Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Drums of war: The US media's 'Iranian threat' - Listening Post - Al Jazeera English

Drums of war: The US media's 'Iranian threat' - Listening Post - Al Jazeera English

Listening Post this week: Beating the drum for war - the US media and 'The Iranian Threat'. Plus, the burgeoning media scene in post-revolutionary Libya.

Something sounds familiar. 'Long-range nuclear missiles', 'terrorist sleeper cells', 'WMDs': terms which quickly became part of the media's vocabulary in the run up to the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq. Fast-forward to 2012 and they are featuring heavily once again, only now it is not about Iraq, but Iran. Last time, the media's saber-rattling followed the Bush administration's lead in selling the attack on Iraq. This time, the so-called 'Iranian Threat' is a narrative being constructed by the US media all by itself - with scant public support from the Obama administration. Our News Divide this week takes a close look at the coverage of Iran and a culture of journalism that seems to have forgotten the very real dangers of hypothesis and conjecture.

In our News Bytes this week: Two international journalists become the latest victims in the Syrian uprising; Rupert Murdoch announces the launch of his new Sunday tabloid in the UK; New CCTV footage reveals the extent of an attack on a Mexican newspaper last year; and an edition of a Spanish newspaper is banned in Morocco for containing a caricature of King Mohammed VI.

For more than 40 years, the media in Libya served as a propaganda tool for Colonel Muammar Gaddafi. But the revolution has brought change not just to the country's leadership, but also to its media environment. Over the past year, Libyans have seen an explosion in brand new media outlets. At least 120 print outlets have sprung up, as well as fresh alternatives on TV and radio. Meanwhile, a new generation of Libyan journalists are enjoying their newfound freedom of expression despite the lack of training and infrastructure. In this week's feature, Listening Post's Flo Phillips examines the flourishing media scene in Libya and the challenges that lie ahead.

The latest homemade video to be speeding around the internet is a film by Argentinean filmmaker, Fernando Livschitz which makes his homeland's capital, Buenos Aires, look like an amusement park. The budding director managed to cut scenes from a funfair into shots of the city to make it look like the revellers were coasting their way around town. Our dreamlike Internet Video of the Week is called Inception Park and - in our opinion - is just as impressive as the Hollywood blockbuster. We hope you enjoy the show.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Stop PA HB1077 to permit transvaginal ultrasound w/o consent

Dear Pennsylvania MoveOn member,
The Pennsylvania House of Representatives is poised to pass HB 1077, which requires all women seeking an abortion to be subjected to a mandatory ultrasound at least 24 hours prior to having the abortion.
The bill would subject women to invasive, transvaginal ultrasounds, requires the ultrasound screen to be aimed toward the woman's face, and requires that she deliver a print of the image to her physician in order to have the procedure. 
This bill operates under the guise that women aren't smart enough to understand their own bodies. The Pennsylvania Medical Society and other medical groups have already come out in opposition to this incredible violation of the physician/patient relationship.
Your representative can help stop this demeaning and unnecessary attack by voting no on HB 1077, but we need your help! That's why I created a petition to the Pennsylvania State House of Representatives on, which says:
Stop the cruel, demeaning attacks on women—vote NO on HB 1077 and stop mandatory, invasive ultrasounds from becoming law in Pennsylvania!
Will you sign the petition? Click here to add your name, and then pass it along to your friends:
–Sari Stevens

Syria: The Best Read on the Country

This, by Peter Harling and Sarah Birke, is by far and away the best piece I have read on Syria (and why you should really subscribe to MERIP — not to read it, because it's free, to support it as a platform). It stands out among all the hare-brained intervention plans, the letters from Syria, the impassioned calls for action and all the rest. I really urge you to read the whole thing, but here are some selected highlights.
The regime's calculus:
Events have aided the regime in its attempt to dismiss the protest movement and further tip the balance from nominal reform to escalating repression, fueling a vicious cycle that has turned sporadic clashes into a nascent civil war. In a sense, the regime may already have won: By pushing frustrated protesters to take up arms and the international community to offer them support, it is succeeding in disfiguring what it saw as the greatest threat to its rule, namely the grassroots and mostly peaceful protest movement that demanded profound change. In another sense, the regime may already have lost: By treating too broad a cross-section of the Syrian people as the enemy, and giving foreign adversaries justification to act, it seems to have forged against itself a coalition too big to defeat.
On the SNC's mistakes:
For its part, the Syrian National Council (SNC), the main opposition group that is composed mostly of exiles, has failed to offer an inspiring alternative since it was formed in September 2011. Its mainly unknown and inexperienced members have done little to counteract the regime’s propaganda. Unable to agree on any positive political platform, the SNC has refused any negotiation with the regime and called for “international intervention” that is conveniently left undefined, leaving to their anxieties the many Syrians who simultaneously loathe the regime, dread foreign interference and panic at the idea of a high-risk transition. It has estranged, among others, Kurdish factions, who fear a Turkish agenda, and petrified Syrians distrustful of Qatari and Saudi influence. It has most notably failed to reach out to the ‘Alawis, many of whom are poor and disgruntled but afraid to change sides lest they suffer a backlash due to their association with the security forces and army units responsible for much of the violence. By abandoning all these people to their dark forebodings, the SNC’s members have missed an opportunity to hasten the decline of the regime and ward off civil strife in the event of Bashar’s fall. On the international level, the SNC has displayed political naïveté by putting all its energy into lobbying for support from Turkey, the Gulf monarchies and the West, all of whom are already sympathetic, while ignoring and alienating the regime’s allies.
On where Syria fits in in the Arab uprisings:
There is a distinctly Syrian character to the crisis. Unlike Libyans, who in a matter of hours defected en masse, took up arms and called upon the outside world to step in, Syrians took months to resort to weapons or cry out for international intervention. Unlike Egypt, where revolution was a sublime but somewhat shallow moment of grace, the Syrian uprising has been a long, hard slog: The protest movement has gradually built itself up, studied the regime’s every move and mapped out the country to the extent that small towns such as Binnish in the northwest are now known to all.
On the organizers of the protest movement:
Alongside actual demonstrations, an expansive albeit largely invisible civil society has emerged to render them possible, by offering numerous forms of support. Businessmen have donated money and food; doctors sneak out medicines from hospitals and man field clinics in the most violence-ridden areas; religious leaders, by and large, try to keep a lid on sectarianism and violence. Over the course of the uprising, Syrians have articulated a now deeply rooted culture of dissent and developed sometimes sophisticated forms of self-rule by setting up local councils: Homs, which is also home to unruly armed groups, has developed a revolutionary council with an 11-member executive that presides over committees responsible for different aspects of the crisis, from interacting with the media to procuring medical supplies. Within revolting communities there is a greater sense of purpose, solidarity and national unity than at any time in recent Syrian history.
On external intervention:
Finally, as increasingly desperate protesters call for help, there is a danger that the outside world will make matters worse as it plays at being savior. Calls for aid are somewhat worse than a pact with the devil: They entail pacts with many devils that do not agree on much. The Gulf monarchies, Iraq, Turkey, Russia, the US, Iran and others all see geostrategic stakes in the fate of the Asad regime. The greater their involvement, the less Syrians will remain in control of their destiny. Crying out for foreign intervention of any kind, to bring this emergency to an end at any cost, is more than understandable coming from ordinary citizens subjected to extreme forms of regime violence. Exiled opposition figures who pose as national leaders have no excuse for behaving likewise, when what is needed is a cool-headed, careful calibration of what type of outside “help” would do the minimum of harm.
Close to home, another Middle Eastern experience -- Iraq -- serves as an example on all three fronts. A political process excluding even a relatively small minority within Iraqi society led to a collective disaster. A group of returning exiles, without a social base but enjoying international support as the only visible, pre-existing “alternative,” quickly took over the transition and agreed only on splitting up power among themselves on the basis of a communal calculus. Their division of the spoils gradually contaminated the entire polity, and ultimately led to civil war. And the US, presiding over this tragedy, succeeded only in turning Iraq into a parody of itself, a country that now fits every sectarian and troubled stereotype the occupying power initially saw in it.
Peter saw what happened in Iraq firsthand, and lived in Syria for the last five years. I respect his insight into Syrian society, and his wisdom in trying to avoid an Iraq 2.0. - The Arabist

Now for a Radical neo-Marxist Debate

I have dissected, step by step, the national income accounts of the United States, from the most general categories down to the net profits of the country’s largest corporations. I have shown that, from the viewpoint of the leading corporations, most of the redistributional processes – from the aggregate to the disaggregate – are close to being exhausted. By the end of the twentieth century, the largest U.S. corporations, approximated by the top 0.01%, have reached an unprecedented situation: their net profit share of national income hovers around record highs, and it seems that this share cannot be increased much further under the current political-economic regime.

