Saturday, January 27, 2007

 

New Israeli Campaign Against Iran

From "Israel tries to cut off Tehran from world markets" (1/26/07) by David Hearst in The Guardian (UK):
Israel is launching a campaign to isolate Iran economically and to soften up world opinion for the option of a military strike aimed at crippling or delaying Tehran's uranium enrichment programme.

Pressure will be applied to major US pension funds to stop investment in about 70 companies that trade directly with Iran, and to international banks that trade with its oil sector, cutting off the country's access to hard currency. The aim is to isolate Tehran from the world markets in a campaign similar to that against South Africa at the height of apartheid.

Meanwhile, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is to be pursued in international courts for calling the Holocaust a myth, and saying Israel should be wiped off the map. The case will be launched under the 1948 UN convention on the prevention and punishment of the crime of genocide, which outlaws "direct and public incitement to genocide".

Before flying to London to spearhead the mission to sell the sanctions, the Likud party leader, Binyamin Netanyahu, said: "A campaign to divest commercial investment from Iran, beginning with the large pension funds in the west ... either stops Iran's nuclear programme or it will pave the way for tougher actions. So it's no-lose for us." ...

A senior official said: "They currently have problems but if the programme is allowed to continue without interruptions we estimate they will have mastered the technology this year. We expect a declaration from them in the next month, possibly on February 21, the day of the Islamic Revolution, that they have reached significant achievements.

"It will be a bluff, but it will have the potential of marketing Iran as a regional superpower. If they do it, a nuclear Iran will cast a long shadow over the whole of the Middle East; we will have Hizbullastan in Lebanon, Hamastan here, and Shiastan in Iraq."

Military analysts speaking at an annual conference in Herzliya, near Tel Aviv, claimed that Israel was facing an "existential threat" from the Iranian uranium enrichment programme, which Tehran has consistently claimed was for a civilian nuclear fuel cycle. The only division of opinion was over the imminence of this threat.
Not that Israeli claims about an Iranian nuclear weapons program should be believed--they should not--but notice that the "existential threat" here is not that any rational person thinks Iran actually will use nuclear weapons against Israel--that would be suicidal as Israel alone has 200-300 nuclear weapons and modern German submarines to launch them from, then there's the massive American arsenal. Furthermore, an Iranian nuclear attack on Israel would undoubtedly kill a vast number of non-Israelis instantly and via fallout. No, the threat is that Israel and the US will no longer enjoy the same relative impunity to threaten or carry out attacks on a nuclear-armed Iran.

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South Africans Boycott Israeli Avocados, Diamonds

Here are some excerpts from "Avocados, Diamonds at Core of Anti-Israel Trade Campaign" by Moyiga Nduru:
JOHANNESBURG, Jan 26 (IPS) - A call from a South African trade unionist for national supermarket chains to stop importing avocado from Israel could ultimately lead to the banning of all imports from the Jewish state, if unions and human rights activists have their way.

Katishi Masemola, secretary general of the Food and Allied Workers' Union (FAWU), told South Africa's supermarket chains earlier this week that Israel produces avocado under "slave-type conditions". He says the International Labour Organisation (ILO) forbids the use of child labour which, he claims, Israel is employing on avocado farms.

IPS contacted the Israeli embassy in Pretoria, the capital of South Africa, for comment. It did not return IPS's call.

Masemola told IPS in an interview: "Israel is occupying parts of Palestine and it's frustrating its moving towards statehood. In those occupied territories, avocados are produced under harsh slave-type conditions. Israeli farmers hire Palestinian children and pay them peanuts." ...

When IPS began making inquiries, it found that the fruit debate was only the tip of the iceberg. "It's not only avocado. The main item that concerns us is diamond. Israel imports diamond from South Africa; polishes it and cuts it before selling it back to South Africa at almost ten times its original value. It does the same with gold," Mohamed told IPS by phone from Cape Town.

"Israel imports diamond worth three billion rand (about 430 million dollars) from South Africa a year. Israel doesn't produce a single diamond. Yet 30 percent of its GDP (gross domestic product) comes from diamond. The diamond could be polished and cut in South Africa to provide jobs for the estimated 40 percent unemployed South Africans," he said. ...

Slowly, the anti-Israeli coalition is growing in South Africa. "We haven't made the call to impose sanctions against Israel yet. We know Israel commits atrocities against Palestinians. But we are moving there. It's just a matter of months," Masemola said.

"We are making a call to mobilise South African workers. We want to all diamonds from Israel to be treated as conflict diamonds. We urge people not to buy diamonds from Israel," said Mohamed.

An international campaign targeting Israeli crafted diamonds is planned for February in South Africa, Britain, Canada, Australia and Ireland. ...

The South African government, which has not imposed sanctions, nor introduced boycott regulations, on Israeli goods, is perceived to be pro-Palestine, given the history between the ruling African National Congress (ANC) and the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO). The former apartheid regime worked closely with the Jewish state.
See also: "Blood Diamonds"--the Israeli Connection

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Friday, January 26, 2007

 

UFPJ's LeBlanc Waffles on Iraq Withdrawal

Judith LeBlanc, National Co-chair of United for Peace and Justice, was on National Public Radio yesterday talking to Melissa Block about today's non-working day, civil obedient 'anti-war' rally in Washington, DC. As Block alluded, UFPJ's official position is "End the war in Iraq, Bring all the troops home now!" However, LeBlanc explained "When we say 'immediately' we mean make the decision now and then map out a plan."

