Jon has a marvelous knack for telling the sad truth in a funny way.
W. House: DoD Officials Must Vow Secrecy on Budget
By JOHN T. BENNETT
Published: 19 Feb, 2009
The Obama administration has directed defense officials to sign a pledge stating they will not share 2010 budget data with individuals outside the federal government.
In an undated non-disclosure agreement obtained by Defense News, the administration tells defense officials that “strict confidentiality” must be practiced to ensure a “successful” and “proper” 2010 defense budget process.
The secrecy pact comes as dozens of Bush-era Pentagon appointees remain on the job, asked to stay on by the Obama administration until replacements are confirmed to ensure continuity during wartime.
The Pentagon and Office of Management and Budget have agreed on a fiscal 2010 defense budget top line figure of $537 billion. That level is nearly $50 billion lower than the $585 billion defense plan created during the final months of the Bush administration, and $24 billion higher than the already enacted $513 billion 2009 defense budget.
The pledge covers any data about the 2010 budget, including: “planning, programming and budgeting system documents and databases, and any other information” that concerns the administration’s internal discussions about “the nature and amounts of the president’s budget for fiscal year 2010, and any supplemental budget request during the current fiscal year.”
The administration is requiring defense officials to promise they will not divulge the kinds of information covered in the document “to any individual not authorized to receive it.”
“Under no circumstances will I disclose such information outside the Department of Defense and other government agencies directly involved in the defense planning and resource-allocation process, such as the Office of Management and Budget,” the agreement said.Politics | Tags: Bush administration, Defense Department, George W. Bush, Obama administration, Office of Management, Office of Management and Budget, Presidency of George W. Bush, United States Department of Defense | Comment (0)
January 26, 2009
I had the pleasure of responding to an invitation from Greg Nelson and participating this morning as PSR’s representative in a White House ceremony at which President Obama announced his initial steps on energy and the environment. The content of his announcements were covered this morning in an anticipatory piece on the front page of The New York Times and I am sure will be in tonight and tomorrow’s news.
The invitation came at the last minute, yesterday, Sunday afternoon in fact but an audience of 80-100 folks appeared, mostly good friends of ours from the national environmental community. This group rarely has occasion to be together in the same room and the mood was celebratory. Members of the President’s energy and environment “team” were present including: Steven Chu, John Holdren, Carol Browner, Lisa Jackson, and others.
The President spoke for 10 minutes and was very business-like. The President’s tone sent a clear message. He opened with the urgent need to respond to the financial crises and linked his remarks on energy independence, CAFE standards, green house gas emissions to job creation and economic stabilization. He spoke of global warming as a matter of fact that we all understand and want action on. He spoke of the importance of science-based policy.
His presentation was low-key, as if he were saying: “I’m not telling you anything you don’t know… and here is what we are going to need to do…” I found listening to him a remarkable experience, like a light coming on after 8, or has it been 20, years in the darkness. Unlike previous White House events there were no photo ops; there will be no signed photographs of me with the President. He greeted a few of his own people in the front row and left the room. I am impressed.
I hope we see an event like this on nuclear weapons in the near future. This is a moment both to celebrate and to redouble our efforts.
