Saturday, June 30, 2012

Israeli demolitions up 87%" - UN Special Rapporteur, UK takes on Israel over children clapped in irons

LATextra today headlines today's Wallmart protest and indicates thousands
will be there.
Please join us. -Ed

From: Suzanne de Kuyper <>
Date: Thu, Jun 28, 2012 at 12:36 AM
Subject: Fwd: [R-G] Israeli demolitions: "Number of Palestinians affected
has increased by 87%" - UN Special Rapporteur

Goldstone Report needed adjudicated with or without Sir Goldstone. Israel
is writing G E N O C I D E so the world can read it daily with the US, the
EU, the UK, and Canada enthusiastically supporting it.
Just another method of Holocaust. Except it is spreading by way of US
directed NATO genocide country after country in the Middle East. Soon
Africa? Where Hitler decimated the Jewish/Roma populations, North America
will decimate the species. Both North American countries use Israeli foreign
policy rather than their own. Why does not the the Bilderberg
Group take up Palestine? Queen Wihelmina intended it for peace. Her
grand-daughter Queen Beatrix, could bring it back to it's original meaning
or, quit it. A truly royal gesture. Suzanne

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Sid Shniad <>
Date: Wed, Jun 27, 2012 at 8:40 PM
Subject: Israeli demolitions: "Number of Palestinians affected has increased
by 87%" - UN Special Rapporteur
To: Suzanne de Kuyper <>


United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights* Media
centre *Israeli demolitions: "Number of Palestinians affected has increased
by 87%" - UN Special Rapporteur*

GENEVA (27 June 2012) - United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation
of human rights in the occupied Palestinian territories, Richard Falk,
warned Wednesday that the number of people displaced by the demolition of
Palestinian structures has increased by 87% compared to 2010. Mr. Falk also
demanded that the Israeli Government immediately stop demolishing
Palestinian homes and start fulfilling its obligation to protect the right
to housing.

"Already this year, Israeli authorities have demolished over 330 Palestinian
structures, including homes, animal shelters, water cisterns and roads," the
human rights expert said, and stressed that half of the 536 Palestinians who
have been displaced in 2012 are children. "Such demolitions amount to
violations against 2,100 Palestinians who have been affected."

Mr. Falk highlighted the disturbing case of Salim and Arabiya Shawamreh.
"The home they share with their seven children has been demolished five
times over 14 years. While it will be rebuilt once again next month, the
family will live under the threat of having its home demolished at any

"Living under the threat of having your home demolished is no way to bring
up a family," said the UN Special Rapporteur recalling his meeting with
Salim during a visit to the region last February. "The ever-present threat
of Israeli bulldozers perverts the sense of normalcy so essential for
raising children."

The independent expert also expressed particular concern regarding the
Palestinian community of Susiya, in the southern West Bank. "If the
demolition orders are executed by Israel, over 160 people will be forcibly
displaced, including 120 Palestinian children; is a deeply troubling

"Israelis expand their illegal outposts near Susiya, without any effort by
the Government of Israel to hinder them. At the same time the Israeli High
Court of Justice facilitates the demolition of Palestinians' homes nearby,"
Mr. Falk noted, recalling that an appeal from an Israeli settler
organization Regavim to the High Court had led to demolition orders against
Palestinians in Susiya. "Such discrimination is part and parcel of Israel's
occupation of Palestine."

"If Israeli authorities want to respect their international legal
obligations, they will freeze the demolition orders against Palestinians in
Susiya and ensure that Salim and his wife and children no longer live in
fear of having their home and well-being demolished by Israeli bulldozers,"
the human rights expert said.

On 2 July, the Special Rapporteur is scheduled to present his report to the
twentieth session of the Human Rights Council. Since his appointment in
2008, he has spoken at the Human Rights Council in 2009, 2010, and 2011 on
the human rights situations in the occupied Palestinian territory.

In 2008, the UN Human Rights Council designated Richard Falk (United States
of America) as the fifth Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights
on Palestinian territories occupied since 1967. The mandate was originally
established in 1993 by the UN Commission on Human Rights. Learn more, log on

OHCHR Country Page - Occupied Palestinian Territories:

OHCHR Country Page - Israel:

For more information and media requests, please contact Kevin Turner (+41
(0)22 928 9603 / or write to

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
Xabier Celaya, UN Human Rights - Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 /

UN Human Rights, follow us on social media:

Check the Universal Human Rights Index:

* * *

UK ready to take on Israel over fate of children clapped in irons

Report funded by Foreign Office details claims of routine abuse for
Palestinian youths

Terri Judd

The Independent Wednesday 27 June 2012

The Foreign Office revealed last night that it would be challenging the
Israelis over their treatment of Palestinian children after a report by a
delegation of senior British lawyers revealed unconscionable practices, such
as hooding and the use of leg irons.

In the first investigation of its kind, a team of nine senior legal figures
examined how Palestinians as young as 12 were treated when arrested. Their
shocking report Children in Military Custody details claims that youngsters
are dragged from their beds in the middle of the night, have their wrists
bound behind their backs, and are blindfolded and made to kneel or lie face
down in military vehicles.

Children from the West Bank are held in conditions that could amount to
torture, such as solitary confinement, with little or no access to their
parents. They can be forced to stay awake before being verbally as well as
physically abused and coerced into signing confessions they cannot read.

The team - led by Sir Stephen Sedley, a former Court of Appeal judge - heard
that "every Palestinian child is treated like a potential terrorist". In a
damning conclusion, the report points out repeated breaches of the United
Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which prohibits cruel,
inhuman and degrading treatment.

"We were sitting in court and saw a section of a preliminary hearing when a
very young looking child, a boy, was brought in wearing a brown uniform with
leg irons on. We were shocked by that. This was a situation where we had
been invited into the military courts for briefings from senior judges,"
explained one of the report's authors, human rights barrister Greg Davies.
"To hold children routinely and for substantial periods in solitary
confinement would, if it occurred, be capable of amounting to torture," the
report said. Last night the Foreign Office, which backed the report, said it
would be taking up the claims with the Israeli authorities:

"The UK government has had long-standing concerns about the treatment of
Palestinian children in Israeli detention, and as a result decided to fund
this independent report. While recognising that some positive recent steps
have been made by the Israeli authorities, we share many of the report's
concerns, and will continue to lobby for further improvements."