What's wrong with sticking unequivocally with "... troops home now!"? Of course, no one expects the troops to be tranported instantaneously--that's magical thinking--but there is no practical reason why an American withdrawal from Iraq could not begin "now" i.e. "at the present time or moment" or "in the time immediately to follow : FORTHWITH" and be concluded within days. All that is lacking is the political will in Washington and also, as is now clear, within the leadership of UFPJ.

On the UFPJ web site, LeBlanc is identified with the Communist Party, USA (CPUSA). In fact, LeBlanc is a National Vice-Chair of the CPUSA and Chair of its Peace and Solidarity Commission.* LeBlanc's involvement in both UFPJ and the CPUSA is not surprising as both groups have thoroughly accommodated themselves to the Democratic Party, which has steadfastly backed the US war in Iraq.

As Joe Allen wrote last year in CounterPunch:
By every conceivable measure, the antiwar movement in the United States should be a vibrant, mass movement. ...

Another crucial reason for the weakness of the antiwar movement is the political course chosen by United for Peace and Justice (UFPJ), the largest and most visible antiwar coalition in the U.S.

UFPJ's main claim to leadership was the role it played in organizing the U.S. end of the worldwide antiwar protests on February 15-16, 2003, a month before the invasion took place.

Yet in the three-and-a-half years since, UFPJ has organized only a very small number of national mobilizations. And even these have not always been unambiguously antiwar demonstrations. For example, the clear target of UFPJ's protest outside the Republican National Convention in August 2004 was George Bush, not the war on Iraq, which has taken place with bipartisan support.

This past spring, meanwhile, some coalition leaders explicitly described the New York City demonstration on April 29--which UFPJ cosponsored with a wide array of liberal groups--as part of a broader mobilization behind the Democrats in the 2006 election.

UFPJ's response to the major crisis points for U.S. policy since the invasion--the leveling of Falluja, the Abu Ghraib torture scandal, the threats to attack Iran, the recent Israeli-U.S. assault against Lebanon--has been feeble in terms of protest, while its emphasis on building support for the so-called antiwar Democrats in Congress has grown more distinct.

* * *

ONE FACTOR in this strategic orientation is the influence of the Communist Party (CP) USA, which plays an important part in shaping the direction of UFPJ. One of UFPJ's co-chairs and most active leaders is Judith LeBlanc, who is publicly identified as a member of the Communist Party.

For the past 70 years, with few exceptions, the CP has argued that it is essential for progressive movements hoping to win social change in the U.S. to support the Democratic Party against the Republicans. ...

The Democrats--who, before and since the 2004 election, ducked every opportunity to challenge the Bush administration's policies--got the unswerving support of a large section of the left, including the Communist party, to the detriment of the struggle against the Bush agenda.

* * *

NOW, TWO years later, with Bush's policies sinking still lower in public support--when the anti-war movement should be pressing both parties for immediate withdrawal from Iraq--[CPUSA National Chair Sam] Webb is arguing against it.

Instead, he proposes that antiwar activists should support what he calls an "anti-occupation bloc" in Congress and the various proposals put forward by its members for "redeployment" of U.S. troops or setting a deadline for their withdrawal from Iraq.

This "anti-occupation" bloc is an interesting group of people. When the Republicans called the Democrats' bluff and put forward a resolution last spring calling for immediate withdrawal, only three House Democrats voted for it. The rest voted against it--including Rep. John Murtha, whose "redeployment' plan has been supported by UFPJ, and Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio), an "antiwar" candidate in the 2004 Democrat primaries, who said the Republican resolution was "a trick." ...

But most congressional Democrats are opposed to setting a deadline for withdrawal, and even the "antiwar" resolutions put forward by the "out of Iraq" caucus contain qualifications and vague timetables. The demands that Webb would have antiwar activists embrace, in reality, are not to "end the occupation," but to continue it in a different form.
LeBlanc's remarks on Friday exemplified beautifully the position critiqued above by Allen: "Troops home now!" but not really (wink, wink).

The list of confirmed speakers for today's rally includes a healthy contingent from the phony " ' anti-occupation bloc' " cited by Allen:
The speakers list also includes Zionist hacks Leslie Cagan, National Coordinator of UFPJ; rabbi Michael Lerner of Tikkun; and Eve Ensler, Lion of Judah.

Note:
* The CPUSA is not a group known for its principled opposition to war, except, of course, "imperialist wars." However, UFPJ is a coalition and I wouldn't object to their participation/membership simply because the CPUSA is not opposed to all wars.

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Eve Ensler--"Lion of Judah"

Right: In Washington, DC, Eve Ensler, playwright and women's rights activist receives a Lion of Judah pin from Sandra Cahn, Campaign Chair of the United Jewish Communities (UJC) National Women's Constituency. Note the Israeli flag in the background (Source: UJC).

