Thursday, July 31, 2008

Quarantine -- by Eavan Boland

In the worst hour of the worst season
of the worst year of a whole people
a man set out from the workhouse with his wife.
He was walking – they were both walking – north.

She was sick with famine fever and could not keep up.
He lifted her and put her on his back.
He walked like that west and west and north.
Until at nightfall under freezing stars they arrived.

In the morning they were both found dead.
Of cold. Of hunger. Of the toxins of a whole history.
But her feet were held against his breastbone.
The last heat of his flesh was his last gift to her.

Let no love poem ever come to this threshold.
There is no place here for the inexact
praise of the easy graces and sensuality of the body.
There is only time for this merciless inventory:

Their death together in the winter of 1847.
Also what they suffered. How they lived.
And what there is between a man and woman.
And in which darkness it can best be proved.

I was watching Free Speech TV and heard Lynn Stewart read this poem. I was awestruck.

Pelosi's Panhandling -- by Missy Comley Beattie

On Thursday, I received an e-mail from Nancy that included a special note from Al Gore. I call her Nancy, now, because her greeting implies a first-name-basis relationship. For those who weren’t included in the correspondence, this is part of her plea:

Dear Missy,

I wanted to make sure you had an opportunity to see this crucial message from former Vice President Al Gore. I was just with him last weekend in Texas and we both agree how critical November's elections are to our country's future.

There are just 3 days left before we hit the DCCC's 100 Day deadline and we need your help to hit our grassroots goal. As a special incentive, if you contribute today to our 100 Days of Action campaign - you will be automatically entered to win a chance to be my guest at the Democratic Convention in Denver, August 25-28th.

Enter today to win and help Democrats win big in November. As Al Gore said, Remember: There's a new world waiting at the other side of these elections.

Best regards,

Speaker Nancy Pelosi

Now that Nancy has made an overture to be my keyboard pal, I’m going to send her the following:

Dear Nancy,

I remember just how critical the November 2006 election was supposed to be to our country’s future. It certainly resulted in your being crowned Madam Speaker, a bestowal of power that must have made you positively orgasmic. (Wasn’t it someone you venerate, war criminal Henry Kissinger, who said that power is the greatest aphrodisiac?) Although my hopes weren’t particularly high, since I’d come to perceive you Dems as Republican groupies, I chose to be optimistic and I was especially pleased that George Bush considered the results of the election a thumpin’.

And you had stated so many times that you would end the war in Iraq. So many times.

Further, Nancy, before your coronation, you said repeatedly that impeachment would be on the table. Repeatedly. [Note from Linda -- apparently that is not quite true. Or at least what is true is that Pelosi had said impeachment was off the table BEFORE the Dems got in in 2006. Not the main point anyway--she shouldn't have taken it off WHENEVER she took it off!] And, then, when you were positioned at the table, you removed impeachment. Oh, sure, you’ve dropped a few crumbs lately, but I’ve seen the way you play with Bush. You’re besotted.

Plus, I am struggling with the special incentive in your missive--a chance to be your guest at the Democratic Convention in Denver if I send a contribution.

Nancy, I won’t succumb to your panhandling. I simply don’t trust you. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Lie and ignore the will of the electorate and, soon, someone with integrity will step forward, challenge you, and win that seat you’ve taken for granted far too long.

Cindy Sheehan for Congress!

Maybe, then, the new world that Al Gore says is waiting at the other side of the elections will yield results necessary to restore the Constitution that you and G. W. Bush have disemboweled so passionately.

Besides, Nancy, being your guest would seem like torture to me. Torture--something about which you have intimate knowledge.


Missy Beattie

Pelosi's Panhandling -- Missy Comley Beattie

On Thursday, I received an e-mail from Nancy that included a special note from Al Gore. I call her Nancy, now, because her greeting implies a first-name-basis relationship. For those who weren’t included in the correspondence, this is part of her plea:

Dear Missy,

I wanted to make sure you had an opportunity to see this crucial message from former Vice President Al Gore. I was just with him last weekend in Texas and we both agree how critical November's elections are to our country's future.

There are just 3 days left before we hit the DCCC's 100 Day deadline and we need your help to hit our grassroots goal. As a special incentive, if you contribute today to our 100 Days of Action campaign - you will be automatically entered to win a chance to be my guest at the Democratic Convention in Denver, August 25-28th.

Enter today to win and help Democrats win big in November. As Al Gore said, Remember: There's a new world waiting at the other side of these elections.

Best regards,

Speaker Nancy Pelosi

Now that Nancy has made an overture to be my keyboard pal, I’m going to send her the following:

Dear Nancy,

I remember just how critical the November 2006 election was supposed to be to our country’s future. It certainly resulted in your being crowned Madam Speaker, a bestowal of power that must have made you positively orgasmic. (Wasn’t it someone you venerate, war criminal Henry Kissinger, who said that power is the greatest aphrodisiac?) Although my hopes weren’t particularly high, since I’d come to perceive you Dems as Republican groupies, I chose to be optimistic and I was especially pleased that George Bush considered the results of the election a thumpin’.

And you had stated so many times that you would end the war in Iraq. So many times.

Further, Nancy, before your coronation, you said repeatedly that impeachment would be on the table. Repeatedly. And, then, when you were positioned at the table, you removed impeachment. Oh, sure, you’ve dropped a few crumbs lately, but I’ve seen the way you play with Bush. You’re besotted.

Plus, I am struggling with the special incentive in your missive--a chance to be your guest at the Democratic Convention in Denver if I send a contribution.

Nancy, I won’t succumb to your panhandling. I simply don’t trust you. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Lie and ignore the will of the electorate and, soon, someone with integrity will step forward, challenge you, and win that seat you’ve taken for granted far too long.

Cindy Sheehan for Congress!

Maybe, then, the new world that Al Gore says is waiting at the other side of the elections will yield results necessary to restore the Constitution that you and G. W. Bush have disemboweled so passionately.

Besides, Nancy, being your guest would seem like torture to me. Torture--something about which you have intimate knowledge.


Missy Beattie

Flashback: Taliban Offered to Turn Over Bin Laden

I heard a BBC report last night stating that the Taliban had refused to turn over Bin Laden. That wasn't how I remembered it. Sure enough see the Oct. 22, 2001 article below (portion):

President George W. Bush on Sunday rejected an offer from Afghanistan's ruling Taliban to discuss turning over Islamic militant Osama bin Laden if the United States stops air strikes against Afghanistan.

''There is no need to discuss innocence or guilt. We know he's guilty,'' Bush told reporters as he returned to the White House from his Camp David presidential retreat in Maryland.

''Turn him over, turn his cohorts over, turn any hostage they hold over, destroy all the terrorist camps. There's no need to negotiate...I told them exactly what they need to do,'' Bush said.

The Bush administration believes bin Laden masterminded the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington. It accuses the Taliban of providing shelter to the Saudi fugitive and his al-Qaida network of terrorist groups.

At a news conference in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, on Sunday, Taliban Deputy Prime Minister Haji Abdul Kabir said the Taliban would be willing to discuss handing over bin Laden to a third country, or putting him on trial in Afghanistan, if the U.S. military ends bombing and provides evidence of his involvement in the attacks on the U.S.

The U.S.-led air campaign in Afghanistan entered its second week Sunday, with fierce assaults on Kandahar, a Taliban stronghold in the southern part of the country, the CNN television network reported.

U.S. warplanes also hit artillery and heavy armor that had been moved to the mountains outside the Afghan capital of Kabul, the report said.

