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Monday, January 31, 2011

Julian Assange Intrerview with 60 Minutes USA

Thanks to Michael Moore for telling us about this interview between US 60 Minutes and Julian Assange. I've taken it from Youtube so fellow Australians and anyone else can see it. Remember Julian is in a London Court on February 8.

click on this link to it.


Egypt: Death Throes of a Dictatorship by Robert Fisk

Our writer joins protesters atop a Cairo tank as the army shows signs of backing the people against Mubarak's regime

The Egyptian tanks, the delirious protesters sitting atop them, the flags, the 40,000 protesters weeping and crying and cheering in Freedom Square and praying around them, the Muslim Brotherhood official sitting amid the tank passengers. Should this be compared to the liberation of Bucharest? Climbing on to an American-made battle tank myself, I could only remember those wonderful films of the liberation of Paris. A few hundred meters away, Hosni Mubarak's black-uniformed security police were still firing at demonstrators near the interior ministry. It was a wild, historical victory celebration, Mubarak's own tanks freeing his capital from his own dictatorship.

In the pantomime world of Mubarak himself - and of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton in Washington - the man who still claims to be president of Egypt swore in the most preposterous choice of vice-president in an attempt to soften the fury of the protesters - Omar Suleiman, Egypt's chief negotiator with Israel and his senior intelligence officer, a 75-year-old with years of visits to Tel Aviv and Jerusalem and four heart attacks to his credit. How this elderly apparatchik might be expected to deal with the anger and joy of liberation of 80 million Egyptians is beyond imagination. 
When I told the demonstrators on the tank around me the news of Suleiman's appointment, they burst into laughter.

Their crews, in battledress and smiling and in some cases clapping their hands, made no attempt to wipe off the graffiti that the crowds had spray-painted on their tanks. "Mubarak Out - Get Out", and "Your regime is over, Mubarak" have now been plastered on almost every Egyptian tank on the streets of Cairo. On one of the tanks circling Freedom Square was a senior member of the Muslim Brotherhood, Mohamed Beltagi. Earlier, I had walked beside a convoy of tanks near the suburb of Garden City as crowds scrambled on to the machines to hand oranges to the crews, applauding them as Egyptian patriots. However crazed Mubarak's choice of vice-president and his gradual appointment of a powerless new government of cronies, the streets of Cairo proved what the United States and EU leaders have simply failed to grasp. It is over.

Mubarak's feeble attempts to claim that he must end violence on behalf of the Egyptian people - when his own security police have been responsible for most of the cruelty of the past five days - has elicited even further fury from those who have spent 30 years under his sometimes vicious dictatorship. For there are growing suspicions that much of the looting and arson was carried out by plainclothes cops - including the murder of 11 men in a rural village in the past 24 hours - in an attempt to destroy the integrity of the protesters campaigning to throw Mubarak out of power. The destruction of a number of communications centers by masked men - which must have been co-ordinated by some form of institution - has also raised suspicions that the plainclothes thugs who beat many of the demonstrators were to blame.

But the torching of police stations across Cairo and in Alexandria and Suez and other cities was obviously not carried out by plainclothes cops. Late on Friday, driving to Cairo 40 miles down the Alexandria highway, crowds of young men had lit fires across the highway and, when cars slowed down, demanded hundreds of dollars in cash. Yesterday morning, armed men were stealing cars from their owners in the center of Cairo.

Infinitely more terrible was the vandalism at the Egyptian National Museum. After police abandoned this greatest of ancient treasuries, looters broke into the red-painted building and smashed 4,000-year-old pharaonic statues, Egyptian mummies and magnificent wooden boats, originally carved - complete with their miniature crews - to accompany kings to their graves. Glass cases containing priceless figurines were bashed in, the black-painted soldiers inside pushed over. Again, it must be added that there were rumors before the discovery that police caused this vandalism before they fled the museum on Friday night. Ghastly shades of the Baghdad museum in 2003. It wasn't as bad as that looting, but it was a most awful archeological disaster.

In my night journey from 6th October City to the capital, I had to slow down when darkened vehicles loomed out of the darkness. They were smashed, glass scattered across the road, slovenly policemen pointing rifles at my headlights. One jeep was half burned out. They were the wreckage of the anti-riot police force which the protesters forced out of Cairo on Friday. Those same demonstrators last night formed a massive circle around Freedom Square to pray, "Allah Alakbar" thundering into the night air over the city.

And there are also calls for revenge. An al-Jazeera television crew found 23 bodies in the Alexandria mortuary, apparently shot by the police. Several had horrifically mutilated faces. Eleven more bodies were discovered in a Cairo mortuary, relatives gathering around their bloody remains and screaming for retaliation against the police.

Cairo now changes from joy to sullen anger within minutes. Yesterday morning, I walked across the Nile river bridge to watch the ruins of Mubarak's 15-story party headquarters burn. In front stood a vast poster advertising the benefits of the party - pictures of successful graduates, doctors and full employment, the promises which Mubarak's party had failed to deliver in 30 years - outlined by the golden fires curling from the blackened windows of the party headquarters. Thousands of Egyptians stood on the river bridge and on the motorway flyovers to take pictures of the fiercely burning building - and of the middle-aged looters still stealing chairs and desks from inside.

Yet the moment a Danish television team arrived to film exactly the same scenes, they were berated by scores of people who said that they had no right to film the fires, insisting that Egyptians were proud people who would never steal or commit arson. This was to become a theme during the day: that reporters had no right to report anything about this "liberation" that might reflect badly upon it. Yet they were still remarkably friendly and - despite Obama's pusillanimous statements on Friday night - there was not the slightest manifestation of hostility against the United States. "All we want - all - is Mubarak's departure and new elections and our freedom and honor," a 30-year-old psychiatrist told me. Behind her, crowds of young men were clearing up broken crash barriers and road intersection fences from the street - an ironic reflection on the well-known Cairo adage that Egyptians will never, ever clean their roads.

Mubarak's allegation that these demonstrations and arson - this combination was a theme of his speech refusing to leave Egypt - were part of a "sinister plan" is clearly at the center of his claim to continued world recognition. Indeed, Obama's own response - about the need for reforms and an end to such violence - was an exact copy of all the lies Mubarak has been using to defend his regime for three decades. It was deeply amusing to Egyptians that Obama - in Cairo itself, after his election - had urged Arabs to grasp freedom and democracy. These aspirations disappeared entirely when he gave his tacit if uncomfortable support to the Egyptian president on Friday. The problem is the usual one: the lines of power and the lines of morality in Washington fail to intersect when US presidents have to deal with the Middle East. Moral leadership in America ceases to exist when the Arab and Israeli worlds have to be confronted.

And the Egyptian army is, needless to say, part of this equation. It receives much of the $1.3bn of annual aid from Washington. The commander of that army, General Tantawi - who just happened to be in Washington when the police tried to crush the demonstrators - has always been a very close personal friend of Mubarak. Not a good omen, perhaps, for the immediate future.

