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Archive for February, 2009

Pennsylvania’s Kickback Judges Ruining Young Lives for Profit

Posted by kelliasworld on February 28, 2009

February 27 – March 1, 2009
Published on Counterpunch
http://www.counterpunch.org/colson02272009.html
By NICOLE COLSON

“I felt like I had been thrown into some surreal sort of nightmare. All I wanted to know was how this could be fair, and why the judge would do such a thing.”

Hillary Transue had good reason to question how the judge overseeing her case could have to come to the decision he did.

In 2007, after a hearing lasting just 90 seconds, the 17-year-old found herself hauled away from court in handcuffs and thrown into a juvenile detention center. She was sentenced to three months for the crime of harassment after she created a mock site on the social networking Web site MySpace that made fun of the assistant principal at her high school.

The sentence was incredibly harsh considering that Hillary was a stellar student who had never been in trouble before–and that she put a disclaimer on the site itself stating that it was a joke.

But now, it’s clear why Hillary and hundreds of other kids like her received sentences in a juvenile detention center that were totally disproportionate to their crime.

In a word: money.

Earlier this month, two Luzerne County, Pa., judges–Mark Ciavarella Jr. and Michael Conahan–pled guilty to taking $2.6 million in kickbacks in exchange for throwing juveniles into two for-profit private detention centers, PA Child Care and a sister company, Western PA Child Care. Under a plea agreement, both judges will serve 87 months in federal prison and be disbarred.

* * *

BEGINNING IN late 2002, Conahan, as the president judge in control of the budget, and Ciavarella, overseeing the juvenile courts, moved to close the county-run juvenile detention center, arguing that it was run-down. They argued that the county had no choice but to send juveniles to the then newly built PA Child Care and Western PA Child Care.

The two facilities, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “are [partially] owned by Greg Zappala, brother of Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. and son of former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Stephen A. Zappala Sr.”

Conahan apparently secured contracts worth tens of millions of dollars for the two facilities to house juveniles, while Ciavarella made sure the centers stayed full–by railroading vulnerable teens into the centers after trials that sometimes lasted just a minute or two.

In the state of Pennsylvania, juvenile proceedings are closed to the public, and teens can waive their right to counsel at trial. It appears as though some of those who appeared in front of Ciavarella unknowingly waived their right to counsel–only to find themselves suddenly locked up after the abbreviated hearings.

In one case, a 17-year-old who stole a bottle of nutmeg appeared without a lawyer before Ciavarella–and ended up spending more than seven months at three different detention facilities.

Jamie Quinn, was sent away to PA Child Care and several other detention centers for 11 months when she was just 14 years old, after she got in a fight with a friend, and they both slapped each other. “[A]ll that happened was just a basic fight,” Quinn told Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman. “She slapped me in the face, and I did the same thing back. There [were] no marks, no witnesses, nothing. It was just her word against my word.”

The effect on her life was devastating. “People looked at me different when I came out, thought I was a bad person, because I was gone for so long,” Quinn said. “My family started splitting up…because I was away and got locked up. I’m still struggling in school, because the schooling system in facilities like these places is just horrible.”

While in detention, Quinn was forced to take medication and began to suffer depression. She resorted to cutting herself. “I was never depressed,” she said. “I was never put on meds before. I went there, and they just started putting meds on me, and I didn’t even know what they were. They said if I didn’t take them, I wasn’t following my program.”

Jesse Miers appeared before Ciavarella when he was 17. He had tried to return a stolen gun after seeing a friend’s 13-year-old brother wave it around. When he couldn’t find the owner, he turned the gun over to his boss, who later handed it over to police.

A year later, Miers was a passenger in a car that was pulled over for a moving violation–and when police checked his name, he was surprised to find he had a warrant for his arrest. Though Miers says he asked for a public defender, none was present at his hearing in front of Judge Ciavarella.

Because he had heard of Ciavarella’s reputation for not letting defendants have a chance to speak, Miers asked to be allowed to write a letter to the judge. “I wanted to state my case, but they only gave me five minutes to write it, and the judge didn’t even read it anyway,” Miers said.

“I had maybe 45 seconds in front of [Ciavarella],” he told the Post-Gazette. “He just said ‘Remand him,’ and they put me in shackles. I was shackled for 13 hours while I waited for them to take me” in a van from the Luzerne County Courthouse to the juvenile detention center in Allegheny Township, 270 miles away from his home.

* * *

ACCORDING TO the New York Times, youth advocates had been raising concerns about Ciavarella for years. Between 2002 and 2006, Ciavarella sent juvenile defendants to detention centers at 2.5 times greater rate than the state average. Fully a quarter of the children who appeared before him were locked away, and he routinely ignored pleas for leniency, even when they came from prosecutors and court probation officers.

In all, some 5,000 juveniles were sentenced by Ciavarella since the kickback scheme began in 2003. As the Times noted, “Many of them were first-time offenders and some remain in detention.”

Moreover, when the Pennsylvania-based Juvenile Law Center began investigating after being contacted by Hillary Transue’s mother, it found that Luzerne County had half of all waivers of counsel by young people in juvenile court in Pennsylvania. Despite the fact that the juvenile court in Luzerne County processes about 1,200 juvenile defendants a year, there is just one public defender on staff for juveniles.

“I’ve never encountered, and I don’t think that we will in our lifetimes, a case where literally thousands of kids’ lives were just tossed aside in order for a couple of judges to make some money,” Marsha Levick, an attorney with the Juvenile Law Center, told the Associated Press.

Clay Yeager, the former director of the Office of Juvenile Justice in Pennsylvania, told the Times that Ciavarella and Conahan shouldn’t have gotten away with railroading kids for as long as they did.

Although juvenile hearings are usually kept closed to the public, “they are kept open to probation officers, district attorneys and public defenders, all of whom are sworn to protect the interests of children,” said Yeager. “It’s pretty clear those people didn’t do their jobs.”

While both Ciavarella and Conahan are now headed to federal prison, the case exposes the way in which the trend towards privatization in the U.S. prison system has made money for some, at the expense of justice.

For-profit privatized prisons have become commonplace around the U.S. since the 1980s, when an explosion in the prison population due to the “war on drugs” left state facilities overcrowded. Today, corporations like GEO Group, Corrections Corporation of America and others run private facilities that promise to house prisoners for less than states are able to–by paying guards lower wages and fewer benefits, and cutting costs on inmate housing and care.

Whether anyone affiliated with PA Child Care or Western PA Child Care will face punishment for their role in locking up thousands of kids remains to be seen. So far, no official from either detention center has been charged with any crime. In fact, a letter sent last week from U.S. Attorney Martin Carlson to attorneys for the two detention centers stated that their corporate clients aren’t the target of a probe and won’t be indicted by a grand jury.

Although two class-action lawsuits have been filed on behalf of the teens who were wrongfully imprisoned, real justice won’t be served as long as PA Child Care and other detention centers like it are allowed to remain open–and as long as the U.S. justice system is set up to prioritize profit over the lives of young people.

Nicole Colson lives in Chicago, where she works as a reporter for the Socialist Worker.
—————
More failure, corruption and shame for those who believe that all of society’s functions should be based on a profit-driven model. These two criminal excuses for judges have been stopped, but how many more are out there, not only in Pennsylvania, but in the rest of the United States? We are members of a society, with community interests, not solely individuals who happen to live next to each other, whose main concern is making the most money while paying as little tax as possible. Justice is a community concern and the justice system must be funded with community resources and watchdogged by the community. This is not to say that taxpayer-funded justice is always just and humane, but if a community wishes to imprison its miscreants, it should pay for what it wants, and not turn to private profiteers to provide public justice. –K.R.

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Posted in America, Justice | 1 Comment »

Americans in Appalachia Are Living in a State of Terror

Posted by kelliasworld on February 27, 2009


By Bo Webb , AlterNet
Posted on February 19, 2009, Printed on February 27, 2009
http://www.alternet.org/story/127877/

Dear Mr. President,

As I write this letter, I brace myself for another round of nerve-wracking explosives being detonated above my home in the mountains of West Virginia. Outside my door, pulverized rock dust, laden with diesel fuel and ammonium nitrate explosives hovers in the air, along with the residual of heavy metals that once lay dormant underground.

