Posts Tagged ‘Israel’

Gaza, US Middle East Bungling, Anti-Semitism, Plautus, & Ancient Usury

Sunday, August 31st, 2014

The yellow badge Jews were forced to wear can be seen in this marginal illustration from an English manuscript.


Summer is almost over as we enter the Labor Day holiday weekend here in the USA. May Day, the world wide labor struggle holiday, which started in honor of American Anarchists in Chicago, is alienated from its radical history here. But the people have struggled to have their voices heard despite the constant media barrage to discourage action and to induce a sense of fear and helplessness.

We can see how people the world over took to the streets when Israel attacked Gaza, especially in Europe, not so strangely the dictatorships in the Arab world remained largely silent, not wanting to encourage more signs of resistance like the Arab Spring. The USA, as leader of the cabal of elite rulers around the world, has rocked the boat when Obama made his seemingly foolish speech in Cairo when he was first elected. It must be attributed to his relative political naïveté in international affairs. He perhaps wanted to distinguish himself from Bush’s administration with its heavy handed interventionist policies. The elites in Saudi Arabia never forgave him for letting Mubarak go. They insisted on returning the military to power and now are busily working with proxies such as the U.A.E. to destroy the independent resistance in Libya and did their best to turn Syria into a quagmire.

The Obama administration, with their desire to turn focus to deal with a rising China, and create an East Asian NATO, has now found itself being out-foxed by the combined efforts of Iran, Russia and China. But I digress into speculation on politics based on my own reading and experience in various domestic anti-imperialist political campaigns.

Little Gaza is a lynchpin irritant; it is the sore that keeps the Islamic world rallying against the presence of Israel. It is such a blatant injustice, that when Islamic regimes give silent aid to Israel, they fuel the forces of Islamic radicalism. It was the Palestinian question and the placement of US bases in Saudi Arabia allowed Osama Bin Laden to inspire so many young Saudi’s and others to such an implacable resistance to the US machinations leading to 9/11.

What to do about Israel? I can admire the Jewish people and their resilience in the face of prejudice, especially on the part of Christians that goes back to at least medieval times. The Greek-Jewish hostility dating back to the Greek Selucid occupation of the Jewish homeland in the Hellenistic period, extended into the Roman times. Witness the riots in Roman occupied Alexandria between Greeks and Jews and the records of delegations to Rome during the time of Caligula, to resolve these conflicts in Philo. The degeneration of relations between Rome and the Jews from the days when Herod was a welcome celebrity in Rome, to the time of the destruction of the second temple by Vespasian and Titus, a subject that I would like to dig into sometime because it would be interesting to see how Jews became Shylocks in the western tradition and a persecuted minority.
I am providing a link to a fairly good article from Wikipedia on the subject of the early split between Judaism and Christianity, which resulted in official oppression of Jews once the Christians became part of the government after Constantine. The earlier Roman oppression of the Jews had more to do with Roman practice against rebels than any specific anti-Semitism. Later the attitude of Hadrian, whose Hellenophile enthusiasm, may have influenced his repression of the Jews and renaming Jerusalem as pagan Aelia Capitolina. What has the Greek and Jewish conflict played in the emergence of anti-Semitism is a subject I intend to write about more. As it is I am diverging again.

The Jewish people deserve to feel safe in their place in the world. Yet they must not do so by developing their own version of South African Apartheid on a much smaller and more intensive scale.

This entire discourse was inspired by my reading of Plautus’s play The Mostellaria, reading his rants against moneylenders. His language seems right out of the Biblical Jesus’s excoriation of the money changers. It got me thinking about when were Jews first associated with the reviled loan sharks. Plautus has his hero, the mischievous slave Tranio, say in an aside to the audience “By Pollux, you won’t find a fouler class of/men/Or men less lawful than the moneylending breed!” (Plautus 657-659). He spends a goodly section of the play railing against loans at interest and one gets the impression that this may have been a relatively recent development in Roman culture. Banking with the concept of interest had been criticized by Aristotle and Roman law limited interest to 8 1/3%. Yet in the play the money lender is asking for 10%.

Also in the war with the Carthaginians, the second Punic war, which would have been going on during much of Plautus’s adulthood, the Roman Republic took out many loans and taxed women for their jewel and gold inherited from dead spouses called the Oppian Laws. After the war in 195 BC when the war was long over, the Oppian law was still in effect and the women protested when the Senate was voting on repeal and the tribunes were about to veto repeal. This occurred a decade or so before Plautus died and presumably when he was a well-known playwright.
So I was thinking about how usury was unpopular among the aristocracy of the day. There had been a crisis in Athens earlier when many farmers had become enslaved for non-payment of debt. Solon famously did much to eliminate that debt and legislated against it. The Greeks famously used their temples as banks. Pawnbrokers and money changing are considered to be Greek innovations. Perhaps the outrage of Jesus was outrage at the Hellenistic practice in the Jewish temple. This would give a nationalist twist to his opposition, or who ever made up the story. The transformation of the payment in interest in grain, where agricultural products naturally created more abundance, as opposed to the innovation of charging interest on money and metals which had no natural increase which caused serious problems in ancient society. But how the Jews, became associated with moneylending had much to do with medieval taxation and land ownership restrictions on Jews and their lack of a natural land base after the diaspora. I am again getting beyond my area of even limited expertise, so I am going to leave it at that.
I am leaving this off with more questions than answers. I am going to have to read more on the original Greek and Jewish interaction. Perhaps in my Pagan Culture class I will write a paper on this and post it. Meanwhile it is now August 31st and I have not even touched on the issues of migration and police shootings of minorities. I will write more at a later time. Meantime I would love some commentary and addition of some factual information.
Some good sources that I happen to have in my personal library and have read over the years:

Andreau, Jean. Banking and Business in the Roman World. Cambridge: Cambridge U. Press. 1999. Print.
Finnley, M. I. The Ancient Economy. Berkeley: U. of CA. Press. 1999. Print.
Lee, A. D. Pagans & Christians in Late Antiquity. London: Routledge. 2000. Print.
Plautus, Titus Maccius. Four Comedies. Trans. Erich Segal. Oxford: Oxford U. Press. 1996. Print.
Tcherikover, Victor. Hellenistic Civilization and the Jews. New York: Atheneum. 1979. Print.

