Archive | September 21st, 2011

DR. SAMIR ABED-RABBO @ THE FREIBURG CONFERENCE

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 GILAD ATZMON

Gilad Atzmon: The following is an analytical outlook into issues to do with civil liberties in post 9/11 America.

At a certain stage, Dr. Abed Rabbo pointed out that what we see in America could be interpreted as the  Zionification of the  American legal system.

I mentioned to Dr Abed Rabbo that this shouldn’t take us by surprise, at the end of the day, 9/11 is the point in time where the English Speaking Empire adopted the  ‘Eye For An Eye’ as its political mantra…We have been  Zionised for a while now.


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pbtL8AlZTRM

Civil Liberties in the aftermath of Sept. 11

Dr. Samir Abed-Rabbo

The attack on the World Trade Center on Sept. 11 by Muslim Individuals was a criminal act that had profound implications for the Muslims, the United States and the world. My contention is that the Muslim/Arab community in the west as a whole has been subjected to extrajudicial measures and is paying a heavy price for the criminality of the few. But this is not the subject of my talk. I was asked to speak about Civil liberties in the US in the aftermath of Sept. 11 and I shall oblige.

Prior to delving into the essence of my subject, I would like to make this damming observation: The Bush administration which was caught napping by al-Quaida, rather than engaging in an honest or serious study of what went wrong it opted to deconstruct the very civil liberties enshrined in the American constitutional. Benjamin Franklin, one of the founding fathers of the USA said “Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.” To that I add, there should be no tradeoff between civil liberties and security. Those who advocate for security over liberties are giving those behind such violent attacks a victory over our way of life! Now let me turn to my presentation.
Civil Liberties as enshrined in the US Constitution

The United States Constitution was written in 1789 and ratified by the original 13 States within two years thereafter. This written document establishes the structure and powers of the US government, the relationship between the Federal and states governments, and enumerates the liberties and rights vested in the people.

The original constitution includes one major right that is considered the corner stone of civil liberties: Article I, Section 9 of the Constitution says “The Privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it.” This concept was written into the text of the US Constitution to preserve the basic legal right of individuals to be free from unlawful imprisonment, except only during the most extraordinary national emergencies, even greater than “war” or hostile attack. The government has to show that it is following the law, when it arrests, detains or imprisons People for reasons of state security during ‘Rebellion or Invasion.” In the last 222 yrs. this writ was suspended during the civil war and again after Sept. 11, 2001.

The most important legal protections of individuals’ civil liberties in America are found in the first, fourth, fifth, sixth, eighth and fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution. The first five are part of the first 10 Amendments that are known as the Bill of Rights and were adopted in 1791. The 14th Amendment was adopted after the Civil War in 1868. These Amendments include the following rights:

The First Amendment: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

The Fourth Amendment: “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or Affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

The Fifth Amendment: “No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.”

The Sixth Amendment: “In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.”

The Eighth Amendment: “Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.”

The Fourteenth Amendment: “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

The Threats to Civil Liberties in the aftermath of Sept. 11

In the aftermath of September 11, the Bush Administration became extremely involved in spearheading the attack on and the erosion of all the above legal rights and protections.

Starting with the USA PATRIOT ACT, the Bush Administration was essentially engaged in a grab for police powers that have been sought and rejected long before September 11, 2001. The Patriot Act was rushed through Congress with no time for most legislators to read its provisions before voting on it. There was no debate and no demonstration that this statute would cure any of the specific law enforcement problems that enabled the 9-11 attacks (such as lax airport security and the failure to keep track of known terrorist suspects who entered the USA after they were identified). Rather, it was a case of “do something, anything,” regardless of the monumental human and civil rights issues at stake. When a bipartisan group of Representatives offered an alternative bill that received some actual debate, it was almost immediately voted down in favor of the administration’s “PATRIOT Act”.

What did this panic button legislation do? There are four major inroads it made into previously well-established legal rights. The four areas are:

The first is secrecy: it provides for secret “sneak and peak” searches, secrecy of government and legal case information, secret evidence, and secretly collected personal information. On June 18, 2003, the US Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, in a split 2-1 decision, upheld the government’s power to withhold information about those thousands of Arabs, Muslims and South Asians it secretly detained for months in the immediate aftermath of 9-11. As the Sixth Circuit Appellate Judge Damon Keith said in a case involving secret immigration hearings, “Democracies die behind closed doors.”

The second area is the criminalization of dissent: This was already well underway before 9-11, in the series of massive confrontations between the anti-globalization movement and the instruments of government as in Seattle in November of 1999. After the attack of 9-11, guilt by association, deportation and exclusion of foreigners based only on membership in suspect groups, increased penalties for donating money for humanitarian purposes through the wrong organizations, and the overnight creation of a new category of “domestic terrorist” groups, took on a vigorous new life in government circles. The tragic consequences for First Amendment freedom of association, as well as Fourteenth Amendment equal protection and due process, are increasingly glaring us in the face.

A third major area is the balance of powers upon which the American model of constitutional liberty theoretically rests: The authority of courts as a check on unaccountable powers by the Legislative and Executive branches has traditionally been the last resort for protecting American liberties. The USA PATRIOT Act limits courts’ authority to issue warrants, limits appeals, and limits the basis for constitutional challenges to executive branch at overreaching. Congress of course, simply abdicated its power, leading directly to the establishment of executive branch supremacy in this crisis. Some of the first major tests of this fundamental deconstructing of government powers came in the Habeas Corpus cases filed on behalf of detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The DC Circuit Court of Appeals held, in another split 2-1 decision, that they are outside federal judicial jurisdiction, and thus effectively without enforceable legal rights.

The fourth major area is in the lowering of protections against criminal investigation: The long-established distinction between law enforcement and intelligence operations has been eliminated in cases involving suspected or alleged terrorism, opening the door to systematic abuses. The requirement of probable cause for initiating an investigation, tapping phones, monitoring internet and e-mail use, and other intrusive police actions has been eliminated in such cases, opening the door wide open to police confrontation and harassment of dissidents, and leading to continually escalating politicization of “law enforcement” in the name of fighting terrorism.

This civil liberties crisis does not end with the USA PATRIOT Act. A series of executive orders, Department of Justice Regulations, and government memos have allowed the executive branch to extend its power even further, without being effectively challenged by the other branches of government or the People. On September 21, 2001, the Chief Immigration Judge issued a memo closing certain immigration hearings to the public. On October 31 the Justice Department issued regulations for detaining people on Attorney General Ashcroft’s sole discretion, a provision that was severely abused in practice by extended periods of detention. Prosecutors and prison officials began to monitor attorney/client communications without judicial authorization, and commenced a prosecution of Attorney Lynne Stewart for her statements and actions in representing a convicted terrorist, sending a clear message to other lawyers about the consequences of defending fundamental rights of suspects. The previous Freedom of Information Act presumptions were reversed, so that if any reason was articulated to withhold documents, they would not be provided. All of this was accomplished without any judicial or legislative action at all, by the mere stroke of a bureaucratic pen.

The case of military commissions established by executive order for those arrested abroad deserves attention. The original proposal for such tribunals was completely lawless. It provided for execution without appeal, without a unanimous decision of military judges, and without any right to counsel of one’s choice. The most severe deficiencies in these regulations were modified after a public outcry. However the military commissions set up retained the option to use secret evidence, and with the ruling that the camps in Guantanamo Bay are outside federal courts’ jurisdiction, the imminent prospect of secret military trials and summary executions there cannot be ruled out.

In the aftermath of the attacks of 9/11 the immigration authorities went into high gear. They interviewed thousands of Arabs and Muslims, including interrogation about visa status that in some cases led to deportation. They asked questions about religious and political beliefs. They discovered no significant information about terrorism whatsoever in this orgy of racial profiling.

The government abused the material witness statute to detain innocent immigrants, who may have had some incidental contact with either the 9-11 hijackers or some other suspects, for prolonged periods. Most notoriously, approximately 2000 People were swiftly “disappeared” in secrecy, and the government refused to release information about them to their families or attorneys. This was the program recently upheld by the DC Circuit Court of Appeals. As a result, the government aggressively moved to “seize and freeze” the assets of numerous suspected “terrorist organizations,” without any distinction between legal functions and activities these organizations may be engaged in fighting anywhere in the world, especially of course in the Middle East.

Even the issue of torture has been raised, with psychological pressure placed on family members, physical mistreatment of immigrants in custody who were never even charged with any crime, deportation to other countries that are known to practice torture systematically, and respectable academic discussions of hypothetical circumstances–such as where it might lead authorities to a “ticking bomb”–when torture could allegedly be justified. The Independent newspaper in the United Kingdom recently published a shocking investigative report on the use of what authorities call “torture lite” at the US Bagram air base in Afghanistan.

Techniques such as binding prisoners in awkward and painful positions, forcing them to wear hoods, sleep deprivation, 24-hour lighting, and withholding painkillers are being systematically used at an unspecified number of secret CIA detention centers for terrorist suspects. What may be even more shocking is the fact that US officials are more or less openly bragging about it. “If you don’t violate someone’s human rights some of the time,” one reportedly told the Independent, “you probably aren’t doing your job.”

In conclusion

In conclusion, what is happening is a comprehensive government campaign to undermine constitutional civil liberties. The government’s onslaught on political dissent and free speech; spying on groups and organizations without probable cause to believe they are engaged in any criminal activity; targeting of people because of their beliefs, speech and associations; suspending of due process; and practicing torturing, people will not be able to defend themselves. When the government is allowed the opportunity to use evidence obtained throw torture; of dubious quality; and free from challenge, the cause of liberties is not served.

Those alarmed with government overreaching need to re-examine the relationship between the people and government. Thomas Jefferson wrote in the Declaration of Independence “That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”

Thank you!