While the legal team said it was in no position to prove the truth of the
claims of cruelty made repeatedly by Palestinian children, but denied by the
Israeli authorities - which offered unprecedented access to the delegation -
it pointed to the disparity in the law.

Israeli children must have access to a lawyer within 48 hours and cannot be
imprisoned under the age of 14. But Palestinian children as young as 12 are
jailed and can be kept for three months without legal representation.
Between 500 and 700 are jailed each year.

"The other shocking thing is they are incarcerated in breach of many
conventions. The practical effect is parents can't get there because they
can't get permits," said Marianna Hildyard QC.

While the investigating team welcomed improvements introduced by the Israeli
authorities, both Palestinian and Israeli lawyers on the ground insisted
much of it was "rhetoric ra ther than real change".

Last night, Israeli Embassy spokesperson Amir Ofek said the country
appreciated the efforts of the delegation but blamed Palestinians who
"glorify terrorism". He said: "As a result [children] are frequently
involved in lethal acts. With the Palestinian Authority unable or unwilling
to meet its obligation to investigate and prosecute these offences, Israel
has no choice but to do so itself.

"Israel notes the detailed recommendations in the report and will study them
closely as part of its ongoing efforts to find the most appropriate balance
between preventing violence and treating perpetrators with humanity."

The report details claims children are dragged from their beds, bound and

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Friday, June 29, 2012

This Saturday WalMart Protest for Economic Justice

 Hi.  This morning it was announced that Tom Morello and Ben Harper would both be performing at this major rally.  Ben just played the Hollywood Bowl to great reviews - see yesterday's LA Times Celendar, and Tom is playing there tonight - see ads everywhere or google Hollywood Bowl.  Here's a chance to hear great music while fighting corporatization and helping all the small vendors in the area.  Hope to see you there.

From: Larry Gross, Coalition for Economic Survival [] On Behalf Of Larry Gross, Coalition for Economic Survival
Sent: Thursday, June 28, 2012 10:11 AM
Subject: Date Correctiion: This Saturday WalMart Protest for Economic Justice

Join Coalition for Economic Survival (CES)
& Thousands in Protest Against WalMart
Protest WalMart New Store
in LA's Chinatown
DATE: This Sat, JUNE 30
TIME: 10:00 a.m.
LOCATION: LA State Historic Park, 1245 North Spring St. Los Angeles

As thousands prepare to hit the streets of L.A.'s historic Chinatown on Saturday, June 30, for the largest protest against Walmart ever held in the U.S., several acclaimed musicians, including three Grammy winners, are joining the growing effort to stop the world's largest retailer from opening in Chinatown and expanding across Los Angeles with poverty-level jobs and practices that hurt local businesses and communities. They are also backing hundreds of Walmart workers who will march on June 30 to demand Walmart treat them with respect and provide wages that can support families.

Performing on Saturday, June 30 at the March Against Walmart and Low Wage Jobs are two Grammy Award-winning musicians and singer-songwriters, Tom Morello: The Nightwatchman and Ben Harper. Morello, the guitarist with Rage Against the Machine, will kick off the rally with his anthem for workers' rights, "Union Song!" Both Morello and Harper will play at the rally in front of a massive banner that reads "Walmart = Poverty," underneath the iconic Chinese dragons located on Cesar Chavez Blvd. and Broadway in L.A.'s Chinatown at 12PM. 
Coalition for Economic Survival
(213) 252-4411
This email was sent to by |  
Coalition for Economic Survival | 514 Shatto Place, Suite 270 | Los Angeles | CA | 90020

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Remarks by the President on Supreme Court Ruling, Paul Krugman: The Real Winners

Hi.  I support Medicare for all.  Always have. Nonetheless, the decision of Justice Roberts not only to join the Court's liberals in sustaining Obamacare, but author the decision, is more than welcome.  IMO, there was more than judicial wisdom involved here.  The spotlight on the issue over the past couple of weeks has significantly altered public opinion supporting keeping it, but even more importantly, rapidly increasing President Obama's lead over Romney in critical states. Healthcare would become the central issue in the election, given Romney's pledge to wipe it out.  The threat of the theme of the Occupation Movement, 99% vs the 1% of the ultra-wealthy could go mainstream and grow viral over the next four months, with the rightest momentum and agenda in peril.  Even the closed world of many poor people now supporting that agenda, could be breached. 
I could go on, about the danger of fascism, were Romney elected, along with a right congress,but will save that for a later day. 
Pay attention to President Obama's closing remarks about change "it’s time for us to move forward -- to implement and, where necessary, improve on this law."  That did happen with a  narrow Social Security of FDR in 1936(?) not fully developed  until President Lyndon Johnson enacted it, along with the Civil Rights Act.  He had national opinon increasingly pushing all sorts of rights, while Roosevelt did what he could, given the racist southern Democrats in congress. We  have a real opportunity now, and must push the issue and Obama, hard.  This could be the civil rights movement of the 21st century
Anyway, here's the Prez on the act, Krugman on the politics..  -Ed

The White House

Office of the Press Secretary

Remarks by the President on Supreme Court Ruling on the Affordable Care Act

East Room

12:15 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT: Good afternoon. Earlier today, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act -- the name of the health care reform we passed two years ago. In doing so, they've reaffirmed a fundamental principle that here in America -- in the wealthiest nation on Earth – no illness or accident should lead to any family’s financial ruin.

I know there will be a lot of discussion today about the politics of all this, about who won and who lost. That’s how these things tend to be viewed here in Washington. But that discussion completely misses the point. Whatever the politics, today’s decision was a victory for people all over this country whose lives will be more secure because of this law and the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold it.

And because this law has a direct impact on so many Americans, I want to take this opportunity to talk about exactly what it means for you.

