Monday, January 30, 2006

Uri Avnery: To Talk with Hamas following their election success: Avnery is consistently providing some of the best and most interesting commentary on the Israel/Palestine conflict, cutting through the mountains of b-s that pollutes global discourse.

Hamas leader Zahar discusses his approach to the new situation. With a better grasp of the politics of the situation and a non-corrupt organisation, Hamas may be able to better advance the interests of the Palestinians and the Peace Process itself than the tired old PLO leadership.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Escobar on Bin Laden political strategy: "We know that the majority of your people want this war to end and based on the substance of the polls, which indicate Americans do not want to fight Muslims on Muslim land, nor do they want Muslims to fight them on their land, we do not mind offering a long-term truce based on just conditions that we will stand by ... a truce that offers security and stability and the rebuilding of Iraq and Afghanistan that war has destroyed ... And there is nothing wrong with this solution except that it deprives the influential people and warlords in America from hundreds of billions of dollars - those who supported [President George W] Bush's election campaign with billions of dollars.
- Osama bin Laden on tape, January 18"

"In at least 35 messages - in audio or video - delivered by both bin Laden and Zawahiri since September 11, the heart of the matter is always the same. The US must leave the Middle East alone - it must stop supporting Israel over Palestine and stop supporting corrupt dictatorial regimes in the Arab and Muslim world."

"Bin Laden's latest tape is devoid of any window-dressing of Islamic phraseology. Al-Qaeda is above all involved in a long-range political war of attrition.... It's all about coining the right rhetoric - and the right audio-video global media coups - to lift the Muslim masses out of fatalistic passivity, impregnate them with political conscience, and persuade them to join the jihad."

"Al-Qaeda inevitably has to move beyond surprise, stealth and heavy symbolism (how can you top September 11?) ... Politically, addressing US public opinion, bin Laden clearly identifies the Bush administration - and its "war on terror", a military response to a concept - as the problem. Overwhelmed by media noise, Americans once again won't listen."

"Careful examination of bin Laden's latest words also reveal that unlike the Bush administration spin, al-Qaeda does not want to destroy the United States or its way of life. But at the same time the US, and the Bush administration in particular, may enhance al-Qaeda's appeal as it will never waver from its two strategic imperatives - absolute security for Israel in the heart of the Arab Middle East and the obsession in taking over all of the Middle East's oil reserves. So there's no way to stop the infernal spiral."

A city going nowhere fast: Sydney Morning Herald series on Sydney's transport requirements and deficiencies does good work in laying out the basics. Its a bit sad that a corporate media outlet has to do this rather than a government or university department. There isnt much new in the conclusions: public transport good, private cars bad. But its a broken politico-economic system which fails to acknowledge these realities, and its been broken for a long time. As the planet heats up and fossil fuels deplete, these issues and concerns must rise to the top of the agenda.

In an update, the Herald spells out problem in regard to political and public attitudes:

A big shift in public attitudes on at least two issues is required: public transport and taxation. The city is relying less on public transport and more on cars, and the best way to reverse this trend is with prices.

The report says motorists now get "heavy subsidies" for using the road. They are receiving what economists call an inappropriate price signal - that is, the true cost of the activity is not being felt by the user. The cost of using a car needs to reflect the full social and economic cost of driving. If this is done, public transport should gain a big price advantage over cars and therefore more people will be encouraged to use it. But embedded cultural expectations - especially the growing emphasis on comfort and convenience - count against public transport.

The centre's modelling suggests that in the future motorists will have to pay much, much more for the privilege of driving. Attitudes to taxation and government debt will have to shift. The report says the public has settled for a "trade-off": balanced books but worsening transport.

This trade-off will hurt us more unless we accept higher taxes, and/or more government debt to improve transport infrastructure. The Government's headache with the Cross City Tunnel shows charging more for car use will create political problems. Lifting other taxes, or public borrowing, to fund transport will also have a political cost. But as gridlock worsens, politicians may have no choice.

We don't necessarily have a lot of time - problems such as these have to be addressed as early as possible, ie starting from now.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Most Israelis back unilateral W. Bank pullout: poll: "Fifty-one percent would approve a unilateral pullout from land Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East war because they believed Palestinian leaders were incapable of negotiating a deal with Israel."

?? It is the Israelis who are incapable of negotiating a deal. If they want to withdraw from the West Bank and East Jerusalem, the Palestinians would not disagree. In fact, that is what they want, if anyone in Israel was paying any attention. See the Geneva Accords.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Waterways transport more efficient than road or rail: "Inland water transport has been shown to be the most environmentally friendly transport mode with total external costs currently calculated at €10 per 1,000 tonne-kilometers (by comparison: €35 for road and €15 for rail transport) If inland navigation cargoes were carried by road, emissions to air in Europe would be at least 10% higher."

Most Australian live on the coast and maximising the use of waterways for transport and freight will need to become a policy priority.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Transcript of Bin Laden latest speech: "Don't let your strength and modern arms fool you. They win a few battles but lose the war. Patience and steadfastness are much better. We were patient in fighting the Soviet Union with simple weapons for 10 years and we bled their economy and now they are nothing. In that there is a lesson for you."

Bin Laden again calls for a truce. So why not take him up on the offer? It must be remembered peace talks are between enemies, not friends.

Defence Minister Robert Hill resigns as Defence Minister and Member of Parliament: One wonders at the motive and timing of this announcement. Hill as Defence Minister and senior member of cabinet played a key role in the decision to invade Iraq. The Iraq war is one of the biggest disasters in Imperial history, and perhaps Hill is getting out early before the full cost becomes apparent. Perhaps also he fears arrest and charges as a war criminal for his involvement in this affair and is therefore attempting to distance himself from it. Powerful figures previously regarded as immune such as Henry Kissinger, Ariel Sharon and Augusto Pinochet have come to fear arrest and being called to account.

There are rumours Hill will be appointed Australian ambassador to the United Nations. If so this is a disgrace and unacceptable, as well as being a pseudo-fascistic joke. At best Hill should take his parliamentary pension (it is always wise to give powerful figures an out) but have no futher involvement in public affairs. The Iraq war was the biggest, most blatant and most destructive violation of International Law since Hitler's attack on Poland. To appoint Hill as Ambassador to the UN is like the US appointing John 'ten storeys' Bolton as US Ambassador to the UN and should be seen as such.