So the "liberation" of Cairo - where, grimly, there came news last night of the looting of the Qasr al-Aini hospital - has yet to run its full course. The end may be clear. The tragedy is not over.
Robert Fisk is Middle East correspondent for The Independent newspaper.  He is the author of many books on the region, including The Great War for Civilisation: The Conquest of the Middle East.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Australia's Katrina moment by John Pilger

When you fly over the earth’s oldest land mass, Australia, the view can be shocking. Scars as long as European countries are the result of erosion. Salt pans shimmer where once native vegetation grew. This is almost impossible to reverse. The first to die are the most vulnerable species. 

According to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, Australia’s devastation of its natural environment has caused more mammal extinction than in any other country. The iconic koala is used to attract tourists; the Queen and Oprah Winfrey, are photographed cuddling one, unaware that thus unique creature has enriched the state of Queensland for decades with its industrial slaughter and the sale of its skin to Britain and America. Today, the belatedly “protected” koala is not threatened by flood or drought but rapacious land-clearing, of which Queensland is the national champion. Each year, according to the World Wildlife Fund for Nature, the state effectively destroys 100 million birds, mammals and reptiles.

The land is “cleared” by fire or machinery, often with a heavy chain tied between two bulldozers: a technique developed by Queensland’s most notorious land-clearer, the late Sir Johannes Bjelke-Petersen, the conservative state premier for 19 years, whose self-awarded knighthood was given for “services to parliamentary democracy”, such as winning gerry-mandered elections with 20 per cent of the votes. 

In 1992, a defamation jury found that Bjelke-Petersen had been bribed “on a large scale and on many occasions”. Two of his ministers and his police commissioner were jailed for corruption. Lucrative land became a prize for cronies known as the “white shoe brigade”. Brown envelopes of cash were handed over at a five-star hotel recently lapped by floodwaters in the centre of Brisbane.

Last July, the Queensland Labor government sold swathes of the state’s forests and plantations to Hancock Queensland Plantations, a subsidiary of a US-based timber multinational. Queensland has many low-lying flood plains on which developers have been allowed to make fortunes selling plots. The victims of the great flood have been mostly poor people, including timber workers and their families. Most could not afford insurance or discovered their policy did not include “types of flood”.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, says an ACCC report, deliberately stopped insurance companies from agreeing a common definition of flood so that “insurers will continue to compete vigorously by product differentiation” by using many definitions of “flood” to specify which risks are covered and which are excluded”. 

The callousness of this imposed confusion is emblematic of how the Australian elite has treated those ruined by an inland ocean the size of Germany and France combined. Flooding also struck in Brazil and Sri Lanka in December, but the disaster in Australia is far more revealing; for Australia is a “first world” country with advanced technology and communications; and yet tens of thousands of people received no emergency warning. 

Since the 1980s, Australia has become the model of a social democracy where the cult of the “market” has diminished public services and infrastructure budgets and divided by wealth a society that once boasted the most equitable spread of personal income in the world. 

Little of this is discussed in a media of which Rupert Murdoch owns 70 per cent of the capital city press. When the leader of the Greens, Bob Brown, dared suggest that the Queensland flood was due in part to “the burning of fossil fuels [causing] the hottest oceans we’ve ever seen off Australia”, he was abused as “insensitive “ and told to apologise to the mining industry. 

In the decade to 2005, says the Wilderness Society, “the amount of land clearing in Australia was so extensive that the greenhouse gases produced rivaled the amount produced by cars and trucks”. 

A feature of the floods has been the PR campaigns of leading right-wing Labor Party politicians, notably prime minister Julia Gillard and Queensland premier Anna Bligh, who have talked up the “Aussie battler” spirit in the face of “Mother Nature’s wrath”. The media’s relentless echo of this evokes Sir Johannes’s description of spinning journalists as “feeding the chooks”.  In truth, successive governments have rejected, ignored or suppressed the recommendations of their own experts that, if acted upon, could have saved Brisbane. 

In 1999, a report commissioned by Brisbane City Council warned of “significantly higher” flooding than in the last great flood in 1974. When the contents were leaked, an alleged cover-up was referred to the Crime and Misconduct Commission, and nothing happened. “Don’t you worry about that,” Sir Johannes used to say.

Professor Andrew Short, director of the Coastal Studies Unit at Sydney University, compares the Queensland flood with the scandal of New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina. “This is something we have been waiting for,” he wrote “…. Why were there no levees to protect the low-lying towns? … why are major highways and railways still below flood level?”  

Prime Minister Gillard has so far offered crumbs from a treasury in surplus, which subsidises the fossil fuel industry with A$ 9 billion and is currently spending A$1.1 million on Australia’s  mercenary “commitment” to American wars in Afghanistan and elsewhere. Having sent just 13 helicopters to rescue the stranded, Gillard appointed Major-General Mick Slater to head the recovery operation: an admission that the civilian emergency services had been so depleted, they could not cope. 

Slater ran Australia’s colonial adventure in East Timor. His most interesting statement has been a threat. “There is no reason why we won’t have [success],” he said, “unless … the media start to become divisive within the community and then, if there are areas of failure, I think I could find the reason and track it back to areas of the media.”  He was not challenged. The chooks were fed.

27 January 2011

A People Defies Its Dictator, and a Nation's by Robert Fisk

Future is in the Balance. A brutal regime is fighting, bloodily, for its life.

It might be the end. It is certainly the beginning of the end. Across Egypt, tens of thousands of Arabs braved tear gas, water cannons, stun grenades and live fire yesterday to demand the removal of Hosni Mubarak after more than 30 years of dictatorship.

And as Cairo lay drenched under clouds of tear gas from thousands of canisters fired into dense crowds by riot police, it looked as if his rule was nearing its finish. None of us on the streets of Cairo yesterday even knew where Mubarak - who would later appear on television to dismiss his cabinet - was. And I didn't find anyone who cared.

They were brave, largely peaceful, these tens of thousands, but the shocking behaviour of Mubarak's plainclothes battagi - the word does literally mean "thugs" in Arabic - who beat, bashed and assaulted demonstrators while the cops watched and did nothing, was a disgrace. These men, many of them ex-policemen who are drug addicts, were last night the front line of the Egyptian state. The true representatives of Hosni Mubarak as uniformed cops showered gas on to the crowds.

At one point last night, gas canisters were streaming smoke across the waters of the Nile as riot police and protesters fought on the great river bridges. It was incredible, a risen people who would no longer take violence and brutality and prison as their lot in the largest Arab nation. And the police themselves might be cracking: "What can we do?" one of the riot cops asked us. "We have orders. Do you think we want to do this? This country is going downhill." The government imposed a curfew last night as protesters knelt in prayer in front of police.

How does one describe a day that may prove to be so giant a page in Egypt's history? Maybe reporters should abandon their analyses and just tell the tale of what happened from morning to night in one of the world's most ancient cities. So here it is, the story from my notes, scribbled amid a defiant people in the face of thousands of plainclothes and uniformed police.

