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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Socialists stand against the rottenness in the state of Victoria

 Margarita Windisch

There is something rotten in the state of Victoria.

The legacy of secrecy in government reached a high point under Jeff Kennett’s Coalition state government in the 1990s. It continued under the Bracks Labor government and the current John Brumby Labor government.

The main reason for this was widespread privatisation and the policy of funding infrastructure projects through public-private partnerships (PPPs) — a policy begun by the Kennett government and continued by Labor.

Privatisation meant the government avoided responsibility for providing basic services such as public transport and electricity, while the private “public transport” companies pass the buck back to the government when they provide terrible service.

Privatisation and PPPs allow the government to keep information secret from the public, hiding behind commercial-in-confidence agreements.

An example is the Wonthaggi desalination plant. The government has refused to break down the figures and reveal the cost of the plant.

Most Victorians don’t realise that their water bills will increase from about $2000 to $6000 a year over the next few years to pay for the plant.

The state government no longer sees water as a human right that it is obliged to provide.
Other utility bills, such as gas and electricity, are set to increase at a similar rate.

The Socialist Alliance is running four candidates in the November 27 Victorian election.
It calls for public transport and utilities to be put back into public hands. Socialist Alliance candidate for Footscray Margarita Windisch said: “People are hurting. They can’t afford these huge bills. Even if people do their best to save water and electricity, their bills still increase because the supply or service charge keeps increasing.

“The Socialist Alliance believes everyone should have a basic allowance for water, gas and electricity at very cheap rates, with allowances for people with special needs (such as pensioners, people who are sick, large families) and then rising steeply according to use thereafter.
“This means rich people with big mansions who use a disproportionate amount of water and electricity would pay more than poor people who use very little.”

Socialist Alliance’s other candidates are Mitch Cherry for Bellarine, Trent Hawkins for Brunswick and Ron Guy for Melton.

The Socialist Party is standing Yarra councillor Steve Jolly for the seat of Richmond and the Revolutionary Socialist Party is standing Van Rudd in Derrimut.

Jolly’s campaign is backed by the Construction Forestry Mining Energy Union, the Electrical Trades Union, and the United Firefighters Union.

Guy said the state election should be a referendum on public transport.
“Melbourne’s roads can’t cope with more cars and trucks”, he said. “The Brumby government must shift funding away from roads to public transport and rail freight.

“Areas like Melton in the outer western suburbs are a very neglected for public transport. If you don’t live near a train station, you have no hope of getting around by public transport, and the train service is overcrowded at peak hour.

“The state government had an opportunity to take public transport back into public hands when Connex’s contract ran out.

“Instead, it gave the contract to another private company, Metro, which has run an even worse service than Connex.”

The climate action movement is pressuring the state Labor government to close down the dirty coal-fired power stations, especially Hazelwood. Socialist Alliance supports closing the power stations and replacing them with renewable energy.

Hawkins, a renewable energy researcher, says renewables are already developed enough that Australia could shift to 100% renewable energy in 10 years.

“Socialist Alliance policy recognises it is not the fault of Latrobe Valley workers that they work in coal-fired power stations. The government should guarantee alternative employment and training for workers by putting manufacturing for the renewable energy industry in the valley.”

He said the Socialist Alliance also called for construction of the desalination plant at Wonthaggi to be stopped. “This project is not needed. It will add significantly to Victoria’s greenhouse gas emissions, put a private company in control of the state’s water and will massively increase water bills.

“As work has already started on the plant, the workers there need to be guaranteed alternative jobs by the government.”

The Brumby government is feeling public pressure over the disintegrating public transport system, an ambulance service in crisis, increasing hospital waiting lists and its closeness to the big developers.

To divert public attention, it has begun competing with the Liberals over which party can be tougher on crime.

Cherry said: “Anyone looking at the media or listening to the police and the major parties would think that crime rates are increasing. Statistics show that crime rates have decreased.

“But the Victorian police use of capsicum spray is increasing. In one week, the Victorian police used capsicum spray on a 12-year-old and a 13-year-old. They are trialling Tasers, which recently killed a man in New South Wales. Socialist Alliance opposes Victorian police getting Tasers .”
Cherry said the government was “using the ‘law-and-order’ issue in a similar way to how the federal parties use the refugee issue — to distract attention from what they’re not doing”.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Mark Steel: Shamed by our spirit of protest

Wayne Rooney must look in the papers every morning and think, "How does Vince Cable get away with it? Just like me, a year ago he was a national hero, the embodiment of hope, and now he's a bumbling fool and revealed as a cheat. But he's allowed to carry on as he pleases and isn't even substituted. I want a transfer to the Liberal Democrats."

For example, Cable campaigned for election on a promise to abolish university fees, even signing a pledge to prove his commitment, and interpreted that pledge by doubling the fees. Because abolish and double are like stalagmites and stalactites, it's so easy to get them mixed up. His party must have won countless votes as a result of that pledge, but he says now he's in government he has to be realistic, in which case the entire election campaign was pointless. When they had those debates, Clegg might as well have said, "I'll agree with whoever makes me a minister, so rather than waste time on what we think, in my time I'll show you my favourite scenes from Only Fools and Horses."
It's especially unsettling that such blatant lying came from Cable because he looked like a sweet old uncle, but it turns out he combines the demeanour of Mr Kipling with the economic ideals of Norman Tebbit. So every time he makes a statement he should be introduced with a cuddly slow deep voice saying, "Mr Cable wanted to be in the Government. So he set about doing all the things he'd said would be disastrous a few weeks ago. Because Mr Cable is an exceedingly power-hungry unprincipled little snake."

And yet no matter how vicious these cuts become, all the parties insist it would be wrong to protest or strike to try and curtail them, because they're being made by an elected government. But if they're doing things they promised not to do they've been elected fraudulently. In any case this is the thinking that got us into this mess. Most people are aware the people being made to pay for the debt aren't those who caused it, but we're resigned to putting up with it. Ministers could march round hospital wards ripping out drips and catheters and kidney machines, and we'd say to the patients, "You'd better put up with it dear, they do have a mandate." They could announce chemotherapy patients have to pay for their treatment by selling their bald heads for advertising space, and the level of protest would be a letter to The Times signed by 37 doctors and a treasurer at the BMA in a personal capacity.

