Monday, January 24, 2005

Comment by Sardonicus: MC wrote:

...making direct parallels between Dubya and Hitler make me a little uncomfortable ...

"Those who live by the ignorant analogy die by the ignorant analogy. Anyone who focuses on the superficial similarities between Hitler and Bush - which are really no more than those characteristics that are common to all authoritarians - is likely to miss what makes Bush and the present state of US politics uniquely frightening and novel."

...I am curious as to how the people both in Germany and the rest of the World viewed Hitler BEFORE news broke of what he was doing in Auschwitz, Belsen, Buchenwald, Dachau and Majdanek....

"That news broke pretty late. Both in Germany and abroad, many people were unaware that the Nazis had been running extermination camps until after the war."

...Clearly he had captured the spirit and excitement of the german people, but what about everyone else? Was he met with skepticism and fear in the early days?...

"Reactions were mixed. German communists and trade unionists had no illusions about what they were dealing with from the outset. Even some moderate Germans reacted with suspicion, recognizing his demagoguery for what it was. Abroad, the international left - who were aware of Hitler's role in supporting the Spanish fascists - similarly recognized him as a tyrant in the making from the mid-1930s onwards.

"But he also had his admirers. The British aristocracy was riddled with Nazi sympathizers (most notably Edward VIII and some of the Mitford sisters). Many American and British politicians apparently considered him a reasonable man and an effective leader. And figures such as Prescott Bush, patriarch of the current dynasty, had significant business connections with the Nazi regime, as did major American companies such as Ford and IBM.

"In short, the situation with Hitler wasn't very different from the way people feel about Bush today: many people, both at home and abroad, reacted with fear and mistrust, while others saw him as a heroic visionary. And many distinguished and otherwise ethical statesmen, whether from wilful ignorance or misguided pragmatism, continued to do business with him."

Prince Harry was dumped upon by the corporate media for wearing a swastika at a fancy dress party. But the new nazis will not come forward brandishing such obvious signals. Nothing seems to be learned. The mechanics of tyranny or fascism are thoroughly understood. But just as in Germany, so many people have no conception. This is not to say that Bush is Hitler or fascism is inevitable, only that opposition must rise early and decisively.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Latham quits: And this guy could have been our Prime Minister right now? One might have thought he had a serious illness but all he had was a bad haircut. By far the most (the only?) interesting comment he made in his pointless career was that Bush is the most dangerous and incompetent President in recent history... Such is the dearth of leadership a certain amount of hope was placed in this figure. Forget it, kids.

So we're back to the ridiculous gasbag Beazley whose bid is openly based on the notion that he (like Howard) is a boring failure but he could win in the end anyway! Will lightning strike the country twice? God forbid.

Cosgrove has also announced his resignation. What is it with these people? Did he fear losing his pension or benefits or some other penalty or persecution? Why couldnt he have resigned on principle two years ago, before the Iraq war? No serious person could have been unaware that the war was based on a lie and was a serious violation of International law and the country's basic values. In fact in the whole Anglo-saxon political/military system (as far as I am aware) just two persons resigned on principle (Robin Cook & Andrew Wilkie). This is a system that must comprise thousands or hundreds of thousands of bureacrats, politicians, journalists and military officers.

Much scorn and rejection has been heaped over the years on the German defence that "we were only following orders" but it is painfully clear (if it was ever in any doubt) that it will hardly be otherwise.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Year 2005 could be crisis year for US: "The drive for resources is occurring within the context of a world in which alliances are being formed amongst major oil producing and consuming nations (outside the US) as a kind of post-Cold War global lineup against perceived American hegemony: Brazil, China, India, Iran, Russia and Venezuela. Russian President Putin’s riposte to the US strategy of increasing its military presence in some of the nations of the old Soviet Union (and thereby ensure that they cut all links with Moscow) has been to ally the Russian and Iranian oil industries, and open up the shortest, cheapest and most lucrative oil route of all, southwards out of the Caspian to Iran. Russia and China have recently announced large joint military exercises and the EU is negotiating to drop its ban on arms shipments to China (much to the publicly expressed chagrin of the Pentagon). Russia has also offered a stake in nationalized Yukos to China.

"This is pretty brazen behavior by all concerned, but is symptomatic of the growing perception of the US as a declining giant, albeit one with the capacity to strike out lethally when wounded. American military and economic dominance may still be the central fact of world affairs today, but the limits of this primacy (which dates back to the fall of the Berlin Wall) are becoming increasingly evident, just as dollar’s fall reflects this in economic terms. It all makes for a very challenging backdrop in 2005. This could therefore be the year when longstanding problems for the US finally do matter. Do not expect Washington to accept the dispersal of its economic and military power lightly."

Oil: The Dividing Line Of The New Cold War: "The US today spends about as much on its national defence as the next 20 countries combined. In fact, America is now spending as much on defense as it did during the height of the Cold War. Yet, in spite of this fact, many of the country’s military leaders tell us they don't have enough money and that the Pentagon needs to buy more modern and expensive weapons to assure the country’s national security and, of equal importance, safeguard a steady stream of oil supplies. A military coming up against the constraints of a “mere” $500bn budget is occurring against a backdrop of mounting military activity in the Middle East and substantially higher oil prices. Even more alarming from America’s perspective, the country’s vaunted military strength has little control over the latter."