Some people argue that the UN has failed completely and we need to try again 'for the third time.' The situation is certainly serious, with major world powers (primarily the US and UK at this point) blatantly and contemptuously rejecting the authority of the rule of international law just as powers like Italy, Germany and Japan did so in the 30s. But I am not convinced it is quite as bad as the 30s. What I am convinced of is a widespread misunderstanding of the proper role and importance of the UN and international law. The problem is not so much the structure and terms of the UN and the UN charter - it is about as good as you could have got at the time and subject to any improvements as good as it will ever be. The problem is nation states disregarding law and not being called to account, and most crucially, the failure of domestic populations to require their governments to adhere to law. If we take for example the terms of the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty, it is about as good as could be devised in both its ultimate objects and its processes, and as such is a credit to the lawyers and diplomats who devised it. The weakness lies in the obvious unwillingness of nation states to ever adhere to any such terms absent coercion from their own domestic populations. For example, it is obvious that you could never expect the United States to adhere to the terms of the treaty unless the American people themselves force their government to do to. And so with any country. In this spirit and with this understanding the essentially good work of postwar politicians, statesmen, lawyers, diplomats and idealists needs to be preserved and revived.

Tell Me a Secret: Iraq's Academics: "A little known aspect of the tragedy engulfing Iraq is the systematic liquidation of the country's academics.... This situation is a mirror of the occupation as a whole: a catastrophe of staggering proportions unfolding in a climate of criminal disregard."

Thursday, January 19, 2006

The West Has Picked A Fight With Iran That It Cannot Win: Simon Jenkins discusses the US-led belligerence against Iran. A number of things strike me about this: first, a US or Israeli attack against Iran seems unlikely, it could not achieve anything except stir up a hornets nest; US belligerence and arrogance is undiminished by the Iraq debacle, their posturing is a virtual re-run of the lead up to the Iraq war; Europe still does not dare to openly oppose US belligerence and hegemonic ambition; Russia and China can have no interest at all in a successful transformation of Iran to a US client state and yet at the same time they also diplomatically refrain from open criticism of US posturing. I suppose everyone is just waiting, as politely as possible, for the American empire to play itself out on the world stage. An alternative vision or leadership, however, would not be a bad thing. One could (and should) return to the beginnings of International law in the form of the UN charter and various treaties such as the Geneva conventions and the Nuclear Non Proliferation treaty. There is not anything wrong with them in principle, except that they have not been implemented or respected.

Meanwhile, as Jeff Vail has pointed out, "the Federal Reserve ... will cease reporting M3 as of March 23, 2006", about the same time as the Iranian Oil Bourse is to open with the trading of oil for Euros. And the Chinese are reducing their exposure to the dollar by diversifying into other currencies, as the US budget, trade and current account deficits climb, and as the housing bubble pops amid a huge derivatives market that are financial weapons of mass destruction. The the cost of the Iraq war is stunning at between $1 trillion and $2 trillion, up to 2000 percent above estimates. The war is an almost total failure, with the almost total withdrawal of US forces from Iraq in 2006 whether the deluded President and his dwindling band of deluded neocon supporters like it or not.

Al Gore makes a valiant rearguard effort to save the Republic, but much of the rest of the US leadership and the world commmunity adopts a curiously passive attitude to these historic events.

All aboard the light rail to the future: Peter Seamer provides a good summary of the case for Light Rail in Sydney.

The Government's solutions are geared to a 2017 time frame but are not addressing the pressing problem in the heart of the city, where you have a 350,000 daily workforce and more than 400,000 visitors - and these numbers are growing.... Light rail 21st-century style is part of how Sydney should tackle a problem that threatens to undermine the viability, vibrancy and versatility of its CBD.

Trams can have an equal or greater capacity along any one line and are much easier and quicker to load, as they can have several doors. They are particularly good for inner-city trips, which are short and require high volumes.

In terms of capacity, the sustainability commissioner, Peter Newman, wrote in the Herald last year: 'Roads are also limited by their sheer physical capacity. A road lane can carry about 2500 people an hour; a busway about double that - a level now reached and even exceeded on the busways in the city centre.

'Light rail can carry between 7000 and 10,000 people an hour - which is why this must eventually replace the congested bus services along many corridors - while heavy rail can carry 50,000 people per hour, 20 times the capacity of a roadway.'

Light rail has been introduced to more than 100 international cities in the past 10 years. In the Toronto CBD, for example, which has three main sources of co-ordinated public transport - heavy rail, buses and light rail - the system carries 40 per cent more passengers and 30 per cent more boardings per capita at 30 per cent lower cost than Sydney.

For years, the campaign to introduce/expand light rail has been running, and yet the government has done little or nothing except build tollways and motorways. There is a failure of vision and commitment, a failure that is all the more acute as the twin crises of global warming and fossil fuel depletion inexorably bear down on modern civilisation.

Another quite apparent example of the State Government's failure of vision, understanding and commitment is its plan to build a desalination plant for Sydney:

[The letter from Sydney Water to Minister Sartor] is proof of official advice to the Government from its own experts that it would be unwise to proceed. The memo warned that it was not feasible from a financial and environmental perspective.... "Desalination is far less feasible than other options to restore Sydney's water balance," he said in the official briefing advice handed to Mr Sartor two years ago. "The environmental performance of desalination is very poor due to its high energy demand, the significant greenhouse gas emissions, the need to dispose of waste brine and the land required for the plant." The letter also reveals that desalination was considered but rejected by the Government's own Drought Expert Panel and extracting more water from the Shoalhaven, groundwater sources and recycling were preferable options.... The desalination plant is shaping up as a major political headache for the Iemma Government. Many Labor MPs claim it was not taken to caucus for discussion.

In a global situation where it is urgent that emissions be reduced and energy conserved, it is simply folly to build a huge consumer of energy like a desalination plant when it is not even needed. This is a government that is enormously out of touch with the biggest issue of the day.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Photovoltaic solar power is viable for Australian household rooftops: "Grid-connected solar systems mean homeowners can effectively sell their power by (sunny) day and buy it back at night, cutting electricity bills or doing away with them altogether and reducing or erasing their own environmental footprint.

"For a basic one-kilowatt start-up system, the dela Ramas paid more than $14,000, and received a rebate of about $3700 through the Australian Greenhouse Office. That's only enough extra power to cut their bill by 30 or 40 per cent. Crooks paid more than $40,000 for a much larger system capable of producing all his electricity, but qualified for almost $14,000 in subsidies before rebates were reduced in 2003.

"Australia's electricity is among the cheapest in the world and NSW enjoys some of the cheapest power in Australia. This means solar grid-connect systems won't realistically pay for themselves for decades.

"Most Australians are simply unwilling to invest their money in reducing greenhouse emissions. A recent survey by the Australian Bureau of Statistics found energy consumption patterns were driven by lifestyles and resources availability, 'not a desire to reduce energy use'.

"Of the 23 per cent of Australian householders who like the idea of 'green power', less than half are prepared to spend more than $100 extra a year to support it.

