Sunday, January 31, 2010

The Pacifist Confusion

Gaza's thin red line one year later
Eva Bartlett, The Electronic Intifada, 22 January 2010
"The last Israeli attacks were the hardest, the most dangerous. It wasn't a war, it was a massacre. They shot anyone walking, anyone outside of their home, in their home ... it didn't matter. And it didn't matter if the victims were children or adults; there was no difference."
Ali Khalil, 47, has served as a medic with the Palestine Red Crescent Society.

If I was a resident of Gaza, I would do anything to persuade my neighbors to cease hostilities against Israel. After 61 years of warfare, the situation for Palestinians has worsened.
As a resident of Israel, I resent being a target for Iranian missiles. Following my own advice, I insist in telling everyone within earshot that violence is not a solution. My argument fails to the continued onslaught by hostiles.
Most regrettably, the self-styled pundits outside the region issue a flood of suggestions for policy changes directed towards peace. Almost always the advice is one-sided. The advisers assume victory in war should prompt concessions from the Israelis. Whenever the Israelis fail to make the concessions, they are vilified.
This one-sidedness persuades the Palestinians that the western nations will destroy Israel for them. Consequently, they believe there is no need to participate in a peace effort.

Friday, January 29, 2010

SOTU Poor and the POTUS not Up to Challenge

The SOTU was already poor and the POTUS speech changed nothing. He promised not to fiddle with defense spending. After eight years of battle in Afghanistan, the US military must bribe the warlords to allow its supply convoys to reach the isolated outposts. Although the enormous bribes exceed 10% of the Afghan GNP, the outposts remain at the mercy of the warlords. A change in policy could lead to any number of massacres.
This is but one example from a corrupt and bloated government that is of little benefit to the people. Indeed, it serves as an obstacle to progress. The USA could take an example from China of capitalist government working for the people.
The POTUS never explained why his old policies would now work.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

ACORN Litigates Funding while Pimp Arrested

Motion to Expand 'Probably Unconstitutional' Finding to FY 2010 Consolidated Appropriations Act Pending
James O'Keefe arrested; charged with entering federal property under false pretenses...

Guest blogged by Ernest A. Canning, Brad Blog

On Nov. 12, the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court alleging that separate House and Senate Resolutions to bar all funds to the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) were unconstitutional Bills of Attainder.

We initially covered the ACORN lawsuit in "ACORN Sues Congress Over Defunding Legislation." The lawsuit directly pertained to House and Senate Appropriations Resolutions which singled out ACORN for a cut-off of federal funds. These were passed after videos emerged which purported to depict some ACORN employees giving advice to individuals posing as a prostitute and a pimp.

As Brad Friedman noted in "ACORN Cleared YET AGAIN of Wrongdoing," former Massachusetts Attorney General Scott Harshbarger then issued an independent report, which found incidents of mismanagement by ACORN but "no criminal wrongdoing." CCR noted that Harshbarger, who reviewed the "complete transcripts," concluded that "the infamous videotapes had been doctored and fully misrepresented the actions of the workers shown."

On Dec. 11, U.S. District Judge Nina Gershon granted ACORN's motion for a preliminary injunction [PDF], ruling that it was likely ACORN would prevail on the merits of its claim that the House and Senate Appropriations Resolutions were unconstitutional Bills of Attainder.

Although no doubt fully aware of ACORN's pending lawsuit, on Dec. 10 & Dec. 13 the House and Senate enacted the FY 2010 Consolidated Appropriations Act, an amalgam of six separate bills, which the President signed into law on Dec. 16. The Act contains a virtually identical provision to cut-off ACORN from federal funds. ACORN responded by filing a motion [PDF] to expand the preliminary injunction to the FY 2010 Consolidated Appropriations Act.

As of this posting, we are awaiting word from CCR. on the fate of ACORN's pending motion.

Meanwhile, in New Orleans, James O'Keefe, who posed as the pimp in the ACORN sting video, along with three others, was arrested and "charged with entering federal property under false pretenses with the intent of committing a felony," in relation to an alleged plot to tamper with the telephone system in the office of Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA).

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Any Port During the Haitian Earthquake

On 23 January Link.TV posted its Mosaic Report about the Middle Eastern reaction to the Haiti tragedy. The report was for the most part fair and balanced. They noted the prompt arrival of the Israeli field hospital and the tardiness of some of the rich Arab states in presenting aid. Some of the newscasters wasted time speculating on the motives behind the US and Israeli relief efforts. A few made noises similar to those coming from Rush Limbaugh. They spoke about propaganda and made invidious comparisons with Gaza City and Fallujah.
They should have heeded the advice of Ari Sharon. He noted his country would be bull whipped and damned no matter what they did. The best course for any nation is to ignore the critics and do the right thing. I am sure the Haitians welcome and use the aid given by any donor.

