Skip to main content


Showing posts from February, 2014

The ultimate hypocrisy. "Not in my backyard!"

Lack of scruples, decency and hypocrisy on full show!

"In what has been dubbed an act of "exquisite hypocrisy," Rex Tillerson, the $40.3-million-a-year head of ExxonMobil - former oil giant and current biggest natural gas producer in the U.S. with 2011 reported sales of $486 billion, half of which, thanks to Tillerson's efforts and acquisitions, is now in natural gas - has joined a lawsuit against a 160-foot water tower "monstrosity" being built near his $5 million Bartonville horse ranch for a fracking site that, the suit argues, will produce noise, truck traffic, aesthetic damage and other "unreasonable discomfort and annoyance to persons of ordinary sensibilities," and never mind the water contamination, cancer and infertility risks and other unknown health hazards, where he's clearly, wisely not even going. Tillerson has long touted natural gas as "the next big resource opportunity for us," triumphantly citing the world's &qu…

Unfortunate consequences.......

Frau Merkel in Israel...........

UN offcial: Israel Guilty of 'Inhuman' and 'Degrading' Apartheid

The condemnation could not be more encompassing, nor come from a more respected, informed and learned source.  In a nutshell, Professor Falk, a renowned international law expert, and the UN's Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in the Palestinian Territories, provides a "picture" of Israel confirming what its critics have been saying for a long time - and always denied by Israel (accusing its critics as being anti-semitic, anti-Zionist or self-hating Jews) and other countries almost ignored - or averted their gaze from.

"Israel's "systematic oppression" of the Palestinian people in the West Bank and Gaza appears to constitute the "inhuman" and "degrading" practice of "apartheid".

Continue reading this report of the UN Report from CommonDreams:

"Richard Falk, U.N. Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in the Palestinian Territories, chronicles Israel's human rights abuses in a searing 22-page report to the U.N. Human Righ…

Putting the torch to the Ukraine

Credited to Rick McKee, The Augusta Chronicle

Edward Snowden and the Politics of Internet Governance

Anyone who uses the internet and values its untrammelled use, will be concerned at any attempt, more than there already is, to not keep the www wide open and away from snooping eyes a la the NSA, etc.     So-called internet governance is something to watch out for and guard against.

"The Snowden revelations about the mass surveillance programmes of the NSA and the complicity of other Western security agencies have generated a lot of talk about the supposed lack of trust in the Internet, current Internet governance mechanisms, and the multistakeholder governance model.  These revelations have been crucial to fueling the surveillance reform effort (see CDT’s NSA surveillance reform work here).  However, most commentary linking surveillance and global Internet governance conflates two important issues in inaccurate – and politically motivated – ways, driving long-standing and potentially damaging agendas related to the management of the Internet.

The Snowden revelations were not just …

The media gets it wrong again! Iran can't really make a bomb

Juan Cole is a veteran observer and commentator on things Middle Eastern.    In his latest piece on his blog, Informed Comment, he takes the TV news  broadcasters to task for accusing Iran of wanting to make bombs.   Cole says it's not so and that the facts support him.

"US television newscasters have often slipped up and spoken of an Iranian nuclear “weapons program,” even though no UN inspectors have found firm evidence of any such thing and Iran maintains that its program is for peaceful purposes."

Now that there is positive evidence of thorough Iranian cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency, US television news is ignoring a clear sign that Iran is hewing to the breakthrough agreement of last November. I’m saying this should be a headline on tv news but it is not:

Reuters reports that the International Atomic Energy Agency has confirmed that Iran is abiding by the commitments it made last November to mothball its enrichment of uranium to 19.25 percent fo…

Nakba in the Negev. Dogs get better treatment!

There is just no stopping the Israelis in their quest and objective - is there any other reason - to make life as miserable for the Bedouins and Palestinians.    In fact, to drive the Bedouins out of the Negev and the Palestinians from the West.     The latest situation and outrage....

