Posts Tagged ‘Iran’

Iran Deal, US Mid-East Policy, Energy & Climate Change

Sunday, November 24th, 2013

Recent US Oil production projections (Tight oil is Shale Oil)

The USA enjoys a temporary energy independence with regards to the use of fossil fuels, soon to be greatly aided by the new fuel standards in automobiles which more than anything else will cut dependence on foreign oil. This gives the Obama administration some wiggle room regarding how it acts in the Middle East. Persian Gulf oil is no longer so predominant, in fact as Nial Ferguson states in his book Colossus, it was really countering Soviet influence in the Middle East that drove US policy since the end of World War 2, not over dependence on Middle Eastern Oil. In the 1950’s the US was largely energy self sufficient.

Crude Oil Imports by thousands of barrels

The intervention in places like Iran in 1953 was driven more by British concerns and a desire to block suspected Soviet penetration than any real need to protect oil assets. The US recognition of Israel by Truman was cautioned against by the State Department (Ferguson 109), which surely pissed off oil interests in Saudi Arabia, but since oil from the Middle East was such an insignificant portion of US usage, protecting it wasn’t a priority based in need. What was a concern was that the Soviet Union recognized Israel immediately and there was a strong socialist tendency in early Israel who had a strong anti-British bias among the faction who had fought to free Israel from British rule (Fromkin 6-8).

Future oil import shift in selected nations

The US recently in Syria faced off with the Russians, who have a naval refueling station in Syria and interests in preserving the Assad regime, but instead of confrontation there was compromise and the Syrians gave up their chemical weapons in a face saving deal for the Obama administration which had found itself in a tight position with Obama’s line in the sand statements regarding use of chemical weapons. This shows how far the world has come since the cold war and offers an opportunity for the US to disengage from the Middle East. With NATO lapping up on the very borders of the Russian Homeland, they realize that room to move as once was the case in the days of the Soviet Empire has been much constrained. Therefore the US has even less reason to defend the Middle East from Russian incursion. This policy of Russian containment goes back to the old British nineteenth century concerns over Ottoman weakness and the protection of British concerns in Egypt and the ‘golden goose’ in its Indian colony. There is little reason for the US to be invested there other than treaty commitments to Israel, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and its NATO allies Turkey and Greece.

Middle East

With the recent snubbing of the US by the Saudi’s over it’s refusal of a UN Security Council position, the support of the Coup in Egypt over US opposition, and the secret arrangements between Israel, the Saudi’s and now the military regime in Egypt, there is little incentive for the US to hold back on negotiations with Iran. What may emerge is a realignment of forces with the US becoming friendly again with Iran. Securing the Persian Gulf by treaty with the Iranians will allow the US to focus on east Asia and the Chinese perceived threat. With a little real politic perhaps the Saudi’s and Israel might be able to resolve the Palestinian problem. But that is doubtful since the Saudi’s do not want a democratic secular Palestine, they would prefer using the Palestinians as a chess piece in their own game of negotiating between regional forces. But since the Chinese, Japanese, India and Europeans have more dependence on Middle Eastern Oil than the US, it would behoove them to step up and take a more active role in protecting the regional sea lanes than the USA which then can pull back to a more traditional role of preserving hemispheric hegemony and trade routes to East Asia and Europe. The US has only been engaged world wide since it replaced the British naval influence as protector of the sea lanes after the end of World War 2. This realignment should not be seen as American weakness but a return to a more balanced position for the US regarding its place in the world. Having overextended ourselves for so long militarily, for some seventy years, it is about time focus is placed on reducing military footprint and working on domestic infrastructure. This may not please the military industrial complex but retooling for civilian purposes has been delayed long enough.

The temporary bump in US oil production

This temporary position of an increase in domestic production must be seen for what it is, temporary, what is needed long term is a reduction on dependence on oil and fossil fuel. Earnest development of solar, wind and other alternative energy sources must continue and not be suppressed by a temporary dip in oil prices. Any savings in cutting back on military commitments must be balanced with an increased commitment to energy alternatives and a sharp decrease in the use of fossil fuels in automobiles in particular, whether this means an increased use of mass transit or not depends more on technology than policy as the US does not have the population density in most areas to justify expensive mass transit systems (See my Bus vs Rail in Los Angeles post for some info). World Oil reserves are diminishing and that is a further reason why countries like Iran want to move into nuclear power, although nuclear has security, disposal and environmental problems that the recent Fukushima disaster indicates. Conservation is probably still the best means of controlling energy dependency. As the chart below shows the largest use of energy is in powering, heating and lighting buildings. Switching to solar, and more energy efficiency in appliances, insulation and lighting can make a big difference along with auto mileage efficiency, more efficient transmission lines etc.

US Energy consumption by sector

The world is running out of readily accessible oil which is probably what will keep the planet from excessive climate change more than any technical fix that is derived from conferences like the world energy summit going on in Warsaw. Countries will simply be forced by economic and resource pressure since there does not seem to be the political will to deal with the situation.

Projection of World Energy sources by next century.

Note that coal is a major source of energy in predictions, taking up most of the slack as other fossil fuels diminish. Natural gas, promoted as being clean, does not seem to have a long run ahead. Coal being a very dirty energy source will have to have very strong regulation and environmental pollution controls, especially in countries like the USA and China where use is expected to be high. Otherwise there will be continuous problems with global CO2 emissions.

Getty Images

“Smog: China has access to vast swathes of coal, which is cheaper for it to use than other fossil fuels. Pictured, Wuda Coal Field, in Wu Hai, Inner Mongolia, China, where coal is mined, then trucked nearby to the power stations and factories in the region” (Collis, Return of King Coal)

This is a big deal and it will be increasing as coal use driven largely by China will overtake oil as the predominant fuel during this decade.

‘China’s demand for coal will almost single-handedly propel the growth of coal as the dominant global fuel,’ said William Durbin, president of global markets at Woodmac. ‘Unlike alternatives, it is plentiful and affordable.’

China - already the top consumer - will drive two-thirds of the growth in global coal use this decade. Half of China’s power generation capacity to be built between 2012 and 2020 will be coal-fired, said Woodmac.

China has no alternative to coal, with its domestic gas output limited, and liquefied natural gas (LNG) imports more costly than coal, Durbin said.

Read more:

With the Climate conference ended in Warsaw with the emissions standards kicked down the road to Paris 2015, and an emerging nations bloc opposed to world wide standards being imposed on developing nations led by China and India the US came out as being almost looking good according to Greenpeace blogger Kyle Ash.

Chinese Energy source predictions

According to the Guardian article “Warsaw climate talks set 2015 target for plans to curb emissions” by Fiona Harvey on the agreement reached in Warsaw most of the work remains to be done.

At the insistence of a small group of developing countries, they will take the form of “contributions” rather than the stronger “commitments” that most other countries wanted.

These were the self-styled “like-minded developing countries”, a group that comprises several oil-rich nations, including Venezuela, Saudi Arabia, Bolivia and Malaysia. Several have large coal deposits and are heavily dependent on fossil fuels, such as China and India, and some countries with strong links to some of the others, including Cuba, Nicaragua, Ecuador and Thailand.

The “like-minded developing countries” group takes the view that the strict separation of nations into “developed” and “developing”, which was set at the first international climate talks in 1992, and enshrined in the 1997 Kyoto protocol – in which developed countries were obliged to cut emissions but developing countries had no obligations – must remain as the bedrock of any future agreement. They argue that the “historical responsibilities” for climate change lie with the first nations to industrialize.

But all countries admitted that most of the preparation work for Paris still remains to be done. Politically, the battle between the like-minded group – which is separate from, but claims to lie within, the broader G77 group of the majority of developing nations – and the US and the EU will be key. For both sides, gaining support from the rest of the unaligned developing nations – some of which are highly vulnerable to climate change and are desperate for a deal, but others who are courting economic investment from China – will be crucial.

The fragile truce reached after the marathon talks in Warsaw may not even last as long as the delegates’ flights home.

“Poland has long relied on coal for its energy, using mostly antiquated equipment like this extractor at the Adamow” (NBC News).

Certainly it was strange that a country that is sponsoring a climate control conference at the same time sponsors a coal industry conference, indicating that Poland is not serious about climate emissions control eliciting the protests by environmentalists that it did.