Some Thoughts On Current Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

Sunday, July 20th, 2014

Today I am going up to West LA to the Federal building on Wiltshire to join the protests against the war in Gaza. War is what some people in the media are calling the Israeli assault now. Justifying the action, pro-Israeli pundits always use the analogy, of an enemy launching missiles from Canada as the example. Well history aside, of several American actual invasions of Canada in the 18th and 19th centuries, the analogy is misplaced. What Hamas and other groups in Gaza are doing in striking back at the Israeli settler population is more akin to what if say the Native Americans in Morango, or some of the other reservations in Southern California were lobbing rockets at Los Angeles. It shifts the perspective, from one of two nations with established borders in a conflict to a conquered people, forced onto a reservation, resisting the occupiers. More correctly the analogy would have to be taken back to the 19th century when Native Americans actually had some resources to fight back and still had strong enough identification with their former freedom to resist violently. Just as in Africa the Zulu’s resisted the encroachment of the British and Boers and other tribal groups resisted the European colonists.

The image of Native American casino owners launching missile strikes on near by Palm Springs for example may seem absurd, why would then want to destroy the source of their income after all? But it brings up the point that these people have after two centuries barely clung on to their tribal existence and it is to their benefit that they have found another way to fight, in the US court system to gain the right to operate casinos as they are belatedly recognized as having some sovereign rights. This recognition did not happen in a vacuum, as the Indian gaming rights had resistance from the local states who felt they had authority to regulate gaming within their territorial boundaries. Supreme Court decisions, notably Bryan v. Itasca County, 426 U.S. 373 (1976), in which the court stated “should, as an admittedly ambiguous statute, be construed in favor of the Indians and against abolishing their tax immunities by implication.” Pp. 426 U. S. 390-393. (Bryan v. Itasca County, What I really want to speak to, is not Native American rights, which became encoded in Federal law with the passage of the 1988 Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, but to the fact that the Gazan’s have no such symbiotic relationship with Israel and thus that reservation, which is all it is at best, at worst an outdoor prison camp, has no reason to accept Israeli terms if there is a chance to resist and gain sympathy for their cause in the court of world opinion.

This is an important thing to recognize beyond the humanitarian disaster that the bombings, air strikes and such represent, that legally Hamas has been driven to this position because Israel will not recognize their authority in Gaza and when the Palestinian Authority and Hamas made a deal earlier this year to form a unity government, Israel could not countenance that, waving the avowed program of Hamas that Israel did not have a right to exist on Palestinian lands. The position of Hamas is no more unjustified than any group of Native Americans claiming that white settlers did not have the right to take traditional tribal lands. That goes into another issue of Native American collective land ownership concepts versus European private land ownership rights, something which was in conflict in Europe itself and the Enclosure movement of the commons there attests to. Israel in fact does negotiate with Hamas and has in the past, what Israel does not want to accept is an independent and prosperous Palestine, hence no Palestinian Gaming Authority, although there was a time not long ago when that very possibility existed. There is the interesting case of the Oasis Casino in Jericho which was opened in 1998 as a result of the Oslo accords in Palestinian territory very close to the Israeli border. It was a major investment meant to attract Israeli gamblers, very much like Native American Casinos rely on local non Native Americans. The exact scenario played out when “[d]uring the first days of the Second Intifada, Palestinian militants reportedly used the casino to fire at IDF soldiers, who in turn blew a hole into its front. Due to security concerns, which led to the absence of Israeli visitors, the casino was closed down shortly after” (Miri, The Tale of Jericho’s Oasis Casino, Green Olive Tours Blog).

How did this impasse come about? Israel had sown the seeds of much of the recent conflict with Gaza by supporting Hamas against the Palestinian authority. Andrew Higgins writes in the Wall Street Journal, ‘”Hamas, to my great regret, is Israel’s creation,’ says Mr. Cohen, a Tunisian-born Jew who worked in Gaza for more than two decades….Instead of trying to curb Gaza’s Islamists from the outset, says Mr. Cohen, Israel for years tolerated and, in some cases, encouraged them as a counterweight to the secular nationalists of the Palestine Liberation Organization and its dominant faction, Yasser Arafat’s Fatah. Israel cooperated with a crippled, half-blind cleric named Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, even as he was laying the foundations for what would become Hamas” (Higgins, WSJ online 24 Jan. 2009). Israel’s divide and conquer policies have led to an unstable Palestine and has thwarted any real efforts on the part of Palestinians to establish an independent and viable state. With hard line conservatives in power, the Israeli position seems to have become one of toughing it out and extending the status quo for as long as possible.

Israel is not the United States where European immigrants swamped the indigenous population and killed them off through disease and warfare. Israel is in a position much more like the old South African regime in which a small white minority used similar tactics, those of apartheid to do much the same as Israel is now. In fact Israel and the old South African regime were close allies and had mutual weapons programs including their nuclear weapons program. Chris McGreal reporting for the Guardian UK wrote in his 2010 article “Revealed: how Israel offered to sell South Africa nuclear weapons”:

Secret South African documents reveal that Israel offered to sell nuclear warheads to the apartheid regime, providing the first official documentary evidence of the state’s possession of nuclear weapons.

