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Journal Archives

Absent Victims ( Joshua Oppenheimer, the director of The Act of Killing )

January 26, 2015

Joshua Oppenheimer, the director of The Act of Killing, discusses his follow-up documentary, The Look of Silence, about those who survived the Indonesian genocide of 1965

By Joshua Jelly-Schapiro

Adi tests the vision of a death squad leader who helped kill his brother. Photograph by Lars Skree © Final Cut for Real

When a new documentary by an unknown director appeared on the program of the 2012 Telluride Film Festival, few knew what was in store. The fact that two celebrated auteurs—Werner Herzog and Errol Morris—had attached their names to the project as executive producers hinted at its distinction. But even by their standards, and those of a film festival renowned for premiering the finest films of the year, Joshua Oppenheimer’s The Act of Killing was astonishing work. Its subject was one the least-known genocides of the twentieth century, the awful months in Suharto’s Indonesia, between the fall of 1965 and the spring of 1966, when at least half a million suspected Communists and sympathizers—along with artists, intellectuals, and residents of the wrong village—were slain by a regime with ties to a Cold War-era CIA. But unlike most historical documentaries, Oppenheimer’s film wasn’t concerned so much with exposition, with establishing the hard facts of the atrocities. The young American director instead took a radical tack: he turned his camera on the perpetrators. He asked a charismatic crew of aging killers, none of whom have ever had to answer for their roles in the genocide, to reenact their crimes on film. In doing so, they employ film noir tropes, footage of majestic waterfalls, and music-video kitsch involving giant plastic fish. The result offers us a rare glimpse at the tales mass murderers tell themselves to cope with their ruthless pasts.

Since its launch, The Act of Killing’s bevy of prizes and plaudits has grown to include a BAFTA and an Oscar nomination for best documentary. More remarkably, it has “opened a space for conversation,” Oppenheimer says, in a country that has yet to collectively reckon with this dark chapter of its history. The conversation continues in his new film, The Look of Silence, which considers the genocide from a different perspective. Whereas The Act of Killing examines the lasting impacts of violence through the narratives of its perpetrators, Oppenheimer’s follow-up focuses on victims. Less radical and more intimate than its predecessor, The Look of Silence, which will be released in June, tells the story of a village optometrist, Adi Rukun, who lost his brother to the genocide. We follow Rukun into the home of his aging parents, and then into the lush yards and houses of similarly aged killers nearby, where he questions the transgressors with gentle force—often while giving them eye exams—about not-forgotten crimes.

In Telluride, where The Look of Silence was screened, public radio journalist Mirissa Neff and I interviewed Oppenheimer about his craft and his decade-long, two-film project which, a couple of weeks after we spoke, earned him a MacArthur fellowship.

It seems fair to say that The Look of Silence and The Act of Killing aren’t so much two discrete pieces as they are two parts of a single project. How did this larger project come about?


Oral Testimony, William K.Black Dublin,Ireland,Oireachtas’ Joint Committee of Inquiry/Banking Crisis

Posted on February 8, 2015 by William Black

Note: This oral testimony was delivered on February 5, 2015 in Dublin, Ireland before the Oireachtas’ Joint Committee of Inquiry into the Banking Crisis. These are my prepared remarks. My actual oral testimony differed considerably. A transcript is available from the Inquiry, as is complete video.

To: Joint Committee of Inquiry into the Banking Crisis
From: William K. Black
Date: February 3, 2015

Oral Testimony of William K. Black


Thank you for the invitation to assist Ireland as you face among the most important questions Ireland and many other nations must answer correctly if we are to put a stop to our recurrent, intensifying financial crises. I am William K. Black and I come to you wearing four disciplinary and three institutional “hats.” My primary appointment is in economics with a joint appointment in law at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. I am a white-collar criminologist and a former senior financial regulator. My research specialties include elite white-collar crime and corruption, regulation, and financial crises. I am the Distinguished Scholar in Residence for Financial Regulation at the University of Minnesota’s Law School. I am a professor at the Instituto de Altos Estudios Nacionales es la Universidad de Posgrado del Estado in Quito, Ecuador. My testimony, of course, is solely my personal views rather than the official position of any of these universities.

