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Who's fiddling.....and who's burning

Credited ro Cameron [Cam] Cardow

Greece: It's all those little envelopes

That the Greek economy is a basket case is now beyond doubt.

Why? One reason, amongst many, is that so few people pay their full due in taxes. The other is "fakelakia". What? Let Transparency International explain - from their 2009 Report:

"More than 13% of Greeks resorted to giving “ fakelakia” (or little envelopes) in 2008, paying an estimated €750 million [US $950 million] in bribes to public and private officials in 2008, €110 million [US $140 million] more than the previous year, according to the survey (Associated Press, AP).

Yiannis Mavris, head of the Public Issue, the polling firm commissioned by TI Greece to undertake the survey, noted that the amount equates to an “average of 1,450 euros [US $1,850] in bribes per family” (Kathimerini).

The majority of bribes, 60 percent of the total, are “related to doctor's fees, tax evasion and building permits,” said Costas Bakouris, Chair of TI Greece.

Bakouris called on the government, elected in March 2004, to …

White House press corp intimidated [mice?]

Mice is the operative word! Or so Glenn Greenwald would have it in his latest piece on Salon that the White House press corp is intimidated and fearful of taking it on:

"Politico's Josh Gerstein and Patrick Gavin have a long article describing the growing anger of the White House press corps towards the Obama White House. Many of the grievances are petty, though some are serious and substantive (involving lack of transparency and media manipulation), but the passage that I found most revealing is this one:

'Much of the criticism is off the record, both out of fear of retaliation and from worry about appearing whiny. But those views were voiced by a cross section of the television, newspaper and magazine journalists who cover the White House.'

Just think about that for a minute. National political reporters are furious over various White House practices involving transparency and information control, but are unwilling to say so for attribution due to fear of "…

People before Politics

One has to wonder what the world is thinking Here is a sliver of land, Gaza, with some 1.5 million inhabitants, under siege and blockaded by Israel for 3 years now - with all the attendant hardship that has wrought - and the world turns a blind eye to the devastation inflicted on those poor people including a large proportion of children. Where is the humanity and goodwill of people around the world? - let alone a sense and urgency to bring an end to the blockade and bringing Hamas to the negotiating table.

AlterNetreports:

"Israel's siege of occupied Gaza, now approaching its third year, continues to impinge on every human right of the native Palestinian population. Gaza has no real economy due to Israel's blockade of everything from people, money, building materials and even a long list of food items from getting into the area. The effects of the siege are also heightened by Gaza's lack of necessary infrastructure, which Israel recently demolished during its Dec…

Winning the Afghanistan War via Spaghetti Junction?

Is it any wonder that things are going badly in the Afghanistan War?

The madness of PowerPoint as confronted by the US military....

The Australian [from a piece in The Times] reports:

"Winston Churchill knew where the enemy was by looking at the pieces on his "sand-table" mock-up and watching as his staff moved them around to adjust to the latest intelligence.

US General Stanley McChrystal, in charge of the war in Afghanistan, has to peer at a PowerPoint slide that is so complex it makes Spaghetti Junction look like a minor road network.

The latest computer-generated presentation of the security landscape in Afghanistan, delivered in a conference room at the headquarters of the International Security Assistance Force in Kabul, was so tangled in arrows and lines that General McChrystal remarked, to guffaws from the assembled audience: "When we understand that slide, we'll have won the war."

No Greeks bearing gifts here

Credited to Pat Bagley, Salt Lake Tribune

Today's big woops

Er, seems like the Washington Post hasn't discovered the difference between Obama, the US President, and Malcolm X.

Running out of money to run the war

Mark Weisbrot is co-director of the Centre for Economic and Policy Research, in Washington, DC.

Writing in "Beginning of the end for Afghan war?" in The Guardian, he highlights how the Government in Afghanistan simply cannot afford the war in which it is presently engaged. Only problem is that its ally, the US, wants to continue.

