Saturday, September 01, 2012

My Internet Addiction (and Yours)


The Internet Addiction

by Ray Grigg

Canada's media guru, Marshall McLuhan, wrote that we invent things and thereafter they invent us. So, what invention are we being transformed into by the things we invent? Perhaps, if we truly understood the character of our inventions, we could anticipate the way they shape our perceptions, our awareness and our behaviour — how they form us as individuals and as societies. But we don't. Consequently, we move blindly into the future, discovering after the fact how we have been shaped by the things we invent.

One of the most powerful and pervasive of our recent inventions has been the Internet, the digital magic that has compressed time into microseconds and space into irrelevance. The distance between individuals — wherever they may live — has been obliterated. McLuhan's notion of the “global village” has become reality through the World Wide Web, Facebook, Twitter and Google. We extoll the wonders of this connectivity, of knowing nearly instantaneously the events that occur everywhere around us — London, China and Mars are now closer than our next door neighbours. We know that we created the Internet. But what has it created?

Studies outlined in Newsweek magazine (July 16/12) give us an indication. In the US, one of the most connected societies, the effects of heavy use of the Internet among those under 50 years old are depression, loneliness, obsessive-compulsive and attention-deficit disorders, and even psychosis. The average American spends eight hours a day gazing into screens and receives 400 text messages per month; teenagers manage seven hours per day and average 3,700 texts per month. The Internet has accelerated human minds to the hyper speed of a frenetic buzz, their consciousness absorbed and mushed into the intensity and immediacy of ubiquitous digital signals. If 38 hours per week online is considered a reference for addiction, many people have reached this benchmark by mid-week.

“This [is] an issue as important and unprecedented as climate change,” notes Susan Greenfield, a pharmacology professor at Oxford University (Ibid.).

Studies in China, Korea and Taiwan suggest that many millions of people are literally addicted to the Internet, with a rate as high as 30 percent among teens. A Chinese study found heavy Internet users have “abnormal white matter” in their brains to accommodate the neurological changes required for excessive attention, control and immediate action — the same physiological characteristics of those with obsessive-compulsive behaviour and attention-deficit disorders. Other Chinese studies found “structural abnormalities in gray matter” that were identical to those addicted to drugs and alcohol — impairment to those functions related to speech, memory, motor control, emotion and sensory processing were typically 10 to 20 percent. One in eight Asians is deemed to have an “unhealthy attachment” to the Internet. An American study found 10 percent of iPhone users “fully addicted” to their devices, compulsively checking e-mail, text messages or their social network “all the time” or “every fifteen minutes” (Ibid.). Internet Addiction Disorder is now accepted as a treatable diagnosis in China, Korea and Taiwan.

The extreme examples are arresting: a young couple whose real infant died of neglect while they kept alive a virtual baby; 10 heavy users of the Web who died of blood clots from being immobile too long; universities unable to conduct campus addiction studies because they couldn't find enough students who were willing to disconnect from the Internet; a man reduced to a psychotic wreck by the torrent of compliments and criticisms inundating his popular blog; the high-schooler who only ended his 24-hour-a-day iPhone use when committed to an asylum; a teenager who simultaneously maintained four separate avatars, with his real self “usually not my best one”; and another teen who confronted the onerous task of replying to 100 new messages on his phone with the plaintive question, “How long do I have to do this?”

Serious as these problems are at the personal and psychological level, they suggest a society becoming progressively disconnected from the real world in which real people must function realistically. An objective and rational connection to reality becomes increasingly crucial as the speed and power of our technological world accelerates its disturbing impact on the planet's ecosystems. As communities, we can't make considered and apt decisions if we are disengaged and psychotic, if we are distracted and dysfunctional. And we can't sustain thoughtful and persistent strategies if we are depressed and impulsive. The compulsive tendencies that accompany Internet addiction lock its victims into the repetition and inflexibility that has been the source of our problems. How do we break loose from the bonds that are creating our present environmental difficulties if we can't be open, flexible and genuine, if the psychological and sociological conditions of our age are eroding our ability to act realistically?

Societies make their own futures. Granted, some exigencies surprise and disrupt our plans and intentions. But mostly we are the saviours and the victims of ourselves — probably truer now than at any time in our history. With our potential, as Susan Greenfield reminds us, “We could create the most wonderful world for our kids but that's not going to happen if we're in denial and people sleepwalk into these technologies and end up glassy-eyed zombies.”

Our hope must be that we become fully aware and carefully watchful of the way in which our inventions invent us. Education, study and diligence can spare us from being victims. We have much to know, very much to do and little time in which to act. The Internet has the incredible potential to suture our world into a comprehendible and manageable whole — it can be our salvation as easily as our ruination. We just need the mindfulness and discipline to use it wisely.

Record Year for Displacement in Palestine

Infographic: Palestinian homes demolished

by AJE


The recent verdict in the Rachel Corrie case has once again thrown the spotlight on the Israeli policy of house demolitions.

Nearly 10 years ago, the 23-year-old American activist was killed by an Israeli army bulldozer while trying to obstruct the demolition of a Palestinian home in the Gaza Strip.

Corrie and a group of activists from the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) were acting as human shields to try to stop the Israeli army demolishing Palestinian homes and clearing land around the Palestinian town of Rafah.

Since 1967, Israel has practised a range of policies leading to the internal displacement of about 160,000 Palestinians within the occupied West Bank and Gaza. Of these actions, house demolitions are the most visible.

These are carried out by the Israeli army for a number of reasons, including "administrative" demolitions, where Palestinian homes have been built without Israeli-issued permits, as well as punitive demolitions –  where a family member is accused of being involved in militant activity.

The most devastating demolitions, however, are caused by large-scale military operations, such as those during the war on Gaza in 2008-09.

Jeff Halper of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD) argues that, seen in their totality since 1967, these home demolitions amount to an intentional "policy of displacement".

Last year, ICAHD presented the United Nations with a report, charging that Israel had a deliberate policy of forcing Palestinians out of East Jerusalem, and that this might constitute a war crime.
The mayor of Jerusalem, Nir Barkat, dismissed the report.

ICAHD said 2011 was the record year of displacement , with the destruction of some 622 Palestinian structures by Israeli authorities, of which 222 were family homes.  This resulted in 1,094 people being displaced – almost double the number for 2010.

U.S. Says "No" to Israeli Militarists: 'Austere Challenge' Gets a Little Leaner

Did America Say No to Israel?

by Gilad Atzmon

In the last few hours we have learned that the US had made massive reductions to joint military exercise with Israel. Originally slated to include 5,000 US troops, Washington will now only send 1,500 to participate in Austere Challenge 12 with Israel. Apparently, the American administration is concerned with a possible Israeli strike on Iran.

Some Israelis seem unhappy with the American decision. The Times quoted a senior Israeli military official as speculating, "Basically what the Americans are saying is, ‘We don’t trust you.’” Well, America has good reason not to trust Israel. The only question here is why did it take America so long to move in the right direction?

Although Washington will still send the Patriot missile defense systems as planned, the crews that man them will not arrive. And whereas two Aegis ballistic missile defense ships were slated to arrive for the joint drill, now only one is expected. The message to Israel is clear - if you want to launch a world war without US approval, you’d better find how to defend your people on your own.

Not specifically referring to the exercise, Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs Martin Dempsey said on Thursday that he did not want to be "complicit" if Israel chose to strike Iran's nuclear program. Dempsey also added that an attack would "clearly delay but probably not destroy Iran's nuclear program." It should also be mentioned that Dempsey’s views are overwhelmingly supported by most Israeli military experts who also contend that Israel lacks the military capacity to strike Iran, let alone dismantle the Iranian nuclear program.

As much as the American Jewish Lobby, together with Barak and Netanyahu are pushing for a new global conflict, America may still be saved by just a few brains who are beginning to realize that Israel is the biggest threat to world peace.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Isaac Another Unnatural Disaster for Haiti

Tropical Storm Isaac’s destruction is another “unnatural disaster” in Haiti

by Institute for Public Accuracy (IPA), Aug 27, 2012

Over 30 groups working on Haiti have set up the Under Tents campaign in working to ensure housing. The groups state that many of Haiti’s problems are not “natural disasters,” but are the result of policies that become increasingly glaring as Haiti faces more storms this season. Among the groups in the campaign are the following:

Claude Fignole, country director at ActionAid Haiti who witnessed the storm from Port-au-Prince, said today: “Tropical storm Isaac is not the only cause of disruption in Haiti. One in five Haitians right now is at risk of forced eviction. Many of these evicted families who ended up homeless are now bracing the terror of another storm season. The Haitian government must put a stop to all forced evictions and designate land for permanent housing so families do not have to face inadequate shelter during fierce storms like Isaac.”

Alexis Erkert with the group Other Worlds said today: “Tropical Storm Isaac underscores the urgency of resolving Haiti’s housing crisis. Lack of safe and affordable housing is one of Haiti’s most pressing social needs, and yet long-term solutions for displaced people have been shockingly absent from disaster response and development plans. What will it take to convince the Haitian government and international community that Haitians need houses? A growing housing rights movement in Haiti is calling for affordable, dignified housing. The international community has a responsibility to rally in support of this call.”