Most readers will probably know of Eve Ensler as the author of The Vagina Monologues. However, Ensler is also part of the Zionist cadre undermining the progressive community in their efforts for justice and peace. According to a Jerusalem Post article (12/26/2002) featured on Ensler's V-Day web site:
For the past three years, V-Day delegations, led by Ensler, have traveled to dozens of locations, including places as far apart as Kenya, Rome, the Philippines, Brussels, and Kosovo, to meet with girls at risk, victims of domestic violence and war, and to provide encouragement and support for local feminist organizations. In Afghanistan, Ensler wore a burqa (the tent-like cover that women have been forced to wear) for days, to understand women's oppression.

For some members of the delegation, the trip to Israel and Palestine was another stop on this program. But for Ensler the trip had additional meanings. In the US, Ensler is actively involved in the organized Jewish community, and has even been awarded a "Lion of Judah" in recognition of her activities and philanthropic donations. Her life-partner, Ariel Jordan, a psychotherapist and filmmaker, was born and raised here, and they have visited several times before.
Here is an excerpt from the opening day press release of the conference at which Ensler was honored:
Dede Feinberg, Chair of the International Lion of Judah Conference, added: "I hope the attendees will get a deeper understanding of the challenges we face as women, as Jews and as philanthropists, as well as how much more influence and strength women can have when we work together as activists in the broader community. In addition, I hope that the participants will collectively identify with the people of Israel. In turn, the Israeli attendees at the conference will see that we are united with them in these trying times, and when they return home, they can assure all Israelis of our unwavering support."

Among the speakers and panelists: Kenneth R. Feinberg, Special Master of the September 11 Victim's Compensation Fund; Steven Emerson, NBC Terrorism Analyst and Executive Director of The Investigative Project; Filmmaker Aviva Kempner; Israeli Ambassador Daniel Ayalon; former congresswoman and vice presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro; Nadine Strossen, President of the American Civil Liberties Union; Robert G. Kaiser, Associate Editor of The Washington Post; Limor Livnat, Israeli Minister of Education; Ambassador Alon Pinkas of the Israeli Consulate in New York; Naomi Levine, Chair and Executive Director, Center for Philanthropy and Fundraising at New York University; Aaron David Miller, Senior Advisor for Arab-Israeli Negotiations in the U.S. State Department; Irwin Cotler, member of the Canadian Parliament and Co-Chair of the Parliamentary Human Rights Committee; Richard Joel, President and International Director of Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life; and Eve Ensler, playwright, activist and Artistic Director of the award-winning play, "The Vagina Monologues." ...

Underscoring the solidarity and unity existing between North American and World Jewry and the people of Israel, especially during this challenging time in the Jewish homeland, conference attendees will launch a new UJC initiative to send a message of comfort to Israeli children. Attendees are bringing new, stuffed teddy bears, which will be collected and distributed to Israeli children for Hanukkah.
According to the UJC web site: "Keeping Israel safe, strong and prosperous has always been a top priority for the North American Jewish Community. It is UJC's mandate to offer meaningful support in times of need and to promote individual connection through travel opportunities and educational programs."

In 2005, Ensler jumped on the Zionist-led Darfur bandwagon and joined other members of the Cruise Missile Left in adding her name to an "Open Letter to President Bush on Darfur, Urging Specific Actions to Stop Ongoing Genocide." The letter asserted:
First, the U.S. must assert leadership at the United Nations (UN) by circulating a resolution calling for a stronger civilian protection mandate for the African Union mission and for a broader international force under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter.

Second, the U.S. must encourage the UN to quickly approve and assemble a robust international force, under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter, to integrate or co-deploy with the African Union and reinforce its efforts. Such a force can be assembled with troop contributions and financial & logistical support from additional countries within and outside the African continent.

Mr. President, genocide is a unique crime and it requires a unique and urgent response. We can still save thousands of lives in Darfur if we act now. We look to you to provide strong leadership to stop the genocide in Darfur by supporting an international intervention force to protect the people of Darfur as a critical first step to bringing peace and stability to this troubled region. (emphasis added)
In case you didn't catch it, they're calling for George Bush--man of peace--and the United States--paragon of justice--to take the lead in bringing more FORCE to bear in Sudan.

I'll let you know when Ensler signs an open letter calling for the US to support a "robust ... international intervention force" to stop the ongoing Jewish genocide against Palestinians. Until then, don't hold your breath.

Last revised: 1/29/2007

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Wednesday, January 24, 2007

 

Quotable: Failure of Imagination

... war, all war and conflict, is naught but the failure of imagination. The four horsemen don't cause the Apocalypse. After all, they've been riding for centuries, hanging over our heads. They merely symbolize what life on Earth is already like. They show us why we need an Apocalypse. Mankind must imagine a way to rise above the perilous situation that it has created.

--Character of Promethea in Promethea (Collected Edition Book 1) by Alan Moore et al. (La Jolla, CA : America's Best Comics, 2001)

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Friday, January 19, 2007

 

Take Back a Little Money from the War Machine

Unless you're already a telephone war tax resister then Uncle Sam, a.k.a. Uncle Scum, may owe you a refund. Thanks to corporate greed, the Internal Revenue Service conceded last May that its excise tax on long distance telephone service is illegal.

