Archive | February 26th, 2012

Beware The False Signs Of Spring In America

NOVANEWS

As the manic huckster Barack Obama travels the country raising almost 30 million a month for his re-election while campaigning on an old and badly tattered theme of hope and change that is just over the hill ~ millions of economically distressed Americans are saying “Are you kidding me“ and are rightfully refusing to be Obamanized:

by Allen L Roland

 

President Obama is in full campaign mode and his annoying high pitched daily entreaties to voters that recovery is just around the corner ( if you’ll just spend and re-inflate the debt bubble that burst four years ago) are falling on millions of deaf ears ~ except his true base, Wall Street and the global corporate elite. Here’s a great example in the form of a five minute video from just a normal American guy, who is part owner of a small business ~ commenting on the clowns, including the president, who are running this political circus and are messing this country up. Video: Are You Kidding Me


As we speak, every possible thing will be done by the Obama administration to post a cheery spring like picture or billboard that America is rising from the dead and is built to last despite the economic cliff that lays directly ahead.

Please note that Barack Obama was the ultimate Manchurian candidate ~ selected and elected by Wall Street and the global elite for these three reasons; Maintain the status quo, Don’t punish Wall Street for their excesses of power and greed and finally Maintain the military empire and sweep the Cheney/Bush abuses of power under the rug ~ if not utilize them himself.

In case you’re still Obamanized ~ here’s an extensive list of Obama’s accomplishments and primary failure which might bring you to your senses  (courtesy of Russell Means Freedom)

Signed the National Defense Authorization Act – authorizing indefinite detention of U.S. citizens

  • Reneged on promises to close Guantanamo Bay

  • Expanded executive authority to include assassination of U.S. citizens

  • Waged war on Libya without congressional approval

  • Started covert, drone wars in Yemen, Djibouti, Somalia, Iran, without congressional approval

  • Escalated the proxy war in Somalia

  • Escalated the CIA drone war in Pakistan

  • Signed into law legislation that authorizes use of drones within the United States, against U.S. citizens

  • Has maintained enormous mercenary U.S. presence in Iraq even after “ending” so called war ( Occupation )

  • Sharply escalated the war ( Occupation ) in Afghanistan

  • Increased use of secret evidence and secret courts (FISA – Foreign Intelligence Security Act)

  • Secretly deployed US Special Forces to 75 countries

Signed the USA Patriot Act extension into law

  • Approved the Justice Department prosecution of environmental, anarchist and animal rights groups as “domestic terrorists” under the USA PATRIOT Act, using secret investigations.

  • Continued Bush warrantless wiretap program, and gave immunity to telecom companies that collaborated.

  • Expanded use of secret National Security letters for domestic investigations by FBI and CIA.

  • Continued Bush’s extraordinary rendition program.

  • Obama’s identical use of Bush administration’s use of “State Secrets” defense to prevent war crimes prosecutions in U.S.

  • Obama’s persecution of whistleblowers such as Wikileaks, and prosecution of BradleyManning ~ this is no different than Nixon-Kissinger re: Ellsberg   Full report:  

Obama’s primary failure, to millions of Americans, was to advertise himself as an agent of hope and change and then promptly, upon election, reveal his true allegiance to the corporate elite and literally break everyone of his campaign promises. As such, his new promises sound vaguely hollow and false and are largely falling on deaf ears ~ once bitten, twice shy.

As Bill Finch writes, regarding false springs in the plant world ~

“ So if you’re betting that all this warm weather means that winter is over, and we’ll not have another frost, you might get very, very lucky, and we won’t have another frost. But you’re betting mighty long odds.

In short, this is a false spring. And the longer this false spring lasts, the more likely it is that even the mildest of frosts will do severe damage.

Plants have to get ready for cold. They have to make all sorts of interior preparations ~ battening down the hatches, so to speak ~ before winter comes. They essentially create antifreeze, converting easily frozen carbohydrates in their stems to freeze-resistant sugars, and they quit producing the kind of young, tender growth that will be most vulnerable to spring. But as this warm spell continues, plants aren’t battening down the hatches, they’re throwing them wide open, and putting on flowers and new growth like summer was just around the corner… . Sorry for ruining your false spring. But there’s good reason for recognizing it for what it is. You can’t change the weather patterns that have gotten us here, but you can do a little to keep your plants from over-reacting. Plants are confused already, so don’t make things worse.”

Regarding the current Obama perpetrated economic false spring ~ look no further than the real ( unreported) unemployment rate of close to 12%, the foreclosure abuse that is still running rampant across the United States ~ where here in San Francisco the audit of almost 400 foreclosures in San Francisco found that 84 percent of them appeared to be illegal, according to the study released by SF on Wednesday. Report: 

In short this is a politically motivated false economic spring ~ with the obvious objective of reelecting Barack Obama.  According to the Federal Reserve, median household debt in America has risen to $75,600.  Many Americans have spent decades caught in the trap of debt slavery and large numbers of them never even escape ~ so how can an economic recovery sustain itself when the vast majority of Americans are still deeply in debt. Consumer borrowing rose by another $19.3 billion in December.  Right now it is sitting at a grand total of $2.5 trillion according to the Federal Reserve. Overall, consumer debt in America has increased by a whopping 1700% since 1971~ so people are obviously using their credit cards to survive and what will happen when that bubble bursts?

So the longer this false economic spring lasts, the more likely it is that even the mildest of economic frosts will do severe damage to an already badly chastened Main Street. Much of the interior preparations ~ battening down the hatches, so to speak ~ downsizing and cleaning house has not been done during this economic winter and the Administration, Wall Street and millions of Americans remain in economic denial ~ as we watch our civil liberties slowly become dead weeds in a barren wasteland.

One person seems to have a handle on Battlefield America and that is Gerald Celente of the Trends Research Institute ~ who has been right far more than wrong for the past several years and now lives in France. Here’s his recent 12 minute interview on RT where Celente declares that Obama blew his only chance for true change in 2009; that the U.S financial system is rapidly collapsing with the eventual possibility of economic martial law; that 2012 will bring to a head the will of the people versus the will of the government ~ and that the only true wild card in the 2012 presidential race is Ron Paul.  12 Minute Video:

What if America does not really need more of Obama’s feigned optimism and his cheerful false signs of spring but instead a heavy dose of reality from truth tellers like Judge Napolitano ~ who went from favorite to fired in 5 minutes on Fox TV ~ after airing these self evident truths5 Minute Video:

I rest my case ~ it’s still winter in America and spring will not appear until we refuse to be Obamanized and look for and willingly accept the winter rains of truth on the frozen soil of America’s battered psyche and wounded soul.

 ”What the people want is very simple – they want an America as good as its promise.”  Barbara Jordan

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Uri Avnery – On IsraHell National Suicide

NOVANEWS

And Who Will They Take Down With Them?

by Jim W. Dean, VT Editor

 

Uri Avnery – Israel’s Progressive Sage

Uri Avnery continues his fifty plus year chronicle of the trials and tribulations of a land called Israel. National suicide is a catchy title for a national discussion.

Such things are actually allowed is Israel. I wish we could have one in America, for America. But alas, we can’t.

In Pat Buchanan’s recent boot out the door from MSNBC his discussion of the American national suicide was widely quoted as one of the levers that the Left used to cut his legs off.  

His book Suicide of a Superpower: Will America Survive to 2025, got the expected ‘racist’ tag from the Left, here in the land of the free where theoretically we have troops dying in the field protecting the First Amendment.

Maybe we should bring them all home to shoot people here, where the threat really is?

VT’s senior editor Gordon Duff shot that theory of the Lefties having enough juice to get Pat’s scalp full of holes yesterday with his Buchanan Gets it Wrong commentary. If you want a glaring example of the cancer spreading inside America it is a good read.

Sure, the Left was allotted a minor stage role in the sad drama, but both Buchanan and Judge Napolitano could not be trusted to stay on the plantation as the election year roles out.

By that I mean they might bring up issues that our criminal minders would prefer left out… like the biggest threat to our national security being the elite corruption we have here at home.

We had no greater example of this than our own casino mogul Sheldon Adelson’s backing of Newt Gingrich for $20 million so far, and the video surfacing of his talking to his Israeli media employees where he says, “Unfortunately, the uniform I wore was the American one, and not the Israeli…(and)…Maybe my youngest son can come back here some day to serve as sniper. “

No folks, when I used the term ‘cancer spreading’ above, I was not hyping the situation, just describing it for what it is. All of the Sheldon Adelson’s are a cancer to all the rest of us. And as you will read from Uri below, Israel has them, too, and lots of them.

Can Pat take the fight all the way home now?

The Judge and Pat cannot walk in Uri’s shoes as they are not citizens of Israel, where they could say what they want. But Uri gives us the one, two, three on Israel’s highway to hell in his, Thou Shalt Not Kill (Thyself) article below.

The brackets are I would suspect to be a tongue in cheek reference to the killing of others which is the stock and trade instrument of state for the Radical Zionists.

Gordon and I have been long admirer’s of Uri’s writing style, which I will call a Ernest Hemingway one for our American audience. He has left a writing legacy which will live on long past his stay here.

He combines his mastery of the subject with a mastery of wordsmithing with the result being something the rest of us hope to be able to do someday. But until then we are struggling wannabes.

If you want to know or learn anything of importance about what is really going on in Israel, American media is a wasteland. Simply put, you are not allowed to really know.

Why? Simply because you would be much harder to manipulate by the Israeli Lobby over here as they have invested a lot of money building the corral of us all and they mean to get their monies worth.

Israel, the country…is a wreck. You can hardly call in a country even.

I once had an experienced intelligence officer very convincingly lay out to me as nothing really more than a ‘base’ for an international crime ring, one that enjoyed not only diplomatic immunity but a larger weapons of mass destruction cache as a replacement for Dirty Harry’s 44 Magnum.