The “top secret” minutes of meetings between senior officials from the two countries in 1975 show that South Africa’s defence minister, PW Botha, asked for the warheads and Shimon Peres, then Israel’s defence minister and now its president, responded by offering them “in three sizes”. The two men also signed a broad-ranging agreement governing military ties between the two countries that included a clause declaring that “the very existence of this agreement” was to remain secret.

(McGreal, Guardian 23 May 2010).

Having lost it’s main ally in the 1990’s when South African apartheid was dismantled, Israeli authorities under Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin prompted by a sense of real politic signed peace accords with and Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) Chairman Yasser Arafat under the auspices of then President Clinton who was himself looking to carry on in the tradition of the Camp David Accords under former President Carter. But due to bad faith, when the agreed upon date for self rule of 2000 for Palestine did not occur as planed, and the break down of the 2000 Camp David Peace Summit, the Second Intifada, sparked by an incident when Ariel Sharon made a visit to the Temple Mount in September 2000, began the period of periodic Israeli assaults upon Palestinian territories which the Israeli disengagement from Gaza in August of 2005 did nothing to mitigate, because by relinquishing direct authority, it essentially presented the Palestinian Authority with a region it could not rule as Hamas had been developed by Israel as a counter authority, thus playing into the divide and conquer scenario, but resulting in the unintended consequence of Hamas taking its part as a body for the liberation of Palestine seriously and once it was out from under the direct scrutiny of Israel, capable of acting on its own initiative. This is of course an over simplification, but the conflict is both the result of an attempt by Israel to manipulate the aspirations of the dominated Palestinians while it jockey’s for its own survival as an independent polity in a hostile region of the world.

The status quo of cruelty and increasingly harsh tactics has turned Israel from a frontier community, into an increasingly organized prison guard state, Essentially Israel has become something like a community dependent upon it’s ability to guard the prison created for the Palestinians. Like the image of the Dutch dyke builders, holding back the ocean with concrete walls, Israel is doing the same to the Arab world. At some point the unstoppable force plying against the immovable object will win out. It just depends on how long Israeli intransigence is willing to maintain its strained position in this increasingly volatile region of the world. Biblical historical roots or not, the region is predominantly Islamic and if there are to be Christian, Jewish and other minorities in the region, they must find accommodation or eventually perish. The model of South Africa is a real path for the future. If there is an Arabic equivalent to Nelson Mandela, Israel should find a way to integrate and not wall off the Palestinians who are certainly not going away any time soon.

In the meantime I will go join the protests against the Israeli incursion in Gaza for the upteenth time in the last decade.

David’s Sling, Anakim, Gaza & Israeli Propaganda

Saturday, July 12th, 2014

Israel tests David’s Sling next generation anti-missile system.

Responding to a conversation between an Anarchist friend of mine and a relative of his who is a volunteer for AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee), discussing their proposed solution for the Israeli-Palestinian problem. The solution suggested by my friend is annexation of the occupied territories and the secularization of Israel. His relative speaks of the fact that Jewish demographics in the region will soon eliminate the Arab problem due to a baby boom among the Jewish settlers. In fact this relative questions who exactly the Palestinians are.
Below are my comments.

Disappearing Palestine

Realistically speaking there were political reasons why Israel could not annex the occupied territories, probably related to US policy at the time, which was more concerned with the cold war and did not want to give the Soviet Union anymore ammunition in the battle for the hearts and minds of the Middle East. They USA was embroiled in the hot war in Vietnam, and had become a net oil importer increasingly dependent on Saudi Oil. Israel was required as a potential base for launching strikes on Soviet supported Arab states, and frankly I don’t think US policy ever had the best interest of the Jewish or Arab people in the region at heart. That is why I think it is vital for the Israeli’s to develop strong local ties, like it seems to have developed with Jordan, the Saudi’s and the current Egyptian strong men.

Israeli Tanks Invading Gaza 7/18/2014.

As for the Israel giving up its Identity as a Jewish homeland, that would be totally against the very essence of Israeli exceptionalism, which is based on the Zionist interpretation of the promise to Moses and the Israelites for a homeland at the end of their punishment of the 40 years of wandering in the wilderness, outside of Spotsylvania (but I digress onto another exercise in futility). I am talking about another wilderness, part of the American Civil War, probably not a very good pun. Yahweh literally had a cow when he saw the people wanted to stay in land where they could raise cattle, which I think had more to do with alien dietary restrictions than any misdeeds. Basically I think Yahweh was somewhat lactose intolerant. Here I am referring to the Book of Numbers 13 and 14, where Yahweh punished the would be Israelites for not wanting to enter a land of giants, thinking that they would be better off raising cattle where they were, and then being punished to remain goat herds on the wilderness until they had all died out, perhaps another bad pun.

From an Israeli Tourism Poster.

But whatever reasons the “great one” had for killing off the older generation (wasn’t that Jackie Gleason’s reverential epitath?), most likely to wipe out the collective memories of the good old days in Egypt, what is really interesting is that the Anakim retreated to Gaza after being defeated by Joshua in southern Canaan. Here is a reference to Joshua 3:10 and the clearing of Canaan of the others and as Joshua 11:22 says he drove the giants into Gaza. These descendents of the Nephilim mingled with the Philistines and fought the good fight against David’s airborne advanced technology. Spear chucking Philistines could not compete with the laser accuracy of David’s surgical strikes and supported by the power of the US, I mean Yahweh, the poor residents of Gaza were encircled. The propaganda of the victors turned the story on its head with David as the underdog. It is not ironic that the next generation anti Hamas anti-rocket weapon is called “David’s Slingshot” reflecting underlying Jewish association of Gaza with the Nephilim who were giants driven out of the promised land. It is a coded justification for wars of extermination as Yahweh ordered for the Israelis to do. Because of the association of fear of these giants with betrayal of the Lord, showing a lack of faith, those who would compromise with the Philistines hiding the Anakims, as human shields should be exterminated also. Essentially I am saying that Israel is using this Biblical story to prop up its justification for a racialist attitude toward Gaza both from the perspective of Jewish militant pride, ie David, and the fears of giants ie Hamas and terrorists in general. Playing on the tale of David and Goliath, and the history of the settlement of Palestine is an old game in the Israeli propaganda machine.