"Virtually all of the recent political machinations in the [Gulf] region, including, not only the Iraq war, but also developments in Iran, and the Ukraine’s recently disputed Presidential election, can be best understood through the prism of oil pipeline politics.... Even short of a formal new energy alliance, the main outlines of a China-Russia-Iran axis can be discerned in their mutual threat perception."

"In its own version of pipeline politics, Mr Putin’s riposte to the Americans has been to ally the Russian and Iranian oil industries, and open up the shortest, cheapest and most lucrative oil route of all, southwards out of the Caspian to Iran. China has become another component of this strategy. Indeed, China's recent deals with both Kazakhstan (pertaining to Caspian energy) and Iran (pertaining to Persian Gulf resources) signify that the pundits have gotten it wrong until now: the purview of the new great game is not limited to the Central Asia-Caspian Sea basin, but rather has a broader, more integrated, purview increasingly enveloping even the Persian Gulf. Increasingly, the image of the Islamic Republic of Iran as a sort of frontline state in a post-Cold War global lineup against US hegemony is becoming prevalent among Chinese and Russian foreign-policy thinkers."

"Under the guise of “economic reform”, Russia had experienced an economic and social slump far worse than the Great Depression, and things were to get worse for another two years, until after the financial collapse in August 1998. The West vehemently backed Boris Yeltsin, supporting him even as stupendous amounts of money were stolen from an increasingly impoverished population. They cheered him on when he shelled the Russian parliament in 1993 (hundreds died in the subsequent fighting), and visited a campaign of hideous destruction on Chechnya. In the dying days of the Yeltsin regime, the US-controlled IMF poured a further $4 billion into Russia, most of which, it is now accepted, was simply stolen and put into private bank accounts.

"The Putin Presidency has put an end to that. Although his campaign against Yukos has been widely condemned in the western press as “an assault on free enterprise”, his actions appear less arbitrary when viewed in the context of what went on during the previous administration. The country’s oil barons, including the Yukos chairman, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, and the now exiled Boris Berezovsky, were key figures in the Yeltsin regime, and specifically in its strategy of creating a class of so-called oligarchs who, having stolen massive amounts from the Russian state which they controlled, then supported Yeltsin in return. Under the guise of “reform” actively supported by the Clinton administration and IMF, the most profitable parts of the Russian economy were sold to “kleptocrats” at ridiculously low prices in rigged auctions, those Russian robber barons often even using cheap loans from the Central Bank for the purpose.

"Only after this mass larceny was achieved did these same figures make grand noises about the need to establish a proper “rule of law” in Russia, a self-serving strategy designed to safeguard their ill-gotten gains. The west’s own complicity in this shameful episode has seldom been commented on, even though it is crucial to understanding President Putin’s “inexplicably” harder line against Yukos, the west generally and America more specifically.

"As the oil price has strengthened, Russia’s balance of payments surplus has exploded as have its foreign exchange reserves. Its growing strength is a mirror image of America’s increasing economic weakness. At the same time, President Bush is proving that he cannot lift Iraqi oil, and America has become increasingly bogged down in a 4th Generation type of guerilla war, which has further exacerbated the country's ongoing economic (and military) weaknesses. Consequently, Mr Putin is beginning to play the oil card more aggressively."

"Capitulating to dollar hegemony effectively perpetuates a monetary system which clearly serves Washington’s interest. But does it serve the interests of Russia, Euroland, OPEC, or the largest foreign holders of US dollar assets in Asia? Were more commerce to be priced in euros, more reserves held in Eurobonds, this would go some ways toward strengthening the euro’s long term foundations as a viable reserve currency alternative, whilst undercutting the pre-eminence of the dollar reserve currency system. As a key marginal producer of both oil and natural gas, Russia is now in an enviable position to catalyse this development."

The End of Oil?: "If the actions—rather than the words—of the oil business’s major players provide the best gauge of how they see the future, then ponder the following. Crude oil prices have doubled since 2001, but oil companies have increased their budgets for exploring new oil fields by only a small fraction. Likewise, U.S. refineries are working close to capacity, yet no new refinery has been constructed since 1976. And oil tankers are fully booked, but outdated ships are being decommissioned faster than new ones are being built."

"In 1969, the prominent geologist M. King Hubbert predicted that a graph of world oil production over time would look like a bell curve, with a peak around the year 2000. Thereafter, he argued, production would drop—slowly at first, then ever faster."

Hartmann on habeas corpus and Bush's rejection of same

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Australian citizen Habib badly tortured, then released without charges being laid: "Habib was taken to the Guantanamo Bay prison in May 2002. Three Britons released from the prison -- Rhuhel Ahmed, Asif Iqbal and Shafiq Rasul -- have said Habib was in "catastrophic shape" when he arrived. Most of his fingernails were missing, and while sleeping he regularly bled from his nose, mouth and ears but U.S. officials denied him treatment, they said."

"The petition says [Habib] was taken to an airfield where, during a struggle, he was beaten by several people who spoke American-accented English. The men cut off his clothes, one placed a foot on his neck "and posed while another took pictures," the document says. He was then flown to Egypt, it alleges, and spent six months in custody in a barren, 6-foot-by-8-foot cell, where he slept on the concrete floor with one blanket. During interrogations, Habib was "sometimes suspended from hooks on the wall" and repeatedly kicked, punched, beaten with a stick, rammed with an electric cattle prod and doused with cold water when he fell asleep, the petition says.