The mountain above me, once a thriving forest, has been blasted into a pile of rock and mud rubble. Two years ago, it was covered with rich black topsoil and abounded with hardwood trees, rhododendrons, ferns and flowers. The understory thrived with herbs such as ginseng, black cohosh, yellow root and many other medicinal plants. Black bears, deer, wild turkey, hawks, owls and thousands of [other] birds lived here. The mountain contained sparkling streams teeming with aquatic life and fish.

Now it is all gone. It is all dead. I live at the bottom of a mountain-top-removal coal-mining operation in the Peachtree community.

Mr. President Obama, I am writing you because we have simply run out of options. Last week, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court in Richmond, Va., overturned a federal court ruling for greater environmental restrictions on mountaintop-removal permits. Dozens of permits now stand to be rushed through. As you know, in December, the EPA under George W. Bush allowed an 11th-hour change to the stream buffer zone rule, further unleashing the coal companies to do as they please.

During your presidential campaign, you declared: “We have to find more environmentally sound ways of mining coal than simply blowing the tops off mountains.”

That time is now. Or never.

Every day, more than 3 million pounds of explosives are detonated in our state to remove our mountains and expose the thin seams of coal. Over 470 mountains in Appalachia have been destroyed in this process, the coal scooped up and hauled away to be burned at coal-fired power plants across our country and abroad. This includes the Potomac River Plant, which generates the electricity for the White House.

Mountaintop removal is the dirty secret in our nation’s energy supply. If coal can’t be mined clean, it can’t be called clean. Here, at the point of extraction, coal passes through a preparation plant that manages to remove some, but not all, of the metals and toxins. Those separated impurities are stored in mammoth toxic sludge dams above our communities throughout Appalachia.

There are three sludge dams within 10 miles of my home. Coal companies are now blasting directly above and next to a dam above my home that contains over 2 billion gallons of toxic waste. That is the same seeping dam that hovers just 400 yards above the Marsh Fork Elementary School. As you know, coal sludge dams have failed before, and lives have been lost.

My family and I, like many American citizens in Appalachia, are living in a state of terror. Like sitting ducks waiting to be buried in an avalanche of mountain waste, or crushed by a falling boulder, we are trapped in a war zone within our own country.

In 1968, I served my country in Vietnam as part of the 1st Battalion 12th Marines, 3rd Marine Division. As you know, Appalachians have never failed to serve our country; our mountain riflemen stood with George Washington at the surrender of the British in Yorktown. West Virginia provided more per capita soldiers for the Union during the Civil War than any other state; we have given our blood for every war since.

We have also given our blood for the burden of coal in these mountains. My uncle died in the underground mines at the age of 17; another uncle was paralyzed from an accident. My dad worked in an underground mine. Many in my family have suffered from black-lung disease.

These mountains are our home. My family roots are deep in these mountains. We homesteaded this area in the 1820s. This is where I was born. This is where I will die.

On Jan. 15, 1972, U.S. Sen. John D. Rockefeller made a speech at Morris Harvey College. He declared: “The government has turned its back on the many West Virginians who have borne out of their property and out of their pocketbook the destructive impact of strip-mining. We hear that the governor once claimed to have wept as he flew over the strip mine devastation of our state. Now it’s the people who weep.”

Our state government has turned its back on us in 2009.

Peachtree is but one of hundreds of Appalachian communities that are being bombed. Our property has been devalued to worthlessness. Our neighbors put their kids to bed at night with the fear of being crushed or swept away in toxic sludge. And the outside coal industries continue their criminal activity through misleading and false ads.

Mr. President, when I heard you talk during your campaign stops, it made me feel like there was hope for Peachtree and the Coal River Valley of West Virginia. Hope for me and my family.

Abraham Lincoln wrote that we cannot escape history: “The fiery trial through which we pass, will light us down, in honor or dishonor, to the latest generation.”

I beg you to re-light our flame of hope and honor and immediately stop the coal companies from blasting so near our homes and endangering our lives. As you have said, we must find another way than blowing off the tops of our mountains. We must end mountaintop removal.

I also ask you to please put an end to these dangerous toxic-sludge dams.

With utmost respect, yours truly,

Bo Webb
Naoma, W.V.

© 2009 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.
View this story online at:
http://www.alternet.org/story/127877/
_________________
Clean Coal is an oxymoron. And people who blow the tops off mountains are just morons. K.R.

Posted in Air pollution, America, Economics, Obama, Sludge, water pollution | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

A Planet on the Brink: Economic Crash Will Fuel Social Unrest

Posted by kelliasworld on February 26, 2009


By Michael T. Klare, Tomdispatch.com
Posted on February 24, 2009, Printed on February 26, 2009
http://www.alternet.org/story/128716/

The global economic meltdown has already caused bank failures, bankruptcies, plant closings, and foreclosures and will, in the coming year, leave many tens of millions unemployed across the planet. But another perilous consequence of the crash of 2008 has only recently made its appearance: increased civil unrest and ethnic strife. Someday, perhaps, war may follow.

As people lose confidence in the ability of markets and governments to solve the global crisis, they are likely to erupt into violent protests or to assault others they deem responsible for their plight, including government officials, plant managers, landlords, immigrants, and ethnic minorities. (The list could, in the future, prove long and unnerving.) If the present economic disaster turns into what President Obama has referred to as a “lost decade,” the result could be a global landscape filled with economically-fueled upheavals.

Indeed, if you want to be grimly impressed, hang a world map on your wall and start inserting red pins where violent episodes have already occurred. Athens (Greece), Longnan (China), Port-au-Prince (Haiti), Riga (Latvia), Santa Cruz (Bolivia), Sofia (Bulgaria), Vilnius (Lithuania), and Vladivostok (Russia) would be a start. Many other cities from Reykjavik, Paris, Rome, and Zaragoza to Moscow and Dublin have witnessed huge protests over rising unemployment and falling wages that remained orderly thanks in part to the presence of vast numbers of riot police. If you inserted orange pins at these locations — none as yet in the United States — your map would already look aflame with activity. And if you’re a gambling man or woman, it’s a safe bet that this map will soon be far better populated with red and orange pins.

For the most part, such upheavals, even when violent, are likely to remain localized in nature, and disorganized enough that government forces will be able to bring them under control within days or weeks, even if — as with Athens for six days last December — urban paralysis sets in due to rioting, tear gas, and police cordons. That, at least, has been the case so far. It is entirely possible, however, that, as the economic crisis worsens, some of these incidents will metastasize into far more intense and long-lasting events: armed rebellions, military takeovers, civil conflicts, even economically fueled wars between states.

Every outbreak of violence has its own distinctive origins and characteristics. All, however, are driven by a similar combination of anxiety about the future and lack of confidence in the ability of established institutions to deal with the problems at hand. And just as the economic crisis has proven global in ways not seen before, so local incidents — especially given the almost instantaneous nature of modern communications — have a potential to spark others in far-off places, linked only in a virtual sense.

A Global Pandemic of Economically Driven Violence

The riots that erupted in the spring of 2008 in response to rising food prices suggested the speed with which economically-related violence can spread. It is unlikely that Western news sources captured all such incidents, but among those recorded in the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal were riots in Cameroon, Egypt, Ethiopia, Haiti, India, Indonesia, Ivory Coast, and Senegal.

In Haiti, for example, thousands of protesters stormed the presidential palace in Port-au-Prince and demanded food handouts, only to be repelled by government troops and UN peacekeepers. Other countries, including Pakistan and Thailand, quickly sought to deter such assaults by deploying troops at farms and warehouses throughout the country.

The riots only abated at summer’s end when falling energy costs brought food prices crashing down as well. (The cost of food is now closely tied to the price of oil and natural gas because petrochemicals are so widely and heavily used in the cultivation of grains.) Ominously, however, this is sure to prove but a temporary respite, given the epic droughts now gripping breadbasket regions of the United States, Argentina, Australia, China, the Middle East, and Africa. Look for the prices of wheat, soybeans, and possibly rice to rise in the coming months — just when billions of people in the developing world are sure to see their already marginal incomes plunging due to the global economic collapse.

Food riots were but one form of economic violence that made its bloody appearance in 2008. As economic conditions worsened, protests against rising unemployment, government ineptitude, and the unaddressed needs of the poor erupted as well. In India, for example, violent protests threatened stability in many key areas. Although usually described as ethnic, religious, or caste disputes, these outbursts were typically driven by economic anxiety and a pervasive feeling that someone else’s group was faring better than yours — and at your expense.