"Imagine that the United States were spending an amount that exceeded 60% of its national income on the military and police. (For comparison, the US department of defence budget – bloated as it is – is about 5% of GDP; and spending on police is less than 1% of GDP). Of course the United States would never reach these levels of spending, but it's worth thinking about because any population in this situation would be looking for a way out of the horrific civil conflict that got them there. This would no doubt be true even if foreigners were fronting the money.

And so it is true for the people of Afghanistan, where spending for the army and pol…

How to slant the story...wrongly

From FAIR[Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting]:

"The headline of this Washington Post piece today (4/26/10) is certainly not promising:

Sharing a West Bank Highway Proves a Tall Order for Israel, Palestinians

The highway in question was built by the Israeli government on occupied Palestinian territory. Since 2000, Israeli authorities have barred Palestinians from using the road. They are now offering to open just two on-ramps for use by Palestinians, who would be searched upon entering the road. And the highway would still not provide access to the crucial Palestinian city of Ramallah.

So what would justify the notion that Palestinians, like Israelis, aren't doing their part to "share"? Nothing. This is the only explanation of any sort that the Post's Janine Zacharia offers:

'The debate over Highway 443 illustrates a fundamental rub in the West Bank: If the Israelis and Palestinians can't agree over how to share nine miles of pavement, how will they ever re…

Not so fast! The repercussions from the GFC continue.....everywhere

Those people who believe that with markets going upwards those countries which suffered the GFC, that the worst is over, ought to think again. It's just that it doesn't seem to make headlines unless you are a basket-case like Greece.

Two pieces, from different sources, clearly show all is not well out there.

First, from The Washington Post:

"This 12th-century gem, birthplace of the poet Giacomo Leopardi, rests on a lyrical hilltop in the Apennine Mountains. But these days, Recanati is also sitting on something else: a pile of financial trouble.

Concern over near-bankrupt countries forced Greece on Thursday to request a huge international bailout. The plight here, however, underscores fears of a new front in the battle against global debt -- at the state and local level.

Recanati is one of hundreds of municipalities around the world facing a deepening financial crunch from bad investments, plummeting tax revenue, high debt levels and rampant overspending. In the United S…

Less and less paper for those fish and chips

In the UK old newspapers are used to wrap fish and chips.

The way things are going with the circulation of newspapers - a decided downward trajectory - there won't be many newspapers around in the foreseeable future. Some US cities already have no daily newspaper.

The New York Times, itself with a decreasing readership, reports on the latest, dire circulation figures:

"The reality facing many American newspaper publishers continues to look stark, as figures released Monday show deep circulation declines, with average weekday sales down almost 9 percent since the same time last year.

In the six-month period ending March 31, the Audit Bureau of Circulations reported Sunday sales dropping 6.5 percent and weekday sales 8.7 percent compared with the same six-month period a year ago. The figures are based on reports filed by hundreds of individual papers.

The decline was widespread, as nearly all of the major newspapers and many of the smaller ones lost circulation. Among the 25 large…

Do the Brits have a revolution on their hands?

Politics is a strange game......and probably more so in 2010 as voters are jaded and angry with their elected representatives.

Watching the electioneering unfold in the United Kingdom has been fascinating as a "new" candidate steals the limelight and poses a real threat to the died-in-the-wool established Labour and Conservative parties.

Anne Applebaum on Slate reports on the man everyone has his or her eyes on, Nick Clegg:

"Here is a riddle: What would the Tea Party movement look like if it were British, privately educated, and had once worked as a ski instructor in Austria?

Here is the answer: It would look like Nick Clegg, leader of the British Liberal Democrats—and possibly the beneficiary of the biggest British voters' revolution in decades. For those who don't follow these things, the Liberal Democrats are Britain's historically insignificant third party. In its current incarnation, the party dates from the late 1980s, back when the Labor Party was a near-…

Wall St. needs no sympathy

Obama is attempting to being some sort of order to Wall St. Needless to say the Street doesn't view that favourably - and the GOP is against too much incursions to Wall Street's free-wheeling conduct. One fears that big money and politics will win out.