Whereas in France they're running up and down the street and striking and setting fire to random objects and their cuts haven't even started yet. It's as if this is their warm-up match to get in practice and decide on the best formation for the real tournament. The Spanish have had a general strike, the Greeks are in a state of permanent revolt, and even the Belgians have had strikes and mass demonstrations. How humiliating is that? We're being put to shame by the bloody Belgians. How did we become so subservient and docile? It's as if the rest of Europe is preparing for mass protest and our slogan is, "I can't make it I'm afraid, I've got a tummy ache."

The unions have called for a demonstration against the cuts next March. Next bloody March. Even then they'll probably get frightened and call it off, and replace it with a "Gasp of Action", in which we're asked to go, "Ooh" at the same time to show our displeasure at the fire service being sold off to Balfour Beatty.

It's often claimed that protest doesn't make any difference. But then why have the French retained pensions and services and a working week (without the country falling apart) that few people here could aspire to? You can understand why a population feels unable to confront unfairness, if it's up against the North Korean army or the dictatorships of China or Zimbabwe. But surely we can't allow every public service to be dismantled and the poorest 90 per cent of the population to be wrung dry with no opposition, and say: "Well what could we do? I mean, never mind Mugabe or Kim Jong-Il, we were up against Vince Cable."
  
The Independent
Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Chile's Ghosts Are Not Being Rescued by John Pilger

In his latest column for the New Statesman, written as the 33 Chilean miners are brought to the surface after ther epic rescue, John Pilger describes the unspoken life in Chile behind the media facade that the government of President Sebastion Pinera has skilfully exploited.

The rescue of 33 miners in Chile is an extraordinary drama filled with pathos and heroism. It is also a media windfall for the Chilean government, whose every beneficence is recorded by a forest of cameras. One cannot fail to be impressed. However, like all great media events, it is a façade.

The accident that trapped the miners is not unusual in Chile and the inevitable consequence of a ruthless economic system that has barely changed since the dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet. Copper is Chile’s gold, and the frequency of mining disasters keeps pace with prices and profits. There are, on average, 39 fatal accidents every year in Chile’s privatised mines. The San Jose mine, where the men work, became so unsafe in 2007 it had to be closed – but not for long. On 30 July last, a labour department report warned again of “serious safety deficiencies ”, but the minister took no action. Six days later, the men were entombed.

For all the media circus at the rescue site, contemporary Chile is a country of the unspoken. At the Villa Grimaldi, in the suburbs of the capital Santiago, a sign says: “The forgotten past is full of memory.” This was the torture centre where hundreds of people were murdered and disappeared for opposing the fascism that General Augusto Pinochet and his business allies brought to Chile. Its ghostly presence is overseen by the beauty of the Andes, and the man who unlocks the gate used to live nearby and remembers the screams.

I was taken there one wintry morning in 2006 by Sara De Witt, who was imprisoned as a student activist and now lives in London. She was electrocuted and beaten, yet survived. Later, we drove to the home of Salvador Allende, the great democrat and reformer who perished when Pinochet seized power on 11 September 1973 – Latin America’s own 9/11. His house is a silent white building without a sign or a plaque.

Everywhere, it seems, Allende’s name has been eliminated. Only in the lone memorial in the cemetery are the words engraved “Presidente de la Republica” as part of a remembrance of the “ejecutados Politicos”: those “executed for political reasons”. Allende died by his own hand as Pinochet bombed the presidential palace with British planes as the American ambassador watched.

Today, Chile is a democracy, though many would dispute that, notably those in the barrios forced to scavenge for food and steal electricity. In 1990, Pinochet bequeathed a constitutionally compromised system as a condition of his retirement and the military’s withdrawal to the political shadows. This ensures that the broadly reformist parties, known as Concertacion, are permanently divided or drawn into legitimising the economic designs of the heirs of the dictator. At the last election, the right-wing Coalition for Change, the creation of Pinochet’s ideologue Jaime Guzman, took power under president Sebastian Piñera. The bloody extinction of true democracy that began with the death of Allende was, by stealth, complete.

Piñera is a billionaire who controls a slice of the mining, energy and retail industries. He made his fortune in the aftermath of Pinochet’s coup and during the free-market “experiments” of the zealots from the University of Chicago, known as the Chicago Boys. His brother and former business partner, Jose Piñera, a labour minister under Pinochet, privatised mining and state pensions and all but destroyed the trade unions. This was applauded in Washington as an “economic miracle”, a model of the new cult of neo-liberalism that would sweep the continent and ensure control from the north.

Today Chile is critical to President Barack Obama’s rollback of the independent democracies in Ecuador, Bolivia and Venezuela. Piñera’s closest ally is Washington’s main man, Juan Manuel Santos, the new president of Colombia, home to seven US bases and an infamous human rights record familiar to Chileans who suffered under Pinochet’s terror.

Post-Pinochet Chile has kept its own enduring abuses in shadow. The families still attempting to recover from the torture or disappearance of a loved bear the prejudice of the state and employers. Those not silent are the Mapuche people, the only indigenous nation the Spanish conquistadors could not defeat. In the late 19th century, the European settlers of an independent Chile waged their racist War of Extermination against the Mapuche who were left as impoverished outsiders. During Allende’s thousand days in power this began to change. Some Mapuche lands were returned and a debt of justice was recognised.

Since then, a vicious, largely unreported war has been waged against the Mapuche. Forestry corporations have been allowed to take their land, and their resistance has been met with murders, disappearances and arbitrary prosecutions under “anti terrorism” laws enacted by the dictatorship. In their campaigns of civil disobedience, none of the Mapuche has harmed anyone. The mere accusation of a landowner or businessman that the Mapuche “might” trespass on their own ancestral lands is often enough for the police to charge them with offences that lead to Kafkaesque trials with faceless witnesses and prison sentences of up to 20 years. They are, in effect, political prisoners.