Mike McCally, MD, PhD
Politics | Tags: Barack Obama, Carol Browner, Global warming, John Holdren, Nuclear weapon, Steven Chu, The New York Times Company, White House | Comment (0)
MONDAY 19 JANUARY 2009 Signup for updates * * * * * * * * * * * * Opinion Olbermann | Bush Years: 8 in 8 Minutes Friday 16 January 2009 » by: Keith Olbermann,
George Walker Bush. 43rd president of the United States. first ever with a criminal record. our third story tonight, his presidency: eight years in eight minutes. early in 2001 the U.S. fingered Al Qaeda for the bombing of the USS Cole Bush counterterrorism adviser Richard Clarke had a plan to take down Al Qaeda. instead by February the NSC had already discussed invading Iraq, and had a plan for post-Saddam Iraq. by March 5 Bush had a map ready for Iraqi oil exploration and a list of companies. Al Qaeda? Rice told Clarke not to give Bush a lot of long memos. not a big reader. August 6, 2001 a CIA analyst briefs Bush on vacation: “Bin Laden determined to strike in U.S.” Bush takes no action tells the briefer – quote all right, you’ve covered your ass now. next month Clarke requests using new predator drones to kill Bin Laden the Pentagon and CIA say no. September 11th Bush remains seated for several minutes to avoid scaring school children by getting up and leaving. he then flies around the country and promises quote a full scale investigation to find those folks who did it Rumsfeld says Afghanistan does not have enough targets we’ve got to do Iraq. when the CIA traps Bin Laden at Tora Bora it asks for 800 rangers to cut off his escape Bush outsources the job to Pakistanis sympathetic to the Taliban Bin Laden gets away in February General Tommy Franks tells a visiting Senator Bush is moving equipment out of Afghanistan so he can invade Iraq. one of the men who prepped Rice for her testimony that Bush did not ignore pre 9-11 warnings later explains quote we cherry picked things to make it look like the president had been actually concerned about Al Qaeda they didn’t give a bleep about Al Qaeda July and Britain‘s intel chief says Bush is fixing intelligence and facts around the policy to take out Saddam January 03 Bush and Blair agree to invade in March Mr. Bush still telling us he has not decided telling Blair they should paint an airplane in UN colors fly it over Iraq and provoke a response a pretext for invasion the man who said it would take several hundred thousand troops fired the man who said it would cost more than a hundred billion fired the man who revealed Bush’s yellowcake lie smeared his wife’s covert status exposed the White House liars who did it and covered it up not fired one convicted Bush commutes his sentence then in Iraq, stuff happens: Iraq’s army, disbanded the government de-Baathified 200,000 weapons, billions of dollars just lost foreign mercenaries immunized from justice political hacks run the Green Zone religious cleansing forcing one out of six Iraqis from their homes Abu Ghraib the insurgency Al Qaeda in Iraq other stuff does not happen: WMD post-war planning body armor vehicular armor the payoff? oil and billions for Halliburton, Blackwater and other companies while Mr. Bush denies VA healthcare to 450,000 veterans tries to raise their healthcare fees blocks the new G.I. Bill and increases his own power with the USA PATRIOT Act with the Military Commissions Act public orders exempting himself from a thousand laws and secretly from the Presidential Records Act The Geneva Conventions FISA sparking a mass rebellion at the Justice Department secret star chambers for terrorism suspects, overturned by Hamdan v Rumsfeld. denying habeas corpus, overturned by Boumediene v Bush. 200 renditionings sleep deprivation abuse Rumsfeld warned in 2002 that he was torturing that it would jeopardize convictions out of 550 at Gitmo hundreds ultimately go free with no charges dozens are tortured eight fatally three are convicted on U.S. soil twelve hundred immigrants rounded up without due process without bail without court dates without a single charge of terrorism it wasn’t just Mr. Bush no longer subject to the rule of law he slashed regulations on everyone from banks to mining companies appointed 98 lobbyists to oversee their own industries weakening emission standards for mercury and 650 different toxic chemicals regulators shared drugs and their beds with industry reps the Crandall Canyon mine owner told inspectors to back up because his buddy, Republican Mitch McConnell was sleeping with their boss McConnell’s wife is Bush Labor Secretary Elaine Chao her agency overruled engineer concerns about Crandall Canyon and was found negligent after nine miners died in the collapse there Mr. Bush’s hands off as Enron blacks out California doubling electric bills after months of rejecting price caps Mr. Bush bows to pressure the blackouts end Mr. Bush further deregulates commodity futures midwifing the birth of unregulated oil markets which just like Enron jack