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Another Economic Crash Is Inevitable

By Adnan Al-Daini | Dissident Voice | August 19, 2013

The economic crash of 2008 left people in their millions across the globe bewildered and shocked by the catastrophe and devastation inflicted on their lives: the hopelessness of the unemployed young facing a bleak uncertain future, pensioners struggling to survive on pensions that have lost their value, the employed poor accepting a cut in their working hours and wages to avoid losing their jobs, the very poor, the sick and disabled trying to survive the cuts to the welfare safety net. People find it difficult to comprehend how a few powerful bankers could cause so much damage and misery to the lives of countless millions.

In a previous article (Dissident Voice), two years ago, I wrote:

How did it come to this? What sort of a system have we created that gives so much power to these people? How is it that these people, who are entrusted with the money made by working people, end up gobbling up the money for which people have laboured so hard? How were they ever allowed to have such a stranglehold on the lives of millions? Where were the people we elected to look after us when such a distorted, corrupted form of capitalism was being developed? Were they so incompetent, or have they become part of an oligarchy that enriches them as well as the gamblers of the market?

So what has happened since then; have the masters of the universe who caused the crash changed their ways? Are they contrite for the misery they have caused? Have our politicians taken the necessary action to prevent another crash happening, or at least if it happens, ensure that it doesn’t threaten the entire economies of nations?

The Independent (April 2013), quotes Jeffrey Sachs, the well-known Columbia University economist as saying:

I meet a lot of these people on Wall Street on a regular basis right now…I am going to put it very bluntly: I regard the moral environment as pathological. And I am talking about the human interactions … I’ve not seen anything like this, not felt it so palpably…. They have no responsibility to pay taxes; they have no responsibility to their clients; they have no responsibility to people, to counterparties in transactions.… We have a corrupt politics to the core, I am afraid to say, and … both parties are up to their neck in this. This has nothing to do with Democrats or Republicans.

It is clear that the “moneymen” have not changed their behaviour; their arrogance is undiminished, with no recognition of their responsibility to society.  The politicians, it seems, are unwilling or unable to take action to protect society from the next crash, which will surely happen if the necessary rules, laws, and regulations are not in place. Every attempt at reform is vigorously resisted with the argument that it interferes with the sanctity of the free market.

What is a free market? Is it something that can be objectively defined?  Professor Ha-Joon Chang of Cambridge University argues this point thus:

The free market does not exist. Every market has some rules and boundaries that restrict freedom of choice. A market looks free only because we so unconditionally accept its underlying restrictions that we fail to see them…There is no scientifically defined boundary for a free market. If there is nothing sacred about any particular market boundaries that happen to exist, an attempt to change them is as legitimate as the attempt to defend them. Indeed, the history of capitalism has been a constant struggle over the boundaries of the market.

He cites the legislation in 1819 to regulate child labour in Britain as an example. This was a law prohibiting the employment of children under nine in cotton mills, which were considered particularly hazardous to workers’ health. This caused a huge controversy with opponents seeing it as ”destroying the very foundations of the free market.” No one, I hope, in the industrialised rich nations today, is suggesting that we should bring back child labour as part of liberalising our labour laws.

Our government, using hundreds of billions of pounds of our taxes, rescued the banks from collapse. Have they got the guts to do what is required to save us from the next collapse? I am not holding my breath.

Dr Adnan Al-Daini (PhD Birmingham University, UK) is a retired University Engineering lecturer. He is a British citizen born in Iraq. He writes regularly on issues of social justice and the Middle East.

August 19, 2013 Posted by | Corruption, Economics | , , , | Comments Off on Another Economic Crash Is Inevitable

Sailing From Gaza to Break the Blockade

By ALESSANDRA BAJEC |  August 19, 2013

gazas_arkA new mission vows to challenge the blockade of Gaza by sea following Freedom Flotilla efforts since 2010, and Free Gaza missions preceding Cast-Lead in 2008. Not a Gaza-bound aid convoy this time.

With a crew of Palestinians and international activists on board, Gaza’s Ark will sail from the port of Gaza, carrying Palestinian products to buyers around the world, to defy Israel’s illegal and inhuman blockade.

Gaza’s Ark is rebuilding a cargo vessel that will attempt to open the sea to Palestinian exports to show to the outside world that Palestine is a productive land, while drawing public attention on the 7-year blockade.

Because nearly all previous attempts to reach Gaza were blocked by the Israeli navy, and given Israel-imposed three mile limit from the Gazan coast, campaigners are well aware that Israeli forces will hardly let any boat leave Gaza port.