It began at the Istikama mosque on Giza Square: a grim thoroughfare of gaunt concrete apartment blocks and a line of riot police that stretched as far as the Nile. We all knew that Mohamed ElBaradei would be there for midday prayers and, at first, the crowd seemed small. The cops smoked cigarettes. If this was the end of the reign of Mubarak, it was a pretty unimpressive start.

But then, no sooner had the last prayers been uttered than the crowd of worshippers, perched above the highway, turned towards the police. "Mubarak, Mubarak," they shouted. "Saudi Arabia is waiting for you." That's when the water cannons were turned on the crowd - the police had every intention of fighting them even though not a stone had been thrown. The water smashed into the crowd and then the hoses were pointed directly at ElBaradei, who reeled back, drenched.

He had returned from Vienna a few hours earlier and few Egyptians think he will run Egypt - he claims to want to be a negotiator - but this was a disgrace. Egypt's most honoured politician, a Nobel prize winner who had held the post of the UN's top nuclear inspector, was drenched like a street urchin. That's what Mubarak thought of him, I suppose: just another trouble maker with a "hidden agenda" - that really is the language the Egyptian government is using right now.

And then the tear gas burst over the crowds. Perhaps there were a few thousand now, but as I walked beside them, something remarkable happened. From apartment blocks and dingy alleyways, from neighbouring streets, hundreds and then thousands of Egyptians swarmed on to the highway leading to Tahrir Square. This is the one tactic the police had decided to prevent. To have 

Mubarak's detractors in the very centre of Cairo would suggest that his rule was already over. The government had already cut the internet - slicing off Egypt from the rest of the world - and killed all of the mobile phone signals. It made no difference.

"We want the regime to fall," the crowds screamed. Not perhaps the most memorable cry of revolution but they shouted it again and again until they drowned out the pop of tear gas grenades. From all over Cairo they surged into the city, middle-class youngsters from Gazira, the poor from the slums of Beaulak al-Daqrour, marching steadily across the Nile bridges like an army - which, I guess, was what they were.

Still the gas grenades showered over them. Coughing and retching, they marched on. Many held their coats over their mouths or queued at a lemon shop where the owner squeezed fresh fruit into their mouths. Lemon juice - an antidote to tear gas - poured across the pavement into the gutter.

This was Cairo, of course, but these protests were taking place all over Egypt, not least in Suez, where 13 Egyptians have so far been killed. The demonstrations began not just at mosques but at Coptic churches. "I am a Christian, but I am an Egyptian first," a man called Mina told me. "I want Mubarak to go." And that is when the first bataggi arrived, pushing to the front of the police ranks in order to attack the protesters. They had metal rods and police truncheons - from where? - and sharpened sticks, and could be prosecuted for serious crimes if Mubarak's regime falls. They were vicious. One man whipped a youth over the back with a long yellow cable. He howled with pain. 

Across the city, the cops stood in ranks, legions of them, the sun glinting on their visors. The crowd were supposed to be afraid, but the police looked ugly, like hooded birds. Then the protesters reached the east bank of the Nile.

A few tourists found themselves caught up in this spectacle - I saw three middle-aged ladies on one of the Nile bridges (Cairo's hotels had not, of course, told their guests what was happening) - but the police decided that they would hold the east end of the flyover. They opened their ranks again and sent the thugs in to beat the leading protesters. And this was the moment the tear-gassing began in earnest, hundreds upon hundreds of canisters raining on to the crowds who marched from all roads into the city. It stung our eyes and made us cough until we were gasping. Men were being sick beside sealed shop fronts.

Fires appear to have broken out last night near Mubarak's rubber-stamp NDP headquarters. A curfew was imposed and first reports spoke of troops in the city, an ominous sign that the police had lost control. We took refuge in the old Café Riche off Telaat Harb Square, a tiny restaurant and bar of blue-robed waiters; and there, sipping his coffee, was the great Egyptian writer Ibrahim 

Abdul Meguid, right in front of us. It was like bumping into Tolstoy taking lunch amid the Russian revolution. "There has been no reaction from Mubarak!" he exalted. "It is as if nothing has happened! But they will do it - the people will do it!" The guests sat choking from the gas. It was one of those memorable scenes that occur in movies rather than real life.

And there was an old man on the pavement, one hand over his stinging eyes. Retired Colonel Weaam Salim of the Egyptian army, wearing his medal ribbons from the 1967 war with Israel - which Egypt lost - and the 1973 war, which the colonel thought Egypt had won. "I am leaving the ranks of veteran soldiers," he told me. "I am joining the protesters." And what of the army? Throughout the day we had not seen them. Their colonels and brigadiers and generals were silent. Were they waiting until Mubarak imposed martial law?

The crowds refused to abide by the curfew. In Suez, they set police trucks on fire. Opposite my own hotel, they tried to tip another truck into the Nile. I couldn't get back to Western Cairo over the bridges. The gas grenades were still soaring off the edges into the Nile. But a cop eventually took pity on us - not a quality, I have to say, that was much in evidence yesterday - and led us to the very bank of the Nile. And there was an old Egyptian motorboat, the tourist kind, with plastic flowers and a willing owner. So we sailed back in style, sipping Pepsi. And then a yellow speed boat swept past with two men making victory signs at the crowds on the bridges, a young girl standing in the back, holding a massive banner in her hands. It was the flag of Egypt. 

Robert Fisk is Middle East correspondent for The Independent newspaper.  He is the author of many books on the region, including The Great War for Civilisation: The Conquest of the Middle East.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

A New Truth Dawns on the Arab World by Robert Fisk

The Palestine Papers are as damning as the Balfour Declaration. The Palestinian "Authority" - one has to put this word in quotation marks - was prepared, and is prepared to give up the "right of return" of perhaps seven million refugees to what is now Israel for a "state" that may be only 10 per cent (at most) of British mandate Palestine.

And as these dreadful papers are revealed, the Egyptian people are calling for the downfall of President Mubarak, and the Lebanese are appointing a prime minister who will supply the Hezbollah. Rarely has the Arab world seen anything like this.

To start with the Palestine Papers, it is clear that the representatives of the Palestinian people were ready to destroy any hope of the refugees going home.

It will be - and is - an outrage for the Palestinians to learn how their representatives have turned their backs on them. There is no way in which, in the light of the Palestine Papers, these people can believe in their own rights.

They have seen on film and on paper that they will not go back. But across the Arab world - and this does not mean the Muslim world - there is now an understanding of truth that there has not been before.

It is not possible any more, for the people of the Arab world to lie to each other. The lies are finished. The words of their leaders - which are, unfortunately, our own words - have finished. It is we who have led them into this demise. It is we who have told them these lies. And we cannot recreate them any more.

In Egypt, we British loved democracy. We encouraged democracy in Egypt - until the Egyptians decided that they wanted an end to the monarchy. Then we put them in prison. Then we wanted more democracy. It was the same old story. Just as we wanted Palestinians to enjoy democracy, providing they voted for the right people, we wanted the Egyptians to love our democratic life. Now, in Lebanon, it appears that Lebanese "democracy" must take its place. And we don't like it.