In summation the US has an opportunity to draw down in the Middle East and let regional players who have a stronger vested interest step up, perhaps under UN guidance. The US is primarily concerned with the Chinese and east Asian issues and will focus in that direction in the immediate future. Chinese and Indian energy use, especially dependence on coal will make climate change a continued issue as their blocking of reforms in Warsaw and energy use predictions indicate. This will have dire consequences for states like the Philippines and Indonesia who are likely to be heavily impacted by ocean levels rising. Unless the Chinese, India and others take a stronger stance on pollution and the US and the EU expend more on promoting environmentally sustainable energy technology, the problems will simply get worse. Conservation at home, the tapping of short term shale oil and natural gas supplies will give the USA a breather in which to transition to renewable energy especially if serious energy conservation measures are put in place. With a low population and abundant resources the US should be in a good position to be a climate change leader if it’s policy makers can get away from a focus on international militarization to one of domestic energy independence.

Works Cited

Collis, Helen. “The Return of King Coal as the World’s Dominant Fuel.” Daily Mail. 14 Oct. 2013. Web. 24 Nov. 2013.

Ferguson, Niall. Colossus The Rise and Fall of the American Empire. London: Penguin Books. 2004. Print

Fromkin, David. “The Strategy of Terrorism.” Foreign Affairs July 1975. Rpt. The U.S. vs. al Qaeda A History of the War on Terror. Ed. Gideon Rose and Johnathan Tepperman. New York: Council on Foreign Relations. 2011. Print.

Harvey, Fiona. “Warsaw climate talks set 2015 target for plans to curb emissions.” Guardian. 24 Nov. 2013. Web. 24 Nov. 2013.

Palestine Peace Talks, Iranian Sanctions, More Food Stuff

Friday, August 9th, 2013

Peace Talks Between Israel and Palestine to begin again

From the Jerusalem Post:

Israeli and Palestinian negotiators will resume peace talks in Jerusalem on Aug. 14, the US State Department said on Thursday.

The sides held their first peace negotiations in nearly three years in Washington on July 30 in US-mediated efforts to end the conflict of more than six decades.

Chief PLO negotiator Saeb Erekat said last week that Israel was expected to release 26 Palestinian prisoners on August 13 to constitute the first of four stages of prisoner releases as a gesture for resuming direct Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

Israel’s chief negotiator Tzipi Livni said last week that the parties had agreed on alternating venues for talks in initial meetings with the first to be held in Israel.

“We and the Palestinians both determined that the first meetings would be held once in Israel and once in the Palestinian Authority … we want to do it directly (and close to home). The next meeting will be in the second week of August in Israel,” she said in a broadcast interview.
Palestine is a new focus for Secretary of State Kerry. He claims to be working for a new peace initiative between Israel and the Palestinians. The chances of success seem fairly slim but Kerry seems to be adamant about moving things forward. Kerry would certainly like it in his legacy that he was the one to crack this nut. Interesting how fundamentalist Christians are so interested in the goings on over there. They are constantly seeking signs of the coming end of the world as the video below with its weird music indicates.

Report from Arise TV and JN1 on Kerry Peace Plan for Palestine and Israel

Former President Carter has lambasted Israel and called what they are attempting to impose on the Palestinians as being a form of apartheid. This has been unpopular to say the least among the pro Israel members of Congress.

Hardball interview with Carter on his book about Palestine, note how MSNBC host tries to change subject to Rwanda.

Iran Sanctions

The election of a new more moderate government in Iran should lead to renewed negotiations but the reaction of Congress seems to be one of increased sanctions. But with the exemptions allowed by the State Department, and others who seem to simply be ignoring the US sanctions, it seems that Iran will be able to continue exporting oil and maintaining an independent policy. Below are criticisms of the US policies by Webster Tarpley and Congressman Ron Paul as well as a report on sanctions from an Iranian opposition group.

Webster Tarpley on Press TV calls new US Congressional Sanctions impotent

This is from the People’s Mojahedin an Iranian opposition socialist group in exile. But the article itself seems to be straight from the AP wire.

US House approves tough new Iran sanctions
AP, Washington, 31 July 2013 - The U.S. House of Representatives has approved tough new sanctions on Iran’s oil sector and other industries.
The Obama administration fears the measures could undercut the Islamic republic’s incoming, more moderate president ahead of new nuclear negotiations.
No date has been set for such talks, which would include other world powers Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia.
The bill makes no mention of Hasan Rouhani’s recent win or his pledge to improve Iran’s relations with the world.
He will assume office this weekend.
The bill adopted Wednesday blacklists any business in Iran’s mining and construction sectors and commits the United States to the goal of ending all Iranian oil sales worldwide by 2015.
Petroleum sales are the biggest source of money for Iran’s nuclear program. Washington fears Iran is developing nuclear weapons.
Tehran says its program is for energy and research purposes.
The bill builds on U.S. penalties that went into effect last year that have cut Iran’s petroleum exports in half and hurt its economy.
Still, China, India and several other Asian nations continue to buy billions of dollars of Iranian oil each month.
That provides Tehran with much of the money it spends on its weapons and nuclear programs.
President Barack Obama and his national security team are gauging whether Rouhani is willing to slow some of his country’s uranium enrichment activity.
The administration wants to give him a chance to make concessions before Iran reaches nuclear weapons capacity.
Obama has given Iran until sometime next year to prove that its nuclear program is solely for peaceful energy and research purposes.
He prefers diplomacy to the alternative of a military intervention by the U.S. or Israel, which sees an Iranian atomic arsenal as a threat to its existence.
“We believe crippling sanctions are a key part of the pressure we put on Iran,” State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf told reporters Wednesday.

Ron Paul critique of Iran Sanctions and US ignoring of civil liberties

I don’t usually find myself agreeing with Ron Paul, but his foreign policy ideals are right on. He wants to pull US troops back from our over extended foreign presence. Obama has given some credence to this by pulling out of Iraq rapidly but he replaced that with Afghanistan and seems about to do the same in Syria or Iran, depending on which way the wind blows.

It is interesting to see Kerry pushing so hard on the Palestinian issue, reflecting what I see as an outdated view that the lynchpin to US problems in the Middle East stem from the Arab Israeli conflict. That was the case up until recently, but now with the Arab spring, what is really going on is a massive uprising of the people of the region and it can no longer be pinned to the Palestinian struggle, it is now everyone’s struggle for freedom.

More culinary delights

I have been remiss in not reporting my daily doings in the kitchen for a day or so. Let us recap, I am doing what I am calling loosely an anarchist cookbook. As a former anarchist myself, and something of a low budget gourmet, well really more of a semi health conscious comfort food eater, one who tends to throw the kitchen sink into every meal, I have developed my own style of cooking, something rather anarchistic in that I tend not to follow recipes, and I add foods together that often are not thought to belong together.

Mr Peabody and his boy Sherman

Mr. Peabody and his boy Sherman going into the Wayback Machine.

Lets take the way back machine to the evening of July 7th, my meal was miso soup and salad. Miso soup included a medium-large turd sized dollop of white Miso in a smallish pan half filled with boiling water, add a slice of chopped onion, half an El Serrano pepper, a third of a bell pepper chopped, cube up a fifth of a block of firm or extra firm tofu and at the end a decent sized wad of Korean sea weed, and one twist of rice pasta. This cooks fast and is ready in ten minutes.

The salad was romaine lettuce broken into pieces, a slice of onion chopped, the other half of the El Serrano pepper chopped, a small Roma tomato chopped, a dollop of humus, a two finger sized slice of sharp Cheddar cheese, a ripe avocado, sprinkle wheat germ on it, pour the dressing on, and it is done. The dressing was made from sesame oil, canola oil, sweet chili sauce, soy sauce, oyster sauce and that is it, I left out the vinegar this time and it was delicious.

Yesterday morning, July 8, I had errands to run so I grabbed a meaty breakfast burrito at Jack in the Box.

Meaty Breakfast Burrito

Jack In the Box Meaty Breakfast Burrito

Dinner was more pasta, my visiting roommate from Mexico likes pasta. So it was some thin spaghetti, sauce made of canned plum tomatoes and tomato paste on top of a third of a chopped onion sauteed in olive oil, with basil, oregano, thyme, bay leaf and leftover sauce from my last pasta. On the frying pan I sauteed another third of a chopped onion, added a Mexican (white) squash chopped, a jalapeno pepper chopped, two links of pork sausage, three strips of pork bacon with fat left in, a Roma tomato chopped, and a chayote with skin peeled off, and pit, or in this case the white area where there would have been a pit, sliced up and added last to the pan. This was very fruity almost like an unripe honeydew. I added basil, oregano, thyme, rosemary and some chili powder. Lastly I boiled up three chopped carrots. I put the left over carrot juice into the frying pan, simmered it down. The pasta I put in the strainer, added leftover pasta from the last meal, it was heated by the new pasta, poured the rest of the carrot juice on top, and then served pasta, with sauteed veges and meats and tomato sauce, grating Pepper Jack cheese on top, on the side were the carrots with Mexican Oaxaca cheese chunks melted on top helped by a minute in the microwave. A slice of lime on the side and it was done.

