donderdag 7 februari 2008
By Tim Anderson
The popular online encyclopaedia Wikipedia has come to play an important
role in informing and also shaping public debates. Yet as a Florida-based,
US creation, it brings its own baggage to those debates.
US corporate media sources (Time, CNN, Fox, and so on) are privileged as
reliable and "neutral" sources in Wiki entries, despite the fact that many
of these bodies are intimately involved in many of the most contentious
public debates, such as privatisation, intervention and war.
The online tool Wikipedia Scanner also demonstrates that Wiki is heavily
edited by powerful organisations, such as the CIA, the Vatican, US
government funded agencies, news corporations, banks and embassies.
Yet perhaps even more important is the role played by Wiki's 1,000
administrators, who have "special powers" to edit and summarily remove
content, determine what constitutes Wiki's stated policy of a "neutral point
of view", excluding other points of view, disputed fact and "biased"
Here is one example of the US worldview in Wikipedia when, as a voluntary
"editor", I tried to help explain Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez's
accusation that former Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar was a
The Wiki page in question was on the sideshow generated by the King of Spain's
frustrated demand at the November 2007 Ibero-American summit in Chile, that
Chavez "shutup". The page is called: Por qué no te callas? (Why don't you
The Wiki page begins by putting the incident in context of an implicit
critique of Venezuelan economic policies, using mainly Time magazine
Chávez repeatedly interrupted the speech of the Prime Minister of Spain José
Luis Rodríguez Zapatero to call [his] predecessor, José María Aznar, a
"fascist" . and accuse Aznar of having supported a failed coup d'état aimed
at removing Chávez from power. Zapatero had earlier irritated Chávez by
suggesting that Latin America needed to attract more foreign capital to
combat its chronic deepening poverty; Chávez's leftist policies shun outside
It goes on to repeat the Time magazine line ("Behind the King's Rebuke to
Chavez", November 12, 2007) that a dispute over "free markets" and poverty
policy may have been behind the "fascist" accusation against Aznar:
What may have motivated Chávez was that Zapatero - who is a socialist -
"insisted that Latin America needs to attract more foreign capital if it's
going to make a dent in its chronic, deepening poverty". Because Chávez
blames capitalism and insists that only socialism can address inequality in
Latin America, he went on the tirade against "Aznar and other free-market
'fascists'," resulting in Zapatero's reminding him that Aznar had been
Het niveau van de mediakritiek is erbarmelijk laag in Nederland. Hieronder een voorbeeld van de website 'de nieuwe reporter.' Waarom zouden Nederlandse journalisten niet serieus over hun vak kunnen nadenken en Britten en Amerikanen, Duitsers. Fransen en Italianen wel? Zou het toch door het veel geroemde poldermodel komen? Ik beodel, hoe is het in godsnaam mogelijk dat een absolute lichtgewicht als Larous hoofdredacteur van het NOS-Journaal werd?
'Hans Laroes en Gerard Dielessen over Hyves, Twitter en de oorlog met spindoctors
Hans Laroes (hoofdredacteur NOS Journaal) en Gerard Dielessen (directeur NOS) waren begin februari in New York om met verschillende omroepen, zoals bijvoorbeeld CNN, te praten over ontwikkelingen op multimediaal gebied. Beide heren bezochten tijdens hun tour door the Big Apple de PvdA-afdeling New York. Elke paar maanden organiseert de ongeveer 80 leden tellende afdeling een dinner & debate avond, waarbij gediscussieerd wordt met Nederlandse gasten. De Nieuwe Reporter was er bij.Dielessen legt uit waar de NOS vandaan komt: ‘Zo’n 4 à 5 jaar geleden was de NOS monomediaal. Nu zijn we multimediaal ingesteld. Naarmate een uitzending dichterbij komt, concentreren medewerkers zich meer op het medium waarvoor zij verantwoordelijk zijn. Een nieuwsbericht kan in eerste instantie in tekst worden gegoten en op de website gepubliceerd worden, maar daarna kunnen bezoekers doorklikken naar bijvoorbeeld achtergrondfilmpjes. We chatten nu ook na het Journaal met kijkers, die commentaar kunnen leveren op de uitzending, of vragen kunnen stellen. Dat is een wereld van verschil met hoe het ooit was. Journalistiek werk was toch een metier waarin de vakgroep bepaalde wat er aan nieuws werd voorgeschoteld. Journalistiek was datgene produceren waarvan journalisten dachten dat er behoefte aan was. Dat is nu anders, vaak veel interactiever. Maar we zijn er niet om het publiek te behagen. Journalisten selecteren.’
PeilingenHet is natuurlijk geen toeval dat Laroes en Dielessen juist deze week in de Verenigde Staten waren. Super Tuesday speelde ook mee in de overweging om de oceaan over te vliegen. Ook daar heeft de NOS interesse in, onder andere om te kijken hoe de media in de VS omgaan met peilingen. In Nederland wordt de kijker al jarenlang met wekelijkse peilingen van TNS-NIPO en Maurice de Hond bestookt. Het is maar de vraag of het journalistiek verantwoordelijk is om dat te doen. Dielessen: ‘Een peiling kan directe invloed uitoefenen op het gedrag van een politicus of een politieke partij. Het beïnvloedt ook het gedrag van de kiezer. Het probleem is dat peilingen er vaak flink naast zitten. Dat hebben we in de voorverkiezingen in Amerika nu al een paar keer kunnen zien en bij de afgelopen Tweede Kamerverkiezingen in Nederland zaten alle peilingen er ook naast. Alleen de trend lijkt redelijk voorspeld te kunnen worden.’'