The federal telephone excise tax began with long distance calls under the Spanish War Act of 1898; it was applied to local calls shortly before the US entered World War II. The War Resisters League estimates that in 1972, perhaps one-half million people resisted the US war in Vietnam/Southeast Asia by refusing to pay the federal telephone tax. In 1990, the tax was set at 3%; phone companies collect the tax for the IRS and the money is allocated as general revenue for discretionary spending. According to IRS figures, from 1995 through 2001, the tax brought in over $34 billion to the US Treasury, including a record $5.7 billion in 2001 alone.

According to the IRS' "Telephone Tax Refund Questions and Answers" page, the IRS "will refund to you the taxes on long-distance or bundled service billed to you for the period after Feb. 28, 2003 and before Aug. 1, 2006" plus interest. To get this money you have to request it when you file your 2006 tax returns. Sweethearts that they are, "The IRS is making it easier for individual taxpayers by offering a standard refund amount between $30 and $60, so that these taxpayers don’t need to gather old phone bills."

The tax change does not apply to local telephone service. So, if you're opposed to the US war in Iraq and against funding the US war machine in general then now is a good time to consider telephone war tax resistance. Check out Hang Up On War! which is sponsored by the Iraq Pledge of Resistance network, which coordinated nonviolent civil disobedience actions to oppose the war; the War Resisters League, which has supported war tax resisters at all levels since World War II; and the National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee, a network of organizations that provide resources, information, and support for war tax resisters.

See also:

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Wednesday, January 17, 2007

 

The Swastika

Right: Hindus in India celebrate Diwali by lighting lamps in the shape of a swastika (Source: Reuters/Spiegel Online).

The BBC is reporting that "Hindus in Europe have joined forces against a German proposal to ban the display of the swastika across the European Union." It goes without saying that all true advocates of freedom of speech and expression are also staunchly opposed to any swastika ban. So, I will dispense with any discussion of that topic and focus instead on its use in the Palestinian solidarity movement.

The use of the symbol by the Palestinian solidarity movement (PSM) is problematic, to say the least. In my American experience, members of the general public are often not knowledgeable or thoughtful enough to understand the point that PSM activists are trying to make when employing the symbol. Americans have been conditioned to react viscerally to the swastika as a symbol of hate and they often can't get past this reaction to seeing the very real parallels between Nazi and Zionist behavior and ideology--parallels attested to by more than one survivor of the Nazi genocides. In such circumstances, the use of the symbol is generally, I think, not helpful. I'm not arguing against the validity of the PSM using the symbol but against the expediency of its use when decoupled from a broader context and discourse--the kind that does not fit onto a sign or in a slogan.

That said, there is another good reason why PSM activists should probably forgo use of the swastika. As the BBC and Reclaim the Swastika point out, the swastika is an ancient religious icon and peace symbol found in Asia, the Americas, and Europe. As Ramesh Kallidai of the Hindu Forum of Britain says, "The swastika has been around for 5,000 years as a symbol of peace. This is exactly the opposite of how it was used by Hitler."

The swastika was even rather ubiquitous in the West before the Nazis misappropriated it. Unfortunately, the use of the swastika by PSM activists not only invokes the Nazi-swastika association but, moreover, it reinforces it to detriment of those traditions who have positive associations with the symbol and are trying to reclaim it.

So, let's consider leaving the swastika to our Hindu, Buddhist, Jain, Navajo, Hopi, Druid, Finnish, etc. sibs as a religious symbol and consider leaving it out of the Palestinian solidarity movement as a public protest symbol. Of course, people of good will can disagree on tactics and strategy and we ought not quarrel with one another unless a matter of principle is at stake. On the matter of expediency, I would say that no principle is at stake but I would think that respecting the sensibilities of people for whom the swastika has spiritual significance is a matter of principle.

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Wednesday, January 10, 2007

 

Iraq War Will Worsen--Take Two

The day after US national elections last November, I wrote a post entitled "Iraq War Will Worsen." Here's part of what I said:
... The Dems now have the power of the purse (US Const. Art. I, Sec. 7) and could force a US withdrawal but I expect US troop levels to increase in Iraq in the next two years and more Iraqis and Americans to die.

Here's why: Both parties are in the grips of the arms industry and the Israel Lobby. If anything, the Democrats are even more pro-Israel--albeit only slightly (think about the difference between 97% and 99%). Furthermore, when the new Congress is seated we will be less than two years away from the 2008 presidential election. ...
Tonight, George Bush made it official that he has already "... committed more than 20,000 additional American troops to Iraq." Moreover, in a move that so far has generated little attention, Bush stated that previously there have been "too many restrictions on the troops we did have." What exactly this means is unclear but, apparently, Bush is going to relax the rules of engagement for US troops in Iraq. It seems that, in part, Bush is referring to where US troops are deployed in Iraq. He said:
... In earlier operations, political and sectarian interference prevented Iraqi and American forces from going into neighborhoods that are home to those fueling the sectarian violence. This time, Iraqi and American forces will have a green light to enter those neighborhoods -- and Prime Minister Maliki has pledged that political or sectarian interference will not be tolerated.
All of this means more Iraqis and Americans will suffer and die in an illegal, undeclared war waged on false pretenses primarily for the benefit of Israel. The Democratic 'opposition' to the war is mostly smoke and mirrors although there are probably a handful of Democrats (and Republicans) who truly want to end the war.

