Wednesday, September 24, 2008


Study Shows Truth Biased Against Israel

This is a bit produced for a parody of the Vancouver Sun by the Palestine Media Collective of Vancouver, British Columbia in June 2007. The owners of the Sun were not amused and filed a law suit. Thanks to CW for the tip.

ASPERVILLE – A ground-breaking new academic study has revealed that truth is inherently biased against Israel. "We expected, or at least hoped that the Truth would be fair and balanced – like Fox News," said lead researcher Dr. Ig Norance, "but we were sadly disappointed – anti-Israel bias was endemic."

Professor Norance, director of the Asper School of Business Information at the University of Winnipeg, said the study was the largest academic analysis of the Truth ever undertaken. "In most subject areas we studied, the Truth proved to be objective but it was shockingly hostile to the actions of the state of Israel."

When the subject of Israel was investigated by researchers, the Truth would shamelessly spew anti-Israeli facts such as "Israel's military killed 20 times more Palestinian civilians in 2006 than Israeli civilians were killed by Palestinians" or "Israel continues to occupy and colonise the Palestinian lands it took by force in 1967 in defiance of international law and 32 UN security council resolutions."

As a doubly-blind experimental control, researchers used Canadian media coverage of Israel. "We found that Canadian media portrayed Israel much better than the Truth did," Dr. Norance noted.

Researchers confronted the truth with pictures of Israeli children killed by Palestinian suicide bombers. The Truth sullenly replied that "In the last year, the Israeli army killed more than 130 Palestinian children while Palestinians did not kill a single Israeli child. Since September 2000, 825 Palestinian children have been killed by Israeli soldiers and settlers while 120 Israeli children have been killed by Palestinians."

But shouldn't Israel be allowed to build a fence to protect itself from terrorists, the researchers demanded of the Truth. The Truth could only respond "Israel's 700 km long "security" wall is being built 80% on Palestinian territory, and will trap more than 50,000 Palestinians in "no mans land" on the "Israeli" side of the wall. According to the International Court of Justice the wall is illegal and should be dismantled immediately."

The researchers were initially puzzled by the Truth's intransigent anti-Israeli stance. "We realized we were witnessing a new kind of new anti-Semitism – where Truth and the facts overwhelmingly condemn Israeli actions," said Norance. "I think it is vital that the Truth be treated with mistrust and handled with care on the question of Israel.'

Leonard Asper, CEO of CanWest/Global said he was not personally surprised at the findings. "This confirms my suspicion that the Truth is fanatically anti-Israel, and vindicates our vigilance in managing the Truth about Israel's activities in all our converged media assets," he said.

Norance suggested that all media organizations should take similar steps so that truthful anti-Israeli bias didn't poison their coverage and subject them to accusations of New New-Anti-Semitism. "We are not recommending outright lying," Norance explained "just selective presentation of the Truth that is more balanced."

As an example, he cited the common media practice of ignoring the vast majority of Palestinian civilian deaths while reporting every Israeli casualty – often without specifying if they are civilians or soldiers. "This creates the carefully balanced impression that Israelis and Palestinians civilians are dying in roughly equal numbers in this conflict despite the rabid anti-Israeli nature of the truth of the matter."
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This page revised on 10/1/08.

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Saturday, September 13, 2008


Quotable: Free to Choose a Pro-Israel Candidate

"AIPAC is pleased that both parties have selected four pro-Israel candidates."

-Josh Block, AIPAC spokesman. Quoted in "Party Convention Highlights GOP Skepticism About Mideast Peace" by Nathan Guttman in the Jewish Daily Forward. September 04, 2008.

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To Vote or Not to Vote

I can't decide whether to stay away from the polls altogether this year or to go and deliberately spoil my ballot.

Politicians see voting as a means of granting legitimacy to the government, which is one good reason to stay away completely although the facts undermining government's legitimacy are conveniently brushed aside. In the 2004 presidential election more eligible voters (39.1%) stayed away from the polls than voted for either Kerry (29.4%) or Bush (30.9%). In 2006, more eligible voters (58.7%) stayed away from the polls than voted. As a political scientist, I know that while pundits often like to spin low voter turnout as a sign of contentment or apathy there is good evidence to suggest low US voter turnout is a sign that people realize the system is corrupt and they don't have a meaningful choice.