Uri Avnery – Running messages for the Irgun at 14

But I shall not tell you the story as it is better to hear it from one who was born there, worked with the Irgun as a young teen, fought in the 1948 war, served in the Knesset, survived several assassination attempts and still gets out to the front lines in his mid eighties fighting for a just resolution to crime against humanity perpetrated upon the Palestinians.

There is no sadder fate than to see victims become victimizers. The Radical Zionists have really taken the Gold Medal there…all the way to the bank.

All those who have supported them in the process, for whatever the reason, will wear a virtual Nuremberg badge until the rest of us can figure out a way to have them tattooed prior to putting them in camps in a desert somewhere to get a chance to experience Zionist love for sixty years.

I hope, I pray, to see some version of this in my lifetime.

 

Thou Shalt Not Kill (Thyself)    …Uri Avnery,     february 18, 2012

 

“Do unto yourself, as you have done unto others?”

AFTER THE founding of Israel, God appeared to David Ben-Gurion and told him: “You have created a state for my chosen people in my holy land. This merits a great reward. Tell me what you wish, and I will grant it.”

Ben-Gurion answered: “Almighty God, I wish that every person in Israel shall be wise, honest and a member of the Labor Party.”

“Dear me,” said God, “That is too much even for the Almighty. But I decree that every Israeli shall be two of the three.”

Since then, if a wise Israeli is a member of the Labor party, he is not honest. If an honest Israeli is a member of the Labor party, he is not wise. If he is wise and honest, he is not a member of the Labor Party.

THIS JOKE was popular in the 1950s. After 1967, another much less funny formula took its place.

It goes like this: many Israelis ask God for their state to be Jewish and democratic, and that it will include the entire country between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River. That is too much even for the Almighty.

So he asks them to choose between a state that is Jewish and democratic but only in part of the country, or a state in all the country that is Jewish but not democratic, or a state in the entire country that is democratic but not Jewish. To which I would add a fourth option: A Jewish and democratic state in the entire country, but only after driving out all the Arabs – some 5.5 million at this point, and growing quickly.

This is the choice facing us today as it did almost 45 years ago. It has only become more sharply defined.

For any foreseeable future, the fourth alternative can be excluded. The circumstances which led, in 1948, to the expulsion of more than half the Palestinian people from the territory that became Israel were unique, and not likely to return in the coming decades. So we must deal with the present demographic reality.

The current government is determined to prevent any peace that would compel it to give up any part of the occupied territories (22% of pre-1948 Palestine). There is no one around who would compel them to do so.

What remains? A state that is either non-democratic or non-Jewish.

As things stand, the first possibility is certain to be realized, or, rather, to realize itself. This needs no conscious decision, since it is the default situation that already exists de facto.

Would Zionist supporters like to live behind the wall?

This means, to use the popular catch phrase, an apartheid state: a state in which every instrument of power is in the hands of the Jewish-Israeli majority (some 6.5 million people), with limited rights for the 1.5 million Palestinians with Israeli citizenship.

The Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip, some four million, are granted no rights whatsoever – neither national, nor human nor civil.

The present state of “temporary” occupation can last forever, and is therefore ideal for this purpose.

However, a future Israeli government, an even more nationalist one, could change the formal situation by annexing these territories to Israel. That would make, in practice, no difference.

As many Israelis see it, this situation could go on forever. The official slogan is: “We have no partner for peace”.

But can it really last? The Palestinian population throughout the country is growing rapidly, soon enough it will constitute the majority. The idealists who embrace this as the “One-state Solution” believe that the Apartheid State will slowly turn into a “state of all its citizens”.

If, after decades of oppression, civil war, atrocities and other plagues this really came into being, it would quickly turn into a Palestinian state, with a Jewish minority, like the Whites in present South Africa.

It would be a negation of the whole Zionist enterprise, whose core purpose was to have one place in the world where Jews would be a majority. Most Jewish Israelis would probably emigrate. For an Israeli, this would mean national suicide. Yet it is the inevitable outcome if the state continues on its present course.

IF A person wants to kill himself, as is his right, he has many ways to do so: poisoning, shooting, hanging, jumping from the roof etc. As a state, Israel also has several options.

Apart from the external ticking bomb (the “One-state Solution”), Israel also has an internal ticking bomb, which may be even more dangerous. Like the first option, the second one is already well on its way. If the first option depends at least partly on outside factors, the second is entirely self-made.

Orthodox have a free ride not only on the backs of the Palestinians but working Israelis, also.

When Israel came into being, Orthodox Jews were a small minority. Since Ben-Gurion needed them for his coalition, he gave them some privileges which looked cheap to him.

The Orthodox got their own education system, financed by the state, and were exempted from army service.

Some 60 years later, these privileges have grown to gigantic dimensions. To compensate for the lives lost in the Holocaust, and to increase the Jewish population, the Israeli government has encouraged natural increase by generous children’s subsidies.

Since the religious of all shades have reproduced much more than any other Israelis (except Muslim Arabs), their part in the population has grown by leaps and bounds.

Orthodox families generally have 8-10 children. All these go to religious schools, where they study exclusively religious texts and don’t acquire any skills useful for working in a modern society.

They don’t need them, since they do not work at all, devoting their entire lives to the study of the Talmud. They don’t need to interrupt their studying of the dead texts, because they don’t serve in the army.

If these were marginal phenomena in the early days of the state, they are now rapidly leading to a national emergency.

Right from the beginning, almost all government coalitions have relied on the religious parties, because no party has ever won an overall majority in the Knesset.

Almost all governing parties had to bribe their religious partners with ever increasing subsidies for children and adults, thus encouraging the growth of a population which neither serves in the army nor does any work.

Israeli Hakhams burn flag

The absence of the Orthodox from the labor force has severe effects on the economy, attested to by world financial institutions. Their absence from the army – as well as the absence of the Arab citizens, who are not drafted for obvious reasons – means that soon almost half the male population will not serve.

This compels all the others to serve three full years, and then to do reserve duty for many more years.

Also, very soon, half the first grade pupils in Israel will be religious children, destined for a life without work, without paying taxes or serving in the army – all this paid for by the taxes of the diminishing number of the non-Orthodox.

Recently, after deepening unrest between religious and non-religious in Bet Shemesh, 25 km west of Jerusalem, the secularists demanded that the town be divided into two, one half Orthodox and the other secular.

The Interior Minister, himself a leader of an Orthodox party, rejected this outright. As he candidly explained. since the Orthodox do not work and cannot pay municipal taxes, they cannot sustain a town of their own. They need the secular to work and pay.

This grotesque situation exists throughout the state. One can calculate when the whole edifice will come crashing down. International financial institutions as well as Israeli experts foretell disaster. Yet our political system does not make any change possible. The hold of the religious parties is as strong as ever.

Another method of suicide.

A THIRD method is less dramatic. Israel is rapidly becoming a state in which normal people just may not want to live.

In his monumental opus on the Crusades, the late British historian Steven Runciman maintained that the Crusader state did not collapse because of its military defeat, but because too many of its inhabitants just packed up and went back to Europe.

Though many of them belonged to the 4th and even 8th generation of crusaders, the Crusader state had lost its attraction for them. The state of perpetual war and inner stagnation drove them out. The state collapsed when many more went away than came to join.

The Crusaders felt a stronger sense of belonging to Christendom than to the local Kingdom of Jerusalem. Today, many Israelis feel themselves first of all as Jews, belonging to a world-wide people, and only in second place Israelis.

That makes emigration easier.

A state without democracy, without equality, condemned by itself to an endless war, dominated by religious fanatics, with the gap between the abject poor and a handful of immensely rich growing from year to year – such a state will look less and less attractive to bright young people, who can easily find a better life elsewhere, while retaining their Jewish identity.

That, too, is a kind of national suicide.

I AM not, by nature, a prophet of doom. Quite the contrary.

We can easily avert all these dangers. But first of all we must recognize them and see where they are leading us.

I believe that the people of Israel – the Israeli nation – have the will to survive. But in order to survive, they must wake up from their apathetic stupor and change course – turning towards peace based on the two-state solution, separating the state from religion and building a new social order.

In the Jewish religion, suicide is a sin. It would be ironic if future historians were to conclude that the “Jewish State” committed suicide.

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From Belfast to Palestine

NOVANEWS

by Eileen Fleming

 

David Rovics sings of connections between Khader Adnan’s current hunger strike to the IRA hunger strikes of 1981, “As, no doubt, the Israeli occupation of Palestine is more than a little reminiscent of the British occupation of Ireland, most particularly during the Troubles.”

 

A Dave Rovics connects Khader Adnan and Bobby Sands

On January 5, 2006, while in Ramallah I went to the Headquarters of ADAMEER [Arabic for conscience] and met with spokesmen, Ala Jaradat a slightly built man who delivered a powerful message in a soft spoken voice:

“Since 1967, 650,000 to 700,000 Palestinians have been arrested and detained. That totals 20% of the total population and 80% of all adult Palestinian males have been arrested.

“Most of these arrests occur after midnight when large numbers of IDF storm into neighborhoods or refugee camps, horrifying everyone and arresting anyone 14 years or older. Sometimes they storm into business offices and arrest the breadwinners of the families without any charges.

“These arrests and detentions are based on military orders; we live under a kind of Marshall Law which rules every aspect of Palestinian life: where we live, our license plates that restrict our movement and limited voting rights. Under these military orders the Israeli government is free to hold anyone eight days without accusations or charges. They can hold anyone up to 180 days for interrogation and up to 60 days without benefit of a lawyer.

“The Israeli government never agreed to the Second Geneva Convention, the Knesset never ratified it, and when it comes to the Occupied Territories they totally ignore it. Israel is the only State that approved torture of detainees. I know there are dictators who use torture, but Israel is the only State that supported torture until 1999. That is when International, Israeli and Palestinian pressure groups forced the issue and Barack was confronted about it when he visited the United States.

