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07 February 2009

Moyers on Afghanistan and the History of Aerial Bombing

Bill Moyers sits down with historian Marilyn Young, author of the forthcoming BOMBING CIVILIANS: A TWENTIETH CENTURY HISTORY and former Pentagon official Pierre Sprey, who developed military planes and helped found the military reform movement.

06 February 2009

IPS on Israel's Ongoing Assault on Gaza

Hamas Is Not Going Away
Analysis by Mel Frykberg
RAMALLAH (IPS) - Despite intensive efforts by Israel, the international community and a number of Arab leaders to weaken and destroy Hamas through economic, punitive and military action, the Islamist organisation continues to be a force to reckon with.

Ceasefire Broken From Day One
By Eva Bartlett
GAZA CITY (IPS) - At 7.30 am Jan. 22, five days after Israeli authorities declared a 'ceasefire' following their 22-day air, land and sea bombardment of the Gaza Strip, Israeli gunboats renewed shelling off the Gaza city coast, injuring at least six, including four children.

So What Was the Assault All About
Analysis by Jerrold Kessel and Pierre Klochendler
JERUSALEM (IPS) - Just over a week before they go to the polls, Israelis are in a grim mood. The gloom is fed by the leading candidates, all of whom are seeking to outdo one another in sombre assessment of the challenges that lie ahead.

Q&A: "A Lot of the Gaza Story Is Being Left Out"
Miren Gutierrez* interviews NANCY SNOW, propaganda expert
ROME (IPS) - The war of words continues in Gaza, in spite of the ceasefire. Nancy Snow, propaganda expert, talks to IPS about information spin strategies and whether we, the public, have learnt any lessons from Iraq.


MEDIA-US: Gaza Coverage Echoed Govt Support of Israel
By Marina Litvinsky
WASHINGTON (IPS) - U.S. television coverage of the recent three-week conflict in the Gaza Strip failed to tell both sides of the story, according to a number of media analysts.

What an Aid Worker Saw, Then and Now
By Mel Frykberg
RAMALLAH (IPS) - As fears rise of renewed violence in Gaza, Elena Qleibo, a French-Costa Rican aid worker from Oxfam, gives IPS a first-hand account of surviving Israel's three-week bombardment of Gaza.

Cornering of Civilians Unprecedented, Says UN Official
By David Cronin
BRUSSELS (IPS) - Israel's refusal to allow civilians any exit route from Gaza as its defence forces rained bombs down on schools and houses appears unprecedented in modern warfare, a United Nations investigator has said.

U.N. Chief Sets Bar High in Aftermath of Gaza
By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS (IPS) - When Ban Ki-moon visited Gaza after the destructive bombing of a U.N. compound last month, the usually reticent secretary-general lashed out at the Israelis, accusing them of using "excessive force" and describing the assault as "an outrageous and totally unacceptable attack against the United Nations".

ICC Investigating Israel War Crimes Charges
By Daniel Luban
NEW YORK (IPS) - The International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague announced a preliminary analysis Tuesday into whether Israel committed war crimes during the recent Gaza war, following the Palestinian National Authority's (PNA) move to recognise the ICC's authority in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Unexploded Bombs Hold More Deaths
By Erin Cunningham
GAZA CITY (IPS) - At first the 44 children that live in the Zani family home in Beit Hanoun were wary of the unexploded F-16 rocket whose tail has protruded menacingly from their garden since it landed in the first week of the Israeli assault on Gaza. Now, they have grown used to it - playing excitedly near it and even building fires next to it, a relative says.

Settlement Expansion Cutting Into Peace
By Daan Bauwens
TEL AVIV (IPS) - A secret government database revealed last week the real extent of settlement construction on the West Bank. In violation of the Road Map to peace agreed with the U.S., Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak, it turned out, agreed to the construction of another settlement on the West Bank. Many now question how devoted Israeli leaders really are to the idea of achieving peace.

TURKEY: Long Friendship with Israel in Peril
Analysis by Hilmi Toros
ISTANBUL (IPS) - For decades, isolated Israel could count on Turkey as its only Muslim friend, if not ally, in the tumultuous Middle East. After Israel's assault on Gaza, that friendship is in doubt.

Gaza Tensions Shadow U.N. Holocaust Ceremony
By Daniel Luban
UNITED NATIONS (IPS) - The president of the United Nations General Assembly was a last-minute no-show at the U.N.'s annual ceremony commemorating the Holocaust, following an intense lobbying campaign by pro-Israel organisations to have him removed from the programme.