While the world rejoices at the spectacle of the miners’ rescue, 38 Mapuche hunger strikers have not been news. They are demanding an end to the Pinochet laws used against them, such as “terrorist arson”, and the justice of a real democracy. On 9 October, all but one of the hunger strikers ended their protest after 90 days without food. A young Mapuche, Luis Marileo, says he will go on. On 18 October, President Piñera is due to give a lecture on “current events” at the London School of Economics. He should be reminded of their ordeal and why.


Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Obama Syndrome: A Live Interview with Tariq Ali and Joel Whitney

 As part of his tour to launch The Obama Syndrome, Tariq Ali appeared at New York’s Asia Society September 17th, 2010 where he was interviewed on stage by Joel Whitney, Founding Editor in Chief of Guernica magazine
  Tariq Ali

http://tariqali.org/archives/1813

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Australia Should Leave Afghan War By Tariq Ali

The political commentator, Tariq Ali, is visiting Australia and says the country should grow up and pull out of the war on Afghanistan. The British Pakistani author, film maker, and activist has written more than two dozen books on world politics and terrorism. His latest is 'The Obama Syndrome: Surrender at Home, War Abroad'. He has also just taken part as a guest speaker at the Festival of Dangerous Ideas at the Sydney Opera House.

Presenter: Linda LoPresti

Speaker: Tariq Ali, political commentator, film maker, and author of 'The Obama Syndrome - Surrender at Home, War Abroad

ALI: The Dutch have already done it, the Spanish have been considering it, most of the European countries are extremely nervous and even in Britain there is now a huge debate on how long they can keep their troops in there. So, it can be done quite easily if politicians have the will to do so, but most politicians in the western world allied to the United States find it difficult to disagree with them. In fact, there is a big debate going on within the American military and political establishment as well. General Eikenberry, the US ambassador in Kabul, was opposed to sending more troops and escalating the war, but he lost the fight and Obama went with General Petraeus and sent in 30,000 more troops. So, no country, including the United States, is without debate on this issue.

LOPRESTI: Well, you're very critical of US President Barack Obama's policy on Afghanistan in your book 'The Obama Syndrome - Surrender at Home, a War Abroad'. You're more critical of Obama than of George W. Bush. Why is that?

ALI: Well, I was incredibly critical of George W. Bush. The only point I make in relation to Afghanistan-Pakistan is that Obama has escalated the war and he's been in power now for two years and during the two years he's launched more drone attacks in Pakistan than George Bush did over eight years. So, as far as Pakistan-Afghanistan is concerned, he is worse than Bush in terms of what's going on and you will recall that event when the Iranians killed the demonstrator Neda on the streets of Teheran and the whole world was weeping in public and a moist eyed president appeared on the lawn of the White House to speak to the press corp, that very same day, a US drone killed 50 people, mainly women and children in Pakistan and it was barely reported outside the country. So, that is what we are confronted with double standards every single day.

LOPRESTI: Well, what is your assessment of President Obama. There were very high hopes for him when he took office. You're critical of his policies, especially his foreign policies. Do you think he is a weak president?

ALI: I think he is a very weak president. I think, had he decided to make shifts both on the foreign policy level and at home within the first four to five months of being in power, appeal directly to his supporters, with a majority in the senate and the congress, he could have pushed things through. But essentially he is a machine politician, produced by the Chicago machine, one of the most notorious in the United States, and he capitulates far too easily, so that he has now got himself in a state where he's scared of even taking on the Tea Party people, who are - quite a lot of them - just simply nutty. So he's very, very weak, he capitulated to the insurance companies on the health reform, he's in favour of privatising education, handing over schools in Chicago for instance to the navy and the military, and so there is incredible disillusionment with him. And if he does badly in the mid terms next month, it will not be because his supporters are voting Republican, but because they are staying at home.

LOPRESTI: But he has pledged to scale back combat troops in Iraq.

ALI: Well, Bush had promised that too, there is no big difference. But it is scaling back, it is not withdrawing, and six huge US military bases have been built in Iraq, which will keep between 50 and 60,000 combat troops in that country ready to intervene should they feel the need to do so. Meanwhile, Iraqi oil has been privatised and handed over to oil companies from all over the globe

Source: Radio Australia Sunday, October 10, 2010

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Quotes from Tariq Ali on the ABC's Q &A Monday 4 October, 2010


Tariq Ali
 TARIQ ALI: Well, I think Australia should now grow up and stop being a junior ally, either to Britain - for years it was a junior ally to Britain. Australian Prime Ministers just mimicked the British. Now, they're doing the same as far as the United States is concerned and this is a country now which has lots and lots of young people from many different cultures and nationalities and it should just realise which part of the world it's in and settle down to it. Now, as far as the United States is concerned, you know, it's tempting to agree with you and say there are all these disasters happening. The American economy is on the decline. The war in Iraq has gone bad, the war in Afghanistan is getting even worse, and this is the end of America. It's not as simple as that. It isn't the end of America and it isn't the end of the American military industrial complex and America remains the world's most powerful militarised state, with a military budget that is 10 times more than the six countries after it put together and one just has to be aware of that. It's been written off before and it's also a world hegemony now with no rivals. You know, the notion that China is a serious military, political rival to the states is nonsense. It's an economic rival. That's absolutely true. The European Union isn't a rival so where is the treat to American hegemony coming from? I think it's overrated, this threat, and what will change the United States is not going to be defeats abroad, but what will change the United States is if there are movements of its own people within that country. That is what will bring about organic change so I hate to disappoint you. I wish I could agree with you but I can't.

TONY JONES: Barack Obama's rise to power was considered to be a movement. You've very disillusioned about that.

