Friday, November 30, 2007
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
Broken Peace Process
by Stephen Zunes
There’s little reason to hope for a breakthrough at the Middle East peace summit in Annapolis, unless there is a fundamental shift in U.S. policy in addressing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. And there’s little evidence to suggest such a change is forthcoming.
Indeed, Yossi Beilin, the Israeli Knesset member and former cabinet official who served as one of the major architects of the Oslo Accords, called for the conference to be canceled, fearing that it will only be “an empty summit that will only attract Arab ambassadors and not decision-makers alongside an Israeli leadership that prefers [appeasing Israeli hardliners] over a breakthrough to peace.” As a result, he argues that the meeting is doomed to fail and, as a result, would “weaken the Palestinian camp, strengthen Hamas and cause violence.”
The reason for such pessimism is that ever since direct Israeli-Palestinian peace talks began in the early 1990s, U.S. policy has been based on the assumption that both sides need to work out a solution among themselves and both sides need to accept territorial compromise. As reasonable as that may seem on the surface, it ignores the fact that, even if one assumes that both Israelis and Palestinians have equal rights to peace, freedom and security, there is a grossly unequal balance of power between the occupied Palestinians and the occupying Israelis. It also avoids acknowledging the fact that the Palestinians, through the Oslo agreement, have recognized the state of Israel on a full 78% of Palestine and what Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is asking for is simply the remaining 22% of Palestine that was seized by Israel in the 1967 war and is recognized by the international community as being under belligerent occupation.
However one may respect Israel for its democratic institutions (at least for its Jewish citizens), its progressive social institutions (like the kibbutzim), and its important role as a homeland for a historically oppressed people, the fact remains that the Palestinians have international law on their side in demanding, in return for security guarantees, an Israeli withdrawal from all of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. The U.S. position, however, is that 22% is too much and that the Palestinians must settle for less.
According to Israeli journalist Uri Avnery, the only way the conference could pave the way to peace would be if President George W. Bush decided “to exert intense pressure on Israel, to compel it to take the necessary steps: agree to the establishment of a real Palestinian state, give up East Jerusalem, restore the Green Line border (with some small swaps of territory), find an agreed-upon compromise formula for the refugee issue.” The United States, which provides Israel with over $4 billion in military and economic aid annually and has repeatedly used its veto power at the UN Security Council to protect the Israeli government from being compelled to live up to its international legal obligations, has the power to do so.
According to Shlomo Brom of Tel Aviv’s Institute for National Security Studies, “Judging from previous experience, US pressure can be very effective.” There’s no evidence that the United States plans to use that kind of clout, however, to move the peace process forward.
The Palestinians, Saudis and other Arab participants have been pushing for a comprehensive package of Israeli actions that would include a freeze on the growth of illegal settlements in the occupied territories, the release of Palestinian political prisoners, the relaxation of travel restrictions and checkpoints in the occupied territories and an end of construction of parts of the separation barrier inside the West Bank as called for by the International Court of Justice. Failure for Israel to agree to such conditions and the failure of the United States to push Israel to agree to such conditions has led to concerns that it would be simply a propaganda coup by the Bush administration and Israeli government to give the appearance of an ongoing peace process when, in fact, they are unwilling to make the necessary comprises for a sustainable peace.
Israel has recently announced the release of approximate 400 Palestinian prisoners, though thousands - most of whom have never engaged in terrorism - remain incarcerated. Some of the roadblocks that have crippled travel and commerce in the occupied West Bank have been lifted, but scores of others still impede Palestinians from traveling from one town to another.
There are some indications that Israel will announce at the conference a freeze on the construction of additional settlements in the West Bank. However, they have agreed to such a freeze on several previous occasions, including in an annex to the 1978 Camp David agreement, the 1992 loan guarantee agreement, the 1993 Oslo Accords, their response to the 2001 Mitchell Report, and other times, only to continue construction anyway without the United States insisting they live up to their promises. And Israel has ruled out withdrawing from these illegal settlements, every one of which violates the Fourth Geneva Convention, which deem it illegal for any country to transfer any part of its civilian population onto territories seized by military force.
Indeed, UN Security Council resolutions 446, 452, 465, and 471 explicitly call on Israel to remove its colonists from the occupied territories. However, both the Bush administration and an overwhelming bipartisan majority in Congress have gone on record that Israel should not be required to withdraw from the majority of these settlements.
It’s these settlements, along with the separation barrier snaking its way deep into the West Bank to separate them and surrounding areas from Palestinian population centers, which has made a peace settlement impossible, since the apparent goal of formally annexing them into Israel would divide up a future Palestinian mini-state into a series of non-contiguous cantons consisting of as little as half of the West Bank. These Jewish-only settlements connected by Jewish-only highways effectively have created an apartheid-like situation on the West Bank. Any Palestinian state remaining would effectively be comparable to the notorious Bantustans of South Africa prior to majority rule. Despite this, this partial Israeli disengagement from most Palestinian-populated areas while controlling much of the land surrounding them - known as the Convergence Plan - has received the support of the Bush administration and an overwhelming bipartisan majority of Congress.
Unless the Israel and the United States are willing to address the core issues - boundaries that would insure a viable contiguous Palestinian state, withdrawal of troops and settlers from the West Bank (except perhaps for some along the border in exchange for an equal amount of Israeli land), and a just resolution of the refugee problem - the conference will amount to little more than a photo op.
