Merkel says she will not attend opening of Beijing Olympics

Dandelion Salad

Ian Traynor in Brussels and Jonathan Watts in Beijing
The Guardian
Saturday March 29 2008

The German chancellor, Angela Merkel, yesterday became the first world leader to decide not to attend the Olympics in Beijing.

As pressure built for concerted western protests to China over the crackdown in Tibet, EU leaders prepared to discuss the crisis for the first time today, amid a rift over whether to boycott the Olympics.

The disclosure that Germany is to stay away from the games’ opening ceremonies in August could encourage President Nicolas Sarkozy of France to join in a gesture of defiance and complicate Gordon Brown’s determination to attend the Olympics.

Donald Tusk, Poland’s prime minister, became the first EU head of government to announce a boycott on Thursday and he was promptly joined by President Václav Klaus of the Czech Republic, who had previously promised to travel to Beijing.

“The presence of politicians at the inauguration of the Olympics seems inappropriate,” Tusk said. “I do not intend to take part.”

…continued

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Propaganda – Tibet – Democracy or Economy? by William Blum

Fresh Tibet protests reported as diplomats visit

Tibet

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Jon Snow’s Hidden Iraq (video)

Dandelion Salad

Warning

.

This video may contain images depicting the reality and horror of war/violence and should only be viewed by a mature audience.

This is part 1, go to Tagemandbagem or click the video to see the rest of this series. ~ Lo

Tagemandbagem

Jon Snow examines the brutal reality of life inside post-invasion Iraq, meeting a variety of its citizens from victims of bomb blasts and war widows to human rights activists and politicians.
http://www.channel4.com/news/articles…

Vodpod videos no longer available. from dandelionsalad.vodpo posted with vodpod

.

h/t: LuCidiTy

Fresh Tibet protests reported as diplomats visit

Dandelion Salad

AFP
29/03/2008 20h57

DHARAMSHALA (AFP) – Tibet’s government-in-exile reported fresh mass protests in Lhasa on Saturday as foreign diplomats visited the tense city following recent deadly unrest over Chinese rule.

As EU foreign ministers called for an end to violence, the exiled Tibet body said “thousands” had joined demonstrations in Lhasa, although a spokesman stressed details were hard to confirm.

“Around 2:00 pm (0600 GMT) local time in the afternoon, Tibetans gathered for a protest in front of Ramoche Monastery,” said a statement posted on the exile government’s website.

“Also, nearby, in front of Tsuglag-khang (Jokhang) temple and Beijing East road, protests were started, and thousands joined in the protests within no time.”

Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, who earlier urged the world community to help end the turmoil, said he was following developments.

“I heard people of Lhasa came out in protest again today,” he said after returning to his base here.

…continued

FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues, etc. This constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C. section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use’, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

Kadhafi warns US allies could suffer Saddam’s fate

Dandelion Salad

AFP
Sat Mar 29, 10:31 AM ET

DAMASCUS (AFP) – Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi warned Arab allies of the United States that they could meet the same fate as former Iraq president Saddam Hussein, hanged in 2006 three years after the US-led invasion.

“A foreign force occupied an Arab country and hanged its president and we stood by and watched,” he told an Arab summit in the Syrian capital.

Saddam was hanged in December 2006 after being sentenced to death for crimes against humanity over the mass killing of Shiites in the 1980s.

“How can they execute a prisoner of war and the president of a member of the Arab League?” Kadhafi asked.

He said Saddam had been a friend of the United States during the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s “before they turned against him and executed him.”

“You could all suffer the same fate,” he warned.

“Even you, even we, who are considered friends of America, one day (America) can give the green light for our own hanging,” said the Libyan leader whose country resumed ties with the United States in 2004 after a 23-year break.

Diplomatic ties between Washington and Tripoli were restored after Kadhafi announced that Libya had renounced efforts to acquire weapons of mass destruction.

Full links were normalised last year with an exchange of ambassadors and Libya’s removal from a US State Department list of states supporting terrorism.

Kadhafi also deplored what he called a lack of unity among the 22-member Arab League.

“We insult each other and we plot against one another,” he said. “We share the same blood and the same language, although it is threatened with disappearance, but apart from that nothing unites us.”

Half of the region’s leaders boycotted the Arab summit, with many blaming Syria for the continuing political crisis in Lebanon.

h/t: CLG

FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues, etc. This constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C. section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use’, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

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Death Penalty/Saddam Hussein

Five Things You Need to Know To Understand The Latest Violence in Iraq

Dandelion Salad

By Joshua Holland and Raed Jarrar
ICH
29/03/08 “AlterNet

Heavy fighting has spread across Shia-dominated enclaves in Iraq over the past two days. The U.S.-backed regime of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has ordered 50,000 Iraqi troops to “crack down” — with coalition air support — on Shiite militias in the oil-rich and strategically important city of Basra, U.S. forces have surrounded Baghdad’s Sadr City and fighting has been reported in the southern cities of Kut, Diwaniya, Karbala and Hilla. Basra’s main bridge and an oil pipeline connecting it to Amara were destroyed Wednesday. Six cities are under curfew, and acts of civil disobedience have shut down dozens of neighborhoods across the country. Civilian casualties have reportedly overwhelmed poorly equipped medical centers in Baghdad and Basra.