Lees verder: http://www.denieuwereporter.nl/?p=1490
February 7, 2008
MEDIA ALERT: ‘CREATIVE DESTRUCTION’ – THE MADNESS OF THE GLOBAL ECONOMY - PART 2
Exchange With The Independent’s Hamish McRae
In Part One of this alert, we noted an observation made by Hamish McRae, economics columnist at the Independent:
“Bankers, like the rest of us, make mistakes, but the scale of the mistakes, particularly in US banks, has been enormous.” (McRae, ‘The markets are bad, but don’t panic just yet’, The Independent, January 23, 2008)
We asked him why he talked merely of “mistakes”, adding:
“Why are the terms of your analysis so narrow; so skewed towards the perspective of financial power?” (Email, January 23, 2008)
As an alternative, we suggested a few observations made in Part One; in particular, that the current economic system is both innately unstable and destructive. We asked McRae why he appears to reject such a rational analysis. On the same day, he wrote back confusingly:
“Thanks - I see your point. I suppose I feel I should deal with the world as it is, rather than as it might be. Is that narrow? Well, yes if you are seeking a discussion of the merits and demerits of the present global market economy, but no if you are trying to understand and calibrate what is actually happening. I think I am probably more use doing the latter.”
“You say: ‘I feel I should deal with the world as it is.’ Perhaps it would be more accurate to rephrase this as: ‘I feel I should deal with the world as I see it.’”
His reply, sent as he was about to head for the World Economic Forum in Switzerland:
“Not sure - let me think about it. But in all earnestness I do think that you should not discount the huge progress made in India and China in lifting people out of poverty. I visited both in recent months and am in awe. I shall have to stop this interchange as I have to pack for Davos now.”
But just how accurate is McRae’s observation of the “huge progress made in India and China”, a mantra that appears regularly in the corporate media?
India And China: The Latest ‘Success Stories’ Of Capitalism
Cheerleaders for capitalism are keen to advertise the system’s ‘successes’. Earlier, model countries were said to include Japan, South Korea, Malaysia and Thailand. But that was before the East Asian financial crisis of 1997-98. India and China are today’s poster states for capitalism.
Some progress in these countries is real. However, as we noted before, any social progress under ‘neoliberal reforms’ has not been sustained and, moreover, has been to the detriment of people losing out elsewhere in the global economy (not to mention the damage to global ecosystems).
Another important factor, glossed over in conventional reporting, is that massive state intervention and subsidies have been required to ameliorate the worst consequences of ‘shock therapy’ in following neoliberal doctrines of ‘market reforms.’ Political economist David Kotz notes that China’s strategy of opening up its economy since 1978 “bears almost no resemblance to the neoliberal approach followed by Russia.”
For example, government price controls were lifted only gradually in China. Also, the large-scale privatisation of state-owned enterprises, upon which many people depended, did not begin until 1996, 18 years into the transition. The state continued to direct and support large state enterprises, only gradually loosening its regulation as experience grew of operating in a market environment.
Public spending and public investment continued to grow, rather than shrink as in Russia. China did not privatise its banks, as Russia did, but retained a state-controlled financial system. And rather than rapidly eliminating barriers to trade and capital movements, China has retained significant controls over both. (Kotz, ‘The Role of the State in Economic Transformation: Comparing the Transition Experiences of Russia and China’, Political Economy Research Institute, University of Massachusetts at Amherst, October 1, 2004; http://www.peri.umass.edu/fileadmin/pdf/working_papers/working_papers_51-100/WP95.pdf)'
'Our media have become mass producers of distortion
An industry whose task should be to filter out falsehood has become a conduit for propaganda and second hand news
Monday February 4, 2008
Here's a little example of what I call Flat Earth News. In June 2005, Fleet Street told its readers about a gang of feral child bullies who had attempted to murder a five-year-old boy by hanging him from a tree; the boy had managed to free himself. This story was not true. Indeed, it was obviously not true from the moment it started running. There was the commonsense problem that even a fully grown man with 10 years of SAS training who found himself hanging by the neck would have the greatest difficulty in reaching up and lifting his entire body weight with one hand while using the other to remove the noose. How would a five-year-old boy do it?
More than that, there was the evidence in the story itself. From the first day, the police refused to say the boy had been hanged. The parents and neighbours, who told the press how shocked they were, never claimed to know what had happened. The one and only line on which the whole story was built was a quote from the boy's adult cousin, who said he had told her: "Some boys and girls have tied a rope around my neck and tried to tie me to a tree." That's "tie me to a tree", not "hang me from a tree".
It was a nasty case of bullying but not an attempted murder. A 12-year-old girl had put a rope around the boy's neck and led him round like a dog, pulling on it hard enough to leave marks on his neck. That was clearly dangerous. But the boy never claimed she had hanged him from a tree. Indeed, he never even claimed that she had tied him to a tree, only that she had tried to. To double check, we spoke to Professor Christopher Milroy, the Home Office pathologist who handled the case. He said: "He had not been hanged. That was not correct and I couldn't understand why the press were insisting that he was."
