Thursday, March 29, 2007

'We were torturing people for no reason'

Editor's note: I am moving to post at the primary blog(also see new articles below and at the secondary blog as well).

Tara McKelvey

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Tony Lagouranis is a 37-year-old bouncer at a bar in Chicago's Humboldt Park. He is also a former torturer.

That was how he was described in an e-mail promoting a panel discussion, "24: Torture Televised," hosted by the Center on Law and Security of the New York University School of Law on March 21. He doesn't shy away from the description.

As a specialist in a military intelligence battalion, Lagouranis interrogated prisoners at Abu Ghraib, Al Asad Airfield and other places in Iraq from January through December 2004.

Coercive techniques, including the use of dogs, waterboarding and prolonged stress positions were employed on the detainees, he says. Prisoners held at Al Asad Airfield, about 110 miles northwest of Baghdad, were shackled and hung from an upright bed frame welded to the wall in a room in an airplane hanger, he told me in a phone interview.

When he was having problems getting information from a detainee, he recalls, other interrogators said, "Chain him up on the bed frame and then he'll talk to you."


A market correction is coming, this time for real

"A Market Correction is Coming....."

This comment, "A market correction is coming, this time for real," comes from William Rhodes, senior vice-chairman of Citigroup, and chairman, president and chief executive of Citibank. Consistent with the headline, Rhodes takes a bearish view (in fact, he says he has been concerned about leverage and indiscriminate pricing of risk for some time, and said he expected a market correction a year ago. Now not only does he say he expects a "market correction" in the next 12 months, but a "real correction," which presumably means a correction in the real economy (does that mean a recession, or merely a marked fall in growth?).

It's noteworthy that someone in a senior position in a major financial institution is forecasting a pessimistic (actually, quite pessimistic by the standards of this sort of thing) outlook for growth. And he was downbeat late last spring, and admits to having been premature. Now some financial services firms have bearish spokesmen they keep around (think Stephen Roach at Morgan Stanley, who is always worth listening too, even when he is wrong), so perhaps that is one of Rhodes' roles. But the pernabear function is generally occupied by an economist doing market or economic forecasts, not a member of management. So it's pretty certain Rhodes believes what he is saying (it's not a house view) and it's also pretty certain that it's at least in part based on information that is not widely reported (someone like Rhodes either talks directly to or is one step removed from top corporate executives, very wealthy individuals, central bankers, regulators, other senior bank executives, and major investors).

So while this is one man's view, he is likely to have better access to information than many of the pros....

The recent market turmoil should not have been un­expected. We are living in an increasingly interdependent world. Times have been good, even with the volatility of the past few weeks sparked by the Shanghai market and then fuelled by the subprime sector in the US. We have been living in extraordinary times in a global “Goldilocks” economy – not too hot, not too cold. The macro-economy still looks pretty good but the shaking of the trees over the past few weeks has, it is to be hoped, awakened investors and lenders to the risks in the marketplace.

High growth in emerging markets continues, as exemplified by the tremendous growth in China and India. Western and eastern Europe are growing. The Russian economy, driven by energy, has been strengthened well beyond what was expected a few years ago. The Middle Eastern oil-exporting countries are going through a boom fuelled by oil and gas: it is different from earlier periods of high oil prices because this time a substantial amount of the money is staying in the region, rather than being invested elsewhere as in the 1970s.

Africa is in many ways going through something of an economic renaissance. The Japanese economy also has improved and the US locomotive has continued, maintaining good growth of more than 3 per cent in 2006 notwithstanding the downward revision of fourth-quarter growth from 3.5 to 2.2 per cent.

However, much of the good news has come as a result of extraordinary levels of liquidity pouring into opportunities around the globe. To a large extent this is due to the Federal Reserve’s expansionary monetary policies early in the decade and the US administration’s fiscal stimulus. The yen carry trade has also facilitated the buoyant expansion of investments and leverage evident everywhere today. The low spreads, the tremendous build-up of liquidity, the reach for yield and the lack of differentiation among borrowers have stimulated both dynamic growth and some real concerns.

Pockets of excess are becoming harder to ignore. Problems in the housing and mortgage area such as the subprime sector in the US are one such example of excess that should come as no surprise. As lenders and investors inevitably become more discriminating, liquidity will recede and a number of problems will surface. Too many countries and companies with vastly different risk profiles are still commanding similar pricing.

It has been my experience that periods of economic expansion tend to last between five and seven years. We are entering the sixth year of expansion in the US. Against that background, I believe that over the next 12 months a market correction will occur and this time it will be a real correction. I said as much last spring during the Inter-American Development Bank meetings in Belo Horizonte, Brazil. Soon afterwards, in May 2006, the markets did experience a correction but it was so mild and short-lived that it was in a way less effective than no correction at all. I say that because it left the inexperienced with the impression that it would be smooth sailing from there on.

Market developments in the past few weeks should be seen as a warning. What has been evident for a number of months is that, in the US, we are seeing lagging inflation and slower growth. Whether this means that we are going to have to fend off recessionary tendencies is not yet clear. However, what is clear to me is that in the next year a material correction in the markets will occur.

During the last big adjustment that started in July 1997 in Thailand and spread to a number of Asian economies including South Korea, followed by Russia in 1998 – and led ultimately to the bail-out of Long Term Capital Management, the US hedge fund – a number of today’s large market operat­ors were not yet in the mix.

Today, hedge funds, private equity and those involved in credit derivatives play important, and as yet largely untested, roles. The primary worry of many who make or regulate the market is not inflation or growth or interest rates, but instead the coming adjustment and the possible destabilising effect these new players could have on the functioning of international markets as liquidity recedes. It is also possible that they could provide relief for markets that face shortages of liquidity.

Either way, this clearly is the time to exercise greater prudence in lending and in investing and to resist any temptation to relax standards.

Ganging up on Iran

Published: 27/03/2007 12:00 AM (UAE)

By Linda S. Heard, Special to Gulf News

I'll begin with a question. Is Iran an aggressor or a victim? If you've answered aggressor then may I suggest you take a moment to reflect.

Unfortunately, the fabricated scenario that led us into Iraq is at play again. And once again we're being suckered into being accepting of a neoconservative plan designed to ensure America's domination over this region's oilfields and maintain Israel as the sole nuclear power in the Middle East.

This is practically a replay of events leading up to the invasion of Iraq. In this case, the US-driven UN Security Council has ganged up to coerce Iran with sanctions into giving up its legitimate right to enrich uranium under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. In 30 days, the UN screws will, no doubt, be further tightened.

Iran's angry response is to reduce cooperation with the UN nuclear watchdog the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and to threaten prosecution of British sailors and marines for operating in Iranian waters.

Backed by the US and the EU, the British Prime Minister Tony Blair is becoming bellicose over that issue while a slew of Israeli spokesmen make demands on the international community to forcibly prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.

What you don't hear is that there is no proof that Iran intends to develop nukes. IAEA chief Mohammad Al Baradei has repeatedly said there is no smoking gun.

Moreover, as even the hawkish former US ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton has admitted on CNN, US intelligence on the subject of Iran is sparse. Indeed, the latest National Intelligence Estimate suggests that Iran wouldn't be capable of producing a bomb until 2015, so, in that case, what's the rush?

Iran's numerous calls for a nuclear-free Middle East have been barely mentioned in the Western media and have not been taken seriously by the UN, fearful of debate over Israel's policy of "nuclear ambiguity".

The US has been gunning for Iran ever since the overthrow of its puppet, the Shah, in 1979 when the US embassy was seized. In 1980, the Carter administration authorised radio broadcasts to Iran calling for the toppling of Khomeini.

That same year Saddam Hussain, then Washington's friend, launched a war on Iraq that lasted eight years and which adversely affected or robbed the lives of millions.

As the Guardian reported on December 31 2002, "Ronald Reagan signed a secret order instruction the administration to do 'whatever was necessary and legal' to prevent Iraq losing the war" with Iran.

Now let's fast forward to January 29, 2002, the day that George W. Bush famously included Iran in an "Axis of Evil" along with Iraq and North Korea. This was no accidental inclusion.

General Wesley Clark reveals this on page 130 of his book Winning Modern Wars.