“The IDF will round up and arrest family members and use threats against their relatives to force confessions. The interrogations lead to Military Trials which is theoretically like court with three Judges presiding but only one is required to have an education and a law degree is not at all necessary. The Military Commander appoints the translators, issues all orders, assigns the judges, and has total control. One appeal is allowed, but if the judges are settlers the Palestinian is in deep shit!

“Administrative Detentions are issued by the Military Commander for a period of six months and the reason is always labeled ‘Security’ and the charges can be renewed indefinitely. One Palestinian spent eight years under Administrative detention and hundreds have endured four or more years. Today fifty are being held for the past four years. They may be released for a day or two and then they are rearrested because they are social or political activists but reasons are not given by the Israeli government.
“At any given moment 10% of those in prison are under Administrative Detention. There are currently 8,000 prisoners and 800 of them are under Administrative Detention. The government does not have to inform anyone about these arrests except the Red Cross and only if they are imprisoned over two weeks, but most arrests go unreported.

“Any Palestinian under the age of 16 is tried as an adult, but for an Israeli Jew it is 18 years of age. Under 12 years old the child can be arrested but not detained. Over 12 they can be arrested, detained, interrogated, prosecuted and sentenced for throwing stones.

“Most of the Israeli Jews that are imprisoned are in for violent crimes against society and they are mixed in with the Palestinian population. The guards encourage them to do what ever they want to do against the Palestinian population. This is an open invitation by the Israeli government to incite violence and terror in the prison system. We have sworn affidavits from Palestinians claiming it was the guards who encouraged the violence inflicted upon them.

“In August 2004 the Palestinians went on a hunger strike to raise awareness of this problem and the Minister of Health who is responsible for them stated publicly: ‘Our hospitals are off limits to them They can all starve themselves to death.’

“No human rights organizations are allowed access to the prisoners. Only lawyers and the Red Cross can visit them but have no access to the facilities where they are detained.

“The methods and photos from Abu Grahib and Guantanamo were no shock to any Palestinian who had been in prison between 1967 and the ‘80’s. All the methods used in Abu Grahib were normal procedures against Palestinians. In 1999 Internationals, Palestinians and Israelis for human rights threatened a boycott against Israel and that is what forced the Supreme Court to address the torture issue. They did not ban torture and the General Prosecutor can choose not to prosecute those who still use it.”- MEMOIRS of a Nice Irish-American ‘Girl’s’ Life in Occupied Territory

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The “Global Crises of Capitalism”; Whose Crises, Who Profits?

NOVANEWS

by Prof. James Petras

 Introduction

 

From the Financial Times to the far left, tons of ink has been spilt writing about some variant of the “Crises of Global Capitalism”. While writers differ in the causes, consequences and cures, according to their ideological lights, there is a common agreement that “the crises” threatens to end the capitalist system as we know it.

There is no doubt that, between 2008-2009, the capitalist system in Europe and the United States suffered a severe shock that shook the foundations of its financial system and threatened to bankrupt its ‘leading sectors’.

However, I will argue the ‘crises of capitalism’ was turned into a ‘crises of labor’. Finance capital, the principle detonator of the crash and crises, recovered, the capitalist class as a whole was strengthened, and most important of all, it utilized the political, social, ideological conditions created as a result of “the crises” to further consolidate their dominance and exploitation over the rest of society.

In other words, the ‘crises of capital’ has been converted into a strategic advantage for furthering the most fundamental interests of capital: the enlargement of profits, the consolidation of capitalist rule, the greater concentration of ownership, the deepening of inequalities between capital and labor and the creation of huge reserves of labor to further augment their profits.

Furthermore, the notion of a homogeneous global crisis of capitalism overlooks profound differences in performance and conditions, between countries, classes, and age cohorts.

The Global Crises Thesis:The Economic and Social Argument

The advocates of global crises argue that beginning in 2007 and continuing to the present, the world capitalist system has collapsed and recovery is a mirage. They cite stagnation and continuing recession in North America and the Eurozone. They offer GDP data hovering between negative to zero growth. Their argument is backed by data citing double digit unemployment in both regions. They frequently correct the official data which understates the percentage unemployed by excluding part-time, long-term unemployed workers and others. The ‘crises’ argument is strengthened by citing the millions of homeowners who have been evicted by the banks, the sharp increase in poverty and destitution accompanying job loses, wage reductions and the elimination or reduction of social services. “”Crises” is also associated with the massive increase in bankruptcies of mostly small and medium size businesses and regional banks.

The Global Crises: The Loss of Legitimacy

Critics, especially in the financial press, write of a “legitimacy crises of capitalism” citing polls showing substantial majorities questioning the injustices of the capitalist system, the vast and growing inequalities and the rigged rules by which banks exploit their size (“too big to fail”) to raid the Treasury at the expense of social programs.

In summary the advocates of the thesis of a “Global Crises of Capitalism” make a strong case, demonstrating the profound and pervasive destructive effects of the capitalist system on the lives of the great majority of humanity.

The problem is that a ‘crises of humanity’ (more specifically of salary ad wage workers) is not the same as a crisis of the capitalist system. In fact as we shall argue below growing social adversity, declining income and employment has been a major factor facilitating the rapid and massive recovery of the profit margins of most large scale corporations.

Moreover, the thesis of a‘global’ crises of capitalism amalgamates disparate economies, countries, classes and age cohorts with sharply divergent performances at different historical moments.

Global Crises or Uneven and Unequal Development?

It is utterly foolish to argue for a “global crises” when several of the major economies in the world economy did not suffer a major downturn and others recovered and expanded rapidly. China and India did not suffer even a recession. Even during the worst years of the Euro-US decline,the asian giants grew on average about 8%. Latin America’s economies especially the major agro-mineral export countries (Brazil, Argentina, Chile, ) with diversified markets, especially in Asia, paused briefly (in 2009) before assuming moderate to rapid growth (between 3% to 7%) from 2010-2012.

By aggregating economic data from the Euro-zone as a whole the advocates of global crises, overlooked the enormous disparities in performance within the zone. While Southern Europe wallows in a deep sustaineddepression,by any measure, from 2008 to the foreseeable future, German exports, in 2011, set a record of a trillion euros; its trade surplus reached 158 billion euros, after a155 billion euro surpluses in 2010. (BBC News, Feb. 8 2012).

While aggregate Eurozone unemployment reaches 10.4%, the internal differences defy any notion of a “general crises”. Unemployment in Holland is 4.9%, Austria 4.1% and Germany 5.5% with employer claims of widespread skilled labor shortages in key growth sectors. On the other hand in exploited southern Europe unemployment runs to depression levels, Greece 21%, Spain 22.9%, Ireland 14.5%, and Portugal 13.6% (FT 1/19/12, p.7). In other words, “the crises” does not adversely affect some economies, that in fact profit from their market dominance and techno-financial strength over dependent, debtor and backward economies. To speak of a ‘global crises’ obscures the fundamental dominant and exploitative relations that facilitate ‘recovery’ and growth of the elite economies over and against their competitors and client states. In addition global crises theorists wrongly amalgamated crises ridden, financial-speculative economies (US, England) with dynamic productive export economies (Germany, China).

The second problem with the thesis of a “global crises” is that it overlooks profound internal differences between age cohorts. In several European countries youth unemployment (16-25) runs between 30 to 50% (Spain 48.7%, Greece 47.2%, Slovakia 35.6%, Italy 31%, Portugal 30.8% and Ireland 29%) while in Germany, Austria and Holland youth unemployment runs to Germany 7.8%, Austria 8.2% and Netherlands 8.6% (Financial Times (FT) 2/1/12, p2). These differences underlie the reason why there is not a ‘global youth movement’ of “indignant” and “occupiers” .Five-fold differences between unemployed youth is not conducive to ‘international’ solidarity. The concentration of high youth unemployment figures explains the uneven development of mass- street protests especially centered in Southern Europe. It also explains why the northern Euro-American “anti-globalization” movement is largely a lifeless forum which attracts academic pontification on the “global capitalist crises” and the impotence of the “Social Forums” are unable to attract millions of unemployed youth from Southern Europe .They are more attracted to direct action. Globalist theorists overlook the specific way in which the mass of unemployed young workers are exploited in their dependent debt ridden countries. They ignore the specific way they are ruled and repressed by center-left and rightist capitalist parties. The contrast is most evident in the winter of 2012. Greek workers are pressured to accept a 20% cut in minimum wages while in Germany workers are demanding a 6% increase.

If the ‘crises’ of capitalism is manifested in specific regions, so too does it affect different age/racial sectors of the wage and salaries classes. The unemployment rates of youth to older workers varies enormously: in Italy it is 3.5/1, Greece 2.5/1, Portugal 2.3/1, Spain 2.1/1 and Belgium 2.9/1. In Germany it is 1.5/1 (FT 2/1/12). In other words because of the higher levels of unemployment among youth they have a greater propensity for direct action ‘against the system’; while older workers with higher levels of employment (and unemployment benefits) have shown a greater propensity to rely on the ballot box and engage in limited strikes over job and pay related issues. The vast concentration of unemployed among young workers means they form the ‘available core’ for sustained action; but it also means that they can only achieve limited unity of action with the older working class experiencing single digit unemployment.

However, it is also true that the great mass of unemployment youth provides a formidable weapon, in the hands of employers to threaten to replace employed older workers. Today, capitalists constantly resort to using the unemployed to lower wages and benefits and to intensify exploitation(dubbed to “increase productivity”) to increase profit margins. Far from being simply an indicater of ‘capitalist crises’, high levels of unemployment have served along with other factors’ to increase the rate of profit, accumulate income, widen income inequalities which augments the consumption of luxury goods for the capitalist class:the sales of luxury cars and watches is booming.