Dissent Means Strength

When an Israeli exercises his right to free speech he risks an avalanche of criticism. Much of it questions his right to live and his nation’s right to exist.
Most of the world’s population looks upon dissent as subversion. They brand the members of the opposition as traitors to their own country. They say dissent gives aid and comfort to the enemy.
In their view, a wide range of public opinion shows weaknesses that can be exploited for propaganda purposes. It’s a matter of gaining a temporary advantage in a 61-year war that never ends.
Elongated conflicts can devastate liberty. One can consider the demise of free speech in the USA as an example. She is virtually a communist corporate state. It is amazing Israel has managed to survive as the only Middle East democracy. The lively resistance to the state incursions on the Internet bodes well for Israel in the long term.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Selling Out the Citizens on Health Care

If we have learned anything from the lengthy health care debacle, it is that only the reconciliation of controversial measures has a chance for bringing them into law. The limited debate has no room for Republicans, who can be counted upon to oppose any measure.
The President seems unable to pursue this strategy.
From the STEPHANOPOULOS Interview with OBAMA
"I would advise that we try to move quickly to coalesce around those elements of the package that people agree on. We know that we need insurance reform, that the health insurance companies are taking advantage of people. We know that we have to have some form of cost containment because if we don’t, then our budgets are going to blow up and we know that small businesses are going to need help so that they can provide health insurance to their families. Those are the core, some of the core elements of, to this bill. Now I think there’s some things in there that people don’t like and legitimately don’t like."
The President remains stuck in the quagmire of health insurance. He allowed the special interests to write the Senate version. When they saw Ms Coakley was going to lose, they pumped $millions into her campaign at the last minute. If the House Democrats can muster 218 votes to pass the Senate bill, they can retrieve something from the fiasco.

A Colossal Loss of Nerve

Twenty-two years ago the Israeli Supreme Court decided to reward kidnappers, child abusers and slave traffickers by not punishing them. The decision implemented violated the human rights of tens of thousands of victims including me. Thousands of State of Israel employees became criminals who were only following orders.
Similarly, the recent US Supreme Court ruling to deregulate corporate campaign funding has underlined the voicelessness of the ordinary citizens. They have no way to combat massive voter fraud, stock market manipulation, toxic asset formation, media information control, environmental catastrophe, declining educational standards and cheapening of life without health reform.
How long will it take foreign entities to buy their way into the American system? Can China purchase California? Will New England join the British Commonwealth of Nations?
We lost our Republic to the Red scare tactics of the 1950's. We have lost our nerve to attack human trafficking and genocide. We fight democratic movements in every part of the world. Overcome with fear we desert the battlefield before the fight has begun.
We have criminalized ourselves.

Review of the Uncivil Society

The Uncivil Society by Stephan Kotkin dispels many of the myths created surrounding the 1989 fall of the Soviet Empire. His reviewer in the New York Times Book Review, Serge Schmemann, notes a sobering parallel.
"Ultimately, Kotkin writes, the system was crushed by the “double whammy” of Gorbachev, who lifted the threat of military intervention, and a political class that proved unable to compete with capitalism. Still, the reader shouldn’t get too smug on revisiting that victory. Kotkin suggests a sobering parallel between the bankruptcy of the Eastern elites and the ruinous excesses of Western elites as revealed in the financial meltdown of 2008."
In 1989 the leadership cashed in and got out. In 2008 the leadership discovered they would not be punished for their excesses.

Is This a Good Time to Begin Dealing with Reality?

The folks with clout in America minimize the reality revealed to their citizens. God forbid words from an ordinary foreigner should ever permeate the muddle of mainstream media. Somehow, the Americans have come to the conclusion that Lebanese, Syrians, Palestinians, Iraqis, Afghans, Iranians and Israelis yearn for a visit from the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. They long for the caress of the US military/industrial complex. The women and children prefer to dance among the cluster bombs. The men laugh at every being they incinerate.
Isn't it about time for us to dismiss such caricatures?

The American Intellectual

Jacques Barzun offered these insights in 1956 as part of Time Magazine's series on the status of intellectuals in the USA. The link below leads to the further discussion on a valuable topic.
364 Jacques Barzun Intellectuals

