Weekend Edition

April 18th, 2014

Senator McCain hates even itsy bitsy peace

April 18th, 2014

by B. R. GOWANI

U.S. Senator John McCain gestures during a session at the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos January 24, 2014. PHOTO/Ruben Sprich/Reuters

The Republican Senator from Arizona and former presidential candidate John McCain is never at peace with peace, even itsy bitsy peace, that is, negotiating with Iran or not dropping bombs on Syria – even though both countries are victims of US economic embargoes and news media lies and propaganda. At the World Economic Forum in January 2014, he was critical of President Barack Obama:

I travel all around the world and I hear unanimously that the United States is withdrawing and that the United States’ influence is on the wane and that bad things are going to happen, and they are happening.

Then he advised his “friend” John Kerry, the US Secretary of State:

“[John Kerry needs to work hard] as long as we have a president who does not believe in American exceptionalism”.

Government officials the world over are allergic to truth and so when someone in power speaks the truth, it is our duty to acknowledge. Kerry, at the same forum, refuted the charge:

I must say I am perplexed by claims that I occasionally hear that somehow America is disengaging from the world, this myth that we are pulling back or giving up or standing down. In fact, I want to make it clear today that nothing could be further from the truth. This misperception, and in some case, a driven narrative, appears to be based on the simplistic assumption that our only tool of influence is our military, and that if we don’t have a huge troop presence somewhere or we aren’t brandishing an immediate threat of force, we are somehow absent from the arena. I think the only person more surprised than I am by the myth of this disengagement is the Air Force pilot who flies the Secretary of State’s plane.”

Just within a month, however, the Obama administration gave McCain a good news: it had removed Ukraine’s elected President Viktor Yanukovych in a United States sponsored successful coup.

The US Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland met Ukraine’s President Viktor Yanukovych PHOTO/BBC

In the photo on the left, the US Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland, with a big smile, is shaking hand with President Yanukovych whom she, and Geoffrey Pyatt, the US Ambassador to Ukraine, were planning to remove from power. And he was removed by distributing money to the opposition groups and creating chaos in the country.

In the photo on the right, Nuland and the US Ambassador to Ukraine, Geoffrey Pyatt (centre) met Ukrainian opposition leaders Vitaly Klitschko (L) and Arseniy Yatsenyuk (R) PHOTO/BBC

Here is what Nuland is heard telling Pyatt, in a leaked phone conversation, as to which of the two opposition leaders should take over:

“Good. I don’t think Klitsch should go into the government. I don’t think it’s necessary, I don’t think it’s a good idea.”

Nuland again:

“I think Yats is the guy who’s got the economic experience, the governing experience….”

And so it was. On February 27, 2014, with the blessings of the United States, Arseniy Yatsenyuk was installed as the Prime Minister of Ukraine.

(Read and/or listen to the conversation between Nuland and Pyatt here.)

McCain laments that during his worldwide travels, he unanimously hears that the US is withdrawing and its influence is on the the decline. One wonders who does he talk to. Has he ever spoken to the victims of the US armed forces and the CIA in Libya, Iraq, Yemen, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, and many other countries.

Here is the US government owned Voice of America reminding readers about the US military record:

“By some counts, the U.S. has been involved in more than 50 significant military actions in the last half century – an average of more than one a year – ranging from significant fighting in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan to lesser incursions in such far-flung countries as Kuwait, Bosnia, Pakistan, Libya, Grenada, Haiti and Panama.

That total does not count more limited U.S. actions, such as drone strikes it now is carrying out against suspected Taliban insurgents in the Middle East.”

The United States is waiting for an excuse to harden its grip on the encirclement of Russia. Russian President Vladimir Putin is right now walking on a sword’s edge. One wrong move on his part will result in the US success in dragging him in a long war. The US is trying to lure, as Mike Whitney points out correctly, Putin government into its trap, as the US did it in the 1970s with another Russian government (then it was part of the Soviet Union) by giving it its “Vietnam.” Here are the infamous words of Zbigniew Brzezinski, President Jimmy Carter’s National Security Adviser:

The day that the Soviets officially crossed the border, I wrote to President Carter: We now have the opportunity of giving to the USSR its Vietnam war.