Indeed, the current unilateral Israeli initiative is not much worse than the so-called “generous offer” put forward by former Prime Minister Ehud Barak at the Camp David summit in 2000. Arafat’s understandable refusal to accept such a limited proposal was then used by the United States and Israel as supposed proof of the Palestinians’ lack of desire for peace.
The Annapolis meeting is ostensibly designed to re-start the process along the so-called “Roadmap” for Israeli-Palestinian peace, originally announced in 2002, which was to be based on the principle of Israeli support for the establishment of a viable Palestinian state alongside Israel following democratic reforms by the Palestinian Authority and the end of terrorist attacks. Provisions called for in Phase I, which was originally hoped to have been completed by 2003, included an end to Palestinian violence, Palestinian political reform (including free elections), Israeli withdrawal from Palestinian Authority areas re-conquered since 2001, and a freeze on the expansion of Israeli settlements in the occupied territories.
However, Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi and a sizable majority of House members sent a letter to Bush insisting that the peace process be based “above all” on an end of Palestinian violence and the establishment of a new Palestinian leadership. There was no mention of any reciprocal actions by the Israeli government, reiterating the longstanding U.S. position that it is not the occupation, but resistance to the occupation, that is the root of the conflict. President Bush agreed and, not surprisingly, the Roadmap stalled.
Recognizing Israel as a Jewish State
The prospects of progress growing out of the Annapolis meeting is made all the less likely due to Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s insistence, backed by the U.S. Congress, that the Palestinians, despite having formally recognized Israel, also recognize Israel as a “Jewish state” before substantive issues can be negotiated. Given the sizable Palestinian minority in Israel and concerns that it would legitimate past and future Israeli efforts at ethnic cleansing, this demand is something that the Palestinian government could never agree to and appears to be designed to prevent the peace process from moving forward.
Indeed, the Soviets never demanded as a precondition of any agreements with the United States that the USSR be formally recognized as a “Communist state,” nor has Pakistan ever demanded that India recognize it as an “Islamic state.”
Though the United States has indicated its desire to emphasize an end to Palestinian violence - particularly acts of terrorism - and addressing Israel’s security concerns, there is no indication that the United States also plans to address issues concerning human rights or international law outside of providing increased humanitarian relief for the Palestinians.
If progress seems so unlikely, why is the United States pushing for this summit to go forward? One motivation may simply be for the United States to improve its standing among pro-Western Arab regimes by appearing to be interested in the plight of the Palestinians in order to gain support for the ongoing war in Iraq and increasing threats against Iran. Whatever the reason, unless and until the United States recognizes that Israeli security and Palestinian rights are not mutually exclusive, but mutually dependent upon the other, there is little hope for peace.
Sunday, November 25, 2007
That caller was a sucker. Here's my proof for Creationism. Click on the graph below.
So, if most Americans don't believe in Evolution, and America is a democracy, then Creationism is a fact because the majority has spoken. Any questions?
Friday, November 23, 2007
From the latest issue of the Socialist Standard:
The Socialist Party speaker's contribution to a recent debate at University College Dublin on the motion "That Capitalism is Superior to Socialism in the Modern World".
I should state at the outset, to avoid confusion, that my party has no connection to the party associated with Joe Higgins the former deputy for Dublin West. The Socialist Party of which I am a member has been existence for over 100 years offering a critique of capitalism.
I think most people can broadly agree on what capitalism or the market system is. As against that, there are many definitions or opinions on what Socialism is. So while other speakers in tonight's debate will line up on my side of the motion, I think that the socialism I will talk about has no relationship to what other people will put forward. I can illustrate the confusion by noting throughout the years various people from Oscar Wilde, James Connolly, Joseph Stalin, George Bernard Shaw, Muammer Gadaffi, Gerry Adams to more recently even Bertie Aherne have described themselves in one form or another as socialists!
So what is socialism? Socialism is a worldwide system of society based on common ownership and democratic control over the means of producing and distributing wealth. The means of producing and distributing wealth include all the manufacturing and service industries, agriculture, transport infrastructure, communications, the internet etc.
Common ownership does not mean state ownership or what is sometimes referred to as 'public' ownership. State ownership as was tried in Russia and now in places like Cuba is just another method of running capitalism. Common ownership means we all own the productive assets which is the same as ownership by no one in particular.
Democratic control will ensure that these means of production and distribution are operated in the interests of everyone. So what that means is that we decide on how the economy is run rather than, as is the case now, the prevailing economic circumstances, being outside our control.
By system of society we mean that human society as a whole must be changed on a world wide basis and we are not interested in establishing and do not support co-operative living schemes as were associated with Quaker colonies or the early days of the kibbutz movement.
A whole spread of consequences follows from these basic changes. When everybody owns and controls the production of goods and services, there will be no point in charging themselves for taking or using them. There will be no buying or selling and hence no money system. So if we consider shopping in a supermarket, you will as now move your trolley through the aisles, go to the checkout to get your goods scanned but you won't pay for them. The scanning is just for stock control.
Some people may object that this is unrealistic but we should remember that it is possible to produce enough for everybody but capitalism can only operate by creating artificial scarcity. A good example of this is housing. Although house prices are falling now, the cost of a home is still prohibitive for many people because demand exceeds supply. But the limit in supply is artificial; builders only build the houses when they expect a certain rate of return. In Ireland, there's plenty of land, building materials and labour to actually construct enough houses for everybody.
