Friday, February 29, 2008
Tuesday, February 26, 2008
Portion below; whole thing here: http://www.chris-floyd.com/index.php
George Monbiot reports on a study revealing -- surprise, surprise! -- that countries with the most fervent religious faith have the greatest number of abortions.
As Monbiot notes, this stems directly from one of the primary aims of organized religion: the control of women, especially their fertility. The zealous pursuit of this goal leads to rejection of contraception and sex education, which in turn gives rise to more unwanted pregnancies -- hence more abortions. In fact, studies show that the country with perhaps the most "liberal" and "permissive" sexual policies -- the Netherlands-- has the lowest rate of abortion in the world. Monbiot:
"A study published in the Lancet shows that between 1995 and 2003, the global rate of induced abortions fell from 35 per 1,000 women each year to 29. This period coincides with the rise of the "globalised secular culture" the Pope laments. When the figures are broken down, it becomes clear that, apart from the former Soviet Union, abortion is highest in conservative and religious societies. In largely secular western Europe, the average rate is 12 abortions per 1,000 women. In the more religious southern European countries, the average rate is 18. In the US, where church attendance is still higher, there are 23 abortions for every 1,000 women, the highest level in the rich world. In central and South America, where the Catholic church holds greatest sway, the rates are 25 and 33 respectively. In the very conservative societies of east Africa, it's 39...
"I am not suggesting a sole causal relationship: the figures also reflect changing demographies. But it's clear that religious conviction does little to reduce abortion and plenty to increase it. The highest rates of all -- 44 per 1,000 -- occur in the former Soviet Union: under communism, contraceptives were almost impossible to obtain. But, thanks to better access to contraception, this is also where the decline is fastest: in 1995 the rate was twice as high. There has been a small rise in abortion in western Europe, attributed by the Guttmacher Institute in the US to "immigration of people with low levels of contraceptive awareness". The explanation, in other words, is consistent: more contraception means less abortion.
It is indeed rather easy for the British government to spend some money trying to teach young students how bad the Nazis were 63 years ago. Yet, it is far more challenging for the British government and British educational institutes to confront British wrongdoing in the past and in the present.
Instead of sending British youngsters to Auschwitz, I would suggest spending governmental funds on student trips to Gaza concentration camp. This would have a far greater educational value in so as far as challenging 'racism and prejudice'. Clearly it is in Gaza where millions of Palestinians are starved by the Jewish state while the West keeps silent.
Britain bears some direct responsibility for the Palestinian tragedy. Firstly, the Palestinian disaster was set by the British Empire. It may have started with the Balfour Declaration, but it matured into devastating ethnic cleansing in 1948, three years after the liberation of Auschwitz. Secondly, whichever way we decide to look at the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the Palestinians are the last victims of Hitler and the genocide in Gaza is a Shoah in the making.
If Karen Pollock is truly concerned with 'racism and prejudice', Gaza is the place to send the British kids to, so they can come home and ask their grandparents: 'Grandpa, what did you do when it all happened 60 years ago?' We have to send our kids to Gaza so they can come home and ask their parents: 'Mum, what can we do to help the Palestinians?'
If Karen Pollock still wants to increase our kids' ethical awareness, yet she might not be convinced that Gaza is the place to do so, she may also want to consider sending our youth to Basra or Baghdad. At the end of the day, the genocide of the Iraqi people, in which one and a half million Iraqis have died so far, is a war crime committed also by the current British Government.
But on second thought, there is no point in sending young British students to Baghdad; they can go there as soon they finish school. They can then participate and contribute to this very contemporary Holocaust that is being committed by Britain and America in the name of democracy and neo-conservative ideology, all they have to do is just join the British armed forces.
Sunday, February 24, 2008
The farmers of Beit Ula spent two years preparing their new groves of fruit and nut and olive trees, clearing rocks, building stone terraces and digging deep cisterns to catch the scarce rainwater.
