The autumn leaves of war ?

29 September 2006.

  • In a perceptive and informed article entitled War in October, Geov Parrish published an analysis yesterday on his Working for Change website of the US regime's latest moves in the burgeoning «Iran crisis» which it has worked so hard to manufacture. In addition to exposing the falsity of the rhetoric that King George's speech writers have brought to bear on the issue :
    Bush purportedly spoke "directly" to the Iranian people, another favorite rhetorical device of war-conscious American presidents. Bush, in this case, assured all Iranians that their leader was betraying their trust by pursuing weapons of mass destruction, and, like them, all Bush wants is peace and democracy and freedom blah blah blah. It all sounded dreadfully familiar. (How's that peace and democracy and freedom workin' out for ya, Iraqis?) Iranians, of course, generally don't share the religious fundamentalism of Ahmadinejad and the other hardliners now running things in Tehran, but they are wildly supportive of the country's nuclear program. So Bush's real audience was not Iranians (or Iraqis or Afghans, who he also "addressed"), but us. You and me. Americans. And his message to us: when I launch this war, it is only to give Iranians what they all crave.

    Iranians, apparently, have a unique affection for having cluster bombs dropped on them.

    Bush also, in his U.N. speech, pledged himself as determined to find a negotiated way to end the problem. That's actually another bad sign. When Bush gets around to talking about negotiations, it usually means he's arrived at the point where the formality of intentionally futile diplomatic gestures must be deployed prior to attack. That message was exactly what Bush was saying for months in 2002-03, well after he'd determined to invade Iraq. It was a lie then, and, judging by the actions of his own military, it's a lie now.

    Mr Parrish also points out concrete measures which indicate, behind the rhetoric, what the court may really be planning :
    The second, disturbing report to surface last week is that, as Dave Lindorff of The Nation writes,

    "...the Bush Administration and the Pentagon have moved up the deployment of a major "strike group" of ships, including the nuclear aircraft carrier Eisenhower as well as a cruiser, destroyer, frigate, submarine escort and supply ship, to head for the Persian Gulf, just off Iran's western coast. This information follows a report in the current issue of Time magazine, both online and in print, that a group of ships capable of mining harbors has received orders to be ready to sail for the Persian Gulf by October 1."

    The Eisenhower Strike Group has been ordered to leave next week, at least a month ahead of schedule, after having been docked for refurbishment for several years. It will take a week to reach Iran's western coast, heavily fortified with Silkworm antiship missiles. That in itself indicates the Eisenhower group's deployment is not simply a provocation or bluff. You don't put such valuable vessels within range of enemy fire unless you're there for a reason. Bush would surely love to have the Iranians fire first, but even if Tehran doesn't take the bait, all signs are that Bush is giving himself the option of launching a military strike against Iran in October.

    None of us, including King George himself (Mr Cheney might have an idea), knows, of course, exactly what the month of October will bring to Iran, the USA, and the rest of the world, but here below is the response to Mr Parrish's article I posted to StumbleUpon :

The ability to fool fellow members of one's own species would seem to be much older than H sapiens sapiens - in addition to ourselves, it is found, so ethologists tell us, in our cousins, P troglodytes. Smart as we are, we have found certain algorithms to use in attempting to discern our fellows' deceit : «Follow the money !», «Cherchez la femme !», and not least, «Observe how the military (or the police or the gang members) have been deployed !» The fact that the Eisenhower Strike Group has been ordered to the Persian Gulf is not a hopeful sign, for all King George's protestations of a desire to work through diplomacy ; while it may, of course, be an attempt to bluff the Iranians to abjure their rights under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty - to which both they and the United States are parties - it may also, given the sinking prospects of the Republican Party with regard to the fall elections in the US, be the first element of that old Republican favourite, the October Surprise. After all, King George's courtiers have, through the use of military means succeeded in their project to destroy Iraq ; all that now stands in their way (they seem to believe) to complete hegemony over Southwest Asia's (with the Israeli state in the role of proconsul) oil and gas resources - and thereby control over potential rivals, such as China - is Iran. The temptation to go to war to obtain this objective, at the same time that they thereby (they think) save themselves from an electoral debacle at home, must be very strong, indeed ! How far these people are willing to go is impossible for outsiders to determine, but one fact is clear, the more informed and aroused the people of the United States are, the greater the costs to the neo-con clique of attempting to realise their dream of a «New American Century». Don't expect any help from us Euro-weenies in stopping this madness ; as the pitiful example of the egregious Mr Blair shows, our so-called «leaders» will always, to greater or lesser degree, follow the US, no matter which madman is in charge - they don't possess the imagination to conceive of another world....