What does it mean to be an intellectual in the U.S.? Is he really in such an unhappy plight as he sometimes thinks—the ridiculed double-dome, the egghead, the wild-eyed, absent-minded man who is made to feel an alien in his own country?
Ever since World War II, U.S. intellectuals have, as never before, been debating these questions. But in the course of the debate, one note has been struck time and time again, and no one has sounded it more clearly than Historian Jacques Barzun of Columbia University. If there is a traditional distrust of ideas in the U.S., says Barzun, the nation's men of ideas have still "won recognition in tangible ways beyond any previous group of their peers." And more important, many have come at last to realize that they are true and proud participants in the American Dream.
Thus, Barzun warns, those who continue to grumble at America are merely singing a worn-out tune. "They forget that the true creator's role, even in its bitterest attack, is to make us understand or endure life better. Our intellectuals do neither when they entice us to more self-contempt."
Whose Fault? The grumblers have not always grumbled without cause. But they have so distorted the picture that it would sometimes seem that the intellectual is America's hopeless Displaced Person. He is not only supposed to be the man that Senator McCarthy is after; he is also supposed to be the man that the rest of the nation persistently chooses to ignore or scorn. Diplomat George Kennan has said: "I can think of few countries in the world where the artist, the writer, the composer or the thinker is held in such general low esteem as he is here in our country."
Such sweeping charges have brought equally sweeping countercharges. French Dominican Raymond-Leopold Bruckberger says that the present plight of the U.S. intellectual is largely "the fault of the American intellectuals themselves . . .
The American intellectual often tends to say that his country has failed him ... I wonder if the contrary is not true. Perhaps the American intellectual has failed his country, and perhaps he is more deeply missed than is at first apparent. When the intellectual turns his back on his country, his place remains empty—while he complains that he has no place at all."
Symbols & Tags. Though almost as old as the nation, the cries of anti-intellectualism from one side and anti-Americanism from the other seem to be dominant themes in the postwar era. If the symbol of the '20s was the disgruntled intellectual who went to live in Europe, the present symbol—to the pessimists, at least—is the disgruntled intellectual who has stayed at home because he has no other place to go. The crusading muckraker, the flamboyant expatriate, the dedicated brain-truster—all these convenient tags are gone. While the European intellectual goes about his traditional business and enjoys traditional respect, the American sometimes feels that he is the forgotten man. He seems to have little to say, and even when he does, he is supposed to be so intimidated that he dare not say it.

Read more:,9171,862171-1,00.html#ixzz0dAUHtO3c

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Debt Slavery as a Way of Life

The Haitian Slave Revolt ousted the French slave masters. They insisted on compensation in gold [150 millions francs] for their human "property." That was in 1821. By 1900 service of this debt absorbed 80% of Haiti's national product and it continued to cripple the economy. By the time Haiti retired this debt in 1947, she had accumulated many more.
From the beginning of the current earthquake catastrophe the French have urged other donor nations to give aid in the form of grants with no expectation of repayment. It was fitting for France to make this suggestion, as she has made the Haitians debt slaves for 189 years. It is arguable the Haitians were better treated when they they were held in physical bondage.
A similar case can be made for the population in many Third World nations. A web of international banks, cartels and holding companies have captured the economies of many former colonies. Virtually any setback can expand the debt burden for a less developed nation and, increasingly, for richer countries as well.
The debt burden expands yearly through administered rates of interest. The creditor always has the upper hand in dealings with the debtor who must endure natural and man made disasters. He is under the force of law to make repayment. In locales where regulation is weak and law enforcement is lax, the creditors can game the system shamefully. The debtors haven't a hope.
Throughout history many thinkers have put forward conspiracy theories to explain these disasters. Somehow, a small group can generate a war or a depression to serve personal interests. There are many groups that promote grandiose aspirations, but few that can implement even the most humble plan. Human beings are simply not that clever.
Debt Slavery as a Way of Life
The French slave owners had no idea the reparations would continue until 1947. Few of them would have wished the curse of slavery to continue for 189 years. Certainly, the newly freed slaves imagined rosier prospects. We live in a world of unintended consequences.

Guantanamo Suicides and the Whistle Blower

The Guantanamo "suicides" incident dates back to 2006 under the Bush administration. There is evidence of an immense cover-up that extends through the Obama administration. Harper's Magazine has prepared a 15-page article slated for release on 15/2/2010. The editors consider the report important enough for early release online.

The Guantánamo “Suicides”: A Camp Delta sergeant blows the whistle

By Scott Horton Harper's Magazine

Monday, January 18, 2010

Violence is Its Own Reward

Many Progressives have a strange and convoluted approach to Israeli foreign policy. Somehow, they manage to link Israeli motives to American ones and then demonstrate that such aims can only arrive to a negative conclusion. The latest demonstration of this is today's article byIra Chernus, The Wages of Fear in Israel and the U.S.. Posted in

“When people criticize Zionists they mean Jews; you are talking anti-Semitism." Dr. Martin Luther King said shortly before his death. Many Muslims substitute Zionist for Jew, because they wish to avoid being labeled as opposed to the Jewish human being's right to exist. They claim they attack political [Zionist] Jews and not human beings who happen to be of the Jewish faith. This distinction is lost when a bus is demolished or Yeshiva students are gunned down.

Chernus argues the Israelis and the Americans share an unreasoning fear. Since both possess a huge advantage in conventional weapons, he claims they are in a good position to wage peace. The Americans have lost three land wars in Asia as hostilities continue without an indication of wisdom from any of the parties involved. From 1967 Israelis have learned that victory in warfare does not guarantee peace. The treaties with Egypt [1978] and Jordan [1988] occurred only after the leadership of those nations agreed that violence avails nothing.