There is Nothing More Expensive than Failed Banking Regulation

remainder in full: http://neweconomicperspectives.org/2015/02/oral-testimony-william-k-black.html

Isis in Iraq: Britain has no plan for tackling the militants, and no idea who's in charge

A Commons report revealed last week that our involvement there is beyond parody

Patrick Cockburn

Sunday 8 February 2015

The traumatic experience of Britain’s participation in the 2003 Iraq war led the Government to have as little to do with the country as possible. By the spring of 2014, as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isis) prepared its great offensive that would capture a third of Iraq, the political section of the British embassy in Baghdad consisted of just three junior diplomats on short-term deployment. The British consulate in Basra, the city that had been the base for UK military operation between 2003 and 2007 and is the centre of Iraq’s oil industry, had been closed in 2011. Amazingly, Iraq was apparently a low priority for British intelligence at a moment when it was becoming obvious that much of the country was being taken over by the world’s most violent terrorist movement.

These facts all come from the well-informed report by the House of Commons Defence Committee published last week which should be read by anybody seriously interested in Britain’s role in the war now raging in Iraq and Syria. It turns out that, for all the British Government’s bombast about fighting Isis, it has not bothered to develop a political and military policy towards it. This would, in any case, be difficult to do because Government has denied itself the means of knowing what is happening in Iraq. The committee reports that even in December 2014, “despite the UK’s long involvement in Iraq, there were no UK personnel on the ground with deep expertise in the tribes, or politics of Iraq, or a deep understanding of the Shia militia, who are doing much of the fighting”.

Here, in one of the most dangerous places on earth, Britain has once again become militarily involved – if only to the extent of launching one air strike a day – without knowing what it wants to do. The report says: “The committee was shocked by the inability or unwillingness of any of the service chiefs to provide a clear, and articulate statement of the UK’s objectives or strategic plan in Iraq. There was a lack of clarity over who owns the policy – and indeed whether or not such a policy exists.”

The service chiefs in question responded to queries about what they thought they were up to in Iraq with some splendid pieces of waffle and mandarin-speak. Asked who was responsible for determining future British actions, Air Chief Marshal Sir Andrew Pulford, said: “Well, the answer is that there are probably about 20 different players who own different elements of the comprehensive approach that needs to be applied in Iraq, in Syria and right around the region, because of the multifaceted and multi-natured nature of the ultimate solution, and all the moving parts that need to go into place.”


Living among the dead in Gaza

January 28, 2015

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — “We smell the stench of death everywhere and all we see is the burial of the dead. We no longer know the meaning of leisure, as we have abandoned the hope of living.” This is how Abu Raed al-Qahwaji described the life of his family, which lives in a cemetery called the “Baptist” in central Gaza.

A Palestinian girl is seen outside her family's home in a graveyard in Gaza City, where they are forced to live due to deteriorating living conditions and a lack of housing, Jan. 5, 2014. (photo by Yasser Qudiah)

Read more: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2015/01/gaza-war-housing-living-graves.html#ixzz3QEBR6URL

Qahwaji, 39, who lives in the cemetery with his wife and four children, told Al-Monitor, “We used to live in a small flat in an apartment building in the Shajaiya neighborhood in central Gaza City. We could not afford the monthly rent, but a businessman took care of it as a donation. However, the building was destroyed in the war and we were left with no other choice but this ‘small hut’ I set up in the cemetery.”

He explained that he could not find any other shelter given his dire situation, poverty and unemployment, while the demand on apartments was increasing following the war that destroyed tens of thousands of houses and apartment buildings.

“We have become like the living dead. We have no food, home or clothing,” he said indignantly. “We live off some of the aid we receive from charitable associations and some good people on an irregular basis.”