It took the Israeli Army less than a day to destroy it.
"We heard they were here at 6.30 in the morning, when it was still dark," said Sami al-Adam, one of eight farmers whose terraces were bulldozed on January 15.
"There must have been dozens of soldiers with jeeps and bulldozers and they brought a lot of Filipino workers, or maybe they were Thai, who pulled up the trees and cut them and buried them so we wouldn't be able to plant them again," he said.
When the soldiers and police withdrew from the site, in the low hills on the West Bank's border with Israel, 6.4 hectares of trees and terraces had been uprooted and bulldozed. The concrete cisterns were broken open and choked with rubble. Two years of labour and a cash investment of more than €100,000 ($160,000) had all gone to waste.
The Israeli military department that controls the occupied West Bank - called the Civil Administration - subsequently said it demolished the terraces because they were built illegally on land belonging to the state of Israel.
This came as a surprise to the West Bank farmers, who brandished documents with Palestinian, Israeli and even Turkish stamps which, they say, prove their title to the land. And it came as an even bigger surprise to the European Union, which had paid for the lion's share of the project, €64,000, as part of a campaign to improve "food security" for the Palestinian population.
"We were pretty distressed, obviously," said a European Commission spokeswoman, Alex de Mauny. "It's a huge concern, not only in terms of the livelihood of the people we were trying to help out - obviously it's a disaster in human terms. These are not rich people, they are living very much on the margins - but there's the broader issue of why it happened, and how we can stop it from happening again."
Saturday, February 23, 2008
...The Democratic Party has broken with its historic conservatism, its pandering to the rich, its predilection for war, only when it has encountered rebellion from below, as in the Thirties and the Sixties. We should not expect that a victory at the ballot box in November will even begin to budge the nation from its twin fundamental illnesses: capitalist greed and militarism.
So we need to free ourselves from the election madness engulfing the entire society, including the left.
Yes, two minutes. Before that, and after that, we should be taking direct action against the obstacles to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
For instance, the mortgage foreclosures that are driving millions from their homes-they should remind us of a similar situation after the Revolutionary War, when small farmers, many of them war veterans (like so many of our homeless today), could not afford to pay their taxes and were threatened with the loss of the land, their homes. They gathered by the thousands around courthouses and refused to allow the auctions to take place.
The evictions today of people who cannot pay their rents should remind us of what people did in the Thirties when they organized and put the belongings of the evicted families back in their apartments, in defiance of the authorities.
Historically, government, whether in the hands of Republicans or Democrats, conservatives or liberals, has failed its responsibilities, until forced to by direct action: sit-ins and Freedom Rides for the rights of black people, strikes and boycotts for the rights of workers, mutinies and desertions of soldiers in order to stop a war. Voting is easy and marginally useful, but it is a poor substitute for democracy, which requires direct action by concerned citizens.
Friday, February 22, 2008
Saturday, February 16, 2008
The pictures show the results of an Israeli strike at a refugee camp in the Gaza Strip.
This took place yesterday in the Bureij refugee camp in the Gaza Strip when an Israeli missile leveled a three-story house and damaged several houses next to it. Eight were murdered, including a brother and a sister aged 5 and 6. Over 50 were injured, including 17 children.
Any protests from the U.S.? From the E.U.? From the U.N.? Of course not.
Keep this in mind if a suicide bombing takes place in Israel.
Thursday, February 14, 2008
Israeli troops stormed the village of Beit Ummar at around 1:00 am on Wednesday. Troops searched and ransacked scores of homes, with local sources stating that the army placed the village under curfew, not allowing families to leave their homes.
As the military operation continued, residents reported that, so far, the army had kidnapped 40 men from the village, their ages ranging from 18 to 45.
Israeli troops are still in the village and are not allowing Palestinian ambulances or journalists to enter the village, eyewitnesses reported. When IMEMC photojournalist Ghassan Bannoura arrived at the entrance of the village, Israeli troops did not allow him to enter, and threatened to use live rounds if he do not comply with their order to leave the scene.