"As I went back through the Pentagon in November 2001, one of the senior military staff officers had time for a chat. Yes, we were still on track for going against Iraq, he said. But there was more.

"This was being discussed as part of a five-year campaign plan, he said, and there were a total of seven countries, beginning with Iraq, then Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Iran Somalia and Sudan." Clark says he left the Pentagon that afternoon "deeply concerned".

Gels perfectly

Clark's revelation gels perfectly with the Project for a New American Century document Rebuilding America's Defences; a blueprint for a global Pax Americana, signed onto by Dick Cheney and his neocon friends in 2000.

So now ask yourself the question posed at the beginning of this column again. Is Iran an aggressor or a victim?

Perhaps you're still not convinced. Before you answer think on this.

In 2003, Tehran proposed negotiations with the White House over its nuclear programme and offered to cease its support for groups that the US deems "terrorist". This overture was rejected out of hand by President Bush.

Today, Bush and co are intent on cornering Iran with the object of regime change. According to the New Yorker's investigative journalist Seymour Hersh there are plans on the table to bomb Iran's nuclear facilities using bunker-busting tactical nuclear weapons. Ironic isn't it! Hersh says Bush privately calls the Iranian president "the new Hitler".

Former National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in February that the Bush administration is seeking a pretext to attack Iran.

At the same time Washington is funding Iranian opposition groups in the diaspora as well as militant ethnic separatist groups within Iran. There have already been several violent incidents in country stamped with the CIA's fingerprint.

Draw your own conclusions as to who is aggressing whom but bear in mind that Iran has never threatened to attack the US or its allies other than in retaliation for a strike on it. Moreover, unlike the US, Iran does not harbour neo-imperialist ambitions and does not have a record of launching wars or invading other countries.

It is true that the Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad doesn't pull any punches when it comes to Israel but the feeling is mutual.

In reality, Iran would be justified in fearing the US and Israel, which, together, constitute the most potent force in the world, than vice-versa.

I've got one final question. Should we fear a country that has no record of invasion or occupation and no nuclear weapons above one that espouses not only full spectrum dominance over the planet's resources, waters and skies but also outer space?

Linda S. Heard is a specialist writer on Middle East affairs. She can be contacted at

Blair announces plan for compulsory checks on children for criminal behaviour

Blair announces plan for compulsory checks on children for criminal behaviour

Children face criminal checks from the cradle in UK

Ethiopian helicopter gunships fire on Somali market

Helicopters fire on Somali market
Ethiopian helicopter gunships have fired at a market near an insurgent stronghold in the Somali capital.

The BBC's Mohammed Olad Hassan in Mogadishu says hundreds of insurgents armed with rocket launchers and machine guns are battling Ethiopian troops.

Ethiopian tanks are also deployed. Crowds dragged several dead bodies in uniform through the streets.

The security crackdown in the south of the city is being billed as a three-day operation to restore order.

Meanwhile, Ethiopia says two-thirds of its troops have withdrawn from Somalia.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi told parliament the rest of his troops, which are deployed in support of the interim government, would leave in consultation with the African Union.

Ethiopian troops helped install the government last December but have been gradually handing over responsibilities to the AU force that was deployed to Mogadishu this month to try and bring stability to the city.

Some 1,700 Ugandan troops are in Mogadishu as the advance party of a planned 8,000 strong AU force.

No-go zone

In a dawn operation, at least six people died in the fighting which broke a ceasefire declared a week ago and was brokered by elders form the Hawiye clan - the biggest in Mogadishu - but Ethiopia denied reaching any deal.

Ethiopian tanks, troops and helicopters are trying to take control of five key junctions.

This is the worst fighting Mogadishu has seen since the Islamists were ousted
Zenaib Abubakar
Mogadishu resident
The militia responded with heavy artillery fire.

The southern part of Mogadishu, where the fighting is going on, has become a no-go zone.

Dozens of injured civilians are stranded, as heavy fighting has grounded public transport and other business activity in the Somali capital.

"This is the worst fighting Mogadishu has seen since the Islamists were ousted. Explosions can be heard all over the city and many people are just holed up in their homes," resident Zenaib Abubakar told the BBC Somali Service.

Ms Abubakar said heavy shelling is taking place near the main stadium, where Ethiopian and government troops are battling with insurgents who are putting up heavy resistance.

"It's difficult to tell how many people have been injured or killed because fighting is taking place in several parts of the capital and communication today is not very good," said another resident, Ahmed Noor.

The interim government has blamed the escalating violence in the capital on remnants of the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC).

Somalia enjoyed a six months lull in the insecurity that had dogged the country in the past 16 years, when the UIC took power last year.

But insecurity has returned to the city.

The UN estimates that 40,000 people have fled Mogadishu since February.

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US central bank sounds inflation warning

The World Today - Thursday, 29 March , 2007 12:34:00
Reporter: Peter Ryan

ELEANOR HALL: The world's most powerful central banker has sounded a new warning about inflation in the United States and sparked concerns about interest rates.

The chairman of the US Federal Reserve, Ben Bernanke, said that while he's worried about the high-risk end of the US mortgage sector and that it could contribute to an economic slowdown, he regarded inflation as the greater threat to the global economy.

Economists say Mr Bernanke's comments on inflation suggest a cut in interest rates is now off the agenda.

And that has sent some investors on Wall Street running for the door.

More from our Business Editor Peter Ryan.

PETER RYAN: For Ben Bernanke, today's world is hardly one of economic stability, with rising oil prices, growing tensions with Iran, and almost daily volatile data usually sets hearts racing on Wall Street.

It's not much comfort, but there is one constant for central bankers - the ever-present "i" word or inflation.

BEN BERNANKE: Although core inflation seems likely to moderate gradually over time, the risks to this forecast are to the upside.

In particular, upward pressure on inflation could materialise if final demand were to exceed the underlying productive capacity of the economy for sustained period.

PETER RYAN: Ben Bernanke was addressing a joint economic committee on Capitol Hill.

And he used the opportunity to reign in expectations stemming from last week's decision on interest rates that a rates cut was back on the agenda because of the softer language he was using on inflation.

But Mr Bernanke reinforced today's message on inflation with tougher words such as "risk" and "uncertainty".

And he added another touch of reality, confirming that the US economy, while not heading towards recession, is continuing to lose steam.

BEN BERNANKE: Economic growth in the United States has slowed in recent quarters, reflecting in part, the economy's transition from rapid rate of expansion experienced over the proceeding years to a more sustainable pace of growth.

PETER RYAN: Another factor, according to Ben Bernanke, is the continuing downturn in the US housing market, which has sent shockwaves through the overall economy, from building companies to the makers of building materials.

But at the moment, he says it's steady as she goes for the traditional mortgage market.

BEN BERNANKE: Mortgages to prime borrowers and fixed rate mortgages to all classes of borrowers continues to perform well with low rates of delinquency.

PETER RYAN: But it's the crisis in the sub prime mortgage sector - risky loans to borrowers with little or no credit history - that appears to be keeping Ben Bernanke awake at night.

BEN BERNANKE: To the downside, the correction in the housing market could turn out to be more severe than we currently expect.

Perhaps exacerbated by problems in the sub prime sector. Moreover we could see yet greater spill over from the weakness in housing to employment and consumer spending than has occurred thus far.

PETER RYAN: The mixed messages of a slowing economy, higher inflation, and little chance of a cut in interest rates despite the housing correction encouraged some investors to take their profits and run.

Wall Street closed in a gloomy mood, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the tech heavy Nasdaq both down 0.8 of 1 per cent.

And data earlier in the day showing that orders for durable goods rose less than expected last month, only underpinned the pessimism.

KEN MAYLAND: There really is a slow down going on in the industrial side of the economy and this is probably not the end, we're not at the end of it yet.

PETER RYAN: Ken Mayland is an economist and president of Clearview Economics in New York. He's also predicting tough times ahead for the US economy.

KEN MAYLAND: That's a bad signal, that's a sign that more production adjustments are necessary, so I think the next three, four months are going to be pretty tough slugging for the manufacturing side of the economy.

PETER RYAN: But it's the spiralling price of oil that continues to overshadow the global economic picture.

It's now up for the seventh day in a row - well above $US 64 a barrel - and the escalating concerns about Iran, particularly from Britain and the United States, could see the oil price remain volatile in the months to come.

