Saturday, August 23, 2008

Notice: Continuation of the National Emergency with Respect to Certain Terrorist Attacks

Consistent with section 202(d) of the National Emergencies Act (50 U.S.C. 1622(d)), I am continuing for 1 year the national emergency I declared on September 14, 2001, in Proclamation 7463, with respect to the terrorist attacks at the World Trade Center, New York, New York, the Pentagon, and aboard United Airlines flight 93, and the continuing and immediate threat of further attacks on the United States.

Because the terrorist threat continues, the national emergency declared on September 14, 2001, and the powers and authorities adopted to deal with that emergency, must continue in effect beyond September 14, 2008. Therefore, I am continuing in effect for an additional year the national emergency I declared on September 14, 2001, with respect to the terrorist threat.

This notice shall be published in the Federal Register and transmitted to the Congress.

GEORGE W. BUSH

THE WHITE HOUSE,

August 28, 2008

Sunday, August 10, 2008

American Insouciance

Now that military officers selected by the Bush Pentagon have reached a split verdict convicting Salim Hamdan, a onetime driver for Osama bin Laden, of supporting terrorism, but innocent of terrorist conspiracy, do you feel safe?

Or are we superpower Americans still at risk until we capture bin Laden’s dentist, barber, and the person who installed the carpet in his living room?

The Bush Regime with its comic huffings and puffings is unaware that it has made itself the laughing stock of the world, a comedy version of the Third Reich.

Hamdan was not defended by the slick lawyers that got O.J. Simpson off, and he most certainly did not have a jury of his peers. Hamdan was defended by a Pentagon appointed US Navy officer, and his jurors were all Pentagon appointed US military officers with an eye on their careers. Even in this Kangaroo Court, Hamdan was cleared of the main charge.

The US Navy officer who was Hamdan’s appointed attorney is certainly no terrorist sympathizer. Yet even this United States officer said that the rules Bush designed for the military tribunals were designed to achieve convictions. He also said that the judge allowed evidence that would not have been admitted by any civilian or military US court. He said that the interrogations of Hamdan, which comprised the basis of the Bush Regime’s case, were tainted by coercive tactics, including sleep deprivation and solitary confinement. http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20080806/ap_on_re_la_am_ca/guantanamo_bin_laden_s_driver

Does this make you a proud American?

Do you think you are made more safe when you stand there while “your” government implements its own version of Joseph Stalin’s show trials?

The trial and conviction of Hamdan has made every American very unsafe.

The one certain fact about US law is that it is expanded until it applies to everyone. Consider RICO, for example, the asset freeze law that was intended only in criminal cases involving the Mafia; it wasn’t long before RICO found its way into civil divorce proceedings.

Bush’s multi-year, multi-billion dollar “war on terror” has been reduced to railroading a low level employee, a driver, for “terrorism.”

One would hope that the Hamdan verdict would be enough shame and ridicule for the US in one day. But no, Bush didn’t stop there. On his way to the Beijing Olympics, President Bush expressed “deep concerns” for the state of human rights in China.
But not in Guantanamo, nor in Abu Ghraib, nor in the CIA’s torture dungeons used for “renditions,” nor in Iraq and Afghanistan where the US is expert at bombing weddings, funerals, children’s soccer games, and every assortment of civilians imaginable.

As the good book says, clean the beam from your own eye before pointing to the mote in your brother’s eye.

But Americans, the salt of the earth, have neither beams nor motes. We are the virtuous few, ordained by God to impose our hegemony on the world. It is written, or so say the neocons.

What would President Bush say if, heaven forbid, the Chinese were as rude as he is and asked Mr. Superpower why the land of “freedom and democracy” has one million names on a watch list. China with a population four times as large doesn’t have a watch list with one million names.

What would President Bush say if China asked him why the US, with a population one-fourth the size of China’s has hundreds of thousands more of its citizens in prison? The percentage of Americans in prison is far higher than in China and is a larger absolute number.

What would President Bush say if China asked him why he used lies and deception to justify his invasion of Iraq. China, unlike Bush, is not responsible for 1.2 million dead Iraqis and 4 million displaced Iraqis.

China’s human rights policy is not perfect. China’s greatest human rights failing is that China is the Bush Regime’s prime enabler of its war crimes and human rights abuses in Iraq and Afghanistan. By financing Bush’s budget deficit, China is financing Bush’s gratuitous wars. Indeed, China can be said to finance the weaponry that the US gives Israel to enable the suppression of the Palestinians and with which to bomb the civilian population of Lebanon.

China is a serious human rights abuser, because China is complicit in Bush’s human rights abuses.

If we are honest about who is actually murdering and abusing people, it is the US, Israel, and the UK. There’s your “axis of evil.”