Read more: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2015/01/gaza-war-housing-living-graves.html#ixzz3QEBDN4qW

New Report: Black Flag ( B'Tselem )

Black Flag The legal and moral implications of the policy of attacking residential buildings in the Gaza Strip, summer 2014

Summary, Jan. 2015

The ruins of the al-Haj family home where 8 family members were killed. photo by Muhammad Sa’id, B’Tselem, 10 July 2014.

On 8 July 2014, another round of hostilities broke out in Gaza. It was dubbed Operation Protective Edge. About 50 days later, the fighting ended in a ceasefire agreement between Israel and Hamas. During the fighting, which included an incursion by ground forces, the Israeli military launched strikes from the air, sea and land against thousands of targets. More than 2,200 Palestinians were killed, including hundreds of children. About 18,000 homes were destroyed or badly damaged and more than 100,000 Palestinians were rendered homeless. Over the course of the fighting, Palestinians fired over 4,000 rockets and mortar shells from the Gaza Strip, mostly at civilian communities inside Israel. As a result, five civilians were killed in Israel, including a four-year-old boy. Sixty-seven Israeli soldiers were killed in the fighting.

On the first day of the fighting, the military attacked the Kaware’ family home. The house collapsed. Nine people, including five children aged 7 to 14, were killed. This was just the first of dozens of air, sea and ground strikes, which would become one of the appalling hallmarks of the fighting in Gaza this summer: bombings in which hundreds of people were killed – constituting more than a quarter of all of the Palestinians killed in the fighting. Time and again Palestinian families suffered much grievous loss of life. In a single instant, so many families were ruined, with the wreckage of their lives mirroring the devastation of their homes.

These attacks were not carried out on the whim of individual soldiers, pilots or commanders in the field. They are the result of a policy formulated by government officials and the senior military command. These officials backed the policy of attacking homes, reiterating the argument that the attacks conform to international humanitarian law (IHL) and eschewing any responsibility for harm to civilians.

For the purpose of this report B’Tselem investigated 70 incidents in each of which at least three people were killed while inside their home. A total of 606 Palestinians were killed in such incidents, the vast majority of whom took no part in the fighting: more than 70% were either under 18, over 60 or women. An examination of these cases indicates that, at least in some cases, the military’s actions ran contrary to IHL provisions and, in other cases, there is grave concern that they did so. B’Tselem’s research indicated three main reasons that led to the death of so many civilians:

A. Broad definition of what constitutes a “military objective” that may be targeted



No Safe Place | Full Report Physicians for Human Rights Findings:

January 20, 2015

On 8 July 2014, Israel initiated a military offensive in the Gaza Strip. Although accounts vary, most estimates put the number of residents of Gaza killed in the 50-day armed conflict at over 2,100, of whom at least 70% were civilians, including over 500 children. Over 11,000 were wounded and over 100,000 made homeless. According to Israeli official accounts, 73 Israelis were killed: 67 soldiers and 6 civilians, including one child and one migrant worker. 469 soldiers and 255 civilians were wounded.

Questions arose regarding violations of international human rights and humanitarian law in the course of the conflict. In July 2014, following discussions with Al-Mezan, Physicians for Human Rights-Israel (PHR-Israel) commissioned a fact-finding mission (hereafter ‘FFM’) to Gaza, whose aim was to gather evidence and draw preliminary conclusions regarding types, causes and patterns of injuries and attacks; attacks on medical teams and facilities; evacuation; impact of the conflict on the healthcare system; and longer-term issues including rehabilitation of the wounded, mental health, public health and displacement.

PHR-Israel recruited 8 independent international medical experts, unaffiliated with Israeli or Palestinian parties involved in the conflict: four with special expertise in the fields of forensic medicine and pathology; and four experts in emergency medicine, public health, paediatrics and paediatric intensive care, and health and human rights.