ELEANOR HALL: Business Editor Peter Ryan.

Emergency meeting probes alleged RCMP cover-up

Emergency meeting probes alleged RCMP cover-up
Canadian Press

OTTAWA — A Liberal MP is calling for a public inquiry into what he calls a “culture of corruption” in senior RCMP ranks amid allegations of obstruction and cover-up and the resignation of one senior Mountie.

Borys Wrzesnewskyj, a member of the Commons public accounts committee, says a full probe is needed after RCMP officers alleged fraud and abuse in the management of their pension and insurance plans.

A senior Mountie has stepped down and the committee was holding an emergency meeting away from public eyes on Thursday morning to plan its next steps.

RCMP Sergeant Natalie Deschenes said the deputy commissioner in charge of human resources, Barb George, offered to quit her post and the resignation was accepted. Ms. George had yet to be reassigned.

Related to this article

Enlarge Image
A House of Commons committee will consider a motion Thursday to force ex-RCMP commissioner Giuliano Zaccardelli and other former senior and current RCMP officers to testify after some of their colleagues alleged fraud Wednesday in the management of their pension plans.

The hard-hitting accusations came in testimony before the committee Wednesday, as serving and retired officers alleged that senior Mounties tried to block probes into management of the RCMP's pension and insurance plans.

In a scathing report last fall, Auditor General Sheila Fraser found millions in inappropriate charges to the pension and insurance plans.

Conservative MP and public accounts committee member John Williams said the panel expects former commissioner Giuliano Zaccardelli to testify within a week.

Mr. Wrzesnewskyj said Thursday “the lid's off” now and more meetings must be held to set the stage for a full public inquiry into the matter.

“And then hopefully a public inquiry will do the digging that's required,” he said.

“This culture of corruption at the top echelons of the RCMP has to be addressed.”

Mr. Zaccardelli resigned as commissioner in December after delivering contradictory testimony to another Commons committee about the Maher Arar affair.

The former top Mountie was harshly criticized before the public accounts committee Wednesday.

“While trying to expose these wrongdoings, which were both criminal and code-of-conduct violations, I had face-to-face meetings and complaints up to and including Commissioner Zaccardelli,” Ron Lewis, a retired RCMP staff sergeant told the MPs.

“I was met with inaction, delays, roadblocks, obstruction and lies. The person who orchestrated most of this cover-up was Commissioner Zaccardelli.”

Mr. Zaccardelli told CBC News that the allegations were baseless, and that no money was missing from the RCMP funds.

The Mounties had asked Ottawa municipal police to conduct a criminal investigation of possible fraud, but Crown attorneys concluded in 2005 there was no point in laying charges because the evidence was likely too weak to obtain convictions.

Ms. Fraser said she was assured by the municipal police that there was no interference from the RCMP. But she also observed that the lead investigator reported directly to a senior RCMP officer, raising a potential public perception of bias.

At the public accounts committee, several officers testified they were stonewalled by more than one senior executive, including Mr. Zaccardelli, when they tried to raise questions about the pension and insurance plans with RCMP leadership.

“The RCMP has had a small groups of managers who, through their actions and inactions, are responsible for serious breaches in our core values, the RCMP code of conduct and even the criminal code,” said Chief Superintendent Fraser Macaulay.

He testified that he was transferred to work with the Defence Department for two years after he asked too many questions.

Sergeant Steve Walker said: “Every core value and rule of ethical conduct that I held to be true and dear as a rank-and-file member of the RCMP has been decimated and defiled by employees at the highest levels of the RCMP.”

Members of the committee appeared shocked by the allegations against the high-ranking members of the force.

“I'm a lawyer and I tell you they would be in court if it was anyone else, and packing a tooth brush for prison,” said Conservative MP Brian Fitzpatrick.

Said Liberal Shawn Murphy: “The cover-up is worse than the crime.”

Lies My Paper Told Me: Targeting Iran By Distortion

Lies My Paper Told Me

We can't just blame the media alone for not telling the truth -- we've got to face the fact that audiences are paying to hear those lies.

By Allan Uthman, Buffalo Beast
Posted on March 24, 2007

While I'm one of those big complainers about deception in the media, I have to admit I get a giddy thrill out of reading it. As with any addiction, I've developed an increasing tolerance and require an ever purer dosage of insidious lies and appeals to conformity to get my kicks. Now I have a special appreciation for the most extreme variety of corporate press dishonesty: articles written solely to insult reality.

There's a pattern that articles seem to follow when some poor bootlicking journalist is tasked with refuting an objectionably true piece of information, despite having no coherent case against it. Usually, the majority of the piece will assess the offending claim and generally summarize the evolution of the controversy. This first 80% or so of the article will read like a regular, reasonably evenhanded piece of journalism, perhaps even containing sympathetic quotes from the suspect claim's proponents. Then, having nearly filled their word-count and still at a loss for a decent argument, the author will make a wild U-turn and hurry through a brief, entirely subjective, incomplete and patently idiotic dismissal of whatever point they were just explaining, a tacked-on "there, there" to soothe their tender, easily rattled readers. It reeks of editorial interference, but what's really remarkable is how clumsy and transparent the process is.

I recognized this pattern last year, when The New York Times addressed the fact that, despite having been quoted as saying "Israel must be wiped off the map" by every man, woman and child in the United States over the past year, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a frequent victim of deliberate mistranslation, never actually said that. A correct translation, according to many native Farsi speakers, goes something like, "The regime occupying Jerusalem must vanish from the pages of history," and was a direct quotation of Ayatollah Khomeini.

The article, by Times deputy foreign editor Ethan Bronner ("Just how far did they go, those words against Israel?"), is really something special. Of course, a regime -- that is, a government -- vanishing from the page of time doesn't evoke the apocalyptic image that a nation wiped off the map does, and this specific misquotation has done probably more than any other piece of domestic psy-ops to vilify Iran. It's an effective lie, so it must be saved, and it's Bronner's job to do it.

Despite Bronner's obvious reluctance to go along, the facts practically dragged him kicking and screaming toward the inexorable conclusion that Ahmadinejad didn't even say the words "Israel," "wipe" or "map." Bronner sprinkled a generous portion of bullshit throughout the piece, stating that the verb translated as "wipe" is transitive when it is intransitive, and even arguing that the fact that the Iranian president actually said "the regime occupying Jerusalem" instead of "Israel" makes the statement worse, because Ahmadinejad "refuses even to utter the name Israel." That is some amazing spin, I have to admit. But Bronner still cannot deny that "map" is wrong and significantly different in tone than "pages of history," even offering weak excuses for the error, and at least acknowledges that Ahmadinejad referred to Israel's government, not the whole of Israel. He really can't avoid decimating the original misquotation, which was and still is so oft-repeated in the media.

But then an amazing, incongruous thing happens: he draws precisely the opposite conclusion flatly contradicting his own analysis. Immediately after admitting that "it is true that he has never specifically threatened war against Israel," Bronner's final paragraph is outrageously illogical and cowardly. Check it out:

"So did Iran's president call for Israel to be wiped off the map? It certainly seems so. Did that amount to a call for war? That remains an open question."

What the fuck? He didn't say "Israel," he didn't say "map," but it "certainly seems" he did? And frankly, drawing solely from the evidence presented in Bronner's own damn piece, whether the statement was "a call for war" is decidedly not an open question. The reality here is that there was only one possible conclusion to this article from the minute that the Times decided to address the subject, and that, at a loss for a reasonable way to support that conclusion, Bronner simply banged it in at the end, regardless of the fact that it doesn't make the least bit of sense at all.

Why bother even writing that nonsense? Because now, in every news source and every individual online or verbal argument on the matter, people can say that The New York Times looked into the issue and concluded that the quote is legit. It's piss-poor sophistry, but, apparently, it'll do in a pinch.

You can see the same pattern at work in a recent article in Newsweek about the raging faith-based shit storm over a new documentary produced by James Cameron, The Jesus Family Tomb, directed by Simcha Jacobovici. As you've no doubt heard, the film tells of a tomb unearthed in Israel in 1980 containing remains which bear names alarmingly reminiscent of the Christ clan, including Mary Magdalene and a son of the Son.