The Israeli wall-building, blockades, settlements construction and unilateral withdrawals have had little - if any - effect on the prospects for peace. As long as Palestinians hold out for a military victory, the clouds of war will not drift away.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Democrats Face Second Tea Party Drowning

From my ten years living in Boston, I recall human beings very different from the stereotypes pictured by the national media. They are not the knee-jerk ideologues remembered by the pundits from college freshmen bull sessions. Most of them vote in places other than Massachusetts. Also gone are the street captains and ward healers who rousted the voters on election day.
Mr. Brown has been out pressing the flesh; Ms. Coakley has not.
Everybody knows the health care bills now before the Congress do not benefit ordinary citizens. They have been written by and for the health insurance industry. This is why the special interests have put $millions into the Coakley campaign. They fear the Democrats will lose their 60-seat majority.
It would be ironic if the second Tea Party dumps the Democrats into Boston Harbor. Floating in the murky waters, they might reconsider the virtues of single payer.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Many Foreign Pundits Play Loose with the Facts

During my lifetime I have witnessed the decline of the US Republic into a corporate communist welfare/warfare state. The USA has conducted several preemptive wars excused by her declaration she is bringing "democracy" to various have-not nations. She implies the 7.2 millions Asians she has killed in the process are better off dead.
Similarly, the US citizen has no other choice but to follow the dictates of the military/industrial complex against his better interests. He has the chutzpah to assume only he has the proper moral outlook to judge the conduct of other nations.
Somehow, a number of self-styled experts insist they qualify to discuss "Zionism & State Terrorism."
I live 22 miles east of Egypt within the range of Iran-supplied missiles. Humbly, I ask the pundits to spend a little time conversing with ordinary folks in the region before they pontificate about policy.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Citizens Can Salvage Single Payer from Health Care Mess

The health insurance industry, Big Pharma and other special interests have overplayed a pat hand. They have bribed every official in sight to the point the so-called health reform has the public by the short hairs. The bill promotes extortion with fines and punishments for those who don't comply with government dictates. This illustrates the disease of corporate communism, which has infested the entire nation. If the citizen has a brain, he realizes he has no say in health care delivery.

The situation has come to a head in Massachusetts. If Coakley loses, the health care bills now before the Congress collapse without the 60th vote in the Senate. Horrified by this eventuality, the special interests have moved their funds and support to the Coakley campaign. They have ordered their lick-spittle President to rush to Massachusetts to pull their fat from the fire.

Win or lose in Massachusetts, the citizens have an excellent window of opportunity. With both parties totally discredited and shamed beyond belief, any bill worth passing deserves a reconciliation effort to overcome a filibuster. Fifty-one votes should be enough to make H.R. 676 single payer the law of the land. Let every incumbent learn the 2010 election could unseat him and send him to prison.

Such a realization is good for the character.

Democrats are Boring

Since the 2008 election, the conservatives have managed to shift much of the blame for the sorry state of our affairs to the Democrats. This shows the GOP expertise in media marketing, information control and propaganda. The GOP has seized the high ground on every important election issue since the War of Independence. They post lies daily to tie the opposition into knots. Liberal outlets such as Media Matters and MSNBC are forced to go on the defensive making sounds as distressed school marms in front of an unruly class. If the public wanted to understand the workings of economics and history, they would listen to NPR. As Democrats appear to be talking from college lecture notes, they prepare for another 40 years in the political wilderness.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Unemployment Success

Without a salaried position since 1978, I have learned how to stay alive and interested. A major step was to migrate to a poor area that had a supply of abandoned homes. With an unemployment rate of 50%, there were plenty of sympathetic neighbors loaded with good advice. A certain degree of self-sufficiency is necessary. Growing one's food and having skills in the building trades are helpful. It is best to disconnect from governments, banks and utility companies. A net worth of zero puts one financially ahead of most of the employed population. The human race prospered for 4 millions of years without Starbucks.
If your nation lacks EFCA and single payer health insurance, I would advise leaving it at once.

Terror of 9/11 Gives Way to the 9/15 Depression

The post 9/11 War Against Terror era has given way to what I call the post 9/15 Depression age. The 9/11 strategy to encircle Russia and China with hostiles failed with crushing defeats in Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq. The toxic asset poisoning ploy of 9/15 did not bring Russia, China and Brazil to their knees. Presently, they are the nations in the catbird seat.
The paradigms for the USA have altered radically. A Fox-approved candidate may become President in 2012. The medical insurance interests now support Coakley to keep the GOP from 41 seats in the Senate. The industry supports passage of the Health Care Bill. Wall Street has become so emboldened by success it allows the media to broadcast its control over the administration and the lawmakers. They have convinced the taxpayers the common people have no say in the government process.
As a former limousine liberal and Progressive, I realize the traditional political designations have lost their discriminating value.
The pundits and politicians are behaving as my tropical fish when I forget to add food to the tank.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