This asymptotic situation, Bichler and I believe, explains why leading capitalists have been struck by systemic fear. Peering into the future, they realize that the only way to further increase their distributional power is to apply an even greater dose of violence. Yet, given the high level of force already being exerted, and given that the exertion of even greater force may bring about heightened resistance, capitalists are increasingly fearful of the backlash they are about to unleash. The closer they get to the asymptote, the bleaker the future they see.

Muslim attacks Atheist

Ezra Levant & Pam Geller: Zombie Mohammad

Ezra Levant had me on his television show this evening to discuss the all-American Judge Martin adjudicating sharia justice in a Pennsylvania court. Much thanks to for grabbing the video.
We discuss Judge Martin enforcing the sharia even though he is non-Muslim while lecturing the victim, Ernest Perce, on Islamic sensibilities. That Judge Martin would think it is relevant or decisive that Perce offended Muslims is stunning. Further, the defdendant, Talaag Elbayomy, assumed it was illegal to insult Muhammad, and the Judge advanced that view.
Hundreds of threats for assault victim in case dismissed by Quran-minded judge -- Pamela Geller, TheDC
According to Pence, "The judge is furious. Police called me warning of a Muslim brotherhood death threat. I told the chief, 'I've receives hundreds of death threats.'"
Here's what we know about the sharia judgement in Pennsylvania. Back in October, a non-Muslim, Ernest Perce, was accosted at a Halloween Parade by a Muslim, Talaag Elbayomy, because he was wearing a Zombie Muhammad costume with a sign. Police were called to the scene. The Muslim admitted to the police officer on the scene that he had gotten physical with Ernest Perce. Elbayomy attempted to rip Perce’s beard off, pull off his “Muhammed of Islam” sign and choke him.
“He grabbed me, choked me from the back, and spun me around to try to get my sign off that was wrapped around my neck,” Perce told ABC 27.
At the trial, Talaag Elbayomy said that he never got physical with Perce. So either he perjured himself or he lied to the policeman the night of the attack.The Judge called it a he said/she said. Not so. The policeman Curtis testified, and the Judge completely ignored that testimony. Further, the Judge refused to allow the video taken that night of the attack.
Eugene Volokh over at the legal blog, The Volokh Conspiracy, has posted a long explanation from the Judge here, wherein the Judge explains himself and says he is not a Muslim. It doesn't matter. What matters is American law in American courts.
JUDGE:         Well, having had the benefit of having spent over two and a half years in predominantly Muslim countries, I think I know a little bit about the faith of Islam.  In fact, I have a copy of the Koran here, and I would challenge you, sir, to show me where it says in the Koran that, that Mohammed is, Mohammed arose and walked among the dead.  Uh, I think you misinterpreted a couple of things.  So before you start mocking somebody else’s religion, you might want to find out a little bit more about it.  Kind of makes you look like a doofus. 
 And Mr. Thomas is correct.  In many other Muslim speaking country – excuse me, many Arabic-speaking countries, predominantly Muslim, um, something like this is definitely against the law there, in their society.  In fact, it could be punished by death; frequently is, in their society.  Here in our society, we have a Constitution that gives us many rights – specifically First Amendment rights.  It’s unfortunate that some people use the first Amendment to deliberately provoke others.  I don’t think that’s what our forefathers really intended.  I think our forefathers intended that we use the First Amendment so that we can speak what’s on our mind; not to piss off other people and cultures, which is what you did.  I don’t think you’re aware, sir…  There’s a big difference between how Americans practice Christianity – and I understand you’re an atheist – but, see, Islam is not just a religion, it’s their culture, their culture.  It’s their very essence, their very being.  They pray five times a day towards Mecca.  To be a good Muslim, before you die you have to make a pilgrimage to Mecca unless you’re otherwise told you cannot because you’re too ill, too elderly, whatever.  But you must make the attempt.  (Their greetings) – salaam aleichem (sp), (alekema) salaam – uh, may God be with you…  Whenever – it is very common in their language, when they’re speaking to each other, it’s very common for them to say, uh, Allah willing, this will happen.  It is – they are so immersed in it.  And what you’ve done is, you completely trashed their essence, their being.  They find it very, very, very offensive.  I’m a Muslim; I find it offensive.  I find what’s on the other side of this very offensive.  But you have that right.  But you’re way outside your bounds, First Amendment rights.  This is what – and I’ve spent about seven and a half of my years all together living in other countries – um, when we go to other countries, it’s not uncommon for people to refer to us as “Ugly Americans.”  This is why we are referred to as Ugly Americans.  Because we’re so concerned about our own rights, we don’t care about other people’s rights, as long as we get our say.  But we don’t care what the other people say.  All that aside, I’ve got here basically – I don’t want to say he said, she said – but I’ve got two sides of the story that are in conflict with each other.  I understand.  I’ve been at the Halloween Parade and I understand how noise can be, how difficult it is to get a pulpit.  And I can’t believe that if there was this kind of conflict going on in the middle of the street that somebody didn’t step forward sooner to try and intervene, that the police officer on the bicycle didn’t stop and say, hey, let’s break this up.  You put your hand down, sir.  You’re not a witness.
JUDGE:         The preponderance – excuse me – the burden of proof is that the defendant, it must be proven that the defendant did with the intent to harass, annoy or alarm the other person.  The Commonwealth – whether there’s conflict or not – and yes, he shouldn’t be putting his hands on you.  I don’t know.  I have your story that he did, and his story that he did not.  But another part of the element as Mr. Thomas said was, was the defendant’s attempt to harass, annoy or alarm, or was it his intent to try and have the offensive situation negated?  If his intent was to harass, annoy or alarm, I think there would have been a little bit more of an altercation, something more substantial as far as testimony going on that there was a conflict.  Because there is not, it is not proven to me beyond a reasonable doubt that this defendant is guilty of harassment.  Therefore, I’m going to dismiss the charge.  (Inaudible phrase), (please).
Here is how the Judge explains himself:
This story certainly has legs. As you might imagine, the public is only getting the version of the story put out by the “victim” (the atheist). Many, many gross misrepresentations. Among them: I’m a Muslim, and that’s why I dismissed the harassment charge (Fact: if anyone cares, I’m actually Lutheran, and have been for at least 41 years).
I also supposedly called him and threatened to throw him in jail if he released the tapes he had made in the courtroom without my knowledge/permission (Fact: HE called ME and told me that he was ready to “go public” with the tapes and was wondering what the consequences would be; I advised him again to not disseminate the recording, and that I would consider contempt charges; he then replied that he was “willing to go to jail for (his) 1st amendment rights”- I never even uttered the word “jail” in that conversation).
He said that I kept a copy of the Quran on the bench (fact: I keep a Bible on the bench, but out of respect to people with faiths other than Christianity, I DO have a Quran on the bookcase BESIDE my bench, and am trying to acquire a Torah, Book of Mormon, Book of Confucius and any other artifacts which those with a faith might respect).
He claims that I’m biased towards Islam, apparently because he thinks I’m Muslim. In fact, those of you who know me, know that I’m an Army reservist with 27 years of service towards our country (and still serving). I’ve done one tour in Afghanistan, and two tours in Iraq, and am scheduled to return to Afghanistan for a year this summer. During my first tour in Iraq, I was ambushed once, attacked by a mob once, sniped at once, and rocketed, bombed, and mortared so many times that I honestly don’t know how many time I’ve been attacked. Presumably by Muslim insurgents. My point: if anyone SHOULD be biased towards Muslims, one would think it would be me. I’m not, however, because I personally know or have met many good, decent people who follow Islam, and I shouldn’t characterize the actions of those who tried to kill me as characterizations of all Muslims.
When I asked him why he dressed up as “Muhammad zombie,” he told me that it was because he was reflecting the Muslim belief that Muhammad rose from the dead, walked as a zombie, and then went to heaven. That was one of the reasons I tried to spend 6 whole minutes trying to explain and de-mystify Islam through my own knowledge, and in an attempt to prevent an incident like this recurring in my community. Unfortunately, the message was obviously not received in the vein that I had intended. And, in the interest of full disclosure, I did use the word “doofus,” but didn’t call him that directly; I said something akin to “ if you’re going to mock another religion or culture, you should check your facts, first- otherwise, you’ll look like a doofus.”;
In short, I based my decision on the fact that the Commonwealth failed to prove to me beyond a reasonable doubt that the charge was just; I didn’t doubt that an incident occurred, but I was basically presented only with the victim’s version, the defendant’s version, and a very intact Styrofoam sign that the victim was wearing and claimed that the defendant had used to choke him. There so many inconsistencies, that there was no way that I was going to find the defendant guilty.
A lesson learned here: there’s a very good reason for Rule 112 of Rules of Criminal Procedure- if someone makes an unauthorized recording in a Court not of Record, there’s no way to control how it might be manipulated later, and then passed off as the truth. We’ve received dozens upon dozens of phone calls, faxes, and e-mails. There are literally hundreds of not-so-nice posts all over the internet on at least 4 sites that have carried this story, mainly because I’ve been painted as a Muslim judge who didn’t recuse himself, and who’s trying to introduce Sharia law into Mechanicsburg.
Ernest Perce responds:
LMAO, he can't find a Torah? he ordered me to destroy the recording. He's in fact right about section 112 rules of court. He verbally said he would hold me in contempt for this. I forwarded you the emails from his assistant Bonnie Snyder saying, the judge ordered you to destroy the audio. He grossly misinterpreting section 112 section D. Doing this with the section 42 contempt he told me about, I asked him what is the penalty? That's jail or fines.
Fact is, I called originally to ask him about releasing audio, he was gone in training. That is why I commutated with Bonnie. Then on Friday when we talked he was aggressive with section 42 contempt. That's when I said, Judge your threatening me and misinterpreting 112. I'm releasing this and you can't do a damned thing about. you gave us permission to record. conversation Furthered and I hung up.
He wrote to Bonnie Snyder, administrative secretary of the Cumberland County District Court: “I was in a recent proceeding and Judge Martin gave both parties the right/permission to record the proceeding on our cellular devices. I would like to know if it is allowed to put the recording online for listening purposes. If the answer is no, I'd like to know the case law which is being cited and the punishment for violating the case law.”
Snyder responded: “Judge Martin only gave permission for the attorney or officer to record the proceedings.  He did not give anyone else permission to record anything in the courtroom at the hearing held on December 6, 2011 at 2:45 pm.”
Perce then asked her: “Are you instructing me via Judge Martin to destroy or delete and not use my audio recording?”
Answered Snyder: “Yes, since you were not authorized to make any recordings.”