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PROGRESSIVE CHOSENESS

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Kol Hadash Humanistic Congregation Podcasts

 

Some Palestinian solidarity campaigners are excited this morning about Rabbi Eric Yoffie’s pearls of wisdom. The outgoing President of the Union for Reform Judaism, wrote in a recent blog post for the Jerusalem Post:

“I care about humankind, but I love my own group a bit more. I am more comfortable with them. I care more about them, just as I care more about my family than other families.”

People who understand the full extent of Jewish tribalism shouldn’t be taken by surprise. Rabbi Yoffie is genuine and coherent. Consequently, his support of The Two State solution is consistent with his Jewish belief system.

“Without a two-state solution.” Says Rabbi Yoffie, “Israel will not longer be a state for my group; it will be a bi-national state without a clear Jewish identity. That is not the kind of place where I, or most Israeli Jews, will want to live.”

As a supporter of the One State Solution I myself explored this exact issue at the Stuttgart One Democratic State Conference last year.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MlvaN2c-Oto

Needless to say, that the five German ‘progressive’ Jews who attended the  conference insisted on my removal from the Conference’s protocol.

I believe that truth must be said – there is a clear unfortunate discrepancy between Jewish Ideology and the One State Solution. This discrepancy must be addressed rather than be swept under the carpet.

Sadly enough, Judeo centrism and racial orientation is inherent to any form of Jewish political setting. It isn’t just the Zionists,  Israelis and the odd Rabbi who wants to live in a mono-cultural ghetto.

The Jewish Left follows exactly the same problematic mantra. J-BIG, for instance, is a UK  ‘Jews only’ Israeli boycott campaign.  For some reason they operate as a Judeo-centric  segregated group apart from the general BDS movement.   The International Jewish Anti Zionist Network (IJAN) would also take into their ranks activistwho are ethnically and racially qualified. Like Rabbi Yoffie they claim to care about humankind, but somehow, they probably ‘love their own group a bit more.’  They are just slightly ‘more comfortable with them’.

A few months ago, the progressive blogger Philip Weiss wrote to me:  “I believe that all people act out of self-interest. And Jews who define themselves at some level as Jews — like myself for instance — are concerned with a Jewish self-interest. Which in my case is: an end to Zionism.  A theory of political life based on altruism or concern for victims purely is doomed to fail.

Philip Weiss and Rabbi Yoffie must agree then. Rabbi Yoffie cares more about his people just as he ‘cares more about his family than other families’, Weiss seems to be slightly more succinct, he actually explores the true meaning of Jewish non-altruistic political existence.

So here we are, many Jews believe in Zionism, a few Jews believe that Zionism is actually ‘bad for the Jews’ (as opposed to bad for humanity or the Palestinians).  But all Jews who identify themselves politically as Jews act out of ‘Jewish self interests. They all prefer to operate in ‘Jews only cells’  I guess that this is the true practical meaning of ‘choseness’.

As it stands, universalism, humanism and altruism are still foreign to Jewish culture and Jewish political thinking. Those amongst us who dream of peace in the Middle East better address this crucial issue and find an adequate solution. As far as I can tell, this is a grave problem. Also, as long as progressive Jews keep  operating  in ‘Jews only’  political cells, they won’t be part of a solution but just another aspect of the problem.

 

Gilad Atzmon’s New Book is available on  Amazon.com  or Amazon.co.uk

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Concerning Mondoweiss, Racism and Freedom of Speech These are articles by Philip Weiss ( calls himself progressive Jew, and t

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 by nahida the Exiled Palestinian

These are articles by Philip Weiss ( calls himself progressive Jew, and the motto of his website “Mondoweiss The War of Ideas in the Middle East” )

Quote from the website:Mondoweiss is a news website devoted to covering American foreign policy in the Middle East, chiefly from a progressive Jewish perspective.

It has four principal aims:

  • To publish important developments touching on Israel/Palestine, the American Jewish community and the shifting debate over US foreign policy in a timely fashion.

  • To publish a diversity of voices to promote dialogue on these important issues.

  • To foster the movement for greater fairness and justice for Palestinians in American foreign policy.

  • To offer alternatives to pro-Zionist ideology as a basis for American Jewish identity.My Jewish Problem: Jewish Superiority, Jewish Elite

    Still it is interesting that my friend and I shared a premise: Jews are superior; for whatever reason Jewish culture is superior in areas of modern civilized achievement.

    http://mondoweiss.net/2006/05/my_jewish_probl-2.html

    by Philip Weiss on May 10, 2006

    I went to a friend’s son’s bar mitzvah on Saturday and in some part because of my blog, and its discussion of Jewish politics, felt a little alienated. I forgot to get a yarmulke, then I ran to get one. I wondered who if anyone there had seen my ideas. Later, at the reception, I got into a discussion about these issues with an old friend, who was joined by a friend of his.

    My friend said he was a secular Jew and asked me how I define myself. An assimilating Jew, I said. Shortly after that, his friend said, I don’t know what an assimilating Jew is, and walked away.

    My friend is more intellectual. He said, What do you think will be lost if Jews assimilate into America? He answered his own question: the excellence that Jews have brought to any number of endeavors, science, the arts, finance, education, and so forth.

    I said, But what if these qualities are more widely shared with assimilation? Will our excellence pull up others’ mediocrity?

    He said, I think those qualities will be diluted. I.e., lost.

    I said I wondered if the process wasn’t inevitable. Jews are successful and prominent, and the more successful people get, the more sociological pressure there is on them to melt in, including pressure on their children to marry out. That is what happened to me. I went to the Ivy League because my family pushed me to excel and I met people who weren’t anti-Semitic. I liked the water.

    I had to admit to my friend my indifference as to whether the institutional element of my tribe persists. Religion may well be necessary to social structure and order, but we need some new ones. Pedophilia seems to be inherent to the Catholic church; and its hierarchy is covering it up. Islam hasall kinds of problems, with free speech, patriarchalism, and the tolerance of violence. Indifference or disdain for Palestinian suffering seems inherent to the Jewish church. I don’t see why I should revere these institutions.

    Still it is interesting that my friend and I shared a premise: Jews are superior; for whatever reason Jewish culture is superior in areas of modern civilized achievement.

    In discussing My Jewish Problem on this blog, that’s a core Jewish value I would point to: Jewish exceptionalism. Belief in that idea underlies so much of Jewish social attitudes and achievement. (Maugham extols it in The Alien Corn; Hemingway throws it in Robert Cohn’s face in The Sun Also Rises). Larry Summers sought to broach the issue of Jewish innate intelligence in his notorious women-and-science speech of January 2005:

    …Catholics are substantially underrepresented in investment banking, which is an enormously high-paying profession in our society;… white men are very substantially underrepresented in the National Basketball Association; and… Jews are very substantially underrepresented in farming and in agriculture. These are all phenomena in which one observes underrepresentation, and I think it’s important to try to think systematically and clinically about the reasons for underrepresentation.

    Summers was bumping backwards into the fact of Jews as an elite. And, sociologically, Jewish achievement in the last generation is stunning. We entered the Establishment. A Jewish hedge fund guy who owns oil tankerschairs the American Enterprise Institute, the harbor to Mr. and Mrs. Cheney, and fount of bad ideas.

    That’s why this is a public issue: this elite has conducted itself at times in Jewish ways that deserve discussion. Specifically, the neoconservative promotion of a deluded disastrous war out of some degree of love for Israel, and the degree to which their agenda has been afforded political cover by the larger, liberal Jewish community—that is the heart of my interest. When you consider the overall failure of the Jewish intelligentsia and of Democratic politicians to even look at the way religious zealots on the West Bank are affecting American foreign policy, you have to ask, What does secular Judaism mean? Does it also have its faith-based ideologies?

    But outside of private conversations like the one I had at the bar mitzvah, these things are not discussed. Of course there is a reason for that. The last time Jews had such prominence in the life of societies, Europe in the first third of the last century, we know what happened. The Nazis pointed to the Jewish elite as a cause for extermination. So the Holocaust has acted as a ban on our even broaching the issue. Myself I don’t have any choice, it’s mine. It’s knit into the fabric of my life, from my tribal beginnings to my achievement phase as a youth, to my involvement in progressive ideas post 9/11.

    ==============================

     

    We’re just smarter, that’s why

    by Philip Weiss on June 28, 2011

    http://mondoweiss.net/2011/06/were-just-smarter-thats-why.html

    Over the weekend I watched Julius Genachowski, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission on CSPAN (talking about a good issue, phone companies stealing from their customers in quiet unauthorized ways) and I thought what I always think when I see Genachowski: I was once his boss.

    I was an editor at a New York journalism publication in the 1980s, and Julius was an intern or an assistant there for a time while he was an undergraduate at Columbia.

    My wife likes to point out here that I got fired from the job, and it was the last time I ever worked in an office. But I have a different point to make.

    I got hired to that job by an old friend, who just happened to be Jewish. The top editor of the publication also happened to be Jewish, and so did the managing editor (who was very pro-Israel). There was one editor who wasn’t Jewish. Smart guy, and a poet. He used to say “neckbolt” a lot.

    Genachowski was Jewish, with European refugees survivors in his own family, I believe. And the guy who came in as an assistant editor after me, who I helped hire, was also Jewish.

    On CSpan the other day, Genachowski shared the stage with Sarah Rosen Wartell of the Center for American Progress and Joel Gurin, chief of the Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau of the FCC. I’m guessing both are Jewish, but I don’t know.

    Oh, and full disclosure: when I had a chance in 2008 to bring someone in as co-editor of this website, he was Jewish.