As a group of international human rights workers from the Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) tried to enter the village, Israeli troops prevented them and declared the entire village a "closed military zone".
Later in the day, six CPT workers managed to enter Beit Ummer, although troops prevented them from moving around. Troops later kidnapped the group and released them in a nearby Israeli settlement.
Tareq, a CPT worker in Beit Ummer told IMEMC that the soldiers are "rounding up men without any reason. Men are being spot interrogated and then moved away to unknown locations".
The Christian Peacemaker Teams are an ecumenical initiative to support violence reduction efforts around the world.
In a separate attack by the Israeli military, the northern West Bank city of Nablus was targeted. Troops kidnapped two civilians, detained without charge.
Palestinian sources in Nablus reported that Israeli military forces invaded the city on Wednesday at dawn and kidnapped Mou'ayad Hashash, 24. Meanwhile, Samier Mansour, 18, was also taken from his home in the village of Kufer Kalil, just south of Nablus city.
Israeli army radio announced that, during pre-dawn invasions across the West Bank, the Israeli army had kidnapped as many as 70 Palestinian civilians.
Monday, February 11, 2008
One question still remains: which viable candidate is left to vote for? Unfortunately, in its existing capacity, our vote isn’t strong enough to make a viable impact. Reaching out to prospective candidates can be effective, but it must be coupled with a plan to comprehensively inform the field of where we stand on the issues. Enthusiastically endorsing candidates who refuse to appreciate our concerns is a fundamentally flawed approach. If the system is broken and the game of Washington politics is corrupt, then playing it with a weak hand only strengthens that system. The naysayer will proclaim that our votes count in swing states. Yet, if this was truly the case, our vote would be coveted, not ignored. No viable candidate on either side of the aisle even bothered to show up to the Arab-American Institute's National Leadership Conference in Michigan, where the largest portion of our constituency resides.
Our current predicament underscores the limitation of the two-party system: small voices have no voices. The only way to build a better future for the Arab-American community and positively impact policy toward the Arab world is to invest in ourselves, and begin to build coalitions, where smaller voices can come together to effectively change society. This method will legitimately allow us to empower ourselves without acceding to a blind principled stance. We can’t just hope for a better future; we have to work for it, and sadly, the empty rhetoric spewed by Barack Obama, and the rest of the mainstream candidates, only serve to solidify our problems in perpetuity. So, Yalla Vote! But do it in good conscience, and in a way that makes sense for our community.
Last September, Yossi Alpher, the co-founder of the European Union-funded publication Bitterlemons, wrote an article advocating "decapitating the Hamas leadership, both military and 'civilian.'" Alpher, a former special adviser to Israel's defense minister Ehud Barak when the latter was prime minister, worried that Israel would "pay a price in terms of international condemnation," for "targeting legally elected Hamas officials who won a fair election," but that overall it would be well worth it.
Executing democratically-elected leaders may require more chutzpah than even Israel has shown, but the possibility and its disastrous consequences have to be taken seriously given Israel's track record. Israel executed Hamas' elderly, quadriplegic and wheelchair-bound co-founder, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, in 2004, followed shortly afterwards by the execution his successor as the movement's leader, Dr. Abdel Aziz Rantisi.
Aside from the United States, Israel is the only country where the murder of foreign leaders is openly debated as a policy option.
Israeli official propaganda presents all its recent actions as defensive and necessary to stop the rockets fired by Palestinian fighters in Gaza. But if Israel's goal was to achieve calm and a cessation of violence, the first logical step would not be to contemplate new atrocities, but to respond positively to Hamas' repeated ceasefire proposals.