David Heap, French-language and linguistics associate professor at the University of Western Ontario, is a spokesperson for Gaza’s Ark. He talked about the new solidarity initiative.

How did the idea of Gaza’s Ark come about? 

D.H: After the last flotilla sailing I was involved in with other members, we realised we obviously need to carry on our work, trying to think of ways to continue direct action. Not just talking about the siege, but acting directly against the siege to change the premises of it.

Gaza’s Ark is the continuation of the Freedom Flotilla movement, but it’s different in significant ways due to the direction, the non-humanitarian connotation, and because fundraising efforts are being spent primarily in Gaza.

Why is this initiative important? 

DH: Freedom of movement is a fundamental human rights issue that has been systematically denied to all Palestinians, in particular most severely to Palestinians of Gaza. I feel it’s an obligation to try, even in a small, symbolic way, to demand some kind of hope for these people, especially the young ones.  When I visited Gaza last autumn, I was struck by the youth and their thirst for contact with the outside world.

What makes Gaza’s Ark different from previous attempts to break the siege? 

D.H: Gaza’s Ark has a broader focus. We don’t just talk about the sea blockade but the whole blockade imposed on Palestine. What we’re addressing is freedom of movement –both commercial goods and people- national sovereignty and territorial integrity. We will have goods on board from all over Palestine, as Palestinians themselves have told us they should be exporting goods from not only Gaza but also the West Bank and Jerusalem.

Could you discuss how trade rather than aid may help Gaza more effectively? 

D.H: Working with the Palestinian civil society in Gaza, what we at Freedom Flotilla Coalition hear is they’re sick of being recipients of international humanitarian aid. Palestinians tell us they don’t want more humanitarian aid, they want to live on their own economy as they’re very capable of doing. They claim the same freedom of movement rights that everybody enjoys.

Gaza, in particular, had a very prosperous economy in the past. But the infrastructure was systematically destroyed by Israel, and the only factories that are surviving can’t function due to the Israeli blockade.

What potential do you think the project has in comparison with the flotillas that have so far tried to sail to Gaza?

DH: If we take the Flotilla Movement as a whole, it has almost had as many successful arrivals to Gaza as attacks. This is something that goes easily forgotten in the mainstream media.

The choice of allowing us to sail safely to other destinations in the Mediterranean is something the occupier decides, not us.  We can only control what we do. When the Israeli navy assaulted prior flotillas, the rhetoric used was that the boats posed a threat to Israel’s security. Which is absolutely false, none of the inbound voyages created a security risk for anyone, nobody ever found dangerous items on the flotillas that could possibly threaten the security of Israel.

Given that Gaza’s Ark is outbound, it will be interesting to see what the response from the Israeli military will be. They won’t be able to use the security argument since, even if we carried anything dangerous –which is to exclude- Israel shouldn’t care about a boat sailing out. However, I’m sure they will come up with a pretext, but It will be even harder to defend in international public opinion.

How open are international consumers to Palestinian products from Gaza? 

D.H: We’ve been conditioned to think of Palestinians, Gazans in particular, as being dependant on aid. We don’t think of them as capable of having a productive economy. Part of our work is to educate the world that Palestinians can and do produce goods, and they have goods that they could export. Most people don’t know what products are available in Gaza, for example.

There’s a small selection of products that can be viewed on our website, including dugga, za’atar, dates, olive oil to name a few. Our campaign partners based in a number of countries are putting together group purchases of products from interested businesses, individuals and community groups to have their goods exported onboard Gaza’s Ark. Whichever goods potential buyers are more appealed to, whether agricultural or handicraft products, we will match them with producer organizations in Gaza.

Whatever happens to the boat, there will be a connection established between purchaser and producer in the end. Even in the event the goods don’t reach the port of destination, commercial partners in other countries will be connected to Palestinian produce organizations, they will know they bought goods and who sent them. That puts a human face to Palestinians as people who produce, and has the longer term function of building relationships which will ultimately help challenge the power of the occupier as well as the complicity of our governments in the West.

How doable is it for Palestinian producers of Gaza to secure trade deals with purchasers when there’s a real risk that goods will be confiscated by the Israeli military? 

D.H: Although there’s commercial deal, it’s a special kind of commercial deal. We work with civil society partners, businesses and organizations. Purchasers in Europe, North America, Australia or South Africa have to be prepared to secure full payment before the boat sails. Palestinian producers are assured they will be paid the full purchase price of the goods before anything travels.

The risk is borne outside of Gaza by supporters of Palestinian businesses who believe that Palestinians should have their own economy. Then if something happens during the sailing, the risk is being shared by many people keeping in mind the human and commercial interest involved in this mission.

