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Hometown: Saskatchewan
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Member since: Sat Jul 9, 2005, 11:46 PM
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Journal Archives

William Blum - on Syria. 'The Anti-Empire Report #120'


So, in light of all of the above, the path for Mr. Obama to take – as a rational, humane being – is of course clear. Is it not? N’est-ce pas? Nicht wahr? – Bombs Away!

Pretty discouraging it is. No, I actually find much to be rather encouraging. So many people seem to have really learned something from the Iraqi pile of lies and horror and from decades of other American interventions. Skepticism – good ol’ healthy skepticism – amongst the American, British and French people. It was stirring to watch the British Parliament in a debate of the kind rarely, if ever, seen in the 21st-century US Congress. And American military officers asking some of the right questions. The Arab League not supporting a US attack, surprising for an organization not enamored of the secular Syrian government. And NATO – even NATO! – refusing so far to blindly fall in line with the White House. When did that last happen? I thought it was against international law.

Secretary of State John Kerry said that if the United States did not respond to the use of chemical weapons the country would become an international “laughingstock”. Yes, that’s really what America and its people have to worry about – not that their country is viewed as a lawless, mass-murdering repeat offender. Other American officials have expressed concern that a lack of a US response might incite threats from Iran and North Korea. 10

Now that is indeed something to laugh at. It’s comforting to think that the world might be finally losing the stars in their eyes about US foreign policy partly because of countless ridiculous remarks such as these.

The Lie of "Limited" War Against Syria

The Lie of "Limited" War Against Syria

By Shamus Cooke

August 30, 2013 "Information Clearing House - The rats are jumping ship. Obama's strongest allies can't stomach the stench of lies that are the foundation of the war effort against Syria. Even England, whose entire foreign policy is reduced to asking "how high?" when the U.S. says "jump,” opted to stay grounded for Obama's war drive.

The Arab League, too, having long been considered a puppet show by U.S. foreign policy, has cut its strings. The UN Security Council — after having learned not to trust Obama in Libya — also refuses to give permission for an attack. Which leaves France — the former colonial master of Syria — to fill England's shoes as the token "important" European nation to give the attack a thin coat of "international" support. But England's insolence will surely make an impression on the French public, who voted in a "socialist" president, presumably not to act as a warmonger.

Obama has offered zero evidence that the Syrian government is responsible for the most recent chemical weapons attack. UN investigator Carla Del Ponte blamed the U.S.-backed rebels for a previous chemical weapons attack, so if one were to presume guilt, it would flow towards the rebels.

While foreign nations instantly recognized Obama's war song as a plagiarism of President Bush's lyrics used to attack Iraq, sections of the American public have been fooled by Obama's mellowing tone. The soft, reassuring sound of "limited strikes" that will last "hours, not days" has a calming effect on the nerves of the American public, who are essentially being told that Syria needs a light slap on the wrist for being "bad,” after which everything will return to normal; no U.S. troops need die. No big deal, really.

But, of course, any military action in the Middle East is a big deal. With each new war the U.S. wages in the region tensions rise, self defense preparations are made, and regional alliances are readied to act as deterrents. The nations not aligned with U.S. foreign policy — and there are many — are desperate to stop the U.S.' bloody march across the Middle East.

Full Article: http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article36039.htm


Bolivarian Education in Venezuela

By Ken Jones

Friday, July 12, 2013

I never heard the words “accountability” or “high stakes testing” once in a recent educator delegation to Venezuela. As a U.S. professor of teacher education, I seldom have discussions about education policies and realities in my own country without confronting these fraught concepts. But in the schools and educational systems of Venezuela? Not part of the discussion.

The dialogue there is more about education as a human right and what the government is responsible to provide. It’s not about outcomes, as we might say, but more about access and opportunity. What our small group from the U.S. encountered was a wealth of testimonials, not testing.

In Venezuela, by contrast, education reform means inspiring local and diverse approaches that work from the premise of empowering the people working in the schools. It operates through an ethic of internal responsibility and collectivism, increased public funding, and government-sponsored local decision-making. The rationale is to build greater cooperation at the community level. The effect is inclusionary. It is a socialist model, framed in terms of “good living.”