TARIQ ALI: Well, it was a movement but, you know, and the - what changed in the United States with Obama was not so much there was a big policy shift. In fact he escalated the war in Afghanistan and Pakistan. What changed was the mood music. It was nicer. Nice smiles all around. Yes, we can. Do what? Change we can believe in. Which direction? You know, so I think a lot of Obama's own supporters are incredibly disappointed at the moment. He is not going to be defeated by the Tea Party or Sarah Palin or that crowd. What could bring him down is the fact that his own supporters, disappointed, decide to stay at home saying, "We tried you. You've let us down and we're not going to vote," and this is what we will probably see in the mid-term elections......................


TONY JONES: Okay. Let's got to Tariq. Could we have foreseen that conventional methods were always doomed to fail with sweeping ideological wars? That was the question.

TARIQ ALI: Well, I think the attack on Iraq planned by the Bush/Cheney Administration had very little to do with Al-Qaeda or terrorism because Al-Qaeda didn't exist in Iraq. One of the things about the Saddam Hussein regime was that it was secular and even harshly secular and very vicious in dealing with extremist religious organisations in its own country. In fact, Al-Qaeda landed up in Iraq together with the US Army, you know, like flies to honey. That is what happened. So the attack on Iraq very little to do with terrorism but just a desire on the part of this administration to remove a government and replace it with something else, which has backfired quite badly. I mean, this is a statistic people don't like hearing in the western world especially but according to medical experts and expeditions, over a million Iraqis have died; five million Iraqi refugees; five and a half million orphans in Iraq; the entire social infrastructure of that country destroyed. Now, naturally, it angers some young people and then they decide to take the law in their own hands and say, "We've got to do something." All the intelligence reports in Britain said that the bombers of July the 7th were fired up by British foreign policy backing Bush and had very little to do with religion as such. So these wars, far from helping solve the problem actually exacerbate it. But having said that, you have to understand that even in a country like Pakistan, which people often say is on the verge of falling into the hand of religious extremists, in every single democratic election in Pakistan religious extremist groups and sometimes even moderate religious groups have won less than six per cent of the vote. The bulk of the country votes for non-religious political parties. So it's worth bearing that in mind, especially given what is going on in that country now with the spillage of the ground war into Pakistan, the drone attacks which Obama has increased; more drone attacks on Pakistan in the last two years than in the previous eight years of the Bush administration. That is the figure. There's flood, which has made 24 million people homeless. It's a nightmare situation in that country so we need the wars to end so people can deal with other things.


TONY JONES: Geoffrey Robertson.

GEOFFREY ROBERTSON: Well, very quickly, I don't worry so much about Al-Qaeda. It's containable. What really worries me is the fact that the policy pursued by the Bush administration was to knock out the two governments that contain Iran and Iran, believe me, it's a question of state terrorism and is infinitely more dangerous when it obtains nuclear power, as it will in a couple of years.

TONY JONES: Geoffrey, military intervention in that case?

GEOFFREY ROBERTSON: No, this is...

TONY JONES: There will be cases made by military people for military intervention.

GEOFFREY ROBERTSON: There are cases being made at the moment. We should have thought years ago about how to avert this. Sanctions are not working. The prospect of military intervention would be a nightmare and America is too stretched anyway. The Security Council must put this as number one on the agenda. I've done a report on the prison massacres of 1988 where the administration of Iran - everyone still there, apart from the Ayatollah, approved the mass murder of 7000 political prisoners. They just went into the prisons at the end of the Iran/Iraq war and strung everyone up who would not agree with the Guardianship of the Jurist, the strange millennial thinking of this theocratic government. This is the danger. It's brutal. It's merciless. It believes in killing non-believers, the Moharabs, and it is, today, in Evin Prison, executing dissidents as Moharabs, enemies of God. So let us focus on this as the great problem that lies ahead and this is something that the...

TARIQ ALI: Geoffrey, can I just interrupt you on that?

GEOFFREY ROBERTSON: Yes.

TARIQ ALI: I mean there are problems with Iran. I agree but surely the simplest way to put pressure on Iran not to build nuclear weapons would be for the United States to use its pressure and influence to make the Middle East a nuclear free zone, which is telling the Israelis, "No nuclear weapons for you either."

TONY JONES: Tariq, how would you propose disarming Israel of its nuclear weapons? I mean, seriously.

TARIQ ALI: Well, seriously, by bringing about change in Israel not through any stupid interventions but, if necessary, through boycotts, divestment and sanctions as have been used against other countries with great effect in the past. You can't say to the Iranians, "The Israelis can have them, your neighbours; your neighbours Pakistan can have them; India can have them; US nuclear ships can patrol your seas; China has nuclear weapons but you can't have them." If you use force against Iran in that way you'd simply rally the population around the clerics. That's the problem, so other ways have to be thought of doing this.

GEOFFREY ROBERTSON: Yes. They have to be found. The first step, I agree with Tariq the first step is to get Israel to admit its nuclear weapons. It's got several hundred, it's believed, but it hasn't admitted it. The problem with that solution is that you cannot rely on Iran. Iran lies and lies and lies. There's Armadinejad last week saying that the 9/11 attack was orchestrated by the American government and the Jews.

TARIQ ALI: Well, unfortunately - I mean I agree with you. He made a nutty speech. But so many Americans I have to argue against when I travel the United States, who believe that, "Tariq, weren't the attacks carried out by ourselves? Didn't we do it?" And I have to argue against American citizens saying, "No, your government didn't actually knock out these two installations. It was Al-Qaeda who have admitted it." So there is this big conspiracy movement and a lot of them went actually and called on Armadinejad and congratulated him......












Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Tariq Ali interviewed by Amy Goodman on his new book- The Obama Syndrome: Surrender at Home, War Abroad.

 Tariq Ali, British Pakistani political commentator, writer, activist and editor of the New Left Review. His latest book is The Obama Syndrome: Surrender at Home, War Abroad.

