best hope of Earth," the "leader of the free world," and the "indispensable nation." These enduring tropes explain why all presidential candidates feel compelled to offer ritualistic paeans to America's greatness and why President Barack Obama landed in hot water -- most recently, from Mitt Romney -- for saying that while he believed in "American exceptionalism," it was no different from "British exceptionalism," "Greek exceptionalism," or any other country's brand of patriotic chest-thumping.

Most statements of "American exceptionalism&qu…

That alleged Iranian plot in Washington?: "Fishy"

Despite all the hype that alleged plot by the Iranians - in Washington, to kill the Saudi ambassador - is looking increasingly odd.   One CIA veteran describes the whole thing as portrayed by the USA, as "fishy".

"U.S. Justice Department charges that elements of Iran's government were behind a foiled plot on the life of Saudi Arabia's U.S. ambassador have boggled the minds of many Americans knowledgeable about both Iran and terrorism.

The alleged target and modus operandi – employing a Mexican drug cartel to blow up Ambassador Adel al-Jubeir at a Washington restaurant – are unusual, to say the least, for a government that has focused on political dissidents and theatres of war closer to home.

"Fishy, fishy, fishy,'' Bruce Riedel, a CIA veteran who was formerly in charge of the Near East and South Asia on the White House National Security Council, told IPS. "That Iran engages in assassinations is old news. That it would use a Mexican drug cartel w…

Elie Wiesel image well and truly tarnished

Elie Wiesel is always put forward as a fair-minded libertarian and champion of decency, liberty and tolerance.
Well, that might have been at one time - even though people have questioned him in some situations in which he has placed himself - but his latest support of a venture in Jerusalem borders on the graceful. 
"One of the leading land-grabbers in East Jerusalem is an Israeli settler NGO, Elad, one of whose tactics has been to have Palestinian homes declared archaeological sites. This allows them to condemn and expel the residents and then create artificial archaeology parks.  Elad celebrated one of its major projects, opening a hitherto “secret tunnel” from the City of David (one of its archaeological sites) to the Western Wall (Kotel) at such a Selichot ceremony.
Elad’s goal is to rid Jerusalem, especially those parts of it with Jewish historical significance (which most often happen to be within Palestinian neighborhoods), of Arabs.  It will do so by hook or by crook.  Sin…

Bahh to all of you.....

Credited to Mike Luckovich

UN Report confirms widespread use of torture in Afghanistan

It will come as little surprise to anyone who has followed the war in Afghanistan, and Iraq for that matter, that a UN Report just out reveals - for many, confirms - that there is widespread use of torture by Afghan military and police - almost surely with the tacit approval of the Western allies in the country.     And the NATO forces didn't know it was going on? - and doubtlessly benefiting from "intelligence" gained from those tortured.

"The UN report on the widespread use of torture by the Afghan intelligence agency and police force is not just an indictment of Nato-backed security forces. It also represents a giant question mark over the workability of the west's strategy in Afghanistan.

That strategy involves containment of the insurgency until the end of the 2014, when the US, Britain and their allies are to withdraw combat troops. Meanwhile, the plan is to build up and improve the Afghan government and its security forces, while exploring the possibility …

Uncle Snoopy Sam

Uncle Sam obviously doesn't like its closely guarded secrets, and misdeeds, seeing the light of day.     It took it upon itself to engage in snooping - obtaining a secret order in the process to do so - to try and establish where WikiLeaks sourced its information and documents.
MSNBC reports:
"The U.S. government obtained secret court orders to force Google Inc and a small Internet provider to hand over information from email accounts of a WikiLeaks volunteer, The Wall Street Journal reported Monday.
The U.S. request included email addresses of people that Jacob Appelbaum, a volunteer for the campaigning website, had corresponded with in the past two years, but not the full emails, the newspaper said, citing documents it had reviewed.

Internet provider Sonic said it fought the government order legally and lost, and was forced to turn over information, the company's chief executive, Dane Jasper, told the newspaper.
The legal action was "rather expensive, but we felt it wa…

A drone coming to near you!

The West has been rather smug that it has cornered some ascendency in the use of drones.    No more, it seems.    The New York Times reports that China has drones too.   And the consequence of all of that is we can expect a new dimension to warfare.   As if we needed more in an already restless world.
"At the Zhuhai air show in southeastern China last November, Chinese companies startled some Americans by unveiling 25 different models of remotely controlled aircraft and showing video animation of a missile-armed drone taking out an armored vehicle and attacking a United States aircraft carrier.

The presentation appeared to be more marketing hype than military threat; the event is China’s biggest aviation market, drawing both Chinese and foreign military buyers. But it was stark evidence that the United States’ near monopoly on armed drones was coming to an end, with far-reaching consequences for American security, international law and the future of warfare.

Eventually, the United …

Who's suffering?

This piece from Mother Jones its into context why the Occupy Wall Street movement is getting such traction in the USA.    
"After Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, and Morgan Stanley announced hefty profits last fall, the Obama administration's pay czar said that he'd cap pay at Citigroup, Bank of America, and five other bailed-out companies. The move was largely symbolic: It capped salaries for only 25 executives, kept big stock bonuses in place, and did nothing to address the culture of rewarding folks who sowed our economic destruction. Below, some of the players who made out like bandits during the bubble and the bailout."
Interestingly, the normally staid New York Times - rarely in support of popular movements - has picked up on the Occupy Wall Street movement as reflecting the mood of Americans and actually supports it editorially.

Standing on your head?

This week's op-piece in The New York Times by Maureen Dowd "How Garbo Learned to Stand on Her Head" is, for once, not acerbic.    It's about yoga.    Is it good for one or not?

"Sometimes it feels as though I spend half my time working and the other half trying to ameliorate the strain of working.

Ever since one particularly clenched day of columnizing years ago, when I found myself curled up on the floor of my house davening, I’ve tried various remedies for the ravages of stress: better nutrition, caramels, gym, green tea Popsicles, kavakava, kale, kombucha, cupcakes, chocolate, chardonnay — sometimes in concurrent combinations.

The one that works best is yoga.

So I was intrigued to open my mail on Friday and find the galley of an upcoming book by the Times science writer William Broad, who made his name reporting about space weapons and biological warfare, on “The Science of Yoga: The Myths and the Rewards.”

I stopped reading about the Rick Perry supporter who den…