Furthermore socialism will be a co-operative world wide system. Nations and frontiers and governments and armed forces will disappear. Groups of people may well preserve their languages and customs but this will have nothing to do with claiming territorial rights or military dominances over pieces of the world surface. So there will still be an Ireland though we won't have 'our' Government and any other person, from anywhere, will be quite free to come and work here.
Socialism can only come about when the majority, and a significant majority, of the world's population understand what it means, are ready to accept and take part in it. That's the reason I'm here.
In socialism, there will be no government or leaders. Decisions that concern society and the allocation of resources will be taken on a local, regional, super-regional ('national') or global basis as appropriate. Socialism will be a democratic and participatory society; in fact it will be democracy in its truest form.
People when they first hear about the socialist type of society usually comment that it sounds like a good idea in principle but that it's just not realistic or practical. They list objections along the lines of the operation of human nature and the scarcity of resources etc. However, humans are inherently adaptable and co-operative; that is our hallmark compared to other species.
When we consider fundamental political change, people can be conservative and afraid to throw away what they have for what may appear to be uncertain benefits. They don't realise how much we can change. Consider that up to 300 years ago, the vast majority of humanity were governed by unelected rulers. If someone in 1700 said that in 300 years time we would be electing our leaders, rather than being given them, and that each person would have one vote, no matter what their position in life is, you can imagine that the listeners would have been extremely sceptical. But that's what we have now thanks to the combined efforts of all those people who struggled for basic democratic changes.
A long time ago parties that now call themselves Labour Party or Social Democratic Party used to subscribe to different versions of what I describe as Socialism but they have abandoned this over the last 100 years. They have accepted capitalism and now concern themselves with putting forward various ideas for modifying the system, to promote fairness - most of them completely impracticable.
Nationalisation is not socialism; in many countries parties of the right have nationalised certain industries and services. These are not owned by 'the people' but by the nation's whole capitalist class together.
At the moment we should realise that society is divided into two classes; those who own or control the means of production (capital) and those who have to work for a living.
Well over 90 percent of people are in the working class, whether they're relatively high-paid workers or on the dole. So the vast majority of middle class people are essentially working people; they must work to obtain a living. If you have to work for a living, irrespective of your occupation or salary level, you are a worker.
Currently under capitalism although we can vote for parties in elections, huge chunks of our lives are beyond our influence. The politicians have no control over the economy and so neither have we. We can't decide on our standard of living or our level of prosperity. Democratic control means all the resources of the world will be used to meet the needs of everyone rather than being controlled by the few.
More specifically, what are the drawbacks of capitalism? If I had been asked to speak here, 20 years ago the manifest problems in Ireland would have been an unemployment rate of near 20 percent, heavy forced emigration of our young people and widespread poverty, at least by developed world standards. Nowadays people's concerns are the long days of commuting and working, stresses associated with work and the need to maintain a family life, the unavailability of affordable housing and good services, the widespread fear of crime, etc. On a world scale there are still huge amounts of malnutrition in many parts of the globe, terrible poverty, wars and ethnic struggles, forced migrations, dangerous levels of environmental damage, etc.
Consider the waste of capitalism. There is an enormous amount of people involved in doing jobs that are essential to capitalism but that don't add anything useful to humanity as a whole. All the armed forces of the world (maybe 100 million people). Then add to that all the workers in the defence and associated industries. That is pure waste as no wealth is being created by this. And add to this the massive financial sector; banking, insurance, tax affairs, accountants. You can throw in marketing and advertising. Also the vast majority of the legal system; guards, security people, prison officers, criminals, solicitors etc. These are all existing occupations, necessary because we have a system of exchange, i.e. money, but fundamentally not adding anything to society.
A simple illustration of what's wrong with capitalism: if someone is hungry and needs food but has no money and if someone else has a field, will the owner of the field grow crops to feed the hungry person? No, they won't or can't, because it would not be profitable for them to do so. It's not that they are a good or bad person; it's just that the system doesn't work that way.
I should finish by saying that our appeal to people to become socialist is not based on ethical considerations or compassionate feelings for people who are less well off than them. You should become a socialist for your own self interest, for a better life for yourself.
Thursday, November 22, 2007
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
“Black Friday” is the name retailers have given to the day after Thanksgiving in their attempt to make Christmas synonymous with shopping. On Black Friday, Americans are expected to flock to the malls and shopping centers, eager for discounts, armed with plastic. Business analysts fill the airwaves with predictions on how the fickle consumer will perform, how fuel prices and the subprime mortgage crisis will impact holiday shopping. Black Friday is followed by “Cyber Monday,” a name coined by the retail industry to hype online shopping. Listening to the business news, one would conclude that the future not only of the U.S. economy but of humanity itself depends on mass, frenzied shopping for the holidays.
Rev. Billy is the street preacher played by Bill Talen, a New York City-based anti-consumerism activist who is the subject of a new feature-length documentary hitting theaters this week, “What Would Jesus Buy?” The film is produced by Morgan Spurlock, who gained fame with his documentary “Super Size Me,” in which he showed his physical and emotional decline while eating only McDonald’s food for breakfast, lunch and dinner for a month.