Class Crises: The Counter-Thesis

Contrary to the “global capitalist crises” theorists, a substantial amount of data has surfaced which refutes its assumptions. A recent study reports “US corporate profits are higher as a share of gross domestic product than at any time since 1950” (FT 1/30/12). US companies cash balances have never been greater, thanks to intensified exploitation of workers, and a multi-tiered wage systems in which new hires work for a fraction of what older workers receive (thanks to agreements signed by ‘door mat’ labor bosses).

The “crises of capitalism” ideologues have ignored the financial reports of the major US corporations.According to General Motors 2011 report to its stockholders,they celebrated the greatest profit ever,turning a profit of $7.6 billion, surpassing the previous record of $6.7 billion in 1997.A large part of these profits results from the freezing of its underfunded US pension funds and extracting greater productivity from fewer workers-in other words intensified exploitation-and cutting hourly wages of new hires by half.(Earthlink News 2/16/12)

Moreover the increased importance of imperialist exploitation is evident as the share of US corporate profits extracted overseas keeps rising at the expense of employee income growth.In 2011, the US economy grew by 1.7%,but median wages fell by 2.7%.Accordingto the financial press”the profit margens of the S and P 500 leapt from 6% to 9% of the GDP in the past three years,a share last achieved three generations ago.At roughly a third, the foreign share of these profits has more than doubled since 2000”(FT 2/13/12 P9.If this is a “capitalist crises”then who needs a capitalist boom ?

Surveys of top corporations reveal that US companies are holding 1.73 trillion in cash, “the fruits of record high profit margins” (FT 1/30/12 p.6). These record profit margins result from mass firings which have led to intensifying exploitation of the remaining workers. Also negligible federal interest rates and easy access to credit allow capitalists to exploit vast differentials between borrowing and lending and investing. Lower taxes and cuts in social programs result in a growing cash pile for corporations. Within the corporate structure, income goes to the top where senior executives pay themselves huge bonuses. Among the leading S and P 500 corporations the proportion of income that goes to dividends for stockholders is the lowest since 1900 (FT 1/30/12, p.6).

A real capitalist crisis would adversely affect profit margins, gross earnings and the accumulation of “cash piles”. Rising profits are being horded because as capitalists profit from intense exploitation , mass consumption stagnates.

Crises theorists confuse what is clearly the degrading of labor, the savaging of living and working conditions and even the stagnation of the economy, with a ‘crises’ of capital: when the capitalist class increases its profit margins, hoards trillions, it is not in crises. The key point is that the ‘crises of labor’ is a major stimulus for the recovery of capitalist profits. We cannot generalize from one to the other. No doubt there was a moment of capitalist crises (2008-2009) but thanks to the capitalist state’s unprecedented massive transfer of wealth from the public treasury to the capitalist class – Wall Street banks in the first instance – the corporate sector recovered, while the workers and the rest of the economy remained in crises, went bankrupt and out of work.

From Crises to Recovery of Profits: 2008/9 to 2012

The key to the ‘recovery’ of corporate profits had little to do with the business cycle and all to do with Wall Street’s large scale takeover and pillage of the US Treasury. Between 2009-2012 hundreds of former Wall Street executives, managers and investment advisers seized all the major decision-making positions in the Treasury Department and channeled trillions of dollars into leading financial and corporate coffers. They intervened financially troubled corporations,like General Motors, imposing major wage cuts and dismissals of thousands of workers.

Wall Streeters in Treasury elaborated the doctrine of “Too Big to Fail” to justify the massive transfer of wealth. The entire speculative edifice built in part by a 234 fold rise in foreign exchange trading volume between 1977-2010 was restored (FT 1/10/12, p.7). The new doctrine argued that the state’s first and principle priority is to return the financial system to profitability at any and all cost to society, citizens, taxpayers and workers. “Too Big to Fail” is a complete repudiation of the most basic principle of the “free market” capitalist system: the idea that those capitalists who lose bear the consequences; that each investor or CEO, is responsible for their action. Financial capitalists no longer needed to justify their activity in terms of any contribution to the growth of the economy or “social utility”. According to the current rulers Wall Street must be saved because it is Wall Street, even if the rest of the economy and people sink (FT 1/20/12, p.11). State bailouts and financing are complemented by hundreds of billions in tax concessions, leading to unprecedented fiscal deficits and the growth of massive social inequalities. The pay of CEO’s as a multiple of the average worker went from 24 to 1 in 1965 to 325 in 2010 (FT 1/9/12, p.5).

The ruling class flaunts their wealth and power aided and abetted by the White House and Treasury. In the face of popular hostility to Wall Street pillage of Treasury, Obama went through the sham of asking Treasury to impose a cap on the multi-million dollar bonuses that the CEO’s running bailed out banks awarded themselves. Wall Streeters in Treasury refused to enforce the executive order, the CEO’s got billions in bonuses in 2011 . President Obama went along, thinking he conned the US public with his phony gesture,while he reaped millions in campaign funds from Wall Street!

The reason Treasury has been taken over by Wall Street is that in the 1990’s and 2000’s, banks became a leading force in Western economies. Their share of the GDP rose sharply (from 2% in the 1950’s to 8% in 2010” (FT 1/10/12, p.7).

Today it is “normal operating procedure” for President’s to appoint Wall Streeter’s to all key economic positions; and it is ‘normal’ for these same officials to pursue policies that maximize Wall Street profits and eliminate any risk of failure no matter how risky and corrupt their practioners.

The Revolving Door: From Wall Street to Treasury and Return

Effectively the relation between Wall Street and Treasury has become a “revolving door”: from Wall Street to the Treasury Department to Wall Street. Private bankers take appointments in Treasury (or are recruited) to ensure that all resources and policies Wall Street needs are granted with maximum effort, with the least hindrance from citizens, workers or taxpayers. Wall Streeters in Treasury give highest priority to Wall Street survival, recovery and expansion of profits. They block any regulations or restrictions on bonuses or a repeat of past swindles.

Wall Streeters ‘make a reputation’ in Treasury and then return to the private sector in higher positions, as senior advisers and partners. A Treasury appointment is a ladder up the Wall Street hierarchy. Treasury is a filling station to the Wall Street Limousine: ex Wall Streeters fill up the tank, check the oil and then jump in the front seat and zoom to a lucrative job and let the filling station (public) pay the bill.

Approximately 774 officials (and counting) departed from Treasury between January 2009 and August 2011 (FT 2/6/12, p. 7). All provided lucrative “services” to their future Wall Street bosses finding it a great way to re-enter private finance at a higher more lucrative position.

A report in the Financial Times Feb. 6, 2012 (p. 7) entitled appropriately Manhattan Transfer” provides typical illustrations of the Treasury-Wall Street “revolving door”.

Ron Bloom went from a junior banker at Lazard to Treasury, helping to engineer the trillion dollar bailout of Wall Street and returned to Lazard as a senior adviser. Jake Siewert went from Wall Street to becoming a top aide to Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and then graduated to Goldman Sachs, having served to undercut any cap on Wall Street bonuses.

Michael Mundaca, the most senior tax official in the Obama regime came from the Street and then went on to a highly lucrative post in Ernst and Young a corporate accounting firm, having help write down corporate taxes during his stint in “public office”.

Eric Solomon, a senior tax official in the infamous corporate tax free Bush Administration made the same switch. Jeffrey Goldstein who Obama put in charge of financial regulation and succeeded in undercutting popular demands, returned to his previous employer Hellman and Friedman with the appropriate promotion for services rendered.

Stuart Levey who ran AIPAC sanctions against Iran policies out if Treasury’s so-called “anti- terrorist agency” was hired as general counsel by HSBC to defend it from investigations for money laundering (FT 2/6/12, p. 7). In this case Levey moved from promoting Israels’ war aims to defending an international bank accused of laundering billions in Mexican cartel money. Levey, by the way spent so much time pursuing Israels’ Iran agenda that he totally ignored the Mexican drug cartels’ billion dollar money laundering cross-border operations for the better part of a decade.

Lew Alexander a senior advisor to Geithner in designing the trillion dollar bail out is now a senior official in Nomura, the Japanese bank. Lee Sachs went from Treasury to Bank Alliance, (his own “lending platform”). James Millstein went from Lazard to Treasury bailed out AIG insurance run into the ground by Greenberg and then established his own private investment firm taking a cluster of well-connected Treasury officials with him.

The Goldman-Sachs-Treasury “revolving door” continues today. In addition to past and current Treasury heads Paulson and Geithner, former Goldman partner Mark Patterson was recently appointed Geithner’s “chief of staff”. Tim Bowler former Goldman managing director was appointed by Obama to head up the capital markets division.

It should be abundantly clear that elections, parties and the billion dollar electoral campaigns have little to do with “democracy” and more to do with selecting the President and legislators who will appoint non-elected Wall Streeters to make all the strategic economic decisions for the 99% of Americans. The policy results of the Wall Street-Treasury revolving door are clear and provide us with a framework for understanding why the “profit crises” has vanished and the crises of labor has deepened.

The “Policy Achievements” of the Revolving Door

The Wall Street-Treasury conundrum (WSTC) has performed herculean and audacious labor for finance and corporate capital. In the face of universal condemnation of Wall Street by the vast majority of the public for its swindles, bankruptcies, job losses and mortgage foreclosures, the WSTC publically backed the swindlers with a trillion dollar bailout. A daring move on the face of it; that is if majorities and elections counted for anything. Equally important the WSTC dumped the entire “free market” ideology that justified capitalist profits based on its “risks”, by imposing the new dogma of “too big to fail” in which the state treasury guarantees profits even when capitalists face bankruptcy, providing they are billion dollar firms. The WSTC dumped the capitalist principle of “fiscal responsibility” in favor of hundreds of billions of dollars in tax cuts for the corporate-financial ruling class, running up record peace time budget deficits and then having the audacity to blame the social programs supported by popular majorities. (Is it any wonder these ex-Treasury officials get such lucrative offers in the private sector when they leave public office?) Thirdly, Treasury and the Central Bank (Federal Reserve) provide near zero interest loans that guarantees big profits to private financial institution which borrow low from the Fed and lend high, (including back to the Government!) especially in purchasing overseas Government and corporate bonds. They receive anywhere from four to ten times the interest rates they pay. In other words the taxpayers provide a monstrous subsidy for Wall Street speculation. With the added proviso, that today these speculative activities are now insured by the Federal government, under the “Too Big to Fail” doctrine.