There are indications that the unilateral ceasefire declared last year by the nationalist cleric Muqtada al-Sadr is collapsing. “The cease-fire is over; we have been told to fight the Americans,” one militiaman loyal to al-Sadr told the Christian Science Monitor‘s Sam Dagher by telephone from Sadr City. Dagher added that the “same man, when interviewed in January, had stated that he was abiding by the cease-fire and that he was keeping busy running his cellular phone store.”

A political track is also in play: Sadr has called on his followers to take to the streets to demand Maliki’s resignation, and nationalist lawmakers in the Iraqi Parliament, led by al-Sadr’s block, are trying to push a no-confidence vote challenging the prime minister’s regime.

The conflict is one that the U.S. media appears incapable of describing in a coherent way. The prevailing narrative is that Basra has been ruled by mafialike militias — which is true — and that Iraqi government forces are now cracking down on the lawlessness in preparation for regional elections, which is not. As independent analyst Reider Visser noted:

On closer inspection, there are problems in these accounts. Perhaps most importantly, there is a discrepancy between the description of Basra as a city ruled by militias (in the plural) … [and the] facts of the ongoing operations, which seem to target only one of these militia groups, the Mahdi Army loyal to Muqtada al-Sadr. Surely, if the aim was to make Basra a safer place, it would have been logical to do something to also stem the influence of the other militias loyal to the local competitors of the Sadrists, the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq [SIIC], as well as the armed groups allied to the Fadila party (sic) (which have dominated the oil protection services for a long time). But so far, only Sadrists have complained about attacks by government forces.

The conflict doesn’t conform to the analysis of the roots of Iraqi instability as briefed by U.S. officials in the heavily-fortified Green Zone. It also doesn’t fit into the simplistic but popular narrative of a country wrought by sectarian violence, and its nature is obscured by the labels that the commercial media uncritically apply to the disparate centers of Iraqi resistance to the occupation.

The “crackdown” comes on the heels of the approval of a new “provincial law,” which will ultimately determine whether Iraq remains a unified state with a strong central government or is divided into sectarian-based regional governates. The measure calls for provincial elections in October, and the winners of those elections will determine the future of the Iraqi state. Control of the country’s oil wealth, and how its treasure will be developed, will also be significantly influenced by the outcome of the elections.

It’s a relatively straightforward story: Iraq is ablaze today as a result of an attempt to impose Colombian-style democracy on the unstable country: Maliki’s goal, shared by the like-minded allies among the Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish communities that dominate his administration, and with at least tacit U.S. approval, is to kill off the opposition and then hold a vote.

To better understand the nature of this latest round of conflict, here are five things one needs to know about what’s taking place across Iraq.

1. A visible manifestation of Iraq’s central-but-under-teported political conflict (not “sectarian violence”)

Iraq, which had experienced little or no sectarian-based violence prior to the U.S. invasion, has been plagued with sectarian militias fighting for the streets of Iraq’s formerly heterogeneous neighborhoods, and “sectarian violence” has become Americans’ primary explanation for the instability that has plagued the country.

But the sectarian-based street-fighting is a symptom of a larger political conflict, one that has been poorly analyzed in the mainstream press. The real source of conflict in Iraq — and the reason political reconciliation has been so difficult — is a fundamental disagreement over what the future of Iraq will look like. Loosely defined, it is a clash of Iraqi nationalists — with Muqtada al-Sadr as their most influential voice — who desire a unified Iraqi state and public-sector management of the country’s vast oil reserves and who forcefully reject foreign influence on Iraq’s political process, be it from the United States, Iran or other outside forces.

The nationalists now represent a majority in Iraq’s parliament but are opposed by what might be called Iraqi separatists, who envision a “soft partition” of Iraq into at least four semiautonomous and sectarian-based regional entities, welcome the privatization of the Iraqi energy sector (and the rest of the Iraqi economy) and rely on foreign support to maintain their power.

We’ve written about this long-standing conflict extensively in the past, and now we’re seeing it come to a head, as we believed it would at some point.

2. U.S. is propping up unpopular regime; Sadr has support because of his platform

One of the ironies of the reporting out of Iraq is the ubiquitous characterization of Muqtada al-Sadr as a “renegade,” “radical” or “militant” cleric, despite the fact that he is the only leader of significance in the country who has ordered his followers to stand down. His ostensible militancy appears to arise primarily from his opposition to the U.S.-led occupation of Iraq.

He has certainly been willing to use violence in the past, but the “firebrand” label belies the fact that Sadr is arguably the most popular leader among a large section of the Iraqi population and that he has forcefully rejected sectarian conflict and sought to bring together representatives of Iraq’s various ethnic and sectarian groups in an effort to create real national reconciliation — a process that the highly sectarian Maliki regime has failed to accomplish.

It’s vitally important to understand that Sadr’s popularity and legitimacy is a result of his having a platform that’s favored by an overwhelming majority of Iraqis.

