Archive for September, 2008

McCain/Palin Campaign’s End-Run Around Media

September 30, 2008

The McCain campaign is attempting to do something unheard of in the modern political era. It is not just running against the mainstream media, it is running around it.

[Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin speaks at a rally at Capital University in Columbus, Ohio, on Monday. (MANDEL NGAN / AFP/Getty Images) ]Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin speaks at a rally at Capital University in Columbus, Ohio, on Monday. (MANDEL NGAN / AFP/Getty Images)

This strategy is not so much expressed in McCain campaign manager Steve Schmidt’s declaration last week that the New York Times is “150 percent in the tank” for Democratic Sen. Barack Obama or the media-bashing by several speakers at this month’s Republican National Convention. It’s more about the GOP’s continued sheltering of its vice presidential nominee, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.She has yet to hold a major press conference 32 days after McCain announced her as his running mate – and that’s not changing anytime soon. McCain spokesman Michael Goldfarb said Palin will do at least one news conference before election day. That could mean that the person who could potentially lead the free world will have done one national press conference before being sworn into office.

The Democratic vice presidential nominee, Joe Biden, has given more than 89 national and local interviews over roughly the same period of time.

Other than TV interviews with CBS anchor Katie Couric, ABC anchor Charlie Gibson and conservative Fox News commentator Sean Hannity, Palin hasn’t engaged the press. The effort to shield her is so intense that when she met with foreign leaders in New York last week, the campaign initially would only allow photographers near her.

No favors

“I don’t think the campaign is doing her any favors by not letting her answer any questions,” said PBS political editor Judy Woodruff, who has covered politics for 30 years for CNN and PBS. “If she’s elected vice president of the United States and were she to succeed to the presidency, she needs that interchange with journalists. The American people have a right to know what does she know and how does she think.”

“The media needs to continue to say, every day, until she has a news conference, ‘When is she going to have a news conference? Why isn’t she having one?’ I just find it astounding,” Woodruff said. “I think the media has a responsibility to continue to point out that this is unlike any presidential or vice presidential candidate in memory. She has been more bottled up.”

When television news outlets threatened not to run any images of her meeting with Afghan president Hamid Karzai on Tuesday unless reporters were allowed in as well, the campaign allowed CNN – which was providing the pool report for the event – inside. Briefly. According to the network, “CNN’s producer and other photographers were allowed in the room for just 29 seconds.”

‘Free Sarah Palin’

Last week, The Chronicle began a “Free Sarah Palin” campaign on its Politics blog, documenting the continuing lack of access to the candidate. The effort was echoed by CNN host Campbell Brown, who called on “the McCain campaign to stop treating Sarah Palin like she is a delicate flower that will wilt at any moment.”

“This woman is from Alaska, for crying out loud. She is strong. She is tough. She is confident. And you claim she is ready to be one heartbeat away from the presidency. If that is the case, then end this chauvinistic treatment of her now. Allow her to show her stuff,” Brown said. “Free Sarah Palin.”

The real loser in this game of hide-the-candidate: voters. Palin was not well-known outside of conservative circles before the campaign chose her. Polls, including one taken by the Pew Research Center, taken over the past few days show that Palin’s approval rating has dropped since she was nominated.

“The lack of access is potentially damaging in the eyes of the voter, because they are trying to get to know the candidate,” said Paul Dimock, associate director of the nonpartisan Pew Research Center for People and the Press. Palin is especially vulnerable because voters know McCain, Obama and Biden better, he said.

“The McCain campaign has discovered it has a major problem,” said Carol Jenkins, president of the Women’s Media Center. “Increasingly, it has become clear that she doesn’t have a grasp of the issues. If I were John McCain, I’d be doing the same thing with her.”

No incentive

But Jenkins said the campaign doesn’t have an incentive to give the media more Palin face time. “If there is anybody more despised than Congress, it’s the media.”

So what can the media do? Jenkins said they shouldn’t have given in to the campaign’s demands last week during Palin’s New York visit. “At some point, the media has to stop cooperating with the campaign.”

Friday, syndicated conservative columnist Kathleen Parker had seen enough of Palin – and called on her to withdraw.

“Palin’s recent interviews with Charles Gibson, Sean Hannity and now Katie Couric have all revealed an attractive, earnest, confident candidate. Who Is Clearly Out Of Her League,” Parker wrote at the National Review Online.

“Palin filibusters. She repeats words, filling space with deadwood. Cut the verbiage and there’s not much content there,” Parker wrote. “If BS were currency, Palin could bail out Wall Street herself.”

But other news executives say what the McCain campaign is doing is not that unusual.

“All politicians go through a stage where they want to minimize how much they are exposed to the media,” said Paul Friedman, vice president of news at CBS, the network that scored one of the three major Palin interviews. He shrugged at what could be learned in a news conference that couldn’t in a one-on-one interview. “I just don’t think it is that cosmic of an issue. We’ll see more of the candidates soon. Just wait for the debates.”

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President Ahmadinejad accepts Israel’s right to exist

September 30, 2008

The Iranian president has said he would accept a two-state solution if the Palestinians agree. So where are the headlines?

Iranian President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has made a remarkable announcement. He’s admitted that Iran might agree to the existence of the state of Israel.

Ahmadinejad was asked: “If the Palestinian leaders agree to a two-state solution, could Iran live with an Israeli state?”

This was his astonishing reply:

If they [the Palestinians] want to keep the Zionists, they can stay … Whatever the people decide, we will respect it. I mean, it’s very much in correspondence with our proposal to allow Palestinian people to decide through free referendums.

Since most Palestinians are willing to accept a two-state solution, the Iranian president is, in effect, agreeing to Israel’s right to exist and opening the door to a peace deal that Iran will endorse.

Ahmadinejad made this apparently extraordinary shift in policy during an
interview last week when he was in New York to address the UN general assembly.