Paul Krugman, Economic Nobel Prize winner, and op-ed writer for The New York Times, is with Obama all the way. In effect he urges Obama to stick it to 'em.

"Remember the 1987 movie “Wall Street,” in which Gordon Gekko declared: Greed is good? By today’s standards, Gekko was a piker. In the years leading up to the 2008 crisis, the financial industry accounted for a third of total domestic profits — about twice its share two decades earlier.

These profits were justified, we were told, because the industry was doing great things for the economy. It was channeling capital to productive uses; it was spreading risk; it was enhancing financial stability. None of those were true. Capital was channeled not to job-creating i…

Yet another ticking timebomb in the Middle East.... Egypt!

In talking about the Middle East, the talk is about the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, unrest in Lebanon, the threats coming out of Iran and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Writing in the Toronto Sun Eric Margolis highlights yet another flash point in the Middle East....Egypt!

"Egypt was once the heart and soul of the Arab and Muslim world. Under Sadat’s predecessor, the widely adored nationalist Gamal Abdel Nasser, Egypt led the Arab world. Egyptians despised Sadat as a corrupt western toady and sullenly accepted Mubarak.

After three decades under Mubarak, Egypt has become a political and cultural backwater. In a telling incident, Mubarak recently flew to Germany for gall bladder and colon surgery. After billions in U.S. aid, Mubarak could not even trust a local hospital in the Arab world’s leading nation.

The U.S. gives Egypt $1.3 billion annually in military aid to keep the generals content and about $700 million in economic aid, not counting secret CIA st…

Hooked on to technology a la drugs

No surprises in the findings of this research as Reuters reveals:

"American college students are hooked on cellphones, social media and the Internet and showing symptoms similar to drug and alcohol addictions, according to a new study.

Researchers at the University of Maryland who asked 200 students to give up all media for one full day found that after 24 hours many showed signs of withdrawal, craving and anxiety along with an inability to function well without their media and social links.

Susan Moeller, the study's project director and a journalism professor at the university, said many students wrote about how they hated losing their media connections, which some equated to going without friends and family.

"I clearly am addicted and the dependency is sickening," said one student. "Between having a Blackberry, a laptop, a television, and an iPod, people have become unable to shed their media skin."

Moeller said students complained most about their need to u…

Learning.....up the pole!

Credited to Cameron [Cam] Cardow, Canada

Robert Fisk: 'I listen as a lost people tell of their woes in a kind of trance'

Robert Fisk, writing in The Independent:

"Outside, there was a tropical storm, all swaying palm trees, bright lightening and thunder like an airstrike.

You could imagine – amid the stale croissants and bland coffee of the "executive" lounge and the frightened local newspapers – that Malaysians grow used to this, the thousand shades of greenery amid the hanging trees, the little Chinese temples and the ancient mosques and the dripping villas wherein once lived the rubber-planters from Godalming and Guildford, men who believed the Japanese could never struggle through this mess and reach Singapore. And so, here in Kuala Lumpur, there was something perverse to my little meeting with the Palestinians of Malaysia – yet more representatives of a lost, occupied Middle Eastern people, washed up on the far side of the earth; the same accents, the same desperation, the same courtesy, the same patience when I unforgivably forgot to offer them tea for almost half an hour.

In Hong Kong…

Being on the take.....with influence to boot!

TomDispatch, in "William Astore, The Business of America Is Kleptocracy" once again goes where many won't - dealing with the influence peddlers in Washington, the lobbyists and the extraordinary monies which swill around with and through them to, for example, former Congressmen. The numbers are truly staggering.

"It’s hard to miss these days. The headlines tell the story -- repetitively. Everyone, it seems, is on the take. The Securities and Exchange Commission has charged Goldman Sachs with securities fraud for creating and selling “a mortgage investment that was secretly intended to fail” -- and then betting against its own customers. JPMorgan Chase which, in a pinch in 2008, happily took taxpayer dough, just reported $3.3 billion in profits for the first quarter of 2010, a jump of 55% over the previous quarter. The bank set aside $9.3 billion in what’s called “compensation and benefits” for its employees in 2009.