By Paul Craig Roberts

Why TV news in the US is utter rubbish

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2008/aug/07/usa.uselections2008

For years it has been a joke that news in the United States is terrible: obsessed with trivia and celebrity; fronted by Botox bimbos; forever interviewing citizens about some artefact of small-town life when a major news story is breaking elsewhere.

Well, the truth is that it's far, far worse than that. There are a multitude of news channels - CNN, MSNBC, CBS, NBC, PBS, Fox. But after an hour of flipping between them during lunchtime last week, this was the sum total of information gleaned: there are two US presidential candidates; they have produced campaign ads; people have made video parodies and posted them on the internet; a US TV news host appeared on a US TV chatshow last night; and someone said something controversial (read ignorant) on a different TV show the day before.

In the meantime, one of the most sought-after war criminals in the world had been arrested and sent for trial; several new scientific breakthroughs had been announced; Zimbabwe edged carefully toward shared government; the Indian government dealt with votes of no-confidence and terrorist attacks; and countless other real stories came and went. For millions of Americans, these events appeared as 15-word tickertapes at the bottom of their 36-inch widescreen TVs.

It's not the absolute dearth of real news that is the problem, however. It's the fact that the news that is presented isn't news but mindless, misleading gossip. The clearest example of this is when one of the (between two and six) commentators on any given story provides their "analysis".

This comprises of showing a video clip and then talking with the assumed voice of the person in the clip. So, for example, Barack Obama gave a press conference. A clip of around four or five seconds of what he said is shown and then the TV studio people take over.

News anchor: "So what he's saying is 'Hey, I'm the guy in charge here - I'm the person who decides what to do, not you.' Is that right?"

Commentator: "I think what he was saying was: 'If I become president, then I'll be the person that calls the shots.'"

Commentator Two: "I don't agree. He's saying: 'I am going to listen to others – that's what I'll do – but make no mistake I'll be the person who makes the final decision.'"

This goes on and on with people making up dialogue and pretending to be Obama (or John McCain or anyone else that comes to mind) rather than broadcasting what was actually said.

But it gets worse:

• Unfair comment: The analysis of what someone has said is clearly bent by the reporters themselves along ideological lines. Unrelated facts and events are attached and then attacked, and the original news point ends up as little more than a launching pad for the experts' own political perspectives. So a sober report on, say, house prices ends up as a criticism of the Republican party's fiscal policy (without any details of that policy being provided). In the worst cases, something with no news value at all is introduced in order to score political points – such as McCain eating at a German restaurant, or Obama knocking fists with his wife.

• Tail-chasing and navel gazing: The media reports constantly on itself. And that really does mean constantly. Anything reported on the TV news instantly becomes something to be reported on. For an entire day the lead on most TV networks was whether the media was giving Obama too much coverage. The second day comprised of whether the coverage given to Obama was too uncritical. By the third day, much of the coverage was about the previous two days' coverage, complete with clips of how rival networks were covering the "news". News hosts also regularly appear on other news hosts' shows, and then feature that appearance on their own show.

• Never let the story get in the way: The focus is entirely on the back story, and the actual news is given lip-service. So you'll hear more about how a decision was arrived at than what the actual decision was, or what impact it might have. The idea is that you are getting the real juice. The reality is you are forced to drink a pint of conjecture concentrate. Presidential campaign ads have become lead stories. A one-second image flash of Britney Spears and Paris Hilton in a recent ad implied that Obama was no more than a celebrity. It led to hours of primetime news speculation, while the ad's central claim that Obama would raise taxes if elected was ignored.

• The Jerry Springer school of journalism: There is never a neutral statement - it is always an extreme perspective. If you are the news anchor, you can speak in a third-party voice and add a question mark on the end to suggest impartiality. But otherwise, wild claims are balanced with an equally wild claim at the other end. If someone attempts to point out logical inconsistencies, they are almost always faced with personal mockery by the other commentators. Just one example of this bizarre, school-bully behaviour: When one commentator, speaking from Las Vegas, tried to point out why an offshore drilling bill (which had been misrepresented as a reason why the Democrats were responsible for high petrol prices), had not been passed by Congress, he was told by the anchor that he had clearly spent too much time at the craps tables. He was told soon after by another commentator he had spent too much time at the bar. The substance of his argument did not of course merit discussion.

• The gold(fish) rush: There is absolutely no effort to provide historical context. The news is paced so frenetically that anything beyond soundbites is not tolerated. News anchors consistently talk over the top of anyone that doesn't provide a punchy point every 10 seconds. Swooshing graphics and dance music add to the general level of pace – which effectively masks the fact that almost nothing is being provided beyond personal opinion.

• When did you stop beating your wife? Coverage is deeply cynical in the sense that people are assumed to have a hidden and planned agenda even when the connection drawn would have been impossible to predict as it doesn't follow logical reasoning. Speculation with no foundation in logic or fact is opened up as a serious news item with the simple inclusion of the phrase "Did [insert name of person] know about [insert event]?" The answer – if there was ever any attempt to actually arrive at it – will always be "No".