Nevertheless, the tabloids ran all over it; and TV and the rest of Fleet Street joined in. The London Evening Standard called it a lynching; the Mail, Guardian and Times ran headlines which stated boldly that the boy had been hanged; the Independent ran a moody feature about fear descending on the boy's estate. Sundry columnists joined in with solemn comment about the youth of today and the impact of violence on television.
The ingredients in this little story run routinely through a stream of other small stories, through stories as big as those about the Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, and then into a flood of media commentary that feeds into government policy and popular understanding - falsehood as profound as the idea that the Earth is flat, widely accepted as true to the point where it can feel like heresy to challenge it.
There never was a time when news media were perfect. Journalists have always worked with too little time and too little certainty; with interference from owners and governments; with laws that intimidate and inhibit the search for truth. But the evidence I found in researching my new book, Flat Earth News, suggests our tendency to recycle ignorance is far worse than it was.
I commissioned research from specialists at Cardiff University, who surveyed more than 2,000 UK news stories from the four quality dailies (Times, Telegraph, Guardian, Independent) and the Daily Mail. They found two striking things. First, when they tried to trace the origins of their "facts", they discovered that only 12% of the stories were wholly composed of material researched by reporters. With 8% of the stories, they just couldn't be sure. The remaining 80%, they found, were wholly, mainly or partially constructed from second-hand material, provided by news agencies and by the public relations industry. Second, when they looked for evidence that these "facts" had been thoroughly checked, they found this was happening in only 12% of the stories.'
Lees verder: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/story/0,,2251982,00.html
woensdag 6 februari 2008
' "Gaza is on the threshold of becoming the first territory to be
intentionally reduced to a state of abject destitution, with the
knowledge, acquiescence and--some would say--encouragement of the
international community," the commissioner-general of UNRWA warned
The Strangulation of Gaza
by SAREE MAKDISI
[posted online on February 1, 2008]
The people of Gaza were able to enjoy a few days of freedom last
week, after demolition charges brought down the iron wall separating
the impoverished Palestinian territory from Egypt, allowing hundreds
of thousands to burst out of the virtual prison into which Gaza has
been transformed over the past few years--the terminal stage of four
decades of Israeli occupation--and to shop for desperately needed
supplies in Egyptian border towns.
Gaza's doors are slowly closing again, however. Under mounting
pressure from the United States and Israel, Egypt has dispatched
additional border guards armed with water cannons and electric cattle
prods to try to regain control. It has already cut off the flow of
supplies crossing the Suez Canal to its own border towns. For now, in
effect, Suez is the new border: even if Palestinians could get out of
Gaza in search of new supplies, they would have to cross the desolate
expanses of the Sinai Desert and cross the canal, on the other side
of which they would find the regular Egyptian army (barred from most
of Sinai as a condition of the 1979 Camp David treaty with Israel)
waiting for them.
Now that Gaza's fleeting taste of freedom is beginning to fade, the
grim reality facing the territory's 1.5 million people is once again
looming large. "After feeling imprisoned for so long, it has been a
psychological relief for Gazans to know that there is a way out,"
said John Ging, the local director of the United Nations Relief and
Works Agency (UNRWA). "But it does not resolve their crisis by any
stretch of the imagination."
Indeed, all the frenzied shopping in Egyptian border towns brought
into Gaza a mere fraction of the food that UN and other relief
agencies have been blocked by Israel from delivering to the people
who depend on them for their very survival. As long as the border
with Egypt is even partially open, Israel refuses to open its own
borders with Gaza to anything other than the bare minimum of
industrial fuel to keep the territory's one power plant operating at
a subsistence level, and a few trucks of other supplies a day.
UNRWA has almost depleted the stocks of emergency food aid it had
previously built up in Gaza. Only thirty-two truckloads of goods have
been allowed to enter Gaza since Israel imposed its total closure on
January 18; 250 trucks were entering every day before last June, and
even that was insufficient to meet the population's needs.
On January 30 UNRWA warned that unless something changes, the daily
ration that it will distribute on the 31st to 860,000 destitute
refugees in Gaza will lack a protein component: the canned meat that
is the only source of protein in the food parcels--which even under
the best of circumstances contributes less than two-thirds of minimum
daily nourishment--is being held up by Israel, and the stock of those
cans inside Gaza has been exhausted. The World Food Program, which
feeds another 340,000 people in Gaza, has brought in nine trucks of
food aid in the past two weeks; in the seven months before that, it
had been bringing in fifteen trucks a day.
Gazans have been ground into poverty by years of methodical Israeli
restrictions and closures; 80 percent of the population now depends
on food aid for day-to-day subsistence. With the aid, they were
receiving "enough to survive, not to live," as the International Red
Cross put it. Without it, they will die.
All this is supposed to be in response to Palestinian militant
groups' firing of crude homemade rockets into Israel, which rarely
cause any actual damage. There can be no excuse for firing rockets at
civilian targets, but Israel was squeezing Gaza long before the first
of those primitive projectiles was cobbled together. The first fatal
rocket attack took place four years ago; Israel has been occupying
Gaza for four decades.
