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Showing posts from April, 2012

Obama: Warrior in Chief

A timely op-ed piece  in The New York Times in this American election year on the so-called liberal Obama - a president worse than Bush in many respects and certainly in relation to war-mongering.   One thing is for sure.  Obama was in no way deserving of a Nobel Peace Prize.

"The president who won the Nobel Peace Prize less than nine months after his inauguration has turned out to be one of the most militarily aggressive American leaders in decades.

Liberals helped to elect Barack Obama in part because of his opposition to the Iraq war, and probably don’t celebrate all of the president’s many military accomplishments. But they are sizable.

Mr. Obama decimated Al Qaeda’s leadership. He overthrew the Libyan dictator. He ramped up drone attacks in Pakistan, waged effective covert wars in Yemen and Somalia and authorized a threefold increase in the number of American troops in Afghanistan. He became the first president to authorize the assassination of a United States citizen, Anwar a…

Now the PLO joins the web censors

Troubling to read that the PLO is getting into the business of web censorship.

"The Palestinian Authority has quietly instructed Internet providers to block access to news websites whose reporting is critical of President Mahmoud Abbas, according to senior government officials and data analyzed by network security experts.

As many as eight news outlets have been rendered unavailable to many Internet users in the West Bank, after technicians at the Palestinian Telecommunications Company, or PalTel, tweaked an open source software called Squid to return error pages, a detailed technical analysis indicates. Several small companies are using a similar setup.

The decision this year to begin blocking websites marks a major expansion of the government's online powers. Experts say it is the biggest shift toward routine Internet censorship in the Palestinian Authority’s history. Aside from one incident in 2008, Palestinians have generally been free to read whatever they wanted."��…

Another ugly side to Israeli behaviour

The actions of the Israelis know no bounds.     Forget about acting legally!   Forget about decency!  Forget about humanity!    The latest outrage as reported on Mondoweiss (essential reading if one wants to keep up with events in the Middle East especially relating to Israel and the Palestinian issue).

"Earlier this week, Israel ordered Palestinian farmers in Deir Istiya, a major West Bank olive producing village, to uproot 1,400 trees by the end of this month. By comparison, this order is 400 more trees than the total number uprooted in all of 2011.

"This is the largest order for uprooting trees that the farmers of Wadi Qana have ever been given," said the International Women's Peace Service (IWPS). And Amal Salem, 63, from Deir Istiya, but now living in St. Louis says unearthing olive trees effects everyone in the village, "When I visited last year, every house I went to has had uprooted trees."

Amal's family has farmed olive for five generations.  It…

It is Rupert M who is the "wanker".......

Apart from the likes of Andrew Bolt, there can be few who believed a word of what Rupert Murdoch said in evidence the other day to the Leveson Inquiry. 
Bruce Guthrie was a senior News Limited executive from 1987-89 and from 2003-08 and is author of Man Bites Murdoch.    He comments on Murdoch's evidence....
"The News chief can't have been serious with his evidence.
Rupert Murdoch was having a lend, surely? How else to explain some of his extraordinary statements this week before the Leveson inquiry on the British press. Statements such as: ''We have never pushed our commercial interests in our newspapers''; ''I have never asked a prime minister for anything''; and my absolute favourite, ''I do try very hard to set an example of ethical behaviour and make it quite clear that I expect it''.

I giggled at that one about commercial interests, remembering the last News Limited editors' conference I attended, in 2008. An entire …

The nuns as pawns in the Church

Maureen Dowd, writing her regular op-ed column in The New York Times - this one headed "Bishops Play Church Queens as Pawns" - rightly ponders on the priorities of the Catholic Church when it is seen attempting to bring seemingly errant nuns, who are helping the poor, into line.  She asks whether the Church hasn't a greater issue confronting it and with which to deal. Those priests who have abused and molested young boys.
"It is an astonishing thing that historians will look back and puzzle over, that in the 21st century, American women were such hunted creatures.

Even as Republicans try to wrestle women into chastity belts, the Vatican is trying to muzzle American nuns.

Who thinks it’s cool to bully nuns? While continuing to heal and educate, the community of sisters is aging and dying out because few younger women are willing to make such sacrifices for a church determined to bring women to heel.