Most Iraqis:

With the exception of their opposition to Al Qaeda, the five major separatist parties — Sunni, Shia and Kurdish — that make up Maliki’s governing coalition are on the deeply unpopular side of these issues. A poll conducted last year found that 65 percent of Iraqis think the Iraqi government is doing a poor job, and Maliki himself has a Bush-like 66 percent disapproval rate.

As in Vietnam, the United States is backing an unpopular and decidedly undemocratic government in Iraq, and that simple fact explains much of the violent resistance that’s going on in Iraq today.

3. “Iraqi forces” are, in fact, “Iranian- (and U.S.-) backed Shiite militias”

Every headline this week has featured some variation of the storyline of “Iraqi security forces” battling “Shiite militias.” But the reality is that it is a battle between Shite militias — separatists and nationalists — with one militia garbed in Iraqi army uniforms and supported by U.S. airpower, and the other in civilian clothes.

It has always been the great irony of the occupation of Iraq that “our” man in Baghdad is also Tehran’s. Maliki heads the Dawa Party, which has long enjoyed close ties to Iran, and relies on support from SIIC, a staunchly pro-Iranian party, and its powerful Badr militia. The “government crackdown” is an escalation of a long-simmering conflict in the south between the Badr Brigade, the Sadrists and members of the Fadhila Party, which favors greater autonomy for Basra but rejects SIIC’s vision of a larger Shiite-dominated regional entity in Southern Iraq.

4. Colombia-style democracy

Basra has been engulfed in a simmering conflict since before the British pulled their troops back to a remote base near the airport and turned over the city to Iraqi authorities. But the timing of this crackdown is not coincidental; Iraqi separatists — Dawa, SIIC and others — are expected to do poorly in the regional elections, while the Sadrists are widely anticipated to make significant gains. It is widely perceived by those loyal to Sadr that this is an attempt to wipe out the movement he leads prior to the elections and minimize the influence that Iraqi nationalists are poised to gain.

The United States, for its part, continues to take sides in this conflict — in addition to providing airpower, U.S. forces are enforcing the curfew in Sadr City — rather than playing the role of neutral mediator. That’s because the interests of the Bush administration and its allies are aligned with Maliki and his coalition. That they are not aligned with the interests of most Iraqis is never mentioned in the Western press, but is a key reason why Bush’s definition of “victory” — the emergence of a legitimate and Democratic state that supports U.S. policy in the region — has always been an impossible pipedream.

5. Chip off the old block: Maliki’s attempt to criminalize dissent

It’s unclear whether Sadr has lifted the cease-fire entirely, or simply freed his fighters to defend themselves. He continues to call for peaceful resistance.

Whatever the case may be, it’s not entirely accurate to say that he “chose” this conflict. The reality is that while his army was holding the cease-fire, attacks on and detentions of Sadrists have continued unabated. Sadr renewed the cease-fire last month, but he did so over the urging of his top aides, who argued that their movement was threatened with annihilation. He later authorized his followers to carry weapons “for self-defense” to head off a mutiny within his ranks.

Ahmed al-Massoudi, a Sadrist member of Parliament, last week “accused the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, his Dawa Party and the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council (SIIC) of planning a military campaign to liquidate the Sadrists.”

The lawmaker told Voices of Iraq that Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim’s “SIIC and the Dawa Party have held meetings with officers of the militias merged recently into security agencies to launch a military campaign outwardly to impose order and law, but the real objective is to liquidate the Sadrist bloc.” “Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is directly supervising this scheme with officers from the Dawa Party and the SIIC,” he added. Despite his close ties with Tehran and deep involvement in Shiite militia activity, Hakim has been invited to the White House, where he was feted by Bush himself.

Sadr called for nationwide civil disobedience that would have allowed his followers to flex some political muscle in a nonviolent way. His orders, according to Iraqi reports were to distribute olive branches and copies of the Koran to soldiers at checkpoints.

The Maliki regime responded by saying that individuals joining the nationwide strike would be punished and that those organizing it are in violation of the Iraqi Counter-Terrorism Act issued in 2005. A spokesman for the prime minister promised to punish any government employees who failed to show up for work.

This is consistent with a long-term trend: the U.S.-backed government’s obstruction of Iraqi efforts to foster political reconciliation among diverse groups of Iraq nationalists. (Read more about this here.)

Propaganda and the surge

The Maliki regime has set an ultimatum demanding that the militias — the nationalist militias — lay down their arms within the next two days or face “more serious consequences.” Al-Sadr has also issued an ultimatum: The government must cease its attacks on his followers, or his followers will escalate. It is an extremely dangerous situation, especially given the fact that the main U.S. resupply routes stretch from Baghdad through the Shia-dominated southern provinces.

But the precariousness of the situation appears to be of little concern to the military command, which issued a statement saying that the violence was a result of the success of the U.S. troop “surge” (Bush called the “crackdown” a “bold decision” that shows the country’s security forces are capable of combating terrorists). It’s yet another example of the administration putting U.S. geostrategic (and economic) interests ahead of Iraqi reconciliation and democratic governance.

The much-touted troop “surge” had little to do with the drop in violence in recent months — it didn’t even correlate with the lull chronologically and was certainly a minor causal factor at best. A number of factors led to the reduced violence, but Sadr’s cease-fire had the greatest impact. Nonetheless, the Maliki regime, backed by the United States, continued a campaign of harassment and intimidation against Sadr’s followers, denied them space to peacefully resist the occupation and forced his hand.