up prices to an all time high until Congress and both presidential candidates call for regulations and the prices fall deregulating financial services and lax enforcement of remaining rules created a housing bubble creating the mortgage crisis creating then a credit crisis devastating industries that rely on credit from student loans to car dealers firms that had survived the Great Depression could not survive Bush those that did got seven hundred billion dollars no strings, no transparency no idea whether it worked unlike the auto bailout which cut workers’ salaries. a GOP memo called it a chance to punish unions but Bush failed even when his party and his patrons did not stand to profit investigators blamed management cost cutting communication for missed warnings about Columbia Bush administration convicts include sex offenders at Homeland Security convicted liars every kind of thief in the calendar and if you count things that were not prosecuted the vice president of the United States actually shot a man in the face the man apologized. Mr. Bush faked the truth with paid propaganda in Iraq on his education policy tried to silence the truth about global warming rocket fuel in our water industry influence on energy policy politicized the truth of science at NASA, the EPA, the National Cancer Institute, Fish and Wildlife and the FDA his lies exposed by whistleblowers from the cabinet down “complete BS” the treasury secretary said of Mr. Bush on his tax cuts. Rice’s mushroom cloud Powell’s mobile labs Iraq and 9-11 Jack Abramoff Jessica Lynch Pat Tillman Pat Tillman again Pat Tillman, again. the air at Ground Zero most responders still suffering respiratory problems. global warming carbon emissions a Clear Skies initiative lowering air quality standards the Healthy Forests initiative increasing logging faith based initiatives the cost of medicare reform fired US attorneys politically synchronized terror alerts the surge causing insurgents to switch sides that abortion causes breast cancer that his first recession began under Clinton that he did not wiretap without warrants that we do not torture. that American citizen John Walker Lindh’s rights were not violated that he refused the right to counsel heckuva job Brownie some survivors still in trailers New Orleans still at just two-thirds its usual population the lie that no one could have predicted the economic crisis except the economists who did no one could have predicted 9-11 except one ass-covering CIA analyst or thirty no one could have predicted the levee breach except literally Mr. Bill in a PSA that aired on TV a year before Katrina Bush actually admitted that he lied about not firing Rumsfeld because he did not want to tell the truth. look it up. all of it all of it and more leaving us with ten trillion in debt to pay for 31% more in discretionary spending the Iraq War a 1.3 trillion dollar tax cut median income down two thousand dollars three-quarters of all income gains under Bush going to the richest one percent unemployment up from 4.2 to 7.2 percent the Dow, down from ten thousand five hundred eighty seven to eighty two hundred seventy seven six million now more in poverty seven million more now without health care buying toxic goods from China deadly cribs outsourcing security to Dubai still unsecure in our ports and at our nuclear plants more dependent on foreign oil out of the international criminal court off the anti ballistic missle treaty military readiness and standards down with two unfinished wars a nuclear North Korea disengaged from the Palestinian problem destabilizing eastern european diplomacy with anti missile plans and unable to keep Russia out of Georgia 2000 miles of Appalachian streams destroyed by rubble from mountaintop mining at his last G-8 summit, he actually bid farewell to other world leaders saying quote – goodbye from the world’s greatest polluter consistently undermining historic American reverence for the institutions that empower us education, now “academic elites” and the law, “activist judges” capping jury awards and Bin Laden? living today unmolested in a Pakistani safe haven created by a truce endorsed and defended by George W. Bush and among all the gifts he gave to Bin Laden the most awful, the most damaging not just to America but to the American ideal was to further Bin Laden’s goal by making us act out of fear rather than fortitude leaving us with precious little to cling to tonight save the one thing that might yet suffice: hope.Politics | Tags: Al-Qaeda, George W. Bush, George Walker Bush, Iraq, Iraq War, United States, US, USA PATRIOT Act | Comment (0)
The last day of voting for the Ideas for Change in America competition is today! On Friday we will present the top 10 ideas to the Obama administration at the National Press Club in Washington, DC. We’ll then connect the winning ideas to leading nonprofits and launch a series of national advocacy campaigns to turn each idea into federal policy.