He was interviewed on September 24 by reporters Juan Gonzalez, writing for the New York Daily News, and Amy Goodman for the current affairs TV programme, Democracy Now.

You can watch the full interview and read the full text on the Democracy Now website.

Surprisingly, Ahmadinejad’s sensational softening of his long-standing, point-blank anti-Israeli stance was not even headlined by the two reporters. Perhaps this was a decision by their editors? Did they not want to admit that Ahmadinejad may have, for once, said something vaguely progressive?

Equally odd, the story wasn’t picked up by the world’s media. For many years, the Iranian president has been vilified, usually justifiably. Now, when he says something positive and helpful, the media ignores it. Is this because of some anti-Iran or pro-Israel agenda?

Why ignore a statement that is, from any political and journalistic perspective, a radical departure from Ahmadinejad’s previous unyielding anti-Israel tirades? Only a week earlier in Tehran he was saying that the Israeli state would not survive.

Confused? Aren’t we all. Will the real Mahmoud Ahmadinejad please stand up?

Is he a deceiver and an unprincipled opportunist who will say anything to further Iran’s political agenda? Or could it be that beneath his often demagogic public rhetoric against Israel he is, in fact, open to options more moderate than his reported remarks about wiping the Israeli state off the map?

I am not defending or endorsing Ahmadinejad in any way, shape or form. Indeed, I am on record as being one of Ahmadinejad’s harshest critics. I’ve protested dozens of times outside the Iranian Embassy in London and written scores of articles exposing his regime’s persecution of trade unionists, students, journalists, human rights defenders, women’s equality campaigners, gay people, Sunni Muslims and ethnic minorities such as the Arabs, Kurds, Azeris and Balochis.

You can watch my Talking with Tatchell online TV programmes on the Iranian regime’s anti-Arab racism here, and on the rising popular resistance to its police state methods here.

But I also hope I am open-minded and fair. Even I can see that Ahmadinejad appears to have moderated his position and is now apparently willing, with Palestinian agreement, to accept the co-existence of two states: Israel and Palestine.

Many Israelis and their allies will no doubt say Ahmadinejad can’t be trusted; that his comments were part of a manipulative charm offensive during his visit to the UN in New York. They may be right. But even if he is being disingenuous, that fact that he’s made this public concession on Israel at all is a softening of sorts.

News of what he said will filter back to Tehran and he’ll have to account for his words to his government, including the hardline anti-Israel ayatollahs and revolutionary guards. I wonder what they think?

Call me naive, but in my view Ahmadinejad’s words were of major significance. He ought be pressed by world leaders, and Israel, to repeat them and to clarify them. His statement might, and I emphasise might, be evidence that Iran is open to some negotiation on the future of the Israeli state.

If Israel’s leaders had any sense, they would ignore past provocations by Iran and seize this moment to have dialogue with the Palestinian and Iranian leaders on a two-state solution. What Ahmadinejad has said could be an opening to diffuse the stand-off between Iran and Israel.

I am not relenting one inch in my condemnation of Ahmadinejad’s regime, with its grisly torture chambers, execution of juvenile offenders and neocolonial subjugation of national minorities. But I do find myself in considerable agreement with the Iranian president’s analysis of why the Middle East peace process has stalled. He told Gonzales and Goodman:

The first reason is that none of the solutions have actually addressed the root cause of the problem. The root cause is the presence of an illegitimate government regime that has usurped and imposed itself on, meaning they have brought people from other parts of the world, replaced them with people who had existed in the territory and then forced the exit of the old people out, the people who lived there, out of the country or the territories. So there have been two simultaneous displacements. The indigenous people were forced out and displaced, and a group of other people scattered around the globe were gathered and placed in a new place … A second reason is that none of those peace plans offered so far have given attention to the right to self-determination of the Palestinians. If a group of people are forced out of their country, that doesn’t mean their rights are gone, even with the passage of 60 years. Can you ignore the rights of those displaced? How is it possible for people to arrive from far-off lands and have the right to self-determination, whereas the indigenous people of the territory are denied that right?

Much as I loathe his regime, Ahmadinejad is basically right. The key to peace in the Middle East is concessions from the occupying power. As the stronger, wealthier and conquering partner, Israel should take the initiative and help kick-start the peace process by withdrawing unilaterally and totally from the territories it has occupied illegally (according to international law) since the 1967 war. This means pulling out from all of the West Bank and dismantling all the illegal Israeli settlements.

The West Bank, plus Gaza, should become the independent, sovereign state of Palestine, backed with international aid and investment to create the infrastructure for economic development and for social provision (new houses, schools, hospitals, transport links and sports facilities).

Jobs and prosperity in Palestine will undercut and isolate the men of violence. They will lose support and become marginalised in a self-governing state where ordinary Palestinians experience the tangible benefits of peace.

This is so damn obvious. When will Israel’s leaders wake up and realise that peace with justice is the only way to give their people lasting security?

Arab Traitors

September 30, 2008
By Robert ThompsonAxis of Logic, Sep 29, 2008

Our Arab friends have to suffer many sad things, but perhaps the saddest of all is when their suffering is due to the cowardice and treachery of Arab rulers, whose only interest is in staying on their thrones or presidential armchairs. They are willing to force their weaker brethren to bow down before the military might of the clapped-out former super-power, the USA, and to permit the expansion of the Zionist colonisation of the Holy Land and subjection of adjoining lands to the Zionist ‘state’.

It is particularly galling when these traitors are lauded by the Angle-Saxon media as being “moderate”, when we all know that they are among the most repressive régimes in the world. Certain Arab rulers stand out by their refusal to betray those who have every right to expect their help, and we can see the moves made by the presidents of Syria and the Lebanon, despite severe interference by the rulers of the USA, and even by the Emir of Qatar, in contrast with too many other rulers.