Even when they lose, they win. According to…

The Global Nervous System

The repercussions from that now infamous volcano in Iceland will reverberate for months, if not years. There is already talk of some airlines going to the wall. Commerce, world-wide, has been severely disrupted. And people found themselves where they didn't want to be.

Then there is how people were able to deal with the situation in this day and age. Writing in The Nation, Micah Sifry reflects on how he was affected and how things worked for him:

"Sixty years ago, on May 10, 1940, Germany invaded Belgium, France, Luxembourg and the Netherlands. My mother, who was just shy of 6 years old, traveled with her parents and older brother and sister from Antwerp to the coastal port of Ostend, hoping to get a boat to England. Alas, the Nazis were faster. She and her family had to walk back from the coast, dodging bombardments along the way. Less than three weeks later, Belgium capitulated. She and her family went into hiding, sheltered by the Resistance throughout the war.
Edito…

Why Iran won’t attack Israel

A piece by Yousef Munayyer (executive director of the Palestine Center) in The Los Angeles Times suggests that the reality of Iran unleashing a nuclear attack on Israel just isn't there.

After back-grounding Benny Morris, and his views on Israel and the Palestinians, Munayyer writes:

"Yet the pesky Palestinian minority Morris wishes had been expelled decades ago serves as a deterrent from a nuclear-armed Iran, should the Islamic Republic ever build nuclear weapons and consider using them on Israel. The fact that Arab Israelis were among the casualties of the 2006 war with Hezbollah speaks to the reality that no nuclear attack on Israel could happen without the deaths of countless Palestinians and Israelis, not to mention the likely destruction of Jerusalem, the third holiest site in Islam.

The reality of Palestinian casualties, the destruction of Jerusalem, the onset of regional war and the immediate destruction of Iran's regime as a result of a multilateral conventiona…

What's the matter with the world today?

The banner to this post poses a big question - and certainly a challenge to which to respond.

Stephen Walt, professor of international relations at Harvard, takes on the task of answering his own question in a posting on his blog on FP:

"Moreover, a key feature of contemporary globalization is that today's problems tend to be more complex and more far-reaching, and tend to spread with greater speed. A volcano in Iceland disrupts air travel in Europe. A failed state in Afgahanistan nurtures a terrorist network that eventually strikes on several continents. The Internet doesn't even exist in 1990, but now it empowers democratic forces, facilitates commerce and intellectual exchange, and enable extremists to recruit supporters and transmit tactical advice all around the world. The HIV virus emerges in Africa and eventually infects millions of human beings on every continent. Bankers in America's mortgage industry makes foolish and venal decisions, and a global financial co…

Goldmans Play, the Others Pay

"The story of the financial debacle will end the way it began, with the super-hustlers from Goldman Sachs at the center of the action and profiting wildly. Never in U.S. history has one company wielded such destructive power over our political economy, irrespective of whether a Republican or a Democrat happened to be president.

At least the robber barons of old built railroads and steel mills, whereas Goldman Sachs makes its money placing bets on people losing their homes. On Tuesday, Goldman announced a 91 percent jump in profit to $3.46 billion for the quarter, while the dreams of millions of families continue to be foreclosed and unemployment hovers at 10 percent because of a crisis that that very company did much to cause.

It was Goldman-Vice-Chairman-turned-Treasury-Secretary Robert Rubin who pushed through the radical financial deregulation during the Clinton presidency that made the derivatives madness possible. When Bill Clinton was asked on ABC’s Sunday show “This Week” if…

Assuming planes are flying....is this where we are headed?

Credited to Steve Kelly, The New Orleans Times-Picayune

Samaranch: No Olympian stature there

The death of the former International Olympics director Juan Samaranch the other day has drawn the predictable tributes - principally how he pulled the IOC back from bankruptcy.

Josh Keating, on FP, provides a different take on the man, none all too flattering.