The article has a necessary, predetermined conclusion -- Jacobovici is wrong, Jesus flew up to heaven, and Newsweek's predominantly Christian readership are not devoting their lives to an ancient, ludicrous hoax. Again, most of the article is a simple rundown of the evidence and the controversy. And again, this time three paragraphs from the end, there is a 180-degree switch in tone, from reasonably objective to downright illogical dismissal. After finally coughing up perhaps the most compelling bit of evidence, that a University of Toronto statistician estimated the likelihood of all of the names in the tomb coming from a different family at 600 to 1, the authors (Lisa Miller and Joan Chen) appear to suffer a dramatic drop in IQ:

"Good sense, and the Bible, still the best existing historical record of the life of Jesus of Nazareth, argue against Jacobovici's claims. All four Gospels say that Jesus was crucified on the eve of the Sabbath; all four say that the tomb was empty when the disciples woke on Sunday morning. ... For Jacobovici's scenario to work, someone would have had to whisk the body away, on the Sabbath, and secretly inter it in a brand-new, paid-for family tomb -- all before dawn on Sunday."

It's unbelievable how often so-called respectable news sources cite the Bible as a historical record when addressing religious issues. It sure is an easy way to support the Biblical narrative, and we saw an awful lot of it when it was deemed necessary to "debunk" The Da Vinci Code, a fictional novel. In reality, however, the Bible is no more a historical record than the Odyssey, or Fight Club for that matter. Beyond that, citing "all four Gospels," as if the fact that they concur with each other constitutes meaningful corroboration, when three of them were entirely based on the first (which was written at least a lifetime after Christ is supposed to have died), is hilariously, deliriously disingenuous.

But the part of this I just love, the thing that I cannot believe even the psyche-blowers at Newsweek found printable, is that, after an astoundingly weak attempt to establish the preposterous premise that stories in the Bible equate to impeccable multiple witness testimony, and so we must accept as fact that this guy Christ's body disappeared from a tomb overnight because four people said so centuries after the fact, these reporters have the gall to argue that the notion, only necessitated by that false premise, that someone might have snuck in and absconded with the body is too improbable to be believed, and it's much more sensible to conclude that a dead person woke up and flew away into the fucking sky.

That's Newsweek's take on the matter. Making sense is obviously less important to them than drawing the conclusions that most Americans simply want to be true, by hook or crook.

I'm not saying the Jesus tomb is the real deal. I'm not even convinced that Jesus Christ the man ever actually existed (the documentary, "The God Who Wasn't There" makes a strong case that he didn't). Either way, it's not nearly the threat to Christianity that I'd like it to be. After all, Christians manage to retain their faith in the Bible in spite of all sorts of hard evidence against it -- that the universe is several billion years old, for example, or that we and all other creatures evolved gradually from single-celled organisms, or that snakes don't talk and people don't fly to heaven. I highly doubt a little thing like Jesus' corpse would have much of an effect on people who think you can fit two of every animal species in the world on a boat. But, regardless of the truth or falsehood of Jacobovici's thesis, it may be enough to pry some away from the religious teat, and that is an objectively good thing in my opinion.

What's thrilling to me is the graceless inevitability of it all. This piece by Miller and Chen carries a palpable sense of the mission at hand: not to illuminate or investigate, simply to diffuse the unpleasantness of difficult facts. What we see here, laid bare, is the fact that, for the people at the very top of the journalistic heap, the proverbial hill that shit rolls down from, there are issues that are just too important to tell the truth about.

Reassuring people that Santa really exists is one thing; deliberately frightening them about foreigners is another. And there's only really one reason to lie about Ahmadinejad, the last person on earth any American journalist who knows what's good for him would want to be seen as defending. Anybody who doesn't think we're going to attack Iran should ask themselves why so much effort is being made to paint its president, not even a very powerful position in Iranian politics, as the new Hitler.

Remember the last new Hitler? That's right; Saddam Hussein. It's hard to say why we're going to attack Iran -- maybe Israel, maybe oil, or an election strategy, or maybe just executive insanity -- but we're clearly planning on it. The "wiped off the map" quote is vital to this process, and has paid off handsomely -- the abysmal Weekly Standard, for example, ran a cover story on Ahmadinejad last month with the headline "Denying the Holocaust, desiring another one." At the same time, the White House is busily concocting an impending nuclear threat and accusing Iran of supplying Sunni insurgents with bombs, which just doesn't make sense. All of this is happening, of course, while the last bullshit-based war rages still, necessitating an even more intensely alarmist PR campaign to overcome the natural suspicions of a recently conned public.

The New York Times played a central role in freaking people out about Iraq, remember. Since then, there has been much hand-wringing on the subject. If they had it to do over ... but now they do. Here they are presented with a second opportunity to get it right, to pull no punches, to treat the Bush administration with the scrutiny and skepticism warranted by the nefarious, lying band of blundering super-criminals that they have proven to be. The Times could be straight with us; they could tell the truth. If The New York Times -- or Newseek, or Time, or The Washington Post, or NBC, or CNN, or any other major corporate news outlet had come out and definitively made the very simple case that the "wiped off the map" quote was simply, objectively wrong, it would have gone a long way toward deflating support for our third and perhaps dumbest invasion since 9/11, and might even have helped foster some healthy public skepticism on the issue. Of course, a lot of people would simply accuse them of treachery, which is one reason for press timidity. But by telling the truth, they could, in fact, have made the world a safer place and perhaps saved thousands of lives.

But that's just not what the press does. What they do is they tell you lies; lies they already know you want to hear. Just as politicians look to polls to determine their policies, letting poorly-informed people lead them on important issues, the press can figure out what its readers or viewers believe, and make a hell of a living pandering to their egos and telling them that they're smart. If they have no rational case, false or otherwise, to support the lies, it doesn't matter much.

All they have to do is say something is true, and it becomes true, especially when it confirms the central tenets of American epistemology: That we already know everything important, that we are always right, and anybody who disagrees is a dangerous threat to our well-being. They lie and tell the audience they are right, and they never have to change your mind about anything. And the audience rewards them, lauding them and paying them money to keep hearing those sweet, self-serving lies. So when the war in Iran is on and they are wondering how the hell it happened, remember: The New York Times and Newsweek are symptoms. Their audience is the disease.

© 2007 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.

Israel's apologists distort the truth

Last updated March 27, 2007 5:39 p.m. PT


The fairy-tale view of Israel as eternally besieged and completely faultless in its conflict with the Palestinians, as presented by David Brumer in the March 18 Focus ("Play shines light on conflict"), has certainly taken a hit this past year.

A growing number of Americans who deeply sympathize with Israel, including former President Jimmy Carter, have spoken eloquently of the need to recognize that Israel has committed severe human rights violations against the Palestinian people through its nearly 40-year military occupation and theft of Palestinian land for Israeli settlements. While extremely critical of Palestinian terrorism, they conclude that peace with security is not possible until Israel ends the injustices.

Perhaps that is why Israel's more fervent apologists are resorting to distortion and defamation as their preferred method to discredit anyone who dares acknowledge Palestinian grievances or Israel's grave and well-documented human rights abuses. Carter is facing an onslaught of malicious charges that range from intentionally lying to anti-Semitism. They want to silence an emerging debate over the United States' one-sided embrace of Israel.

This method of attacking the messenger is clearly on display in Brumer's article as well as in the flurry of protest against the play "My Name is Rachel Corrie" at the Seattle Repertory Theatre. The play tells the story of the 23-year-old woman from Olympia crushed to death by an Israeli bulldozer demolishing Palestinian homes in the Gaza Strip.

Instead of joining with Carter, Rachel Corrie and countless others, many Israeli and Jewish, who recognize Israel's occupation and settlements are unjustified and prevent peace, Brumer peddles defamation and falsehoods about Corrie masquerading as reasonable criticism.

Claiming that Corrie was even "unwittingly" supporting terrorists is contradicted by the fact that the Israeli army has never claimed or provided any evidence that the homes in the neighborhood of Gaza that Corrie was defending when she was killed were concealing tunnels or were involved in attacks on Israelis.

Claiming Corrie was in any way providing cover for suicide bombers is easily proved false by the fact that no Palestinian suicide bombers had come from Gaza three years before or during the time Corrie was there.