Palestinian Teen Clinically Dead After IOF Troops Shoot Him in the Head

RAMALLAH, (PIC)-- A Palestinian youth was declared in a state of clinical death in Ramallah government hospital after he was shot in the head by an Israeli border guard in Na'lin village west of Ramallah on Wednesday afternoon.

Local sources said that Yousef Omaira was taking part in the funeral procession of 9-year-old Ahmed [Mousa], who was killed by Israeli sniper fire during anti wall protests in the village a couple of days ago.

Eyewitnesses said that the soldiers fired at the demonstration that followed the funeral procession at a short distance hitting Yousef with two bullets in the head.

Na'lin villagers have been holding regular protest marches against the Israeli occupation authority's confiscation of 3,000 dunums of village lands to build the separation wall. Foreign sympathizes and Israeli peace activists participated in those marches.

What's Going on in Afghanistan -- M. Whitney Interviews S. Kolhatkar

Portion below; whole thing here:

MW: The United States has occupied Afghanistan for seven years now. Has life gotten better for the people or worse? Is there any security beyond the capital of Kabul or are the US and NATO troops stretched too thin? Do the people generally support the ongoing occupation or are they getting frustrated by the lack of progress and want to see the US go?

Sonali Kolhatkar: Initially, life got better for many Afghans, particularly in Kabul. That's because the Taliban had been routed and the people felt somewhat safe as well as relieved. But as the warlords took over positions of power, attitudes changed. It has gotten much worse, now that the Taliban have returned and the occupation forces are killing more civilians than the Taliban.

Kabul is a bit more secure than the rest of the country. But Kabul is also the warlords’ seat of power. Most of them are even members of Parliament, so people are frequently abused and live in fear.

Beyond Kabul, things vary dramatically depending on where you go. In the parts of the country with the heaviest concentrations of US/NATO troops, Afghans are frequently rounded-up, detained, tortured, bombed, or shot by foreign troops just as in Iraq.

In other parts of the country, where the Taliban are strong; girls schools are blown up, civilians are killed in suicide bombings, and journalists, teachers, and elected officials are harassed or murdered.

Those areas controlled by warlords are ruled with an iron hand, where extreme interpretations of sharia law rule the day, and women suffer rape and degradation.

No matter where you go in Afghanistan, there is utter, grinding poverty. The US occupation has not changed that at all. People are very frustrated, particularly with the US puppet Hamid Karzai. They blame Karzai for the high number of civilian casualties. They also dislike the way he has pardoned some of the warlords and Taliban leaders.

As far as the occupation goes, people were somewhat supportive of it originally, but as conditions have deteriorated, they have begun to see the presence of foreign troops as a big part of the problem. I would say that a majority of Afghans now want the US and NATO to leave as soon as possible.

MW: Is the US military mainly fighting the Taliban or is the the armed resistance more complex than that? I read recently that the so-called Taliban is actually a confederation of about a dozen disparate groups and tribes that have bonded together with the common goal of ending foreign occupation and that the main reason their ranks are swelling is because of the US military's indiscriminate killing of civilians? Could you clarify this point?

Sonali Kolhatkar: It's hard to understand the nature of the anti-US resistance, but it's a very important issue. Unfortunately,the media coverage only makes it more confusing. The fighters that are called the “Taliban” are actually a mix of "former" Taliban and newly enlisted Pashtun fighters trained in Pakistan. Many of them are just disgruntled Afghan civilians whose families and loved ones have been killed and/or tortured by US/NATO forces. Recruiting is always easy when you can show that foreign soldiers are killing more civilians that the "so-called" enemy. But we should be careful to not glorify the resistance. It is strictly fundamentalist and would not be a good option for Afghans in terms of future leadership. The vast majority of Afghans are moderate Muslims who strongly disagree with the Taliban's extremist ideology, but they have joined the struggle to bring an end to the occupation. But, of course, their troubles won't disappear just because the American forces leave. They'll still be stuck with the Taliban and the warlords. When the Soviet occupation ended in the late 1980s, the US-backed warlords began their reign of terror on the people between 1992 to 1996. That could happen again. These same warlords (or Taliban) could once again spread misery and death across Afghanistan. War is an entropic force that cannot be undone by simply hitting a rewind button.

From Angry Arab Newservice

"Wake up. They came to 'liberate' the hell out of you." (NYT)

Sheehan Files to Oust Pelosi

Independent candidate Cindy Sheehan (center) and Campaign Manager Tiffany Burns (left)
head to the San Francisco Department of Elections Friday to formally declare
Sheehan’s intent to challenge Speaker Nancy Pelsoi for the 8th Congressional seat.
Photos by Luke Thomas

By Luke Thomas

April 28, 2008

Peace Mom Cindy Sheehan filed papers Friday at the San Francisco Department of Elections formally declaring her intent to challenge Speaker Nancy Pelosi for the 8th Congressional District seat.

Sheehan, 50, is required to gather 10,198 signatures by August 28 for her name to appear on the November ballot as an independent candidate.

“I think even if you don’t agree with me and you’re not going to vote for me,” Sheehan told Fog City Journal, “it helps democracy to support as many candidates as possible to get on the ballot.”

Sheehan, whose son Casey was killed April 4, 2004 in Iraq, said she made the decision to run for Congress in July after Pelosi refused to take impeachment proceedings against President George Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney - for war crimes against humanity - off the table.

“My platform includes repealing the Patriot Act, the Military Commission Act, restoring habeas corpus and restoring the rule of law in our country. But my initial impetus for running against Pelosi occurred when she took impeachment off the table,” Sheehan said.

Pelosi, who initially voted against going to war in Iraq, has provided Bush with a blank check in all but one war appropriation since the US invaded Iraq in March 2003.

“No blank check,” for Bush has been Pelosi’s catchphrase while co-signing over $500 billion to continue fighting a war based on lies.

Pelosi maintains her support for war appropriations has nothing to do with supporting the war.


Sami El Haj, Al Jazeera Journalist, Tells His Story -- 6.5 Years in Guantanmo

Portion below; whole thing here:

I said to my son, "Now, I could take you to school, but you must understand that I have a message to give, a just cause to defend. I want to fight for the cause of human rights, for those who have been deprived of their freedom. I do not want to fight alone. There are thousands of people who are standing up and fighting wherever human dignity is attacked. Do not forget that we are fighting for peace, to defend rights whenever they are denied, for a better future for you. Perhaps one day we will achieve this, and then I will be able to stay with you and take you to school".

I do not know if he understood, because he is still very young, but he smiled at me. My wife did not want me to leave again either. But when I reminded her of the horrific situation those imprisoned in Guantánamo find themselves, and that they also have a family, sons, daughters, a wife whom they miss terribly, and that if I do not fight these people will remain imprisoned even longer, she understood that I must carry on travelling, adding my voice to all the other voices, so that the detainees can return home as soon as possible. She gave me her full support. On the way to the airport she said to me, "I will pray for you".

SC: So, by going to Afghanistan to film the massacres of civilians, victims of President Bush’s war, you yourself became one of his victims? Are you not afraid of what could happen to you again?

SEH: For me, there is no question - I will continue my work as a journalist. I must continue carrying a message of peace, no matter what. For my part, I have spent six years and six months in prison, far from my family, but for others it was so much worse. I lost a very dear friend, a journalist with Al Jazeera: he died in Baghdad, killed when the hotel where he was staying was bombed. I also lost a colleague who was working with me at Al Jazeera, whom I consider a sister: she too died in Baghdad.