“Despite the international community’s vow to learn from past mistakes and ‘build Haiti back better,’ little has changed for Haiti’s poor. Rural communities in Haiti’s South Eastern mountains were cut off due to mudslides from Tropical Storm Isaac, and displacement camps, still home to nearly 400,000 earthquake victims, were devastated by Isaac’s 60 mile-an-hour winds and rain. Seven people reportedly lost their lives in the storm, but it will be days before the full impact is known.”
( Alexis Erkert, in Haiti, alexis.otherworlds (at), speaks English, French, Kreyol.)

Melinda Miles is with TransAfrica/Let Haiti Live. She said today: “Until now, efforts to relocate homeless earthquake victims have focused on moving people out of highly trafficked areas and parks, a strategy to get them out of sight and out of mind. It is shameful that the plight of the most vulnerable Haitians can be so easily ignored until a storm threatens to make them visible again.”
(Melinda Miles, Melinda (at), speaks English and Kreyol)

Nicole Phillips is an attorney with the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti. She said today: “The Haitian people will continue to disproportionately suffer from natural and unnatural disasters until the international community’s policies and practices that make the country particularly vulnerable to environmental stresses are changed.

“Haitians’ extreme vulnerability to natural disasters like tropical storms and earthquakes is a result of international aid, trade, debt and governance policies over many decades that crippled Haiti’s economy and prevented its government from providing basic public services, including disaster prevention and relief. According to Haitian Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe, the government’s emergency plan for Isaac for its population of 10 million people consisted of $50,000 in emergency funds, buses and 32 boats for evacuations. Edmond Mulet, United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations in Haiti, admitted after the 2010 earthquake that, ‘the international community is co-responsible for [the] weakness of Haitian institutions and the Haitian state.’ The policies also generated vulnerability by forcing Haitian farmers off their land and into overcrowded cities that offered little employment or safe housing.”
(Nicole Phillips, Nicole (at), speaks English and French.)

Background: see IPA news release from Friday: “Cuba’s Hurricane Preparedness: A Model for Florida and the Gulf Coast?” (text below).

Cuba’s Hurricane Preparedness: A Model for Florida and the Gulf Coast?

Published on Institute for Public Accuracy (IPA), August 24, 2012

By Gail Reed [in Havana] medic(at), also via Camila Curtis-Contreras, ccurtiscontreras(at) Reed is executive editor of MEDICC [Medical Education Cooperation with Cuba] Review.

Gail Reed said today: “In the many years I’ve worked here in Cuba, I’ve seen the disaster prevention strategy up close — and been in at least five hurricanes myself. Cuba does a few things we don’t often see in other countries that help save lives: they close schools to keep families together; use ‘community evacuation’ in especially isolated areas — where specific buildings or homes have been reinforced just for that purpose — rather than having people and their household goods traveling miles to shelters; and they turn the lights out and shut down the cooking gas mains when winds reach a certain speed. This last measure alone has certainly saved hundreds of lives, since many deaths result from people wading in flood waters zapped by downed electric wires, or from gas explosions.

“We also get radio and television messages a full 72 hours before a storm is expected to hit — and TV meteorologist Jose Rubiera is something of a folk hero in Cuba for his informative ‘stormtracking’ broadcasts day and night.

“Finally, the Cuban Civil Defense, a small organization at the top, involves virtually everybody at the municipal level; together with public health and Red Cross participation, local government and institutions are well prepared with risk assessments and disaster planning.

“The success of Cuba’s disaster preparation and mitigation strategies shows up in the results: just 35 deaths were caused by the 16 hurricanes and tropical storms that have torn through the island since 2001 — and 17 of those from Hurricane Dennis in 2005, which hit a province usually spared from such weather.

“Which brings me to another reason why the Cubans are successful: they learn from their mistakes. After Dennis, they studied why people had low risk perception, taking chances that put their lives in danger. On other occasions, they have scrapped old ways of doing things to give people and property better protection.

“Cuba’s experience is interesting because in an economically deprived context, they set the goal of a PUBLIC system that protects 100 percent of their population. That means prioritizing vulnerable people — from those who live along the coastlines, to the elderly, disabled, families in precarious housing, and pregnant women and children.”

See MEDICC’s “Strategies for Disaster Management” issue.

Saul Landau, slandau (at), Professor emeritus at California State University, Pomona, Landau is a senior fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies and has won numerous awards for the 40 films he has produced, several of which are about Cuba.

He said today: “The Cubans made a sensible decision to save lives during hurricanes and erected an infrastructure to do the job — which is logical for Florida and the Texas gulf ports as well. Before hurricanes strike, Cubans evacuate likely victims and insure their safety. We do not do this, nor have we begun to even discuss it. Yet, each year, the big storms ravage areas of this country. Cuba has special medical and paramedical units trained, and they make plans for all their regions. We do not. They offered to send people after Katrina, but Bush refused the offer.”

Note to producers: Jackson Browne’s song “Going Down to Cuba” may make for a good lead-in, especially the lines “They might not know all the freedoms you and I know / They do know what to do in a hurricane.” (at 2:25).

Ride of the Billionaire Balloteers

Billionaires & Ballot Bandits

by Greg Palast

If you're not sick and outraged and ready to vomit, then don't talk to me.

When I see a cruel bucket of garbage and winky-winky racism and bullshit and venom like Paul Ryan talk to America like he's some kind of Boy Scout, I want a gun, or a TV network where I can tell the truth or a giant washing machine to dunk America and rinse off the crud of lies and pure manipulative evil that they're feeding us.

But I don't like guns, I don't have a TV network, I just have this: A book.

It’s called Billionaires & Ballot Bandits: How to Steal an Election in 9 Easy Steps.

An investigation of Karl Rove, the Koch Gang and their billionaire Buck-Buddies. The guys who bought Ryan.

It's the most important bullet I've ever fired.

I watch these smug jerks at the Republican Convention and I'm ill ... because I know something they won't tell you on CNN or CBS, let alone Fox. And here’s the facts, ma'am:

In 2008, no fewer than 2,706,275 ballots were cast—and never counted.

It didn't make a difference then, but it will make a difference now.

And, in 2008, no fewer than 3,195,539 legal voters were denied the right to vote. Told to get the hell out of the polling station.

Add it up. That's at least 5,901,814 legitimate votes and voters tossed out of the count.

So God Bless America. By the way, these numbers are from the raw data supplied to me by the US Elections Assistance Commission.

It's official. It's in your face. It's sick. It's unreported.

I cry. I scream. I retch. Then I make jokes — but I give you the inside info on the Koch Brothers ("Target 67C" as federal prosecutors called Charles Koch) that will make your eyes pop.

Fact: The 2012 election's been stolen. Already. Stolen by billionaires who've created data bases called "Themis" (the Kochs own that) and "DataTrust" (Karl Rove's satanic machine).

The election has not been stolen from Barack Obama — it's been stolen from you. From We the People who march to the polls believing America is still a democracy, the land of the Brave, home of The Free, and that our votes count.

The Rove-bots and the monsters behind the data bases have figured out how to fiddle, finagle and ultimately throw your vote in the garbage.

America is on the line. ON THE LINE. I have two kids and God forbid I stand here silent with my hands in my pockets whistling at my shoes.

How did a sick little monster like Paul Ryan end up on the Republican ticket? Follow the money. The big sugar daddy behind Ryan, his donor Numero Uno, is Paul "The Vulture" Singer. Singer's the guy who started the Romney super-PAC "Restore Our Future" and he's funded Ryan up the Wazoo.

Why? Because Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton told a federal court that Singer The Vulture is a "threat to the entire financial system" of the planet. And now Singer wants their blood—and your dead carcass.

Frankly, I don't care, as Shakespeare said, if Obama’s campaign "farts or flies." I do care if a billionaire can steal the votes of Black soldiers just so he can make another billion.

So I want, I demand, I insist, that you order a copy of the exposé on The Vulture and Romney's billionaires (and Obama's, too): Billionaires & Ballot Bandits: How to Steal an Election in 9 Easy Steps.

With a foreword by Robert F. Kennedy Jr., "The Hostile Takeover of America". RFK is as outraged as I am but a lot calmer.

And inside it, there's a 48-page comic book by Ted Rall because every cartoon is worth a thousand bullets.

Don't be fooled again. This election is about a bunch of madly dangerous financiers — "The Vulture," the "Ice Man," and guys so evil they don't even have nicknames -- who can't tolerate the idea that Americans have a right to choose our leaders, our destinies.

You want to know who owns your ballot? Then get the book right now by ordering it on Amazon or Barnes & Noble or Indiebound. Or go and pound the counter at your local bookstore and tell them that instead of another Yoga Diet Cookbook you want a HAND GRENADE MADE OUT OF TRUTH: Billionaires & Ballot Bandits.

Alternatively, make a donation and get a signed copy.
[Whichever way you choose to get it, your dollar goes to support the Palast Investigative Fund. I am donating all my proceeds to the fund.]

Can a book make a difference? Can't say. But I know this: Ballot Bandits are cowards, are cockroaches. When we turn on the lights, they run run run away.

Do this now. Get the info ammo and pass it on to your friends and mailing lists.

And for my terrible language, I apologize.