The present rulers of the USA continue to pretend that there was a link between the late Saddam Hussein Takriti and al-Qaeda, when they know that this movement was set up, as were the Taliban, by the Mossad/CIA to cause as much damage as possible to the former Soviet empire, without any thought for the future effects on the whole world. The Mossad/CIA, the worst and most powerful terrorist organisation in the world, has as its main aim the total destabilisation of the Arab world. The ordinary taxpayer in the USA is thereby funding those whose aims are certainly not to help said taxpayer.

If the present rulers of the USA really wished to fight terrorism, they would put an immediate end to the Mossad/CIA, and remove the obvious excuses for others to indulge the same bloodthirsty whims by copying this organisation. This is, of course, highly unlikely, since these rulers, like the treacherous Arab rulers, only hold on to power by the use of such means. With such “friends” as the Zionists and their puppets in the USA, these rulers feel safe behind their bodyguards and barriers. But we have to hope that all their respective reigns may end as speedily as possible.

© Copyright 2008 by AxisofLogic.com

The Rise Of The American Oligarch Class

September 30, 2008

The Paulson Plan

Robert Wenzel | Information Clearing House, Sep 29, 2008

The word oligarchy dates back at least to the time of Aristotle and comes from the Greek words for “few” (λίγον olígon) and “rule” (ρχω arkho). An oligarchy is generally considered any form of government where a small elite segment of society, be they from royalty, wealth, family or military, rule. The most current day popular meaning associates an oligarch with an extremely wealthy person who acquires his wealth, or increases it significantly, by incorporating the use of government influence. Oligarchs are not the only ones who become rich, but their success and secretive influence over governments put them into a separate class.

A recent example of a major grab of power and wealth in this type of oligarch fashion comes from the period of the collapse of the Soviet Union. In the confusion during the collapse, and the rise of Boris Yeltsin as president of Russia, the oligarchs made their move. With relatives or close associates as government officials, sometimes even government officials themselves, they achieved vast wealth by acquiring state assets very cheaply during the so-called “privatization” process controlled by the Yeltsin government.

The current $700 billion Paulson bailout plan has brought to the forefront a new class of what must be called American Oligarchs and oligarch wannabes. Some may have originally earned their wealth by supplying consumers with desired goods, but at some point they crossed over to the dark side to use government as a vehicle to take from the poor and the middle class to give to themselves. Others, never produced an honest product and have been career long parasites on the working classes.

It is instructive that outside of this small group of oligarchs and wannabe oligarchs, few appear to have been in favor of the Paulson “bailout”. (Note: The use of the word “bailout” to describe the Paulson Plan is a misnomer, see my column: THE BIG LIE: The Supposed Paulson ‘Bailout’ Plan).

A letter circulated and signed by many academic economists was sent to Congressional leaders objecting to the plan. The Austrian economists, who are the only ones who understand the business cycle, as would be expected also objected to the plan (See Rockwell: Stop the Bailout and Murphy: The Government Is Not Promoting Stability ).

Even some bankers have objected:

U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson’s proposed $700 billion bank rescue aims to help “poorly run” companies and the primary beneficiaries would be Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Morgan Stanley, said BB&T Corp. Chief Executive Officer John Allison in a critique of the plan.

Treasury “is totally dominated by Wall Street investment bankers” and “cannot be relied on to objectively assess” the impact of government policy on the financial industry, Allison wrote in a Sept. 23 letter to Congress…

Allison, 60, said Congress should “hear from well-run financial institutions” as lawmakers consider the plan, which seeks to ease the credit crunch by buying troubled mortgage- related assets. Under Allison, Winston-Salem, North Carolina- based BB&T avoided the subprime mortgage market, whose collapse led to the credit crisis. BB&T has risen 26 percent this year, the best showing in the 24-company KBW Bank Index.

From the right, Newt Gingrich has called the plan “stupid.” From the left, Paul Krugman opposed the plan, calling it “Cash for trash.”

Most noteworthy is the fact that the notoriously pro-Bush FOX television network carried this AP report:

There is scant public support for President Bush’s $700 billion federal rescue plan for the U.S. financial industry and little expectation it would solve the crisis that has roiled the markets and hobbled some of the country’s largest investment firms, according to a poll released Friday.

Just 30 percent of Americans say they support Bush’s package, according to an Associated Press-Knowledge Networks poll released as White House and congressional leaders struggled to rescue the plan after House Republicans rebelled against it. Despite the president’s pleas that the package is urgently needed to prevent an economic meltdown, 45 percent say they oppose Bush’s proposal while 25 percent said they are undecided.

Yet, despite the extremely limited support for the plan, the Oligarchs prevailed and Paulson’s Plan will become law. Indeed, the Oligarchs were out in full force to support the legislation. As I have pointed out before, Paulson with his Goldman Sachs connections must be considered an oligarch, but there are others.

Billionaire David Rubenstein, co-founder of the politically connected Carlyle Group, has come out in favor of Paulson’s Plan. Rubenstein told CNBC that he hopes Congress will move quickly to approve the rescue of the U.S. financial system.

Carlyle Group almost has too many ways to benifit from Paulson’s Plan to count. They ran a mortgage securities firm that went under. Those securities will be coming up for sale under a reorganization, just in time for purchase by the Treasury.

The Federal Reserve has changed regulations which will allow them to buy larger stakes in bank stocks. And Rubenstein wants to buy some of the paper the Treasury acquires. “Private equity can help by buying these assets,” he told CNBC. “Private equity can be among the most significant buyers of assets.”

Billionaire Warren Buffett is in favor of the plan, and he just bought, through Berkshire Hathaway, a $5 billion stake in Goldman Sachs. Goldman Sachs just received approval from the Fed to become a bank holding company, so that they can buy up troubled banks (And then sell the troubled mortgages of the banks to the Treasury?). Buffett called Paulson’s plan “absolutely necessary” and said that “I am betting on the Congress doing the right thing for the American public and passing this bill,”

Billionaire Wilbur Ross , through a firm controlled by Ross, bid $435 million last September to buy the service unit of American Home Mortgage, which collects payments from homeowners. He is in favor of Paulson’s Plan and penned a column published at the New York Post to say so, “…we need this passed, and passed quickly…,”wrote Ross.

