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Australia may have followed Julian Assange into the toilet

30 Sep 2010

Exposing state crimes in the “war on terror” comes with a price. And don’t expect governments to protect you:

Australian spy agencies may have monitored the WikiLeaks spokesman Julian Assange, and the Attorney-General would welcome prosecution of the group’s members if offences could be proved.

The new claims come less than three weeks before the expected publication by WikiLeaks of another tranche of secret US government documents, this time about the war in Iraq. It is expected to contain four times as many documents as the Afghan logs published two months ago by the website.

Speaking at the launch of an international cyber security exercise, the Attorney-General, Robert McClelland, expressed disapproval of WikiLeaks’s publication in July of tens of thousands of secret US documents relating to the war in Afghanistan. He said the publication, of 77,000 documents, had put lives at risk and criticised WikiLeaks for making such a decision ”from the comfort of an office”.

”Anything that puts those people – who are serving their country and protecting our security – at risk is entirely reprehensible, whether it’s done for notoriety or whether it’s done for commercial interests,” Mr McClelland said.

He would not comment on allegations by a WikiLeaks insider that Australian intelligence agencies had been monitoring Mr Assange while he was in Australia, or that they shared intelligence about him with agencies from the US, Britain and Sweden.

”It’s not the sort of thing that I would comment on, but … we do co-operate in respect to a number of matters internationally,” he said.

 

New Greens MP; sustainability doesn’t mean just selling more coal to whores

30 Sep 2010

The first Australian Green in the House of Representatives, Adam Bandt, gave his first speech in Parliament yesterday.

It’s a moving affair with many highlights but this struck me:

A sustainable future means rethinking our infrastructure priorities, industry policy and the regulation of energy supply. Maybe its something in the water in the electorate of Melbourne that makes its Member think about revenue and finance, but urgently in need of review is the allocation of public spending: every dollar that goes to backing losers in the fossil fuel industry is a dollar that isn’t creating a clean energy future. The former member for this electorate, Lindsay Tanner, also said that he thought a key question for us is ‘what will Australia sell the world in 15 years time’? A good question, but on current policy settings, it seems the answer is coal, with us on track to overtake Saudi Arabia as the world’s largest carbon exporter in the next 15 years. This is not global leadership on climate, but failure.

 

Hello my name is Barack and please don’t hate me for begging Israel on a daily basis

30 Sep 2010

So, two years into the Obama administration and America is again rightly viewed as hopelessly compromised in the Middle East and a backer of Israeli apartheid, repression across the region, occupations etc etc:

Approval of U.S. leadership is now similar or lower than what it was in 2008 in several of the Middle East and North African countries Gallup surveyed in 2010, erasing gains seen after the transition from the Bush administration to the Obama administration. Egypt, Syria, and Algeria are the exceptions, though in all cases approval remains relatively low.

Approval is down significantly in 2010 compared with 2009 in 6 of the 10 countries and areas surveyed both years. Egypt, where President Barack Obama gave a 2009 speech reaching out to the Muslim global community, led these declines and Morocco and Algeria also saw double-digit drops. Approval did not decline significantly in Iraq, Yemen, or Syria as the changes are within the margin of error.

Approval of U.S. leadership is highest in Algeria, Iraq, and Libya, although only a minority expresses approval. Approval ratings are among the lowest in the Palestinian Territories, Syria, and Tunisia. In the Palestinian Territories, the increase in approval between 2008 and 2009 was short-lived and approval returned to its 2008 level in 2010 as the Mideast peace process sputtered. It will be interesting to see if approval changes now that peace talks have started again. Approval in Tunisia is now lower than it was in 2009.

While America is increasingly loathed, they’re going bankrupt supporting wars that are leading nowhere except more extremism. It’s as if Washington’s blinkers are permanently parked on the tone-deaf setting, but of course the country doesn’t know any other reality:

The authors of the book “The $3 Trillion War” noted in a conference call on Wednesday that when they first released their findings two years ago, the estimates were widely criticized as being too high. Now, the researchers believe they may have been too low.

Joseph Stiglitz, who received the 2000 Nobel Prize for Economics, and Linda Bilmes, a public policy professor at Harvard University, said the number of veterans seeking post-combat medical care and the cost of treating those individuals is about 30 percent higher than they initially estimated. That, combined with increases in the cost of military medical care and the lagging economy, will likely push the true long-term cost of the war over the $4 trillion mark.

“This may be more of a crisis than the Medicare and Social Security problems we have looming,” said House Veterans Affairs Chairman Bob Filner, D-Calif. “It rivals both in the potential impact. This is another entitlement we’ve committed ourselves to, and it could break the bank.”