Under the ideology of “regaining competitiveness” the Obama economic team (from Treasury, the Federal Reserve, Commerce, Labor) has encouraged employers to engage in the most aggressive shedding of workers in modern history. Increased productivity and profitability is not the result of “innovation” as Obama, Geithner and Bernache claim; it is a product of a state labor policy which deepens inequality by holding down wages and raising profit margins. Fewer workers producing more commodities. Cheap credit and bailouts for the billion dollar banks and no refinancing for households and small and medium size firms leading to bankruptcies, buyouts and ‘consolidation’ namely, greater concentration of ownership. As a result the mass market stagnates but corporate and bank profits reach record levels. According to financial experts under the WSTC “new order” “bankers are a protected class who enjoy bonuses regardless of performance, while relying on the taxpayer to socialize their losses” (FT 1/9/12, p.5). In contrast labor, under Obama’s economic team, faces the greatest insecurity and most threatening situation in recent history: “in what is unquestionably novel is the ferocity with which US business sheds labor now that executive pay and incentive schemes are linked to short term performance targets” (FT 1/9/2012, p. 5).

Economic Consequences of State Policies

Because of the Wall Street “ takeover” of strategic economic policy positions in Government we can now understand the paradox of record profit margins in the midst of economic stagnation. We can comprehend why the capitalist crises has, at least temporarily, been replaced by a profound crises of labor. Within the power matrix of Wall Street-Treasury Dept. all the old corrupt and exploitative practices that led up to the 2008-2009 crash have returned: multi-billion dollar bonuses for investment bankers who led the economy into the crash; banks “snapping up billions of dollars of bundled mortgage products that resemble the sliced and diced debt some (sic) blame for the financial crises” (FT 2/8/12, p.1). The difference today is that these speculative instruments are now backed by the taxpayer (Treasury). The supremacy of the financial structure of the pre-crises US economy is in place and thriving … “only” the US labor force has sunk into greater unemployment, declining living standards, widespread insecurity and profound discontent.

Conclusion: The Case Against Capitalism and for Socialism

The profound crises of 2008-2009 provoked a spate of questioning of the capitalist system, even among many of its most ardent advocates (FT 1/8/12 to 1/30/12) criticism abounded. ‘Reform, regulation and redistribution’ were the fare of financial columnists. Yet the ruling economic and governing class took no heed. The workers are controlled by door mat union leaders and lack a political instrument. The rightwing pseudo populists embrace an even more virulent pro capitalist agenda, calling for across the board elimination of social programs and corporate taxes. Inside the state a major transformation has taken place which effectively smashed any link between capitalism and social welfare, between government decision-making and the electorate. Democracy has been relaced by a corporate state, founded on the revolving door between Treasury and Wall Street, which funnels public wealth to private financial coffers. The breach between the welfare of society and the operations of the financial architecture is definitive.

The activity of Wall Street has no social utility, its practioners enrich themselves with no redeeming activity. Capitalism has demonstrated conclusively, that it thrives through the degradation of tens of millions of workers and rejects the endless pleas for reform and regulation. Real existing capitalism cannot be harnessed to raising living standards or ensuring employment free of fear of large scale, sudden and brutal firings. Capitalism, as we experience it over the past decade and for the foreseeable future, is in polar opposition to social equality, democratic decision-making and collective welfare.

Record capitalist profits are accrued by pillaging the public treasury, denying pensions and prolonging ‘work till you die’, bankrupting most families with exorbitant private corporate medical and educational costs.

Megan Wilson, Mural, Clarion Alley, SF, CA, June 2011, photo by Sangroncito

More than ever in recent history, record majorities reject the rule by and for the bankers and the corporate ruling class (FT 2/6/12, p. 6). Inequalities between the top 1% and the bottom 99% have reached record proportions. CEO’s earn 325 times that of an average worker (FT 1/9/12, p.5). Since the state has become the ‘foundation’ of the economy of the Wall Street predators, and since ‘reform’ and regulation has dismally failed , it is time to consider a fundamental systemic transformation that begins via a political revolution which forcibly ousts the non-elected financial and corporate elites running the state for their own exclusive interests. The entire political process,including elections, are profoundly corrupt: each level of office has its own inflated price tag.The current Presidential contest will cost $2 to $3 billion dollars to determine which of the servants of Wall Street will preside over the revolving door.

Socialism is no longer the scare word of the past. Socialism involves the large-scale reorganization of the economy, the transfer of trillions from the coffers of predator classes’ of no social utility to the public welfare. This change can finance a productive and innovative economy based on work and leisure, study and sport. Socialism replaces the everyday terror of dismissal with the security that brings confidence, assurance and respect to the workplace. Workplace democracy is at the heart of the vision of 21st century socialism. We begin by nationalizing the banks and eliminating Wall Street. Financial institutions are redesigned to create productive employment, to serve social welfare and to preserve the environment. Socialism would begin the transition, from a capitalist economy directed by predators and swindlers and a state at their command, toward an economy of public ownership under democratic control.

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Escalating Syrian Tensions

NOVANEWS

by Stephen Lendman

 

For nearly a year, externally generated violence wracked Syria. Dirty Western hands planned and implemented it. Rogue regional despots were enlisted for support.

Replacing an independent regime with a pro-Western one and isolating Iran are planned. Russia and China thwarted two Security Council resolutions designed to facilitate intervention.

On February 16, a non-binding Arab League General Assembly resolution passed with similar language. Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states backed it.

Pressure’s building for escalated anti-Assad measures. Sooner or later expect intervention, perhaps war. At issue is isolating Iran, then targeting the Islamic Republic. Replicating 1953 in some form’s coming, perhaps more war that may involve Russia and China defending their interests.

On February 24, a Friends of Syria coalition of the willing will meet in Tunisia. The State Department organized them outside the UN system. Hillary Clinton and key NATO counterparts will attend.

On February 13, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said “Moscow does not consider the US-backed ‘Friends of Syria’ legitimate.”

It’s similar to last year’s orchestrated one against Gaddafi. France said it might supply weapons. In fact, heavy ones were provided since violence erupted last March. They’re coming from Turkey, Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon’s opposition March 14 alliance, Gulf states and perhaps Washington, rogue NATO partners and Israel.

Last November, Russia accused Western countries of illicitly arming Syria’s opposition. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was blunt, saying:

“Noboby is commenting on it and no one is admitting it, but the facts are impossible to contradict: weapons are being smuggled into Syria from Turkey and Iraq. Armed extremists are using peaceful demonstrations to provoke Syrian government violence.”

Lavrov specifically named America and France for their anti-Assad agenda to remove him. Saudi Arabia and Qatar agreed to fund opposition forces. Western funding’s also likely involved. Covert UK, Qatari, and perhaps other special forces, as well as CIA, MI6 and likely other Western intelligence operatives actively aid insurgent killers.

Pentagon war plans are ready to implement. Alleged humanitarian intervention’s again involved. The same scheme ravaged Libya. Perhaps Syria’s next, then Iran.

Agitprop reports smooth the way.

On February 16, Veterans Today contributor Sharmine Narwanti headlined, “High-Tech Trickery in Homs?” saying:

US Facebook posted satellite images of Homs violence was blamed on Assad. America’s Syrian ambassador Robert Ford called them evidence of:

“A terrible and tragic development in Syria (showing) the use of heavy weaponry by the Assad regime against residential neighborhoods.”

His claims, in fact, are baseless. The “blog Moon of Alabama” discredited them. “A detailed examination of satellite imagery….revealed numerous discrepancies in Washington’s allegation. (They showed) guns training within military barracks of well known training areas and not in active deployment.”

Ford also lied saying “There is no evidence that the opposition – even those opposition members who have defected from the military – has access to or has employed such heavy weapons.” He referred to artillery used in civilian areas.

CNN reported satellite images came from “pro-regime area(s) consisting mainly of Alawis, who belong to the same” sect as Assad. They’ve complained of opposition group attacks, kidnappings, and killings. Major media scoundrels ignore them.

State Department Homs satellite images “do not actually show the Syrian army engaged in battle,” as Ford claims. Washington and major media scoundrels are complicit “in the dissemination of false information.” At issue is escalating pressure for intervention.

Assad’s cooperating to ease tensions. On February 17, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said he plans implementing reforms. A Foreign Ministry statement said Russia want measures accepted by all sides, provided the interests of the Syrian people and peace and security are prioritized.

Lavrov stressed the importance of non-intervention. Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov called the Friends of Syria alliance a group of amateurs aimed at interfering in Syria’s internal affairs, including militarily. He added:

“The level of violence in Syria has notably risen over the past period, but this didn’t happen at all because of the behavior of the Syrian authorities, which rather did their best, particularly during the presence of the Arab monitors….to reduce the level of violence.”

“They withdrew military vehicles and forces from the streets and cities, released thousands of detainees and didn’t prevent peaceful protests.”

Nonetheless, Washington, Britain, France, other allies, and major media scoundrels accuse him of violence, in fact, caused by heavily armed Western-backed killer gangs.

At a February 17 press conference, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin said Beijing’s position on the Syrian crisis will stand the test of time. “China doesn’t back one party over another, and its voting against the UN General Assembly resolution was based on China’s firm stance concerning the Syrian crisis.”

China very much opposes Western intervention similar to what ravaged Libya.

 

President Bashar al-Assad has set February 26 as the date for a national referendum on the country’s new draft constitution.

Syria’s Draft Constitution

On February 26, Syrians will vote up or down by national referendum, though perhaps escalated violence will disrupt things.

Article 2 of its 157 articles calls Syria a sovereign republican system “based on the principle of the rule of the people by the people and for the people.”