Greg Palast

***** Palast's brand new book Billionaires & Ballot Bandits: How to Steal an Election in 9 Easy Steps, will be out on September 18. You can pre-order Billionaires & Ballot Bandits from Barnes & Noble, Amazon or Indie Bound. Author's proceeds from the book go to the not-for-profit Palast Investigative Fund for reporting on voter protection issues.

Or donate and can get a signed copy of the book.

Pledging Allegiance to a Suffering Empire

The Anti-Empire Report

by William Blum

"We pledge allegiance to the republic for which America stands and not to its empire for which it is now suffering." 1

Louis XVI needed a revolution, Napoleon needed two historic military defeats, the Spanish Empire in the New World needed multiple revolutions, the Russian Czar needed a communist revolution, the Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman Empires needed World War I, the Third Reich needed World War II, the Land of the Rising Sun needed two atomic bombs, the Portuguese Empire in Africa needed a military coup at home. What will the American Empire need?

Perhaps losing the long-held admiration and support of one group of people after another, one country after another, as the empire's wars, bombings, occupations, torture, and lies eat away at the facade of a beloved and legendary "America"; an empire unlike any other in history, that has intervened seriously and grievously, in war and in peace, in most countries on the planet, as it preached to the world that the American Way of Life was a shining example for all humanity and that America above all was needed to lead the world.

The Wikileaks documents and videos have provided one humiliation after another ... lies exposed, political manipulations revealed, gross hypocrisies, murders in cold blood, ... followed by the torture of Bradley Manning and the persecution of Julian Assange. Washington calls the revelations "threats to national security", but the world can well see it's simply plain old embarrassment. Manning's defense attorneys have asked the military court on several occasions to specify the exact harm done to national security. The court has never given an answer. If hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, consider an empire embarrassed.

And we now have the international soap opera, L'Affaire Assange, starring Sweden, the United Kingdom, the United States, Ecuador, and Julian Assange. The United States' neo-colonies of Sweden (an active warring member of NATO in all but name) and the United Kingdom (with its "special relationship" to the United States) know what is expected of them to earn a pat on the head from their Washington uncle. We can infer that Sweden has no legitimate reason to demand the extradition of Julian Assange from London from the fact that it has repeatedly refused offers to question Assange in the UK and repeatedly refused to explain why it has refused to do so.

The Brits, under "immense pressure from the Obama administration", as reported to former British ambassador Craig Murray by the UK Foreign Office,2 threatened, in a letter to the Ecuadoran government, to raid the Ecuadoran embassy in London to snatch Assange — "[You] should be aware that there is a legal basis in the United Kingdom, the Diplomatic and Consular Premises Act of 1987, which would allow us to take action to arrest Mr. Assange in the existing facilities of the embassy". Over the August 18 weekend the London police actually made their way into the building's internal fire escape, coming within a few feet of Assange's room, as he could hear. The law cited by the Brits is, of course, their own law, one not necessarily with any international standing.

The UK has now formally withdrawn its threat against the embassy, probably the result of much international indignation toward Her Majesty's Government. The worldwide asylum system would fall apart if the nation granting the asylum were punished for it. In this violent world of terrorists, imperialists, and other dreadfuls it's comforting to know that an old fashioned value like political asylum can still be honored.

A look back at some US and UK behavior in regard to embassies and political asylum is both interesting and revealing:

In 1954, when the United States overthrew the democratically-elected social democrat Jacobo Arbenz in Guatemala and replaced him with a military government headed by Col. Carlos Castillo Armas, many Guatemalans took refuge in foreign embassies. US Secretary of State John Foster Dulles insisted that the new Guatemalan government raid those embassies and arrest those individuals, whom he referred to as "communists".

But Castillo Armas refused to accede to Dulles' wishes on this issue. Stephen Schlesinger and Stephen Kinzer, in their comprehensive history of the coup,3 state:
"In the end, Castillo Armas disregarded Dulles' suggestions. He himself was a product of the widespread belief in Latin America that embassy asylum and safe-conduct passes were a fair resolution to political conflicts. Virtually every politically active Guatemalan, including Castillo Armas, had sought political asylum in an embassy at one time or another and had obtained safe conduct from the government. Dulles' suggestion for a 'modification' of the asylum doctrine was not even popular within the American Embassy."
It should be noted that one of those who sought asylum in the Argentine Embassy in Guatemala was a 25-year-old Argentine doctor named Ernesto "Che" Guevara.

Baltasar Garzon, the Spanish judge who is one of Assange's lawyers, came to international attention in 1998 when he indicted former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet while he was in England. But the British declined to send Pinochet to Spain to face the indictment, in effect giving him political asylum, and allowed this proverbial mass murderer and torturer to walk free and eventually return to Chile. Julian Assange, not charged or found guilty of anything, is a de facto prisoner of the UK; while the New York Times and the BBC and the numerous other media giants, who did just what Assange did by publishing Wikileaks articles and broadcasting Wikileaks videos, walk free.

This past April, Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng escaped house arrest in China and took refuge at the American Embassy in Beijing, sparking diplomatic tension between the two countries. But the "authoritarian" Chinese government did not threaten to enter the American Embassy to arrest Chen and soon allowed him to accept an American offer of safe passage to US soil. How will Julian Assange ever obtain safe passage to Ecuador?

In August 1989, while the Cold War still prevailed many East Germans crossed into fellow-Soviet-bloc state Czechoslovakia and were granted political asylum in the West German embassy. How would the United States — which has not said a word against the British threat to invade the Ecuadoran embassy — have reacted if the East Germans or the Czechs had raided the West German embassy or blocked the East Germans from leaving it? As matters turned out, West Germany took the refugee-seekers to West Germany by train without being impeded by the Soviet bloc. A few months later, the weaker "Evil Empire" collapsed, leaving the entire playing field, known as the world, to the stronger "Evil Empire", which has been on belligerence autopilot ever since.

In 1986, after the French government refused the use of its air space to US warplanes headed for a bombing raid on Libya, the planes were forced to take another, longer route. When they reached Libya they bombed so close to the French embassy that the building was damaged and all communication links were disabled.4

In 1999, NATO (aka the USA), purposely (sic) bombed the Chinese embassy in Belgrade, Yugoslavia.5

After Assange took refuge in the Ecuadoran embassy and was granted asylum by the South American country, the US State Department declared: "The United States is not a party to the 1954 OAS [Organization of American States] Convention on Diplomatic Asylum and does not recognize the concept of diplomatic asylum as a matter of international law."6

Ecuador called for a meeting at the OAS of the foreign ministers of member countries to discuss the whole situation. The United States opposed the request. For Washington the issue was simple: The UK obeys international law and extradites Assange to Sweden. (And then, chuckle-chuckle, Sweden sends the bastard to us.) End of discussion. Washington did not want the issue blown up and prolonged any further. But of the 26 nations voting at the OAS only three voted against the meeting: The US, Canada, and Trinidad & Tobago; perhaps another example of what was mentioned above about a dying empire losing the long-held admiration and support of one country after another.

The price Ecuador may pay for its courage ... Washington Post editorial, June 20, 2012:
"There is one potential check on [Ecuadoran president Rafael] Correa's ambitions. The U.S. 'empire' he professes to despise happens to grant Ecuador (which uses the dollar as its currency) special trade preferences that allow it to export many goods duty-free. A full third of Ecuadoran foreign sales ($10 billion in 2011) go to the United States, supporting some 400,000 jobs in a country of 14 million people. Those preferences come up for renewal by Congress early next year. If Mr. Correa seeks to appoint himself America's chief Latin American enemy and Julian Assange's protector between now and then, it's not hard to imagine the outcome."
On several occasions President Obama, when pressed to investigate Bush and Cheney for war crimes, has declared: "I prefer to look forward rather than backwards". Picture a defendant before a judge asking to be found innocent on such grounds. It simply makes laws, law enforcement, crime, justice, and facts irrelevant. Picture Julian Assange before a military court in Virginia using this argument. Picture the reaction to this by Barack Obama, who has become the leading persecutor of whistleblowers in American history.

Since L'Affaire Assange captured world headlines the United States, as well as the United Kingdom, have on several occasions made statements about the deep-seated international obligation of nations to honor extradition requests from other nations. The United States, however, has a history of ignoring such requests, whether made formally or informally, for persons living in the US who are ideological allies. Here's a partial sample from recent years:

Former Venezuelan president Carlos Andres Perez, whom the Venezuelan government demanded be turned over to stand trial for his role in suppressing riots in 1989. He died in 2010 in Miami. (Associated Press, December 27, 2010).

Former Bolivian President Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada fled to the United States in 2003 to avoid a trial for the death of about 60 people in La Paz during a military crackdown on demonstrators. In 2008, Bolivia formally served the US government with a request to extradite him back to Bolivia, which was not acceded to. (Associated Press, February 13, 2006; also see his Wikipedia entry).

In 2010, a US federal judge denied Argentina's extradition request for former military officer Roberto Bravo, who was facing 16 murder charges stemming from a 1972 massacre of leftist guerrillas in his homeland. (Associated Press, November 2, 2010)

Luis Posada, a Cuban-born citizen of Venezuela, masterminded the bombing of a Cuban airline in 1976, killing 73 civilians. Inasmuch as part of the plotting took place in Venezuela, that government formally asked the United States for his extradition in 2005. But instead of extraditing him, the United States prosecuted him for minor immigration infractions that came to naught. Posada continues to live as a free man in the United States.