Even before Bush announced the troop increases, the Democratic leadership was already making it clear that their party would not support using Congressional power to end the war. Presidential aspirant and Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chair Joe Biden falsely bleated: "As a practical matter, there's no way to say, 'Mr. President, stop' ... You can't go in and, like a tinker toy, and play around and say, 'You can't spend the money on this piece and this piece.' CNN reports: "House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, told reporters at a Capitol news conference Monday, 'Democrats will not cut off funding for our troops.' "

CNN also reports:
Regardless of what Democratic leaders decide about funding, Sen. Joe Lieberman, a Connecticut independent who organizes with the Democrats, predicted most Democrats won't support cutting off funds for the troop increase.

Lieberman held a news conference with Sen. Lindsay Graham, R-South Carolina, to release a letter they sent Bush urging him to send additional troops to Iraq.
The "hawkishly pro-Israel" Lieberman, Chair of the Senate's Homeland Security Committee, was singled out by Bush in his speech: "Acting on the good advice of Senator Joe Lieberman and other key members of Congress, we will form a new, bipartisan working group that will help us come together across party lines to win the war on terror." This will undoubtedly include pressuring or attacking Iran and Syria, which not coincidentally is Israeli policy, too. Bush set the stage in his address:
Succeeding in Iraq also requires defending its territorial integrity and stabilizing the region in the face of extremist challenges. This begins with addressing Iran and Syria. These two regimes are allowing terrorists and insurgents to use their territory to move in and out of Iraq. Iran is providing material support for attacks on American troops. We will disrupt the attacks on our forces. We'll interrupt the flow of support from Iran and Syria. And we will seek out and destroy the networks providing advanced weaponry and training to our enemies in Iraq.
One of these days, I hope, the peace movement will wake up to the fact that Zionists are driving US Middle East policy and, for starters, throw the Zionists out of the peace movement. Then, we will finally be able to begin truly working for peace. We can start with the Zionist shill Leslie Cagan, National Coordinator of United for Peace and Justice. Cagan has, more than once, teamed up with Darfur deceiver Ruth Messinger, president and executive director of the American Jewish World Service, to make sure the American anti-war movement does not see the links between the Iraq war and American Zionist support for Israel.

See also:

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Friday, January 05, 2007

 

"60 million Americans living on less than $7 a day"

Here are a few passages from Jerry White's analysis of a November 27th New York Times article, " '04 Income in U.S. Was Below 2000 Level" by David Cay Johnston:
... the richest one-tenth of 1 percent of Americans took in 9.5 percent of all pretax income, or about $679 billion in 2004, excluding unreported income.

Referring to this elite group, the New York Times article notes, "those very top households, which include about 300,000 Americans, reported significantly more pretax income combined than the poorest 120 million Americans earned in 2004, the data show. This is a sharp change from 1979, the oldest year examined by the I.R.S, when the thin slice at the top received about one-third of the total income of the big group at the bottom."

This staggering fact reveals a great deal about the economic and political processes that have unfolded over the last quarter century. While the portion of national income controlled by America’s corporate and financial elite declined in the aftermath of the Great Depression and stabilized during the postwar period, over the last 25 years a massive social transformation has occurred and the share of the national income now controlled by America’s social oligarchy is at the highest levels since 1929. ...

The last 25 years has seen an enormous transfer of wealth from working people into the hands of America’s economic elite. With the full backing of both the Democrats and Republicans, corporate America responded to the decline of its competitive position in the 1970s by launching an unrelenting attack on the jobs and living standards of the working class that continues to this day. The enrichment of those at the top has come at the direct expense of the vast majority of the working population in America, whose share of national wealth has plummeted.

At the other pole of society is an increasingly impoverished working class, including some 25 percent of all workers who labor for poverty wages. The Times article notes that the bottom fifth of all taxpayers earned below $11,166 and their average reported income was only $5,743 each. Because the IRS includes a single individual or a married couple in its definition of a “taxpayer” the poorest 26 million taxpayers account for the equivalent nearly 48 million adults and about 12 million dependent children. According to the Times analysis, this means the poorest 60 million Americans have reported incomes of less than $7 a day!

The official poverty line in 2004 was $27 a day for a single adult below retirement age and $42 a day for a household with one child—although the real cost of attaining basic necessities is far higher. The Times article notes that the IRS income data does not include the value of government benefits like food stamps, earned-income tax credits and subsidized medical care. But the social programs for the poor—including federal welfare assistance—have largely been wiped out or curtailed and what programs do remain are not sufficient to lift families out of poverty.

It is often noted that 3 billion of the world’s poorest people live on less than $2 a day. In the US, where the cost of living is far higher, $7 a day is only enough to guarantee a life of destitution. The fact that 60 million people live in such dire poverty—and tens of millions more could face the same fate if they lost their jobs or confronted some other financial catastrophe—is a damning indictment of American capitalism and the free market model it touts around the world. ...

