Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Material Progress, Moral Pauperization

The India that can (no longer) say No
The Paradox of Prosperity

by Niranjan Ramakrishnan

"Where freedom is menaced or justice threatened or where aggression takes place, we cannot be and shall not be neutral."

-Jawaharlal Nehru, addressing a joint session of US House and Senate
October 13, 1949

Let us put Nehru's words in context: here is the leader of a country still dependent on foreign aid for food, militarily negligible, a country of crushing poverty, invited to address the Congress of the United States. We watch him treat the superpower as an equal, recalling it to its highest values. It lionizes him. JFK's first State of the Union speech invokes the "soaring idealism of Nehru". In 1962, C. Rajagopalachari (also known as Rajaji, an associate of the Mahatma and a political opponent of Nehru) visits the US and the USSR promoting the importance of nuclear disarmament. President Kennedy listens with rapt attention, later recalling his meeting with Rajagopalachari as "one of the most civilizing influences on me".

It was an era when India was regarded everywhere as a moral superpower, even if it was poor in material wealth. The authority India wielded on the world stage was lopsided, totally out of proportion to its military or economic power. Why was this so? Every country wants its people to eat well, but India, like America, represented something more -- the inspiration of high purpose. Gandhi's freedom movement set minds everywhere on fire. This was followed, after independence, by Nehru's forging of the entirely new paradigm of non-alignment where India refused to trade political allegiance for economic blandishment.

Paradoxically, today, when India is an expanding power, exporting not just food but steel, with rising incomes, foreign acquisitions and a nuclear bomb, she is often viewed as nothing more than 'a country with a middle class of 400 million'. And the moral voice? it hasn't been heard from in years. There was courage in rags, but there is only meekness and timidity in riches. And the bomb, far from emboldening us, seems only to have induced servility. This week, for regularizing a nuclear deal with the US, among other economic aims, India rolls out the red carpet to an American president who has sullied everything inspiring about America.

When Bush invaded Iraq in 2003, India remained mute, likely weighing the forfeiture of any potential contracts in post-war Iraq. How electrifying it would have been for India to resume its role as the world's moral superpower, to condemn the invasion from the rooftops, to recall its ambassador from Washington? India would have become the beacon of the world.

But all that is unimaginable today. For we are now rich, nuclear -- and fearful. In the words of my father, KG Ramakrishnan, "where there was the torment of the soul, there now was the swagger of the body."

Where the country of four hundred million 'subjects' overthrew the mightiest empire known to history, the weight of four hundred million 'consumers' forces a free nation to acquiesce in a fresh imperialism. Far from not remaining neutral in the face of aggression, as Nehru said, India this week is actually feting the aggressor! As Mahatma Gandhi wrote, "How heavy is the toll of sins and wrongs that wealth, power and prestige exact from man."

Niranjan Ramakrishnan can be reached at njn_2003@yahoo.com..

Monday, February 27, 2006

Silence! Cave-in in Progress

Business as Usual
The devil, said Sen. Schumer, was in the details. He was being asked about the reports of Dubai World Ports itself insisting on a 45 day review of the management contract. No report of what Sen. Hillary Clinton thought. Only Sen. Bob Menendez said that there was no question of acceding to such a deal, which was bad in principle. Sen. Bill Frist backed off from his criticism of the deal (no surprise -- according to the Washington Post, he helped broker it!) making favorable noises. So did Rep. Peter King, who had been so vocal in his opposition earlier. And so was Denny Hastert, Speaker of the House.

This issue, as much as anything, will be a test of Democratic savvy, leave alone principle. They have given a free pass to the administration on security, all the way since 9-11. This incident is the most luminescent example what the Bush Administration thinks of security, be it funding the Coast Guard or protecting the land borders. If they want to win, they must show that they can provide real security, unlike the administration, which has used the 9-11 attack as an opportunity to impose draconian measures, shower financial benefits on its friends, all while actually ignoring security.
What happened to Sen. Clinton's move to pass a law stating that ports -- all US ports -- will be under the control of the United States? Will she still stick by it? Or will the 45 day review provide everyone cover while some other issue-of-the-week redirects the public's attention?

Had I but served my God with half the zeal...
An article (When the Ingrates Met the Hypocrites) in the Times of London points out how Tony Blair's dogged devotion to George W. Bush's has been rewarded. Leave alone the fact that Bush has equated America's relationship to Britain to that with Dubai, putting paid to decades of harping on the "special relationship". The columnist, Irwin Steltzer, begins his article with these words:
"TONY BLAIR only recently learnt something that his critics say should have been obvious to him for years: gratitude is not a virtue that George W. Bush has in abundance."
He continues:

"Blair’s decision to stay with the US on Iraq in the face of enormous domestic political opposition was only the latest of his demonstrations of solidarity with America. Before that, and immediately after the attack on the World Trade Centre, he flew to America to offer his condolences at a Mass at St Patrick’s Cathedral, and attended a joint session of Congress to demonstrate publicly Britain’s determination to join America’s War on Terror. Bush pledged eternal gratitude. And proceeded to ignore Blair’s loyalty and his own pledge.

"First came steel tariffs, hardly a proper reward for a trading partner’s loyalty. Then came the awarding of contracts for the reconstruction of Iraq, a process in which the Bush Administration made no distinction between nations that had supported the German-French onslaught on American policies and allies such as Britain and Poland.

"There is more of this sort of thing — most lately, cancelling plans to purchase Rolls-Royce engines for new fighter planes and refusing to share sensitive technology with Britain — but you get the idea."

Blair's shabby role will be examined both in sorrow and in pity by historians. That a person of high intelligence and talent chose to side with the most retrograde administration in Washington's history will be the first thing on his record.

Shock and AWE: Depleted Blairium

As if Blair's above contributions were not enough, reports are just coming in of the effects of depleted uranium being felt in the UK, scientists think as a direct result of the Iraq war. Two articles, on in the London Times (UK Radiation jump blamed on Iraq Shells) and Robert Fisk's Is The Problem Weather, Or Is It War? talks of the same topic. From the Times article:

"Each detector recorded a significant rise in uranium levels during the Gulf war bombing campaign in March 2003. The reading from a park in Reading was high enough for the Environment Agency to be alerted."

Fisk says:

"A British scientist, Chris Busby, has been digging through statistics from the Aldermaston Atomic Weapons Establishment which measures uranium in high-volume air samples. His suspicion was that depleted uranium particles from the two Gulf wars - DU is used in the anti-armour warheads of the ordnance of American and British tanks and planes - may have spread across Europe. I'm not a conspiracy theorist but here's something very odd.

"When Busby applied for the information from Aldermaston in 2004, they told him to get lost. When he demanded the information under the 2005 Freedom of Information Act, Aldermaston coughed up the figures. But wait.

"The only statistic missing from the data they gave him was for the early months of 2003. Remember what was happening then? A little dust-up in Iraq, a massive American-British invasion of Saddam's dictatorship in which tons of DU shells were used by American troops. Eventually Busby, who worked out all the high-altitude wind movements over Europe, received the data from the Defence Procurement Agency in Bristol - which showed an increase in uranium in high-volume air sampling over Britain during this period."

And who, do you think, runs the Aldermaston Atomic Weapons Establishment? Here's an extract from an article by Lauren Moret (Depleted Uranium Contaminates Europe) on the same subject:

"Out of concern for the public, the official British government air monitoring facility, known as the Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE), at Aldermaston, was established years ago to measure radioactive emissions from British nuclear power plants and atomic weapons facilities.

"The British government facility (AWE) was taken over 3 years ago by Halliburton, which refused at first to release air monitoring data to Dr. Busby, as required by law."

Attaboy, Tony. Now we don't need to bother fighting 'em 'over there'.

Friday, February 24, 2006

The Starboard Side

Justin Raimondo is one of the most powerful political writers today. His site, AntiWar has been stalwart in its opposition to the Iraq War. In his last two articles, he has blasted critics of the Dubai Ports World deal, accusing them of being anti-Muslim and anti-Arab. His views deserve to be excerpted:
From Hating Arabs (Feb 22, 2006)

I have a suspicion that the current ruckus reflects the economic interests of not only the unions, but also Eller & Company, the Miami-based business formerly a partner of Peninsular that is now suing for being forced into an "involuntary" partnership with those feelthy Ay-rabs. The suit raises the security canard, and one wonders what sort of economic interests the smear campaign is intended to mask. A press conference held Tuesday decrying the ports deal was held in Miami, and the Miami-based nature of the smear campaign tells me that something is afoot in the land of the hanging chad. In any controversy like this, the first rule is to follow the money, and this AP report hints at the stakes:

"The lawsuit represents the earliest skirmish over lucrative contracts among the six major U.S. ports where Peninsular and Oriental runs major commercial operations: New York, New Jersey, Baltimore, New Orleans, Miami, and Philadelphia. The lawsuit was filed moments before the court closed Friday and disclosed late Saturday by people working on the case."

It wouldn't be the first time a corporate entity tried to take out the competition by raising a bogus threat to "national security." Led by a disparate coalition of mindless opportunists, anti-Arab racists, and warmongering politicians, an effort to scare the American public into making a few ruthless "entrepreneurs" obscenely rich by giving them a virtual monopoly on America's port facilities shows every sign of apparent success. The victors will be laughing all the way to the bank.

Today Raimondo trains his guns on Arianna Huffington's writings in the Huffington Post. Here's an excerpt:

From Arianna Huffington, Racial Profier (Feb 24, 2006)
Huffington and her fellow Bush-haters want us to abolish the international maritime trade, introduce racial profiling into the process of deciding who can do business in the U.S., and issue a gratuitous insult to Arabs the world over, when maritime experts – and common sense – tell us that DPW is being unfairly targeted by bloviating politicians and pontificating pundits.

Parading her ignorance with all the arrogance of a wealthy dowager flashing her diamonds, Arianna doesn't even begin to realize that her polemics could have dangerous – and even deadly – consequences. By ratcheting up the atmosphere of hate and hysteria that has characterized the relations between the Arab world and the West in recent weeks, she is lining up with the War Party. In open alliance with neocons like Michael Ledeen, Frank Gaffney, and the National Review/Weekly Standard crowd, Huffington and her fellow "progressives" are poisoning American politics to the point that "World War IV" – the wet dream of every neocon – becomes a distinct possibility.

Raimondo is a limited government enthusiast, but not (I think) a free trader. The opposition should not be merely to Dubai taking over port management, but to handing over such operations to foreign companies anyway. A well-argued case for this controversy to be a mere blip in a larger patter appears in today's Counterpunch. Written by Dave Lindorff, the article points out the stupidity of the Democrats:

The port of Long Beach, California was long ago turned over to a state company owned by the Communist government of China--a country it might be recalled, whose military leaders not long ago threatened to attack the U.S. with nuclear weapons if America were to interfere with China's efforts to capture the island nation of Taiwan. Nobody's fussing about that.

Sometimes it takes a symbolic incident to crystallize attention to a larger problem. Gandhi's salt satyagraha was one such example. It would be sad if the debate deteriorated into an anti-Arab or anti-Muslim feeding frenzy. Indeed, as Raimondo pointed out brilliantly:

The worst demagoguery over this issue is coming out of Sen. Chuck Schumer's mouth. The Democrat from New York avers:

"Just as we would not outsource military operations or law enforcement duties, we should be very careful before we outsource such sensitive homeland security duties."

Yet it seems as if the security-conscious senator isn't against outsourcing when Israel is the beneficiary: Israeli companies, as well as direct input from the Israeli government, practically dominate the burgeoning homeland security industry. And the newly installed congressional phone system is franchised to an Israeli company, yet no one is making much of a stink about the security concerns raised by people like Philip Giraldi, who writes:

"One of the more intriguing aspects of the federal investigation into the activities of Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff is his Israeli connections. His large $2.2 million bail is reported to be due to fears that he would flee to Israel, as some of his business associates have already done, to avoid prosecution. Abramoff, an Orthodox Jew and ardent Zionist, set up a charity called Capital Athletic Foundation, which illegally provided $140,000 worth of weapons and security equipment to hard-line Israeli settlers.

"Abramoff also allegedly convinced Congressman Robert Ney, House Administrative Committee chairman, to award a contract worth $3 million to a startup Israeli telecommunications firm called
Foxcom Wireless. The contract was for the installation of antennas in House of Representatives buildings to improve cell-phone reception. Not surprisingly, such equipment can be designed to have what is known as a 'back door' to enable a third party, in this case Mossad, to listen in. That an Israeli firm should be given such a contract through a selection process that was described as 'deeply flawed and unfair' is inexplicable, particularly as there were American suppliers of the same equipment, and it suggests that the private conversations of some of our congressmen might not be so private after all."

When Schumer starts questioning this sweet deal, I'll listen to him when it comes to DP World.

Today's News: DWP Offers to Hold off Implementing Deal.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

The Spirit of Gandhi, the Passion of Jesus

This in Truthout.org, about  Fernando Suarez Del Solar, a Mexican Cindy Sheehan, man who had lost his son in the Iraq War, written by a conscientious objector, Pablo Parades, who refused to go to Iraq because he felt the war was illegal. Del Solar has made countless trips to Iraq, both to protest the war and to help Iraqi children. As has Kathy Kelly, one of the bravest yet gentlest Americans.
Each one should ask himself: what have I done to stop this war? And if I haven't, am I not as complicit in its crimes and consequences, including the civil war that seems to have formally begun today? It is well to complain of the erosion of civil liberties, but how many of use the liberties we have? 
Here is an example of one ordinary individual with a conscience can do. Like Cindy Sheehan (see A Satyagrahi is Born), men like Fernando Del Solar shame all of humankind by their own humanity.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Bin Laden's Accomplices

In a brilliant piece, Simon Jenkins has captured the idiocy of the two leaders who happen to be in power in the US and UK, who have responded to the 9-11 attack in exactly the way Bin Laden would have dreamed of. Here is a sampling of Jenkins' piece:
"There never was a 'terrorist threat' to western civilisation or democracy, only to western lives and property. The threat becomes systemic only when democracy loses its confidence and when its leaders are weak, as now. Terror attacks are for the police. For George Bush and Blair to demand a “long war” against Bin Laden and, by implication, a long suppression of civil liberty is ludicrous. Western civilisation is not some simpering weakling that cowers before a fanatic ’s might, pleading for leaders to protect it by all means, however illegal. It has been proof against Islamic expansionism since the 17th century. It is not at risk."
A similar view was expressed in April 2003 by Niranjan Ramakrishnan, "Little Minds and Large Empires":

Just look at all the things Americans could take pride in for over two centuries, shattered in an instant by a few desperate men with box-cutters.

  • Almost without demur, America has accepted a Patriot Act which abridges some of its most cherished freedoms. Detention without trial is now increasingly accepted. Even as security agencies gain undreamt-of powers to intrude into the lives of the citizenry, the administration seeks even greater powers to do more of the same.
  • On another front, America is embarked on what can justifiably be regarded as naked aggression against a sovereign nation. (That its leadership was cruel and crude makes no difference to this basic fact. Nor does the fact that victory came with minimal casualties).
  • America has rushed into war with less deliberation than attends even routine decisions - renaming a road takes longer in America. In the process, it has painstakingly gutted the legitimacy of the UN, the International Court of Justice, and other universal bodies.
  • The American people have been openly lied to over the course of these months, with the administration trotting out one sham reason after another for attacking Iraq. As each dissembling was exposed, Bush and Co. just recycled the fibs without the slightest embarrassment. As of date, the admininstration is yet to give a convincing reason why the war was necessary, not to mention why 70 billion dollars of "your money", as the president likes to call it, has been squandered at a time when American schools are scrounging for funds and millions are without jobs and health care.
  • The Congress of the United States, whose Senate chamber has been called the 'greatest deliberative body in the world', has abdicated its duty to discuss the great issues before the nation, and become a handmaiden of the administration, churning out legislation in record time to suit the president's needs.
  • A nation once proud of its free and independent press is now seized by a pervasive fear complex, evidenced by a new McCarthyism accusing anyone criticizing the Administration and its war (by what strange logic it is unclear, for the First Amendment makes no exceptions for war) of being "unpatriotic". The press itself (with very few exceptions) has mutely followed the administration's cues, wallowing in its formidable technological capacities while jettisoning its basic adversarial role.

Looking at this list, surely just a small subset of the damage we have done to ourselves, a Bin Laden might say to himself, "Not a bad morning's work."

The terrible effects of this demented duo are captured in "It's Munich in America" by David Michael Green, who makes clear how we are headed toward totalitarian rule:
"Do I overstate the concern? The New York Times recently editorialized “We can't think of a president who has gone to the American people more often than George W. Bush has to ask them to forget about things like democracy, judicial process and the balance of powers – and just trust him. We also can't think of a president who has deserved that trust less.” The Times should know. Between rah-rah’ing the war for Bush, sitting on the Downing Street Memos as if they were banana import trade policy documents, and covering for Judith Miller while she covered for The Cheney Gang, they have about as much blood on their hands as does Donald Rumsfeld. But if even the Times can work up the concern to print a line like that, we’re in a world of hurt."
"The Fourth Amendment guarantees “against unreasonable searches and seizures” and requires that “no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation”. Can you say “NSA”? “Guantánamo”? “Abu Ghraib”? It’s bad enough that Bush has authorized himself to bug anybody, arrest anybody, convict anybody and silence anybody, but his NSA chief doesn’t even appear to have read the Fourth Amendment. That whole thing about probable cause was lost on him, as he and his president simultaneously trampled the separation of powers and checks and balances doctrines by eliminating two out of three branches of government from their little surveillance loop."
Simon Jenkins' article above makes a similar point:
"America asks the world to believe itself so threatened as to require the kidnappings of foreign citizens in foreign parts, detention without legal process, the curbing of free speech and derogation from all international law. It asks the world to believe that it must disregard the Geneva conventions and employ foreign dictators to help it to torture at random. It uses the same justification for occupying Iraq and Afghanistan. The world simply refuses to agree. Only cringeing Britain appeases such actions and calls them merely “anomalous”. There are madmen aplenty, but they do not constitute a war."
Each passing day brings more evidence of the slide toward stupidity, from which there is no climb back.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Self-Censorship at BBC, Yahoo?

I was reading an article (by Diane West?) recently where she said the BBC someplace on its website feels constrained to suffix the words "Prophet Mohammed" with PBUH (peace be upon him). All references to the prophet in the muslim world seem to do this, even in editorials, etc., but for the BBC to be following suit, I thought, was nothing short of astounding; rather like American news anchors suddenly sprouting the flag on their lapels shortly after 9-11. But then I had somehow nurtured the belief that the BBC was a little more objective and alive to irony.

The article also pointed out that they did no similar thing for Jesus, Buddha, etc., a minor point but noteworthy still. Sure enough, going to the BBC site, I found this was indeed the case. Drilling down to one of the links, I found this appeared to be more like an official policy. Would the BBC provide a similar treatment to Chairman Mao, appending a "The Great Helmsman" after each reference? I didn't check, but somehow I doubt it.

Now comes news that Yahoo will not allow user names containing Allah. A rather hilarious website, owned by one Mr. Kallahar (of Irish descent) says Yahoo rejected his name, because the letters a-l-l-a-h appeared in conjunction. Also rejected were names like Callahan, and youareallaheadofme.

Self-censorship? Seems like an open-and-shut case.

Since you don't drink, George, Could I have that Port?

Here's an article by Niranjan Ramakrishnan on the Port deal with Dubai. Looks like there is now considerable opposition to it, including a me-too statement by Sen. Bill Frist.

On an interesting note, this is a matter very close to President Bush's heart. After all, his best friend is Prince Bandar. And in Arabic (and Persian, given his current preoccupation), Bandar means Port!

News just came in that Bush is prepared to back up the port deal with a veto. The previous paragraph was accurate, after all!

Dubai Does Dallas

by Niranjan Ramakrishnan

OK, you got me. Dallas doesn't have a port.

But if it did, it would likely be among those given over to be run by a Dubai company, as are the ports of New York, Newark, Baltimore, Philadelphia, Miami and New Orleans.

Arguments are flying about who decided what, whether safeguards are in place, and about the fact that a British company had been doing it earlier, etc. None of this should obscure the single most significant aspect of this bombshell, which is this: in the so-called 'post 9-11' world which the superpatrioitactors in Washington keep talking about, it is OK to to traduce liberties at will, but real national security can be freely shortchanged in the name of tradition.

Worse, such dubious (Dubaious?) decisions are justified in the name of trade. The Secretary of Homeland Security, Mr. Michael "Bird Flu over the Superdome" Chertoff, said on television that while national security needs were important, they could be attended to while still maintaining our commitments to global trade. Who died and made him chairman of WTO? Why is he talking about global trade when asked about homeland security?

The Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, spent time assuring Dubai that this matter would be sorted out to their satisfaction. Great. How one wishes she had brought the same attitude when she appeared before the 9-11 Commission and had so little time to sort out the Aug 6 PDB ("Bin Laden Determined to Strike in the US") to anybody's satisfaction.

If the United States really does not have the internal capability to manage its ports (every single one of them), then would that fact itself not seem worthy of urgent attention?

A combination of low cunning and high farce stalks the land. The lack of an opposition party is telling. You can count on Bush's new brother Bill to come in and say something to muddy the debate, as he did with Cheney's shooting, where he talked at length about how hunting accidents were common (they are not), downplaying the obvious cover up and possible malfeasance in not reporting it to the police in timely fashion. The media is finally stirring, though it may be too late for any good, after so much damage has happened. And they are still too afraid. You probably saw David Gregory apologize for his exchange with McClellan at the first shot across the bow by Mary Matalin.

"Did they (Dubai) beat out Al Qaeda by a hair in the bidding?", asked Jay Leno last night. It was only half-funny. The UAE (Dubai) was one of only three countries (our buddies Pakistan and Saudi Arabia making up the rest of this elect trio) that had diplomatic ties with the Taliban regime. When an Indian airliner was hijacked by terrorists in 1999, it was to Dubai they wanted to fly, from where they proceeded to Kandahar. Dubai made the Indians twist in the wind during those days, offering only lip service instead of stopping the plane.

All this may be ancient history, but why, in today's world, would any country outsource port management to another country, friend, foe, or foe-turned-ally?

To our ruling elites, whether we defended America is less important than whether we defended free trade. Michael Chertoff can rest happy that there will be no let up on this matter, and Bush that the money saved by such outsourcing could go towards tax cuts. Long ago, Lenin wrote that capitalists would sell you the very rope with which to hang them.

And he had never even visited America. What imagination! What prescience!

Niranjan Ramakrishnan can be reached at njn_2003@yahoo.com.

Monday, February 20, 2006

US Churches Denounce US Policies

In a dramatic statement, a large group of US churches has decried the crimes and atrocities carried out in the name of the United States by the US government. The statement specifically apologizes to the people of Iraq. It accuses the US of "training down terror" on the people of the world, and for the "violence, poverty and degradation our nation has sown". In a pithy expression of the state of affairs, the statement notes that "Nations have been demonized and God has been enlisted in national agendas that are nothing short of idolatrous."

Why I Published Those Cartoons

Flemming Rose Replies

Flemming Rose is the features editor of Jyllands-Posten, which published the Mohammed cartoons. In this op-ed piece (Why I published those Cartoons by Fleming Rose) published by the Washington Post, Rose explains the reasons for printing the cartoons. Here's the essence of Rose's argument:
"When I visit a mosque, I show my respect by taking off my shoes. I follow the customs, just as I do in a church, synagogue or other holy place. But if a believer demands that I, as a nonbeliever, observe his taboos in the public domain, he is not asking for my respect, but for my submission. And that is incompatible with a secular democracy."
Was Rose's argument undercut by today's trial of David Irving? Irving pleaded guilty to holocaust denial in a Vienna court, following which he was sentenced to 3 years imprisonment. Many countries in Europe have laws that prohibit any writings that "deny the genocide by the National Socialists or other National Socialist crimes against humanity."

In India, they unveiled a portrait of the mastermind behind Gandhi's assassination right in the Central Hall of the Parliament, and directly opposite the portrait of Gandhi (See The Larger Picture). There was a government in power for five years, whose members belonged to an organization once banned as a fascist and communal group. Yet, most people would rather that anyone could express any view, than that writings be banned.

The latest news comes from Britain, where any alleged espousal of support for terrorism could land one in jail. The world over, freedom is under attack, in the name of defending propriety. Michael Neumann's nuanced piece "Respectful Cultures and Disrespectful Cartoons" is worth reading where it exposes not so much the hypocrisy as the idiocy of this approach.

What next? Banning the Flat Earth Society?

Sunday, February 19, 2006

The Sum of All Questions

"What can one conclude from this series of questions? If the 9/11 mystery is like other great, mysterious events--such as the Kennedy assassination--the course is probable. For a year or two, raw emotion over the event forecloses inquiry; for the next several years after that, the public's attention wanes, and the desire to forget the painful memory predominates.

"In a decade or so, though, some debunker will bring new facts into the public arena for the edification of those Americans, then in late middle age, who will view 9/11 as an intellectual puzzle: far from the urgent concerns of their daily lives.

Many people may, by that time, accept that the official explanation is bunk, and suspect that the government had once again tricked the American public, those ever-willing foils in the eternal Punch-and-Judy show. But the majority will neither know nor care about obscure international relationships during a bygone era."
You must read Werther's article! Read it once, twice, three times, and every day, till the maya of media news, political discussion and debate clears away.

Finally, a clear articulation of the questions that subliminally plague, or should plague, everyone who has lived through the last few years. These questions have never been answered, because they have never been asked, in one place, so clearly. Anyone who wants to understand what we have gone through must ask themselves these questions, day in and day out, if we are ever to come out of the labyrinth of false patriotism, fear-mongering, media dementation and criminality, judicial chicanery and political cowardice before a determined effort to turn America into a well-fed (at least for now) -- but not free-ranging -- cattle farm.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Cheney's Story - More full of holes than Whittington's skin

Yahoo had a report from AP about how the Cheney account of his shooting of Whittington does not add up (see VP Accident Tale full of Discrepancies). The story is co-written by Calving Woodward, which, if Calvin is Bob Woodward's son, goes a little toward redeeming the father's stenography-hagiography-histriography of the Bush administration.

Arianna Huffington has an even better point-by-point argument why the Cheney account is so suspect that a thorough investigation is needed. See A few Questions before the Circus folds its Tent.

Bush's exoneration brings to mind an old saying, "like the chameleon standing witness for the fence", that is to say, a chameleon sits on the fence, and cannot be expected to do anything but corroborate its version.

And these were the same people who made an impeachment trial out of a consensual sexual tryst!

In Your Name and Mine

Appointment at Samarra

This is an excerpt from a report by a Knight-Ridder reporter, Tom Lassetter, accompanying US troops in Iraq. Read the full story.

As [Lt.]Call sat in the schoolhouse, preparing to go out, he heard two loud bursts from the .50-caliber machine gun on the roof.

Specialist Michael Pena, a beefy 21-year-old from Port Isabel, Texas, had opened fire. Boom-boom-boom. Boom-boom-boom.

Call and his men dashed out the front door. Pena had shot an unarmed Iraqi man on the street. The man had walked past the signs that mark the 200-yard "disable zone" that surrounds the Alamo and into the 100-yard "kill zone" around the base. The Army had forced the residents of the block to leave the houses last year to create the security perimeter.
American units in Iraq usually fire warning shots. The Rakkasans don't.
[The 101st Airborne's storied Rakkasan Brigade]

A few days later, Call said his brigade command had told him, "The Rakkasans don't do warning shots." A warning shot in the vernacular of the Rakkasans, Call said, was a bullet that hit one Iraqi man while others could see.

"That's how you warn his buddy, is to pop him in the face with a kill shot?" Call said incredulously. "But what about when his buddy comes back with another guy ... that and the other 15 guys in his family who you've made terrorists?"

Looking at the man splayed on the ground, Call turned to his medic, Specialist Patrick McCreery, and asked, "What the f--- was he doing?"

McCreery didn't answer. The man's internal organs were hanging out of his side, and his blood was pouring across the ground. He was conscious and groaning. His eyelids hung halfway closed.

"What ... did they shoot him with?" McCreery asked, sweat beginning to show on his brow. "Did someone call a ... ambulance?"

The call to prayer was starting at a mosque down the street. The words "Allahu Akbar" - God is great - wafted down from a minaret's speakers.

The man looked up at the sky as he heard the words. He repeated the phrase "Ya Allah. Ya Allah. Ya Allah." Oh God. Oh God. Oh God.

He looked at McCreery and raised his finger toward the house in front of him.
"This my house," he said in broken English.

McCreery reached down. With his hands cupped, he shoved the man's organs back into his body and held them in place as Call unwrapped a bandage to put around the hole.
"He's fading, he's fading," McCreery shouted.

Looking into the dying man's eyes, the medic said, "Haji, haji, look at me," using the honorific title reserved for older Muslim men who presumably have gone on Hajj - pilgrimage - to Mecca.

"Why? Why?" asked the man, his eyes beginning to close.

"Haji, I don't know," said McCreery, sweat pouring down his face.

An Iraqi ambulance pulled up and the Humvees followed. They followed the man to the hospital they'd raided a few days earlier. The soldiers filed in and watched as the man died.
Call said nothing. McCreery, a 35-year-old former foundry worker from Levering, Mich., walked toward a wall, alone. He looked at the dead man for a moment and wiped tears from his eyes.

A few days later, Call's commander asked him to take pictures of the entrails left by the man Pena had shot, identified as Wissam Abbas, age 31, to document that Abbas was inside the sign warning of deadly force.

McHenry, who was driving, told him, "There's not going to be much left, sir. The dogs will have eaten all of it."

Pena was up on the schoolhouse roof manning the same .50-caliber machine gun. He didn't say a word about the man he'd killed. As he stared at a patch of earth in front of him, at Samarra and its wreckage, he couldn't contain his frustration.

"No one told me why I'm putting my life on the line in Samarra, and you know why they didn't?" Pena asked. "Because there is no f------ reason."

Friday, February 17, 2006

This should give you sleepless nights

New data from satellite imagery reveals that the melting of the icecaps in various places on the earth is taking place with a rapidity hitherto understimated.

The Washington Post has a report out today by Shankar Vedantam, which says that ocean levels are likely to rise catastrophically in this century, changing entire landscapes, agriculture, climate, everything.

"This is the kind of study that should make people stay awake at night wondering what we're doing to the climate, how we're shaping the planet for future generations and, especially, what we can do about it.", one scientist is quoted as saying.

This gives fresh urgency to what Al Gore has been talking about. See report on Al Gore's Global Warming Presentation. All other issues are idiotic when you are on a sinking ship.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Turn Again, Dick Cheney, Lord Sprayer of Whittington

Drinks, Shoots and Leaves?

by Niranjan Ramakrishnan

After laughing, like everyone else, at old crooked-mouth's comeuppance in this unlikeliest of circumstances, I started to wonder why the name Whittington was familiar. We had a short story about Dick Whittington in school, of how he lost heart and was leaving London, when he heard the peals of the church bell which seemed to say to him, "Turn again, Dick Whittington, Lord Mayor of London". Upon which he returned, pursuing his fortune which led him to be mayor of London three times.

Many years later, visiting London and staying with friends near Highgate, I was told by my host that the hill was where Whittington was supposed to have heard the church bell.

The "Official Story" as of today is that Mr. Whittington approached Cheney from behind. He who had 'other priorities' during Vietnam had apparently none at this time. Our hero wheeled around and sprayed Whittington liberally in the face, neck and chest.

After which Mr. Cheney apparently went incommunicado for nearly a day, thereby rendering himself unavailable to the police for questioning. Theories on why this might be have been circulating, with speculation rife that the old campaigner was tight as an owl when he loosed said pellets on unfortunate hunting companion.

The jokes came thick and fast, from Letterman to Leno and of course the inimitable John Stewart, who looked up and thanked the Lord Jesus Christ for this godsend.

To everyone's surprise, the White House Press Corps, which had let Fleischer, McClellan, Bush and Cheney off without a so much as a scuffle these five years, suddenly became dour as the proverbial bulldog, with hot exchanges beween McClellan and the NBC reporter making news.

The late British management expert, CN Parkinson, observed long ago that the amount of attention a topic received was in inverse proportion to its importance. A nuclear power plant might be approved with a minimum of discussion. The authorization for a bicycle for the office boy, on the other hand, would lead to lengthy argument and debate. Parkinson's reason was that the cost of a power plant ran into the hundreds of millions, sums most people had no personal experience with. The office bicycle, on the other hand, was a concept everyone was familiar with: everyone had an opinion in the matter.

So have we had (a still incomplete list) the Florida vote scandal, the Patriot Act, the 9-11 fiasco, the failure to appoint a commission of inquiry right away, the Tora Bora messup, the war on Iraq, the WMD scandal, the sundry Iraq contractor overpricings, the Swift Boat scandal, the Ohio vote scandal, Plamegate, the incipient civil war in Iraq, the federal deficit, the trade deficit, and the Queen Katrina herself, not to mention domestic spying, any one of which could have provided a serious pressman enough questions for several press conferences. Yet, how many memorable exchanges did we see? That's right.

But here comes a story with all the right ingredients. A shootout at the Bar-All ranch, involving none other than the sitting vice president (aiming for sitting ducks and getting attorneys-in-good-standing instead). It has laughter, crime (a $7 default, for starters) and coverup. It is a story every Tom, Dick and Harry can understand. More than that, it involves Dick, Harry - and if you include the delay in calling the police -- Tom.

True believers should rejoice that all that cartoon insult -- perceived or real -- of last week has been swept away by the unseen hand of Allah. The almighty has punished every Western cartoonist for the impetuosity of the Danes. For, when reality so far outstrips caricature, what greater damnation could befall the cartoonist?

Niranjan Ramakrishnan can be reached at njn_2003@yahoo.com.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Cheney Bags Fellow Hunter

Lovely piece by Al Franken on Huffington Post, called "What would have happened if Cheney had Shot Bush?" "There but for the grace of God go I", thought Scalia to himself.

Wasn't clear from the earlier report that the incident had been hushed up for 24 hours. In Counterpunch, Dave Lindorff suggests it might be for the Vice(!) President to sober up. Good thing he had 'other priorities' during Vietnam. Otherwise, we might have had more 'friendly fire' incidents. See Deadeye Dick.

Reporters are on to a story they can understand. McClellan was grilled during his press briefing. If only senators could do the same, occasionally.

New Islamic State

The Indian Express reports that a virtual state has come into existence in Waziristan, where Taliban and al Qaeda have gained control of a wide swath of territory from which to operate. They have displaced the wild and uncontrollable criminal elements that previously held sway there, says the report, and established their own Islamic state.

See full report here.

"Naughty Little Boys!"

Aseem Shrivastava is one of the most perceptive writers today. Here's his article, printed without permission (warrantless reproduction):

What Freedom? What Democracy? What Civilization?

By Aseem Shrivastava

13 February, 2006

“Let us not speak falsely now, the hour is getting late.”
- Bob Dylan

Among the recent incidents following the publication of the cartoons of Mohammed was one which went oddly unreported. In Teheran, the Iranian police managed to catch a few European teenagers who were throwing glasses and plates at the crowd from the windows of the Danish consulate when Danish flags were being burnt on the street outside.

Later, the police took the boys into the premises of the nearest police station and gave the boys a thorough thrashing. One of the boys was kicked in his genitals by a policeman, while some others held him down. Another was held against the wall and given a sound hammering with batons on his back. A third was kicked by several of them as he lay prostrated on the ground. “Naughty little boys!”, and various unmentionable abuses were barked at them by the policemen, who were obviously revelling in the sadistic enterprise.

All this was recorded on video by someone and handed over to the TV channel that broadcast it this morning.

Back to reality.

Of course, I made up the above story, but not really, because all I did was to make the characters involved switch roles, much like in role plays that schoolkids are often asked to do in multicultural neighborhoods around Europe, in order to understand where “others are coming from.”

The above is precisely what could be seen on TV screens across the world a few hours ago, after News of the World released the videoclip of the beating of Iraqi teenage boys carried out by British soldiers some months back.

Let´s have, if only for a change, the same rules for everyone.

Let us not fall into the temptation of the old alibi that it was the work of a few bad men working in an otherwise decent establishment. In the video there are plenty of soldiers passing by, as the beating is going on. None tries to stop what is going on. How many times they must have seen such things, or done them themselves, or seen their superiors do or order them!

When brutalization is banal, it is too boring to talk about, let alone stop.

How many pictures and videos have been banned from the TV screens of the world at the orders of the Pentagon! If there was nothing to hide, we would indeed be living in a free world at the moment.

No. It won´t do to pass the buck back downwards. Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski, the highest military officer to be punished (“scapegoated”, in her own words) for Abu Ghraib (she was demoted to the rank of a Colonel), in her recent book One Woman´s Army says that the entire chain of command, starting with Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld, must be held accountable for the crimes at the prison since the blame “goes all the way to the top.” Her interview by Amy Goodman on Democracy Now! speaks volumes for the depth of cover-up going on quietly.

The New Standard had reported some months back that an FBI email released by the government at the demand of the American Civil Liberties Union back in December, 2004 revealed that President Bush himself had sent out an Executive Order permitting the use of new interrogation techniques. The White House has neither confirmed nor denied that torture orders were given from the very top.

When the rot is this deep, it is understandable that justice cannot be done: for each finger pointing down at someone who infringed, there will be many times more pointing up towards the bosses who, far from disallowing, actually appear to have encouraged the tortures.

Britain has boasted much about its standards of military justice being some of the highest in the world. Let us see how far up the chain of command investigations are able to reach. Let´s see whether the Defence Secretary is called upon to answer for the crimes.

If we are serious about such matters as peace and security, let us stop denying what is obvious to people living in Muslim countries. Let us not just keep our attention anchored on the silly cartoons and their aftermath on the streets of the Middle East. Let us consider the far graver matters threatening the moral core of civilization itself.

Now the actions last week on the streets of Cairo and Jakarta and Teheran appear in quite a different light. It should have been obvious that the issue – for people living in those countries -did not concern freedom of expression at all. It should have been evident that it wasn´t just a matter of a few cartoons. The actions against the cartoons are only the little rippling surface of surging anger among people living in Muslim countries at the systematic injustices they continue to suffer at the hands of the West, especially the US and the UK. The Muslim clergy is able to make hay only because the blazing sun of foreign injustices refuses to set.

Abu-Ghraib revelations took place almost two years ago. Guantanamo even earlier. More recently, it was learnt that special CIA flights were being routed through Europe to carry suspects to be tortured in places where it would be safe to do so. Illegal detentions and tortures continue in a global archipelago of prisons run by Washington.

No significant (by which I mean proportionate) justice has been done with regards to the torture revelations. Muslims, much more so than others, cannot forget that. Nor has there been any promise that the practices would be stopped. On the contrary Washington has sought to legalize torture.

When one has come to live in such a brutalized global village, when men in suits and ties calmly impose barbarities on others in the name of defending something they call civilization and for passing on the torch of liberty to less fortunate souls in strange lands, the time has come to ask for a clear definition of civilization.

If you reserve your brutality for bar-room brawls and post-soccer angst, or export it abroad in the shape of oil-seeking military missions, masquerading as human rights campaigns, it does not make you any less barbaric than those Muslims who were openly burning European flags and throwing stones at consulates last week. On the contrary, machines kill more effectively than machetes.

Much deeper things than just freedom of speech are at stake these days. The very dignity of human beings is under the sword – everywhere.

Long before the first atom had been split and the first-ever bomb dropped from the air (by the Italians on Libya in 1911), the great 19th century American writer Herman Melville had written with a self-critical honesty that few in this modern world (which, we are assured, is freer today than ever before) would dare to, though the truth is far more grim today:

“the fiend-like skill we display in the invention of all manner of death-dealing engines, the vindictiveness with which we carry on our wars, and the misery and desolation that follow in their train, are enough of themselves to distinguish the white civilized man as the most ferocious animal on the face of the earth...it is needless to multiply the examples of civilized barbarity; they far exceed in the amount of misery they cause the crimes which we regard with such abhorrence in our less enlightened fellow-creature.”

Times have moved on much since Melville. But the world is such that the integrity of a white man still has greater impact on human destinies than the honesty of others (who are by no means exempt from their duty to find and tell the truth). One shudders to imagine what Melville would have written today. But the rest of the world expects exactly such honesty from Western citizens today. And we know, from the example of numerous noble exceptions alive, that they are capable of it. It is for them to terminate their indoctrinated ignorance, seek the truth and make it count.

We are truly scratching the bottom of the barrel of civilization now.

Civilization is not just about good manners, about neat and tidy exteriors which conceal a beastliness that would put animals to shame. At least with the anti-cartoon protests in Islamic countries, the barbarities were on the surface, obvious to onlookers. But how do you detect the insane, well-entrenched barbarism of civilized societies if you are only going to be allowed occasional peeks at the scale of organized evil, if the iceberg of dehumanized depravity pops up but once in a while, staying underground long enough to lull us all into the sleep of drugged babies – till the next set of revelations arrive? When dated defensive ideologies of freedom or human rights are used to defend indefensible state actions?

Freedom is dead. Democracy is dying. There are no human rights for those without power. The example of Iraq should teach us that there are things – loss of human dignity, for one, civil war for another – worse than dictatorship.

It is for the citizens of Europe and America to terminate their shameful silence, resume the struggles for freedom, peace and justice that have been in abeyance since the 1960s, and march in their millions on the streets of Western capitals.

Next month we await a show called “Death to Iran”. If it is allowed to be aired, Westerners will find little left in their pockets after they have paid their rising oil bills.

Beyond that, all bets are off.

Aseem Shrivastava is an independent writer. He can be reached at aseem62@yahoo.com

Sunday, February 12, 2006

NYT Editorial: The Trust Gap

From the New York Times, Feb 12, 2006:

The Trust Gap

Published: February 12, 2006

We can't think of a president who has gone to the American people more often than George W. Bush has to ask them to forget about things like democracy, judicial process and the balance of powers — and just trust him. We also can't think of a president who has deserved that trust less.

This has been a central flaw of Mr. Bush's presidency for a long time. But last week produced a flood of evidence that vividly drove home the point.

DOMESTIC SPYING After 9/11, Mr. Bush authorized the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on the conversations and e-mail of Americans and others in the United States without obtaining a warrant or allowing Congress or the courts to review the operation. Lawmakers from both parties have raised considerable doubt about the legality of this program, but Attorney General Alberto Gonzales made it clear last Monday at a Senate hearing that Mr. Bush hasn't the slightest intention of changing it.

According to Mr. Gonzales, the administration can be relied upon to police itself and hold the line between national security and civil liberties on its own. Set aside the rather huge problem that our democracy doesn't work that way. It's not clear that this administration knows where the line is, much less that it is capable of defending it. Mr. Gonzales's own dedication to the truth is in considerable doubt. In sworn testimony at his confirmation hearing last year, he dismissed as "hypothetical" a question about whether he believed the president had the authority to conduct warrantless surveillance. In fact, Mr. Gonzales knew Mr. Bush was doing just that, and had signed off on it as White House counsel.

THE PRISON CAMPS It has been nearly two years since the Abu Ghraib scandal illuminated the violence, illegal detentions and other abuses at United States military prison camps. There have been Congressional hearings, court rulings imposing normal judicial procedures on the camps, and a law requiring prisoners to be treated humanely. Yet nothing has changed. Mr. Bush also made it clear that he intends to follow the new law on the treatment of prisoners when his internal moral compass tells him it is the right thing to do.

On Thursday, Tim Golden of The Times reported that United States military authorities had taken to tying up and force-feeding the prisoners who had gone on hunger strikes by the dozens at Guantánamo Bay to protest being held without any semblance of justice. The article said administration officials were concerned that if a prisoner died, it could renew international criticism of Gitmo. They should be concerned. This is not some minor embarrassment. It is a lingering outrage that has undermined American credibility around the world.

According to numerous news reports, the majority of the Gitmo detainees are neither members of Al Qaeda nor fighters captured on the battlefield in Afghanistan. The National Journal reported last week that many were handed over to the American forces for bounties by Pakistani and Afghan warlords. Others were just swept up. The military has charged only 10 prisoners with terrorism. Hearings for the rest were not held for three years and then were mostly sham proceedings.

And yet the administration continues to claim that it can be trusted to run these prisons fairly, to decide in secret and on the president's whim who is to be jailed without charges, and to insist that Gitmo is filled with dangerous terrorists.

THE WAR IN IRAQ One of Mr. Bush's biggest "trust me" moments was when he told Americans that the United States had to invade Iraq because it possessed dangerous weapons and posed an immediate threat to America. The White House has blocked a Congressional investigation into whether it exaggerated the intelligence on Iraq, and continues to insist that the decision to invade was based on the consensus of American intelligence agencies.

But the next edition of the journal Foreign Affairs includes an article by the man in charge of intelligence on Iraq until last year, Paul Pillar, who said the administration cherry-picked intelligence to support a decision to invade that had already been made. He said Mr. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney made it clear what results they wanted and heeded only the analysts who produced them. Incredibly, Mr. Pillar said, the president never asked for an assessment on the consequences of invading Iraq until a year after the invasion. He said the intelligence community did that analysis on its own and forecast a deeply divided society ripe for civil war.

When the administration did finally ask for an intelligence assessment, Mr. Pillar led the effort, which concluded in August 2004 that Iraq was on the brink of disaster. Officials then leaked his authorship to the columnist Robert Novak and to The Washington Times. The idea was that Mr. Pillar was not to be trusted because he dissented from the party line. Somehow, this sounds like a story we have heard before.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Clear and Present Danger

Frightening scenario from this weekend's Counterpunch comes a warning from Paul Craig Roberts, well-known economist and high ranking official in the Reagan administration Treasury Department, also former Assistant Editor of the Wall Street Journal...

Forget Iran, Americans Should be Hysterical About This

Nuking the Economy


Last week the Bureau of Labor Statistics re-benchmarked the payroll jobs data back to 2000. Thanks to Charles McMillion of MBG Information Services, I have the adjusted data from January 2001 through January 2006. If you are worried about terrorists, you don’t know what worry is.

Job growth over the last five years is the weakest on record. The US economy came up more than 7 million jobs short of keeping up with population growth. That’s one good reason for controlling immigration. An economy that cannot keep up with population growth should not be boosting population with heavy rates of legal and illegal immigration.

Over the past five years the US economy experienced a net job loss in goods producing activities. The entire job growth was in service-providing activities--primarily credit intermediation, health care and social assistance, waiters, waitresses and bartenders, and state and local government.

US manufacturing lost 2.9 million jobs, almost 17% of the manufacturing work force. The wipeout is across the board. Not a single manufacturing payroll classification created a single new job.

The declines in some manufacturing sectors have more in common with a country undergoing saturation bombing during war than with a super-economy that is “the envy of the world.” Communications equipment lost 43% of its workforce. Semiconductors and electronic components lost 37% of its workforce. The workforce in computers and electronic products declined 30%. Electrical equipment and appliances lost 25% of its employees. The workforce in motor vehicles and parts declined 12%. Furniture and related products lost 17% of its jobs. Apparel manufacturers lost almost half of the work force. Employment in textile mills declined 43%. Paper and paper products lost one-fifth of its jobs. The work force in plastics and rubber products declined by 15%. Even manufacturers of beverages and tobacco products experienced a 7% shrinkage in jobs.

The knowledge jobs that were supposed to take the place of lost manufacturing jobs in the globalized “new economy” never appeared. The information sector lost 17% of its jobs, with the telecommunications work force declining by 25%. Even wholesale and retail trade lost jobs. Despite massive new accounting burdens imposed by Sarbanes-Oxley, accounting and bookkeeping employment shrank by 4%. Computer systems design and related lost 9% of its jobs. Today there are 209,000 fewer managerial and supervisory jobs than 5 years ago.

In five years the US economy only created 70,000 jobs in architecture and engineering, many of which are clerical. Little wonder engineering enrollments are shrinking. There are no jobs for graduates. The talk about engineering shortages is absolute ignorance. There are several hundred thousand American engineers who are unemployed and have been for years. No student wants a degree that is nothing but a ticket to a soup line. Many engineers have written to me that they cannot even get Wal-Mart jobs because their education makes them over-qualified.

Offshore outsourcing and offshore production have left the US awash with unemployment among the highly educated. The low measured rate of unemployment does not include discouraged workers. Labor arbitrage has made the unemployment rate less and less a meaningful indicator. In the past unemployment resulted mainly from turnover in the labor force and recession. Recoveries pulled people back into jobs.

Unemployment benefits were intended to help people over the down time in the cycle when workers were laid off. Today the unemployment is permanent as entire occupations and industries are wiped out by labor arbitrage as corporations replace their American employees with foreign ones.

Economists who look beyond political press releases estimate the US unemployment rate to be between 7% and 8.5%. There are now hundreds of thousands of Americans who will never recover their investment in their university education.

Unless the BLS is falsifying the data or businesses are reporting the opposite of the facts, the US is experiencing a job depression. Most economists refuse to acknowledge the facts, because they endorsed globalization. It was a win-win situation, they said.

They were wrong.

At a time when America desperately needs the voices of educated people as a counterweight to the disinformation that emanates from the Bush administration and its supporters, economists have discredited themselves. This is especially true for “free market economists” who foolishly assumed that international labor arbitrage was an example of free trade that was benefitting Americans. Where is the benefit when employment in US export industries and import-competitive industries is shrinking? After decades of struggle to regain credibility, free market economics is on the verge of another wipeout.

No sane economist can possibly maintain that a deplorable record of merely 1,054,000 net new private sector jobs over five years is an indication of a healthy economy. The total number of private sector jobs created over the five year period is 500,000 jobs less than one year’s legal and illegal immigration! (In a December 2005 Center for Immigration Studies report based on the Census Bureau’s March 2005 Current Population Survey, Steven Camarota writes that there were 7,9 million new immigrants between January 2000 and March 2005.)

The economics profession has failed America. It touts a meaningless number while joblessness soars. Lazy journalists at the New York Times simply rewrite the Bush administration’s press releases.

On February 10 the Commerce Department released a record US trade deficit in goods and services for 2005--$726 billion. The US deficit in Advanced Technology Products reached a new high. Offshore production for home markets and jobs outsourcing has made the US highly dependent on foreign provided goods and services, while simultaneously reducing the export capability of the US economy. It is possible that there might be no exchange rate at which the US can balance its trade.

Polls indicate that the Bush administration is succeeding in whipping up fear and hysteria about Iran. The secretary of defense is promising Americans decades-long war. Is death in battle Bush’s solution to the job depression? Will Asians finance a decades-long war for a bankrupt country?

Paul Craig Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan administration. He was Associate Editor of the Wall Street Journal editorial page and Contributing Editor of National Review. He is coauthor of The Tyranny of Good Intentions.He can be reached at: paulcraigroberts@yahoo.com

Saturday, February 04, 2006

The Price of Globalization

Free Trade or Free Speech?

by Niranjan Ramakrishnan

"How dreadful are the curses which Mohammedanism lays on its votaries! Besides the fanatical frenzy, which is as dangerous in a man as hydrophobia in a dog, there is this fearful fatalistic apathy. The effects are apparent in many countries...wherever the followers of the Prophet rule or live... The fact that in Mohammedan law every woman must belong to some man as his absolute property, either as a child, a wife, or a concubine, must delay the final extinction of slavery until the faith of Islam has ceased to be a great power among men. Individual Moslems may show splendid qualities - but the influence of the religion paralyses the social development of those who follow it. No stronger retrograde force exists in the world. Far from being moribund, Mohammedanism is a militant and proselytizing faith...and were it not that Christianity is sheltered in the strong arms of science, the science against which it had vainly struggled, the civilisation of modern Europe might fall, as fell the civilisation of ancient Rome."

—Winston Churchill, from The River War, first edition, Vol. II, pages 248-50 (London: Longmans, Green & Co., 1899).

I was watching an episode of the Simpsons last night, enjoying their brilliant mockery of Catholicism, Mormonism, and other Christian faiths. Even as I doubled over in mirth, there lurked in some corner of my mind a nagging question whether they would dare do the same with Islam or Sikhism , Hinduism or Judaism. Few politicians or journalists speak or write their minds in our day as Churchill did in his, or Marx or Mohammed or Gandhi in theirs. Political correctness has sapped the ability to, in Mencken's words (full quote later), "utter what seems at the moment to be the truth".

A vestigial self-assurance may still remain. On ABC's Nightline many years ago. Ted Koppel was interviewing a Soviet dignitary visiting Washington. Accompanying him was a junior functionary from the Embassy who spoke fluent English. In the middle of the program the young man protested to Koppel, "You are being unfair, you are not giving us equal time". Saying, "I'll worry about it when we get equal time on Moscow Television!", Koppel continued on without skipping a beat.

The incident came to mind when I saw reports of protests, among other countries in Saudi Arabia (where one cannot possess a copy of the Bible or the Gita, and the only public worship allowed is that of Islam), and Pakistan (where there are recent reports of young women being forcibly converted to Islam, and people of the "wrong" religions being on death row for blasphemy). Angry young men were up in arms against cartoons making fun of the Prophet in a Danish newspaper. In Gaza, Fatah activists (eager to make up for their recent electoral loss, perhaps) were seen bustling about carrying shoulder fired missiles, reading out warnings to people from certain countries to leave in 10 hours, failing which their lives would be in jeopardy.

Of course, one can be sure none of these same protesters have any complaint with western personages Carlyle, Bernard Shaw or Goethe for praising Prophet Mohammed. Like the rest of us, they are happy when they or theirs is praised, unhappy when criticized or satirized.

Except, however, most of us don't threaten to kidnap and kill people who have criticized us, nor write specious screeds pointing out the difference between freedom and license. We shrug and move along, knowing that not everyone needs to accept our beliefs for us to be secure in ours. It is as simple as that.

And as vital. The question is whether the West will defend the central pillar of the Enlightenment, or will it abandon it to the new faith of 'getting along at any price' mealy-mouthed obeisance to self-censorship in the name of multiculturalism. Will it protect the one thing that has distinguished life in the West from life elsewhere on the planet -- the protected freedom of expression? Or will it surrender before the threat of Danish biscuits vanishing from Arab store shelves?

For in this crisis is laid bare the real cost of globalization -- Western ideals in hock to the formula of free trade. Notice how the same people who are willing to start wars eight thousand miles away in the name of Democracy are ready to water it down at home at the first sign of economic disruption emanating from far-away lands. The global chickens have come home to roost.

After the principled stand by the Danish prime minister, who politely told critics that the government in Denmark could not order the press, some EU high-up issued a disingenuous statement about the need to be sensitive to religion and culture. Following bravely was that unctuous hypocrite, Kofi Annan -- a man who sullied his post by watching mutely when a UN member nation was savaged in a pre-meditated war -- now expostulating on the need for freedom of the press to be tempered by respect for religion.

Weighing in the following day was Condoleezza Rice's Department of State, whose spokeswoman blasted the Danish and other European papers for publishing the cartoons, stressing the need for press responsibility. Perhaps for once they were sincere -- no one loves a "responsible" press more than this administration!

The assault on free speech has been happening on a smaller scale for some time. I recall some company in the US that had used a picture of Gandhi in some unflattering fashion. A howl of protest went up on the Internet, and the company folded with the usual noises of forced apology and assurances of how much they respected the great man, etc. etc. About a year back, a play had to be canceled in the UK because members of the Sikh faith felt it offended them. The British state was nowhere about to protect the right of the organizers (in fact, the playwright, I recall reading, had to hide in fear of death threats. Not all are as prominent as Salman Rushdie).

Where is the State when it has a real role, to preserve and protect everybody's right of free _expression? President Bush speaks often about the threat to our way of life. If there is anything worth preserving in our way of life, the freedom of speech is first on that list. HL Mencken wrote, "[I] know of no human right that is one-tenth as valuable as the simple right to utter what seems (at the moment) to be the truth." Thomas Jefferson went further, " "...truth is great and will prevail if left to herself; that she is the proper and sufficient antagonist to error, and has nothing to fear from the conflict unless by human interposition disarmed of her natural weapons, free argument and debate, errors ceasing to be dangerous when it is permitted freely to contradict them."

The president needs to speak out on this matter and defend free speech in clear terms. As does every Democrat and Republican, every organization, including the ACLU, and indeed, every individual.

There has been criticism of the unwritten and the written laws of censorship, which European and American media meekly follow, notably in the matter of criticizing Israel, for fear of being tagged 'anti-Semitic'. This is real enough. And the meekness of the media around the Bush Administration is there for all to see. But just as a person protesting a speed limit of 60 mph would drive at the maximum speed allowed even while campaigning for its raising, instead of driving at 40 mph in protest, expanding the right of _expression, not its curtailment, should be the goal.
"We pretend to work, and they pretend to pay us", went the joke in the Old Soviet Union. Similar is the demand by protesters that Denmark, France, Norway and Germany apologize. Such is the nature of both apology and the demand for it in these cases. Galileo recanted, but did he stop believing the Earth went round the Sun? Compliance may be enforced, but respect is earned.

The editor of the Jyllands-Posten, accused of not 'respecting' Islam, said that what was being demanded was not 'respect', but 'submission'. When told that Danish law allowed the newspaper to publish what it saw fit, the imam of the largest Muslim congregation in Denmark declared, "If this is Democracy, we want no part of it!"

I doubt if the imam had read Ved Mehta's autobiography. Before Mehta left India for America for his studies, while not yet out of his teens, his father took him to meet Jawaharlal Nehru. Nehru wished the young man well, adding, "Remember that when abroad, you are always an ambassador of your country." In the chorus of outrage from Muslim lands, Ayatollah Al Sistani in Iraq alone seemed to have grasped the wisdom of Nehru's words. While protesting the cartoons, he also criticized Muslims for bringing a bad name to their religion by postures of intolerance and threats of violence.

As the late Nirad Chaudhuri admonished his fellow Indians, "A tree is known by its fruits."

Related Readings
1. The Trouble with Infallibility by Niranjan Ramakrishnan
2. Newsweek: A Contest of Hypocrisies by Niranjan Ramakrishnan
3. Danes Apologize (finally, but for the wrong reasons) by Rachard Itani
4. A Mountain out of a Molehill by Mona Eltawahy

An earlier version of this article also appeared on Counterpunch on Feb 4/5, 2006.

Niranjan Ramakrishnan can be reached at njn_2003@yahoo.com.