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Showing posts from October, 2008

Palin = liability

As election-day in the US draws nearer the polls continue to come in on a daily basis. Obama leads in every one in varying degrees but the latest NY Times / CBS Poll is interesting because of the result on the choice of Sarah Palin as VP candidate to John McCain

The IHT reports in "Palin weighs down ticket, poll finds":

"A growing number of voters have concluded that Senator John McCain's running mate, Governor Sarah Palin, is unqualified to be president, weighing down the Republican ticket in the closing stages of the campaign, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll.

The poll shows that 59 percent of voters believe Palin is unqualified to be vice president - up nine points from a week earlier. Fully a third of voters said that the vice-presidential selection would be a major factor in their vote for president - much more than have said so in past elections - and those voters broke overwhelmingly in favor of Senator Barack Obama of Illinois.

In another…

The Lowest McCain Has Sunk Yet

Juan Cole, in a piece republished on Information Clearing House, attacks John McCain in respect of his increasingly sleazy campaign tactics and in particular an attack on Rashid Khalidi.

"McCain's and Palin's attacks on Khalidi are frankly racist. He is a distinguished scholar, and the only objectionable thing about him from a rightwing point of view is that he is a Palestinian. There are about 9 million Palestinians in the world (a million or so are Israeli citizens; 3.7 million are stateless and without rights under Israeli control in the West Bank and Gaza; and 4 million are refugees or exiled in the diaspora; there are about 200,000 Palestinian-Americans, and several million Arab-Americans, many living in swing vote states). Khalidi was not, as the schlock rightwing press charges, a spokesman for the Palestine Liberation Organization. He was an adviser at the Madrid peace talks, but would that not have been, like, a good thing?

Much of the assault on Khalidi comes from …

Virtual JFK: The 44th President’s Foreign Policy Challenge

With only a few days to go in the US presidential election - perhaps, then, a more normal life will return and the media focus on other things going on in the world - a piece "Virtual JFK: The 44th President’s Foreign Policy Challenge" on truthdig.com by James G. Blight and Janet M. Lang assesses the foreign policy challenges the new president will face:

"After the Nov. 4 election the new U.S. president, either Barack Obama or John McCain, will face a bewildering array of dangerous foreign policy crises. To have any chance at successfully managing these crises, the new president must bring two qualities to the job, both of which are reversals from the norm established during the administration of George W. Bush: (a) skepticism about the utility of military solutions to political problems; and (b) the willingness and the ability to inform and instruct the American people as to why, as Churchill once put it, “to jaw-jaw is better than war-war.”

The historical precedent for …

How we fuel Africa's bloodiest war

Africa is not on the media's radar very often. Oh yes, we read and hear about Zimbabwe and all its travails, or AIDS on the continent, or Dafur from time to time, but otherwise Africa just doesn't rate much coverage.

John Hari, writing in The Independent "How we fuel Africa's bloodiest war" reports on a disaster evolving in the Congo:

"The deadliest war since Adolf Hitler marched across Europe is starting again – and you are almost certainly carrying a blood-soaked chunk of the slaughter in your pocket. When we glance at the holocaust in Congo, with 5.4 million dead, the clichés of Africa reporting tumble out: this is a "tribal conflict" in "the Heart of Darkness". It isn't. The United Nations investigation found it was a war led by "armies of business" to seize the metals that make our 21st-century society zing and bling. The war in Congo is a war about you."

And:

"There are two stories about how this war began – th…

Press Freedom in the US. Oh Yeah?

It will probably surprise some, but the decision is in. The USA, despite its First Amendment, ranks poorly in press freedom. Who says? Reporters Without Borders.

The Huffington Post reports in "Is America Still a Beacon for Press Freedom?":

"The United States of America -- land of the free, home of the First Amendment -- is supposed to be a beacon for the rest of the world. So where do we stand in the latest global rankings of press freedom?

Thirty-sixth.

That's not a typo. It's a national disgrace.

The Press Freedom Index released last week by Reporters Without Borders reflects both the freedoms journalists enjoy as well as the "efforts made by the authorities to respect and ensure respect for this freedom."

The annual rankings examine the way that financial pressures lead to self-censorship in the press, government abuses of the press, as well as murders, imprisonment and physical abuse of journalists.

