Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Heckuva job Kenny

It turns out, by the way, that oil rigs today generally don’t cause spills. They are technologically very advanced. Even during Katrina, the spills didn’t come from the oil rigs, they came from the refineries onshore.
Barack Obama, April 2, 2010

"For too long, for a decade or more, there has been a cozy relationship between the oil companies and the federal agency that permits them to drill. It seems as if permits were too often issued based on little more than assurances of safety from the oil companies. That cannot and will not happen anymore.
Now, from the day he took office as Interior Secretary, Ken Salazar has recognized these problems and he's worked to solve them. Often times he has been slammed by the industry, suggesting that somehow these necessary reforms would impede economic growth. Well, as I just told Ken, we are going to keep on going to do what needs to be done.

Just last year BP—who now likes to say BP stands for “Beyond Petroleum,” not British Petroleum—told the government that an oil spill like the one wreaking havoc in the Gulf was highly unlikely, so they didn’t need to install the remote controlled valves that could prevent an uncontrolled blowout.

Obama’s Interior Secretary, Ken Salazar, was so taken-in by these false safety claims that his agency allowed BP’s offshore drilling plan to be “categorically excluded” from the required environmental impact review. KierĂ¡n Suckling, executive director of the Center for Biological Diversity, said, “Instead of protecting the public interest by conducting environmental reviews, Salazar’s agency rubber stamped BP’s drilling plan, just as it does hundreds of others every year in the Gulf of Mexico.


Since the Deepwater Horizon oil drilling rig exploded on April 20, the Obama administration has granted oil and gas companies at least 27 exemptions from doing in-depth environmental studies of oil exploration and production in the Gulf of Mexico.

The waivers were granted despite President Barack Obama’s vow that his administration would launch a “relentless response effort” to stop the leak and prevent more damage to the gulf. One of them was dated Friday — the day after Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said he was temporarily halting offshore drilling

- McClatchy Newspapers

Friday, May 21, 2010

The War is Making You Poor Bill

Alan Grayson keeps it simple (h/t John Ballard) .

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Chomsky banned

Noam Chomsky and his daughter were denied entry by the Israelis on the Jordan/Israeli border. Here is an interview he gave to Al Jazeera. The interviewer is highly annoying. Chomsky is Chomsky.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Apartheid and Israel

John Mearsheimer recently gave a talk entitled "The future of Palestine: Righteous Jews versus New Afrikaners." While Mearsheimer believes the two state solution to be the best option he is very pessimistic about the possibility of ever achieving it.
The story I will tell is straightforward. Contrary to the wishes of the Obama administration and most Americans – to include many American Jews – Israel is not going to allow the Palestinians to have a viable state of their own in Gaza and the West Bank. Regrettably, the two-state solution is now a fantasy. Instead, those territories will be incorporated into a “Greater Israel,” which will be an apartheid state bearing a marked resemblance to white-ruled South Africa.
He goes on to detail his reasons for why he feels the two state solution is a pipe dream. First, there are the "facts on the ground."
The main reason that a two-state solution is no longer a serious option is that most Israelis are opposed to making the sacrifices that would be necessary to create a viable Palestinian state, and there is little reason to expect them to have an epiphany on this issue. For starters, there are now about 480,000 settlers in the Occupied Territories and a huge infrastructure of connector and bypass roads, not to mention settlements. Much of that infrastructure and large numbers of those settlers would have to be removed to create a Palestinian state. Many of those settlers however, would fiercely resist any attempt to rollback the settlement enterprise.
Then there are the ideological hurdles.
From the start, Zionism envisioned an Israeli state that controlled all of Mandatory Palestine. There was no place for a Palestinian state in the original Zionist vision of Israel. Even Yitzhak Rabin, who was determined to make the Oslo peace process work, never spoke about creating a Palestinian state. He was merely interested in granting the Palestinians some form of limited autonomy, what he called “an entity which is less than a state.” Plus, he insisted that Israel should maintain control over the Jordan River Valley and that a united Jerusalem should be the capital of Israel. Also remember that in the spring of 1998 when Hillary Clinton was First Lady, she was sharply criticized for saying that “it would be in the long-term interests of peace in the Middle East for there to be a state of Palestine, a functioning modern state on the same footing as other states.”
Then there is the quality of the Israeli leadership
An individual with the stature of David Ben-Gurion or Ariel Sharon – or even Yitzhak Rabin – might be able to stand up to those naysayers and push forward a two-state solution, but there is nobody with that kind of standing in Israeli politics today.
And the weakness of the American leadership
Every American president since 1967 has opposed settlement building in the Occupied Territories. Yet no president has been able to put serious pressure on Israel to stop building settlements, much less dismantle them. Perhaps the best evidence of America’s impotence is what happened in the 1990s during the Oslo peace process. Between 1993 and 2000, Israel confiscated 40,000 acres of Palestinian land, constructed 250 miles of connector and bypass roads, doubled the number of settlers, and built 30 new settlements. President Clinton did hardly anything to halt this expansion. Indeed, the United States continued to give Israel billions of dollars in foreign aid each year and to protect it at every turn on the diplomatic front.