This morning August 9 Nagasaki day, I sauteed in olive oil two pork sausages, chopped up a slice of onion, a jalapeno pepper, washed and included a handful of nopales, sliced up a small prebaked potato and added it and spiced with basil, lemon grass powder, a slice of lime squeezed in with the rind thrown in, chili powder, and some cumin. I then added some sweet chili sauce and slices of Mexican Oaxaca cheese. In the microwave I heated left over rice, leftover pancake, and tortillas. I poached a couple of eggs and then served with fresh cilantro, hot sauce and black pepper on top. I put a dollop of vanilla yogurt on the pancakes. This was a great breakfast, too much in fact, I had to put about a third of it back in the fridge for future meals. I especially liked how the sunflower seeds in the pancakes had mellowed and softened over time and tasted really nice giving the pancakes a nice crunchiness.

There you have it, I am going to try and get those pictures figured out this weekend so I can add them.

Iranian Elections, North Korean Peace Talk Proposal, US Involvement In Syria

Saturday, June 15th, 2013

With the results in and Rohani the moderate candidate elected, what can we expect from Iran and relations with the rest of the world? It seems that what we have is an interesting move on the part of Iran to placate its own opposition that was behind the Green Revolution after the last election and to attempt to show a different, less confrontational face of the Iranian viewpoint before the west in an attempt to perhaps ameliorate the sanctions and to attempt to bolster indirectly it’s ally in Syria.
The analysis in the Jerusalem Post is rather interesting if a bit biased. But I do think they are dead on about the influence of the Green Revolution on the decision to let Rohani’s election stand.

As for Iran, it is too early to tell but I think that the election will help blunt the forces that would like to attack Iran, certainly Israel cannot be too pleased with the turn of events and as the article above indicates there will be a spin attempt to show that there has not been any essential change in Iranian leadership.

“Rowhani explicitly defended his own way of negotiations under the reformist government of Mohammad Khatami (1997-2005), focusing on reducing tension with Western countries, trust building, compromising, and preventing sanctions against the country and the widespread economic hardship they bring.” Quoting from the Daily Beast article we see a view that sees the elections as legitimate and the choice as a rejection of the hard line approach of the religious elite. This is seen as a positive in bringing about a peaceful solution.

The Daily Beast article shows a more favorable view of the election of a moderate.

Interestingly North Korea has just made statements of desiring an amelioration of the conflict with the USA, requesting peace talks I don’t know if this reflects a coordination between Iran and North Korea but I do suspect that Chinese influence maybe behind the scenes here.

CBC article on North Korean peace talk proposal

Now that the USA has decided to openly support the Al Qaeda/Moderate Sunni alliance in Syria, it seems that what we have here is a shadow cold war rehash with Syria again playing proxy for the US, EU and conservative Islam in the Arabian Peninsula versus Russia, Iran and China on the other. This places the US in a position to at least indirectly support Al Qaeda’s aim of reviving the Sunni Caliphate in the Islamic world.

Alawites in Syria, a heterodox Twelver Shiite sect mostly in Syria but also present in Lebanon and Turkey have become since French rule in Syria one of the dominant elements in conjunction with Christian minorities and elements of Sunni Islam. The original Baathist party was formed by a Christian, Alawite and Sunni leader although since gaining power in the 1960’s Alawites have predominated. They do attempt to promote a secular state although as authoritarians they don’t put up with dissent that they consider to be a threat such as the rising of the Muslim Brotherhood in the 1980’s. Part of their problem is being a coalition of minority groups in a heavily Sunni majority state, where for a long time they were the oppressed minority. The French gave them an autonomous region, and recruited them for the military during the mandate which gave the Alawites a foothold for a power base. Under the Ottomans they were not even allowed to testify in court.

With the increase in radical Islam in general the differences between different branches, have become more contentious. As socialism has become less predominant a force in the Middle East, secular forces have had to go on the defensive in many countries at the same time that they have become a larger percentage of the population as the educated urban population grows. Thus we see contradictions such as the Green Revolution in Iran, secularists versus conservative Islamist forces. Or in Egypt where conservative Muslim Brotherhood elements now predominate have to contend with secular and radical youth elements, same in Tunisia and now in Turkey where a rurally based Islamic party has ruled for the last decade, slowly moving to bring more Islamic law into the officially secular Turkey.

Syria represents a last bastion of the older socialist secular wave of the mid twentieth century bolstered by the Soviet Union, and now capitalist Russia which has maintained many of the power relations of the old Soviet Union with the Communist trappings stripped away. This causes certain contradictions as Russia tries to portray a progressive image without an ideology to back it up, thus it is simply one great power among many jockeying for position.

The US as a proponent of market capitalism is an easy target for anti capitalists on the left and anti materialist/anti secularists on the right. Obama has tried to present a liberal, gentler, kinder face of capitalism, but drone strikes for instance, although perhaps less harmful to civilians than carpet bombing, is still pursuing the same policies and ultimately will arouse the same resentment, the playing of a numbers game does not change the basic imperial policies and ultimately will not provide enough cover, as drones will have to increase in number until they become like an occupying army, sans the boots on the ground.

Entering the Syrian quagmire is not going to result in anything better than Iraq which benefited Iranian interests, or Afghanistan which so far seems to be benefiting fundamentalist Sunni Islam, destabilizing Pakistan, Libya and now most of North Africa. Supporting secular institutions seems to be the best approach, not giving reason for Islamic fundamentalists excuses to recruit, and avoiding the Imperial American approach might help. Obama’s Cairo speech was a step in the right direction, aiding Sunni fundamentalists in Syria I fear is a step in the wrong direction.

Iran, Who Are The Good Guys?

Wednesday, February 16th, 2011

I don’t want to belittle the Iranian Green Revolution, but there are a lot of indicators that the CIA has been active in Iran for quite some time. We all know about the coup in 1953 orchestrated by the CIA to install the shah. But I had to dig pretty deep in a Google search to find articles about recent activity. Normally the Wikipedia article pops up at the beginning of a search but I had to dig several pages back to find this.

I am not saying there is a deliberate policy to bury critical material about the USA involvement in Iran, but it is strange that most of the material that came up was about claims that Iran is about to get a nuke and Fox stories about imminent attacks on Iran by Israel. So far the only attacks have been cyber attacks, covert operations and support for opposition groups including terrorist groups.

It is no secret that the USA is out to get the Iranian regime. It has been on the US government’s shit list ever since the embassy was occupied. But the policy has not been consistent. We all can remember the cake Reagan had delivered to Khomeini back in the 1980’s when he was trying to get Iranian support for his secret war in Nicaragua via the efforts of Ollie North and Bob McFarlane. What a fiasco that was. Reagan barely avoided impeachment and Bush Sr. was implicated as the go to guy in that.

But Iran-Contra is ancient history. We have now got the Obama administration picking up the mantle in the great struggle to demonize the Iranians and to go about effecting a regime change one way or another.
Obama though is not about to invade, he wants his regime change on the cheap. Let the Iranians do it is his policy. Question is, which Iranians does Obama want to take over?

Perhaps we will get a pie for the Ayatollah shaped like a question mark. US policy regarding Iran is confused and complicated, also it is partially driven by Saudi fear of revolt among their own people, why else does the USA have an entire fleet assigned to the Persian Gulf? There is millions of tax dollars going to propping up the gulf state dictators and sheiks. Simply so we can get our oil fix without too much hassle, except perhaps the occasional Somali hijacker in a speed boat.

There is nothing innocent about the US involvement in the Gulf. This is not Egypt. There is no oil in Egypt to speak of. Ships can always go around Africa to deliver oil. The Israelis can always occupy the Sinai again if need be. But Iran makes the US and Israel and our dictator friends nervous. If that revolution ever does spread, it could mean an end to western dominance in the Middle East, and for sure an increase in oil prices.

An interesting note, this story about Iran was not on the front of the Al Jazeera website, I had to do a search for news about Iran.


From Al Jazeera

Iran funeral triggers new clashes

Government supporters and opposition activists clash at funeral procession for student killed in Tehran.

Last Modified: 16 Feb 2011 13:12 GMT

Government supporters and opposition groups both claim Sane’e Zhaleh was a member of their ranks [Reuters]

Clashes have broken out between supporters of the Iranian government and apparent members of the opposition at the funeral for a student killed in recent protests, state television has reported.

“Students and people participating in the funeral of martyr Sane’e Zhale in Tehran Fine Arts University are clashing with a few apparently from the sedition movement,” the website of broadcaster Irib said on Wednesday.

Zhaleh was shot dead during an opposition rally in Tehran, the capital, on Monday, a killing the government blamed on anti-government protesters. But opposition groups say it was carried out by security forces.