While there are currently no jailed journalists…

Beware! We're headed for an eco 'crunch'

As if the turmoil on financial markets around the world wasn't bad enough - with the attendant upheaval for the economies of most countries globe-wide - now BBC News reports on a warning that the world is confronted by what is described by the authors of a report, released today, as an ecological "credit crunch":

"The planet is headed for an ecological "credit crunch", according to a report issued by conservation groups.

The document contends that our demands on natural resources overreach what the Earth can sustain by almost a third.

The Living Planet Report is the work of WWF, the Zoological Society of London and the Global Footprint Network.

It says that more than three quarters of the world's population lives in countries where consumption levels are outstripping environmental renewal.

This makes them "ecological debtors", meaning that they are drawing - and often overdrawing - on the agricultural land, forests, seas and resources of other cou…

The Empty Chair at Gitmo

The whole Gitmo enterprise continues to be both a disgrace and debacle. Witness this piece by Andy Worthington [ a British historian, and the author of 'The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America's Illegal Prison' (published by Pluto Press)] on counterpunch:

"Now here’s a problem that anyone with half a brain could have seen coming. On Monday the second trial by Military Commission at Guantánamo -- in other words, the second US “war crimes” trial since the Second World War, following the underwhelming trial of Salim Hamdan this summer -- opened not with a bang, and not even with a whimper, but with complete silence.

The defendant, Ali Hamza al-Bahlul, a 39-year old Yemeni, is accused of working as al-Qaeda’s “media director” and being a bodyguard for Osama bin Laden. He has, moreover, accepted in pre-trial hearings that he is a member of al-Qaeda, and his prosecution should, therefore, have been an opportunity for the administration to demonst…

How these gibbering numbskulls came to dominate Washington

George Monbiot, writing in Comment is Free in The Guardian asks a question many have pondered for many years now:

"How was it allowed to happen? How did politics in the US come to be dominated by people who make a virtue out of ignorance? Was it charity that has permitted mankind's closest living relative to spend two terms as president? How did Sarah Palin, Dan Quayle and other such gibbering numbskulls get to where they are? How could Republican rallies in 2008 be drowned out by screaming ignoramuses insisting that Barack Obama was a Muslim and a terrorist?

Like most people on my side of the Atlantic, I have for many years been mystified by American politics. The US has the world's best universities and attracts the world's finest minds. It dominates discoveries in science and medicine. Its wealth and power depend on the application of knowledge. Yet, uniquely among the developed nations (with the possible exception of Australia), learning is a grave political disadva…

Sarah the Diva, Looking Past John the Runner-Up

Oh dear! Palin seems to be a true maverick! Some would say she is a now a rogue element in the GOP presidential campaign. Whatever, she has is out there and causing waves.

Dana Milbank of The Washington Post reports:

"Add this to the Republicans' lessons learned in 2008: One man's maverick is another man's diva.

John McCain thought he was being clever picking a fellow maverick to be his running mate. The problem with mavericks, however, is that they don't follow instructions. Pretty soon they go rogue and before you know it you've got a full-fledged diva on your hands."

Read the full report here.

A stoning in Somalia

Nicholas Kristof has regularly written in his op-ed pieces in the NY Times on Africa, in particular Somalia and Darfur.

He writes yesterday:

"Since my last column referred to the tragedy unfolding in Somalia — the worst humanitarian crisis in the world right now — the following news item from Reuters today caught my eye:

'Kismayu, Somalia — Somali Islamists have stoned to death a woman accused of adultery in the first such public killing by the militants for about two years.

The 23-year-old woman was executed late on Monday in front of hundreds of people in the southern port of Kismayu, which the Islamist insurgents captured in August, witnesses said. Guards opened fire when a relative ran forward, killing a child, they said.

“A woman in green veil and black mask was brought in a car as we waited to watch the merciless act of stoning,” one local resident, Abdullahi Aden, told Reuters. “We were told she submitted herself to be punished, yet we could see her screaming as she was for…

It's barbaric, wrong, unfair and unjust

This piece in the Miami Herald is worth reading by anyone who has followed the case of Troy Davis and who favours capital punishment:

"This is a rewrite.

In the column originally prepared for this space, I said that Troy Davis was scheduled to die Monday -- to be killed, actually, by an executioner for the state of Georgia.

But -- stop the presses! -- that's no longer accurate. On Monday, Davis, 40, will still be alive. Or at least, he won't be dead because of anything the state did. That's because on Friday, an appeals court granted him a stay.

This is Davis' third stay, his third hairsbreadth escape from execution. If there is any justice, it will be his last. Meaning not that he will be killed, but that he won't, that the state of Georgia will finally come to its senses."