We want the Lebanese, of course, to support the people who we love, the Sunni Muslim supporters of Rafiq Hariri, whose assassination - we rightly believe - was orchestrated by the Syrians. And now we have, on the streets of Beirut, the burning of cars and the violence against government.
And so where are we going? Could it be, perhaps, that the Arab world is going to choose its own leaders? Could it be that we are going to see a new Arab world which is not controlled by the West? When Tunisia announced that it was free, Mrs Hillary Clinton was silent. It was the crackpot President of Iran who said that he was happy to see a free country. Why was this?

In Egypt, the future of Hosni Mubarak looks ever more distressing. His son, may well be his chosen successor. But there is only one Caliphate in the Muslim world, and that is Syria. Hosni's son is not the man who Egyptians want. He is a lightweight businessman who may - or may not - be able to rescue Egypt from its own corruption.

Hosni Mubarak's security commander, a certain Mr Suleiman who is very ill, may not be the man. And all the while, across the Middle East, we are waiting to see the downfall of America's friends. In Egypt, Mr Mubarak must be wondering where he flies to. In Lebanon, America's friends are collapsing. This is the end of the Democrats' world in the Arab Middle East. We do not know what comes next. Perhaps only history can answer this question. 

Robert Fisk is Middle East correspondent for The Independent newspaper.  He is the author of many books on the region, including The Great War for Civilisation: The Conquest of the Middle East.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Australian Workers Union tips its hat to Washington By Tim Anderson

This January the Australian Workers Union (AWU) wrote an insulting letter to the new Cuban Ambassador, Pedro Monzón. The union’s response shows the tight ideological hold that the US has over the weaker, more compliant sections of the union movement in Australia.

Ambassador Monzón, who arrived in Australia in late 2010, had invited a number of union leaders for a chat. Paul Howes, as National Secretary of the AWU, responded in what seemed an unnecessarily offensive way: “I would be happy to take up your offer to meet but this can, unfortunately, only happen once the Cuban government stops repressing independent trade unions and releases the many union leaders now in prison in your country.” He names five men, held in jail.

Paul Howes says the AWU has “been critical for some time” of Cuba’s trade union federation, the CTC, which has coverage of almost all employees in Cuba. He claims the federation’s leaders are not elected but rather appointed by the state. After citing information prepared by US-funded groups, he concludes: “there is increasing talk of the need for unions to highlight this repression and put more pressure on Communist regime [sic] which rules your country to give workers real rights in the workplace”.

Perhaps in the haste to exorcise his youthful flirtation with socialism, Paul may have missed the point that, since late 2009, the Labor government has been engaging with Cuba on aid and international affairs. Never mind, he’s not a Labor MP yet.

In the substance of his cold war styled claims, Paul copied arguments developed by US-government funded groups, the latest of which is the Committee for Free Trade Unionism (CFTU), cleverly borrowing the old acronym for the international trade union federation, the ITUC (formerly the ICFTU). The CFTU has managed to have some of its material adopted by the ITUC. The “dissident union groups, the CUTC, the CONIC and the CTDC” that the AWU claims to support, do not exist as unions in Cuba. They are US-funded fronts.

Cubans understand very well that these groups - like the ‘Ladies in White’, the ‘independent journalists’ and the ‘independent human rights monitors’ - are business operations. A Cuban friend of mine who works in one of the European Embassies in Havana is asked to hand out $50 to each of the ‘Ladies in White’, and $30 each to their companions, for each event or action in which they participate. The money comes to this embassy from the US Interests Section in Havana.

Precisely because the US has been working these fronts for many years, Cuba’s trade unions maintain a united and pro-Revolution front. Unity has been a key strength of the Cubans, in face of half a century of US aggression.

The CUTC, which the AWU claims to support, is run by Pedro Pablo Alvarez Ramos from Miami. He is cited by Paul as an ex-political prisoner who was jailed for his union activities. This is quite false. Alvarez Ramos was jailed in 2003 for paid collaboration with the US government in programs specifically designed to overthrow the constitutional order in Cuba. Such activity is a crime in Cuba, as in most countries. Alvarez Ramos was released in 2006 and lives and works for US funded groups in Miami. That city’s Federated Union of Electrical, Gas and Water Plant Workers, in addition to the Washington money, gives them a leg up into the AFL-CIO.

The CFTU includes a gaggle of old AFL-CIO members, who in turn collect money from USAID and the trade union wing of the US government funded National Endowment for Democracy (NED). The NED, set up by the administration of President Ronald Reagan in the early 1980s, is notorious for its backing of ‘transition’ regimes for countries such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Haiti and Honduras. Its current activities focus heavily on Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Bolivia and Ecuador. While the US has laws against foreign funding of political activities within the US, this is precisely what the US Congress funds the NED to do, in other countries.

The CFTU attacks pretty much every country on ‘union rights’, except the US and its client states, and pays an extraordinary amount of attention to Cuba. Some of the group’s material has been adopted by the ITUC, to its discredit. Three of the CFTU’s ten board members, including Alvarez Ramos, are working on Cuba.

For example, CFTU board member, Ms Lourdes Kistler, got NED money in the 1990s for the AFL-CIO’s ‘Committee for a Free Cuba’ campaign. The CFTU’s website notes that she also secured the CFTU “a U.S. State Department grant … to assist Cuban labor activists trying to organize democratic and independent trade unions.”

The US government has for many years funded a series of campaigns supposedly in support of ‘independent journalists’, ‘human rights advocates’, ‘labour rights advocates’ and so on. The integrated ‘transition’ program which provides these funds (from Congress, the State Department and USAID, not to mention the CIA) for the various ‘independent’ groups ‘requires’ a system in Cuba which is based on a ‘free economy’, with privatisation of all key sectors, including health. All this is spelt out in US law (the 1996 Helms Burton Act) and elaborated in the Bush administration’s 2004 ‘transition’ plan. The Obama administration has made no changes to the plan.

A ‘Free Cuba’ must join the World Bank, decontrol prices, engage in an ‘effective privatization program’, enforce new property rights and various other ‘free market mechanisms’. The US will also ‘encourage a Free Cuba to settle outstanding [property] claims issues as expeditiously as possible’. This last one could put the Cuban people in debt for as much as US$100 billion. The impact of all this on workers' rights would be appalling.

Apart from Alvarez Ramos, other alleged labour activists mentioned in Paul’s letter – Nelson Molinet Espino (CTDC) and Iván Hernández Carrillo (CONIC) – were jailed not for labour activism, but for collaboration with and receiving money from the then US station chief in Havana, James Cason. If your Spanish is up to it you can read about these people in Rosa Miriam Elizalde and Luís Baez’s 2003 book, ‘Los Disidentes’; and in the Trabajadores article by Aleida Godinez: ‘Revelaciones sobre el ‘sindicalismo independiente’ en Cuba’.