The violence broke out during the funeral procession from the art faculty at Tehran’s university, where Zhaleh was a student, Irib said.

The broadcaster added that government backers were chanting “Death to Monafeghin”, a reference to an outlawed opposition group, which “forced them [opposition supporters] out of the scene”.

However, Iranian bloggers reported that loyalist forces were brought into the campus who then took over the faculty, while riot police were deployed across the city.

Others have also written on social networking site Twitter that some roads in the city have been blocked and that thousands of people were out on the streets of Tehran, demonstrating both for and against the government.

There are also reports that authorities have blocked foreign media from working.

Government supporters have insisted that Zhaleh was a member of the Basij militia - a volunteer force connected to the elite Revolutionary Guards, while opposition groups say he came from their ranks., an opposition website, said Zhaleh was “pro-Mousavi and a member of the Green Movement,” referring to the group led by Mir Hossein Mousavi, which refuses to acknowledge the presidency of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

“His family was under pressure to say he is Basiji and pro-government,” the website said.

Government supporters have called a rally in Tehran on Friday to express “hatred” against the opposition movement.

“The noble people of Tehran will take to Enghelab Square after Friday prayers with their solid and informed presence,” the Islamic Propagation Co-ordination Council said on Wednesday.

It said those joining the rally will “scream out their hatred, wrath and disgust against the savage crimes and evil movements of sedition leaders, their Monafeghin [hypocrites] and their monarchist allies.”

“I am warning that before it is too late, take out the buds from your ears and listen to the voice of the people. Forcing violence and opposing peoples’ wishes will last only for a certain time”

Iran’s prosecutor general Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejeie warned that action would be taken against Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, another opposition leader.

“The heads of seditions are the people who should be punished for their criminal acts and God willing actions in this regard are being taken,” Mohseni Ejeie said, according to Fars news agency.

Meanwhile Mousavi and Karroubi both made statements online on Wednesday criticising authorities and calling for further protests against the government.

Karroubi, in a statement posted on his website, said he was “ready to pay any price” in his fight.

“I am warning that before it is too late, take out the buds from your ears and listen to the voice of the people. Forcing violence and opposing peoples’ wishes will last only for a certain time,” he said.

In a separate statement on his own website, Mousavi praised protesters for turning out in Monday’s rally in Tehran.

“The glorious rally on 25th Bahman [February 14] is a great achievement for the great people of a great nation and for the Green Movement,” he said.

The comments by Mousavi and Karroubi, who have been under house arrest for the last week, come a day after Iranian politicians called for their execution.

“Mousavi and Karroubi should be executed! Death to Mousavi, Karroubi and Khatami!” ministers shouted in parliament.

They also accused the United States, Britain and Israel for orchestrating the protests through the opposition leaders.


From the New Yorker

Preparing the Battlefield

The Bush Administration steps up its secret moves against Iran.
by Seymour M. Hersh July 7, 2008 .

Operations outside the knowledge and control of commanders have eroded “the coherence of military strategy,” one general says.

Late last year, Congress agreed to a request from President Bush to fund a major escalation of covert operations against Iran, according to current and former military, intelligence, and congressional sources. These operations, for which the President sought up to four hundred million dollars, were described in a Presidential Finding signed by Bush, and are designed to destabilize the country’s religious leadership. The covert activities involve support of the minority Ahwazi Arab and Baluchi groups and other dissident organizations. They also include gathering intelligence about Iran’s suspected nuclear-weapons program.

Clandestine operations against Iran are not new. United States Special Operations Forces have been conducting cross-border operations from southern Iraq, with Presidential authorization, since last year. These have included seizing members of Al Quds, the commando arm of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, and taking them to Iraq for interrogation, and the pursuit of “high-value targets” in the President’s war on terror, who may be captured or killed. But the scale and the scope of the operations in Iran, which involve the Central Intelligence Agency and the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), have now been significantly expanded, according to the current and former officials. Many of these activities are not specified in the new Finding, and some congressional leaders have had serious questions about their nature.


From the Telegraph

US funds terror groups to sow chaos in Iran

By William Lowther in Washington DC and Colin Freeman12:01AM GMT 25 Feb 2007

America is secretly funding militant ethnic separatist groups in Iran in an attempt to pile pressure on the Islamic regime to give up its nuclear programme.

In a move that reflects Washington’s growing concern with the failure of diplomatic initiatives, CIA officials are understood to be helping opposition militias among the numerous ethnic minority groups clustered in Iran’s border regions.

The operations are controversial because they involve dealing with movements that resort to terrorist methods in pursuit of their grievances against the Iranian regime.

In the past year there has been a wave of unrest in ethnic minority border areas of Iran, with bombing and assassination campaigns against soldiers and government officials.

Such incidents have been carried out by the Kurds in the west, the Azeris in the north-west, the Ahwazi Arabs in the south-west, and the Baluchis in the south-east. Non-Persians make up nearly 40 per cent of Iran’s 69 million population, with around 16 million Azeris, seven million Kurds, five million Ahwazis and one million Baluchis. Most Baluchis live over the border in Pakistan.

Funding for their separatist causes comes directly from the CIA’s classified budget but is now “no great secret”, according to one former high-ranking CIA official in Washington who spoke anonymously to The Sunday Telegraph.

His claims were backed by Fred Burton, a former US state department counter-terrorism agent, who said: “The latest attacks inside Iran fall in line with US efforts to supply and train Iran’s ethnic minorities to destabilise the Iranian regime.”


From USA Today

U.S. grants support to Iranian dissidents
Updated 6/28/2009 1:46 PM |

By Ken Dilanian, USA TODAY
WASHINGTON — The Obama administration is moving forward with plans to fund groups that support Iranian dissidents, records and interviews show, continuing a program that became controversial when it was expanded by President Bush.

The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), which reports to the secretary of state, has for the last year been soliciting applications for $20 million in grants to “promote democracy, human rights, and the rule of law in Iran,” according to documents on the agency’s website. The final deadline for grant applications is June 30.

U.S. efforts to support Iranian opposition groups have been criticized in recent years as veiled attempts to promote “regime change,” said Trita Parsi, president of the National Iranian American Council, the largest Iranian-American advocacy group. The grants enable Iran’s rulers to paint opponents as tools of the United States, he said.

Although the Obama administration has not sought to continue the Iran-specific grants in its 2010 budget, it wants a $15 million boost for the Near Eastern Regional Democracy Initiative, which has similar aims but does not specify the nations involved. Some of that money will be targeted at Iran, said David Carle, a spokesman for the appropriations subcommittee that oversees foreign affairs.

“Part of it is to expand access to information and communications through the Internet for Iranians,” Carle said in an e-mail.


From Foreign Policy

The Obama administration is still sleepwalking on Iran

By Stephen M. WaltFriday, August 6, 2010 - 11:52 AM

I don’t for a minute think that President Obama cares about what I write, or that he’s even aware that I’ve criticized the lack of progress being made on the main items on his foreign policy “to-do” list. It is therefore just a coincidence that he held a surprise meeting with a group of journalists on Wednesday and offered a lengthy defense of the administration’s approach to Iran.

You can find links to eye-witness accounts of the meeting, but the gist of the president’s pitch was as follows: 1) Our efforts to isolate Iran are working, and the regime is under growing pressure; 2) We remain open to improved relations with Iran and would welcome the opportunity to cooperate on matters of mutual interest, such as Afghanistan; 3) All Iran has to do is accept our entirely reasonable demand that it cease all nuclear enrichment; 4) Iran isn’t making rapid progress toward a nuclear bomb, so there’s no need for precipitate (i.e., military) action, but 5) All options are still “on the table.”

I’d like someone in the administration to be explicit about why they think our current approach is going to deliver any of the tangible things we claim to be want, such as 1) A guarantee that Iran won’t get nuclear weapons, 2) An improved relationship with Tehran, or 3) An end to Iranian support for Hezbollah, etc. It’s always possible that our current policy will eventually cause Iran to simply cave in to our demands, but the extensive literature on the efficacy of economic sanctions doesn’t offer much hope that this will happen soon. It is also possible that the clerical regime might conveniently collapse and be replaced by some version of the opposition, but there’s no reason to think this event is imminent. Indeed, tighter sanctions may even be strengthening the Revolutionary Guards and other pillars of the current regime, for the simple reason that they control key sectors of the illicit economy. And even if we did eventually get some sort of regime change, there is considerable popular support for Iran’s civilian nuclear program and key leaders of the opposition — including former Prime Minister Mir Hossein Mousavi — are strong proponents of the program. So why do we think our current policy will bring us what we want?