A Little Advice to America from an Asian

Over the past several decades China has transformed into a controlled capitalist society. The citizens save a sizable portion of their salaries. The banks make funds available to entrepreneurs under strict rules. China punishes severely bankers and manufacturers who game the system. She controls the allocation and the deployment of the labor force. The workers are quick to strike, if they feel they have been wronged.
China has about 300 millions citizens in the coastal areas who enjoy a western standard of living. Another 900 millions functioning as peasants are gradually being absorbed into the modern economy. Their absorption provides the 8%+ growth rate in productivity the country accomplishes almost every year. The government has fashioned an export-led economic growth financed internally without the IMF or other larcenous sources.
When her export markets failed in 2008, China made quick and wise adjustments to regain stable growth. This demonstrates the dedication to the public good.
Dylan Ratigan has described the present US system as corporate communism. Similar to Stalin's USSR, the US system suffers a major decline into decadence, war and torture. Nobody needs me to describe that.
As a resident of Asia, I must advise Americans to withdraw from the continent ASAP.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Lamu, Kenya

Jehad Nga, NYTimes

by Jeffrey Gettleman, NYTimes

LAMU, Kenya — The evening call to prayer here is like a summons, for everyone on the island. As the sun dives toward the ocean, the Muslim residents stream into the mosques, little boys wearing impossibly bright white skullcaps, their mothers in diaphanous, black head-to-toe gowns. The last of the bikini-clad tourists pick themselves up from the beach, dust off the powdery sand and head back to the hotel for a drink.
Lamu is one of the last outposts of pure Swahili culture.
Lamu has been like this for decades, a historic seafaring place where modernity has been gracefully folded into traditional culture without completely spoiling it. The snaky alleyways of the island’s old town (which the United Nations recognizes as a World Heritage site), the omnipresent smells of donkey dung and sweetly rotting fruit and the crescent-sailed dhows plying the sea make the island feel like a glass museum case — one with a living culture inside.

But all that may be about to change.
To the dismay of many residents and tourists, the Kenyan government is planning to build the biggest port in East Africa here. It is an ambitious, multibillion-dollar project that could transform trade in this region and knit together Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, eastern Congo and southern Sudan as never before.

Pipelines, rail lines, highways, airports, an oil refinery and extra-deep berths for 21st-century supertankers are all in the blueprints, though it is hard to imagine such infrastructure rising up along this long-neglected stretch of the Kenyan coast, dotted by crumbling ruins and impenetrable mangrove swamps.

The Chinese government, one of the most aggressive investors in Africa, is backing the project and has already begun feasibility studies.

“This is real,” said Chirau Ali Mwakwere, Kenya’s transport minister. “We’ve made tremendous strides toward the realization of what you might call a dream.”

Not a historian’s dream, however.

Lamu is one the last outposts of pure Swahili culture, a throwback to the days of cannons, slaves, spices and sultans who were a mix of Arab and African blood and who ruled the East African coast for hundreds of years. Because it is a small island, reachable only by a short airstrip or a very bumpy road and a ferry, it has been spared the big hotels and development that have swept the port city of Mombasa, Zanzibar and other tourist hotspots in the region.

People here say they are not especially well suited for the mechanized world. There was only one car on the island until recently (the district commissioner’s); now there are just 10. Most things are carried by donkeys, who plod through the alleyways or along the beach with heavy loads and blank, accommodating eyes. This is why many of Lamu’s elders say they think that the port will bring more trouble than good.

“People in the street think they will get jobs,” said Mohamed Athman, who leads a small marine preservation group. “What jobs? We don’t have drivers or crane operators.”

The biggest worry is the environment. Fishing is a lifeline for many of Lamu district’s 85,000 people, and the Kenyan government does not have the greatest record of preserving its natural resources, with raw sewage dumped into Lake Victoria and countless trees chopped down in the Rift Valley. Lamu fishermen fear that the planned dredging of the port will ruin fish breeding grounds.

“They will break the rocks where the fish hide,” said one angler, Mohamed Shabwana. “They will destroy everything.”

Omar Mzee, a former member of Parliament from Lamu, worries about pollution from the port and possible oil spills.

“This is going to be a total mess,” Mr. Mzee said. “The government is thinking of the national G.D.P. This will not benefit Lamu. It never has.”

Lamu has been marginalized for decades, Mr. Mzee said, kept down because the people here are Muslim and coastal, while Kenya, since its independence in 1963, has been ruled by Christian politicians from the highlands. There are few roads out here and few schools. The way residents describe it, Lamu was left to bake in tropical obscurity until tourists started flocking here in substantial numbers in the 1990s, precisely because the area was so underdeveloped and environmentally and culturally pristine. The villages around the island are studies in poverty. There is no electricity and no running water. The houses are built from mud, sticks and string. Malaria is rampant. Many of the children sitting idle in their homes or clutching saggy soccer balls on the beach have their feet chewed up by chigoes, the tiny fleas that lay eggs under people’s toenails.