Only a small number of people can board a small boat in the east Mediterranean. But hundreds or thousands of people from different countries can potentially get on board with the campaign by buying parts of the cargo. 

You intend to raise awareness and mobilize to action. How do you hope Gaza’s Ark will help put pressure on national governments and international organizations?

DH: There are bilateral trade agreements between Israel and the EU stipulating that there must not be obstacles to trading with occupied Palestinian territories. When we sail, and European buyers have purchased goods stocked on Gaza’s Ark, if the Israeli navy interferes with that sailing that’s an obstacle to trade. European commercial businesses will then have a very strong case to go to their governments and claim that, despite that they have commercial relations -with documentation proving  the purchase of those goods- their imports have been confiscated.

We usually address human rights parliamentary commissions in Europe, now we may also appeal to commerce commissions. People have so far protested about human rights in reference to flotillas, but this initiative opens up another avenue, the commercial one, to bring up the blockade issue. Why is there free trade with Israel while there isn’t free trade for Palestinians? Why can’t Palestinians use their only port in Gaza?

Israel has used violence to stop other boats from leaving or entering the port of Gaza. What do you expect Gaza’s Ark will achieve? 

DH: Again, the choice to use violence lies with the occupier, it’s not our choice. Everybody that sails with us is committed to non-violence, and we are very transparent about it. Whoever goes will make the choice to sail knowing the implications and possible consequences. Unfortunately we are dealing with a state that attacks unarmed civilians with impunity, as our governments in the West don’t hold it accountable.

When I went on the Gaza relief boat earlier in 2011, I was very aware of the risks. I and two dozen other activists were kidnapped, beaten and illegally arrested after Israeli naval forces seized the Canadian vessel we were on. The Canadian government did nothing. Canadians don’t overall support the blockade of Gaza, this government is in discordance with Canadian public opinion. So how can we make pressure? By putting Canadians and other internationals on the frontline. When I embark on a boat to break the blockade, I don’t just sail against the occupier, I sail against my own government.

What will be the next step if Gaza’s Ark will not reach its destination?

D.H: There’s always an after campaign. People are still following up actions from past flotilla sailings with regards to Gaza relief boats that have been seized in the last few years. With Gaza’s Ark, there will be more people involved because there are also purchasers on board. So we’ll be also bringing commercial actions against whoever happens to steal goods on the ship. We will also continue to stand in solidarity with the fishing fleet of Gaza, which is daily subject to violent constraints from the Israeli navy.

When do you anticipate Gaza’s Ark will be ready to sail?  

D.H: We’re set to depart sometime this year hopefully. It depends on a lot of factors that we don’t control. The process of rebuilding the vessel has been difficult, especially this past month, raising funds internationally has not gone as fast as we would like.

But the date of sailing is for us less important than the lead up to it. The lesson we’ve learned from 2012 flotilla is a long campaign is an advantage because it allows you to develop more support in more countries. As long as we’re developing support for Palestinians of Gaza, spending most of the donated money in Gaza, we’re achieving the goal of affirming our support for a Palestinian economy. So if we don’t sail in 2013, we will sail after. The important thing is we keep opposing the blockade.

Alessandra Bajec lived in Palestine between June 2010 and May 2011 starting to work as a freelance journalist. Her articles have appeared in various Palestinian newswires, the European Journalism Centre’s magazine, The Majalla, among others.

Source

August 19, 2013 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Solidarity and Activism, Timeless or most popular | , , , , | Comments Off on Sailing From Gaza to Break the Blockade

Appeals Court Rules States cannot Shut Down Federally-Approved Nuclear Plants

By Matt Bewig | AllGov | August 19, 2013

The State of Vermont may not shut down a federally-approved nuclear power plant, the federal appeals court for the Second Circuit in New York ruled last week. Vermont has sought to prevent the Vermont Yankee reactor, whose original 40-year license expired in March 2012, from being re-licensed, but the court ruled that federal regulation of nuclear power safety preempts state authority over safety completely. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has already re-licensed the plant for another 20 years.

The wrinkle in the case, Entergy v. Shumlin, is that neither of the two laws struck down by the Court—known as Act 74 and Act 160—attempted to regulate safety. Passed in 2003 in response to Entergy’s request to expand its on-site waste storage facilities, Act 74 allowed the expansion, but barred the storage of waste generated after the plant’s license expiration in March 2012 without state legislative approval.