Telling it like it is ?

20 September 2006.

  • Robert Parry has just published an article entitled Bush's empty words to the UN on his invaluable Consortiumnews, which analyses the discrepancy (surprise ! surprise !) between the words uttered by George W Bush in his recent speech at the United Nation's Organisation (where, perhaps to the surprise of his ambassador - appointed without the advice and consent of the US Senate - the top ten floors have not yet disappeared) and his actions during his reign. In closing, Parry inquires as to the reasons for the discrepancy and attempts to answer his own question :
    So, why would Bush invoke the Universal Declaration of Human Rights when he is flouting many of its core principles?

    There would seem to be two possible explanations for Bush’s chutzpah: either he’s just reading a script without regard to the words or he’s confident that he can speak the opposite of the truth knowing that few people of consequence will call him on it.

    Either way, Bush’s cavalier attitude in hailing human rights while simultaneously trashing human rights represents another classic case of Bush’s hubris, which is becoming the defining characteristic of his presidency.

    Whether Bush's attitude is better characterised as «chutzpah» or as «hubris» is perhaps a moot point (I vote for the former), but here below, at any rate, the response I posted to StumbleUpon after reading Mr Parry's article :

As Robert Parry points out here, King George's spin doctors' proclivity to invoke the most high-flying rhetoric and principles to justify the most despicable policies and activities is well known. But to my mind, his willingness to refer to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the violation of which is the one of the ground pillars of his court, before an audience which, unlike many in the US, must be fully aware of the discrepancy between his words and his actions, shows the degree to which Bush and his courtiers hold the United Nations Organisations - and the countries which comprise it - in contempt. Given that most of these countries - with a few honourable exceptions - are unwilling to directly challenge these actions and point out these contradictions, mayhap this contempt is deserved ?...


The gift that keeps on giving....

18 September 2006.

  • In today's Independent, Patrick Cockburn has written an article entitled Deadly harvest: The Lebanese fields sown with cluster bombs, which in some 1100 words effectively gives the lie to the claims of the Israeli state and its supporters and bagmen that the former was waging a war of self-defence, not against Lebanon, but against Hezbollah. Mr Cockburn cites a report in the Israeli daily Ha'aretz :

    Some Israeli officers are protesting at the use of cluster bombs, each containing 644 small but lethal bomblets, against civilian targets in Lebanon. A commander in the MLRS (multiple launch rocket systems) unit told the Israeli daily Haaretz that the army had fired 1,800 cluster rockets, spraying 1.2 million bomblets over houses and fields. 'In Lebanon, we covered entire villages with cluster bombs,' he said. 'What we did there was crazy and monstrous.' What makes the cluster bombs so dangerous is that 30 per cent of the bomblets do not detonate on impact. They can lie for years - often difficult to see because of their small size, on roofs, in gardens, in trees, beside roads or in rubbish - waiting to explode when disturbed.

    The consequences of this kind of warfare ? Aside from the individual tragedies - according to Cockburn some four people a day have been killed and many more wounded since (the overt) hostilities ceased, note the effect on the economic life of the villages affected :

    ... Villagers said that they were most worried by the cluster bombs still infesting their gardens, roofs and fruit trees. In the village street, were the white vehicles of the Manchester-based Mines Advisory Group (MAG), whose teams are trying to clear the bomblets.