First, if you’re one of the more than 250 million Americans who already have health insurance, you will keep your health insurance -- this law will only make it more secure and more affordable. Insurance companies can no longer impose lifetime limits on the amount of care you receive. They can no longer discriminate against children with preexisting conditions. They can no longer drop your coverage if you get sick. They can no longer jack up your premiums without reason. They are required to provide free preventive care like check-ups and mammograms -- a provision that's already helped 54 million Americans with private insurance. And by this August, nearly 13 million of you will receive a rebate from your insurance company because it spent too much on things like administrative costs and CEO bonuses, and not enough on your health care.

There’s more. Because of the Affordable Care Act, young adults under the age of 26 are able to stay on their parent's health care plans -- a provision that's already helped 6 million young Americans. And because of the Affordable Care Act, seniors receive a discount on their prescription drugs -- a discount that's already saved more than 5 million seniors on Medicare about $600 each.

All of this is happening because of the Affordable Care Act. These provisions provide common-sense protections for middle class families, and they enjoy broad popular support. And thanks to today’s decision, all of these benefits and protections will continue for Americans who already have health insurance.

Now, if you’re one of the 30 million Americans who don’t yet have health insurance, starting in 2014 this law will offer you an array of quality, affordable, private health insurance plans to choose from. Each state will take the lead in designing their own menu of options, and if states can come up with even better ways of covering more people at the same quality and cost, this law allows them to do that, too. And I’ve asked Congress to help speed up that process, and give states this flexibility in year one.

Once states set up these health insurance marketplaces, known as exchanges, insurance companies will no longer be able to discriminate against any American with a preexisting health condition. They won’t be able to charge you more just because you’re a woman. They won’t be able to bill you into bankruptcy. If you’re sick, you’ll finally have the same chance to get quality, affordable health care as everyone else. And if you can’t afford the premiums, you'll receive a credit that helps pay for it.

Today, the Supreme Court also upheld the principle that people who can afford health insurance should take the responsibility to buy health insurance. This is important for two reasons.

First, when uninsured people who can afford coverage get sick, and show up at the emergency room for care, the rest of us end up paying for their care in the form of higher premiums.

And second, if you ask insurance companies to cover people with preexisting conditions, but don’t require people who can afford it to buy their own insurance, some folks might wait until they’re sick to buy the care they need -- which would also drive up everybody else’s premiums.

That’s why, even though I knew it wouldn’t be politically popular, and resisted the idea when I ran for this office, we ultimately included a provision in the Affordable Care Act that people who can afford to buy health insurance should take the responsibility to do so. In fact, this idea has enjoyed support from members of both parties, including the current Republican nominee for President.

Still, I know the debate over this law has been divisive. I respect the very real concerns that millions of Americans have shared. And I know a lot of coverage through this health care debate has focused on what it means politically.

Well, it should be pretty clear by now that I didn’t do this because it was good politics. I did it because I believed it was good for the country. I did it because I believed it was good for the American people.

There’s a framed letter that hangs in my office right now. It was sent to me during the health care debate by a woman named Natoma Canfield. For years and years, Natoma did everything right. She bought health insurance. She paid her premiums on time. But 18 years ago, Natoma was diagnosed with cancer. And even though she’d been cancer-free for more than a decade, her insurance company kept jacking up her rates, year after year. And despite her desire to keep her coverage -- despite her fears that she would get sick again -- she had to surrender her health insurance, and was forced to hang her fortunes on chance.

I carried Natoma’s story with me every day of the fight to pass this law. It reminded me of all the Americans, all across the country, who have had to worry not only about getting sick, but about the cost of getting well.

Natoma is well today. And because of this law, there are other Americans -- other sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, fathers and mothers -- who will not have to hang their fortunes on chance. These are the Americans for whom we passed this law.

The highest Court in the land has now spoken. We will continue to implement this law. And we'll work together to improve on it where we can. But what we won’t do -- what the country can’t afford to do -- is refight the political battles of two years ago, or go back to the way things were.

With today’s announcement, it’s time for us to move forward -- to implement and, where necessary, improve on this law. And now is the time to keep our focus on the most urgent challenge of our time: putting people back to work, paying down our debt, and building an economy where people can have confidence that if they work hard, they can get ahead.

But today, I’m as confident as ever that when we look back five years from now, or 10 years from now, or 20 years from now, we’ll be better off because we had the courage to pass this law and keep moving forward.

Thank you. God bless you, and God bless America.

12:23 P.M. EDT 

* * *

 The Real Winners
 Paul Krugman
NY Times Op-Ed: June 29, 2012
 So the Supreme Court — defying many expectations — upheld the Affordable Care Act, a k a Obamacare. There will, no doubt, be many headlines declaring this a big victory for President Obama, which it is. But the real winners are ordinary Americans — people like you.
 How many people are we talking about? You might say 30 million, the number of additional people the Congressional Budget Office says will have health insurance thanks to Obamacare. But that vastly understates the true number of winners because millions of other Americans — including many who oppose the act — would have been at risk of being one of those 30 million.

So add in every American who currently works for a company that offers good health insurance but is at risk of losing that job (and who isn’t in this world of outsourcing and private equity buyouts?); every American who would have found health insurance unaffordable but will now receive crucial financial help; every American with a pre-existing condition who would have been flatly denied coverage in many states.

In short, unless you belong to that tiny class of wealthy Americans who are insulated and isolated from the realities of most people’s lives, the winners from that Supreme Court decision are your friends, your relatives, the people you work with — and, very likely, you. For almost all of us stand to benefit from making America a kinder and more decent society.

But what about the cost? Put it this way: the budget office’s estimate of the cost over the next decade of Obamacare’s “coverage provisions” — basically, the subsidies needed to make insurance affordable for all — is about only a third of the cost of the tax cuts, overwhelmingly favoring the wealthy, that Mitt Romney is proposing over the same period. True, Mr. Romney says that he would offset that cost, but he has failed to provide any plausible explanation of how he’d do that. The Affordable Care Act, by contrast, is fully paid for, with an explicit combination of tax increases and spending cuts elsewhere.