Given the degree to which the coalition has continued to stir a hornets’ nest, we may be seeing a perfect illustration of the dangers of believing one’s own propaganda play out as Iraq is once again set aflame.

Joshua Holland is an AlterNet staff writer. Raed Jarrar is Iraq Consultant to the American Friends Service Committee. He blogs at Raed in the Middle.

© 2008 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.

FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues, etc. This constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C. section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use’, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

Propaganda – Tibet – Democracy or Economy? by William Blum

Dandelion Salad

by William Blum
www.killinghope.org
March 29, 2008

The Anti-Empire Report

Read this or George W. Bush will be president the rest of your life

Propaganda as an Olympic competition

The latest protests in Tibet and crackdown by Chinese authorities have brought up the usual sermonizing in the West about Chinese government oppression and illegitimate control of the Tibetans. Although I have little love for the Chinese leaders — I think they run a cruel system — some proper historical perspective is called for here.

Many Tibetans regard themselves as autonomous or independent, but the fact remains that the Beijing government has claimed Tibet as part of China for more than two centuries. The United States made its position clear in 1943:

The Government of the United States has borne in mind the fact that the Chinese Government has long claimed suzerainty over Tibet and that the Chinese constitution lists Tibet among areas constituting the territory of the Republic of China. This Government has at no time raised a question regarding either of these claims.[1]

After the communist revolution in 1949 US officials tended to be more equivocal about the matter.

Even as the Chinese were attacking Tibetan protestors, New York City Police were beating up and literally threatening to kill “Free Tibet” protestors in front of the United Nations. It’s all on video.[2]

The Washington Post recently ran a story about how the Chinese people largely support the government suppression of the Tibetan protesters. The heading was: “Beijing’s Crackdown Gets Strong Domestic Support. Ethnic Pride Stoked by Government Propaganda.” The article spoke of how Beijing officials have “educated” the public about Tibet “through propaganda”.[3] That’s a rather interesting concept. Imagine the Post or any other American mainstream media saying that those Americans who support the war in Iraq do so because they’ve been educated by government propaganda. … Ditto those who support the war in Afghanistan. … Ditto those who supported the bombing of Yugoslavia. … Ditto scores of other US invasions, bombings, overthrows, and miscellaneous war crimes spanning more than half a century.

Now Germany’s foreign minister has warned China that its response to the crisis in Tibet may jeopardize the Summer Olympics in Beijing. “The German federal government is saying to the Chinese government: be transparent! We want to know exactly what is going on in Tibet.” He also warned China to avoid any violent measures in its standoff with Tibetan protesters.[4] Human rights organizations have demanded that Coca-Cola, Visa, General Electric, and other international companies explain their dealings with the Chinese government as it prepares to host the Summer Games. The French Foreign Minister floated the prospect of boycotting the Games’ opening ceremony because of China’s response to the protests. And the president of the European Parliament said European countries should not rule out threatening China with a boycott if violence continued in Tibet.[5]

It’s nice to see the West’s conscience stirred up. They’re real good about such things, when the target is not one of their own, particularly against a communist country. In 1980, 62 nations — including the United States, Canada, West Germany, Japan, and Israel — boycotted the Olympics in Moscow because the previous year the Soviet Union had invaded Afghanistan. Four years later, the Olympics were held in Los Angeles. Not a single member of “The Free World” boycotted it, even though the previous year the United States had invaded Grenada and overthrown the government, with a lot less political justification than the Russians had for invading Afghanistan. The Grenada invasion was as much lacking in legality and morality as the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

The Soviet Union and 13 of its allies stayed away from the Los Angeles Olympics, but when the Russians announced the boycott they cited only security concerns. President Reagan had declared at the time of the invasion that Grenada was “a Soviet-Cuban colony being readied as a major military bastion to export terror and undermine democracy, but we got there just in time.”[6] One would think that Moscow would have mentioned Grenada at least for the satisfaction of throwing Afghanistan and the 1980 boycott in Washington’s face. The fact that the Russians made no such mention was a measure of how unconcerned they were about the tiny island nation and its alleged future as a major Soviet military bastion. The magnitude and variety of Reagan administration lies that accompanied the invasion of Grenada may have stood as a record until the Bush administration topped it in Iraq 20 years later.[7]

“In politics, as on the sickbed, people toss from one side to the other, thinking they will be more comfortable.” — Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

A recurring theme of Hillary Clinton’s campaign for the presidency has been that she has more of the right kind of experience needed to deal with national security and foreign policy issues than Barack Obama. The latest play on this is her advertisement telling you: It’s three a.m. and your children are safe and asleep; but there’s a phone in the White House and it’s ringing; something really bad is happening somewhere; and voters are asked who they want answering the phone. Of course they should want Hillary and her marvelous experience. (If she’s actually explained what that marvelous experience is, I missed it. Perhaps her near-death experience in Bosnia?)