Read on here....and then reflect on whether the execution of Troy Davis ought to proceed and whether capital punishment is really such a good thing in a civilised society.

Newspapers in [deathly?] decline

One might have thought that with an election campaign underway in the US - and such a highly visible one at that - that the circulation of newspapers wouldn't decline. Not so, according to the latest stats as revealed by Editor and Publisher:

"For those holding out for some improvement in print circulation, this morning brings disappointment. The Audit Bureau of Circulations released the latest figures for the six- month period ending September 2008 and the report shows major drops in circulation at the big metros.

According to ABC for the 507 newspapers reporting in this period, daily circulation slipped 4.6% to 38,165,848 copies. For the 571 papers, Sunday dropped 4.8% to 43,631,646 copies.

For comparison purposes, in September 2007 reporting period, daily circ fell 2.6% and Sunday was down 4.6%.

Across the country, publishers have put in place plans to cater to core readers and subscribers. It's too expensive to bulk up circulation in unprofitable areas such as third-pa…

Iraq: The Final Debacle

The whole Iraq venture was a disaster waiting to happen from inception. All those who agitated for what became Shock and Awe and the Iraq War simply got it wrong - and that's ignoring the Big Lie that was used to justify the whole escapade. If the Coalition of the Willing thought that things might turn out for the good in the end, the latest news out of Iraq in relation to an agreement between the US and Iraq suggests that that, too, is a debacle.

On line Asia Times reports:

"The final draft of the United States-Iraq Status of Forces agreement on the US military presence represents an even more crushing defeat for the policy of the George W Bush administration than previously thought, the final text reveals.

The final draft, dated October 13, not only imposes unambiguous deadlines for withdrawal of US combat troops by 2011, but makes it extremely unlikely that a US non-combat presence will be allowed to remain in Iraq for training and support purposes beyond the 2011 dea…

An opportunity [or at least a chance!] missed

The Indpendent'sLeading Article puts it succinctly:

"For much of the past year, the state of Israel, while marking 60 years of its existence, has been in a state of stasis. Mired in allegations of corruption, Prime Minister EhudOlmert has let matters drift, with depressing consequences for the comatose peace process with the Palestinians.

For those who observed this with despair, the only hope was that the new leader of Mr Olmert'sKadima Party, TzipiLivni, might inject a new sense of purpose into government after Mr Olmert steps down. But now her chances of becoming Israel's second woman prime minister after Golda Meir are fading. Having failed to cobble together a coalition, she has been forced to ask the President to call early elections, which she is likely to lose. Ms Livni was no dream partner for the neglected and mistreated moderates of Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah movement. The daughter of Zionist zealots, she might well have carried the hardline anti-Arab views sh…

"We Sold Our Souls to the Devil"

It is hard to believe that anyone will ever take the credit-rating agencies seriously. The revelations of how the agencies saw what was coming on Wall St. as exposed last week at a US Congressional hearing are shocking, as well as highlighting the disgraceful behaviour of these companies.

Mother Jones in a piece "We Sold Our Souls to the Devil" reports:

"For years, credit rating agencies—the referees of Wall Street—insisted they were an impartial source of information, despite their financial reliance on the companies they rated. Then came the market meltdown—and a chorus of accusations that firms had artificially inflated their risk ratings to please their clients and gain a competitive edge. And now there's plenty of evidence to suggest the "referees" were unduly influenced by the players.

According to internal documents released at a congressional hearing Tuesday, while rating agencies strenuously defended their independence publicly, some of their top …

Waiting for the Curtain to Rise

Alexander Cockburn, writing on Counterpunch in "Waiting for the Curtain to Rise", reflects on the challenges to a President Obama in the first 6 months of his presidency:

"So what happened to the Bush/Cheney pre-election attack on Iran? It’s like everything else. You think you have months. You put it on one side, in the “things to be done tomorrow” pile. Suddenly it’s a matter of weeks, then days. Then the moment just slips away. The father of one of my neighbors here in Petrolia had been a captain in the Wehrmacht and fought at Stalingrad. He’s dead now but a few years ago my brother Andrew once asked him, “Captain, what happened at Stalingrad?” “Vell, Andrew, the Fuehrer wanted to avoid casualties. Und then the equipment was running out. A tank here, a tank there. Und then..then it was too late!”