Article 7′s constitutional oath says:

“I swear by the Almighty God to respect the country’s constitution, laws and Republican system, to look after the interests and freedoms of the people, to safeguard the homeland’s sovereignty, independence, freedom and to defend its territorial integrity and to act in order to achieve social justice and the unity of the Arab Nation”.

Article 8 calls Syria’s political system “based on the principle of political pluralism, and exercising power democratically through the ballot box.”

“Carrying out any political activity or forming any political parties or groupings on the basis of religious, sectarian, tribal, regional, class-based, professional, or on discrimination based on gender, origin, race or color may not be undertaken.”

Article 10 states:

“Public organizations, professional unions and associations shall be bodies that group citizens in order to develop society and attain the interests of its members. The State shall guarantee the independence of these bodies and the right to exercise public control and participation in various sectors and councils defined in laws; in areas which achieve their objectives, and in accordance with the terms and conditions prescribed by law.”

Under Article 12, “(d)emocratically elected councils at the national or local level shall be institutions through which citizens exercise their role in sovereignty, state-building and leading society.”

Article 13 promotes “developing public and private economic activity through economic and social plans aiming at increasing the national income, developing production, raising the individual’s living standards and creating jobs.”

Article 18 says taxes “shall be based on a fair basis; and taxes shall be progressive in a way that achieves the principles of equality and social justice.”

Article 19 promises a Syrian Arab Republic “based on the basis of solidarity, symbiosis and respect for the principles of social justice, freedom, equality and maintenance of human dignity of every individual.”

Article 22 ” guarantee(s) every citizen and his family in cases of emergency, sickness, disability, orphan-hood and old age.”

“The state shall protect the health of citizens and provide them with the means of prevention, treatment and medication.”

Article 23 guarantees women have “all opportunities enabling them to effectively and fully contribute to the political, economic, social and cultural life, and the state shall work on removing the restrictions that prevent their development and participation in building society.”

Under Article 25, “(e)ducation, health and social services shall be the basic pillars for building society, and the state shall work on achieving balanced development among all regions of the Syrian Arab Republic.”

Article 29 guarantees education “free at all levels. The law shall regulate the cases where education could not be free at universities and government institutes.”

Article 33 calls freedom “a sacred right and the state shall guarantee the personal freedom of citizens and preserve their dignity and security.”

“Citizens shall be equal in rights and duties without discrimination among them on grounds of sex, origin, language, religion or creed.

“The state shall guarantee the principle of equal opportunities among citizens.”

Article 34 guarantees the right of all citizens “to participate in the political, economic, social and cultural life and the law shall regulate this.”

Under Article 40, “(w)ork shall be a right and a duty for every citizen, and the state shall endeavor to provide for all citizens, and the law shall organize work, its conditions and the workers’ rights.”

“Each worker shall have a fair wage according to the quality and output of the work; this wage shall be no less than the minimum wage that ensures the requirements of living and changes in living conditions.”

“The state shall guarantee social and health security of workers.”

Article 42 guarantees every citizen the “right to freely and openly express his views whether in writing or orally or by all other means of expression.”

Under Article 43, “freedom of the press, printing and publishing, the media and its independence in accordance with the law” are guaranteed.

Articles 44 and 45 guarantee citizens “the right to assemble, peacefully demonstrate and to strike from work within the framework of the Constitution principles, and the law shall regulate the exercise of these rights.”

They also have the right to form national associations and unions.

Other articles affirm rule of law governance, including judicial fairness and freedom from torture and humiliating treatment.

Legislative authority will be assumed by a popularly elected People’s Assembly by citizens at least age 18. Half its members will be reserved for workers and farmers.

Many other democratic principles are affirmed in 157 articles. A big leap remains from affirmed rights to their implementation and enforcement.

If Syrians adopt this document, they’ll benefit if its principles end up more than words. Only the fullness of time will tell, and, of course, whether or not Western intervention succeeds.

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Yemen’s Election: New Puppet

NOVANEWS

 Opposition to the deal is also strong in other regions. Southern Yemen, a separate country before unification with the more populous north in 1991, has been increasingly racked by separatist unrest. Despite being a southerner himself, Mr Hadi is disliked for his commanding role in a 1994 war that saw the north violently crush a bid for renewed southern independence.

Not surprisingly, voter turnout across the south was poor—albeit this was partly due to armed assaults on polling stations, such as one in the port city of Aden that killed several soldiers and sent foreign election-observers scampering for cover. The election was also widely ignored in the far north, where a rebel group known as the Houthis has taken advantage of the year’s unrest to strengthen its grip.

One vote, one man

The coronation of a new president is greeted with popular relief

Feb 25th 2012

The Economist

THE ballots in the Yemeni presidential election offered only one choice. Next to a picture of the preordained victor, they also bore his campaign slogan, “Together we build the future”. How could it be that after 12 gruelling and often bloody months of protests demanding freedom and democracy, citizens could cheerfully condone such an electoral farce?

Voters’ enthusiasm on February 21st had little to do with the personal appeal of the sole candidate, Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi, a 66-year-old former general and quietly long-serving vice-president. Rather it was an expression of relief. By endorsing Mr Hadi, they were stamping a satisfying final seal on the exit of his former boss, Ali Abdullah Saleh, a wily dictator whose 33-year rule had culminated in corruption, nepotism and violence. The vote seems set to suspend a perilous standoff between well-armed and bitterly opposed factions that has ruinously persisted since last February, leaving at least 200 dead, decimating the fragile economy and pushing Yemen to the brink of civil war.

The election marks the first phase of a transition, sponsored by rich Gulf states and backed by Western donors, that Mr Saleh finally agreed to in November after more than six months of stalling. It calls for Mr Hadi, who served as the president’s deputy for 18 years, to serve as head of state for two years, presiding over a cabinet equally divided between Mr Saleh’s party and a coalition of opposition groups. Most Yemenis seem to approve of the plan; voter turnout has been estimated at close to 60%.

Yet substantial opposition remains. In the central highlands where most of Yemen’s 23m people live, many of those who joined the protests feel the transition betrays hopes for sweeping democratic reform. They see Mr Hadi as a loyal servant of Mr Saleh and fear he has neither the will nor the clout to purge the numerous relatives of the ex-president who retain positions in the security forces. Not only do they resent provisions that grant judicial immunity to Mr Saleh and his family, despite his men’s frequent and well-documented use of lethal force against unarmed opponents, but they also mistrust the opposition parties that are now set to share power. In the past many of their leaders co-operated with Mr Saleh.

Opposition to the deal is also strong in other regions. Southern Yemen, a separate country before unification with the more populous north in 1991, has been increasingly racked by separatist unrest. Despite being a southerner himself, Mr Hadi is disliked for his commanding role in a 1994 war that saw the north violently crush a bid for renewed southern independence. Not surprisingly, voter turnout across the south was poor—albeit this was partly due to armed assaults on polling stations, such as one in the port city of Aden that killed several soldiers and sent foreign election-observers scampering for cover. The election was also widely ignored in the far north, where a rebel group known as the Houthis has taken advantage of the year’s unrest to strengthen its grip.

Still, many of Mr Saleh’s most strident critics believe that however flawed, the transition offers a much-needed respite—not least since Yemen suffers a host of other woes, from poverty to water shortages to terror attacks by extremists with informal links to jihadist operatives in Somalia. As international forces increase their pressure on Somali jihadists, some are likely to decamp to Yemen. Experts warn that the two countries are developing a troublesome dynamic a bit like the one between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

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Egypt: The Ikhwan’s and The Arab Spring

NOVANEWS

To judge from a recent scene in Cairo, that may take some time. The Ikhwan is far from smugly comfortable following their sweep of Egypt’s elections, even after decades of sporadic but often vicious persecution. During a huge demonstration in Tahrir Square commemorating the revolution’s first anniversary last month, hecklers continually surrounded a marquee featuring Brotherhood speakers.

Beea beea ya Badeea,” they chanted, taunting Mr Badeea to “sell, sell out,” the revolution.  Despite the legitimacy conferred by success at the ballot box, Egypt’s Brothers are on the defensive. Secular critics suspect them of cutting a deal with the army generals who emerged from the shadows following the fall of the old Zionist regime. In exchange for a free hand in the legislature, it is rumoured, the Brothers have quietly agreed to extend the long lease of Egypt’s military-backed “deep state”.

A long march

The moderate Islamists of the Muslim Brotherhood have won much ground but look far from comfortable in power

The Economist

Feb 18th 2012

 

 

A FLUSH of green is spreading across the Arab world, but not because its vast deserts are shrinking. Green is the colour of Islam and Islamist movements have reaped the biggest harvest of the Arab spring. Not all stripes of Koran-led politics have flourished equally. In the Sunni Muslim heartlands stretching from the Atlantic to the Persian Gulf, neither violent extremists in the mould of al-Qaeda, nor proponents of Iranian-style theocracy, nor woolly Islamist liberals have fared especially well. Instead, the prize is going to groups linked to the centrist Muslim Brotherhood, committed to evolutionary rather than revolutionary change, and more concerned with questions of Islamic identity and ethics than with imposing rigid God-given rules.

Parties aligned to the Brotherhood now dominate politics in both Egypt and Tunisia, having captured nearly half of parliamentary seats in post-revolutionary elections. Seeking to avoid the fate of those countries’ fallen presidents, King Muhammad VI of Morocco has empowered his own country’s Brothers by appointing the head of their Justice and Development Party as prime minister. Islamist militias were among the most effective in Libya’s revolutionary war. Like-minded armed groups look set to play a similar role in Syria as it slides towards civil war.