Typical of Clinton’s growing corps of conservative followers, the Washington Times recently lent support to this theme. The right-wing newspaper interviewed a group of “mostly conservative retired [military] officers, industry executives and current defense officials”, who cite Mr. Obama’s lack of experience in national security.[8]

And so it goes. And so it has gone for many years. What is it with this experience thing for public office? It was not invented by Hillary Clinton. If I need to have my car repaired I look for a mechanic with experience with my particular car. If I needed an operation I’d seek out a surgeon with lots of experience performing that particular operation. But when it comes to choosing a person for political office, the sine qua non consideration is what their politics are. Who would you choose between two candidates — one who was strongly against everything you passionately supported but who had decades of holding high government positions, or one who shared your passion on every important issue but had never held any public office? Is there any doubt about which person almost everyone would go for? So why does this “experience” thing keep coming up in so many elections?

A recent national poll questioned registered voters about the candidates’ “approach to foreign policy and national security”. 43% thought that Obama would be “not tough enough” (probably a reflection of the “experience” factor), while only 3% thought he’d be “too tough”. For Clinton the figures were 37% and 9%.[9] The evidence is overwhelming that decades of very tough — nay, brutal — US policies toward the Middle East has provoked extensive anti-American terrorism; the same in Latin America in earlier decades,[10] yet this remains an alien concept to most American voters, who think that toughness works (even though they know it doesn’t work on Americans — witness the reaction to 9/11).

John McCain, who is proud to have dropped countless bombs on the people of Vietnam, who had never done him or his country any harm until he and his country invaded them, who now (literally) sings in public about bombing the people of Iran, and who tells us he’s prepared to remain in Iraq for 100 years, is still regarded as “not tough enough” by 16% and “too tough” by only 25%. What does it take to convince Americans that one of their leaders is a bloody psychopath? Like the two psychos he may replace. How has 225 years of our grand experiment in democracy wound up like this? And why is McCain regularly referred to as a “war hero”? He was shot down and captured and held prisoner for more than five years. What’s heroic about that? In most other kinds of work, such a record would be called a failure.

Winston Churchill said that “The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter.” And if that doesn’t do it for you, try a five-minute conversation with almost any American politician. This thing called democracy continues to be used as a substitute for human liberation.

One parting thought about Obama: Is he prepared to distance himself from Rev. Martin Luther King as he has from his own minister, Rev. Jeremiah Wright? King vehemently denounced the Vietnam War and called the United States “the most violent nation in the world”. Like Wright, he was strongly condemned for his remarks. As T.S. Eliot famously observed: “Humankind can not bear very much reality.”

Do Americans live in a democracy or in an economy?

The Dow Jones industrial average of blue-chip stocks:
On March 19 it increased 420 points
On March 20 it went down 293 points
On March 21 it increased 261 points
Do the economic fundamentals change dramatically overnight? Or is our economic system as psycho as John McCain?

The US economy is teetering on the edge of recession because for a long time banks and others were selling mortgages at subprime rates to people who were bad credit risks. They sold them the mortgages anyhow because they knew they could combine these questionable mortgages into bundles and sell them to financial speculators higher up on the food chain. The higher speculators in turn sold bundles of various debt instruments to other speculators. The supposedly objective credit rating agencies told everyone that these firms and their bundles were good investments, but the credit rating agencies in fact had played a role themselves in putting some of the bundles together. This convoluted system created such complex and deliberately opaque financial vehicles — all devised to make someone a buck every time they swapped some paper — that they long ago had lost track of the papers’ true value. We had a financial system terminally choked with worthless paper “instruments”. A genuine house of cards. It fell.

We go from the dot-com bubble to the stock market bubble to the Enron bubble to the housing bubble to the credit bubble … capitalist growth increasingly being driven by speculative bubbles, which invariably burst, and with each burst many thousands lose jobs, and, currently, their homes.

Can anyone say with any kind of precision how the price of gasoline at the pump is arrived at each day? And exactly what the relationship is, if any, between that price and the price of oil on the mercantile exchanges which are regularly announced as the “official” price of a barrel of oil? And why the speculators who spend their days playing buy-and-sell games at these exchanges — while having no actual personal contact with barrels of oil — should have such a profound effect upon our daily lives? And why gasoline is priced at $3.40.9 per gallon? Or $3.24.9 per gallon? That’s 9/10 of a penny.

And while we’re at it … Why is almost everything in American society priced at amounts like $9.99, $99.99, or $999.99? Or $3.29 or $17.98?

“If all economists were laid end to end, they would not reach a conclusion.” — George Bernard Shaw

Marketing is about creating emotional, even irrational bonds between your product and your target audience. There was a time when capitalism strove, much more than now, to meet the real needs of people. Now its forte is creating artificial needs with advertising and filling them, like bottled water. And how do they get away with it? Because you’ll believe anything. Even that bottled water is purer than tap water.

“It is difficult to produce a television documentary that is both incisive and probing when every twelve minutes one is interrupted by twelve dancing rabbits singing about toilet paper.” — Rod Serling, famed TV writer

“Get off this estate.”
“What for?”
“Because it’s mine.”
“Where did you get it?”
“From my father.”
“Where did he get it?”
“From his father.”
“And where did he get it?”
“He fought for it.”
“Well, I’ll fight you for it.”
— Carl Sandburg

Can it be imagined that an American president would openly implore America’s young people to fight a foreign war to defend “capitalism”? The word itself has largely gone out of fashion. The approved reference now is to the market economy, free market, free enterprise, or private enterprise. This change in terminology endeavors to obscure the role of wealth in the economic and social system. Simply naming the system, after all, might imply that there are others. And avoiding the word “capitalism” sheds the adverse connotation going back to Karl Marx.