Yet the nuns must be yanked into line by the crepuscular, medieval men …

A peaceful protest to attain peace

Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against the then South African apartheid was at the time said to have been successful in seeing the end of the regime.     It has been a "tactic' sought to be employed by protest and activist groups against Israel in so far as it relates to good manufactured by Israeli companies in the West Bank, especially those in so-called settlements.
The movement has gained traction and success over the years despite heavy Israeli pressure to prevent it.    The latest "success" in the protect comes with the announcement in Britain of one of the largest food retailers banning the sale of goods sourced from Israeli settlements.
"One of the largest supermarket chains in Britain has announced that it intends to boycott Israeli agricultural exporters that market also produce from the West Bank settlements.

While British food retailers have for some years now been labeling products that are grown or manufactured in settlements and in some c…

Ann Romney: What planet does she occupy?

You read some of the observations and statements by Mick and Ann Romney and wonder what planet they occupy.    The latest "revelation" from Mrs R leaves one more than gasping....

“I love the fact that there are women out there who don’t have a choice and they must go to work and they still have to raise the kids. Thank goodness that we value those people too. And sometimes life isn’t easy for any of us.”

Eh?    She "loves" what?     Sounds like a woman quite at one with millions of working women in America who have no choice but to juggle work, family and budgets!!!!

Women in the Middle East. Out of sight and mind?

Much has been written of the Arab Spring.   A new dawn?  For women?    Well-known Egyptian-American journalist and activist would say a definite no.......as she does in this piece on FP (Foreign Policy) "Why Do They Hate Us?"
"Yes, women all over the world have problems; yes, the United States has yet to elect a female president; and yes, women continue to be objectified in many "Western" countries (I live in one of them). That's where the conversation usually ends when you try to discuss why Arab societies hate women.
But let's put aside what the United States does or doesn't do to women. Name me an Arab country, and I'll recite a litany of abuses fueled by a toxic mix of culture and religion that few seem willing or able to disentangle lest they blaspheme or offend. When more than 90 percent of ever-married women in Egypt -- including my mother and all but one of her six sisters -- have had their genitals cut in the name of modesty, then surel…

Rupe tell the truth? You gotta be kidding!

Rupert Murdoch - and his son, James - have passed through the witness box at the Leveson Inquiry in London.     No one would believe James - who in all likelihood would have never landed the positions he did in the Murdoch empire but for Daddy!     Old Rupe!   Wily, and many informed pundits would say, living in a parallel orbit.    The Global Mail considers the evidence....
"As for much of the rest of his seven-hour testimony - gripping for media junkies; like watching paint dry for the most that aren't - Murdoch's former editor at London's The Sunday Times, Sir Harold Evans, saw Murdoch's performance more akin to the fanciful plots scriptwriters at News Corp's Fox Studios might concoct.

"Everything he says should be taken as the diametric opposite," Sir Harold told an interviewer on his wife Tina Brown's Daily Beast website afterwards. Murdoch's testimony showed, he said, that the mogul had "discovered a huge imagination. Frankly it'…

Royalty Chinese style

Let it not be said that one cannot do very well in China....depending on the connections of course.
"They are referred to as "princelings" for a reason — mainly because these children of Communist leaders are resented by many in China, and elsewhere, for the privileges they receive as a birthright. What they do with these privileges is what determines how the headlines about them are worded.

Bo Guagua, son of the disgraced former Chongqing Party boss Bo Xilai, has been the most recent princeling to capture the limelight, but he is far from alone in this honor. Guagua, a 24-year-old post-graduate student at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, has been called out for being "an academically indifferent bon vivant with a weakness for European sports cars, first-class air travel, equestrian sports and the tango," according to the Times.

But, apparently, Sabrina Chen, granddaughter of one of the Eight Immortals (leaders who helped steer China out of upheaval i…

The GOP's wing-nut

Shake your head in disbelief as you read the rantings of this GOP member of Congress.   Remember we are in the 21st century!   Hasn't anyone told this wing-nut?    Veteran journalist and commentator Bill Moyers reflects on how McCarthyism is rearing its head again....
"We’ve talked at times about George Orwell’s classic novel 1984, and the amnesia that sets in when we flush events down the memory hole, leaving us at the mercy of only what we know today. Sometimes, though, the past comes back to haunt, like a ghost. It happened recently when we saw Congressman Allen West of Florida on the news.
A Republican and Tea Party favorite, he was asked at a local gathering how many of his fellow members of Congress are “card-carrying Marxists or International Socialists.”