"In a rare concession to widespread opposition, Israel recently (and probably temporarily) scrapped its Prawer-Begin plan to forcibly relocate 40,000 Bedouin citizens of Israel from their unrecognized villages to state-planned townships - shades of South Africa - as part of their decades-long strategy to "transform the Bedouin into an urban proletariat.” But the relentless erosion of the Bedouin and their agricultural heritage goes on apace with "smaller Prawers" every day: the demolitions of houses and entire villages, the confiscation of thousands of acres of Negev land, the chasing of shepherds from their flocks and now the construction of another SodaStream plant at Rahat, a plann…

The wingnut legislators in Arizona do it again

Astounding!...but it takes two to tango....

"Arguing their action is "not about discrimination, (but) preventing discrimination against people who are clearly living out their faith," the wingnutty legislators of Arizona this week passed a bill allowing businesses to refuse to serve gay customers if such service offends their "sincerely held" religious beliefs, because, you know, ewww, also freedom. Arguing they are "a longtime employer and feeder of the gay community," Rocco’s Little Chicago Pizzeria in Tucson posted a tweet, and then a sign on their door, saying they reserve the right to refuse to serve legislators, because, ewww, idiocy."

Amazon. In bed with the CIA

And here were you thinking that Amazon was simply a purveyor of books and other goodies!

"President Obama is now considering whether to order the Central Intelligence Agency to kill a U.S. citizen in Pakistan. That’s big news this week. But hidden in plain sight is the fact that Amazon would be an accessory to the assassination.

Amazon has a $600 million contract with the CIA to provide the agency with “cloud” computing services. After final confirmation of the deal several months ago, Amazon declared: “We look forward to a successful relationship with the CIA.”

The relationship means that Amazon -- logoed with a smiley-face arrow from A to Z, selling products to millions of people every week -- is responsible for keeping the CIA’s secrets and aggregating data to help the agency do its work. Including drone strikes.

Drone attacks in Pakistan are “an entirely CIA operation,” New York Times reporter Mark Mazzetti said Tuesday night in an interview on the PBS NewsHour. He added that “t…

The ever-tiresome Tony Blair

The ever-tiresome former PM, Tony Blair, has now popped up in the hacking case presently underway in the UK.   This time here is good ol' Tony proffering advice to Rebecca Brooks (at the time in the sights of the police in relation to her newspaper's hacking exploits) how to finesse things like he did with the Hutton Inquiry into the Iraq War.   

It's no wonder that there are those who would like to see Blair brought to justice for his involvement with the war on Iraq.  George Monbiot explains in this piece in The Guardian.

"Nothing changes without talk; nothing changes through talk alone. Petitions and debates and social media campaigns and even, sometimes, articles in newspapers are essential campaigning tools but, without action, they seldom amount to anything but catharsis. Without risk, there is no inspiration. Without demonstrations of what change looks like, the public imagination fails.

This is why I set up the Arrest Blair website. Everywhere I went, I met peopl…

Wrong priorities

Credited to Nate Beeler, The Columbus Dispatch

The extent to which a "Thug State" operates

Tom Englehardt on TomDispatch in his column characterises the USA as a "thug State" in the way it has spied on its own citizens and beyond its borders.     The extent of the surveillance is, as Englehardt details, vast.

"Here, at least, is a place to start: intelligence officials have weighed in with an estimate of just how many secret files National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden took with him when he headed for Hong Kong last June. Brace yourself: 1.7 million.  At least they claim that as the number he or his web crawler accessed before he left town.  Let’s assume for a moment that it’s accurate and add a caveat.  Whatever he had with him on those thumb drives when he left the agency, Edward Snowden did not take all the NSA’s classified documents.  Not by a long shot.  He only downloaded a portion of them.  We don’t have any idea what percentage, but assumedly millions of NSA secret documents did not get the Snowden treatment.

Such figures should stagger us a…

Britain and Egypt - birds of a feather

Who would have thought that the Brits - with their Magna Carta and much flaunted claim to Common Law and freedom of the individual - can now be equated with Egypt in how journalists are treated.    Glenn Greenwald explains in The // Intercept.