AMY GOODMAN: Coming up, Glenn Greenwald joins us, usually in Brazil, but here he’s in New York. But right now we’re staying with Tariq Ali. He has a new book out; it’s called The Obama Syndrome: Surrender at Home, War Abroad. Some might say that’s a little harsh.


TARIQ ALI: I know some of his supporters might feel it’s a little harsh, but I think that we’ve had two years of him now, Amy, and the contours of this administration are now visible. And essentially, it is a conservative administration which has changed the mood music. So the talk is better. The images of the administration are better, the reasonable looks. But in terms of what they do—in foreign policy, we’ve seen a continuation of the Bush-Cheney policies, and worse, in AfPak, as they call it, and at home, we’ve seen a total capitulation to the lobbyists, to the corporations. The fact that the healthcare bill was actually drafted by someone who used to be an insurance lobbyist says it all.


So, it’s essentially now a PR operation to get him reelected. But I don’t think people are that dumb. I’ve been speaking to some of his, you know, partisan supporters, and they’re disappointed. So the big problem for Obama is that if you do nothing and promise that you would bring about some changes, you will not have people coming out to vote for you again. And building up the tea party into this great bogey isn’t going to work. It’s your own supporters you have to convince to come out and vote for you, as they did before. I can’t see that happening.


AMY GOODMAN: The cover of your book, The Obama Syndrome: Surrender at Home, War Abroad, is a picture of the face, the head of President Obama, and half of it is peeled away to reveal President Bush.


TARIQ ALI: Well, this, you know, I think, is a sort of very brilliant West Coast montage artist, and they are the best. Whenever there’s a crisis, they come up with an image which says it all. And I like that image a lot, and I used it very deliberately to show the continuation, that it’s not a case that we have a new administration. We do, technically, but it’s continuing with many of the old policies in the—how it deals with the economy. When you have people like Krugman, Joseph Stiglitz, occasionally Frank Rich in the New York Times, Maureen Dowd, these people who were desperate for a Democrat administration being incredibly critical of some of its things, when you have venerable professors like Gary Wells saying, "I’m disappointed," the honeymoon didn’t last long with Obama. It lasted much, much longer with Clinton. And one reason for that is that he had raised hopes and was unable to deliver. He turned out to be an apparatchik and a political operator from one of the worst Democrat areas in the country, Chicago, and that’s what he behaves like.


AMY GOODMAN: Robert Gibbs, the White House press spokesperson, going after the so-called "professional left"? Your thoughts?


TARIQ ALI: Well, I mean, it’s interesting that they are incapable of dealing with the right. With the right, it’s conciliation. That’s what they feel they have to appeal to. With critics from the left, they tend to be very harsh, as if they are saying to us, "You don’t know how lucky you are." But why are we lucky? I mean, you know, we judge people not by how they look or what they say, but by what they do. And what Obama has been doing is, you know, to put it mildly, extremely disappointing at home, and abroad it’s murderous. On Palestine, on Iran, no changes at all. So, one has to spell this out, because if they don’t realize that they’re doing this, they’re going to get more shocks. And Rahm Emanuel refers to people on the liberal left who are critical of Obama, and he uses a bad swear word and then says, "effing retards"—well, we’ll see who the retards are after the midterms, Amy. That’s all I can say.


AMY GOODMAN: Surrender at Home, War Abroad You were born in Pakistan. You ultimately went to Britain, where we just came from last night. It’s been interesting to see the politics there, but also the devastation of the war, the effects of the wars, on the population at home in Britain. A report in the paper the other day, when we were in London, saying that 20,000 veterans are in prison, mainly Iraq, Afghanistan war veterans, for committing violent and sexual crimes. But what about the war abroad and what President Obama is doing—says he’s scaling back Iraq, still about 50,000—actually, well more than that—military, and you could say paramilitaries with a mercenary armies there, and in Afghanistan, the surge?


TARIQ ALI: Well, I mean, again, let’s look at it concretely. Bush had promised exactly the same withdrawal pattern from Iraq: by this time, we will be out. Obama has followed it. They’re not going out. What is essentially happening, they’re reducing the presence of combat troops and eliminating it in the big cities, and building six huge military bases all over Iraq, in which they’ll keep between fifty and sixty thousand soldiers, ready to act when the need be—just like the British did when they occupied Iraq in the '20s and ’30s of the last century. And the British were then driven out by a violent upheaval and revolution in the ’50s. So the US is keeping these bases in, (a) to control Iraq, and (b) as a warning to Iran. And I think there's going to be trouble.


The war isn’t over at all. We’ve seen, just a few days ago, huge explosions in Baghdad and Fallujah. It’s a total disaster and a mess. And to present that as somehow "mission accomplished part two" is a joke. That country has been wrecked, a million Iraqis dead, its social infrastructure destroyed. And in Afghanistan, they are now going from bad to worse. They know, and General Eikenberry knows and says, we cannot win this war militarily. They can’t lose it, but they can’t win it, either. So, political solution is the only way out, and that means that they have to have an exit strategy. Obama isn’t even talking about that, because that might be construed as a sign of weakness. But by who? The army knows what’s going on. They can’t stay there forever.


AMY GOODMAN: It was quite astounding, with the tremendous attention on Terry Jones threatening to burn a Quran, a horrific symbol all over the world, as it would be for any religious book, but at the same time, what was coming out of Afghanistan, a report of a kill team—this is a US kill team—who was taking souvenirs of fingers and other body parts, that getting very little attention in terms of what it means for not just the Muslim community, but for people all over the world.


TARIQ ALI: But, you know, Amy, some of us who are sort of elderly now remember exactly the same things happening in Vietnam during that war, where there were lots of report—in those days publicized much more, I have to say—of US soldiers in Vietnam taking trophies, which were parts of bodies of Vietnamese dead or who they had killed or tortured to death.


AMY GOODMAN: And just this report we read today, Michael Ware, well known face on CNN, constantly on talking about Iraq—


TARIQ ALI: Exactly.