If Russia is dragged into a war with its neighbor Ukraine, it will be a great news for McCain and his fellow warmongers. Then you’ll see him praising the Obama government and shaking hands with Obama.

This is how the civilized derive their pleasure.

B. R. Gowani can be reached at brgowani@hotmail.com

Russia and the Ukraine crisis: The Eurasian project in conflict with the triad imperialist policies

April 18th, 2014

by SAMIR AMIN

Moscow, March 2014

1. The current global stage is dominated by the attempt of historical centers of imperialism (the US, Western and Central Europe, Japan — hereafter called “the Triad”) to maintain their exclusive control over the planet through a combination of:

so-called neo-liberal economic globalization policies allowing financial transnational capital of the Triad to decide alone on all issues in their exclusive interests;

the military control of the planet by the US and its subordinate allies (NATO and Japan) in order to annihilate any attempt by any country not of the Triad to move out from under their yoke.

In that respect all countries of the world not of the Triad are enemies or potential enemies, except those who accept complete submission to the economic and political strategy of the Triad — such as the two new “democratic republics” of Saudi Arabia and Qatar! The so-called “international community” to which the Western medias refer continuously is indeed reduced to the G7 plus Saudi Arabia and Qatar. Any other country, even when its government is currently aligned with the Triad, is a potential enemy since the peoples of those countries may reject that submission.

2. In that frame Russia is “an enemy.”

Whatever might be our assessment of what the Soviet Union was (“socialist” or something else), the Triad fought it simply because it was an attempt to develop independently of dominant capitalism/imperialism.

After the breakdown of the Soviet system, some people (in Russia in particular) thought that the “West” would not antagonize a “capitalist Russia” — just as Germany and Japan had “lost the war but won the peace.” They forgot that the Western powers supported the reconstruction of the former fascist countries precisely to face the challenge of the independent policies of the Soviet Union. Now, this challenge having disappeared, the target of the Triad is complete submission, to destroy the capacity of Russia to resist.

Monthly Review Zine for more

The next generation of space-exploring robots

April 18th, 2014

by MICHAEL BELFIORE

A fleet of private and government-sponsored spacecraft is storming the solar system in the coming years.

2015 – Moon Express/Astrobotic/GLXP

The X Prize Foundation is offering the largest incentive prize in history, the $30 million Google Lunar XPRIZE. Two teams—Astrobotic (pictured above) and Moon Express—are neck and neck in the race to meet the 2015 deadline for landing a craft on the moon with 90 percent private funding.

Popular Mechanics for more

Mississippi’s anti-gay segregation bill got unanimous bipartisan support; Against bless-your-heart manners

April 17th, 2014

Mississippi’s anti-gay segregation bill got unanimous bipartisan support

by MARK JOSEPH STERN

“Some lawmakers claim they were voting to amend the state seal, not to discriminate against gay people. The eagle seems skeptical.”

In late January, weeks before Kansas’ and Arizona’s odious anti-gay segregation bills drew fury across the country, the Mississippi state Senate quietly passed its own viciously homophobic “religious liberty” measure to virtually no fanfare. The bill, which is nearly identical to Arizona’s, would have the same effect as its now-notorious counterparts, allowing any private business to turn away gays at the door. But unlike Kansas’ and Arizona’s bills, which drew fierce Democratic opposition, the Mississippi measure passed with unanimous bipartisan support.

Yes, you read that right: Every single voting member of the state Senate, Republican and Democrat, supported a bill that would effectively allow segregation of gay and straight people throughout Mississippi. (Four state senators didn’t vote, but not for stated political purposes.) At the time, the bill drew no national attention and minimal local coverage. But now, in the shadow of the Arizona debacle, some legislators are starting to back away from their votes—and their excuses don’t quite line up.