Act 160, which became law in 2006, states that “a nuclear energy generating plant may be operated in Vermont only with the explicit approval of the General Assembly.” It further provides that in deciding whether to allow a nuclear plant, the legislature is to consider “the state’s need for power, the economics and environmental impacts of long-term storage of nuclear waste, and choice of power sources among various alternatives.” The courts have long ruled that although states may not regulate nuclear power plant safety, it is up to the states to decide whether nuclear power is needed or economical.

Nevertheless, the appeals court unanimously held that despite the stated reasons for the two laws, statements made by legislators while the bills were on the floor indicated that their real purpose was to kill the Vermont Yankee reactor because of safety concerns.

“The nuclear power industry has just been delivered a tremendous victory against the attempt by any state to shut down federally regulated nuclear power plants,” crowed Kathleen Sullivan, a lawyer for Entergy, which owns Vermont Yankee.

In the only legally arguable portion of the opinion, however, the court also held that Vermont may not close the reactor for being too expensive because it operates in a competitive market for electricity, implying that the state may not pursue policies based on alternative economic theories.

Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin (D) reiterated his opposition to the plant, saying it is “not in the best interest of Vermont,” and suggesting the fight was not over: “While I disagree with the result the 2nd Circuit reached in preempting Vermont’s Legislature, the process does not end today.”

The appeals court also struck down a lower court ruling that could have allowed Entergy to force Vermont to pay its legal bills.

To Learn More:

Appeals Court Blocks Attempt by Vermont to Close a Nuclear Plant (by Matthew L. Wald, New York Times)

Entergy Wins Key Appeals Court Ruling on Vermont Nuclear Plant (by Nate Raymond, Reuters)

Entergy v. Shumlin (2nd Circuit Court of Appeals) (pdf)

Federal Judge Says States Not Allowed to Regulate Nuclear Safety (by Noel Brinkerhoff and David Wallechinsky, AllGov)

Vermont Can’t Shut Entergy Nuclear Plant, Court Rules – Bloomberg (bloomberg.com)

August 19, 2013 Posted by | Environmentalism, Nuclear Power | , , , | 1 Comment

ADL orders YouTube to disable Press TV account: Emadi

Press TV – August 18, 2013

Video-sharing site YouTube deactivated Press TV’s official page without explanation after the Israeli-American Anti-Defamation League (ADL) ordered it to terminate the Iranian channel’s live broadcast.

“We have not been able to upload new videos on our official YouTube page since July 25. Both YouTube and (its parent company) Google have declined to comment,” said Press TV Newsroom Director Hamid Reza Emadi.

He added that YouTube was “in fact responding to an ADL order to stop us from revealing Israeli crimes to the world.”

An article on ADL’s official website has accused Press TV of bypassing the West’s sanctions by broadcasting live via YouTube and other internet and mobile platforms.

“ADL has contacted YouTube regarding concerns about Press TV,” reads the article, further noting that the station’s “broadcast on YouTube comes at a time when the United States, the European Union and others in the international community are seeking to isolate Iran.”

Since January 2012, Press TV has come under mounting pressure from European governments and satellite companies, which have taken the alternative channel off the air across the European Union.

In a statement published on the official website of the American Jewish Committee (AJC), the pro-Israeli lobby has lauded Spain’s efforts to ban Press TV, saying Madrid has pulled the plug on the Iranian channel following months of negotiations with the AJC.

“In recent years has emerged a channel that not only challenges the Zionists’ long-time media dominance, but also has it questioned the West’s silence on their (the Zionists’) crimes against humanity. That’s Press TV and they’re determined to silence it,” Emadi added.

He said Press TV had to create an alternative YouTube account to upload its videos.

“Viewers can now watch our videos at http://www.youtube.com/user/PresstvNewsCast,” he said.

August 19, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , , , , | Comments Off on ADL orders YouTube to disable Press TV account: Emadi

Why Western media frames civilian areas as “Hezbollah strongholds”

By Sharmine Narwani | Al-Akhbar | August 19, 2013

Beirut was thrown into turmoil on Thursday evening as a terrorist attack against residents of Dahiyeh – a southern suburb of the Lebanese capital and a predominantly Shia neighborhood – threatened to draw the country into a region wide crisis.

As conflicting news reports began to leak out in the immediate aftermath of the city’s deadliest car bombing in eight years, there was a disconcerting congruity in headlines beaming out from western capitals – and it had nothing to do with facts.