AMY GOODMAN: —saying when he had this footage of a US soldier killing an Iraqi teen, they did not allow him to run that footage. And CNN owns it, so he can’t get it.


TARIQ ALI: It’s a disgrace that CNN did that, but that is a sign of how the global media corporations have been reporting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Self-censorship has been the order of the day. They haven’t wanted to offend the US military, in sharp contrast to how the Vietnam War was covered. I remember Morley Safer on CBS News reporting a family’s home being destroyed by US Marines and Safer commenting, "We’re fighting for freedom." That sort of stuff is not permitted now. The global corporations don’t do it, which is why programs like this are important. But now that if he can’t even use the footage that he took, what is that? I mean, how people in that part of the world know exactly what’s going, and it’s not the Quran burnings that upset them so much—but they do, too—but what is happening to their daily lives with the US and NATO presence. That is what upsets them, and that is the root of the problem.


AMY GOODMAN: You know, we were just in London and saw a production that’s based on Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States, but it’s The People Speak. It’ll air on History Channel UK on October 31st, a remarkable production of British people’s history. And one of the people who is portrayed there was you, talking about "Blair-faced liars." But you have a long history of decades of organizing around global politics in Britain. What about solutions right now? I mean, you have this One World March that’s going to be taking place on October 2nd in Washington, DC, based on jobs, justice and education. What about the kind of organizing that you feel is the most effective? People say, well, what should Obama do? What should Obama do? He is one person, albeit occupies the most powerful position on earth. But isn’t it really about movements, pressuring these individuals? That’s what makes history.


TARIQ ALI: I agree with you entirely. And I remember saying to lots of activists in the United States during the Obama election campaign—you know, people mobilized by MoveOn.org, etc.—and I would say to them, "Fine. You’re campaigning for Obama. You want him elected. OK, good. Let’s hope he delivers what you hope he’s going to deliver. But he’s not going to deliver even that if you just elect him and go back home." And I remember arguing for a massive antiwar gathering for the inauguration, which would pressure right from day one on the new administration, saying, "Congrats, Barack. Now out of Baghdad and Iraq. Out of Kabul and Afghanistan," from the word go. Without that, politicians don’t do anything. We wouldn’t have won any democratic rights, unless people had fought for them. The right of women to vote would never have been got, unless there’d been suffragettes fighting for it. So, that is the lesson, I’m afraid. And, you know, when people tell me in this country, "Oh, but there’s pressure from these kooks on the right, the tea party and this and that," I said, "Obama boasts, and his office boasts, that they have 13 million supporters online. Well, what the hell are they doing with them? I mean, why couldn’t they mobilize even a tiny proportion of these to come out and give them support?" They don’t do that. So, someone has to do it.


AMY GOODMAN: Or they’re there and the media doesn’t cover them. When you had one of the tea party rallies in Washington—I believe it was right on the anniversary of the war—there were about 500 members of the tea party there. There were thousands of people protesting the war. It got almost no coverage, certainly not equal to what happened with the tea party.


TARIQ ALI: Exactly. So the exaggerated threat of the tea party is played up by the right-wing media, Fox and many others, because they see it as a useful way to hammer the administration. But the administration’s inability to take them on in terms of arguments, that is what’s worrying, Amy.


AMY GOODMAN: Well, Tariq Ali, I want to thank you for being with us. We’re going to talk about the tea party with Glenn Greenwald. Tariq Ali, The Obama Syndrome: Surrender at Home, War Abroad is the name of his new book.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Evolving Madness/Why does a crazy set of beliefs in one field seem to migrate into unrelated subjects? By George Monbiot.

George Monbiot

I’ve often been struck by the way in which people who subscribe to one set of baseless beliefs are susceptible to others, in fields that are not obviously related. The internet is awash with sites that explain how the US government destroyed the twin towers – and how alien landings have been covered up by the authorities. Many of those who insist that Barack Obama is a Muslim also believe that sex education raises the incidence of unwanted pregnancies.

A rich collection of unfounded beliefs is a common characteristic of those who deny – despite the overwhelming scientific evidence – that manmade global warming is taking place. I’ve listed a few examples before, but I’ll jog your memories.

Lord Monckton, whose lecture asserting that manmade climate change is nonsense has been watched by 4 million people, also maintains that he has invented a cure for HIV, multiple sclerosis, influenza and other incurable diseases.

Nils-Axel Morner, whose claims that sea levels are falling are widely cited in the Telegraph and elsewhere, also insists that he possesses paranormal abilities to find water and metal using a dowsing rod, and that he has discovered “the Hong Kong of the [ancient] Greeks” in Sweden.

Peter Taylor, the Daily Express’s favourite climate change denier, has claimed that a Masonic conspiracy has sent a “kook, a ninja freak, some throwback from past lives” to kill him, and insisted that plutonium may “possess healing powers, borne of Plutonic dimension, a preparation for rebirth, an awakener to higher consciousness”.

Now our old friend Christopher Booker reminds us of his membership of this select club, with a remarkable article for the Spectator’s website.

“I spent a fascinating few days in a villa opposite Cap Ferrat, taking part in a seminar with a dozen very bright scientists, some world authorities in their field. Although most had never met before, they had two things in common. Each had come to question one of the most universally accepted scientific orthodoxies of our age: the Darwinian belief that life on earth evolved simply through the changes brought about by an infinite series of minute variations. The other was that, on arriving at these conclusions, they had come up against a wall of hostility from the scientific establishment.”

He goes on to list the tiredest old creationist canards, each of which has been answered a thousand times by evolutionary biologists. How can distinct species exist if evolution proceeds by gradualism? Where are the intermediate forms? How could natural selection “account for all those complex organs, such as the eye, which require so many interdependent changes to take place simultaneously?” How could it account for changes across “an improbably short time, such as those needed to transform land mammals into whales in barely two million years?”. DNA and cellular reproduction are “so organisationally complex” that “they could not conceivably have evolved just through minute, random variations.”