In 2007 German prosecutors issued arrest warrants for 13 suspected CIA operatives who had abducted German citizen Khaled el-Masri in 2003 and flown him to Afghanistan for interrogation (read torture). The CIA then realized they had kidnapped the wrong man and dumped el-Masri on the side of an Albanian road. Subsequently, the German Justice Minster announced that she would no longer request extradition, citing US refusal to arrest or hand over the agents. (The Guardian (London), January 7, 2011).

In November 2009 an Italian judge convicted a CIA Station Chief and 22 other Americans, all but one being CIA operatives, for kidnapping a Muslim cleric, Abu Omar, from the streets of Milan in 2003 and flying him to Egypt for the usual interrogation. All those convicted had left Italy by the time of the judge's ruling and were thus tried in absentia. In Italy they are considered fugitives. Although there were verdicts, arrest warrants and extradition requests in the case, the Italian government refused to formally forward the requests to their close allies, the Americans; which, in any event, would of course have been futile. (Der Spiegel [Germany] online, December 17, 2010, based on a Wikileaks US cable)

The hidden, obvious, peculiar, fatal, omnipresent bias of American mainstream media concerning US foreign policy

There are more than 1,400 daily newspapers in the United States. Can you name a single paper, or a single TV network, that was unequivocally opposed to the American wars carried out against Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan, Yugoslavia, Panama, Grenada, and Vietnam? Or even opposed to any two of these wars? How about one? (I've been asking this question for years and so far I've gotten only one answer — Someone told me that the Seattle Post-Intelligencer had unequivocally opposed the invasion of Iraq. Can anyone verify that or name another case?)

In 1968, six years into the Vietnam war, the Boston Globe surveyed the editorial positions of 39 leading US papers concerning the war and found that "none advocated a pull-out".7

Now, can you name an American daily newspaper or TV network that more or less gives any support to any US government ODE (Officially Designated Enemy)? Like Hugo Chávez of Venezuela, Fidel or Raul Castro of Cuba, Bashar al-Assad of Syria, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran, Rafael Correa of Ecuador (even before the current Assange matter), or Evo Morales of Bolivia? I mean that presents the ODE's point of view in a reasonably fair manner most of the time? Or any ODE of the recent past like Slobodan Milosevic of Serbia, Moammar Gaddafi of Libya, Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, or Jean-Bertrand Aristide of Haiti?

Who in the mainstream media supports Hamas of Gaza? Or Hezbollah of Lebanon?

Who in the mainstream media is outspokenly critical of Israel's domestic or foreign policies? And keeps his/her job?

Who in the mainstream media treats Julian Assange or Bradley Manning as the heros they are?

And this same mainstream media tell us that Cuba, Venezuela, Ecuador, et al. do not have a real opposition media.

The ideology of the American mainstream media is the belief that they don't have any ideology; they are instead what they call "objective".

It's been said that the political spectrum concerning US foreign policy in the America mainstream media "runs the gamut from A to B."

Long before the Soviet Union broke up, a group of Russian writers touring the United States were astonished to find, after reading the newspapers and watching television, that almost all the opinions on all the vital issues were the same. "In our country," said one of them, "to get that result we have a dictatorship. We imprison people. We tear out their fingernails. Here you have none of that. How do you do it? What's the secret?"8

On October 8, 2001, the second day of the US bombing of Afghanistan, the transmitters for the Taliban government's Radio Shari were bombed and shortly after this the US bombed some 20 regional radio sites. US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld defended the targeting of these facilities, saying: "Naturally, they cannot be considered to be free media outlets. They are mouthpieces of the Taliban and those harboring terrorists."9


Sam Smith, editor of the Progressive Review
Craig Murray, "America’s Vassal Acts Decisively and Illegally: Former UK Ambassador", Information Clearing House, August 16, 2012
Bitter Fruit: The Untold Story of the American Coup in Guatemala (1982), pp.222-3
Associated Press, "France Confirms It Denied U.S. Jets Air Space, Says Embassy Damaged",
April 15, 1986

William Blum, Rogue State: A Guide to the World's Only Superpower, pp.308-9
Josh Rogin, "State Department: The U.S. does not recognize the concept of 'diplomatic asylum'", Foreign Policy, August 17, 2012
Boston Globe, February 18, 1968, p.2-A
John Pilger, New Statesman (London), February 19, 2001
Index on Censorship (London), October 18, 2001

William Blum is the author of:
Killing Hope: US Military and CIA Interventions Since World War 2
Rogue State: A Guide to the World's Only Superpower
West-Bloc Dissident: A Cold War Memoir
Freeing the World to Death: Essays on the American Empire

Portions of the books can be read, and signed copies purchased, at

Previous Anti-Empire Reports can be read at this website.

Flying Under the Radar: Western War Powers Push for 'No-Fly' Designation over Syria

"No-Fly Zones inside Syria": West Scripting Scary Scenario

 by Finian Cunningham - Global Research

The Syrian crisis is a tragedy that is a montage of so many other recent Western-scripted tragedies: Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya. The same lies and fabrications, the same horror and suffering, and the same Western criminals posing as heroes.

The conflict in Syria is unfolding like a predictable plot line - a script that appears to be a re-run of some Hollywood cliché movie - only the script is being written with outrageous cynicism in Washington along with its criminal co-stars, Britain and France.

Tugging on public heartstrings this week, the Western powers are emoting about the plight of hundreds of thousands of refugees pouring out of Syria into neighboring countries: Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan. The United Nations fears that the number of refugees in Turkey alone may reach 200,000.

French President Francois Hollande says that the Western powers will have to set up No-Fly Zones inside Syria to act as buffer areas in order to relieve the humanitarian crisis. Hollande says that France is working closely with its American, British and Turkish partners on plans for this intrusion into Syrian sovereign territory - to address the very humanitarian crisis that these powers have instigated.

Hollande, and his American and British counterparts, Barack Obama and David Cameron, are portraying themselves as knights in shining armor, riding to the rescue of helpless victims. The ploy is no doubt aimed at whipping up a moral duty among the Western audience to give their governments the right to intervene directly in Syria.

Such a portrayal is a grotesque distortion of reality. The displacement of civilians from their homes across Syria, losing all their worldly possessions, is the result of the covert war of aggression that these villainous governments have unleashed on the suffering Syrian people over the past year.

Such cynical theatrics by the Western powers is a re-run of NATO’s intervention in Libya last year, which was carried out under the pretext of “responsibility to protect (R2P)” human rights. That intervention quickly turned into a criminal NATO bombing campaign, which destroyed many more civilian lives than it was supposedly aimed at protecting. This time around, Russia and China will not buy such a ruse at the UN Security Council. Hence the Western powers are aiming to go it alone, outside the remit of the UN, and are therefore making appeals to the Western public for a mandate to meddle in Syria.

If tugging on heartstrings doesn’t suffice, then terrifying the Western public is also being thrown into the script. President Obama once again cued the old bogey-man of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) as a ‘red line’ that would trigger direct Western intervention in Syria’s 17-month violence.

Less than 10 years ago, this fear factor was hammed up by Obama’s predecessor, George W Bush, in an attempt to get the Western public gripping the edge of their seats over Iraq’s Saddam Hussein. Bush along with his British side-kick, Tony Blair, claimed that Saddam had WMD that could be launched within minutes and that this peril justified a US-led military strike on that country. No such weapons were ever found in Iraq.

Now in a tired re-run of that script we have Obama and his British and French counterparts declaring that Syria’s alleged chemical weapons are a threat to the world.

It is astounding that the same powers that committed war crimes in Iraq on the basis of trumped-up lies - with over one million dead from an illegal military occupation that ended only last year - have now the audacity to play that “scary” scenario again.

What is all the more outrageous is the brazen predictable nature of the conflict in Syria. The US, Britain and France are acting out their own screenplay written by these same powers with self-fulfilling prophesies. Like a corny soap opera, each scene leads to the next. Only this is not a corny soap opera; it is a war of aggression that is causing massive suffering and could spark an all-out world war.

The Western powers allege that because of the deteriorating security situation in Syria, the state’s suspected arsenal of chemical weapons may “fall into the wrong hands”. In that event, Obama, Cameron and Hollande say they will have no choice but to move militarily into Syria’s conflict to safeguard those weapons.

But hold on a minute.  
The deteriorating security situation in Syria that the Western powers are apparently concerned about is the result of a Western-backed armed insurrection that they have been recklessly fuelling over the past year. Since the US-led powers unveiled a roadmap for regime change across the Middle East in 2001, these powers have been waiting for the opportunity to overthrow the government in Damascus. They got their chance during the Arab Spring of 2011 when the US, Britain and France were able to infiltrate that country under the guise of supporting a pro-democracy movement.
From March 2011, the conflict in Syria has escalated from confined skirmishes between Western-backed militia and the Syrian army to a country-wide guerrilla war. It is the Western powers and their regional allies of Turkey, Israel and the Persian Gulf monarchies of Saudi Arabia and Qatar who are responsible for the violence that is raging across the Levant.