Israel critique Hamas Call for Human Shields in Gaza.

Slingers were very effective fighters in the ancient world and armies would recruit them especially from the Balearic Islands where they were known to be experts at that type of medium range missile warfare. Often slingers would be deployed at the onset of battles to soften up the enemy at the beginning of an engagement.

Artists conception of a Balearic Slinger

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.

Obama Administration Flounders In Palestinian Peace Talks And Middle East

Sunday, August 18th, 2013

Protests of Settlements

A Palestinian protester holds a placard in front of Israeli soldiers during a demonstration in the West Bank village of al-Masara near Bethlehem, marking the recognition of a sovereign Palestinian state by the United Nations. Friday Nov. 30
(photo credit: AP/Nasser Shiyoukhi)

US Policy In Middle East Caught Between Idealism and Real Politik, Results in Confusing and Mixed Messages

Immediately before the peace talks were about to start, Israel announced plans to build more settlements, immediately threatening the peace talks, which even if the Palestinians want to continue, would have to give up even the pretense of being an equal player. This seems to be a deliberate effort at sabotage, or if that is not the case then at least rubbing the Palestinians noses in their lack of power and playing up the American’s lack of sincerity in attempting to give the Palestinians a fair break.

I am not exactly saying that is the game plan, but well, what else can it be. The US is taking hits all over the Middle East as Obama’s policies are proven to be just verbiage from Libya, to Syria, most significantly in Egypt and even the propaganda ploy in Palestine is being shown up almost immediately as little more than pretense. It is hard to understand what exactly Kerry is planning here unless the US is going to use some real leverage and remove military aid to all these players. But Obama has claimed to want to try a soft diplomatic effort, which becomes mired in the Gordian knot of the politics of the region. If the US wants to pursue some wings of Al Qaeda in say Yemen, support for others such as in Syria seems to be the price that the Saudi’s extract for the US to play on their turf.

The sad thing is that Obama with his speech in Cairo lifted expectations of the peoples of the Middle East and then the real politics of the US long term politics would leave these people high and dry, or as in the case of Egypt in a descending spiral of violence and the Syrian people engaged in a civil war that will probably end in the partition of the nation. Libya has become an Al Qaeda base for moving into the West Africa, and leading to destabilization in Mali, Nigeria, Chad and others to be seen.

Unintended consequences or simply the result of the on going game of chess that is international politics? Lives are at stake and the conclusion is still that the US should withdraw or completely change from a capitalist exploiter to some kind of a socialist people’s republic and even then there is no guarantee that national interests won’t trump international solidarity. There simply are too many factors and factions in the world today. It would behoove the US policy makers to attempt to pull back as much as possible and let international policy to be made through the UN, but that would take real change. Right now we have a muddling policy after an aggressive and pointless one under the Bush administration.

The USA when it was clearly pro Israel and pro dictators was at least consistent. Now that it is giving lip service and pseudo support to democracy, it is confusing people and causing unneeded misery throughout the region. Capitalist priorities make it impossible to implement a true democratic policy. We need to reject the control of the elite interest groups and work seriously for change or not pretend and cause people’s unwarranted deaths.

From Electronic Intifada

Quit meddling, Kerry, leave the Israel problem to the proper authorities

by Stuart Littlewood

No sooner had peace talks restarted under the warped patronage of the United States than Israel’s prime minister Netanyahu published bids for the construction of more than 1,000 new housing units in Palestinian East Jerusalem and existing illegal West Bank squats.

This and all the other unpunished illegal squatter building by Israel should have caused any sensible Palestinian to walk away from the ‘peace’ table, and never to have sat down in the first place. Of course, no sensible Palestinians are taking part in this latest peace pantomime. Instead we have to suffer the antics of Abbas and Erekat, the most obliging negotiators on the planet, who think nothing of holding talks without a popular mandate and while the thieving, blockading, lethal military force and trashing of their country continue unchecked.!+Mail

Kerry and Netanyahu

Wikimedia Commons
John Kerry and Benjamin Netanyahu, Jerusalem, May 23.

From the Middle East Monitor

Kerry was aware of latest settlement plans

Friday, 16 August 2013 12:04

Israeli newspaper Maariv has revealed that US Secretary of State John Kerry scolded Benjamin Netanyahu about Israel’s latest plans to expand settlements; they will, Kerry said, reduce the country’s legitimacy in the international arena. The secretary of state’s telephone call was an attempt to deflect Palestinian criticisms of settlement expansion.

Maariv portrayed this news as if the US is capable of being an honest broker in the conflict, but the truth of the matter is entirely different. In reality, Secretary Kerry was well aware of Israel’s plans to expand settlements in Jerusalem prior to resuming negotiations and he did not object.

According to the newspaper, Thursday’s telephone call came after a three-way conversation between Kerry, Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and Netanyahu on Monday. Kerry is alleged to have urged Netanyahu to halt all settlement expansion for the first nine months of negotiations. This, said Maariv, was despite the fact that he already knew about the Israeli plans for 1,200 new housing units in occupied Jerusalem as well as another 920 units in the Gilo colony-settlement.