2673699580744763In lock-step, western media was calling the scene of the crime a “Hezbollah stronghold”:

Wall Street Journal: “Car Bomb Blasts Hezbollah Stronghold in Lebanon”

BBC: “Deadly Lebanon Blast in Beirut Stronghold of Hezbollah

LA Times: “Massive Explosion in Beirut Rocks Hezbollah Stronghold

Washington Post: “Bomb Explodes in Hezbollah Stronghold in Beirut, Injuring Dozens”

Reuters: “Over 50 Hurt as Car Bomb Hits Hezbollah Beirut Stronghold

Associated Press: “Car Bomb Rocks Hezbollah Stronghold in Lebanon”

France24: “Car Bomb Rocks Hezbollah Stronghold in Beirut”

A quick Twitter or Google search for “Hezbollah stronghold” is all you need to see how hard western media works to “frame” language and drive use of a phrase that makes Shia civilian life negligible.

On Twitter Thursday night, “tweeps” questioned the validity of this phrase in describing a civilian neighborhood. Said one observer: “When you write “Hezbollah stronghold” instead of South Beirut it gives the impression military barracks were bombed and no innocents died.

That view seemed to be confirmed by the reaction of an American tweep who wrote: “GREAT NEWS!!!!!” in response to the BBC headline “Deadly Lebanon blast in Beirut stronghold of Hezbollah.”

Worse yet was this reprehensible tweet by Al Monitor’s Washington correspondent and senior fellow at the Atalantic Council Barbara Slavin, who declared on Twitter: “As I recall, Hezbollah invented the car bomb; what goes around, comes around.” Except, of course, the targets of Thursday’s terror attack – where 27 died and nearly 300 injured – were civilians, not Hezbollah.

An army of tweeps quickly reminded Slavin that Hezbollah neither invented the car bomb nor targets civilians, and drew attention to the ironic fact that Israeli militant groups used them liberally in attacking British officials in Palestine last century – well before Hezbollah’s 1985 formation to combat Israel’s occupation of Lebanon.

And herein lies the problem. By calling a residential neighborhood a “Hezbollah stronghold,” western media softens public opinion to accept these terror attacks as justifiable, and their targets, legitimate. Because the only reason for characterizing civilian Shia neighborhoods as “strongholds” of Hezbollah is to justify carnage against those populations most likely to support the Lebanese resistance group.

Similar language – War on Terror, terrorism, militants, extremists, Al Qaeda – is also frequently employed to excuse western carnage in countries from Iraq to Afghanistan to Mali to Yemen to Pakistan. Droning and bombing targets are rarely characterized as “civilian,” even though data suggests that most victims of US attacks are not militants. The goal? To eradicate second thoughts about violence against innocent civilians – often bolstered by a complicit media that characterizes these deaths as “collateral damage.”

While the term “stronghold” can simply refer to an area in which an organization, party or point of view holds sway, in the context of US foes in the Mideast, it is instead usually used to suggest a militant base absolutely controlled by that foe. As one tweep noted, western media uses similar language against other American targets to scene-set for “excusable” carnage: “Hezbollah stronghold” for car bombs in Lebanon, “Assad stronghold” for car bombs in Damascus; “Assad heartland” for massacres in Latakia.”

Dahiyeh – the scene of Thursday’s explosion – is also, for instance, home to significant Maronite Christian and Sunni communities. And even within the suburb’s Shia community, there are disparate political views and affiliations. It is by no means true that all Shia residents are supporters of Hezbollah, a Lebanese political party that – in lieu of national political consensus – provides local social services and security for residents of all sects and backgrounds in these areas.

A December Christian Science Monitor article entitled “In Hezbollah Stronghold, Lebanese Christians Find Respect, Stability,” (a piece which repeats the “stronghold” theme and other Hezbollah stereotypes ad nauseum) does however manage to highlight the positive experiences of Maronites living in Dahiyeh neighborhood, Haret Hreik:

The face of the revered Shiite militant leader appears on posters, a calendar, and in several photographs nestled amid those of Christian homeowner Randa Gholam’s family members. Mr. Nasrallah is, Ms. Gholam asserts amid a string of superlatives, “a gift from God.”

Lebanon’s sectarian divides are legendary, and the residents of the historically Christian neighborhood of Harat Hreik, now a Hezbollah stronghold, remember well the civil war that set Beirut on fire. They were literally caught in the middle of some of the most vicious fighting, with factions firing shots off at one another from either side of their apartment buildings.

But in the intervening years, as Hezbollah cemented its control over the suburb of Dahiyeh, which includes Harat Hreik, the militant group has been an unexpected source of stability and even protection for the few remaining Christian families. Just a few blocks away from Nasrallah’s compound is St. Joseph’s Church, a vibrant church that Maronite Christians from across Beirut flock to every Sunday.

“I feel honored to be here. They are honest. They are not extremists. It’s not like everyone describes,” Gholam says. “I can speak on behalf of all my Christian friends. They would say the same thing.”