When it was elected in January 2006, Hamas had observed a unilateral ceasefire for more than a year. After the election, Hamas' leaders offered a long-term total truce, tentatively following the political path of other militant groups including the Irish Republican Army (IRA), whose 1994 ceasefire paved the way for the peace agreement in Northern Ireland. (In December, US President George W. Bush received Martin McGuinness, former second in command of the IRA, and now Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland, at the White House.)
Last December, Haaretz reported that Hamas had secured the agreement of all factions to end rocket fire on Israel, provided Israel reciprocated. Hamas was also engaged in indirect negotiations for the release of Palestinian political prisoners in exchange for an Israeli prisoner of war held in Gaza.
Olmert rejected the December ceasefire offer. "The State of Israel," he said, "has no interest in negotiating with entities that do not recognize the Quartet demands." In other words there could be no ceasefire until Hamas unilaterally accepted all of Israel's demands before negotiations could even begin.
Friday, February 08, 2008
Portion below; from FAIR at http://www.fair.org/index.php?page=3259
A “humanitarian intervention,” as benevolent as it may try to sound, at its core means non-consensual military action against a foreign country—war under the banner of humanitarianism. The remarkable thing about nearly all of these media calls for intervention is that, beyond the appeals to urgency and morality, virtually no effort is made to explain exactly why or how one should believe that aggressive military action is what will bring peace to Darfur; readers, apparently, are to take that as self-evident. “If the United Nations is not willing to intervene,” the St. Petersburg Times asked (7/27/04), “how can it be taken seriously as a force for peace and humanitarianism?”
The equation of intervention with peace and humanitarianism is particularly remarkable in the wake of Iraq. Despite the Bee’s declaration that “nothing” is more globally urgent than rescuing the people of Darfur, Iraq is unquestionably a much larger humanitarian crisis. Best estimates put the death toll in Iraq at over a million. (See page 22.) According the UNCHR, 4.4 million Iraqis are currently refugees or internally displaced, despite widespread media attention on a relative handful of Iraqis returning home.
The “liberation” of the Kurds and Shiites from a genocidal dictator was from the beginning presented as a key justification for the Iraq War, increasingly so as the WMD argument lost all credibility with the public. Even now, calls for keeping U.S. troops in Iraq are based primarily on claims that a pullout will “result” in a humanitarian crisis—as if one were not already well underway.
The Bee’s amnesia is just one more example of the media’s refusal to acknowledge the humanitarian disaster that is Iraq, let alone take lessons from it. Iraq must be forgotten rather than learned from if we are to successfully deal with Darfur. The Washington Post (7/22/04) argued forcefully that, “if the nation is to avoid succumbing to an Iraq syndrome to match the Vietnam syndrome of the past, it must prove its continuing readiness to lead in the world”—and go it alone in Darfur if necessary.
“Has the grim shadow of Iraq, and fallout from the crisis in Lebanon, paralyzed the Western democracies in responding to a terrible ‘genocide by attrition’ among the African tribal populations of Darfur?” inquired Eric Reeves in a Post op-ed (9/3/06).
Iraq is cast as the exception, the “bad” war that has made it more difficult for us to advance “good” wars like Darfur. “Unfortunately for the victims of Darfur, too many of their advocates have come to view [American] power as tainted, marred by self-interest and by its misapplication in Iraq,” wrote New Republic editor Lawrence F. Kaplan in the L.A. Times (4/23/06).
Thursday, February 07, 2008
Brace yourself. I'm going to use a word that offends folks. I'm talking the "F" word.
This woman sent me an e-mail Monday and it got me thinking. See, in describing herself, she assured me she was not a "women's libber" — the late 1960s equivalent of feminist. She also said she was retired from the U.S. Navy. There was, it seemed to me, a disconnect there: She doesn't believe in women's liberation, yet she is retired from a position that liberation made possible.
Intrigued, I asked my 17-year-old daughter if she considers herself a feminist. She responded with a mildly horrified no. This, by the way, is the daughter with the 3.75 GPA who is presently pondering possible college majors including political science, psychology and ... women's studies. I asked her to define "feminist."