    It is not an easy job. Whenever members of one of the MAG teams finds and removes a bomblet, they put a stick, painted red on top and then yellow, in the ground. There are so many of these sticks that it looks as if some sinister plant had taken root and is flourishing in the village.

    'The cluster bombs all landed in the last days of the war,' said Nuhar Hejazi, a surprisingly cheerful 65-year-old woman. 'There were 35 on the roof of our house and 200 in our garden so we can't visit our olive trees.' People in Yohmor depend on their olive trees and the harvest should begin now before the rains, but the trees are still full of bomblets. 'My husband and I make 20 cans of oil a year which we need to sell,' Mrs Hejazi says. 'Now we don't know what to do.' The sheer number of the bomblets makes it almost impossible to remove them all.

    The strategic consequences are obvious, and just as the destruction of olive trees, roads and fields (with bulldozers, mainly, not as yet with cluster bombs) in the 22 % of Mandate Palestine which is supposed to become the territory of a Palestinian state has nothing to do with fighting Hamas, so the destruction of the basis for the livelihoods of the Lebanese has nothing to do with fighting Hezbollah. Here the sea in which the guerrillas swim, the population of southern Lebanon, is not being drained in order to get rid of the guerrillas (Hezbollah) - although that would certainly be a most welcome by-product of the strategy, were it to succeed - but rather just in order to drain the sea, so that one population can be replaced by another, more to the liking of the Israeli state's strategists. Here below the response I posted to StumbleUpon after reading Mr Cockburn's article :

Read Mr Cockburn's article, and then tell me that the Israeli state was «making war on Hezbollah» ! This flood of cluster bombs, dropped or fired in the last 72 hours before the cease fire that everyone knew was coming (but which the Israeli state, backed by the US - the same US that supplied the cluster bombs in the first place - har resisted as long as politically possible) had, of course, another purpose than putting Hezbollah fighters out of action : that of removing the population in the villages in which they were dropped by making it impossible for people to go about there daily lives without risking their lives and limbs. The name of the game is ethnic cleansing, by means of the gift which keeps on giving, long after the war is thought to be over !...


General relativity cuts the mustard - again !

17 September 2006.
  • A few days ago, Science Daily published a brief account, entitled General relativity survives gruelling pulsar test: Einstein at least 99.95 percent right, in which work carried out under the leadership of Professor Michael Kramer of the University of Manchester's Jodrell Bank Observatory, UK, has shown that the predictions of the general theory of relativity agree with recent observations of the behaviour of a (hitherto) unique double pulsar system, consisting of two neutron stars, PSR J0737-3039A and B, respectively, with regard to three critical parametres - gravitational redshift, Shapiro delay, and gravitational radiation and orbital decay. According to the review, the parametre which provides the most precise result is the time delay, known as the Shapiro Delay, suffered by the signals as they pass through the curved space-time surrounding the two neutron stars. At approximately 90 microseconds, the ratio of the observed and predicted values is 1.0001 +/- 0.0005 - a precision of 0.05%. Not bad by anybody's standards ! Think - if the majority of the funding and not least, the intelligence devoted to scientific research were employed in furthering this kind of work, rather than weapons development, how much more we, as a species, should know about the world in which we live, and how much greater a chance of living in it a bit longer we should have ! Here below, in any event, the response I posted to StumbleUpon after reading the article :

Fascinating that our ability to measure things has advanced to the point that such elusive entities as gravitational waves can be detected, even if only, as yet, indirectly. Thank you, Professor Einstein - and thank you, Galileo Galilei, who, presumably learning from the astronomers, put physics on the sound basis of measurement - remember those balls rolling down inclined planes which bored you so in secondary school ? - and thereby lay the foundations upon which the modern world was built....


FW de Klerk comes to Israel ?

