If you don’t like people of difference, join Sarah Palin’s party
Posted: 19 Jul 2010

Just how extreme are the Republicans in the US?
If you’re against gay people, the UN, sex, taxes and one world government, you’ll fit right in.


Wash Post study on outsourcing terror (aka intelligence services)
Posted: 19 Jul 2010

One of the biggest stories in North America at the moment is today’s Washington Post investigation on the explosion of intelligence services since 9/11. The sheer scale and cost involved is massive. Creating fear has never been more profitable. The outsourcing of government services is taking place across the world, including Australia and yet most of the mainstream media ignores the developments.
Governments can’t continue to keep claiming they are “keeping us safe” but spend more of our money on companies with little transparency. Targeting “terrorists” sounds sexy and keeps the tabloid papers happy (and many in the Murdoch press) but doesn’t address the ways in which this “threat” has been managed and exaggerated.
Wired offers a round-up:

Figuring out exactly who’s cashing in on the post-9/11 boom in secret programs just got a whole lot easier.
U.S. spy agencies, the State Department, and the White House had a collective panic attack on Friday over an upcoming Washington Post expose on the intelligence-industrial complex. Reporters Dana Priest and William Arkin let it drop this morning.
It includes a searchable database cataloging what an estimated 854,000 employees and legions of contractors are apparently up to. Users can now to see just how much money these government agencies are spending and where those top secret contractors are located. Check out this nine-page list of agencies and contractors involved in air and satellite observations, for instance. No wonder it scares the crap out of Official Washington: it’s bound to provoke all sorts of questions — both from taxpayers wondering where their money goes, and from U.S. adversaries looking to penetrate America’s spy complex.
But this piece is about much more than dollars. It’s about what used to be called the Garrison State — the impact on society of a Praetorian class of war-focused elites. Priest and Arkin call it “Top Secret America” and it’s so big, and grown so fast, that it’s replicated the problem of disconnection within the intelligence agencies that facilitated America’s vulnerability to a terrorist attack. With too many analysts and too many capabilities documenting too much, with too few filters in place to sort out the useful stuff or discover hidden connections, the information overload is its own information blackout. “We consequently can’t effectively assess whether it is making us more safe,” a retired Army three-star general who recently assessed the system tells the reporters.
The Post — whose editorial page has been notably receptive to the growth of the security state over the years — explains in an editorial comment that it ran its constellation of websites by security officials to ensure that it wasn’t jeopardizing national security. In one instance, the editors deleted certain unspecified specific “data points” the project initially disclosed. And they further explain that most of what the project documents, like the locations of contractor and agency facilities, is already public information, distributed on company and agency websites. So it’s not as if the paper has put anyone in harm’s way. (Some of those overlapping contracts issued by the “263 organizations [that] have been created or reorganized as a response to 9/11″ might now be in danger, however.)
Still, in compiling all this information, there’s a risk that the Post provides a hostile foreign power looking to infiltrate the U.S. security apparatus now has an online yellow pages for sending out his resume. Ironically, the very nature of the phenomenon Priest and Arkin document might be enough to foil an infiltrator. Security agencies and their companies produce more information than anyone can consume, adding uncertain value to the amount of information already public. And the spigot — contained in congressional budgets that are either politically sacrosanct or entirely secret — doesn’t seem to be able to close. One impressed observer notes to the paper about a useless intel program scheduled for closure, ”Like a zombie, it keeps on living.”

The Nation’s Robert Dreyfuss urges caution and finds an elephant in the room:
What’s missing from the story, however, is any assessment of the threat against which this vast and growing machinery is arrayed. The Post notes that 25 separate agencies have been set up to track terrorist financing, which admirably shows the overlapping and redundant nature of the post-9/11 ballooning of agencies and organizations targeting terrorism. But the article barely mentions that there are hardly any terrorists to track. The The core problem, which the
Post points out that among the recent, nuisance-level attacks by Muslim extremists – the Fort Hood shooter, the underwear bomber, the Times Square incident – the intelligence machine failed to detect or stop them. True. That’s an indictment of the counterterrorism machinery that has become a staple for critics of the outsize budgets and wasteful bureaucracy that has been created since 9/11.Post doesn’t address, is that Al Qaeda and its affiliates, its sympathizers, and even self-starting terrorist actors who aren’t part of Al Qaeda itself, are a tiny and manageable problem. Yet the apparatus that has been created is designed to meet nothing less than an existential threat.