In a conference call with reporters, Bilmes said about 600,000 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans have already sought medical treatment from the Department of Veterans Affairs, and 500,000 have applied for disability benefits. That’s about 30 percent higher than initial estimates for care, and could cost the department nearly $1 trillion in costs for  the current wars alone.

 

Yes, Rupert, progressives are destroying the world so save us!

30 Sep 2010

Andrew Sullivan dissects in a thankless task the profound dishonesty, simplicity and lying of Fox News:

 

Disaster capitalism envelops us all

30 Sep 2010

My following article appears in the Sydney Morning Herald today:

Last year’s cessation of hostilities between the Sri Lankan government and the Tamil Tigers, after up to 40,000 Tamil civilians were murdered in the last months of the conflict, has heralded a Beijing-led invasion of the island.

The authoritarian Rajapaksa regime was assisted by Chinese weapons and intelligence in its defeat of the Tigers and now China is investing to reap the rewards. Kidnappings and extrajudicial killings in Sri Lanka are irrelevant in the pursuit of regional dominance.

Billions of dollars are being spent to build ports, infrastructure and roads in a country trying to recover from three decades of war, despite reconciliation largely absent from public debate. Referring to China, the Sri Lankan Defence Secretary, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, has said: “We have understood who is important to us.”

The economy is in such poor shape that its leaders are seemingly happy to auction assets, land and influence to friendly countries and corporations.

After the 2004 tsunami, Western multinationals flooded the country to capitalise on Colombo’s willingness to sell off its forests, water and beaches to the highest bidder. “A second tsunami of corporate globalisation,” said Herman Kumara, the head of Sri Lanka’s National Fisheries Solidarity Movement.

China has filled this role, extending the hand of unlimited finances, military hardware and diplomatic cover.

The concept of disaster capitalism, articulated in Naomi Klein’s best-seller The Shock Doctrine, revolves around “orchestrated raids on the public sphere in the wake of catastrophic events”, real or man-made, “combined with the treatment of disasters as exciting market opportunities”. But the definition of “disaster” is deliberately vague, allowing anything from post-conflict zones to water scarcity to be defined as needing corporate intervention. Profit is the motive and human rights an inconvenience. An ironfisted leadership is helpful but not essential to maximise financial return.

Think Iraq since 2003 and the price-gouging by the company Halliburton, or Haiti after the earthquake; latest reports claim the removal of countless refugees from desolate camps to make way for “industrial work zones”.

In Australia, the British firm Serco runs expanding detention centres, despite allegations of asylum-seeker abuse in its facilities. Even the ownership by French firm Veolia of some of Australia’s waste management, water treatment and desalination plants ignores the company’s building of a light-rail network through occupied Jerusalem and illegal settlements in the Palestinian West Bank.

The belief in privatisation and deregulation is shared by the major parties in most Western democracies. We constantly hear the language of “efficiency”, “better services” and “cost-savings”.

Overseas examples don’t offer much comfort. An April report released by the Australian Services Union revealed that, “the French private water companies [Veolia and Suez] have a large chunk of state ownership and they privatise other public water services while their own state ownership protects them from foreign takeovers in France”.

Downsizing the public sector is framed as the inevitable price of progress. We have seen privatisation by stealth, the purchase and management of key resources and infrastructure by local and foreign corporations with little accountability or discussion. Neo-liberal theories have become doctrine.

Sydney Chamber of Commerce said in 2008 that “there’s a raft of state government assets … that, arguably, have no reason to be in government hands”. The group argued that in a “weaker economic environment” there must be “efficiencies” found.

In these cases, the “disaster” is the gradual lack of public funds for infrastructure and willingness of corporations to step in. But there is no public debate over this and the public backlash over electricity and ferry privatisation indicates fierce resistance.

The recent financial collapse of public-private partnerships, especially road and tunnel projects, is a warning sign that business as usual is not delivering the best services to society.

An economist, Steve Keen, argues that the largely bipartisan political and media backing of privatisation is reminiscent of religious fundamentalism, with no analysis of the costs.

Take military outsourcing. ABC Online recently reported that the Australian government had hired Chilean mercenaries to guard its Baghdad embassy despite serious concerns over the conditions and behaviour of the hired men. The foreign affairs department defended the move but it simply justified the continued use of private militias hired by Western governments in places such as Afghanistan and Iraq.

I have spoken to security sources that confirm the defence force’s willingness to outsource key tasks in current and future deployments.

There is no discussion in Australia about the massive expansion of mercenaries since September 11, 2001, including by Australians, and the lack of transparency of outsourcing vital services to the private sector. The Washington Post reported recently there were nearly a million contractors in America working in intelligence and counterterrorism.