In the movie, Talen and his amazing Stop Shopping Gospel Choir cross the country in two biodiesel buses, holding public faux-Gospel revivals denouncing the “Shopocalypse,” our crass, corporate, credit-driven consumerist culture and its reliance on sweatshops abroad and low-wage retail jobs at home, while celebrating small-town, Main Street economies, the strength and value of fair-trade shopping, and making do with less.
“We are here today, 28 days before Christmas,” Rev. Billy intones at the outset of his tour, to his home congregation in Greenwich Village, “behind so many layers of billboards, with supermodels looking down on us in their Christmas lingerie, billboards covered with fake Dickensian gingerbread lattes-we’re going to go out across this shopping-addicted country.” He added later, “We will sit down and defeat the bulbous yellow feet of the most famous corporate logo in the world, and the one that has chosen to steal our children’s imaginations for 80 years, the devil, Mickey Mouse.”
En route to Disneyland from New York City, the reverend and his flock stop by the Mall of America in Minnesota, Wal-Mart’s world headquarters in Bentonville, Ark., and numerous Starbucks shops and big-box stores like Target and Staples-educating and engaging, confronting and confounding, with creative street theater and direct action. In Traer, Iowa, we meet Michael Reuman, whose clothing store has been open for more than 100 years: “Wal-Mart is killing small-town America. We’ve got two sons, and I have not encouraged either one of them to come back to the store. There’s no future here.”
This week, Charles Kernaghan of the National Labor Committee, standing in front of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York, released a stunning report on the sweatshop conditions in which crucifixes are manufactured in China. St. Patrick’s, Trinity Church in New York and the Association for Christian Retail all sell crucifixes traced to the Junxingye factory in Dongguan, China. There, women as young as 15 work seven days a week, 14 hours a day, and earn only 9 cents per hour, after room and board are deducted from their pay. What would Jesus buy, indeed.
Black Friday is also “Buy Nothing Day“-a global boycott of shopping and consumerism. Started by Kalle Lasn and his colleagues at Vancouver-based Adbusters magazine, Buy Nothing Day seeks to place the ad-fueled and news-media-supported shopping frenzy in a global context. He says, “Driving hybrid cars and limiting industrial emissions is great, but they are Band-Aid solutions if we don’t address the core problem: We have to consume less.”
The fair-trade movement is growing-focusing on safe, organic products made locally, by people earning not just the legal minimum wage but a living wage. Networks of sustainable businesses and nonprofit organizations are forming, linking producers with consumers, cutting out the corporations and the middlemen, allowing the people who make the items to get a larger share of the sale price. From clothing to chocolate to food to flowers to fuel, it is becoming increasingly easy to shop ethically. Heifer International features a selection of farm animals that you can sponsor, which the organization will deliver to a poor family in need elsewhere in the world.
This holiday season, spend time with family and friends-it’s worth more than money. Shop locally, or find a fair-trade store or Web site. Before walking into that big-box store, ask yourself, “What would Jesus buy?”
Amy Goodman is the host of “Democracy Now!,” a daily international TV/radio news hour airing on 500 stations in North America.
© 2007 Amy Goodman
Who doesn't love Emma Goldman? She was the personification of an iconoclast, heralding the virtues of atheism and free love in front of Christian audiences, condoning the use of birth control during the first years of the 20th Century (when it was still illegal) and routinely accepting jail time over paying fines just out of principle. But these aren't the reasons why I love Emma Goldman.
Early in life she decided she didn't want to have children. Instead, Emma became a midwife, an adorable profession to be sure, but Emma didn't lose her subversive streak. She claimed with each baby she pulled into this world she would bring its soft head up to her lips and whispered the first word it would have ever heard into its tender ear: "Rebel!"
That is why I love Emma Goldman.
Sunday, November 18, 2007
Friday, November 16, 2007
Thursday, November 15, 2007
PBS did a fine job at analyzing the absurdity of the Dover trial, the lengths we as a species still need to traverse (Galileo 2.0?) and that reason eventually wins the day. But it doesn't happen without a fight. People are scared because their tightly-held beliefs are being chipped away piece by piece. I am with Neil deGrasse Tyson when he says that "Intelligent Design" or "Creationism" or "anti-Darwinism" doesn't belong in a science classroom, if anything it belongs in a philosophy classroom as none of its assertions can be scientifically validated.
The highlight of the two-hour broadcast for me was the refutation of "irreducible complexity" as coined by Creationist Michael Behe. He argues that there are some aspects of nature which, if you remove even a single component, wouldn't be able to function making it impossible for it to evolve overtime. A common comparison would be a mousetrap. If you take away one piece the mousetrap wouldn't work. As this is true, if you take away three of the five parts of a mousetrap, as was demonstrated during the trial, the mousetrap can be transformed into a crude tie clip. The lesson here is these mechanisms which at first appear to be fully-formed actually evolved from less sophisticated forerunners with an entirely different purpose.
I encourage everyone to check out PBS's website and see this documentary immediately!
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
Thought the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) do God's work around the world? Sorry, think again. In reality, those institutions hand "aid" over to psychopathic dictators who in turn pass the debt on to the peasants and working poor. One such tyrant was Suharto of Indonesia. His activities inside his country, and subsequently in neighboring East Timor, has been described as a "Holocaust," however, throughout the carnage the World Bank lauded Indonesia as a "model pupil". Even after the acknowledgement of Suharto's devastation the Bank refuses to lift the oppressive debt currently carried by the Indonesians. John Pilger anatomizes these instruments of multinational corporations and affectingly portrays the suffering of a population enslaved by Western avarice.