    My friends and I came of age during the meritocracy. Standardized tests and all that. No more quotas. A good thing, too. Only the meritorious would get ahead.

    But if you don’t think kinship networks mean anything, well– you can believe anything you like. I’m just too old to be that naive.

     

    Do Jews Dominate in American Media? And So What If We Do? by Philip Weiss on February 17, 2008 

    http://mondoweiss.net/2008/02/do-jews-dominat.html

    At least a half dozen times in recent months, the suggestion has come from serious people that Jews predominate in the American media–that if we are not dominant, we are a major bloc. In a Yivo event on Jews in journalism I’ve blogged about, a questioner said that Jews’ outsize proportion in the media has granted us “a large influence over power.” In his groundbreaking paper on the New York Times’s role in shaping American policy toward Israel, Jerome Slater spoke of “religious beliefs and identifications” that affected the Times, and cited former executive editor Max Frankel’s admission in his memoir (one also cited by Walt and Mearsheimer): “I was much more deeply devoted to Israel than I dared to assert.”

    Lately broadcast reporter John Hockenberry related that he wanted to do a piece on the hijackers’ motivation after 9/11 but that NBC executive Jeff Zucker scotched the notion:

    “Maybe,” Zucker said, “we ought to do a series of specials on
    firehouses where we just ride along with our cameras. Like the showCops,
    only with firefighters.”… [H]e could make room in the
    prime-time lineup for firefighters, but then smiled at me and said, in
    effect, that he had no time for any subtitled interviews with jihadists
    raging about Palestine. [Weiss’s emphasis]

    Then last month at a forum at the Nixon Center, former Bushie Dov Zackheim said, Jews don’t dominate the policy-making process, but the media is a different story…

    I don’t know that anyone has visited the simple question raised by these statements: Do Jews dominate the media? This is something I know about personally. I’ve worked in print journalism for more than 30 years. I’ve worked for many magazines and newspapers, and for a time my whole social circle was editors and writers in New York. I don’t know television. I don’t know Washington journalism well. I don’t know the west coast. My sample is surely skewed by the fact that I’m Jewish and have always felt great comfort with other Jews. But in my experience, Jews have made up the majority of the important positions in the publications I worked for, a majority of the writers I’ve known at these place, and the majority of the owners who have paid me. Yes my own sample may be skewed, but I think it shows that Jews make up a significant proportion of power positions in media, half, if not more.

    Before considering what this means, let me make my experience concrete:

    My serious journalism began at the Harvard Crimson in the 70s. A friend said the paper was a Jewish boys club; it was dominated by middle class Jews– as apparently today there are a lot of Asians. Many of these Jews are now powerful presences in the media. Zucker is one of them. My first paying job was in Minneapolis. Five Harvard guys started a weekly; four of them were Jewish, including the publisher paying our meager salaries. I remember our editor walking the halls parodying the jingle we had on the radio. The jingle went: “We’ve got the news, we’ve got the sports…” He sang it as “We’ve got the Jews, we’ve got the sports.” Funny.

    I was hired by a Jewish editor at my next job, the Philadelphia Daily News in 1978, and when I started freelancing in 1981, Jewish Harvard friends got me work at the Columbia Journalism Review and the Washington Monthly. A gentile brought me in at Harper’s and the New Republic. It was at the New Republic, a launching pad for any number of highly-successful journalists, that I briefly associated with Marty Peretz, and did a story for him mocking the United Nations, whose judgment he seeks at every turn to nullify because the U.N. is critical of Israel.

    Fast forward. In New York, I have worked for a dozen magazines. Most of my editors have been Jewish. Both my book publishers were Jewish. At one point at one publishing house, the editor, his boss, and her boss were all Jewish, and so was the lawyer vetting the work—I remember her saying she would never travel to Malaysia because of the anti-Semitic Prime minister. Oh–and the assistant editor was half-Jewish.

    I should point out that I have worked with many gentile editors and writers, and I have never been aware of any employment discrimination against them (though I may not be the best source). In fact, at Spy, the three top editors were all non-Jews and when I used the epithet WASP it was removed from my copy. But that is the exception. Generally it’s been Jews Jews Jews. When I hear NPR do a piece with its top political team and both are Jews…

    when a Jewish friend calls me and gossips about lunches with two top news execs at major publications who are both Jewish and who I’ve known for 20 years… when a Jewish editor friend tells me that Si Newhouse would be disturbed if Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter– who has done such courageous work against the Iraq war– did anything to expose the Israel lobby… and when I say that my income has been derived overwhelmingly from Jewish-owned publications for years—this is simply the ordinary culture of the magazine business as I know it.

    I have some ideas why Jews have predominated, but that’s not the purpose of this posting. Last year Senator Russ Feingold, buttonholed on CSPAN about why so many speakers on air were Jewish, said, “Well, we’re good at talking…” That’ll do for now.

    The real issue is, Does it matter? Most of my life I felt it didn’t. It’s just the way it is, at this point in history. It will change (as Clyde Haberman pointed out at that Yivo event). Jews are the latest flavor of the establishment. In his landmark book, The Jewish Century, Slezkine reports that Jews were the majority of journalists in Berlin and Vienna and Prague, too, in the late 1800s, if I remember correctly.

    Now I think it does matter, for two reasons. Elitist establishment culture, and Israel. As to elitism, I worry when any affluent group has power and little sense of what the common man is experiencing. I feel the same discomfort with my prestige-oriented “caste” that E. Digby Baltzell did with his calcified caste, the WASPs–when he called for an end to discrimination against Jews in the early ’60s. The values of my cohort sometimes seem narrow: globalism, prosperity, professionalism. In Israel the values are a lot broader. None of my cohort has served in the military, myself included. A lot of our fathers did; but I bet none
    of our kids do. Military service is for losers–or for Israelis.

    So we are way overrepresented in the chattering classes, and way underrepresented in the battering
    classes. Not a great recipe for leadership, especially in wartime.

    Then there’s Israel. Support for Israel is an element of Jewish religious practice and more important, part of the Jewish culturalexperience. Even if you’re a secular Jewish professional who prides himself on his objectivity, there is a ton of cultural pressure on you to support Israel or at least not to betray Israel. We are talking about a religion, after all, and the pressures faced by Jews who are critical of Israel are not that different from what Muslim women who want greater freedom undergo psychically or by evangelical Christians who want to support gay rights. It is worth noting that great Jewish hereticson the Israel question suffer anger or even ostracism inside their own families. Henry Siegman talked about this on Charlie Rose once, I recall–that even close family were not speaking to him over Israel. And I have seen this for myself on numerous occasions.There is not a lot of bandwidth on this issue. Conversations about Israel even inside the liberal Jewish community are emotionally loaded, and result in people not speaking to one another. I lost this blog at a mainstream publication because the editor was Jewish and conservative on Israel and so was the new owner, and the publisher had worked for AIPAC. And all of them would likely call themselves liberal Democrats.

    As former CNN correspondent Linda Scherzer has said, “We, as Jews, must understand that we come with a certain bias…We believe in the Israeli narrative of history. We support the values that we as Americans, Westerners, and Jews espouse. Thus, we see news reporting through our own prism.”

    There are many American Jewish journalists who have done great independent work re Israel/Palestine. Richard Ben Cramer and the late Robbie Friedman leap to mind. But both these guys are exceptional, and had to overcome/ignore a ton of pressure that most of us would quail under. They had to step outside the Jewish family to do their work…

    The result is that Americans are not getting the full story re Israel/Palestine. Slater says this dramatically in his paper–that the Times has deprived American leadership of reporting on the moral/political crisis that Israel is undergoing, one that Haaretz has covered unstintingly. At Columbia the other night, Jew, Arab and gentile on a panel about the human-rights crisis in Gaza all said that Americans are not getting the full story. Ilan Pappe has marveled in his book The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine, that the Nakba is all but unmentioned in the U.S.–while Haaretz has sought at times to document it, for instance a former officer saying in 2004 that if he had not helped to destroy 200 villages in southern Israel in ’48, there would be another million Palestinians in Israel. To repeat Scherzer’s admission: “We believe in the Israeli narrative of history…”

    Why does the American press behave differently from the Israeli press? I think the answer is guilt. The Jewish cohort of which I am a part has largely accepted the duty that Max Frankel felt, of supporting Israel. This duty is rarely interrogated, and yet consciously or not we all know that American public opinion/leadership is critical to Israel’s political invulnerability; and we think that if we take their fingers out of the dike, who knows what will happen. That is a ton of responsibility. This responsibility is not executed with special care.

    Generally, my cohort hasn’t been to Israel, hasn’t seen the West Bank. But they do feel kinship with Israeli Jews, and–above all–have guilt feelings about the Holocaust, or the American Jewish silence about

    it during the event, the Jewish passivity; and they are determined not to be passive during Israel’s neverending existential crises. And thus they misunderstand Israel and fail to serve their readers.

    ****

    nahida’s comment:

  • “Jewish Superiority, Jewish Elite“ is indeed his/their problem NOT anyone else’s, but when I feel disturbed by it, and when I look at it objectionably and in disbeliefdoes that make me a racist??

The same Philip Weiss , the progressive, who is struggling with his problem of “Jewish superiority and Jewish elite” described what it means to be Jewish to him using the very disturbing words:

“Tribalism“, “Jewish Self-interest“, “Us-ness“, “Distinction to them“, “Sense of Difference“, and an “Elite Identity“

Philip Weiss, the progressive, also admitted that his anti-zionist stance is“concerned with a Jewish self-interest”. Then he elaborated: “A theory of political life based on altruism or concern for victims purely is doomed to fail.”

