2007/02/24

The Enlightenment of Resistance

Manuel Valenzuela

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Exorcising Our Demons

Into the infancy of the 21st century has humanity somehow managed to reach, despite our insatiable addiction for violence and suffering that has for millennia been both endemic and devastating, in spite of the continued tribalism, now called the nation state, that fosters competition, ignorance, fear, hatred and war among the peoples of the world, even with the hierarchical need among peoples to perpetually follow corrupt, immoral and warmongering leadership that continues to lay ruin the vast potential within us and notwithstanding the locust-like hunger of six billion primates whose consumptions and needs for resources are raping and pillaging Earth at unsustainable levels, thus accelerating our inevitable implosion.

Into the early years of the 21st century does humanity find itself in, in the present seeing our past, in our future seeing the present, refusing to learn from the sands of time and the chronicles of those who have come before, knocking on the heavy iron doors of progressive modernity yet hearing only the echoing thuds of regressive primitiveness, desperately seeking the keys that will allow us to finally escape the pestilence of times past and malignant cancers of the present.

Yet in turbulent times do we once more find ourselves living in, surrounded by war, destruction and death, gnawed at by suffering and misery, living among the ignorant, fearful and easily led, taken hostage by fundamentalists, zealots and extremists, refusing to eradicate from our condition the plague called violence and the warmongering, greed-infected leaders who birth it.
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Stop the War


Oily truth emerges in Iraq

Saturday, February 24th, 2007

Juan Gonzalez

Throughout nearly four years of the daily mayhem and carnage in Iraq, President Bush and his aides in the White House have scoffed at even the slightest suggestion that the U.S. military occupation has anything to do with oil.

The President presumably would have us all believe that if Iraq had the world’s second-largest supply of bananas instead of petroleum, American troops would still be there.

Now comes new evidence of the big prize in Iraq that rarely gets mentioned at White House briefings.

A proposed new Iraqi oil and gas law began circulating last week among that country’s top government leaders and was quickly leaked to various Internet sites - before it has even been presented to the Iraqi parliament.

Under the proposed law, Iraq’s immense oil reserves would not simply be opened to foreign oil exploration, as many had expected. Amazingly, executives from those companies would actually be given seats on a new Federal Oil and Gas Council that would control all of Iraq’s reserves.

In other words, Chevron, ExxonMobil, British Petroleum and the other Western oil giants could end up on the board of directors of the Iraqi Federal Oil and Gas Council, while Iraq’s own national oil company would become just another competitor.

The new law would grant the council virtually all power to develop policies and plans for undeveloped oil fields and to review and change all exploration and production contracts.

Since most of Iraq’s 73 proven petroleum fields have yet to be developed, the new council would instantly become a world energy powerhouse.

“We’re talking about trillions of dollars of oil that are at stake,” said Raed Jarrar, an independent Iraqi journalist and blogger who obtained an Arabic copy of the draft law and posted an English-language translation on his Web site over the weekend.

Take, for example, the massive Majnoon field in southern Iraq near the Iranian border, which contains an estimated 20 billion barrels. Before Saddam Hussein was toppled by the U.S. invasion in 2003, he had granted a $4 billion contract to French oil giant TotalFinaElf to develop the field.

In the same way, the Iraqi dictator signed contracts with Chinese, Russian, Korean, Italian and Spanish companies to develop 10 other big oil fields once international sanctions against his regime were lifted.

The big British and American companies had been shut out of Iraq, thanks to more than a decade of U.S. sanctions against Saddam.

But if the new law passes, those companies will be the ones reviewing those very contracts and any others.

“Iraq’s economic security and development will be thrown into question with this law,” said Antonia Juhasz of Oil Change International, a petroleum industry watchdog group. “It’s a radical departure not only from Iraq’s existing structure but from how oil is managed in most of the world today.”

Throughout the developing world, national oil companies control the bulk of oil production, though they often develop joint agreements with foreign commercial oil groups.

But under the proposed law, the government-owned Iraqi National Oil Co. “will not get any preference over foreign companies,” Juhasz said.

The law must still be presented to the Iraqi parliament. Given the many political and religious divisions in the country, its passage is hardly guaranteed.

The main religious and ethnic groups are all pushing to control contracts and oil revenues for their regions, while the Bush administration is seeking more centralized control.

While the politicians in Washington and Baghdad bicker to carve up the real prize, and just what share Big Oil will get, more Iraqi civilians and American soldiers die each each day - for freedom, we’re told.

737 U.S. Military Bases = Global Empire

Monday, February 19th, 2007

With more than 2,500,000 U.S. personnel serving across the planet and military bases spread across each continent, it’s time to face up to the fact that our American democracy has spawned a global empire.