There began a halting explanation that seemed to suggest shrillness wrapped around obnoxiousness. Abruptly, she stopped. "It's hard to explain," she said.
Actually, it's not. Jessica Valenti, author of "Full Frontal Feminism: A Young Woman's Guide to Why Feminism Matters," calls it the I'm-Not-A-Feminist-But syndrome. As in the woman who says, "I'm not a feminist, but ..." and then "goes on to espouse completely feminist values. I think most women believe in access to birth control, they want equal pay for equal work, they want to fight against rape and violence against women."
"Feminist," it seems, has ended up in the same syntactical purgatory as another once-useful, now-reviled term: liberal. Most people endorse what that word has historically stood for — integration, child labor laws, product safety — yet they treat the word itself like anthrax. Similarly, while it's hard to imagine any young woman really wants to return to the days of barefoot, pregnant and making meatloaf, many now disdain the banner under which their gender fought for freedom. They scorn feminism even as they feast at a table feminism prepared.
Tuesday, February 05, 2008
Why the Palestinians give me hope. Portion below; whole thing here:
Ramzi Aburedwan, a Palestinian refugee living in the West Bank, also has that power. Sitting on a rooftop in the heat of a summer night in Ramallah 2006, I remember watching him as he played an improvised viola solo to a small, mostly foreign audience. He was suddenly interrupted by the explosions of Israeli gun-fire in the street below but he kept playing while the shooting and bombing grew loader beneath us. He refused to stop. Until a young man rushing across the rooftops whispered in his ears. Only then did Ramzi drop his viola and turn to the audience. 'We will stop now' he said. 'A man has been shot outside and is bleeding to death. It seems the Israeli soldiers will not allow anyone to approach him.'
The audience of visiting French and German music elites stood crowded in the small courtyard of the music center. Visibly shaken and afraid. Those of us who lived in the city rushed outside. Were met with roving tanks and shooting. And at length the site where the young man bled to death.
'This is the reality' Ramzi was saying to the visitors. 'This is how we live. But it doesn't destroy the music in us.' And I pictured his agonized playing above the bombs of the invading tanks.
The Israelis are killing the Palestinians and in the chaos of the region unbalanced by the Western backed Israeli war machine, the Lebanese are starting to kill the Lebanese again; in the hell that the US invasion of Iraq has created in Iraq the people there are killing each other as well while the Palestinians are continuing to be ground into the earth by just about every people of the world and yet Marcel Khalife sings:
We love life if we are able to find a way to it
Monday, February 04, 2008
Portion below; whole thing here: http://www.counterpunch.org/tripp02042008.html
As a progressive myself I am dismayed. But I choose not to whine or whinge. This year, the whining is of the keening, plaintive type, like a puppy locked out of the house. Please love me, the wining seems to say. Please let me love you. We're seeing left-wing articles with headlines like "Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama: Who is Better at "Framing" Progressive Issues?" (Buzzflash) and "The Choice" (The Nation). Both articles can be summarized briefly as follows: neither, and none of the above. There is nothing whatsoever for a real, transformation-seeking liberal to respond to. What do the candidates advocate? "Change" and "Improvement" seem to be their suggestions, although no genuine changes or improvements have been mentioned that even approach the scale of the problems before us as a nation. As always, liberals are doing their level best to put a smiley face on the doings of the Democrats, the closest thing in establishment politics to a left-wing party (just as the right wing is the closest thing to the left wing on a duck). Unfortunately it was Mrs. Clinton's late husband, President Bill Clinton, that permanently locked the Left out of Washington. There's precious little likelihood that she will show the winkiest flash of progressive sentiment during her 18 months in office before she's impeached by her own party. It might possibly be worse with Obama, because even if he's not assassinated in the first six minutes of his presidency, he certainly won't be allowed to govern. In fact they'll be counting the White House spoons every night.