West Bank and Gaza separated by more than space
Posted: 19 Jul 2010

While American neo-cons (many of them Jewish) continue to push for a military strike against Iran and Israeli “democracy” decreases by the day – witness the story of a key Jewish dissident, Yonatan Shapira, being interrogated by Israeli intelligence for daring to support BDS. Hilariously, he’s asked to feel sorry for soldiers maintaining the West Bank occupation – life in Palestine worsens. Where are the Western corporate journalists writing about this?
Here’s Amira Hass in Haaretz:

The woman looked at the young man in front of her as though he were a rare museum exhibit. He’s a native of Gaza who arrived in the West Bank on his own about four years ago, and has lived there since then. He’s not a senior official in Fatah or in one of the Palestinian Authority security services, not a relative or an associate of a highly placed person.
So how did you do it? He smiled and raised his eyebrows. The woman, also a native of Gaza, replied to his amused silence: “Ah, I understand, you had a brain tumor.” Several of the others in the room strangled cries of panic. We had to explain to them that this is only a metaphor for the strange and unusual way he had found to receive a transit permit from Israel for the purpose of entering the West Bank.
The young man did not explain what the “strange way” was. He said that from the age of 12 he knew that he wanted to study and live in the West Bank. Many Gaza residents dream of studying in the West Bank (and not necessarily settling there ), but, as regular readers will recall, the Israeli authorities and the members of the High Court of Justice do not consider studying in general, and higher education in particular, a sufficient reason for issuing the transit permit. Family, work, a livelihood, friends, a desire to travel: these are not sufficient reasons either. Only extreme medical cases or other humanitarian emergencies are officially considered a good enough reason for Israel to allow someone to leave Gaza via Israel.
It should be noted parenthetically to anyone who talks about an almost total removal of the Gaza blockade and insists that the rest depends on Egypt: That is a fiction. Nonsense. Western imagination. Israel is maintaining its consistent policy of not allowing the Palestinians from the Strip to reach the most natural place for them: the West Bank. Israel has achieved an almost total victory in its 20-year-old policy of severing the population of the Strip from the West Bank, to the point that this severance is not considered part of the blockade.


Sydney discussion with Diana Buttu and Loewenstein
Posted: 19 Jul 2010

In early July, I appeared in Sydney at Politics in the Pub with leading Palestinian spokesperson Diana Buttu (who was brought out to Australia to engage with audiences about the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement).
We spoke about the Middle East situation, facts on the ground in Palestine, shifting global attitudes towards Israel and the importance of BDS.
It is broadcast on ABC TV on 20 July and available online here.


America’s elites benefit from economic meltdown
Posted: 19 Jul 2010

What economic downturn? Such news only convinces those who question the robustness of globalisation (and probably helps the Tea Party movement, too):

America is struggling with a sputtering economy and high unemployment — but times are booming for Washington’s governing class.
The massive expansion of government under President Barack Obama has basically guaranteed a robust job market for policy professionals, regulators and contractors for years to come. The housing market, boosted by the large number of high-income earners in the area, many working in politics and government, is easily outpacing the markets in most of the country. And there are few signs of economic distress in hotels, restaurants or stores in the D.C. metro area.
As a result, there is a yawning gap between the American people and D.C.’s powerful when it comes to their economic reality — and their economic perceptions.
A new POLITICO poll, conducted by market research and consulting firm Penn Schoen Berland, underscores the big divide: Roughly 45 percent of “Washington elites” said the country and the economy are headed in the right direction, while roughly 25 percent of the general population said they felt that way.