He appears to be unaware that these objections have been repeatedly debunked. He also appears to be unaware of any developments in the science of evolution since the Origin of Species was published. He maintains that these objections expose evolutionary scientists as “simply ‘believers’ taking a leap of faith”, who treat any dissent as a “thought crime”. He compares them to the Inquisition and to Trofim Lysenko: the Soviet agronomist whose hypotheses were imposed by Stalin as the official orthodoxy.

His view of evolutionary science, in other words, is identical to his view of climate science. Indeed, he makes the link explicit.

“We have seen a remarkably similar response from the scientific establishment to anyone dissenting from that other dominating theory of our time, that rising CO2 levels caused by human activity are leading to runaway global warming.”

What he’s saying is that it is no longer acceptable to tell people that they are wrong. If you knock down the claims of people who can marshall no sound science to support them, you place yourself in the same category as the Inquisition or Stalin’s thought police.

Sadly he doesn’t tell us who the “world authorities” who have destroyed the theory of natural selection are. In fact he cites no scientist, no paper, no publication of any kind, except Darwin and the Origin of Species. We must simply take his word for it that the entire canon of evolutionary biology, just like the entire canon of climate science, is not just wrong but a fiendish conspiracy against the public, that those who reject it are true scientific heroes, and those who defend it are witch-finders and despots.

Needless to say, some of Booker’s fans have swallowed all this and reproduced his article on their own sites. Piers Corbyn, also a well-known manmade climate change denier, added this comment to the Spectator thread:

“Superb stuff Christopher. We seem to be having to fight attempts to impose a new age of religiosity where belief in the ‘Official’ view reigns supreme.”

So here’s a poser. Are people who entertain a range of strong beliefs for which there is no evidence naturally gullible? Or does the rejection of one scientific discipline make you more inclined to reject others?

To dismiss an entire canon of science on the basis of either no evidence or evidence that has already been debunked is to evince an astonishing level of self-belief. It suggests that, by instinct or by birth, you know more about this subject (even if you show no sign of ever having studied it) than the thousands of intelligent people who have spent their lives working on it. Once you have have taken that leap of self-belief, once you have arrogated to yourself the authority otherwise vested in science, any faith is then possible. Your own views (and those of the small coterie who share them) become your sole reference points, and are therefore unchallengeable and immutable. You must believe yourself capable of anything. And, in a sense, you probably are.

http://www.monbiot.com/

Published on the Guardian’s website, 21st September 2010



Sunday, October 03, 2010

A tale of crime, corruption and politics by Pat Donahoe

Sydney during APEC in 2007 Photo: Pj_in_oz/Flickr

The Mountain City Murders By John Tognolini
Ginninderra Press, Port Adelaide, 2010

The Mountain City Murders is a tale of crime, corruption and politics. Set in 2008 in the fictional New South Wales town of Mountain City (about 120km west of Sydney), the novel tells a story critical of criminal and capitalist greed.

Chief Inspector Jack Blake has just moved to Mountain City from Sydney, for a promotion and to leave the big city behind him. He doesn’t expect to find such criminality in the mountains, yet is hit with the discovery of three murders within the first couple of days of residence in Mountain City.

When local history teacher, George Carboni, witnesses the killing of a local drug addict, he is embroiled in an investigation that uncovers police corruption and intimidation, gangland thuggery and greed.

The setting in the aftermath of the 2007 APEC protests allows Tognolini to illustrate the outrageous powers given to police in the lead-up to the massive demonstration that took place, as well as the dangerous precedent it set in allowing the intimidation of protesters exercising their rights to freedom of association, assembly and speech.

The character of police district commander Morant is clearly reminiscent of NSW’s own Commissioner Scipione, who was appointed just before APEC. Like Morant in the novel, Scipione is contemptuous of protesters and their democratic rights.

In spite of the idiocy of Morant’s abuse of power of Morant, Carboni teams up with Chief Inspector Blake, a more sympathetic, old school copper with a strong moral sensibility and respect for democratic rights, to solve the case of the Mountain City Murders, with excursions into NSW union history (Carboni was with the Builders Labourers Federation in the 1980s), Shakespeare, ancient history and pub trivia along the way.





Saturday, October 02, 2010

Behind the Coup in Ecuador – The Attack on ALBA By Eva Golinger


Translation: Machetera


The latest coup attempt against one of the countries in the Bolivarian Alliance For The People of Our America (ALBA) is attempt to impede Latin American integration and the advance of revolutionary democratic processes. The rightwing is on the attack in Latin America. Its success in 2009 in Honduras against the government of Manuel Zelaya energized it and gave it the strength and confidence to strike again against the people and revolutionary governments in Latin America.

The elections of Sunday, September 26th in Venezuela, while victorious for the Venezuelan United Socialist Party (PSUV), also ceded space to the most reactionary and dangerous destabilizing forces at the service of imperial interests. The United States managed to situate key elements in the Venezuelan National Assembly, giving them a platform to move forward with their conspiratorial schemes to undermine Venezuelan democracy.

The day after the elections in Venezuela, the main advocate for peace in Colombia, Piedad Córdoba, was dismissed as a Senator in the Republic of Colombia, by Colombia’s Inspector General, on the basis of falsified evidence and accusations. But the attack against Senator Córdoba is a symbol of the attack against progressive forces in Colombia who seek true and peaceful solutions to the war in which they have been living for more than 60 years.

And now, Thursday, September 30th, was the dawn of a coup d’etat in Ecuador. Insubordinate police took over a number of facilities in the capital of Quito, creating chaos and panic in the country. Supposedly, they were protesting against a new law approved by the National Assembly on Wednesday, which according to them reduced labor benefits.

In an attempt to resolve the situation, President Rafael Correa went to meet with the rebellious police but was attacked with heavy objects and teargas, causing a wound on his leg and teargas asphyxiation. He was taken to a military hospital in Quito, where he was later kidnapped and held against his will, prevented from leaving.