There are likely other oligarchs who maintain a low profile and keep their names out of the headlines, and there are oligarch wannabes like former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani . Giuliani has put out a press release advising that his firm has formed a “task force” to “guide financial institutions, private investment funds, institutional investors and other market participants through the legislative, regulatory and enforcement challenges posed by the” Paulson Plan.

Clearly, the new oligarchs have arrived in America. It will mean a lower standard of living for the rest of us as it is clear by the Paulson Plan that they are not afraid to think big when grabbing money from the populous at large. Further, they have the political skill and influence to get the legislation passed that will benefit themselves even when there is virtually non-existent popular support. Be scared, very scared. The new American Oligarchs now rule financial America and there is no such thing as enough with them. They will be back for another big bite from our wallets and income streams, all too soon.

Update: Word has reached me (HTrpm) that snuck into Paulson’s plan are changes that will make it easier for the Fed to inflate the money supply. So is the play for the Oligarchs to grab the banks, the assets and the mortgages and then inflate the money supply boosting the value of all these assets by trillions, while the rest of us simply get to deal with the price inflation as higher prices at the grocery store, the gas pump and everywhere else?

Robert Wenzel is an economic consultant and Editor & Publisher of EconomicPolicyJournal.com. He can be reached at rw@economicpolicyjournal.com.

Michael Moore: The Rich Are Staging a Coup This Morning

September 30, 2008

by Michael Moore

Friends,

Let me cut to the chase. The biggest robbery in the history of this country is taking place as you read this. Though no guns are being used, 300 million hostages are being taken. Make no mistake about it: After stealing a half trillion dollars to line the pockets of their war-profiteering backers for the past five years, after lining the pockets of their fellow oilmen to the tune of over a hundred billion dollars in just the last two years, Bush and his cronies — who must soon vacate the White House — are looting the U.S. Treasury of every dollar they can grab. They are swiping as much of the silverware as they can on their way out the door.

No matter what they say, no matter how many scare words they use, they are up to their old tricks of creating fear and confusion in order to make and keep themselves and the upper one percent filthy rich. Just read the first four paragraphs of the lead story in last Monday’s New York Times and you can see what the real deal is:

“Even as policy makers worked on details of a $700 billion bailout of the financial industry, Wall Street began looking for ways to profit from it.”Financial firms were lobbying to have all manner of troubled investments covered, not just those related to mortgages.

“At the same time, investment firms were jockeying to oversee all the assets that Treasury plans to take off the books of financial institutions, a role that could earn them hundreds of millions of dollars a year in fees.

“Nobody wants to be left out of Treasury’s proposal to buy up bad assets of financial institutions.”

Unbelievable. Wall Street and its backers created this mess and now they are going to clean up like bandits. Even Rudy Giuliani is lobbying for his firm to be hired (and paid) to “consult” in the bailout.

The problem is, nobody truly knows what this “collapse” is all about. Even Treasury Secretary Paulson admitted he doesn’t know the exact amount that is needed (he just picked the $700 billion number out of his head!). The head of the congressional budget office said he can’t figure it out nor can he explain it to anyone.

And yet, they are screeching about how the end is near! Panic! Recession! The Great Depression! Y2K! Bird flu! Killer bees! We must pass the bailout bill today!! The sky is falling! The sky is falling!

Falling for whom? NOTHING in this “bailout” package will lower the price of the gas you have to put in your car to get to work. NOTHING in this bill will protect you from losing your home. NOTHING in this bill will give you health insurance.

Health insurance? Mike, why are you bringing this up? What’s this got to do with the Wall Street collapse?

It has everything to do with it. This so-called “collapse” was triggered by the massive defaulting and foreclosures going on with people’s home mortgages. Do you know why so many Americans are losing their homes? To hear the Republicans describe it, it’s because too many working class idiots were given mortgages that they really couldn’t afford. Here’s the truth: The number one cause of people declaring bankruptcy is because of medical bills. Let me state this simply: If we had had universal health coverage, this mortgage “crisis” may never have happened.

This bailout’s mission is to protect the obscene amount of wealth that has been accumulated in the last eight years. It’s to protect the top shareholders who own and control corporate America. It’s to make sure their yachts and mansions and “way of life” go uninterrupted while the rest of America suffers and struggles to pay the bills. Let the rich suffer for once. Let them pay for the bailout. We are spending 400 million dollars a day on the war in Iraq. Let them end the war immediately and save us all another half-trillion dollars!

I have to stop writing this and you have to stop reading it. They are staging a financial coup this morning in our country. They are hoping Congress will act fast before they stop to think, before we have a chance to stop them ourselves. So stop reading this and do something — NOW! Here’s what you can do immediately:

1. Call or e-mail Senator Obama. Tell him he does not need to be sitting there trying to help prop up Bush and Cheney and the mess they’ve made. Tell him we know he has the smarts to slow this thing down and figure out what’s the best route to take. Tell him the rich have to pay for whatever help is offered. Use the leverage we have now to insist on a moratorium on home foreclosures, to insist on a move to universal health coverage, and tell him that we the people need to be in charge of the economic decisions that affect our lives, not the barons of Wall Street.

2. Take to the streets. Participate in one of the hundreds of quickly-called demonstrations that are taking place all over the country (especially those near Wall Street and DC).

3. Call your Representative in Congress and your Senators. (click here to find their phone numbers). Tell them what you told Senator Obama.