Why western media uses the term “Hezbollah stronghold”

Dahiyeh is not the only Lebanese area referred to as a “Hezbollah stronghold” by western media. Most Shia towns, cities and neighborhoods in this country are labelled with that moniker – facts be damned. Bekaa, Nabatiyeh, Bint Jbeil, Khiyyam and other predominantly Shia areas are frequently cited as such. Not coincidentally, all these civilian areas have been subjected to Israeli strikes over the years.

While hunting for Scuds in Lebanon two years ago – a search prompted by Israel’s fabricated claim that Hezbollah was hoarding the difficult-to-conceal ballistic missiles – I came across some IDF “3D animated clips” that allegedly “illustrate how Hezbollah has turned over 100 villages in South Lebanon into military bases.”

Introducing an array of IDF computer-generated slides that purport to identify existing Hezbollah weapons stores by marking large Xs in Shia-heavy civilian centers, the Israeli military then alleges:

“Hezbollah stores their weapons near schools, hospitals, and residential buildings in the village of al-Khiam (Khiyyam). They follow similar tactics in villages across southern Lebanon, essentially using the residents as human shields, in gross violation of UN Resolution 1701. al-Khiam was used as a rocket launching site during the Second Lebanon war.”

When I asked him about it, The Independent’s veteran Beirut-based journalist Robert Fisk scoffed at the IDF slide show: “The Israelis are making excuses for the next war crimes. The Scuds don’t exist, they’re not here. I’ve seen the (IDF) pictures – garbage. There’s nothing in those houses.”

Human Rights Watch’s extensive report on Israel’s 2006 attack on Lebanon, entitled Fatal Strikes: Israel’s Indiscriminate Attacks Against Civilians in Lebanon, covers at length the Jewish state’s unproven allegations that Hezbollah stashes weapons among civilian populations – charges that Israel continues to repeat despite evidence to the contrary.

The group’s Executive Director Kenneth Roth concludes: “The pattern of attacks shows the Israeli military’s disturbing disregard for the lives of Lebanese civilians. Our research shows that Israel’s claim that Hezbollah fighters are hiding among civilians does not explain, let alone justify, Israel’s indiscriminate warfare… In the many cases of civilian deaths examined by Human Rights Watch, the location of Hezbollah troops and arms had nothing to do with the deaths because there was no Hezbollah around.”

Instead the Report clearly states:

“Human Rights Watch did not find evidence that the deployment of Hezbollah forces in Lebanon routinely or widely violated the laws of war, as repeatedly alleged by Israel. We did not find, for example, that Hezbollah routinely located its rockets inside or near civilian homes. Rather, we found strong evidence that Hezbollah had stored most of its rockets in bunkers and weapon storage facilities located in uninhabited fields and valleys. Similarly, while we found that Hezbollah fighters launched rockets from villages on some occasions, and may have committed shielding, a war crime, when it purposefully and repeatedly fired rockets from the vicinity of UN observer posts with the possible intent of deterring Israeli counterfire, we did not find evidence that Hezbollah otherwise fired its rockets from populated areas. The available evidence indicates that in the vast majority of cases Hezbollah fighters left populated civilian areas as soon as the fighting started and fired the majority of their rockets from pre-prepared positions in largely unpopulated valleys and fields outside villages.”

Fisk is correct. The Israelis are making excuses for the next war crimes. in 2006, the IDF used the “Hezbollah stronghold” and “human shielding” arguments for carpet bombing Dahiyeh, the very same residential neighborhood targeted by terrorists on Thursday.

And Western journalists act either as dupes or complicitly when they repeat these same Israeli-generated mantras – laying the groundwork for further military and terror strikes against Lebanese civilians.

It is not just Western media that regurgitates this irresponsible language. “Hezbollah stronghold” has been so mainstreamed that virtually all English-language media utilizes the expression, from Iranian-backed Press TV to Moscow’s Russia Today. But online searches identify Western media – by far – as the main driver of this narrative.

Not all Western journalists are complicit though. On Twitter last Thursday, a rare moment of rationality came from a Voice of America source, of all places. VOA reporter Cecily Hilleary bothered to ask the all-important question: “Does term ‘Hezbollah stronghold’ aptly describe this Beirut neighborhood that was just hit by car bomb?” The first two responses were “no” and “it’s a civilian area.”

And as freelance British journalist Patrick Galey, a past Beirut resident, noted sarcastically after the Bir al Abed car bombing in July unleashed another Twitter-frenzy of “Hezbollah stronghold” tweets: “For ‘Hezbollah stronghold’ you can also say “highly-populated civilian area.” Just a thought.”