“The government doesn’t take us seriously,” Mr. Mzee said.

The government says that in this case, it does not have much of a choice. Kenya’s growing economy desperately needs a bigger port, and Mombasa, the current one, cannot be expanded because of natural limitations on the harbor.

Ever since a Swiss firm in the 1970s identified the Lamu area as the best spot in Kenya for a new port, because it is deep and sheltered by a string of islands, the Kenyan government has been trying to raise the money. Now the geopolitics of the region seem to be working in its favor.

Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi are all landlocked, with growing economies, and interested in reinvigorating the East African Community. At the same time, southern Sudan is gearing up for independence from northern Sudan in 2011, and southern Sudan’s capital, Juba, is far closer to the Kenyan coast than it is to Sudan’s main port on the Red Sea.

“The Kenya side has a lot of reasons,” said a Chinese diplomat in Kenya who asked to be identified simply as Mr. Liu. “The relevant Chinese companies are now looking into this.”

The proposed site for the port is a few miles away from Lamu island on a desolate stretch of the mainland. But residents of Lamu town fear that the blast radius of the port — the crime, the pollution and the overall seediness — will reach them. Kenyan government officials admit, when pressed, that Lamu and its traditional Muslim culture will be affected.

“Of course it will change,” said Mahmoud Hassan Ali, a port official. “Lifestyle will change and whatever. But if you have faith, you have faith, my friend.”
Next Article in World (36 of 42) » A version of this article appeared in print on January 12, 2010, on page A6 of the New York edition.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Officials Hid Truth About Immigrant Deaths in Jail

Officials Hid Truth of Immigrant Deaths in Jail
Nina Bernstein, NYTimes

Silence has long shrouded the men and women who die in the nation’s immigration jails. For years, they went uncounted and unnamed in the public record. Even in 2008, when The New York Times obtained and published a federal government list of such deaths, few facts were available about who these people were and how they died.
But behind the scenes, it is now clear, the deaths had already generated thousands of pages of government documents, including scathing investigative reports that were kept under wraps, and a trail of confidential memos and BlackBerry messages that show officials working to stymie outside inquiry.
The documents, obtained over recent months by The Times and the American Civil Liberties Union under the Freedom of Information Act, concern most of the 107 deaths in detention counted by Immigration and Customs Enforcement since October 2003, after the agency was created within the Department of Homeland Security.
The Obama administration has vowed to overhaul immigration detention, a haphazard network of privately run jails, federal centers and county cells where the government holds noncitizens while it tries to deport them.
But as the administration moves to increase oversight within the agency, the documents show how officials — some still in key positions — used their role as overseers to cover up evidence of mistreatment, deflect scrutiny by the news media or prepare exculpatory public statements after gathering facts that pointed to substandard care or abuse.
As one man lay dying of head injuries suffered in a New Jersey immigration jail in 2007, for example, a spokesman for the federal agency told The Times that he could learn nothing about the case from government authorities. In fact, the records show, the spokesman had alerted those officials to the reporter’s inquiry, and they conferred at length about sending the man back to Africa to avoid embarrassing publicity.
In another case that year, investigators from the agency’s Office of Professional Responsibility concluded that unbearable, untreated pain had been a significant factor in the suicide of a 22-year-old detainee at the Bergen County Jail in New Jersey, and that the medical unit was so poorly run that other detainees were at risk.
The investigation found that jail medical personnel had falsified a medication log to show that the detainee, a Salvadoran named Nery Romero, had been given Motrin. The fake entry was easy to detect: When the drug was supposedly administered, Mr. Romero was already dead.
Yet those findings were never disclosed to the public or to Mr. Romero’s relatives on Long Island, who had accused the jail of abruptly depriving him of his prescription painkiller for a broken leg. And an agency supervisor wrote that because other jails were “finicky” about accepting detainees with known medical problems like Mr. Romero’s, such people would continue to be placed at the Bergen jail as “a last resort.”
In a recent interview, Benjamin Feldman, a spokesman for the jail, which housed 1,503 immigration detainees last year, would not say whether any changes had been made since the death.
In February 2007, in the case of the dying African man, the immigration agency’s spokesman for the Northeast, Michael Gilhooly, rebuffed a Times reporter’s questions about the detainee, who had suffered a skull fracture at the privately run Elizabeth Detention Center in New Jersey. Mr. Gilhooly said that without a full name and alien registration number for the man, he could not check on the case.
But, records show, he had already filed a report warning top managers at the federal agency about the reporter’s interest and sharing information about the injured man, a Guinean tailor named Boubacar Bah. Mr. Bah, 52, had been left in an isolation cell without treatment for more than 13 hours before an ambulance was called.
While he lay in the hospital in a coma after emergency brain surgery, 10 agency managers in Washington and Newark conferred by telephone and e-mail about how to avoid the cost of his care and the likelihood of “increased scrutiny and/or media exposure,” according to a memo summarizing the discussion.
One option they explored was sending the dying man to Guinea, despite an e-mail message from the supervising deportation officer, who wrote, “I don’t condone removal in his present state as he has a catheter” and was unconscious. Another idea was renewing Mr. Bah’s canceled work permit in hopes of tapping into Medicaid or disability benefits.
Eventually, faced with paying $10,000 a month for nursing home care, officials settled on a third course: “humanitarian release” to cousins in New York who had protested that they had no way to care for him. But days before the planned release, Mr. Bah died.