The current squeeze on Gaza began in 1991. It was tightened with the
institutionalization of the Israeli occupation enabled by the Oslo
Accords of 1993. It was tightened further with the intensification of
the occupation in response to the second intifada in 2000. It was
tightened further still when Israel redeployed its settlers and
troops from inside Gaza in 2005 and transformed the territory into
what John Dugard, the UN's special rapporteur on human rights in the
occupied territories, referred to as a prison, the key to which,
Dugard said, Israel had "thrown away." It was tightened to the point
of strangulation following the Hamas electoral victory in 2006, when
Israel began restricting supplies of food and other resources into
Gaza. It was tightened beyond the point of strangulation following
the deposition of the Hamas-led government in June 2007. And now this.
When Israel limited commercial shipments of food--but not
humanitarian relief--into Gaza in 2006, a senior government adviser,
Dov Weisglass, explained that "the idea is to put the Palestinians on
a diet but not to make them die of hunger."
Israel's "diet" was taking its toll even before last week. The World
Food Program warned last November that less than half of Gaza's food-
import needs were being met. Basics including wheat grain, vegetable
oil, dairy products and baby milk were in short supply. Few families
can afford meat. Anemia rates rocketed to almost 80 percent. UNRWA
noted at about the same time that "we are seeing evidence of the
stunting of children, their growth is slowing, because our ration is
only 61 percent of what people should have and that has to be
By further restricting the supply of food to an already malnourished
population, Israel has clearly decided to take its "diet" a step
further. If the people of Gaza remain cut off from the food aid on
which their survival now depends, they will face starvation.
They are now essentially out of food; the water system is faltering
(almost half the population now lacks access to safe water supplies);
the sewage system has broken down and is discharging raw waste into
streets and the sea; the power supply is intermittent at best;
hospitals lack heat and spare parts for diagnostic machines,
ventilators, incubators; dozens of lifesaving medicines are no longer
available. Slowly but surely, Gaza is dying.
Patients are dying unnecessarily: cancer patients cut off from
chemotherapy regimens, kidney patients cut off from dialysis
treatments, premature babies cut off from blood-clotting medications.
In the past few weeks, many more Palestinian parents have watched the
lives of their sick children ebb slowly, quietly and (as far as the
global media are concerned) invisibly away in Gaza's besieged
hospitals than Israelis have been hurt--let alone actually killed--by
the erratic firing of primitive homemade rockets from Gaza, about
which we have heard so much. (According to the Israeli human rights
organization B'Tselem, these rockets have killed thirteen Israelis in
the past four years, while Israeli forces have killed more than 1,000
Palestinians in the occupied territories in the past two years alone,
almost half of them civilians, including some 200 children.)
Israel's squeeze is expressly intended to punish the entire
population for the firing of those rockets by militants, which
ordinary civilians are powerless to stop. "We will not allow them to
lead a pleasant life," said Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert when
Israel cut off fuel supplies on January 18, thereby plunging Gaza
into darkness. "As far as I am concerned, all of Gaza's residents can
walk and have no fuel for their cars."
Olmert's views and, more important, his policies were reaffirmed and
given the legal sanction of Israel's High Court. In what human rights
organizations referred to as a "devastating" decision, on January 30
the court ruled in favor of the government's plan to further restrict
supplies of fuel and electricity to Gaza. "The decision means that
Israel may deliberately deprive civilians in Gaza of fuel and
electricity supplies," pointed out Sari Bashi, of the Gisha human
rights organization in Israel. "During wartime, the civilian
population is the first and central victim of the fighting, even when
efforts are made to minimize the damage," the court said. In other
words, harm to the civilian population is an inevitable effect of war
and therefore legally permissible.
That may be the view of Israel's highest legal authority, but it is
not how the matter is viewed by international law, which strictly
regulates the way civilian populations are to be treated in time of
war. "The parties to a conflict must at all times distinguish between
the civilian population and combatants in order to spare the civilian
population and civilian property," the International Red Cross points
out, invoking the Geneva Conventions and other founding documents of
international humanitarian law. "Neither the civilian population as a
whole nor individual civilians may be attacked."
Moreover, no matter what Israel's High Court says, what is happening
in Gaza is not a war in the conventional sense: Gaza is not a state
at war with the state of Israel. It is a territory militarily
occupied by Israel. Even after its 2005 redeployment, Israel did not
release its hold on Gaza; it continues to control all access to the
territory, as well as its airspace, territorial waters and even its
population registry. Over and above all the routine prohibitions on
attacks on the civilian population and other forms of collective
punishment that hold true in case of war, in other words,
international law also holds Israel responsible for the welfare of
the Gaza population. Article 55 of the Fourth Geneva Convention
(1949) specifically demands, for example, that, "to the fullest
extent of the means available to it, the Occupying Power has the duty
of ensuring the food and medical supplies of the population; it
should, in particular, bring in the necessary foodstuffs, medical
stores and other articles if the resources of the occupied territory
Israel's methodical actions make it clear that it is systematically
grinding down and now actually starving people for whose welfare it
is legally accountable simply because it regards Gaza's 1.5 million
men, women and children as a surplus population it would, quite
simply, like to get rid of one way or the other: a sentiment made
quite clear when Israel's chief Ashkenazi rabbi proposed, shortly
after the current crisis began, that the entire Palestinian
population of Gaza should just be removed and transferred to the
Egyptian desert. "They will have a nice country, and we shall have
our country and we shall live in peace," he said, without eliciting
even a murmur of protest in Israel.