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Ritter: Israel Lobby Behind Hostilities with Iran

It pays to read the Jewish press. Below are excerpts from "Book: Israel, Lobby Pushing Iran War" by Nathan Guttman, writing in the Jewish Daily Forward, December 29, 2006. This article has a very different spin from the interesting interview that Scott Ritter gave to Amy Goodman concerning his book Target Iran: The Truth About the White House's Plans for Regime Change in October, 2006. From the Forward:
A former United Nations weapons inspector and leading Iraq War opponent has written a new book alleging that Jerusalem is pushing the Bush administration into war with Iran, and accusing the pro-Israel lobby of dual loyalty and “outright espionage.”

In the new book, called “Target Iran,” Scott Ritter, who served as a senior U.N. weapons inspector in Iraq from 1991 to 1998 and later became one of the war’s staunchest critics, argues that the United States is readying for military action against Iran, using its nuclear program as a pretext for pursuing regime change in Tehran.

“The Bush administration, with the able help of the Israeli government and the pro-Israel Lobby, has succeeded,” Ritter writes, “in exploiting the ignorance of the American people about nuclear technology and nuclear weapons so as to engender enough fear that the American public has more or less been pre-programmed to accept the notion of the need to militarily confront a nuclear armed Iran.”

Later in the book, Ritter adds: “Let there be no doubt: If there is an American war with Iran, it is a war that was made in Israel and nowhere else.”

Ritter’s book echoes recent high-profile attacks on the pro-Israel lobby by former President Jimmy Carter and by scholars Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer. Ritter, who recently returned from a weeklong speaking engagement on The Nation cruise, speaks of a “network of individuals” that pursues Israel’s interests in the United States. The former weapons inspector alleges that some of the pro-Israel lobby’s activities “can only be described as outright espionage and interference in domestic policies.” Ritter also accused the American Israel Public Affairs Committee of having an inherent dual loyalty. He called for the organization to be registered as a foreign agent. ...

In his book, Ritter also accuses the pro-Israel lobby of invoking the memory of the Holocaust and of crying antisemitism whenever Israel is accused of betraying America. “This is a sickening and deeply disturbing trend that must end,” Ritter writes. ...

Ritter argues that the Bush administration knows that inspections can solve the Iranian nuclear problem but, at the urging of Jerusalem and its American allies, is in reality pursuing a different goal: regime change in Tehran.

“Israel has, through a combination of ignorance, fear and paranoia, elevated Iran to a status that it finds unacceptable,” Ritter writes in his book. “Israel has engaged in policies that have further inflamed this situation. Israel displays arrogance and rigidity when it comes to developing any diplomatic solution to the Iranian issue.” ...

In early 2004, Ritter charged in an interview on the Web site Ynet, operated by the daily Yediot Aharonot, that Israeli intelligence had deliberately overstated what it knew to be a minimal threat from Iraq in an effort to push America and Britain to launch a war. Ritter’s accusations were roundly rejected across the Israeli political spectrum. Security officials interviewed by the Forward insisted that no branch of the military could or would deliberately skew the findings in that way, but they also said that Israeli intelligence tended to exaggerate threats because it was operating under flawed assumptions.

Now Ritter is arguing that a similar effort is under way to produce an attack against Iran.

Speaking to the Forward this week, Ritter stressed that he is not accusing all American Jews of having dual loyalty, saying that “at the end of the day, I would like to believe that most of American Jews will side with America.” ...
Concerning the role of Israeli intelligence in pushing for the 2003 US invasion of Iraq, Guttman writes above: "Ritter’s accusations were roundly rejected across the Israeli political spectrum." This is simply untrue.

In "Israel knew Iraq had no nuclear weapons," Laurie Copans writes:
Jerusalem - A government critic said on Tuesday that Israel was aware before the war against Iraq that Saddam Hussein did not possess weapons of mass destruction, but Israel did not inform the United States. ...

But lawmaker Yossi Sarid, a member of the Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee, said on Tuesday that Israeli intelligence knew beforehand that Iraq had no weapons stockpiles and misled US President George Bush. ...

Last year Israel appointed a stern general, Amos Gilead, as its liaison with the population. Gilead filled the airwaves with dire warnings of possible chemical or biological attacks from Iraq.

Sarid, who represents the dovish opposition Meretz Party, said it was just a costly show - Israeli intelligence knew the threat was "very, very, very limited."

"It was known in Israel that the story that weapons of mass destruction could be activated in 45 minutes was an old wives' tale," said Sarid, regarding a claim leading up to the war.

"Israel didn't want to spoil President Bush's scenario, and it should have," Sarid said.

Israeli critics say the government of Sharon maintained the state of alert for its own political reasons, to help galvanise public opinion in favour of harsh steps against the Palestinians. ...
This explanation makes no sense. Israeli leaders have never been at a loss for excuses or public support to brutalize Palestinians. This is merely a smoke screen to obscure Israel's role in pushing for the American war on Iraq.