Israel Heads Right
Analysis by Jerrold Kessel and Pierre Klochendler
JERUSALEM (IPS) - And then there were four. Just days until Israel's general election, the three front-running parties have been joined by an anti-establishment surge from the far right that has the Israel Beiteinu party vying for a major role in the next government.

The True Unemployment Rate, Lee Adler, The Wall Street Examiner

"The real unemployment rate jumped to 13.5% in December from 12.2% (See line U-6)."

Armed and Dangerous: Weapons Transfers to Israel during the Bush Administration

Capitol Hill Policy Briefing
February 2nd, 2009

On February 2, 2009, the US Campaign held a policy briefing on Capitol Hill, entitled "Armed and Dangerous: Weapons Transfers to Israel during the Bush Administration."  

The briefing featured Rep. Dennis Kucinich, National Advocacy Director Josh Ruebner, and Amr Shurrab, a young Palestinian from the Gaza Strip whose two brothers were killed by Israeli soldiers in January 2009.

The briefing was part of a national grassroots lobby day organized by Interfaith Peace-Builders and the US Campaign.  For additional information about the lobby day and grassroots advocacy training, click here

To sign up as a volunteer organizer to help us challenge military aid to Israel, click here

To download the PowerPoint presentation seen in the briefing, click here.

Watch the lecture here: hard to decently embed!

The politics of bollocks, John Pilger

Published 05 February 2009


Supporters of the new US president refuse to admit that the "man of change" is, in fact, changing very little. It's time the Obama lovers grew up

Barack Obama has failed to move to halt any of the more draconian actions of the US abroad

Growing up in an Antipodean society proud of its rich variety of expletives, I never heard the word bollocks. It was only on arrival in England that I understood its magisterial power. All classes used it. Judges grunted it; an editor of the Daily Mirror used it as noun, adjective and verb. Certainly, the resonance of a double vowel saw off its closest American contender. It had authority.

A high official with the Gilbertian title of Lord West of Spithead used it to great effect on 27 January. The former admiral, who is a security adviser to Gordon Brown, was referring to Tony Blair's assertion that invading countries and killing innocent people did not increase the threat of terrorism at home.

"That was clearly bollocks," said his lordship, who warned of a perceived "linkage between the US, Israel and the UK" in the horrors inflicted on Gaza and the effect on the recruitment of terrorists in Britain. In other words, he was stating the obvious: that state terrorism begets individual or group terrorism at source. Just as Blair was the prime mover of the London bombings of 7 July 2005, so Brown, having pursued the same cynical crusades in Muslim countries and having armed and disported himself before the criminal regime in Tel Aviv, will share responsibility for related atrocities at home.

There is a lot of bollocks about at the moment.

The BBC's explanation for banning an appeal on behalf of the stricken people of Gaza is a vivid example. Mark Thompson, the BBC's director general, cited the corporation's legal requirement to be "impartial . . . because Gaza remains a major ongoing news story in which humanitarian issues . . . are both at the heart of the story and contentious".

In a letter to Thompson, David Bracewell, a licence-fee payer, illuminated the deceit behind this. He pointed to previous BBC appeals for the Disasters Emergency Committee that were not only made in the midst of "an ongoing news story" in which humanitarian issues were "contentious", but also demonstrated how the corporation took sides.

In 1999, at the height of the illegal Nato bombing of Serbia and Kosovo, the TV presenter Jill Dando made an appeal on behalf of Kosovar refugees. The BBC web page for that appeal was linked to numerous articles meant to stress the gravity of the humanitarian issue. These included quotations from Blair himself, such as: "This will be a daily pounding until he [Slobodan Milosevic] comes into line with the terms that Nato has laid down." There was no significant balance of view from the Yugoslav side, and not a single mention that the flight of Kosovar refugees began only after Nato had started bombing.

Similarly, in an appeal for victims of the civil war in the Congo, the BBC favoured the regime led by Joseph Kabila by not referring to Amnesty, Human Rights Watch and other reports accusing his forces of atrocities. In contrast, the rebel leader Laurent Nkunda was "accused of committing atrocities" and ordained the bad guy by the BBC. Kabila, who represented western interests, was clearly the good guy -- just like Nato in the Balkans and Israel in the Middle East.

While Mark Thompson and his satraps richly deserve the Lord West of Spithead Bollocks Blue Ribbon, that honour goes to the cheer squad of President Barack Obama, whose cult-like obeisance goes on and on.