The FFM made three visits to the Gaza Strip between 19 August and 12 November 2014. Access and meetings were facilitated by PHR-Israel in partnership with local Palestinian non-governmental organisations: the Al Mezan Center for Human Rights, the Gaza Community Mental Health Programme (GCMHP) and the Palestinian Center for Human Rights in Gaza (PCHR).


QE is Europe’s “Last Best Hope,” – If One Ignores the First, Best Hope

By William K. Black
Bloomington, MN: January 23, 2015

It’s the curse of the commentator on commentators. I recently wrote nice things about Neil Irwin’s New York Times column about the Eurozone. On January 22, 2015, he wrote a column about the ECB’s adoption of quantitative easing (QE), that claimed it was “last, best hope” for the Eurozone. In fairness to Irwin, his column contains plenty of skepticism as to whether QE is even a poor “hope” for the Eurozone. Irwin also has the right quotation from Mario Draghi, the head of the ECB.

“Mr. Draghi acknowledged that it would take more than an open spigot of money from the central bank to get Europe’s economy on track, and that political authorities across Europe must act as well. ‘What monetary policy can do is to create the basis for growth,’ he said at a news conference in Frankfurt. ‘But for growth to pick up, you need investment. For investment, you need confidence. And for confidence, you need structural reforms.’”

Yes, Draghi, seven years after the onset of the EU downturn, is still relying on what Paul Krugman aptly derides as the “confidence fairy.” Note that two concepts that economists overwhelmingly consider critical disappear from Draghi’s fable: inadequate demand and fiscal stimulus. Irwin does not make any of these points.

snip* It is literally textbook that the first, best option is to respond to a recession with a combination of fiscal and monetary stimulus. In a severe recession fiscal stimulus is much more effective than monetary stimulus. The troika has refused to allow meaningful fiscal stimulus and insisted instead on self-destructive austerity. The troika attempts to fiscal policy disappear as a policy through the constant invocation of the claim that “there is no alternative” (TINA) to austerity.


War on Isis: Flood of jihadi volunteers to Syria is 'unstoppable', warns Turkish Prime Minister

Patrick Cockburn

January 21, 2015

The tide of foreign volunteers crossing from Turkey into Syria to fight for Isis cannot be stopped, the Turkish Prime Minister has warned, with authorities unable to close the porous 510-mile border between the two countries.

Ahmet Davutoglu, whose government has been accused of not doing enough to stop jihadi fighters from Britain and other countries crossing into Syria, told The Independent that Turkey could not put “soldiers everywhere on the border”. He added: “In any case, there isn’t any state on the other side .”

Turkey plays a crucial role in the Syrian crisis because of its long border with the country, part of which is now controlled by Isis. Mr Davutoglu described how Turkey’s close relations with Bashar al-Assad – “I visited there 62 times in 10 years” – soured in 2011 when “Assad started to kill his own people”.

Mr Davutoglu said Isis was the creation of the war in Iraq and the US occupation after 2003. And Turkey – which is home to 1.5 million refugees who fled President Assad, and a further 500,000 who fled from Isis in Syria and Iraq – had nothing to do with the rise of Isis.


Military steps up use of live 0.22 inch bullets against Palestinian stone-throwers

January 18, 2015

West Bank military commander recently confirmed shift to use of live fire instead of crowd control weapons

Recent months have seen a dramatic rise in Israeli security forces’ use of live 0.22 inch caliber bullets (Ruger rifle bullets, also known by the nickname Two-Two) in clashes with Palestinians in the West Bank. The firing of this ammunition is an almost weekly occurrence in the West Bank in sites of protests and clashes. Most of those injured have been young Palestinians, including minors. Yet, in the last two months, one Palestinian woman, at least three photographers, and a foreign national who was taking part in a demonstration were also hit by these bullets. B’Tselem does not have the full data on the number of people wounded this type of ammunition.