When you screw up in life, there is hell to pay. Each and every one of you reading this knows that basic lesson and has paid the consequences of your actions at some point. In this great democracy, we cannot let there be one set of rules for the vast majority of hard-working citizens, and another set of rules for the elite, who, when they screw up, are handed one more gift on a silver platter. No more! Not again!

Yours,
Michael Moore
MMFlint@aol.com
MichaelMoore.com

P.S. Having read further the details of this bailout bill, you need to know you are being lied to. They talk about how they will prevent golden parachutes. It says NOTHING about what these executives and fat cats will make in SALARY. According to Rep. Brad Sherman of California, these top managers will continue to receive million-dollar-a-month paychecks under this new bill. There is no direct ownership given to the American people for the money being handed over. Foreign banks and investors will be allowed to receive billion-dollar handouts. A large chunk of this $700 billion is going to be given directly to Chinese and Middle Eastern banks. There is NO guarantee of ever seeing that money again.

P.P.S. From talking to people I know in DC, they say the reason so many Dems are behind this is because Wall Street this weekend put a gun to their heads and said either turn over the $700 billion or the first thing we’ll start blowing up are the pension funds and 401(k)s of your middle class constituents. The Dems are scared they may make good on their threat. But this is not the time to back down or act like the typical Democrat we have witnessed for the last eight years. The Dems handed a stolen election over to Bush. The Dems gave Bush the votes he needed to invade a sovereign country. Once they took over Congress in 2007, they refused to pull the plug on the war. And now they have been cowered into being accomplices in the crime of the century. You have to call them now and say “NO!” If we let them do this, just imagine how hard it will be to get anything good done when President Obama is in the White House. THESE DEMOCRATS ARE ONLY AS STRONG AS THE BACKBONE WE GIVE THEM. CALL CONGRESS NOW.

Olmert advocates Israeli pullouts

September 30, 2008
Al Jazeera, Sep 29, 2008

Olmert stepped down on September 21 amid corruption allegations [AFP]

Ehud Olmert, Israel’s outgoing prime minister, has said that Israel will have to leave much of east Jerusalem and allow Palestinians to form a state equal in size to the area of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

In an interview with the Yediot Ahronot newspaper, published on Monday, Olmert also said that peace with Syria would require withdrawal from the Golan Heights.

“[I am saying] what no previous Israeli leader has ever said: we should withdraw from almost all of the territories, including in East Jerusalem and in the Golan Heights,” he was quoted as saying.

Olmert resigned on September 21 amid corruption allegations and will officially step down once a new government has been formed.

Olmert and Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, agreed at a meeting in the United States last November to push for a comprehensive peace deal before the end of the year.

Yediot Ahronot noted that the remarks in its “legacy interview” go further than any the prime minister made before he effectively became a lame duck in September.

“I am not trying to justify retroactively what I did for 35 years. For a large portion of these years, I was unwilling to look at reality in all its depth,” Olmert said.

“A decision has to be made. This decision is difficult, terrible, a decision that contradicts our natural instincts, our innermost desires, our collective memories, the prayers of the Jewish people for 2,000 years.”

Stalled talks

Peace talks between the two sides have stalled over the borders of a future Palestinian state, the future status of Jerusalem and the right to return of Palestinian refugees.

The construction of new Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Arab East Jerusalem, which Palestinians see as the capital of a future state, have also proved to be a major obstacle.

“I’d like see if there is one serious person in the State of Israel who believes it is possible to make peace with the Syrians without eventually giving up the Golan Heights”

Ehud Olmert,
Israeli prime minister

According to Western and Palestinian officials, Olmert has previously proposed an Israeli withdrawal from some 93 per cent of the occupied West Bank. Israel pulled out of the Gaza Strip in 2005.In exchange for settlement enclaves, Olmert has suggested handing over a desert territory adjacent to the Gaza Strip, as well as land on which to build a transit corridor between Gaza and the West Bank.

“We will leave a percentage of these territories in our hands, but will have to give the Palestinians a similar percentage, because without that there will be no peace,” Olmert said in Tuesday’s interview.

Olmert has previously argued that the issue of Jerusalem be considered at a later date because the difficulties in reaching an agreement.

But on Tuesday he said that giving up parts of the city was critical to securing Israel’s security.

“Whoever wants to hold on to all of the city’s territory will have to bring 270,000 Arabs inside the fences of sovereign Israel. It won’t work,” he said.

Concrete offer

Saeb Erakat, a senior adviser to Abbas, said Israel must “translate these statements into reality” if it is serious about wanting to achieve a peace deal.

“We haven’t seen these statements translated into a piece of paper, into a concrete offer,” he told the AFP news agency, stressing that “the road to peace is through ending the occupation and [Israeli] settlements in the West Bank”.

During his time in office, Olmert reopened indirect negotiations, through Turkey, with Syria after an eight-year freeze.

“I’d like see if there is one serious person in the State of Israel who believes it is possible to make peace with the Syrians without eventually giving up the Golan Heights,” he said in the interview.

Israel annexed the territory in 1981, a move never recognised by the world community.

More than 18,000 Syrians, mostly Druze, are left from the Golan’s original population of 150,000 people. The region now is home to nearly 20,000 Jewish settlers.

When faith uses force

September 30, 2008

Behind a new outbreak of violence against Christians in India lies a long-running campaign for Hindu cultural dominance

Protest in New Delhi against Hindu anti-Christian violence in India

An activist demonstrating in New Delhi against the violence of hardline Hindu groups against Christians in several Indian states, September 29 2008. Photo: Adnan Abidi/Reuters

Standing next to France’s President Sarkozy, the Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh today made a heartfelt plea over the spread of anti-Christian violence in India. The sight of Hindu mobs smashing churches and prayer halls while Christians in the country are killed or left cowering under tarpaulin sheets in refugee camps is, as Dr Singh rightly described, a “national shame”. There are calls from within the ruling Congress party, which relies on the votes of Christians and Muslims in India, to ban Hindu extremist organisations such as the Bajrang Dal, which uses force when the force of argument fails.