"As my colleague Ryan Devereaux reports, a lower UK court this morning, as long expected, upheld the legality of the nine-hour detention of my partner, David Miranda, at Heathrow Airport last August, even as it acknowledged that the detention was “an indirect interference with press freedom”. For good measure, the court also refused permission to appeal (though permission can still be granted by the appellate court). David was detained and interrogated under the Terrorism Act of 2000.

The UK Government expressly argued that the release of the Snowden documents (which the free world calls “award-winning journalism“) is actually tantamount to “terrorism”, the same theory now being used by the Egyptian military regime to prosecute Al Jazeera jou…

The underbelly of Dubai

Dubai is always being touted for its go-go attitude, the de-luxe hotels and tourism infrastructure, the airline, Emirates, owned by the Crown Prince of UAE and the way it has grown so swiftly over the last years.......BUT, there is an underbelly which is not so well known - as this piece "Immigrant Views of Dubai, the ‘World’s Fastest Growing City" from truthdig explains.

"The Gulf Arab city achieved its current form in just a few short decades. The story of the city’s rapid evolution is a dramatic product of forces involving immigration, labor, capital and the singular vision of its wealthy monarch, Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, referred to by locals as simply “Sheikh Mo.”

While native Emiratis comprise less than 20 percent of the city’s population, Indians are a whopping 53 percent and other South Asians are 22 percent. This demographic breakdown strongly hints at the role that South Asian immigrant labor has played in the city’s phenomenal growth.

My own parent…

One toxic fire and one death later......a pizza!

One has to wonder what sort of culture pervades a corporation - let alone what is probably a battery of PR people - when you read this....

"Chevron felt so bad about blowing up part of the small town of Bobtown, Pennsylvania with a deadly, days-long fracking fire that their "Community Outreach Team” sent out a sweet letter to terrified residents saying how bad they felt about the "incident" and included a gift coupon to Bobtown Pizza for - yes! - a free pizza. AND a free soda! Understandably, though, because their profits last year were down to about $21 billion, no toppings. Not from The Onion, which is the problem."
"Chevron recognizes the effect this has had on the community.  We value being a responsible member of this community and will continue to strive to achieve incident-free operations."

Australia's own Gitmo - and shame

Here is a country "run" by a PM who is an avowed Roman Catholic, and a Minister for Immigration who claims to be a man of faith, who are presiding over Australia's own Gitmo.     Forget about Christian values or charity! - let alone complying with international law.

Jeff Sparrow, writing in The Guardian in "Australia's sick and proud message to the world: refugees are going to suffer" explains......

"Last week, we learned that the Australian government had funded a nasty little comic book intended to deter those seeking asylum from making the journey to Australia; the narrative culminates with images of asylum seekers languishing miserably in mosquito-plagued camps.

Perhaps an updated version can now depict them being shot or hacked at with machetes.

Why not? That’s the logic of deterrence, isn’t it? Continue to make refugees miserable until the oppression they face from Australians becomes worse than that which they’re fleeing.

Immigration minister Scott M…

America merrily kills (that is, assassinates) its own

It is hard to comes to grips that someone like Obama - the supposed liberal, and lawyer to boot - is even prepared to entertain the extra-judicial killing of its own citizens.   But, as truthdig explains, the the man in the White House appears to have no qualms.

"Readers could be forgiven for thinking they stepped into a parallel universe while reading The New York Times on Monday, Jason Hirthler writes at CounterPunch, as the paper reported that “the U.S. was debating slaughtering another American by drone strike. And that this ‘debate’ was occurring in the hallowed halls of justice.”
Hirthler continues:

"One envisions our suave and insuperable President bent in the thinking man’s pose in a chair before assembled military chiefs, their jowly faces and watery eyes lending a providential gravity to their badges and epaulettes. Settled on their haunches, their consciences unfettered, they listen to the Decider-in-Chief describe his preference that the Pentagon, and not his perso…

Two politicians. One recognises facts. The other has his head (!) in the sand!