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We started the Ideas for Change in America initiative in the hope that we could translate the energy behind the Obama election into a citizen-led movement for change around the major issues we face. With over 500,000 votes thus far, each of you has helped deliver a clear message to the Obama administration that the American people want to participate in their own government again.
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Politics | Tags: Barack Obama, Change.org, Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, United States, Voting, Washington DC | Comment (0)
January 13th, 2009
Now we know the real reason the “powers that be” let Obama win: He’s vehemently pro-nuclear.
Obama’s nominee for Energy Secretary, Dr. Steven Chu, is utterly pro-nuclear. And in sworn testimony today before the Senate energy committee, Chu proved that you can win a Nobel Prize and yet still not know enough to get by productively in today’s world. The guy needs an education in dozens of nuclear issues, and his confirmation — almost certain — will be a calamity for honest energy decisions in America. Or for any hope of productive change in our society. Yeah, it’s that important. Energy is a huge chunk of our economy and the secretive cabals that control it — Dick Cheney‘s infamous energy policy meetings being only the tip of the iceberg — need to be exposed, and brought down. Corporations like AREVA. People like Steven Chu.
If nothing else, Dr. Chu proved today that you can win a Nobel prize in physics and not know much about radioactive waste. Supposedly, his current studies concern “biological systems at the single-molecule level” (according to Wikipedia). Clearly, though, damage to populations from radiation has escaped his attention (even though it all starts at the atomic and molecular level). Perhaps it’s too statistical for him, or too abstract, or too real, or too complicated, or too simplistic, or whatever. One way or another, he overlooked it.
So for more than an hour he promoted “recycling” of nuclear waste, which is actually still known as “reprocessing” among most people, including a number of the Senators at the hearing. Apparently the new term is “recycling” because it sounds more eco-friendly, and was portrayed that way by Chu and by various Senators.
But whatever you call it, reprocessing nuclear fuel ISN’T eco-friendly. However it took Chu more than an hour of promoting it before he admitted that he doesn’t actually know much about it. He did, however, admit it — in sworn testimony!
Then he went back to promoting nuclear fuel “recycling.”
France was cited as a bastion of successful recycling. What France actually does with its nuclear waste, and the waste from probably more than a dozen other countries (I don’t have the exact number; it’s hard to obtain, but is surely in that range), is grind up, chop up, and then melt down, burn up, or chemically dissolve the highly poisonous spent fuel rods. However, each gram of spent fuel contains over 500 DIFFERENT radioactive isotopes, representing the ENTIRE spectrum of known elements!
What is called a “success” in France is really just isolating the plutonium and uranium from these other elements, and then isolating specific isotopes of those two elements (and perhaps thorium). All this creates large amounts of chemical pollution, at a huge cost, and with the concomitant loss of vast quantities of radionuclides into the environment, Noble gases, for instance, are simply released to the environment. their quantities are barely even estimated. Many other elements such as Strontium-90, Cesium-137, Iodine-131 — France releases them all into the environment in order to accomplish “recycling.” It’s not clean. It’s not safe. The industry lies at every step so as not to annoy the public — and has plenty of help from the government in the form of covert operations against legitimate activist groups and official cover-ups of wrong-doing, leaks, etc.. Is this what we want in America?
Chu apparently doesn’t know any of this, but he’s all for it anyway.
But that’s not the silliest thing about Chu’s performance today before the Senate committee. Surely the silliest thing about his ambitious nuclear plans is that he believes that nuclear spent fuel rods can be safely stored somewhere. Obviously, he means “on-site” in something — some container — NOT Yucca Mountain.
Not that he opposes Yucca Mountain. He wants it to keep crawling forward. There is no Yucca Mountain, by the way. One activist today told me she thought it was already being filled with waste. It isn’t.