Israel: The beginning of the deadly 1936 riots (US State Dept)

Posted: 27 Feb 2012 04:30 PM PST
We sometimes see Arab propagandists mention that the 1936 Arab riots that started in April were "non-violent."

I once went through Palestine Post archives to show the violence done by Arabs in the first days of the Arab strike, but there were some incidents that happened beforehand.

Here is a narrative of what happened then, from the US consul's perspective.

Of the incidents mentioned here, only one was against Arabs by Jews.

From the United States Department of State / Foreign relations of the United States diplomatic papers, 1936. The Near East and Africa:
 As reported by telegram on April 18, the first factor contributing to the occurrence of the disturbances was the recrudescence of political high-way robbery by bands of Arabs. Although Sheikh Izz-ed-Din [al Qassam] had been captured and executed by the police, his spirit was reinvoked to inspire the Arabs to begin again their annoying practices on the highways. There was, however, a difference in the modus operandi of these bands as compared with those which operated under Sheikh Izz-ed-Din. The latter worked merely to annoy the Government, whereas the former operate on what can only be described as anti-Jewish lines. On one occasion busses were stopped on the Tulkarm—Nablus Road and all the passengers were forced to alight. The only three Jews in the busses were then segregated from their fellow pas-sengers and placed in the cab of a truck at the head of the stopped column of cars. The door of the cab was closed and the Jews were fired upon at point-blank range. Of the three, one was killed out-right, one died later of wounds, and the third was severely wounded. This incident was followed the next night by a revenge killing of two Arabs by Jews in a small hut on the Petah Tikva,—Ranaana Road. It is reported by the police in this respect that at 10 p.m. on April 16 a car stopped before the hut and one of its occupants knocked on the door. In response to the knock the door was opened and two persons believed by the police to be Jews entered and, finding two Arabs within, shot them both dead on sight. One was shot six times with a Browning automatic and the other five with a Parabellum. The car with its occupants then disappeared.

When these facts became known the following morning tension between Arabs and Jews reached a crucial point. The situation was rendered acute later in the morning when the Jew who had been murdered by the "terrorists" two days before was buried as a martyr in the cemetery on the outskirts of Tel Aviv. The cortege following the body worked itself into a frenzy of righteous indignation and became disorderly. The efforts of the Jewish police of Tel Aviv to restore order and control the course of the procession were unavailing.

A clash ensued and the Jewish police were routed. Reserves of British police were immediately called and likewise were attacked. By this time the excitement had spread to the occupants of nearby houses who joined the fray by throwing flower pots, cement building blocks and even iron bedsteads upon the heads of the police below. At one moment it seemed as though the British police would likewise be routed and troops were ordered to stand by from the encampment at Sarafand. Fortunately, however, order was at length restored, but not until after the police had been forced to fire into the crowd and many casualties had occurred both among the police and the rioters. The authorities were particularly apprehensive during the course of these disturbances because at Ramleh, no more than ten miles away, crowds of excited Arabs were celebrating the local feast of Nebi Saleh, and had word of the riots in Tel Aviv reached them a most serious situation would almost certainly have developed.

The following day, Saturday, passed without incident, but in an atmosphere of extreme tension. The police and the military authorities prepared for serious trouble.