Many people have lost their lives because of this war. You must know that the Bush administration wanted to prevent coverage by the free media, like Al Jazeera, in the Middle East. The Al Jazeera offices in Kabul and Baghdad were bombed.

In 2001, when I left my son and my wife to film the war initiated by the USA against Afghanistan, I had to expect finding death during a bombing raid. I went there fully aware of the risks. Every journalist knows that he is carrying out a mission and must be ready to sacrifice himself in order to bear witness to what is happening, through his films and writing. And to help people understand that war brings nothing but the death of the innocent, destruction and suffering. It is on the basis of this conviction that my colleagues and I went to countries at war.

Now, after all these years in captivity, I can once again do something to help bring about peace. I am going to commit myself to this goal, until it is achieved. I am sure that one day, even if I do not personally reap the fruits, we will succeed in achieving peace and the respect of human rights, as well as the protection of journalists throughout the world. I am sure that we will see the day when journalists are no longer tortured or injured doing their job, defending people’s rights to information and highlighting human rights abuses.

SC: You said at the beginning that you are feeling fine. But after such a terrible experience, and given that you were released with no apology whatsoever from your torturers, how are you able to talk about all this without resentment or bitterness?

SEH: Of course, what happened to me was very hard and my personal situation is difficult. But when I think of those who are still in Guantánamo, and their families that they miss very much and who have no news at all of them, I tell myself that my situation, as difficult as it is, is better than theirs.

I cannot forget that in Guantánamo I have left behind brothers who have been crushed, who have gone mad. I am thinking in particular of a Yemeni doctor who now lives naked in his cell because he has lost his mind.

SC: What kind of torture did they subject you to?

SEH: All kinds of physical and psychological torture. As all the detainees were Muslim, the camp administration subjected them to many forms of harassment and humiliation linked to religion. With my own eyes I saw soldiers tearing up the Qur’an and throwing it in the toilet. I saw them, during interrogation sessions, sitting on the Qur’an until their questions were answered. They insulted our families and our religion. They made fun of us by pretending to ring our God, asking him to come and save us. The only Imam at the camp was accused of complicity with the detainees and was sent away, in 2005, for refusing to tell visitors that the camp respected religious freedom.

They beat us up. They taunted us with racist insults. They locked us in cold rooms, below zero, with one cold meal a day. They hung us up by our hands. They deprived us of sleep, and when we started to fall asleep, they beat us on the head. They showed us films of the most horrendous torture sessions. They showed us photographs of torture victims – dead, swollen, covered in blood. They kept us under constant threat of being moved elsewhere to be tortured even more. They doused us with cold water. They forced us to do the military salute to the American national anthem. They forced us to wear women’s clothes. They forced us to look at pornographic images. They threatened us with rape. They would strip us naked and make us walk like donkeys, ordering us around. They made us sit down and stand up five hundred times in a row. They humiliated the detainees by wrapping them up in the Israeli and American flags, which was their way of telling us that we were imprisoned because of a religious war.

When a detainee, filthy and riddled with fleas, is taken out of his cell to be submitted to more torture sessions in an attempt to make him collaborate, he ends up not knowing what he is saying or even who he is any more.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Ni'lin Youngsters Being Killed Off by Israel

Resistance – death & injuries: Ramallah – 16:30, the Israeli Army wounded three people in a violent suppression of a non-violent international anti-annexation Wall protest in the town of Ni'lin. Seven people were overcome by the teargas Zionist forces use as an offensive weapon. *At 5pm, at the end of the protest, 12-year-old Ahmad Husam Yousef Mousa was sitting with friends in the shade of a tree. An Israeli Army jeep drove up to the boys and a soldier shot Ahmad dead with a single shot to the head, at close range. The villagers had been warned. Israel's Army of Occupation has been becoming increasingly violent towards anti-annexation Wall protests in the village and recently distributed leaflets warning the villagers that they must stop their protests or face worse punishment.

Other Ni'lin village youngsters killed by Israel include:

  • Four, 14-year-olds: Islam Hashem Rizik Zhahran, Alaa Mohammad Abdel Rahman Khalil, Odai Mofeed Mahmud Assi, Uday Mofeed

  • Four, 15-year-olds: Jamal Jaber Ibrahim Assi, Mahayub Nimer Assi, Mahyoub Assi and Jamal Jaber.

  • 17-year-old Hussain Mahmud Awwad Aliyan.

Resistance: Nablus12:00, a sit-in protest was held in front of the Red Cross offices in the city to demand the release of political prisoner Said Al Ataba, who has been incarcerated by Israel for nearly 32 years.

Abbas Vows to Dismantle PA if Israel Frees Hamas Prisoners for Shalit"

Actually that kind of sounds like a good idea at this point!
Portion below; whole thing here:
If Israel releases Hamas members of the Palestinian parliament as part of a deal for the return of kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit, PA President Mahmoud Abbas will dismantle the Palestinian Authority, Abbas warned Israel last week.

Abbas sent the warning to GOC Central Command Maj. Gen. Gadi Shamni via Hussein al-Sheikh, head of the PA's civil affairs department, who is responsible for coordinating with Israel on anything involving the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Al-Sheikh, who told Shamni that this was a "personal message" from Abbas, stressed that the Palestinian leader did not speak merely of "resigning," but of "dismantling the PA."

Israel arrested dozens of Hamas politicians, including ministers and parliament members, shortly after Hamas kidnapped Shalit on June 25, 2006. Many have since been released by order of a military court, but about 40 remain in Israeli jails.

Video: Israeli Occupation Army Shoots 9 Year Old Boy in Ni'lin

Mourners to Protest Murder of 10 year Old Boy

A mass demonstration is planned on Wednesday for the funeral of Ahmed Husan Yousef Mousa, who was shot dead by Israeli forces at approximately 6:00pm today.

The funeral procession and protest will start at Ramallah Hospital at 10am and make it’s way to Ni’lin, the village where Ahmed lived. People will meet at the hospital at 9:30am

Ni’lin is currently under siege with the main entrance to the village sealed off by the Israeli military. The mourners intend to defy the military blockade and bring Ahmed home.

Please Contact - ISM Media Office (English):(970)-2-2971824.
Salah (Arabic): 0599288124

According to eye witnesses a group of youths attempted to remove coils of razor wire from land belonging to the village. Without warning,
they were fired upon and Ahmed was killed. Israeli newspaper Maariv reported in March that the Israeli authorities have given a new order to border police operating along the apartheid wall surrounding Jerusalem. They can now open fire directly on Palestinians who try to demonstrate near the barrier. But sniping is forbidden if there are Israeli or foreign citizens amongst the demonstrators.

Demonstrations have been held almost every day for the past few weeks in Nil’in against Israel’s Apartheid Wall, declared illegal by the International Court in the Hague in 2004. The wall will deprive the village of almost 2,500 Dunums of agricultural land, and puts the existence of the entire community in doubt.

At least 11 other Palestinians have died protesting against Israeli’s apartheid wall. Their names are:

Mohammad Fadel Hashem Rayan, age 25.
Zakaria MaHmud Salem, age 28.
Abdal Rahman Abu Eid, age 62.
Mohammad Daud Badwan, age 21.
Diaa Abdel Karim Abu Eid, age 24.
Hussain mahmud Awwad Aliyan, age 17.
Islam Hashem Rizik Zhahran, age 14.
Alaa Mohammad Abdel Rahman Khalil, age 14.
Jamal Jaber Ibrahim Assi, age 15.
Odai Mofeed Mahmud Assi, age 14.
Mahayub Nimer Assi, age 15.