Another citizen witnessed, first-hand, what is called “safe” by Dr. Chu:
“Are they building another reactor at San Onofre?!?” he asked me this morning, after a recent fishing trip brought him close to the local nuclear reactor. ”No, that’s the spent fuel storage facility you saw. Soon it will be the #1 terrorist target in Southern California. If a small group of terrorists pierce that casing and light the spent fuel rods that will be stored there on fire, or if anything else causes them to burst, we’ll be dead within minutes (we live about 12 miles away) and SoCal will be ruined forever. And one millionth of a gram will kill you many times over.”
“They were as big as a cruise ship! It had to be seven stories tall! Is it going to be all steel?”
“No, it will have a lot of concrete around the steel. But not enough.”
Those “dry casks” have other problems, too, which Dr. Chu conveniently doesn’t acknowledge. There have been corruption issues with the design, the construction, and the implementation of NUMEROUS INSTALLATIONS of dry casks.
The security staffs protecting these spent fuel installations fall asleep on the job. This has been reported in — yep — NUMEROUS INSTALLATIONS in the past. And even if they’re fully awake, there aren’t enough guards at any one plant to overcome a concerted attack.
There never could be enough guards, because a concerted attack will STILL come from the air. It will be swift, it will be over in seconds, and it will be devastating. There is no defense planned, and Dr. Chu doesn’t care. To him, these casks are safe — despite the dangers from earthquakes and tsunamis (not to mention asteroids, improper construction, and a thousand other possible FATAL — to 500,000 people or more — FLAWS of spent fuel storage.
The operating nuclear power plants are an even greater threat — in terms of probability of an accident — than the spent fuel. But in terms of how many citizens could die from an accident? That’s a toss-up. Short-lived radionuclides would be released in a reactor accident — seal the windows and doors carefully with duct tape, don’t use up your oxygen too fast, eat canned food and drink bottled water for a few weeks and you’ll be fine, unless whatever exposure you do get (and you’re sure to get some) results in a cancer later, or heart disease, or inflammation, deformed children, or a thousand other ailments. If you’re outside or otherwise unprotected at the time of the accident, you will die a horrible death, wherein your cells are broken down by the radiation which gets inside your lungs, your gut, and is absorbed through your skin. Certain organs in your body are targeted by some radionuclides, other organs, by other isotopes. Either way, it’s often very painful, it can last a long time, it is usually accompanied by an agonizing and unquenchable thirst, and it will happen to perhaps half a million Southern Californians if we don’t close the plants and properly secure the waste. Such deaths – known as “acute radiation poisoning” — will occur as much as 500 miles downwind, and in broad swaths in every direction. You will not know where to run: The poison is odorless, colorless, and tasteless. Roads will be crowded, or crowded with the dead. Or both.
Support Dr. Chu, and you support this fate. Chu’s policies are deadly. They are irrational. They will be expensive to implement, expensive to undo, and a million times MORE expensive if — and when — they fail.
And no, Yucca Mountain is not the solution. And yet, there is no known better solution! In fact, the Yucca Mountain team was allowed to suggest anything they thought was a better idea, other than simply choosing some other site and basically doing the same thing there instead of at Yucca Mountain.
I do not have a solution. But I assure you, neither does Dr. Chu. The difference is, he’s probably going to be confirmed as head of the most notorious promoter of nuclear power on the planet, the U. S. Department of Energy — and I’m one citizen out of nearly seven billion. And I DO have a solution to the GROWING problem of nuclear waste — STOP MAKING MORE.
Nearly every Senator asked about renewable energy solutions or “clean coal” which invariably meant “carbon sequestration.” And Dr. Chu always had an answer for these — he was all for biomass, and all for ethanol from sugar, and all for wind and solar, etc.
But don’t be fooled! This man will continue the death-train of nuclear poisons — created, released, ignored.