13 September 2006.

    Kathleen Christison has just published a vitally important article in Alexander Cockburn and Jeffry St Clair's Counterpunch, in which she develops the thesis that in the latest war on Lebanon's population, the Israeli state has overreached itself to the degree that the unquestioning support it has enjoyed in North America and Europe will now begin to fade, as more and more people in these regions begin to take a closer look at the racist nature of the state they have supported for nigh on sixty years. This in turn, the theory goes, will force the same sort of change in Israeli policies that a similar loss of support forced upon the Apartheid regime in South Africa. Ms Christison recognises that such a development is by no means inevitable, but she maintains it is possible, and by addressing the racist nature of the Israeli state and the difficulties such a state inevitably faces in the world, as she puts it, «on the other side» of that moral crossroads to which she insists we have now come, she addresses the core problem in a way that most analysts have been unwilling to do. In doing so, she has performed a great service to us all, not least to the residents of Israel - for it is only from waking from our racist dreams that we can cross over to a world in which the Nürnberg Principles reign, and the wars of aggression that have so marred the latter half of the 20th century and have maintained their hold on the beginning of the 21st, can be brought to an end. Here below the response to the article that I posted to StumbleUpon :

Ms Christison, a former CIA analyst who according to Counterpunch has worked on Southwest Asian questions for 30 years, has now published an article which delves more deeply into the core issue of the Israeli state's relationship with its neighbours than any other I have yet seen since the latest episode in the continual - but sometimes mitigated - Israeli war to conquer Lebanon and expell its present inhabitants began two months ago. Has Israel finally overreached itself, so that in the end, despite its support from the US leadership (it is instructive to compare Richard Bruce Cheney's attitude towards Israel and its wars on its neighbours with Apartheit South Africa and its wars on its neighbours), it will be compelled by its own inner logic to come to an «FW de Klerk moment» ? In order for that to happen, that part of the rest of the world which has been willing to support the Israeli state no matter what its crimes - sometimes out of guilt arising from the massive murder of European Jewry during WW II, in which the list of complicit states is long and extends far outside Europe's borders, sometimes out of geo-strategical considerations and the perceived need to control Southwest and Central Asia's vast reserves of hydrocarbons, and sometimes out of the simple venality of political, business, and religious leaders - will have to begin to view this state with more objective and critical spectacles. Will it happen ? Who knows ? - but it would seem to be the only possible alternative to a continual cycle of war brought on by Israeli hunger for more land and more water, which can only be obtained through ethnic cleansing of the type we witness daily in Palestine and now, once again, in Lebanon as well....

Enabling war

13 September 2006.

  • Yesterday, David Wearing published an article entitled Britain's role in the Israeli-Hezbollah war on Information Clearing House. The title is unfortunate, as it strengthens the erroneous perceptions which the general public has gained from the best efforts of the mainstream media, that the state of Israel was making war on an organisation known as «God's Party», or Hezbollah, in order to protect its long-suffering citizens from terrorist attacks on the part of the latter. But the article itself, in which Mr Wearing details how the UK leadership has provided both material and immaterial aid which was of the greatest importance in enabling the Israeli state to carry out its brutal war upon the population of Lebanon in general and southern Lebanon in particular, deserves the widest possible readership.Below, my response to the article, as posted to StumbleUpon and to my website :