So the law that the Supreme Court upheld is an act of human decency that is also fiscally responsible. It’s not perfect, by a long shot — it is, after all, originally a Republican plan, devised long ago as a way to forestall the obvious alternative of extending Medicare to cover everyone. As a result, it’s an awkward hybrid of public and private insurance that isn’t the way anyone would have designed a system from scratch. And there will be a long struggle to make it better, just as there was for Social Security. (Bring back the public option!) But it’s still a big step toward a better — and by that I mean morally better — society.

Which brings us to the nature of the people who tried to kill health reform — and who will, of course, continue their efforts despite this unexpected defeat.

At one level, the most striking thing about the campaign against reform was its dishonesty. Remember “death panels”? Remember how reform’s opponents would, in the same breath, accuse Mr. Obama of promoting big government and denounce him for cutting Medicare? Politics ain’t beanbag, but, even in these partisan times, the unscrupulous nature of the campaign against reform was exceptional. And, rest assured, all the old lies and probably a bunch of new ones will be rolled out again in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision. Let’s hope the Democrats are ready.

But what was and is really striking about the anti-reformers is their cruelty. It would be one thing if, at any point, they had offered any hint of an alternative proposal to help Americans with pre-existing conditions, Americans who simply can’t afford expensive individual insurance, Americans who lose coverage along with their jobs. But it has long been obvious that the opposition’s goal is simply to kill reform, never mind the human consequences. We should all be thankful that, for the moment at least, that effort has failed.

Let me add a final word on the Supreme Court.

Before the arguments began, the overwhelming consensus among legal experts who aren’t hard-core conservatives — and even among some who are — was that Obamacare was clearly constitutional. And, in the end, thanks to Chief Justice John Roberts Jr., the court upheld that view. But four justices dissented, and did so in extreme terms, proclaiming not just the much-disputed individual mandate but the whole act unconstitutional. Given prevailing legal opinion, it’s hard to see that position as anything but naked partisanship.

The point is that this isn’t over — not on health care, not on the broader shape of American society. The cruelty and ruthlessness that made this court decision such a nail-biter aren’t going away.

But, for now, let’s celebrate. This was a big day, a victory for due process, decency and the American people.

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Thursday, June 28, 2012

Conn Hallinan: Turkish F-4 Activated Syrian Radar to Scope Out Blind Spots

From: Portside Moderator [mailto:moderator@PORTSIDE.ORG]
Sent: Wednesday, June 27, 2012 7:10 PM
Subject: Turkish F-4 Activated Syrian Radar to Scope Out Blind Spots

Turkish F-4 Activated Syrian Radar to Scope Out Blind Spots

By Conn Hallinan
Foreign Poicy in Focus
June 27, 2012

What was that Turkish F-4 Phantom II up to when the Syrians shot it down?

Ankara said the plane strayed into Syrian airspace, but quickly left and was
over international waters when it was attacked, a simple case of
carelessness on the part of the Turkish pilot that Syrian paranoia turned

But the Phantom-eyewitnesses told Turkish television that there were two
aircraft, but there is no official confirmation of that observation-was
hardly on a Sunday outing. According to the Financial Times, Turkey's
Foreign Minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, told the newspaper "the jet was on a test
and training mission focused on Turkey's radar defense, rather than Syria."

Translation: the F-4 was "lighting up" a radar net. It is a common-if
dangerous and illegal-tactic that allows one to probe an opponent's radar
Most combat radar is kept in a passive mode to prevent a potential enemy
from mapping out weaknesses or blind spots that can be useful in the advent
of an attack. The probes also give you valuable information on how to
neutralize anti- aircraft guns and ground to air missiles.

"Lighting up" radar was what the US Navy EP-3E Aries II was doing near
China's Hainan Island when it collided with a Chinese interceptor in 2001.
Nations normally take a very dim view of warplanes entering their air space,
particularly if there is tension between the countries involved.

As a warplane, the F-4 is a pretty ancient. It was introduced back in 1960,
and became the mainstay of the U.S. air war in Southeast Asia. In its day it
was a highly capable aircraft, able to hold its own against interceptors
like the MIG-21 in a dogfight, and could also carry heavy bomb payloads. It
was also cheap and relatively trouble free, unlike the current crop of US
high performance aircraft.

It is doubtful that Syria identified exactly what the Turkish plane was,
just that an unidentified warplane, flying low-generally the altitude one
takes when trying to avoid radar-was in Syrian airspace. Paranoia? In 2007
Israeli warplanes-US- made F-16s, not Phantoms-slipped through Syria's radar
net and bombed a suspected nuclear reactor.

Even if Syria identified the plane as a Phantom, they could have taken it
for an Israeli craft. Israel was the number-one foreign user of F-4s,
although they retired them in 2004. Indeed, the Turkish Phantom might even
have begun life as an Israeli warplane.

If the Syrians are on hair-trigger alert, one can hardly blame them. The US,
the European Union (EU), and NATO openly admit they are gunning to bring
down the Assad regime. Turkey is actively aiding the Free Syrian Army to
organize cross-border raids into Syria, and it is helping Saudi Arabia and
Qatar supply arms and ammunition to the rebels.

For Turkey to send a warplane into Syrian airspace-or even near the Syrian
border-on a radar-mapping expedition at this moment was either remarkably
provocative or stone stupid. The explanation could be more sinister,

NATO has established a command and control center in Iskenderun, Turkey,
near the Syrian border, that is training and organizing the Free Syrian
Army. It surely has a sophisticated setup for tapping into Syrian electronic
transmissions and, of course, radar networks. If NATO eventually decides to
directly intervene in Syria, the alliance will need those electronic maps.
NATO aircraft easily overwhelmed Libya's anti-aircraft systems, but Syria's
are considerably more sophisticated and dangerous.