Dr. Steven Chu should not be confirmed, but he surely will be. Republicans love him. Democrats love him. The status quo loves him, because the status qua is to keep the 104 operating nuclear plants in America open — until an American meltdown shuts them. Senator Bob Corker (R-TN), who has a degree in “Industrial Management” and wants “300″ nuclear power plants in America, loves Chu. Senator Corker and others want to help Chu find more and more ways for the federal government to finance so-called “private industry” to restart the nearly-catatonic (thank goodness — but it ain’t dead, by any means) “Nuclear Renaissance.” They want nukes in THEIR state. Big money loves Chu. And everyone at our corrupt National Laboratories loves Chu too, of course.
And worst of all, with all Chu’s talk of renewables, environmentalists who don’t know any better will probably love him, too.
I think the Obama Administration’s great secret has finally been revealed: They’re no different. They won’t stop using Depleted Uranium munitions in war. They won’t shut the nuclear power plants. They won’t solve the nuclear waste problem (because that is a physical impossibility, as ANY physicist worth his degree knows, and 60+ billion dollars and 60+ years put into finding a solution should prove it “prima facie” to everyone else), and they won’t do anything to stop the criminal backroom deals that have allowed the nuclear industry to keep moving forward, despite the deaths it causes.
I do not believe Dr. Chu believes everything he said today. Maybe I just don’t think you can be that dumb and still win a Nobel Prize. Maybe I think his occasional rapid blinking and other mannerisms suggest blatant dishonesty. But either way, I am convinced Dr. Chu lied under oath. Well, we’re used to that, after the Bush Administration.
Come next Tuesday, when Obama is sworn in, it will be Business As Usual in America. And don’t expect any kind of national health care to pay for your illness when you get cancer!
It should be noted that it was surely not an accident that the biggest media event of the confirmation hearings — Hillary Clinton’s day in the sunshine — was the same day as Chu’s all-important Energy Committee hearing. This kept the press off the nuclear issue, so people wouldn’t hear the bad news.
Expect more Davis-Besse near-disasters, more Three Mile Island nearer-disasters, and a few Chernobyls (real full-blown nuclear disasters) in America during, or some time after, the Obama Administration. Don’t bother being surprised when it happens.
Radioactive death for hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions of Americans, is as inevitable as sunshine and rain now. Chu is a shoe-in for Energy Secretary. Our fate is sealed.
The Code Killers: An Expose of Nuclear Crimes Large and Small, High And Low, Far and Wide
Jewish Voice of Peace wrote: Just a few days after the bombing of Gaza started, my rabbi, Rabbi Brant Rosen here in Evanston, Illinois had the courage to write something on his blog* that may forever change his life, and the lives of those around him. As I read it, I could literally feel the earth shift beneath my feet. He said, Send a note to Jon Stewart. Tell everyone you know to watch the segment. http://www.thankyoujonstewart.com We good liberal Jews are ready to protest oppression and human-rights abuse anywhere in the world, but are all too willing to give Israel a pass. It’s a fascinating double-standard, and one I understand all too well. I understand it because I’ve been just as responsible as anyone else for perpetrating it. So no more rationalizations. What Israel has been doing to the people of Gaza is an outrage. It has has brought neither safety nor security to the people of Israel and it has wrought nothing but misery and tragedy upon the people of Gaza. The earth is shifting on this issue when the people to whom we look for guidance about right and wrong, people like Rabbi Brant, finally speak the truth- that killing will not bring peace. Not for the Israelis, not for the Palestinians, not for anyone. Many people from my own congregation, including my own daughter, wrote him to say “Thank you, thank you for finally saying these words out loud.” I felt something similar when I saw Jon Stewart on The Daily Show on Monday night. While almost all of the mainstream news in the United States has reported the story without any context whatsoever, repeating the lie that this is a simple case of Israel defending its people against irrational attacks, it was Jon Stewart, the main source of news for an entire generation of Americans, who got it right**. He talked about the “soul-crushing” siege of Gaza, the occupation that has forced