I just bought the Communist Manifesto.
There was a time when this provocative paperback was more popular than the Bible, but now it's akin to purchasing kiddie porn.
I could feel people staring holes through me as though I were a Satanist. "Look, it's a Pinko," I heard them think. I even bumped into a friend at the book store who cautioned: "Read it; but don't let anyone see you."
To summarize the content of the Manifesto is like describing Citizen Cane -- they're so ubiquitous that everybody already knows their stories. All I ask is that we give Marx one more chance. Sure, a few asshats may have leafed through a few pages and used it to justify their inherent blood lust, but is that really Karl's fault? Besides, Marx was right. The super-rich are straddling the backs of workers, and capitalism is creating a massive chasm between the two. It's dehumanizing, alienating and, if you ask me, embarrassing.
No, I'm not a Marxist but neither was Marx. I just feel he is still ahead of his time. Capitalism replaced Feudalism as a better system, and now that Capitalism has worn out its welcome something needs to emerge and throw it on the trash heap of history. And when that day arrives maybe Marx's works won't have to come in a brown paper bag.
Saturday, November 10, 2007
Friday, November 09, 2007
Burma: Keeping the Flame Alive Over Radio, Internet
by Lynette Lee Corporal
BANGKOK - International media interest in Burma seems to have cooled down after images of the violent dispersal of pro-democracy demonstrators were splashed on TV screens and newspapers late September. But exiled Burmese journalists are determined to keep the flame going over radio and the Internet.
“While there has not been a united policy (among exiled Burmese all over the world) the struggle is going to continue, and we’re going to keep on reporting until we see a change in the government,” declared Aung Zaw, editor and director of the Chiang Mai-based ‘The Irrawaddy’ magazine, which focuses on Burma.
Along with Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB) bureau chief Toe Zaw Latt and National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma spokesman U Zin Linn, Aung Zaw faced a barrage of questions from journalists at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand here on Wednesday.
A former student activist, Aung Zaw, pointed out that the military junta’s “clever ways” are key reasons why this quest for freedom and change in his country have been futile for decades.
“The government has been able to exploit different opinions within and outside Burma,” he said. Add to that, he continued, the junta leaders “are still united and are ready to counter domestic and international pressure”.
Gen. Than Shwe’s iron rule has instilled fear among the people, including even the Buddhist clergy. In a short video clip shown at the press club, a young monk living in a temple near the Burma-Thailand border refused to comment about the government and the recent events on-cam, fear and worry evident in his face.
In another clip taken at the height of the protests on Sep. 27, a purported plainclothes police officer was shown taking photos of the faces of reporters and cameramen, as well as other rallyists who were at the demonstrations.
According to Toe Zaw Latt, witnesses said that journalists working for state-owned media were also taking photos of people toting cameras, MP3 players, and cell phones. “They would report this back to the military,” said Toe Zaw Latt.
Needless to say, Aung Zaw feels that there is anger and depression among the people in Burma, as well as disappointment over the failure of United Nations envoy Ibrahim Gambari to settle key issues with the government.
Still, the exiled journalists remain gung-ho about the future. Especially with the huge role the Internet played in the recent events, they believe that the government is facing tough days ahead when it comes to gagging the Internet and the ‘army’ of citizen journalists, even if it has tightened control over the web.
“The Internet is the biggest enemy of the government now. The way that citizen reporters partnered with our correspondents and found ways to get the news out is a very encouraging and healthy sign,” said Aung Zaw.
In ‘The Irrawaddy’s’ case alone, the site (www.irrawaddy.org)registered 40 million hits, with over 100,000 unique visitors a month. Then, Aung Zaw related, on the same day when the government shut down the Internet in Burma, a virus also attacked the magazine site. It was a classic case of cyber-attack, he noted.
The popularity of the Internet and the people’s desperation to get the news out were such that, ‘The Irrawaddy’ got over 1,000 images from Burma, in one week in September.
Radio, too, has taken a prominent place in this quest for freedom in recent years. According to U Zin Linn, prior to the 1988 student uprising that saw more than 3,000 people killed, radio was mainly only used for entertainment purposes. “Only elderly people listened to serious news on the radio, while the younger ones listened to music,” he said.
But everything changed after the 1988 uprising broke out against the military in Burma, when students and intellectuals began using radio, shortwave radio in particular, as a way of getting independent information. Thus, the BBC Burmese service and Voice of America became popular choices.
Ironically, U Zin Linn implied how China, a close ally of the junta, inadvertently helped pro-democracy activists. “We have to thank China for selling cheap transistor radios in Burma. Now, even poor people can buy radios,” he quipped.
U Zin Linn also urged the people to support radio stations, which could, in turn, develop new ways to reach out to the masses.
“We all know that Burma is not a media-friendly country and all media outlets are state-run, so people relied on outside media, and radio is one of the easiest way to do so,” he added.
Toe Zaw Latt admits that people within and, to a certain extent, outside Burma have expectations about what the exiled media could do to help get democracy back in Burma.
“It’s normal for people to have expectations after all that happened, especially since now, more Burmese know what’s going on. But our role is the same as ever, and that is to give accurate, timely and relevant information about events in our country. I don’t think our role has changed that much,” he told IPS.