"'Solar power is technically proven and reliable, but compared to coal-fired power generation it's expensive. This is the real challenge for the industry,' says Ric Brazzale, executive director of the Australian Business Council for Sustainable Energy. 'We're fantastic at remote solar power for the bush. But we are rapidly falling behind countries like Germany, Spain, Japan, and even the United States, which are aggressively putting renewable power into cities.'"

There are at least two basic steps that could and should be taken to accelerate the deployment of PV solar cells:

1. Local government building and planning regulations which mandate the installation of grid-connected PV cells on every new home;

2. Introduction of the Carbon tax on polluters to make them pay for the destruction of the environment and to make clean and renewable energy more price competitive as it should be.

Chomsky: 'There Is No War On Terror':
George Bush would be in severe political trouble if there were an opposition political party in the country. Just about every day, they're shooting themselves in the foot. The striking fact about contemporary American politics is that the Democrats are making almost no gain from this. The only gain that they're getting is that the Republicans are losing support. Now, again, an opposition party would be making hay, but the Democrats are so close in policy to the Republicans that they can't do anything about it. When they try to say something about Iraq, George Bush turns back to them, or Karl Rove turns back to them, and says, 'How can you criticize it? You all voted for it.' And, yeah, they're basically correct.

Democrats read the polls way more than I do, their leadership. They know what public opinion is. They could take a stand that's supported by public opinion instead of opposed to it. Then they could become an opposition party, and a majority party. But then they're going to have to change their position on just about everything.

Progressive US blogs like dailykos and many others rail against the Democrats for their spineless attitude to the crisis issues of the day, but there is much less discussion of why this miserable situation exists and what can be done about it. As Chomksy has pointed out countless times, the Democrats are the second wing of the corporate party, or in the phrase that has been used, 'two horses with the same owner in a two horse race.'

You can measure the number of terrorist attacks. Well, that's gone up sharply under the Bush administration, very sharply after the Iraq war. As expected -- it was anticipated by intelligence agencies that the Iraq war would increase the likelihood of terror. And the post- invasion estimates by the CIA, National Intelligence Council, and other intelligence agencies are exactly that.... The fact of the matter is that there is no War on Terror. It's a minor consideration. So invading Iraq and taking control of the world's energy resources was way more important than the threat of terror.

Its an obvious fact that the invasion of Iraq increased terrorism (as predicted) just as it is obvious that there were no WMDs or that the invasion was to secure control over energy reserves. There is no such thing as a 'war on terror' (the very concept is an absurdity, like a 'war on night tactics' or a 'war on enfilading'). That phrase simply should not be used, and anyone who does use the phrase 'war on terror' is accepting the propaganda constructs of the aggressor states and acting as an accomplice and enabler for their crimes and transgressions. Its not a 'war on terror', its a war against the Arabs for control of the oil.

Same with global warming. They're not stupid. They know that they're increasing the threat of a serious catastrophe. But that's a generation or two away. Who cares? There's basically two principles that define the Bush administration policies: stuff the pockets of your rich friends with dollars, and increase your control over the world. Almost everything follows from that.

They start by saying the United States aims to bring about a sovereign democratic independent Iraq. I mean, is that even a remote possibility? Just consider what the policies would be likely to be of an independent sovereign Iraq. If it's more or less democratic, it'll have a Shiite majority. They will naturally want to improve their linkages with Iran, Shiite Iran. Most of the clerics come from Iran. The Badr Brigade, which basically runs the South, is trained in Iran. They have close and sensible economic relationships which are going to increase. So you get an Iraqi/Iran loose alliance. Furthermore, right across the border in Saudi Arabia, there's a Shiite population which has been bitterly oppressed by the U.S.-backed fundamentalist tyranny. And any moves toward independence in Iraq are surely going to stimulate them, it's already happening. That happens to be where most of Saudi Arabian oil is. Okay, so you can just imagine the ultimate nightmare in Washington: a loose Shiite alliance controlling most of the world's oil, independent of Washington and probably turning toward the East, where China and others are eager to make relationships with them, and are already doing it. Is that even conceivable? The U.S. would go to nuclear war before allowing that, as things now stand.

The propaganda about the 'democratisation of Iraq' is massive and relentless through the broadcast corporate media, and in fact nearly every channel existing except the radical dissidents like Chomsky, but the reality is this propaganda is entirely meaningless nonsense.

Premier Gallup resigns due to depression.: "After the Gallipoli defeat in 1915, [Churchill] felt suicidal because his political career seemed to be finished."

The saddest thing about this anecdote is that it is quite likely entirely true. What about the 253,000 Turkish dead, or the 47,000 French and 8,000 Australian dead? Or even the 205,000 British dead? No, Churchill is depressed and suicidal because "his political career is finished." It would make you laugh if it wasn't so tragic. And Churchill is of course universally acclaimed as one of the greatest democractic leaders ever. Let's not ever kid ourselves about paramount values. Bush and Blair could kill hundreds upon hundreds of thousands of brown people in the middle east, and a good few thousand of their own white people as well, but nothing would be remotely so hurtful as loss of power because the invasion failed.

Because of this characteristic of human nature, what is one to do about war? Ultimately, the only way to stop it is to abolish armies. Universal multilateral disarmament is essential, because if an army exists, it will be used.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Bush quietly undercuts laws with bill-signing statement: "President Bush agreed with great fanfare last month to accept a ban on torture, but he later quietly reserved the right to ignore it, even as he signed it into law.

"Acting from the seclusion of his Texas ranch at the start of New Year's weekend, Bush said he would interpret the new law in keeping with his expansive view of presidential power. He did it by issuing a bill-signing statement -- a little-noticed device that has become a favorite tool of presidential power in the Bush White House."

"``It's nothing short of breathtaking,'' said Phillip Cooper, a professor of public administration at Portland State University. ``In every case, the White House has interpreted presidential authority as broadly as possible, interpreted legislative authority as narrowly as possible and pre-empted the judiciary.''"

Bush and his administration give every intent of taking their 'Fuhrer principle' of Presidential leadership seriously - basically the President can do anything he wants in a 'time of war'. He is above the law. He can choose to set aside or ignore congressional law if he wishes. He will sign bills that come from Congress, but at the same time declare that he will ignore them if he so decides.

This has always seemed to me a weakness of the US Constitution and its explicit 'separation of powers' particularly between the legislature and executive. The only real way you could get the executive to be accountable to the assembly is if the head of government is appointed (and removed) by the assembly itself, as in the Westminster system, or board and council systems. Otherwise you will inevitably have an executive arrogation of powers and ultimately an 'elected military monarchy' such as Bush himself. The US replaced the King with a President and ended up with Bush. In England, parliament fought with the King for years to rein him in and establish the principle of parliamentary supremacy. In the US Constitution this is one notable case where the lesson of freedom was not properly learnt.

