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Gender: Male
Hometown: Connecticut
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Member since: Thu May 15, 2008, 04:37 PM
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Journal Archives

Charlie Hebdo attack:Taking the heat out of the conflict with Assad may help to turn the jihadi tide

It was naïve to imagine that sparks from the war would not spread violence to Western Europe

Patrick Cockburn

Wednesday 07 January 2015

There is a feeling of inevitability about the attack in Paris.

The likelihood must be that the killers were Islamic fanatics, the murder of the journalists and police underlining the degree to which the ferocious religious war being waged in Iraq and Syria now affects all of the world. Regardless of whether or not those who attacked the Charlie Hebdo office have any direct connection with this conflict, it has provided an ideal seedbed for Islamic extremism.

It was culpably naïve to imagine that sparks from the Iraq-Syrian civil war, now in its fourth year, would not spread explosive violence to Western Europe. With thousands of young Sunni Muslims making the difficult journey to Syria and Iraq to fight for Isis, it has always been probable that some of them would choose to give a demonstration of their religious faith by attacking targets they deem anti-Islamic closer to home.

One way of measuring the spread of al-Qaeda-type groups is to look at suicide bombings over the last week. Several of them have inflicted heavier casualties than at Charlie Hebdo. For instance, in the Yemeni capital, Sanaa, today, a suicide bomber driving a minibus packed with explosives killed 33 police cadets. On Tuesday, another suicide bomber killed 23 Iraqi soldiers and pro-government Sunni tribesmen in a town in Anbar province north-west of Baghdad.

The day before, gunfire and a suicide bombing killed the general heading the Saudi border control force and two others on the Saudi-Iraq frontier. A week earlier, on 30 December, a suicide bomb blew up outside the internationally recognised anti-jihadi Libyan government building in Tobruk.

in full: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/charlie-hebdo-attack-a-ceasefire-with-syrias-president-assad-may-help-to-turn-the-jihadi-tide-9963863.html

Time for serious Palestinian leadership

January 3, 2015

The move by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to join the International Criminal Court and give it jurisdiction to investigate allegations of Israeli and other war crimes in Palestine should be seen as a positive development that brings international law to play in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Yet I find it difficult to be enthusiastic or optimistic about this move, due to the personalized, uninstitutionalized and erratic manner in which Abbas and the current Palestinian leadership go about the business of managing statehood.

We have just witnessed the sad spectacle of Abbas deciding to take the issue of Palestinian statehood to the U.N. Security Council, and in the end discovering that he was unable to secure the nine votes needed to pass the resolution (which would have been vetoed by the U.S. in any case). The failure at the Security Council is symptomatic of the wider problem that has bedeviled the rump Palestinian leadership that remains in place under Abbas, while many Palestinians have abandoned his drifting ship and joined Hamas and other political groups.

That problem is simply that Abbas and his few advisers have consistently failed to undertake the hard work needed to succeed in political and diplomatic action, and to mobilize those assets Palestinians enjoy in the region and the world.

The hard work I am talking about is nothing magical or exotic. It is simply the hard work of spending days and weeks undertaking the basic tasks of mobilizing, consulting, negotiating, threatening, enticing and other such activities that are necessary for the success of any political campaign. This can apply to running for a judgeship in a small town in Arkansas or the presidency of France, or seeking passage of a resolution at the United Nations or any other international forum.

in full: http://www.dailystar.com.lb/Opinion/Columnist/2015/Jan-03/282897-time-for-serious-palestinian-leadership.ashx?utm_medium=email&utm_source=transactional&utm_campaign=Newsletter

Individual Contribution Limit in U.S. Elections Raised to $4.9 Million

TRNN reporter Thomas Hedges takes a look at two new provisions in the 2015 spending bill that drastically increase individual limits and prohibit President Obama from using executive action to shed light on dark money in campaigns.

January 5,

Transcript: THOMAS HEDGES, TRNN PRODUCER: On December 16, President Obama signed the omnibus spending bill for 2015 into law, representatives immediately decried key provisions within the bill, including one provision that serves as an insurance policy for Wall Street derivatives trading.

ELIZABETH WARREN, U.S. SENATOR (D-MA): The original bill that is being incorporated into the House's spending legislation today was literally written by Citigroup lobbyists, who, quote, redrafted the legislation.

HEDGES: But one measure that didn't get as much attention was a change to individual campaign financing rules.

JAY RIESTENBERG, RESEARCH ANALYST, COMMON CAUSE: It's supposed to be in confusing, and it's inherently confusing, so people don't understand it. And that's why it was tucked away in the fourth of the last page of the sixteen hundred bill, and it was done in the middle of the night in what some people are calling a cigar-filled bathroom. And it took a while for anyone to own up to who actually wrote it, and we still actually don't know.