"Former International Olympic Committee director Juan Antonio Samaranch passed away today at the age of 89. While Samaranch's tenure unquestionably transformed the Olympics into the multibillion-dollar global enterprise it is today and expanded participation among developing countries and women, the former Franco-regime official also left the games with a reputation corruption that will be hard to reverse.

Here's an excerpt on Samaranch from Olympic historian John Hoberman's "Think Again: Olympics" in the July/August 2008 issue of FP:

'The corruption was never worse than when Juan Antonio Samaranch, an unreconstructed Spanish fascist, was president of the IOC from 1980 to 2001. Samaranch brought with …

Gitmo: No exit card if Obama has his way

All too sadly, the Obama administration is continuing the Bush era's unconscionable, and illegal, detention of many inmates at Gitmo. It is made the more startling given that Obama is a trained lawyer and in fact was a law lecturer.

Needless to say the "message" this conveys to principally Muslim nations, and the world generally, about America's rule of law and justice, can't be hard to imagine.

ProPublica reports in "As Gitmo Detainees’ Legal Victories Mount, Obama Administration Resists Orders to Release":

"The government is failing in more and more cases to produce evidence that the men it has imprisoned at Guantanamo belong there, according to ProPublica's latest look at the lawsuits that some 100 captives have filed in federal court to seek their freedom. But the Obama administration continues to challenge the courts' authority to make it release the prisoners.

In 34 out of the 47 cases that have been decided so far -- over 70 percent …

Eh? Re-visiting Napoleon's defeat in Russia

From Salon in a piece "Napoleon's Russian defeat, reexamined" - on the basis of how a well-prepared army -- and not the legendary winter -- turned the tide on the French emperor.

"Much has been written about how and why Napoleon came to lose more than a half-million men in the Russian invasion. Hitler and his generals even studied the ill-fated campaign hoping to avoid making similar mistakes. But missing from Western scholarship on the Napoleonic Wars is a full-fledged account of how Russia came to smash Napoleon. With "Russia Against Napoleon: The True Story of the Campaigns of War and Peace," Dominic Lieven, one of the preeminent scholars of 19th-century Russia, aims to fill the void, tackling not only the French invasion of 1812, but also the battles of 1813-1814. What sets Lieven's book apart from the handful of other accounts is his prolific use of Russian sources, particularly regimental histories available to Western researchers only since 1991.…

They Fled from Our War

President Bush and PM's Blair and Howard - the 3 "mates" who principally comprised the so-called Coalition of the Willing and who have now moved off centre stage, as it were - were the main instigators of the Iraq War back in March 2003. The country is still reeling from the onslaught and effects of the forces that attacked them. Remember the attack on Baghdad as one of "Shock and Awe" as it was described?

And what about the people of Iraq? The New York Review of Books takes up the story of one Baghdad citizen:

"Among the many consequences of the American invasion of Iraq in 2003, the plight of millions of Iraqi refugees is seldom mentioned. The stories of such people as Burhan Abdulnour, whom we met in Sweden in 2008, have hardly been told. Abdulnour, a doctor, was director of a Baghdad hospital for chest diseases. His wife, Sahar, also a physician, was teaching physiology at Baghdad University’s medical school. They lived in al-Riyadh, a mixed n…

Israel: Not such a celebratory birthday

It's not that often that a country celebrates its birth - in this case, Israel, 62 years ago - to be confronted with a piece in a leading daily newspaper throwing down the gauntlet to its PM.

Bravely, Ari Shavit, writing in Haaretz in "An open letter to Netanyahu: Act before it's too late", takes his pen to PM Netanyahu:

"Mr. Prime Minister, here are the basic facts: The grace period granted the Jewish state by Auschwitz and Treblinka is ending. The generation that knew the Holocaust has left the stage. The generation that remembers the Holocaust is disappearing. What shapes the world's perception of Israel today is not the crematoria, but the checkpoints. Not the trains, but the settlements. As a result, even when we are right, they do not listen to us. Even when we are persecuted, they pay us no heed. The wind is blowing against us."