On 23 January, the Guardian's front page declared, "Obama shuts network of CIA 'ghost prisons'". The "wholesale deconstruction [sic] of George Bush's war on terror", said the report, had been ordered by the new president, who would be "shutting down the CIA's secret prison network, banning torture and rendition . . ."

The bollocks quotient on this was so high that it read like the press release it was, citing "officials briefing reporters at the White House yesterday". Obama's orders, according to a group of 16 retired generals and admirals who attended a presidential signing ceremony, "would restore America's moral standing in the world". What moral standing? It never ceases to astonish that experienced reporters can transmit PR stunts like this, bearing in mind the moving belt of lies from the same source under only nominally different management.

Far from "deconstructing the war on terror", Obama is clearly pursuing it with the same vigour, ideological backing and deception as the previous administration. George W Bush's first war, in Afghanistan, and last war, in Pakistan, are now Obama's wars -- with thousands more US troops to be deployed, more bombing and more slaughter of civilians. Last month, on the day he described Afghanistan and Pakistan as "the central front in our enduring struggle against terrorism and extremism", 22 Afghan civilians died beneath Obama's bombs in a hamlet populated mainly by shepherds and which, by all accounts, had not laid eyes on the Taliban. Women and children were among the dead, which is normal.

Far from “shutting down the CIA’s secret prison network”, Obama’s executive orders actually give the CIA authority to carry out renditions, abductions and transfers of prisoners in secret without threat of legal obstruction. As the Los Angeles Times disclosed, “current and former US intelligence officials said that the rendition programme might be poised to play an expanded role”. A semantic sleight of hand is that “long-term prisons” are changed to “short-term prisons”; and while Americans are now banned from directly torturing people, foreigners working for the US are not. This means that America’s numerous “covert actions” will operate as they did under previous presidents, with proxy regimes, such as Augusto Pinochet’s in Chile, doing the dirtiest work.

Bush's open support for torture, and Donald Rumsfeld's extraordinary personal overseeing of certain torture techniques, upset many in America's "secret army" of subversive military and intelligence operators because it exposed how the system worked. Obama's newly confirmed director of national intelligence, Admiral Dennis Blair, has said the Army Field Manual may include new forms of "harsh interrogation" which will be kept secret.

Obama has chosen not to stop any of this. Neither do his ballyhooed executive orders put an end to Bush's assault on constitutional and international law. He has retained Bush's "right" to imprison anyone, without trial or charge. No "ghost prisoners" are being released or are due to be tried before a civilian court. His nominee for attorney general, Eric Holder, has endorsed an extension of Bush's totalitarian USA Patriot Act, which allows federal agents to demand Americans' library and bookshop records. The man of "change" is changing little. That ought to be front-page news from Washington.

The Lord West of Spithead Bollocks Prize (Runner-Up) is shared. On 28 January, a nationally run Greenpeace advertisement opposing a third runway at Heathrow Airport in London summed up the almost wilful naivety that has obstructed informed analysis of the Obama administration.

"Fortunately," declared Greenpeace beneath a Godlike picture of Obama, "the White House has a new occupant, and he has asked us all to roll back the spectre of a warming planet." This was followed by Obama's rhetorical flourish about "putting off unpleasant decisions". In fact, the president has made no commitment to curtail America's infamous responsibility for the causes of global warming. As with George W Bush and most other modern-era presidents, it is oil, not stemming carbon emissions, that informs his administration. His national security adviser, General Jim Jones, a former Nato supreme commander, made his name planning US military control over the exploitation of oil and gas reserves from the Persian Gulf and the Caspian Sea to the Gulf of Guinea off Africa.

Sharing the Bollocks Runner-Up Prize is the Observer, which on 25 January published a major news report headlined, "How Obama set the tone for a new US revolution". This was reminiscent of the Observer almost a dozen years ago when liberalism's other great white hope, Tony Blair, came to power. "Goodbye xenophobia" was the Observer's post-election front page in 1997 and "The Foreign Office says 'Hello World, remember us?'". The government, said the breathless text, would push for "new worldwide rules on human rights and the environment" and implement "tough new limits" on arms sales. The opposite happened. Last year, Britain was the biggest arms dealer in the world; currently, it is second only to the United States.