In April, for example, six days of intense rioting in Indian-controlled Kashmir were largely blamed on religious animosity between the majority Muslim population and the Hindu-dominated Indian government; equally important, however, was a deep resentment over what many Kashmiri Muslims experienced as discrimination in jobs, housing, and land use. Then, in May, thousands of nomadic shepherds known as Gujjars shut down roads and trains leading to the city of Agra, home of the Taj Mahal, in a drive to be awarded special economic rights; more than 30 people were killed when the police fired into crowds. In October, economically-related violence erupted in Assam in the country’s far northeast, where impoverished locals are resisting an influx of even poorer, mostly illegal immigrants from nearby Bangladesh.

Economically-driven clashes also erupted across much of eastern China in 2008. Such events, labeled “mass incidents” by Chinese authorities, usually involve protests by workers over sudden plant shutdowns, lost pay, or illegal land seizures. More often than not, protestors demanded compensation from company managers or government authorities, only to be greeted by club-wielding police.

Needless to say, the leaders of China’s Communist Party have been reluctant to acknowledge such incidents. This January, however, the magazine Liaowang (Outlook Weekly) reported that layoffs and wage disputes had triggered a sharp increase in such “mass incidents,” particularly along the country’s eastern seaboard, where much of its manufacturing capacity is located.

By December, the epicenter of such sporadic incidents of violence had moved from the developing world to Western Europe and the former Soviet Union. Here, the protests have largely been driven by fears of prolonged unemployment, disgust at government malfeasance and ineptitude, and a sense that “the system,” however defined, is incapable of satisfying the future aspirations of large groups of citizens.

One of the earliest of this new wave of upheavals occurred in Athens, Greece, on December 6, 2008, after police shot and killed a 15-year-old schoolboy during an altercation in a crowded downtown neighborhood. As news of the killing spread throughout the city, hundreds of students and young people surged into the city center and engaged in pitched battles with riot police, throwing stones and firebombs. Although government officials later apologized for the killing and charged the police officer involved with manslaughter, riots broke out repeatedly in the following days in Athens and other Greek cities. Angry youths attacked the police — widely viewed as agents of the establishment — as well as luxury shops and hotels, some of which were set on fire. By one estimate, the six days of riots caused $1.3 billion in damage to businesses at the height of the Christmas shopping season.

Russia also experienced a spate of violent protests in December, triggered by the imposition of high tariffs on imported automobiles. Instituted by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin to protect an endangered domestic auto industry (whose sales were expected to shrink by up to 50% in 2009), the tariffs were a blow to merchants in the Far Eastern port of Vladivostok who benefited from a nationwide commerce in used Japanese vehicles. When local police refused to crack down on anti-tariff protests, the authorities were evidently worried enough to fly in units of special forces from Moscow, 3,700 miles away.

In January, incidents of this sort seemed to be spreading through Eastern Europe. Between January 13th and 16th, anti-government protests involving violent clashes with the police erupted in the Latvian capital of Riga, the Bulgarian capital of Sofia, and the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius. It is already essentially impossible to keep track of all such episodes, suggesting that we are on the verge of a global pandemic of economically driven violence.

A Perfect Recipe for Instability

While most such incidents are triggered by an immediate event — a tariff, the closure of local factory, the announcement of government austerity measures — there are systemic factors at work as well. While economists now agree that we are in the midst of a recession deeper than any since the Great Depression of the 1930s, they generally assume that this downturn — like all others since World War II — will be followed in a year, or two, or three, by the beginning of a typical recovery.

There are good reasons to suspect that this might not be the case — that poorer countries (along with many people in the richer countries) will have to wait far longer for such a recovery, or may see none at all. Even in the United States, 54% of Americans now believe that “the worst” is “yet to come” and only 7% that the economy has “turned the corner,” according to a recent Ipsos/McClatchy poll; fully a quarter think the crisis will last more than four years. Whether in the U.S., Russia, China, or Bangladesh, it is this underlying anxiety — this suspicion that things are far worse than just about anyone is saying — which is helping to fuel the global epidemic of violence.

The World Bank’s most recent status report, Global Economic Prospects 2009, fulfills those anxieties in two ways. It refuses to state the worst, even while managing to hint, in terms too clear to be ignored, at the prospect of a long-term, or even permanent, decline in economic conditions for many in the world. Nominally upbeat — as are so many media pundits — regarding the likelihood of an economic recovery in the not-too-distant future, the report remains full of warnings about the potential for lasting damage in the developing world if things don’t go exactly right.

Two worries, in particular, dominate Global Economic Prospects 2009: that banks and corporations in the wealthier countries will cease making investments in the developing world, choking off whatever growth possibilities remain; and that food costs will rise uncomfortably, while the use of farmlands for increased biofuels production will result in diminished food availability to hundreds of millions.

Despite its Pollyanna-ish passages on an economic rebound, the report does not mince words when discussing what the almost certain coming decline in First World investment in Third World countries would mean:

“Should credit markets fail to respond to the robust policy interventions taken so far, the consequences for developing countries could be very serious. Such a scenario would be characterized by… substantial disruption and turmoil, including bank failures and currency crises, in a wide range of developing countries. Sharply negative growth in a number of developing countries and all of the attendant repercussions, including increased poverty and unemployment, would be inevitable.”

In the fall of 2008, when the report was written, this was considered a “worst-case scenario.” Since then, the situation has obviously worsened radically, with financial analysts reporting a virtual freeze in worldwide investment. Equally troubling, newly industrialized countries that rely on exporting manufactured goods to richer countries for much of their national income have reported stomach-wrenching plunges in sales, producing massive plant closings and layoffs.

The World Bank’s 2008 survey also contains troubling data about the future availability of food. Although insisting that the planet is capable of producing enough foodstuffs to meet the needs of a growing world population, its analysts were far less confident that sufficient food would be available at prices people could afford, especially once hydrocarbon prices begin to rise again. With ever more farmland being set aside for biofuels production and efforts to increase crop yields through the use of “miracle seeds” losing steam, the Bank’s analysts balanced their generally hopeful outlook with a caveat: “If biofuels-related demand for crops is much stronger or productivity performance disappoints, future food supplies may be much more expensive than in the past.”

Combine these two World Bank findings — zero economic growth in the developing world and rising food prices — and you have a perfect recipe for unrelenting civil unrest and violence. The eruptions seen in 2008 and early 2009 will then be mere harbingers of a grim future in which, in a given week, any number of cities reel from riots and civil disturbances which could spread like multiple brushfires in a drought.

Mapping a World at the Brink

Survey the present world, and it’s all too easy to spot a plethora of potential sites for such multiple eruptions — or far worse. Take China. So far, the authorities have managed to control individual “mass incidents,” preventing them from coalescing into something larger. But in a country with a more than two-thousand-year history of vast millenarian uprisings, the risk of such escalation has to be on the minds of every Chinese leader.

On February 2nd, a top Chinese Party official, Chen Xiwen, announced that, in the last few months of 2008 alone, a staggering 20 million migrant workers, who left rural areas for the country’s booming cities in recent years, had lost their jobs. Worse yet, they had little prospect of regaining them in 2009. If many of these workers return to the countryside, they may find nothing there either, not even land to work.

Under such circumstances, and with further millions likely to be shut out of coastal factories in the coming year, the prospect of mass unrest is high. No wonder the government announced a $585 billion stimulus plan aimed at generating rural employment and, at the same time, called on security forces to exercise discipline and restraint when dealing with protesters. Many analysts now believe that, as exports continue to dry up, rising unemployment could lead to nationwide strikes and protests that might overwhelm ordinary police capabilities and require full-scale intervention by the military (as occurred in Beijing during the Tiananmen Square demonstrations of 1989).

Or take many of the Third World petro-states that experienced heady boosts in income when oil prices were high, allowing governments to buy off dissident groups or finance powerful internal security forces. With oil prices plunging from $147 per barrel of crude oil to less than $40 dollars, such countries, from Angola to shaky Iraq, now face severe instability.