I guess Bush and Cheney are too busy working on the pardons to have time for anything else like an attack on Iran. . But don’t fret. Joe Biden hints that he and Obama are worki…

Nuts...and dangerous!

Shake your head at what the Right is disseminating out there on presidential candidate Obama.

From The New Yorker:

"A roundup (via Andrew Sullivan) of conservative anti-Obama blogging during the election. Much of it has appeared on popular right-wing Web sites, including National Review Online, disclosing the “news” that Bill Ayers wrote “Dreams from My Father,” Obama was involved in domestic terrorism during the South Africa divestment campaign of the early 1980s, Michelle Obama used the word “whitey” in recorded conversation with Louis Farrakhan, Obama has had a female lover as well as a gay lover with a criminal record, he was fed answers during the first debate via a clear plastic device in his ear, and his birth certificate was forged, casting doubt on his citizenship (which is why he’s now in Hawaii—to preserve the cover-up, not to visit his very ill grandmother).

Wading for a few minutes through the sewage of these Web sites reminds me uncannily of the time I’ve spent having …

Whose hoity-toity here?

"The Republicans’ attempt to make the case that Barack Obama is hoity-toity and they’re hoi polloi has fallen under the sheer weight of the stunning numbers:

The McCains own 13 cars, eight homes and access to a corporate jet, and Cindy had her Marie Antoinette moment at the convention. Vanity Fair calculated that her outfit cost $300,000, with three-carat diamond earrings worth $280,000, an Oscar de la Renta dress valued at $3,000, a Chanel white ceramic watch clocking in at $4,500 and a four-strand pearl necklace worth between $11,000 and $25,000. While presenting herself as an I’m-just-like-you hockey mom frugal enough to put the Alaska state plane up for sale on eBay, Palin made her big speech at the convention wearing a $2,500 cream silk Valentino jacket that the McCain staff had gotten her at Saks."

Maureen O'Dowd in her Sunday op-ed column in the NY Times unloads on Sarah Palin, that US$150,000 expenditure on clothing for Palin, the GOP and its misguided behaviour.

The Great Firewall in Oz?

It will come as a surprise to many to read that of all countries Australia intends to follow in the footsteps of China and other like-minded regimes in seeking to filter the internet - as BBC News reports:

"Is the Rudd government about to erect a Great Firewall of Australia - introducing a form of internet censorship that will infringe upon the freedom of computer users to browse the worldwide web?

That is the concern of online civil liberties groups, as the Rudd government prepares plans for a field trial of internet service provider (ISP) filtering products, with a view to introducing them nationally.

ISP filtering is the blocking of certain sites which the government deems illegal or inappropriate, and is the central plank of the Rudd government's "Plan for Cyber-Safety".

The official watchdog, the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has been conducting laboratory tests of six filtering products, and the government plans a live trial soon."

Negativity condemned

As the news reports that Sarah Palin, with a wink and nod, would not answer whether those who bomb abortion clinics are terrorists, The Nation reports:

"A group of top American communication professors have crafted and signed a statement calling on the McCain campaign, primarily, to stop its negative campaigning. “The purposeful dissemination of messages that a communicator knows to be false and inflammatory is unethical. It is that simple,” the statement says."

Read the Statement here.

Getting clobbered

As the effects of what has been known as the financial crisis spills over into the general economies of countries around the world, it is easy to forget that the less well-off are the ones being clobbered and losing out on a variety of levels.

The paradox is that the so-called wealthy country, America, is seeing even greater gaps between the wealthy and the poor - and years of neglect in spending on infrastructure, health-care and general welfare for its citizens now becoming even more evident.

How the less-well off are being overlooked is the subject of Bob Herbert's thoughtful op-ed piece "Crises on Many Fronts" in the NY Times:

"The closer you look at the current economic crisis, the more harrowing it becomes.

The focus in the presidential campaign has been almost entirely on the struggles faced by the middle class — on families worried about their jobs, their mortgages, their retirement accounts and how to pay for college for their kids.

Each nauseating plunge in …

Desperate....and stupid!

"Terrorist strikes on four American cities. Russia rolling into Eastern Europe. Israel hit by a nuclear bomb. Gay marriage in every state. The end of the Boy Scouts.

All are plausible scenarios if Democrat Barack Obama is elected president, according to a new addition to the campaign conversation called "Letter from 2012 in Obama's America," produced by the conservative Christian group Focus on the Family Action.

The imagined look into the future is part of an escalation in rhetoric from Christian right activists who are trying to paint Obama in the worst possible terms as the campaign heads into the final stretch and polls show the Democrat ahead.