Below are two critical essays from the 2004 election and some links on voting. The massrefusal and dontjustvote links with the two essays are both dead and so I have linked to the archived versions of those sites.
Announcing: A New Call For Mass Refusal
Take The Pledge--Don't Vote For President!
July 30, 2004

December 23, 2003

from New Democracy

Our government sent 160,000 troops to invade and occupy Iraq in a war based on lies. The Democratic Party and the media have been fully complicit in this criminal aggression. Meanwhile the government makes war on working-class Americans. It gives tax cuts to the wealthy, attacks pensions and health care, and ships jobs overseas.

This war exposes the huge chasm between our system and real democracy. In a real democracy, people would be truthfully informed, not systematically lied to, by their government. We would be encouraged to debate peace and war fully. Our young people would not be sent to murder other innocent people in the name of "liberating" them.

We live in a fake democracy, a government of the rich, by the rich, and for the rich.

Now the rulers are using the 2004 presidential campaign to keep us from seriously questioning the system from which have sprung this and countless other wars and social wrongs, pretending that electing Dean or Kerry or Kucinich will change society. The elections are designed to create an illusion of democracy to prevent real democracy from emerging.

Politicians are front-men for the system. To challenge the system we need to take away the system's lifeblood: the illusion of democracy. We need to refute the lie that our government represents us. Therefore we call for Mass Refusal to Vote in the 2004 presidential elections.


We the people are constantly told to look to politicians and officials as the force for change. We are encouraged to be passive consumers, not informed actors shaping society. But to make real change, we must look to ourselves and each other as the source of political power.

In a movement for Mass Refusal to Vote and real democracy, we can find in ourselves and friends and communities the power to move mountains and the vision for a better world.

  • Because we live in a fake democracy run by war criminals and servants of giant corporations;
  • Because our government attacks the values and livelihood of ordinary people;
  • Because the Republicans and Democrats collaborated to bring about a war of aggression;
  • Because the elections provide only the illusion of democracy;
  • Because democratic change will only come about through a mobilized people;
I agree not to vote in the 2004 presidential election and work instead for real democracy.
Voting vs. Direct Action

Date: Mar 05, 2004 - 12:26 PM

People in the United States are preoccupied with voting to an unhealthy degree. This is not to say that everyone votes, or regards voting as effective or worthwhile; on the contrary, a smaller and smaller proportion of the eligible population votes every election year, and that's not just because more and more people are in prison. But when you broach the question of politics, of having a say in the way things are, voting is just about the only strategy anyone can think of-voting, and campaigning for others' votes.

Could it be this is why so many people feel so disempowered? Is anonymously checking a box once a year, or every four years, enough to feel included in the political process, let alone play a role in it? But what is there besides voting?

In fact, voting for people to represent your interests is the least efficient and effective means of applying political power. The alternative, broadly speaking, is acting directly to represent your interests yourself.

This is known in some circles as "direct action." Direct action is occasionally misunderstood to mean another kind of campaigning, lobbying for influence on elected officials by means of political activist tactics; but it properly refers to any action or strategy that cuts out the middle man and solves problems directly, without appealing to elected representatives, corporate interests, or other powers.

Concrete examples of direct action are everywhere. When people start their own organization to share food with hungry folks, instead of just voting for a candidate who promises to solve "the homeless problem" with tax dollars and bureaucracy, that's direct action. When a man makes and gives out fliers addressing an issue that concerns him, rather than counting on the newspapers to cover it or print his letters to the editor, that's direct action. When a woman forms a book club with her friends instead of paying to take classes at a school, or does what it takes to shut down an unwanted corporate superstore in her neighborhood herself rather than deferring to the authority of city planners, that's direct action, too. Direct action is the foundation of the old-fashioned can-do American ethic, hands-on and no-nonsense. Without it, hardly anything would get done.

In a lot of ways, direct action is a more effective means for people to have a say in society than voting is. For one thing, voting is a lottery-if a candidate doesn't get elected, then all the energy his constituency put into supporting him is wasted, as the power they were hoping he would exercise for them goes to someone else. With direct action, you can be sure that your work will offer some kind of results; and the resources you develop in the process, whether those be experience, contacts and recognition in your community, or organizational infrastructure, cannot be taken away from you.