There are a number of things about the incident that have yet to be
explained. Turkey says the F-4 was 13 nautical miles from Syria when it was
attacked-which would put it in international waters-but it crashed in Syrian
waters. Damascus claims the plane came down less than a mile from the Syrian

Turkey says one of its search planes was shot at as well-the Syrians deny
this-and has called for a meeting of its NATO allies. So far, Ankara is only
talking about invoking Article Four of the NATO treaty, not Article Five.
Four allows for "consultations"; Five would open up the possibility of an
armed response.

A thorough investigation of the incident seems in order, although Turkey's
Davutoglu says, "No matter how the downed Turkish jet saga unfolds.we will
always stand by the Syrian people until the advent of a democratic regime
there." In short, regardless of what happened, Turkey will continue to
pursue regime change in Damascus.

The Assad regime's heavy-handed approach to its opponents played a major
role in sparking the current uprising, but the default position of regime
change by the EU and NATO has turned this into a fight to the death. Assad
is broadly unpopular, but not universally so, and the support of the regime
is not limited to his own Islamic sect, the Alawites, or other minorities,
like the Christians.

Nor is all of the opposition a paragon of democratic freethinking. The heavy
role played by Saudi Arabia and Qatar in supplying arms and money to the
rebels, means the deeply conservative Salafist sect of Islam has a major
presence in the resistance.
This is exactly how the Afghan mujahedeen mutated into the Taliban and

The demand for regime change by the US, the EU, and NATO torpedoed the
United Nations effort for a diplomatic solution. The Assad regime had no
stake in a peaceful resolution, since it would mean its ouster in any case.
And the opposition knew it need not respect a ceasefire, since everyone who
supports them supports regime change.

It was into this situation that Turkey flew an F-4 Phantom through Syrian
airspace. Exactly what did Ankara think Syria would do? On the other hand,
maybe it knew exactly what Syria would do.

For more of Conn Hallinan's essays visit Dispatches From the Edge .

Meanwhile, his novels about the ancient Romans can be found at The Middle
Empire Series .


Portside aims to provide material of interest to people on the left that
will help them to interpret the world and to change it.

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The correct connection to the Echo Park Patch

I missed the period between echopak and patch.
Thank you to those who noticed and let me know.

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Gail Collins: Nora Ephron - The Best Mailgirl Ever, Adult Ed: RIP-MUST READ!

  The Best Mailgirl Ever
Gail Collins
NY Times Op-Ed: June 28, 2012
When Nora Ephron graduated from college in 1962, she applied for a job as a writer at Newsweek, was told women weren't allowed to be writers there, and settled for mailgirl. I used that story as a kind of centerpiece in a book I wrote about American women because it reminded me of one of those old movies about a Broadway musical with pompous stars played by actors you've never heard of, plus Judy Garland in the back of the chorus.
We talked about the grand saga of how the bad old days gave way to the women's movement one afternoon while she was cooking lunch in the apartment on the East Side where she lived with her husband, Nick Pileggi. (She famously said that the secret to life was marrying an Italian, but, obviously, she meant the secret was marrying Nick.) When she worked as an intern at the White House, she recalled, she took a man who was her then-fiancé on a tour of the White House "past one fabulous room named after what color it was painted after another," until at the end he looked at her and said: "No wife of mine is going to work in a place like this."

The whole world is going to remember Nora for her books and essays and scripts and blogs and, of course, movie directing. A rather hefty chunk of the world is going to remember her as a dear friend, because she had armies and armies of friends. Really, you are talking Normandy Invasion of friendship. (Are there still going to be book parties in New York? It seems inconceivable. Nora defined New York book parties. She was really more the point than the actual books.)

I'm pretty sure she would also want somebody to point out that she was an ardent feminist. She could get a little wry about the more self-obsessed aspects of the movement at its height, like the meetings where everyone was required to bring mirrors and examine their private parts. ("It is hard not to long for the days when an evening with the girls meant bridge," she wrote.) But she was a proud defender of the cause, supporter of younger women's careers, and fearless in an industry that was not particularly welcoming of women in the director's chair. Also, since she was so glamorous and stupendously witty, she was an excellent life lesson for some of the people who have been insisting for the last 90 years that feminists are dour and wear unattractive shoes.

Nora was a sort of universal organizer, giver of dinner parties, cheerleader of new projects. A while back, she co-founded the One-Time-Only Book Club, which gathered at her apartment to discuss "The Golden Notebook," which most of us had been under the impression was one of our all-time favorites, until we read it for the first time in 30 years. The One-Time-Only Book Club actually did meet a second time, when we disagreed about "Mrs. Dalloway" and I thought Nora seemed a little frail. But she never said anything about being sick. I can't, looking back, ever remember her complaining about any physical issue that could not be described with a joke, or at a minimum, deep irony.

Things I learned from Nora: The best restaurant in New York for calf's liver. The way to behave when you're in charge and you think other people might not really believe you know what you're doing, even though you really do. The fact that John Edwards was having an affair. ("Look at how flushed his face is," she said, pointing to a YouTube posting of the presidential candidate and his videographer chatting on a campaign flight.)

She was a master of multiple art forms. She was a fierce and loyal friend. In her later essays, she became her generation's brilliant, brutal and funny chronicler of the aging of the pre-boomers. She totally transformed my opinion on the appropriate size of spoons.

Once, years ago, we made a list of things to worry about. Her No. 1 was George W. Bush. I mentioned global warming. "Not a middle-aged issue," she said.

I was in Texas when she died, remembering that she had once made a movie in Austin and her entire crew got sick from an allergic reaction to cedar pollen. On the way into Dallas, my driver swerved to avoid another car and sort of flung me into the front seat. It was not very much of an accident at all, but I suddenly burst into a fit of loud weeping, scaring the poor man half to death. Nora could have turned this into a life lesson with an eminently quotable and totally true moral. Sniffling, I wondered what it would have been. Big girls don't cry? The tendency of second- and third-string mourners to attempt to turn the grieving process into a story that's all about them? She was so practical. It would probably have been about the critical importance of wearing seat belts.