The overwhelming majority of Gazans are refugees or the descendants
of refugees who were expelled from their homes when Palestine was
destroyed and Israel was created in 1948. Like all Palestinian
refugees, those of Gaza have a moral and legal right to return to the
homeland from which they were expelled. Israel blocks their return
for the same reason it expelled them in the first place, because
their presence would undermine its already tenuous claim to
Jewishness (this is the nature of the so-called "demographic problem"
about which Israeli politicians openly complain). As long as the
refugees live, what Israel regards as the mortal threat of their
right of return lives on. But if they would somehow just go away...
"Gaza is on the threshold of becoming the first territory to be
intentionally reduced to a state of abject destitution, with the
knowledge, acquiescence and--some would say--encouragement of the
international community," the commissioner-general of UNRWA warned
The question now is whether the world will simply sit and watch, now
that this unprecedented threshold is actually being crossed.
Having taken matters into their hands and destroyed the wall cutting
them off from the outside world, it is most unlikely that the people
of Gaza will simply submit to that fate. A hermetic closure
ultimately depends not merely on Israel's whims but on Egypt's
willingness--or ability--to cut off the Palestinians of Gaza and
watch them starve. For all the US and Israeli pressure on Egypt, and
for all the steps Egypt is now taking, it seems most unlikely that it
would let things go that far. Not intervening to save fellow Arabs
from the Israeli occupation is one thing; actually participating in
their repression is quite another. The Egyptian government would have
to answer not only to the people of Palestine but to its own people,
and indeed to all Arabs.
Working together, Hamas and the people of Gaza have forced Egypt's
hand and made much more visible than ever before the role it had been
playing all along in the Israeli occupation and strangulation of
Gaza; now that its role in assisting Israel has been revealed, it
will be difficult for Egypt to go back to the status quo. Gazans have
thrown Israel's plans into disarray, because Israel's leaders could
do little more than watch with pursed lips as the people of Gaza
burst out of their prison. And they have placed Palestinian Authority
President Mahmoud Abbas and the government of Ramallah in a corner:
they will have to choose between defending their people's rights and
needs or confirming once and for all--as indeed they are doing--that
the PA is there to serve Israel's interests, not those of the
Palestinians. In which case they too will one day be called to account.'
- Saree Makdisi, professor of English and comparative literature at
UCLA, is the author of Palestine Inside Out: An Everyday Occupation
Lees verder: http://www.thenation.com/doc/20080218/makdisi
En de Nederlandse politiek en het Nederlandse volk zwijgen even hard als toen Nederlandse joden door nazi's werden vernietigd. We hebben het te druk met onszelf en bovendien hebben we nooit echt geloofd in mensenrechten en internationaal recht. Alleen als het uitkomt en het ons geen geld kost. Dus mag deze vernietiging van de Palestijnse burgerbevolking en etnische zuivering doorgaan. Dankzij mijn collega's, hun broodheren en de politici, die hun mond altijd weer vol hebben over de persvrijheid.
maandag 4 februari 2008
'The State of Whose Union?
by Nomi Prins
Earlier this week, speaking for Washingtonia and unburdened by high expectations, President Bush said “all of us were sent to Washington to carry out the people’s business.”
The question remains - exactly which people? And what business, Mr. Bush?
Because if it’s the majority of the population, and it’s life not war, we’re not even close to having it carried out.
He acknowledged, “at kitchen tables across our country, there is a concern about our economic future.”
The question remains - our? Who do you mean by ‘our‘, Mr. Bush?
Because for three-quarters of the population’s kitchen table concerns are over gas costs, health insurance, debt payments, tuition, and home values. For nearly 24% of the population, depending on what race you are, the issue of paying for one’s next meal and balancing child-care with multiple jobs is center stage.
It turns out that it doesn’t matter. And that it’s easy to engage in bi-partisan synchronized applause, commending the commander-in-chief for well enunciated, yet totally bankrupt, words of empathetic understanding about ‘our’ collective economic plight. Less than 24 hours later, it was equally easy, apparently, for the House of Representatives to overwhemingly approve (385-35) a stimulus package designed to invigorate corporate quarterly earnings (through corporate tax cuts or promotion of public consumption, whichever does the trick), and avoid what the president characterized as the ‘temptation’ to ‘load up the bill’ with sundry items like food-stamps or unemployment insurance expansion - in other words, items that might have a long-lasting helpful impact on people who need it most.
Flanked by Vice President Cheney, who is certain to nab a lush CEO spot by this time next year, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who regretfully capitulated on those sundry items, President Bush unleashed his true legacy wish: to render those oh-so-helpful-to-the-economy tax cuts about to expire, permanent. Otherwise, he warned his fellow politicos under the glare of those camera lights, you’ll have some “explaining to do to the 116 million American taxpayers whose taxes would rise by an average of $1800.”
It’s chilling to witness such an underestimation of American taxpayers - as if their only expense in life is taxes. Here’s an idea - to avoid all that uncomfortable explaining, how about raising taxes on the people and companies that can afford it, like, say Exxon, whose profit more than quadrupled in the past seven years, as the average price of a gallon of gas doubled? Mr. Bush, why not use some of that excess for those alternative energy programs?