Watching an elderly woman sitting alone on the steps outside Bahman hospital on Thursday, her head in her hands, sobbing, as she awaited news of a relative injured in the car bomb earlier that day – it seemed ludicrous that the media still uses “Hezbollah stronghold” as a term to describe Israel’s past and future civilian-targeted neighborhoods.

And yet, on Sunday, as four rockets were fired into the northern Bekaa – one landing in a school playground – the “Hezbollah” association was invoked again. There are many dangerous words and phrases used to frame people and events in the Middle East, but here, now, we can collectively make a start to change that.

Sharmine Narwani is a commentary writer and political analyst covering the Middle East. You can follow Sharmine on twitter @snarwani.

August 19, 2013 Posted by | Deception, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , | Comments Off on Why Western media frames civilian areas as “Hezbollah strongholds”

Focusing on the Core Harms of Surveillance

By Frank Pasquale | Balkinization | August 16, 2013

The “summer of NSA revelations” rolls along, with a blockbuster finale today. In June, Jennifer Granick and Christopher Sprigman flatly declared the NSA criminal. Now the agency’s own internal documents (leaked by Snowden) appear to confirm thousands of legal violations.

Legal scholars will not be surprised by the day’s revelations, just as few surveillance experts were all that shocked by the breadth and depth of PRISM, PINWALE, MARINA, and other programs. Ray Ku called warrantless surveillance unconstitutional in 2010. Civil liberties groups and legal scholars warned us repeatedly about where Bush-era executive power theories would lead. As anyone familiar with Bruce Ackerman’s work might guess, pliable attorneys have rubber-stamped the telephony metadata program with a “white paper” that “fails to confront counterarguments and address contrary caselaw” and “cites cases that [are] relatively weak authority for its position.” There are no meaningful penalties in sight (perhaps because the OLC has prepared documents that function as a “get out of jail free” card for those involved).

Like the data mining they employ, the NSA surveillance programs are hard to govern democratically (or cabin legally) because of the speed, scale, and secrecy of the problems they address. They fall into “black holes” of administrative review, where the inclination of judges to review them is at lowest ebb. Even if judges find “ticking time bomb” scenarios unlikely in the extreme, the surveillance apparatus can evoke plenty of other existential risks to demand deference. If you were on the FISA court and the NSA told you that they needed to collect everyone’s data because they were trying to track down a swarm of poison-bearing microdrones, how long would you delay them to “dig into the substance” before approving the request? As Desmond Manderson has argued, “Trust Us Justice” is the order of the day.

Real Harms

Nevertheless, the long-term danger of an unaccountable surveillance state is probably much greater than that posed by any particular terror threat.* Both Julie Cohen and Neil Richards have explained the many dangers arising out of pervasive surveillance. As Richards observes,

[The] special harm that surveillance poses is its effect on the power dynamic between the watcher and the watched. This disparity creates the risk of a variety of harms, such as discrimination, coercion, and the threat of selective enforcement, where critics of the government can be prosecuted or blackmailed for wrongdoing unrelated to the purpose of the surveillance.

To make this more concrete: note that the US’s intelligence apparatus has already extensively monitored libertarians and peace activists. According to the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund, “from its inception, the FBI treated the Occupy movement as a potential criminal and terrorist threat.” During Occupy Wall Street, investigative journalists uncovered command centers advised by federal and local officials and banks. Skeptics wondered whether banks’ lucrative “private detail pay” and donations for police helped motivate multiple, brutal crackdowns on peaceful (if unorthodox) protesters. Homeland security officials may have advised local police on containment of the hundreds of “Occupy” encampments that arose in the fall of 2011. And in terms of selective enforcement: one has to wonder why police decided to care about a six-year-old open container violation at the homes of activists one day before May Day protests.

For a concrete example of how an activist deals with this type of news, consider the story of one Daytona woman:

[She] is a 45-year-old married mother of two young children. She is a homeowner, a taxpayer and a safe driver. She votes in every election. She attends a Unitarian Universalist church on Sundays. She is also, like nearly all who have a relationship with the Occupy movement in the United States, being monitored by the federal government. . . . McLeish worries about how being a target of FBI attention will affect her life. “Can the inclusion of my name and information on a federal law enforcement domestic terrorist watch list impact my ability to make a living and provide for my children?” she asked.