At some unrecorded moment a few years ago, the egg companies of America changed their package labels from small, medium and large to medium, large and jumbo. The eggs remained the same size.

“The Federal Trade Commission concluded that there is very little connection between what drug companies charge for a drug and the costs directly associated with it.”[11]

“The makers of aspirin wish you had a headache right now,” says the graffiti.

Slavery is the legal fiction that a person is property and corporate personhood is the legal fiction that property is a person.

“The private-benefit corporation is an institution granted a legally protected right — some would claim obligation — to pursue a narrow private interest without regard to broader social and environmental consequences. If it were a real person, it would fit the clinical profile of a sociopath.” — David Korten

Ralph Nader once charged the Justice Department anti-trust division with going out of business without telling anyone.

Capitalism as practiced in the United States is like chemotherapy: it may kill the cancer cells of consumer shortages, but the side effects are devastating.

Many workers are paid a wage sufficient to allow them to keep on living, even if it’s not a living wage. Here’s a radical solution to poverty — pay people enough to live on.

“The paradox is that, three centuries after America’s colonial beginnings, wealth and income are more unequally distributed in the ‘New World’ than in most of the nations of Europe.”[12]

How many Americans realize that they have a much longer work week, much shorter vacations, much shorter unemployment coverage, much worse maternity leave and other employee benefits, and much worse medical coverage than their West European counterparts?

Expressing elementary truths about the oppression of the poor by the rich in the United States runs the risk of being accused of “advocating class warfare”; because the trick of class war is to not let the victims know the war is being waged.

What do the CEOs do all day that they should earn a thousand times more than schoolteachers, nurses, firefighters, street cleaners, and social workers? Re-read some medieval history, about feudal lords and serfs.

The campaigns of the anti-regulationists imply that pure food and drugs will be ours as soon as we abolish the pure food and drug laws.

“American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, US Airways and Continental Airlines raised round trip fares $10 on most domestic flights to take advantage of strong demand”[13] — a news item from late 2006; similar items can be found before and since. Is that not odd? Raising prices because of strong demand? Raising prices even though they’re already making more money as a result of the increased demand? So the more someone wants something, or the more they need it, the more they have to pay. Yes, it’s the good ol’ law of supply and demand. Economics 101. You have a problem with that? You should. What takes place in the world of economics is 60% power/politics/ideology, 30% psychological, 10% immutable laws. (These percentages are immutable.)

The more you care about others, the more you’re at a disadvantage competing in the capitalist system.

To say that 1% of the population owns 35% of the resources and wealth, is deceptive. If you own 35% you can control much more than that.

How could the current distribution of property and wealth have emerged from any sort of democratic process?

The myth and mystique of “choice” persuades us to endorse the privatization of almost every sphere of activity.

A study of 17,595 federal government jobs by the Office of Management and Budget concluded that civil servants could do their work better and more cheaply than private contractors nearly 90 percent of the time in job competitions.[14]

Communist governments take over companies. Under capitalism, the companies take over the government.

The American oligarchy has less in common with the American people than it does with the oligarchies in Japan and France.

If you lose money gambling, you can’t take a tax deduction. But you can if you lose on the glorified slot machine known as the stock market; your loss is thus subsidized by taxpayers.

If the system should cater to selfishness because it’s “natural”, why not cater to aggression which many people claim is also natural.

Do the members of a family relate to each other on the basis of self-interest and greed?

“The idea that egotism is the basis of the general welfare is the principle on which competitive society has been built.” — Erich Fromm, German-American social psychologist,

Capitalism is the theory that the worst people, acting from their worst motives, will somehow produce the most good.

“The twentieth century has been characterized by three developments of great political importance: the growth of democracy; the growth of corporate power; and the growth of corporate propaganda as a means of protecting corporate power against democracy.” — Alex Carey, Australian social scientist

And this, dear friends, is the system the American Empire is determined to impose upon the entire known world.

“The country needs to be born again, she is polluted with the lust of power, the lust of gain.” — Margaret Fuller, literary critic, New York Tribune, July 4, 1845

“When plunder becomes a way of life for a group of men living in society, they create for themselves, in the course of time, a legal system that authorizes it and a moral code that glorifies it.” — Frederic Bastiat, “The Law” (1850)

An ode to five years of heartless destruction of a five thousand year civilization

“Letters My President Is Not Sending” by Naomi Shihab Nye.

Dear Rafik, Sorry about that soccer game you won’t be attending since you now have no …

Dear Fawziya, You know, I have a mom too so I can imagine what you …

Dear Shadiya, Think about your father versus democracy, I’ll bet you’d pick …

No, no, Sami, that’s not true what you said at the rally that our country hates you, we really support your move toward freedom, that’s why you no longer have a house or a family or a village.