Claiming that Corrie was working with an "extremist" organization is contradicted by the fact that the International Solidarity Movement to End the Occupation is composed of leading Palestinian voices of non-violence and supported by numerous Israeli peace groups.

Legitimate questions can be raised about Corrie's risky decision to enter into a very dangerous conflict zone. But that zone was dangerous precisely because Israel has imposed a merciless military occupation over a largely defenseless population and was wantonly demolishing homes to steal land for Israeli settlements.

One can certainly and rightly blame, as Brumer does, Palestinian extremists for damaging the moral justness of the Palestinian cause through murderous and strategically worthless suicide bombings that have killed hundreds of innocent Israelis.

But none of that justifies Israel continuing to steal Palestinian land and building a wall deep within Palestinian lands to annex those settlements. Nor does it prevent Israel from taking unilateral steps to vacate completely the land that it has illegally occupied since 1967.

Brumer's complete silence regarding Israel's occupation and settlements implies that it does.

Brumer's implicit justification for Israel's occupation and settlements is the continually recycled myth that Israel has always extended its hand of peace while Palestinians have always rejected it. This myth conveniently ignores the fact Israel's "generous offer" at Camp David in 2000 was based on Israel annexing the bulk of its settlements, cutting any Palestinian state into five tiny enclaves surrounded by Israel. Brumer touts Israel's recent withdrawal from Gaza, but ignores Israel's withering siege upon its imprisoned population.

Brumer also justifies the status quo by emphasizing the immutable extremism of Hamas. But the fact is that Hamas has not conducted a single suicide bombing in nearly two years and has endorsed a reciprocal truce with Israel if it were to withdraw completely to its 1967 borders. But Israel completely rejects those terms, missing a historic opportunity to undercut Hamas extremism.

Those who truly support a balanced and just peace in the Middle East should honestly debate Corrie's life and legacy. Her very act of acknowledging legitimate Palestinians grievances and her promotion of alternatives to violence was a message of hope and peace sorely lacking today.

By attacking the messenger, Corrie's detractors are sending a clear message opposed to hope and peace.

Steve Niva teaches international politics and Middle East studies at The Evergreen State College in Olympia.

The War of Terror and the US “National Interest”

by Kim Petersen

March 28, 2007

Why is it that US politicians feel compelled to appear before a small, delimited section of the United States and pronounce unwavering support for Israel -- which is de facto support for ethnic cleansing and slow motion genocide? Why is it the administration of a superpower feels forced to address this small segment of the US population? Is this in the US “national interest”?

US vice president Dick Cheney, a major figure in the drive to invade and occupy Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere, claims that it is in the interest of US security. He shirks responsibility for the massive devastation wreaked by the occupiers in Iraq and denounces critics of the destruction for exercising 20/20 hindsight. But many progressive commentators were opposed prior to the invasion-occupation of Iraq. They had attacked the nugatory evidence for Iraq’s possession of outlawed weapons-of-mass-destruction (WMD) as propagandistic.

While eschewing hindsight, Cheney has the audacity to claim foresight. This past 24 March, Cheney spoke to the Republican Jewish Coalition leadership in Florida. He said, “But the biggest mistake of all can be seen in advance: A sudden withdrawal of our coalition [in Iraq] would dissipate much of the effort that has gone into fighting the global war on terror, and result in chaos and mounting danger.”

Cheney declaimed, “We must consider . . . just what a precipitous withdrawal would mean to our other efforts in the war on terror, to our interests in the broader Middle East, and to Israel.”

Let’s consider this. First, besides exposing the fraudulent casus belli of possessing WMD, the aggression of Iraq adduced that it was no threat by quickly toppling the regime of Saddam Hussein. The aggression has given rise to a vigorous resistance that has dented the notion of an invincible US military. Second, as Cheney noted, it was not US interests in Israel, but US interests to Israel! Why does the US vice president genuflect to Jewish-Israeli interests? Certainly Palestinian-Israeli interests are not considered.

Twice this month in the build-up to an attack on Iran, Cheney has spoken publicly to Jewish groups but not publicly to Arab or Muslim groups. But that is not surprising, as the enemy is identified as being among Arabs and Muslims, and there is no talking to that “enemy.” Cheney stated, “An enemy with fantasies of martyrdom is not going to sit down at a table for negotiations. . . . The only option for our security and survival is to go on the offensive -- facing the threat directly, patiently, and systematically, until the enemy is destroyed.”

The Bush-Cheney regime’s focus is on violence. “The first priority is to remember that we are a nation at war . . .” So in Iraq, there is a push for a troop build-up, and in Afghanistan the US and NATO forces prepare for further violence.

Cheney undermined his raison d’être for the invasion-occupation of Iraq when he stated the mission’s focus is based on the “attacks of September 11th, 2001, and the loss that morning of nearly 3,000 innocent people here in the United States.” Iraq’s involvement in those attacks has never been demonstrated. None of the 9-11 suspects were Iraqi. No connection between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda has been demonstrated. Yet, Cheney asserted ex cathedra that Iraq’s non-involvement is a myth.

Cheney concluded, “If you support the war on terror, then it only makes sense to support it where the terrorists are fighting us.”

It is easy to demonize the “enemy” with language, but what is clear is that the killing of one million Iraqis is a genocidal campaign. Americans and citizens of the world do have a choice: support US terrorism and the continued destruction of the cradle of civilization or stand for peace.

Kim Petersen, Co-Editor of Dissident Voice, can be reached at:

Sampson: U.S. attorneys fired over Bush priorities

Sampson: U.S. attorneys fired over priorities

Democratic panel chair Leahy says Justice Dept. motivation was improper

The Associated Press
Updated: 9:29 a.m. MT March 29, 2007

WASHINGTON - Eight federal prosecutors were fired last year because they did not sufficiently support President Bush's priorities, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales' former chief of staff said Thursday, defending a standard that Democrats called "highly improper."

"The distinction between 'political' and 'performance-related' reasons for removing a United States attorney is, in my view, largely artificial," Kyle Sampson told the Senate Judiciary Committee. "A U.S. attorney who is unsuccessful from a political perspective ... is unsuccessful."

The committee's ranking Republican, Sen. Arlen Specter, scolded Sampson for causing an uproar that has distracted the Justice Department and jeopardized Gonzales' job.

"It is generally acknowledged that the Department of Justice is in a state of disrepair, perhaps even dysfunction, because of what has happened," Specter, of Pennsylvania, said. The remaining U.S. attorneys are skittish, he said, "not knowing when the other shoe may drop."

Democrats on the panel immediately rejected the concept of mixing politics with federal law enforcement. They accused the Bush administration of cronyism and trying to circumvent the Senate confirmation process by installing favored GOP allies in plum jobs as U.S. attorneys.

"It corrodes the public's trust in our system of Justice. It's wrong," said Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy. "When anybody tries a backdoor way to get around the Senate's constitutional duty and obligation of advise and consent, it does not sit well."

Misleading accounts?
After being sworn, Sampson, who quit earlier this month amid the furor, disputed Democratic charges that the firings were a purge by intimidation and a warning to the remaining prosecutors to fall in line. Nor, he said, were the prosecutors dismissed to interfere with corruption investigations.

"To my knowledge, nothing of the sort occurred here," Sampson told the committee.

Sampson testified that federal prosecutors serve at the president's pleasure and are judged in large part on whether they pursue or resist administration policy.

"I came here today because this episode has been personally devastating to me and my family," Sampson told the panel. "It's my hope that I can come up here today and share the information that this committee and the Congress wants, and frankly put this behind me and my family."

Inaccurate information on Rove
Democrats said Sampson's testimony is key to finding the answers to the political question and a second, investigative query: Did Gonzales and the Justice Department provide misleading accounts of the run-up to the firings?

The answer to both questions is yes, according to a Justice Department letter accompanying new documents released hours before Sampson's appearance.

"The distinction between 'political' and 'performance-related' reasons for removing a United States attorney is, in my view, largely artificial," he said. "A U.S. attorney who is unsuccessful from a political perspective ... is unsuccessful."

The Justice Department admitted Wednesday that it gave senators inaccurate information about the firings and presidential political adviser Karl Rove's role in trying to secure a U.S. attorney's post in Arkansas for one of his former aides, Tim Griffin.