Voting consolidates the power of a whole society in the hands of a few individuals; through force of sheer habit, not to speak of other methods of enforcement, everyone else is kept in a position of dependence. Through direct action, you become familiar with your own resources and capabilities and initiative, discovering what these are and how much you can accomplish.

Voting forces everyone in a movement to try to agree on one platform; coalitions fight over what compromises to make, each faction insists that they know the best way and the others are messing everything up by not going along with their program. A lot of energy gets wasted in these disputes and recriminations. In direct action, on the other hand, no vast consensus is necessary: different groups can apply different approaches according to what they believe in and feel comfortable doing, which can still interact to form a mutually beneficial whole. People involved in different direct actions have no need to squabble, unless they really are seeking conflicting goals (or years of voting have taught them to fight with anyone who doesn't think exactly as they do). Conflicts over voting often distract from the real issues at hand, as people get caught up in the drama of one party against another, one candidate against another, one agenda against another. With direct action, on the other hand, the issues themselves are raised, addressed specifically, and often resolved.

Voting is only possible when election time comes around. Direct action can be applied whenever one sees fit. Voting is only useful for addressing whatever topics are current in the political agendas of candidates, while direct action can be applied in every aspect of your life, in every part of the world you live in.

Voting is glorified as "freedom" in action. It's not freedom-freedom is getting to decide what the choices are in the first place, not picking between Pepsi and Coca-Cola. Direct action is the real thing. You make the plan, you create the options, the sky's the limit.

Ultimately, there's no reason the strategies of voting and direct action can't both be applied together. One does not cancel the other out. The problem is that so many people think of voting as their primary way of exerting political and social power that a disproportionate amount of everyone's time and energy is spent deliberating and debating how they should vote while other opportunities to make change go to waste. For months and months preceding every election, everyone argues about the voting issue, what candidates to vote for or whether to vote at all, when voting itself takes less than an hour. Vote or don't, but get on with it! Remember how many other ways you can make your voice heard.

This being an election year, we hear constantly about the options available to us as voters, and almost nothing about our other opportunities to play a decisive role in our society. What we need is a campaign to emphasize the possibilities more direct means of action and community involvement have to offer. These need not be seen as in contradiction with voting. We can spend an hour voting once a year, and the other three hundred sixty four days and twenty three hours acting directly!

Those who are totally disenchanted with representative democracy, who dream of a world without presidents and politicians, can rest assured that if we all learn how to apply deliberately the power that each of us has, the question of which politician is elected to office will become a moot point. They only have that power because we delegate it to them! A campaign for direct action puts power back where it belongs, in the hands of the people from whom it originates.
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Evil vs. Evil: Election 2008 in Cartoons

The bottom two Mike Flugennock cartoons are from 2006 but they're still as true today as they were then.

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Friday, September 12, 2008


Tilly on the Nation-State as Racketeer

A few excerpts from Charles Tilly's "War Making and State Making as Organized Crime" in Bringing the State Back In by Peter B. Evans et al., eds.:
If protection rackets represent organized crime at its smoothest, then war making and state making – quintessential protection rackets with the advantage of legitimacy – qualify as our largest examples of organized crime. ... At least for the European experience of the past few centuries, a portrait of war makers and state makers as coercive and self-seeking entrepreneurs bears a far greater resemblance to the facts than do its chief alternatives: the idea of a social contract, the idea of an open market in which operators of armies and states offer services to willing consumers, the idea of a society whose shared norms and expectations call forth a certain kind of government. ...

War makes states ... Banditry, piracy, gangland rivalry, policing, and war making all belong on the same continuum ...

Apologists for particular governments and for government in general commonly argue, precisely, that they offer protection from local and external violence. They claim that the prices they charge barely cover the costs of protection. ... To the extent that the threats against which a given government protects its citizens are imaginary or are consequences of its own activities, the government has organized a protection racket. Since governments themselves commonly simulate, stimulate, or even fabricate threats of external war and since the repressive and extractive activities of governments often constitute the largest current threats to the livelihoods of their own citizens, many governments operate in essentially the same ways as racketeers. There is, of course, a difference: Racketeers, by the conventional definition, operate without the sanctity of governments. ...