Aung Zaw also cautions against high expectations about the exiled Burmese media, intimating that they can only do so much, given the resources available to them.
“Yes, we did feel such expectations, both from the people in Burma and the international community. It’s okay to have expectations, but these have to be realistic ones. In the final analysis, it’s going to be the Burmese people who will decide (on the future),” he said. But definitely, he continued, the exiled media will be there to report on this.
© 2007 Inter Press Service
Wednesday, November 07, 2007
Paul supporters are euphoric over their libertarian leader's record-setting fund raising success. It only took the Texas Congressman a day to take in $4.2 million. To tell the truth, when I first heard him talk about the Iraq War I was swept up with the sparkling allure of Ron Paul-mania. And the novelty of an anti-war Republican grabbed me by the lapel.
But if people knew what Paul meant by small government most would bounce him out on his ear quicker than you can say Ronald Reagan. Imagine if the devil started serving snow cones and Ron Paul won the Presidential election. What would America look like after the first 100 days? What would happen if he, just like the current Republican President, got everything he wanted?
First, Mr. Paul would pull the troops out of Iraq, dissolve the Federal Reserve and close down the IRS. So far, so good. This is what people want -- less war and less taxes. President Paul becomes the most popular Commander-in-Chief in a generation and the people rejoice.
What happens next? Well, if Ron stays true to his principles, which history has shown he does, the department of education will vanish. Let the free market decide. Now, those too poor to send their kids to school won't have a publicly-funded means of educating their children. That way the richer you are the more education you'll receive. Sounds fair, right? Next, those very same working class laborers can expect to whip out their Visas in the emergency room because that island of socialism needs to go. He'll probably achieve something President Bush never could, the privatization of social security. Public health care of any type will be abolished. Those who can't work like the elderly and the crippled won't be able to build up their "nest eggs" and consequently will be denied proper care.
When government shrinks something needs to take its place. Instead of empowering people, Ron Paul extols the marvels of the free market. Once corporations fill that power vacuum unions will be busted, and because there will be no public space workers can't organize and demonstrate on the sidewalks in front of their workplaces as the companies will own those sidewalks. Businesses will be allowed to reinstate Dickensian working conditions. The 8 hour day and overtime will be a fuzzy memory. In a truly free market economy the threat of unemployment can and will be used to coerce workers into humiliating contracts. Dollars will be a person's way of "voting" therefore those with more cash have more freedom. Welcome to Ron Paul's America.
Be careful because I believe Ron Paul's message is dangerous. There are other anti-war candidates (Kucinich, Gravel) who have a better domestic plan for the country. Let's reject Mr. Paul's libertarian revolution and start moving America further from a Corporatacracy, not closer to one.
by Vivian Ho
Former Boston University professor and political activist Howard Zinn last night said Americans need to “withdraw our obedience from our government” in response to what he called government deception surrounding modern wars.
“The war on terrorism is a sham,” Zinn said at Morse Auditorium. “Terrorism is an idea that exists all over. You can’t make war on it. If terrorism is the killing of innocent people for some presumed important purpose, then making a war on people is terrorism. War is terrorism. The terrorism of our war in Iraq has killed far, far more people than were killed in the twin towers.”
Zinn said a revolution is the only option Americans have to bring about change and charged his audience of more than 200 to form a “people’s” movement toward a “different world.”
The longtime professor also said government hype must be combated with a discussion of history.
“If you know some history that is outside the establishing view of history, you will not be fooled by the things you hear from the White House, or from members of Congress, or from leaders of political parties,” he said in his lecture, organized by BU Students for a Democratic Society, Boston Youth and Student Anti-War Movement.
The study of the history of government deception in wartime needs a closer look, Zinn said.
“What’s being told is that we are fighting in Iraq for democracy. We are occupying in order to bring democracy and freedom to the Iraqi people,” he said. “If you look at the history of American occupations, look at the history of U.S. interventions in other parts of the world - where have we brought democracy? There’s no evidence of America bringing democracy to the countries that we occupy.”
Zinn said the turnout was encouraging. Attendees said they reserved spots beforehand, and many filled in balcony seating.
“It was a lot of things people need to hear,” said College of Arts and Sciences junior Haley Ott. “There’s a stigma against activism, [so] for someone like him [to speak], it’s useful to have people inside like that.”
Zinn stressed the necessity of citizen involvement, a sentiment BU Anti-War Coalition member Alek Drobnjak said he strongly supports.
“He made a point on people getting involved, which was very important,” the College of Engineering sophomore said. “We need more people to join our clubs and participate in our government.”
Zinn will be speaking again this weekend with BU professor Elie Wiesel in a nonpartisan regional conference called “Race to 2008,” a discussion meant to revive political involvement among campuses in the Northeast.
“If you want something done, it happens when people come together,” said SDS President Farah Mohammadzadeh, a CAS junior. “It’s a revolution. It’s possible.”
© 2007 The Daily Free Press
Monday, November 05, 2007
BBC online news at 2.30 pm today reported:
"King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia has been welcomed ceremonially to Britain by the Queen . . . The Queen greeted him on Horseguard's Parade at the start of his first visit to the UK in 20 years . . . Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Home Secretary Jacqui Smith and Minister for the Middle East Kim Howells joined dignitaries to welcome the king as he arrived at the central London parade ground with the Prince of Wales".