The basic problem is that our approach to Iran is rife with contradictions. We say we want better relations, but in the meantime we are almost certainly engaged in covert action inside Iran and we rarely miss an opportunity to remind the world that all options are still “on the table.” We’ve made it clear that we think Iran’s current government is illegitimate and ought to be replaced, and then we wonder why they don’t immediately respond when Obama says he really does want to cooperate. As I’ve noted before, this sort of inconsistency just fuels the suspicion that the United States is insincere and duplicitous and reinforces Iran’s own paranoia. We’ve also made it clear that we are dead-set against Iran’s getting a nuclear weapons capability — which they may or may not be trying to do — yet we continue to act in ways that can only reinforce their interest in having a more effective deterrent, even if it is only a “latent” capability.


From Sweetness & Light quoting a AFP article

Venezuela’s Chavez Sees CIA Hand In Iran Unrest MARACAY, Venezuela (AFP)–Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has accused the CIA of being behind antigovernment protests rocking Iran, and repeated his support for Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Chavez, who has tried to cultivate ties with the Islamic republic, said the ” imperial hand” of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency – and of Europe – was behind post-election clashes that had killed at least 17 people.

“People are in the streets, some are dead, they have snipers, and behind this is the CIA, the imperial hand of European countries and the United States,” he said.

Chavez made his comments late Wednesday on the margins of a gathering of Latin American leftist leaders.

“Ahmadinejad won the elections legally, we are absolutely sure we know quite a lot about Iranian politics,” Chavez said.

Iran has also claimed the CIA is behind protests in Iran.

Chavez’ comments echo earlier support for the incumbent Iranian president, who the Iranian state says won reelection earlier this month.


From Seattle PI

By John de Yonge P-I Columnist
WEDNESDAY, November 12, 1986 <

I have worried for a week about what kind of cake Bob McFarlane secreted into Teheran as a lure for the Ayatollah Khomeini.

Was it a white cake with white frosting? A chocolate cake with white frosting? An applesauce cake disguised with white frosting to look like a white cake but aimed at seducing the ayatollah to our side because the National Security Council found out he has a secret passion for cinnamon?

We do know that the cake was shaped like a key. This shape was determined during the 18 months of planning that went on at the White House to charm the old Moslem devil to our side with some presents.

The planning, all by the National Security Council staff and started before McFarlane resigned as national security adviser last winter, was approved by President Reagan down to the last nit, according to unnamed White o are blabbing about it to anyone who will listen.

Sending a planeload of guns and airplane parts to the elderly fanatic was an obvious ploy, especially since the ayatollah knew that our national law banned sending him anything because he had been such a bad boy during Jimmy Carter’s administration. Sending him jet engines, anti-aircraft missiles, bullets and bombs was a naughty stroke he would appreciate.

Bahrainis Protest, Saudi’s & US Concerned, Iran Linchpin

Tuesday, February 15th, 2011

The USA is using not very subtle pressure to try and bring about a revolution in Iran. It would be a hell of a lot cheaper than invading. This is where I have problems. I support the Iranian people, but I am opposed to US imperialism. Regarding Iran I was neutral during the Green rebellion, and now with the US so adamantly in favor of a rebellion in Iran, I am suspicious of anything that develops. I know a lot of Iranians here in the Los Angeles region and some pretty reactionary views are held by the Shah supporters.

In Bahrain there is a Shite majority held under wraps by a Sunni Sheik. The protests there are a mixture of civil society and the desire for majority rule. If that happened the chances are that the US 5th Fleet would have to find a new home. The Saudi’s are not likely to allow a Shite regime so close to their borders. Iran would love to see a Shite majority government, just like in Iraq.

It is sort of a race, will the Shite and radical Muslims win or will the civil society pro-western view win out. For those of us on the left neither is necessarily better than the other unless there is a strong socialist element in the mix and room for the growth of unions. Increased freedom of speech and association will ultimately benefit the people, so from that perspective it would be better to see a liberal democracy than a fundamentalist Muslim state emerge in these countries. But it is up to the people there. We can only do our best to keep the CIA and State department from screwing things up.


From BBC

15 February 2011 Last updated at 10:46 ET
Bahrain protests prompt global concernsBy Bill Law

Reporter, Crossing Continents

Bahrainis tried to create their own version of Egypt’s Tahrir Square

As protests continue in the tiny gulf state of Bahrain, home to the US Fifth Fleet, the Americans and Saudi Arabia are monitoring events there very closely.

The country, with an indigenous Shia-majority population, is ruled by a Sunni royal family, the al-Khalifas.

As events in Egypt gathered pace, human rights activists in Bahrain called for a day of rage on 14 February.

The result on Monday was sporadic protests in Shia villages across the island and attempts to create a “Tahrir Square movement” in downtown Manama, the capital.

Footage shot by protesters and posted on the internet shows riot police attacking peaceful demonstrators with tear gas and rubber bullets.

Thus far, the government is continuing to respond with harsh tactics. Dozens of protesters have been wounded and two killed.

A 21-year-old man died on Monday after being hit by a rubber bullet. On Tuesday, at a funeral march to protest against his killing, a second man was hit by a shotgun blast and died.

Although protesters have been routinely beaten and tear-gassed by security forces in the past, these deaths are the first of their kind in several years, and are likely to add fuel to a growing anger among ordinary Bahrainis.

The demonstrators, many waving the Bahraini flag, are calling for a new constitution, the release of hundreds of Shia men and boys who have been rounded up since August 2010 and an end to civil rights abuses.

The king went on state television promising to investigate the deaths of the two protesters and offering to set up a committee to discuss change.

“Too little, too late,” was the blunt analysis of Nabeel Rajab of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights.

“Yesterday the people were calling for reform. Today they are saying: ‘Change the regime.’”

However, Western analysts caution that an Egyptian-style revolution is unlikely to unfold in Bahrain.

Gala Riani, a senior Middle East analyst at Jane’s Defence Weekly says: “Bahrain is not unused to this kind of unrest.

Bahrain’s majority Shias have complained of discrimination by the governing Sunni dynasty
But if these protests transcend the sectarian divide and the Bahraini government responds with ever more brutal tactics, Washington will be put in a very difficult place - to support the government will be to deny the democratic aspirations of yet another Arab nation.

And Saudi Arabia is even more nervous - a causeway links the kingdom to Bahrain.

An expert with close ties to the powerful Saudi Interior Minister Prince Nayef told me the Saudi government will intervene if the situation “gets out of hand”.

Gala Riani of Jane’s Weekly concurs, saying the Saudis would not be loath to lend support - and in a worst-case scenario to intervene directly - should the Bahraini authorities not be able to control the demonstrations.

That would add a nightmarish twist to Barack Obama’s growing Middle East dilemma at a time when instability is rapidly outpacing American strategy in the region.


From Huffington Post

The Domino Effect: Is Iran Next? Important

The earth is shaking again in Iran, and the smug President Ahmadinejad is feeling the tremor. The hundreds of thousands of protestors in the streets of Tehran and other major Iranian cities like Tabriz, Yazd, Ahvaz, Mashad, Shiraz, and Isphahan were chanting “Mubarak, Ben-Ali, novbat-e Seyyed-Ali” which translates to: Mubarak, Ben Ali and now it’s the turn of the supreme leader Ali Khamenei, also called Seyyed-Ali, to demonstrate his lineage to the Prophet Muhammad.

What should give Ahmadinejad a reason for serious heartburn is the protestors’ battle for change. They chanted “Azadi” — freedom, and, “Not Gaza, not Lebanon, but Tunisia and Egypt.” These slogans send a clear message: many thousands of protestors want to topple the oppressive regime of Ali Khamenei and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as the people of Tunisia and Egypt deposed their own leaders. Another important message the demonstrators were sending was that Iran and Iranians should come first. The active meddling of Iran in Lebanon and Gaza cost the Iranian tax payers billions of dollars and in return Iran gets to be on the world’s list of pariah states. There’s a clear disparity between the Iranian government and the demonstrators. The official Tehran, led by an Ayatollah as a supreme leader, wants to spread the Islamic revolution, and crown the religious leader as the sole leader of the Islamic world, while the people want freedom and affordable food on their tables, and could care less who’s regarded as supreme Islamic leader by the Gazans.

Are the demonstrations any different than those we saw in 2009 that were suppressed with an iron fist? At least in one aspect they are. The protestors became fearless. They saw what nonviolent popular uprisings did in Tunisia and in Egypt and vow to copycat the same process in Iran.