Nigeria is a typical case in point: When oil prices were high, the central government in Abuja raked in billions every year, enough to enrich elites in key parts of the country and subsidize a large military establishment; now that prices are low, the government will have a hard time satisfying all these previously well-fed competing obligations, which means the risk of internal disequilibrium will escalate. An insurgency in the oil-producing Niger Delta region, fueled by popular discontent with the failure of oil wealth to trickle down from the capital, is already gaining momentum and is likely to grow stronger as government revenues shrivel; other regions, equally disadvantaged by national revenue-sharing policies, will be open to disruptions of all sorts, including heightened levels of internecine warfare.

Bolivia is another energy producer that seems poised at the brink of an escalation in economic violence. One of the poorest countries in the Western Hemisphere, it harbors substantial oil and natural gas reserves in its eastern, lowland regions. A majority of the population — many of Indian descent — supports President Evo Morales, who seeks to exercise strong state control over the reserves and use the proceeds to uplift the nation’s poor. But a majority of those in the eastern part of the country, largely controlled by a European-descended elite, resent central government interference and seek to control the reserves themselves. Their efforts to achieve greater autonomy have led to repeated clashes with government troops and, in deteriorating times, could set the stage for a full-scale civil war.

Given a global situation in which one startling, often unexpected development follows another, prediction is perilous. At a popular level, however, the basic picture is clear enough: continued economic decline combined with a pervasive sense that existing systems and institutions are incapable of setting things right is already producing a potentially lethal brew of anxiety, fear, and rage. Popular explosions of one sort or another are inevitable.

Some sense of this new reality appears to have percolated up to the highest reaches of the U.S. intelligence community. In testimony before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence on February 12th, Admiral Dennis C. Blair, the new Director of National Intelligence, declared, “The primary near-term security concern of the United States is the global economic crisis and its geopolitical implications… Statistical modeling shows that economic crises increase the risk of regime-threatening instability if they persist over a one to two year period” — certain to be the case in the present situation.

Blair did not specify which countries he had in mind when he spoke of “regime-threatening instability” — a new term in the American intelligence lexicon, at least when associated with economic crises — but it is clear from his testimony that U.S. officials are closely watching dozens of shaky nations in Africa, the Middle East, Latin America, and Central Asia.

Now go back to that map on your wall with all those red and orange pins in it and proceed to color in appropriate countries in various shades of red and orange to indicate recent striking declines in gross national product and rises in unemployment rates. Without 16 intelligence agencies under you, you’ll still have a pretty good idea of the places that Blair and his associates are eyeing in terms of instability as the future darkens on a planet at the brink.

Michael T. Klare is a professor of peace and world security studies at Hampshire College and the author, most recently, of Rising Powers, Shrinking Planet: The New Geopolitics of Energy (Metropolitan Books).
© 2009 Tomdispatch.com All rights reserved.
View this story online at: http://www.alternet.org/story/128716/

———

Posted in America, Economics | Tagged: , | 1 Comment »

Jindal’s response shows GOP still doesn’t get it

Posted by kelliasworld on February 26, 2009

OpEdNews

Original Content at http://www.opednews.com/articles/Bobby–we-barely-knew-ye-by-Ed-Tubbs-090225-741.html

February 26, 2009

Bobby – we barely knew ye.

By Ed Tubbs

Bobby — we barely knew ye.

In a spirit of genuine nonpartisan comity, I did listen intently, and with an open mind, to what Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal offered as the Republican response to President Obama’s February 24 speech to a joint meeting of Congress and to the American public.

First off, after the previous eight years, it was refreshing to know that a Republican leader can deliver complete sentences without making up words. However, almost as immediately as that epiphany raised my spirits, it became manifest that that was the highlight of his near 15-minute oratory. Rather, it seemed a spiraling surrealistic déjà vu theme park roller coaster ride through Alice’s looking glass.

Governor Jindal told the nation that a handful of Louisiana fishermen, in their 15-foot outboards, were — and would be — more effective than the “heckova job” Bush/Republican federal government led agencies, when it came to apocalyptic natural disasters. Over and over the governor told us that was because “Americans can do anything.” I could barely restrain myself from adding “better than Republicans.”

He then went directly to the current economic crisis, condemning the Democratic president and congress for rejecting the present GOP plans that were, by the way, the very same schemes that got us and the world into the mess.

As evidence of the terrible waste within the $797 billion rescue package, Jindal cited the proposal to purchase $300 million worth of new cars for the federal government. I haven’t done the math: $300 million divided by $797 BILLION, but I’ve no doubt that Jindal is probably correct, that the percentage is stunning.

The governor’s cited evidence did prompt me to ponder a few possibly relevant questions. Like, were the vehicles to be purchased replacing older, less fuel efficient, less polluting than those they’d replace? Were those they were replacing going to be replaced in the near future anyway? And, were these new vehicles going to be manufactured and assembled in American plants, by Americans, and wasn’t that the point of the whole thing — putting Americans to work?

Also included in the presentation of evidence was the cited planned appropriation of $8 billion on high-speed rail projects. A few points: First, the way he jammed it together, in a single sentence, “. . . including” — which I kinda think no one was supposed to actually hear, sort of akin to super fine print warnings — “a magnetic levitation line from Las Vegas” (OHHHH, the SIN!!!) to Disneyland” (OHHHH, it’s all such a “small” [silly] “world after all.”).

It’s here that I feel impelled to bring some perhaps perspective-changing facts to the discussion. It seems that Governor Jindal wanted his audience to slide right past them, the way state troopers hidden in the median brush want speeding motorists to do.

1.) The United States lags sorely behind the majority of industrialized countries when it comes to non- or low-polluting, energy efficient, high-speed transportation. As every motorist must by now be frustratingly aware, we spend endless hours every day, sitting in parking lots that are misnamed freeways, watching untold dollars spew in fumes out our tailpipes. Cough, cough, cough.

2.) The route noted is among the most heavily traveled. Regardless how the governor sought to insert notions of bawdry sin and frivolousness with “Las Vegas” and “Disneyland,” the route between LA and Las Vegas will not be made less congested thereby.

3.) Whether it’s via I-210 to I-15, or I-10 to I-15, motorists still have to pass through one of the deadliest in the country west and north of San Bernardino. That it is one of the deadliest is not attributable to either the design of the road nor necessarily the carelessness of motorists. The problem owes to the need to get from the LA basin to the high desert. That transition, from one climate zone to another, makes the route perhaps the most dramatically scenic of all metropolitan cores in the United States. You climb, and climb, and climb, and climb around broad sweeping curves that are subject to wind gusts that can exceed 50 miles per hour and sudden blinding fog and sudden blinding dust.

4.) The project has been “shovel ready” for years.

5.) The project, as with all others contained in the package, will put AMERICANS to work, which most agree, is the point.

Without the parenthesis, a parenthetical observation is in order. I’ve traveled I-10, from Florida to California a number of times. I swear, or affirm, to all that the very most miserable section of that 3,000 mile Interstate is in Governor Jindal’s state of Louisiana. It’s horrible, mind wrenching, fatiguing mile after mile after mile after god-forsaken, unending miles of bumpity-bump, bumpity-bump, bumpity-bump, bumpity-bump, bumpity-bump as the car passes over the elevated sections of concrete that cross through the bayous. Then, heaping additional misery to the trek, motoring the route from 4:00 pm to 7:00 pm over the two very narrow lanes each direction. . . Road-kill moves more rapidly. Governor, I have an idea: How about an elevated, magnetic levitation line between the Big Easy and Baton Rouge and Lafayette?

Included in Governor Jindal’s presentation of evidence, supporting his assertion the package was loaded with unnecessary, useless pork, was the $140 million allocated to monitor volcanoes. (Actually, it’s for volcanoes and other seismic phenomena.) Why did Mt. St. Helens spring to mind, when you raised the issue? And what about Hawaii? I mean, if I were a resident of those areas, or a visitor, I’d be interested in forecasts that might forewarn me of the possible risk of being killed by volcanic eruptions. Really, I would.

But, and this is a real kicker, how many can name what is potentially the very most lethal natural disaster confronting the US?