HEDGES: Jay Riestenberg is a research analyst at Common Cause, which is a nonpartisan government watchdog organization. It used to be that individual contributions to party organizations in any given election cycle were limited to $259,000. Now that amount is 500 percent more, standing at $1.5 million.

in full: http://therealnews.com/t2/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=31&Itemid=74&jumival=12922

War with Isis: The West is wrong again in its fight against terror

January 4, 2015

Islamic State (Isis) will remain at the centre of the escalating crisis in the Middle East this year as it was in 2014. The territories it conquered in a series of lightning campaigns last summer remain almost entirely under its control, even though it has lost some towns to the Kurds and Shia militias in recent weeks.

United States air strikes in Iraq from 8 August and Syria from 23 September may have slowed up Isis advances and inflicted heavy casualties on its forces in the Syrian Kurdish town of Kobani. But Isis has its own state machinery and is conscripting tens of thousands of fighters to replace casualties, enabling it to fight on multiple fronts from Jalawla on Iraq's border with Iran to the outskirts of Aleppo in Syria.

In western Syria, Isis is a growing power as the Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad loses its advantage of fighting a fragmented opposition, that is now uniting under the leadership of Isis and Jabhat al-Nusra, the Syrian affiliate of al-Qaeda.

snip* The Iranians really do feel this is a war they cannot lose whatever the impact of economic sanctions imposed by the US. The balance of power between government and Isis looks fairly even in Iraq at the moment, but this is not true in Syria where Sunni Arabs are 60 per cent of the population as opposed to 20 per cent in Iraq. Above all, Isis is strengthened in Syria by the fact that the West, Turkey and the Sunni Arab states are seeking the fall of Assad, Isis's main opponent, as well as the overthrow of Isis itself.

The mutual hatreds of its enemies remain Isis's strongest card.


Greece, the Troika, and the New York Times

By William K. Black
Bloomington, MN: December 29, 2014

As I have explained in prior articles, there is an excellent chance that the Troika’s infliction of austerity on the eurozone’s periphery could, as with the austerity inflicted under the Washington Consensus continue to produce such long-term rolling recessions that it creates a political dynamic that discredits such economic malpractice and brings to power leaders elected on the promise that they will adopt economically literate policies. The first case of this in the eurozone could be Greece. (Hollande won office on a platform of opposing inflicting austerity on France, but purged his government of those that most strongly opposed austerity and implemented policies that moved increasingly toward austerity. The French economy stagnated and Hollande’s approval ratings are dismal.)

Greece’s coalition government led by Prime Minister Antonis Samaras failed, in multiple tries, to garner enough support to continue to rule. The result will be national elections on January 25, 2015. The results of the election are uncertain, but the leader in the polls is the Syriza party led by Alexis Tsipras, which is running on an anti-austerity platform.

The New York Times’ web version has four recent articles on Greece dated December 27-29, 2014. I’ll begin with the only one that is not a complete embarrassment, Suzanne Daley’s December 29 article titled “Greek Patience with Austerity Nears Its Limit.” While the journalist often does not select the article title, as I will show Daley either chose or inspired the title. Her title signals the central problem with the article. “Patience” has nothing to do with the issue and is most assuredly not a virtue in this context. The title suggests that if the Greeks were simply more German, more patient, all would be well. The reality is that the Greek people, as with their counterparts in much of the eurozone, have been far too patient with the economic equivalent of bleeding the patient (austerity). All other factors held constant, the longer austerity continues the slower the recovery and the greater the misery.

As Bill Mitchell always emphasizes, governments choose the level of unemployment – and the Troika and the Greek leaders who succumbed to its extortion have chosen to create catastrophic rates of unemployment in Greece that continue a full six years after the peak of the crisis. Greece is suffering from Great Depression levels of unemployment and lost GDP. Indeed, Greece suffered relatively less from the Great Depression, which reduced per capita GDP (peak-to-trough by approximately 6%). In the case of the Great Depression, Greece was able to return to pre-Depression GDP levels within four years. The troika, and the Greek leaders who gave to the troika’s threats condemned Greece to a crisis that is far more severe and far longer than was the Great Depression. No people worthy of being a Nation would be “patient” with seeing such horrors gratuitously inflicted on their fellow countrymen. They would rise up and put a stop to such depraved policies.

in full: http://neweconomicperspectives.org/2014/12/greece-troika-new-york-times.html#more-8942

Just Another Day

December 2014

2014 was a terrible year. It was one of the cruelest and deadliest in the history of the occupation. After so much killing, devastation, pain and suffering it is natural to want to “get back to normal”. We must not get back to normal. That “normal” is morally reprehensible. It is deadly, guaranteeing the very opposite of peace and justice. For the millions of Palestinians living under occupation, that “normal” means living a practically defenseless existence in the face of a constant threat of harm. Human rights violations must never become the norm – not after 47 years, not after one hundred.


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