Dear Hassan, If only you could see the bigger picture …[15]

“Building a new world” conference

May 22-25, Radford University, Radford, Virginia, 5-hour drive from Washington, DC.
Cindy Sheehan, Kathy Kelly, Michael Parenti, David Swanson, Gareth Porter, William Blum, Medea Benjamin, Gary Corseri, and others.
Inexpensive room and board available. Full details at: http://www.wpaconference.org/

NOTES

[1] “Foreign Relations of the United States, 1943, China”, Department of State, 1957, p.630

[2] US cops beat the sh*t out of Tibetans (03.17.08)

[3] Washington Post, March 17, 2008, p.12

[4] Associated Press, March 21, 2008

[5] Washington Post, March 22 and 23, 2008

[6] New York Times, October 27, 1983

[7] William Blum, “Killing Hope”, chapter 45

[8] Washington Times, February 26, 2008

[9] Pew Research Center for the People and the Press (Washington), February 28, 2008

[10 William Blum, “Rogue State”, chapter one re Middle East and Latin America

[11] Washington Post, August 3, 2005, p.D1-2, column by Steven Pearlstein

[12] Wallace Peterson, “Silent Depression: The fate of the American Dream” (1994)

[13] Washington Post, November 4, 2006, p.D2

[14] Washington Post, May 26, 2004, p.A25

[15] Washington Post, March 22, 2008, p.1; the poet lives in San Antonio, Texas

William Blum is the author of:
Killing Hope: US Military and CIA Interventions Since World War 2
Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower
West-Bloc Dissident: A Cold War Memoir
Freeing the World to Death: Essays on the American Empire

Portions of the books can be read, and signed copies purchased, at www.killinghope.org

Previous Anti-Empire Reports can be read at this website at “essays”.

Any part of this report may be disseminated without permission. I’d appreciate it if the website were mentioned. www.killinghope.org

***

Killing Hope: US Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II

by William Blum

William Blum book

see

Blum-William

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Al-Sadr calls for support of Arab states (video)

Dandelion Salad

AlJazeeraEnglish

Ihe battle for control of southern Iraq is continuing for a fifth day.

In one of the latest offensives, eight people died, including two women and a child, in an air raid.

Meanwhile a witness in Baghdad has told Al Jazeera he saw up to 40 Iraqi army and police surrendering their weapons to supporters of the Mahdi Army.

Its leader, Muqtada Al-Sadr, is calling on Arab nations to support his fight against US forces in Iraq.

James Bays reports from Baghdad.

Continue reading

Bill Moyers Journal: The Kerner Commission – 40 Years Later + Mayor Cory Booker of Newark

Dandelion Salad

Bill Moyers Journal
PBS
March 28, 2008

Barack Obama’s March 18, 2008 speech, “A More Perfect Union,” focused attention issues of race and class in America today. Forty years ago race and class was on the minds of Americans too — when The National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders released its report on the urban riots of 1967. That report, more commonly known as the Kerner Report, with its stark conclusion that “Our nation is moving towards two societies — one white, one black — separate and unequal” — was a best-seller. It was also the source of great controversy and remains so today.

…continued + video


Mayor Cory Booker of Newark

Newark, New Jersey has often been used to symbolize the very idea of urban blight. Some say Newark never recovered from the 1967 riots when LIFE MAGAZINE featured a dead child on its cover under the headline: “Shooting War in the Streets: Newark, The Predictable Insurrection.” But Newark has a new mayor, Cory Booker, who wants to change the image and the reality of Newark.

…continued + video

FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues, etc. This constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C. section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use’, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

see

God Damn America – The Fear of a Mortal Empire by Manila Ryce (video)

Barack Obama’s pastor Wright’s Sermon (video)

Obama on Race in America + A More Perfect Union (videos + transcript)

US to propose sweeping new powers for Fed: report

Dandelion Salad

AFP
29/03/2008 11h45

WASHINGTON (AFP) – President George W. Bush’s administration will propose sweeping new oversight powers for the Federal Reserve in a bid to avoid calamities like the current subprime crisis, The New York Times reported Saturday.

Citing a summary of the plan provided by the administration, the newspaper said the Fed will gain the power to investigate any activities of financial institutions that threaten US economic stability, gather information and combat risks to the financial system as a whole.

The plan will be proposed on Monday, the paper said.

The Securities and Exchange Commission would lose some of its authority and is likely to be combined with the Commodity Futures Trading Commission that regulates trade in gas, oil and other goods, the report said.

The report came as new statistics showed US consumer spending stalled in February despite rising incomes as Americans boosted savings amid recession fears.

A Commerce Department report showed a meager 0.1 rise in spending, the driver of growth in the world’s biggest economy. The figure was the weakest since September 2006 and matched analysts’ consensus forecast.

The proposal is due to be unveiled by the Treasury Department.

It is part of a sweeping blueprint to overhaul the nation’s financial regulatory agencies, which many experts say failed to recognize rampant excesses in mortgage lending until after they set off what is now seen as the worst financial crisis in decades.

FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues, etc. This constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C. section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use’, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

Noam Chomsky: What’s Best For the Iraqis?