Justice officials acknowledged that a Feb. 23 letter to four Democratic senators erred in asserting that the department was not aware of any role Rove played in the decision to appoint Griffin to replace U.S. Attorney Bud Cummins in Little Rock, Ark.

Acting Assistant Attorney General Richard Hertling said that certain statements in last month's letter to Democratic lawmakers appeared to be "contradicted by department documents included in our production."

'Artificial' distinctions
That admission, only hours before Sampson's testimony, took some of the sting out of Democrats' key pieces of evidence that the administration had misled Congress.

Still, Sampson provided plenty of fodder. He acknowledged planning the firings as much as two years ago with the considered, collective judgment of a number of senior Justice Department officials.

However, he denied that the firings were improper, and he spoke dismissively of Democrats' condemnation of what they call political pressure in the firings.

Sampson maintained that adherence to the priorities of the president and attorney general was a legitimate standard.

"Presidential appointees are judged not only on their professional skills but also their management abilities, their relationships with law enforcement and other governmental leaders and their support for the priorities of the president and the attorney general," he said.

The Rove factor
Sampson strongly denied Democrats' allegations that some of the prosecutors were dismissed for pursuing Republicans too much and Democrats not enough in corruption cases.

"To my knowledge, nothing of the sort occurred here," he said.

The White House said it will withhold comment on Sampson's testimony until he actually testifies.

The Feb. 23 letter, which was written by Sampson but signed by Hertling, emphatically stated that "the department is not aware of Karl Rove playing any role in the decision to appoint Mr. Griffin." It also said that "the Department of Justice is not aware of anyone lobbying, either inside or outside of the administration, for Mr. Griffin's appointment."

Those assertions are contradicted by e-mails from Sampson to White House aide Christopher G. Oprison on Dec. 19, 2006, about a strategy to deal with senators' opposition to Griffin's appointment. In the e-mail, Sampson says there is a risk that senators might balk and repeal the attorney general's newly won broader authority to appoint U.S. attorneys.

"I'm not 100 percent sure that Tim was the guy on which to test drive this authority, but know that getting him appointed was important to Harriet, Karl, etc," Sampson wrote. Former White House Counsel Harriet Miers was among the first people to suggest Griffin as a replacement for Cummins.

Said White House spokesman Tony Fratto:"We have been open about the fact that Karl Rove and others were enthusiastic supporters of Tim Griffin."

Largest ever credit-card number theft at US retailer TJX

Posted on : 2007-03-29 | Author : DPA
News Category : US

Washington - At least 45.7 million customer credit and debit card numbers have been stolen from major US retailer TJX after the company's computer system was hacked, the company said Thursday. The numbers were published in TJX's annual report to the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

It was "the biggest breach of personal data ever reported," The Boston Globe said in its online edition Thursday.

According to TJX, the theft of personal data happened over an 18- month period. The company on Thursday gave the first concrete figures relating to the computer system break-in which had already been made public in January.

Data from its computer system in Britain was also stolen, the retail giant said.

The stolen information related to transactions dating back to December 2002.

TJX owns a number of department-store and retail chains in the US, including T J Maxx, Marshall's and A J Wright, as well as Winners in Canada and T K Maxx in Britain and Ireland.

The company's profit in the last financial year was 776.8 million dollars on turnover of 17.4 billion dollars. Altogether, TJX owns some 2,466 shops.

Senate passes war spending bill with withdrawal deadline

Story Highlights•
NEW: Senate passes $122 billion war spending bill with a withdrawal deadline
• Senate bill requires all combat troops out of Iraq by March 2008
• House has OK'd bill with September '08 withdrawal deadline for combat troops
• Bush renews veto threat for any legislation with timetable to withdraw troops

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Democratic-controlled Senate ignored a veto threat and voted Thursday for a bill requiring President Bush to start withdrawing combat troops from Iraq within four months, dealing a sharp rebuke to a wartime commander in chief.

In a mostly party line 51-47 vote, the Senate signed off on a bill providing $122 billion to pay for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It also orders Bush to begin withdrawing troops within 120 days of passage while setting a nonbinding goal of ending combat operations by March 31, 2008.

The vote came shortly after Bush, in a move that his aides said was unprecedented, invited all House Republicans to the White House to appear with him in a sort of pep rally to bolster his position in the continuing war policy fight.

"We stand united in saying loud and clear that when we've got a troop in harm's way, we expect that troop to be fully funded," Bush said, surrounded by Republicans on the North Portico, "and we got commanders making tough decisions on the ground, we expect there to be no strings on our commanders."

"We expect the Congress to be wise about how they spend the people's money," he said.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.


March 28, 2007

By Carolyn Baker

A friend recently asked me what I knew about The Secret, and I had to confess, absolutely nothing. A couple of days later, another friend asked the same question, so I decided I’d better investigate this supposedly revolutionary new book and DVD that have taken the country by storm. As I did so, I discovered that nothing about The Secret is revolutionary or new but rather a glitzy, twenty-first century redux of what has come to be called in metaphysical circles “New Thought”.

While aspects of New Thought have their roots in ancient teachings, it is for the most part, uniquely American—its roots in this country stemming from the transcendentalist movement of the late-nineteenth century. Among those giving birth to New Thought in America were Mary Baker Eddy, founding mother of Christian Science, Emma Curtis Hopkins, Ernest Holmes, and Charles Fillmore. What was “new” about New Thought at the time of its inception was its departure from Calvinistic, shame-based Christianity which taught the inherent sinfulness of man, proclaiming instead man’s innate goodness and perfectibility through the use of the Divine Mind which the transcendentalists believed resided at his core.

The New Thought movement emphasizes the supremacy of the mind over the body and material existence. While most adherents of New Thought do not deny the reality of corporeal existence as did Mary Baker Eddy who insisted that “there is no life, truth, intelligence, nor substance in matter,” they overwhelmingly revere the spiritual over the material and believe that physical, corporeal reality is a manifestation of mind. In other words, that our thoughts and attitudes create our external reality.

Ancient and indigenous teachings also incorporate the latter but acknowledge that alongside the light, the good, the true, and the beautiful, exists the dark side of existence which is as authentically real as the light and not merely created by the mind. Buddhism, Hinduism, Sufism, and most native religious teachings worldwide not only acknowledge the dark side, but insist that it is an inherent part of human existence that must be faced and worked with in order to fully experience the blessings of the light.

In a nation so thoroughly marinated historically in exceptionalism and superiority from the moment Europeans set foot on North American soil, for example, the Puritan attributions to the New World such as “a new Jerusalem”, “a city set on a hill” and “a light unto the world,” we would expect to ultimately witness the proliferation of belief systems that exempt Americans from the same kind of suffering endured by fellow humans in other parts of the world.

It’s All About Me

In Sibling Society (1996) Robert Bly astutely, in my opinion, describes American culture as one of children who have never matured into adulthood and where “adults cling to self-absorbed adolescent values, television talk shows have more clout than elders, children are spiritually abandoned to fend for themselves, and in the place of community we have built shopping malls.”

I can think of no more apt description of The Secret than this, for it is first and foremost all about me and what I want.

Only children and adolescents believe that they can, as The Secret insists, have anything they want. Rhonda Byrne of Prime Time Productions, one of the principal filmmakers and author of the book The Secret, says she was inspired by reading “The Science Of Getting Rich”, a 1910 book by Wallace D. Wattles, a New Thought transcendentalist, which proclaims that one’s wealth or lack thereof is a product of one’s thought and attitudes. Positive thinking attracts good things; negative thinking attracts lack.

When I hear these concepts, I can only return to: How uniquely American! Can you imagine telling twelve year-old girls in Chinese sweatshops—the ones who work sixteen hours a day for pennies, live in squalor, may get raped at any moment, and sometimes are found dead at the ripe old age of twenty at their sewing machines from working themselves to death—can you imagine telling them that their situation is the product of their thoughts? Examples of such ghastly human suffering are countless in a world where millions of human beings live on less than two dollars a day.

Although the documentary is highly endorsed and supported by Oprah, for whom I personally hold great respect, let’s not forget who Oprah is: none other than one of the wealthiest people on the planet. Clearly, she was not born with a silver spoon in her mouth, and she arrived where she is today through hard work, but no one disputes that she had an abundance of good fortune that poor black women rarely experience.