One evening in Venezuela, as a few of us were discussing what we see as the tragic attacks on public education in the United States, one person asked where we could see hope. I answered, “In Venezuela.”

Full Article: http://www.zcommunications.org/bolivarian-education-in-venezuela-by-ken-jones

Israel’s Ethnic Cleansing Zones

By Jonathan Cook

Friday, July 12, 2013

Palestinians in other parts of the occupied territories coveted by Israel – such as villages next to Jerusalem and those in the fertile Jordan Valley, the territorial backbone of any future Palestinian state – are being squeezed too. Firing ranges, closed military zones and national parks are the pretexts for Israel to seize the farmland these rural communities need to survive.

As a result, Palestinian life is withering in the nearly two-thirds of the West Bank Israel was temporarily entrusted with – the so-called Area C – under the Oslo Accords.

Endlessly harassed Palestinians have sought sanctuary in West Bank cities under Palestinian Authority control. Today the remnants in Area C, a population of about 100,000, are outnumbered three to one by Jewish settlers.

A discomfited European Union, normally mealy-mouthed on Israel’s occupation, has started to describe this as “forced transfer”. The term may sound ominous and reproving, but human rights groups say that, from a legal perspective, the terminology obscures rather than illuminates what is taking place.

Full Article: http://www.zcommunications.org/israel-s-ethnic-cleansing-zones-by-jonathan-cook

'started to describe this'?! wtf took them so long?

Why the Ruling Class is So Upset About Edward Snowden

By Gary Leupp

Source: CounterPunch

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

......It all, in my humble opinion, boils down to this. The entirety of the ruling elite and the journalistic establishment are keen on defending the programs Snowden has exposed; keen on punishing him for his whistle-blowing; determined to vilify him as a punk, narcissist, egoist, attention-hungry ne’er-do-well (anything but a thoughtful man who made a moral choice that has enlightened people about the character of the U.S. government); feverishly working on damage control while anticipating more damning revelations; and determined to get those four laptops with their incriminating content back into the bosom of the national security state.

What sort of state is it, that says to its own people, we can invade a country based on lies, kill a million people, hold nobody accountable but hey, when one of us does something so abominable as to reveal that the state spies constantly on the people of the world, we have to have a “manhunt” for him and punish him for treason?

The Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, has the audacity to tell NBC News, “It is literally gut-wrenching to see” Snowden’s revelations… because of the “damage” they do to “our intelligence capabilities”! As though there were really an “our” or “us” at this point. As though we were a nation united, including the mindful watchers and the grateful watched.

No, there are us, and there are them. The tiny power elite that controls the mainstream press and cable channels, the corporations that dutifully hand over meta-data to the state (and then deny doing so to allay consumer outrage), the twin political parties, are sick to their stomachs that they’ve been so exposed.

We in our turn should feel, if not terrorized, nauseated.


Rescuing the Sixties

By Paul Street

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Edward P. Morgan, What Really Happened to the 1960s: How Mass Media Culture Failed Democracy (Lawrence, KS: University of Kansas Press, 2010).

Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past

- George Orwell, 1984

During the Sixties and ever since, the basic systemic and historical forces and issues that fueled the decade’s uprisings and the real democratic and egalitarian nature of its popular movements have stood beyond the boundaries of legitimate discourse in dominant U.S. media. The underlying problems that drove Sixties movements – soulless corporate rule, imperial war, ubiquitous poverty, oppressive racism, stultifying cultural homogenization, pervasive sexism, environmental pollution, and more – have been thrown down Orwell’s memory hole in that media. They’ve been exiled to the margins of collective memory, along with the democratic hopes of millions who participated in those movements. In transmitting the Sixties, the managers of mass U.S. media have offered an emotionally potent but highly superficial, heavily image- and personality-centered depiction of the decade’s movements and protests as dysfunctional deviance reflecting little more than a rebellion of angry and “sick” youth against authority as such. This great generations Sixties smear relies heavily on sensational visual representations of the protestors themselves and the national degradation and mayhem they allegedly advanced.