It’s worth noting that the CFTU and the anti-Cuban AFL-CIO committee are made up of US citizens who are banned from travelling to Cuba to actually talk to Cuban trade unionists; that is, they are banned from talking to Cubans by the very same government that pays them to malign Cuba.

Paul Howes keeps this cold war spirit alive by his own bold ‘boycott’. He claims the CTC leadership is “not elected by workers but appointed by the state and the Cuban Communist party”. This is simply false and shows great ignorance, probably willing ignorance, of the Cuban system. Fortunately there are a number of other Australian trade unions officials who have travelled to Cuba to talk with their CTC counterparts, and who would know more. The CTC has its own elections and provides input to all significant government policy and law, before that policy and law is finalised.

It is true that the CTC works very closely with the Cuban state and the Cuban Communist Party. This is what is expected of a socialist system. Even in capitalist Australia most of the trade unions are embedded in the Labor Party, forcing them to back wars, privatisations and the interests of giant corporations. In Cuba the state-union link has meant the CTC, along with the Federation of Cuban Women, is deeply involved in policy development and has achieved some substantial gains.

Paul makes an off-hand remark about the CTC supposedly collaborating in mass ‘sackings’ in public enterprises. It is understandable that Australians might not know much about recent changes in Cuba. Reports from the US appear alarming and non-Spanish speakers would find the Cuban debates hard to access. But why commit to firm opinions based on ignorance?

With the involvement of the CTC, the Cuban government defined the rights of laid-off workers in the Ministry of Work and Social Security’s Resolution 35, 7 October of 2010. Almost all current lay-offs are for productivity reasons, as in the 1990s, when the sugar industry was rationalised. The redundancy process involves an enterprise panel, including the immediate supervisor and a CTC rep. If laid off, the worker can apply for another position in the state sector, a small business license, a usufruct land lease or for work in the non-state sector. Laid off workers receive full salary for one month, then 60% salary for up to five months, depending on length of service.

All Cubans maintain rent-free and mortgage-free housing, free health care, free education for life and subsidised basic foods. Social security, paid maternity leave (for one year) and free child care (from when the child can walk) is guaranteed for all. Have any Australian unions achieved this?

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Art and the Fight Against Fascism in Spain-Was Picasso Apolitical? By VICENTE NAVARRO

Guernica - Pablo Picasso

A political objective of the artistic establishment in the U.S. is to depoliticize art.  Art that explicitly expresses a political commitment to change the power relations in our societies is frowned upon, discouraged, ridiculed or condescendingly dismissed by the art critic whose assumed maturity is reflected in his cynicism and skepticism of anything that transcends his own parochialism.  

It has to be expected that when an art collection of Picasso’s politically committed paintings has been organized (“Picasso: Peace and Freedom” -- Albertina, Vienna, Sept. 22, 2010 – January 16, 2011, and Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Denmark, February 11-May 29, 2011), a voice of that establishment would warn that “political art” was actually non-political. 

And this is what John Richardson tries to do in his article in The New York Review of Books (November 25, 2010) entitled “How Political Was Picasso?” concluding that the painter was not really political.  He bases his conclusion on a whole series of erroneous observations and claims about Picasso and his political views during his youth. Richardson displays limited knowledge of the Spanish Civil War.
Richardson tries to diminish Picasso’s commitments to the causes he supported, including the anti-fascist struggles in Spain and Europe.  To that end, he rewrites history and indulges in psychoanalytical explanations, ignoring the political realities and context that, to a large degree, shaped Picasso’s life and art.  

For example, Richardson presents Picasso as a very changeable character, his opinions depending on the lover he had at the time.  This is an accusation usually aimed at women – a woman’s opinion simply reflecting her husband’s opinion.  It might seem to be an improvement to put a man in the same position, and changing wife for lover.  But in either case, for man or woman, this stereotyping is wrong, and especially so in the case of Picasso.

Picasso grew up artistically in Barcelona, when he arrived from Malaga at the early age of 13 years and stayed until he was 22 years of age, when he went to Paris.  The artistic circles in which he moved were clearly progressive. 

In Barcelona (where I was born), in Picasso’s youth, for example, the artistic community in which he moved was influenced by a political and social context in which anarchism and socialism were extremely important.  

To define Picasso as a monarchist at that point, as Richardson does, is frankly ridiculous.  Later, in 1944, he became a member of the Communist Party and remained so to the last day of his life in 1973.  

He despised Dali, who changed completely and became a strong supporter of the fascist regime – to the point of sending congratulatory telegrams to the dictator every time he signed a death warrant for members of the underground who had been detained by the Spanish Gestapo (La Brigada Politico Social).  

This is why Dali left Spain when the dictatorship ended, afraid that people might lynch him.  The contrast between Dali and Picasso could not be stronger.  Picasso helped and supported the antifascist underground in Spain, of which I was a member.  

He was clearly committed to the antifascist struggle and to the establishment of democracy in Spain.  His integrity and steadfastness in this area completely contradicts the ridiculous, flimsy accusation that his political commitments changed according to his lovers’ whims.

Richardson’s limited knowledge of Picasso’s commitments is accompanied by an ignorance of the Spanish situation during the fascist dictatorship.  For example, he mistakenly describes the famous Spanish bullfighter, Dominguin as close to the dictator’s circles, indicating that Dominguin approached Picasso in response to the Franco regime’s wish to co-opt Picasso.  

Dominguin was, in fact, very close to the antifascist Spanish underground and collaborated extensively with the resistance.  He hated Franco and the dictatorship.  Another of Richardson’s completely inaccurate claims is that Mussolini’s planes bombed Palma de Majorca.  Palma de Majorca, however, was on the fascist side and was not bombed by Mussolini, who supported the military fascist coup.  

Actually, the Italian fascist planes had their base in Majorca (where even today there’s a monument to this), from which they bombed Barcelona and many other cities in eastern Spain.

Richardson’s Cold War mentality seems to see Picasso’s antifascist commitment as wavering, with that wavering being a sign of the realization that the cause he had supported was not worth his commitment.  

Although Richardson’s intention seems to be to “protect” Picasso and clean his past (attributed to having the wrong lover at the right time), this is profoundly offensive not only to Picasso but to the millions who shared that commitment, without which the world would be in worse shape.   

Vicente Navarro is professor of Public and Social Policy, Johns Hopkins University and professor of Political Science at Pompeu Fabra University. He can be reached at: vnavarro@jhsph.edu

From CounterPunch January 20, 2011

Saturday, January 22, 2011

INTERVIEW - Venezuela's "sweetheart" champions Chavez By Andrew Cawthorne CARACAS (Reuters)

When President Hugo Chavez's government held a ceremony in parliament's hallowed Salon Eliptico room to chastise foreign meddling in Venezuela, the keynote speaker was a petite and passionate American named Eva Golinger.