But how would Rhonda know about the teeming masses of earthlings living on two dollars a day? It appears that she isn’t looking. Perhaps she’s too busy attracting the next mansion, world cruise, fifty karat diamond, or documentary project. For Rhonda, like so many Americans and citizens of the developed world, and yes, like a typical two year-old, seems to have no sense of limits. It’s no “secret” (pun intended) that millions if not billions of human beings on earth hate America—for innumerable reasons, but for one in particular: We seem to have no sense of enough-ness. Enough is never enough, and since Christopher Columbus stepped off the ship onto Caribbean shores, European settlers and their descendents have almost never had a sense of limitation—from sea to shining sea and the philosophy of Manifest Destiny that justified genociding millions of Native Americans which this nation’s politicians and financiers took to the rest of the world. Nor do they reveal any signs of tempering their voracious appetite for the world’s resources beyond our shores. In fact, it has never been as out-of-control as in the present moment.

Acknowledging The Pain

Individuals in America’s sibling society are not bad human beings, nor are they inherently greedy, but they have been enculturated to grow up to be good consumers, which has now become synonymous with good citizenship. Sadly, The Secret only offers more of the same: buy this DVD, this book, so you can become wealthy enough to buy whatever you want in the future. Ignore what consumption is doing to yourself and the planet, just consume more!

During the Great Depression there were Ponzi schemes and dance marathons. In every era of economic hardship, some quick fix or magic bullet appears and proliferates. The Secret is classic pie in the sky—so very 1980s a la Louise Hay and Terry Cole Whittaker, wrapped in twenty-first century panache and special effects, guaranteed to lighten the heart of any middle or working class individual steamrollered by subprime meltdown, maxed out credit cards, overwhelming medical bills and child care expenses, ever-increasing gas prices, perhaps still paying off student loans, unable to save a dime, and finding any talk of pensions or retirement savings nothing less than laughable.

In my recent article “In Debt We Trust”, I referred to Danny Schecter’s DVD of the same title which opens with a congregation in an African American church who have created a program to rid themselves of all debt. They “created their own reality” not only by thinking positively, but by looking squarely in the face, the evil of debt in their world and constructing a program of “Coming Clean” in order to liberate themselves from it. Unfortunately, this is precisely what “The Secret” is unwilling to do, choosing instead to ignore human suffering and injustice locally and globally, with total disinterest in the economic warfare being perpetrated on individuals and communities worldwide.

Don’t Bother Me With Causes, I Want The Solution

Another characteristic of a sibling society is its unwillingness to explore causation. After all, a sick child doesn’t want to hear how they caught a cold because they didn’t put on their jacket; they just want mommy or daddy or the doctor to take the cold away. The Secret is perfect for siblings because they need not trouble themselves with anyone else’s suffering or how their own suffering was caused by forces outside their own minds. They don’t want to hear about how the United States government has been waging economic warfare on them for decades, how the military industrial complex is bankrupting their nation and will abjectly impoverish their children and grandchildren, how rather than spending more and acquiring more debt, they need to trim down, conserve, and oh that horrible adult word that siblings hate so much: sacrifice. They want a solution, and they want it now. Never mind the trillion-dollar deficit and the trillions missing from the coffers of the United States government that was stolen from them.

Understandably, no one prefers to explore the causes of middle and working class debt and economic drain. It’s an enormous can of ugly, smelly, and sometimes lethal worms that once examined, confirm that no matter how bad we think things are now, they are really much worse than we had imagined. The awareness that one is living in a decaying, rotting, collapsing empire, and that all the strategies for making it better that one has been taught such as voting, working harder, and marching in the streets aren’t working because they have essentially become meaningless, is enough to compel almost anyone to run right out and buy The Secret and meticulously follow its instructions.

This week Truth To Power published historian Chalmers Johnson’s article “Is The Empire About To Collapse?” in which he speaks of his latest book Nemesis, the name of the Greek goddess of hubris and retribution. Johnson believes as I do that 231 years of American hubris is coming to a tragic end. The tragedy, in my opinion, is not that the empire is collapsing, but that so many innocent, well-intentioned, hard working people will pay such a ghastly price for it, and not because they weren’t thinking pleasant thoughts. I’m reminded of the scene from Titanic in which a group of women, including Molly Brown, sat in a lifeboat and watched the ship split apart and crumble into the sea. One woman remarked that absolution was needed for what had happened, to which Molly replied, “There is no absolution for this.”

Another movie scene comes to mind, an all-time favorite of mine from the seventies, “They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?” The scene is a dance marathon during the Great Depression where dozens of working class men and women have come to dance for several days in order to earn a pittance for their grueling efforts. As the couples dance without sleep, or rather, just keep moving endlessly around the clock on the dance floor, wealthy spectators sit comfortably in the grandstands taking bets on who will endure, occasionally tossing coins in the direction of the dancers. A bitter, cynical young woman (Gloria) played by Jane Fonda, partners with a guileless young man (Robert) played by Michael Sarrazin whereupon dialog between them ensues, becoming increasingly philosophical and continuing throughout the marathon. Gloria, has lost all hope, perhaps because she has refused to deny the darkness of a society engulfed in economic catastrophe. She also sees through and resents the master of ceremonies of the marathon who manipulates the dancers to increase their physical and emotional exhaustion in order to entertain the wealthy spectators. What is worse, at the end of the marathon, numerous expenses are deducted from the final prize, leaving the winners with nothing—a set-up from start to finish. Gloria’s anger has clearly energized her and allowed her to survive a difficult life. Unfortunately, she allows it to destroy her, and after she and Robert depart, she attempts to shoot herself but cannot do it. She then asks him to shoot her, and he does.

Although Gloria was filled with toxic bitterness, she saw through a system that was stacked against the working class by a ruling elite, aloof from but entertained by, the struggles of the lower classes. In that sense she never lost her humanity or her dignity. Tragically, she was a loner who had no support or validation for the truth she saw and therefore became overwhelmed by the darkness she refused to deny.

In my opinion, “They Shoot Horses Don’t They?” depicts not only the economic suffering of the Great Depression but also that of the economic tsunami that appears to be engulfing the United States. Those who have refused to face the truth of that deluge because they prefer to remain distracted by “American Idol” and the death of Anna Nicole Smith, are likely to face the same consequences as the gullible dance marathon participants who had no clue regarding the causes of the Great Depression and the set-up in which they were ensnared. Others, wallowing in narcissism and pretty thoughts, may opt to join the ruling elite in the grandstands, ignoring the human anguish of the ones beneath them dancing on the treadmill of the American debt industry. The third option is that the Gloria’s among us refuse to be destroyed by our own and others’ suffering and resist. The first step of resistance is thoroughly understanding what we are resisting, then gathering the necessary support to resist, and finally, building economic, emotional, and spiritual lifeboats to navigate the approaching storm.

Let me clarify: I have no problem with people becoming and remaining prosperous. I do not champion the “poor and proud” mentality. What I find offensive and inexcusable is the unwillingness of purveyors and devotees of The Secret to look at the other half of reality—the dark side—theirs and that of their government, move beyond their terminal narcissism, and resist the economic holocaust being perpetrated on them and the rest of the world by a fascist empire. Not to do so is to remain a sibling for one’s entire life, and if America’s middle and working classes need to do any one thing in this moment, it is to grow up and face adult reality. I know of no more shining example of this than Catherine Austin Fitts who is dedicating her time and energy to teaching people how to become prosperous, not by distracting themselves from injustice and economic warfare, but by teaching them to become intimately acquainted with it in order to wisely create options of prosperity for themselves and their loved ones.

Similarly, Michael Hudson, historian, professor, former Wall St. financial analyst, and author of Super-Imperialism: The Economic Strategy of American Empire offers critical insights into the empire’s downward spiral toward economic meltdown and may be heard on KPFA’s “Guns And Butter” program speaking on the topic of “America: Host Or Parasite?”.