As one of only eight, Yellowstone National Park is the largest super-volcano on the planet. Six hundred thousand years ago, the park erupted, burying the geography easterly all the way to Des Moines in deadly ash. The geologic record notes that it blows its deadly top on the average of once every 600,000 years. (Pop Quiz for the governor: How many years has it been since Yellowstone erupted?) Additionally, and I really don’t like piling on, the average number of detectable earthquakes striking Yellowstone are 1,000 to 2,000. In 1985 there were 3,000. Furthermore, the upward push cause by magma buildup raised the floor eight inches between the summer of 2004 to 2008. By his comments, I know Governor Jindal doesn’t care about those sorts of calamities, and that he doesn’t think the government should either.

I was standing in the middle of a parade field at Fort Lewis when the 1964 quake devastated Alaska. That far away, I saw barracks sway like Hula dancers’ skirts, and I felt the tremors. In 1989, I was living in San José, getting ready to have dinner and watch a World Series game. Maybe the governor wasn’t watching television that evening, but I saw what that quake did to the Bay area . . . after the heaving earth quieted and I’d returned inside. So, while some folks don’t think monitoring seismic activity, keeping track of topography-altering volcanoes, is a worthy use of federal dollars, I bet that many others do. (And once again, what’s the percentage, $140 million divided by $797 BILLION?)

Jindal also scolded the Democrats and President Obama for a package that would add to the national debt. He said that borrowing from future generations was “wrong.” That was when he took us out of Alice in Wonderland, and rocketed all the way into The Twilight Zone, well beyond anything Stephen Spielberg and ILM (Industrial Light and Magic) could have managed. Ronald Reagan TRIPLED the national debt. While composing a budget in 1993 that secured not a single Republican vote, Bill Clinton added 22 million jobs and set the country on a course that would have paid off the debt entirely! And then we got George Bush and a Republican Senate and House, and the GOP DOUBLED again what Reagan had tripled, all the while adding not a single net job through the entire eight years. By the way . . . I seem to recall it was Dick Cheney who gleefully claimed how “Reagan proved — Deficits don’t matter!” Tell me once more, was Richard B. Cheney a Republican, or was he one of those godless, free-spending Democrats?

Jindal’s last point was to education, and touted Louisiana’s. Just a show of hands, please. However poorly you may judge the system where you live, how many would voluntarily swap it, would rather have your kids going to school in Louisiana?

Yeah, thought so: a handful in Alabama, and a few in West Virginia.

Oh Bobby — we barely knew ye. But we do now. Thanks for the introduction. And for reminding the country, as if any reminding was at all necessary, why the GOP was kicked out of the House, the Senate, and the Oval Office. But tell you what, I think we’re pretty well satisfied, and won’t be needing anything more from you, at least in the foreseeable future.

— Ed Tubbs

Author’s Bio: An “Old Army Vet” and liberal, qua liberal, with a passion for open inquiry in a neverending quest for truth unpoisoned by religious superstitions. Per Voltaire: “He who can lead you to believe an absurdity can lead you to commit an atrocity.”

Posted in America, Congress, Economics, Obama, Republicans | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Spy Chief: We Risk A Police State

Posted by kelliasworld on February 18, 2009

http://informationclearinghouse.info/article22016.htm

Dame Stella Rimington, the former head of MI5, has warned that the fear of terrorism is being exploited by the Government to erode civil liberties and risks creating a police state

By Tom Whitehead, Home Affairs Editor

February 17, 2009 “The Telegraph” — Dame Stella accused ministers of interfering with people’s privacy and playing straight into the hands of terrorists.

“Since I have retired I feel more at liberty to be against certain decisions of the Government, especially the attempt to pass laws which interfere with people’s privacy,” Dame Stella said in an interview with a Spanish newspaper.

“It would be better that the Government recognised that there are risks, rather than frightening people in order to be able to pass laws which restrict civil liberties, precisely one of the objects of terrorism: that we live in fear and under a police state,” she said.

Dame Stella, 73, added: “The US has gone too far with Guantánamo and the tortures. MI5 does not do that. Furthermore it has achieved the opposite effect: there are more and more suicide terrorists finding a greater justification.” She said the British secret services were “no angels” but insisted they did not kill people.

Dame Stella became the first woman director general of MI5 in 1992 and was head of the security agency until 1996. Since stepping down she has been a fierce critic of some of the Government’s counter-terrorism and security measures, especially those affecting civil liberties.

In 2005, she said the Government’s plans for ID cards were “absolutely useless” and would not make the public any safer. Last year she criticised attempts to extend the period of detention without charge for terrorism suspects to 42 days as excessive, shortly before the plan was rejected by Parliament.

Her latest remarks were made as the Home Office prepares to publish plans for a significant expansion of state surveillance, with powers for the police and security services to monitor every email, as well as telephone and internet activity.

Despite considerable opposition to the plan, the document will say that the fast changing pace of communication technology means the security services will not be able to properly protect the public without the new powers.

Local councils have been criticised for using anti-terrorism laws to snoop on residents suspected of littering and dog fouling offences.

David Davis, the Tory MP and former shadow home secretary, said: “Like so many of those who have had involvement in the battle against terrorism, Stella Rimington cares deeply about our historic rights and rightly raises the alarm about a Government whose first interest appears to be to use the threat of terrorism to frighten people and undermine those rights rather than defend them.”

In a further blow to ministers, an international study by lawyers and judges accused countries such as Britain and America of “actively undermining” the law through the measures they have introduced to counter terrorism.

The report, by the International Commission of Jurists, said: “The failure of states to comply with their legal duties is creating a dangerous situation wherein terrorism, and the fear of terrorism, are undermining basic principles of international human rights law.”

The report claimed many measures introduced were illegal and counter-productive and that legal systems put in place after the Second World War were well equipped to handle current threats. Arthur Chaskelson, the chairman of the report panel, said: “In the course of this inquiry, we have been shocked by the damage done over the past seven years by excessive or abusive counter-terrorism measures in a wide range of countries around the world.

“Many governments, ignoring the lessons of history, have allowed themselves to be rushed into hasty responses to terrorism that have undermined cherished values and violated human rights.’’

A Home Office spokesman said: “The Government has been clear that where surveillance or data collection will impact on privacy they should only be used where it is necessary and proportionate. The key is to strike the right balance between privacy, protection and sharing of personal data.

“This provides law enforcement agencies with the tools to protect the public as well as ensuring government has the ability to provide effective public services while ensuring there are effective safeguards and a solid legal framework that protects civil liberties.”

In her interview, in La Vanguardia newspaper, Dame Stella also described the shock of her two daughters when they discovered she was a spy and told how she used most “gadgets” when she was in office except for “a gun’’.

So know you know, if you didn’t before, why we will never get rid of terrorism. Governments see fear of terrorism as a way top grab more power and control at home and war abroad. Thus, terrorists are tools of governments, even when they don’t know it or don’t want to be.
See Who is Osama bin-Laden?

Posted in 9/11, Terrorism | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Zero-Sum Game

Posted by kelliasworld on February 17, 2009

http://postcarbon.org/zero_sum_game
by Richard Heinberg on February 12, 2009 – 9:41am.

Oops!—bad timing. The announcement that California taxpayers will have to pay most of the costs for raising the famous octuplets born recently near Los Angeles is provoking widespread indignation about what is often taken to be a fundamental human right—i.e., the right to reproduce ad infinitum.

The story might have raised eyebrows a year ago or five. But the fact that the 33-year-old single, unemployed mother’s plight is capturing headlines at the very moment when the State of California is in effect declaring bankruptcy (and laying off teachers and other state workers) not only provides grist for irate radio call-ins, it also highlights a profound shift taking place just beneath the surface of our collective awareness.

For most of the last century or two, economic growth has lifted all boats and temporarily increased Earth’s effective carrying capacity. Though the human population was growing relentlessly and at an unprecedented rate, few worried: every year there were more jobs, more opportunities, new careers. The pie was expanding, so the fact that there were always more people at the table was perceived as a plus. With more folks to talk to, life was becoming richer! Whatever area of skill you might be interested in, you could see records being broken, unheard-of achievements being made: there were better pianists and violinists than anyone had ever heard before, better athletes than anyone had ever seen, more brilliant mathematicians, surgeons—you name it—just because there were so many people competing with one another to develop excellence in their areas of expertise. What a time to be alive!

Now suddenly the game has changed. The pie has stopped getting bigger. As more people arrive at the table, everyone nervously eyes the remaining crumbs, anxious to avert a free-for-all but also keen to avoid being left out.