Philip Weiss, the progressive, who claims that “Islam has all kinds of problems,with free speech, patriarchalism, and the tolerance of violence“, sees it perfectly OK to ban a Palestinian Muslim from commenting on his “progressive” website, it appears that as far as Mr. Philip Weiss’s concerned, I am not a member of his “elite tribe”, and my voice does not particularly serve his “Jewish self-interest”, therefore, censoring my comments and muffling my voice is not much of a worry to him.

Heck, I am only a Palestinian, you know, one of those who “don’t exist” and whose homeland “never existed”, and the principle of freedom of speech does not apply to them.

How ironic to read this call for “give us your money” kind of thing on Philip’s website:“Help Mondoweiss Break the Media Blockade” while at the same time he actively participates in blocking an authentic Palestinian voice.

He IS part of the media blockade, and his slogan aught to be “Help Mondoweiss Enforce the Media Blockade“

This is the email that was sent to Philip after he censored my comments, he did NOT have the politeness to even acknowledge the email with a response:

Quote:

 

Dear Philip

I would like to ask a direct question: are you censoring a Palestinian voice? or is it just a routine slow moderating methods?

I have posted these comments on your website, but apparently, whomever is moderating the site chose to mute a Palestinian voice.

I find this rather shocking, specially when your site presents itself as a “progressive”, which deals with the “war of ideas in the ME”.

to be frank and honest, I am sick and tired of people who pretend to be supporters, pretending to speak for the sake of, and on behalf of Palestinians, yet at the same time muting our faint voices even in the comment section!

.

These are the comments that are CENSORED at Mondoweiss:

 

Quote:

First comment:

The article that has prompted this interview with Philip was Jewish Voice for Peace? Really??
.

Second comment:

and for more info about the ideology that I talked about earlier:

The worm is in the can

Supremacist and Racist Chabad Chabad around the world

BEHOLD WORLD.. BREAKING NEWS

NO… This is not a Synagogue

Meet the Rebbe


Chabad Lubavitch & the zionist Law-Makers


Why the Rebbe hates Islam?

World Leaders and the Rebbe


chabad in US Senate & congress

Meet the Jewish Settlers


Sharing Our House with Settlers

Third comment:

“This presentation uncovers the side of Jewish-zionist-Israeli face that is kept carefully hidden from the general public. I present it here in all its ugliness, for the sake of truth and truth-seekers.

Disclaimer: Quoting people and books is NOT antisemitism

A “Benign” culture with “Benign individuals”!

Posted in CampaignsComments Off on Concerning Mondoweiss, Racism and Freedom of Speech These are articles by Philip Weiss ( calls himself progressive Jew, and t

Darkness Behind Deceptive Screen of India Shining

NOVANEWS

by Asif Haroon Raja

On one hand India claiming to be champions of democracy, secularism and human rights propagates that India is shining, on the other it suffers from highest rate of poverty, illiteracy, infant mortality, inequalities in society. There is unbounded poverty, mass illiteracy and entrenched social divides. Social system of India is founded on inequality, intolerance, religious extremism. It is perhaps the most unequal country on the planet, with a tiny elite engorged on best education, biggest landholdings, and largest incomes. Those born on bottom rungs of social hierarchy suffer a legacy of caste bigotry, rural servitude and class discrimination.

Half of Indian nation sleep on roads while 65% of India’s rural population defecate in the open causing health problems. 2.1 million children under five die in India due to poor sanitation conditions, while 1.5 million children are at risk of becoming malnourished because of rising food prices. Malnutrition counts for 50% of child deaths. 230 million Indians living in rural areas are undernourished. This is highest figure for any country in the world. National Commission for Enterprises in Unorganized Section (NCEUS) has established that 77% Indian population live on less than Rupees 20/ per day. 88% of Dalits and 84% Muslims are living in abject poverty. Only 5% lead life of luxury and ostentation.

Female genocide is another curse in India which afflicts all Hindu castes including the educated elite class. Ratio of girls and boys has dropped sharply to 3:10. A research conducted by EPCAT in India highlighted upsurge in child sex tourism in India. Trafficking of minor girls as little as 7-8 years old has increased by 30%. Child sex is rampant in Mumbai, Kerala, Kolkata because of poverty. Daily cases of rapes in New Delhi are among the highest in world capital cities. 2000 police stations out of 14000 in India are not in control of police.

Out of 759 million illiterate adults in the world, India has the highest number. While numbers of poor people have dropped in China by 70% since 1990, in India the numbers have increased by 5%. Interestingly, India lags behind China and Pakistan in social indicators of hunger and poverty. In World Poverty-Hunger Index of 88 countries, India ranks 62 while Pakistan is at 45 and China at 31. Some states in India have much higher level of hunger and malnutrition than Haiti. While there is widespread abject poverty, hunger and malnutrition and very low levels of human development in India, it is resorting to massive arms build and competing with China and trying to overawe Pakistan with its military might.

Unfortunately India chooses to spend more on military than on fighting hunger, poverty and disease. Ruling Hindu Brahmans in their quest to become world power are indulging in arms race and letting millions die of hunger each year. Yet India, the world’s largest democracy is not prepared to admit its fault lines and grave social issues and keep humming the tune of India shining.

In 2009 when Indian leaders were crowing the loudest that India is shining and its economy booming and has become an economic power house, 175 Indians died of starvation and thirst. According to Tata Institute of Social Sciences, in the last one decade, 200,000 Indian farmers committed suicide since they had come under huge debt due to heavy interest rate and were unable to repay.

India is an ethnic museum where over hundred nationalities speaking different languages and dialects having different religions, cultures, customs and traditions, dress code and living styles and psychological makeup reside. It is owing to such extreme diversities in identities and historical backgrounds of every nationality that India till today has been unable to weld into a single nation. People of Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Haryana, Rajasthan, Bihar, Manipur, Bihar, Assam, Maghalaya, Mizoram, Chhatisgarh, Jharkand, Nagaland, Bodo, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat and East Punjab are deprived of basic human rights and are virtually treated as slaves. These nations are consistently struggling for the attainment of their democratic rights since 1947. It is an artificial state which is bound to fragment. Austria-Hungary, USSR, Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia are examples. CIA predicted in 2009 that India will not exist by 2015.

The rulers have all along used brutal force to suppress the voice of the disenfranchised class and to forcibly keep it within Indian Union. When the patience of the deprived Indian states wore out they were forced to pick up arms against uncompromising and heartless central government which has always been in the hands of Brahmans. 37 insurgencies and separatist movements are raging in India out of which Maoists movement is the most dangerous. It reflects an acute sense of alienation and frustration of the people. They picked up arms when their genuine socio-politico-economic or religious grievances were not attended to by the state and state forces resorted to brutal force to choke their voices. While the Kashmiris, Sikhs and Assamese are struggling for their political rights and self determination, seven states in the north east and Maoists/Naxalites are fighting for socio-economic justice.

Out of 1.7 billion population of which 83% are Hindus, over 39% of dispossessed Indians live below poverty line. They look towards Maoists to provide them succour. Maoists in India have gained influence over 20 states, affecting 220 districts, including sensitive Red Corridor in which 80% of nuclear and missile sites are located and where security forces are totally helpless against them. It accounts for 40% Indian Territory. Indian top leadership admits that Naxalites pose single largest threat to India’s security. Since 2005, average incidence of violence by Naxals is 1500. Maoist movement is gaining momentum in both rural and urban areas and has also got associated with Maoists in neighboring Nepal. Affected areas include eastern belt, Bihar, West Bengal, Jharkand, Chhattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh, parts of Orissa, Kerala and Madhya Pradesh.

Diabolical caste system in India which is considered by Hindu Brahmans an integral part of Hinduism is among the biggest factors which has kept the Indians divided and a great majority disadvantaged. Besides perverse caste system, Hindutva championed by right wing radical parties like RSS, BJP, VHP, Overseas VHP, Shiv Sena, Bajrang Dal, Abhinov Bharat, Sanatan Sanashtha, Hindu Students Council, all under Sangh Pariwar is another social distortion which fuels extremism and social injustice in India. Adherents of Hindutva closely associated with Indian serving and retired Army officers view non-Hindus residing in India as impure and aliens and treat them as second rated citizens. Even Dalits belonging to lower caste of Hindus are despised and are cruelly treated. Those not subscribing to philosophy of Hindutva are dealt with savagely by extremist Hindu groups.

Muslims, Sikhs, Christians and Dalits are their biggest targets. Savagery of Hindu zealots was on full display on 06 December 1992 when they demolished Babri mosque in Ayodhia and massacred Muslims in thousands. 300,000 Christians have been murdered in Nagaland since 1948 and many have been forcibly converted to Hinduism. Over 100,000 Muslims have been slaughtered in IHK and 3000 in Ahmadabad in 2002 under state patronage. 250,000 Sikhs have been killed since 1984. 52,268 Sikhs are held as political prisoners without charge and trial to avenge murder of Indra Gandhi. Thousands of prisoners of minorities are rotting in jails.

Well over 1.5 million security forces are involved in combating insurgents and freedom fighters within India and in Indian Held Kashmir (IHK) and not a single movement have been defeated. With such a bleak domestic security situation and with so many social fault lines, India should have diverted its full attention towards home front rather than getting involved in expensive clandestine operations and in military build up.

India has failed to make best use of its high economic growth to reduce poverty and improve standard of living of the dispossessed. India might be an emerging economic power, but it is way behind Pakistan and Bangladesh in providing basic sanitation facilities to its people. India should compete with China and Pakistan in fighting poverty, hunger and disease rather than indulging in arms race or wasting resources in fighting terrorism. The best cure of terrorism is alleviation of sufferings of the poor masses.