One might think that Obama is different from his predecessors, but there is little evidence to support that belief. Consider that during the 2008 presidential campaign, Obama responded to charges that he was “soft” on Israel by pandering to the lobby and repeatedly praising the special relationship. In the month before he took office, he was silent during the Gaza massacre – when Israel was being criticized around the world for its brutal assault on that densely populated enclave.

So, no two state solution. Examining what is left the only viable option is an apartheid state. All very much in the realist mode. But then he seems to leave his realist moorings and predict a "happy ending." He suggest that the American Jewish community will be repulsed by the immorality of an apartheid state.
The bottom line is that Israel will not be able to maintain itself as an apartheid state over the long term, because it will not be able to depend on the American Jewish community to defend its loathsome policies toward the Palestinians. And without that protection, Israel is doomed, because public opinion in the West will turn decisively against Israel, as it turns itself into a full-fledged apartheid state.

Thus, I believe that Greater Israel will eventually become a democratic bi-national state, and the Palestinians will dominate its politics, because they will outnumber the Jews in the land between the Jordan and the Mediterranean.
Uri Avnery does not like this "happy ending."
Except for a tiny group of dreamers, who can be gathered in a medium-sized room, there are no Israelis who dream of living in a bi-national state, in which the Arabs constitute the majority.
While he cannot fault Mearsheimer's logic he still feels that apartheid can be reversed and the two state solution is possible. How exactly that will happen Avnery does not know but he figures miracles have happened before. I certainly hope Avnery's miracle comes true because Mearsheimer's belief in the apartheid state causing sufficient revulsion in the diaspora to threaten Israel may be a bit of wishful thinking. From a report from 2006 by Guardian's long time South Africa and Middle East correspondent Chris McGreal (the whole report is well worth reading) :

Several years ago in Johannesburg I met a Jewish woman whose mother and sister were murdered in Auschwitz. After their deaths, she was forced into a gas chamber, but by some miracle that bout of killing was called off. Vera Reitzer survived the extermination camp, married soon after the war and moved to South Africa.

Reitzer joined the apartheid Nationalist party (NP) in the early 1950s, at about the time that the new prime minister, DF Malan, was introducing legislation reminiscent of Hitler's Nuremberg laws against Jews: the population registration act that classified South Africans according to race, legislation that forbade sex and marriage across the colour line and laws barring black people from many jobs.

Reitzer saw no contradiction in surviving the Holocaust only to sign up for a system that was disturbingly reminiscent in its underpinning philosophy, if not in the scale of its crimes, as the one she had outlived. She vigorously defended apartheid as a necessary bulwark against black domination and the communism that engulfed her native Yugoslavia. Reitzer let slip that she thought Africans inferior to other human beings and not entitled to be treated as equals. I asked if Hitler hadn't said the same thing about her as a Jew. She called a halt to the conversation.

Reitzer was unusual among Jewish South Africans in her open enthusiasm for apartheid and for her membership of the NP. But she was an accepted member of the Jewish community in Johannesburg, working for the Holocaust survivors association, while Jews who fought the system were frequently ostracised by their own community.

Let's hope Avnery is right.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Iran acquisition of nuclear weapons imminent!!!

At antiwar.com Muhammad Sahimi has looked at the warnings that Iran was about to acquire nuclear weapons in the next few years - since 1984. (h/t Eric Martin)

... in April 1984, Jane’s Defense Weekly reported that West German intelligence believed that Iran could have a nuclear bomb within two years. Twenty-six years later, that bomb has not been produced.