On Sunday their fears were justified. A large crowd of Arabs gathered in the morning before the offices of the District Commissioner in Jaffa to protest against the murder of the two Arabs killed on the 16th, and as they were milling about in the square and working themselves into a condition of frenzy two Jews appeared and were immediately set upon. The crowd of Arabs then went berserk and pursued every Jew they saw. Fortunately, not many were at hand. The crowd then turned its attention to the main Jaffa—Jerusalem highway, stopping all cars and inspecting them for Jewish passengers. Many cars were wrecked and many casualties took place, among them an official of the Public Works Department, the son of the honorary Swedish Consul, the son of a well-known British contractor and a member of the Royal Air Force. When order was finally restored at 3:30 in the afternoon total casualties amounted to

7 Jews killed ;
2 Arabs killed;
15 Arabs wounded;
39 Jews wounded.

Monday morning dawned on a Palestine prepared for disturbances of the most serious sort. All shops were closed and traffic was at a minimum on the roads. At about 9 a. m. the police received word of fresh outbreaks in Jaffa and, as a result traffic ceased on the Jerusalem—Jaffa road and was convoyed on the Jerusalem—Nazareth road. The disturbances remained localized in the no-man's-land between Jaffa and Tel Aviv, where a platoon of the Cameron Highlanders had been stationed the day before, but a few minor incidents of stoning automobiles occurred in the Northern District near Jenin. To combat this development the Air Officer Commanding despatched detachments of armored cars to Nablus, Tulkarm and Jenin and likewise ordered detachments of troops to support the police at Tulkarm in case of a clash between the Arabs of that district and the Jews of the neighboring colonies. Casualties in Jaffa on April 20 were as follows : 5 Jews killed and 26 wounded; 2 Arabs killed and 32 wounded; on that day also 2 Jews died of injuries received on the previous day. Outside of the fracas in Jaffa the only important items to note on April 20 are two incidents which occurred on the Jerusalem–Nazareth road: a convoy of cars carrying visiting French officers back to Syria was stoned near Jenin and windshields and windows were broken ; the French Consul General abandoned his car near Nablus because of a demonstration then in progress and returned to Jerusalem by train. Also on that day Consuls Lynch and Scott journeyed to Tel Aviv and back to Jerusalem after learning that no American individuals or property had been involved in the disturbances, and Consul Brent returned from Haifa—all without incident.

On April 21 the situation was reported as being "easier". Nineteen persons were wounded, 14 Arabs and 5 Jews, in "isolated assaults"; a Jewish lumber yard and other buildings were fired in Jaffa; traffic was resumed under convoy on the Jerusalem–Jaffa road ; a crowd of Arabs bent on invading an outlying quarter of Tel Aviv were repulsed by the police; a general strike, which in effect has been only partial, was begun by Arab shopkeepers and still continues on April 25. This strike, which is supposed to have been inspired by that of the Damascene merchants some weeks ago and which is scheduled to last "until Arab demands are met", is a most half-hearted affair unsupported by the Nashashibi element. (As far as can be determined the Arab "demands" are the traditional ones : cessation of Jewish immigration and termination of land sales to Jews.)

Foreign Relations of the United States is a great resource, but before World War II they are only available as non-searchable PDFs. I converted the one here to text using an online OCR program.

Information Revolution increases central control

Monday, February 27, 2012 – by Staff Report

The Emperor of Vanished Kingdoms ... Here's a thought. What if the euro survives the present economic crisis but the European Union—or even the United Kingdom—doesn't? It's the kind of question that comes to mind when you talk to Norman Davies, Britain's pre-eminent historian of Europe. From where he sits, Europe's problem is one of failed governance. "It all started, I guess, in the 1990s, with the Yugoslav wars and the inability of the Europeans to do anything basic about a war in their backyard." ... The Emperor of Vanished Kingdoms ... Europe's pre-eminent historian says all nations eventually end—even the United Kingdom, and perhaps America. And that inability, Mr. Davies says, stems from a fatal flaw in the way Europe approached the grand project of knitting its member nations into a union. "I now feel that the thing that is being proved wrong is what some people call the 'gradualist fallacy'—that . . . you drive European integration forward by economic means," he says. "And it's just wrong." – Wall Street Journal
Dominant Social Theme: Empires die, but in the case of the EU it will be the countries.
Free-Market Analysis: Say what? The EU's "problem" is that the top Eurocrats are not dictatorial enough? The EU needs MORE governance?
Heck, from what we know, the top EU honchos have yet to have their "empire" officially audited even once in the past decade or so. That's right, accountants refuse to sign off on the numbers – so obviously "cooked" they are.
Read More

Information revolution degrades central control

Our modest argument, which no doubt would be dismissed out of hand, is that the Internet Reformation is similar to its big brother – the initial Reformation that was, in our view, an outgrowth of the Gutenberg Press.
If one examines the post-Gutenberg Press history, one might well conclude that during these great "information revolutions" statist power structures tend to DEGRADE. There is a devolution of power, not an accrual of it.
Mr. Davies is an obvious contrarian! History shows us one thing and he sees another! Perhaps this explains why the book in its sixth printing. We can only assume that, as with most so many such "books," the elites themselves are likely organizing the buying campaign.
How, after all, did George Soros's psychotic tracts get published? Did you ever bump into ANYONE who read Hillary Clinton's thousand-page reminiscence? Or Bill Clinton's for that matter? Yet the Clintons' books, we are told, supposedly sold hundreds of thousands or even millions.
Even the interviewer apparently can't believe what he's hearing toward the end of his interview. In fact, Davies himself can't continue on with this argument. Here's the paragraph in question:
Would he regret the passing of the EU or the euro? This is where Mr. Davies's sensibilities as a historian rub against his personal sympathies as a European. He comes dangerously close to telling me that the European project can cheat the forces of history and economics. But he keeps his scholar's head. "People don't see very often their death coming. . . . Look at the French Revolution: The king of France was thinking in the 1780s, 'We're doing rather better than my father in the 1770s.'"
Conclusion: The idea that because people are terribly unhappy with the European Union as it is they will therefore seek to enlarge it and make it even more dictatorial seems a bit ... unusual, in our view. But, hey, we're not lucky enough to be "court historians."
Daily Bell

Monday, February 27, 2012

President Obama Speaks at National Governors Association Meeting

Backstage at the White House: Tedeschi & Trucks

First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden Speak on Military Spouse Em...

Backstage at The White House: Keb Mo

What Ails Europe?

Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times
Paul Krugman
Things are terrible here, as unemployment soars past 13 percent. Things are even worse in Greece, Ireland, and arguably in Spain, and Europe as a whole appears to be sliding back into recession.
Why has Europe become the sick man of the world economy? Everyone knows the answer. Unfortunately, most of what people know isn’t true — and false stories about European woes are warping our economic discourse.
Read an opinion piece about Europe — or, all too often, a supposedly factual news report — and you’ll probably encounter one of two stories, which I think of as the Republican narrative and the German narrative. Neither story fits the facts.
The Republican story — it’s one of the central themes of Mitt Romney’s campaign — is that Europe is in trouble because it has done too much to help the poor and unlucky, that we’re watching the death throes of the welfare state. This story is, by the way, a perennial right-wing favorite: back in 1991, when Sweden was suffering from a banking crisis brought on by deregulation (sound familiar?), the Cato Institute published a triumphant report on how this proved the failure of the whole welfare state model.
Did I mention that Sweden, which still has a very generous welfare state, is currently a star performer, with economic growth faster than that of any other wealthy nation?
But let’s do this systematically. Look at the 15 European nations currently using the euro (leaving Malta and Cyprus aside), and rank them by the percentage of G.D.P. they spent on social programs before the crisis. Do the troubled GIPSI nations (Greece, Ireland, Portugal, Spain, Italy) stand out for having unusually large welfare states? No, they don’t; only Italy was in the top five, and even so its welfare state was smaller than Germany’s.
So excessively large welfare states didn’t cause the troubles.
Next up, the German story, which is that it’s all about fiscal irresponsibility. This story seems to fit Greece, but nobody else. Italy ran deficits in the years before the crisis, but they were only slightly larger than Germany’s (Italy’s large debt is a legacy from irresponsible policies many years ago). Portugal’s deficits were significantly smaller, while Spain and Ireland actually ran surpluses.
Oh, and countries that aren’t on the euro seem able to run large deficits and carry large debts without facing any crises. Britain and the United States can borrow long-term at interest rates of around 2 percent; Japan, which is far more deeply in debt than any country in Europe, Greece included, pays only 1 percent.
In other words, the Hellenization of our economic discourse, in which we’re all just a year or two of deficits from becoming another Greece, is completely off base.
So what does ail Europe? The truth is that the story is mostly monetary. By introducing a single currency without the institutions needed to make that currency work, Europe effectively reinvented the defects of the gold standard — defects that played a major role in causing and perpetuating the Great Depression.
More specifically, the creation of the euro fostered a false sense of security among private investors, unleashing huge, unsustainable flows of capital into nations all around Europe’s periphery. As a consequence of these inflows, costs and prices rose, manufacturing became uncompetitive, and nations that had roughly balanced trade in 1999 began running large trade deficits instead. Then the music stopped.
If the peripheral nations still had their own currencies, they could and would use devaluation to quickly restore competitiveness. But they don’t, which means that they are in for a long period of mass unemployment and slow, grinding deflation. Their debt crises are mainly a byproduct of this sad prospect, because depressed economies lead to budget deficits and deflation magnifies the burden of debt.
Now, understanding the nature of Europe’s troubles offers only limited benefits to the Europeans themselves. The afflicted nations, in particular, have nothing but bad choices: either they suffer the pains of deflation or they take the drastic step of leaving the euro, which won’t be politically feasible until or unless all else fails (a point Greece seems to be approaching). Germany could help by reversing its own austerity policies and accepting higher inflation, but it won’t.
For the rest of us, however, getting Europe right makes a huge difference, because false stories about Europe are being used to push policies that would be cruel, destructive, or both. The next time you hear people invoking the European example to demand that we destroy our social safety net or slash spending in the face of a deeply depressed economy, here’s what you need to know: they have no idea what they’re talking about.
(h/t to @skopje65)

Burn Koran? Iran official responds, "Burn WH."

Iran military official: Only burning White House can make up for burning Koran

The enemedia continues to package the abysmal failure of Obama's foreign policy as a triumph. The world is on the edge facing world war as Islamic supremacists take over whole countries, something made possible by Obama. Aided and abetted by Obama.
Where are the GOP candidates?
Stop apologizing to these savages and start fighting. As an American, I do not apologize. I withdraw Obama's apology. I withdraw General Allen's apology. I condemn their apology. I do not submit to a culture that suffocates ideas, critical thinking, women, non-Muslims. I do not apologize that the United States of America is "the greatest, the noblest and, in its original founding principles, the only moral country in the history of the world."
It took centuries of intellectual, philosophical development to achieve political freedom. It was a long struggle, stretching from Aristotle to John Locke to the Founding Fathers. The system they established was not based on unlimited majority rule, but on its opposite: on individual rights, which were not to be alienated by majority vote or minority plotting. The individual was not left at the mercy of his neighbors or his leaders: the Constitutional system of checks and balances was scientifically devised to protect him from both. This was the great American achievement—and if concern for the actual welfare of other nations were our present leaders’ motive, this is what we should have been teaching the world. (Ayn Rand)
America does not apologize to savages and cannibals and ghouls.
Commander of Iran's Basij force tell Fars news agency that Muslims worldwide should reject Obama's apology following the burning of the holy Muslim text in a U.S. base in Afghanistan.
The Muslim world should not accept an apology issued by U.S. President Barack Obama over the burning of Korans in an American base in Afghanistan, a top Iranian military commander said on Saturday, adding that nothing short of "burning the White House can relieve the wound of us."
Obama's Thursday apology in a letter to Afghan President Hamid Karzai sought to quell spiraling furor among Afghans, who have been protesting the act for five straight days, after Afghan workers found charred copies of the Muslim holy book on a military base near Kabul.
According to White House spokesperson Jay Carney, while the apology was "wholly appropriate given the sensitivities" about treatment of the Koran, he said Obama's primary concern was "the safety of American men and women in Afghanistan, of our military and civilian personnel there."
Responding to Obama's apology on Saturday, the commander of Iran's Basij force Brigadier General Mohammad Reza Naqd claimed that the holy book was burned by U.S. forces over the heavy slap it has been given by Islam," urging Muslims worldwide to reject the American apology.
"Nothing but burning the White House can relieve the wound of us, the Muslims, caused by the Burning of Quran in the US," he said adding: "Their apology can be accepted only by hanging their commanders; hanging their commanders means an apology," he was quoted by the semi-official Fars news agency as saying.
Naqd's comments came after, earlier Saturday, a gunman killed two American military advisers inside a heavily guarded government building in the heart of Kabul.
The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it was retaliation for the Koran burnings, and the NATO commander recalled all international military personnel working in Afghan ministries in the capital.
U.S.¬ officials said the assailant remained at large and a manhunt was under way.
At least 28 people have been killed and hundreds wounded since Tuesday, when it first emerged that Qurans and other religious materials had been thrown into a fire
pit used to burn garbage at Bagram Air Field, a large U.S.¬ base north of Kabul.
Among those dead were two U.S. ¬soldiers who were killed Thursday by one of their Afghan counterparts while a riot raged outside their base in the eastern province of Nangarhar.

Mitt Romney laughs at Ron Paul, makes Romney lose a vote

The Fair Tax Act (H.R. 25/S. 1025) is a bill in the United States Congress for changing tax laws to replace the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and all federal income taxes (including Alternative Minimum Tax), payroll taxes (including Social Security and Medicare taxes), corporate taxes, capital gains taxes, gift taxes, and estate taxes with a national retail sales tax, to be levied once at the point of purchase on all new goods and services. The proposal also calls for a monthly payment to households of citizens and legal resident aliens (based on family size) as an advance rebate of tax on purchases up to the poverty level.[1][2]
Supporters argue that a consumption tax, such as the FairTax, would have a positive impact on savings and investment (not taxed), ease of tax compliance, increased economic growth, incentives for international business to locate in the U.S., and increased U.S. international competitiveness (border tax adjustment in global trade).[3][4] The plan may increase cost transparency for funding the federal government and supporters believe it would have positive effects on civil liberties, the environment, and advantages with taxing illegal activity and illegal immigrants.[3][5] Because the FairTax plan would remove taxes on income, tax deductions would have no meaning or value, which concerns some law makers about losing this method of social incentive. There are also concerns regarding the repeal of the Sixteenth Amendment, transition effects on after-tax savings, impact to the income tax industry, incentives on credit use, and the loss of tax advantages to state and local bonds.

Tucker Carlson Calls For Annihilation Of Iran

Posted: 26 Feb 2012 04:31 AM PST
No, I doubt it will. But this video is a good occasion to revisit the whole Ahmedenijad "wipe Israel off the map" debacle (i.e. that he did not say that, although he may have meant it), reflect on the fact that thus far it is Israel and the United States where talk of a strike on Iran is routine, as well as the sorry state of television discourse in the United States. In France, for instance, Carlson would be almost certainly sued and perhaps could even face prison. In the US this will probably be defended under the First Amendment (which I actually prefer), but many respectable news organizations have fired contributors for much less. Too bad Fox News probably doesn't fit that description.
Update: HM sends me via Twitter a link to an exchange of emails between Carlson and Gleen Greenwald of Salon on this. Carlson says he was actually talking about the dangers of a strike on Iran to the US economy. Watch for yourselves, seems pretty unambiguous.