There has been bloodshed on both sides. One Christian priest was “cut to pieces” in front of his wife. A Hindu priest was shot dead for campaigning against religious conversions. The violence, which has left nearly two dozen dead, has spread across six states. Even after the Pope intervened, the Roman Catholic archbishop of one of the worst affected areas in eastern India said the situation was “out of control”.

What lies behind this violence is nothing less than a struggle for the soul of India. Religion is deeply rooted in this country of one billion. The divine was fundamental in the creation of post-independence India. Unlike Europe, in India the Gods will not disappear in a blaze of rational thinking.

But views of God led to a schism in Indian nationalism. One side is rooted in secular thinking: that beneath the differences among India’s religions there is a common creed, a moral order articulated in the country’s constitution. Opposing this is the Hindu right. Their philosophy aims to unify the country under the banner of the majority religion. It sees the country’s post-independence constitution as an instrument forged by “pseudo-secularists”, which now needs to be updated to reflect the Hindu character of India.

Christians in India long pre-dated the British, who sponsored missionary activity with little success. In 1947, only 3% of the country was Christian. There’s an unmistakable tint to Christianity in India: the priests are mostly upper-caste Brahmin converts and the flock is mostly drawn from the country’s untouchable communities known as Dalits. Contemporary Hindu anger centres on the idea that India’s rise will see an explosion of Christians in the country – a takeover by a foreign ideology like that experienced by South Korea in the 1960s.

The Hindu nationalist party, the Bharatiya Janata party, says it is against proselytisation through coercion, inducement, or by vilifying any faith. That conversion continues, therefore, and that it remains legal, drives Hindu groups into a bloody frenzy. By decrying the violence but remaining powerless to prevent it, the Indian prime minister exposes his strength and weakness. The Indian federal government could suspend state administrations – for failing to quell violence. This is the nuclear option of unseating a democratically elected local regime. Instead, the Indian prime minister chooses only speak up.

Martha Nussbaum, the noted American philosopher, draws a comparison with 1950s America where only a few groups such as the Ku Klux Klan would openly advocate violence, but “where the whole society was suffused with attitudes that … often condoned violence against African Americans, attitudes that clearly affected the behaviour of the police and other officers of the law”. This remark is telling because, in the southern Indian town of Mangalore, it was Christian churches that were attacked, yet the leaders of Hindu mobs walked free for days, untouched by the police.

The violence is the really about the clash within. Like the United States, India has never had a state-imposed religion. It has always had a tradition of sects and religious minorities, which coexist and compete with each other without suffering state persecution or patronage. Instead of trying to capture state power for the purpose of waging a cultural war, the Hindu right would do the country a service by reforming itself from within – promoting equality and unifying its own denominations and sects.

Religion’s role in India must be one of restraining passions, not inflaming them.

To keep up with Randeep Ramesh’s blog from India, go here.

‘Adopt realistic approach’ Khan to India

September 29, 2008

Kashmir Watch

Srinagar, September 28: The All Parties Hurriyet Conference Provincial President & Coordination Committee member Nayeem Ahmad Khan while condemning state terrorism and continued human rights violations by troops, has stressed New Delhi to realise ground reality and adopt a realistic approach towards resolving the Kashmir dispute to ensure peace and security in South Asia.

Nayeem Khan pointed out that India could not press Kashmiris’ voice for their just right to self-determination by resorting to brute force. He called upon the people to participate massively in October 6 Lal Chowk programme and once again made it clear that they would not compromise over their rights.

Nayeem Khan hailed the statement of the OIC Secretary General for expressing concern over use of “brute force on peaceful protesters in the Valley.”

Nayeem Khan appealed to OIC to prevent further bloodshed in the Valley, and convey to “India that violence on peaceful protesters was unacceptable.”

Posted on 28 Sep 2008 by Webmaster

Remembering Edward Said Five Years On

September 29, 2008
Edward Said. ‘He stood for everything that is virtuous.’

By Stephen Lendman – Chicago | The Palestine Chronicle, Sep 22, 2008

Said was passionately against Palestine being turned into an isolated prison wherein Israel repeatedly attacked mostly defenseless civilians with tanks and F-16s.Born in West Jerusalem in 1935. Exiled in December 1947. Said was diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukemia in 1991, a malignant cancer of the bone marrow and blood. At 6:45AM on September 25, 2003, he succumbed (at age 67) after a painful courageous 12 year struggle. Tributes followed and resumed a year later. In a testimony to his teacher, Professor Moustafa Bayoumi called him “indefatigable, incorruptible, a humanist and devastatingly charming….leav(ing behind) legions of followers and fans in every corner of the world. I am lost without him….I miss him so.”

Chomsky called his death an “incalculable loss.” A year later, Ilan Pappe said “his absence seems to me still incomprehensible. What would have happened if we still had Edward with us in this last year….another terrible (one) for the values (he) represented and causes he defended.” Tariq Ali referred to his “indomitable spirit as a fighter, his will to live, (my) long-standing friend and comrade,” and described his ordeal:

“Over the last eleven years one had become so used to his illness – the regular hospital stays, the willingness to undergo trials with the latest drugs, the refusal to accept defeat – that (we thought) him indestructible.” Leukemia kills, and in response to Ali’s questions, his doctor said there was “no medical explanation for (his) survival.” No doubt Dr. Kanti Rai made a difference. Said spoke of him reverentially – of his “redoubtable medical expertise and remarkable humanity” that kept him going during his darkest times, and there were many. He later described months in and out of the hospital, “painful treatments, blood transfusions, endless tests, hours and hours of unproductive time spent staring at the ceiling, draining fatigue and infection, inability to do normal work, and thinking, thinking, thinking.”