And:

"In order withstand what is to come, Israel must once again become an inalienable part of the West. And the West …

A fallout of a different kind

Credited to Cameron [Cam] Cardow, Canada

Google and Government censorship requests

Google, Governments and access to the internet - let alone providing details of Google users to Government authorities - seem to be an intertwined subject.

The Guardian reports on Google's release of a tool showing government censorship requests.

"Google has hit out at state attempts to clamp down on the internet by revealing governments' requests to remove data from the web and get information about users.

Tonight it released a web page with a map showing country by country where it has had government requests or court orders to remove content from the YouTube video service or its search results, or to provide details about users of its services.

The release of the tool, announced on its official blog, comes as it has had to counter complaints from data protection authorities in 10 countries, including the UK, that its Street View product, which provides pictures of public streets, and its ad-hoc social networking service Buzz "were launched without due consideration of…

All that food....and all going to waste

It's a scene repeated around the world in affluent countries......the wanton waste of food. And there are many who would desperately be happy to have the food from supermarkets even if it had the odd blemish, wasn't that day's pick of the crop and the packaging was dented.

AlterNet details how 63% of supermarket waste in the USA is food:

"Unemployment. Health care. The national debt. So many social issues take a lot to fix: experts, money, and lots of time. To add to a growing list of social issues, here’s another: 1 in 7 American households has trouble putting food on the table at some point during the year, according to a recent USDA report.

But in a nation where so many go hungry, a possible solution has emerged.

Grocery stores have lots of foods that need to be taken off shelves daily: stock that needs to rotate, surplus food like bananas that are starting to have brown spots, or refrigerated items that need to move for the new product coming in. Food products make …

Those Looters in Loafers

In the light of the proceeding brought against Goldman Sachs, Nobel Prize winner [in Economics] Paul Krugman comments in his regular op-ed piece in The New York Times:

"Last October, I saw a cartoon by Mike Peters in which a teacher asks a student to create a sentence that uses the verb “sacks,” as in looting and pillaging. The student replies, “Goldman Sachs.”

Sure enough, last week the Securities and Exchange Commission accused the Gucci-loafer guys at Goldman of engaging in what amounts to white-collar looting.

I’m using the term looting in the sense defined by the economists George Akerlof and Paul Romer in a 1993 paper titled “Looting: The Economic Underworld of Bankruptcy for Profit.” That paper, written in the aftermath of the savings-and-loan crisis of the Reagan years, argued that many of the losses in that crisis were the result of deliberate fraud."

And:

"The main moral you should draw from the charges against Goldman, though, doesn’t involve the fine print of ref…

What you can hold people responsible for!

One hesitates to publish this as it seems so incredible.....

First, there is Rush Limbaugh in the USA with this:

"One of the many views that Rush Limbaugh shares with the Iranian mullahs is his firm belief that natural disasters can be attributed to political or social developments. In his Friday radio appearance, he explains that the eruption of a volcano in Iceland is a divine response to Congress’s enactment of the Obama Administration’s healthcare reform legislation".

Go to Harper's Magazine, here, to watch the video.

And, then, there is this over in Iran:

"A senior Iranian cleric says women who wear immodest clothing and behave promiscuously are to blame for earthquakes.

Iran is one of the world's most earthquake-prone countries, and the cleric's unusual explanation for why the earth shakes follows a prediction by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that a quake is certain to hit Tehran and that many of its 12 million inhabitants should relocate.

"Many women wh…

Noam Chomsky: "I have never seen anything like this in my lifetime"

Chris Hedges, writing his regular column on truthdig, analyses a speech given by Noam Chomsky recently - and takes up the matter, and issues raised in the address with "the man" himself:

“I have never seen anything like this in my lifetime,” Chomsky added. “I am old enough to remember the 1930s. My whole family was unemployed. There were far more desperate conditions than today. But it was hopeful. People had hope. The CIO was organizing. No one wants to say it anymore but the Communist Party was the spearhead for labor and civil rights organizing. Even things like giving my unemployed seamstress aunt a week in the country. It was a life. There is nothing like that now. The mood of the country is frightening. The level of anger, frustration and hatred of institutions is not organized in a constructive way. It is going off into self-destructive fantasies.”