The following is excerpted from Chalmers Johnson’s new book, “Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic” (Metropolitan Books).

Chalmers Johnson

Once upon a time, you could trace the spread of imperialism by counting up colonies. America’s version of the colony is the military base; and by following the changing politics of global basing, one can learn much about our ever more all-encompassing imperial “footprint” and the militarism that grows with it.

It is not easy, however, to assess the size or exact value of our empire of bases. Official records available to the public on these subjects are misleading, although instructive. According to the Defense Department’s annual inventories from 2002 to 2005 of real property it owns around the world, the Base Structure Report, there has been an immense churning in the numbers of installations.

The total of America’s military bases in other people’s countries in 2005, according to official sources, was 737. Reflecting massive deployments to Iraq and the pursuit of President Bush’s strategy of preemptive war, the trend line for numbers of overseas bases continues to go up.

Interestingly enough, the thirty-eight large and medium-sized American facilities spread around the globe in 2005 — mostly air and naval bases for our bombers and fleets — almost exactly equals Britain’s thirty-six naval bases and army garrisons at its imperial zenith in 1898. The Roman Empire at its height in 117 AD required thirty-seven major bases to police its realm from Britannia to Egypt, from Hispania to Armenia. Perhaps the optimum number of major citadels and fortresses for an imperialist aspiring to dominate the world is somewhere between thirty-five and forty.

Using data from fiscal year 2005, the Pentagon bureaucrats calculated that its overseas bases were worth at least $127 billion — surely far too low a figure but still larger than the gross domestic products of most countries — and an estimated $658.1 billion for all of them, foreign and domestic (a base’s “worth” is based on a Department of Defense estimate of what it would cost to replace it). During fiscal 2005, the military high command deployed to our overseas bases some 196,975 uniformed personnel as well as an equal number of dependents and Department of Defense civilian officials, and employed an additional 81,425 locally hired foreigners.

The worldwide total of U.S. military personnel in 2005, including those based domestically, was 1,840,062 supported by an additional 473,306 Defense Department civil service employees and 203,328 local hires. Its overseas bases, according to the Pentagon, contained 32,327 barracks, hangars, hospitals, and other buildings, which it owns, and 16,527 more that it leased. The size of these holdings was recorded in the inventory as covering 687,347 acres overseas and 29,819,492 acres worldwide, making the Pentagon easily one of the world’s largest landlords.

These numbers, although staggeringly big, do not begin to cover all the actual bases we occupy globally. The 2005 Base Structure Report fails, for instance, to mention any garrisons in Kosovo (or Serbia, of which Kosovo is still officially a province) — even though it is the site of the huge Camp Bondsteel built in 1999 and maintained ever since by the KBR corporation (formerly known as Kellogg Brown & Root), a subsidiary of the Halliburton Corporation of Houston.

The report similarly omits bases in Afghanistan, Iraq (106 garrisons as of May 2005), Israel, Kyrgyzstan, Qatar, and Uzbekistan, even though the U.S. military has established colossal base structures in the Persian Gulf and Central Asian areas since 9/11. By way of excuse, a note in the preface says that “facilities provided by other nations at foreign locations” are not included, although this is not strictly true. The report does include twenty sites in Turkey, all owned by the Turkish government and used jointly with the Americans. The Pentagon continues to omit from its accounts most of the $5 billion worth of military and espionage installations in Britain, which have long been conveniently disguised as Royal Air Force bases. If there were an honest count, the actual size of our military empire would probably top 1,000 different bases overseas, but no one — possibly not even the Pentagon — knows the exact number for sure.

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US ratchets up ‘psy-ops’ against Tehran

Friday, February 23rd, 2007

Mahan Abedin

Psychological warfare is fast emerging as the key component of the conflict between Iran and the United States. It is being used extensively by the latter to influence Iranian behaviour in Iraq and secure a climb down by the Islamic Republic in the intricate negotiations over the country’s controversial nuclear programme.

As the Iranians analyse and react to this carefully crafted psychological warfare campaign, they run the risk of miscalculating broader developments in the region. The most important of these is Saudi Arabia’s new pro-active foreign policy. In this climate of heightened tensions and widespread misunderstanding it is easy for the Iranians to dismiss Saudi diplomacy as yet another plank of America’s psychological warfare against the Islamic Republic. Miscalculations of this kind can have drastic long-term consequences for Iranian interests in the Middle East.

war of Words

Psychological warfare has been a feature of Iranian-US relations since the 1979 revolution. Both sides have made extensive use of it, not only to damage the morale of the other, but also as a means of managing the conflict and preventing it from escalating into a shooting war. But never has this psychological war been so intense and potentially dangerous as it is now. Given the unprecedented instability across the Middle East – with opposing factions either allied to Iran or the US – there is a real danger of misunderstandings spinning out of control.