Yet, as Ali recounted, in the end the “monster (overpowered him), devouring his insides (but when) the cursed cancer finally took him the shock was intense.” Palestinians had lost their “most articulate (and powerful) voice….(he’s) irreplaceable.”

Veteran Palestinian-American journalist Ramzy Baroud agrees. He called 2003 a bad time for Palestinians to lose one their iconic best and described him like many others: He “stood for everything that is virtuous. His moral stance was even more powerful than (his) essays, books and music (as critic, scholar and consummate artist)….He was an extraordinary intellectual, thoughtful….inimitable” and never silent or compromising in his beliefs or virtue. No “wonder he….was adored by (his) people (and) detested by the” forces he opposed.

Phyllis Bennis called him “one of the great internationalist intellectuals of our time….a hero of the Palestinian people (and) the global peace and justice movement as well….(my) great mentor, a challenging collaborator, a remarkable friend….his passion, vision, wit (and fury against injustice) will be terribly missed.”

Daniel Barenboim called him a “fighter and a compassionate defender. A man of logic and passion. An artist and a critic….a visionary (who) fought for Palestinian rights while understanding Jewish suffering.” In 1999, they jointly founded the West-East Divan – an orchestra for young Arabs and Jews who collaboratively “understood that before Beethoven we all stand as equals….Palestinians have lost a formidable defender, the Israelis a no less formidable adversary, and I a soulmate.”

Rashid Khalidi is the Edward Said Professor of Arab Studies at Columbia where Said taught for nearly 40 years as a Professor of English and Comparative Literature. He called him “a man of vast erudition and learning, of extraordinary versatility and remarkable (interdisciplinary) expertise.” We’ve lost “one of the most profound, original and influential thinkers of the past half-century (and) a fearless independent voice speaking truth to the entrenched powers that dominate the Middle East.”

On September 30, 2003, Columbia University paid tribute as well. It mourned the passing of its “beloved and esteemed university professor.” Called him one of the world’s most influential scholars, and said “the world has lost a brilliant and beautiful mind, a big heart, and a courageous fighter.”

When he learned of his illness and its seriousness, Said decided to write (from memory) a biographical account of his childhood, upbringing and early years in Palestine, Lebanon and Egypt. Titled “Out of Place, A Memoir,” he called it “a record of an essentially lost or forgotten world….a subjective account of (his life) in the Arab world” of his birth and formative years. Then in America where he attended boarding school, Princeton for his bachelor’s and master’s degrees, and Harvard for his doctorate.

He began “Out of Place” in 1994 while recovering from three early rounds of chemotherapy and continued to completion with the help and “unstinting kindness and patience” of the “superb nurses” who spent months caring for him as well as his family and friends whose support helped him finish.

He recounted a young man’s coming of age. Of coming to terms with being displaced. An American. A Christian. A Palestinian. An outsider, and ultimately the genesis of an intellectual giant. An uncompromising opponent of imperialism and oppression, and an advocate for his peoples’ struggle for justice and self-determination. No one made the case more powerfully or with greater clarity than he did – in his books, articles, opinion pieces, and wherever he spoke around the world. He made hundreds of appearances and became a target of pro-Israeli extremists. They threatened him and his family. Once burned his Columbia University office, but never silenced him or ever could. Nor did the FBI in spite of over 30 years of surveillance the way it monitors all prominent outspoken activists and intellectuals and many of lesser stature.

Said’s great writings include Orientalism (1978) in which he explained a pattern of western misinterpretation of the East, particularly the Middle East. In Culture and Imperialism (1993), he broadened Orientalism’s core argument to show the complex relationships between East and West. Colonizers and the colonized, “the familiar (Europe, West, us) and the strange (the Orient, East, them).”

His writings showed the breath of his scholarship, interests and activism – on comparative literature, literary criticism, culture, music and his many works on Israeli-Palestinian history and conflict – combining scholarship, passion and advocacy for his people in contrast to the West’s one-sided view of Arabs and Islam. He championed equity and justice. Denounced imperialism, and believed Israel has a right to exist but not exclusively for Jews at the expense of indigenous Palestinians.

The 1967 war and illegal occupation changed everything for him. It radicalized him. Set the course of his intellectual career and activism, and made him the Palestinians’ leading spokesperson for the next 37 years until his death. He advocated a one-state solution and wrote in 1999: “The beginning is to develop something entirely missing from both Israeli and Palestinian realities today: the idea and practice of citizenship, not of ethnic or racial community, as the main vehicle of coexistence.”

In a lengthy January 1999 New York Times op-ed he elaborated: “Palestinian self-determination in a separate state is unworkable (after years earlier believing otherwise). The question (now isn’t separation) but to see whether it is possible for (Jews and Palestinians) to live together (in the same land) as fairly and peacefully as possible. What exists now is a disheartening…bloody impasse. There is no way for Israel to get rid of Palestinians or for Palestinians to wish Israelis away….I see no other way than to begin now to speak about sharing the land that has thrust us together, sharing it in a truly democratic way, with equal rights for each citizen.”

This diminishes life and aspirations for neither side. It affirms self-determination for them both together in the same land where they once lived peacefully. But it doesn’t mean “special status for one people at the expense of the other.” For millennia, Palestine was the homeland for many peoples, predating the Ottomans and Romans. It’s “multicultural, multiethnic, multireligious.” There’s no “historical justification for homogeneity” or for “notions of national or ethnic and religious purity….The alternatives (today) are unpleasantly simple: either the war continues (with its unacceptable costs)” or an equitable way out is found, obstacles notwithstanding.

Oslo wasn’t the answer, and Said denounced it in its run-up and weeks later in a London Review of Books piece titled “The Morning After.” In stinging language, he referred to “the fashion-show vulgarities of the White House ceremony, the degrading spectacle of Yasser Arafat thanking everyone for the suspension of most of his people’s rights, and the fatuous solemnity of Bill Clinton’s performance, like a 20th century Roman emperor shepherding two vassal kings through rituals of reconciliation and obeisance (and) the truly astonishing proportions of the Palestinian capitulation.”