The Brothers, known to Arabs as the Ikhwan, are hardly newcomers to the political scene. Their political arm in Jordan, the Islamic Action Front, has been the country’s strongest party for decades, playing the role of a loyal opposition. Their wing in Iraq, the Islamic Party, worked with both Saddam Hussein and the American occupiers after 2003. Branches in Algeria, Bahrain, Kuwait and Yemen have maintained substantial parliamentary representation since the 1990s. The National Islamic Front, the Ikhwan’s political vehicle in Sudan, backed a military coup in 1989 and was rewarded with a slew of cabinet posts. Palestine’s Islamic Resistance Movement, better known by its Arabic acronym Hamas, grew out of a Brotherhood charity in the West Bank and Gaza which sought and obtained recognition from Israel in the 1970s. It beat the main nationalist Palestinian party, Fatah, in 2006’s elections and then, when its reconciliation government with Fatah failed to win Western recognition, seized control of the Gaza Strip. Hamas’s survival, despite Israeli attacks and global opprobrium for its resort to terrorist tactics, testifies to the Ikhwan’s deep roots.

Following the Arab spring, some Western statesmen are keen to talk to the Brotherhood. Recent weeks have seen delegations rush to the gleaming new Cairo headquarters of the group’s General Guide, Muhammad Badeea. The former professor of veterinary science, whose position as head of the Egyptian mother organisation carries moral authority across the region, beamed for the cameras recently as he greeted Anne Patterson, the American ambassador to Egypt, with a hearty handshake. This was doubly significant. American officials had long shunned contact with the Ikhwan. Mr Badeea’s gesture also underlined the Brothers’ lack of puritanical priggishness regarding women.

Does this mean that the secretive society, founded in Egypt in 1928 and a wellspring of Sunni Islamist ideology ever since, is on the verge of fulfilling a long-thwarted dream? Back in 1938 the Brotherhood’s founder Hassan al-Banna, an Egyptian schoolteacher with a knack for organisation, took the podium at an Islamic gathering in Cairo and proposed stitching together the nascent states that Europe’s colonial powers had carved out of the Ottoman empire. “Islam does not recognise geographical boundaries, nor does it acknowledge racial and blood differences, considering all Muslims as one umma[community],” declared Mr Banna, who enlisted hundreds of thousands of followers in six countries by the time of his assassination in 1949. Congregants, he said, should nominate a global body to elect a new Caliph, replacing the Ottoman ruler whose downfall Europe had engineered.

Ideologues still hanker after the revival of a pan-Islamic empire. “We’ll have to get our respective houses in order first,” admits Jamal Hourani, a leading member of Jordan’s Islamic Action Front.

To judge from a recent scene in Cairo, that may take some time. The Ikhwan is far from smugly comfortable following their sweep of Egypt’s elections, even after decades of sporadic but often vicious persecution. During a huge demonstration in Tahrir Square commemorating the revolution’s first anniversary last month, hecklers continually surrounded a marquee featuring Brotherhood speakers. “Beea beea ya Badeea,” they chanted, taunting Mr Badeea to “sell, sell out,” the revolution.

Despite the legitimacy conferred by success at the ballot box, Egypt’s Brothers are on the defensive. Secular critics suspect them of cutting a deal with the army generals who emerged from the shadows following the fall of the old regime. In exchange for a free hand in the legislature, it is rumoured, the Brothers have quietly agreed to extend the long lease of Egypt’s military-backed “deep state”. Perhaps so, but the generals also seem to distrust the Ikhwan, and show it by trying to blunt their influence wherever possible. To date, the army has coldly ignored suggestions that, as the largest block in parliament, the Brotherhood should have the right to form a coalition government.

It’s hard to rule

Liberal Islamists in Egypt, meanwhile, decry the group’s ideological sterility, rigid command structure and penchant for back-room politicking. More puritanical Islamists, such as the Salafists whose Nour Party came a surprisingly close second to the Ikhwan in Egypt’s elections, accuse the Brothers of diluting the Islamist agenda so as to soothe Western fears. Salafists also complain of being shunned by their ostensible Islamist cousins in favour of secular potential coalition partners.

In other words, the Egyptian Brotherhood is finding that proximity to power carries a heavy tax. They are not alone. Nearly everywhere that Ikhwan-related parties have left opposition politics and entered government they have faced similar headwinds. Within a few years of Sudan’s 1989 coup, General Omar Bashir, the strongman who remains in power to this day, had shunted aside his Brotherhood partners and jailed their leader. Palestinian pundits sniff that just when the Brotherhood is gaining power elsewhere, Hamas’s exiled leader, Khaled Meshal, signed a deal replacing Gaza’s government with one led by Fatah’s leader, Mahmoud Abbas. In Kuwait and Bahrain, the sole Gulf monarchies with active, albeit highly circumscribed parliaments, the Brothers have failed to corral fellow Islamists into a united front, and have lost out to rivals with either tribal or more strongly religious appeal. For similar reasons Ikhwan-style parties have made few new converts and little electoral progress in the messy politics of Algeria, Iraq and Yemen.

Anxiety over a Brotherhood-run Arab empire should be tempered too by a better understanding of how the organisation works. The Ikhwan have a tanzim alami, or global organisation, comprised of at least two representatives from each of many Muslim communities across the world. Its nominal leader is Egypt’s Supreme Guide; by tradition lesser representatives kiss his right hand. Some wishfully liken the tanzim to America’s Congress, hoping that it could yet provide an institutional umbrella for a closer confederation of Arab states.

But the global Brotherhood wields little real authority. Far from applying a unified blueprint, executive offices in each country operate their own institutions with separate funding mechanisms. “The people of Mecca know their own people,” says Mahmoud Musleh, a Hamas parliamentarian in Ramallah. “Egypt cannot interfere in Palestinian affairs.” The head of Tunisia’s Brotherhood-linked Nahda Party, Rachid Ghannouchi, says he will tolerate both alcohol and bikinis in his country, and his government continues to license prostitution. The Libyan chapter next door vows to continue Colonel Muammar Qaddafi’s bans on all three.

Branches of the Brotherhood have clashed bitterly in the past. Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990 split the global franchise into feuding pro- and anti-Iraq factions for a decade. The Syrian Brotherhood, exiled since suffering gory massacres at the hands of the country’s Baathist rulers in the 1980s, long despised Hamas for maintaining its offshore headquarters in the Syrian capital, Damascus.

The Brotherhood’s preparation for power has only deepened geographical divides. To prod King Abdullah into inviting them to join his government, Jordan’s Brotherhood recently announced it was formally separating from its Palestinian counterpart, proof that it puts Jordan’s, not Palestine’s, interests first. The Hamas prime minister in Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh, has clawed control over finance away from Mr Meshal.

Lingering suspicion of the Ikhwan in Western chanceries, meanwhile, is shared by many of the Arab world’s remaining autocrats. Saudi Arabia’s powerful interior minister, who is next in line to the throne, castigates the Brothers for showing little gratitude for receiving refuge during past waves of persecution. He has been quoted as calling them “the source of all troubles in the Arab world”. The wealthy rulers of the United Arab Emirates maintain a quiet but effective ban on the Ikhwan.

Even now, when seeking to promote a moderate face, the Brothers look awkward or uncomfortable sharing power. Hamas’s leaders in Gaza, who forcefully overthrew a national-unity government in 2007 three months into its rule, might still balk at a reconciliation agreement which would reunite Palestine’s two splintered halves. Nahda, the Brotherhood chapter that won Tunisia’s election, supported the nomination of a non-Islamist president yet kept key ministerial portfolios. Egypt’s Ikhwan are proposing a similar arrangement.

The vaunted Turkish model

Still the Brotherhood stands out as a movement of institutions, not a figleaf for megalomaniacs. Its local chapters run internal elections and rotate their leaders. These men (and a few women) have generally proven pragmatic politicians, skilful at cutting deals when it helps them muster influence. They have sidled up to Egypt’s junta and offered to serve in King Abdullah of Jordan’s government, with or without elections. Across the Arab world they have professed a commitment to Turkish-style democracy, civic freedoms and free markets. To prove their belief in pluralism, Brotherhood leaders attended the most recent Christmas celebrations in Cairo’s Coptic cathedral. Leaders advertise their gender sensitivity by noting that nearly a quarter of Tunisia’s new parliamentarians are women, of whom 80% stood on Islamist lists. Mr Meshal recently promised a delegation of Palestinian liberals that he would add a woman for the first time to his nine-man politburo.

Besides, for all the Brotherhood’s shortcomings, the region could have many worse governments. In spite of Hamas’s record of terror tactics in Gaza, it has unquestionably managed the unruly Palestinian coastal strip far better than its secular predecessor Fatah. Its forces are more disciplined, the streets safer and the bureaucrats more efficient and less nepotistic. What corruption there is runs along institutional rather than blood lines. The Brotherhood’s members are largely lay professionals, not clergymen, and instinctively shrink from handing clerics too much power. As for imposing sharia law, it is telling that Yousef Qaradawi, the Al Jazeera channel pundit who is the Brotherhood’s preferred religious authority, recently opined that the application of God’s law in Egypt needed a five year reprieve. Alas five years after taking control of Gaza, Hamas has mostly preserved existing structures and laws, with minor tweaks. Now that Israel’s siege has relaxed and Hamas feels less threatened, its social controls have eased too. Though the interior minister has formally banned the mingling of genders and women smoking water-pipes in public, the new beach front resorts he has helped build sport both.

Across the region the Brotherhood has worked hard, through years of painstaking social work and uphill political battles, to enter the corridors of power. “It was like a stake tethering a water buffalo,” recounts one of the Ikhwan’s new parliamentarians in Egypt, who like many of his colleagues suffered jail and exile under the previous regime. “The government kept hammering it into the ground but we just kept on digging it out.” Such patient dedication bodes well for the new rulers’ ability to address the deep social and economic maladies afflicting most Arab countries. The Brotherhood’s rise through the ballot box and civil action marks a hope that Islamism’s reform-minded mainstream might yet prevail over the impetuous and increasingly abortive rush to arms that has characterised revolutionary Islamist groups, from the assassination of Egypt’s leader Anwar Sadat in 1981 to al-Qaeda today.