Nothing wrong with this you may think; perfectly normal high level diplomacy that goes on, week-in, week-out, without comment. That is until you recall the words of Gordon Brown at the Labour Party Conference just over a month ago. Speaking of dictatorial regimes, the prime minister said: "A message should go out to anyone facing persecution, anywhere from Burma and Zimbabwe: human rights are universal and no injustice can last forever."
By comparison Saudi Arabia is arguably a far worse human right abuser than the ruling juntas in Burma and Zimbabwe. So what's going on here? Why is the British ruling elite kowtowing to some of the world's worst human rights abusers?
Well, perhaps human rights activist Peter Tatchell hits the nail on the head when he says: "The Killer King''s visit is about business, very big business. And under Labour, as with their Conservative predecessors, money-making trumps human rights every time."
Mr Brown and Mrs Windsor, like the true representatives of British capitalism plc that they are, will grovel in front of King Abdullah and his hangers on knowing full well that in Saudi Arabia people are detained and tortured without trial, that gays are beheaded, that women who commit adultery are executed, that trade unions and non-muslim religions are proscribed and that the death penalty awaits those alleged to be guilty of a hundred "crimes".
Of course, Saudi Arabia has a lot of what Zimbabwe has not - namely oil. It is also a big purchaser of British weaponry, a very big purchaser, and where there are mega profits to be had you can bet your bottom dollar those human rights abuses can be quietly brushed under the carpet. Brown might honestly hate what he is doing, but he's "batting for Britain" here. He simply has to bite his lip because his job as the front man for the executive of British capitalism is to represent the interests of big business.
As Johann Hari wrote in yesterday's Guardian: "The truth is that the British Government – and all Western societies – are so addicted to Saudi Arabia's oil that they feel they can't speak back. They are terrified of seeing the petrol that lubricates our economy (or the arms deals that butter it) being turned off, as it was in 1973 oil crisis."
And with this in mind you begin to appreciate why, in December 2006, the Labour government shut down a Serious Fraud Office investigation into the £40 billion al-Yamamah arms deals, which purportedly involved backhanders of £1 billion being paid to Saudi government representatives.
Again, last month the Saudis arranged to buy 72 Eurofighter Typhoon fighter planes from Britain at a cost of almost £4.5 billion - the biggest export order yet for the aircraft, and a lot of that is sheer profits, and if you want to stay in power, if you want big business supporting your election campaigns, then you shut your mouth and don't mess with those profits.
So while the human rights campaigners demonstrate and newspaper columnists kick off about more Labour Party hypocrisy, the truth is that this is the business world functioning normally; this is what it does.
And of course, chumming it with fascists, dictators, state terrorists and human rights abusers is nothing new. Blair had a very close working relationship with the leader of the world's number one rogue state George W Bush. Margaret Thatcher thought the moon shone out of General Pinochet's arse.
Go back in time and we find Churchill saying this of Hitler's coming to power: 'The story of that struggle, cannot be read without admiration for the courage, the perseverance, and the vital force which enabled him to challenge, defy conciliate or overcome, all the authority of resistances which barred his path'.
And commenting on Spain in 1937, Churchill, Brigadier Packenham Walsh, said "Winston says at heart he is for Franco'".
And, Edward VIII, after giving up the throne to marry divorced American Wallace Simpson in 1937, visited Germany and met Hitler, voicing admiration for his policies. He once remarked while on a visit to the USA: "It would be a tragic thing for the world if Hitler were overthrown."
Even the late Queen Mum, sending a copy of Mein Kampf to a friend in the pre-war years, commented: "Even a skip through gives a good idea of his obvious sincerity."
If you want to get to the core of the problem then campaign to abolish the damned profit system. Don't whinge about the flies hovering about the shit - get rid of the damned turd. At the end of the day big business, profits and class privilege go hand in hand with corruption, hypocrisy and human rights abuses.
Friday, November 02, 2007
Here's the cause and effect, presented in reverse order, of what happens to a people when they get in between us and our oil. If you don't line up and start whistling dixie you'll be threatened with violence and worse (remember, Bush offered to bomb the Kurds on Turkey's behalf). If the PKK's strikes against Turkey can't be justified, which I contend they cannot, then how is it Turkey's aggression -- a country that, with Clinton's support, ethnically cleansed the Kurds throughout the '90s -- can claim the moral high road? It certainly helps that the PKK is a pack of godless socialists, our traditional enemy. It sure feels good to be slaughtering those pinko commies again.
Rice brands PKK 'common enemy'
Condoleezza Rice, the US secretary of state, has said Washington views Kurdish fighters who have launched attacks on Turkey from Iraq as a "common enemy".
Rice, on a visit to Turkey, said at a press conference on Friday that Washington and Ankara needed to show "commitment and persistence" against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).
Ali Babacan, Turkey's foreign minister, said in the same press conference that Rice's visit to Turkey marked the start of closer co-operation between the Nato allies against the PKK.
Rice said that Washington and Ankara were working together on intelligence sharing to combat the separatist group.
Rice will later attend wider talks in Istanbul to discuss Ankara's strategy against the PKK, who have launched attacks against Turkey from bases in northern Iraq.
Iraqi officials are also attending the Istanbul conference, which was originally meant to focus on Iraq's long-term stability.