Among the participants in the conferences was Nina Dozoretz, a longtime manager in the agency’s Division of Immigration Health Services who had won an award for cutting detainee health care costs. Later she was vice president of the Nakamoto Group, a company hired by the Bush administration to monitor detention. The Obama administration recently rehired her to lead its overhaul of detainee health care.
Boubacar Bah, who suffered fatal head injuries in an immigration jail the same year.
Asked about the conference call on Mr. Bah, Ms. Dozoretz said: “How many years ago was that? I don’t recall all the specifics if indeed there was a call.” She added, “I advise you to contact our public affairs office.” Mr. Gilhooly, the spokesman who had said he had no information on the case, would not comment.
On the day after Mr. Bah’s death in May 2007, Scott Weber, director of the Newark field office of the immigration enforcement agency, recommended in a memo that the agency take the unusual step of paying to send the body to Guinea for burial, to prevent his widow from showing up in the United States for a funeral and drawing news coverage.
Mr. Weber wrote that he believed the agency had handled Mr. Bah’s case appropriately. “However,” he added, “I also don’t want to stir up any media interest where none is warranted.” Helping to bury Mr. Bah overseas, he wrote, “will go a long way to putting this matter to rest.”
In the agency’s confidential files was a jail video showing Mr. Bah face down in the medical unit, hands cuffed behind his back, just before medical personnel sent him to a disciplinary cell. The tape shows him crying out repeatedly in his native Fulani, “Help, they are killing me!”
Almost a year after his death, the agency quietly closed the case without action. But Mr. Bah’s name had shown up on the first list of detention fatalities, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, and on May 5, 2008, his death was the subject of a front-page article in The Times.
Brian P. Hale, a spokesman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said in an interview that the newly disclosed records represented the past, and that the agency’s new leaders were committed to transparency and greater oversight, including prompt public disclosure and investigation of every death, and more attention to detainee care in a better-managed system.
But the most recent documents show that the culture of secrecy has endured. And the past cover-ups underscore what some of the agency’s own employees say is a central flaw in the proposed overhaul: a reliance on the agency to oversee itself.
“Because ICE investigates itself there is no transparency and there is no reform or improvement,” Chris Crane, a vice president in the union that represents employees of the agency’s detention and removal operations, told a Congressional subcommittee on Dec. 10.
The agency has kept a database of detention fatalities at least since December 2005, when a National Public Radio investigation spurred a Congressional inquiry. In 2006, the agency issued standard procedures for all such deaths to be reported in detail to headquarters.
But internal documents suggest that officials were intensely concerned with controlling public information. In April 2007, Marc Raimondi, then an agency spokesman, warned top managers that a Washington Post reporter had asked about a list of 19 deaths that the civil liberties union had compiled, and about a dying man whose penile cancer had spread after going undiagnosed in detention, despite numerous medical requests for a biopsy.
“These are quite horrible medical stories,” Mr. Raimondi wrote, “and I think we’ll need to have a pretty strong response to keep this from becoming a very damaging national story that takes on long legs.”
That response was an all-out defense of detainee medical care over several months, including statistics that appeared to show that mortality rates in detention were declining, and were low compared with death rates in prisons.
Experts in detention health care called the comparison misleading; it also came to light that the agency was undercounting the number of detention deaths, as well as discharging some detainees shortly before they died. In August, litigation by the civil liberties union prompted the Obama administration to disclose that more than one in 10 immigrant detention deaths had been overlooked and omitted from a list submitted to Congress last year.
Two of those deaths had occurred in Arizona, in 2004 and 2007, at the Eloy Detention Center, run by the Corrections Corporation of America. Eloy had nine known fatalities — more than any other immigration jail under contract to the federal government. But Immigration and Customs Enforcement was still secretive. When a reporter for The Arizona Republic asked about the circumstances of those deaths, an agency spokesman told him the records were unavailable.
According to records The Times obtained in December, one Eloy detainee who died, in October 2008, was Emmanuel Owusu. An ailing 62-year-old barber who had arrived from Ghana on a student visa in 1972, he had been a legal permanent resident for 33 years, mostly in Chicago. Immigration authorities detained him in 2006, based on a 1979 conviction for misdemeanor battery and retail theft.
“I am confused as to how subject came into our custody???” the Phoenix field office director, Katrina S. Kane, wrote to subordinates. “Convicted in 1979? That’s a long time ago.”
In response, a report on his death was revised to refer to Mr. Owusu’s “lengthy criminal history ranging from 1977 to 1998.” It did not note that except for the battery conviction, that history consisted mostly of shoplifting offenses.
A diabetic with high blood pressure, he had been detained for two years at Eloy while he battled deportation. He died of a heart ailment weeks after his last appeal was dismissed.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