The greatly increased capacity for violence is a direct result of massive flows of higher-caliber weapons that the Western powers are funneling into Syria. The presence of special forces from the US, Britain and France have ensured that these weapons are being used to produce devastating carnage. This is the chaotic, bloody backdrop - created by the West - against which the Western governments are now voicing apprehensions about the alleged risk of chemical weapons. The mainstream media have dutifully obliged like the propaganda wing of their governments’ military.

And who are “the wrong hands” that Obama, Cameron and Hollande are apparently concerned may acquire these weapons. It the same mercenary groups that the Western governments and their regional allies have directed into Syria to do their dirty work. This proxy network goes by the name of the “Free Syrian Army” but is known to compromise Islamic extremist groups, such as Al-Qaeda and other Saudi-backed Salafists, which have gravitated from various countries to fight a supposed “holy war”.  
Given that these mercenary groups have committed whole-village massacres of women and children in Syria, have carried out no-warning car bombs in urban centers - the latest at a funeral in Damascus this week that killed some 30 people, and given that they have desecrated ancient Muslim and Christian religious sites with barbarous relish, it is indeed of deep concern if these fanatical militants were to somehow commandeer deadly chemical weapons.
The very real danger is that the Western powers will do their utmost to ensure that the Western-backed fanatics obtain these weapons of mass destruction. One scene leads to the next in this criminal Western production.

The Syrian crisis is a tragedy that is a montage of so many other recent Western-scripted tragedies: Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya. The same lies and fabrications, the same horror and suffering, and the same Western criminals posing as heroes.

Finian Cunningham has written extensively on international affairs, with articles published in several languages. Many of his recent articles appear on the renowned Canadian-based news website He is a Master’s graduate in Agricultural Chemistry and worked as a scientific editor for the Royal Society of Chemistry, Cambridge, England, before pursuing a career in journalism. He specialises in Middle East and East Africa issues and has also given several American radio interviews as well as TV interviews on Press TV and Russia Today. Previously, he was based in Bahrain and witnessed the political upheavals in the Persian Gulf kingdom during 2011 as well as the subsequent Saudi-led brutal crackdown against pro-democracy protests.

 Global Research Articles by Finian Cunningham

Charging the Victims: South African Minders Face Murder Allegations

Striking South African Miners Charged with Murder After Police Kill 34


Major challenge to ANC government after reports that many miners were shot in the back, and now murder charges against other miners, no police charged

Vishwas Satgar has been a grass roots activist in South Africa for the past 28 years. He is currently engaged in supporting the Solidarity Economy Movement in township communities, supporting food sovereignty campaigning , climate jobs campaigning and defending popular democracy in South Africa. His academic interests include a focus on African political economy, Empire and Global crisis, Green Global political Economy and Transnational Alternatives. He is a Senior Lecturer at the Univesity of the Witwatersrand.


PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: Welcome to The Real News Network. I'm Paul Jay in Baltimore.On August 16 in South Africa, at the Lonmin mine in Marikana, police killed 34 miners who were on strike amongst hundreds in a confrontation with police. A postmortem exam, according to a local television station, revealed that most of the miners killed were shot in the back while they were fleeing police, not as they were, according to the police, about to surround and attack the police. Now there have been charges laid for these murders. Two hundred and seventy miners were charged in the deaths, and no policemen. Now joining us to help us make sense of all of this is Vishwas Satgar. He's a grassroots activist in South Africa for the past 28 years and he's a senior lecturer at the University of Witwatersrand. And he's recently helped form something called Solidarity with the Marikana Minors. Thanks for joining us.

VISHWAS SATGAR, SENIOR LECTURER, UNIV. OF THE WITWATERSRAND: Thanks. And thanks for having me.JAY: So lead us through the basic story here first of all, just to kick it off. If I understand it correctly, miners were on strike for higher wages. There is a division within the unions. There's a newer, more militant union and an older, people would say, less militant union allied with the ANC government, and this confrontation develops. So give us the context of what happened, and then we'll get into how it is that the miners get charged and not the police.

SATGAR: Yeah. I mean, all these essential facts you point to are key, but we just need to take a step back to sort of August 9, when workers at this particular mine, particularly the rock drillers, came together to really think crucially about their work situation and then, of course, make a demand to the management. The management response to their immediate demand for higher wages was to suggest some kind of minimal back pay. In the minds of the workers this really meant that, you know, this mine was a cash cow and, you know, the management could respond in a more serious way to this substantive proposal.This then snowballed since August 9, with the workers first marching to the National Union of Mineworkers office, which many of these workers were members of and probably still are. On their way to the offices of the National Union of Mineworkers, they were shot at, according to, and allegedly, by members of the National Union of Mineworkers. This led to the death of two workers.Subsequently this just spirals. Two security guards are killed. Two policemen are killed. Another six workers are killed.And then the infamous day of August 16, where the workers gather on a location, on a little mountain, what is called a koppie in South Africa, close or adjacent to the mine. The mine calls in a rival union to the National Union of Mineworkers called AMCU and basically tries to get AMCU to try and pull these workers off the koppie and get them back in to work. AMCU tries. They go and speak to the workers. And that is unsuccessful. The National Union of Mineworkers also around this time tries to speak to these workers.And one of the issues, material facts here that rarely comes out in the sort of witness accounts and the narrative by the workers themselves is that they were addressed by the president of the National Union of Mineworkers while he was inside a police armored vehicle. And that really also irked them and angered them, and while in a context in which they were completely surrounded on this hilltop.Subsequently, it would seem—and this is based on an academic reconstruction of what happened on August 16 done by a professor at the University of Johannesburg. He essentially went to the site and interviewed various workers and witnesses and put together the sequence of things. And what seems to emerge from this picture is that the police surrounded these workers, they put barbed wire fence, razor wire fence around the perimeter, they left a very narrow opening for these workers, and basically opened fire with tear gas and rubber bullets. The workers then ran for the one and only opening they could see in the barbed wire fence.Now, a lot of media coverage shows this particular scene and it comes across as though the police are on the retreat and the workers are attacking offensively. But actually it's seen from—according to the professor at the University of Johannesburg, this was the only opening left for those workers. And at least about ten of them were gunned down at that entrance or that opening.Now, there are other kind of bits of information coming together and are now beginning to come to light in the public arena. It would seem that most of the workers ran in the opposite direction while—from the top of the koppie or the mountain, and they were then gunned down systematically in cold blood in different locations. A journalist link to the Maverick Magazine today has basically carefully documented the various sites where these workers were killed and basically has put out the story that, you know, in the difficult rocky crevices and so on, this is where mineworkers were shot. At the same time, there are reports coming out increasingly from eyewitness accounts that many of these workers were also run over by police motorized or armored vehicles. So this is basically the kind of picture that's beginning to emerge around the facts and the details.

JAY: This seems systematic. It seems like the police were given—what's the word?—some direction on this. Or should I say, does it seem police [were] out of control? But it seems like there's more going on here than that.

SATGAR: Well, on August 17—and this, again, is according to newspaper accounts and some eyewitness accounts that the senior police commissioner of the area basically made a public statement that they were going to stop the strike. In addition, the National Union of Mineworkers made a public call on national radio and national news for the police to intervene and deal with the situation and the violence. So the kind of perception created is that this clearly was an orchestrated, a planned sort of attack by the police.Also, just the precision around which they kind of surrounded the whole area, the way they kind of intervened, the kind of firepower—I mean, you know, there were helicopters, there were armored vehicles, I mean, just many, many police in the area. And apparently, according to even the head, the president of AMCU, who spoke at a public meeting, he was quite taken aback by the scale at which the police were handling this operation. Initially, after he made his appeal to the workers to come down and end the strike, they walked away from the situation and they passed what seemed like a very sophisticated sort of command center.

JAY: Okay. So I don't quite get this, what happened on Thursday, then. We have evidence that the postmortem examination of the bodies are that most of the miners that were killed were actually running away. You say there's evidence now from this professor that they were actually sort of kettled, in a way, with barbed wire and led towards the police. And then the miners get charged, 270 miners get charged with the deaths of the other miners. What's the logic there?

SATGAR: Well, actually, it's illogical, but it does point to a deepening crisis of our postapartheid democracy.There are four elements to the state response post the Marikana massacre. The first response has been to continue a heavy police presence in and around the communities that make up the Marikana area. And that has also led to a lot of police harassment. The second element of the response has been the state president of the country, Jacob Zuma, announcing a judicial commission of inquiry, headed up by three judges. He's defined the terms of reference, which is important, but also has certain limitations.The third element has been [for] the state to call for a peace court process. Right now in the town of Rustenburg is an attempt by the minister of labor to sit down with the unions and hammer out some kind of peace agreement.The fourth element in this whole equation has been the charging of the mine workers that are currently in police custody with the murder of their colleagues.Now, this all really doesn't add up. Increasingly, it would seem that what's at heart of the state response is really an attempt to stop the kind of demands, the kind of worker militancy from spreading throughout the platinum belts right now. So there's a lot of doublespeak coming out of government. It doesn't add up, it doesn't make sense, and really the government is not contributing to a climate of trust. There is deep skepticism on the ground within the community about the intentions of the South African [crosstalk]

JAY: And what are these miners actually charged with?SATGAR: Well, that's the thing. They're charged with the murder of their 34 colleagues.JAY: But they use some law about—that because they were there in common purpose, they created the scene where the police shot—they're responsible. I mean, it's something along these lines?