According to Israeli officials, Kerry’s criticism of settlement expansion was lip service for the Palestinians’ benefit.

- See more at:

Netenjyahu Approves New settlements

Israeli Housing Minister Uri Ariel announced Sunday that he has given final approval for the construction of 1,187 apartments in settlements
Photo: AP

From the Independent

Peace talks at risk as Israel approves 900 more settlement homes despite Palestinian prisoners release

Long-awaited negotiations near collapse before they start - even as release of Palestinian prisoners begins

Ben Lynfield


Wednesday 14 August 2013

Close to 560,000 Israeli nationals now live in the West Bank and East Jerusalem in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention. Israel occupied those areas in the 1967 war and considers its rule of East Jerusalem as reflecting a “liberation” of the area and its Jewish holy sites.

Yasser Abed Rabbo, a senior official with the Palestine Liberation Organisation, said the approval of thousands of homes for Jewish settlers could bring about the “collapse” of the talks. “This settlement expansion is unprecedented,” Mr Abed Rabbo said. “It threatens to make talks fail even before they have started.”

The surge in construction plans is intensifying Palestinian criticism of President Mahmoud Abbas’s decision to return to peace negotiations with Israel without securing a freeze on further settlement.

The 900 homes will include an extension of East Jerusalem’s Gilo settlement towards the West Bank town of Beit Jala. Israel considers Gilo, which is built on land expropriated from the Palestinians of Beit Jala, an integral part of its capital.

Palestinians believe the new buildings will reinforce a wedge of settlement that separates Arab areas of East Jerusalem and the Bethlehem area in the West Bank. “This [move] means that Israel is determined to force its position,” said Jad Ishaq, director of the Applied Research Institute Jerusalem, a non-governmental organisation that monitors settlement activity. “There is a shortage of land in Beit Jala and this should be land on which Beit Jala expands.”

Efrat Orbach, a spokeswoman for the Israeli interior ministry, confirmed that approval had been given to expand Gilo. She said more approvals were needed and it could be years before building began. But Israel’s Peace Now organisation disputed this, saying that construction could begin within weeks.

Mark Regev, a spokesman for the Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, said Palestinians should not be surprised by the plans since Israel had rejected Mr Abbas’s demand for a freeze on settlement building as a precondition for talks. “They knew that a freeze was unacceptable and they entered the talks nevertheless,” he added.

Israel Makes Palestinian homeland a non-starter

Map shows Disappearing Palestine

From the International Middle East Media Center

Israeli-Palestinian Officials Meet In Budapest

Sunday August 18, 2013
by IMEMC & Agencies Report post

Israel and Palestinian officials held a meeting, last week, in the Hungarian capital, Budapest, and discussed the efforts to ensure the continuation of the recently resumed direct peace talks, mediated by the United States.

Israeli daily, Maariv, reported Sunday that members of Knesset (MK’s) of the Yesh Atid Party (There is Future) Dov Lipman, Boaz Toporovsky, and Yifat Kariv, in addition to MK Moshe Mizrahi of the Labor Party, and David Tsur of the Hatenua Party, met with Fateh officials Qaddoura Fares and Sameeh Al-Abed, legislators Abdullah Abdullah, and Jamal Zaqqout.

MK Kariv stated that the meeting was held to help boost direct peace talks between the Palestinians and Israel.
“The sooner we achieve the two-state solution, the better it is for both sides”, she said, “I left the meeting knowing we can talk with them”.

“Any support to a one-state solution from the river to the sea harms the peace process”, Kariv added, “The Israeli government also needs to make some responsible and brave decisions”.

Responding to a question regarding the effects of political stances of her party on the coalition with the Jewish Home Party, she said that “the two parties helped form the current government in Israel”, and added that “whenever a difference in political stances emerge, we need to find common ground”.

The convening Palestinian and Israeli officials agreed on issuing a joint statement that would “pressure Israeli and Palestinian leaders to reach an agreement”, and expressed support to the Geneva Initiative for peace.

On his part, Fares confirmed the meeting took place, but did not give any further statements or details.



Netanyahu: “Israel Will Always Maintain Sovereignty On Settlements, New ‘Jewish Neighborhoods”
Saturday August 17, 2013 by IMEMC & Agencies

Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, stated during his recent meeting with UN General-Secretary, Ban Ki-moon, that Israel will continue to build and expand settlements in occupied East Jerusalem, and that settlements, and what he labeled as “new neighborhoods”, and settlement blocs will always remain under Israeli sovereignty.

During his meeting with Ki-moon two days ago, Netanyahu said that there is nothing to discuss or negotiate on regarding Israel’s settlements.

“Everybody knows new Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem, all settlement blocs, will always remain under Israeli control”, he said, “There is nothing to talk about, there will be no discussion on the issue”.

The Israeli Prime Minister also claimed that “it is clear everybody known that the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is not the core source of tension in the Middle East”, and alleged that “the fundamental issue, the core problem in the region, is not recognizing Israel is a state for the Jewish people”.


After taking a break from describing my meals, I have decided to add them again. I would really like to figure out how to transfer images from my cell phone to my wordpress account. It would make this a lot more graphic.

I had an egg free breakfast August 18th. Chorizo, plantain, nopales, onion, garlic, two strips of Turkey bacon with hing and ginger, half a potato, a decent chunk of Panela cheese, chili powder, basil, Thai sweet chili sauce and turmeric. Corn Tortillas, fresh lettuce pieces, cilantro and New Mexican Salsa. Tastes good and has plenty of protein.