"He was suspended from hooks, with his is feet resting on the side of a large cylindrical drum attached to wires and a battery, the document says. "When Mr. Habib did not give the answers his interrogators wanted, they threw a switch and a jolt of electricity" went through the drum, it says. "The action of Mr. Habib 'dancing' on the drum forced it to rotate, and his feet constantly slipped, leaving him suspended by only the hooks on the wall . . . This ingenious cruelty lasted until Mr. Habib finally fainted." At other times, the petition alleges, he was placed in ankle-deep water that his interrogators told him "was wired to an electric current, and that unless Mr. Habib confessed, they would throw the switch and electrocute him." Habib says he gave false confessions to stop the abuse."

"Mr Habib's Australia-based lawyer, Stephen Hopper, says the new evidence implicates the Australian Government. Mr Hopper says the most serious allegation in the documents concerns the involvement of an Australian official in his client's alleged abuse before he was taken to Egypt.

""The Australian officials stood by while what we believe were CIA officials engaged in the type of abuses we've seen at Abu Graib, where Mamdouh Habib's clothes were cut off, he's handcuffed, held down with women around him," he said. "The photos were taken and he was mocked."

"Mr Hopper says his client's treatment has been disgraceful. "The types of abuse that Mamdouh Habib has suffered are medieval and they would horrify any person," he said. "It's beyond imagination what's happened to this man, yet our Government stands by and allows the Americans to do this, and they don't do anything about it.""

So after more than three years of detention without trial and medieval torture, Habib is now to be released without any charges being laid.

Iraq: Central America solution: "George W. Bush and his top advisers learned little from the Vietnam debacle of the ‘60s, since most avoided service in the war. But many top Bush aides played key roles in the repression of leftist peasant uprisings in Central America in the ‘80s, a set of lessons the Bush administration is now trying to apply to the violent resistance in Iraq.

"The key counterinsurgency lesson from Central America was that the U.S. government can defeat guerrilla movements if it is willing to back a local power structure, no matter how repulsive, and if Washington is ready to tolerate gross human rights abuses. In Central America in the ‘80s, those tactics included genocide against hundreds of Mayan villages in Guatemala’s highlands and the torture, rape and murder of thousands of young political activists throughout the region.... The temptation to recycle these counterinsurgency strategies from Central America to Iraq is explained by the number of Reagan-era officials now back in prominent roles in George W. Bush’s administration."

"One important difference between Iraq and Central America, however, is that to date, the Bush administration has had trouble finding, arming and unleashing an Iraqi proxy force that compares to the paramilitary killers who butchered suspected leftists in Central America. In El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, well-established “security forces” already existed. Plus, in Nicaragua, Ronald Reagan could turn to the remnants of ousted dictator Anastasio Somoza’s National Guard to fashion a contra rebel force. In Iraq, however, U.S. policymakers chose to disband—rather than redirect—Saddam Hussein’s army and intelligence services, leaving the burden of counterinsurgency heavily on U.S. occupying troops who are unfamiliar with Iraq’s language, history and terrain."

"Children were “thrown into burning homes. They are thrown in the air and speared with bayonets. We heard many, many stories of children being picked up by the ankles and swung against poles so their heads are destroyed.”"

Monday, January 10, 2005

Chomsky and Academic History: "Noam Chomsky has written more than 30 books over the last three decades. Yet neither the Journal of American History, nor the American Historical Review, nor Reviews in American History has reviewed them. If the journals had overlooked one or two of Chomsky's books, then the omissions might not rise to the status of a problem, and could be attributed to a combination of reasons each of them incidental to Chomsky himself. If the journals had in fact devoted attention to him, but the preponderance of the attention had been hostile, then they might stand accused of harboring a bias. This is the most respectable way to disagree about such matters. But the journals have not done enough to deserve the accusation. They have not reviewed a single one of his books. Chomsky is one of most widely read political intellectuals in the world. Academic history pretends he does not exist. Why is this so?"

Chomsky is surely the most important political writer of the post-war era. One (of a number) of his achievements is to essentially write the history of the post war era, at least in terms of the dominant global power, the US. The author of this article suggests that Chomsky is ignored because of "the plain fact that liberal and Marxist historians [Chomsky is not one of these] have conquered institutional power and prestige across the country, and have effected a virtual monopoly on serious intellectual discussion." That is a damning and no doubt all too accurate indictment of 'Marxism' and 'liberalism', but perhaps the real reason for Chomsky's plight is simpler: as Chomsky himself said when advising a young writer (Finkelstein) to be cautious about pursuing a line of research "you're going to expose the American intellectual community as a gang of frauds, and they are not going to like it, and they're going to destroy you." Except that Chomsky cant be destroyed or refuted, the only option is to treat him with complete silence.

Juan Cole: timetable for US withdrawal?: "The Association of Muslim Scholars (AMS) met on Saturday with 8 officials of the US embassy. Its leader, Harith al-Dhari, offered to end the Sunni Arab organization's call for a boycott of the elections if the US would set a definite timetable for withdrawal of its troops from Iraq. Al-Hayat says that the AMS now says it will accept a Shiite government if it results from the elections, as long as the latter negotiates a firm deadline for the withdrawal of US troops. AMS said that its disagreements with Shiite Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani were 'merely differences of opinion.'