As for documentaries that address reality, a wiser and more mature approach, from my perspective, is that of Tim Bennett’s and Sally Erickson’s DVD “What A Way To Go: Life At The End Of Empire” about which I wrote an extensive article earlier this month. Rather than offer a sibling soporific, this documentary addresses head-on the nightmare that humans have created on so many levels, especially on the level of making the planet uninhabitable, but rather than inviting the viewer to escape into isolated, self-absorbed consumerism on steroids, it presents the opportunity to join with others of like mind and heart to reverse the lethal trajectory on which the human race is spinning out of control. Just as the last thing we need at this moment in history in the face of fossil fuel depletion is a “solution” that involves consuming more oil, the last thing the human race needs in the face of the perfect economic storm is an indulgent “I can have anything I want” perspective that ignores the empire’s evils and perpetuates the very mega-consumerism that is annihilating the planet.


Live: Ex-Gonzales aide testifies before Senate on firings

Live: Ex-Gonzales aide testifies before Senate on firings

CAMERA's condemnation of Peace Now report nothing but spin, distortion

Peace Now makes no bones about being a Zionist organization(they initially supported the war on Lebanon. Some peace group), but has admitted a great deal of settlements are on legally owned Palestinian land. If you think about it, all Jewish Israelis are living on Palestinian owned land.


The Orwellian named CAMERA: Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America
CAMERA is a particularly vile far right Zionist propaganda organ that distorts the truth into absurdity on a regular basis.

Peace Now committed to truth

CAMERA's condemnation of Peace Now report nothing but spin, distortion

Ori Nir Published: 03.29.07, 10:31 / Israel Opinion

CAMERA’s continued criticism of Peace Now’s report on West Bank settlement construction on private Palestinian land (Tamar Sternthal: “Wildly inaccurate report” – 21 March 2007) is odd.

It’s peculiar because the newly submitted official Israeli government data, with which Peace Now updated its November 2006 report on this issue, strongly substantiates the original report. The official data, which Peace Now was able to receive from the West Bank’s Civil Administration after a long legal battle, leave no room for doubt about Peace Now’s findings: Large portions of the West Bank land in control of the settlers – as much as one third – are privately owned by Palestinians.

This finding has serious implications for Israel’s security and for the legality of these settlement sites under Israeli law.

You would think that the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America would be interested in presenting the facts - accurately. But since CAMERA’s Sternthal did such a poor job with them in her commentary, let’s review:

The original Peace Now report was based on Civil Administration data, dated 2004, which was leaked to Peace Now by a credible source. Peace Now held off for a long time before releasing its report, hoping that the government would respond positively to its request to provide the official data. Unfortunately, this didn’t happen, and Peace Now was forced to sue the government under Israel’s freedom of information law.

When the government did eventually respond, it argued that release of the data could damage Israel’s foreign relations. Peace Now understood this as a clear indication both that the government recognized how embarrassing and compromising the facts were, and that the government was ready to go to great lengths to avoid releasing the data.

Peace Now subsequently decided to release its report, based on the leaked data, in part to challenge the government to release what clearly ought to be in the public domain. This tactic appears to have worked, and shortly after the report’s was published, the government agreed to settle out of court and released the official data.

This new dataset is dated 2007. The information is fresh and it is official. And it generally substantiates the findings of November’s report. Yes, there are discrepancies between the two reports but they reflect differences between the two datasets, not errors in Peace Now’s thesis or analysis.

The whole truth

In some cases, the new data paint a picture that is worse than originally reported: In some settlements, the percentage of privately owned Palestinian land is larger than what the 2004 database showed. In other cases, the percentage of privately owned Palestinian land is smaller than what the 2004 database showed.

One such settlement is Ma’ale Adumim, the second-largest settlement in the West Bank. What CAMERA fails to note, or tries to hide, is that this one case accounts for nearly the entire difference between the 2004 and the 2007 data. If you leave Ma’ale Adumim out of the analysis, the remaining discrepancies amount to only 1%.

What is the reason for the differences between these two sets of data? There is no clear answer. Those who may know sit in the Civil Administration, and they are not telling. We can only speculate: Possibly, there were land acquisitions between 2004 and 2007, or, more likely, some of the land could have been declared “State Land.” It is also possible that the differences are a result of the reexamination of West Bank land status by a newly appointed Civil Administration taskforce (known as the “Blue Line Team.”)

Whatever the reason, Peace Now has not tried to hide the discrepancies, regardless of whether they paint a better or worse picture of the situation. Peace Now promptly updated the public with all of the new data right after completing its analysis earlier this month.

CAMERA, however, seems more interested in discrediting Peace Now than in telling the story straight. It is yet another example for how an organization that purports to promote “accuracy” offers nothing more than spin and distortion.

Peace Now has done its utmost - and will continue to do so - to bring the best available information about settlements into the public domain. Unlike CAMERA, it does not fear the truth and does not distort it. It certainly was not Peace Now who created the damaging facts on the ground in the West Bank.

What happens in the West Bank impacts the security and wellbeing of all Israelis. Peace Now and its American sister organization believe that Israelis and their friends in America have the right to know the truth about it. The whole truth.

Ori Nir, former West Bank correspondent for the Israeli daily Haaretz, is the spokesman for Americans for Peace Now, a Zionist organization that promotes Israel's security through peace.

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Academic slams Israel for land grab

Web posted at: 3/29/2007 8:20:5
Source ::: The Peninsula

by Mohammed Iqbal

Doha • Dr Ilan Pappe is the only Jewish academic in Israel who is vehemently critical of Zionism and the formation of the Israeli state in the land of Palestine.

A senior lecturer of political science at Haifa University, Pappe says that he is now planning to migrate to the UK with his family, as he has found it increasingly difficult to live in Israel with his “unwelcome” views and convictions.

“I was boycotted in my university and there had been attempts to expel me from my job. I am getting threatening calls from people every day. I am not being viewed as a threat to the Israeli society but my people think that I am either insane or my views are irrelevant. Many Israelis also believe that I am working as a mercenary for the Arabs,” said Pappe in an interview with The Peninsula yesterday.

On his first-ever visit to a Gulf state, Pappe was in Doha yesterday at the invitation of the Qatar Foundation to speak at the Doha Debates. He believes that two independent states cannot co-exist in the land of Palestine and the only lasting solution to the issue is formation of one state, shared by Jews, Arabs and other communities living there. He also feels that there is no immediate solution to the crisis and only international pressure can force Israel to end the occupation and the continuing atrocities against the Palestinians.

"Over the past six years, the Israeli government has become more oppressive, thanks to the strong support from the Bush administration. They now feel that they can do anything they want," said Pappe.

He was born in Israel in 1954 of German parents who fled Nazi oppression during the1930s. They migrated to Palestine directly from Germany, years before the formation of the Israeli state in 1948.

Pappe's transformation from a "typical" Jew to a strong critic of Zionism started in the Eighties while he was studying history in England. "I re-examined the events of 1948, which changed my perceptions and I realised how the Israeli state was formed at the expense of the Palestinians. I don't subscribe to the view that a community which has a claim to a land that goes back thousands of years had the right to occupy it by dispossessing indigenous communities," Pappe said.

He noted that the Jews constituted a mere one per cent of the Palestinian population before the Israeli state was formed. The West, he felt, was supportive of Israel because of its "guilt complex" about the Holocaust and the oppression of the Jews.

"The Nazi movement and the Holocaust were not just German phenomena but a part of European history. The Western countries thought they can bury this chapter forever by creating a Jewish state in Palestine. But later they realised that the Palestinian issue is much more complex that what they had calculated," said Pappe.

There is a glimmer of hope with international public opinion growing against Israel, even among the powerful Jewish community in the West. There is a movement formed by a group of Jews in the US which called `Not in My Name'" As the name itself implies, members of this group do not want atrocities being committed by Israel to be attributed to Jews across the world. They are clearly trying to distance themselves from crimes being committed by Israel in the occupied territories.

The historian felt the George W Bush administration is mainly responsible for the current situation and the US policy towards Israel would change with a change in the government. "The policy of supporting Israel and seeking friendship with the Arabs cannot go hand-in-hand," said Pappe.

A bit surprisingly, he said: "I support Hamas in its resistance against the Israeli occupation though I disagree with their political ideology. I am for separating state from religion," said Pappe.

He feels that Israeli democracy is meant only for Jews and there is no space for other communities. "Any state that perpetrates occupation cannot be called a democratic state," he commented.