Read the complete piece here.

A different take on that Sarah [Palin]

A piece on Slate "Sarah Palin Is the New Al Gore" reflects on what sort of person Sarah Palin - who seems to divide people between loving and deriding her - is and how she "sits" on the American political scene.

"A portion of Sarah Palin's speaking contract has been discovered. In it she requests that at the podium she get bendable straws for her two water bottles. When she flies, it must be first class (or on a midsize private jet); her cars must be SUVs or "black town cars," and she must be put up in a suite at the kinds of hotels where the packages of nuts in the mini-bar cost more than the average hourly wage.

Your reaction to this probably depends on your position on the political spectrum. If you are a liberal, you see it as proof that Palin is no "hockey mom" and that her humble persona was a fraud. If you are a conservative, you see it as proof that the free market has decreed that the Palin brand is more valuable than ever. (If …

Columbine....11 years on

For a non-American it hard to understand how there could even be a debate about the right to bear arms. Yes, the Second Amendment does allow for the carrying of arms - but unfettered and almost unrestricted? And it's not as if the US hasn't suffered enough of extensive shootings over the years - with lots of deaths and attendant traumas for those in some way involved.

It's 11 years since the now infamous Columbine High School shooting.....and the right to bear arms in the US still rages. Witness rallies in Washington today, as The New York Timeseditorialises, making the point that there has to be a curb on America's gun culture:

"Two rallies by gun rights celebrants and anti- government polemicists are planned Monday on both sides of Washington’s Potomac River. They will invoke the Second Amendment and the Battles of Lexington and Concord. A more apt, and tragic, anniversary to keep in mind is the Columbine school massacre of 1999. Eleven years later, and Co…

Get Fat, Die Young: A Whopper of a [Health-risk] Model

From CommonDreams:

"Just in case we needed any more reasons to assign a special place in Hell to the insurance companies, a new study has found they own almost $2 billion stock in the country's largest fast-food companies - that, on top of $4.5 billion in tobacco company stock. The study by Harvard Medical School found $1.9 billion invested in McDonald's, Burger King, KFC and other grease-laden purveyors of morbid obesity.

'They are essentially killing off their consumer base, so it's not a sustainable model in the long-term." - Dr. Sara Bleich of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.'"

Fox, the Murdoch press and contradictions

The Nation makes the more than valid point that the Murdoch empire is all over the place when one has regard to its Fox News [not news at all actually!] and its press, like The Wall Street Journal.

"Rupert Murdoch's Fox News Channel and the editorial page of his Wall Street Journal may scorn global warming as an anti-capitalist hoax perpetrated by greedy scientists, but when his media empire's own vast butt is concerned, he's hedging his bets. Murdoch's Dow Jones & Co., which publishes the Journal, released a memo on Monday announcing that it is building "the largest solar power installation at a single commercial site in the U.S." And guess what: Instead of strangling free enterprise or other such rightwing claptrap, Dow Jones says, "We save the earth's resources and save money too."

All the stats of tree-huggy goodness--more than 13,000 solar panels covering nearly 230,000 square feet to generate 4.1 megawatts of electricity from the…

The More You Use Google, the More Google Knows About You

We all "do" it! Google. And yes, we are, mostly, impressed how Google gets us to the answer or source of what we are after.

All well and good, but what is Google doing with all the times you access or use it? Perhaps no good, as this piece on AlterNetexplains.

"In June 2007, Privacy International, a U.K.-based privacy rights watch- dog, cited Google as the worst privacy offender among 23 online companies, ranking the “Don’t Be Evil” people below Microsoft, Apple, Amazon, eBay, LinkedIn, Facebook and AOL. According to the report, no other company was “coming close to achieving [Google’s] status as an endemic threat to privacy.” What most disturbed the authors was Google’s “increasing ability to deep-drill into the minutiae of a user’s life and lifestyle choices.” The result: “the most onerous privacy environment on the Internet.”