Welcome to the post-peak economic meltdown!

A lot is going to change due to the fact that we have reached the end of economic growth as we’ve known it. One non-trivial item concerns our attitude toward population.

Environmentalists like Paul Ehrlich have for decades been pointing out the obvious truism that the Earth can support only so many humans, and that the more of us there are, the more likely we are to undermine our planetary life-support systems, perhaps eventually triggering a humanitarian as well as an ecological crisis of apocalyptic dimensions.

Some listened; most did not. Efforts were made world-wide to reduce fertility through family planning; in China a one-child policy successfully reduced (but failed to end) population growth. However, on the whole our species continued to pursue its opportunities for expansion, and our numbers continued to grow (current total: 6.7 billion and counting).

Without more cheap energy, without cheap credit, and without economic growth, feelings will change. Are changing. Fewer people will want to bring a large family into the world knowing that economic opportunities are dwindling—but some will still do so. Attitudes toward parenthood are deep-seated, culturally sensitive, and controversial. But they are not immutable.

Here’s the rub: Unless previous beliefs about the sacredness of unlimited fertility (and the corresponding proof-of-masculinity afforded by the siring of many offspring) can be openly questioned and honestly discussed in these new circumstances, the cognitive dissonance between long-held beliefs and deep-seated biological urges on one hand, and the painful awareness of ecological and economic limits on the other, is likely to lead to a kind of societal explosion that will take the forms of heightened demographic competition and intercultural violence.

It doesn’t have to be that way. The discussion about the octuplets now taking place in the popular media is a good thing if it can help us collectively process new information and let go of old thinking. The point is not to blame the single mom; the point is to use this current news trivium as a mirror by which to see ourselves and reassess and change what we observe.

Posted in America, Philosophy, Science, The Human Animal | 2 Comments »

DIME (focused lethality) weapons

Posted by kelliasworld on February 13, 2009

Israel Treated Gaza Like Its Own Private Death Laboratory

By Conn Hallinan, Foreign Policy. Posted February 13, 2009.

Israel tested out a “focused lethality” weapon that minimizes explosive damage to structures while inflicting catastrophic wounds on its victims.

Erik Fosse, a Norwegian cardiologist, worked in Gaza hospitals during the recent war.”It was as if they had stepped on a mine,” he says of certain Palestinian patients he treated. “But there was no shrapnel in the wound. Some had lost their legs. It looked as though they had been sliced off. I have been to war zones for 30 years, but I have never seen such injuries before.”

Dr. Fosse was describing the effects of a U.S. “focused lethality” weapon that minimizes explosive damage to structures while inflicting catastrophic wounds on its victims. But where did the Israelis get this weapon? And was their widespread use in the attack on Gaza a field test for a new generation of explosives?

DIMEd to Death

The specific weapon is called a Dense Inert Metal Explosive (DIME). In 2000, the U.S. Air Force teamed up with the University of California’s Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. The weapon wraps high explosives with a tungsten alloy and other metals like cobalt, nickel, or iron in a carbon fiber/epoxy container. When the bomb explodes the container evaporates, and the tungsten turns into micro-shrapnel that is extremely lethal within a 13-foot radius. Tungsten is inert, so it doesn’t react chemically with the explosive. While a non-inert metal like aluminum would increase the blast, tungsten actually contains the explosion to a limited area.

Within the weapon’s range, however, it’s inordinately lethal. *****According to Norwegian doctor Mad Gilbert, the blast results in multiple amputations and “very severe fractures. The muscles are sort of split from the bones, hanging loose, and you also have quite severe burns.” Most of those who survive the initial blast quickly succumb to septicemia and organ collapse. “Initially, everything seems in order but it turns out on operation that dozens of miniature particles can be found in all their organs,” says Dr. Jam Brommundt, a German doctor working in Kham Younis, a city in southern Gaza. “It seems to be some sort of explosive or shell that disperses tiny particles that penetrate all organs, these miniature injuries, you are not able to attack them surgically.” According to Brommundt, the particles cause multiple organ failures.*****

*****If by some miracle victims resist those conditions, they are almost certain to develop rhabdomyosarcoma (RMS), a particularly deadly cancer that deeply embeds itself into tissue and is almost impossible to treat. A 2005 U.S. Department of health study found that tungsten stimulated RMS cancers even in very low doses. All of the 92 rats tested developed the cancer.*****

While DIMEs were originally designed to avoid “collateral” damage generated by standard high-explosive bombs, the weapon’s lethality and profound long-term toxicity hardly seem like an improvement.

***It appears DIME weapons may have been used in the 2006 Israeli invasion of Lebanon, but not enough to alarm medical workers. But in Gaza, the ordinance was widely used. Al-Shifta alone has seen 100 to 150 victims of these attacks.***

Gaza as Test

Dr. Gilbert told the Oslo Gardermoen, “there is a strong suspicionthat Gaza is now being used as a test laboratory for new weapons.”

***DIME is a U.S. invention. Did the Israelis get the weapons from the United States, or did they design similar ones themselves? Given the close relations between the two militaries, it isn’t unlikely that the U.S. Air Force supplied the weapons or, at least, the specifications on how to construct them. And since the United States has yet to use the device in a war, it would certainly benefit from seeing how these new “focused lethality” weapons worked under battlefield conditions.***

Marc Garlasco, Human Rights Watch’s senior military advisor, says “it remains to be seen how Israel has acquired the technology, whether they purchased weapons from the United States under some agreement, or if they in fact licensed or developed their own type of munitions.”

*******DIME weapons aren’t banned under the Geneva Conventions because they have never been officially tested. However, any weapon capable of inflicting such horrendous damage is normally barred from use, particularly in one of the most densely populated regions in the world.*******

For one thing, no one knows how long the tungsten remains in the environment or how it could affect people who return to homes attacked by a DIME. University of Arizona cancer researcher Dr. Mark Witten, who investigates links between tungsten and leukemia,
says that in his opinion “there needs to be much more research on the health effects of tungsten before the military increases its usage.”

Beyond DIMEs

*****DIMEs weren’t the only controversial weapons used in Gaza. The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) also made generous use of white phosphorus, a chemical that burns with intense heat and inflicts terrible burns on victims. In its vapor form it also damages breathing passages. International law prohibits the weapon’s use near population areas and requires that “all reasonable precautions” be taken to avoid civilians.*****

Israel initially denied using the chemical. “The IDF acts only in accordance with what is permitted by international law and does not use white phosphorus,”
said Israel’s Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi on January 13.

But eyewitness accounts in Gaza and Israel soon forced the IDF to admit that they were, indeed, using the substance. On January 20, the IDF confessed to using phosphorus artillery shells as smokescreens, as well as 200 U.S.-made M825A1 phosphorus mortar shells on “Hamas fighters and rocket launching crews in northern Gaza.”

Three of those shells hit the UN Works and Relief Agency compound on January 15, igniting a fire that destroyed hundreds of tons of humanitarian supplies. A phosphorus shell also hit Al-Quds hospital in Gaza City. The Israelis say there were Hamas fighters near the two targets, a charge that witnesses adamantly deny.

*****Donatella Rovera of Amnesty International said: “Such extensive use of this weapon in Gaza’s densely-populated residential neighborhoodsand its toll on civilians is a war crime.”*****

*****Israel is also accused of using depleted uranium ammunition (DUA), which a UN sub-commission in 2002 found in violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the UN Charter, the Geneva Conventions, the International Convention Against Torture, the Conventional Weapons Convention, and the Hague Conventions against the use of poison weapons.*****

***DUA isn’t highly radioactive, but after exploding, some of it turns into a gas that can easily be inhaled. The dense shrapnel that survives also tends to bury itself deeply, leaching low-level radioactivity into water-tables.***

War Crimes?

*******Other human-rights groups, including B’Tselem, Gisha, and Physicians for Human Rights, charge that the IDF intentionally targeted medical personal, killing over a dozen, including paramedics and ambulance drivers.*******

The International Federation for Human Rights called on the UN Security Council to refer Israel to the International Criminal Court for possible war crimes.

Although the Israelis dismiss the war-crimes charges, the fact that the Israeli cabinet held a special meeting on January 25 to discuss the issue suggests they’re concerned about being charged with “disproportionate” use of force. The Geneva Conventions require belligerents to at “all times” distinguish between combatants and civilians and to avoid “disproportionate force” in seeking military gains.