Australia's recently elected PM - a man of limited intellectual capacity if ever there was one! - has together with his Government turned his face against climate change.   In fact, he is a denier.   So, what to make of, and how will PM Abbott, deal with the position of Australia's great and best ally, the US, when one hears what Secretary of State Kerry has just pronounced in Indonesia?    From Crikey, in Australia.

"United States Secretary of State John Kerry goes to Indonesia and delivers a powerful warning:

"Because of climate change, it's no secret that today Indonesia is ... one of the most vulnerable countries on earth. It's not an exaggeration to say that the entire way of life that you live and love is at risk ...

"Think about the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. It doesn't keep us safe if the United States secures its nuclear arsenal while other countries fail to prevent theirs from falling into the hands of terrorists. The botto…

Swiss Immigration Policy!

Credited to Martin Sutovec, Cagle Cartoons, Slovakia

Another dimension to the tragedy in Syria

As if Syria - or more particularly its people - aren't already beset with a myriad of trials and tribulations, now comes news of another dimension to what is happening in the war-torn country.   The destruction of antiquities.

"Islamic fundamentalists in Syria have started to destroy archaeological treasures such as Byzantine mosaics and Greek and Roman statues because their portrayal of human beings is contrary to their religious beliefs. The systematic destruction of antiquities may be the worst disaster to ancient monuments since the Taliban in Afghanistan dynamited the giant statues of Buddha at Bamiyan in 2001 for similar ideological reasons.

In mid-January the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isis), an al-Qa’ida-type movement controlling much of north-east Syria, blew up and destroyed a sixth-century Byzantine mosaic near the city of Raqqa on the Euphrates. The official head of antiquities for Raqqa province, who has fled to Damascus and does not want his name publis…

Haiti - February 2013 update

For all the wringing of hands at the time of the devastating earthquake which hit Haiti a few years ago, the country remains, in effect, a basket-case and all the aid promised at the time of the earthquake hasn't materialised.

Author and independent journalist, Antony Loewenstein, returned to Haiti last month and reported on what he found in a piece in The Guardian.

"A dynamic and increasingly thriving Haiti is one the US-backed government wants the world to see. President Michel Martelly and prime minister Laurent Lamothe, whose faces are plastered across billboards and propaganda material throughout the country, are close to the Obama administration and have benefitted from their association with Hillary Clinton when she was secretary of state. For example, some industrial parks were built thanks to US funds; the much-heralded one in the north of Haiti, at Caracol, has fallen far short of official expectations.

This doesn't stop the US from continuing to push the tired an…

Aah, those Games in Sochi

Credited to Joe Heller

Hypocrisy writ large

For all the talk of wanting peace, the actions of the Israelis reflect no such thing.   In conducting themselves as they do, the Israelis show themselves as untrustworthy, deceptive and plain lying.   Hypocrisy is another word which comes to mind.

The latest, condemned, actions of the Israelis.....

"Aid agencies working in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem expressed alarm on Friday at a spike in Israeli demolitions of Palestinian property coinciding with renewed U.S.-backed peace negotiations.

The statement by 25 aid organizations said the number of demolitions increased by almost half and the displacement of Palestinians by nearly three-quarters between July 2013, when the talks began, and the end of the year, compared to the same period in 2012.

Of the 663 Palestinian structures torn down last year, the highest number in five years, 122 were built with international donor aid, the groups said.

The International Red Cross announced this week it would stop delivering tents t…

Syria: One photo tells it all

The plight of the Syrians continues....and the world "talks" (well, in a limited way!) but does nothing to alleviate the horrors of what is happening in Syria itself as well as addressing the issue of  hundreds of thousands of refugees sitting in camps outside the war-torn country.

"Shelling broke a United Nations-brokered ceasefire in the government besieged Syrian city of Homs on Saturday as mortar rounds landed near an aid convoy as it tried to cross into the rebel-controlled old city district.

Syrian state television reported that four members of the Syrian Red Crescent were wounded in the attack, which it described as a terrorist attack and were trapped on the rebel side as night fell and the cease-fire expired.