The Sorry Truth of Homicides -- Danny Westneat

Did you hear about the latest homicide in Seattle?

I don't mean the man fatally attacked three weeks back in the Rainier Beach traffic circle. That's been all over the news. There were vigils, memorials, public outrage. It's what we expect — what a community needs — in the face of senseless death.

But at the scene of the city's newest slaying, there have been no vigils. Nobody left flowers or lit a candle. A man was shot dead in the chest nine days ago, yet his name has not made the news.

"It's like the murder that never happened," said a neighbor who lives so close the gunfire rattled a window.

On July 21, near midnight, someone fired three shots in an alley in the 2500 block of East Columbia Street, two blocks north of Garfield High School. The next day police said a 56-year-old had been killed.

And that was about all that's been said, by anyone, so far.

"It doesn't set right with me," says Paul Johnson, 51. "He gets shot and nobody barely notices. Why does nobody give a damn?"

Johnson was a friend of the victim, Troy Lee Peters. They met when they crashed into each other on their bicycles 10 years ago. The two took to riding bikes all over the Central Area. They'd do odd jobs, landscaping or plumbing, then drink beer after.

"Man, he loved riding those bikes," Johnson says. "I don't care if it was a tricycle — if it had wheels and you could pedal it, he'd ride it."

He rode it down that alley where he was shot. A bicycle was found next to Peters' body.

His rap sheet shows he was a chronic petty criminal. Not violent, but always in trouble. Sixty-two times in the past 20 years Peters was cited for misdemeanors — multiple thefts, car prowling, shoplifting, burglary, public drinking.

He also had a drug problem, serving stints in state prison for drug possession or dealing.

Recent addresses include a drug-rehab facility in Fremont and a homeless shelter. So far the county morgue can't find kin to notify about the death.

Serious Knowledge, who works at 23rd and East Union and who knew Peters, says the sorry truth is society judges some lives to be worth more than others.

"It's another troubled black man dead in the CD," he said. "That's why there's no ripples. First, he was no saint. Second, when you're on drugs you got no community. So the powers-that-be don't deem it all that notable when you get killed."

A friend of mine, Los Angeles Times reporter and Seattle native Jill Leovy, last year chronicled every homicide in L.A. — all 845 of them. She found that only the most unusual murders get much attention. While many killings at the "eye of the storm" of urban violence don't rate much focus. By the press. By most people. Sometimes even by cops.

"The people and places most affected by homicides are least likely to be seen, while the safest people are inundated with information about crimes unlikely to ever touch their lives," she wrote.

So it goes with Troy Peters. You ask around about him, where he hung out along East Union or on the block where he died, and you get back a sense of detachment. A civic shrug.

He was part of the urban landscape. There's a feeling his killing was, too.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Al Jazeera: Israeli Troops Kill West Bank Boy in Ni'lin

Israeli troops have shot dead a Palestinian boy during a protest near the separation wall in the occupied West Bank, according to Palestinian medics and witnesses.

Hammad Hossam Mussa was hit by a bullet fired by Israeli soldiers in the village of Ni'lin on Tuesday, Salah Al Khawaja, a member of Ni'lin's Committee Against the Wall, said.

He died of his wounds while being transported to hospital in an ambulance, medical sources said.

Al Jazeera's Jacky Rowland in Jerusalem said that the Israeli military had not yet given a definitive account of the incident.

"They have merely told us that they are carrying out 'a careful and thorough investigation' into how this child died, and only once they have done that investigation will we get their comment on how this boy happened to die," she said.

Live rounds

According to Khawaja, soldiers fired live rounds towards a group of protesters who had run into the village after the army dispersed protesters outside using rubber-coated bullets.

"Protesters arrived at the wall's construction site outside the village and the soldiers started to open fire with rubber bullets and tear gas. This pushed the protesters back into the village where the boy was hit by a live bullet in his chest," he told AFP.

However, other witnesses said that the boy was hit in the head as strone-throwers confronted Israeli troops.

Fifteen people were also lightly injured by rubber-coated bullets during the demonstration in Ni'lin, which has in recent months become the site of regular demonstrations against the barrier.

"This barrier, made of coiled razor wire, deep trenches and a fence equipped with electronic sensors, is cutting through the land of the village," Rowland reported.

Earlier this month, demonstrators in Ni'lin and other locations marked four years since the International Court of Justice issued a non-binding resolution calling for parts of the barrier inside the West Bank to be torn down and for a halt to construction there.

Israel has largely ignored the ruling.

Palestsinians Under Dual Occupation

Portion below; whole thing (via Palestinian Pundit) here:

Fadel Morshed, 40, is a lawyer who has defended Hamas detainees. Arrested by the Jenin mukhabarat in January, he says he was kept for the first three days hanging with his hands behind his back. The torture, which creates massive pain without breaking any bones, is known as shabah. In a variant, Morshed was later tied to a stool fixed to the floor beneath the stairs so he had to crouch for hours at a time.

"They asked me why I defended Hamas people. I refused to answer and said that as a lawyer I was not required to discuss my clients with them," Morshed told the Guardian. "All the people arrested are moderates who favour unity and dialogue with Fatah. They were not part of Hamas's military wing." He was released after 45 days without explanation or charge but still has sores and swellings on his feet.

Some victims have been arrested more than once. Sheikh Hamid Betawi is head of the Sharia Court of Palestine and a member of the Palestinian parliament, elected on the Hamas-supported list, Reform and Change. He described how his 30-year-old son, Naser, a shopkeeper and father of two, was held and tortured by the mukhabarat in Nablus from March to May this year.

For the first month the family were barred from visiting. "When his wife was let in, the mukhabarat told her to provide money or weapons. Almost every prisoner is told to get money or weapons. Many do. There are plenty of gun-traders," the sheikh said. She sold gold jewellery to raise the money to get him out, but a few weeks later he was arrested again.

"We're facing two occupations, an Israeli one and a Palestinian one," said Sheikh Betawi. "I spoke to Abu Mazen [Mahmoud Abbas] the other day about the attacks on Hamas but nothing has changed," he added. The sheikh is convinced that European donor governments as well as Lieutenant-General Keith Dayton, the US officer overseeing security sector reform for the Palestinian Authority, is aware of what's happening.

Jamal al Muhaisen, the governor of Nablus, an appointee of Abbas's Fatah party, admitted that detainees are routinely swapped for guns. "We only arrest people who may have weapons. If a person delivers a weapon, of course the next day we will release him," he said. He denied torture was a matter of policy. "We refuse to adopt harsh measures but sometimes people who work in prison commit mistakes and we're not happy. It happens in every country, including the United States."

Nablus has also seen almost nightly incursions by Israeli troops over the past few weeks, who have raided six mosques, closed three schools, a clinic, a TV station, a women's group and the charity, Attadamun, which helps orphaned children. The Israeli foreign ministry describes the army's actions, which have also hit hard in Hebron in recent months, as targeted at Hamas's "organisational infrastructure".

"The Hamas activity is carried out under the guise of charity, but the actual aim is the strengthening of the Hamas terror organisation and its grip on the population," a ministry statement said. Hamas wanted to gather strength in the West Bank so as to get control just as it did last year in Gaza, it added.