Apart from the fact that he unfortunately neglects the territorial imperative as a vital part of the Israeli state's strategy vis-à-vis Lebanon (and one which explains why the war against the civilian population was waged with the extreme cruelty that he notes in his article - Israel wants the territory and in particular the water (the Litani river), but not the population, and what is now termed «ethnic cleansing» is a procedure the state learned to exercise as early as the 1947-48 war which resulted in its establishment), David Waearing's analysis is as good as anything I've yet seen published on the political bands that permit the Israeli state to act with total impunity, despite UNO resolution after resolution. And his characterisation of the policies of the present UK government is spot on, and he provides the documentation to prove it. What he also demonstrates, and which leaves an especially bitter after-taste, is that the prospects for a change in policy after the egregious Mr Blair is finally forced to leave the premiership and the leadership of the party he has transformed in his own image, are less than negligible :
    In a famous leaked internal memo, Tony Blair called for "eye-catching initiatives" with which he "should be personally associated". The Israel-Hezbollah war no doubt falls squarely into this category. But as Westminster gossip over the diverting subject of the Prime Minister's retirement continues, no one should assume that any substantial change from the policies highlighted here will be forthcoming after Blair's departure. As polls revealed strong popular opposition to Britain's handling of the conflict, media reports informed the public of "unease", even "serious concerns" amongst members of Blair's cabinet. Yet at no point during or after the thirty-four day bloodbath did this purported "unease" move a single senior member of the British government to resign their position rather than continue their complicity in war crimes and acts of terrorism. To them, none of the horrors visited by Britain's ally on innocent Lebanese civilians represented a moral concern of greater magnitude than keeping their own job.

Can anyone imagine Mr Brown being less ready and willing to obey the slightest wink from the regent in the White House than Mr Blair ? Perhaps he will do it less obsequiously, but do it he will, happily wagging his tail behind him....

A still more inconvenient truth

13 September 2006.

  • Under the title An inconvenient truth: beware the politician in fleece clothing, Jonathan Freedland reviews Al Gore's recently released film An Inconvenient Truth in a lengthy comment in the commentisfree section of today's Guardian. Essentially, Mr Freedland is both sobered and aroused by the film :
    I am ashamed to say it took a movie to make me realise what, above all others, is surely the greatest political question of our time. An hour and 40 minutes in the cinema watching Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth, which opens in Britain this weekend, is what finally did it. Sure, I had heard the warnings and read the reports: for two decades environmental activists have been sounding the alarm. But, I confess, none of it had really sunk in the way it did after seeing An Inconvenient Truth. I can think of few films of greater political power.

    But his essential message - note the obligatory kick at Ralph Nader - is contained in the following passages :
    The film leaves a more direct political thought. You watch and you curse the single vote on the US supreme court that denied this man - passionate, well-informed and right - the presidency of the United States in favour of George W Bush. You realise what a different world we would live in now if just a few hundred votes had gone to Al Gore (rather than, say, Ralph Nader) that fateful day. But you also remember what that election turned on. The conventional wisdom held that Gore and Bush were so similar on policy - Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee, the pundits said - that the election was about personality. On that measure, Bush had the edge. Sure, he couldn't name any world leader, but the polls gave him a higher likeability rating. If you had to have a beer with one of them, who would you choose? Americans said Bush, every time. Even that was not enough to give Bush a greater number of votes: remember, Gore got more of those. But it got him closer than he should have been. And the world has been living with the consequences ever since.

    It is followed by an exhortation to his fellow Britons not to vote for the presumably more personable David Cameron rather than the allegedly dour Gordon Brown in the next UK general election - perhaps a non sequitor, but one for which I must confess a certain sympathy, given the two leading candidates for Prime Minister in the soon to be decided general election here in Sweden. Below, at any rate, my letter to commentisfree :

So long as men like Jonathan Freedland refuse to realise that the US presidential election of 2000, like that of 2004, was stolen by Mr Bush's consiglieri - or rather, so long as they and other in the media who are well aware of the fact refuse to act upon it for fear of losing their well-paid positions and becoming non-persons - so long will the destruction of the environment in the interests of corporate and personal profit continue unabated. The environmental struggle is mirrored by the political struggle, and the same techniques of the Big Lie and intimidation used in the one are used in the other....