Both sides accused the other of breaking the cease-fire. In a statement, the Red Crescent described the attack as deliberate but made no reference to who had conducted it. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based pro-opposition group that moni…

Noam Chomsky on the Prerogatives of War

This piece by Noam Chomsky on truthout, ought to make for salutary reading by Americans.

"As the year 2013 drew to an end, the BBC reported on the results of the WIN/Gallup International poll on the question: “Which country do you think is the greatest threat to peace in the world today?”

The United States was the champion by a substantial margin, winning three times the votes of second-place Pakistan.

By contrast, the debate in American scholarly and media circles is about whether Iran can be contained, and whether the huge NSA surveillance system is needed to protect U.S. security.

In view of the poll, it would seem that there are more pertinent questions: Can the United States be contained and other nations secured in the face of the U.S. threat?

In some parts of the world the United States ranks even higher as a perceived menace to world peace, notably in the Middle East, where overwhelming majorities regard the U.S. and its close ally Israel as the major threats they face, not th…

Bring me your poor and join the Army!

When will governments learn that their citizens are not human fodder?     Yet another scandal befalls the US military.

"The latest scandal to hit the U.S. military - following hard on the sex, drugs, drinking and cheating ones - has implicated up to 1,200 Army recruiters, including about 200 officers, for pocketing up to $100 million in bogus bonuses for signing up young, broke, ill-informed and other unfortunate innocents to go fight their dirty wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Under the now-discontinued program, which was begun in the National Guard and expanded to the Army and Army Reserve, soldiers got cash payments of up to $7,500 - which once upon a time would have been called a bounty - for each new warm body recruited into the increasingly thinning, bloodied ranks, especially at the height of the Iraq War. At Senate hearings this week, Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo, called the years-long abuses "discouraging and depressing," even as she and many others said the system…

Reflecting on the disasterous Afghan war

Things are unravelling even more in Afghanistan as the number of deaths last year was very high and President Karzai isn't "playing ball" with the Americans.   Even worse, Karzai has been critical of the US and British presence in his country as having been a negative.

Stephen Walt, professor of International Relations at Harvard, writing in "The Top 10 Mistakes Made in the Afghan War" on FP, reflects on the Afghan war.

"America's long war in Afghanistan isn't likely to end well, and the American people seem to know it. Despite a wholly predictable effort to portray the war as an American victory, the United States isn't going to defeat the Taliban between now and the scheduled departure of most U.S. troops later this year. Meanwhile, relations between the United States and the Karzai government are going from bad to worse. Afghan President Hamid Karzai is not only refusing to sign a security agreement that would allow the United States to leave …

One sermon which is well-worth listening to

Credited to Patrick Chappatte, New York Times International

Those Winter Games in Sochi.....

Ah, the Winter Olympics.....about to kick off in Sochi.   By all accounts, apart from Sochi not being ready to deal with everything associated with the most expensive Games ever, a number of issues have also been come to prominence.    Probably not to the liking of Vlad Putin!

From Amy Goodman:

"The Sochi Olympic Games are rightly highlighting the constellation of abuses that have become standard in Russia under Vladimir Putin. Most notably is intense, often violent homophobia, tacitly endorsed by the government with the recent passage of the law against “gay propaganda.” While Sochi shines a light on Russian human-rights violations, it affords an opportunity to expose the rampant corruption and abuse that accompanies the International Olympic Committee (IOC)."

From The New Yorker:

"Whatever happens on the ice and snow of Sochi in the next couple of weeks, one thing is certain: this Winter Olympics is the greatest financial boondoggle in the history of the Games. Back in 20…

Justice isn't AWOL in Ireland. It is in the USA

Accountability on Wall Street - for the scandals of the Global Financial Crisis - has been singularly absent.    Not so in explained on CommonDreams.