Some will question the depth and degree of the great 1960s “democratic awakening” today. Many in the U.S. establishment did not at the time and in the Sixties’ immediate aftermath. In August 1971, for example, top corporate attorney Lewis Powell penned a length and remarkable memorandum to the director of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Written two months before Richard Nixon appointed him to the Supreme Court, the memo detailed what Powell considered a “broadly based” assault on “the American economic system” (capitalism) emanating not just from radical margins but from “perfectly respectable elements of society: the college campus, the pulpit, the media, the intellectual and literary journals, the arts and sciences, and from politicians.” By Powell’s reckoning, a dangerous anti-business uprising led by such “charismatic” threats as Ralph Nader and the radical professor Herbert Marcuse meant that corporations should undertake a concerted and many-sided public relations and media counter-offensive – a veritable capitalist cultural counter-revolution. “It is time,” Powell proclaimed, “for American business – which has demonstrated the greatest capacity in history to produce and influence consumer decisions – to apply their great talents vigorously to the preservation of the system itself” (emphasis added). Powell felt that the struggle to win back hearts and minds for capitalism should target the universities, the publishing world, and the mass media, including an effort to place the television networks “under constant surveillance.” By Morgan’s account, Powell’s “urgent appeal helped set in motion forces that subsequently transformed public discourse in the United States for decades to come.” (165-167).

Two years later, Chase Manhattan Bank chief David Rockefeller, chairman of the Council on Foreign Relations, convened top figures from business and government in Europe, North America, and Japan to determine how to maintain what he called “the wider international system.” Organized as the Trilateral Commission, the elites gathered by Rockefeller produced a study claiming that “excessive” popular engagement and activism during the 1960s had generated “A Crisis of Democracy” – meaning, by Morgan’s translation, “that capitalism, its constrained, elite version of electoral democracy, and U.S. global hegemony were all endangered” (243). Writing the report’s section on the United States, Harvard political scientist Samuel P. Huntington worried that the “democratic surge” had activated “previously passive or unorganized groups in the population,” including “blacks, Indians, Chicanos, white ethnic groups, students, and women,” who “embarked on concerted efforts to establish their claims to opportunities, positions, rewards, and privileges” (imagine!). This was all, Huntington scolded, part of a an effort towards “reassertion of the primacy of equality as a goal in social, economic, and political life” – a goal that Huntington found dangerous and dysfunctional because it sought a “welfare shift” of government resources from “defense” (the military-industrial complex) to things like education, public health and social security (244).

What really happened to the great many-sided democratic and egalitarian awakening that was the essence of the 1960s? The decade’s great popular movements were of course quite significantly snooped on, infiltrated, manipulated, smeared, bloodied, and otherwise repressed by local, state, and federal government. Just as importantly and of no small relevance for authorities’ ability to repress, however, those movements were defeated in their own time and ever since by a mass media that has distorted and exploited the Sixties for reasons both political and commercial, with terrible results for democratic and human prospects.

Full Article: http://www.zcommunications.org/rescuing-the-sixties-by-paul-street

Daniel Ellsberg: ‘I’m Sure That President Obama Would Have Sought A Life Sentence In My Case’

By Daniel Ellsberg and Timothy B. Lee

Source: Washington Post Tuesday, July 02, 2013

In 1971, an American military analyst named Daniel Ellsberg gave a New York Times reporter a copy of “United States – Vietnam Relations, 1945–1967: A Study Prepared by the Department of Defense,” a multi-volume work that became known as the Pentagon Papers. The massive, classified study painted a candid and unflattering portrait of the military’s conduct of the Vietnam War. The Supreme Court rejected the government’s request for an injunction against its publication later that year in a 6-3 ruling.

Ellsberg became the first person prosecuted under the 1917 Espionage Act for releasing classified information to the public. But the case was thrown out after the judge learned that the government had engaged in the illegal wiretapping of Ellsberg and other misconduct.