Hamas’ use of unguided missiles fired at Israel would also be a war crime under the Conventions.

“The one-sidedness of casualty figures is one measure of disproportion,” says Richard Falk, the UN’s human rights envoy for the occupied territories. A total of 14 Israelis have been killed in the fighting, three of them civilians killed by rockets, 11 of them soldiers, four of the latter by “friendly fire.” Some 50 IDF soldiers were also wounded.

In contrast, 1,330 Palestinians have died and 5,450 were injured, the overwhelming bulk of them civilians.

“This kind of fighting constitutes a blatant violation of the laws of warfare, which we ask to be investigated by the Commission of War Crimes,” a coalition of Israeli human rights groups and Amnesty International said in a joint statement. “The responsibility of the state of Israel is beyond doubt.”

Enter the Hague?

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said that Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann would coordinate the defense of any soldier or commander charged with a war crime. In any case, the United States would veto any effort by the UN Security Council to refer Israelis to the International Court at The Hague.

But, ***as the Financial Times points out, “all countries have an obligation to search out those accused of ‘grave’ breaches of the rules of war and to put them on trial or extradite them to a country that will.”***

***That was the basis under which the British police arrested Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet in 1998.***

***”We’re in a seismic shift in international law,” Amnesty International legal advisor Christopher Hall told the Financial Times, who says Israel’s foreign ministry is already examining the risk to Israelis who travel abroad.***

***”It’s like walking across the street against a red light,” he says. “The risk may be low, but you’re going to think twice before committing a crime or traveling if you have committed one.”***

Copyright — 2009 Foreign Policy in Focus.

Conn Hallinan is a Foreign Policy In Focus columnist.

__________

More information on DIME weapons: (Note: proponents of this weapon say there is low collateral damage. True if you are talking about  buildings. False if you are talking about people).

Dense Inert Metal Explosive (DIME) http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/systems/munitions/dime.htm

The DIME Bomb: Yet Another Genotoxic Weapon, Part I – http://www.hartford-hwp.com/archives/27a/308.html

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a Comment »

Changes to this blog

Posted by kelliasworld on February 13, 2009

February 13, 2009

As of today, this blog will become a satellite to my new Ning site at http://kellia.ning.com/

That site will focus on my work and I hope will host discussions. I think it is more suited to multimedia presentation, at least as I want to do it, than this platform is. You are invited to join it.

This site will post interesting articles written by others. Activity on it should increase as it will be easy for me to just post articles to it. You are welcome to also be here to read and comment on what you have read.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

The Destructive Center

Posted by kelliasworld on February 10, 2009

February 9, 2009 Op-Ed Columnist New York Times

By PAUL KRUGMAN

What do you call someone who eliminates hundreds of thousands of American jobs, deprives millions of adequate health care and nutrition, undermines schools, but offers a $15,000 bonus to affluent people who flip their houses? A proud centrist.

For that is what the senators who ended up calling the tune on the stimulus bill just accomplished. Even if the original Obama plan — around $800 billion in stimulus, with a substantial fraction of that total given over to ineffective tax cuts — had been enacted, it wouldn’t have been enough to fill the looming hole in the U.S. economy, which the Congressional Budget Office estimates will amount to $2.9 trillion over the next three years.

Yet the centrists did their best to make the plan weaker and worse. One of the best features of the original plan was aid to cash-strapped state governments, which would have provided a quick boost to the economy while preserving essential services. But the centrists insisted on a $40 billion cut in that spending. The original plan also included badly needed spending on school construction; $16 billion of that spending was cut. It included aid to the unemployed, especially help in maintaining health care — cut. Food stamps — cut. All in all, more than $80 billion was cut from the plan, with the great bulk of those cuts falling on precisely the measures that would do the most to reduce the depth and pain of this slump.

On the other hand, the centrists were apparently just fine with one of the worst provisions in the Senate bill, a tax credit for home buyers. Dean Baker of the Center for Economic Policy Research calls this the “flip your house to your brother” provision: it will cost a lot of money while doing nothing to help the economy. All in all, the centrists’ insistence on comforting the comfortable while afflicting the afflicted will, if reflected in the final bill, lead to substantially lower employment and substantially more suffering.

But how did this happen? I blame President Obama’s belief that he can transcend the partisan divide — a belief that warped his economic strategy. After all, many people expected Mr. Obama to come out with a really strong stimulus plan, reflecting both the economy’s dire straits and his own electoral mandate. Instead, however, he offered a plan that was clearly both too small and too heavily reliant on tax cuts. Why? Because he wanted the plan to have broad bipartisan support, and believed that it would. Not long ago administration strategists were talking about getting 80 or more votes in the Senate.

Mr. Obama’s postpartisan yearnings may also explain why he didn’t do something crucially important: speak forcefully about how government spending can help support the economy. Instead, he let conservatives define the debate, waiting until late last week before finally saying what needed to be said — that increasing spending is the whole point of the plan.

And Mr. Obama got nothing in return for his bipartisan outreach. Not one Republican voted for the House version of the stimulus plan, which was, by the way, better focused than the original administration proposal. In the Senate, Republicans inveighed against “pork” — although the wasteful spending they claimed to have identified (much of it was fully justified) was a trivial share of the bill’s total. And they decried the bill’s cost — even as 36 out of 41 Republican senators voted to replace the Obama plan with $3 trillion, that’s right, $3 trillion in tax cuts over 10 years.

So Mr. Obama was reduced to bargaining for the votes of those centrists. And the centrists, predictably, extracted a pound of flesh — not, as far as anyone can tell, based on any coherent economic argument, but simply to demonstrate their centrist mojo. They probably would have demanded that $100 billion or so be cut from anything Mr. Obama proposed; by coming in with such a low initial bid, the president guaranteed that the final deal would be much too small.

Such are the perils of negotiating with yourself. Now, House and Senate negotiators have to reconcile their versions of the stimulus, and it’s possible that the final bill will undo the centrists’ worst. And Mr. Obama may be able to come back for a second round. But this was his best chance to get decisive action, and it fell short.

So has Mr. Obama learned from this experience? Early indications aren’t good. For rather than acknowledge the failure of his political strategy and the damage to his economic strategy, the president tried to put a postpartisan happy face on the whole thing. “Democrats and Republicans came together in the Senate and responded appropriately to the urgency this moment demands,” he declared on Saturday, and “the scale and scope of this plan is right.”

No, they didn’t, and no, it isn’t.

_______

Mr. Obama is getting off on the wrong foot at a time when the nation cannot afford to have the President misstep, especially in favor of a politeness philosophy, like “bipartisanship.” The opposition should be listened to, because, as we say in journalism, “everybody needs an editor.” But there is a difference between taking a good suggestion or two, if the opposition has any good suggestions, and making it feel like they are full partners in the process. It is not.

Why? Because the voters finally came down on the other side in numbers that were too unequivocal to steal. They told the supply-siders, tax cutters and other failed neo-cons and neolibs, mostly but not all, Republicans, “You had eight years. And you brought us to the brink of destruction. Shut up and sit down!” Mr. Obama would do well to listen, too.

Posted in America, Congress, Obama | 2 Comments »

Homo rapiens be damned: Savagery is not programmed into our DNA

Posted by kelliasworld on February 5, 2009

[Kellia’s World is pleased to publish this thought-provoking piece sent to us by Jason S.  Miller, of Thomas Paine’s Corner — KR]

Photobucket

By Jason Miller

2/3/09

“I’d like to share a revelation that I’ve had during my time here. It came to me when I tried to classify your species. I realized that you’re not actually mammals. Every mammal on this planet instinctively develops a natural equilibrium with the surrounding environment, but you humans do not. You move to an area, and you multiply, and multiply, until every natural resource is consumed. The only way you can survive is to spread to another area. There is another organism on this planet that follows the same pattern. A virus. Human beings are a disease, a cancer of this planet, you are a plague, and we are the cure.”

—Agent Smith from The Matrix

One is expected to know things, to believe things. Knowing and believing are all in your head – there is nothing in your heart. If you cannot feel that the earth is your grandmother, then of course you will find it easy to rape her, to behave as if she is under your dominion. You will find it easy to believe that we humans are the dominant species, and to act as though the earth and everything on it are ours to do with as we please. … if all human beings were taken away, life on earth would flourish.