Indeed, Google now controls an estimated 70 percent of the online search engine market, but its deep-drilling of user information — wher…

Flying nowhere......

Credited to Mike Keefe, The Denver Post

Do we really want "our man" in Kabul?

TomDispatch makes more than some valid points about President Karzai - "our man" in Kabul:

"Over the past several years, when he complained again and again about American attacks in his country that were killing civilians in surprising numbers and remarkably often, he was generally humored and dealt with as an irrelevance or an annoyance. Now, given the rampant drug trade, the corruption, the "tantrums," the emotional outbursts, the threats to join the Taliban, and his embracing of the Iranians and the Chinese, he is dealt with in Washington as a cross between a big baby, an unstable adult, an overemotional drug-taker, and a prime danger to the American project in Afghanistan. He was given a lot of TLC by the previous resident of the White House, while being studiously ignored or reproved by this one. American officials have lavished praise -- and scorn -- on him. They have brandished hard power -- and laid on the soft power -- to tame him. They have regu…

Possibility of a Two-State Solution recedes

Pres. Obama appeared downbeat about a two-state solution being achieved between Israel and Palestinians from comments made by him the other day. See the AFP report here.

Professor Juan Cole, in his must-read blog, Informed Comment, reflects on the implications of no progress in achieving a Middle East solution:

"Obama may well be right. But note the implications of no progress between Israel and the Palestinians on political settlement of their dispute:

1. Iran– the primary rejectionist state in the region, will grow in power and popularity in the Middle East

2. Anger in the Arab world toward Israel and the US will grow in intensity

3. Israeli policy toward East Jerusalem could itself be the cause for a war. Jerusalem is sacred to Muslims and Christians as well as to Jews.

4. Israel’s status as a de facto Apartheid state will be made permanent and the boycott movement will grow, ultimately affecting the Israeli economy

5. The two-state solution is dead as a doornail, and Israel will e…

The [Mad Hatters] Tea Party!

Credited to Daryl Cagle, MSNBC.com

Hamas condemned....and rightly so

The Washington Post reports on troubles in Gaza:

"The Gaza Strip's Hamas-led government on Thursday executed two Palestinians convicted of aiding Israel in the assassination of Palestinian militants, a move that highlighted the deep divisions that endure between the two main Palestinian political factions.

The executions -- carried out without the approval of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who is based in the West Bank and is part of the rival Fatah movement -- represented a direct rebuke of Abbas's authority amid stalled efforts at reconciliation. While Hamas controls Gaza, Abbas and Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad govern the West Bank from Ramallah."

Rightly so, the Israeli human rights group, B'Tselem, has condemned the executions:

"B’Tselem strongly condemns the execution today of two Palestinians convicted of collaboration with Israel, by the Hamas government in Gaza. The death penalty is immoral and violates the basic right to life …

An already strong case against Kissinger strengthens

Heavens knows why the world gives ex US Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger, the time of day, let alone turns to him to pontificate on world affairs.

His reputation, credibility and integrity is in tatters, as Christopher Hitchins so compelling revealed in his book on Kissinger back in 2oo1.

Scott Harper, writing on Harper's Magazine, now takes the matter further:

"On September 21, 1976, agents of Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet placed a bomb in a car in Washington, D.C., used by Chile’s former ambassador, Orlando Letelier. When detonated later that day, the bomb killed Letelier and an American citizen accompanying him, Ronni Moffitt. Did the U.S. government play some sort of role in this double homicide, carried out in the nation’s capital? On Friday, as Ken Silverstein notes, the Associated Press’s Pete Yost published the essence of a damning new document, showing that Henry Kissinger canceled a State Department warning that was to have gone to Chile just days before the a…

No, the law isn't applied equally to all.....

"At last we are waking up to what international law means. For the first time in modern history the underlying assumption of political life – that those who exercise power over us will not be judged by the same legal and moral norms as common citizens – is beginning to crack."

George Monbiot explains in a piece on his blog - originally published in The Guardian - that the law does not apply equally to all.