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Whatever you do, don’t look “Muslim” Obama

19 Oct 2010

The sad but predictable tale of Barack Obama giving in to Islamophobia, again (via Ali Abunimah):

US President Barack Obama has ruled out a visit to the Golden Temple in Amritsar, sacred to Sikhs, because Obama does not want to wear the head-covering that is required as a sign of respect in case it makes him look like a Muslim.

 

The slow curse of disaster capitalism covers the world

19 Oct 2010

I recently wrote in the Sydney Morning Herald about the ever-increasing arrival of the Shock Doctrine in Australia and Asia-Pacific. Privatisation running riot.

George Monbiot writes about the same problems facing Britain:

We’ve been staring at the wrong list. In an effort to guess what will hit us tomorrow, we’ve been trying to understand the first phase of the British government’s assault on the public sector: its bonfire of the quangos. Almost all the public bodies charged with protecting the environment, animal welfare and consumers have been either hobbled or killed(1). But that’s only half the story. Look again, and this time make a list of the quangos which survived.

If the government’s aim had been to destroy useless or damaging public bodies, it would have started with the Commonwealth Development Corporation. It was set up to relieve poverty in developing countries, but when New Labour tried, and failed, to privatise it, the CDC completely changed its mission. Now it sluices money into lucrative corporate ventures, while massively enriching its own directors. Private Eye discovered that in 2007 this quango paid its chief executive just over a million pounds(2). The magazine has also shown how the CDC has become entangled in a series of corruption cases(3). Uncut. Unreformed.

The same goes for the Export Credit Guarantee Department. The ECGD effectively subsidises private corporations, by underwriting the investments they make abroad. At one point, 42% of its budget was spent on propping up BAE’s weapons sales(4). It also pours money into drilling for oil in fragile environments(5,6). A recent court case showed how it has underwritten contracts obtained with the help of bribery(7,8). Uncut. Unreformed.

The Sea Fish Industry Authority exists “to help improve profitability for the seafood industry”(9). Though it is a public body, all but one of its 11 directors work for either the fishing industry or food companies(10). They seek to “promote the consumption of seafood”(11), to “champion the industry in public debates”(12) and to “influence the regulatory process” in the industry’s favour(13). Uncut. Unreformed.

Can you see the pattern yet? Public bodies whose purpose is to hold corporations to account are being swept away. Public bodies whose purpose is to help boost corporate profits, regardless of the consequences for people and the environment, have sailed through unharmed. What the two lists suggest is that the economic crisis is the disaster the Conservatives have been praying for. The government’s programme of cuts looks like a classic example of disaster capitalism: using a crisis to re-shape the economy in the interests of business.

 

Just another day of racism in Israel

19 Oct 2010

One:

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday that his cabinet needed more time to decide when and how to dismantle certain illegal West Bank outposts, due to the “political implications” involved.

The government “needs time to consider its priorities” with regard to these outposts, Netanyahu said ahead of a High Court of Justice deliberation on the matter.

Two:

A bill sponsored by MK Gideon Ezra (Kadima ) and seven other Knesset members proposes to ban residents of East Jerusalem from serving as tour guides in the city, potentially putting hundreds out of work. Ezra, who said he was temporarily freezing work on the bill so as not to damage the negotiations with Palestinians, said in the introduction to the bill he believed Palestinian residents of Jerusalem should not be certified guides because they did not represent Israel’s national interest well enough “and in an appropriate manner.”

 

If the Taliban can be engaged, why not the other “terrorists”?

19 Oct 2010

So Richard Barrett, the coordinator of the United Nations Al Qaeda-Taliban monitoring team, thinks it’s time to “talk to the Taliban.”

Guess the next major piece in the New York Times will be that Israel should talk to Hamas, Hizbollah and Iran.

How to push for gay rights in the US

19 Oct 2010

Fuck yeah: 

So many innocent drone victims

19 Oct 2010

Remind me who the terrorists are again?

New information on the Central Intelligence Agency’s campaign of drone strikes in northwest Pakistan directly contradicts the image the Barack Obama administration and the CIA have sought to establish in the news media of a program based on highly accurate targeting that is effective in disrupting al-Qaeda’s terrorist plots against the United States.

A new report on civilian casualties in the war in Pakistan has revealed direct evidence that a house was targeted for a drone attack merely because it had been visited by a group of Taliban soldiers.

The report came shortly after publication of the results of a survey of opinion within the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) of Pakistan showing overwhelming popular opposition to the drone strikes and majority support for suicide attacks on U.S. forces under some circumstances.

Meanwhile, data on targeting of the drone strikes in Pakistan indicate that they have now become primarily an adjunct of the U.S. war in Afghanistan, targeting almost entirely militant groups involved in the Afghan insurgency rather than al-Qaeda officials involved in plotting global terrorism.

The new report published by the Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict (CIVIC) last week offers the first glimpse of the drone strikes based on actual interviews with civilian victims of the strikes.

In an interview with a researcher for CIVIC, a civilian victim of a drone strike in North Waziristan carried out during the Obama administration recounted how his home had been visited by Taliban troops asking for lunch. He said he had agreed out of fear of refusing them.

The very next day, he recalled, the house was destroyed by a missile from a drone, killing his only son.

The CIVIC researcher, Christopher Rogers, investigated nine of the 139 drone strikes carried out since the beginning of 2009 and found that a total of 30 civilians had been killed in those strikes, including 14 women and children.

 

Mike Leigh, a Jew of integrity, says no to Israeli racism

18 Oct 2010

A man of principle who dares to take a stand when saying and doing nothing (and getting a free trip) is so much easier:

Bafta-winning film-maker Mike Leigh has pulled out of a teaching trip to Israel due to his concern over the country’s proposed loyalty oath bill.

Leigh said he was not prepared to take part in the “great masters” programme at the Sam Spiegel Film & Television School in Jerusalem. In a letter to school director Renen Schorr, he cited several of Israel’s policies, including the oath, which would require non-Jews seeking Israeli citizenship to pledge allegiance to Israel as a “Jewish and democratic state”.

“As you know, I have always had serious misgivings about coming, but I allowed myself to be persuaded by your sincerity and your commitment,” Leigh wrote. “And it is because of those special qualities of yours that I am especially sorry to have to let you down. But I have absolutely no choice. I cannot come, I do not want to come, and I am not coming.

“Eight weeks after our lunch, the Israeli attack on the flotilla took place. As I watched the world very properly condemn this atrocity, I almost cancelled. I now wish I had, and blame my cowardice for not having done so.

“Since then, your government has gone from bad to worse. I need not itemise all that has taken place … I still had not faced up to the prospect of pulling out until a few weeks ago, but the resumption of the illegal building on the West Bank made me start to consider it seriously. And now we have the Loyalty Oath.

“This is the last straw – quite apart from the ongoing criminal blockade of Gaza, not to mention the endless shooting of innocent people there, including juveniles …”

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