He replied, “I believe there’s about 78 to 81 members of the Democrat Party who are members of the Communist Party. It’s called the Congressional Progressive Caucus.”

By now, little of what Allen West says ever surprises…

Iran? A threat? Seems not!

When the former head of Israel's security service speaks about the country's leaders - not complimentary at all - and his assessment of whether Iran poses a threat or not you sit up and listen.     Hear then!....

"They are misleading the public on the Iran issue. They tell the public that if Israel acts, Iran won't have a nuclear bomb. This is misleading. Actually, many experts say that an Israeli attack would accelerate the Iranian nuclear race," said the former security chief. 

In March, former Mossad chief Meir Dagan also spoke out publicly against a military option on Iran, telling CBS' 60 Minutes that an Israeli attack would have "devastating" consequences for Israel, and would in any case be unlikely to put an end to the Iranian nuclear program."

Israel.....with blinkers on

"Israel is perceived as a brutal state living in well-fanned hysteria and existential anxiety, which sees any political process as a conspiracy, any move on the ground as a justification for war and any criticism as an anti-Semitic campaign. In the 64th year of its independence, there is a strange contradiction in Israel: on the one hand, the apparent acceptance of the perpetuity of the conflict and of the view that it has no solution, and on the other hand the loss of the skills and sense of strength needed to withstand this conclusion.

Instead of steeling itself in the face of a conflict that will last for generations, it seems Israel is only becoming more fragile and more sensitive to every touch, even the slightest. The shadow of mountains looks like mountains; anything that in some way benefits the Palestinians is perceived as a threat to us. Any act of demonstrative protest is considered an "airlift" by the Luftwaffe or a terrifying "flotilla" in the styl…

Up date on Bradley Manning

Anyone who values open government and access (or at least knowledge of) to what illegal or other nefarious activities Governments are up to, will have welcomed the myriad of revelations via Wikileaks over the last months.     Not so fortunate in the fallout of the Wikilaeaks "saga" is the charging of the American military man, Bradley Manning.    Yahoo! News provides an update on what is not a happy "picture" for Manning.

"A US military judge ruled Thursday that WikiLeaks suspect Bradley Manning can be tried for "aiding the enemy" over allegedly leaking documents to the site -- a charge that carries a potential life sentence.
The decision was another setback for Manning, whose attorneys had argued for the espionage charge to be tossed out unless the government was prepared to prove the US Army private had intended to help Al-Qaeda when he allegedly passed files to WikiLeaks.

The 24-year-old could be jailed for life if convicted of "aiding the enem…

Whose decision is it?

What is there to say?  This in a supposed civilised society?    CommonDreams reports on what ought to astound women in particular.

"The National Women's Law Center has launched a Not Up for Debate campaign against the "conscience clauses" in pending legislation that would allow pharmacists to refuse to dispense birth control if they deem it immoral, a slippery slope if ever there was one, especially in small or college towns."

A massive hunger strike

It is typical of most of the media, that it hasn't reported on what are now some 2000 Palestinians on hunger-strike under Israeli detention - many not imprisoned as a result of a conviction, but rather under so-called military detention.     The Guardian newspaper is one exception which reports on the strike.
"The number of Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike in Israeli jails has grown to 2,000, with more preparing to join the protest next week, according to human rights groups in the West Bank.

The Israeli prison service is taking punitive measures against hunger strikers, including solitary confinement, the confiscation of personal belongings, transfers and denial of family visits, say Palestinian organisations.

Seven prisoners have been transferred to a prison medical centre, including Tha'er Halahleh, 34, and Bilal Diab, 27, who by Thursday had been on hunger strike for 58 days. Their appeals against imprisonment without charge – known as administrative detention – w…

It's always the same. Hear, see and do nothing!

This blog published a piece by Robert Fisk the other day about the tragedy of the children of Fallujah, Iraq, as a consequence of the pounding the city received from the Americans and Brits during the Iraq War.     Go here to see Fisk's reports on Iraq.