• Fight! Fight! Fight! There is no effort to reach a greater understanding. Instead, the sole intent is to provoke disagreement and partisan perspective - with the anchor used solely to egg on disagreement. Nearly every segment ends with the anchor shutting off argument and promoting the idea that they will have to agree to disagree.

So where do you get your news while living in the US? News-starved Americans usually hold up National Public Radio, NPR, as the best option. But with interlude music fresh from the 1920s and a twee, kitchen-table-chat approach, this is news wrapped in a tea cosy.

Two comedy programmes, the Daily Show and the Colbert Report, fill a peculiar niche of serious analysis with gags and are possibly the main news source for people under 30. They both viciously lampoon the news media, which pretends not to notice and runs clips from them on their own shows.
There is hope however. The non-news cycle is increasingly being broken by the internet. Thanks to cheap digital technology and fast net connections, online video is a simple prospect and means it is possible to get your fix of moving images with real news thrown in.

Not that TV news is concerned. The internet, and YouTube in particular, is a network's dream: an Aladdin's Cave of uninformed, one-sided and aggressive gossip and commentary, all of it searchable and requiring minimal expenditure of time or money. And so every day you can find news anchors running short clips of the very best the internet can offer before turning to the experts to give their views.

by Kieren McCarthy

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Syrian leader gets top billing in Middle East by doing nothing

President Bashar al-Assad is once more one of the "triple pillars" of the Middle East. We may not like that. George Bush may curse the day his invasion of Iraq helped to shore up the power of the Caliph of Damascus.

But Mr Assad's latest trip to Tehran – just three weeks after he helped to toast the overthrow of the King of France beside President Nicolas Sarkozy – seals his place in history. Without a shot being fired, Mr Assad has ensured anyone who wants anything in the Middle East has got to talk to Syria. He's done nothing – and he's won.

The Europeans like to think – or, at least, M. Sarkozy likes to think – Mr Assad was in Tehran to persuade President Ahmadinejad not to go nuclear. Even Sana, the official Syrian news agency, was almost frank about it. The purpose of the Assad visit was "to consult on the nuclear issue and the right of states to peaceful enrichment" and "exchange ideas aimed at clarifying Iran's commitment to all international agreements". Mr Assad was M. Sarkozy's point-man.

The inevitable followed. President Ahmadinejad expressed his belief that only diplomacy could deliver us from the nuclear tangle, leaving us with Mr Assad's statement to M. Sarkozy on 12 July. Asked if the Iranians were trying to develop a nuclear bomb, Mr Assad told the French President he had asked the Iranians this very question, they had replied in the negative and this was good enough for him.

What's interesting about this is that Mr Assad probably believes it. Indeed, it may be true. Of all people, he knows about trust – or the lack of it – and his father's main foreign policy achievement was probably maintaining Syria's relations with Iran. In the face of every appeal to abandon Tehran, he refused. The younger Assad's talks with Israel via Turkey suggested to the Washington commentariat that he may at last be abandoning Iran and the return of Golan was more powerful to Bashar al-Assad than Syria's all-embracing role as the postman of Tehran. Not so.

For there was Mr Assad in Tehran this weekend, praising the mutual relationship between Iran and Syria and talking with Mr Ahmadinejad about the Israeli-US "conspiracy". The Syrian-supported Hizbollah's retrieval of living prisoners from Israel in return for the remains of two dead Israeli soldiers, was described by Mr Assad as "one of the achievements of the resistance". Which, in a way, it was. For Hizbollah's allies in the Lebanese government now have veto power over the cabinet majority, and Syria's power has returned to Beirut without the cost of sending a single Syrian soldier.

In other words, Syria kept its cool. When the US invaded Iraq, the world wondered if its tanks would turn left to Damascus or right to Tehran. In fact, they lie still in the Iraqi desert, where US generals still variously accuse Iran and Syria of encouraging the insurgency against them. If Washington wants to leave Iraq, it can call Damascus for help.

And the real cost? The US will have to restore full relations with Syria. It will have to continue talks with Iran. It will have to thank Iran for its "help" in Iraq – most of the Iraqi government, after all, was nurtured in the Islamic Republic during the Iran-Iraq war in which the US took Saddam's side. It will have to accept Iran is not making a nuclear bomb. And it will have to prevent Israel staging a bombing spectacular on Iran which will destroy every hope of US mediation. It will also have to produce a just Middle East peace. McCain or Obama, please note.

And the triple pillars? Well, one is Mr Assad, of course. The second is the crackpot Mr Ahmadinejad. And the third? It was once President Bush. Who will take his place? President Assad must have enjoyed his Iranian caviar.

By Robert Fisk