Women with strong views campaigning in Gaza
Posted: 18 Dec 2010 03:51 AM PST

Palestinian feminist Asma Al-Ghoul pushes for secularism in Islamic Gaza.
It’s vital that growing Islamisation under Hamas is challenged:

Recently Asma garnered media attention for two incidents with the Hamas police. In the summer of 2009, she walked on a public Gaza beach with a mixed gender group, and visited a former male colleague and his family at a beachside villa.Asma and her friends were interrogated by Hamas moral police, and the men were forced to sign papers promising not repeat their “inappropriate” interactions with women. Asma later received anonymous death threats and was followed and closely monitored by police.
But there are glints of hope for secularists in Gaza. This August, during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, Asma and three foreign activist friends biked up the Gaza coastline in defiance of a Hamas ban on female bicycle-riding. To Asma’s delighted surprise, local Hamas police officers pursued two motorcyclists who had followed and harassed her. And she found that most civilians “were shocked in a funny way. They said, ‘Let’s go! Bravo!’ They asked, ‘Are you fasting [for Ramadan]?’ And I said, ‘Yes, I’m fasting!’”
Asma’s biking adventure led her to conclude that the discriminatory laws against women are “flexible.” She now believes that Hamas is “between two fires—how to keep civil society satisfied, and how to satisfy extreme groups.”


Wikileaks bastard children are growing
Posted: 18 Dec 2010 03:43 AM PST

Wikileaks has made a call for similar websites to spring up and pry open the workings of nations.
The call is being answered.


An info-struggle that we must win
Posted: 18 Dec 2010 03:40 AM PST

An open letter published in the UK Guardian this week:

We are writing this statement in support of democracy.
Since Sunday, 28 November, WikiLeaks and five major newspapers from around the world (the Guardian, the New York Times, Der Spiegel, Le Monde, El Pais) have been publishing redacted versions of leaked US diplomatic cables in an ongoing story that has become known as “Cablegate”. The identity of the original leaker is – as yet – unconfirmed.
This is not the first leak of confidential documentation that exposes governmental lies – and it won’t be the last. Secret information has long been used by elites to build and maintain power over huge populations of citizens, workers, armed forces and others. But when the secrets of the elite are revealed, the power they represent can be confronted and reversed.
Nor is this the first time that state (and other) forces of power have acted to prevent dissemination of information on the internet – and it won’t be the last.
Sites have been removed by their hosting companies, servers seized by police or other governmental authorities, take-down requests issued under the rule of law: none of these prevented information spreading.
But the issues run deeper than this. As former US president Thomas Jefferson once stated, “information is the currency of democracy”. Democracy – the rule of the people – as currently understood and practiced is, and has long been, severely restricted.
Power is abused in our name by governments and transnational corporations around the world: they fight illegal wars; abuse and kill people; pillage property and planet. The powerful accumulate wealth and force the majority – the rest of us – to pay for it: with our health, our freedom, our time, our money and with our lives. For a long time, we have been deceived about the reasons for this: it is our right for the truth to be known. Without that right, democracy cannot and does not exist. The current assault on WikiLeaks is yet another instance of democracy-hating by elites.
Now, we find we are witnessing a new level of info-struggle. We are witnessing how the emperor wears no clothes. We can see the lies made bare, we can see the posturing and propositioning that our governments participate in. We can see the collusion that occurs with transnational corporations and with global media giants. WikiLeaks and others are battling against powerful institutions bent on curtailing our knowledge of and influence over policies and structures that impact our lives: they are information heroes, not information villains. We see all this being done in our name, and we condemn it.
Thus, we pledge to not simply bear witness but to actively participate in this fight – for freedom of speech, for real democracy and for justice. We know this is only the beginning: de-masking the puppeteers facilitates action towards fairer and more just societies. We demand that the truth be heard. We stand at the doorway to a new, just and democratic world: a doorway we pledge to keep open and to march through. We stand with all the inhabitants of this world who are affected daily by governments that oppress the right to free speech and obstruct the path to true democracy.
Andrei Morgan
Michael Albert
Jamie McClelland
Daniel Kahn Gillmor
Tachanka! collective
London Indymedia
John Pilger
Donnacha Delong, vice-president, National Union of Journalists
Yvonne Ridley, founder, Women In Journalism
Hessom Razavi
Mike Holderness, freelance journalist
Pennie Quinton, freelance journalist and human rights campaigner
May First/People Link
Phil Edwards
Sheffield Indymedia
Chris Grollman
Chris Anderson
David Graeber, reader in social anthropology, Goldsmiths, University of London
Plentyfact collective
Koumbit Worker’s Committee
Sasha Costanza-Chock, fellow, Berkman Centre for Internet & Society, Harvard University