Posted in Pakistan & KashmirComments Off on Darkness Behind Deceptive Screen of India Shining

Why America Needs To Dismantle Its Security Apparatus

NOVANEWS

by Sherwood Ross

The best way for America to become more secure may well be to dismantle its vast security apparatus. This means eliminating the Department of Homeland Security, closing down our 800 military bases on foreign soil, and slashing armaments spending by the War Department, the one euphemistically called the Department of Defense but which is, in fact, the spearhead of today’s naked American aggression in six countries. Real security begins with creating a policy of peace, meaning non-intervention, in the affairs of other states. It means when the U.S. sends its sons and daughters abroad on official business, it sends the Peace Corps to help and not the Pentagon to obliterate.

It means returning to the lost arts of diplomacy, restoring the State Department to its original relevance; it means scrapping the posture of arrogance that is known as American exceptionalism and not acting as the self-appointed policeman of the world; and it means settling disputes with other nations in the World Court, not on the battlefield; and lastly, and not the least, it means having the courage to put some trust in the organization to keep the peace in whose creation America played so large a role in founding, the United Nations.

“We are not the policeman of mankind,” syndicated columnist Walter Lippmann once remarked. “We are not able to run the world and we shouldn’t pretend that we can. Let us tend to our own business, which is great enough as it is.” This complemented the words of founder Thomas Paine, who wrote in “The American Crisis”, “Not a place on earth might be so happy as America. Her situation is remote from all the wrangling world, and she has nothing to do but to trade with them.”

In the last century, no less an authority on international affairs than George Kennan urged, “the first (concept) to go should be self-idealization and the search for absolutes in world affairs: for absolute security, absolute amity, absolute harmony.” In today’s America, the search for absolute security has assumed hysterical proportions, with DHS officials everywhere checking up on everybody, “probable cause” be damned, at airports and bus terminals and train stations. It has made every citizen the object of Federal suspicion and denied to 100,000 the right to board an airplane. Communist Russia’s Nikolai Lenin would have cheered this invasion of individual privacy, as he once said, “It is true that liberty is precious—so precious that it must be rationed.” Under Communism, the rights of the individual were ever subordinated to the State, and that is increasingly true of America today.

In today’s America, the Pentagon, which consumes 54 cents of every tax dollar, reigns supreme, making a mockery of President Truman’s words, “If there is one basic element in our Constitution, it is civilian control of the military.” Truman’s staff feared that concentrating all military offices under one roof might create an ogre and that nightmare has become reality. As James Carroll remarks in his “House of War”(Houghton Mifflin): “Secretary of War Henry Stimson, saw the new danger at once and warned of it, to no avail. After Stimson, dozens of others would sound alarms as the Pentagon usurped controls over the levers of the American economy and culture, over science, academia, and politics.” Or as the poet Robert Browning wrote, “A man in armor is his armor’s slave.”

Truman remains the tragic example of how the quest for military supremacy actually undermines a nation’s security, rather than strengthens it. By creating at Hiroshima an horrific precedent to use atomic warfare (to cut the Pacific war short by a few months) he triggered a nuclear arms race spanning more than a half century that has spread around the world so that all humanity now lives in the shadow of the nuclear terror. “We have grasped the mystery of the atom and rejected the Sermon on the Mount,” reflected America’s prescient World War Two General Omar Bradley.

Truman’s decision to A-bomb Hiroshima haunts Americans who fear the nuclear weapon may now be used against their own cities. This is the same fear that haunts the populations of Pakistan and India and other peoples who see local disputes escalating into nuclear infernos. And the senseless manufacture of these weapons by the tens of thousands, weapons that are rotting uselessly in U.S. arsenals around the world, weapons whose very testing has poisoned the atmosphere, has cost American taxpayers many trillions of dollars that could have been far better spent in energizing the civilian economy. In the last analysis, America’s Soviet Cold War enemy was brought down not by the Pentagon but by a visionary Pope and a humble Polish labor leader.

The agonies endured by foreign peoples by the establishment of U.S. military bases on their soil (287 in Germany alone) has rarely touched the conscience of the American people. How much better off would the world be today if the U.S. in 1946 had not evicted the residents of Bikini atoll in the Marshall Islands to test 20 nuclear bombs, making that island paradise uninhabitable and poisoning the world’s atmosphere? Okinawans are furious that the U.S. is using its best real estate for military bases and by overwhelming majorities tell pollsters they want an end to it.

And what tragedy is greater than the fate of the Chagossian inhabitants of Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean who in 1971 were summarily evicted from their island paradise for the establishment of an air base from which the Pentagon could attack the Middle East and whose dogs were taken from them and gassed before their eyes? In nearby Puerto Rico, the U.S. Navy used the island of Vieques as a bombing range and quit in 2003 only after non-violent protests hampered naval maneuvers and public opinion shamed the admirals. The utter absence of any regard for these and other innocent peoples is reason enough to change the name of Washington, D.C., to one that will not disgrace the memory of our nation’s first president. After all, it was Washington who said, “Observe good faith and justice toward all nations. Cultivate peace and harmony with all.”

At the root of America’s insecurity is Washington’s aggressive foreign policy to control the oil resources of the the Middle East and the world. Measured in the profit margins of the great oil companies, this policy has been a triumph, even if American motorists suffer at the pump. Also, control of the Middle East was instrumental, in another of President Truman’s historic blunders, in helping create the state of Israel on the soil of a people who had done the world Jewish community no injury, as had the Germans under Hitler, and who have since been degraded into second-class citizens in their own land, and worse, in Gaza today into the sort of ghettoized population reminiscent of Polish Jewry in Warsaw in the early stages of the Nazi occupation.

The rise of Middle Eastern terrorism had nothing to do, as claimed by President Bush, with their jealousy of our freedoms but with our meddling in their region, including the overthrow of the elected government of Iran in 1953 by the CIA and the subsequent arrest, torture, and murder there of thousands of innocent Iranians. It is this policy of banal greed to feed the coffers of the major oil companies and the Pentagon’s “defense” contractors that is making America a target of violence and that needs to be ended.

Some constructive steps would be the termination of the world’s largest and best funded crime syndicate, the Central Intelligence Agency; the closure of all U.S. foreign bases; the elimination of our nuclear and germ warfare arsenals; the immediate withdrawal of U.S. forces now fighting in Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia and Libya; an end to the training by the Pentagon of foreign police forces; an end to its roles as the world’s No. 1 arms peddler and the world’s No. 1 jailer; a massive reduction of military spending by about 90 percent for starters and a hefty increase in Peace Corps spending as well as for humanitarian rescue operations in Africa and elsewhere.

The U.S. must also have the courage to give up its veto in the Security Council and to recall the words of President Kennedy who said the UN is “the only true alternative to war.” As President Truman pointed out in one of his finer moments upon taking office, “The responsibility of the great states is to serve and not to dominate the world.” If you think that the foregoing suggestions are naive, ask yourself where the “realists” have gotten America today.

Posted in USAComments Off on Why America Needs To Dismantle Its Security Apparatus

CBC and Pacifica Disgraced by Kay

NOVANEWS

Public Broadcasters Disgraced as Agents of the 9/11 Cover-Up.

by Anthony Hall, GlobalizationStudies.ca

(LETHRIDGE, Alberta) – Pacifica and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation have joined forces in featuring Jonathan Kay in 9/11/11 coverage aimed at renewing the psychological warfare essential to the invasions, torture, Genocide, illegal occupations and Islamophobia characterizing the 9/11 wars.

Jonathan Kay was a featured guest highlighted in the network coverage of the tenth anniversary of 9/11 as broadcast by both Pacifica Radio in the United States and the English-language radio division of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Kay wrote for Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation a hate-inspired, tenth-anniversary text claiming that those engaged in seeking answers for the copious unanswered questions concerning 9/11 are engaged in “absolving” all Muslims collectively of a “terrible crime.” (p. 167)

Kay’s diatribe was funded by a prominent Israeli-based think tank whose leadership comes largely from the Project for the New American Century. PNAC is the think tank which observed in 2000 that its ambitious program of military expansion and invasions could not be met without a “catalyzing event” like a new Pearl Harbor. Entitled Among the Truthers, Kay diverts attention away from the evidence of what did and did not happen on 9/11. Instead Kay appoints himself as a psycho-anthropologist in pursuit of what this war promoter and Isamophobe describes as “the growing conspiracist underground.”

In his 9/11/11 coverage Michael Enright, host of CBC Radio’s flag ship show, Sunday Morning, demeaned on air his old colleague, Barrie Zwicker. Zwicker and Enright worked together for many years as reporters at The Globe and Mail, the main competitor in Canada of Kay’s National Post. Zwicker is the author of Towers of Deception: The Media Cover-Up of 9/11. As his wonkey subtitle proclaims, Kay equates even the most accomplished of those engaged in the quest for 9/11 truth, investigators like Zwicker as well as Professor David Ray Griffin, with “Birthers, Armageddonites, Vaccine Hysterics, Hollywood Know-Nothings and Internet Addicts.”

Aged 77, the fit, mentally-agile Zwicker was a guest earlier today on Michael Enright’s program. The struggling host could not come anywhere close to keeping up with Zwicker. Instead Enright displayed an ignorance of his subject matter unbefitting of a broadcaster holding a high level of public trust in Canada’s Crown-owned agency. Like the CBC, the Pacifica stations in the United States have frequently featured Kay as an expert commentator on 9/11. While the CBC did not broach the subject of 9/11 skepticism in its 9/11/11 coverage, at least Pacifica did include in its tenth-anniversary broadcast the perspectives of, for instance, architect Richard Gage and University of Copenhagen Chemistry Professor, Niels Harrit. Both educators are highly critical of the official conspiracy theory of 9/11.