Protests in Chile, England, Syria and Israel

Tuesday, August 9th, 2011

Student protests against the privatization of the education system in Chile erupted again into violent confrontations between police and students.
In Syria the Turkish foreign minister is meeting with Assad to warn him to stop killing protesters. It seems like nobody wants to mess with Syria but enough is enough.
Rioting in the UK has spread north to Manchester and several other midlands cities as a massive police presence has resulted in less activity in London. Liverpool, and Birmingham have still got rioting. Birmingham seems to have mobile units of looters making hit and run moves on shops according the Al Jazeera reporter.
The conservative government is desperately trying to deflect any blame for the riots on their spending cuts and razing of school fees. But it is evident the youth of England feel that they have no place in the current British system.
In Israel a protest movement has grown from a single tent to 250,000 last Saturday as people demand more social spending by the government to improve transit, lower housing costs





Israel, Peace Talks And Nation States

Friday, October 22nd, 2010

I don’t write often about the so called peace talks in the middle east. For one thing Israel has no intention of giving the Palestinians a viable state that could threaten Israel. What Israel has in mind is the South African style bantustans where black Africans were supposed to have their homelands in an apartheid state. I think what is needed is a one state solution with Israel becoming a secular state with equal rights for all people. Perhaps there can be an acknowledgment of the special nature of the Jewish situation because of the holocaust in Europe but other than that there should be a right of return and/or reparations for the Palestinians as well as Jews and an end to the state of war between Israel and Syria. Whether this is practical is another matter.

The problem is that an artificial entity was carved out of the middle east in the creation of Israel. In some respects it shows what an intensive investment in a limited area can do to prove that a technologically advanced, western state can exist in the middle east, but that is no big deal. Whenever capital is focused in a particular area development occurs. Look at Abu Dhabi or the coastal regions of China for example. The exceptionalism that Israel claims is becoming less and less exceptional as investors diversify around the world.

Israel is part of the traditional Mediterranean culture that embraced the entire region historically until the divide between Islam and Christianity in the 7th century AD. Even with that divide there has always been trade and some level of communications. In recent history the middle east was part of the Ottoman Turkish empire from the 16th century until the early 20th century when British imperialist forces were able to conquer much of the region under the cover of World War One. Jewish Zionists were able to convince the British to let them establish colonies in the region known as Palestine. Historically there had been Jewish people living throughout the Ottoman Empire, especially after the Spanish evicted the Jews after the conquest of Granada in 1492, when the Turks gave Jews asylum. Most recently we had the post world war 2 cold war division of the world into American and Soviet hegemonic regions with Israel armed with American weaponry in a stand off with Arab states armed with Soviet weaponry. That situation collapsed two decades ago.

But Israel is a fait accompli and with the military build up there, it will take quite a while to normalize things. The USA needs to stand down and reduce its military commitment to a cold war entity. Israel is no longer a bastion of capitalism in a Soviet influenced sea. It hasn’t been for decades. There is no reason for the US to maintain this rigid posture of supporting Israel. If Israel were to become a secular nation then it might find natural alliances with its neighbors instead of this unnatural alliance as an outpost of American and European sustained Judaism in a sea of Islam. The nation was born out of European guilt and is now being perpetuated as a projection of power over a region in a manner that is out dated and becoming increasingly illegitimized by the passage of time.

The Obama administration seems to want to be the one to bring about peace in the middle east. They will have to go beyond the old dichotomy to achieve this. There is a strong Israeli lobby in Washington that has an alliance with fundamentalist Christianity that forms a powerful right-left coalition. As leftist and rightist anti-zionists pick away at that coalition it loses some of its power in Washington. The problem is keeping anti-semites from polluting the waters with racist propaganda. The example of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is a case in point. It is his threatening rhetoric that gives the Pro-Israel lobby their ammunition claiming that there are external threats to Israel’s existence. Right wingers in Israel then do things like try to pass legislation making non-Jews in Israel feel unwelcome to add fuel to the fire and create the impression that Israel is a bastion of Judaism in a hostile world. In reality Jews have lived quite successfully in the world without a state for thousands of years.

I think there needs to be a time out in the middle east. Arabs and Jews need to get along and it can be done when the interests of all parties are brought to the table and taken in consideration on the basis of equality. It won’t be easy, there are real issues of water rights, land and value systems that have to be worked out. It can best be done when the guns are put down and passions are no longer inflamed. I suggest what the US should do is withdraw from the region and let the locals work things out, perhaps the Turks can accept a peacemaker role, or let the UN take over. Ultimately what we need is a dissolution of all nation states as archaic but until that happens, we need to learn to negotiate differences rationally and creating artificial national differences is not the way to do that.

From the BBC

21 October 2010 Last updated at 23:58 ET

Settlers start 600 new homes after ban ends

Jewish settlers have started building more than 600 homes in the West Bank since a building freeze expired last month, an Israeli pressure group says.

The pace of building was four times faster than before the restrictions were put in place, Peace Now said.

Palestinian negotiators have threatened to walk out of the recently resumed direct peace talks with Israel unless the construction freeze is reinstated.

A UN envoy criticised Israel over the report, describing it as “alarming”.

Robert Serry, the UN Special Co-ordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, said building on occupied land was illegal under international law and would “only further undermine trust” in the peace process.
‘Natural pace’

A spokesman for Peace Now, Yariv Oppenheimer, told the BBC that more details on the new homes being built by settlers would be released in a report on Monday,

Another official from the group, Hagit Ofran, added: “I estimate that work has started at about 600 housing units [since the end of the construction freeze], and I’m looking to complete the survey in order to know the exact number, and it is [at] different stages of construction. In some places, it is only levelling the ground that has started and in others, it’s the very foundation that is now being dug.”