To catch a free falling dollar, reduce a one-sided trade relationship with the outside world (with whom America’s trade deficit has doubled during the Bush presidency), and curtail growth in deficit spending to $354 billion in 2007 (from a 236 billion surplus in 2000), Bush talked about cutting 151 government programs, for a grand savings of $18 billion. This, he said, would enable the government to balance its budget - the way he thinks Americans should as well. This president began his first term in office with a $5.2 trillion national public debt, and despite promises in his first State of the Union address to cut it in half, that debt, due to substantive war addendums and reckless tax cuts for the wealthy and private equity funds, now stands nearly doubled, at $9 trillion. So it’s not clear how that $18 billion is going to effect a dramatic about-face in the national books.'
Lees verder: http://www.commondreams.org/archive/2008/02/02/6796/
Article from: Agence France-Presse
From correspondents in Baghdad
BAGHDAD is drowning in sewage, thirsty for water and largely
powerless, an Iraqi official said today in a grim assessment of
services in the capital five years after the US-led invasion. One of three sewage treatment plants is out of commission, one is
working at stuttering capacity while a pipe blockage in the third
means sewage is forming a foul lake so large it can be seen "as a big
black spot on Google Earth," said Tahseen Sheikhly, civilian
spokesman for the Baghdad security plan.
Mr Sheikhly said water pipes, where they exist, are so old it is not
possible to pump water at a sufficient rate to meet demands - leaving
many neighbourhoods parched.
A sharp deficit of 3000 megawatts of electricity adds to the woes of
residents, who have to rely on neighbourhood generators to light up
their lives and heat their homes.
"Sewerage, water and electricity are our three main problems," said
Many of these problems date back to the Saddam Hussein regime when
not enough attention was paid to basic infrastructure, he said, and
insurgency, sectarian violence and vandalism since the US-led
invasion in March 2003 had further ravaged services in the capital.
More positively, he said, the extensive Baghdad security plan, known
as Operation Fardh al-Qanoon (Imposing Law) and launched on February
14 last year, was allowing services to be gradually restored.
"After the destruction, there is now the reconstruction," Mr Sheikhly
said. "We have solved many of the security problems; now we can focus
Education and health across Iraq had both seen improvements,
according to US military commander Brigadier-General Jeffrey Dorko of
the US Gulf Regional Division, which is engaged in reconstruction
Brig-Gen Dorko said 76 new health clinics - 21 of them in Baghdad -
had been built while 1885 new schools had been constructed
countrywide and another 1604 repaired.
He said the demand for electricity was likely to outstrip supply for
several years because many Iraqi power stations had been damaged or
destroyed and commissioning new ones would take anything up to four
Lees verder: http://www.democraticunderground.com/discuss/duboard.php?az=view_all&address=102x3167753
by Jonathan S. Landay
WASHINGTON — Islamic insurgents are expanding their numbers and reach in Afghanistan and Pakistan, spreading violence and disarray over a vast cross-border zone where al Qaida has rebuilt the sanctuary it lost when the United States invaded Afghanistan after the 9/11 attacks.
There is little in the short term that the Bush administration or its allies can do to halt the bloodshed, which is spreading toward Pakistan’s heartland and threatening to destabilize the U.S.-backed governments in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
In Afghanistan, U.S. and NATO forces are facing “a classic growing insurgency,” Adm. Michael Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Friday.
But the U.S. military, stretched thin by the war in Iraq, is hard-pressed to send more than the 3,200 additional Marines the Bush administration is dispatching to Afghanistan. The growing insurgency there is fueling rifts within the NATO alliance as Germany and other nations refuse to allow their troops to participate in offensive operations in Afghanistan. The Afghan army is making progress but still cannot operate independently.
“Make no mistake, NATO is not winning in Afghanistan,” warned an Atlantic Council of the United States report last week. The report was directed by retired Marine Corps Gen. James Jones, the former top NATO commander. “What is happening in Afghanistan and beyond its borders can have even greater strategic long-term consequences than the struggle in Iraq.”
In Pakistan, the army, trained for conventional warfare against India, has declined to send major forces into battle against the Islamists, fearful that heavy casualties could unhinge the military along ethnic and sectarian lines. The U.S. and its allies can do little more than help train some Pakistani troops because a major U.S. military role in Pakistan would further enrage a population that’s already seething with anti-government and anti-U.S. rage.
The threat of terrorist attacks in Afghanistan, Pakistan and the West by jihadis indoctrinated and trained in the frontier zone is now higher than ever.
“The Taliban in Afghanistan now control more of the country than at any time since 2001, and their confederates in the tribal areas of Pakistan are expanding their operations almost day by day. While our attention has been diverted by Iraq, we’ve overlooked a potentially far more serious threat to the security of all Americans,” Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Joseph Biden, D-Del., told McClatchy.
There’s no hard evidence of direct collusion between the Afghan Taliban and a new Pakistani Taliban alliance, both of which are made up mostly of Pashtun tribesmen, who dominate the region of soaring mountains and rugged deserts that span the frontier. Indeed, the Afghan Taliban deny links with the Pakistani insurgents.'