Up to 200 people have been arrested by the Israelis, according to Governor Muhaisen. But although Nablus's governor criticises the Israeli incursions, many in Nablus see Fatah's relationship with the Israelis as one of collusion more than competition. They point to a revolving door of back-to-back arrests, in which people detained by the Israelis are later held by the Palestinians, or vice versa.

Dr Mustafa Barghouti, the secretary-general of the Palestinian National Initiative and an independent MP who criticises both Fatah and Hamas, said: "Since Annapolis there have been 2,560 Israeli attacks on Palestinians, 90% of them in the West Bank. They've undermined the PA by their actions. They're trying to turn the PA into a security sub-agent like the Vichy government (in occupied France)."

Who Is Wagging Whose Tail? U.S. & Israel -- Chris Floyd & Angry Arab

Portion below; whole thing (via Angry Arab Newservice) here:

But while it's understandable that people would seek to blame outsiders for the crimes committed by their own nation -- even to the extent of believing that a minor country could somehow force the overlords of a great empire to act against their own will -- it's odd that almost no one considers the opposite [and blatantly obvious] view: that the American dog wags the Israeli tail -- and that, if anything, is the Israeli elite that have been subverted, bought off and hijacked to serve the interests of American empire.

One can occasionally see glimpses of this reality. For example, the estimable "Angry Arab," the learned professor As'ad AbuKhalil, points us to a key passage in a recent Washington Post story:

... Israeli leaders routinely get half or more of their campaign contributions for party primaries from overseas, and mostly from American donors. The fundraising trend is especially pronounced on Israel's political right; politicians who advocate aggressive military action against Iran and Hamas and who maintain an uncompromising stance against ceding land to the Palestinians have typically found generous support for their views in the States. Former prime minister and Likud Party leader Binyamin Netanyahu, for instance, received approximately $400,000 -- 75 percent of his donations for a 2007 primary -- from U.S. contributors, according to the Israeli comptroller's office. By contrast, Israeli donors accounted for less than 5 percent of reported contributions to Netanyahu, who hopes to return to power if Olmert falls and who has sharply criticized the current government for its willingness to cut deals with Israel's enemies.

Cheney about to down one.

Netanyahu is of course the darling of the war-profiteering wing of the U.S. Establishment, especially those especially devoted to maintaining and expanding America's "unipolar domination" of world affairs. One such faction took quiet root in the Cheney-led Defense Department during the administration of the elder George Bush and later flowered into the open, aggressive militarism of the Cheney-Rumsfeld "Project for the New American Century" group, which, as we've noted here before, produced a veritable blueprint of the Bush Administration's later policies – including the imposition of a U.S. military presence in Iraq (even if Saddam Hussein was no longer in power there), the vast expansion of military spending, new military bases in Central Asia, and other measures which the group admitted could not be speedily implemented, if at all – unless the American people were "catalyzed" into supporting this radical militarist agenda by "a new Pearl Harbor." This blueprint was issued in September 2000.

As these plans developed from Cheney's Pentagon – where they were originally overseen by his aides Paul Wolfowitz and Scooter Libby – the role of Israel as a tool for their implementation took on more importance. There developed a mutually beneficial symbiosis between the American Dominationists and the militant Israeli hardliners like Netanyahu. American "neo-con" stalwarts like Richard Perle and Douglas Feith worked on Netanyahu's "Clean Break" strategy, which, like the PNAC plan for America, envisioned a much more aggressive and militarized posture. In this shared vision, war and domination are exalted, and the only acceptable peace is the peace of the conqueror, with the shattered, humiliated enemy at his feet. The Muslim nations of the Middle East were to be broken down, bit by bit, atomized into warring internal factions, seeded with ethnic and religious strife, rendered impotent and humiliated, given pliable client governments and made ready for the return of Western domination.

[It should be noted that Israeli and American policy were already quite aggressive and militarized before the PNACkers and Clean Breakers came along; we're certainly not harking back nostalgically to some lost golden age. But there can be no doubt that the last few years have seen an acute intensification of the worst elements in long-running American and Israeli policy.]

"Forget the Surge -- Violence Is Down in Iraq Because Ethnic Cleansing Was Brutally Effective" -- Juan Cole

Portion below; whole thing (via Angry Arab Newservice) here:

For the first six months of the troop escalation, high rates of violence continued unabated. That is suspicious. What exactly were U.S. troops doing differently from September than they were doing in May, such that there was such a big change? The answer to that question is simply not clear. Note that the troop escalation only brought U.S. force strength up to what it had been in late 2005. In a country of 27 million, 30,000 extra U.S. troops are highly unlikely to have had a really major impact, when they had not before.

As best I can piece it together, what actually seems to have happened was that the escalation troops began by disarming the Sunni Arabs in Baghdad. Once these Sunnis were left helpless, the Shiite militias came in at night and ethnically cleansed them. Shaab district near Adhamiya had been a mixed neighborhood. It ended up with almost no Sunnis. Baghdad in the course of 2007 went from 65 percent Shiite to at least 75 percent Shiite and maybe more. My thesis would be that the United States inadvertently allowed the chasing of hundreds of thousands of Sunni Arabs out of Baghdad (and many of them had to go all the way to Syria for refuge). Rates of violence declined once the ethnic cleansing was far advanced, just because there were fewer mixed neighborhoods.

Big Girls, You Are Beautiful! -- Mika

More Shifts in U.S. Attitudes Toward Iran

Portion below; whole thing (via here:

WASHINGTON - Iran said Monday it wants to seek "common ground" with the West over its nuclear ambitions as it faces an international deadline to halt uranium enrichment.

In an NBC television interview broadcast Monday, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said that a new approach by the United States towards his country could yield positive results, as he reiterated that his country is not interested in developing a nuclear weapon.

In a further easing of the angst over whether the U.S. might attack Iran, U.S. Defence Secretary Robert Gates said in a newly published magazine article that even though he thinks Iran is "hell bent" on building nuclear weapons, a third U.S.-led war in the region would be "disastrous on a number of levels."

Ahmadinejad's remarks come after the United States slightly eased 29 years of political isolation with Iran by sending a senior diplomat to engage directly with Tehran's top nuclear official at an international meeting in Geneva on July 19.

In Geneva, the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council - the U.S., Britain, France, Russia and China - plus Germany offered Iran a package of incentives to suspend its controversial enrichment program. Tehran has until Saturday to respond.

"They submitted a package, and we responded by submitting our own package," Ahmadinejad said when asked what Iran's response would be.

"It's very natural in the first steps we are going to negotiate over the common ground as they exist inside the two packages. If the two parties succeed in agreeing over the common ground, that will help us to work on our differences as well, to reach an agreement."

Ahmadinejad also signalled that if the recent diplomatic overture by the U.S. in Geneva was sincere, it could lead to positive developments.

"For more than 50 years now, the policy of American statesmen has been to confront the Iranian people, and our people to a large sense, have become acclimated with this situation, and we have tried to work around it. Today, we see new behaviour shown by the United States and the officials of the United States. My question is: is such behaviour rooted in a new approach, in other words, mutual respect, cooperation and justice? Or this approach is a continuation in the confrontation with the Iranian people, but in a new guise?" he said.

"But if the approach changes, we will be facing a new situation, and the response by the Iranian people will be a positive one."

Another Dog Bites Man Story: Recruiters Lie to Kids

Portion below; whole thing here:

But the 11 News Defenders have found there is a problem: Army recruiters aren’t sticking to the program and are bullying and even lying to potential recruits and their families to keep them from dropping out.