For him, Oslo was plainly and simply “an instrument of Palestinian surrender, a Palestinian Versailles,” and worst of all is that a better deal could have been had without so many “unilateral concessions to Israel.” The same goes for the 1978 Camp David Accords and every “peace” negotiation to the present except the “permanent status” 2000 Camp David “generous” and “unprecedented” offer that Arafat turned down and was unfairly pilloried for spurning peace for conflict.

Said was on top of everything to the end as reflected in “The Last Interview” – a documentary film less than a year before his death. After a decade of illness, he agreed to a final film interview at a time he was drained, weakened and dying, yet found it “very difficult to turn (himself) off.” It was a casual conversation between himself and journalist Charles Glass reflecting on his childhood, upbringing, writing, scholarship, involvement with Yasser Arafat, and strong opinions and activism on Palestinian issues.

It was in all his writings and outspokenness – so powerful, passionate, virtuous and a testimony to his uncompromising principles. He described “Sharonian evil.” His blind destructiveness. His terrorism in ordering the massacring of children, then congratulating one pilot for his great success. The patently dishonest media. Its one-sided support for Israel. Its suppressing other views. Its turning a blind eye to the grossest crimes against humanity, day after day after day. Of relegating public discourse to repetitive official propaganda. Of subverting truth in support of power and privilege.

Of turning Palestine into an isolated prison. Suffocating an entire people of their existence. Of impoverishing, starving and slaughtering them. Of attacking defenseless civilians with tanks and F-16s. Of blaming victims for their own terror. Of creating a vast wasteland of destruction and human misery. Of sanctioning torture and targeted assassinations as official policy. Of committing every imaginable human indignity and degradation against people whose only crime is their faith, ethnicity, and presence. Whose only defense is their will and redoubtable spirit. Of enlisting world support for the most unspeakable, unrelenting campaign of terror and genocide.

Of pursuing an endless “cycle of violence” and consigning Palestinians to a “slow death” in defense of imperial interests and the national security state. Of pursuing peace as a scheme for “pacification.” Of placing the onus for it “squarely on Palestinian shoulders.” Of “putting an end to the (Palestinian) problem.” Of placing huge demands on Palestinians and making no concessions in return. Of calling resistance “terrorism” while ignoring oppressive occupation as the fundamental problem. Of seeing Palestinians endure and survive in spite of every imaginable assault, affront and indignity. Of piling on even more and seeing an even greater will to survive and prevail.

Said was passionate on all this and more. He was uncompromisingly anti-war and denounced America’s “war on terror.” The country “hijacked by a small cabal of individuals….unelected and unresponsive to public pressure.” The Democrats supporting them “in a gutless display of false patriotism.” The entire power structure characterizing Muslims as enemies. Passing repressive laws. Creating the obscenity of Guantanamo and other prisons like it.

Their self-righteous sophistry of so-called “just wars” and evil of Islam. The near omnipotence of the Zionist Lobby, Christian fascists, and military-industrial complex. Their hostility to Arabs and claim to be “on the side of the angels.” Their inexorable pursuit of war and power. The media in lockstep supporting “hypocritical lies” masquerading as “absolute truth.” The silencing of dissent. Of mocking and betraying democracy. Of making a total sham of decency, humanity and justice. Of letting a few extremists create their own “fantasy world” to run the country for their own corrupted self-interest.

Said said it all, and ended one opinion piece as follows: “Jonathan Swift, thou shouldst be living at this hour.” But even he might have blanched in disbelief considering the current state and potential horror of its consequences. Said understood. He’s sorely missed when we need him most.

-Stephen Lendman contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com. Contact him at: lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. (Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com, and listen to The Global Research News Hour on RepublicBroadcasting.org Mondays from 11AM—1PM US Central time.)

Christians protest attacks by Hindus in India

September 29, 2008
The News International, Sep 29, 2008
NEW DELHI: Hundreds of Christians held a rally Sunday in the Indian capital to protest recent attacks by Hindu hard-liners that have left dozens of Christians dead and thousands homeless in several Indian states. About 400 Christians gathered in a New Delhi park to pray and listen to speeches in which community leaders urged the government to do more to protect the country’s religious minorities.

“We are quite disappointed with both the federal government and state governments as violence against Christians has spread to several states in the past month,’’ said Dominic Emmanuel, a spokesman for the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India. The clashes between Hindus and Christians started in the Kandhamal district of Orissa state on Aug 24 following the killing of a Hindu religious leader. At the time, police blamed Maoist rebels active in the area, but right-wing Hindu groups blamed local Christians and set fire to a Christian orphanage.

The violence then worsened to include mob attacks on churches, shops and homes. Emmanuel said Hindu hard-liners have killed at least 40 Christians in the state in the past month. Gopal Nanda, the director-general of state police, put the death toll at 27.

Emmanuel said more than 4,200 Christian homes and 150 Christian buildings – including churches, hospitals and orphanages – have been burned in the past month and nearly 50,000 people have been left homeless in Orissa state.

The state government has not given details about the number of homes and buildings attacked.

The attacks on Christians have spread to the southern states of Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala and the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh. Christians have been responsible for retaliatory attacks on Hindus in Orissa state.

Meanwhile, the archbishop of New Delhi accused Sonia Gandhi, the chief of the governing Congress party and a Christian, of not doing enough to help Christians.

Vincent Concessao told the CNN-IBN television channel on Sunday that Gandhi may be reluctant because “Hindu bodies have been levelling an allegation against her that because she is a Christian she is in favour of Christians.’’

Manish Tiwari, a Congress party spokesman, rejected the claim, saying Gandhi had ordered ministers and party officials to visit all places where people have been attacked.

He also said Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s government had ordered state governments to take all possible steps to protect people and property.