In the Blair mould, the Obama White House "sprang into action" with its "radical plans". The president's first phone call was to that Palestinian quisling, the unelected and deeply unpopular Mahmoud Abbas. There was a "hot pace" and a "new era", in which a notorious name from an ancien régime, Richard Holbrooke, was despatched to Pakistan. In 1978, Holbrooke betrayed a promise to normalise relations with the Vietnamese on the eve of a vicious embargo ruined the lives of countless Vietnamese children. Under Obama, the "sense of a new era abroad", declared the Observer, "was reinforced by the confirmation of Hillary Clinton as secretary of state". Clinton has threatened to "entirely obliterate Iran" on behalf of Israel.

What the childish fawning over Obama obscures is the dark power assembled under cover of America’s first “post-racial president”. Apart from the US, the world’s most dangerous state is demonstrably Israel, having recently killed and maimed some 4,000 people in Gaza with impunity. On 10 February, a bellicose Israeli electorate is likely to put Binyamin Netanyahu into power. Netanyahu is a fanatic’s fanatic who has made clear his intention of attacking Iran. In the Wall Street Journal of 24 January, he described Iran as the “terrorist mother base” and justified the murder of civilians in Gaza because “Israel cannot accept an Iranian terror base [Gaza] next to its major cities”. On 31 January, unaware he was being filmed, Tel Aviv’s ambassador to Australia described the massacres in Gaza as a “pre-introduction” – a dress rehearsal – for an attack on Iran.

For Netanyahu, the reassuring news is that the new US administration is the most Zionist in living memory, a truth that has struggled to be told from beneath the soggy layers of Obama-love. Not a single member of the president's team demurred from his support for Israel's barbaric actions in Gaza. Obama himself likened the safety of his two young daughters with that of Israeli children but made not a single reference to the thousands of Palestinian children killed with American weapons -- a violation of both international and US law. He did, however, demand that the people of Gaza be denied "smuggled" small arms with which to defend themselves against the world's fourth-largest military power. And he paid tribute to the Arab dictatorships, such as Egypt, which are bribed by the US treasury to help the United States and Israel enforce policies described by the UN special rapporteur Richard Falk, a Jew, as "genocidal".

It is time the Obama lovers grew up. It is time those paid to keep the record straight gave us the opportunity to debate informatively. In the 21st century, people power remains a huge and exciting and largely untapped force for change, but it is nothing without truth. "In the time of universal deceit," wrote George Orwell, "telling the truth is a revolutionary act."

More details here, from William Blum: Change (in rhetoric) we can believe in.

05 February 2009

Despite Celebrated Orders Closing Gitmo and Banning Torture, Has Obama Kept Rendition Intact?

Short answer: yes, probably. Also, not clear that Gitmo will be closed, as opposed to outsourced and split up, or that torture has actually been banned. Smells like PR to me.

The Spy Factory, James Bamford on the NSA

Worth watching, even though not one word of his work gets through without governmental sanction. Read between the lines: if this is what they allow, the truth is surely worse.

04 February 2009

Tax The Speculators, Ralph Nader

Let’s start with a fairness point. Why should you pay a 5 to 6 percent sales tax for buying the necessities of life, when tomorrow, some speculator on Wall Street can buy $100 million worth of Exxon derivatives and not pay one penny in sales tax?


Let’s further add a point of common sense. The basic premise of taxation should be to first tax what society likes the least or dislikes the most, before it taxes honest labor or human needs. 

In that way, revenues can be raised at the same time as the taxes discourage those activities which are least valued, such as the most speculative stock market trades, pollution (a carbon tax), gambling, and the addictive industries that sicken or destroy health and amass large costs.

So, your member of Congress, who is grappling these days with gigantic deficits on the backs of your children at the same time as that deep recession and tax cuts reduce revenues and increase torrents of red ink, should be championing such transaction taxes.

Yet apart from a small number of legislators, most notably Congressman Peter Welch (Dem. VT) and Peter DeFazio (Dem. OR), the biggest revenue producer of all—a tax on stock derivative transactions—essentially bets on bets—and other mystifying gambles by casino capitalism—is at best corridor talk on Capitol Hill.

There are differing estimates of how much such Wall Street transaction taxes can raise each year. A transaction tax would, however, certainly raise enough to make the Wall Street crooks and gamblers pay for their own Washington bailout. Lets scan some figures economists put forth. 

The most discussed and popular one is a simple sales tax on currency trades across borders. Called the Tobin Tax after its originator, the late James Tobin, a Nobel laureate economist at Yale University, 10 to 25 cents per hundred dollars of the huge amounts of dollars traded each day across bordered would produce from $100 to $300 billion per year.