In today column in The Independent Fisk writes:

"It's the same old story. Know nothing. See nothing. Say nothing. When children died in a plague of cancers in southern Iraq after the 1991 Gulf War, the Americans and the Brits didn't want to know about it. Nor, of course, did Saddam Hussein. If children had been poisoned by our depleted uranium munitions, then Saddam would lose face, wouldn't he? Independent readers contributed $250,000 for medicines for the children we met in Iraq who were suffering from cancers and leukaemia after that war.

Margaret Hassan of Care – later murdered by unknown killers months after her kidnapping, following the "liberation" of Iraq – helped us distribute the medicines from o…

How those rich and famous, and tiresome, other half live

From today's The Guardian newspaper a background piece on how the rich and famous - vacuous, boring and tiresome to boot - live.  Well, they look at it as some sort of "life".
"We lay our scene in January 2010, in the waters surrounding the Tobago Cays, five tiny uninhabited islands in the Grenadines. Here, "a gaggle of billionaires' yachts" are anchored. There is David Geffen on Rising Sun, the world's biggest yacht. (Cowell is "depressed" by its size compared with his, Slipstream.) Then there's that nice Philip Green on Lionheart, while erstwhile M&S boss Stuart Rose is staying with Matthew Freud and Elisabeth Murdoch on their yacht. Next to them is Angle Share, James Murdoch's boat, and nearby is the floating holiday home of Carphone Warehouse boss Charlie Dunstone. Right in the middle is a craft whose precious cargo is Rupert Murdoch.

As is the way with the unimaginatively super-rich, they all adore one another's compan…

War crimes. A case of double standards?

On the very day that countries are hailing the conviction of Charles Taylor, the former Liberian leader, for crimes against humanity - the first such case since the Nuremberg Trials - what does Obama do?    Seemingly engaging in his own war crime.   In fact, the actions of the likes of George Bush, Tony Blair, John Howard, and now Obama - think Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen and Pakistan to name but a few - would seem to fit the definition of a war crime. 
"Ten days ago, I wrote about a request made by CIA Director David Petraeus to expand the drone war in Yemen in accordance with the following, as expressed by the first paragraph of The Washington Post article reporting it:

At the time, I wrote that “it’s unclear whether Obama will approve Petraeus’ request for the use of ‘signature strikes’ in Yemen,” though that was true only in the most technical sense. It was virtually impossible to imagine that a request from David Petraeus, of all people, to Barack Obama, of all people, for auth…

Rupe's world

Credited to The Independent

The scars, and tragedy, of the US military's attack on Fallujah

Robert Fisk, writing in The Independent, has just started a series of articles on Iraq, including a piece on the attack by Americans on Fallujah during the Iraq war.     All too sadly the piece will most likely not even be read in America.

"After at first denying the use of phosphorous shells during the second battle of Fallujah, US forces later admitted that they had fired the munitions against buildings in the city. Independent reports have spoken of a birth-defect rate in Fallujah far higher than other areas of Iraq, let alone other Arab countries. No one, of course, can produce cast-iron evidence that American munitions have caused the tragedy of Fallujah's children."

***

"Studies since the 2004 Fallujah battles have recorded profound increases in infant mortality and cancer in Fallujah; the latest report, whose authors include a doctor at Fallujah General Hospital, says that congenital malformations account for 15 per cent of all births in Fallujah." 

***

&qu…

One more headache for the European Union

As if the EU hasn't enough problems on its plate - already in existence and looming - now member Hungary poses another dimension to a raft of issues.     Frank Bruni reports in this piece "Round Up the Usual Scapegoats" in The New York Times:
"Pay attention to Hungary. It may not have any great economic heft, and it’s home to only about 10 million people with a tropism toward beer and a talent for brooding. But it could turn out to be a test case of the E.U.’s imperiled sway in these days of debt and austerity. Brussels and Budapest have clashed already over the Hungarian government’s attempts at tighter control of the news media, the judiciary and the central bank.

Hungary could also be a window into just how potently economic anxiety fans the flames of bigotry. E.U. membership hasn’t brought Hungarians the broad prosperity they had hoped for; the country has had severe budgetary woes of late. And the far-right party I mentioned, Jobbik, has converted these disappoi…

One person constitutes a bureau?