See

Posted in USAComments Off on CBC and Pacifica Disgraced by Kay

TO D.C. FROM: Iran, New York and Florida

NOVANEWS

by Eileen Fleming

The first two reports come out of Iran and I play clean up from Florida.

NY residents protest US support of IsraHell

 

A US analyst says that the preemptive nuclear threat presented by the Israeli regime threatens European cities as well as Arab and Muslim countries that fall within range of its missiles.

In an exclusive interview with Press TV, Ralph Schoenman, author of Hidden History of Zionism, elaborates on the irony as Israel has recently signed an agreement with the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN).

He says that Israel’s capacity to take nuclear action against European cities is a threat against Europe’s support for the Palestinian people and any other people in the region.

Press TV: With Israel having great ties and influence with the US, is it in the best interests of the free world to upgrade its ties for the European Organization for Nuclear Research?

Schoenman: Let me first say that a category-free world is one that is certainly alien to my understanding. I think what you’re talking about is the propaganda of the United States ruling class about the imperialist agenda that it has.

And it’s not unlike the pretense that Israel is a besieged democracy that needs to have a monopoly of nuclear power when, in fact, the nuclear capacity of the Israeli state has always been used as a dagger in the heart of the Arab movement, in fact, the regional movement for national self determination.

I can tell you for my own personal experience, having met with Shimon Perez when he was the Defense Minister, and meeting with [David] Ben-Gurion, as well, in 1962 as part of a negotiation I was conducting involving Gamal Abdul Naser, Bin Qasam of Iraq, and even King Faisal of Saudi Arabia and Sam Salem in Lebanon, the Zionist leadership hadn’t the faintest interest in any such discussions what-so-ever.

As Sam Salem told me at the time, they are too busy planning the occupation of Kuwait. And the relevance of this is that I best the operations in Dimona which Shimon Perez would acknowledge them and said that they were vital for the further subsistence of the Israeli state and for its capacity to intimidate the Arab countries. They’re not ambiguous about this.

You’re talking about hundreds of nuclear warheads. In fact, if you recall the nuclear worker, Mordechai Vanunu — who had been working in Dimona and who exposed in the Sunday Times of London, at the time, the scale of the nuclear capacity and the aggressive intent on the part of the Israeli state — was kidnapped by the Israelis and held in Solitary confinement for almost 18 years.

The record of Israeli deployment of the nuclear capacity that it has involving hundreds of hydrogen bomb capable missiles integrated with the United States, constantly upgrading its capacity, linking its offensive missiles represents a threat to all the peoples of the region. No ambiguity about that.

And all that you have here is a formal enhancement of the legitimacy of the Israeli state’s menace to the peoples of the region and, indeed, of the world.

Press TV: You made a good point about Israel having the power to oppress with nuclear warheads and such forth…it’s also known that Israel is continuing to oppress the Palestinians, do they really need to have the strength of nuclear power in this situation?

Schoenman: The purpose of a nuclear capacity – repeatedly major officials of the Israeli state have spoken about the pending holocaust. They invoke the holocaust, the irony of which the Zionist movement and leadership collaborated with all the most anti-Semitic regimes including the Nazis as I’ve often discussed and documented in the Hidden History of Zionism.

The relevance of this of course is that the invocation of the holocaust, wrapping themselves in the shroud of the six million victims and fascism and of Nazi-ism all the while they were colluding with that very force, is designed to provide legitimacy to their aggressive intent. Because the second holocaust of which they speak is the punitive aggression of the Arab states who they claim are going to wipe out the Jews.

The shoe is on the other foot. The Zionist state was formed by the massacre of Palestinians from one end of the country to the other and the driving out of 850,000 people of a population of a little over 970,000.

This is the origin and nature of the Zionist state and the nuclear capacity is designed to terrorize the regional populations and the governments of these countries with the prospect of a preemptive nuclear strike by the Israeli state.

They’ve always declared their willingness to do this; they’ve menaced the countries of the world with this capacity. In this regard, they are supported and clandestinely facilitated by US military and now the European CERN (European organization for Nuclear Research) is only adding a patina of legitimacy to the facts on the ground.

Facts on the ground are that the Israeli monopoly of nuclear capacity in the region is a threat to the survival of the peoples of the world because it represents the prospect of a nuclear holocaust initiated by the Israelis against the peoples of the region with all of the deathly consequences that that represents.

And by the way, one final point about the irony of CERN. Israeli academics and officials associated with the MOSSAD have spoken often about Israel’s capacity to take nuclear action against European cities as a deterrent or as a threat against Europe’s support of the aspirations of the Palestinian people or of any of the aspirations of the regional peoples of the world to throw off the chains of imperialism and subjugation.

That’s the real reality on the ground and this is part of an attempt to stabilize the threats of these people made in the Israeli state and it should be exposed for exactly what it is.

SC/GMA/MB

Source: Israeli nukes a preemptive threat to all

Come September:


Posted in IranComments Off on TO D.C. FROM: Iran, New York and Florida

Hard Times Getting Harder

NOVANEWS

by Stephen Lendman

Americans are being hammered economically, politically and socially. Paul Craig Roberts quoted Vladimir Putin calling America “a parasite on the world.”

PR manipulators present a virtuous image. Roberts said “Putin understated the burden that America is on the world. How much longer will (it) put up with” our virtuosity?

Death, destruction, and global economic wrecking defines its agenda. Libya at peace became a hellish charnel house. Mainstream Americans suffer greatly in deepening Depression.

Political Washington fattens itself on campaign cash, hanging out to dry struggling millions. Trends analyst Gerald Celente says it’s time for direct democracy – “tak(ing) power out of the hands of politicians and put(ting) into the hands of the people.”

With their own self-interest at stake, bet on them getting it right. With politicians on the take, they do it only for fat cat contributers, and the bigger the bribe, the more they get.

Depression Defines Today’s Economy

Gluskin Sheff chief economist Dave Rosenberg calls what’s ongoing “a modern day depression,” saying:

A Depression, “simply put, is a very long period of economic malaise and when the economy fails to respond in any meaningful or lasting way to government stimulus programs,” or what passes for them with benefits mostly to corporate favorites and super-rich elites.

It’s defined by a “series of rolling recessions and modest recoveries over a multi-year period of general economic stagnation as the excesses from the prior asset and credit bubble(s) are completely wrung out of the system.”

Using a baseball metaphor, Rosenberg says we’re “in the third inning of this current debt deleveraging ball game.”

In other words, after three tough years, many more lie ahead for ordinary working households suffering most.

“You know you’re in a depression when interest rates go to zero and there is no revival in credit-sensitive spending.”

How can there be with banks hoarding nearly $2 trillion in cash. A classic “liquidity trap” occurs when private sector lending dries up.

Depressions usually follow bursting asset bubbles, especially housing ones. Before his August 2007 death, economist Kurt Richebacher warned about them in a 2004 commentary titled, “Property Bubbles: Beware of Property Bubbles.”

Citing “economic and financial imbalances,” he said America’s growth depends “entirely on the continuation of the frenetic housing bubble.”

However, “all bubbles end painfully, housing (ones) in particular. They’re an especially dangerous asset bubble because of their extraordinary debt intensity.”

They cause great harm by extracting wealth (through refinancing) from rising valuations and by “heavily entangl(ing) banks and the whole financial system as lenders.”

Thus, property bubbles have historically been the main cause of major financial crises, notably Depressions.

Late 1980s Japan was a striking example. Its stock and property bubbles burst together, but the former got most attention. The “property deflation continued for 13 years (with) calamitous effects on (its) banking system through a horrendous legacy of bad loans.”

Japan’s “building sector” also suffered and “never recovered from the depression following its (late 1980s) excesses.”

Richebacher wondered if America faces the same fate, asking, “Is the US economy in better or worse shape today (in 2004) than in 2000 (as it faced recession)? Is it in a self-sustaining recovery?”

Absolutely not, and he was right, saying “it is in dramatically worse shape” because of years of binge borrowing.

Also because of leveraged asset purchases and soaring imports. The former involves no income creation. The latter destroys it. Moreover, this type borrowing is unproductive dead-weight debt, “yielding to debtors no future flow of income from which to” service it.

As a result, a bad ending is assured. In summer 2007, it arrived with painful, deepening effects. Over three years later, growing millions can explain America’s economy better than trained experts by relating their current state.

Rosenberg says Depressions result from “bursting of an asset bubble and a contraction in credit, whereas plain-vanilla recessions are typically caused by inflation and excessive manufacturing inventories.”

Moreover, when true unemployment hovers around 23%, and half of those looking did it fruitlessly for six months or longer, “you know you are in something much deeper than a garden-variety recession.”

Instead of soup lines in streets, they’re “in the mail – 99 weeks of unemployment checks for over 10 million jobless Americans,” and many others end up losing them.

In addition, secular change affect attitudes toward debt. Discretionary spending and homeownership plans are altered or curtailed until hard times give way to better ones.

“More fundamentally, in a recession,” government stimulus revives economic growth. In Depressions, at best, it’s kept from getting worse. Many bucks don’t deliver enough bang to spur sustained upward momentum.

“In a recession, everything would be back to a new high nearly three years after” the economy contracted. Currently, “everything” is still below December 2007 levels.

Under normal conditions or garden variety recessions, all the monetary, fiscal and bailout stimulus would revive a “roaring” economy. Because it failed shows Depression conditions exist. That’s what bond prices are signaling, with yields approaching Japanese levels. At near zero, it hasn’t worked.

Even with current government deficits around 10% of GDP, double Great Depression levels, bucks injected to stimulate bang fell flat.

A decade of credit growth excess created the current mess. No quick fix will end it. Another $5 trillion “has to be extinguished either by paying it down,” walking away from it, or having it socialized.