"Abdul Salam al-Kubaisi, the number two man in the Association of Muslim Scholars, said that it would be desirable for his organization's leadership to meet with Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani so as to reduce the degree of sectarian tension. Al-Kubaisi also said that AMS would seek a follow-up meeting with the US officials.

"I take all this to suggest that the Sunni Arab Iraqis see the withdrawal of US troops as their first and most important priority, coming even before the reestablishment of Sunni Arab political primacy. I also suspect that a withdrawal timetable is something that all Iraqis would like to see (though it is problematic; such timetables in Palestine and India in the late 1940s arguably contributed to the massive violence and Partition in the two British imperial possessions. When the local people sense that the imperial power is a lame duck, they lose all fear of it; and its very withdrawal creates new political opportunities that some will want to seize violently).... The NYT reports that how to get out of Iraq has become a central topic in Washington."

The Mad, Mad World of God's People on Earth: "One such newspaper correspondent pleaded, with unintentional black humor, that “God regularly answers our prayers, including recently saving our son’s marriage when it went through a rocky patch, yet He ignores the pleas of thousands who scream for their loved ones lost to the waves. We are in turmoil”.

"Presumably the author of the letter has never previously considered that while their God was busy divinely intervening to stop their son breaking wind under the duvet without apologizing to his wife, He must also, by implication, have been deaf to the prayers from thousands all over the world, screaming mercy for loved ones blown up by bombs, dying of famine, run down by cars, killed by robbers, fires, disease or poverty. The turmoil the letter writer should be experiencing is how he arrived at being so terminally self-centered and unutterably stupid not to have noticed pain and suffering until it came to his attention in the form of a headline-grabbing tsunami.

"But if we can forgive the knuckle-dragging idiocy of a member of the public, who could, after all, quite possibly be educationally subnormal, it’s considerably harder to explain the reaction of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, an educated theologian of some intellectual standing, when he described the tsunami as “testing our faith”.

"How the archbishop reasons that a natural, and indeed geologically predictable, earthquake can shake his faith, when war, famine, criminality, religious hatred and the advancement of science that makes his religion look increasingly ridiculous, have never been singled out by him as having the same faith-rocking effect is mystifying. If anything, the indifferent destructive power of the tsunami, in contrast to the malicious destructive power of mankind, is so obscenely impressive that it’s more likely to tempt the swithering non-believer into the fold of supernatural belief than drive them away. Puny humans, armed with all our expensive weaponry, technology and irrational loathing, take months to systematically slaughter thousands of people in Iraq, whereas the Earth’s crust gives one tiny shrug in its sleep and hundreds of thousands die in a matter of days."

"Meanwhile, a letter to The Herald about the tsunami from Osama Saeed, Scottish spokesman for the Muslim Association of Britain, claims to speak for all Muslims, and tells us that this world’s “reality” is of little consequence, since believers know it is nothing more than a test, and they can look forward after death to an “unimaginable quality of life”. He finishes by expressing bafflement as to how those of us who don’t believe in this promised land manage to cope at all, as in his words, “It’s only the knowledge that everyone will be recompensed in the hereafter that keeps me going”.

"If this perspective came from a deeply depressed, terminally ill person in great pain, or the lone survivor of a terrible family-destroying calamity, one might afford it some sympathy. As it comes from someone fit, healthy and hired to represent the views of a great many diverse Scottish Muslims, most of whom love this life dearly and wish to make the best of it for themselves and those who share the planet, one can only hope he gets better soon."

New Zealand Confirms Supplying Agent Orange in Vietnam War: "New Zealand supplied Agent Orange chemicals to the United States military during the Vietnam war, a government minister has revealed. The disclosure led to immediate claims that New Zealand was in breach of the Geneva convention and could face a flood of lawsuits from veterans and Vietnamese.... After nearly three decades of official denials, a high-level parliamentary committee formally acknowledged late last year that New Zealand soldiers in the Vietnam War were significantly exposed to Agent Orange, but no mention was ever made that the country was a supplier.... From 1961 to 1971, the US and South Vietnamese military sprayed millions of litres of toxic herbicides, mainly Agent Orange, over South Vietnam to destroy the vegetation used by communist forces for cover and food. Hanoi says the defoliant has caused health problems for more than one million Vietnamese and continues to have devastating consequences. A study released in August last year by scientists from the United States, Germany and Vietnam found that Agent Orange was still contaminating people through their food."

Death Squads: the 'Salvador' option: "The Pentagon’s latest approach is being called "the Salvador option"—and the fact that it is being discussed at all is a measure of just how worried Donald Rumsfeld really is. "What everyone agrees is that we can’t just go on as we are," one senior military officer told NEWSWEEK. "We have to find a way to take the offensive against the insurgents. Right now, we are playing defense. And we are losing." Last November’s operation in Fallujah, most analysts agree, succeeded less in breaking "the back" of the insurgency—as Marine Gen. John Sattler optimistically declared at the time—than in spreading it out.

"Now, NEWSWEEK has learned, the Pentagon is intensively debating an option that dates back to a still-secret strategy in the Reagan administration’s battle against the leftist guerrilla insurgency in El Salvador in the early 1980s. Then, faced with a losing war against Salvadoran rebels, the U.S. government funded or supported "nationalist" forces that allegedly included so-called death squads directed to hunt down and kill rebel leaders and sympathizers. Eventually the insurgency was quelled, and many U.S. conservatives consider the policy to have been a success—despite the deaths of innocent civilians and the subsequent Iran-Contra arms-for-hostages scandal. (Among the current administration officials who dealt with Central America back then is John Negroponte, who is today the U.S. ambassador to Iraq. Under Reagan, he was ambassador to Honduras.)"