There are scores of civic, labor, environmental, development, poverty and law groups all over the world pressing for such laws in their countries. (see tobintaxcall.free.fr).

According the University of Massachusetts economist, Robert Pollin, various kinds of securities-trading taxes are on the books in about forty countries, including Japan, the UK and Brazil.

Pollin writes in the current issue of the estimable Boston Review: “A small tax on all financial-market transactions, comparable to a sales tax, would raise the costs on short-term speculative trading while having negligible effect on people who trade infrequently. It would thus discourage speculation and channel funds toward productive investment.”

He adds that after the 1987 stock market crash, securities-trading taxes “or similar measures” were endorsed by then Senate Minority Leader Bob Dole and even the first President Bush. Professor Pollin estimates that a one-half of one percent tax would raise about $350 billion a year. That seems conservative. The Wall Street Journal once mentioned about $500 trillion in derivatives trades alone in 2008—the most speculative of transactions. A one tenth of one percent tax would raise $500 billion dollars a year, assuming that level of trading.

Economist Dean Baker says a “modest financial transactions tax would be enough to “finance a 10% across-the-board reduction in the income tax on labor.

The stock transaction tax goes back a long way. A version helped fund the Civil War and the imperial Spanish-American War. The famous British economist, John Maynard Keynes, extolled in 1936 a securities transaction tax as having the effect of “mitigating the predominance of speculation over enterprise.” The U.S. had some kind of transaction tax from 1914 to 1966.

The corporate history scholar (read his excellent book, Unequal Protection ) Thom Hartmann, turned three-hour-a-day talk-show-host on Air America (airamerica.com/thomvision), had discussed the long evolution of what he calls a “securities turnover excise tax” to “tamp down toxic speculation, while encouraging healthy investment.”

So, why don’t we have such a mega-revenue generator and lighten the income tax load on today and tomorrow’s American worker? (It was one of the most popular ideas I campaigned on last year. People got it.) Because American workers need to learn about this proposed tax policy and ram it through Congress. Tell your Senators and Representatives—no ifs, ands or buts. Otherwise, Wall Street will keep rampaging over people’s pensions and mutual fund savings, destabilize their jobs and hand them the bailout bill, as is occurring now. 

A few minutes spent lobbying members of Congress by millions of Americans (call, write or e-mail, visit or picket) will produce one big Change for the better. Contact your member of Congress. The current financial mess makes this the right time for action. 

World March for Peace and Non-Violence - Video Bulletin January 2009

Noam Chomsky: Rebel Without a Pause, 2003

Watch, listen, and learn:

03 February 2009

U.S. Campaign to End the Occupation's Gaza Ad

Click the title of this post to sign a petition to force Direct TV to air this ad.

Beyond Elections

From Venezuela's Communal Councils, to Brazil's Participatory Budgeting; from Constitutional Assemblies to grassroots movements, recuperated factories to cooperatives across the hemisphere- This documentary is a journey, which takes us across the Americas, to attempt to answer one of the most important questions of our time: What is Democracy? WWW.BEYONDELECTIONS.COM

02 February 2009

Istanbul: Travel Video ("Insights")

<a href="http://www.joost.com/0200097/t/Insights-Episode-1-Istanbul">Insights - Episode 1:Istanbul</a>

Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism in China

The Celts


Part 1


Part 2


Part 3


And more:

The Lost Gods: The Celts


The Primitive Celts


Lost Treasures of the Ancient World: The Celts

The Dark Lords of Hattusha: BBC Documentary on a Lost Ancient Empire

'Anarchism and Other Essays' by Emma Goldman

Iran: Seven Faces of a Civilization

Click the link to view the hour-long documentary. Not embeddable, unfortunately.

01 February 2009

Documentary on Van Gogh

Brazil, Terry Gilliam

Erdogan and Peres (and Others) Debate Gaza, "Moderated" by David Ignatius

Click the title to view the video. You need RealPlayer or Windows Media, and if you use Firefox, open in the Internet Explorer tab.

Gaza: The Case for Middle East Peace
Date: 29.01.2009
Time: 18:30-19:15

The uncertainty and complexity surrounding the crisis in Gaza have captured the attention of the world.

What needs to be done to prevent the Middle East peace process from slipping away yet again?

Simultaneous interpretation in all languages

In the First Hour of the Obama Presidency with Noam Chomsky

Neoliberalism Undercuts Democracy, Noam Chomsky