This is not a purely speculative concern, however much the SCOTUS majority in Clapper v. Amnesty may dismiss such worries as the fruit of a “chain of contingencies.” FBI screens are used to deny persons jobs, now. Many applicants have no idea they are even part of the hiring process:

Updating the records of those who fall through the cracks can be confusing and cumbersome. FBI regulations say that employers and licensing agencies should give applicants time to challenge and correct their records, either by contacting the FBI or the jurisdiction that collected the data. But applicants are not always given a copy of their report or told why they were disqualified. Often, the burden is on them to prove an error was made.

Even if the databases don’t include those who are not arrested, what stops law enforcement agencies from including “suspects” in related databases? Employers may not want to have anything to do with someone “under watch” by the government. Moreover, even being arrested can be a form of speech: consider the Moral Monday protesters in North Carolina.

Speculative No More

In his press conference last week, President Obama stated, “If you look at the reports, even the disclosures that Mr. Snowden’s put forward, all the stories that have been written, what you’re not reading about is the government actually abusing these programs and, you know, listening in on people’s phone calls or inappropriately reading people’s e-mails.” In Clapper v. Amnesty Int’l, Justice Alito trivialized the plaintiffs’ concerns as mere conjecture. Surveillance promoters on both left and right argue that privacy activists haven’t demonstrated any concrete harms. The former NSA director has dismissed those concerned as “nihilists, anarchists, activists, Lulzsec, Anonymous, twentysomethings who haven’t talked to the opposite sex in five or six years.”

Implications of paranoia (among those worried about surveillance) now themselves appear fantastical. The Supreme Court’s bizarre decision in Clapper v. Amnesty International, that respondents’ claims about being monitored were “too speculative” to merit judicial review, now deserves not merely rebuke, but reconsideration. Unless the surveillance apparatus wants to claim that Greenwald, the ACLU, EPIC, and PCJF are making up documents out of whole cloth, it has to acknowledge that not only have laws been violated, but exactly the types of harms those laws were designed to stop have indeed occurred. This is not just a matter of legalist punctilio or nihilist skepticism.

Tragically, the core surveillance harms are not likely to provoke much political pushback against the NSA. Unlike the Framers, who wrote the Constitution shortly after risking their lives for their political commitments, most Americans have little respect for the political targets of NSA/DHS/FBI/Police/DEA surveillance and information sharing.** For the average voter, about the only thing more suspect than the two major parties are political activists who operate outside their ken. Justice Roberts’s FISA Court, and the dozens of appellate judges like them, are unlikely to have more enlightened views. A movement to make the surveillance apparatus more accountable will need to achieve its goals indirectly, focusing on the costs, creepiness, or crony capitalism of mass surveillance. I hope to elaborate on each of these issues in future posts.

*Though perhaps not greater than the sum of terror threats—a question presently explored via cost-benefit analysis, but probably better addressed in scenario planning.

**To preempt the comment “you’re mixing up different programs:” please take a look at this article on vertical and horizontal fusion of data sources in the new Information Sharing Environment. For the TL;DR crowd, there’s this.

August 19, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Deception, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Focusing on the Core Harms of Surveillance

CIA admits role in 1953 Iran coup against democratically-elected Mosadeq

Press TV – August 19, 2013

The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has for the first time published a document that confirms Washington’s role in the 1953 coup d’état against the democratically-elected Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mosadeq.

The open acknowledgment by the US intelligence community comes some six decades after the British- and American-backed military overthrow.

“The military coup that overthrew Mosadeq and his National Front Cabinet was carried out under CIA direction as an act of US foreign policy,” read a brief segment from an internal report by an in-house CIA historian in the mid-1970s.

The document, published on the National Security Archive website, was initially released in 1981, but most of it was blacked out at the time, including an entire section on the coup.

On August 15, 1953, the British and US intelligence agencies initiated a coup by the Iranian military (known as 28 Mordad coup), setting off a chain of events including riots in the streets of Iran’s capital, Tehran, that led to the overthrow and arrest of Mosadeq four days later.

Mosadeq, convicted of treason, served three years in prison and died under house arrest in 1967.

The Iranian premier played a key role in the country’s 1951 movement that resulted in the nationalization of Iran’s oil industry, which had been mainly controlled by the British-owned Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (AIOC), now known as BP.

When worldwide sanctions against Iran’s oil industry failed to force Mosadeq to abandon the move, a plan was devised by Britain (codenamed ‘Operation Boot’) and the US (codenamed TPAJAX Project) to overthrow his government.

The coup saw the formation of an absolute US-backed monarchy under Iran’s last Shah, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, who was overthrown by the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

August 19, 2013 Posted by | Timeless or most popular | , , , , , | Comments Off on CIA admits role in 1953 Iran coup against democratically-elected Mosadeq