"Following that model, one Pentagon proposal would send Special Forces teams to advise, support and possibly train Iraqi squads, most likely hand-picked Kurdish Peshmerga fighters and Shiite militiamen, to target Sunni insurgents and their sympathizers, even across the border into Syria."

The only sense in which the Salvadoran death squads were ever 'secret' was that (like Nixon's 'secret bombings') they were kept 'secret' from the American people by the corporate media. And yet it is now openly discussed in the mainstream media, and 'conservatives' are prepared to openly proclaim the 'success' of Nazi-style tactics. Something similar was attempted in Vietnam, the 'Phoenix program'. But it didnt work. One cant see how it is going to work in Iraq either. The insurgents are heavily armed and supported by the population. Membership in a 'death squad' looks like a certain ticket for one's own death.

Saturday, January 08, 2005

Never again: "Over three years ago I started a book club with a bunch of women. I am the only liberal in this group. We have one born again Christian, and the rest are hardly church oriented.

"This month we read a book called Florida Road Kill. Oh the carrying on about the gore the murders and how truly gross it was! They questioned how anyone could do those horrible things, what kind of mind could think up those gross actions, the awful tortures, etc. Spawn of Satan that I am, I pointed out that our own government tortured people at al Gharib and hid it and now are out-sourcing it to other countries.

"Like a group of cows that turn their heads in unison to see what that noise was, they turned and stared at me and silently chewed their cud. That horrible woman (me) was making those weird, stupid, statements again. Nothing was said. They didn't argue. They never do. They just paused and then went on to discuss the lack of remorse of the people in the book! How oblivious and cold-blooded these characters were!

"I sat there with my mouth hanging open. What are these people? They just shut their eyes, their minds, and hearts, and when I question them the answer I get all the time is "It just upsets me too much." And when they are pushed “I just try to do the best I can in my small area" comes in second.

"I have relatives in this group and I am starting to loathe them. People I believed were good honest loving people have turned into something I don't recognize. These are the exactly same type of people they had to drag to the concentration camps after the war and stick their noses in the ashes---and STILL they claimed they didn't know it was going on. I can't remember ever being so appalled by my fellow Americans."

Years ago, it used to be a popular query in regard to Germany, Hitler and the Nazis, how could a civilised nation have done something so barbaric? With a bit more experience of the world, one might instead remark, its a wonder it doesn't happen more often. And with yet more experience, the question becomes, what must I do today to stop my country's ongoing participation in war crimes and crimes against humanity?

US unilateralism defeated only 8 days after it was announced: "The "core group" [US, Japan, India, Australia] of nations announced by US President George W. Bush to channel aid to victims of the Indian Ocean tsunami will be dissolved today after just eight days as the United Nations takes control of the relief effort, delegates to a donors summit said yesterday.

"There is an attempt to portray this as a non-event by claiming the “core group” has already “served its purpose [so] it is time to dissolve it”. But that doesn’t square with Bush’s statement announcing the group’s formation: “I'm confident more nations will join this core group in short order.” The plan was to expand the core group, not terminate it."

The US reign as relief hyperpower has lasted an even shorter time than its reign as "New Rome". Predictably, Howard followed the US initiative and equally predictably the woeful Labor opposition could not find anything to disagree with. This is a Labor opposition that does not know whether or not it supports the United Nations, international law, the Geneva Convention, and a ban on torture and gulags. It is an opposition that cannot see that the US Imperium is as shortlived as it is immoral. Howard is a sitting duck and the opposition cannot make up its mind to train all its guns and blow him away.

SLAPPS explained: "The strategy of using a SLAPP is to claim some ambit amount, say $6 million dollars, and then serve a writ on the defendants. In the writ are, usually, a series of conditions. One of which is to seek that the defendant make no written or spoken comment on the matter over which they are being sued. In short, the writ seeks to limit the ability of one side of a debate being able to express their truly held, personal beliefs. In short, a SLAPP is a fancy way of trying to get your opponents silenced. Well, at least it's a little more humane than dragging them behind the shelter shed and belting the crap out of them like the schoolyard bullies used to do. That or put a bullet in their head. Whatever tactic is used, the idea is to shut your critics up.

"The main way this has been achieved, without resorting to violence, is through the sheer threat of having a multimillion-dollar 'fine' and potential civil action taken against you. The US experience has been that, 'The resulting effect 'chills' public participation in, and open debate on, important public issues. This chilling effect is not limited to the SLAPP defendants - other people refrain from speaking out on issues of public concern because they fear being sued for what they say'. The interesting thing and the most enlightening as to why these cases are brought, is to look at the US where almost 80% of the SLAPP cases are won by those being sued. This means only one thing. The SLAPP is not meant to do anything other than to intimidate, waste time and, perhaps, win the company bringing the case a little time to do some fancy PR and save a few percentage points of their profit.