'Tomgram: William Astore, In the Military We Trust
Hardly a week passes in which we don't hear about what the fallout from two disastrous wars is doing to the overextended, overstrained U.S. military, not to speak of the problems the armed forces are facing in retaining and recruiting members. Recently, there have been reports on a startling rise in war-related suicides, figures that "could push the Army's overall suicide rate to its highest level since [it] began keeping such records in 1980"; on a possible link between the concussions one in six American combat troops suffer from roadside bombs in Iraq and a heightened risk of developing post-traumatic stress disorder or a variety of other ailments; on another lowering of recruitment standards ("th! e percentage of new recruits entering the Army with a high school diploma dropped to a new low in 2007…"); on increasingly over-deployed, ill-equipped, ill-prepared Reserve and National Guard units that may be incapable of coping with future domestic crises ("Guard readiness has continued to slide since last March, when the panel found that 88 percent of Army National Guard units were rated 'not ready…'"); and on the ever more slippery slope downhill in the "forgotten war" in Afghanistan. This is certainly one aspect of the U.S. military equation -- the one readers at Tomdispatch are most likely to hear about.
But there is another aspect to this -- and it's important. Retired U.S. Air Force Lieutenant Colonel William Astore last wrote for this site on military officials and right-wing politicians who were preparing their own exit strategies from Iraq in the form of stab-in-the-back theories. Now, he makes clear how striking it is that, under the most demanding of conditions, volunteers still arrive at military recruitment offices in surprising numbers; and, no less significantly, that Americans still trust their military above all other institutions in this society. Consider his canny analysis of what to make of this below.
The Tenacity of American Militarism
What Progressives and Other Critics Don't Get about the U.S. MilitaryBy William J. Astore
Recent polls suggest that Americans trust the military roughly three times as much as the president and five times as much as their elected representatives in Congress. The tenacity of this trust is both striking and disturbing. It's striking because it comes despite widespread media coverage of prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib, the friendly-fire cover-up in the case of Pat Tillman's death, and alleged retribution killings by Marines at Haditha. It's disturbing because our country is founded on civilian control of the military. It's debatable whether our less-than-resolute civilian leaders can now exercise the necessary level of oversight of the military and the Pentagon when they are distrusted by so many Americans.
What explains the military's enduring appeal in our society? Certainly, some of this appeal is obvious. Americans have generally been a patriotic bunch. "Supporting our troops" seems an obvious place to go. After all, many of them volunteered to put themselves in harm's way to protect our liberties and to avenge the terror attacks of September 11, 2001. For this, they receive pay and benefits that might best be described as modest. Trusting them -- granting them a measure of confidence -- seems the least that could be offered.
Before addressing two other sources of the military's appeal that are little understood, at least by left-leaning audiences, let's consider for a second the traditional liberal/progressive critique. It often begins by citing the insidious influence of Eisenhower's "military-industrial complex," throwing in for good measure terms like "atrocity," "imperialist," "reactionary," and similar pejoratives. But what's interesting here is that this is often where their critique also ends. The military and its influence are considered so tainted, so baneful that within progressive circles there's a collective wringing of hands, even a reflexive turning of backs, as if our military were truly from Mars or perhaps drawn from the nether regions where Moorlocks shamble and grunt in barbarian darkness.
If you want to change anything -- even our increasing propensity for militarism -- you first have to make an effort to engage with it. And to engage with it, you have to know the wellsprings of its appeal, which transcend corporate profits or imperial power.'
By Raymond Whitaker
The Independent UK
A spate of reports in the past week has warned that Afghanistan risks becoming a "failed state" and that there will be a "humanitarian disaster" unless aid and military efforts are better co-ordinated.
Not only are there public disagreements in Nato over military strategy, but Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai is ever more reluctant to co-operate with certain Western nations.
Britain is smarting after Mr Karzai vetoed Lord Ashdown's appointment and criticised the performance of UK troops in Helmand.
Remarks by the US Defence Secretary, Robert Gates, who said other Nato members were less skilled in counter-insurgency, caused fury in Britain and Canada, which is threatening to pull out its troops if reinforcements are not provided.
A demand by Mr Gates that Germany should move troops to the combat zone in southern Afghanistan was leaked last week, causing another furore.
The divisions are likely to be further exposed at a meeting of Nato defence ministers later this week in the Lithuanian capital, Vilnius, and are unlikely to be resolved ahead of the Nato summit in Romania in April.
While agreeing that the military effort needs to be part of an overall political and development strategy, many Nato members believe US policy remains over-reliant on the use of force. "There is still a transatlantic divide about what should be done and the means to do it," said Paul Smyth, of the Royal United Services Institute.
"There are not going to be more troops in Afghanistan: commanders will have to work out how to do more with the forces they have," he said.'
'Germany Rejects US Demand To Increase Afghan Deployment
By Tony Paterson
The Independent UK
Germany currently has some 3,200 soldiers stationed in comparatively tranquil northern Afghanistan and the capital Kabul as part of the current Nato peacekeeping mission. It has been urged to deploy troops in the south before but has consistently refused. Yesterday however, it became clear that Washington had stepped up pressure on Berlin to commit troops to the south.'
Lees verder: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/europe/germany-rejects-us-demand-to-increase-afghan-deployment-777239.html
By Richard A. Clarke
The Philadelphia Inquirer
When I left the Bush administration in 2003, it was clear to me that its strategy for defeating terrorism was leaving our nation more vulnerable and our people in a perilous place. Not only did its policies misappropriate resources, weaken the moral standing of America, and threaten long-standing legal and constitutional provisions, but the president also employed misleading and reckless rhetoric to perpetuate his agenda.