"This week in Dublin, three former executives of the now-defunct Anglo Irish Bank went on trial for illegal practices that eventually crashed the economy, leading to an 85 billion euro bailout by the government - aka still-angry taxpayers. Years in the making, the complex trial is expected to last up to six months, involving 24 million documents, 800 witness statement and over 300 jury volunteers who have been warned they won't be chosen if they're too peeved to be "fair," even though the banksters evidently weren't. Particularly damning have been tape recordings of the executives laughingly discussing the bailout amount, which one says he "picked (out) of my arse." This should and could have been done here, and many of us are in fact - hope against hope - still waiting for it to be don…

The American public has spoken. The Iraq and Afghan wars were "failures!"

Perhaps not an altogether surprising findings, but the majority of Americans have determined, according to a poll just taken, that the Iraq and Afghan wars were failures.     One can probably safely assume that the same result would be arrived at were polls to be taken in Great Britain and Australia and those other countries which formed the Coalition of the Willing when Iraq was invaded back in 2003.    

"The U.S.-led wars in Iraq and Afghanistan — two of the longest in U.S. history, waged simultaneously for nearly 9 years with the Afghanistan war now stretching into its 13th — are considered failures by a majority of the U.S. public.

This is according to a poll, released Thursday by Pew Research Center and USA Today, which finds that 52% say the U.S. "mostly failed" to reach its goals in Iraq, with 37% saying "it has mostly succeeded." Respondents gave nearly identical answers when asked about the war in Afghanistan.

"Especially looking at the escalating s…

China: Rural as against urban

Changes afoot in that vast country, China.    The New York Times reports on the "tussle" between rural and urban China in "In China, ‘Once the Villages Are Gone, the Culture Is Gone’"

"Rapid urbanization means village life, the bedrock of Chinese culture, is rapidly disappearing, and with it, traditions and history.

“Chinese culture has traditionally been rural-based,” says Feng Jicai, a well-known author and scholar. “Once the villages are gone, the culture is gone.”

That is happening at a stunning rate. In 2000, China had 3.7 million villages, according to research by Tianjin University. By 2010, that figure had dropped to 2.6 million, a loss of about 300 villages a day.

For decades, leaving the land was voluntary, as people moved to the cities for jobs. In the past few years, the shift has accelerated as governments have pushed urbanization, often leaving villagers with no choice but to move.

China’s top leadership has equated urbanization with modernization and…

The ever-clueless Tony Blair

Robert Fisk is right on the money with this analysis of former Brit PM, Tony Blair, in this piece "If only Tony Blair could grasp the truth about Field Marshal Sisi" in The Independent.     It remains a puzzle why anyone is in the slightest bit interested in what Blair has to say on anything, in particular with respect to the Middle east.   Bear in mind he is the (joke!) envoy for The Middle East Quartet.

"It was, of course, utterly inevitable that Tony Blair would back Egypt’s new authoritarian leaders.

After all, can you imagine Blair – our very own Lord Blair of Kut al-Amara – stepping forth to offer his courageous, unstinting support to a democratically elected President overthrown in a military coup d’├ętat? Can you imagine him condemning a General – no, I forget, General Abdel Fatah al-Sisi has just been made a Field Marshal – whose men have gunned down 1,000 protesters since last summer and who has now put the elected President on trial for his life as a “terrorist”…

Charming! Medicine is for us Westerners!

What can one say?

"Right up there in the annals of multinational corporations doing heinous things in the name of obscene profits comes the response of the German-based Bayer to India's unprecedented ending of the pharmaceutical giant's monopoly for a new, insanely expensive anti-cancer drug Nexavar - a brave move that allows a small Indian drug company to make a generic version of the drug that regular poor sick people can actually afford. One year of treatment with Nexavar, used largely in liver and kidney cancer cases, costs $96,000 in the U.S. and $69,000 in India, or 41 times the per capita income; India's Natco Ltd. made it for $177 a year. Outraged Bayer officials charged the Indian action allowing poor people to have their fancy drug was "essentially theft" and they will damn sure explore their legal options to the ends of the (white people's) earth to "defend our intellectual property rights." We know all about turning the other cheek …