"Sharon Beder, quoting a US judge, points out that, 'The conceptual thread that binds [SLAPPs] is that they are suits without substantial merit that are brought by private interests to 'stop citizens from exercising their political rights or to punish them for having done so' . The longer the litigation can be stretched out, the more litigation that can be churned, the greater the expense that is inflicted and the closer the SLAPP filer moves to success. The purpose of such gamesmanship ranges from simple retribution for past activism to discouraging future activism'. "

The SLAPP is thus similar to the 'Fair Game' corporate legal tactic used by Scientology founder L.Ron Hubbard: "The purpose of a lawsuit is to harass and discourage rather than to win.... Don't ever defend. Always attack. Find or manufacture enough threat against them to cause them to sue for peace. Originate a black PR campaign to destroy the person's repute and to discredit them so thoroughly they will be ostracized... The law can be used very easily to harass, and enough harassment on somebody who is simply on the thin edge anyway, will knowing that he is not authorized, will generally be sufficient to cause his professional decease. If possible, of course, ruin him utterly."

The Gunns writ is an attack on democracy: "Greg Barns seeks to defend Gunns, the Tasmanian timber and woodchip conglomerate, from charges that it is stifling free speech by suing 20 environmentalists and environmental groups for $6.36 million ('Say what you will, this is not about free speech', on this page last Tuesday). He is dead wrong on all counts. ......... In some cases the writ specifies a person or people who committed the acts, which makes me wonder why these individuals are not being sued individually for the relevant damages. In many other cases the writ alleges that 'one or more' of the individuals listed performed the action. If they do not know for sure, why impute responsibility to a whole group, at least some of who weren't even present? However, the most damning aspect of the suit is that some of the actions being sued for simply are not criminal acts directed against Gunns or its contractors. One claim is that defendants have engaged in 'publicising grievances about the environment and the activities of (Gunns) both in Australia and with its customers and consumers overseas'. This is simply a definition of protest. In several other parts of the writ, Gunns allege that signs were affixed to trees and fences on Crown land near logging coups. Entering this land and putting signs on it may be criminal (in no very terrible way), but it is not a crime against Gunns. Protesting against Gunns may damage its interests, but it isn't criminal or wrong. Connecting the protest against Gunns to alleged minor criminal acts against the Crown doesn't alter the fact that Gunns is suing people for voicing their opinions. If the criminal acts themselves give rise to damages, it is the Crown that is entitled to sue, not Gunns. Gunns is not a 'victim of crime' just because the crime enabled people to protest against it. ......... Gunns is not entitled to overturn these profound principles in the civil courts........."

McGunns Lawsuit by Gunns Limited: "While Tasmanian billion dollar Australian registered company Gunns Limited and its shareholders (including the Commonwealth Bank and AMP) bathe in record profits from woodchipping and vandalising Tasmania's native forests, poisoning its wildlife and spraying carcinogenic chemicals, it initiates legal action in Melbourne against ordinary Tasmanian mums and dads that dare to oppose the Gunns regime and who can't afford legal representation."

Chomsky: The Non-Election of 2004: " It is easy to demonstrate that for Bush planners, the threat of terror is a low priority. The invasion of Iraq is only one of many illustrations. Even their own intelligence agencies agreed with the consensus among other agencies, and independent specialists, that the invasion was likely to increase the threat of terror, as it did; probably nuclear proliferation as well, as also predicted. Such threats are simply not high priorities as compared with the opportunity to establish the first secure military bases in a dependent client state at the heart of the world’s major energy reserves, a region understood since World War II to be the “most strategically important area of the world,” “a stupendous source of strategic power, and one of the greatest material prizes in world history.” Apart from what one historian of the industry calls “profits beyond the dreams of avarice,” which must flow in the right direction, control over two-thirds of the world’s estimated hydrocarbon reserves—uniquely cheap and easy to exploit—provides what Zbigniew Brzezinski recently called “critical leverage” over European and Asian rivals, what George Kennan many years earlier had called “veto power” over them. These have been crucial policy concerns throughout the post-World War II period, even more so in today’s evolving tripolar world, with its threat that Europe and Asia might move towards greater independence, and worse, might be united: China and the EU became each other’s major trading partners in 2004, joined by the world’s second largest economy (Japan), and those tendencies are likely to increase. A firm hand on the spigot reduces these dangers.

"Note that the critical issue is control, not access. U.S. policies towards the Middle East were the same when it was a net exporter of oil, and remain the same today when U.S. intelligence projects that the U.S. will rely on more stable Atlantic Basin resources. Policies would be likely to be about the same if the U.S. were to switch to renewable energy. The need to control the “stupendous source of strategic power” and to gain “profits beyond the dreams of avarice” would remain. Jockeying over Central Asia and pipeline routes reflects similar concerns. There are many other illustrations of the same lack of concern of planners about terror. Bush voters, whether they knew it or not, were voting for a likely increase in the threat of terror, which could be awesome: it was understood well before 9/11 that sooner or later the Jihadists organized by the CIA and its associates in the 1980s are likely to gain access to WMDs, with horrendous consequences."

" As for “moral values,” we learn what we need to know about them from the business press the day after the election, reporting the “euphoria” in board rooms—not because CEOs oppose gay marriage. And from the unconcealed efforts to transfer to future generations the costs of the dedicated service of Bush planners to privilege and wealth: fiscal and environmental costs, among others, not to speak of the threat of “ultimate doom.” That aside, it means little to say that people vote on the basis of “moral values.” The question is what they mean by the phrase. The limited indications are of some interest. In some polls, “when the voters were asked to choose the most urgent moral crisis facing the country, 33 percent cited ‘greed and materialism,’ 31 percent selected ‘poverty and economic justice,’ 16 percent named abortion, and 12 percent selected gay marriage” (Pax Christi). In others, “when surveyed voters were asked to list the moral issue that most affected their vote, the Iraq war placed first at 42 percent, while 13 percent named abortion and 9 percent named gay marriage” (Zogby)."