Eyeless in Lebanon - and Israel

8 September 2006.

  • Jonathan Cook, a writer and journalist based in Nazareth, Israel, has published an article, entitled How Human Rights Watch lost its way in Lebanon and which one can't help wishing that all those whose views on the Israeli war on Lebanon's population would read with the attention it deserves - fat chance ! - on Information Clearing House in which he not only details the intellectual somersaults which Human Rights Watch has been forced to perform in its reporting on that war, but also who the lion tamers are that have put the organisation through its paces. Inevitably, the influence of the Israeli lobby is discussed and its attack on Human Rights Watch when the latter's report pointed out the Israeli targeting of civilians, which led directly to the acrobatics, as in the following example :
    Rather than concentrating on HRW’s findings of war crimes in Lebanon -- the focus of the research -- Bouckaert [senior HRW researcher, Peter Bouckaert in a New York Times interview made after the organisation's recent report «Fatal Strikes» was released] digresses: “I mean, it's perfectly clear that Hezbollah is directly targeting civilians, and that their aim is to kill Israeli civilians. We don't accuse the Israeli army of deliberately trying to kill civilians. Our accusation, clearly stated in the report, is that the Israeli army is not taking the necessary precautions to distinguish between civilian and military targets. So, there is a difference in intent between the two sides. At the same time, they are both violating the Geneva Convention.”


    First, how does Bouckaert know that Israel’s failure to distinguish between civilian and military targets was simply a technical failure, a failure to take precautions, and not intentional? Was he or another HRW researcher sitting in one of the military bunkers in northern Israel when army planners pressed the button to unleash the missiles from their spy drones? Was he sitting alongside the air force pilots as they circled over Lebanon dropping their US-made bombs or tens of thousands of “cluster munitions”, tiny land mines that are now sprinkled over a vast area of south Lebanon? Did he have intimate conversations with the Israeli chiefs of staff about their war strategy?

    Of course not. He has no more idea than you or I what Israel’s military planners and its politicians decided was necessary to achieve their war goals. In fact, he does not even know what those goals were. So why make a statement suggesting he does?

    Similarly, just as Bouckaert is apparently sure that he can divine Israel’s intentions in the war, and that they were essentially benign, he is equally convinced that he knows Hizbullah’s intentions, and that they were malign. Whatever the evidence suggests -- in a war in which Israel overwhelmingly killed Lebanese civilians and is still doing so, and in which Hizbullah overwhelmingly killed Israeli soldiers -- Bouckaert knows better. He admits that both violated the Geneva Conventions, a failure he makes sound little more than a technicality, but apparently only Hizbullah had evil designs.

    How is it “perfectly clear” to Bouckaert that Hizbullah was “directly” targeting Israeli civilians? It is most certainly not clear from the casualty figures.

    It is also not clear, as I tried to document during the war, from the geographical locations where Hizbullah’s rockets struck. My ability to discuss those locations was limited because all journalists based in Israel are subject to the rules of the military censor. We cannot divulge information useful to the “enemy” about Israel’s myriad military installations -- its army camps, military airfields, intelligence posts, arms stores and Rafael weapons factories.

    What I did try to alert readers to was the fact that many, if not most, of those military sites are located next to or inside Israeli communities, including Arab towns and villages.

    At least it is now possible, because some army positions were temporary, to reveal that many communities in the north had artillery batteries stationed next to them firing into Lebanon and that from Haifa Bay warships continually launched warheads at Lebanon. That information is now publicly available in Israel, and other examples are regularly coming to light.

    I reported, for example, the other day that the Haaretz newspaper referred to legal documents to be presented in a compensation suit which show that the Arab village of Fassouta, close to the border with Lebanon, had an artiller battery stationed next to it throughout much of the war. A press release this week from a Nazareth-based welfare organisation, the Laborers’ Voice, reveals that another battery was positioned by an Arab town, Majd al-Krum, during the war. Arab member of Knesset Abbas Zakour has also gone publicly on the record: "During a short visit to offer condolences to the families of victims killed in Hizbullah's rocket attacks, I saw Israeli tanks shelling Lebanon from the two towns of Arab Al-Aramisha and Tarshiha."

    In other Arab communities, including Jish, Shaghour, and Kfar Manda, the Israeli army requisitioned areas to train their troops for the ground invasion of south Lebanon. According to the Human Rights Association, based in Nazareth, army officials justified their decision on the following grounds: "The landscape of Arab towns [in Israel] is similar to Arab towns in Lebanon."