Canyon News discusses the issue, clarifying what a 'signing statement' is, and says that "this makes a mockery of the anti-torture legislation.... The only thing missing is for George W to appoint his favorite horse as a Senator." And this of course leads to the issue of Supreme Court appointments. Bush and the rightwing generally have been on a campaign to appoint Justices who support and agree with the extremist rightwing agenda, such as virtually unlimited Presidential authority. Day after day, month after month, the US seems to slide steadily into a pseudo-fascist dictatorship. If you are looking for signs of checking, restraint and reversal, they are practically impossible to detect. A supine Congress, subordinated judiciary, compliant media - as if nothing was happening at all. There is enormous concern in the blogosphere and among dissidents, but it does not seem to disturb the surface. If a virtual dictatorship is established in the US, it will come as an astonishing surprise not only to many Americans but much of the rest of the world as well.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Longtime Middle East correspondent for the Guardian David Hirst speculates on the unthinkable: the defeat and ejection from the Middle East Gulf region of the United States, as a result of the 'greatest strategic defeat in US history', the invasion of Iraq.

Airstrike kills 22 but misses Al-Qaeda chief: This attack in remote Pakistan by a CIA predator drone symbolises the phony US 'war on terror' as a whole: Hi-tech, bungled, murderous and utterly counterproductive. Even if target Al-Zawahiri was actually there, is the killing of 22 people (not to mention the killing of one or two hundred thousand other people in the region) considered acceptable? How can Pakistan, a sovereign nation, tolerate this lawless violence from a supposed ally? Do these killings diminish terrorism against the US or increase it? Do they secure oil reserves or put them at risk?

Former US interrogator Tony Lagouranis talks about Abu Ghraib and other things:

I talked to some of the Arabic people who were in my company and also some of the translators. And they told me a little bit of the history of the prison, that it's notorious in the Arab world. And so they said every Arab will know what this place is, but Americans don't know. You know, it was Saddam's torture chamber and execution chamber. And it's where thousands of Shi'a died after the uprising. So you know, it's sort of equivalent of Auschwitz for the Arab people.

No doubt it was convenient and practical to just take over Abu Ghraib, but its just laugh-out-loud inappropriate to have done so. This is a mission that was clearly destined to fail....

In an interesting interview, Lagouranis also says:

The other interrogators and the analysts, they tended to be pretty disillusioned and bored. Like they'd been there a whole year and had gone in, you know, experienced the frustration of not being able to get any intel, and having the wrong guys there and having that information to go on. So they tended to be pretty disillusioned with the whole process and just wanted to go home. …

The worst stuff I saw was from the detaining units who would torture people in their homes. They were using things like … burns. They would smash people's feet with the back of an axe-head. They would break bones, ribs, you know. That was serious stuff....

Part of it is, they were trying to get information, but part of it is also just pure sadism. You just kept wanting to push and push and push, and see how far you could go. And it seems like that's just part of human nature. I mean, I'm sure you've read studies conducted in American prisons where you put a group of people in charge of another group of people, and give them control over them, and pretty soon it turns into cruelty and torture, you know? So it's pretty common.

And I saw it, every detention facility I went to. If there wasn't really strong, strong leadership that said, "We're not going to tolerate abuse," … in every facility there would have been abuse. And even among people like the MPs who aren't trying to get intel -- they just do it because it's something people do there, if they're not controlled either inwardly or from above. …

Iraq is in fact a textbook example of what postwar conventions and prohibitions are all about: the ban on warfare; aggressive war as the supreme crime; absolute ban on torture; Geneva convention; International Law etc. And the Bush administration, which dismissed as 'quaint' the Geneva convention, openly tried to authorise and legitimise torture, and advanced a 'Fuhrer principle' of Presidential authority - this Administration has broken all the rules, acted like a pack of Nazis, and are in fact war criminals, who should be in prison.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Peter Daou: THE (Broken) TRIANGLE: Progressive Bloggers in the Wilderness: An interesting analysis of the current Supreme court nomination process points to the potential rather than real power of the blogosphere; the fundamental failure of the established 'opposition' party; and the pervasive sense of crisis among progressives in the US.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Time to cut and run: Beazley: "The US, Australia and its allies must now seriously consider pulling their forces out of Iraq, because their presence is undermining the chances of peace in the country, the Federal Opposition Leader, Kim Beazley, has said.... Mr Beazley said foreign forces - including Australian troops - were causing more problems than they were solving.... he said the foreign military occupation in Iraq was attracting a seemingly never-ending stream of insurgents to Iraq from around the world, ensuring continuing bloodshed and instability."

Beazley might have said BRING THE TROOPS HOME NOW but that would be too much. He might also have said that Australian troops in Iraq are actually increasing the risk of terrorist attack in Australia, not reducing it, but of course that would also be too much. But at least he 'hints' that maybe the troops might have to come home, after just about every Tom, Dick and Harry analyst agree that the US has basically lost the war.

The Government position, of course, can only be described as servile to empire, as servile, thoughtless, dated and inappropriate as the commitment of an entire Australian division to the incompetently handled disaster of Singapore. Listen to the comments of the Defence Minister, or anything said by the Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, and tell me they put any thought whatever into the policy other than to learn the US position and adopt it automatically: "[Defence Minister] Hill said a wholesale troop withdrawal would be a huge propaganda victory for al-Qaeda. "To withdraw from Iraq prematurely would be to give victory to the terrorists, which would be detrimental to Australian security and our broader interests."

The Greens have consistently been calling for the troops to come home and for renewable energy to be developed as a high priority. The Greens and the antiwar movement in general have been 100% correct on this wretched, criminal, illegal, imperialist, colonialist, murdering, torturing resource-grabbing war from the beginning, but that will scarcely be acknowledged by either the corporate media or mainstream politics.

Imagine where we would be if the war had been the easy and profitable succcess that its sponsors and promoters expected it to be. John Pilger has a point when he says the world is dependent on the resistance to end the occupation. To our shame, Anglo-saxon democracy has failed to prevent the aggression of our own governments and so the slaughtered people of Iraq have to pay with their lives in order to check ruthless imperialism.

Jesus 'healed using cannabis': "Jesus was almost certainly a cannabis user and an early proponent of the medicinal properties of the drug, according to a study of scriptural texts published this month. The study suggests that Jesus and his disciples used the drug to carry out miraculous healings. The anointing oil used by Jesus and his disciples contained an ingredient called kaneh-bosem which has since been identified as cannabis extract.... The incense used by Jesus in ceremonies also contained a cannabis extract."