Friday, January 07, 2005

US dollar hegenony: a Ponzi scheme: "The crash of the dollar would (will?) crumble this entire world-embracing and -organizing political economic doughnut and throw hundreds of millions of people, not to mention zillions of dollars and their owners, into turmoil, with unforeseen and perhaps unforeseeable consequences.

"Many people, high and low on the world totem pole, have a big stake in avoiding that, even if it requires continuing to blow an empty Uncle Sam up like a balloon. Or to refer to a well-know metaphor, to continue to pretend that the emperor with no clothes is dressed up. That still includes China, for which a financial showdown with Uncle Sam would be a blessing in disguise."

"Of course, crashing the dollar would finally also in one fell swoop wipe out, that is default, Uncle Sam's debt altogether. Thereby, it would simultaneously also make all foreigners and rich Americans lose the whole of their dollar-asset shirt, of which they are still desperately trying to save as much as possible by not so doing. In fact, this historically necessary transition out from under the US-run doughnut world could bring the entire world into the deepest depression ever - and in all of them the poorest suffer the most."

Monday, January 03, 2005

American Gulag: US Said to Mull Lifetime Terror-Suspect Detentions: "The Bush administration is preparing plans for possible lifetime detention of suspected terrorists, including hundreds whom the government does not have enough evidence to charge in courts."

This is indefinite detention without trial. The ability of the state to snatch people off the street and hold them in a dungeon at its whim is the essence of tyranny or dictatorship. Conversely, the right of every person to a fair trial before an independent judge, the right to be charged or released, the right of habeas corpus, is the essence of freedom and civil liberties. So, are you with us or against us?

We Must Resist America's Attempts to Undermine the United Nations: "In the middle of an extremely complex emergency, [Bush] tells us that the US, Australia, Japan and India will co-ordinate the international response. None of these countries has a strong record in responding to international emergencies, although India takes pride in its capacity to deal with its own problems. This proposal is likely to complicate rather than help international coordination Efforts are now under way to try to ensure that the coalition of four will work with the UN, but it is hard to see where the proposal came from, apart from yet another US attempt to snub the UN.

"I find this growing appetite for UN bashing very worrying. In a period of growing international disorder, humanitarian crisis and environmental threat, there is a major push by the world's strongest power to undermine the only system we have for taking co-ordinated action to enforce peace, respond to humanitarian crisis and reach environmental agreements."

"At a time when the world faces terrible challenges, of poverty, disorder and environmental degradation, there is a real danger that the US government is consistently undermining the only legitimate system of international co-operation that we have. And because the UK sees the US alliance as its foreign policy priority, we are increasingly part of the problem rather than the solution."

Australian PM John Howard, of course, instead of aligning himself, suporting and building the established UN relief and emergency structures, predictably follows the Bush administration's 'UN bashing' 'unitaleral' approach.

Agent Orange: "Collateral Damage" In Viet Nam - The Digital Journalist: "My initial motivation for spending 22 years engrossed in this subject has to do with witnessing a staggering human tragedy unfold. In many ways the sad and terrible Viet Nam war has become a war without end.... The US did not drop Agent Orange to produce deformed babies - it was simply meant to kill vegetation. The Dioxin was an accidental by-product. This gives America a perfect excuse to be magnanimous towards the victims.... Each and every person on the planet now has this deadly chemical [dioxin] in their bodies, mostly from industrial pollution and the embrace of plastics by society. Even the EPA declares that a quarter of all cancers in America are caused by Dioxin."

Sunday, January 02, 2005

Gunns attack on Greens threatens freedom of speech: "This case is putting free speech on trial. If Gunns are successful in getting injunctions against protesters then they will have effectively made political protest against corporations illegal.

"This suit is clearly intended to bully into silence politicians, protesters, and anyone attempting to exercise their democratic right to speak out. The Greens will not be silenced by Gunns or any other company from identifying environmentally damaging practices and speaking out to protect our ecological heritage.

""I, for one, will never be cowed by John Gay, Robin Gray, their wealth or their power of destruction. They will not stop me from campaigning to save Australia’s heritage even if it means losing every penny, every home comfort, every peaceful night’s sleep life offers" said Senator Bob Brown."

That is courageous talk from Bob Brown and, indeed, he is one of the few public figures from which such talk might be credible. Nevertheless it is outrageous and intolerable that a person or politician engaged in legitimate political activity should face such a threat. If successful, the Gunns suit would set an appalling precedent whereby corporations could use legal action to silence protestors, dissidents, political opponents and activists. The mere filing of the suit, regardless of its ultimate outcome, is an harassing activity of a kind that should be considered unacceptable.

Interview with Amos Elon: "Do you find Israel to be barbaric, unenlightened, nationalistic?

'In Israel there's the `Gush Dan' state and the political state. The `Gush Dan' state is a state of live-and-let-live. Of tolerance. Of the desire for peace and a good life. But the political state, well, you know what it looks like.'

What does it look like?

'It's partly quasi-fascist and partly religious with narrow horizons.'