    Aside from the fact that this effective use of Israeli civilians as human shields by the army outdoes any "cowardly blending" (in the words of Jan Egeland of the United Nations) by Hizbullah in Lebanon, it also makes any attempt at second-guessing the targets of the Shiite militia’s rockets futile. Unless Bouckaert was given a private audience with Hizbullah’s leader, Hassan Nasrallah, or drove around with a Katyusha rocket team, his talk is pure hot air.

    But Jonathan Cook's essay has a weak point ; it fails to take up the burning question(s) : How is that the Israeli lobby has accrued such power and influence that it can determine what views and opinions are acceptable in the mainstream media ? Who has given them this power ? In whose interests ? Admittedly, an exhaustive treatment of these questions would have been far beyond the scope of the article, but to my mind, they should at least have been adumbrated. In any event, here below my response to this important article, as posted to StumbleUpon :

A very important article by a man on the spot, which alas will go unreported by the so-called mainstream media, not merely in the United States, but also abroad. It demonstrates very clearly the contortions to which even well-meaning organisations like Human Rights Watch are constrained in order to maintain what is called their «credibility» in these media, and therewith their access to large-scale public debate (and funding). Were they to tell the plain, unvarnished truth about matters like the Israeli war on the civilian population of Lebanon (or indeed, the role of NATO in the war on Serbia in the declining years of the last century, they would, as far as the US media is concerned, become non-entities, never to be mentioned in polite society, just as Professor Chomsky has become such a non-entity. Thus, the absurd «Israel did bad things, but not deliberately, while Hezbollah did equally bad things, if not worse, and deliberately» tale that they are forced to spin. Even then, as Jonathan Cook points out, they cannot escape the ire of the Israeli lobby, for as we know Israel is constitutionally incapable of doing evil. The proof : European Nazis (of whom there were many, and not only Germans) attempted to utroot European Jewry during WW II. And those who find it difficult to accept this non-syllogistic argument are, as we frequently informed, either «anti-Semites», «Holocaust deniers», or «self-hating Jews», or (most often) a combination of all three. Che mondo cane !...


Globalisation and the liberals' Scandinavian (Swedish) dream

7 September 2006.

  • Ever since St Louis Post-Dispatch reporter Marquis W Childs published his Sweden, the Middle Way in the 1930s, Scandinavia, and in particular Sweden has held a special place in the heart of liberals in North America and Western Europe, people who feared and abhorred Communists, but who worried that the cruelty and excesses of capitalism could lead to a Communist revolution, which could not be suppressed simply by calling out the police or the troops. That something of this attitude survives, 70-odd years later, is shown by Professor Joseph Stiglitz' commentary in the commentisfree section of today's Guardian, entitled Making globalisation work, and which discusses what needs to be done to make globalisation work for everybody, rather than just a privileged few. Whether or not this will happen depends upon whether that privileged few see to their long-term, rather than their short-term interests (but, citing Keynes, Professor Stiglitz points out that «in the long run, we are all dead»). In the US and the UK, of course, it is the short-term interests - not least of those who profit from (others) waging war, that have won the day, with the result that, in Stiglitz' words «the US and others following its example are becoming rich countries with poor people». Thus, once again, as in the 1930s when the Great Depression harried world economy (with one notable exception, the Soviet Union), liberals in the «West» look to the Scandinavian example to save the day. Alas, they rarely seem to note how contested this example is in the Scandinavian countries themselves, and to what a slight shift in the balance of power between the two blocs could lead. Below, my response to Professor Stiglitz' commentary, as posted to commentisfree :

«But the Scandinavian countries have shown that there is another way. Of course, government, like the private sector, must strive for efficiency. But investments in education and research, together with a strong social safety net, can lead to a more productive and competitive economy, with more security and higher living standards for all. A strong safety net and an economy close to full employment provides a conducive environment for all stakeholders - workers, investors, and entrepreneurs - to engage in the risk-taking that new investments and firms require.»