"If cannabis was one of the main ingredients of the ancient anointing oil _ and receiving this oil is what made Jesus the Christ and his followers Christians, then persecuting those who use cannabis could be considered anti-Christ."

Proof at last of something long suspected in the hippie culture, just as hippies long understood what Gandalf was doing when he partook of leaf and weed.

Cannabis, also known as hemp (and pejoratively known as marijuana) is one of the oldest crops known to man, and in fact a wondercrop, with usage going back to the stoneage and hemp fibre imprints found on pottery shards in China and Taiwan over 10,000 years old. The advantages of the crop are such that its reintroduction and more widespread use is unstoppable. I suspect this will not lead to legalisation, however, as governments and corporations will utilise existing bans to monopolise and control the crop; and for political reasons to continue their moralistic 'war on drugs' at the same time as intelligence agencies and others exploit illegal drugs for illicit or undercover fundraising.

Monday, January 09, 2006

deHaven Smith on the Florida election scandal: "At that point, frankly, my political orientation quit mattering. What started mattering to me was having a democracy, having a government that was actually responsive. One of the things I would hear a lot is people would say, well, if the Democrats were in, they would do the same thing. And I thought about that, and…my conclusion…is “hell no, they wouldn’t.” I know the Democrats; I know Reuben Askew. That guy would have been an absolute maniac about being technically and legally and ethically straightforward and correct in the application of the law. If there had been a recount under his administration, he would have been bending over backwards to make sure it was right. (But) today, the belief in the truth, that there (even) is a truth, has pretty much vanished across the board. It’s not just Democrats; it’s not just Republicans. But it’s been replaced by cynicism."

"After Socrates was executed, Plato, his student, went out to the countryside to buy a piece of land. He bought it from the family of a war hero named Academus. … And the academy today is called that by virtue of this decision. The reason Plato went out of town is, he realized the town people didn’t want to hear that their beliefs about the gods were myths, that their institutions were founded somewhat arbitrarily, that they didn’t know what they were talking about when they said they wanted justice. You’d like to hope that in the 21st century people would be mature enough, but I don’t know. This is a turning point potentially for us. If we don’t recognize the disorder, I don’t think we have many years left of democracy in the United States. I’m not entirely convinced that it’s not too late, even as we speak."

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Pat Robertson founded the Christian Coalition and in 1988 failed in a bid for the Republican presidential nomination.

Robertson suggests God smote Sharon: "Television evangelist Pat Robertson suggested Thursday that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's stroke was divine retribution for the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza, which Robertson opposed.

"'He was dividing God's land, and I would say, 'Woe unto any prime minister of Israel who takes a similar course to appease the [European Union], the United Nations or the United States of America,'' Robertson told viewers of his long-running television show, 'The 700 Club.' 'God says, 'This land belongs to me, and you'd better leave it alone,'' he said."

Previously hitting the news for publicly advocating the murder of Venuzuelan President Sanchez, this preacher Robertson once again demonstrates he is a virtual Antichrist.

As El-Shinqiti says:

In his book Politics of God, Jim Wallis who is an American wise clergyman, suggested that "the best answer to bad religion is better religion, not secularism".

Wallis was neither talking about different religions, nor was he trying to replace one world religion by another; instead he was talking about the different interpretations of the same American Christianity.

For him, the "bad religion" of the American extremist right cannot be fought successfully by the liberalist or secularist ideologies, but can be fought and defeated by a more humane interpretation of the Biblical text and the Christian tradition.

It seems to me an important error has been made by socialists, liberals and secularists for a long time, namely to abandon religion. The right, particularly in the US, has systematically exploited it in a cynical fashion, and the evil results are apparent in the current global crisis.

In regards to Sharon, although not dead yet, David McReynolds is one of the first with the political obituaries:

When all is said and done, I have mixed feelings about Sharon. Unlike Netanyahu, whom I truly and deeply despise, Sharon was like a force of nature. I was amused when, as he moved his huge bulk around, he was described as "portly". Portly my ass! He was the fattest world leader in decades.... He withdrew from Gaza only in order to hold onto the West Bank and all of Jerusalem....

The "Dream of Greater Israel" had died on the vine, and Sharon (and not Sharon alone - virtually the entire Israeli left) had realized it. Died for two reasons.... One was the Palestinian resistance. Courageous, heroic, violent, and unending. And unexpected. The Israelis had met a force they could not tame. And the second reason was that the Jews of the planet had much earlier opted out of settling in Greater Israel. "Greater Israel" could only exist if it had a population, and that population never came. Soviet Jews, yes, often more interested in the US but sort of coerced into settling in Israel. And once that supply was gone, once the North African Jews had come (in too many cases have been driven out by the Arab governments), the huge remaining Jewish population center - in the United States - showed no interest in moving (leaving aside the ultra-orthodox, who proved the painful stone in Sharon's shoe).

And so Sharon, who had believed in the settlements, encouraged them, relied on them, because he had deeply believed in "Greater Israel" - turned his back and did, in the end, carry off at least a partial "de Gaulle" and pulled out the settlers in Gaza. One can correctly observe this was only to help on the path toward a final unilaterally imposed settlement, and that is true - but it took great courage for Sharon to do this, surrounded by his phalanx of body guards, under heavy security, and hated by the settlers with a ferocity matched only by the Palestinians.

It took nerves of steel for Sharon to turn his back on Likkud, and set up Kadima. . .

With any luck Sharon will have wrecked Likud by leaving it to form his new party Kadima and then wrecked Kadima by abandoning it due to illness or death. It's not often someone like me finds much to praise in Sharon. The opportunity is there for a progressive/left party to fill the vacuum and steer Israel to peace ... except that no such force seems to exist in Isreali politics. The worst outcome would be if the fanatic/fascist Netanyahu/Likud rump succeed in seizing control of the state.

American Jackals: United for Imperialism: 17 current and former US Secretaries of State and Defence line up to support Bush's imperialist war on the Middle East. Would one of these persons have ever considered whether or not they should decline the President's offer to appear? Did any living SecDefence or SecState decline the invitation, or does Bush have every living one, including all the Democrats? The only former Presidential cabinet minister I can think of who has taken anything like a principled stand against imperialism and militarism is former Attorney-General Ramsay Clark. Are there any others?

In a single photograph, the crisis of American empire and American democracy is symbolised. Just as the US faces the possibility of a most serious strategic defeat in the Gulf region, all these officials are unashamed to be associated in a servile manner with a combination of delusion and criminality as seen in Bush's speech to the occasion:

"Not everybody around this table agree with my decision to go into Iraq, I fully understand that. But these are good solid Americans who understand that we've got to succeed now that we're there."