However, the Iranian demonstrators don’t have to look to Tunisia and Egypt for a good cause for demonstration. All they had to do was look at the rising cost of living and the shrinking buying power of the Iranian currency. Since government subsidies were cut in December 2010, the price of gasoline rose by 75% and the price of diesel fuel rose by a whopping 2,000%. Water and electricity rates have substantially increased and the price of certain loaves of bread quadrupled. Ironically, the drastic economic measures taken by Ahmadinejad — cutting the annual $100 billion subsidies — was an economically sound move. But in a country that was already under economic siege created by the debilitating sanctions and embargo imposed by the U.N over Iran’s nuclear plans; the move was too big to swallow. Add to this fray the morality police who crack down on those whose dress or behavior flout their interpretation of Islam. Add the suppression of any opposition and the government’s tight control of the media — then little wonder that all that was needed was a spark in that tinder box.

At this time, it appears that the regime could survive the current political turmoil. The Iranian government made sure that no opposition leader could emerge and lead. The Egyptian demonstrators had a focused message of freedom, and succeeded. Save for sporadic violent interventions of the Egyptian police, the secret service, and the massive power of the military, they stayed out of the conflict. Their lack of support doomed Mubarak. In Iran the situation is different. The regime has its own might — the Revolutionary Guard — IRGC. Officially the Guards’ role is to prevent internal rebellious powers including the Iranian military, from overthrowing the regime. The IRGC has more than 150,000 soldiers including air and naval forces. The IRGC controls the paramilitary Basij militia with 100,000 active personnel. The IRGC operates mostly off the Iranian budget particularly since it has developed into a multibillion-dollar business empire. Therefore, they are not subject to budget cuts and their loyalty to the current regime in unfettered.

Fars News Agency, the semiofficial Iranian news agency announced yesterday that “the elements of unlawful assembly hypocrites, monarchists, thugs and intrigue in some streets of Tehran with a pretext to support the people of Egypt and Tunisia, held slogans in support of the people of Egypt and Tunisia.”

Israel, Iran & Afghanistan, Battling Feudal Interests Around the World and At Home.

Sunday, August 30th, 2009

Today on Ian Masters show talk is of international relations in the middle east and south Asia. His guest Wayne White states support for the peace process has dwindled away in Israel as a result of the second intifada. The majority of Israelis now think the Palestinians are not serious about peace and the extreme right wing is growing in Israel.
The Fatah has been weakened and is seen as collaborationist. Hamas is now fighting off hard line separatist groups on its own right who are advocating total war with Israel. He is not optimistic for positive resuts in the new peace talks.
Regarding Iran he states that the hard line taken by the current regime is not supported by a majority of the clerics and that there could be a weakening of the position of the government. Wayne White is a former member of the Iraq study group.

Karzai in Afghanistan is being accused of massive voter fraud. Karzai has recently pardoned convicted heroin traffickers who had been convicted by the new Afghani judiciary. A credible government that provides security and justice is what is needed in the country. As things stand a run off election may give some legitimacy to this corrupt government.
Dr. Abdullah Abdullah is seen as being a tool of the Indian government even more than Karzai by the Pakistani government. This motivates them to support the Taliban as stated on Ian Masters show today on KPFK.
This is from the Real News Network an article about the Heroin network in Afghanistan.

“Drug lords have friends in high places
Tom Lasseter: Afghan drug trade thrives with help, and neglect, of officials
May 10, 2009

By Tom Lasseter | McClatchy Newspapers
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — When it’s harvest time in the poppy fields of Kandahar, dust-covered Taliban fighters pull up on their motorbikes to collect a 10 percent tax on the crop. Afghan police arrive in Ford Ranger pickups — bought with U.S. aid money — and demand their cut of the cash in exchange for promises to skip the farms during annual eradication.
Then, usually late one afternoon, a drug trafficker will roll up in his Toyota Land Cruiser with black-tinted windows and send a footman to pay the farmers in cash. The farmers never see the boss, but they suspect that he’s a local power broker who has ties to the U.S.-backed Afghan government.
“In this country, if someone really tells the truth he will have no place to live,” said Agha Saqeb, who served as the provincial police chief in Kandahar, in the heart of Afghanistan’s opium belt, from 2007 to 2008. Naming Afghan officials who profit from drugs, he said, would get him killed: “They are still in power and they could harm me.”
The embassies of the U.S., Britain and Canada — the countries principally behind counter-narcotics in Afghanistan — declined to comment. A State Department report issued earlier this year flatly noted that: “Many Afghan government officials are believed to profit from the drug trade.”
It also said: “Regrettably, no major drug trafficker has been arrested or convicted in Afghanistan since 2006.”
U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration officials in Kabul also refused to comment. Afghan and Western observers said the DEA had been hampered by inadequate staffing and by the difficulty of cracking down on drug trafficking in a country where local officials were implicated in it.
The corruption allegedly reaches the highest levels of Afghanistan’s political elite. According to multiple Afghan former officials, Ahmed Wali Karzai, the brother of President Hamid Karzai and the head of the provincial council in Kandahar, routinely manipulates judicial and police officials to facilitate shipments of opium and heroin.
According to several Afghan former officials in the region, however, the major drug traffickers in southern Afghanistan don’t worry much about getting caught because they’re working under the protection of Karzai and other powerful government officials.
For example, a former top Afghan intelligence official recounted an incident from about five years ago, when, he said, his men arrested a Taliban commander who was involved with drugs at a key narcotics-trafficking point between Helmand and the Pakistani border.
Late on the evening of the arrest, a local prosecutor dropped by and said that Ahmed Wali Karzai wanted the militant released, according to Dad Mohammed Khan, who was the national intelligence directorate chief of Helmand province for about three years before he became a member of the national parliament.
Khan said he released the Taliban commander, a man known as Haji Abdul Rahim, because he didn’t want to tangle with the president’s brother.
A week after his conversation with McClatchy, Khan — a large man with a bushy black beard who had a reputation for dealing with enemies ruthlessly — was killed by a roadside bomb that most attribute to the Taliban.”

What I don’t understand is what are all these highly educated people doing? Either the situation on the ground is much less clear cut that it seems from these reports, or we are really wasting our time in Afghanistan. So why are American and NATO troops in Afghanistan? The security we are providing is causing large numbers of civilian casualties.

This is from an article about the military vetting reporters allowed into the war zone in Afghanistan.

“New Files Prove Pentagon Is Profiling Reporters

Posted by Amanda Terkel, Think Progress at 6:01 AM on August 28, 2009.
The Pentagon hired a controversial contractor to screen journalists seeking to embed with U.S. forces.
This week, Stars and Stripes revealed that the Pentagon had hired a controversial contractor to screen journalists seeking to embed with U.S. forces. The Rendon Group determines whether reporters’ coverage “was ‘positive,’ ‘negative’ or ‘neutral’ compared to mission objectives.” The Pentagon’s decision was especially shocking in light of Rendon’s sordid past: The group personally set up the Iraqi National Congress and helped install Ahmad Chalabi as leader, whose main goal — “pressure the United States to attack Iraq and overthrow Saddam Hussein” — Rendon helped facilitate.
Military officials immediately went about furiously refuting the reports. “We have not denied access to anyone because of what may or may not come out of their biography,” said public affairs officer Air Force Capt. Elizabeth Mathias. “It’s so we know with whom we’re working.” Other officials for the Pentagon and Rendon went even further:
“They are not doing that [rating reporters], that’s not been a practice for some time — actually since the creation of U.S. Forces–Afghanistan” in October 2008, Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman told reporters Monday. “I can tell you that the way in which the Department of Defense evaluates an article is its accuracy. It’s a good article if it’s accurate. It’s a bad article if it’s inaccurate. That’s the only measurement that we use here at the Defense Department.” […]
But new files prove otherwise. Stars and Stripes obtained profiles produced by Rendon. They clearly calculate the percentage of “positive” stories written by a reporter and offer ideas not about how to get the reporter to produce more accurate stories, but how to get more “favorable coverage” for the military. Fox News also obtained a slide from a Rendon PowerPoint presentation, where headlines from major newspapers are rated with “a plus sign, a negative sign or a capital ‘N,’ presumably for neutral.” Images from the profiles and PowerPoint:
Stars and Stripes also notes that one of the profiles looked at a reporter’s work as recently as May, indicating that the ranking did not stop in October 2008, as Whitman claimed.”