'Quasi-fascist in the sense that abstract principles of religion are dictating our fate without any democratic process. There are religious people here who believe they've put their finger on the very essence of being. They know everything. They're in direct contact with God.'

You have some profound anti- religious sentiment.

'I'm not being original when I say that religion that enters politics is dangerous. Such religious people would be better off behind bars and not in politics. Certainly.'

The critical mistake of `67 opened the door to dark forces that overwhelmed the Israel to which you belonged, to which you felt a genuine closeness?

'There were two sources of the perversion: the mixture of religion with political policy and the secular right's military adventurism. Force. The worship of force. By the way, it hasn't only come from the Likud. It also came from Ahdut Ha'avoda (the United Workers Party, a precursor of the Labor Party), from people like Allon and Galili. Ahdut Ha'avoda always seemed to me to be a party of farmers fighting over each piece of land with pitchforks.'

And the result is that this place has corrupted itself?

'The occupation certainly corrupted Israeli society. There is no dispute about that.'

Has Israel slid into a situation that places it in a category other than the democratic Western nations?

"Without a doubt. And I'm still wracking my brain wondering what those people were thinking after the Six-Day War. How did they think they could keep it? What did Dayan think? Did he really think that if we just treat them nicely, everything will be fine? What provinciality it was. What historic ignorance. Had this ever happened anywhere else in the world? From this perspective, the Israeli occupation is perhaps the least successful attempt at colonialism that I can think of. This is the crappiest colonial regime that I can think of in the modern age."

How is it worse than French or British colonialism?

"In the French and British colonies, there were mixed marriages. In India, for instance. But especially with the French. They're freer than the British are in bed, that's well-known. But both the French and the British tried to co-opt the elites. As a rule, whenever a European nation took over territory in the Third World, it tried to embrace the elite. Here there was no such attempt. There were no mixed marriages, there was no significant commercial cooperation. The only human partnership was in the lowest dimension of all: crime.""

Its a tragic and enormous error that Israel succumbed to the temptation try to hold onto the Territories. Israel could have had peace, security, and its liberal values. But this is the kind of tragedy that is inevitable: given the premisses of Zionism, how could it be otherwise?

Iraq Election poll favourites want US gone: "The Iraqi newspaper 'al-Adalah' published on Dec. 23 the platform of the United Iraqi Alliance, the mainly Shiite coalition sponsored by Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani.... I'm not sure most Americans realize that the biggest and most important party coalition in Iraq, which will almost certainly form the next government, has explicitly stated in its platform that it wants a specific timetable announced for withdrawal of US troops from the country.... I think we are looking at the policies of the new Iraq. They aren't what Mr. Bush and Mr. Rumsfeld and Mr. Wolfowitz imagined."

The US may have to accept defeat and withdraw from the country. But is this possible? It been said of Cheney that he cannot imagine giving up all that oil and the Pentagon cannot imagine giving up those bases. Such a withdrawal would represent a tremendous strategic defeat for the US.

Bush 'Undermining UN with Aid Coalition': "United States President George Bush was tonight accused of trying to undermine the United Nations by setting up a rival coalition to coordinate relief following the Asian tsunami disaster. The president has announced that the US, Japan, India and Australia would coordinate the world’s response.

"But former International Development Secretary Clare Short said that role should be left to the UN. “I think this initiative from America to set up four countries claiming to coordinate sounds like yet another attempt to undermine the UN when it is the best system we have got and the one that needs building up,” she said. “Only really the UN can do that job,” she told BBC Radio Four’s PM programme. “It is the only body that has the moral authority. But it can only do it well if it is backed up by the authority of the great powers.”

"Ms Short said the coalition countries did not have good records on responding to international disasters. She said the US was “very bad at coordinating with anyone” and India had its own problems to deal with. “I don’t know what that is about but it sounds very much, I am afraid, like the US trying to have a separate operation and not work with the rest of the world through the UN system,” she added."

Under Howard, of course, Australia shamefully goes along with this US 'unilateralism' and undermining of the UN. An opportunity has been missed for Australia to announce its armed forces would put down their weapons and be mobilised in the cause of humanitarian relief and international goodwill. Australia has a fleet of 24 Hercules aircraft, organised into two squadrons, one tactical and one strategic. The question might be asked as to whether this entire force with personnel and support could not be mobilised and put at the service of the relief effort.

American support for democracy is thin: "44% of respondents favored some form of restriction of civil liberties for Muslims. The poll actually contains some even more amazing results. Only 63% of respondents felt that people should be allowed to criticize government policies in times of war or crisis, and only 60% felt that people should be allowed to protest. 33% believed the media should not cover protests and 31% that it shouldn’t report criticisms. These numbers fly in the face of any comfortable suppositions about Americans and their respect for individual freedom or for informed policy debate in a democracy. Not much over half of people even believe they should be legally allowed, let alone engaged in."

"Other striking statistics: Although 70% favored, somewhat or strongly, the so-called “war on terrorism,” only 42% believe its primary purpose is protecting the United States from attack. 22%, more than one in five people, believe the primary purpose is controlling Middle East oil. Most interesting, of that 22%, 43% still favored the war on terrorism – with a margin of error of close to 8%. Since those 22% are likely to be of the more oppositional sort of people, it’s entirely plausible that even if the whole American public knew that control of Middle East oil and U.S. imperial hegemony is the primary reason, half or more might still support the “war on terrorism.”"