In the Nuclear Age, the ONLY Enemy is War Itself

With all due respect, I think many pundits are making a heroic assumption. "No country is dumb enough to start a military adventure in Iran." I hope they are right. The US strategic planners knew they could not win in Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq. Nevertheless, the USA invaded these countries and persisted until they have killed [to date] approximately 7.2 millions human beings.
"Even more to the point, the government and military of Iran has a strict "no first strike" policy, something that countries like the United States and Israel do not have." My city has absorbed 15 Iranian missile hits 8000 strikes throughout the State of Israel. This reflects a blatant disregard for the safety of her people by the Iranian regime. If it can torture and murder its citizens who merely want freedom, how can a foreigner respect the promise of nuclear tranquility? These are perilous times and we should act accordingly.
Isn't "Israel Rules" a Bit of a Stretch?
Many critics assume the US leaders are so feeble they allow Israelis to call the shots. Worse, they imply that Jewish lobbyists are more persuasive than the thousands of others paying bribes to get their way. Worst, they imply the US public is so weak-minded they allow the Israelis to get away with it.
If Israel ruled, she would take much better care of US citizens than the present regime does. Single payer would be law. Unhealthy citizens are a drag on the economy. Israel has developed a full line of electric cars, which would be clogging US roads now. The USA would conduct fewer wars, but would win them. The labor unions would prosper by the EFCA.
I wrote about Israel not Her Lobbyists
In 1948 Israel's leaders were socialists confronted by invaders, 600,000 homeless Holocaust survivors and 600,000 other Jews mostly victims of tyranny. Almost everything she has comes from that era. She is a warfare/welfare state. She developed collective home building, farming and manufactures run by a hopeless socialist bureaucracy. These institutions continue today under the Labor Party.
Israelis consider cradle to grave welfare, single payer and EFCA as inalienable rights due any human being.
Would You Say that US Lobbyists Represent US Citizens?
Of course, they do not. They work for special interests that would deny EFCA and single payer to the people. The oil lobby prohibits the manufacture of electric cars and the citizens suffocate in California.
In a similar fashion, the Israel lobby for the most part does not serve the interests of the Jewish people who live in Israel. I remind everyone that National Socialists murder Jews right up until today. They attack us every day on the borders and in the media. Why should our right to exist be open to question?
Jews Denied the Right to Exist
During the Pakistani terrorist incursion into Mumbai, the Jews were the only group specifically targeted for murder. The attack on the Chabad House ended the religious and social contacts for the dwindling Jewish population in India.
Over one billion people on the planet actively deny the Jewish right to exist. They have mounted seven wars against Israel in her 61 years of existence. Every day the media vilifies Israel for defending herself.
There have been 6000 major deities in the history of the world. Only One - the Hebrew God - ever spoke in person to His entire flock. Why is this historical fact so offensive to others?
Most US Jews are Americans First and Jews Second
This is the way it should be. As with every other ethnic/religious group in the USA, the Jews must play along to get along in their place of residence. If a person does not have a lobbyist to speak up for him in the Congress, he is a political zero. The lobbyist's record of success is largely determined by the amount of money he has behind him. This is a matter of campaign funds delivered to sympathetic hands.
The US military/industrial complex uses Israel as a weapons and tactics testing ground. Thus, unlike other aid recipients, Israel performs a useful service to the US government. The US holds up her end of the bargain with UN support for example.
Regularly, pacifists and pro-Muslim groups vilify Israel for her MIC connections. Maybe, they have a point. To date, however, they have no valid standing in the US government. They are losers in the general scheme of things. The few Jews who have survived the many persecutions did not do so by listening to losers. There is no glory in dying for a cause.
Is the Israel Hater's Next Step to Blame Israel for the Vietnam Fiasco?
Many pundits critical of Israel are famous for avoiding responsibility for every disaster. Their knee-jerk reaction is to blame the Jews. They assume the US leadership and public are simpletons easily beguiled by the crafty Jews and the traitors of the military/industrial complex.
If Israelis were the bloodthirsty thugs the pundits describe, much of the Middle East would have become a radioactive cinder many years ago. By vilifying Jews, they divert attention from the real culprits who have laid waste to the great nation that once was a Republic.