This week's State of the Union proved nothing has changed.
Besides overstating successes in Afghanistan, painting a rosy future for Iraq, and touting unfinished domestic objectives, he again used his favorite tactic - fear - as a tool to scare Congress and the American people. On one issue in particular - FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) - the president misconstrued the truth and manipulated the facts.
Let me be clear: Our ability to track and monitor terrorists overseas would not cease should the Protect America Act expire. If this were true, the president would not threaten to terminate any temporary extension with his veto pen. All surveillance currently occurring would continue even after legislative provisions lapsed because authorizations issued under the act are in effect up to a full year.
Simply put, it was wrong for the president to suggest that warrants issued in compliance with FISA would suddenly evaporate with congressional inaction. Instead - even though Congress extended the Protect America Act by two weeks - he is using the existence of the sunset provision to cast his political opponents in a negative light.
For this president, fear is an easier political tactic than compromise. With FISA, he is attempting to rattle Congress into hastily expanding his own executive powers at the expense of civil liberties and constitutional protections.
I spent most of my career in government fighting to protect this country in order to defend these very rights. And I know every member of Congress - whether Democrat or Republican - holds public office in the same pursuit.
That is why in 2001, I presented this president with a comprehensive analysis regarding the threat from al-Qaeda. It was obvious to me then - and remains a fateful reality now - that this enemy sought to attack our country. Then, the president ignored the warnings and played down the threats. Ironically, it is the fear from these extremely real threats that the president today uses as a wedge in a vast and partisan political game. This is - and has been - a very reckless way to pursue the very ominous dangers our country faces. And once again, during the current debate over FISA, he continues to place political objectives above the practical steps needed to defeat this threat.'
zondag 3 februari 2008
Israël dat al tientallen jaren Palestijns gebied bezet houdt. Israël dat de Palestijnse burgerbevolking onderwerpt aan een militair regiem dat gepaard gaat met grove schendingen van de mensenrechten en dat het leven van de gewone Palestijnse burgers al decennia lang volledig ontwricht.
Israël dat zich het recht toekent zijn tegenstanders zonder enige vorm van proces te liquideren en dat er niet voor terugdeinst zijn vernietigende militaire kracht los te laten op de bevolking van zijn buurlanden, zoals in Libanon in 2006.
Het conflict tussen Israël en Palestina betreft niet een strijd tussen gelijkwaardige partijen. Israël is in militair en economisch opzicht oneindig veel sterker dan het opgedeelde en vertrapte Palestina.
Israël heeft zich de laatste jaren ontwikkeld tot één van de belangrijkste leveranciers van wapentuig in de wereld, tot één grote bedrijfstak in diensten en producten op het gebied van bewaking en beveiliging. Tot in alle hoeken van de wereld worden Israëlische capaciteit en deskundigheid op dit gebied ingezet. Dit rapport geeft daarvan voorbeelden.
Het voortduren van het conflict tussen Israël en Palestina staat ook de oplossing van andere brandhaarden in de wereld in de weg. De consequenties van de voortdurende bezetting van Palestijns gebied reiken tot in de steden en straten van ons land.
Desondanks kijkt Nederland weg als het gaat om de handel met Israël in wapens en andere strijdmiddelen. Nederland ondersteunt daarmee feitelijk de Israëlische bezetting en annexatiepolitiek. Nederland, dat zo graag de kampioen ‘internationaal recht’ wil zijn, is daarmee blijkbaar bereid de ernstige schendingen door Israël van het internationale (humanitaire) recht door de vingers te zien.
Wat is het dat Nederland het internationale recht en zijn eigen officiële (export)beleid doet ontwijken als het om Israël gaat? Wat maakt dat Israël er bij voortduring in slaagt politici en media te overtuigen dat het de zwakste partij is, dat het vecht ‘om niet in zee te worden gedreven’? Ongetwijfeld lift Israël mee op de ‘war on terror’. Maar ook al lang voor het aan de macht komen van Hamas kon Israël de wereld meekrijgen in de opvatting dat er aan Palestijnse kant geen ‘partner for peace’ was.
Welke dieperliggende emotionele of religieuze redenen er ook ten grondslag liggen aan de speciale positie van Israël, het uiteindelijke belang van Palestijnen èn Israëli’s ligt in het bereiken van een duurzame en rechtvaardige vrede, van een volwaardig bestaansrecht voor beide volken. De sleutel van de oplossing van het conflict ligt in het beëindigen van de bezetting en annexatie van Palestijns gebied. Die oplossing kan niet worden bereikt zonder actieve betrokkenheid van buitenaf.
Echte vrienden van Israël en zij die het internationale recht een warm hart toedragen behandelen Israël daarom als elk ander land en houden het aan de regels van de internationale rechtsorde.
Dit rapport van de Campagne tegen Wapenhandel is een opwekking aan onze politici om zich in te zetten voor een heuse en actieve vredespolitiek in het Midden-Oosten. Nederland en Europa hebben daartoe de middelen als belangrijke (handels- en verdrags)partners van Israël. Laat de ‘civil society’ onze politici en de bestuurders confronteren met de feiten uit dit rapport. De beëindiging van het gedoogbeleid als het gaat om de militaire samenwerking met Israël is een concrete stap in de goede richting.
Max Wieselmann, voorzitter van Een Ander Joods Geluid.'