T.R.Reid is on Ian Masters show talking about health care. They are discussing how other countries do it. Germany invented a system that was given to everybody via the workplace in the 1880’s. Other countries with private health care have stricter regulations and they are run on a non profit basis. There is no ability to refuse to insure someone because of their health conditions. They also are not allowed to refuse to pay for treatments that have been authorized.
In Australia they use the Canadian model. The providers are private but the insurer is the state. Everyone is covered and the out of pocket expenses are minimal.
22,000 Americans die every year because they cannot afford the medical cost. That does not happen in any other wealthy countries in the world. We have the most expensive system in the world that simply doesn’t work. The rest of the world simply made the commitment for universal coverage and they figured out how to get there. We have never made that commitment in the USA.
Some Americans have the best medical care in the world, but millions don’t have any coverage at all. Many Americans are more concerned about the chance that some illegal immigrant will get health care, than they are about the millions of people who get no health care or have limited coverage. That is a case of penny wise and pound foolish.
It looks like the government will come up with a 1/3rd of the needed plan and the states will come up with plans of their own. When you cover everyone the costs go down. People go to get care here at the last phase when it is most expensive. If we had universal care there would be lower costs overall. Japan has universal care with for profit providers but the insurance plan is not for profit. No country but the USA has a for profit insurance company. If we had the will to provide universal health care, we could learn from other countries.

The author of “The Man Who Sold the World: Ronald Reagan and the Betrayal of Main Street America”, William Kleinknecht is now on Ian Masters. People see AIG and GM fail and the government bails them out and people blame the government instead of the capitalists who are responcible for the failure. He says the people who know the truth need to speak louder to counter the voices of the Fox News liars. The wealthiest .1% own more than they ever did. Most Americans don’t understand the mechanism by which it happens. Teddy Roosevelt attacked the trusts and so should Obama. He should be telling the truth and not simply giving up and leaving it to Congress. Tax payer should be more concerned about getting value out of their tax dollars and not simply blaming the government.
Reagan-ism is about transferring public moneys to private industry. In 1982 the Reagan Administration stated that it was ending all funding for medical care and giving it to HMOs. They gave money to private industry to compete with the state. It really was a form of theft from the poor to those who don’t need it. Reagan claimed he was cutting taxes but what they did was shift the taxes from the rich to the workers. Under Reagan it was stated that the not for profit medical system was more concerned with providing a social good rather than a return on investment. That was the rationale for switching funding to for profit HMOs.
The Reagan administration was expert at obfuscation. They created simple images of welfare queens to turn people against welfare by playing on peoples racial prejudices. The right used simple distractionary issues like school prayer to get their attention focused on irrelevancies. We won’t make any progress until the system of legalized bribery has been conquered. He was speaking about corporations buying the votes of congress. What we need is a new progressive movement like what we had at the turn of the last century.
Since Obama is the equal of Reagan in his oratorical skills, he should use them to fight for change and not give in to the demands of the right wing.

Here is the column from Paul Krugman in the New York Times.

“Op-Ed Columnist All the President’s Zombies
Published: August 23, 2009
The debate over the “public option” in health care has been dismaying in many ways. Perhaps the most depressing aspect for progressives, however, has been the extent to which opponents of greater choice in health care have gained traction — in Congress, if not with the broader public — simply by repeating, over and over again, that the public option would be, horrors, a government program.
Washington, it seems, is still ruled by Reaganism — by an ideology that says government intervention is always bad, and leaving the private sector to its own devices is always good.
Call me naïve, but I actually hoped that the failure of Reaganism in practice would kill it. It turns out, however, to be a zombie doctrine: even though it should be dead, it keeps on coming.
Let’s talk for a moment about why the age of Reagan should be over.
First of all, even before the current crisis Reaganomics had failed to deliver what it promised. Remember how lower taxes on high incomes and deregulation that unleashed the “magic of the marketplace” were supposed to lead to dramatically better outcomes for everyone? Well, it didn’t happen.
To be sure, the wealthy benefited enormously: the real incomes of the top .01 percent of Americans rose sevenfold between 1980 and 2007. But the real income of the median family rose only 22 percent, less than a third its growth over the previous 27 years.
Moreover, most of whatever gains ordinary Americans achieved came during the Clinton years. President George W. Bush, who had the distinction of being the first Reaganite president to also have a fully Republican Congress, also had the distinction of presiding over the first administration since Herbert Hoover in which the typical family failed to see any significant income gains.
And then there’s the small matter of the worst recession since the 1930s.
There’s a lot to be said about the financial disaster of the last two years, but the short version is simple: politicians in the thrall of Reaganite ideology dismantled the New Deal regulations that had prevented banking crises for half a century, believing that financial markets could take care of themselves. The effect was to make the financial system vulnerable to a 1930s-style crisis — and the crisis came.
“We have always known that heedless self-interest was bad morals,” said Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1937. “We know now that it is bad economics.” And last year we learned that lesson all over again.
Or did we? The astonishing thing about the current political scene is the extent to which nothing has changed.
The debate over the public option has, as I said, been depressing in its inanity. Opponents of the option — not just Republicans, but Democrats like Senator Kent Conrad and Senator Ben Nelson — have offered no coherent arguments against it. Mr. Nelson has warned ominously that if the option were available, Americans would choose it over private insurance — which he treats as a self-evidently bad thing, rather than as what should happen if the government plan was, in fact, better than what private insurers offer.
But it’s much the same on other fronts. Efforts to strengthen bank regulation appear to be losing steam, as opponents of reform declare that more regulation would lead to less financial innovation — this just months after the wonders of innovation brought our financial system to the edge of collapse, a collapse that was averted only with huge infusions of taxpayer funds.
So why won’t these zombie ideas die?
Part of the answer is that there’s a lot of money behind them. “It is difficult to get a man to understand something,” said Upton Sinclair, “when his salary” — or, I would add, his campaign contributions — “depend upon his not understanding it.” In particular, vast amounts of insurance industry money have been flowing to obstructionist Democrats like Mr. Nelson and Senator Max Baucus, whose Gang of Six negotiations have been a crucial roadblock to legislation.
But some of the blame also must rest with President Obama, who famously praised Reagan during the Democratic primary, and hasn’t used the bully pulpit to confront government-is-bad fundamentalism. That’s ironic, in a way, since a large part of what made Reagan so effective, for better or for worse, was the fact that he sought to change America’s thinking as well as its tax code.
How will this all work out? I don’t know. But it’s hard to avoid the sense that a crucial opportunity is being missed, that we’re at what should be a turning point but are failing to make the turn.”

Pretty damn straightforward. What is it? Corruption. Pure and simple. Congress is bought out by corporate interests, right wing pundants on the payroll of the corporations are encouraged to rile up their listeners and right wing so called grass roots organizations funded by these corporations and run by PR experts then drive bus loads of these riled up and misinformed citizens to town hall meetings where they make incoherent sounds that are picked up by right wing corporate media and broadcast to the nation as if this was the spontaneous outrage of average Amercians. It is all corrupt and cynical. Then the bought out Congress persons have cover to lie to the people some more and use as an example of the ground swell of the grass roots these sound bites in the media that are orchestrated by the same pr people who are writing the scripts for these Congress persons.
I don’t know if Obama has been able to out flank them. He has been able to buy off some of the pharmaceutical industries money but he has not been able to get to the hard core corporate right wing and as long as they have money and control of some members of Congress they will play their hand for keeps.
They are fighting against the tide of history and the desires of the people. But they have lies and subterfuge and will use every bit of guile at their disposal to defeat any attempt at health care reform or financial reform. We have to encourage the liberal and progressives in government to fight this old guard and beat them. My friend Dean is an optimist and believes this is possible. I am thinking that we are on the right side of history and those forces for the wealthy elite are fighting for a return to feudalism, it won’t happen. Lets make sure it doesn’t.

Health Insurance Bait & Switch, Beer Summit, Zelaya Speaks, Iran Protests

Thursday, July 30th, 2009

Today Representative Anthony Weiner of New York called on Congress members to state their position on government health care. This is the 44th anniversary of Medicare and he has submitted a bill for for Congress persons to decide if they believe in Government Health Plans. He is asking them if they support Medicare.
Medicare the health plan of Americas elderly and disabled, the plan that has a 98% efficiency, vs. the private plans that have about an 80% efficiency. If you had a choice would you rather have a plan that spend 98% on real health care or 80%? If you can believe the Republicans and the insurance companies, Americans would rather spend money on the less efficient system. Americans would rather have the most expensive and least efficient system in the world and would rather be giving insurance company executives big bonuses and help support the investors in the Insurance industry because, well because that is the American way, right?
Wrong I hope. We will find out over the next month or so how gullible and willing to be scared into believing that a public heath care plan is wrong. Perhaps we should simply get rid of medicare and privatise it like the Republicans have suggested. Remember Bush and his plan to privatise Social Security? He wanted us to play the stock market for our retirement plans. Why don’t we go all the way and do the same with Medicare? It certainly will downsize government. It makes about as much sense.
Just like climate change, we were the last major country in the world to see that it was real. I guess we will be the last major country in the world to get universal health care.