Today, Ellsberg is one of the most outspoken critics of the Obama administration’s prosecution of leakers. Under President Obama’s tenure, the government has prosecuted six individuals for releasing classified information to media organizations.

Ellsberg is particularly fierce in his support of Bradley Manning, a young soldier who released a large amount of classified information to WikiLeaks. Manning was arrested in 2010, and his military court-martial began this week. Ellsberg considers Manning a hero, and he argues that there is little difference between what Manning did in 2010 and what Ellsberg did four decades earlier. We spoke by phone on Friday. The transcript has been edited for length and clarity.

Full Transcript: http://www.zcommunications.org/daniel-ellsberg-i-m-sure-that-president-obama-would-have-sought-a-life-sentence-in-my-case-by-daniel-ellsberg

Contextualizing Obama’s Visit to Africa

By Horace Campbell

Source: Pambazuka

Monday, July 01, 2013

The nervousness and anxiety of the West over the future of the U.S. financial dominance was quite clear from the communique issued after the recent 2013 G8 meeting in Ireland. Most of the points in the communique issued by the White House (the Lough Erne Declaration) dealt with the challenges coming out of Africa and the role of transnational corporations plundering African resources without paying taxes.[8] Prior to the G8 meeting, the 2013 Report of the Africa Progress Panel headed by former Secretary General of the United Nations, Kofi Anan, called on the same G8 leaders to police their corporations. The Panel had called for inter alia:

• The G8 and the G20 to establish common rules requiring full public disclosure of the beneficial ownership of companies, with no exceptions.
• Companies bidding for natural resource concessions to disclose the names of the people who own and control them.[9]

The destructive extraction of resources from Africa is old and has taken new forms, as Patrick Bond reminds us in Looting Africa: The Economics of Exploitation.[10] For the past six decades the World Bank domination of economic arrangements in Africa has seen the period of dramatic capital flight from Africa.[11] The multi-billion dollar enterprise of looting Africa was at the foundation of an international system that increasingly worked on the basis of speculative capital. The World Bank and the IMF understood that the real foundations of actual resources were to be found in Africa. To conceal the looting and plunder, the West disguised the reality that Africa is a net creditor to the advanced capitalist countries (termed “donors” in neo-liberal parlance). For this reason (and to perpetuate the myths of “spurring economic growth and investment”), the United States government has been caught in a losing battle where new rising forces such as Brazil, Russia, India, China, Turkey, South Korea and other states offer alternatives to the structural adjustment and austerity packages. Barack Obama is going to Africa to boost the armaments culture of the United States at a moment when details of the massive corporate-government spy operations has exposed the surveillance of citizens in all parts of the world in the name of fighting extremism. Citizens are finding out that the gathering of intelligence ultimately serves the interests of capital equity groups such as the Carlyle group that is involved in armaments, intelligence and the stock market.[12]

Full Article: http://www.zcommunications.org/contextualizing-obama-s-visit-to-africa-by-horace-campbell

Originally posted in this thread:


Aaaand .... a little more on the mad rush to carve up Africa:


Monbiot: Corporate Carve-Up

June 10, 2013

Under the pretext of preventing hunger, the rich nations are engineering a new scramble for Africa.

By George Monbiot, published in the Guardian 11th June 2013

That African farming needs investment and support is indisputable. But does it need land grabbing? Yes, according to the deals these countries have signed. Mozambique, where local farmers have already been evicted from large tracts of land, is now obliged to write new laws promoting what its agreement calls “partnerships” of this kind(6). Cote d’Ivoire must “facilitate access to land for smallholder farmers and
private enterprises”(7). Which, in practice, means evicting smallholder farmers for the benefit of private enterprises. Already French, Algerian, Swiss and Singaporean companies have lined up deals across 600,000 hectares or more of this country’s prime arable land. These deals, according to the development group GRAIN, “will displace tens of thousands of peasant rice farmers and destroy the livelihoods of thousands of small traders.”(8) Ethiopia, where land grabbing has been accompanied by appalling human rights abuses, must assist “agriculture investors (domestic and foreign; small, medium and larger enterprises) to … secure access to land”(9).