A separate count by the Associated Press estimated that ground had been broken on at least 544 new West Bank homes since 26 September, when Israel lifted its 10-month freeze on most new settlement building in the West Bank.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been under pressure from the US government to extend the slowdown.

Earlier this month, Mr Netanyahu offered to renew the freeze if the Palestinians recognised Israel as a Jewish state, but the Palestinian leadership dismissed the proposal as unfair and unnecessary.

Israel has occupied the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, since 1967, settling close to 500,000 Jews in more than 100 settlements. They are considered illegal under international law, although Israel disputes this.

The Palestinians - backed by the Arab League - have pledged not to return to direct talks without a full settlement construction freeze, but have given US negotiators until early November to try to break the impasse.

The talks, which resumed in Washington in September after a break of almost 20 months, are facing imminent collapse in the bitter row over settlement building.

For more of this

This is from CNN

Ahmadinejad, near Israel’s border, slams the Jewish state
October 14, 2010|By the CNN Wire Staff

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad traveled Thursday to the always tense Lebanese border with Israel, showered praise on Lebanon’s unity and cranked up his trademark fiery rhetoric against his nemesis — the Jewish state.

Ahmadinejad, making his first state visit to Lebanon, delivered a speech to the people of Bint Jbeil, a Hezbollah stronghold that endured much violence during the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah war in Lebanon.

The Iranian president, who regularly and bluntly delivers strong rhetoric against Israel and Zionism, said the “world must know the Zionists are to be gone” and the “people of Bint Jbeil have made the Zionists taste the bitter taste of defeat.”
For more of this

From the BBC

7 October 2010 Last updated at 06:28 ET

Israel’s Netanyahu backs Jewish loyalty oath

Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu has re-introduced a proposal to require any non-Jew taking Israeli citizenship to swear allegiance to Israel as a “Jewish and democratic state”.

The proposal has angered Israel’s Arab minority, which makes up 20% of Israel’s population.

Labour party ministers, who also oppose the bill, say they expect a new freeze on settlement building as a payoff.

This is a key Palestinian demand in the current peace talks.

The Israeli cabinet is expected to back the proposal on Sunday. It then goes before the Knesset, the Israeli parliament.

If approved, the new law will affect a small number of non-Jews who seek Israeli citizenship.

For more of this

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.