Now I am engaging in satire. Warning the next paragraph is satire!!!
Tonight on Larry King they are raking some poor Boston cop through the coals for calling Professor Gates a Banana eating monkey. This is the modern day equivalent of hippies spitting on Vietnam Vets and calling them baby killers just because that was part of their job. Can you blame them? I mean in war people do horrible things. In Vietnam American soldiers raped, and murdered women, killed babies and tortured prisoners. But that is part of war. People who don’t go to fight wars should be more understanding that if these soldiers didn’t do their job, well there wouldn’t be wars, and then where would we be? Cops have to put up with disrespectful punks and just because a black man is old, and a professor, doesn’t mean he doesn’t have a hatred for police and a latent desire to break in and enter peoples homes. Just look at the facts. Professor Gates was breaking into a house. He was holding resentment towards an officer of the law. What more do I need to say?

Ok, that is about as absurd as I can get, satire in the extreme is over. Back to my normal sarcasm mixed with earnest sincerity. I can’t believe that a President has to apologise for calling a cop stupid. It shows how in America a black man, even if he is president, has to be careful of what he says to white people.
As a believer in equality, I think it is good that the president was willing to meet and have a beer with a working man. The meeting of working cop and professor and president is good for the country. It is genuinely a beneficial thing for the country, just like having a recall-able presidency would be and having town hall meetings around the country to get the pulse of the nation. In a real democracy we would think it was the most normal thing in the world.

Seriously we need a single payer plan. The best suggestion I have heard today was on KPFK this morning where Kip Sullivan of Physician for a National Health Care Program called what is happening in Congress a bait and switch. The single payer option was taken off the table to keep from upsetting the insurance people. The public option plan devised by Jacob Hacker in 2001 when he was a graduate student, and supported by Health America Now, was supposed to take the Medicare model and expand it for anyone who wanted it. It was supposed to be able to cover up to 130 million people. Congress is saying that it is not feasible and they are now talking about a health plan that will only cover perhaps 10 million people. This will not cover all the people who do need insurance and it won’t bring down health care costs.
Sullivan is basicly saying that if we get this anemic plan that will barely cover any people at all, it is doomed to failure. This will only play into the hands of those who are opposed to any public plan. He is saying we need a large plan that will have clout with the manufacturers and providers to be able to negotiate better rates and to get efficiencies of scale. A small plan will not be able to enroll enough people or get enough doctors to sign up. This is a proscription for failure.
Sullivan also thinks that the new insurance plan is really not about a public plan but is about a bailout for the health insurance industry. If we don’t get reform then what we will get is simply a trillion dollars for the insurance industry. He says that a minimal public plan will be basicly a 97% bailout for the private insurance industry instead of a 100% bailout for the insurance industry if we get no public option at all. What we need is a real strong single payer plan, or at least a public option that has clout. We don’t need a symbolic plan that is a fig-leaf for an insurance company bailout.
What we need to do Sullivan says is tell our congress persons to change the wording of HR3200 the current public option plan with the wording of HR 676 which is the Conyers/Kucinich single payer plan and is a good insurance plan. Congress persons can do that and it would give us a plan that would work. Substitute language of HR 3200 with the language of HR 676. That would be the simplest and most forthright thing to do, he claims.
HR 676 has been taken off the table by the Democratic leadership. It is the bill with 83 cosponsors, the bill with the most co-sponsors, and is supported by 65% of the American people. What it does is expand the medicare plan to the entire country with a few improvements. It is simple and is easy and that would mean there is one payer. It is the plan that will give us real national health care and will effect efficiencies that will save money.
He says that it would be better to have no public option than a bad one that merely disillusions people.

Kip Sullivan sits on the steering committee of the Minnesota Universal Health Care Coalition. He is the author of The Health Care Mess.

This from Democracy Now

“Conservative Dems Win Limits on Public Health Option
House Democratic leaders have reached a deal with a group of conservative Democrats that critics say would weaken a public insurance option in health care reform. The agreement with the Blue Dog Coalition preserves the public option, but without requirements linking payment rates to Medicare. Without rules capping payments to hospitals and doctors, the government-run public option would have higher costs. Speaking in North Carolina, President Obama said his health care reform plan would stop insurance companies from denying coverage to patients with preexisting health problems or who become gravely ill.
President Obama: “What we need and what we will have when we pass these reforms are health insurance consumer protections to make sure that those who have insurance are treated fairly and insurance companies are held accountable.”
Congressional leaders hope to hold a vote on health care legislation in September.”

Iran, the Iranians had another protest today on the anniversary of the death of the woman Neda Soltan who has become the poster body for the Iranian protest movement.
This from FSRN (Free Speech Radio News)
Iranian government breaks up mourners at fallen protester’s grave
In Iran today, people mourned the citizens killed in post election protests, but not without interference from state security forces. Hundreds gathered at the grave of Neda Agha-Soltan, the young protester who became the international face of the turmoil.
This was the scene at Tehran’s Behesht-e Zahra cemetery, from an unconfirmed video posted today on YouTube. It shows hundreds of protesters chanting the name of opposition leader Mirhossein Mousavi, in addition to chants of “death to dictator” and “don’t be afraid, we are all together.” Reuters reports that Iranian security forces broke up the cemetery protest, detaining at least three. Witnesses say Mousavi attempted to attend the memorial gathering, but was forced to leave by police.
Protesters also gathered in other parts of Tehran, continuing their call for justice. Reports coming through on Twitter document further clashes between security forces and protesters. The government denied requests for mourners to gather in the Grand Mosalla prayer center – a square in central Tehran that can accommodate 10-thousand people.”

Honduras, President Zeyla was on Democracy Now and spoke about the repression going on in his country because of the coup and that there are now death squads formed from the worst of the abusers from the miltary rule in the 1980’s. He calls upon the people of Honduras to stand up for their rights and not let the Coup leaders repress them.

This is part of the transcript of the program.
AMY GOODMAN: Some people have commented on your conversion, on changing from allying with the oligarchy to where you are today, with the popular movements. Can you talk about that change?
PRESIDENT MANUEL ZELAYA: [translated] I practiced liberalism as an ideological method that respects private property, private investment, and respects public freedoms. I turned—I went to a social liberalism, a pro-socialist liberalism, so that the economy benefits the people and not just the economic elites. And this irritated the economic elites. They thought it was dangerous for me to organize the social sectors, and they planned the coup d’état.
AMY GOODMAN: John Negroponte, who was the ambassador to Nicaragua—to Honduras in the early ’80s, also worked with Battalion 3-16. Do you see his hand today, or others, like Otto Reich of the United States?
PRESIDENT MANUEL ZELAYA: [translated] Otto Reich has already made statements about it. Also Ramon Carmona, who’s a Venezuelan exile in the United States. They have already unmasked themselves. I can’t talk about other people, but I know that there are many hawks from the old guard in the United States and the CIA supporting violence and arms as a method to solve problems. I’m someone who professes peaceful means and nonviolence, and I don’t support force to resolve things, but rather dialogue.”

This is more from the story on Democracy Now about the government spying on political activists in Seattle.

Democracy Now! Broadcast Exclusive: Declassified Docs Reveal Military Operative Spied on WA Peace Groups, Activist Friends Stunned
Newly declassified documents reveal that an active member of Students for a Democratic Society and Port Militarization Resistance in Washington state was actually an informant for the US military. The man everyone knew as “John Jacob” was in fact John Towery, a member of the Force Protection Service at Fort Lewis. The military’s role in the spying raises questions about possibly illegal activity. The Posse Comitatus law bars the use of the armed forces for law enforcement inside the United States. The Fort Lewis military base denied our request for an interview. But in a statement to Democracy Now!, the base’s Public Affairs office publicly acknowledged for the first time that Towery is a military operative. “This could be one of the key revelations of this era,” said Eileen Clancy, who has closely tracked government spying on activist organizations.
Brendan Maslauskas Dunn, Olympia-based activist with Students for a Democratic Society and Port Militarization Resistance. He submitted the Freedom of Information Act request that revealed his friend and fellow activist “John Jacob” was actually military spy John Towery.
Drew Hendricks, Olympia-based activist with Port Militarization Resistance. Also worked with John Towery, aka “John Jacob,” on activist causes before Towery’s exposure as a military spy.
Mike German, National Security Policy Counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union. He was an FBI agent specializing in domestic counter terrorism from 1988 to 2004.
Larry Hildes, Bellingham-based attorney and National Lawyers Guild member who has represented Washington state-based activists with Students for a Democratic Society and Port Militarization Resistance in criminal and civil cases.
Eileen Clancy, Founding member of I-Witness Video who has documented government surveillance of activist groups for years. Her group was targeted by police raids last summer during the Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minnesota.”

You can find the podcast and the transcripts on the Democracy Now website.

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