"Stoning" Attack on Israeli Car

Apparently, because AP And AFP uncharacteristically released good photos of the incident, prompting Israeli media to cover the story, Channel 10 in Israel managed to find an actual videotape (since many reporters were there waiting for cars with Israeli plates to be stoned, some with video.) I don't know which service took this video.

Chances are that the tape would never have been released if it wasn't for the publicity. It isn't newsworthy on its own.

Yesterday, the uber-moderate PA prime minister Salam Fayyad described incidents such as these as "non-violent."

(h/t Israellycool)  Elder of Ziyon

Transvaginal in Pennsylvania

keep ending up with the same two questions: who's going to pay for this? It seems that since the state won't pay, the docs won't do it for free, and insurance won't pay since it's not medically necessary, women have to pay to be raped. 
My bigger question though, is why do the Republicans want MORE government action in medicine? Their argument against the Affordable Health Care Act was that it put government between a patient and doctor. They seemingly want government out of every single aspect of people's lives except when it involves shoving an ultrasound probe up a woman's vagina. 
But there's more, and it's on a national scale. Remember the Violence Against Women Act which came out of Joe Biden's office in 1994? The one that authorized funds related to domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking? It's up for re-authorization and Republicans are opposed. Yes, Republicans like violence against women. Yes, it does slightly expand:- Philly Jewish News

Sunday, February 26, 2012

The unknown World War I

The Story the Oscar-Nominated "War Horse" Doesn't Tell

The First World War is suddenly everywhere in pop culture, from "War Horse" to "Downton Abbey" but why do all the portrayals miss the people who fought for peace?
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Well in advance of the 2014 centennial of the beginning of “the war to end all wars,” the First World War is suddenly everywhere in our lives. Stephen Spielberg’s War Horse opened on 2,376 movie screens and has collected six Oscar nominations, while the hugely successful play it’s based on is still packing in the crowds in New York and a second production is being readied to tour the country.
In addition, the must-watch TV soap opera of the last two months, Downton Abbey, has just concluded its season on an unexpected kiss.  In seven episodes, its upstairs-downstairs world of forbidden love and dynastic troubles took American viewers from mid-war, 1916, beyond the Armistice, with the venerable Abbey itself turned into a convalescent hospital for wounded troops. Other dramas about the 1914-1918 war are on the way, among them an HBO-BBC miniseries based on Ford Madox Ford’s Parade’s End quartet of novels, and a TV adaptation of Sebastian Faulks’s novel Birdsong from an NBC-backed production company.
In truth, there’s nothing new in this.  Filmmakers and novelists have long been fascinated by the way the optimistic, sunlit, pre-1914 Europe of emperors in plumed helmets and hussars on parade so quickly turned into a mass slaughterhouse on an unprecedented scale. And there are good reasons to look at the First World War carefully and closely.
After all, it was responsible for the deaths of some nine million soldiers and an even larger number of civilians.  It helped ignite the Armenian genocide and the Russian Revolution, left large swaths of Europe in smoldering ruins, and remade the world for the worse in almost every conceivable way -- above all, by laying the groundwork for a second and even more deadly, even more global war.
There are good reasons as well for us to be particularly haunted by what happened in those war years to the country that figures in all four of these film and TV productions: Britain. In 1914, that nation was at the apex of glory, the unquestioned global superpower, ruling over the largest empire the world had ever seen. Four and a half years later its national debt had increased tenfold, more than 720,000 British soldiers were dead, and hundreds of thousands more seriously wounded, many of them missing arms, legs, eyes, genitals.
The toll fell particularly heavily on the educated classes that supplied the young lieutenants and captains who led their troops out of the trenches and into murderous machine-gun fire. To give but a single stunning example, of the men who graduated from Oxford in 1913, 31% were killed.
“Swept Away in a Red Blast of Hate”
Yet curiously, for all the spectacle of boy and horse, thundering cavalry charges, muddy trenches, and wartime love and loss, the makers of War Horse,Downton Abbey and -- I have no doubt -- the similar productions we’ll soon be watching largely skip over the greatest moral drama of those years of conflict, one that continues to echo in our own time of costly and needless wars. They do so by leaving out part of the cast of characters of that moment.  The First World War was not just a battle between rival armies, but also a powerful, if one-sided, battle between those who assumed the war was a noble crusade and those who thought it absolute madness.
The war’s opponents went to jail in many countries.  There were more than 500 conscientious objectors imprisoned in the United States in those years, for example, plus others jailed for speaking out against joining the conflict. Eugene V. Debs had known prison from his time as a railway union leader, but he spent far longer behind bars -- more than two years -- for urging American men to resist the draft. Convicted of sedition, he was still in his cell at the federal penitentiary in Atlanta in November 1920 when, long after the war ended, he received nearly a million votes as the Socialist candidate for President.
One American protest against the war turned to tragedy when, in 1917, Oklahoma police arrested nearly 500 draft resisters -- white, black, and Native American -- taking part in what they called the Green Corn Rebellion against “a rich man’s war, poor man’s fight.” Three were killed and many injured.
War resisters were also thrown in jail in Germany and Russia. But the country with the largest and best organized antiwar movement -- and here’s where the creators of those film and TV costume dramas so beloved by Anglophile American audiences miss a crucial opportunity -- was Britain.
The main reason opposition to the war proved relatively strong there was simple enough: in 1914, the island nation had not been attacked. German invaders marched into France and Belgium, but Germany hoped Britain would stay out of the war. And so did some Britons. When their country joined the fighting on the grounds that Germany had violated Belgian neutrality, a vocal minority continued to insist that jumping into a quarrel among other countries was a disastrous mistake.
Keir Hardie was a prominent early war opponent.  A trade union leader and Member of Parliament, he had, by the age of 21, already spent half his life as a coal miner and he never went to school.  Nonetheless, he became one of the great orators of the age, mesmerizing crowds with his eloquence, his piercing, heavy-browed eyes, and a striking red beard. Crushed with despair that millions of Europe’s working men were slaughtering one another rather than making common cause in fighting for their rights, his beard white, he died in 1915, still in his 50s.
Among those who bravely challenged the war fever, whose rallies were often violently broken up by the police or patriotic mobs, was well-known radical feminist Charlotte Despard. Her younger brother, amazingly, was Field Marshal Sir John French, commander-in-chief of the Western Front for the first year and a half of the war. A similarly riven family was the famous Pankhurst clan of suffragettes: Sylvia Pankhurst became an outspoken opponent of the conflict, while her sister Christabel was from the beginning a fervent drum-beater for the war effort.  They not only stopped speaking to each other, but published rival newspapers that regularly attacked the other’s work.
Britain’s leading investigative journalist, Edmund Dene Morel, and its most famous philosopher, Bertrand Russell, were both passionate war critics. “This war is trivial, for all its vastness,” Russell wrote. “No great principle is at stake, no great human purpose is involved on either side.” He was appalled to see his fellow citizens “swept away in a red blast of hate.”
He wrote with remarkable candor about how difficult it was to go against the current of the national war fever “when the whole nation is in a state of violent collective excitement. As much effort was required to avoid sharing this excitement as would have been needed to stand out against the extreme of hunger or sexual passion, and there was the same feeling of going against instinct.”
Both Russell and Morel spent six months in prison for their beliefs. Morel served his term at hard labor, carrying 100-pound slabs of jute to the prison workshop while subsisting on a bare-bones diet during a frigid winter when prison furnaces were last in line for the nation’s scarce supply of coal.
Women like Violet Tillard went to jail as well.  She worked for an antiwar newspaper banned in 1918 and was imprisoned for refusing to reveal the location of its clandestine printing press. And among the unsung heroines of that antiwar moment was Emily Hobhouse, who secretly traveled through neutral Switzerland to Berlin, met the German foreign minister, talked over possible peace terms, and then returned to England to try to do the same with the British government. Its officials dismissed her as a lone-wolf eccentric, but in a conflict that killed some 20 million people, she was the sole human being who journeyed from one side to the other and back again in search of peace.
Why We Know More About War Than Peace
By the war’s end, more than 20,000 British men had defied the draft and, as a matter of principle, many also refused the alternative service prescribed for conscientious objectors, like ambulance driving at the front or working in a war industry. More than 6,000 of them were put behind bars -- up to that moment the largest number of people ever imprisoned for political reasons in a western democracy.
There was nothing easy about any of this.  Draft refusers were mocked and jeered (mobs threw rotten eggs at them when given the chance), jailed under harsh conditions, and lost the right to vote for five years. But with war’s end, in a devastated country mourning its losses and wondering what could possibly justify that four-year slaughter, many people came to feel differently about the resisters. More than half a dozen were eventually elected to the House of Commons and the journalist Morel became the Labour Party’s chief Parliamentary spokesperson on foreign affairs. Thirty years after the Armistice, a trade unionist named Arthur Creech Jones, who had spent two and a half years in prison as a war resister, was appointed to the British cabinet.
The bravery of such men and women in speaking their minds on one of the great questions of the age cost them dearly: in public scorn, prison terms, divided families, lost friends and jobs. And yet they are largely forgotten today at a moment when resistance to pointless wars should be celebrated.  Instead we almost always tend to celebrate those who fight wars -- win or lose -- rather than those who oppose them.
It’s not just the films and TV shows we watch, but the monuments and museums we build. No wonder, as General Omar Bradley once said, that we “know more about war than we know about peace.” We tend to think of wars as occasions for heroism, and in a narrow, simple sense they can be. But a larger heroism, sorely lacking in Washington this last decade, lies in daring to think through whether a war is worth fighting at all. In looking for lessons in wars past, there’s a much deeper story to be told than that of a boy and his horse.