"The Salon Eliptico is reserved for the most important and prestigious events, and only two people from the U.S. have ever spoken there. One is me and the other is John F. Kennedy," the writer and lawyer recalled of the event in November last year.

Dubbed "La Novia de Venezuela" (Venezuela's Sweetheart) by Chavez, Golinger is one of the most vocal foreign champions of his socialism, writing prolifically to try to counter what she sees as a U.S.-led global campaign to portray him as a tyrant.

"Chavez has been demonized and there has not been enough on the other side to combat that," she told Reuters.

Such unflinching support has put Golinger at the forefront of Venezuela's ideological battle. The mere mention of her name raises hackles and prompts disgust in opposition circles, whose members like to mock the American lilt in her Spanish accent.

Golinger admits she was nervous speaking live on TV in front of Chavez in the room honoring Venezuela's independence and where former U.S. president Kennedy spoke in 1961.

But she shows no timidity in her daily work promoting the policies of a man who has become one of the world's most recognizable and controversial heads of state.

"This is not a horrible place led by some brutal dictator," Golinger said in an interview. "Chavez has recovered Venezuelan identity and made people proud to be Venezuelan ... there is nothing covered (by foreign media) in terms of social gains."

Chavez, who takes a hard line with opposition leaders, prompted an outcry last month when he secured special decree powers from the outgoing parliament after elections gave the opposition a stronger hand in the assembly.

The socialist president, who has led Venezuela on an increasingly radical path, regularly rails against the United States for being aggressive and imperialistic.

With dual nationality due to roots in Venezuela on her mother's side, Golinger, 38, who is a specialist in international human rights and immigration law, first left her New York home to visit the South American nation in 1993.

Living and visiting Venezuelan on and off since then, her political engagement crystallized with the brief 2002 coup against Chavez that Golinger sought to expose as CIA-backed.

Now she edits the international edition of the pro-government Correo del Orinoco newspaper and has met Chavez "more times than I can count," making her something of a confidante for El Comandante.
She accompanied him on a recent trip to political allies including Iran, Syria, Libya and Belarus.


Her most recent paper, "Setting the record straight on Venezuela," cites poverty reduction, Chavez's three presidential election wins, media criticism and grass-roots activism as evidence Venezuela is no dictatorship.
Critics have forgotten, she argued, what she called the economic chaos and repressive political atmosphere in the country, including the suspensions of constitutional rights, before Chavez won the 1998 presidential election.

"If you don't put it into context of before and after, then no one understands ... the major transformation," she said.

Though critics accuse her of being blindly partisan, Golinger has some criticism of the government too.
"Of course everything is not perfect," she said, acknowledging Chavez needed to combat "a horrific culture of corruption" and ensure he was not surrounded by "yes men."

"He is intimidating. Some people give it to him straight, others don't," she said.

The president's popular touch faded somewhat in 2006 and 2007, Golinger said, when information on assassination threats forced him to stop plunging into crowds so regularly.

But his recent personal handling of the response to floods that have left more than 130,000 people homeless showed Chavez is rectifying that despite security risks, she said.

"With the rains, he's been out there again ... He is a very sincere, humane person. His heart aches."
Despite September's parliamentary election that disappointed the government -- opposition parties took slightly more votes, though the socialists still won more seats in the National Assembly -- Golinger predicted Chavez would win the 2012 presidential election comfortably.

"2012 is still safe because the opposition does not have a nationally popular candidate and Chavez still has over 50 percent popularity," she said, adding that new house-building and other projects like more trains would swell his support.

Golinger scoffed at claims that Chavez represses freedom of expression, pointing to the plethora of mockery and criticism of the government in media and on the street.

"Freedom of expression here is excessive," she said, arguing that an aggressively pro-opposition TV station like Globovision would not be allowed in many other countries.

(Editing by Daniel Wallis and David Storey)

WikiLeaks Defies the “War on Hi-Tech Terror”by John Pilger

The attacks on WikiLeaks and its founder, Julian Assange, are a response to an information revolution that threatens old power orders, in politics and in journalism. The incitement to murder trumpeted by public figures in the United States, together with attempts by the Obama administration to corrupt the law and send Assange to a hell-hole prison for the rest of his life, are the reactions of a rapacious system exposed as never before.

In recent weeks, the US justice department has established a secret grand jury just across the river from Washington in the eastern district of the state of Virginia. The object is to indict Assange under a discredited espionage act used to arrest peace activists during the First World War, or one of the "war on terror" conspiracy statutes that have degraded US justice.

Judicial experts have described the jury as a "deliberate set-up", pointing out that this corner of Virginia is home to the employees and families of the Pentagon, CIA, department of homeland security and other pillars of American power. "This is not good news," Assange told me when we spoke this past week, his voice dark and concerned. He says he can have "bad days - but I recover".

When we met in London last year, I said: "You are making some very serious enemies, not least of all the most powerful government, engaged in two wars. How do you deal with that sense of danger?"

His reply was characteristically analytical. "It's not that fear is absent. But courage is really the intellectual mastery over fear - by an understanding of what the risks are, and how to navigate a path through them." Regardless of the threats to his freedom and safety, Assange says the United States is not WikiLeaks's main "technological enemy".

"China is the worst offender. China has aggressive and sophisticated interception technology that places itself between every reader inside China and every information source outside China. We've been fighting a running battle to make sure we can get information through, and there are now all sorts of ways Chinese readers can get on to our site." It was in this spirit of "getting information through" that WikiLeaks was founded in 2006, but with a moral dimension. "The goal is justice," wrote Assange on the home page, "the method is transparency."

Contrary to a current media mantra, WikiLeaks material is not "dumped". Less than 1 per cent of the 251,000 US embassy cables material has been released. As Assange points out, the task of interpreting and editing material that might harm innocent individuals demands "standards [befitting] higher levels of information and primary sources". To secretive power, this is journalism at its most dangerous.

On 18 March 2008, a war on WikiLeaks was foretold in a secret Pentagon document prepared by the "Cyber Counter-intelligence Assessments Branch". US intelligence, it said, intended to destroy the feeling of "trust" that is WikiLeaks's "centre of gravity". It planned to do this with threats of "exposure [and] criminal prosecution". Silencing and criminalising this rare source of independent journalism was the aim, smear the method. Hell hath no fury like imperial mafiosi scorned.

Others have lately played a supporting part, intentionally or not, in the hounding of Assange. Sordid and shabby describe their behaviour, which serves only to highlight the injustice against a man who has courageously revealed what we have a right to know.

As the US justice department, in its hunt for Assange, demands the Twitter and email account details, banking and credit-card records of people around the world - as if we are all subjects of the United States - much of the "free" media on both sides of the Atlantic direct their indignation at the hunted.

"So, Mr Assange, why won't you go back to Sweden now?" demanded the headline over Catherine Bennett's Observer column on 19 December, which questioned his response to allegations of sexual misconduct against two women in Stockholm last August. "To keep delaying the moment of truth, for this champion of fearless disclosure and total openness," she wrote, "could soon begin to look pretty dishonest, as well as inconsistent." Not a word of Bennett's vitriol considered the looming threat to Assange's basic human rights and his physical safety, as described by Geoffrey Robertson, QC at his extradition hearing on 11 January.