Although hard-edge attacks are common late in campaigns, the tenor of the strikes against Obama illustrate just how worried conservative Christian activists are about what should happen to their causes and influence if Democrats seize control of both Congress and the White House."

Eh? You gotta be kidding! Nope! The…

Predictable: Shoot the Messenger

It what has become so predictable, the Israelis have mounted a personal attack on the integrity of the UN General Assembly's special rapporteur following his report on human rights in the Palestinian Occupied Territories. No less predictable, is that there is no response to the actual findings.

Until the world wakes up that the totally intolerable situation in the occupied territories must cease, there will not even be a prospect of peace in the region and in the wider world in relation to Islamic militants.

BBC News reports:

"Palestinian human rights have been abused throughout 40 years of Israeli occupation, according to the UN General Assembly's special rapporteur on human rights in the Palestinian Occupied Territories.

In a report to the UN General Assembly in New York, Richard Falk said Israel's occupation - of East Jerusalem, the West Bank and, until 2005, the Gaza Strip - possessed characteristics of colonialism and apartheid.

Israel has rejected the repo…

Iran is Job #1

The presidential campaign in the US grinds on and McCain appears more desperate each day as he lashes out at Obama. He is now almost calling him a socialist. All too sadly apart from Americans being so insular and ignorant of the world outside their own borders, the severe downturn in the US economy seems be dominating the electioneering. And then there is that other "distraction" Sarah Palin.

Roger Cohen, writing his op-ed piece in the NY Times [and IHT] reflects on how resolving the issue of Iran ought to be America's number one job:

"Until he retired from the State Department earlier this year, Nicholas Burns was, as under secretary of state for political affairs, the lead U.S. negotiator on Iran.

And how many times, during his three years in this role, did he meet with an Iranian?

Not once.

Burns wasn’t allowed to. His presence was supposed to be the reward if the Iranians suspended uranium enrichment and sat down at the table.

Burns, now 52, joined the State …

From Bad to Wretched

Nothing new, but the situation in Gaza and the West Bank goes from extremely bad to wretched.

The Atlantic Free Press reports:

"The numbers are grim, whether in the West Bank or the Gaza Strip. The Palestinian economy is in one of its most wretched states, and the disaster is mostly, if not entirely manmade, thus reversible.

The World Bank made no secret of the fact that Israeli restrictions are largely to blame, as poverty rates in the Gaza Strip and West Bank have soared to 79.4 per cent and 45.7 per cent respectively. It concluded: "With a growing population and a shrinking economy, real per capita GDP is now 30 per cent below its height in 1999." "With due regard to Israel's security concerns, there is consensus on the paralytic effect of the current physical obstacles placed on the Palestinian economy," it added.

With a declining economy, lack of developmental projects and Israeli restrictions, Palestinians are increasingly reliant on foreign aid, which …

Freedom of Speech v odious Holocaust Denier

There can be little doubt that Holocaust deniers or those who seek to revise "history" in relation to the Holocaust are to be treated with contempt. They are bigots, racists, often plain dumb and obsessed about the position they have taken despite the overwhelming evidence showing they are plain wrong.

This op-ed piece by Chris Huhne, the Liberal Democrat Party's home affairs spokesman, in The Independent considers the case of Australian Frederick Toben and the EU's policies with regard to Holocaust denial:

"The case of the odious Holocaust-denier Dr Frederick Toben is destined to become a cause célèbre precisely because such hard cases test fundamental liberal principles. "I disapprove of what you say," said Voltaire, "but I will defend to the death your right to say it." This is my position on Dr Toben.

Dr Toben's views about the Holocaust are offensive, ugly and wrong. But freedom of speech is the cornerstone of liberal democracy witho…

Following the money-trail

Marc Faber, of the Gloom, Boom and Doom Report fame, concludes his monthly bulletin with this:

“The government is sending each of us a $600 rebate. If we spend that money at Wal Mart, the money goes to China. If we spend it on gasoline it goes to the Arabs. If we buy a computer it will go to India. If we purchase fruit and vegetables it will go to Mexico, Honduras and Guatemala. If we purchase a good car it will go to Germany. If we purchase useless crap it will go to Taiwan and none of it will help the American economy. The only way to keep that money here at home is to spend it on prostitutes and beer, since these are the only products still produced in US. I’ve been doing my part”.

Mmmm!!!!