With 10-year Treasuries around 2%, the message not only is something is very wrong but that years are needed to fix it. Even then, only if good, not counterproductive, policies are employed.

At the same time, “epic changes” are occurring in how households allocate budgets, especially regarding discretionary spending and debt at a time they’re undergoing a prolonged deleveraging cycle.

Years of credit expansion were fueled by no-doc loans (requiring no documentation), low-doc ones, liar loans, NINJA ones (with no income, jobs or assets), 0% vendor financing, subprime mortgages, risky Alt-A ones, and option ARMs (adjustable rate ones) with negative amortization.

From the mid-1960s through mid-1980s, household debt to income was 70%. In 2002, it was 105%. In 2007, it hit an all-time 140% high, and it’s still 120%. It shows years more deleveraging are required to return it to normal levels.

In fact, “for the first time in recorded history, the entire $70 trillion household balance sheet is in a long-term process of shrinking.”

It suggests rising savings and weaker private sector growth. It’s also deflationary at a time essential commodities are rising, including food, energy, and medical care, key items in every household budget.

Bottom line reality is protracted pain ahead for working households, no matter what policy measures are employed.

Given counterproductive ones proposed and planned (including austerity when stimulus is needed), expect hard times indeed ahead to get harder.

A Final Comment

No wonder America’s middle class is disappearing. At its current pace, it won’t be long before it’s gone.

In his book titled, “How the Economy Was Lost,” Paul Craig Roberts said it’s gone and won’t come back until “free trade myths are buried six feet under.”

“America’s (19th and) 20th centur(ies) economic success was based on two things. Free trade was not one of them. (It) was based on protectionism (and) British indebtedness.”

US economic ascendance eroded by abandoning traditional practices and preaching “free trade” dogma, neoliberalism, globalization, and the disease of offshoring. As a result, “American cities and states lost tax base, and families and communities lost jobs,” replaced by fewer lower paying ones.

“The pressure of jobs offshor(ed), together with vast imports, has destroyed the economic prospects for all Americans….Doing a good job, providing a good service, is no longer the corporation’s function. Instead,” goal one is cutting labor costs, exporting high paid jobs to low wage countries, and hollowing out America for profit.

As bad as it’s been it may get worse with millions more white-collar jobs vulnerable to offshoring. They include high paying positions in information technology, accounting, architecture, advanced engineering design, news reporting, stock analysis, and medical and legal services.

In other words, any job, high or low level, performed effectively anywhere will be moved to the lowest paying locales, abandoning America and other higher cost ones.

At the same time, major media scoundrels won’t explain it or the truth about America’s troubled economy.

Instead, consensus lying reports slow growth but no recession at a time of deepening Depression. In other words, coverup and denial substitutes for hard truths when they’re most needed.

In his latest summer review, Gerald Celente says America’s “economy is in collapse. Nothing the White House, Congress or the Federal Reserve tries to do to stop the crash” is working.

Everything tried fell flat. Operating on life-support, when the plug finally is pulled “and the money pump stops, the US economy will go down and” take much of the world with it.

It shows financial destruction can be as painful as military might. Either way, ordinary people suffer most, especially when governments they rely on don’t help.

That’s the state across America and Europe. It’s why activism, not apathy, must confront what only will worsen unless effectively addressed.

Of course, responsible leaders are needed to do it. They’re, in fact, nowhere in sight, so it’s up to voters to clean house for better ones.

Given Americans’ choice between bad or worse, it may be beyond reach, but what option is there than to try.

Posted in USAComments Off on Hard Times Getting Harder

Imperial Arrogance and Hypocrisy

NOVANEWS

by Stephen Lendman

Washington supports a UN seat for the illegitimate Transitional National Council (TNC) Libyan government.

Obama vows to veto a Palestinian bid for statehood and full de jure UN membership.

Imperial America’s wrong over right agenda takes center stage across North Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia.

Death, destruction, and immiseration take precedence over rule of law principles and norms.

It’s no different at home where political leaders favor wealth and power interests over working households, struggling to cope during America’s greatest Depression.

Imperial arrogance and hypocrisy define Washington’s contempt for human and civil rights, as well as other core democratic values. Almost daily it reaches for new heights.

On September 16, New York Times writer Neil MacFarquhar headlined, “UN Takes Steps to Assist Libya’s Transitional Leaders,” saying:

The “Security Council lift(ed) some economic sanctions and the General Assembly accept(ed) the credentials of the (Illegitimate) transitional government to represent Libya in the world body.”

Reuters said Washington “welcome(d the) vote. Vow(ed) to be ‘friend’ of Libya.”

UN ambassador Susan Rice said Tripoli will have “a friend and partner in the United States. The Libyan people still have much more work to do, but they also have the full knowledge that the international community, including the United States, stands ready to help their transition towards democracy, prosperity, and the rule of law.”

In fact, Washington plans colonization, occupation, plunder, and exploitation. Libya is now wholly owned by America and its imperial partners.

Democracy, rule of law principles, and general prosperity won’t be tolerated. Only favored elitist interests will benefit. That’s what all wars are about, not freedom and a new beginning for liberated people.

Seventeen countries voted against UN membership. Venezuela’s UN Ambassador, Jorge Valero, perhaps spoke for others, saying:

Caracas rejects the “illegitimate transitory authority imposed by foreign intervention” and any attempt to make Libya a NATO or Security Council “protectorate.”

It’s already a colony to be brutally exploited like wherever imperial America shows up.

Cuban UN Ambassador Pedro Nunez Mosquera said NATO conducted “a military operation to change the regime to promote their political and economic interests.”

On September 20, Obama will welcome TNC head Mustafa Jalil in New York at the UN. He’ll also meet there with other imperial partners to discuss how to carve up their new trophy property.

White House deputy national security advisor Ben Rhodes describes it as “US support (for) the type of Libya we’d like to see going forward.”

He barely concealed what he means, calling Libya a “success” story. Millions now suffering there might disagree. For them, in fact, the worst is yet to come.

A previous article discussed planned peacekeeper occupation of Libya, accessed through the following link:Planned Peacekeeper Occupation of Libya

On September 16, the Security Council authorized a “UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL),” without explaining its another illegal imperial occupation against the wishes of Libyans wanting freedom, peace, and right to govern their own affairs.

Instead they’ll get paramilitary brutality, mass rapes, and sex trafficking, as well as other atrocities and crimes against humanity.

They’re commonplace wherever Blue Helmets show up. They come as enforcers, not peacekeepers. They serve powerful interests, not those of people they’re sworn to protect.

Libyans will soon taste what 16 other countries endure, including DRC Congo, Sudan, Kosovo, Rwanda, and Haiti where local people hate them and want them out. However, they have no say or rights. Their choice is obey or else.

Libya v. Palestine

Partnered with Israel, Washington won’t tolerate Palestinian statehood and full UN membership. Note the contrast. TNC-led Libya has no legitimacy. Yet it easily got UN membership.

Palestinians have waited 63 years for their legitimate rights.

Maybe next time, not now, because Obama and Netanyahu won’t tolerate them. Neither does Abbas who signaled capitulation in a September 16 speech.

New York Times writers Ethan Bronner and Isabel Kershner weren’t listening. It shows in their September 16 article headlined, “Palestinians Set Bid for UN Seat, Clashing with UN,” saying:

Abbas “announced Friday that he would seek membership for a state of Palestine from the (Security Council) next week, putting him on a collision course with Israel and the United States….”

Fact check

The only “collision” will be Arab street anger after America’s veto, even though doing so has no teeth. The General Assembly alone admits new members. The Security Council only recommends.

A previous article said Abbas won’t petition the General Assembly, or if he does, it’ll be for less than full rights within easy reach. In other words, he’ll settle for half a loaf status quo, leaving Palestinians back at square one.

Yet both Times writers called Abbas’ plan “a double defeat for the United States. Washington not only failed to dissuade (him) from a unilateral bid for statehood, but also fell short of its goal of” preventing an easy to pass “symbolic” General Assembly vote.

Fact check

As explained above, if properly done, General Assembly membership votes are decisive, not “symbolic.”

“The United States has struggled to place itself on the side of those seeking justice and freedom in the current revolts….A veto of Palestinian membership would intensify Arab perceptions of American double standards.”

Fact check

Ask Bahrainis about Washington’s “struggle” for “justice and freedom.” Ask Yemenis being bombed by US drones. Ask Libyans enduring months of daily terror bombings and cutthroat mercenaries murdering anyone thought to be pro-Gaddafi.

Ask starving Somalis being attacked by US proxies and tortured in secret US prisons. Ask Iraqis and Afghans how they feel about Americans in their midst. Ask anyone anywhere when US forces show up. They’ll explain.

Bronner and Kershner are paid to lie and support powerful interests, not popular ones or rule of law standards.

Netanyahu – a Profile in Brazen Defiance

Haaretz writer Doron Rosenblum accused Netanyahu of “running Israel aground,” saying:

He devoted his tenure “to riding roughshod over every diplomatic finesse, to scattering threats, to provoking crises, to searching for anti-Semitism and to finding various bizarre excuses for continuing the annexationist status quo.”

“Only when (he was) absolutely forced (did he) pay lip service to ‘two states’ and ‘willingness to negotiate’ – but with a lack of conviction that was worse than a direct refusal. For in doing so, (he) did not merely lose sympathy; he lost a much more important card: trust.”

Rosenblum only stopped short of saying better trust a snake than a man known for never “having acted in good faith.”

On September 16, it showed by his rejection of Palestinians seeking statehood recognition at the UN, saying:

“Peace can only be achieved through direct negotiations with Israel,” adding:

When the PA “abandon(s) its futile measures, firstly its unilateral decision to approach the UN, it will find Israel as a partner for negotiations and peace.”