Hello to Bush and the jackals: Not only was the decision to invade stupid, wrong and criminal, you've gone ahead and lost the war thus creating 'the greatest strategic disaster in the history of the United States'. The question now is not whether you 'succeed' in Iraq, but whether you succeed in destroying the American democracy and economy back home.

Sometimes these old guys such as Schlesinger and Madelaine 'we think the price is acceptable' Albright appear on programs like the McNeil Newshour, struggling to project US credibility, competence and integrity. They give a good impression of being old nazis who history has passed by.

Meantime al-Qaida no.2, Ayman al-Zawahiri, taunts Bush with defeat in Iraq: "I congratulate my nation and bless Islam's victory in Iraq. Oh my Muslim brothers, I told you more than a year ago that the pullout of America's troops from Iraq would be a matter of time and Americans are now begging to leave and negotiate with the mujahidin.

"Bush, the liar, was forced to announce in November 2005 that he would withdraw his troops from Iraq. Since Bush is addicted to lying, he justified his withdrawal by saying that Iraqi forces have become well-trained. But he did not set a timetable for the pullout. If your forces with all its aircraft, missiles, tanks and fleets are moaning, bleeding and looking for an escape from Iraq, then will the hypocrites, conspirators, infidels [the Iraqi government] resist what the 'greatest power in the world' has failed to resist?

"The timetable of withdrawal was set a long time ago and you [Bush] have to confess that you have been defeated in Iraq as you have been defeated in Afghanistan and will be shortly defeated in Palestine if Allah's willing."

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Iraqi Oil - the $250bn gift to Saudi Arabia and Russia: With a series of interesting charts on oil production, export, prices etc Jerome a Paris summarises the disastrous failure of the US invasion.

"So, to sum up the US actions in Iraq re oil:

* Iraqi oil is cut in half, and taken off the market;
* prices shoot up
* oil exporters like Russia and Saudi Arabia get rich
* they buy European stuff
* they buy US debt and assets
* the US then uses the money loaned by oil producers to buy Chinese goods (which fuels Chinese oil demand)."

Jerome also comments: "It is now certain that no meaningful investment in the oil sector will take place for so long as the American forces are in the country."

Iraq: Beyond the Ballot: "Last January’s elections came about because of mass nonviolent resistance, for which the Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani became a symbol. (The violent insurgency is another creature altogether from this popular movement.) Few competent observers would disagree with the editors of the Financial Times, who wrote last March that "the reason (the elections) took place was the insistence of the Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, who vetoed three schemes by the US-led occupation authorities to shelve or dilute them."

"Elections, if taken seriously, mean you pay some attention to the will of the population. The crucial question for an invading army is: "Do they want us to be here?"

"There is no lack of information about the answer. One important source is a poll for the British Ministry of Defence this past August, carried out by Iraqi university researchers and leaked to the British Press. It found that 82 per cent are "strongly opposed" to the presence of coalition troops and less than 1 per cent believe they are responsible for any improvement in security."

"There’s a good reason why the United States cannot tolerate a sovereign, more or less democratic Iraq. The issue can scarcely be raised because it conflicts with firmly established doctrine: We’re supposed to believe that the United States would have invaded Iraq if it was an island in the Indian Ocean and its main export was pickles, not petroleum.

"As is obvious to anyone not committed to the party line, taking control of Iraq will enormously strengthen US power over global energy resources, a crucial lever of world control. Suppose that Iraq were to become sovereign and democratic. Imagine the policies it would be likely to pursue. The Shia population in the South, where much of Iraq’s oil is, would have a predominant influence. They would prefer friendly relations with Shia Iran."

"Right across the border in Saudi Arabia is a substantial, bitter Shia population. Any move toward independence in Iraq is likely to increase efforts to gain a degree of autonomy and justice there, too. This also happens to be the region where most of Saudi Arabia’s oil is. The outcome could be a loose Shia alliance comprising Iraq, Iran and the major oil regions of Saudi Arabia, independent of Washington and controlling large portions of the world’s oil reserves. It’s not unlikely that an independent bloc of this kind might follow Iran’s lead in developing major energy projects jointly with China and India.

"Iran may give up on Western Europe, assuming that it will be unwilling to act independently of the United States. China, however, can’t be intimidated. That’s why the United States is so frightened by China.... Such developments, including a sovereign Iraq and possibly even major Saudi energy resources, would be the ultimate nightmare for Washington.... One critical question is how Westerners will react. Will we be on the side of the occupying forces trying to prevent democracy and sovereignty? Or will we be on the side of the Iraqi people?"

The stakes are this high but the United States appears to be heading straight towards defeat.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

The self-expanding character of Zionist hubris: Evan Jones posts again on Zionism and attracts some furious trolls hell bent on pushing Israeli state propaganda (or on bringing Israel into contempt and disrepute, sometimes with these people its hard to tell which). One anonymous person writes:

"Regrettably, the Palestinians idea of a just settlement, is a Palestinian MUSLIM state from coast to coast, with no Israel whatsoever. Therein lies the problem."

This is the standard allegation, that Israel has no peace partner, that Palestinians are just mad killers who will only settle for the annihilation of Israel and Jews. But according to Uri Avnery (talking about Camp David and the 'generous offer'), "Sadat got all his territory back, to the very last centimeter. Arafat would have easily agreed to the same terms - as would have Assad."

Avnery also speculates that "At Camp David [Barak] got to the point were the real terms of the solution became apparent to him. These conflicted with all his traditional Zionist convictions, causing a severe case of cognitive dissonance. Consequently, like a person looking into an abyss, he drew back in panic at the last moment. This is the cause of his "freaking out" incident in Camp David. This is also the reason for his calling off the Taba talks unilaterally, on the eve of the final breakthrough."

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

The Right Wing myth of a Christian nation: "The Religious Right's prevailing myth that our country was founded as a Christian nation has always been just that a myth, a lie, a fable, a story in the same company as George Washington's cutting down the cherry tree. So I thought I would share some great quotes from our 'founding fathers' that ought to dispell such sillyness. There are many more like the following but these make the point well enough I think."

There are some very harsh and pointed criticisms of established Christianity by the US Founding fathers, and ringing denunciations of the inherent corruption of the mix of church and state, eg. Madison, "What influence in fact have Christian ecclesiastical establishments had on civil society? In many instances they have been upholding the thrones of political tyranny. In no instance have they been seen as the guardians of the liberties of the people. Rulers who wished to subvert the public liberty have found in the clergy convenient auxiliaries."