Don't get me wrong. I would be delighted to see a woman or a person of color in the Oval Office. Progressive, remember? But America needs to move well beyond the knee-jerk pocket liberalism that says any young black man is superior to an old white one, and any woman superior to both of them, or we're doomed. England elected Margaret Thatcher to the role of Prime Minister in 1979, and that was a ghastly mistake. Kenya has apparently elected numerous black presidents, and it's not in very good shape at the moment. It turns out, if you really study the matter, that people must be judged upon their merits alone, with no points awarded for gender or race. This is, after all, the leadership of the world's most heavily armed nation we're talking about, not admission to Harvard. I'm all for quotas in higher education. Otherwise we have fewer candidates that aren't old white men. But after that, qualification is everything. I know Hillary isn't qualified, even if she was the first man to scale Everest, and I don't know a goddamn thing about Obama, except he admires Ronald Reagan, a gentleman of the old school that would have called Mr. Obama "boy" and rubbed his head for luck on the golf course.
Sunday, February 03, 2008
February 01, 2008
Last week, when Barack Obama became the first major candidate to break the silence on the situation in Gaza, he didn't criticize Israel, whose blockade of a civilian population has been roundly condemned by human rights organizations, nor did he call for restraint from the United States' top ally in the Mideast. Instead, he fired off a letter to U.N. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad with a resounding message—one that could have been mistaken for words straight from the American Israel Public Affairs Committee's (AIPAC) website. "The Security Council should clearly and unequivocally condemn the rocket attacks against Israel.… If it cannot...I urge you to ensure that it does not speak at all," Obama wrote, adding he understood why Israel was "forced" to shut down Gaza's border crossings.
The letter was notable not only because Obama had distinguished himself from the rest of the field (John McCain later sent a similar letter to Condoleezza Rice), but also because it was a far cry from the Obama of last March, who let slip a rare expression of compassion for Palestinians by an American politician: "Nobody's suffering more than the Palestinian people" he famously said at a small gathering in Iowa. What ensued in the 10 months between then and now is an object lesson in the intense pressure under which presidential candidates stake out ground on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the extraordinary effectiveness of the self-styled "pro-Israel" movement. This high-pressured atmosphere goes a long way to explaining why the candidate with the most liberal foreign policy views went out of his way to take a hard line on Gaza.
Obama's shuffle with the pro-Israel lobby follows in a long tradition of Democratic candidates facing a litmus test on the issue. Hillary Clinton, for her part, has enjoyed wide support among pro-Israel advocates, having made her peace with them back in 1999 after a controversy involving the lobby hurt her Senate campaign. And as Super Tuesday approaches—the day when many Jewish Democrats vote, in states like New York and California (where respectively 17 and 6 percent of primary voters identified themselves as Jewish in 2004)—Obama has aggressively moved to shore up his pro-Israel credentials, dispatching Jewish supporters to drum up support and hosting a lengthy conference call with Jewish reporters Monday. In part, the call was to counter chain e-mails, which have intensified in recent weeks, painting Obama as a "secret Muslim," but he also used a chunk of the time to make it known that he was a friend of Israel: "I want to make sure that we continue to strengthen the enduring ties between our people and pledge to give real meaning to the words 'never again,'" he said.
Hillary wants you to subsidize the insurance companies!
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton said Sunday she might be willing to have workers' wages garnisheed if they refuse to buy health insurance to achieve coverage for all Americans.
The New York senator has criticized presidential rival Barack Obama for pushing a health plan that would not require universal coverage. Clinton has not always specified the enforcement measures she would embrace, but when pressed during a television interview, she said: ''I think there are a number of mechanisms'' that are possible, including ''going after people's wages, automatic enrollment.''
Clinton said such measures would apply only to workers who can afford health coverage but refuse to buy it, which puts undue pressure on hospitals and emergency rooms. Under her plan, she said, health care ''will be affordable for everyone'' because she would limit premium payments ''to a low percent of your income.''