In response to Bennett, the editor of the online Nordic News Network in Sweden, Al Burke, wrote to the Observer explaining that "plausible answers to Catherine Bennett's tendentious question" were both critically important and freely available. Assange had remained in Sweden for more than five weeks after the rape allegation was made - and subsequently dismissed by the chief prosecutor in Stockholm.

Repeated attempts by him and his Swedish lawyer to meet a second prosecutor, who reopened the case following the intervention of a politician, had failed. And yet, as Burke pointed out, this prosecutor had granted Assange permission to fly to London, where "he also offered to be interviewed - a normal practice in such cases". So, it seems odd that the prosecutor then issued a European Arrest Warrant. The Observer did not publish Burke's letter.

This record-straightening was crucial because it described the perfidious behaviour of the Swedish authorities - a bizarre sequence of events confirmed to me by other journalists in Stockholm and by Assange's Swedish lawyer, Björn Hurtig. Not only that; Burke catalogued the unforeseen danger Assange faces should he be extradited to Sweden.

"Documents released by WikiLeaks since Assange moved to England," he wrote, "clearly indicate that Sweden has consistently submitted to pressure from the United States in matters relating to civil rights. There is ample reason for concern that if Assange were to be taken into custody by Swedish authorities, he could be turned over to the United States without due consideration of his legal rights."

These documents have been virtually ignored in Britain. They show that the Swedish political class has moved far from the perceived neutrality of a generation ago and that the country's military and intelligence apparatus has been all but absorbed into Washington's matrix around Nato.

In a 2007 cable, the US embassy in Stockholm lauded the Swedish government, dominated by the right-wing party of Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt, as coming "from a new political generation and not bound by [anti-US] traditions". It also showed how the country's foreign policy is largely controlled by Carl Bildt, the present foreign minister, whose career has been based on a loyalty to the US that goes back to the Vietnam war - when he attacked Swedish public television for broadcasting evidence that the US was bombing civilian targets. Bildt played a leading role in the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq, a lobby group with close ties to the White House of George W Bush, the CIA and the far right of the Republican Party.

"The significance of all this for the Assange case," Burke notes in a recent study, "is that it will be Carl Bildt and perhaps other members of the Reinfeldt government who will decide - openly or, more likely, furtively behind a façade of legal formality - on whether or not to approve the anticipated US request for extradition. Everything in their past clearly indicates that such a request will be granted."

For example, in December 2001, with the "war on terror" under way, the Swedish government abruptly revoked the political refugee status of two Egyptians, Ahmed Agiza and Muhammad el-Zery. They were handed to a CIA kidnap squad at Stockholm Airport and "rendered" to Egypt, where they were tortured. By the time the Swedish ombudsman for justice investigated and found that their human rights had been "seriously violated", it was too late.

The implications for the Assange case are clear. Both men were removed without due process of the law and before their lawyers could file an appeal to the European Human Rights Court, and in response to a US threat to impose a trade embargo on Sweden.

Last year, Assange applied for residency in Sweden, hoping to base WikiLeaks there. It is widely believed that Washington warned Stockholm through mutual intelligence contacts of the potential consequences. In December, Marianne Ny, the prosecutor who reactivated the Assange case, discussed the possibility of his extradition to the US on her website.

Almost six months after the sex allegations were first made public, Julian Assange has been charged with no crime, but his right to presumption of innocence has been wilfully denied. The unfolding events in Sweden have been farcical at best. The Australian barrister James Catlin, who acted for Assange in October, describes the Swedish justice system as "a laughing stock . . . There is no precedent for it. The Swedes are making it up as they go along."

He says that Assange, apart from noting contradictions in the case, has not publicly criticised the women who made the allegations against him. It was the police who tipped off the Swedish equivalent of the Sun, Expressen, with defamatory material about them, initiating a trial by media across the world. In Britain, this trial has welcomed yet more eager prosecutors, with the BBC to the fore.

There was no presumption of innocence in Kirsty Wark's Newsnight court in December. "Why don't you just apologise to the women?" she demanded of Assange, followed by: "Do we have your word of honour that you won't abscond?"

On Radio 4's Today programme, John Humphrys, Catherine Bennett's partner, told Assange that he was obliged to go back to Sweden "because the law says you must". The hectoring Humphrys, however, had more pressing interests. "Are you a sexual predator?" he asked. Assange replied that the suggestion was ridiculous, to which Humphrys demanded to know how many women he had slept with. "Would even Fox News have descended to that level?" wondered the American historian William Blum. "I wish Assange had been raised in the streets of Brooklyn, as I was. He then would have known precisely how to reply to such a question: 'You mean including your mother?'"

What is most striking about these "interviews" is not so much their arrogance and lack of intellectual and moral humility; it is their indifference to fundamental issues of justice and freedom and their imposition of narrow, prurient terms of reference. Fixing these boundaries allows the establishment media to diminish the journalistic credibility of Assange and WikiLeaks, whose remarkable achievements stand in vivid contrast to their own. It is like watching the old and stale, guardians of the status quo, struggling to prevent the emergence of the new.

In this media trial, there is a tragic dimension, obviously for Assange, but also for the best of mainstream journalism. Having published a slew of pro­fessionally brilliant editions with the WikiLeaks disclosures, feted all over the world, the Guardian recovered its establishment propriety on 17 December by turning on its besieged source. A major article by the paper's senior correspondent Nick Davies claimed that he had been given the "complete" Swedish police file with "new" and "revealing" salacious morsels.

Assange's lawyer Björn Hurtig says that crucial evidence is missing from the file given to Davies, including "the fact that the women were reinterviewed and given an opportunity to change their stories", as are the revealing tweets and SMS messages between them, which are "critical to bringing justice in this case". Vital exculpatory evidence is also omitted, such as the statement by the original prosecutor, Eva Finne, that "Julian Assange is not suspected of rape".

Having reviewed the Davies article, Assange's former barrister James Catlin wrote to me: "The complete absence of due process is the story and Davies ignores it. Why does due process matter? Because the massive powers of two arms of government are being brought to bear against the individual whose liberty and reputation are at stake." I would add: so is his life.

The Guardian has profited hugely from the WikiLeaks disclosures, in many ways. On the other hand, WikiLeaks, which survives mostly on small donations and can no longer receive funds through many banks and credit-card companies, thanks to the bullying of Washington, has received nothing from the paper.

In February, Random House will publish a Guardian book that is sure to be a lucrative bestseller, which Amazon is advertising as The End of Secrecy: the Rise and Fall of WikiLeaks. When I asked David Leigh, the Guardian executive in charge of the book, what was meant by "fall", he replied that Amazon was wrong and that the working title had been The Rise (and Fall?) of WikiLeaks.