* * *
Hi, all.  Aside from the importance of the issue and articles, please note that the 2nd one appears in the Echo Park Patch, an on-line, community daily journal, edited by Anthea Raymond, brilliantly.  She's totally on breaking news, with a tremendous variety of
subjects, ongoing wide-ranging calendar and undaunted, editorial opinion.  Also, a surprisingly (to me) interesting range of ads.
I signed up on suggestion of a friend, several months ago, and met her when she called about the Ash Grove's exhibit and show in the Grammy Museum.  She and photog guru Gary Raymond interviewed me and Jeff Landau, AG curator and web master, at the exhibit and outside my home.  We became friends, but I learned about her law degree and scholastic achievements only when I was asked to promote the recent forum on Reproductive Rights and Planned Parenthood, which she mc'd and questioned the panel.  When we spoke at the great spread, after the wonderful session, I complimented her on the event and chided her about her modesty.  In talking about the Patch, she discloosed that she needed more subs to maintain her status.  I offered to ask my subcribers (you) to give it a try and sign up.  It's free, and there may be a Patch in your area; with a different editor, of course.
So, youse guys who live in East Ho., Silver Lake, Echo Park, ELA, Burbank, et al, this is a double ask. 
Their Website is
Thank you,

From: Kathleen Hernandez []

Here are two articles written by Robert Skeels an adult ed teacher and writer who is also a VFP vet. Both articles are important. As an Elementary teacher I see the value of Adult Ed every day in my students that I teach. These are the families who are able to help their kids the most. We need more not fewer. I hope for the day we don't have money for war instead.

Kathleen Hernandez

Dear Everyone,

Please read. The cuts to Adult Ed. affect the parents, relatives and neighbors of our Early Ed.-High School students. Click on the link


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Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Why Iceland Should Be in the News, But Is Not

From: Jimmy Walter []
Sent: Saturday, June 23, 2012 10:17 PM

Why Iceland Should Be in the News, But Is Not
Saturday, 26 November 2011 06:08By Deena StrykerThe South Africa Civil Society Information Service | News Analysis
An Italian radio program's story about Iceland’s on-going revolution is a stunning example of how little our media tells us about the rest of the world. Americans may remember that at the start of the 2008 financial crisis, Iceland literally went bankrupt.  The reasons were mentioned only in passing, and since then, this little-known member of the European Union fell back into oblivion.
 As one European country after another fails or risks failing, imperiling the Euro, with repercussions for the entire world, the last thing the powers that be want is for Iceland to become an example. Here's why:
Five years of a pure neo-liberal regime had made Iceland, (population 320 thousand, no army), one of the richest countries in the world. In 2003 all the country’s banks were privatized, and in an effort to attract foreign investors, they offered on-line banking whose minimal costs allowed them to offer relatively high rates of return. The accounts, called IceSave, attracted many English and Dutch small investors.  But as investments grew, so did the banks’ foreign debt.  In 2003 Iceland’s debt was equal to 200 times its GNP, but in 2007, it was 900 percent.  The 2008 world financial crisis was the coup de grace. The three main Icelandic banks, Landbanki, Kapthing and Glitnir, went belly up and were nationalized, while the Kroner lost 85% of its value with respect to the Euro.  At the end of the year Iceland declared bankruptcy.
 Contrary to what could be expected, the crisis resulted in Icelanders recovering their sovereign rights, through a process of direct participatory democracy that eventually led to a new Constitution.  But only after much pain.
 Geir Haarde, the Prime Minister of a Social Democratic coalition government, negotiated a two million one hundred thousand dollar loan, to which the Nordic countries added another two and a half million. But the foreign financial community pressured Iceland to impose drastic measures.  The FMI and the European Union wanted to take over its debt, claiming this was the only way for the country to pay back Holland and Great Britain, who had promised to reimburse their citizens.
 Protests and riots continued, eventually forcing the government to resign. Elections were brought forward to April 2009, resulting in a left-wing coalition which condemned the neoliberal economic system, but immediately gave in to its demands that Iceland pay off a total of three and a half million Euros.  This required each Icelandic citizen to pay 100 Euros a month (or about $130) for fifteen years, at 5.5% interest, to pay off a debt incurred by private parties vis a vis other private parties. It was the straw that broke the reindeer’s back.
 What happened next was extraordinary. The belief that citizens had to pay for the mistakes of a financial monopoly, that an entire nation must be taxed to pay off private debts was shattered, transforming the relationship between citizens and their political institutions and eventually driving Iceland’s leaders to the side of their constituents. The Head of State, Olafur Ragnar Grimsson, refused to ratify the law that would have made Iceland’s citizens responsible for its bankers’ debts, and accepted calls for a referendum.
 Of course the international community only increased the pressure on Iceland. Great Britain and Holland threatened dire reprisals that would isolate the country.  As Icelanders went to vote, foreign bankers threatened to block any aid from the IMF.  The British government threatened to freeze Icelander savings and checking accounts. As Grimsson said: “We were told that if we refused the international community’s conditions, we would become the Cuba of the North.  But if we had accepted, we would have become the Haiti of the North.” (How many times have I written that when Cubans see the dire state of their neighbor, Haiti, they count themselves lucky.)
 In the March 2010 referendum, 93% voted against repayment of the debt.  The IMF immediately froze its loan.  But the revolution (though not televised in the United States), would not be intimidated. With the support of a furious citizenry, the government launched civil and penal investigations into those responsible for the financial crisis.  Interpol put out an international arrest warrant for the ex-president of Kaupthing, Sigurdur Einarsson, as the other bankers implicated in the crash fled the country.
 But Icelanders didn't stop there: they decided to draft a new constitution that would free the country from the exaggerated power of international finance and virtual money.  (The one in use had been written when Iceland gained its independence from Denmark, in 1918, the only difference with the Danish constitution being that the word ‘president’ replaced the word ‘king’.)
 To write the new constitution, the people of Iceland elected twenty-five citizens from among 522 adults not belonging to any political party but recommended by at least thirty citizens. This document was not the work of a handful of politicians, but was written on the internet. The constituent’s meetings are streamed on-line, and citizens can send their comments and suggestions, witnessing the document as it takes shape. The constitution that eventually emerges from this participatory democratic process will be submitted to parliament for approval after the next elections.
 Some readers will remember that Iceland’s ninth century agrarian collapse was featured in Jared Diamond’s book by the same name. Today, that country is recovering from its financial collapse in ways just the opposite of those generally considered unavoidable, as confirmed yesterday by the new head of the IMF, Christine Lagarde to Fareed Zakaria. The people of Greece have been told that the privatization of their public sector is the only solution.  And those of Italy, Spain and Portugal are facing the same threat.
 They should look to Iceland. Refusing to bow to foreign interests, that small country stated loud and clear that the people are sovereign.     
 That’s why it is not in the news anymore.