But one should not regard them as anti-Christian, or allow hypocrites and the corrupt to alone give themselves the label of the holy, the godly and the followers of Christ. Thomas Jefferson, for example, editor of the Jefferson Bible, is very complimentary: "Of all the systems of morality, ancient or modern, which have come under my observation, none appear to me so pure as that of Jesus."

Iran President: Israel Completed Holocaust: "'Don't you think that continuation of genocide by expelling Jews from Europe was one of their aims in creating a regime of occupiers of Al-Quds (Jerusalem)?' the official Islamic Republic News agency quoted Ahmadinejad as saying Sunday. 'Isn't that an important question?' Ahmadinejad said Europeans had decided to create a 'Jewish camp' as the best means for ridding the continent of Jews. He said the camp, Israel, now enjoyed support from the United States and Europe in the slaughter of Muslims."

More good questions from the Iranian President. Where does the idea of a 'Jewish State' come from? A belief that Jews cannot live with other people in a community? That is racism in itself - the apparent internalisation of a racist idea. And the concept of setting up a Jewish state in the third world at the expense of the natives - more or less pure European racism and colonialism. What about the essential Enlightenment values of equal rights and religious freedom and tolerance? They have been abandoned in favour of more backward ideas.

Update: Commenter Al argues that Ahmadinejad has been mistranslated. I agree that the Iranian President's enemies (ie, Israel and the US) will exploit his statements for their own purposes. As Chomksy has recently said, "[Ahmadinejad] appears to have limited experience beyond the local level, and appears not to comprehend how his statements will be exploited by hostile powers."

Still, in these days of the all-powerful blogosphere and its awesome research and analytic capabilities, I do find it remarkable that a proper translation and contextualisation of such controversial and significant remarks does not seem to have floated to the surface yet.

Israel and Palestine After Disengagement, Noam Chomsky debates with Alan Dershowitz: This recent debate is reminiscent of the older debate between Chomsky and Richard Perle. Dershowitz (like Perle before him) speaks well and appears to give a coherent account, in fact about as good as can be done. But Chomsky is so much better informed and with more things and more truthful things to say that there is no contest. In fact both 'debates' might have been improved for the reader by eliminating the comments of the other side altogether and concentrating on Chomsky's contribution only. A few excerpts from Chomsky:

"A European Union report concludes that U.S.-backed Israeli programs will virtually end the prospects for a viable Palestinian state by the cantonization and by breaking the organic links between East Jerusalem and the West Bank. Human Rights Watch, in a recent statement, concurs.

"There was no effort to conceal the fact that Gaza disengagement was in reality West Bank expansion. The official plan for disengagement stated that Israel will permanently take over major population centers, cities, towns and villages, security areas and other places of special interest to Israel in the West Bank. That was endorsed by the U.S. ambassador, as it had been by the President, breaking sharply with U.S. policy."

"There is near unanimity that all of this [wall building and settlement activity] violates international law. The consensus was expressed by U.S. Judge Buergenthal in his separate declaration attached to the World Court judgment, ruling that the separation wall is illegal. In Buergenthal's words, “The Fourth Geneva Convention and International Human Rights Law are applicable to the occupied Palestinian territory and must therefore be fully complied with by Israel. Accordingly, the segments of the wall being built by Israel to protect the settlements are ipso facto in violation of international humanitarian law,” which happens to mean about 80% of the wall."

"And practically speaking, [Chief Justice's Barak's doctrine that Israeli law supersedes international law] is correct, as long as the United States continues to provide the required economic, military and diplomatic support, as it has been doing for 30 years, in violation of the international consensus on a two-state settlement."

"... the nature of the occupation. In Morris's words, “founded on brute force, repression and fear, collaboration and treachery, beatings and torture chambers and daily intimidation, humiliation and manipulation, along with stealing of valuable land and resources.”"

"The first important step forward was in 1971, when president Sadat of Egypt offered a full peace treaty to Israel in return for Israeli withdrawal from the Occupied Territories. That would have ended the international conflict. Israel rejected the offer, choosing expansion over security."

"In 1976, the major Arab states introduced a resolution to the U.N. Security Council calling for a peace settlement on the international border, based on U.N. 242, but now adding a Palestinian state in the Occupied Territories. That's Syria, Egypt, Jordan and every other relevant state. The U.S. vetoed the resolution again in 1980. The General Assembly passed similar resolutions year after year with the United States and Israel opposed. The matter reached a head in 1988, when the PLO moved from tacit approval to formal acceptance of the two-state consensus."

"Clinton recognized that Palestinian objections had validity, and in December 2000 proposed his parameters, which went some way toward satisfying Palestinian rights. In Clinton's words, “Barak and Arafat had both accepted these parameters as the basis for further efforts. Both have expressed some reservations.”

"The reservations were addressed at a high level meeting in Taba, which made considerable progress and might have led to a settlement, but Israel called them off. That one-week at Taba is the only break in 30 years of U.S.-Israeli rejectionism. High-level informal negotiations continued, leading to the Geneva Accord of December of 2002, welcomed by virtually the entire world, rejected by Israel, dismissed by Washington. That could have been the basis for a just peace. It still can. By then, however, Bush-Sharon bulldozers were demolishing any basis for it."

.... and so many more excellent and informative points. Chomsky argues that Israel/Palestine is important because of US support for the occupation and its central role in geopolitics, but to so some extent, as with East Timor, many people are discussing and thinking about the problem because Chomsky has decided to write about it. In other words, one of the biggest weaknesses and criticisms of Chomsky is the stuff he doesn't write about. He writes so well about the topics he chooses, that a distortion is introduced into world discourse in that important topics he hasn't written about might come to be neglected.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Chomsky interview: acclaims Iraq as a victory for non-violence: "The victory of the non-violent resistance in Iraq, which compelled the occupying forces to allow elections, that's a major victory. That's one of the major triumphs of non-violent resistance that I know of. It wasn't the insurgents that did it - the US doesn't care about violence, they have more violence. What it can't control is non-violence and the non-violent movements in Iraq, partially with Sistani as a kind of figurehead, but it's much broader than that, it compelled the occupying forces to allow elections and some limited, very limited degree of sovereignty. And yet we should be trying to help them in these endeavours."

In this interview Chomsky also replies again to the allegations over the Pol Pot affair:

"Does the Professor harbour any feelings of guilt for acting as an apologist for Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge during the period of the genocide in Cambodia. Or is mass murder by leftwing extremists still acceptable?"