Prosecuting Pot Offenders Ridiculous

Eliot Spitzer: Spending Money on Prosecuting Pot Is Ridiculous

Former New York governor and attorney general Eliot Spitzer says he not only supports medical marijuana, but thinks we should replace marijuana prohibition with legalization.
February 24, 2012  |  
Former New York governor and attorney general Eliot Spitzer says he not only supports medical marijuana, but thinks we should replace marijuana prohibition with legalization.  Speaking on Friday night on HBO's "Real Time with Bill Maher," Spitzer said: "To spend prosecutorial resources on pot is ridiculous...I'd be in favor of legalized pot. Legalizing pot is the right way to go."
Check out the entire marijuana discussion by Maher's panel of guests, starting at 4:22 in to this clip:

It's nice to see a group of people with such different political leanings all agreeing that it's time to end prohibition. Still, the joke from Stephen Moore of the Wall Street Journal at the end of the discussion about how supporting legalization might somehow hurt Spitzer's future political aspirations is particularly unfortunate...and premised on a roundly absurd notion.

While supporting legalization himself, Moore doesn't seem to realize that marijuana legalization is one rare issue that he, Spitzer and -- oh yeah -- a majority of American voters all agree on.

Come to think of it... the idea that supporting legalization would harm any future aspirations at elected office Spitzer might have, or the political pursuits of most any office seeker in 21st century America, is becoming funnier all the time. Perhaps an appropriate joke for Maher's show after all.

In the clip, even Spitzer himself only reluctantly got around to stating that he'd favor ending marijuana prohibition across the board instead of just allowing medical marijuana. It's a strange thing, this tendency of political figures to act as if they should be afraid to say something that a rapidly growing majority of American voters agree with.
Editor's Note: This article originally appeared on the Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) blog
Law Enforcement Against Prohibition ( LEAP) is a group of cops, judges, prosecutors and everyday citizens teaming up to end the failed, dangerous and expensive war on drugs.