Then, there's this Associated Press article:

General: Israelis exaggerated Iraq threat
JERUSALEM (AP) — Israeli intelligence overplayed the threat posed by Iraq and reinforced the U.S. and British assessment that Saddam Hussein had large amounts of weapons of mass destruction, a retired Israeli general said Thursday.

The Israeli assessment may have been colored by politics, including a desire to see the Iraqi leader toppled, said Shlomo Brom, who was a senior Israeli military intelligence officer and is now a researcher with Israel's top strategic think tank. ...

In an article in Strategic Assessment, a publication of the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies at Tel Aviv University, Brom said weapons of mass destruction probably would not be found in significant quantities in Iraq.

He said Israeli intelligence overplayed the potential danger before the war. ...

Brom told The Associated Press in an interview Thursday that "Israeli intelligence was a full partner with the United States and Britain in developing a false picture of Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction capability." ...

Brom said the Israeli assessment may have been influenced by politics. "Israel has no reason to regret the outcome of the war in Iraq," he wrote, noting Saddam was an implacable enemy. ...
In the Strategic Assessment article Brom writes: "In the questioning of the picture painted by coalition intelligence, the third party in this intelligence failure, Israel, has remained in the shadows." Quite so.

In addition to the bogus Israeli intelligence, bogus American intelligence was cooked up by a cabal of Zionists in the Pentagon's Office of Special Plans. For more info on that group see:

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Tuesday, January 02, 2007

 

Arab and Israeli Press on Saddam Hussein Execution

The BBC has a roundup of Arab and Israeli commentators' views on the execution of Saddam Hussein. To me, one of the more interesting facts is that "Saddam was slaughtered on the day lambs are slaughtered," according to Hani Naqshabandi and referring to holiday of Eid al-Adha. Nahum Barnea, an Israeli, correctly notes: "Say what they like about him, he met his death with dignity, with an erect head, without asking for mercy." You can read the rest here.

Monday, January 01, 2007

 

"Hands Off Gay Sheep"

This story comes from the Sunday Times (UK) via Thirza Cuthand who blogs at Fit of Pique via brownfemipower. Before I quote the Times article, here's an excerpt from "Love's Last Farewell" by Richard A. Bamberg in Bending the Landscape: Science Fiction, edited by Nicola Griffith and Stephen Pagel. (Woodstock, NY: Overlook Press, 1998):
"I'm speaking with Citizen Gerald Vanderlink. Record present date and time. Citizen Vanderlink and his life partner Citizen Dean Honeywell are considered to be the last two homosexuals in the North American federation and possibly the last two in the solar system. As we speak, Citizen Honeywell is comatose and not expected to regain consciousness."

I forced myself to remain calm. It wasn't easy.

"Citizen Vanderlink is faced with the imminent possibility of becoming the one and only homosexual in human existence. I'm here to learn a little of what it has meant for him. He has watched his subspecies go from a political force to an obscure minority. From what may have once been ten percent of the population to a single individual. One person, alone, among the seven billion inhabitants of the solar system.

"Few today remember the great controversy that raged throughout the early decades of the last century. The Morley process was developed to reverse the genetic flaw that caused homosexuality in humans. Now it has achieved 100 percent success. Tell me, Citizen Vanderlink, what was it like to live through that troubled time?"

I hadn't really expected that question, although I suppose I should have. It'd been eight, no, nearly ten years since I'd last heard the name of Morley and his damnable process. "What was it like?"

"Yes, Citizen. I can retrieve historical accounts, but I want to know what it felt like to one who was actually there and refused the process."

My voice was soft when I answered.

"Genocide."
Okay, now, here are several excerpts from "Science told: hands off gay sheep" by Isabel Oakeshott and Chris Gourlay (my comments appear in bold):
SCIENTISTS are conducting experiments to change the sexuality of “gay” sheep in a programme that critics fear could pave the way for breeding out homosexuality in humans.

The technique being developed by American researchers adjusts the hormonal balance in the brains of homosexual rams so that they are more inclined to mate with ewes.

It raises the prospect that pregnant women could one day be offered a treatment to reduce or eliminate the chance that their offspring will be homosexual. Experts say that, in theory, the "straightening" procedure on humans could be as simple as a hormone supplement for mothers-to-be, worn on the skin like an anti-smoking nicotine patch.

The research, at Oregon State University in the city of Corvallis and at the Oregon Health and Science University in Portland, has caused an outcry. Martina Navratilova, the lesbian tennis player who won Wimbledon nine times, and scientists and gay rights campaigners in Britain have called for the project to be abandoned.

Navratilova defended the “right” of sheep to be gay. She said: “How can it be that in the year 2006 a major university would host such homophobic and cruel experiments?” She said gay men and lesbians would be “deeply offended” by the social implications of the tests.
It seems that Navratilova and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) blew the whistle on these experiments back in early November when Navratilova wrote letters to the Oregon State University and Oregon Health & Science University. In neither of the letters does she refer to any " 'right' of sheep to be gay."
But the researchers argue that the work is valid, shedding light on the “broad question” of what determines sexual orientation. They insist the work is not aimed at “curing” homosexuality.
One wonders if "the researchers" are being disingenuous here. Any light shed on 'causality' clearly has 'treatment' implications. Notice that "the researchers" have now also shifted from discussing sheep mating to human sexual orientation.
Approximately one ram in 10 prefers to mount other rams rather than mate with ewes, reducing its value to a farmer. Initially, the publicly funded project aimed to improve the productivity of herds.