SATGAR: Yeah. I mean, it's—I'm no lawyer, but, I mean, clearly they're trying to kind of construct a legal argument or a legal case, you know, trying to kind of, you know, pin it on them collectively. They had a common intention, a common purpose.But, you know, again, this—the whole thing about the charging is embroiled in a larger kind of political battle. The workers themselves went to the police station, and this together with Julius Malema, the former Youth League president in South Africa, ANC Youth League president, and he, together with the workers, charged the police for murder. Now, it would seem that the state response is a counter to this, and it's really beginning to become a tit-for-tat issue, sadly, in this situation.

JAY: We're going to do a part two of this interview where we step back and look at the bigger picture, at the conflict amongst this new and more militant union challenging the older traditional union allied with the ANC, and then what this incident of the shooting of the miners has sparked in South Africa, which is a whole examination of the state of inequality and the state of ANC leadership. And the whole neoliberal policies of South Africa are now under a new kind of examination. So part two of our interview is going to take us there. So please join us for that on The Real News Network.


DISCLAIMER: Please note that transcripts for The Real News Network are typed from a recording of the program. TRNN cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.

Fukushima Fallout: Japanese Governement Stifles "Harmful Rumours"

Asahi: Fukushima gov’t trying to stamp out ‘harmful rumors’ — Officials target group leader who discussed deformed babies

Follow-up to: Japanese Veterinary Physician: Rate of deformed babies in Tokyo area will skyrocket from Fukushima disaster -- "People who were there should not marry at all costs"
(Subscription Only) Title: Fukushima blasts environmentalist’s remark about marriage, deformed babies
Source: Asahi
Date: Aug 30, 2012
Fukushima city assembly members lashed out at the leader of an environmental group who said people who live in radiation-affected areas should avoid marriage to prevent births of deformed babies.
The four assembly members, including Kazuyoshi Sato, told reporters on Aug. 29 that Hobun Ikeya’s remarks were “inappropriate and discriminatory” and should not be tolerated. They demanded Ikeya, president of the Ecosystem Conservation Society-Japan, retract his comments, which were made in a lecture in July on radiation contamination from the accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.
The Fukushima assembly members sent a letter to Ikeya, asking him to explain his comments. But they said Ikeya countered that his words had been twisted in an act of defamation.
The Fukushima prefectural government is struggling to stamp out what it calls “harmful rumors” concerning the nuclear accident while trying to prevent a population decline.
On Aug. 29, the prefecture estimated that its population would decline by up to 38 percent by 2040 if the current outflow of people continues.
If all people who evacuated to other prefectures remain outside of Fukushima Prefecture, its population in 2040 would be 1,225,000, compared with 1,989,000 in October 2011, the prefectural government said.
Emphasis Added Below

What Ikeya said according to the Fukushima officials:
“You’d better not marry anyone from Fukushima” and “Cancer rate may rise in Fukushima, and deformed babies may be born”.
What Ikeya said according to Asahi:
“People in areas over which the radioactive plumes passed should not marry [...] If they give birth to their children after getting married, the incidence of deformities will become way higher,” the society quoted him as saying.
An audio recording by the society that an Asahi Shimbun reporter listened to confirmed Ikeya’s remarks.
What Ikeya said according to Fukushima Minpo:
According to the transcript, he said, “It’s not just Fukushima, you know, people in Tochigi, Saitama, Tokyo, Kanagawa, people who were there should not marry at all costs”, and “If they get married and have children, the rate of deformity in babies will skyrocket.”

Power's Pantomime in Tampa

Bloc Party: Pantomime and Power in the Imperial System

by Chris Floyd - Empire Burlesque

On Thursday, with media attention focused on the gooberish plutocrat accepting the nomination of one faction of our single ruling party -- the bipartisan Imperial Bloc -- the leader of the other faction took the opportunity to bury a few more cases of state murder.

There could hardly be a better example of how the American system rolls in our enlightened, ultramodern 21st century: garish, empty pantomimes of politics coupled with the ruthless, lawless, brutal exercise of imperial power -- with no accountability, no responsibility, no consequences for the crimes and depravities committed by the elites and their agents and sycophants.

We refer of course to this story in the New York Times:"No Charges Filed on Harsh Tactics Used by the C.I.A." There is little need for further commentary on the story; it speaks for itself -- including the headline, which illustrates, once again, the establishment media's pathological refusal to name the systematic beating, freezing and murder of captives: torture. (Try to imagine what word the NYT would use if, say, the members of Pussy Riot had "died ... after being shackled to a concrete wall in a near-freezing temperatures at a secret [Russian] prison." Would they call that "harsh tactics"? Or if a Syrian prisoner "died in [state] custody in a [regime] prison...where his corpse was photographed packed in ice and wrapped in plastic." Would they call that "harsh tactics"? Would that be referred to as "strenuous interrogation" by the New York Times?)

But I digress. To be fair, the story tells the basic facts straightforwardly enough. The Obama Administration announced on Thursday that it would not prosecute anyone -- no one at all -- for the murder of two prisoners in American's Terror War gulags several years ago. As the story notes, this move "eliminat[es] the last possibility that any criminal charges will be brought as a result of the brutal interrogations carried out by the CIA" under the Bush Administration. Considering that dozens of detainees -- if not many more -- have been killed in detention over the course of the Terror War, this is a remarkable feat of erasure. Killing after killing after killing after killing -- and not a single killer prosecuted by the "Justice" Department of the Nobel Peace Prize Laureate.

No, wait: we do the Peace Prize Laureate wrong in the above claim. The state-ordered, state-approved, state-protected murder and beating and freezing and slamming and stripping and ice-packing and plastic-wrapping of prisoners (many of them innocent people rounded up randomly or kidnapped or sold into captivity by criminals) has in fact produced one prosecution by the Laureate, as the NYT notes.

While no one has been prosecuted for the harsh interrogations, a former C.I.A. officer who helped hunt members of Al Qaeda in Pakistan and later spoke publicly about waterboarding, John C. Kiriakou, is awaiting trial on criminal charges that he disclosed to journalists the identity of other C.I.A. officers who participated in the interrogations.

There, see! The one CIA agent who revealed the names of people who tortured captives is being prosecuted with the full force of the law, with all the righteousness and moral fervor that we would expect from a Nobel Peace Prize Laureate! There's something that any progressive can point to with pride when he or she works the phone banks and doorsteps for Obama, telling people to support the president and save us from the militarist nutballs and enemies of the truth in the Republican Party.

And yes, of course, the faction of the Imperial Bloc that just nominated Mitt Romney is a pack of militarist nutballs and enemies of the truth. But so is the other faction, which protects torturers, murderers people whose names they don't even know based on arbitrarily chosen "life-pattern" details gleaned by robots in the sky, launches secret wars, foments coups, runs "black ops" in dozens of countries all over the world, killing hundreds of innocent people each year, plunging whole countries into chaos and ruin with its 'terror war' and 'drug war' and 'economic war' agendas -- and ferociously prosecutes anyone who tries to smuggle out a few crumbs of truth about the abominable atrocities and self-destructive follies being carried out daily by a berserk militarist system which has no goal other than its own self-perpetuation and the forced domination of others.

And this will go on and on regardless of which faction of the Imperial Bloc wins in November. Yes, there are differences between the factions. The Republicans and Tea Partiers and Koch-heads are more openly racist, are more proud of their willful ignorance, and hate more of their fellow citizens than the Democrats seem to. (Although actually killing innocent Muslims, including many children, all over the world on a regular basis as the Democrats are doing might possibly be construed as being even more racist than, say, protesting the construction of a mosque somewhere. And the persistent belief that maintaining an all-devouring, treasury-bankrupting, globe-spanning military machine that kills people across the earth is a sensible policy that will produce peace and prosperity could be construed by some as willful ignorance on a Todd Akin-like level.)

But the fact is we have only one party, the Imperial Bloc. You may find one faction more distasteful than the other, but both fully support the moral insanity of the militarism outlined above. Whichever faction wins, more people will die horrible deaths -- and no one will answer for it, no one will be prosecuted. And the firestorm of hatred and blowback that both factions of the Imperial Bloc keeps stoking against our country will continue to build.

So be clear: if you vote for one of these factions, that is what you are supporting. Perhaps you may feel that such a dreadful moral compromise is necessary; that's your choice. But if so, you should know -- and feel -- just what that choice means.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Israeli Courts: Justice Denied for Corrie - Again

Rachel Corrie and the Kosher Legal Stamp

by Gilad Atzmon

Judge Oded Gershon’s ruling earlier this week that the state of Israel is not to blame for the death of Rachel Corrie, came as no surprise. In fact it reaffirms everything we know about the Jewish state - its politics, legal system and spirit. Israel is surely a most peculiar state - it is impervious to ethical thinking and humanist thought. Accordingly, Judge Gershon gave this week a kosher stamp to a cold-blooded murder and by so doing, he proved, once again, that Israeli criminal actions are consistent with the most vile interpretations of Old Testament and Talmudic Goy-hating.

As one would predict, Judge Gershon, restricted himself to legalism and litigation as opposed to ethical thinking - he actually blamed Corrie for not ‘behaving reasonably’. Yet, one may wonder what is this ‘reason’ or more precisely, what does an Israeli mean when he or she refers to ‘reason’.