The reporting group ProPublica says this year was the first time that more contractors than soldiers were killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, as governments rely increasingly on faceless corporations to fight their battles. The Nation’s Jeremy Scahill revealed allegations that Blackwater agents in Iraq fired indiscriminately into Iraqi homes while they were high on cocaine and steroids. Welcome to a rebranded, privately run occupation.

The unquestioning devotion to disaster capitalism and privatisation revolves around a belief in the market’s wonders. But what if a heart and soul is missing in the negotiation room?

Antony Loewenstein is a journalist, author of My Israel Question and The Blogging Revolution and is working on a book about privatisation.

 

Mearsheimer/Walt enter the best-seller list via Franzen

30 Sep 2010

Great post by MJ Rosenberg on Jonathan Franzen’s new best-seller Freedom and its deep message about the Zionist lobby:

I just want to comment on a minor stream that runs through the book: it is that neo-conservatives are loathsome, that they joined up with war profiteers to get us into Iraq, and that they were motivated by a combination of pro-Israel zeal, profits, and the belief that we must Americanize the Middle East. One character, who I think is modeled on Norman Podhoretz, gets to pronounce the neocon philosophy at a Thanksgiving dinner (basically a thanks giving for the blessing of the Iraq war).

Before the crazies say it, I want to add that Franzen is by no means anti-Jewish, just anti-neocon. In fact, there is an ultra-Orthodox family in the book, whose dream is to live in the West Bank, who are lovely people — just a little muddled.

So why is this significant? It is significant because this book is so huge (about as big as any work of fiction can be in this country) and that it’s “oh-by-the-way” incorporation of the Walt-Mearsheimer thesis demonstrates that the two professors have won. Nobody much argues about the role of the neocons in promoting Middle East wars.

 

Whatever you do, don’t allow Cuba use its own resources

30 Sep 2010

The New York Times:

“This isn’t about ideology. It’s about oil spills,” said Lee Hunt, president of the International Association of Drilling Contractors, a trade group that is trying to broaden bilateral contacts to promote drilling safety. “Political attitudes have to change in order to protect the gulf.”

Yes, muscling in on potentially massive reserves of oil near the Cuban coast has nothing to do with greed.

 

The Zionist lobby sure doesn’t have much appeal anymore with the yoof

30 Sep 2010

The American Jewish student community is increasingly vocal against Israeli crimes and BDS is their justified weapon:

“We are not willing to have our money spent on manufacturing cluster bombs or any ingredients that violate the rights of the people of Palestine. Or any people,” explained Matan Cohen, an Israeli student at Hampshire College and a member of Jewish Voices for Peace (JVP), a grassroots BDS organization active at several colleges.

 

The modern slave trade for our culinary enjoyment

30 Sep 2010

Do you know where your meal comes from?

Shocking evidence of conditions akin to slavery on trawlers that provide fish for European dinner tables has been found in an investigation off the coast of west Africa.

Forced labour and human rights abuses involving African crews have been uncovered on trawlers fishing illegally for the European market by investigators for an environmental campaign group.

The Environmental Justice Foundation found conditions on board including incarceration, violence, withholding of pay, confiscation of documents, confinement on board for months or even years, and lack of clean water.

The EJF found hi-tech vessels operating without appropriate licences in fishing exclusion zones off the coast of Sierra Leone and Guinea over the last four years. The ships involved all carried EU numbers, indicating that they were licensed to import to Europe having theoretically passed strict hygiene standards.

 

How to receive a White House pat on the head

29 Sep 2010

Here’s a lesson for progressive and Leftist writers and bloggers. If you want White House approval (God knows why you would, if independence is valued) then don’t be too critical, praise the wonders of Barack Obama and bask in the glow:

The vice president told Democrats to “stop whining.” The president told them to “buck up.” And neither seemed to leave any doubt in separate interviews this week that press secretary Robert Gibbs’s exasperation over the summer with the “professional left” was the official view of the White House.Keith Olbermann or Rachel Maddow or one of the folks who helps to keep our government honest and pushes and prods to make sure that folks are true to progressive values, then [the president] thinks that those folks provide an invaluable service,” Burton told reporters.

But who, exactly, makes up this “professional left” that is so bothering President Barack Obama and his advisers? On Tuesday, Gibbs’s deputy, Bill Burton, made it clear that the occasionally critical cable personalities originally associated with this comment have the administration’s blessing.

“If you’re on the left, if you’re somebody like

Noticeably absent from Burton’s embrace was anyone from the blogosphere once courted so avidly by the White House. Peter Daou thinks he knows why:

“With each passing day, I’m beginning to realize that the crux of the problem for Obama is a handful of prominent progressive bloggers, among them Glenn Greenwald, John Aravosis, Digby, Marcy Wheeler and Jane Hamsher.”

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