The scientists have been able to pinpoint the mechanisms influencing the desires of “male-oriented” rams by studying their brains. The animals’ skulls are cut open and electronic sensors are attached to their brains.

By varying the hormone levels, mainly by injecting hormones into the brain, they have had “considerable success” in altering the rams’ sexuality, with some previously gay animals becoming attracted to ewes.

Professor Charles Roselli, the Health and Science University biologist leading the research, defended the project.

He said: “In general, sexuality has been under-studied because of political concerns. People don’t want science looking into what determines sexuality.

“It’s a touchy issue. In fact, several studies have shown that people who believe homosexuality is biologically based are less homophobic than people who think that this orientation is acquired.”
Yes, and for some of these people the belief that "homosexuality is biologically based" is a crutch that allows them to safely place LGBT people in a biodeterministic pigeonhole and evade granting them real freedom or agency in sexuality and/or gender identity.
Potentially, the techniques could one day be adapted for human use, with doctors perhaps being able to offer parents pre-natal tests to determine the likely sexuality of offspring or a hormonal treatment to change the orientation of a child.

Roselli has said he would be “uncomfortable” about parents choosing sexuality, but argues that it is up to policy makers to legislate on questions of ethics.
Yes, and the bought-and paid-for "policy makers" will pass the buck to 'the market' and the exigencies of 'scientific progress' and the market moguls will ostensibly leave it up to the 'consumer' and so it goes. This is clearly an ethical dodge by Roselli, who refuses to take any responsibility for his own choices.
Michael Bailey, a neurology professor at Northwestern University near Chicago, said: “Allowing parents to select their children’s sexual orientation would further a parent’s freedom to raise the sort of children they want to raise.”
Hmmm, "freedom to raise the sort of children they want," eh? For background on Bailey see "J. Michael Bailey and neo-eugenics" or "J. Michael Bailey Investigation"--both by transgender women.
Critics fear the findings could be abused.

Udo Schuklenk, Professor of Bioethics at Glasgow Caledonian University, who has written to the researchers pressing them to stop, said: “I don’t believe the motives of the study are homophobic, but their work brings the terrible possibility of exploitation by homophobic societies. Imagine this technology in the hands of Iran, for example.

“It is typical of the US to ignore the global context in which this is taking place.”
Why is it that so many Western academics never miss a chance to bash Iran? Perhaps Schuklenk had in mind the "the public hanging of two gay teenage lovers." Critical thinkers know that this charge was discredited or at least seriously undermined back in 2005. Citing Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission stated, "there is no conclusive information which suggests that the two young men were put to death based on consensual homosexual sex." As Richard Kim documents in The Nation this accusation is just another episode in a politically-driven campaign against Iran. See also "Does Iran's President Want Israel Wiped Off The Map - Does He Deny The Holocaust?"
Peter Tatchell, the gay rights campaigner, said: “These experiments echo Nazi research in the early 1940s which aimed at eradicating homosexuality. They stink of eugenics. There is a danger that extreme homophobic regimes may try to use these experimental results to change the orientation of gay people.”
Peter Tatchell mentions Nazis and eugenics but neglects to mention that eugenics laws and forced eugenic sterilizations were pioneered in the United States. Incidentally, eugenics also had deep roots in animal breeding.

Tatchell
also campaigns for the apartheid state of Israel or, maybe, just gay rights above all else. In 2005, Queers Undermining Israeli Terrorism (QUIT!) called for a boycott of World Pride Jerusalem. The boycott was in response to the July, 2005, call of 171 Palestinian non-governmental organizations "... for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel Until it Complies with International Law and Universal Principles of Human Rights."

But "gay rights campaigners" like Tatchell had other ideas.
Tatchell argued: "While a boycott would not advance the Palestinian cause one iota, it would give comfort to the oppressors of lesbians and gays and undermine a genuine attempt at global solidarity against homophobia." However, Palestinians have spoken clearly about what they think will advance their cause and last year with virtually one voice they called for broad boycotts and divestment. The boycott of this particular event was unfortunate but World Pride organizers should never have agreed to hold the event in Jerusalem while Israel maintains its illegal annexation of part of the city, an illegal and brutal occupation in Gaza, the West Bank and the Golan, and second-class citizenship for non-Jews living in Israel--all while more than 6.5 million Palestinian refugees languish in exile because Israel will not allow them to return home.
He said that the techniques being developed in sheep could in future allow parents to “play God”.
Is deciding to prevent or terminate a pregnancy for financial or other personal reasons "play[ing] God," too? I wouldn't say so and I wouldn't object to sexual orientation selection in birth control/abortion on the grounds of playing God alone but different practical and ethical questions are involved when deciding to exercise "a parent’s freedom [sic] to raise the sort of children they want to raise." For instance, in China and India where abortion is legal and even encouraged gender selection abortions are illegal (although these legal proscriptions have not proven very effective).

To see what a couple of right-wing bloggers have to say on the subject go here and here.

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