How Right[-Wing Exploits Rape Victims

How Right-Wing Smears Against Occupy Exploit Victims of Rape in the Movement

Right-wingers are using sexual assault at Occupy to justify smears and attacks. Here are the facts.
Protester arrested by NYPD. Via @NYCRevMedia on Twitter.
Photo Credit: @nycrevmedia on Twitter
On the morning of October 29, a woman participating in OWS was sexually assaulted at Liberty Plaza.” This was the opening of the November 4 statement released by the NYC survivors’ support team (an offshoot of Safer Spaces OWS) responding to a sexual assault that had become a lightning rod within the movement--and for its agenda-laden critics. 
In November, those critics of Occupy included Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who used the assault to maneuver toward eviction. Now they include notorious right-wing smear operative Andrew Breitbart, who went on his already infamous “stop raping people!” and "you're filthy animals" rant directed at Occupy-affiliated progressives outside of CPAC and has caused a media firestorm as a result. He has acknowledged that his campaign is part of a smear effort to wreak vengeance on progressives who criticized racism within the Tea Party.
When Emily Crockett, the young woman who took the video, waded into the online discussion, this is what happened:
Breitbart then suggested that I was a rape denier! So did Michelle Fields of the Daily Caller.
Why? Because I dared to suggest that the blame for rape lies with the rapists, not with the places where they live and sleep, and that smearing an entire movement for the actions of a few criminals who infiltrated an encampment is disingenuous and irresponsible.
Even though the encampments and occupations are almost all gone, the subject of OWS and rape has, thanks to Breitbart's campaign, become contentious once again, tossed back and forth most prominently between Breitbart, Keith Olbermann and Markos Moulitsas. The latter two, along with Emily Crockett, are being called “rape deniers” by Breitbart and his minions. Tommy Christopher at Mediaite aptly describes how the issue of women's safety in the movement has been turned into a football between prominent men, without much consideration of what women in the movement actually had to say during that first phase of Occupy.
So let’s set the record straight. I have been reporting extensively on the role of women and the Occupy movement since October, and here’s what I’ve found:
  • First of all: assaults did occur at a number of the encampments, particularly those which grew exponentially in a short amount of time. It’s true that some of the perpetrators weren’t seasoned activists but showed up seeking shelter at the camps. However, in an “open-source movement,” it’s hard to distinguish between “true” occupiers and moochers; this was a challenge organizers faced.
  • Second of all, there was a gargantuan effort from within the movement to combat the problem, ranging from creating designated safe spaces to internal security checks to involving law enforcement when victims requested it. 
  • Thirdly, to smear the entire movement (or any group at all) based on sexual assaults misunderstands the rape epidemic in our culture. We live in a patriarchy in which no space is ever really safe from sexual assault. Many activists understand this in a way that neither law enforcement nor male pundits seem to. 
“Although we all believe we are ‘like-minded' individuals, activists must be prepared to face ignorance and rape culture, and do everything they can to combat it within the movement,” Sarah Armitt, a Brooklyn resident and OWS activist, told me a week before the Zuccotti eviction. “When activists enter a movement, they should be aware that they will still have to deal with the same issues they face externally. It's not all unicorns and rainbows. Education and awareness are key.”
Women in the movement face a double-bind: they have to contend with misogyny and assault on the ground, and outsiders like Breitbart and Bloomberg exploiting these incidents to tarnish a movement that they have more claim to then a handful of perpetrators. Some have had to step back from OWS because of these pressures, while others have re-upped their efforts at combining feminism with Occupy.
Two weeks before the eviction, NYC Mayor Mike Bloomberg had directly called out sexual assaults in Zuccotti Park as a reason to distrust the Occupy movement--and even as ammunition to disband the camp. He claimed that activists were discouraging victims from reporting their assaults, hinting that there is a “no snitching” code in place because reporting rapes might hurt the movement. 
Thus, the statement from the survivors’ support team, which, in part, explained what actually happened:
“On the morning of the assault, the survivor was accompanied to the hospital by a group of women from OWS, including a social worker, to support her and act as advocates. From the moment the incident was discovered to the present time, the survivor has been surrounded by a network of allies and trained advocates offering resources to provide emotional, medical, and legal support. At every step of the process, and in line with the core principles of survivor support, her wishes as to how she wanted to proceed have been honored, and information from a range of sources has been provided to her about her options.” 
According to the statement, the survivor then asked those who accompanied her to prevent the perpetrator from harming others in the park. He was heavily monitored and at one point physically “chased away.” Furthermore, she wanted to file a police report, and she did. Several other incidents in the park have also been reported to law enforcement: early on, protesters directly handed at least one serial groper to the police.
So Bloomberg’s manipulative use of these awful incidents was based on false information. And conservative pundits like Breitbart who seize on rapes at Occupy while ignoring things like the Virginia ultrasound law, the FBI’s attempted redefinition of rape, and Republican opposition to the Violence Against Women Act, hardly show themselves to be allies. (Dana Loesch, a Breitbart associate who wrote a long post about alleged rapes and cover-ups at Occupy, is the same person who declared that women who had had sex (or been raped) had therefore pre-emptively consented to an invasive transvaginal ultrasound.)
Furthermore, the use of rapes at OWS for scapegoating by Bloomberg, Breitbart, Loesch, and others misses a crucial point. In New York, the NYPD and the city DA's office had a dismal year protecting women from sexual violence. This has been the year of the East Village “rape-cop” acquittal, the Dominique Strauss-Khan debacle, the incident in which cops warned women in Park Slope not to wear short skirts--and the NYPD’s brutal (and videotaped) treatment of Occupy protesters of both genders, including the notorious pepper-spray video. Other cities where assaults occurred had similar long-term issues with law enforcement. So it’s understandable for a woman, person of color, or anyone who has had a bad experience with law enforcement to be wary of the police.
This was a common pattern: "I was more victimized by the NYPD who handled my sexual assault case than I was by the assaulter," read the sign carried by one woman who was groped in Zuccotti early in the protests, as reported on She claimed that the police treated her like she had invited the attack by joining the movement. 
In his post about the Breitbart vs. Olbermann fracas, Tommy Christopher describes the problem with the Right's new wave of attacks on sexual assault at Occupy:
The most disturbing thing, though, was the video that Dana Loesch embedded in her Olbermann takedown. The young woman in the video talks about the assaults at her camp, and explains that the Occupy organizers urge victims to alert the police, but that the police refused to take any action. She also described efforts, much like the ones we reported here, to make the encampments safe from the predators that the police ignored, to stand guard over people as they slept. These are the people that Andrew Breitbart called “filthy animals” and told to “Stop raping people!”
OWS anti-violence activists were eager to avoid those victim-blaming tropes. And so beyond responding to incidents, they initiated a broad range of important work in the encampments (including erecting military-style safe space tents) before the wave of evictions began. That anti-violence work continues today.
Just this week, the movement in New York adopted a new Community Safety Agreement that includes a provision that OWS, to the best of its power will, “remove people who have committed sexual violence or abuse and let the survivor decide the conditions for their return. We understand that they may not be able to return.”
Within Occupy, many protesters are engaged in the kinds of nuanced and proactive conversations found in women’s studies departments and feminist blogs. Still, as Melanie Gold of "Women Occupying Wall Street" told me this winter, there was a limit to their effectiveness in the encampments. “None of us are rape crisis people, we need professionals, we need the volunteer work of people who really understand this stuff and can help.” 
There's no question that the way the movement handles and deters past and future painful incidents will be a true test of its staying power for internal reasons as much as external ones. No one will join, and no one will stay if the movement is seen as fostering violent individuals. But the right-wingers who criticize the sexual assaults without understanding the movement's dynamics or addressing misogyny at large--in fact, while actively fostering misogyny--are doubly exploiting victims. 
Sarah Seltzer is an associate editor at AlterNet and a freelance writer based in New York City. Her work has been published at the Nation, the Christian Science Monitor, Jezebel and the Washington Post. Follow her on Twitter at @fellowette and find her work at

Forgetting the Past, One Military Movie at a Time

Posted on Feb 24, 2012
When philosopher George Santayana said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it,” he meant it as an admonition—not as an endorsement of mass amnesia or historical revision. This should be obvious.
Yet those operating at the shadowy intersection of the Pentagon and Hollywood either don’t understand—or, more likely, refuse to understand—the thrust of the aphorism. Instead, with this week’s release of a much-awaited film, Santayana’s omen has been transformed into a public mission statement for a burgeoning Military-Entertainment Complex.
Since 1986’s “Top Gun” rekindled the Pentagon-Hollywood relationship from its post-Vietnam doldrums, the collusion between the military and the entertainment industry has become a blockbuster con, generating huge benefits for both participants—and swindling the American public in the process.
The scheme is simple: The Pentagon allows studios to use military hardware and bases at a discounted, taxpayer-subsidized rate. In exchange, filmmakers must submit their scripts to the Pentagon for line edits. Not surprisingly, those edits often redact criticism of military policy, revise depictions of historical failures, and generally omit anything else that might make audiences wonder if our current defense policy is repeating past mistakes.
If a studio doesn’t agree to the edits, then it loses access to the martial equipment, and typically, the film is terminated. If, by contrast, filmmakers agree to the edits, access is granted, and the film gets made at a cut-rate price to the studio. Except in the credits’ fine print, the audience is never told about the censorship.
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The predictable result is a glut of movies that both celebrate U.S. military policy and whitewash the checkered history of military adventurism—and relatively few major movies questioning that policy and that adventurism.
No doubt as a system of stealth coercion, the arrangement has been wildly effective. But with America now questioning the efficacy of constant invasions and the morality of never-ending occupations, the Pentagon is getting worried and thus intensifying its agitprop to ever more manipulative extremes. Last year, for example, it cemented its first full sponsorship of a major film, “X-Men: First Class,” integrating the movie into recruitment ads. It’s now going even further, fully financing its own feature-length film, “Act of Valor,” appearing in theaters nationwide starting Feb. 24.
Casting active-duty SEALs, the film is ostensibly about a mission to neutralize terrorists. But as one of the filmmakers let slip this week, its heroic portrayals and triumphs are really designed to once again make us forget the past.
“I’d like to see the legacy of Vietnam put to bed,” said “Act of Valor” filmmaker Mike “Mouse” McCoy in an interview with the Huffington Post. “It was a really bad time in American history, absolutely, but it’s time to sort of forget that and forget those sensibilities and don’t associate our troops and our men and women to that conflict anymore, and time to really open our eyes to say, ‘What’s going on in this world? What are our men and women in uniform really doing right now for us?’ ”
While it’s true that America’s recent wars are not exactly the same as the Vietnam War, a stunning new report in the Armed Forces Journal proves there are troubling similarities we could learn from. With history’s lessons in mind, we might learn to refrain from involving ourselves in foreign quagmires because the human costs are too high. We might also learn that some conflicts have no military solution at all.
But such lessons run counter to a Pentagon focused on perpetually repeating a military-centric past, so those lessons are being deliberately obscured. That’s indeed a triumph of the Military-Entertainment Complex, but it’s a Pyrrhic victory for America—one that guarantees Santayana’s warning goes unheeded.

David Sirota is a best-selling author of the new book “Back to Our Future: How the 1980s Explain the World We Live In Now.” He hosts the morning show on AM760 in Colorado. E-mail him at, follow him on Twitter @davidsirota or visit his website at
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