In fact, Israel only wants Palestinian leaders as an occupying power’s enforcer.

Israel never negotiates and won’t tolerate peace. Netanyahu once called it “a waste of time.”

Washington backs whatever Israel wants, even when it harms its own interests.

On September 6, US Israeli ambassador Daniel Shapiro said:

“The test of every policy the administration develops in the Middle East is whether it is consistent with the goal of ensuring Israel’s future as a secure, Jewish, democratic state. That is a commitment that runs as a common thread through our entire government.”

Israel, of course, never was democratic and isn’t now. Any nation affording rights solely to one segment of society at the expense of others is discriminatory, repressive and unfair.

Arabs comprise one-fifth of Israel’s population, but are treated more like fifth column threats than citizens.

America, of course, treats all working people as subjects to be exploited, not helped. It’s true at home and abroad. Israel modeled its economy after America’s, adopting the worst of its neoliberal harshness.

Both nations are partnered in an imperial enterprise to subjugate people throughout the Middle East/North Africa/Central Asia. America and its NATO allies plan the same thing globally, waging multiple wars to do it.

Freedom, independence, and democratic rights are notions none of these countries tolerate. Ask suffering millions. They’ll explain.

Taking Aim at Abbas

As explained above, Abbas signaled capitulation in his September 16 speech, again revealing his collaborationist credentials.

Hamas and Islamic Jihad denounced his speech.

Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum accused him of “unilateral moves” by acting without consulting Palestine’s legitimate government and other factions.

Islamic Jihad spokesman Daoud Shihab said his objective is reopening negotiations with Israel, not independence and UN membership.

He added that Abbas should focus on implementing his May unity government agreement, now sidetracked at Washington and Israel’s behest. They, in fact, want Hamas isolated, not allied with Fatah to serve all Palestinians.

Reuters said Quartet members will meet in New York on September 18 in a last-ditch effort to derail a showdown over Palestinian statehood and UN membership.

They want resumption of bilateral Israeli/Palestinian negotiations going nowhere and won’t now. At issue is preventing Abbas from petitioning the UN, no matter how little he’ll settle for.

In a word, they want Palestinians subjugated under permanent occupation with no rights. Obama and Netanyahu call it “peace.”

Others call it bondage. Abbas calls it the best he can get.

Palestinians may finally realize they need leaders representing them, no matter what they sacrifice to do it.

Freedom never comes easily or quickly. It never comes at all without trying under committed leaders doing what they know is right.

Freedom next time isn’t good enough. Tomorrow never comes.

Palestinian statehood and full UN membership – now’s the time.

Posted in LibyaComments Off on Imperial Arrogance and Hypocrisy

Benefits on Chopping Block as Congress Struggles to Cut Debt

NOVANEWS

Deficit agreement under which Pentagon must find billions in reductions may force cuts once considered unthinkable

By James Dao and Mary Williams Walsh
New York Times

As Washington looks to squeeze savings from once-sacrosanct entitlements like Social Security and Medicare, another big social welfare system is growing as rapidly, but with far less scrutiny: the health and pension benefits of military retirees.

Military pensions and health care for active and retired troops now cost the government about $100 billion a year, representing an expanding portion of both the Pentagon budget — about $700 billion a year, including war costs — and the national debt, which together finance the programs.

Making even incremental reductions to military benefits is typically a doomed political venture, given the public’s broad support for helping troops, the political potency of veterans groups and the fact that significant savings take years to appear.

But the intense push in Congress this year to reduce the debt and the possibility that the Pentagon might have to begin trimming core programs like weapons procurement, research, training and construction have suddenly made retiree benefits vulnerable, military officials and experts say.

And if Congress fails to adopt the deficit-reduction recommendations of a bipartisan joint Congressional committee this fall, the Defense Department will be required under debt ceiling legislation passed in August to find about $900 billion in savings over the coming decade. Cuts that deep will almost certainly entail reducing personnel benefits for active and retired troops, Pentagon officials and analysts say.

“We’ve got to put everything on the table,” Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta said recently on PBS, acknowledging that he was looking at proposals to rein in pension costs.

Under the current rules, service members who retire after 20 years are eligible for pensions that pay half their salaries for life, indexed for inflation, even if they leave at age 38. They are also eligible for lifetime health insurance through the military’s system, Tricare, at a small fraction of the cost of private insurance, prompting many working veterans to shun employer health plans in favor of military insurance.

Unfair and untenable?
Advocates of revamping the systems argue that they are not just fiscally untenable but also unfair.

The annual fee for Tricare Prime, an H.M.O.-like program for military retirees, is just $460 for families and has not risen in years, even as health care costs have skyrocketed. Critics of the system say the contribution could be raised substantially and still be far lower than what civilians pay for employer-sponsored health plans, typically about $4,000.

Those critics also argue that under the current rules, 83 percent of former service members receive no pension payments at all — because only veterans with 20 years of service are eligible. Those with 5 or even 15 years are not, even if they did multiple combat tours. Such a structure would be illegal in the private sector, and a company that tried it could be penalized, experts say.

“It cries out for some rationalization,” said Sylvester J. Schieber, a former chairman of the Social Security Advisory Board. “Why should we ask somebody to sustain a system that’s unfair by any other measure in our society?”

But within military circles, and among many members of Congress, the benefits are considered untouchable. Veterans groups and military leaders argue that the system helps retain capable commissioned and noncommissioned officers.
Story: GOP not always against entitlements

And having volunteered to put their lives at risk, those people deserve higher-quality benefits, supporters argue. The typical beneficiary, they add, is not a general but a retired noncommissioned officer, with an average pension of about $26,000 a year.

“The whole reason military people are willing to pursue a career is because after 20, 30 years of extraordinary sacrifice, there is a package commensurate with that sacrifice upon leaving service,” said Steven P. Strobridge, a retired Air Force colonel who is the director of government relations for the Military Officers Association of America, which is lobbying against changes to the benefits.

Exit from Iraq, Afghanistan
A wild-card factor in the debate is the withdrawal of American troops from Iraq and Afghanistan, which some experts say could avoid the stigma of cutting benefits while troops are at war.

“The fact that you are getting out of Iraq and Afghanistan does make it easier,” said Lawrence J. Korb, a senior Pentagon official in the Reagan administration who was a co-author of a recent proposal for reducing the cost of military health care. “When the war in Iraq was in terrible shape, it was hard to get people to join the military, and no one wanted to touch any military benefits.”

By far the most contentious proposal circulating in Washington is from a Pentagon advisory panel, the Defense Business Board. It would make the military pension system, a defined benefit plan, more like a 401(k) plan under which the Pentagon would make contributions to a service member’s individual account; contributions by the troops themselves would be optional. Mr. Panetta has said that if adopted, the plan would not apply to current military personnel.

While health care costs for active and retired troops are growing faster, military pension costs are larger. Last year, for every dollar the Pentagon paid service members, it spent an additional $1.36 for its military retirees, a much smaller group. Even in the troubled world of state and municipal pension funds, pensions almost never cost more than payrolls.

Citing the fiscal hazards and inequities of the system, the Defense Business Board proposal would allow soldiers with less than 20 years of service to leave with a small nest egg, provided they served a minimum length of time, three to five years. But it would prevent all retirees from receiving benefits until they were 60.

The business board says that its proposal would reduce the plan’s total liabilities to $1.8 trillion by 2034, from the $2.7 trillion now projected — all without cutting benefits for current service members.

Steve Griffin of Tallahassee, Fla., is the type of soldier the defense board is trying to appeal to: a former captain who did two tours in Iraq, he left the Army in 2010 after five years of service and thus receives no pension.

‘Retirement system now is fair’
Yet in a sign of the deep support for the existing system, Mr. Griffin says it should be left alone because it provides incentives for recruitment and rewards retirees who have endured great hardship.

“Yes, it would be nice for people like me,” Mr. Griffin, 28, said of the proposal. “But I think the retirement system now is fair. We shouldn’t take anything from it. If anything, we should add to it.”

Much like in the debate over Social Security, questions about the sustainability of the military pension system abound.

Each year the Defense and Treasury Departments set aside more than $75 billion to pay not only current and future benefits but also pensions for service many years in the past. But the retirement fund has not accumulated nearly enough money to cover its total costs, with assets of $278 billion at the end of 2009 and obligations of about $1.4 trillion.

The government tries to close the shortfall by simply issuing more Treasury securities each year, thereby adding to the nation’s debt.

Given the political potency of veterans groups, it is unclear whether anyone in Congress will lead an effort to revamp the pension or retiree health systems.

But the debt ceiling agreement approved this summer by Congress, under which the Pentagon must find $400 billion in reductions over the next 12 years, may force cuts once considered unthinkable. And if Congress does not adopt the recommendations of the bipartisan committee studying deficit reduction, the mandated reductions in Pentagon spending would more than double, to about $900 billion, and fall on just about every category of defense spending.

Deficit hawks, led by Senator Tom Coburn, Republican of Oklahoma, have begun taking smaller steps, pushing for an array of cuts to military benefits, including ending subsidies for base commissaries and tightening disability compensation for diseases linked to Agent Orange.

But those trims are considered marginal compared with the deeper reductions many experts say are necessary to contain Pentagon spending.

“If the trend continues, it will call into question the military’s ability to do other things, like buy equipment, do maintenance, train troops and equip them,” said Nora Bensahel, a senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security, a nonprofit organization with ties to the Obama administration.

“At some point, the cost pressures by the retirement benefits will really start to impede military capabilities.”

This article, “Military Health and Pension Benefits Could Face Cuts,” first appeared in The New York Times.

Posted in USAComments Off on Benefits on Chopping Block as Congress Struggles to Cut Debt

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