And how about seed grabbing? Yes, that too is essential to the well-being of Africa’s people. Mozambique is now obliged to “systematically cease distribution of free and unimproved seeds”, while drawing up new laws granting intellectual property rights in seeds which will “promote private sector investment”(10). Similar regulations must also be approved in Ghana, Tanzania and Cote d’Ivoire.

Strangely missing from the New Alliance agreements is any commitment on the part of the G8 nations to change their own domestic policies. These could have included farm subsidies in Europe and the US, which undermine the markets for African produce, or biofuel quotas, which promote world hunger by turning food into fuel. Any constraints on the behaviour of corporate investors in Africa (such as the Committee on World Food Security’s guidelines on land tenure(12)) remain voluntary, while the constraints on their host nations become compulsory. As in 1884, the powerful nations make the rules and the weak ones abide by them. For their own good, of course.

The West, as usual, is able to find leaders in Africa who have more in common with the global elite than they do with their own people. In some of the countries which have joined the New Alliance, there were wide-ranging consultations on land and farming, whose results have been now ignored in the agreements with the G8. The deals between African governments and private companies were facilitated by the World Economic Forum, and took place behind closed doors(13).

Full Article: http://www.monbiot.com/2013/06/10/corporate-carve-up/

Are African Land Grabs Really Water Grabs?

By Jennifer C Franco and Lyla Mehta and Gert Jan Veldwisch

Source: CNN Wednesday, March 27, 2013

(CNN) -- Millions of hectares of land have been acquired in the past few years across Africa by investors who are moving into large-scale agriculture to take advantage of potential windfall gains. Popularly these deals have become known as "land grabbing," but they could just as well have been framed as "water grabs."

All around the world powerful actors (transnational as well as national) are pointing out that the lands in which they invest are "marginal" and "unproductive" lands. This has been shown to be untrue for many cases; either the land is already used by small-scale food producers, or is of prime quality and associated with good (potential) access to water.

Full Article: https://zcomm.org/znetarticle/are-african-land-grabs-really-water-grabs-by-jennifer-c-franco/



Global Land And Water Grabbing



In 2010, a former Wall Street trader flew into war-torn Sudan to negotiate a deal with a thuggish general. He had his eye on a 1 million acre tract of fertile land fed by a tributary of the Nile in the southern section of the country, a region that later claimed its independence as South Sudan. The investor, who planned to profit by developing and exporting agricultural commodities, boasted about how the region's instability was a principal variable in his financial model: "This is Africa," he told reporter McKenzie Funk, who shadowed him for a riveting piece in Rolling Stone (PDF). "The whole place is like one big mafia. I'm like a mafia head."

Over the last decade (and especially during the last four years) wealthy nations have increasingly brokered deals for huge swathes of agricultural land at bargain prices in developing countries, installed industrial-scale farms, and exported the resulting bounty for profit. According to the anti-hunger group Oxfam International, more than 60 percent of these "land grabs" occur in regions with serious hunger problems. Two-thirds of the investors plan to ship all the commodities they produce out of the country to the global market. And droughts, spikes in food and oil prices, and a growing global population have only made the quest for arable land more urgent, and the investments that much more alluring.


Data within the PNAS report also indicate that the "mafia head" approach of targeting vulnerable countries for investments is not just the strategy of a lone land-grabbing cowboy, but standard practice. It's easier to wrest land and displace small-scale farmers in countries with a weak rule of law, according to Oxfam. In many cases, the land is developed to export crops or commodities for biofuels, and in other cases, left to sit idle so it can increase in value before it's sold.

Of the countries that lost the highest percentages of their cultivated land, nine out of 10 have malnourishment rates of 5 percent or more (see chart below). And according to Foreign Policy and Fund for Peace's Failed States Index, all the states in the graph below, with the exception of Uruguay, are categorized as unstable.

The Real Invasion Of Africa Is Not News, And A Licence To Lie Is Hollywood’s Gift
By John Pilger

Source: johnpilger.com

Wednesday, January 30, 2013


Thanks for this xchrom. nt.

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