What distinguished the violence produced by states from the violence delivered by anyone else? In the long run, enough to make the division between "legitimate" and "illegitimate" force credible. Eventually, the personnel of states purveyed violence on a larger scale, more effectively, more efficiently, with wider assent from their subject populations, and with readier collaboration from neighboring authorities than did the personnel of other organizations. ...

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Thursday, September 04, 2008


Today is International Hijab Solidarity Day

In recognition of International Hijab Solidarity Day I am posting a resolution adopted by the Huron Valley Greens of Ann Arbor, Michigan last year.

a local chapter of the Green Party of Michigan
548 S. Main St., Ann Arbor, MI 48104 ph. (734) 663-3555

Resolution on the Hijab and Solidarity with Muslims

Adopted by consensus at the regular business meeting of the Huron Valley Greens on September 24, 2007, and amended on October 3, 2007, by direction of the local Coordinating Committee.

WHEREAS on September 8, 2007, a person identifying her/himself as Ann Arbor City Council member Joan Lowenstein posted comments on a popular local blog, Arborupdate. This person characterized the hijab–the traditional Muslim headscarf–worn in solidarity with Muslims by a non-Muslim "as a Halloween costume since she is not a Muslim" and later declared "If I were a Muslim woman who wore the hijab out of respect for the religion and a sense of spritituality [sic], I would be offended by a non-Muslim who used it as a daily costume for purely political reasons"; and,

WHEREAS in 1993, after windows in Jewish homes displaying menorahs were broken, thousands of Christian residents of Billings, Montana, placed paper menorahs in the windows of their homes in solidarity with Jews and those menorahs were not Halloween decorations; and,

WHEREAS in October 2001–in the wake of 9/11 and after the US government summarily rounded up thousands of Muslims and Arabs and many Arabs and Muslims were the targets of hate crimes–students, including at Wayne State University and the University of Michigan, and others donned the hijab as part of a worldwide "Scarves for Solidarity" event; and,

WHEREAS, in 2004, after the French government banned the wearing of hijabs and other religious articles in public schools, which law Human Rights Watch criticized as falling "disproportionately on Muslim girls, and thus violat[ing] antidiscrimination provisions of international human rights law," the Assembly for the Protection of Hijab proclaimed September 5th as International Hijab Solidarity Day; and,

WHEREAS, in November 2006, scores of people in Fremont, California wore hijabs and turbans in solidarity with Muslim women and Sikh men about three weeks after a stranger walked up to Alia Ansari and shot her in the head, while she was walking with her three-year-old daughter in Fremont, for no apparent reason other than the fact that she was wearing hijab; and,

WHEREAS, in 2006, the Council on American-Islamic Relations received 143 complaints of civil rights violations against Muslims and triggered by the wearing of hijab; and,

WHEREAS, according to a 2007 Pew Research Center poll, just over half of all American Muslims are very or somewhat worried that Muslim women who wear the hijab will be treated poorly because it identifies them as Muslim; and,

WHEREAS, the offensive comments attributed to Council member Lowenstein demeaned and trivialized an act of solidarity in the context of a racist climate of fear against Arabs and Muslims created as part of President Bush's "War on Terror"; and,

WHEREAS, whether it is worn as an expression of cultural self-determination, political solidarity, or religious devotion the hijab is never a "Halloween costume"; and,

WHEREAS, characterizing the hijab as a "Halloween costume" is evidence of, at worst, bigotry and intolerance and, at best, insensitivity and ignorance.

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Huron Valley Greens call upon Ann Arbor City Council member Lowenstein to state publicly whether she was the author of the remarks attributed to her on Arborupdate; and,

BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED that the Huron Valley Greens urge other concerned individuals and organizations to join us in this call and to consider filing a formal complaint with the Ann Arbor Human Rights Commission, whose duties include: "Investigate, study, hold hearings and make recommendations to city council regarding complaints from any class or group protected under the human rights ordinance."

Drafted and submitted by Michelle J. Kinnucan.

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