Rachel Corrie was bulldozed to death by an Israeli military D9 Caterpillar on 16 March 2003. She was part of ISM (International Solidarity Movement), a non-violent pro-Palestinian peace activist group. Being an American youngster, Corrie mistakenly believed that Israeli soldiers were humanly driven. Being a reasonable person she must have believed that an Israeli bulldozer driver would never drive over her body. She was wrong. Corrie clearly failed to grasp that Israeli ‘reasoning’ was lethally fuelled by psychosis and fantasies of destruction.

Corrie failed precisely where so many solidarity activists fail. Israel is no normal state. It is a state of one people only - and a people who believe themselves to be chosen. The meaning of this is both simple and devastating. The people of Israel believe that their lives and security is a cosmic asset that must be maintained at the expense of the rest of humanity. However, make no mistake, Israeli psychosis is consistent and even driven by reason, but this ‘reason’ is somewhat different to that of the rest of us. It is certainly far from being universal.

Rachel Corrie, on the other hand, is a universal symbol. She is the epitome of solidarity, empathic thinking and courage, but her tragic death is also a clear indication that something is fundamentally wrong with Israel. Rachel Corrie’s death makes it clear that it isn’t just the Israeli leadership or military elite who are blind to human life and moral conduct. It isn’t just Netanyahu or Barak who are in a state of dismissal of human life. We are dealing here with a murderous continuum; it is the leadership, the anonymous soldier, the bulldozer driver – and also Judge Gershon and the Israeli legal system.

Israel could have used Corrie’s family legal appeal to mend its ways. But Judge Gershon was actually honest enough to admit that the murder of Rachel Corrie was the ‘right thing to do’. It was her fault, she shouldn’t have been there in the first place, he said. Judge Gershon provided us this week with the true meaning of ‘Israeli reasoning’. The murder of Corrie was consistent with Israeli survival philosophy and with Israeli interpretation of Jewish statehood. This week, Judge Gershon left us with a kosher stamp for a cold-blooded murder.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

A Murder in Gaza: Answers and a Verdict in Arrigoni Case

Arrigoni’s Murder Trial in Gaza: Answers Not Just a Verdict

 by Ramzy Baroud

There was once a young man from a very small Italian town called Bulciago who wished to change the world. As soon as he finished his exams, he began his quest. He travelled near and far, and when he arrived in Jerusalem in 2002, he knew he had found his calling.

In 2008, that young man, Vittorio Arrigoni, sailed the high seas on a small boat. His purpose was to help end the siege imposed on a long-suffering population living in the tiny Gaza Strip. In a journal entry that was recently published in a much anticipated book, Freedom Sailors, Arrigoni wrote:

“History is us; History is not cowardly governments; with their loyalty to whoever has the strongest military; History is made by ordinary people.”

Vittorio’s history sees ‘ordinary people’ as actors who can change the world: courageous sailors who can challenge great military powers, doctors dashing through borders and saving lives, writers, teachers, speakers, musicians and people from all backgrounds.

Vittorio’s middle name was Utopia, but his was hardly a utopian undertaking. It was very much real, and Vittorio was himself charting the way for others. Once in Gaza, he was determined to see his mission through to the very end, despite having many compelling reasons to leave. In September 2008, he was injured by the Israeli navy as he accompanied Palestinian fishermen in Gaza’s territorial waters. A month later he was arrested – or more likely, kidnapped – by the Israeli military, and subsequently deported. A month later he returned, just in time to report on the so-called Operation Cast Lead. This was a one-sided war on Gaza between December 2008 and January 2009, following the failure of the siege to achieve Israel’s political objectives. The 22-day war killed over 1,400 people and wounded thousands more.

Vittorio was there to witness it all. As many turned the war off and on through their remote controls, Vittorio was accompanying ambulances in middle of the night, comforting the wounded, weeping with the bereaved, calling on the world to help, and surviving the war himself.

He sent daily dispatches to Italian media, blogged on his website and wrote to friends the world over. His book, Restiamo Umani (Stay Human) offers a glimpse into the courageous man’s experiences. In his first entry, he wrote as an Italian activist. By the end, he was a Palestinian man besieged in Gaza.

In the eyes of some, he was dangerous. A US-based far-right website called for his murder. It was not Vittorio the person that alarmed Israel, but the notion of what he and others like him symbolized – a challenge to the predictability of a conflict between a powerful oppressor and a powerless but defiant oppressed. As far as Israel was concerned, an idealist from a northern Italian town had no business being in Gaza, where people are indefinitely caged in an open air prison. Neither Vittorio nor any other international activist was supposed to disturb the inhumane experiment.

Yet, Vittorio’s story had a most unexpected twist. On April, 2011, he was kidnapped and murdered. His murderers were Palestinians from Gaza, commanded by a mysterious Jordanian character whose origins and motives remain unclear. It was a horrifying, anti-climactic end to a story that was never intended to turn so wrong.

It took Palestinian society a long time to reconcile with the fact that Vittorio’s murderers were in fact Gazans, while others gloated with triumph. Vittorio’s very detractors were leading a media war defaming Palestinians, international activists and the supposedly misguided Italian who believed that the ordinary can change history.

Writing in the Jewish Chronicle, historian Geoffrey Alderman stated: "Few events - not even the execution of Osama bin Laden - have caused me greater pleasure in recent weeks than news of the death of the Italian so-called 'peace activist' Vittorio Arrigoni" (as quoted in View from Jerusalem with Harriet Sherwood on May 18, 2011). While Sherwood found the comments ‘shocking’, pleasure at the killing of a peace activist is fully consistent with Israel’s ceaseless efforts at ‘discouraging’ international activists from showing solidarity to Palestinians.

Hamas, which has controlled the Gaza Strip since the breakup with rival Fatah in 2007, seemed genuine in its attempt to capture Vittorio’s killers. An investigation quickly pointed at Salafi groups, Tawhid and Jihad, Army of Islam and others. A manhunt followed, leading to the killing of a Jordanian citizen, Abbad a-Rahman al-Brizat, and Palestinian refugee, Balal al-Omari. Others were captured, and in September 2011, a trial began.

The trial of Vittorio’s alleged killers has not exactly been a model of transparency. On September 4, a verdict is scheduled to be handed down to four men accused of involvement in the murder. Al-Brizat, the Jordanian man, was perhaps the most important key in the trial. He is gone now, and allegations that his true aim was to exchange Vittorio for an imprisoned Salafi leader, Hisham al-Saedni remain unverified. Just eleven days before Vittorio’s murder, another activist, JulianoMer-Khamis, was murdered in Jenin, in the West Bank. The timing of the killings is puzzling and suggests a larger plot. Hamas and other Palestinian officials suggested hidden Israeli hands in both the vile acts, but the thread is yet to be found and unraveled.

Earlier this month, Hamas freed al-Maqdissi – the man the supposed Jihadists wanted to free - citing lack of evidence. A few days later, following the murder of Egyptian soldiers in Sinai, it cracked down on his group. The plot here starts to thicken beyond the ability of any straightforward narrative to explain all the missing links.

On September 4, four men will be awaiting the verdict of a Gaza military court. But much more will be on trial that day, not least the credibility of Gaza’s legal system. Many questions will need to be answered to truly understand what is transpiring in the Gaza Strip, and who is behind the hidden agendas.

The killing of Vittorio was intended to not only kill him as a person. It was also meant to destroy the very idea that sailed with him and his friends to Gaza in 2008: that ordinary people are history and that they, and only they, will eventually make the difference in a world ruled by sheer interests and military might.  

Yes, justice for Vittorio Utopia Arrigoni is paramount, but we expect the Gaza government to hand down more than a verdict, but answers to those trying to kill Vittorio’s dream – along with our humanity.  

- Ramzy Baroud ( is an internationally-syndicated columnist and the editor of His latest book is My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story (Pluto Press, London.)

The End of Republican Ron Paul?

What Now for Ron Paul Libertarians?

 by TRNN

Matt Welch: Ron Paul supporters sidelined at convention as differences with Romney foreign policy are profound

Matt Welch is editor in chief of Reason magazine. Welch's work has appeared in The Washington Post, Columbia Journalism Review, Los Angeles Daily News, Orange County Register, LA Weekly,,, Wired, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, The Daily Star of Beirut, and dozens of other publications.

PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: Welcome to The Real News Network. I'm Paul Jay in Baltimore.At the Republican National Convention in Tampa, the media's focusing on the story of the supposed split between social conservatives and corporate Republicans, Sheldon Adelson types, Koch brothers on one side; evangelical Christians and others that have—share their beliefs on the other; and a kind of unholy alliance between these two forces.But there's another division in the Republican Party which is getting virtually no attention in the media, although it appeared with great vividness during the primaries, and that's Ron Paul libertarians on foreign-policy issues that are against empire (and Ron Paul uses the word empire), want to see massive cuts in the military budget, and want to see a whole different view of America in the world. Well, that division is not being discussed at all. And the question I have is: is that asserting itself in any way at the Republican convention?And now joining us to help answer that question is Matt Welch. Matt's the editor of probably the best-known libertarian magazine, Reason magazine, and he's currently at the RNC in Tampa. Thanks for joining us again, Matt.