Alas, what Professor Stiglitz - who, of course, does not reside in a Scandinavian country - doesn't seem to realise is that the policies that have characterised these countries, and which, I agree, have been largely successful in countering the downside of globalisation, are not graven in stone. The local «winners» in the globalisation process know quite well, that they can «win» even more (at least for the short term), if they don't have to pay to help the «losers». If the political parties that represent these classes and groups come to power in Sweden in the general elections to be held here on 17 September, we are definitely not going to see more of the type of investment Stiglitz recommends - rather more and more segregation in the schools with the continued weakening of the public school system and a strengthening of the a private school system financed by a «voucher» system, and a drastic dismantling of the safety net which has made the risk-taking inherent in the creation of new enterprises possible and acceptable for large segments of the population. The «Swedish model» will be abandoned for a US/UK model which is seen as more dynamic - by those who stand to profit from it. In that event, we shall probably witness more back-lash and more «crisis-driven change», even in this hitherto fairly calm segment of the globe....


The «crime» that never was

6 September 2006.

  • Remember the UK «red mercury» scare of 2004 ? Remember the fact that the three men arrested in September 2004 and accused of, inter alia, «having an article (a highly dangerous mercury based substance) for terrorism» were all acquitted in July 2006, after having been detained for nearly two years for a non-extant crime ? No ? But you are worried about dastardly terrorists coming over dangerous substances like «red mercury» ? Well, an article by Robert Matthews entitled The red peril that doesn’t even exist in today's The First Post provides a little background to those inchoate fears. Below, my reflections upon reading the article, as posted to StumbleUpon :

The important thing, of course, is not whether or not a peril exists, but whether the public - for the most part scientifically illiterate (like the vast majority of journalists) can be convinced that it exists. «Red mercury» (cf Wikipedia's instructive article*) is as good a red herring as any other. And even when court cases based on absurdities result in acquittals, the damage is done : unlike the headlines screaming of a «terrorist plot», the acquittals - which come years later (the men accused of «red mercury terrorism» were arrested in September 2004, but acquitted of a crime that didn't exist first in July 2006) - go unnoticed in the press, and in the meantime people have successfully been terrorised by the very governments which claim to protect them from «terrorism»....
*Acknowledgement : I have corrected several spelling errors found in this article, and may therewith be considered to be an interested party....


Follow the money

3 September 2006.

  • Yesterday, Global Research published an article entitled Behind the plan to bomb Iran by Professor Ismael Hossein-zadeh. As befits an economics professor, his analysis of a US foreign policy which on the surface seems so counter-productive (how much more democracy have you seen in Southwest Asia lately ?) is based upon tracing who they are that enjoy the profits which accrue from a policy of continual warfare. A better system for transferring wealth from the public domain to (certain) private pockets has, of course, never been devised than that of scaring the Hell out of people and convincing them that to remain safe, they require an ever more powerful military and ever better (dearer) armaments. And the nice thing about this particular device is that it doesn't seem to be limited by any negative feedback. Beyond a certain point, people learn that despite an inbuilt physiological need for food, eating more is not going to increase their well being, but even with a military budget (referred to, of course, as «defense») that far exceeds that of the rest of the world combined (and which is held artificially low by the use of such incredible tricks as not including the cost of on-going wars in the budget, but financing them separately by means of special appropriations), more security, which means a still larger military budget, is always needed. Below, my reflections on the article, as posted to StumbleUpon :

Professor Hossein-zadeh here provides us a well-reasoned and balanced analysis of why the present administration so egregiously pursues a policy which not only is not in the interests of a majority of people in the world as a whole, but also directly inimical to the interests of a majority of the citizens and residents of the United States itself. «Follow the money !» is always good advice in trying to understand the motives which underly the actions of the powerful ; indeed, it's almost as good a rule as «Cherchez la femme !»...