After he had a change of heart, Gonzalez became one such victim.

“I’d rather just stay here, go to college,” he said he told his recruiter.

The reaction: Gonzalez said a recruiter told him if he did drop out, they would send him to jail.

Scared, Gonzales called Sgt. Glenn Marquette, a supervisor at the Greenspoint Recruiting Station.

Marquette told Gonzales there was no way out.

“You signed a binding contract,” he said.

But that wasn’t true.

Army recruiting regulations say delayed entry members can leave any time. They specifically mention “under no circumstances will any (recruiter) threaten, coerce, manipulate, or intimidate (future soldiers), nor may they obstruct separation requests.”

Further, they state: “At no time will any (recruiter) tell a (Delayed Entry Program) member he or she must go in the Army or he or she will go to jail.”

But when Gonzales asked Marquette what would happen if he just didn’t show up for service, a phone recording captured this reply:

“Then guess what?” said Marquette. “You’re AWOL. Absent without leave. You want to go to school? You will not get no loans, because all college loans are federal and government loans. So you’ll be black barred from that. As soon as you get pulled over for a speeding ticket, they’re gonna see you’re a deserter, they’re going to apprehend you, take you to jail.”

Marquette continued: “So guess what? All that lovey-dovey 'I wanna go to college' and all that? Guess what? You just threw it out the window, because you just screwed your life.”

Free Gaza -- Breaking the Siege!

Portion below; whole thing here:

Project Description

This movement is an international nonviolent resistance project to challenge Israel’s siege of Gaza. Israel claims that Gaza is no longer occupied, yet Israeli forces control Gaza by land, sea and air. We’ll enter Gaza from international waters at the invitation of Palestinian NGOs but without Israeli authorization, thereby recognizing Palestinian control over their own borders.

The Mission

    1. To open Gaza to unrestricted international access, i.e. Palestinian sovereignty
    2. To demonstrate that Israel still occupies Gaza, despite its claims to the contrary
    3. To show international solidarity with the people of Gaza and the rest of Palestine
    4. To demonstrate the potential of nonviolent resistance methods

The Plan

Up to 100 international volunteers will sail from Cyprus to Gaza in 2 to 6 seagoing vessels of 12 to 60 passengers each. The prospective date is August 15, but will depend upon funding, logistics, weather and other factors. The journey will take approximately 24 hours.


If Israel respects Palestinian sovereignty, we’ll arrive without incident. Some of us will fish at sea with Palestinian fishermen, while others will travel back and forth to test the passage for as long as permitted. If stopped, we’ll nonviolently resist. We are prepared to stay at sea if necessary, and/or resist arrest and confiscation of our vessels. We doubt that Israel will attack, but we will be equipped with medical personnel and equipment, life rafts and flotation vests. More likely, Israel will prefer sabotage. We’re prepared with alternate vessels and plans.

The Passengers

Aboard will be Palestinians, Israelis, Americans, Europeans, Africans and Asians. There will be rabbis, imams, Christian and Buddhist clerics, British MPs, entertainment celebrities, and internationally known journalists. Nakba and Holocaust survivors are also joining the project. All will undergo a training program and be selected according to the interests of the mission, such as the mix of persons and expertise; no one is assured of a place on board. Others will form the Cyprus support team and may board later vessels.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Great Idea: Revise Kosher Standards to Include Humane Worker Treatment

Portion below; whole thing here:

POSTVILLE, Iowa — About 1,000 people, including Hispanic immigrants, Catholic clergy members, rabbis and activists, marched through the center of this farm town on Sunday and held a rally at the entrance to a kosher meatpacking plant that was raided in May by immigration authorities.

The march was called to protest working conditions in the plant, owned by Agriprocessors Inc., and to call for Congressional legislation to give legal status to illegal immigrants. The four rabbis, from Minnesota and Wisconsin, attended the march to publicize proposals to revise kosher food certification to include standards of corporate ethics and treatment of workers.

The march drew a counterprotest by about 150 people, organized by the Federation for American Immigration Reform, which opposes illegal immigrants and proposals to give them legal status.

At one point, tension surged as the two sides shouted slogans at each other through bullhorns from opposite sidewalks of the main street of this town with a population of about 2,200. The marchers said, “Stop the raids!” Protesters across the street responded, “Illegals go home!”

No incidents of disorder were reported by the police.

The debate over kosher standards has intensified since the May 12 raid at the plant, in which 389 illegal immigrants, the majority from Guatemala, were detained. Reports by many of those workers of widespread labor violations in the plant have been prominent news in the Jewish media, provoking discussion of whether Jews should buy meat and poultry products made there.

Agriprocessors, owned and operated by Aaron Rubashkin and his family, is the largest kosher plant in the United States. Its products, sold as Aaron’s Best and Rubashkin’s, among others, dominate the nation’s market for kosher meat and poultry.

The plant had been cited for state and federal labor violations before the raid, including inadequate worker safety protections and unpaid overtime. Since the raid, immigrants under 18, the legal age in Iowa for working on a meatpacking floor, have said they worked long hours at Agriprocessors, often at night.

Agriprocessors’ beef and poultry are killed and packaged using procedures specified by strict Jewish dietary laws, and are certified by rabbis who are recognized authorities on kosher food.

In 2006, after reports in The Forward, a Jewish newspaper, of harsh working conditions at Agriprocessors, a commission of inquiry organized by Conservative Jewish leaders criticized the plant’s operations and called for more safety training and increased inspections by state labor officials.

A member of that commission, Rabbi Morris Allen of Mendota Heights, Minn., proposed a new system of kosher certification that would include consideration of working conditions in plants where the food is produced.

Free Sami Al-Arian!

More than two weeks after being granted bond by a federal judge, Sami Al-Arian is still being held in prison. In fact, Dr. Al-Arian is now being subjected to the worst treatment by prison officials since his stay in Coleman Federal Penitentiary in Florida three years ago.
On July 12th, Judge Leonie Brinkema pronounced that Dr. Al-Arian was not a danger to the community nor a flight risk, and accordingly granted him bail before his scheduled August 13th trial. Nevertheless, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) invoked the jurisdiction it has held over Dr. Al-Arian since his official sentence ended last April to keep him from leaving prison. The ICE is ostensibly holding Dr. Al-Arian to complete deportation procedures but, given that Dr. Al-Arian's trial will take place in less than three weeks, it would seem somewhat unlikely that the ICE will follow through with such procedures in the near future.
Not content to merely keep Dr. Al-Arian from enjoying even a very limited stint of freedom, the government is using all available means to try to psychologically break him. Instead of keeping him in a prison close to the Washington DC area where his two oldest children live, the ICE has moved him to Pamunkey Regional Jail in Hanover, VA, more than one hundred miles from the capital. Regardless, even when Dr. Al-Arian was relatively close to his children, they were repeatedly denied visitation requests.
More critically, this distance makes it extremely difficult for Dr. Al-Arian to meet with his attorneys in the final weeks before his upcoming trial. This is the same tactic employed by the government in 2005 to try to prevent Dr. Al-Arian from being able to prepare a full defense.
Pamunkey Regional Jail has imposed a 23-hour lock-down on Dr. Al-Arian and has placed him in complete isolation, despite promises from the ICE that he would be kept with the general inmate population. Furthermore, the guards who transported him were abusive, shackling and handcuffing him behind his back for the 2.5-hour drive, callously disregarding the fact that his wrist had been badly injured only a few days ago. Although he was in great pain throughout the trip, guards refused to loosen the handcuffs.
At the very moment when Dr. Al-Arian should be enjoying a brief interlude of freedom after five grueling years of imprisonment, the government has once again brazenly manipulated the justice system to deliver this cruel slap in the face of not only Dr. Al-Arian, but of all people of conscience.
Make a Difference! Call Today!
Call Now!
Last April, your calls to the Hampton Roads Regional Jail pressured prison officials to stop their abuse of Dr. Al-Arian after only a few days.
Friends, we are asking you to make a difference again by calling:
Pamunkey Regional Jail: (804) 365-6400 (press 0 then ask to speak to the Superintendent's office). Ask why Dr. Al-Arian has been put under a 23-hour lockdown, despite the fact that a federal judge has clearly and unambiguously pronounced that he is not a danger to anyone and that, on the contrary, he should be allowed bail before his trial.
- If you do not reach the superintendent personally, leave a message on the answering machine. Call back every day until you do speak to the superintendent directly.
- Be polite but firm.