MATT WELCH, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, REASON MAGAZINE: Thanks for having me back. Good to see you, as always.JAY: So that's the question. You know, in the primaries, although Ron Paul was kind of out there all on his own, he used to get massive applause at the primary audiences for his foreign-policy positions, which were very anti-militarist, anti-empire. Well, now we don't hear a word about any of that. So what's happening on this score at the convention?

WELCH: Well, before the convention, there was a kind of preconvention, a Paul Festival of Ron Paul's delegates who are here, and also his ardent supporters. Just yesterday I was at the Sun Arena University of Florida campus, and there were probably 4,000, 5,000 people there listening to a series of speakers, including Ron Paul, including his son Senator Rand Paul—talked very explicitly, and not in favorable terms, about their fellow Republicans. In fact, they showed Rush Limbaugh up on the screen and Rudolph Giuliani, and everyone immediately booed and hissed. And Rick Santorum they all booed. And they talked explicitly about blowback. And they also talked [unintel.] just the notion that the reason why the terrorists attacked us is that we are abroad in 140 countries, and the usual litany that Ron Paul recites.This is at complete odds with the ticket that the Republican Party's offering out there. Mitt Romney has talked about, you know, rebuilding our military as if it's been gutted, spending 4 percent of GDP forever, and on Paul Ryan, who's been a pretty big militarist too. And both of them were eager to get the U.S. involved in places like Syria and Iran.There's not any real effort to bridge that divide. The Ron Paul delegates have been kind of kicked to the curb here as part of the delegate process. They each want to avoid any attempt [unintel.] Ron Paul supporter outbreak on the floor tomorrow when they take roll call. And his supporters are kind of—are licking their wounds.And, remember, there are two basic tenets to—two huge applause lines in any Ron Paul's speech. One is to end the Federal Reserve. They get chants of "end the Fed"—you know, 7,000 college kids at UCLA, "End the Fed!" But the other one is, unambiguously, let's take American soldiers back home from abroad and let's end the Empire. Those are what attracted people to his message to begin with.And those voters don't have a natural home in the Republican Party right now. And there isn't much in the way of lip service paid on the top. There are little ferments (we could talk about that further) in the Senate. There were a couple of people finally starting to talk about maybe cutting defense one day, which is the best that you can kind of hope for with this rabble. But that is a huge divide, and it's a tradition that's long been on the right that has been largely ignored until Ron Paul [unintel.] have principled non-interventionism and a more limited, humble foreign-policy apparatus.

JAY: Right. Now, the—I'm going to have to fix my earphone here. It's falling out of my ear. But I'll—we're going to keep going here.So when I interviewed Rand Paul in New Hampshire in 2008, he told me that his sort of alliance with anti-war, anti-militarist left wingers (he gave the example like Kucinich) was more important than the domestic issues, even though there was such a divide with the left on domestic issues. Now Rand Paul has actually endorsed Romney and Ron Paul has not. But before we get to Ron Paul, how does Rand Paul maintain his position in the libertarian movement having endorsed Romney?

WELCH: Well, his—Ron Paul's biggest supporters were really angry at Rand Paul for endorsing Romney, which I think—I mean, there's a—Ron Paul's followers are very strenuous, they're very attached to the personality of this anti-charismatic figure without really thinking it through. The two live together, or did last time I checked, in Washington. They bunk up together. Ron Paul's 2012 campaign, in addition to being part of his career-long message of spreading liberty and talking about Austrian economics and all that, it's been about handing the baton off to Rand. And Rand is consciously trying to grab more of a foothold within the Republican Party. So it's doing—in doing so, he has found a way to talk about these issues that seems less rigid than Ron Paul. There's just some kind of tenor change.It ultimately boils down to more or less the same set of policies. He has gone in the Senate and talked very robustly about opposing the Patriot Act, opposing, you know, wiretapping, and cutting defense. You know, he's talked about the very same issues. But he has a different kind of language for it. And so there's no way that he endorsed Romney without his dad telling him to go for it. That's kind of the point. They want to be able to get Rand Paul in a position where he can run. No matter who wins in November between Obama and Romney, they want Rand Paul to run in 2016 is my very, very strong belief. And so part of doing that is to at various points play acceptably nice within the Republican [crosstalk]

JAY: But in doing so, Rand Paul makes deals with—for example, Karl Rove raised a lot of money for Rand Paul, and Karl Rove is very attached to the neocon militarists. I mean, never mind attached; he's one of the leading forces amongst them. So you make a deal with Karl Rove in the elections, and then you endorse Romney, which is—you know, he's very closely part of and connected to the militarist sections of the Republican Party. And there's just—I mean, the truth is not that Obama's been great on these issues, but you'd think at least at the policy level Rand Paul probably has more in common with Obama.

WELCH: You cut out a little bit there, so that's why I stepped on your line. Sorry about that.I mean, the fundamental thing is that Mitt Romney was going to win. It's not like he endorsed Ron Paul when he had a fighting chance. Once there was—once the race was not in doubt, he fell in line. But I don't think he's been actually cutting deals with people on issues of principle at all. I'll [unintel.] very little evidence of that. So he's using his foothold in the Senate to pursue explicitly libertarian aims a couple of times. He departs from what I consider [unintel.] libertarian policy, but it's very rare. And he's maintained that ability. He can talk with people with whom he has these strong disagreements.

JAY: Now, at the rally that took place a couple of days ago, you're saying that they had pictures of various Republicans and people were booing. Well, what about Romney and Ryan?

WELCH: They didn't get mentioned once. Paul talked for an hour and 17 minutes yesterday, Ron Paul did. The name Mitt Romney was not uttered once. There were chants of, you know, "President Paul" or "Paul 2016" for Rand, 'cause Rand also spoke there. I mean, he spoke—I should add, he talked about blowback and he quoted his father's line of well, look, we marched them in there on a moment's notice, and we can march them back out on a moment's notice. So he talked very much the same kind of talk. So, yeah, they are not talking about Romney–Ryan. They are making—you know, Ron Paul will not, I don't think, endorse Mitt Romney anytime soon. Gary Johnson, Libertarian Party candidate, who believes in many of the same things, he spoke at the Ron Paul convention on Saturday and received a very enthusiastic response. So it's not a natural bunch of Republicans. And here's the thing to remember, right? So, you know, the last four years has been a pretty lousy economy, and most scenarios right now, the team that was in charge would get punished pretty decisively at the polls, and yet it's neck and neck. And yes, the Republican Party—this is crazy—they've lost registered voters over the last four years. They were given the most favorable setting you could possibly hope for in our two-party system, and they still squandered it.So these Ron Paul voters, who a lot of people like William Kristol of The Weekly Standard love to sort of dismiss—they're "rabble". But without them, without that 11 percent who voted for Ron Paul in the primary system, no Republican Party—there was no chance for Mitt Romney to win in November. So it's a really weird dance right now. Romney's been very personally respectful of Ron Paul, even while the machinery has found ways to kind of marginalize him.But Republicans are in a tough pickle right now because their broader message has not been popular, and deservedly so, I might add, and largely because they haven't embraced these, you know, stronger, more libertarian impulses that resonate through some of the better or more interesting parts of Republican history in the case of people like Barry Goldwater. But more specifically now, young people, who just feel fed up, fed up with the drug war, fed up with an overweening government, fed up with [unintel.] two, those people are Ron Paul people. They're not Republicans. They're[unintel.] that Romney and Ryan are not [unintel.]

JAY: So is it your sense that a lot of them are going to stay home and just not vote, or might vote Libertarian, for the Libertarian Party?

WELCH: I think some will lose—the affinity for Ron Paul in particular is so strong that I wouldn't be surprised if he got many, many write-ins that won't be counted because our system has it that many states don't even bother counting write-in votes.A lot of people—the big sort of subject—subtext at the Paul Festival this weekend is kind of like, what next? Where do we go? There's a lot of other, you know, smaller-on-the-radar candidates and politicians, like Justin Amash, like a Rand Paul, who's probably the most significant. Mike Lee, Senator Mike Lee has some of these kind of ideas. But it's mostly on really small local areas who are kind of [unintel.] but no one really rallies people's sympathy in the same way that Ron Paul does.So it's really an open question where they go, and there's a sense of confusion among the people themselves. They don't really know where it'll go in terms of who you vote for in November.I think you have the stronger idea of what you do after November, which is they're continuing to try this sort of weird, hostile, minority takeover of various, you know, state Republican apparatuses and elsewhere. They're trying to get more kind of Ron Paul candidates out there. It's really hard to say, you know, how much [unintel.] that will have after Ron Paul himself retires. But I would be shocked, I would be—I mean, I think—I believe it was—in 2008, of the people who voted for Ron Paul in the primary season then, less than 40 percent ended up voting for John McCain. So that was in 2008, and we've had four more years of this stuff. I don't see there being anything higher than that number voting for Romney, even though, you know, a lot of libertarians are not exactly the biggest fans of Barack Obama.

JAY: Right. Alright. Thanks for joining us, Matt.

WELCH: Thank you, Paul.

JAY: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.

EndDISCLAIMER: Please note that transcripts for The Real News Network are typed from a recording of the program. TRNN cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.