Dandelion Salad

by Manila Ryce
The Largest Minority
March 27th, 2008

During this election season we’ve already heard Republicans and Democrats alike discussing the best way for America to save face in Iraq, as if the sake of our ego is of enough importance to defy international law. Obama, Clinton, and McCain will all keep troops in Iraq indefinitely, despite the will of the Iraqi people. That “democracy” we brought them sure isn’t worth a damn when we don’t respect it ourselves. Just as the Palestinians learned when they elected Hamas into power, the will of a people in their own land is only legitimate when it coincides with our imperialistic Western vision for the region.

American politicians are regularly asked what they think the best option is for Iraq. As Chomsky bluntly states, aggressors have no rights. Our occupation is criminal. What Americans want for Iraq is irrelevant.

Chomsky on Iraq in 2008

mr1001nights

FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues, etc. This constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C. section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use’, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

Human Rights & Media Manipulation – From Pinochet to ‘Human Rights’ in China

Dandelion Salad

by Michael Barker
Global Research, March 29, 2008

When the twentieth century becomes history it will be seen as distinctive, I believe, for three developments in liberal Western societies: the growth of democracy; the rise of huge concentrations of economic power, known as corporations; and the professionalizing and institutionalizing of propaganda, especially as a means for safe-guarding the power of free-enterprise corporations against democracy.” (Alex Carey, 1987) [1] Continue reading

Recession, Suppression and the Class Question

Rich

by Rich

Featured writer
Dandelion Salad
Rich’s blog post
Thumb Jig

Mar. 29, 2008

Like many Americans I’m experiencing Bush fatigue. I’m just sick of bitching about the guy. We all know he’s a useless, malevolent douche-slinger, and nobody’s positive why he, Cheney, Condi and the gang haven’t been Saddam-ed themselves as their death toll places them amongst the elite mass killers of the modern era. There’s already been a substantial amount of commentary written about him and his calamitous presidency, and one of the popular themes of this new genre is a range of comparisons to Presidents past. Nixon and Reagan seem to be the two major touchstones, however, I’d like to submit Hoover to the list.

Both executives appeared callous to the needs of the public. Both presided over economic hardship from an icy distance. Both administrations resulted in make-shift shanty towns and tent cities. Hoover used the military to attack homeless Veterans in Washington. Bush leaves veterans on the street to die or in hospital rooms to disintegrate. And I don’t want to say Bush might be a transvestite but he was a cheerleader in high school. When failure becomes this ponderous the only response must be defiance.

On April 1, a small grassroots organization of around 1,000 truckers will be striking against the rising cost of diesel. As one driver stated: “Our federal government is subsidizing railroads, airlines, banks and farmers. Meanwhile, we’re being taxed to death.” (source)

The strike is largely symbolic and is not expected to result in any significant dip in prices. Yet, it does display two exciting features: 1) it circumvents the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, the truckers’ trade union, who actually denounces the pending strike for legal reasons, and 2) the event was organized over the internet — the future of resistance.

Now, I can’t let it go unmentioned that this is an election year a time when the fetishized act of voting gets moved to the front of the national conversation. A lot of time and money goes into convincing us that all of our energy needs to be drained into voting, not conservation or community activism, demonstrating or tax resistance. We’re supposed to elect someone to solve our problems with their charming, mega-watt smile. The dirtiest little secret of our age is synergic movements against both business and government, such as striking, trump the suggestion of action, like voting, every time.

With everyone treading water it’s no wonder at least one other group, the West Coast Dockworkers, is planning to strike this summer. As more and more of us are pulled under we’ll see a ground swell of activism. The spirit of resistance might be atrophied from lying coiled beneath the surface, but it won’t take long for more workers to slowdown or stop all together. Like in the 1930s, people recognized their reliance on each other and fought against the police (in some cases, like the Flint, Michigan Sit-Down Strike of 1936, they actually won), launched general strikes which shut down large metropolises like Seattle and San Francisco, and came close to wresting power away from the ownership class until FDR introduced a series of reforms that placated many laborers. And we’ll probably see the same type of actions under an Obama or Clinton presidency. Not that I’m a reformophobe. I want people to live better. But let’s not lose our radical edge. Let’s keep thrusting forward inch by inch, and not settle for what they give us.

Verdict: Gov. Don Siegelman Freed From Prison (video)

Dandelion Salad

videocafeblog

Dan Abrams talks to Artur Davis and Scott Horton about the release of Don Siegelman from prison tonight, and recaps some of his coverage on the story. Now will justice be served to Karl Rove for his role in this? I hope so but I’m not holding my breath. Sadly as long as George Bush has a pardon pen in his hand there’s no use in trying to convict him now anyway since Dubya will let him walk if he’s found guilty.

***

Ex-Ala. governor comes home from prison

By BOB JOHNSON
Associated Press Writer
© 2008 The Associated Press
March 28, 2008, 11:39PM

…continued

h/t: News From Underground

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Siegelman-Don

News Dissector Danny Schechter Takes on C-NBC (video)

Dandelion Salad

911PressForTruth

“News Dissector” Danny Schechter speaks to a C-NBC reporter outside the NACA protest at Bear Stearns, in a never-to-be-broadcast interview.

Vodpod videos no longer available. from www.youtube.com posted with vodpod

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h/t: News From Underground