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Bill Moyers, Matt Taibbi and Yves Smith: How the Wall Street Mafia Holds America -- and the World -- Hostage


Matt Taibbi and Yves Smith: How the Wall Street Mafia Holds America -- and the World -- Hostage

Yves Smith and Matt Taibbi join Bill Moyers to discuss our criminal global financial system.
Rolling Stone editor Matt Taibbi and Yves Smith, creator of the finance and economics blog Naked Capitalism, join Bill to discuss the folly and corruption of both banks and government, and how that tag-team leaves deep wounds in our democracy. Taibbi's latest piece is "The Scam Wall Street Learned from the Mafia." Smith is the author of "ECONned: How Unenlightened Self Interest Undermined Democracy and Corrupted Capitalism."

Bill Moyers: Welcome. This past week, Jamie Dimon, CEO of JP Morgan Chase, was back on Capitol Hill, testifying before the House Financial Services Committee, as he had earlier done before the Senate Banking Committee. He was being questioned on how his bank had lost two billion dollars -- or more -- on risky trading. His reception in the House was less fawning than what he got from the senators. Although many of them also are beneficiaries of JP Morgan largesse, House members were more combative.

Barney Frank: You said you have a fortress balance sheet. That assumes there's something special about the way you are that made us have to worry less. But we can't assume that's going to be the case for every financial institution.

Jamie Dimon: But I also said that we'd be solidly profitable this quarter. So relative to earnings–

Barney Frank: That's not the question. Mr. Dimon, please don't filibuster.

Sean Duffy: You didn't know about these trades. You didn't know about these losses. How do you come forward today and say the regulators should have known that -- what one of the best CEOs in the industry didn't know and couldn't have known?

Michael Capuano: With the regulatory regime that we have today -- we both agree that it's not what we want, but it's what we have. Do you really think it's a smart idea to be cutting the legs out of one of those major regulators? Do you think that's good for America?

Jamie Dimon: I have enough problems. I'm going to leave that to you.

Michael Capuano: Well, Mr. Dimon, the only reason I ask is because you have had no hesitancy whatsoever in expressing opinions on other matters. I thought you might want to take an opportunity to express one today.

Bill Moyers: Coincidentally, just before Dimon's House testimony, Bloomberg News published data indicating that JP Morgan Chase receives a government subsidy worth about 14 billion dollars a year in taxpayer money.

Money, said Bloomberg editors, that "helps the bank pay big salaries and bonuses, and more important, distorts markets, fueling crises such as the recent subprime-lending disaster and the sovereign-debt debacle that is now threatening to destroy the euro and sink the global economy."

With me are two guests who can guide us through the thicket of testimony and beyond. Matt Taibbi, contributing editor at "Rolling Stone" magazine, has investigated the folly and corruption of banks and government with scathing, often profane wit and perception. His book, Griftopia: Bubble Machines, Vampire Squids, and the Long Con That Is Breaking America, described the events leading up to the financial meltdown in 2008. His newest piece for Rolling Stone is a chilling expose called "The Scam Wall Street Learned From the Mafia."

Yves Smith created and runs Naked Capitalism, the popular blog on finance and economics. She once worked for Goldman Sachs, McKinsey & Company, and Sumitomo Bank, and now heads a management consulting firm. You'll want to read her book, ECONned: How Unenlightened Self Interest Undermined Democracy and Corrupted Capitalism.

Welcome to both of you.

Yves Smith: Thanks so much.

Matt Taibbi: Thank you.

Bill Moyers: So in this particular case, what is JPMorgan's sin? That's the question Representative David Schweikert raised on the day of the hearing. He asked, "What sin has JPMorgan committed other than being big enough to lose billions of their own money in a quarter and still turn a $4 billion profit?" Want to take a stab at answering?

Matt Taibbi: Yeah, sure. Their sin wasn't the loss. The sin was in being a too-big-to-fail company where we can't afford to have them go under. Why are we there in the first place? If this was a company that, if it went out of business, it wouldn't affect our lives personally and wouldn't have major ramification for the economy, we wouldn't be holding hearings in the Senate and the Congress.

We would say, fine, they lost so much, a bunch of money. Too bad for them. But that's not the case. As we saw in 2008, when these companies go down, we all end up paying for it. You know, we ended up financing of, what, five, six, seven trillion dollar bailout in 2008. And if a company like JPMorgan Chase goes under, there will certainly be some sort of federal action, which is why we have to know about it. We have to know what goes on when they have unexpected two, three billion dollar losses that affects all of us.

Yves Smith: They were guilty of gaming the system. And the way that they've done it is this unit was using depositor money and yet taking very large bets.

And in this unit, all the other banks similarly have similar units in their treasury department, and the purpose of these portfolios is supposed to be to have liquid assets in case there's a run on the bank.

And Bloomberg News had a story where they actually reported that all the other banks take less risk in these portfolios. And that's before we get to the credit default-- that's before we get to the blow-up part, just in the, even the simpler part of the portfolios. They have, they keep more in treasuries. And they have less in corporate bonds. So Dimon is already taking more risk in this unit than he should have.

And this is something which is frustrating about the testimony. There's a sort of, you know, one of the, again, stories that Dimon was promoting was, oh, well, we didn't find out about it. And then when we found out about it, we jumped on it and now it's all fine. And, therefore, the regulators shouldn't have been able, you know, how could the regulators have found about it?