News organisations often refer to their overseas bureau here or there.    But one person doesn't constitute a bureau, right?    The news gatherers would have us believe otherwise.   Of course, it's a nonsense and highlights why the reporting from places outside the home country office is so poor, if at all.
"The Washington Post has 16 foreign “bureaus,” and 12 of them consist of just a single reporter, according to the newspaper’s website. The four remaining bureaus all consist of two journalists. Is the Post using the word bureau a bit loosely? One Post reporter, Sudarsan Raghavan in Nairobi, is listed as the paper’s “bureau chief in Africa.” Raghavan is the chief of a bureau of one in Kenya. For the continent of Africa.

A 2011 report in the American Journalism Review found that the number of full time foreign correspondents employed by US newspapers declined steeply since 2003. But news outfits that have slashed budgets for foreign reporting are nonetheless eager to pres…

Zionism at the crossroads

MPS is a fan of Paul Krugman, Nobel Prize winner and op-ed writer for The New York Times.

His short but very direct and blunt piece "The Crisis of Zionism" in the Times says it all.....

"Something I’ve been meaning to do — and still don’t have the time to do properly — is say something about Peter Beinart’s brave book The Crisis of Zionism.

The truth is that like many liberal American Jews — and most American Jews are still liberal — I basically avoid thinking about where Israel is going. It seems obvious from here that the narrow-minded policies of the current government are basically a gradual, long-run form of national suicide — and that’s bad for Jews everywhere, not to mention the world. But I have other battles to fight, and to say anything to that effect is to bring yourself under intense attack from organized groups that try to make any criticism of Israeli policies tantamount to anti-Semitism.

But it’s only right to say something on behalf of Beinart, who has pre…

Two different worlds

There have always been haves and have-nots.   It's a sad fact of life.   However, what we are witnessing in so-called Western democracies is an ever growing divide between the rich and the poor.    The middle class is an ever-diminishing group in society.    This piece "The Middle Class Hasn't Disappeared. It's Just Sliding Toward the Bottom" from CommonDreams in the bluntest and most direct terms paints the picture of how things are in America.
"It used to be that the average American resided halfway between two extremes:

Steven Schwarzman's home was being partially replicated in a Park Avenue hall for his gala $5 million 60th birthday party. The guest of honor's full-length portrait greeted the invitees as they proceeded past rows of orchids and palm trees to the dining area, where they feasted on lobster, filet mignon, baked Alaska, and the finest of wines. Martin Short provided the laughs, and the music came compliments of Marvin Hamlisch, Patti L…

What worldwide military spending amounted to in 2011

Take a deep breath as you read this piece on what the world's nations spent on the military in 2011 - and reflect on how that money could have been directed to worthwhile causes.....like, for instance, finding a cure for cancer, Alzheimers, etc. etc.

"On April 17, 2012, as millions of Americans were filing their income tax returns, the highly-respected Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) released its latest study of world military spending. In case Americans were wondering where most of their tax money — and the tax money of other nations — went in the previous year, the answer from SIPRI was clear: to war and preparations for war.

World military spending reached a record $1,738 billion in 2011 — an increase of $138 billion over the previous year.  The United States accounted for 41 percent of that, or $711 billion.

Some news reports have emphasized that, from the standpoint of reducing reliance on armed might, this actually represents progress.  After all,…

A fig-leaf of an "agreement"

The news, yesterday, that the US and Afghanistan have concluded an agreement in relation what is to happen post 2014 after the Americans have left the war-torn country, in reality amounts to little.     What it all means will be swept from scrutiny and any analysis and in the end the agreement, as Professor Stephen Walt of Harvard suggests, is no more than a fig-leaf.

"Perhaps I'm being overly cynical, but the new "strategic partnership" agreement between the United States and Afghanistan strikes me as little more than a fig leaf designed to make a U.S. withdrawal (which I support) look like a mutually agreed-upon "victory." It is already being spun as a signal to the Taliban, Iran, and Pakistan that the United States remains committed, and the agreement will undoubtedly be used as "evidence" that the 2009 surge is a success and that's now ok for the US to bring its forces home.

I have no problem with cosmetic gestures that facilitate doing th…

More illegal "settlements" by the Israelis

There is no stopping the Israelis in taking over Palestinian land in the West Bank - contrary to international law.   The latest episode: