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Jefferson23

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Journal Archives

Peace or Palestinian surrender? An interview with Norman Finkelstein

3/5/2015

Aside from the renowned linguist and philosopher Noam Chomsky, Norman Finkelstein is perhaps the best known, and most provocative, American Jewish critic of Israel. The son of holocaust survivors, Finkelstein was banned from entering Israel after a visit to Lebanon in which he expressed solidarity with Hezbollah; and frozen out of US universities after a fierce academic conflict with civil liberties lawyer and Israel supporter Alan Dershowitz.

More recently he has angered some “pro-Palestinians” by his adherence to a two-state solution, and criticism of some elements in the Boycott Diversity and Sanctions (BDS) campaign for equivocating over the continued existence of Israel.

A political firebrand, Finkelstein has advocated for the Palestinian cause, presenting himself as a beacon of moral truth in the murk of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. His work, accusing Jewish charities of exploiting the Holocaust for monetary gain and attacking Israel for oppressing the Palestinians, has made him many enemies. Leon Wieseltier, the literary editor of the New Republic, described Finkelstein as “poison: a disgusting self-hating Jew.”

In a 2009 documentary about his life, Finkelstein said that he inherited from his mother, Maryla, the conviction that Jews have a special obligation to ease the suffering of humanity because of what has been done to them.

- See more at: http://www.middleeasteye.net/news/peace-or-palestinian-surrender-interview-norman-finkelstein-1768836682#sthash.we45pX7A.dpuf

The long history of Israel gaming the 'Iranian threat'

3/5/2015

Years before his recent grandstanding in Congress, Netanyahu and other Israeli leaders conjured a threat where one previously didn’t exist

Western news media has feasted on Prime Minister Netanyahu’s talk and the reactions to it as a rare political spectacle rich in personalities in conflict. But the real story of Netanyahu’s speech is that he is continuing a long tradition in Israeli politics of demonising Iran to advance domestic and foreign policy interests.

The history of that practice, in which Netanyahu has played a central role going back nearly two decades, shows that it has been based on a conscious strategy of vastly exaggerating the threat from Iran.

In conjuring the spectre of Iranian genocide against Israelis, Netanyahu was playing two political games simultaneously. He was exploiting the fears of the Israeli population associated with the Holocaust to boost his electoral prospects while at the same time exploiting the readiness of most members of US Congress to support whatever Netanyahu orders on Iran policy.

Netanyahu’s primary audience was the Israeli electorate. He was speaking as a candidate for re-election as prime minister in an election that is just two weeks away. His speech was calculated to play on the deep-rooted anxiety of Israeli voters about the outsiders who may want to destroy the Jewish people.

- See more at: http://www.middleeasteye.net/columns/long-history-israeli-gaming-iranian-threat-830388190#sthash.VyRY4gLR.dpuf

Noam Chomsky: Opposing Iran Nuclear Deal, Israel’s Goal Isn’t Survival — It’s Regional Dominance

3/2/2015

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has arrived in the United States as part of his bid to stop a nuclear deal with Iran during a controversial speech before the U.S. Congress on Tuesday. Dozens of Democrats are threatening to boycott the address, which was arranged by House Speaker John Boehner without consulting the White House. Netanyahu’s visit comes just as Iran and six world powers, including the United States, are set to resume talks in a bid to meet a March 31 deadline. "For both Prime Minister Netanyahu and the hawks in Congress, mostly Republican, the primary goal is to undermine any potential negotiation that might settle whatever issue there is with Iran," says Noam Chomsky, institute professor emeritus at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. "They have a common interest in ensuring there is no regional force that can serve as any kind of deterrent to Israeli and U.S. violence, the major violence in the region." Chomsky also responds to recent revelations that in 2012 the Israeli spy agency, Mossad, contradicted Netanyahu’s own dire warnings about Iran’s ability to produce a nuclear bomb, concluding that Iran was "not performing the activity necessary to produce weapons."

Transcript

snip* AMY GOODMAN: Well, Noam, let’s start with Netanyahu’s visit. He is set to make this unprecedented joint address to Congress, unprecedented because of the kind of rift it has demonstrated between the Republicans and the Democratic president, President Obama. Can you talk about its significance?

NOAM CHOMSKY: For both president—Prime Minister Netanyahu and the hawks in Congress, mostly Republican, the primary goal is to undermine any potential negotiation that might settle whatever issue there is with Iran. They have a common interest in ensuring that there is no regional force that can serve as any kind of deterrent to Israeli and U.S. violence, the major violence in the region. And it is—if we believe U.S. intelligence—don’t see any reason not to—their analysis is that if Iran is developing nuclear weapons, which they don’t know, it would be part of their deterrent strategy. Now, their general strategic posture is one of deterrence. They have low military expenditures. According to U.S. intelligence, their strategic doctrine is to try to prevent an attack, up to the point where diplomacy can set in. I don’t think anyone with a grey cell functioning thinks that they would ever conceivably use a nuclear weapon, or even try to. The country would be obliterated in 15 seconds. But they might provide a deterrent of sorts. And the U.S. and Israel certainly don’t want to tolerate that. They are the forces that carry out regular violence and aggression in the region and don’t want any impediment to that.

And for the Republicans in Congress, there’s another interest—namely, to undermine anything that Obama, you know, the entity Christ, might try to do. So that’s a separate issue there. The Republicans stopped being an ordinary parliamentary party some years ago. They were described, I think accurately, by Norman Ornstein, the very respected conservative political analyst, American Enterprise Institute; he said the party has become a radical insurgency which has abandoned any commitment to parliamentary democracy. And their goal for the last years has simply been to undermine anything that Obama might do, in an effort to regain power and serve their primary constituency, which is the very wealthy and the corporate sector. They try to conceal this with all sorts of other means. In doing so, they’ve had to—you can’t get votes that way, so they’ve had to mobilize sectors of the population which have always been there but were never mobilized into an organized political force: evangelical Christians, extreme nationalists, terrified people who have to carry guns into Starbucks because somebody might be after them, and so on and so forth. That’s a big force. And inspiring fear is not very difficult in the United States. It’s a long history, back to colonial times, of—as an extremely frightened society, which is an interesting story in itself. And mobilizing people in fear of them, whoever "them" happens to be, is an effective technique used over and over again. And right now, the Republicans have—their nonpolicy has succeeded in putting them back in a position of at least congressional power. So, the attack on—this is a personal attack on Obama, and intended that way, is simply part of that general effort. But there is a common strategic concern underlying it, I think, and that is pretty much what U.S. intelligence analyzes: preventing any deterrent in the region to U.S. and Israeli actions.

AARON MATÉ: You say that nobody with a grey cell thinks that Iran would launch a strike, were it to have nuclear weapons, but yet Netanyahu repeatedly accuses Iran of planning a new genocide against the Jewish people. He said this most recently on Holocaust Remembrance Day in January, saying that the ayatollahs are planning a new holocaust against us. And that’s an argument that’s taken seriously here.

NOAM CHOMSKY: It’s taken seriously by people who don’t stop to think for a minute. But again, Iran is under extremely close surveillance. U.S. satellite surveillance knows everything that’s going on in Iran. If Iran even began to load a missile—that is, to bring a missile near a weapon—the country would probably be wiped out. And whatever you think about the clerics, the Guardian Council and so on, there’s no indication that they’re suicidal.

in full: http://www.democracynow.org/2015/3/2/noam_chomsky_opposing_iran_nuclear_deal

War with Isis: Fears that looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

3/1/2015

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city



As many as one million people could flee Mosul in northern Iraq if the Iraqi army, backed by US air strikes, seeks to recapture the city later this year, aid agencies have told The Independent on Sunday. And those agencies are preparing by building up stocks of food at sites around Mosul to feed those forced into a mass exodus.

“We would expect hundreds of thousands of people from Mosul to leave, if not more,” says Marwa Awad, speaking on behalf of the UN World Food Programme (WFP) in Irbil, the Kurdish capital, 50 miles east of Mosul. She added that the numbers fleeing an impending battle for Mosul in the course of the next few months could total a million. The present population of the city, captured by Islamic State (Isis) on 10 June last year, is believed to be about 1.5 million, the great majority of them Sunni Arabs.

The International Committee of the Red Cross has also issued a statement warning of a mass flight from Mosul, although without giving an estimate of the number likely to be affected. “The broadening of the conflict to populated areas along the Tigris and Euphrates rivers will create more humanitarian needs,” the ICRC warns. “If major cities such as Mosul come under fire again, thousands more people will have to flee.”

Syed Jaffer Hussain, the World Health Organisation’s representative in Iraq, also says that an attempt to recapture Mosul could lead to hundreds of thousands seeking refuge in Kurdistan. The exodus could begin as soon as Isis becomes unable to stop people leaving Mosul, and the US increases the number of its air strikes.

http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/war-with-isis-fears-that-the-looming-battle-for-mosul-will-unleash-a-million-refugees-10077591.html

Isis in Syria: Aided by US air strikes, Kurds cut terrorists' supply line linking Syria and Iraq

2/25/2015

Syrian Kurdish fighters have cut an important Isis supply line from Syria to Iraq as they expand an offensive launched in north-east Syria at the weekend that is receiving heavy support from American air strikes. The seizure of at least 90 Christian hostages from Assyrian villages by Isis may be its response to the Kurdish attack.

An important aspect of the Kurdish offensive by the People’s Protection Units (YPG) is that it is receiving air cover with US Central |Command recording 21 airstrikes in two days against Isis ground positions and vehicles. This means that the US is now cooperating militarily with the YPG, whom it once viewed as part of a terrorist movement, as a major ally in the war against Islamic State in Syria. The US only started intense bombing in support of the YPG in mid-October when it appeared that the Syrian Kurdish town of Kobani was about to fall to an Isis offensive.

Now for the first time there is evidence that this military cooperation between the Syrian Kurds and the US is continuing in offensive operations. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says that Isis has lost 132 fighters killed in this area in Hasaka province since 21 February while only seven YPG fighters have been killed, including one foreigner. The disparity in casualties can only be explained by the extensive use of US airpower.

“This is an important development,” says veteran Syrian Kurdish leader Omar Sheikhmous. “It means that the PYD has reached an understanding with the US about cooperation.” Joint action already appears to be showing dividends in fighting around the Islamic State stronghold of Tal Hamis east of Hasaka in which Isis is being driven back and has lost control of the road leading to the village of al-Houl and the Iraqi border.

in full: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/isis-in-syria-aided-by-us-air-strikes-kurds-cut-terrorists-supply-line-linking-syria-and-iraq-10070691.html

Isis in Iraq: Assyrian Christian militia keep well-armed militants at bay - but they are running out

*Iraq is becoming a land of exiles.

“We have only 90 rounds for each of our Kalashnikovs and we haven’t the money to buy more ammunition,” says Sergon, commander of a band of two dozen ill-armed Christian militiamen living in the deserted village of Bakufa, close to the Isis frontline. The 1,500 Assyrian Christians who once lived in Bakufa fled when Isis fighters from Mosul 18 miles to the south captured and later lost the village during their offensive last August.

The Isis men are now dug in a mile away from Bakufa. On a field radio we can hear one of the fighters loudly demanding in Arabic that somebody bring him some drinking water. “We also hear them talking in Turkish and English,” says Sergon. “But, going by their accents, we think those speaking English are Chechens and Afghans, who don’t have a common language.

The Christians of Nineveh Plain around Mosul, who lived here for 1,800 years, have become refugees in Iraqi Kurdistan or in Turkey, Lebanon or further afield. “I wish they would come back,” says Peshmerga General Wahid Majid Mohammed, commander of 420 soldiers on this section of the front, somewhat unrealistically. “It is 75 per cent safe here,” he says, which is hardly reassuring, particularly when he adds that there is no electricity or drinking water in Bakufa. As we speak, he twice sends out patrols to assess the damage caused by the latest US air strikes, which take place several times a day.

At one end of the large room where Sergon and his men are sitting with their ageing weaponry, there is a large Assyrian flag. “Once, we Assyrians were a great empire,” says one of the fighters, as if seeking solace in the distant past for present weakness. Aside from their lack of weapons, the militiamen have only one vehicle, no electric generator and depend on the Kurdish Peshmerga for food. Overall, the meagre resources of the so-called Dweekh Newsha militia, 300-strong and founded last August to show that Iraqi Christians can defend themselves, only emphasises their vulnerability in the face of thousands of well-equipped Isis fighters.

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/isis-in-iraq-assyrian-christian-militia-keep-wellarmed-militants-at-bay--but-they-are-running-out-of-ammunition-10062935.html

The Worst Article Title by an Economist about the Crisis

Posted on February 20, 2015 by William Black

This column discusses the most embarrassing title of an economic study of the U.S. financial crisis. It rivals the most embarrassing title of an economic study of the Icelandic crisis.

“The 2010 Academy Award-winning documentary Inside Job tells how Mishkin changed the name of the study from ‘Financial Stability in Iceland’ to ‘Financial Instability in Iceland’ on his curriculum vitae.”

Geetesh Bhardwaj of AIG Financial Products and Rajdeep Sengupta, a St. Louis Fed economist, entitled their September/October 2008 article: “Where’s the Smoking Gun? A Study of Underwriting Standards for US Subprime Mortgages.”

Earth to AIG Financial Products: You are the “Smoking Gun”

Indeed, you’re the billowing trench mortar that was about to blow up the global economy by defaulting on hundreds of billions of dollars in Credit Default Swaps (CDS) at the time your economist finished the article.

in full: http://neweconomicperspectives.org/2015/02/the-worst-article-title-by-an-economist-about-the-crisis.html

The Bernie Buzz Update: Profitable Corporations Duck Taxes

Sen. Bernie Sanders this week issued a new report that provides a fresh glimpse into the far-reaching corporate tax avoidance strategies of large and profitable companies represented by the Business Roundtable, including what he calls the "legalized tax fraud” of sheltering profits in offshore tax havens. The report shows for the first time how more than half of the companies represented by the Business Roundtable are collectively holding more than $1 trillion in profits in offshore tax haven countries where money is not subject to U.S. taxes. A number of huge corporations – including General Electric, Boeing, Duke Energy and Verizon – not only have paid nothing in federal income tax in recent years, they received refunds from the IRS.

“Instead of sheltering profits in the Cayman Islands and other offshore tax havens, the largest corporations in this country must pay their fair share of taxes so that our country has the revenue we need to rebuild America and reduce the deficit,” Bernie said. "At a time when corporations are making record-breaking profits, while the middle class is disappearing and senior poverty is on the rise, the last thing we should be doing is giving huge tax breaks to profitable corporations that don’t need it.” Bernie will soon reintroduce legislation to crack down on corporate tax avoidance by making sure that profits shifted to offshore tax haven subsidiaries are taxed at the top U.S. corporate tax rate.

Legalized Tax Fraud : How Top US Corporations Continue to Profit Through Offshore Tax Havens

http://www.budget.senate.gov/democratic/public/_cache/files/1b714994-7903-4a80-bb5e-47b6544d515d/legalized-tax-fraud.pdf

Isis: Paranoid but determined, Islamic State is ready for a fight to the death in Mosul

2/17/2015

“I fled Mosul when Isis threatened to conscript my brother as one of its fighters, though he is under 18 years of age,” says Ali Hussein Mustafa, a student who left the city a week ago. The self-styled “Islamic State” is seeking to bolster its military forces as it wages war on many fronts and it has introduced a new rule under which men under the age of 18 are no longer exempt from conscription.

The Iraqi government is threatening that it will soon send its army north to recapture Mosul, a city of two million, the loss of which last June was the first in a string of victories by Isis. The Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced this week in an interview that “we are now planning an offensive against Mosul in a few months”.

If the army does attack it will face formidable resistance from the armed forces of Isis that may now number well over 100,000 in Iraq and Syria. Moreover, people in Mosul, the northern capital of Iraq, are divided in their loyalties, judging by interviews with The Independent conducted this month, either after they left the city or by mobile phone, although Isis has banned their use. In a predominantly Sunni Arab city, many are more frightened of largely Shia Iraqi government forces than they are of those on the side of Isis, though they may not like either.

“Some fighters treat the residents cruelly and harshly, while others are well-educated and treat the people well,” says Ali. He cites a local mathematics teacher who joined Isis recently “but was very kind to people and gave money and food to the poor. He often asked me whether I have any information about widows and the disabled in the city. He was donating part of his salary to them.”

in full: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/isis-paranoid-but-determined-islamic-state-is-ready-for-a-fightto-the-death-in-mosul-10052377.html

The Study that Foreshadowed the Three Fraud Epidemics that Drove the Crisis

By William K. Black. Bloomington, MN: February 15, 2015

I will be writing a series of articles concerning the three mortgage fraud epidemics that hyper-inflated the bubble and drove the financial crisis prompted by four recent economic studies of mortgage fraud. My goal is to integrate the results of those studies with the work of criminologists, investigators, and data from other sources such as Clayton.

In economics and white-collar criminology, we teach our students the very useful concept of “revealed preferences.” We take what potential perpetrators say they would do and why they claim they took an action with cartons of salt. Their actions generally speak far louder and more candidly than do their words. I will show in this series how valuable revealed preferences are in analyzing the data and testing rival research hypotheses. (I will explain why I feel the recurrent failure to state these hypotheses expressly leads to serious error.)

I have come to the view that a concept that I term “revealed biases” is a useful corollary to “revealed preferences.” The National Institute of Justice virtually never funds empirical studies of elite white-collar criminals (a classic “revealed bias”). OMB suggests research programs exclusively for blue collar crime – in the midst of the largest and most destructive epidemics of elite white-collar crime in history. I wrote my first column in this series about an example of revealed biases in discussions of econometric studies of mortgage fraud.

The Piskorski, Seru, and Witkin (PSW) Study

The four studies can be read without charge. (The most recent study was behind a pay wall when I wrote by first article in this series.) In this and my next column I discuss two excellent studies by multiple authors. I have written previously about a February 2013 study entitled: “Asset Quality Misrepresentation by Financial Intermediaries: Evidence from RMBS Market.” The co-authors are Tomasz Piskorski (Columbia GSB), Amit Seru (University of Chicago and NBER), and James Witkin (collectively, PSW). (RMBS is an acronym for Residential Mortgage-Backed Securities.) (I discussed the PSW study extensively in an academic talk I gave on February 26, 2013 at Columbia that Piskorksi was able to attend.) This column begins the process of showing how adding the research findings and theoretical developments of criminologists, (effective) regulators, and economists on “control fraud” (aka “looting”) to the excellent work by of these finance authors can be useful to understanding the ongoing crisis and limiting or even preventing future crises. This column focuses on the PSW study’s findings and a few key interpretations of those findings. The next column discusses the most recent study on liar’s loans by Amir Sufi and Atif Mian.

http://therealnews.com/t2/component/content/article/75-william-black/2287-the-study-that-foreshadowed-the-three-fraud-epidemics-that-drove-the-crisis
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