That Surge in Iraq: Successful or Not?

CommonDreams has a piece "Iraq: Did the Surge Work?" by George Hunsinger in which he analyses the so-called Surge in Iraq - and whether, notwithstanding what the US pr machine has said, it was successful or not.

"According to UN reports, the number of Iraqi refugees has spiked during the Surge. Between 2.5 and 4 million are now estimated to exist outside their country, while another 2.5 are internal refugees. At least 2 million Sunni refugees cannot return to their homes without fear of being slaughtered.

People's lives remain shattered. One in four has had a family member who was murdered. "The humanitarian situation in most of the country remains among the most critical in the world," according to the Iraqi Red Cross/Red Crescent. Iraq's health care system is "now in worse shape than ever."

Unemployment remains high, sanitation and electrical facilities remain degraded, families use up to a third of their monthly income to buy drinking water. …

The Cost of Democracy

From Harper's Magazine:

"The Cost of Democracy

Gross National Product:

Malta: $5.49 billion

Madagascar: $5.37 billion

Cambodia: $5.34 billion

Spending on Fall 2008 U.S. Elections: $5.3 billion

Burkina Faso: $5.24 billion

Mali: $5.12 billion

Nicaragua: $4.97 billion

Bahamas: $4.92 billion".

The Tone of the Presidential Race

Keith Olbermann discusses the tone of the presidential race and excoriates Sarah Palin for her description of "real America." Olbermann also examines the racism behind negative right-wing attacks on Colin Powell for his endorsement of Barack Obama.

Watch the video clip, on truthout.orghere.

Iraq / USA: "We Have to Share This Pain"

"Evan Knappenberger served one year in Iraq with the Army 4th Infantry Division working as an intelligence analyst. "We are responsible as soldiers, we are murderers of over one million Iraqis," a visibly shaken Knappenberger said. "I participated in burglary, trespassing, knowledgeable negligence, criminal assault and battery, rape by association, and gangsterism, I am standing here today as a criminal -- in a sense of the word that only someone who has worn the uniform can understand."

"While I was in Iraq, I did many things, but nothing for freedom," he added. "We've lost this war on the polemic battleground of semantics. By naming arbitrary rules of engagement, we rationalised murder -- this I witnessed...by calling it liberation, we justified occupation, this I witnessed..."

Knappenberger was just one of many veterans who have returned from duty in Iraq to speak at a continuation of the "Winter Soldier" hearings held in S…

A US$150,000 make-over for Palin

One has to wonder what contributors to the GOP presidential campaign make of this report in Politico- that the GOP spent some US$150,000 on clothing, make-up and accessories for VP candidate Sarah Palin. And in these tough times!!!

"The Republican National Committee paid more than $150,000 for clothing, makeup and accessories in September that apparently went to Governor Sarah Palin and her family, according to the journal Politico, which cited expenditures listed on the RNC's monthly financial disclosure forms.

The amount included $9,447.71 to Macy's department store, $789.72 to Barneys New York, $5,102.71 to Bloomingdales, $49,425.74 to Saks Fifth Avenue and $4,902.45 to Atelier, a high-end men's store. And $75,062.63 was spent during a shopping trip in early September at the Neiman Marcus department store in Minneapolis, where Palin spoke at the Republican National Convention in what was effectively her national introduction.

The RNC expenditure forms also documen…

A Matter of Life and Debt

The ramifications of the global financial upheaval cannot be ignored and continue in all sorts of ways - from people losing their homes and jobs to businesses going out business to less money being available to communities to spend on health, welfare and education.

Margaret Atwood in an op-ed piece in the NY Times tries to put things into some context:

"This week, credit has begun to loosen, stock markets have been encouraged enough to reclaim lost ground (at least for now) and there is a collective sigh of hope that lenders will begin to trust in the financial system again.

But we’re deluding ourselves if we assume that we can recover from the crisis of 2008 so quickly and easily simply by watching the Dow creep upward. The wounds go deeper than that. To heal them, we must repair the broken moral balance that let this chaos loose.

Debt — who owes what to whom, or to what, and how that debt gets paid — is a subject much larger than money. It has to do with our basic sense of fairness…

Turning a Blind Eye to the death of Children

The loss of life in Gaza and the West bank continues - and the world turns a blind eye! One must ask why?

CommonDreams reports on the death of 68 children in the Gaza Strip in the 12 months to June last:

"A prominent Palestinian human rights group says it has found evidence that 68 children were killed in the Gaza Strip in the 12 months to June this year as a result of "disproportionate and excessive lethal force" by the Israeli military.