"Note parenthesis and query," he wrote. "Not meant for publication anyway." (The book is now described on the Guardian website as Wiki­Leaks: Inside Julian Assange's War on Secrecy.) Still, with all that duly noted, the sense is that "real" journalists are back in the saddle. Too bad about the new boy, who never really belonged.

On 11 January, Assange's first extradition hearing was held at Belmarsh Magistrates' Court, an infamous address because it is here that, before the advent of control orders, people were consigned to Britain's own Guantanamo, Belmarsh Prison. The change from ordinary Westminster Magistrates' Court was because of a lack of press facilities, according to the authorities. That they announced the change on the day Vice-President Joe Biden declared Assange a "hi-tech terrorist" was no doubt coincidental, though the message was not.

For his part, Assange is just as worried about what will happen to Bradley Manning, the alleged whistleblower who is being held in solitary confinement - in conditions that the US National Commission on Prisons calls "torturous". At 23, Manning is the world's pre-eminent prisoner of conscience, having remained true to the Nuremberg principle that every soldier has the right to a "moral choice". His suffering mocks the notion of the land of the free.

"Government whistleblowers," said Barack Obama, when running for president in 2008, "are part of a healthy democracy and must be protected from reprisal." Obama has since pursued and prosecuted more whistleblowers than any other president in American history.

"Cracking Bradley Manning is the first step," Assange tells me. "The aim clearly is to break him and force a confession that he somehow conspired with me to harm the national security of the United States. In fact, I'd never heard his name before it was published in the press.

"WikiLeaks technology was designed from the very beginning to make sure that we never knew the identities or names of people sub­mitting material. We are as untraceable as we are uncensorable. That's the only way to assure sources they are protected."

He adds: "I think what's emerging in the mainstream media is the awareness that if I can be indicted, other journalists can, too. Even the New York Times is worried. This used not to be the case. If a whistleblower was prosecuted, publishers and reporters were protected by the First Amendment, which journalists took for granted. That's being lost.

"The release of the Iraq and Afghanistan war logs, with their evidence of the killing of civilians, hasn't caused this - it's the exposure and embarrassment of the political class: the truth of what governments say in secret, how they lie in public, how wars are started. They don't want the public to know these things and scapegoats must be found." What about the allusions to the "fall" of WikiLeaks? "There is no fall," Assange says. "We have never published as much as we are now. WikiLeaks is now mirrored on more than 2,000 websites.

"I can't keep track of the spin-off sites - those who are doing their own WikiLeaks . . . If something happens to me or to WikiLeaks, 'insurance' files will be released. They speak more of the same truth to power, including the media. There are 504 US embassy cables on one broadcasting organisation and there are cables on [Rupert] Murdoch and News Corp."

This latest propaganda about the "damage" caused by WikiLeaks is a warning by the US state department to "hundreds of human rights activists, foreign government officials and business people identified in leaked diplomatic cables of possible threats to their safety". This was how the New York Times dutifully relayed it on 8 January - and it is bogus. In a letter to Congress, Robert Gates, the secretary of defence, admitted that no sensitive intelligence source has been compromised. Nato in Kabul told CNN it could not find a single person who needed protecting.

The great playwright Arthur Miller wrote: "The thought that the state . . . is punishing so many innocent people is intolerable. And so the evidence has to be internally denied."

What WikiLeaks has given us is truth, including rare and precious insight into how and why so many innocent people have suffered in reigns of terror disguised as wars, executed in our name; and how the US has wantonly intervened in democratic governments.

Javier Moreno, editor of El País, which published the WikiLeaks logs in Spain, wrote: "I believe that the global interest sparked by the WikiLeaks papers is mainly due to the simple fact that they conclusively reveal the extent to which politicians in the west have been lying
to their citizens."

Crushing individuals such as Julian Assange and Bradley Manning is not difficult for a great power, however craven. The point is, we should not allow it to happen, which means those of us meant to keep the record straight should not collaborate in any way. Transparency and in­formation, to paraphrase Thomas Jefferson, are the "currency" of democratic freedom. "Every news organisation," a leading American constitutional lawyer told me, "should recognise that Julian Assange is one of them, and that his prosecution will have a huge and chilling effect on journalism."

My favourite secret document - leaked by WikiLeaks, of course - is from the Ministry of Defence in London. It describes journalists who serve the public without fear or favour as "subversive" and as "threats". Such a badge of honour.

John Pilger was born and educated in Sydney, Australia. He has been a war correspondent, film-maker and playwright. Based in London, he has written from many countries and has twice won British journalism's highest award, that of "Journalist of the Year," for his work in Vietnam and Cambodia. His new film, "The War You Don't See", is available on DVD at: johnpilger.com.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Global Warming Is Still There Despite Floods in Queensland, Victoria and New South Wales by John Tognolini

It was not a pretty sight when I arrived at Melbourne's Avalon Airport last year and saw a huge billboard of Rupert Murdoch hack, Andrew Bolt looking down on me and my fellow travelers. There are far better ways to be greeted at an airport. I know like many people I can't stand Andrew Bolt but when throws a line out Twitter such as," " Stupid alarmists. When is global warming - I mean global cooling - going to start having negative consequences on this planet?" People have to speak out against this anti science rubbish

Climate Change/Global Warming means more extreme weather, more longer droughts that we've just endured with El Nino and more floods and tempests that we are now going through with La Nina.
Below are some recent information care of David Spratt who wrote and excellent piece on the Queensland Floods in Crikey yesterday.

El Nino seen triggering next world warming record
Alister Doyle, Reuters, January 13, 2011
Last year tied with 2005 as the warmest on record, accordin...g to U.S. agencies, but is likely to be overtaken soon by the next year with a strong El Nino weather event.

••••••• 2010 the planet's wettest year and equal hottest
The Age, January 14, 2011
Last year was the world's wettest on record, and tied 2005 as the hottest year since record-keeping began in 1880

••••••• Four Degrees and Beyond Special Issue
The Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research is a major contributor to a specially themed '4 degrees and beyond' edition of the Royal Society’s prestigious journal Philosophical Transactions A.

••••••• Plan B Update: The Great Food Crisis of 2011
Lester R. Brown, EPI, January 14, 2011
As the new year begins, the price of wheat is setting an all-time high in the United Kingdom. Food riots are spreading across Algeria. Russia is importing grain to sustain its cattle herds until spring grazing begins. India is wrestling with an 18-percent annual food inflation rate, sparking protests

••••••• Can We Trust Climate Models?
Yale360, 18 January 2011
Increasingly, the Answer is ‘Yes’ Forecasting what the Earth’s climate might look like a century from now has long presented a huge challenge to climate scientists. But better understanding of the climate system, improved observations of the current climate, and rapidly improving computing power are slowly leading to more reliable methods. by michael d. lemonick


Casting a critical eye on climate models
Anil Ananthaswamy, New Scientist, 17 January 2011
Today's climate models are more sophisticated than ever – but they're still limited by our knowledge of the Earth. So how well do they really work?