Australian Labor Party loathes Arabs and nothing has really changed
Posted: 19 Jul 2010

Former Australian Prime Minister Bob Hawke is currently being lionised in the Australian media for a recently released biography (by his adoring wife).
A friend sends along a story from Sydney’s Daily Telegraph on October 10, 1984 that proves the Labor Party’s loyalty to Israel goes way back and current leader Julia Gillard is cut from the same cloth. Gillard said last week that Hawke remains her role model. The headline and story below does not appear in the new book about Hawke, I’m reliably informed.
Unthinking loyalty:

Get the EU to grow a voice on Palestine
Posted: 19 Jul 2010

A welcome call to almost force the EU to actually become a useful body in the Middle East. Right now, it’s little more than a mostly silent American partner:

The European Union must shake off US dominance and take a bolder approach in pressing for a settlement of the Israel-Palestinian conflict, the former EU commissioner Chris Patten said today on a visit to Gaza.
Israel’s policy of blockading Gaza had been a “terrible failure – immoral, illegal and ineffective”, he said, which had “deliberately triggered an economic and social crisis which has many humanitarian consequences”.
In an interview with the Guardian, the former Conservative cabinet minister suggested it was time to reassess the isolation of Hamas, saying that approach had failed to weaken it.
Patten’s visit, his first since 2002, coincided with a lightning second trip by the EU foreign policy chief, Lady Ashton, who called on Israel to open Gaza’s borders rather than merely allow in more consumer goods.
Ashton’s second visit since her appointment last December “showed a preparedness to be more independent-minded,” said Patten. “The default European position should not be to wait to find out what the Americans are going to do, and if the Americans don’t do anything to wring our hands. We should be prepared to be more explicit in setting out Europe’s objectives and doing more to try to implement them.”
He implicitly criticised US dominance of the Middle East quartet – the US, EU, UN and Russia – by saying he concurred with the description of it by the leader of the Arab League as the “quartet sans trois”.
Patten, who found it “easier to get into a maximum security prison in the UK than to enter Gaza”, said Israel’s relaxation of its blockade had not gone far enough. “It’s moved from about minus 10 to about minus eight. It doesn’t do anything to help restore economic activity in Gaza.
“It’s difficult to understand what preventing exports has to do with security. It has everything to do with the view that Gaza should be collectively punished to discredit Hamas. Unfortunately there are some centuries, if not millennia, of history that show that does not work. Presumably the international community as well as Israel wants at some stage – sooner rather than later – to be able to persuade Gaza and its political leadership to take a course which will lead to reconciliation and peace and stability. It’s difficult to know how you accomplish that if you deny the people of Gaza any social or economic progress.”


Are former Tiger fighters really a threat to Canada?
Posted: 18 Jul 2010

Here in Canada, Colombo propaganda about the supposed threat from “Tamil Tiger terrorists” heading towards the country continues in full swing. The source is always the Sri Lankan government; about as reliable as Tel Aviv. We’ve been reading similar “reports” in Australia for months:

A ship full of Tamil migrants — including members of the Tamil Tigers — is headed to Canada, a Sri Lankan newspaper reports.
According to the Sunday Observer, Sri Lanka’s English newspaper, about 200 migrants are aboard the MV Sun Sea, a ship previously known as Harin Panich 19.
The vessel was reportedly headed to Australia originally, but the boat changed route after Sri Lanka’s foreign ministry warned the Aussies. It’s now believed to be headed to British Columbia.
Some passengers are reportedly members of the Tamil Tigers, a violent arm of the Tamil separatist movement, which Canada has listed as a terrorist group.
Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Ambra Dickie said Canada is aware of the media reports about the vessel.


Book event at New York’s Revolution Books
Posted: 18 Jul 2010

Next Sunday, 25 July, I’ll be appearing at one of New York’s leading independent bookshops, Revolution Books, for an event that can’t be missed!

Palestine and Iraq — 2 Occupations
Brunch roundtable discussion with authors Michael Otterman (Erasing Iraq: The Human Costs of Carnage) and Antony Loewenstein (My Israel Question and The Blogging Revolution). On the realities of occupation and the illusions of “peace” in Iraq and Palestine. Brunch provided. Donation requested.

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