The deaths are documented, with witness testimony, in a report published today by the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights. Many of the deaths resulted from an Israeli military incursion into Jabaliya, in eastern Gaza, in late February and early March, in which more than 100 Palestinians, at least half of them civilians, died in what Israel said was an operation to stop rockets being fired into southern Israeli towns.

Others were killed in smaller strikes before a ceasefire was reached in June between Gaza's Hamas administration a…

Really "worst of the worst?"

They told us to overlook the abuses because Guantánamo housed “the worst of the worst.” But new statistics prove that the vast majority of prisoners detained there never posed any real risk to America at all.

Ken Ballen and Peter Bergen, writing for FP [Foreign Policy] reflect on the now infamous and condemned Gitmo:

"When a federal judge ordered the release of 17 Guantánamo Bay detainees earlier this month, it was the first real chance in the seven-year history of the prison camp that any of the prisoners might be transferred to the United States. In making his ruling, the judge categorically rejected the Bush administration’s claim that any of the released prisoners, who are all Chinese Muslims, were “enemy combatants” or posed a risk to U.S. security. The decision was temporarily suspended by the appeals court, but the judge was on solid ground.

Controversy over the Bush administration’s policy to detain enemy combatants at Guantánamo has raged since the facility opened in 2002—f…

Getting real on Iran

Rootless Cosmopolitan is a worthwhile reading blog with analysis and commentary by Tony Karon.

"The distinction between the apocalyptic rhetoric Israeli leaders use publicly in relation to Iran, and the more pragmatic view they hold among themselves on how to deal with Tehran and its nuclear program, has long been clear to anyone paying very close attention. In short, it’s clear that many of Israel’s key leaders don’t believe Iran is a suicidal ideologically-crazed regime that would risk destroying itself in order to destroy Israel, and therefore that even a nuclear-armed Iran would not be an “existential threat” to Israel, although clearly it would present a major strategic challenge by fundamentally reordering the balance of military force in the region. And of late, some of them have begun a gingerly but very clear retreat from the idea that Israel will have to bomb Iran’s nuclear facilities if no one else does — President Shimon Peres has said as much, publicly, and outgoing P…

Colin Powell's condemnation

"I'm anything but a fan of Colin Powell, and have no idea what impact (if any) his Meet the Press endorsement of Obama will have (full video is below), but I was really glad to see him make the following point in explaining why he has rejected McCain's candidacy:

'I'm also troubled by, not what Sen. McCain says, but what members of the party say, and it is permitted to be said such things as: "Well, you know that Mr. Obama is a Muslim." Well, the correct answer is: he is not a Muslim. He's a Christian. He's always been a Christian.

But the really right answer is: What if he is? Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country? The answer is: No, that's not America. Is there something wrong with some 7-year-old Muslim-American kid believing he or she can be President?

Yet I have heard senior members of my own party drop the suggestion: he's a Muslim, and he might be associated with terrorists. This is not the way we…

A "stickup"

Naomi Klein, sometimes criticised for her said-to-be Leftist views, is garnering more and more interest as she addresses the current economic crisis sweeping the globe.

insideBayArea.com reports:

"As public anxiety about the teetering economy deepens, author Naomi Klein is gaining listeners with her pronouncements on the failings of American-style capitalism.

"We've been living in a fairy tale" that deregulation and privatization serve the common good, the author of "The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism" said Thursday.

Klein's book paints a dark, troubling picture of a form of capitalism that lets people in power cash in on chaos, catastrophes, wars and financial crises and snatch up lucrative contracts.
Speaking at Stanford University's Kresge Auditorium on Thursday evening as part of the Aurora Forum, Klein minced no words. She insists that deregulating the financial system has created bubbles and busts, and she called the current…

The man who knows too much

He exposed the My Lai massacre, revealed Nixon's secret bombing of Cambodia and has hounded Bush and Cheney over the abuse of prisoners in Abu Ghraib... No wonder the Republicans describe Seymour Hersh as 'the closest thing American journalism has to a terrorist'. Rachel Cooke of The Observer meets the most-feared investigative reporter in Washington.