A video of the debate reveals that senators spent about 12 minutes discussing the bill, never once bringing up the topic of homosexuality. One senator expresses his concern about individuals “praying facing Mecca”; another worries about religious liberty for “devil worshipping” and “voodoo.” One particularly lively legislator, who introduced himself as a “foot-stomping, back-slapping Baptist,” seemed earnestly confused about the bill’s purpose. Yet no senator seemed concerned about the measure’s implications for gay rights.* Perhaps some Democrats truly didn’t understand its horrific consequences for gay people; perhaps some did but are now trying to back away from their mistake following nationwide political fallout. Neither explanation is particularly comforting: Either legislators were shockingly negligent in the performance of their basic duty—reading the bills they vote on—or they were cruel enough to vote for a terrible bill and now too cowardly to stand by it.

Slate for more

Against bless-your-heart manners

by CATHERINE LACEY

On the paradox of LGBT churchgoers, Mississippi’s copycat anti-gay bill, and the South’s damaging culture of politeness.

This winter, the Mississippi State Senate made a flamboyant display of their paralyzing politeness with a piece of legislation called the Mississippi Religious Freedom Restoration Act (SB 2681). The abstract states that a main objective of the bill is to ensure that “state action or an action by any person based on state action shall not burden a person’s right to the exercise of religion,”14 though it contains a more crowd-pleasing measure—the words “In God We Trust” added to the state seal—a request made by Governor Bryant. Though SB 2681 was only a scant three pages long when it was introduced,15 not a single senator questioned the possibility that SB 2681 could be interpreted as “a license to discriminate.”16 A group of Baptist and Methodist ministers even wrote an open letter arguing the bill was unnecessary and went too far.

What is immediately disheartening about SB 2681 is not the sad fact of its existence, but the way it moved seamlessly through the Senate, as if a bowling ball were thrown into a lake and made no splash. It passed 48-0 in a predominately (though not exclusively) Republican State Senate, and only after a little controversy and protest was stirred up did some senators acknowledge that they may not have thought it all the way through. A House Judiciary Committee slightly tweaked the wording, purportedly (but not fully) removing all discriminatory loopholes, and at the time of writing, it is moving forward and seems likely to be passed. While SB 2681 certainly does not help further anti-discrimination in a state ripe with discrimination, it is somewhat redundant in a state where few would be surprised by a judge ruling in favor of someone who claims religious motivation behind almost any discriminatory act.17

But if SB 2681 passes, and it certainly might, it’ll really just be another nail hammered into something with a fuck-ton of nails in it already. Forget same-sex marriage, which is still super illegal in Mississippi. There has yet to be a single law made that has to do with hate crimes or discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation. If your boss fires you and you ask why and he says, “Because you’re gay,” the state government can do nothing for you (unless you live in one of the college towns, where it seems they might be able to do something as of this year.)22 SB 2681 will just protect your boss even more if he claims to be firing you because he’s a Hardcore Pentecostal. (Even same-sex sex between consenting adults was illegal in Mississippi until the federal government overruled those embarrassingly outdated laws in 2003.23)

Guernica for more

The Kunming attack and China’s Uighur politics

April 17th, 2014

by VED SINGH

On March 1, a group of knife-wielding assailants stormed a railway station in the southern Chinese city of Kunming. It was a grisly scene: Attacking passengers at random, the assailants killed 29 people and wounded 130. According to Chinese authorities a gang of six men and two women carried out the attack. Four attackers were shot and the other four have been detained.

Dubbing the incident “China’s 9/11,” Chinese authorities led by President Xi Jinping called for an all-out effort to “punish the terrorists in accordance with the law.”

While no group has claimed responsibility for the attack, authorities have blamed it on separatists from the Uighur community — a Muslim, Turkic-speaking minority from Xinjiang, a semiautonomous province in northwestern China. Security forces reported finding a black flag at the scene calling for the independence of the region, which Uighurs call East Turkestan. More recently, Abdullah Mansour, the leader of the rebel Turkestan Islamic Party (TIP), appeared on video appearing to praise the attack. While not claiming responsibility for the murders, he described them, according to Reuters, as “an ‘expensive offer’ for China to reconsider its ‘cruel’ policies” toward Uighurs and predicted that more attacks would follow. Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei said that “the video exposes the true nature of their terrorist organization” and called for the international community to support China’s policies against terrorism.