The meeting comes amid concerns that Turkey may launch cross-border raids against fighters from the PKK.
Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general, is also attending the talks.
Turkey has accused the regional Kurdish government in northern Iraq of harbouring PKK fighters.
The separatist group is said to use bases in the mountainous region for cross-border attacks as part of its 23-year campaign for self-rule in Turkey's mainly Kurdish southeast.
Rice told reporters earlier en route to Turkey: "We have certainly been concerned that anything that would destabilise the north of Iraq is not going to be in Turkey's interests, it is not going to be in our interests and it is not going to be in the Iraqis' interests. That's been the reason for urging restraint.
"But we understand the need to do something effective against this PKK threat ... The PKK is an enemy of the United States just like it is an enemy of the Turks."
Rice held talks with Tayyip Recep Erdogan, Turkey's prime minister, shortly after arriving in the country and will later meet Abdullah Gul, the president.
Erdogan is due to meet George Bush, the US president, in Washington next week to discuss how to tackle the PKK.
Al Jazeera's Hoda Abdel Hamid, reporting from Istanbul, said the Turkish public's expectations over Rice's visit were low.
"Nothing really concrete [was set out], and I think from the Turkish public opinion point of view it will be quite disappointing," she reported after the press conference.
"Saying that the US was going to double efforts to share intelligence is not going to be satisfactory [to the Turkish public]," she said.
"I think the key sentence in the press conference came from Babacan when he said he expected the US to take 'concrete steps'. At the moment we are not hearing about any concrete steps."
Both Baghdad and Washington strongly oppose any unilateral Turkish action in northern Iraq on the grounds that it would destabilise the only relatively calm region of the war-torn country.
Turkey has reportedly massed up to 100,000 troops on the border with Iraq and has threatened a military incursion to strike at PKK bases unless Baghdad and Washington promise to crack down on the fighters.
The White House has offered Ankara "actionable intelligence" on the PKK.
"We have no time to lose. All instruments – diplomatic, political, socio-cultural and military - are on the table," Babacan said.
He also said that Turkey may restrict flights to northern Iraq.
Turkish troops have been engaged in major operations targeting the PKK since October 21 when a group of fighters, who Ankara says came from northern Iraq, ambushed a military unit, killing 12 soldiers and capturing eight.
The army says it has since killed 80 fighters on Turkish territory.
A top PKK commander on Thursday called on Ankara to present a peace plan that could end the group's rebellion, which has claimed more than 37,000 lives.
Turkey refuses to have any contact with or make any concessions to the PKK.
Iraqi Kurds sign four oil deals
By Mark Gregory
The Kurdish regional government in northern Iraq has announced four new oil exploration deals with international energy companies.
The news is likely to upset the central government in Baghdad and the US.
Both have been pressing the Kurds to hold off negotiations until national oil and gas laws for opening up Iraq's energy wealth are in place.
Development of Iraq's oil reserves has been held up by disagreements between Sunni, Shia and Kurdish communities.
These laws will set the framework for investment by foreign energy firms and for dividing oil revenues between the communities.
But increasingly the semi-autonomous Kurdish area has signalled that it will go it alone without waiting for a national consensus.
In the latest move, the Kurdish authorities have announced four exploration contracts and two refinery deals, worth around $800m (£400m), giving rights to look for oil under Kurdish territory.
French and Canadian companies are involved along with other foreign investors that have not yet been named.
There has been no official reaction from either Baghdad or Washington but neither will be pleased.
A few weeks ago the Kurdish government signed agreed its first ever exploration deal with a foreign oil firm, Hunt Oil from Texas.
The Iraqi national oil minister in Baghdad described this deal as illegal.
Meanwhile, the Bush administration sees a national accord on energy policy as central to healing Iraq's wounds and creating the conditions for prosperity.
The Kurdish authorities insist their energy deals comply with the expected terms for national laws.
Thursday, November 01, 2007
Although it may not seem like it sometimes, my dirty little secret is I'm not perfect.
So, when I was pulled over for speeding (43 in a 25, ouch) I was reminded of my own infrequent lapses of judgment. But in addition to the $100 fine, the officer handed me a second pink slip along with a tongue-lashing.
"You know, you can't put your seatbelt on right before you get into an accident - it doesn't work that way. That's why I wrote you this." He showed me the $10 fine for failing to wear my seatbelt. "No points will be deducted from your license, but I'm giving you this because we care about you."
I swear on the life of my mother he said that: "we care about you." He even used the word "we". That's right, goddamn "we"! Well, I plucked the tickets out of his hands, quartered them and blew the pieces in his face saying: "If you -- I assume by 'we' you mean 'the state' -- if you care about me so bloody much why do you steal from me every paycheck? Why do you demand a tax on my labor and donate it to a bunch of corporate bullies? And why, dear Officer, do you work for such a corrupt institution as the state that passes bullshit legislation like seatbelt laws and marijuana prohibition to further the stranglehold it has on my personal life? Is your unit so diminutive you need to dominate others to improve your self-esteem? You make me sick, Sir. And I will never, ever..."
Okay, that didn't happen. What I really did is take the tickets and drive away. But when I send the money in mid-December I'll be sure to attach a Krispy Kreme's coupon. I hear they're having a 2 for 1 special all next month. Or, I might just send him a brochure to Jenny Craig, just because I care.