And, therefore, since the regulators couldn't found out, you know, more regulation is futile. And, in fact, you could have found this information from the outside. You could have seen that prices were moving in this instrument in a really weird way.

Bill Moyers: Was everybody looking the other way? Have we forgotten so quickly?

Matt Taibbi: Well, the entire derivatives market is essentially a gigantic black box. It's not like the regulators have access to all this information.

Yves Smith: I think they're not used to looking for the information.

Matt Taibbi: Right.

Yves Smith: I think it's been acculturated that they're used to having tea and cookies with the banks and reviewing their internal reports and not doing any type of external validation and this kind of basic external checking they could do that they're not habituated to doing.

Bill Moyers: A very curious thing happened when the House hearings opened. Some members of that committee felt that Dimon should be sworn in. But the chairman of the committee, a Republican from Alabama, Spencer Bachus, said, no, that wasn't necessary. Am I making too much out of that?

Matt Taibbi: I thought that was an incredible moment for a couple of reasons. Obviously, the reason there was a hullabaloo over that was because of what happened when Lloyd Blankfein, the CEO of Goldman Sachs, came and testified before the Senate a couple of years ago. There later was a controversy over whether or not he had perjured himself in those hearings.

So the question was if, you know, Jamie Dimon is going to be sworn in, whether he would have to tell the truth, would be obligated, or whether it would just be a friendly conversation. But what was amazing about that, was that it Spencer Bachus who came to Jamie Dimon's defense. Spencer Bachus is the congressman for the Birmingham, Alabama, region which has been decimated by the Jefferson County swap disaster, which was caused by Chase, which was fined $700 million by the SEC.

So here's a guy who represents the county that has been most affected by Chase's bad behavior, and he comes to Chase's defense in the hearing, which I thought was-- it set the tone for the whole thing.

Yves Smith: Matt mentioned the toxic swaps. Jefferson County isn't the only example.

There have been a whole series of, you know, since Jefferson County and other municipalities blew up by deals they did before the crisis, there have been a series of swaps done after the crisis with transit authorities, where they are losing a tremendous amount of money. You can look at the way JPMorgan has serviced mortgage loans.

You know, they had to get up and admit that they had been basically breaking the law, and there were criminal penalties associated with this law, by foreclosing on servicemen in Iraq and not giving them rate breaks that they were entitled to. And there are some egregious cases.

Matt Taibbi: There's $228 million fine that they paid last year for municipal bond bid rigging. There was another $153 million fine that they paid for failure to, for fraud in CDO trades. I mean, there are case after case after case that involve these criminal charges. And what I thought was amazing about these hearings is that nobody brought any of those things up.

Bill Moyers: Both of you have mentioned the Jefferson County story. Give me a quick summary of what JPMorgan did in Jefferson County, Alabama.

Matt Taibbi: Well, Jefferson County had to build a new sewer system. And they had to borrow a bunch of money to do that. And it was originally a $300 million project. But they got into a series of swap deals with JPMorgan Chase to basically push their financing into the future. But the deals were heavily mispriced in Chase's favor. And Chase actually bribed another bank to stay away from Chase because they wanted that business. They wanted to give the--

Bill Moyers: Bribed them?

Matt Taibbi: They bribed them.

Bill Moyers: That's against the law, isn't it?

Matt Taibbi: Yes, yes.

Yves Smith: Yeah.

Matt Taibbi: And they were caught for it. A couple of their executives were caught for it, and they were heavily fined by the SEC for doing it. And this resulted in this disaster where Jefferson County's going to be bankrupt for a generation. It ended up costing them $3 billion out of what was originally, what, $300 million?

Yves Smith: Million dollar, yeah, yeah, yeah. What got to be $2.9 billion deal in the end. And on top of that, my mother happens to live in Jefferson County.

Bill Moyers: Oh, I didn't know that.

Yves Smith: You have the average person in-- basically you cannot have access to the sewage system and not pay more than-- and not pay less than 50 bucks a month. So there are people in the poor areas who are deciding what they're going to have: electricity, water, or sewer. I mean, you can't-- they can't afford all three.

Bill Moyers: Why is that JPMorgan's fault that they have to make that choice?

Matt Taibbi: They basically got them into these onerous toxic swap deals that were poorly understood by the local politicians. And they bribed the local politicians to accept the swap deals. They did it through middleman companies that bribed the--

Yves Smith: The consultant on the deal is in jail. The former mayor was involved in other improprieties, too. But the former mayor's in prison. You know, this is--

Matt Taibbi: For signing off on these deals.

Bill Moyers: Is there a question you would have asked Dimon if you had been on either of those committees that was not asked?

Matt Taibbi: The question I wanted to ask is, was, really more about the criminality. I mean, none of the members in either the House or the Senate really got into the issue of all the different offenses that these banks have committed in the last few years. You know, or, an ordinary person, if he commits welfare fraud, never gets a food stamp again in his life.

So given that these banks have systematically and repeatedly committed fraud, repeatedly been caught, you know, in situations like Jefferson County, municipal bid rigging, why should we still give them billions and billions of dollars in emergency lending from the Fed, bailouts, all of this aid from the government? How come there's no consequences for them and there are consequences for ordinary people?

Yves Smith: I would have asked questions more having to do with what's the justification for complex banking at all? That why do we need, why shouldn't banks be run on the utility basis? Why should we have people like Dimon and his, the members of the CIO unit, most of which he's fired, what the justification for literally that hundreds of millions of bonuses were paid collectively to those people.

And now he says they didn't know what they were doing. There's no justification for this, the sort of level of compensation that we generally have on Wall Street. And I would like to see that myth starting to be punctured in more public places.

Bill Moyers: What do you mean when you say banks should be more like a utility?

Yves Smith: Banks, more than any other business, more than military contractors, live off the government. They depend on government backstopping. They exist only by way of government issued licenses, which if you had open entry you'd see much lower fees. And they get some confidence from the public from the fact that they are regulated. Oh, and the most important thing is they have access to--

Matt Taibbi: The Federal Reserve.

Yves Smith: --the Federal Reserve.

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