Two-Twos are live ammunition whose impact is less severe than that of “ordinary” bullets (5.56 mm caliber), yet even so they can be lethal and inflict serious injuries. Two-Twos are fired with a 10/22 Ruger rifle, which is often equipped with an integral suppressor, or from a specially converted M4 rifle (“a shortened M16”). Use of this weapon has elicited controversy even within the Israeli military: in 2001, the head of the security department in the Operations Directorate wrote that the Ruger cannot be considered a non-lethal weapon and may be used only in circumstances that justify live fire. In view of the large number of people hit and even killed by 0.22 bullets early in the second intifada, use of this ammunition was suspended from 2001 to 2008. In the time since use of this ammunition was renewed, B’Tselem has documented the deaths of at least two people from these bullets; however, the real number may be higher, as it is difficult to establish whether a person was killed by these bullets or “ordinary” live ammunition, which is very similar in caliber.

In recent weeks, B’Tselem has documented the use of 0.22 bullets in clashes in various locations in the northern West Bank. In these instances shots were fired contrary to the strict open-fire regulations that, as a rule, prohibit live fire against stone-throwers. The only exception to this rule cited in the regulations is immediate, mortal danger. Moreover, in several cases, the soldiers intentionally engaged with stone-throwers in order to fire 0.22 bullets at them. In one instance, which was documented, the soldiers initiated action to provoke Palestinian youths into throwing stones, so that they could respond with 0.22 fire. In one documented case, soldiers took action designed to provoke youths to throw stones, ultimately enabling the soldiers to respond with gunfire, wounding the youths. In another case, a sniper armed with a Ruger rifle waited for a procession of demonstrators even before any stone was thrown.

The most striking of these incidents occurred in the village of a-Nabi Saleh on 5 December 2014. At the end of the weekly demonstration, a handful of village youths threw stones at soldiers. The military had stationed a sniper armed with a Ruger rifle together with a captain in an open area some distance from the village homes. The youths withdrew to a distance some 140 meters away, beyond the effective range of 0.22 bullets, thereby essentially ending the confrontation. Yet, about half an hour later, the captain and sniper walked some 200 meters into the built-up part of the village, for no apparent reason other than provoking the youths into renewing the stone-throwing, as indeed then transpired. The sniper responded by shooting at a Palestinian youth, who was hit in the thigh. The youth, whose injury was termed light, was taken to hospital in Ramallah. At no point were the troops in mortal danger and in any case, the confrontation was intentionally renewed by the soldiers’ who entered the village, apparently on orders from above.

in full: http://www.btselem.org/press_releases/20150118_use_of_live_ammunition_in_wb

If all right-thinking people are united against terrorism, where are the 'Je suis Nigeria' banners?

Patrick Cockburn

Sunday 18 January 2015

President Obama is being criticised for not joining the 40 other world leaders at the mass march in Paris in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo massacre. But, by playing down rather than playing up the terrorist killings, Obama may have shown a surer instinct about how to deal with such attacks, however horrific, than those leaders who did turn up.

It is understandable that governments and people want to show solidarity against terrorism. But in many respects, the gargantuan size and overblown rhetoric of those responding to the murders of 17 people by three terrorists, treating the episode as if it was Pearl Harbour or 9/11, plays straight into the hands of al-Qaeda and its clones.

The three terrorists, Chérif and Said Kouachi and Amedy Coulibaly, were rather pathetic figures before 7 January, but have now achieved demonic status. Their actions on that day have sent millions of people into the streets, brought the leaders of much of the world to Paris, and led to the mobilisation of tens of thousands of soldiers and police. The three men would have been proud to have provoked such a response by committing what, by Middle East and North African standards, was a fairly run-of-the-mill terrorist attack.

This overreaction and the wall-to-wall media coverage may prove counterproductive. The reasons for this are eloquently identified by the Israeli commentator Uri Avnery, who writes: “For other potential Islamic terrorists throughout Europe and America, this must look like a huge achievement. It is an invitation for individuals and tiny groups to do the same again, everywhere.

in full: http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/if-all-rightthinking-people-are-united-against-terrorism-where-are-the-je-suis-nigeria-banners-9985589.html
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