"Noam Chomsky: I would ask the listener whether he harbours any guilt for having supported Hitler and the Holocaust and insisting the Jews be sent to extermination camps. It has the same answer. Since it never happened, I obviously can't have any guilt for it. He's just repeating propaganda he heard. If you ask him, you'll discover that he never read one word I wrote. Try it. What I wrote was, and I don't have any apologies for it because it was accurate, I took the position that Pol Pot was a brutal monster, from the beginning was carrying out hideous atrocities, but the West, for propaganda purposes, was creating and inventing immense fabrications for its own political goals and not out of interest for the people of Cambodia. And my colleague and I with whom I wrote all this stuff simply ran through the list of fanatic lies that were being told and we took the most credible sources, which happened to be US intelligence, who knew more than anyone else. And we said US intelligence is probably accurate. In retrospect, that turns out to be correct, US intelligence was probably accurate. I think we were the only ones who quoted it. The fabrications were fabrications and should be eliminated. In fact, we also discussed, and I noticed nobody ever talks about this, we discussed fabrications against the US. For example a standard claim in the major works was that the US bombings had killed 600,000 people in 1973. We looked at the data and decided it was probably 200,000. So we said let's tell the truth about it. It's a crime, but it's not like anything you said. It's interesting that nobody ever objects to that. When we criticize fabrications about US crimes, that's fine, when we criticize and in fact expose much worse fabrications about some official enemy, that's horrible, it becomes apologetics. We should learn something about ourselves. If you're interested in the truth, which you ought to be, tell the truth about yourself and tell the truth about others. These fabrications had an obvious political purpose. Incidentally, we continually criticize the Khmer Rouge after the Vietnamese invasion. After the Vietnamese invasion, which finally threw them out thankfully, the US and Britain immediately turned to support Pol Pot. Well, we criticized that, too, we said, no, you shouldn't be supporting this monster. So yes, our position was consistent throughout. There's been a huge literature trying to show that there was something wrong in what we said. To my knowledge, nobody's even found a comma that's misplaced. And therefore what you have is immense gossip. My guess is that the person who just wrote this in has never seen anything we wrote, but has heard a lot of gossip about it."

The Pol Pot support, along with the neo-Nazi Holocaust denying position, hatred of Isael and Jews, denial of Srebrenica massacre and accusations of American Holocaust against Sudan are smears against Chomsky that are repeated over and over and over again, so much so that even many 'liberals' get taken in by them, as can sometimes be seen on dailykos.

Chomsky also in this interview makes a point which he stresses over and again: "No rational person pays the slightest attention to declarations of benign intent on the part of leaders, no matter who they are. And the reason is they're completely predictable, including the worst monsters, Stalin, Hitler the rest. Always full of benign intent. Yes that's their task. Therefore, since they're predictable, we disregard them, they carry no information. What we do is, look at the facts. That's true if they're Bush or Blair or Stalin or anyone else. That's the beginning of rationality."

As an example of what Chomsky means by this, one could consider the liner notes of the new DVD edition of the Concert for Bangladesh:

"Promising to end dictatorship and introduce democracy, General Agha Muhammed Yahya came to power [over both East and West Pakistan] in 1969. The General appeared to make good on his pledge when free elections, the first in Pakistan's history, were held towards the end of the following year.

"The outcome of the voting, however, came as a blow to the West Pakistan leadership. The Awami People's League of Bangladesh had won an overwhelming victory, capturing a majority of Pakistan's legislative seats. It appeared the Awami party had been mandated to create Pakistan's first democratic government.

"But the regime in the West refused to allow the transfer of power to East Pakistan. In March 1971, the order was issued to eliminate opposition to West Pakistan's dominance.

"To this day, no one knows how many were killed in the conflict that followed. Estimates range from several hundred thousand to three million.

"The fleeing refugees who had survived the violence in their homeland were now threatened by starvation, lack of sanitation, cholera and other deadly illnesses. Combined with these perils was a season of natural disaster in the form of destructive floods. Predictably, most of the victims succumbing to the hardship were children."

General Khan may have been a well-intentioned man, happy to advocate and even support democracy (provided it agrees with the needs of power). But of course, one must consider the reality on the ground. And truly, so with all leaders. No one should get a free pass, but that is practically the definition of corporate news reporting ('stenography') of modern 'democratic' leadership. A better model for genuine journalism is the phrase 'to monitor the sources of power.' And not merely monitor them, but critically dissect and analyse, passing over statements which are correct, but highlighting and exposing that for which there is a lack of evidence or reasonable support.

Incidentally, the performance by Bob Dylan in the Bangladesh concert is regarded by some as one of his best. So let's not pass up the opportunity to retell a Chomsky anecdote about Dylan :-)

"Just the other day I was sitting in a radio studio waiting for a satellite arrangement abroad to be set up. The engineers were putting together interviews with Bob Dylan from about 1966-7 or so (judging by the references), and I was listening (I'd never heard him talk before -- if you can call that talking). He sounded as though he was so drugged he was barely coherent, but the message got through clearly enough through the haze. He said over and over that he'd been through all of this protest thing, realized it was nonsense, and that the only thing that was important was to live his own life happily and freely, not to "mess around with other people's lives" by working for civil and human rights, ending war and poverty, etc. He was asked what he thought about the Berkeley "free speech movement" and said that he didn't understand it. He said something like: "I have free speech, I can do what I want, so it has nothing to do with me. Period." If the capitalist PR machine wanted to invent someone for their purposes, they couldn't have made a better choice."

Churchill wanted to execute Nazis: "Official documents declassified at the turn of the year reveal that Churchill opposed Allied plans for war crimes trials and wanted summarily to execute leading Nazi figures, including Hitler, whom he regarded as 'the mainspring of evil' and a 'gangster'.... On July 6th 1942 ... the prime minister said: 'If Hitler falls into our hands we shall certainly put him to death. Not a sovereign who [could] be said to be in hands of ministers, like kaiser. This man is the
mainspring of evil. Instrument - electric chair, for gangsters no doubt available on lend-lease.'

"On July 7, 1943, Churchill argued passionately that leading Nazis who fell into British hands should be treated as 'outlaws' and shot rather than put on trial. I suggested that UN to draw up a list of 50 or so [would] be declared as outlaws by the 33 nations. (Those not on the list might be induced to rat!) If any of these found by advancing troops, nearest [officer] of brigade rank [should] call a military court to establish identity and [should] then execute [without] higher authority.""

"Equally controversial will be the revelation in the notebooks that Churchill wanted the Royal Air Force to wipe out German villages in retaliation for the massacre of civilians in Lidice, a Czech village razed by the SS. Churchill abandoned his plan only in the face of opposition from cabinet colleagues."

The 'argument' for the death penalty, as is so often the case, works against itself. No one should be executed, not even Hitler. And Churchill's plan to 'wipe out German villages' as revenge and collective punishment is a warcrime and atrocity, not a bit above the Nazis themselves when they liquidated Lidice following the assasination of Heydrich.