If a Uighur group was indeed responsible, the attack would represent a considerably expanded theater of operations for the separatist movement. Kunming is some 2,500 miles away from Xinjiang, which, as a writer for The Atlantic put it, “shows that Uighurs are, like Chechens in Russia, expressing their discontent throughout the country, not just where they are based.”

Tensions have simmered between Uighurs and China’s majority Han population for decades. The Han population was first introduced into Xinjiang in 1949 following the People’s Liberation Army’s “triumphant march” into the province, and tensions heightened as China’s economic liberalization began during the 1980s.  Xinjiang happens to be a mineral-rich area, which has led to a boon of mining and oil development projects and, with them, a huge influx of Han workers. At the beginning of the 20th century, Uighurs comprised 95 percent of Xinjiang’s population, but represent just 40 percent today. [pc1]  This is a policy that is markedly similar to what China has adopted in Tibet, where the goal is to “Sinicize” or “Hanicize” parts of the country that do not have an indigenous Han population.

The U.S. relationship with the Uighurs is complicated. As part of its bid to secure Chinese cooperation in the “war on terror,” the United States captured 22 Uighur men in Afghanistan and Pakistan in late 2001 and detained them in Guantanamo Bay. According to some reports, U.S. soldiers “softened these detainees” at the behest of Chinese intelligence officials who were allowed to visit Guantanamo Bay to interrogate them. Several years later, after finally admitting that the detainees did not pose a threat to the United States, the U.S. government negotiated the release of the Uighur prisoners to six different countries, with the last three being released and resettled in Slovakia in December of last year. The U.S. refusal to return the prisoners the prisoners to China—where they would have likely faced further abuse—drew the ire of Chinese officials, who accused Washington of abetting terrorism.

Foreign Policy in Focus for more

A Narendra Modi victory would bode ill for India’s future (letter)

April 17th, 2014

THE GUARDIAN

Narendra Modi addresses supporters at Balasore before they voted in the crucial third phase of national elections on Thursday. PHOTO/Biswaranjan Rout/AP

Without questioning the validity of India‘s democratic election process, it is crucial to remember the role played by the Narendra Modi government in the horrifying events that took place in Gujarat in 2002. The Muslim minority were overwhelmingly the victims of pillage, murder and terror, resulting in the deaths of more than 2,000 men, women and children. Women, in particular, were subjected to brutal acts of violence and were left largely unprotected by the security forces.

Although some members of Modi’s government are now facing trial, Modi himself repeatedly refuses to accept any responsibility or to apologise. Such a failure of moral character and political ethics on the part of Mr Modi is incompatible with India’s secular constitution which, in advance of many constitutions around the world, is founded on pluralist principles and seeks fair and full representation for minorities. Were he to be elected prime minister, it would bode ill for India’s future as a country that cherishes the ideals of inclusion and protection for all its peoples and communities.
Anish Kapoor Artist, Homi K Bhabha Harvard University, Salman Rushdie Novelist, Deepa Mehta Film director, Dayanita Singh Artist, Vivan Sundaram Artist, Helena Kennedy Barrister, Imran Khan Solicitor, Mike Wood MP, John McDonnell MP, Fiona Mactaggart MP, Jacqueline Bhabha Harvard University, Kumar Shahani Film director, Geeta Kapur Art historian Pragna Patel Director of the Southall Black Sisters, Sashi Kumar Film producer, Jayati Ghosh Economist, Prabhat Patnaik Economist, MK Raina Actor/film director, Ram Rahman Artist, Saeed Mirza Screenwriter, Anuradha Kapur National School of Drama in Delhi, Kumkum Sangari Professor of English and the humanities, University of Wisconsin, Gautam Appa Emeritus professor, London School of Economics, Chetan Bhatt Professor of sociology, London School of Economics, Suresh Grover Director, Southall Monitoring Group

The Guardian for more

Living legacy of machismo: Rape victim charged for self-defense

April 16th, 2014

by ANDALUSIA KNOLL

Subversiones & You Tube

Alleged kidnapping and rape victim Yakiri Rubi Rubio is out on bail but could spend ten years in jail for “excess of legitimate defense” – turning her attacker’s knife back on him – in a case that reveals continuing problems of unequal justice in Mexico.