Posted in EgyptComments Off on Egypt: The Ikhwan’s and The Arab Spring

WAHHABI ZIONIST FATAWAWA

NOVANEWS

Saudi cleric, `A’id Al-Qarani issues a FATWAWA for the killing of Bashshar.  Yet, his statement is also sprinkled with anti-Semitism–characteristic of Wahhabi religious rhetoric.

القرني: قتل “الأسد” أوجب من قتل الإسرائيليين

الاحد 04 ربيع الثاني 1433 الموافق 26 فبراير 2012

القرني: قتل "الأسد" أوجب من قتل الإسرائيليين

الإسلام اليوم/ الرياض

أفتى الشيخ الدكتور عائض القرني، اليوم الأحد، بقتل الرئيس السوري بشار الأسد، مؤكدا أن قتله الآن وفي الظروف الحالية أوجب من قتل الإسرائيليين. داعيا أفراد الجيش السوري إلى الانشقاق وعدم طاعة الرئيس بشار الأسد، الذي وصفه بأنه “القاتل، والزنديق، والخائن”.

ونقلت صحيفة “سبق” السعودية عن القرني قوله في حديث خاص لقناة العربية: “طفح الكيل، فليس هناك ساكت إلا خائن ضمير، الواجب على علماء المسلمين مساندة الشعب السوري ضد النظام الخائن”، مضيفا : “يجب على الشعب السوري أن يحمل السلاح ضد بشار، ويجب أن تنعم جميع الأقليات والطوائف بالأمن والحرية”.

وأضاف: “سأقدم رسائل مختصرة للجيش والجزار بشار، فلا يجوز للجيش السوري طاعة أوامر هذا الطاغية، فلا طاعة لمخلوق في معصية الخالق”. وقال: “ماذا يقول الجيش وهو يقتّل أبناء وأطفال وعجائز الشعب السوري؟”، وأضاف: “هذا النظام ذاهب وغارب”.

وأردف بالقول: “بشار منتهية شرعيته ووجب في حقه القتل لأنه قاتل، قتل مئات الأطفال، هدم المساجد، بدلاً من واجبه في حماية الجولان”. واصفا حزب البعث بأنه حزب مارق مناقض للإسلام “ولا يجوز أن يحكم ديار المسلمين”.

وتحدث القرني عن المشايخ الذين يفتون للنظام السوري قائلاً: إنهم أزلام وأبواق للنظام وسيصدر علماء المسلمين فتوى تسقط عدالتهم، أما حسن نصرالله فوصفه بـ “الآثم” وقال: “شهادته للنظام مثل شهادة اليهود، شهادة زور، يريد أن يكذب ما ينقله العلماء وقنوات التلفزة ومواقع الإنترنت”.

وعاد الشيخ القرني لتوجيه حديثه للرئيس السوري قائلاً: “هل بقي لديك ذرة حياء واحدة؟ هل فعل اليهود بالسوريين كما فعلت أنت؟”.

وأكد القرني أن 500 من علماء المسلمين أفتوا ضد النظام “والعلماء يرون عدم شرعيته ووجوب جهاد الشعب السوري وحملهم للسلاح ضد هذا النظام”. مضيفا : “أضم صوتي لاستفتاء الشعب السوري عن كيفية قتل بشار بدلاً من استفتاء الدستور، فهل يشنق أو يسحل أو ينحر أو غيرها؟ وأقول للشعب السوري: قريباً النصر إن شاء الله”.

Posted in ArabicComments Off on WAHHABI ZIONIST FATAWAWA

Ma’mun Al-Humsi Syrian Opposition

NOVANEWS

Ma’mun Al-Humsi is one of the most repulsive characters in an already most umimpressive groups of exile Syrian opposition.  He is mocked constantly for one saying in a press conference in Lebanon: that he does not take money from the Hariri family and that the Hariri family does not deal with people through money.  People are still having a laugh about that to this very day.  And most recently, he issued a threat to `Alawites: that they would all be exterminated.  So you really can count him as a liberal and secular member of the Syrian opposition in exile.

Here is more:  “Mamoun Al-Homsi is pictured above at the Prague Security Conference (NeoCon) with the Zionist-Italian right wing politician and hardline Zionist, Fiamma Nirenstein. Nirenstein who is a neocon Zionist has spent much of her life in an Zionist illegal East Jerusalem Settlement called Gilo where she still maintains a home.   Nirenstein is known for translating books of Nathan Sharansky, Bernard Lewis and Ruthie Bloom; she led efforts on behalf of the Israeli government to thwart the Palestinian bid for full UN membership and Statehood.

Posted in SyriaComments Off on Ma’mun Al-Humsi Syrian Opposition

Do 55% of Syrians really want President Assad to stay?

NOVANEWS

“Looking closely at the survey report, it does not say explicitly how many of the 1,000 people who responded were from Syria. But it does say that 211 were polled in the Levant region, 46%of whom were in Syria.  Doing the sums, this suggests that only 97 people took part. When the BBC checked with YouGov Siraj for the exact breakdown, the company said that in fact there were 98 respondents from Syria (the difference arising from the fact that averages given in the survey report were rounded).”

By Charlotte McDonald

BBC News

Close-up of computer keyboard keys bearing the words 'Yes', 'Maybe' or 'No' (left to right)

An opinion poll was widely reported last month as evidence that 55% of Syrians think President Bashar al-Assad should not resign. But does the claim stand up to scrutiny?

The world is watching Syria, where every day there are new scenes of horror as the violence between protesters and the regime’s security forces continues.

Against this backdrop, some commentators have picked up on a striking statistic – that 55% of Syrians want President Assad to stay in power.

In a column in the UK’s Guardian newspaper, the statistic was used to suggest that the Western media was mis-reporting the situation in Syria, suppressing “inconvenient facts” for the purposes of propaganda.

The statistic has been reported widely elsewhere, from the New York Times, to Al Jazeera (in Arabic) Iranian owned Press TV, and Syrian news sites.

Continue reading the main story

(Mis)interpreting data

Computer keyboard key bearing the word 'Vote'

• More than 1,000 people from 18 countries in the Middle East responded to YouGov Siraj’s internet poll question: “In your opinion, should Syria’s President Assad resign?”

• 81% of answered Yes

• 55% of respondents in Syria said they thought the president should stay

BUT

• Only 98 respondents were actually from Syria

• Only 18% of people in Syria have access to the internet

Continue reading the main story

So what was this poll and who carried it out?

It was an internet survey of the Arab world by YouGov Siraj in December. It covered just more than 1,000 people in 18 countries in the Middle East and North Africa.

The central question was: “In your opinion should Syria’s President Assad resign?”

Across the whole region, the overall finding was that 81% of people polled thought President Assad should go.

But the polling company also stated: “Respondents in Syria are more supportive of their president. 55% do not believe Assad should resign.”

Looking closely at the survey report, it does not say explicitly how many of the 1,000 people who responded were from Syria. But it does say that 211 were polled in the Levant region, 46%of whom were in Syria.

Doing the sums, this suggests that only 97 people took part. When the BBC checked with YouGov Siraj for the exact breakdown, the company said that in fact there were 98 respondents from Syria (the difference arising from the fact that averages given in the survey report were rounded).

This is a very low sample according to the managing director of survey company ORB, Johnny Heald, who has been carrying out polls in the Middle East for many years.

“When we poll and we want to find out what Libyans think, or what Syrians think, we would rarely do anything less than 1,000 interviews,” he says.

Continue reading the main story

More or Less: Behind the stats

You can listen to More or Less on BBC Radio 4 and the BBC World Service or by downloading the free BBC podcast

“One thousand is the generally accepted industry minimum to be able to speak confidently about what people from a particular country think about an issue.

“If you say that this poll covers people from 18 countries, then that’s fine. But you need to be very careful when you interpret the findings.

“It is not good to say that 55% of Syrians, for example, think that Assad should stay when only 97 people were asked that question.”

But he has another criticism – according to UN figures, only 18% of people in Syria have access to the internet, which means that the sample polled is biased towards those who can get online.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad

President Bashar al-Assad has called a referendum on a new constitution this weekend

The people who conducted the survey at YouGov Siraj, the Dubai-based arm of a UK polling company, say the poll was not intended to be representative of all Syrians.

They too say the sample was too low for this and that internet penetration in the country is not good enough.

This is why they referred to “respondents from Syria” rather than referring to “Syrians”, they say.

However, the Doha Debates TV programme, which commissioned the poll and published its findings, were not as sensitive to the distinction.

The figure is described on its site as: “Syrians are more supportive of their president with 55% not wanting him to resign.”

In a statement, the pollsters at YouGov Siraj said that with hindsight they wish they had been clearer: “To the layman, there seems very little difference between the two expressions but for researchers, the difference is huge.

Continue reading the main story

“Start Quote

Journalists have jumped on (the statistic) and ran with it, without thinking about the science behind how they came to that figure”

Johnny HealdManaging director of survey company ORB

“I think we should have stressed the difference much more to our client (or simply not shown the Syria data, as there was always a chance it might be misinterpreted).”

When we asked the organisers of the Doha Debates about the statistic, they insisted that despite the small sample size, the result was “of interest”.

They say the figures and polling data are freely available for people to draw their own conclusions.

Is it OK to put out a figure based on such a low sample?

Johnny Heald thinks it is acceptable for pollsters to pull out data from a broader poll, because often it is interesting.

But he says: “What you should always do is say: ‘Caution – this is a low base size.’

“The problem comes when people interpret it to be representative of a country.

“And I think in defence of YouGov, they don’t claim the poll is nationally representative of what Syrians think.

“They have just pulled out the Syrian numbers and because it is an interesting story and somewhat controversial, I think the journalists jumped on it and ran with it, without thinking about the science behind how they came to that figure.”

Posted in SyriaComments Off on Do 55% of Syrians really want President Assad to stay?

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