As always, it is the Americans who have ratcheted up the war of words, with the Iranians trying to come to terms with it.
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RFID chips shrink to powder size

Thursday, February 22nd, 2007

Yuri Kageyama

Tiny computer chips used for tracking food, tickets and other items are getting even smaller. Hitachi Ltd., a Japanese electronics maker, recently showed off radio frequency identification, or RFID, chips that are just 0.002 inches by 0.002 inches and look like bits of powder. They’re thin enough to be embedded in a piece of paper, company spokesman Masayuki Takeuchi said Thursday.

RFID tags store data, but they need to be brought near special reading devices that beam energy to the chips, which then send information back to the readers.

The technology is already widely used to track and identify items, such as monitoring the distribution of food products or guarding against forgery of concert tickets.

Shown to the public for the first time earlier this month, the new chip is an improvement on its predecessor from Hitachi - the Mu-chip, which at 0.4 millimeters by 0.4 millimeters, looks about the size of the period at the end of this sentence.

The latest chip, which still has no name, is 60 times smaller than the Mu-chip but can handle the same amount of information, which gets stored as a 38-digit number, according to Hitachi.

One catch is that the new chip needs an external antenna, unlike the Mu-chip.

The smallest antennas are about 0.16 inches - giants next to the powder-size chip.

There are no plans yet to start commercial production of the new chip, Takeuchi said.

Invisible tracking brings to mind science-fiction-inspired uses, or even abuses, such as unknowingly getting sprinkled with smart-tag powder for Big Brother-like monitoring.

“We are not imagining such uses,” Takeuchi said, adding that the latest chip is so new - and so miniature - Hitachi is still studying its possible uses.

‘Big Brother’ clocks in at the Royal Mail

Abigail Townsend

The Royal Mail, which earlier this month revealed an 86 per cent plunge in profits, is spending hundreds of thousands of pounds installing television screens in every delivery and sorting office in the country.

Management will use the screens to convey information and updates on the company’s performance to staff, including speeches by chief executive Adam Crozier and chairman Allan Leighton - prompting wags inside the state-controlled postal group to dub it “Allan Leighton Direct” and to compare it to George Orwell’s Big Brother.

A Royal Mail spokesman declined to comment on the cost of the new communication system, but insiders believe it will set the business back considerably. The TVs are understood to be 42-inch Fujitsu screens, which retail for around £2,000 each.

The Royal Mail will be able to negotiate a discount but it is still buying a considerable amount: at least one will be installed in every site, including 1,400 delivery offices, the 470 post offices the group manages directly, administration centres and other depots. The spokesman defended the communication system, commenting: “It’s absolutely normal good practice for any large company to have effective and swift communications with its people, especially when we’re operating out of many different sites nationwide.”
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Egyptian blogger sentenced to jail

Thursday, February 22nd, 2007

An Alexandria court has convicted an Egyptian blogger for insulting both Islam and the Egyptian president, sentencing him to four years in jail over his writings on the internet.

During the trial, an Egyptian imam allegedly kidnapped by CIA agents in Italy and taken to Egypt, showed up to speak to the media, breaking his release conditions.

Known as Abu Omar, the former Milan-based imam on Thursday told reporters that he was tortured in an Egyptian prison and that he wants to return to Italy.

He showed the cameras scars he said were from torture in Egyptian jails and said he will resort to the Italian government to help him.

Al Jazeera’s correspondent, Amr El-Khaky reported: “Abu Omar also pleaded to both the Egyptian and American presidents to release all political prisoners”, including US prisoners in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
Later on Thursday, Abdel Karim Nabil Suleiman, the first blogger to stand trial in Egypt for his internet writings, was sentenced to four years in jail.

Convicted blogger

Suleiman, a 22-year-old former law student, has been in custody since November over eight articles he had written under the name “Kareem Amer” on his blog since 2004.

Rights groups and opposition bloggers have watched Suleiman’s case closely, and worried the conviction could set a legal precedent limiting internet freedom in Egypt, the Arab world’s most populous country.

A blogger attending the trial who goes by the name “Sandmonkey” said: “It’s a dangerous precedent because it will impact the only free space available now, which is the internet. The charges were undefined and vague.”

Human Rights Watch condemned the trial, saying that the charges Suleiman was convicted for “contradict guarantees of free expression under international law”.

Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch, said: “The Egyptian government should abide by its commitments to uphold free expression and release Suleiman without delay.”

Criticism or insult?

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LDS Temple in Mesa

Wife took me to this temple to walk around the grounds, very pretty place.