Thank you for describing Wikileaks for us all
Posted: 18 Dec 2010 03:36 AM PST



This is what Murdoch produces on Wikileaks
Posted: 18 Dec 2010 03:19 AM PST

Oh thank you, Bill McGowan:

It’s one thing for journalists to challenge the government, to serve as a check on its power. It’s another to assume a knee-jerk oppositionalism that’s out of touch with the middle register of the country and with wartime exigencies. Far from being rooted in responsibility and idealism about how our democracy functions, the cablegate stories are the rotten fruit of a punitive liberalism that takes the U.S. government to be so inherently evil that only the Fourth Estate, led by The Times and the odious Assange, can rectify the nation’s sins.
Yesterday, Bill Keller distanced himself from Assange, declaring at a Harvard forum that he didn’t see Assange as a“kindred spirit.”

Yet as the old saw goes, sleep with dogs and you wake up with fleas. Unlike Manning and Assange, it’s unlikely that The Times will stand in any court docket over this episode, but when one or both do, The Times will be standing next to them, morally at least.


Cuba ain’t no paradise and the US diplomat there is pernicious
Posted: 17 Dec 2010 09:28 PM PST

These stories, via Wikileaks, if true are rather curious for a few key players. Western states are proven once again to largely ignore human rights (money is the key factor). And Michael Moore, for a film that certainly glorified the Cuban health system, is looking a little sheepish.

AustraliaCanada and several European countries have stopped pressuring Cuba over human rights in the hope of winning commercial favours from Havana, according to confidential US diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks.
The western governments continued to pay lip service to concerns about political prisoners and censorship, but in reality were appeasing the island’s communist rulers, said Jonathan Farrar, the US head of mission.
The diplomat made scathing remarks about his colleagues shunning democracy activists, “kowtowing” to the Castro regime and joining what he scornfully termed the “best friends forever” camp.
“The Cuban government has been able to stonewall its independent civil society from foreign visitors who have, for the large part, been all too ready to give in to Cuban bullying and give up on these encounters,” Farrar said.
He named and shamed the countries Washington considers offenders in its battle, started half a century ago by JFK, to keep an international squeeze on the island.
“The Australian foreign minister, Switzerland‘s human rights special envoy and the Canadian cabinet level minister of the Americas not only failed to meet with non-government Cubans, they didn’t even bother to publicly call for more freedoms after visiting Cuba in November,” Farrar wrote.


Cuba banned Michael Moore‘s 2007 documentarySicko, because it painted such a “mythically” favourable picture of Cuba’s healthcare system that the authorities feared it could lead to a “popular backlash”, according to US diplomats in Havana.
The revelation, contained in a confidential US embassy cable released by WikiLeaks , is surprising, given that the film attempted to discredit the US healthcare system by highlighting what it claimed was the excellence of the Cuban system.
But the memo reveals that when the film was shown to a group of Cuban doctors, some became so “disturbed at the blatant misrepresentation of healthcare in Cuba that they left the room”.
Castro’s government apparently went on to ban the film because, the leaked cable claims, it “knows the film is a myth and does not want to risk a popular backlash by showing to Cubans facilities that are clearly not available to the vast majority of them.”
Sicko investigated healthcare in the US by comparing the for-profit, non-universal US system with the non-profit universal health care systems of other countries, including Cuba, France and the UK.

UPDATE: Actually, writes Mike Moore, Sicko was never banned in Cuba and this proves how unreliable US diplomats can be.