Read the piece, here, noting this:

"What really gets Hersh going - he seems genuinely bewildered by it - is the complicit meekness, the virtual collapse, in fact, of the American press since 9/11. In particular, he disdains its failure to question the 'evidence' surrounding Saddam's so-called weapons of mass destruction. 'When I see the New York Times now, it's so shocking to me. I joined the Times in 1972, and I came with the mark of Cain on me because I was clearly against the war. But my editor, Abe Rosenthal, he hired me because he liked stories. He used to come to the Washington bureau and almost l…

Oxford & Cambridge Unis: On your ipod!

The march of technology never ceases to amaze.

With iTunes having already garnered a number of universities and lectures and talks provided by them available to be downloaded to an ipod or mp3 player, now Oxford and Cambridge universities - traditional rivals over many centuries - now join the iTune's "campus".

The Guardian reports:

"For 800 years Oxford and Cambridge universities have competed in everything from Nobel prizes to boat races. The academic rivalry runs deep: Oxford has tutored 25 British prime ministers, while Cambridge claims Darwin and Newton as its own. But today the venerable institutions launch into battle on iTunes, taking their ancient competition into the 21st century.

The universities are simultaneously publishing about 450 hours of free audio and video podcasts of lectures, films and admissions guides for people to download to a computer or MP3 player. They will be available from iTunesu, the download provider's university portal, where Amer…

Why I Blog

"For centuries, writers have experimented with forms that evoke the imperfection of thought, the inconstancy of human affairs, and the chastening passage of time. But as blogging evolves as a literary form, it is generating a new and quintessentially postmodern idiom that’s enabling writers to express themselves in ways that have never been seen or understood before. Its truths are provisional, and its ethos collective and messy. Yet the interaction it enables between writer and reader is unprecedented, visceral, and sometimes brutal. And make no mistake: it heralds a golden era for journalism."

Who says so? None other than conservative commentator Andrew Sullivan - who writes for the Atlantic.

Read his piece "Why I Blog" here.

Who Killed Anna Politkovskaya?

7 October last marked the second anniversary of the death of Anna Politkovskaya.

The New York Review of Books has a timely article about a new film "Letter to Anna: The Story of Journalist Politkovskaya’s Death":

"As Eric Bergkraut's moving and forceful film, Letter to Anna: The Story of Journalist Politkovskaya's Death, makes clear, Politkovskaya, a fierce critic of the Kremlin and its policy toward Chechnya, had long been aware that her life was in danger. Bergkraut, a prominent Swiss filmmaker, had interviewed Politkovskaya numerous times while working on Coca: The Dove from Chechnya, his 2005 documentary about the conflict in Chechnya. Letter to Anna uses footage from those interviews to great effect. When she first appears in the film, Anna stares into the camera and says: "Why am I still alive? If I speak seriously about this I would understand it as a miracle. It really is a miracle."

Read the complete piece here. Meanwhile, the IHT reported thi…

5 November, 2008

Charles M Blow writing an op-ed piece in the NY Times:

"I’ve studied the polls and the electoral map for months, and I no longer believe that John McCain can win. Unless Barack Obama slips up, Jeremiah Wright shows up or a serious national security emergency flares up, Obama will become the 44th president of the United States.*

The wayward wizards of Wall Street delivered the election to Obama by pushing the economy to the verge of collapse, forcing leery voters to choose between their pocketbooks and their prejudices. McCain delivered it to Obama with his reckless pick of Sarah Palin. That stunt made everything that followed feel like a stunt, tarnishing McCain’s reputation and damaging his credibility so that when he went negative it backfired. And, some radical rabble among McCain’s supporters delivered it to Obama by mistaking his political rallies for lynch mobs.

This perfect storm of poor judgments has set the stage for an Obama victory. It’s over. Fast forward to Nov. 5.

Presi…

$70bn payout....to failed bankers

Bank and CEO bashing may be the go at the moment, but this report in The Guardian is quite astounding.......some $70 billion is headed as payouts by way of pay deals to failed bankers:

"Financial workers at Wall Street's top banks are to receive pay deals worth more than $70bn (£40bn), a substantial proportion of which is expected to be paid in discretionary bonuses, for their work so far this year - despite plunging the global financial system into its worst crisis since the 1929 stock market crash, the Guardian has learned.

Staff at six banks including Goldman Sachs and Citigroup are in line to pick up the payouts despite being the beneficiaries of a $700bn bail-out from the US government that has already prompted criticism. The government's cash has been poured in on the condition that excessive executive pay would be curbed.

Pay plans for bankers have been disclosed in recent corporate statements. Pressure on the US firms to review preparations for annual bonuses increas…