On June 27, 1984, the late Sen. Alan Cranston was quoted by The Age, a broadsheet daily newspaper published in Melbourne, Australia, claiming that Iran was seven years away from being able to build its own nuclear weapon. ...

On April 12, 1987, David Segal published a piece in the Washington Post titled “Atomic Ayatollahs: Just What the Mideast Needs – an Iranian Bomb,” sounding the alarm about Iran’s forthcoming nuclear weapon.


In late 1991, in congressional reports and CIA assessments, the first Bush administration estimated that there was a “high degree of certainty that the government of Iran has acquired all or virtually all of the components required for the construction of two to three nuclear weapons.” In 1992, the CIA changed its mind and predicted that Iran would have nuclear arms by 2000, then pushed that back to 2003.

A February 1992 report by the House of Representatives suggested that Iran would have two or three operational nuclear weapons by February-April 1992.

And, of course, David Albright, the all-world nuclear expert, also weighed in in March 1992. In an article written with Mark Hibbs in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientist, he claimed that the spotlight had shifted to Iran and its nuclear program.

I almost forgot to mention the sensational reports in Europe in May 1992 by several right-wing European newspapers that Iran already had two nuclear bombs. “Iran has obtained at least two nuclear warheads out of a batch officially listed as ‘missing’ from the newly independent republic of Kazakhstan, formerly part of the Soviet Union. Two of the nuclear weapons were smuggled across the border from Kazakhstan into Iran last year [1991] and are now under the control of Reza Amrollahi, the head of the Iranian Organization for Atomic Energy.” Iran and Kazakhstan do not have common borders, and Amrollahi, who was privy to such an important state secret, was sacked by former president Mohammad Khatami in 1997 and has been living a quiet life in Tehran ever since as a professor.

Things got more interesting in early March 1992 when The Arms Control Reporter reported that by December 1991 Iran had four (not two) nuclear weapons, which it had obtained from the former Soviet Union, including a nuclear artillery shell, two nuclear warheads that could be launched on Scud missiles, and one nuclear weapon that could be delivered by a MiG-27 aircraft.

...On Jan. 23, 1993, Charles Radin of the Boston Globe quoted Gad Yaacobi, then Israel’s envoy to the United Nations, claiming that Iran was devoting $800 million per year to the development of nuclear weapons.

A month later on Feb. 24, new CIA Director James Woolsey (who would later play a leading role in the propaganda for invading Iraq) said that the U.S. was concerned about Iran’s nuclear potential, even though “Iran is still eight to ten years away from being able to produce its own nuclear weapon.”

Then, on March 21, 1993, U.S. News and World Report reported that North Korea and Iran had an agreement to develop nuclear weapons. On April 8, Douglas Jehl of the New York Times reported that the Clinton administration claimed that Iran had paid North Korea $600 million for further development of the Nodong missile to deliver nuclear or chemical warheads.

... Foreign Report claimed on April 22, 1993, that North Korea was supplying Iran with nuclear know-how and enriched uranium. In May 1993, it was reported that U.S. intelligence analysts had alleged that Iran had sought weapons-related nuclear equipment from Ukraine. It did not, of course, matter that both nations denied the allegations.

On June 25, 1993, the AFP reported that the Swiss were major suppliers for Iran’s nuclear weapons program. After Maariv in Israel repeated that claim, even Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin denied it, saying, “They do not know what they are talking about.” But the fabrication factory was producing nonstop. On Sept. 2, 1993, the Intelligence Newsletter reported that the French firm CKD was delivering nuclear materials to Iran. On Oct. 25, 1993, U.S. News and World Report used that great source of expertise for the mainstream media – unidentified intelligence sources – to claim that scientists working in the Soviet Union’s nuclear program in Kazakhstan sold weapons-grade uranium to Iran. And on Dec. 13, 1993, Theresa Hitchens and Brendan McNally of Defense News reported that the CIA “believes that Iran could have nuclear weapons within eight to 10 years.”