“If they judge us for having survived, the justice system wants us dead.”

This phrase, emblazoned on banners and protest signs, has become central to the campaign for the freedom of Yakiri Rubi Rubio, a 20-year-old woman in Mexico City who was recently incarcerated for murdering Miguel Angel Ramirez Anaya, a man who – she alleges – kidnapped, raped and attempted to kill her.

The issue of women’s right to defend their lives in the face of sexual violence and increasing femicide has come to the forefront with the case of Yakiri, as she is known by her supporters. Her case went viral with a photo of her, accompanied by a phrase clamoring for her freedom: “Machista violence is a crime that will also incarcerate you for defending your life. #YakiriLibre” After spending nearly three months in prison, Yakiri was released March 5, 2014, on $32,000 bail. She is no longer being accused of “qualified homicide” but still faces up to a 10-year sentence for the extremely uncommon charge of “excess of legitimate defense.”

Truth out for more

via Upside Down World

Dear White People: Film tackles racial stereotypes on campus & being a “Black Face in a White Space”

April 16th, 2014

DEMOCRACY NOW

You Tube

As colleges across the country, from Harvard to University of Mississippi, continue to witness racism on campus, we look at a new film that tackles the issue through comedy and satire. “Dear White People” follows a group of black students at a fictional, predominantly white, Ivy League school. One of the main characters, Sam, hosts the campus radio show “Dear White People,” where she confronts the racist stereotypes and dilemmas faced by students of color. Racial tensions on campus come to a head when a group of mostly white students throw an African-American-themed party, wearing blackface and using watermelons and fake guns as props. We speak to actor Marque Richardson and award-winning, first-time director Justin Simien.

Democracy Now for more

To steer political discourse in the right direction

April 16th, 2014

by PRAFUL BIDWAI

All those who discounted the Aam Aadmi Party’s potential for stirring things up in national politics must revise their assessment after Arvind Kejriwal’s recent “inspection tour” of Gujarat. The issues he raised in the series of questions he posed to Narendra Modi ranged from corruption and sweetheart deals with Big Business, to power shortages, closure of industries and 800 farmers’ suicides. This had the twin effect of demolishing Modi’s extravagant claims about “development” and highlighting the gross forms of crony capitalism that have driven most investment in Gujarat. The demolition job isn’t quite new: many Congress Chief Ministers, and even the BJP’s own Shivraj Singh Chouhan, have questioned Modi’s claims to unparalleled growth.

What is new is Kejriwal’s frontal attack, based on hard facts, on Modi’s collusion with business groups like the Ambanis, Tatas, Ruias and Gautam Adani. For instance, Modi transferred to them land acquired from vulnerable farmers at throwaway prices. He allowed Adani — whose wealth has multiplied 12-fold under Modi’s tenure — to evade environmental and coastal-zone clearances while building a private port which destroyed mangroves. Kejriwal also reiterated charges concerning the overpricing of Krishna-Godavari gas to favour the Ambanis.

Modi’s opponents have so far attacked him for his role in the 2002 pogrom, and for his development claims. But Kejriwal hit him where it hurts the most — abuse of power to coddle capital. This brings Modi down to earth and reduces him to just another venal, cynical politician who is complicit in the corporate capture of India’s political system, a growing menace to our democracy. That attack packs real punch.

This is evident from both ground reactions and media reports from Gujarat — and even more eloquently, from a hysterical statement issued by “concerned” citizens sympathetic to the Sangh Parivar, many of them connected with the far-Right Vivekananda International Foundation.

The statement launches a vitriolic attack on AAP without naming it. It says “the misinformation campaign unleashed by certain new political parties” aims to “ensure division” of the anti-UPA vote and thus to “electorally help the Congress…”. It accuses AAP of trying “to hoodwink the voters by tarnishing all political parties with the same, undifferentiated brush, making seemingly bland but dangerous statements that all parties are similar.” It claims the BJP has a “clear-headed and credible leadership”. It links AAP to “fissiparous tendencies” in Kashmir and condemns it for “rank opportunism and self-confessed anarchism.”

DNA for more

(Thanks to Feroz Mehdi)