This is how America treats people with a conscience
Posted: 17 Dec 2010 08:27 PM PST

The alleged Wikileaks leaker Bradley Manning is being tortured while in US custody. Home of the free, indeed:

The last time Bradley Manning saw the world outside of a jail, most Americans had never heard of WikiLeaks. On Friday, Manning, the man whose alleged unauthorized release of hundreds of thousands of classified documents put the website and its controversial leader, Julian Assange, on the map, turns 23 behind bars. Since his arrest in May, Manning has spent most of his 200-plus days in solitary confinement. Other than receiving a card and some books from his family, his birthday will be no different. In an exclusive interview with The Daily Beast, his attorney, David Coombs, revealed key details about Manning’s imprisonment and kind gestures from his family that provided a bit of comfort in the inmate’s otherwise extremely harsh incarceration.
“They’re thinking about him on his birthday, that they love and support him,” Coombs said of Manning’s family and the card his mother, father, sister and aunt passed along via the lawyer on Wednesday. “They wish they could be with him on his day, but they are not allowed because visitation is only on Saturday and Sunday, and a family member would be going down to see him on Saturday.” Coombs passed a message to Manning from his aunt on behalf of the family; Manning, the lawyer says, asked Coombs to tell his aunt he loved her and wishes he could be with her as well.
Manning asked for a list of books, which his family bought for him and will be delivered over the next few weeks to coincide with his birthday and Christmas. On the list?
Decision Points, by George W. Bush
Critique of Practical Reason, by Immanuel Kant Critique of Pure Reason, by Immanuel Kant Propaganda, by Edward Bernayse
The Selfish Gene, by Richard Dawkins
A People’s History of the United States, by Howard Zinn
The Art of War, by Sun Tzu
The Good Soldiers, by David Finkel
On War by Gen. Carl von Clausewitz

Manning is being held at Marine Corps Base Quantico, in Virginia. He spends 23 hours a day alone in a standard-sized cell, with a sink, a toilet, and a bed. He isn’t allowed sheets or a pillow, though First Lieutenant Brian Villiard, an officer at Quantico, said he is allowed bedding of “non-shreddable” material. “I’ve held it, I’ve felt it, it’s soft, I’d sleep under it,” he told The Daily Beast.


And nothing will ever be the same again…
Posted: 17 Dec 2010 08:15 PM PST

Very perceptive and largely fair editorial in yesterday’s UK Guardian on the legacy of Wikileaks and the reasons for its importance:

The sight of Julian Assange giving a stream of television interviews from the grounds of an 18th-century country house on the Norfolk-Suffolk borders was, at the very least, a confusion of the cinematic genre the plot has hitherto taken. It was as if Julian Fellowes had been drafted in to finish a script begun by Stieg Larsson. The James Bond villain had stumbled into an Edwardian stately home soap opera. A quick interview with Kay Burley before Carson announces dinner.
It is nearly three weeks since the Guardian and a handful of other news organisations began publishing stories and selected US state department cables based on the 250,000 documents passed to WikiLeaks. In that time the world has changed in a number of interesting ways. Millions of people around the world have glimpsed truths about their rulers and governments that had previously been hidden, or merely suspected.
The cables have revealed wrongdoing, war crimes, corruption, hypocrisy, greed, espionage, double-dealing and the cynical exercise of power on a wondrous scale. We feel some sympathy with the poster on a Guardian comment thread this week who complained of Wiki-fatigue. The revelations have flowed at such a rate that it may be months, or even years, before the full impact of what has been disclosed can be fully absorbed. It is all too easy to feel defeated by the sheer scale of the blurred torrent of information unleashed on the world.
During these three weeks the man who kicked this particular hornet’s nest, Julian Assange, has been arrested, jailed and freed. Hackers have taken revenge on huge corporations accused of aiding those who would dearly like to choke off the organisation he founded and runs. The US government has announced a thoroughgoing review of the principles on which it shares the intelligence it collects. The porous nature of the digital world has been driven home to those in charge of international businesses, banks, armies, governments – and even news and gossip websites. The implications for large state databases are as yet unknown. And now Assange is promising to speed up the release of the documents and to scatter them more broadly around the world.
Though the global implications of what has happened are far reaching, there is an inevitable sense in which the story is, indeed, being reduced to a biopic – the life and times of Julian Assange. In some ways this is a fair representation of events, but it is also limiting, and highly diversionary. There is no question that Assange has a missionary zeal, technical skill and high intelligence, without which the whole WikiLeaks project would never have gained its present prominence and/or notoriety.
In last Sunday’s Observer Henry Porter compared him to the 18th-century libertine, John Wilkes. Wilkes is remembered now as the fearless publisher, editor and politician who fought crucial skirmishes in the journey towards a free press in Britain. He risked exile, imprisonment and death for the right to publish – including the proceedings of parliament. But in his own times he was also regarded as a rake. One biographer has noted how “the reports of his sexual liaisons – both factual and fictitious – leaked from the private realm to fuel the hectic debate over his qualities as a public man”.
The parallels with Assange are hard to ignore. He found himself in Wandsworth prison, not for breaches of the Espionage Act, but because he is wanted for questioning in Sweden over sex offences relating to two women he met earlier this year. To many (though doubtless not to the women) this is a side show to the main event. To others – including Assange and his legal team (who have disparagingly referred to the events as a “honeytrap”) – this is a dark conspiracy to frame him, in much the same way that Al Capone was put out of circulation for tax offences.
It is impossible to make judgments about what happened in private circumstances: that will be for the Swedish courts eventually to decide. But it is wrong that the notion that the allegations are simply a conspiracy or smear should go unexamined. Having been given access to the relevant Swedish police papers – including the womens’ claims and Assange’s rebuttal – we have felt it right to present a brief summary of the nature of the complaints, together with Assange’s response. It is unusual for a sex offence case to be presented outside of the judicial process in such a manner, but then it is unheard of for a defendant, his legal team and supporters to so vehemently and publicly attack women at the heart of a rape case.
As with Wilkes, none of this should have any bearing on the wider question of Assange’s role in bringing the cables into the open. For some years Assange toiled away, largely unnoticed, leaking documents which exposed corruption and wrongdoing by governments and powerful organisations.
It is wholly understandable that the US government should feel both embarrassed and furious at the scale and nature of the material he has been filtering out over the past three weeks. So far the administration has acted with some restraint rather than lash out in some form of retributive fashion. Assange’s legal team believe that this may soon change and that he may soon face charges of an unspecified nature to do with obtaining and publishing the cables. Nor should it be forgotten that Bradley Manning, a 23-year-old private accused of being the original source of the leak, is currently in solitary confinement awaiting a court martial and the prospect of spending the next five decades behind bars.
We and four other news organisations have worked with WikiLeaks over many months in order carefully and responsibly to publish a small number of cables. The first amendment of the American constitution is a formidable bulwark of free speech, rightly admired around the world. As Max Frankel, a former executive editor of the New York Times, recently wrote in these pages, the supreme court defended the publication of the Pentagon Papers in 1971, even though the lead judge, Justice Potter Stewart, was sure it was not in the public interest. It would be dismaying if there was now an attempt to prosecute Assange for his role in publishing the documents. He is clearly in some senses a publisher and journalist as well as a source. In that respect he deserves protection, not criminal indictment.
The broader plan of WikiLeaks is to move beyond the arrangement with the five newspapers currently involved, and to partner with other news organisations who can highlight stories of particular interest to specific regions. We hope that, if so, it is done with due care to anything that might jeopardise individuals or sensitive ongoing operations. The process of editing, contextualising, explanation and redaction is a painstaking one. It is part of the craft of journalism. Journalism is also about disclosure. It is at its best when it is the disclosure of matters of high public interest. Judge Assange on that score, as much as any other.


Getting out of the West Bank is for real Israeli security
Posted: 17 Dec 2010 06:28 PM PST

Martin van Creveld, The Jewish Forward, 15 December:

Keeping all these facts in mind — and provided that Israel maintains its military strength and builds a wall to stop suicide bombers — it is crystal-clear that Israel can easily afford to give up the West Bank. Strategically speaking, the risk of doing so is negligible. What is not negligible is the demographic, social, cultural and political challenge that ruling over 2.5 million — nobody knows exactly how many — occupied Palestinians in the West Bank poses. Should Israeli rule over them continue, then the country will definitely turn into what it is already fast becoming: namely, an apartheid state that can only maintain its control by means of repressive secret police actions.
To save itself from such a fate, Israel should rid itself of the West Bank, most of Arab Jerusalem specifically included. If possible, it should do so by agreement with the Palestinian Authority; if not, then it should proceed unilaterally, as the — in my view, very successful — withdrawal from Gaza suggests. Or else I would strongly advise my children and grandson to seek some other, less purblind and less stiff-necked, country to live in.

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