Friday, July 25, 2008

I Mean Seriously -- Should Laura Be Dialing Her Lawyer?

I'm Going to Have To Reassess My Thoughts on Repugs

Dalida-Helwa Ya Baladi

Conyers Kicks Cindy Out of Faux Impeachment Hearing

Portion below; whole thing here (go to link to see video of this):

Conyers decided not to boot the boisterous activists from the room, but he did remind the entire audience to refrain from any demonstrations of approval or disapproval of the proceedings. Less than an hour later, Bugliosi, a former Los Angeles County prosecutor who recently wrote The Prosecution of George W. Bush for Murder, fired up the crowd again.

"By taking this nation into war on a lie, all of the killings of American soldiers in Iraq became unlawful killings, and therefore murders,” Bugliosi said.

Anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan had been sitting in the crowd, and she shouted, "Thank you Vince."

Conyers seemed flustered, reminding Sheehan and others that some "members are urging me to take more action than merely reminding our audience," before trying to move on to the next witness.

"I urge you to take action," said Sheehan, who is among the most visible activists pushing for impeachment. After losing her son in the Iraq war, Sheehan became famous for her roadside vigil outside Bush's Crawford ranch in the summer of 2005, and she has mounted a long-shot bid to unseat House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in this year's election.

"OK then, Sheehan, you're out," Conyers said, but the northern California native was already on her way out the door.

"I’m going," she said. "Good-bye."

More to the Story of Israel Shooting the Blindfolded Palestinian

Portion below; whole thing here:
Lieutenant-Colonel Omri Fruberg, commander of the border police, patrolling Ni'ilin at the time of the shooting and captured on the video holding Ashraf's arm as one of his soldiers opens fire, initially denied being present. Following video evidence Fruberg said he had ordered the soldier to frighten the blindfolded Palestinian but not shoot him.

But there is more to this story than meets the eye, as IPS subsequently found out. Bad blood between Ashraf and Fruberg goes back several years.

Ashraf has become a bit of a legend in the area, and many call him the local Che Guevarra (after the iconic Latin American guerrilla leader).

Ashraf succeeded in halting settlement construction on village land after he shinned up a skyscraper crane and raised a Palestinian flag. He refused orders by Israeli soldiers to come down, instead telling them to "get off village land which you are illegally occupying."

It was five hours before the frustrated Israeli authorities were able to remove him, while the picture of him on the crane made international headlines. A pending court appearance is due shortly.

Ashraf has also been at the forefront of weekly demonstrations in Bi'ilin against the Israeli army's land-grab. The Israeli army is expropriating village land for the expansion of the neighbouring Modi'in settlement and the building of the separation wall.

The wall diverges from the internationally recognised Green line, which separates Israel proper from the Palestinian territories, and separates Palestinians from their land. Both the wall and settlement building in the West Bank are illegal under international law, as the land belongs to Palestinians.

For his efforts Ashraf has been shot several times and arrested on three previous occasions.

The Bi'ilin Popular Committee Against the Wall and Settlements, of which Ashraf is an active member, has been a thorn in the side of Israel's settlement policy for years by engaging in a non-violent campaign of civil disobedience which has been given credibility by international support and a ruling by the Israeli supreme court in favour of the villagers.

Following a petition to the court by the committee, the IDF was ordered, in September last year, to re-route the separation barrier and return some of the expropriated land to the villagers.

The committee was also able to prevent the destruction of a number of Palestinian homes in Bi'ilin, which the Israelis claim were illegally built.

Human rights groups argue that Israel carries out a deliberate policy of Palestinian home demolitions in areas deemed appropriate for Israeli settlement expansion.

Ashraf camped out in some of the apartments marked for destruction on a nightly basis, forcing demolition squads to halt proceedings and for soldiers to arrest him -- only for him to return when released.

The committee has two lawsuits pending, one in Canada and one in Israel, against two Canadian companies involved in the settlement construction. (END/2008)

“Prisoner Boxes” in Iraq -- Russ Kick, The Memory Hole (Exclusive)

First Published Photographs of Wooden Imprisonment Crates

>>> In Iraq, some prisoners/detainees are kept in wooden crates known as "prisoner boxes," so I filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the US Central Command asking for the following:

"Vanity Fair (Feb 2005 issue) has reported the existence of wood "prisoner boxes" being used by the US military in facilities in and around Baghdad. They are used to hold individual prisoners and detainees.

"I hereby request all photographs of these boxes, including empty boxes as well as boxes holding prisoners and detainees."

Around nine and a half months later, CentCom responded by sending the three photographs on this page.

You are seeing the photos exactly as they were sent to me - as black and white printouts on standard printer paper, with creases from being folded into thirds. Two of the photos are extremely blurry and pixelated.

Portion above; whole thing here:

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Big Oil Execs -- Start Worrying!

Police try to push back protesters during a protest near the US embassy in Manila. The demonstrators were protesting against high inflation rates caused by oil price hikes and accused oil giant companies of manipulating retail prices. (JES AZNAR/AFP/Getty Images)

(July 24, 2008)

Getty Images

War Criminals -- Start Worrying!

Human rights activists celebrate in a court building in Cordoba, Argentina, after hearing that former army chief Luciano Benjamin Menendez had been sentenced to life in prison for the 1977 kidnapping, torture and killing of four activists. Menendez was commander of the Third Army Corps in Cordoba for five years during Argentina's 1976-83 military dictatorship. (AP Photo/Osvaldo Ruiz)
(July 24, 2008)

Fannie’s and Freddie’s Free Lunch -- Economist Joseph Stiglitz

A basic law of economics holds that there is no such thing as a free lunch. Those in the financial market have had a sumptuous feast and the administration is now asking the taxpayer to pick up a part of the tab. We should simply say No.

More below; whole thing here:

Even if they are too big to fail, they are not too big to be reorganised. In effect, the administration is indeed proposing a form of financial reorganisation, but one that does not meet the basic tenets of what should constitute such a publicly sponsored scheme.

First, it should be fully transparent, with taxpayers knowing the risks they have assumed and how much has been given to the shareholders and bondholders being bailed out.

Second, there should be full accountability. Those who are responsible for the mistakes – management, shareholders and bondholders – should all bear the consequences. Taxpayers should not be asked to pony up a penny while shareholders are being protected.

Finally, taxpayers should be com­pensated for the risks they face. The greater the risks, the greater the compensation.