Meanwhile, popular movements took to the streets of Quito, demanding the liberation of their President, democratically re-elected the previous year by a huge majority. Thousands of Ecuadorans raised their voices in support of President Correa, trying to rescue their democracy from the hands of coup-plotters who were looking to provoke the forced resignation of the national government.

In a dramatic development, President Correa was rescued in an operation by Special Forces from the Ecuadoran military in the late evening hours. Correa denounced his kidnapping by the coup-plotting police and laid responsibility for the coup d’etat directly upon former President, Lucio Gutiérrez. Gutiérrez was a presidential candidate in 2009 against President Correa, and lost in a landslide when more than 55% voted for Correa.

During today’s events, Lucio Gutiérrez declared in an interview, “The end of Correa’s tyranny is at hand,” also asking for the “dissolution of Parliament and a call for early presidential elections.”

But beyond the key role played by Gutiérrez, there are external factors involved in this attempted coup d’etat that are moving their pieces once again.

Infiltration of the Police

According to journalist Jean-Guy Allard, an official report from Ecuador’s Defense Minister, Javier Ponce, distributed in October of 2008 revealed “how US diplomats dedicated themselves to corrupting the police and the Armed Forces.”

The report confirmed that police units “maintain an informal economic dependence on the United States, for the payment of informants, training, equipment and operations.”

In response to the report, US Ambassador in Ecuador, Heather Hodges, justified the collaboration, saying “We work with the government of Ecuador, with the military and with the police, on objectives that are very important for security.” According to Hodges, the work with Ecuador’s security forces is related to the “fight against drug trafficking.”

The Ambassador

Ambassador Hodges was sent to Ecuador in 2008 by then President George W. Bush. Previously she successfully headed up the embassy in Moldova, a socialist country formerly part of the Soviet Union. She left Moldova sowing the seeds for a “colored revolution” that took place, unsuccessfully, in April of 2009 against the majority communist party elected to parliament.

Hodges headed the Office of Cuban Affairs within the US State Department in 1991, as its Deputy Director. The department was dedicated to the promotion of destabilization in Cuba. Two years later she was sent to Nicaragua in order to consolidate the administration of Violeta Chamorro, the president selected by the United States following the dirty war against the Sandinista government, which led to its exit from power in 1989.

When Bush sent her to Ecuador, it was with the intention of sowing destabilization against Correa, in case the Ecuadoran president refused to subordinate himself to Washington’s agenda. Hodges managed to increase the budget for USAID and the NED [National Endowment for Democracy] directed toward social organizations and political groups that promote US interests, including within the indigenous sector.

In the face of President Correa’s re-election in 2009, based on a new constitution approved in 2008 by a resounding majority of men and women in Ecuador, the Ambassador began to foment destabilization.

USAID

Certain progressive social groups have expressed their discontent with the policies of the Correa government. There is no doubt that legitimate complaints and grievances against his government exist. Not all groups and organizations in opposition to Correa’s policies are imperial agents. But a sector among them does exist which receives financing and guidelines in order to provoke destabilizing situations in the country that go beyond the natural expressions of criticism and opposition to a government.

In 2010, the State Department increased USAID’s budget in Ecuador to more than $38 million dollars. In the most recent years, a total of $5,640,000 in funds were invested in the work of “decentralization” in the country. One of the main executors of USAID’s programs in Ecuador is the same enterprise that operates with the rightwing in Bolivia: Chemonics, Inc. At the same time, NED issued a grant of $125,806 to the Center for Private Enterprise (CIPE) to promote free trade treaties, globalization, and regional autonomy through Ecuadoran radio, television and newspapers, along with the Ecuadoran Institute of Economic Policy.

Organizations in Ecuador such as Participación Ciudadana and Pro-justicia [Citizen Participation and Pro-Justice], as well as members and sectors of CODEMPE, Pachakutik, CONAIE, the Corporación Empresarial Indígena del Ecuador [Indigenous Enterprise Corporation of Ecuador] and Fundación Qellkaj [Qellkaj Foundation] have had USAID and NED funds at their disposal.

During the events of September 30 in Ecuador, one of the groups receiving USAID and NED financing, Pachakutik, sent out a press release backing the coup-plotting police and demanding the resignation of President Correa, holding him responsible for what was taking place. The group even went so far as to accuse him of a “dictatorial attitude.” Pachakutik entered into a political alliance with Lucio Gutiérrez in 2002 and its links with the former president are well known:

“PACHAKUTIK ASKS PRESIDENT CORREA TO RESIGN AND CALLS FOR THE FORMING OF A SINGLE NATIONAL FRONT

Press Release 141

In the face of the serious political turmoil and internal crisis generated by the dictatorial attitude of President Rafael Correa, who has violated the rights of public servants as well as society, the head of the Pachakutik Movement, Cléver Jiménez, called on the indigenous movement, social movements and democratic political organizations to form a single national front to demand the exit of President Correa, under the guidelines established by Article 130, Number 2 of the Constitution, which says: “The National Assembly will dismiss the President of the Republic in the following cases: 2) For serious political crisis and domestic turmoil.”

Jiménez backed the struggle of the country’s public servants, including the police troops who have mobilized against the regime’s authoritarian policies which are an attempt to eliminate acquired labor rights. The situation of the police and members of the Armed Forces should be understood as a just action by public servants, whose rights have been made vulnerable.

This afternoon, Pachakutik is calling on all organizations within the indigenous movement, workers, democratic men and women to build unity and prepare new actions to reject Correa’s authoritarianism, in defense of the rights and guarantees of all Ecuadorans.

Press Secretary

PACHAKUTIK BLOQUE”

The script used in Venezuela and Honduras repeats itself. They try to hold the President and the government responsible for the “coup,” later forcing their exit from power. The coup against Ecuador is the next phase in the permanent aggression against ALBA and revolutionary movements in the region.

The Ecuadoran people remain mobilized in their rejection of the coup attempt, while progressive forces in the region have come together to express their solidarity and support of President Correa and his government.