—Russell Means

“Let’s pray that the human race never escapes from Earth to spread its iniquity elsewhere.”

—C.S. Lewis

The last sound on the worthless earth will be two human beings trying to launch a homemade spaceship and already quarreling about where they are going next.

—William Faulkner

In the last analysis, even the best man is evil: in the last analysis, even the best woman is bad.

—Friedrich Nietzsche

Purveyors of pop culture, indigenous movement leaders, renowned academics, literary giants, and powerful philosophers alike have admonished us that we humans need to change our evil ways. So given our amazing cognitive abilities and capacities to adapt our behaviors, why do we continue with our pathological parasitism?

Steve Best, Associate Professor of Philosophy at UTEP, and a leading philosopher in the animal liberation movement, suggested that perhaps humanity is, “A biological experiment with advanced primate intelligence gone horribly wrong, as if all of planet earth is an Island of Dr. Moreau set up by an evil God.”

While hopelessly anthropocentric apologists for humanity’s ongoing rape of the Earth and its inhabitants will probably dismiss Best’s observation as the ravings of a misanthropic animal fanatic, critical thinking people of conscience and humility will consider the possibility that Best may be right.

Certainly there is no dearth of evidence supporting the fact that the human evolutionary path has veered into a deadly and destructive cul-de-sac. Homo rapiens have succeeded Homo sapiens in humanity’s evolutionary development. How long can we sustain, or better yet, how long will the Earth allow us to sustain a “civilization” that is premised on violence, greed, over-consumption, endless growth, “success” and pleasure attained at the expense of the suffering of other sentient beings, narcissism, ego fulfillment, and a host of other nauseating grotesqueries? It doesn’t take much contemplation of the human race to leave one yearning for the companionship of Moreau’s Beast Folk.

Not unlike the Zionists in Palestine, the broader human race clings to an aggressive, violent and defensive way of interfacing with the world as a perverse reaction to having been vulnerable and victimized. We have maximized our frontal lobes, opposable thumbs, and capacities to engage in complex social behaviors in such a way that we are now uber-predators, so firmly astride the top of the food chain even were all non-human animals to somehow join forces and assail us, they’d be overwhelmingly defeated. Early hominids probably perceived their numerous predators as monsters. In collectively equipping ourselves to fight those ‘monsters,’ we have ignored Nietzsche’s cautionary aphorism and become more than monsters; we have morphed into world-destroying abominations.

Western Civilization (read Eurocentric, patriarchal, capitalist, speciesist, imperialist, and Christian), the most powerful perpetrator in the brutal and merciless assault on non-human animals and the Earth, codified its sociopathic license to rape by inventing an anthropomorphic deity that gave it the “divine right” to dominate and exploit. “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. They shall rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, the cattle, the whole earth, and all the creeping things that creep on earth,” proclaimed the Christian deity in an ancient tome written by a collection of largely unknown authors. And since many still hold the Bible to be sacrosanct, dominionism remains deeply embedded in our collective psyche.

As the sun set on monarchial rule and the Enlightenment unfolded, we humans entered what appeared to be a golden age of “liberal democracy,” reason, and free markets. Yet ironically, this transition marked the advent of the darkest and most psychopathic phase of Homo rapien existence. Kings were replaced by soulless corporations; Descartes’ mechanistic worldview assured us that non-human animals don’t consciously suffer, thus enabling guilt-free industrialization of their torture and murder; and capitalism spawned runaway growth, unbridled avarice, and a deep obsession with property and profits. Buttressed by new and powerful theoretical underpinnings, we began our relentless attack on the Earth and its inhabitants in a futile effort to slake our seemingly insatiable thirst for control, prosperity and security.

Catalyzed and sustained by the deep-seated terror of an animal sans fang or claw and by our most despicable attributes, such as gluttony, belligerence, self-centeredness, and mean-spiritedness (each of which has been validated in some way by the fundamental theologies and philosophies of our society), we have unleashed an apocalyptic Hell upon the rest of the world. Overpopulation, deforestation, Climate Change, nuclear waste, potential nuclear destruction, the Sixth Extinction, rampant pollution, potable water shortages, factory farming, and endless resource wars are the bitter harvest the world is reaping from the noxious seeds we’ve sown.

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While Senator James Inhofe, George Bush 41, and myriad other ardent supporters of Western Civilization, the American Way of Life, corporatism, imperialism, patriarchy, speciesism, and a host of other malevolent social, cultural, political and economic dynamics which comprise the anthropocentric mechanisms by which we dominate and exploit the planet, may have deluded themselves into believing that the rape, pillage and plunder by which we exist is morally palatable (or perhaps they simply don’t care), there are plenty of people who are deeply concerned. These individuals want to find a way to develop that “natural equilibrium” to which Agent Smith referred by breaking down the physical and psychological barriers we’ve erected, rejoining nature, and ceasing to exist as alienated, belligerent, and vampiric entities.

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Hence the questions become, are we human animals a lost cause and does Mother Earth need to eradicate us to enable life to perpetuate on this planet?

A widely accepted notion is that peaceful, gentle Homo sapiens began their metamorphosis to barbaric Homo rapiens about 10,000 years ago when hunter-gatherers became sedentary agrarians—working the land meant that ruthless men rose to power by hoarding surpluses, territorial wars were waged, and women and animals were subjugated. However, it is much more likely that our ancestors were brutal war-mongers as far back as 45,000 years ago. Evidence indicates that when early Homo sapiens migrated from Africa into Europe, they waged a 15,000 year genocide that eventually drove the Neanderthals to extinction. Even the Bible, which many Homo rapien apologists utilize as a validation for our savage domination of the planet, provides numerous examples of our cruel propensities. Poignant example number one is Cain murdering Abel.

We know how bad we can be. Now how good can we become?

Our moral evolution is not necessarily limited by our genetic make-up. It has become obvious that the common characterization of nature versus nurture is a false dichotomy. Genetics and learning dialectically shape who we become and how we interact with the world, both individually and collectively. So the lines between humanity’s innate tendencies and those qualities we acquire through parenting, education, and experience are often blurred and indiscernible.

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Humanity, past and present, is filled with examples of compassionate, courageous, and decent human beings, clearly indicating that Homo sapiens remain extant, that savagery is not programmed into our DNA and that developing a more “natural equilibrium” with our surrounding environment is within the realm of possibility.

However, those who wish to shape social and human evolution in such a way that Homo rapiens become endangered, and eventually make their way to the species’ graveyard of extinction, need to realize that they are not attending a tea party. This is a war–philosophically, psychologically and physically. If humanity is going to “become good,” those who want to make it happen need to enter the fray.

It is no easy task to simultaneously function within a planet murdering system and to struggle against it. While the opposition is indistinct, difficult to identify, and ever-shifting, Homo sapiens resisting the evolutionary inertia toward sociopathy encounter enemies frequently throughout their day to day existence. Approximately four out of 100 humans are born with no conscience or capacity to empathize. Those individuals, like Cheney, Olmert, Petraeus, Kissinger, Palin, and Condi Rice, are readily identifiable foes. Those who comprise the rest of the Homo rapien population are not as easy to discern. Many are covert in their allegiance to savagery. Some people are akin to the fabled missing link, as they comprise characteristics of both species. At times they are allies, but they can also align with the opposition. Complicating matters still further is the fact that it is possible for an individual to evolve from one species to another. So one day they could be friend and the next foe–or vice versa.

When one considers that the stakes are incalculably high, that Homo rapiens will fight to the death to maintain their hegemony, and that the institutionalized violence perpetrated by the status quo is intense and ubiquitous, those who challenge their dominionism must employ the most holistic, pluralistic, and militant tactics possible, including (but not limited to) education, outreach to minority groups, grass roots social service programs, boycotts, strikes, picketing, letters, petitions, networking, legislative efforts, veganism, monkey wrenching, and direct action.

So, how good can we human animals become? That depends on how hard we are willing to fight and how much we are willing to sacrifice……

Jason Miller is a relentless anti-capitalist, straight edge vegan, and animal liberationist. He is also the founder and editor of Thomas Paine’s Corner, blog director for The Transformative Studies Institute and associate editor for the Journal for Critical Animal Studies.

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