In January 1995, John Holum, the director of the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, testified before the Congress that “Iran could have the bomb by 2003.” Defense Secretary William Perry said that “Iran may be less than five years from building an atomic bomb.” ... in The Nonproliferation Review (Vol. 2, 1995), Greg Gerardi reported, “Current U.S. and Israeli intelligence sources estimate Iran will have nuclear weapons in a 5-10 year time frame.” Note how the time frame has become so mobile! David Albright weighed in again with an article titled “An Iranian Bomb?” in The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists 51 (March-August 1995).

... On April 29, 1996, Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres said that he believed that “in four years, Iran may reach nuclear weapons.”

In 1997 Israel predicted a new date for Iran having a nuclear bomb: 2005

On Oct. 21, 1998, Gen. Anthony Zinni, head of U.S. Central Command, said Iran “could have the capacity to deliver nuclear weapons within five years.” ... Steve Rodan claimed on April 9, 1998, in that model of truthfulness, the Jerusalem Post, “Documents obtained by the Jerusalem Post show Iran has four nuclear bombs.”

A CIA assessment of Iran’s nuclear capabilities publicized on Jan. 17, 2000, said that the Agency could not rule out the possibility that Iran possessed nuclear weapons. The assessment was based on the CIA’s admission that it could not monitor Iran’s nuclear activities with any precision.

Then the George W. Bush administration came to power, and Iran became an even more “imminent” threat. In the heyday of the warmongers after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the Pentagon delivered a classified version of the congressionally mandated Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) on Dec. 31, 2001. It listed Iran among the countries that “could be involved in immediate, potential, or unexpected contingencies.”

Demonizing Iran became so fashionable during the Bush years that members of Congress began lying brazenly. A report by Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R-Mich.), then chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, issued on Aug. 23, 2006, stated, “Iran has conducted a clandestine uranium enrichment program for nearly two decades in violation of its IAEA safeguards agreement, and despite its claim to the contrary, Iran is seeking nuclear weapons.” It also claimed that “Iran is currently enriching uranium to weapons grade using a 164-machine centrifuge cascade at this facility in Natanz” and “spent fuel from the LWR [light water reactor] that Russia is building for Iran in the city of Bushehr can produce enough weapons-grade plutonium for 30 weapons per year if the fuel rods were diverted and reprocessed.” As I explained elsewhere, all the allegations were lies. They provoked the IAEA to take the unusual step of sending an angry letter to Hoekstra. The letter took “strong exception to the incorrect and misleading assertion” that the IAEA had removed a senior safeguards inspector for “allegedly raising concerns about Iranian deception,” and it branded as “outrageous and dishonest” the report’s suggestion that he was removed for not adhering “to an unstated IAEA policy barring IAEA officials from telling the truth” about Iran.


In a more recent dire prediction, Amos Harel of Ha’aretz reported on July 11, 2007 that “Iran will cross the ‘technological threshold’ enabling it to independently manufacture nuclear weapons within six months to a year and attain nuclear capability as early as mid-2009, according to Israel’s Military Intelligence.”

Right after the Obama administration took over, Greg Miller of the Los Angeles Times reported on Feb. 12, 2009, that the Obama administration had made it clear that it believed there was no question that Tehran was seeking the bomb.

And just the other day, Hillary Clinton claimed that Iran has violated the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Apparently, the secretary of state does not know that there is a vast difference – technically and legally – between violating the NPT and being in non-compliance with some provisions of the Safeguards Agreement with the IAEA. An NPT violation happens when a member state develops a nuclear bomb, helps another state to do so, or transfers its nuclear technology to a non-member state.

Clinton should hire better lawyers who are loyal to the true national interests of the United States, not rely on pro-Israel “experts” who will settle for nothing short of military attacks on Iran.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

The wit and wisdom of Barack Obama

Lifted wholesale from A Tiny Revolution:

It's one thing for heads of state to murder people. That's just part of the job description. It only becomes truly obscene when the people in charge start making jokes about the power of life and death they wield over others.

Ladies and gentlemen, please give a warm welcome to Barack Obama:

OBAMA: Jonas brothers are here, they're out there somewhere. Sasha annd Malia are huge fans, but boys, don't get any ideas. Two words for you: predator drones. You will never see it coming. You think I'm joking?

According to the New America Foundation, Obama has killed somewhere between 109 and 188 civilians with drones during his presidency.

Note also that, according to the Washington Post gossip column, this was one of Obama's "sharpest quips" at the White House correspondents dinner.

Via Charles Davis.