All of these principles were violated in the Bear Stearns bail-out. Shareholders walked away with more than $1bn (€635m, £500m), while taxpayers still do not know the size of the risks they bear. From what can be seen, taxpayers are not receiving a cent for all this risk-bearing. Hidden in the Federal Reserve-collateralised loans to ­JPMorgan that enabled it to take over Bear Stearns were almost surely interest rate and credit options worth billions of dollars. It would have been easy to design a restructuring that was more transparent and protected taxpayers’ interests better, giving some compensation for their risk-bearing.

But the proposed bail-out of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac makes that of Bear Stearns look like a model of good governance. It sets an example for other countries of what not to do. The same administration that failed to regulate, then seemed enthusiastic about the Bear Stearns bail-out, is now asking the American people to write a blank cheque. They say: “Trust us.” Yes, we can trust the administration – to give the taxpayers another raw deal.

Obama Avoids Gaza Strip on Mideast Trip -- Democracy Now Headlines

Senator Barack Obama has wrapped up his Mideast tour. On Wednesday, Obama held a series of meetings with Israeli leaders in Jerusalem.

Senator Barack Obama: “I’m here on this trip to reaffirm the special relationship between Israel and the United States, my abiding commitment to Israel’s security and my hope that I can serve as an effective partner, whether as a United States senator or as a president in bringing about a more lasting peace in the region.”

Obama also visited Ramallah for a low-key visit with Palestinian officials. He did not visit the Gaza Strip, where Israel has recently intensified its blockade. In Gaza, Hamas spokesperson Sami Abu Zuhri said Obama is offering no alternative to Bush administration policy in the region.

Sami Abu Zuhri: “These positions mean that there is no minimal hope to any change in the US foreign policy towards the Arab-Israeli conflict. And this means that we are in front of one American policy, and the Palestinian people should depend on their own and on the Arab and Muslim world in facing this opposing American policy, which both the Democratic and Republican parties are adopting."

Obama (and Big Media) Turn Blind Eye to Israeli Apartheid

By Bruce Dixon, Managing Editor, Black Agenda Report

Israel is now an apartheid state, according to the publisher of Ha'aretz, that country's largest circulation daily newspaper. The occasion was the recent renewal of Israeli citizenship laws which refuse to recognize marriages and families among most of the Arabs living in that country. How can Barack Obama, himself the son of an American mixed marriage remain an apparently uncritical supporter of Israeli apartheid, and why does corporate media continue to pursue a longstanding "don't ask, don't tell" policy toward the odious policies of racial and ethnic discrimination in Israel?


The presidential campaigns of Democrats and Republicans are no more about placing issues before the US public than competing commercials for new cars or bottled water are about the facts. Brought to us by the same corporate marketers that sell us lifestyles and beer, mainstream presidential campaigns aim to establish and exploit visceral, fact-proof loyalties to the brand of a party or candidate. The fact-proof nature of the Obama brand, and the lengths corporate media go to protect it were on prominent display during the candidate's brief visit to Israel Palestine this week.

Barack Obama's smiling brown face and Kansas-Kenya parentage are key elements in the Obama brand, that hazy image of progressive, post-racial transformation at home and abroad which lie at the heart of his appeal. At the same time, Barack Obama is committed to preserving what he calls Israel's “identity as a Jewish state”, the polite term for what much of the rest of the world recognizes as an apartheid state.

A June 29 editorial by no less a member of the Israeli elite than Amos Schocken, the publisher of Ha'aretz, Israel's daily newspaper of record is titled “Citizenship Law Makes Israel An Apartheid State” The gist of it is that the Israeli government prohibits recognition of marriages or family reunions between Arabs with Israeli citizenship and Arabs who live within the borders of Israel-Palestine in the bantustans of Gaza and the West Bank --- inside the borders of Israel-Palestine but without Israeli citizenship.

The law stipulates that the interior minister does not have the authority to approve residence in Israel for a resident of Judea and Samaria (unless, of course, they are Jews - that is, settlers). This is so even regarding family reunions, meaning marriage, when it comes to Palestinian spouses who are younger than 35 (for men) or 25 (for women). In effect, the law prevents young Israeli citizens from marrying the spouse of their choice and living with this spouse in Israel, if the spouse is a Palestinian from Judea and Samaria.

It is obvious that this has barely any effect on the right of young Israeli Jews to live in their country with the spouse of their choice, because there are hardly any marriages between Israeli Jews and Palestinians from Judea and Samaria. (These are Israeli names for the Occupied Territories of the West Bank and Gaza.) On the other hand, these Palestinians constitute Israeli Arabs' natural pool for choosing a spouse. For this reason, the law severely discriminates when comparing the rights of young Israeli Jewish citizens and young Israeli Arab citizens. ”

The Big Media correspondents who breathlessly cover Obama at home and abroad are not stupid or ignorant people. They (or someone in their offices) all read Ha'aretz daily, and none are ignorant of the facts of Israeli apartheid. They are professionals who know their jobs, and their boundaries. Each and every one realizes it would be career suicide to directly or indirectly ask the proud son of black African and white American parents, accorded the rights of full US citizenship through one parent, how he can uncritically support an apartheid state in Israel which awards and denies a host of citizenship rights on ethnic and religious grounds, from property ownership, education and the freedom to live where one likes to separate license plates (enable police profiling at a distance), bans on new Palestinian wells, water and electrical use, to Jewish-only roads and Palestinian-only checkpoints.

Apartheid in South African was odious, to be sure. But apartheid South Africa was not of primary strategic or economic importance to the US. The maintainence of Israel's apartheid regime is absolutely central to projecting US imperial power in the Middle East.

It would be a mistake to believe that the Israeli tail is wagging the dogs of US presidential candidates and Big Media. The heavily militarized and nuclear armed state of Israel is entirely dependent upon US military aid, economic support, and political patronage. Israel is the direct recipient of more than six billion US tax dollars annually. Israel could not continue its brutal annexation policies, its militarized wall, its "settlement" of Palestinian lands or any of its other objectionable policies for a week without the complete and bipartisan support of US ruling circles. For the US, Israel is a kind of offshore military base, a nuclear-armed white enclave in the middle of millions of brown people who sit atop a large share of the world's most accessible oil.Polls show that US public opinion, like that in the rest of the world, persistently calls for a more just and even-handed US policy toward Israel-Palestine. But corporate media and the bipaartisan US political elite, including Barack Obama continue to ignore them. On this issue, as Salon's Glen Greenwald writes, public opinion is pretty well irrelevant.

If, as some Obama supporters claim, there is a "movement" which he listens to, and which potentially influences his positions, this would be a good time and place for it to speak up.

How does the son of a mixed marriage visit a country where mixed marriages are illegal and cozy up to the people who enact these and other apartheid laws?

How does contradicting the polls to echo the bipartisan foreign policy establishment AND John McCain on this issue serve the supposedly higher goal of defeating John McCain?

Looking at the modern history of ethnic partitions and ethnic exclusivist states, have any of these been successes worth imitating?

Why should the US support a heavily militarized, nuclear armed, white-dominated apartheid Jewish state in the Middle East rather than a non-racial and secular democratic one-person one-vote government for all that state's inhabitants?

If the "Obama Movement" can't or won't pose any of these questions, it's one more piece of evidence that the Obama candidacy is as people-proof as any other corporate one, that there is not and never was any "Obama Movement" with an objective beyond November, and that Obama is just another brand name demanding blind brand loyalty, like Monsanto, or Ford, or Exxon. And if our media will ask or cover none of these questions, they are equally corrupt and useless.