Ruminations On Los Angeles Radical Community, Israel & Palestine

Sunday, August 23rd, 2009

I am a member of the Green Party in Long Beach, CA. It is not exactly the most politically active group down here. I find the local anarchists to be more of a presence than the Green Party. Yesterday I went to a protest against the launching of a missile at Vandenberg Air Force Base. The protest was at the Missile procurement and research center the LA Air Force Base in El Segundo, CA a suburb of Los Angeles.
About 30 people attended. They were mostly from the War Resisters League, Catholic Workers and a representative from the Global Peace March. I was the only self identified anarchist/communist. One guy asked me if the wobblies were still around when he saw my IWW cap. I replied yep and that I didn’t know the War Resisters League was still around until I saw the guy with a war resistors cap.
This year I have made a point of going to events where there would be people I didn’t necessarily know or normally work with. I went to a couple of protests of the Israeli assaults on Gaza, most of the people attending were from the ANSWER coalition and the Party for Socialism and Liberation. I also met a member of Workers World Party there and a member of the News & Letters Group. I met quite a few Palestinians there who were supporters of Hamas with their green flags. It was interesting to see communists and islamic fundamentalists together. Again I was the only self identified anarchist communist. There might have been a thousand people at the event in January but only a few hundred at a rally in April. The RCP made a presence in January but I did not see them at the April event.
I also attended the Anarchist Conference at the People’s Library in South Central LA. This had perhaps a thousand people at last years book fair but only a few hundred at this years conference. It was still a decent turn out and there were representatives from the IWW, RAC, Insane Dialectical Posse and even a Turkish Member of the ICC. This was a crowd where I recognised some of those present. Some old time Food Not Bomb participants from the 90’s were still active but mostly they were new people I didn’t know.
What is my point? Well I am making an effort to survey the current state of the radical community in LA. What we have is a fragmented scene, much like the city. Where as a few years ago communists and anarchists and peace activists and Palestinian activists all went to one an other’s events. Now I find less of that happening. Anarchists seem to be doing their own thing, and are hooked up with struggles in the Latino community such as the immigrant workers rights struggles where some anarchists were among those attacked by the Police on May Day 2007, but in anti militarism events and in Palestinian events there was no Anarchist presence. It could be simply because most Anarchists are opposed to nationalism and many are not pacifist. Catholic Worker was once identified as anarchist back in the 1930’s but now they are more affiliated with the anti-nuke activists than with the current anarchist movement.
Back in the 1990’s and in the build up to the big march against the war in Iraq in 2003 I was involved in an effort to bring people from different groups together. I also had a band of people who came together just for that event. We made banners and marched together in a breakaway demonstration and then we dissolved. That is one kind of anarchist ideal. Temporary autonomous organization for the specific event. It is a structure that works in today’s instant communication email society. You are committed for the moment and when it passes your commitment passes. That may be ok for a demonstration, but is it the structure for a movement?
It may be the best we can expect in our current society. People are bombarded with stimulus. They choose a few sources of information, decide that is what they trust and go with it. It may be good for an event but it also leads to isolation of groups from one another with similar causes but because we have become so fragmented into such specific interests we are not even aware of what others are doing that we might have united with a few years before.
Lets take the example of the Gaza demonstrations. In January I went to the demonstration in Orange County at a mini mall. There were perhaps a thousand people. Many from the community. This area had a large population from the middle east. Members of Communist and Muslim independence groups spoke, from Palestine, and from the Philippines. The crowd included many families and teenagers.
I then drove up to the Federal Building in West LA where there was another demonstration. Here was a different crowd. Students from UCLA, professionals, few children or families. It was a smaller group also it had a much less militant outlook. The crowd in Orange County had many Hamas supporters. The crowd in West LA was more anti militarist and anti war and not as pro Palestinian. There were Jews for Peace here and it would be tough for this crowd to fly green Hamas flags as they did in Orange County. It was the difference between a national liberation crowd and an anti war crowd. What they had in common were communists in both groups.
In Orange County the slogan was “Drive Israel Out of Palestine”. In West LA the Slogan was “Peace Now”. These are quite different demands. There were no Anarchists besides myself to comment on the difference. The Communists seemed to not want to confront the contradiction. Perhaps they were unaware, I doubt it though. Members of the RCP were at both events.
Israel is a bone of contention that divides many in the left.
The differences between the Palestinians and the Israelis, or any other groups that is one where we have to start from the premise of being fair. When the British first took over the land from the Turks in World War One the Arabs and Jews got along. Jews migrated and bought land from the Arabs but in 1929 there was a riot over access to Jerusalem. The British simply mishandled the situation.
This was part of the Ottoman Empire for centuries. The Arabs helped the British kick the Turks out of the middle east and thought they were promised Palestine as part of the deal. Jews thought that they were promised the same land because of the Balfour Accords. The British let Jews move in but in the 1930’s began to restrict the number of Jews who could emigrate. This led to Jewish terrorist attacks on the British. Arabs felt betrayed because the British kept the land after World War One as part of their Protectorate. Finally after increased terror attacks after World War 2 including the bombing of the British Military headquarters the British and the new United Nations came up with a plan to divide the country into two an Arab and Jewish portion.
As soon as the British left war broke out between the new Jewish state of Israel and the Arabs who had thought this land was theirs.
Historically the Ottomans Empire invited the Jews from Spain when they were kicked out by Ferdinand and Isabella in 1492. The Arabs freed the Jews and non conformists Christians in what was then part of Syria from the Rule of the Roman Church in the 600’s. The Jews were considered to be people of the book and treated like Christians with respect by the Muslims. Islam was considered to be the final revelation of gods word to mankind. To them Jews and Christians were their predecessors.
The problem with the way the situation was handled in the 1940’s was a matter of disrespect. The British were dumping an empire. They had just given up India, the jewel in the crown. They didn’t want to but they had promised. The Labor Party wanted to implement the National Health Service and they could not afford to fund that and a war to keep India part of the empire. Palestine was simply a way station on the road to India, without India there was no need for Palestine and it looked like a nice place to put the Jewish survivors from the Nazi death camps as well as being the Biblical homeland of the Jews.
But the Jews had been forcefully removed by the Babylonians 2500 years ago. They were returned by the Persian king when he conquered Babylon and set the Jews free. Later they were conquered by the Greeks who were in turn conquered by the Romans. The Romans at first let a Jewish King rule, Herod because he had helped the Romans fight the Parthians. Later they implemented direct Roman Rule, the Jews rebelled twice and were exiled from Jerusalem and the vicinity. This was almost 2000 years ago. Many Jews went to live in Babylon where they were protected by the Parthians and Persians.
After the Arabs conquered the region Jews, Christians and Muslims lived there in relative harmony for centuries. The Turks took over the area in the 1500’s and continued their relativly tolerant rule. It wasn’t until the British took over after World War One that things got screwed up. Now we have a royal mess there and in India. Both were situations where the British decided it was easier to simply divide the people Jews and Arabs in Palestine or Muslims and Hindus in India and let things fall where they may.
People let their beliefs in nations based on religious differences be the determining factor but there is no reason why this has to be a determining factor. It is almost simply an easy excuse to use for politicians looking for a way to stir up hatred between peoples. In India the Congress Party was made of Hindus and Muslims. It was only after the Caliphate in Istanbul was destroyed by the victorious allies in World War One that the Muslims in India united to form a movement to restore the Caliphate that evolved into a muslim separatist movement. In the middle east Arabs and Jews had gotten along for centuries it was only when European Jews decided that they needed their own country and that it should be in a land that had not been ruled by Jews for 2000 years that the troubles began with this modern Zionist movement. It was aided and abetted by Christians who had misplaced notions of apocalyptic visions that by giving the Jews back their state they could recreate the conditions for Jesus to return to the planet Earth. This arcane notion is one of the main reasons why there is tension in the middle east.
Really there is no reason why the Jews and Arabs can’t have a united state of Palestine that accepts all religions as equal. It is only the nationalists who stir up differences and then give certain people other people’s land and then protect them, thus creating a constituency and a justification for conflict, that we have these problems. The Middle East crisis could be solved in a couple of weeks with a just peace if there was simply the will. Just like Cypress worked out its differences, between Greeks and Turks, so can the Arabs and Jews in Palestine. There are rich people getting richer over the differences and there are politicians who have created constituencies out of creating an imbalance that will perpetuate conflict until balance is restored.
Capitalism is one of the big reasons behind this, capitalism and the wilful perpetuation of ignorance by elites to control the mass of people who really have better things to do than to become embroiled in politics. The problem is, if you leave it all up the the experts, and don’t pay attention they will steer you off a cliff. So pay attention people.
Not all these differences are simply because of manipulation. Some of them have a basis in historical issues that have to be resolved. Class, and hierarchy, patriarchy and elitism are at the root of most issues. Some are simply matters of misunderstanding but most have a basis in power and control over access to resources. The sooner we all learn to deal with these things in a straightforward not mystified manner and adopt rational methodologies of distribution, the sooner these issues will disappear into the primitive history of the past. We must achieve socialism or we will revert to some form of primitive barbarism.

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