Palestinians to go through checkpoints to do anything at all, the perverse logic of trying to “get a war in” just before Obama’s inauguration. When I watched this segment, I knew the earth was shifting. And I knew I had to thank Jon, and to make sure everyone I know watches his segment. We all know that if every Jew in America said no to Israel’s occupation of the Palesinians, it would still happen, because it has is seen as serving the interests of our country’s foreign interests. And it is supported by Christian fundamentalists who believe it is one step closer to the end times. That’s why we all need to work together- every single one of us. So thank Jon by going here. And then tell everyone you know to watch this video. Tell your friends that if it seems like what is happening now is wrong, that’s because it is. By the way, the last haunting words of Rabbi Brant’s post were ese: “There, I’ve said it. Now what do I do?” At Jewish Voice for Peace, it’s our mandate to answer that question. We’re planning a broad-based response that we know will make a difference, and the heart of that response will be every single one of you. We’ll ask you to have those conversations with everyone you know, to educate yourselves, to let the world know peace with justice is possible. Stay tuned, Lynn Pollack Jewish Voice for Peace * Rabbi Brant’s blog ** Israel losing the PR war (print headline)/In U.S., war of words over Gaza, San Francisco ChroniclePolitics, Uncategorized | Tags: Daily Show, Gaza, Human rights, Israelis, Jon Stewart, San Francisco Chronicle, United States, Warfare and Conflict | Comment (0)
Aloha, It is with great sadness that I am forwarding this article. And since our owned Jewish media does not report the horrors of the Concentration Camps full of Palestinians being held captive by Israel, it is up to each of us who care about these defenseless poor people, who have been held in unspeakable conditions for 40 years, to speak up loudly for them. Please forward this article widely, we need to do our part in ending this tragic occupation. Mahalo
“How can keeping food and medicine from the people of Gaza protect the people of Israel? How can the impoverishment and suffering of Gaza’s children – more than 50 per cent of the population – benefit anyone?
The tactic of restricting caloric intake to weaken subject populations is not figuratively ‘Nazi,’ it is literally what took place in Warsaw and elsewhere under the Nazi terror regime. It is a war crime.”
UPDATE DEC. 27: Here is an iron rule of the modern age. Whenever you think a situation has gotten so hellish that it can’t get worse — it will get worse. The piece below examined the literally atrocious condition of Gaza at Christmas. Now, of course, that situation has grown infinitely worse, with a massive Israeli airstrike, killing at least 200 people so far — children among them, of course — with more hell promised to come.
What is happening in the Holy Land during this holiest of seasons? Sara Roy reports in the London Review of Books:
Israel’s siege of Gaza began on 5 November, the day after an Israeli attack inside the strip, no doubt designed finally to undermine the truce between Israel and Hamas established last June. Although both sides had violated the agreement before, this incursion was on a different scale. Hamas responded by firing rockets into Israel and the violence has not abated since then….
On 5 November the Israeli government sealed all the ways into and out of Gaza. Food, medicine, fuel, parts for water and sanitation systems, fertiliser, plastic sheeting, phones, paper, glue, shoes and even teacups are no longer getting through in sufficient quantities or at all. According to Oxfam only 137 trucks of food were allowed into Gaza in November. This means that an average of 4.6 trucks per day entered the strip compared to an average of 123 in October this year and 564 in December 2005. The two main food providers in Gaza are the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) and the World Food Programme (WFP). UNRWA alone feeds approximately 750,000 people in Gaza, and requires 15 trucks of food daily to do so. Between 5 November and 30 November, only 23 trucks arrived, around 6 per cent of the total needed; during the week of 30 November it received 12 trucks, or 11 per cent of what was required. There were three days in November when UNRWA ran out of food, with the result that on each of these days 20,000 people were unable to receive their scheduled supply. According to John Ging, the director of UNRWA in Gaza, most of the people who get food aid are entirely dependent on it. On 18 December UNRWA suspended all food distribution for both emergency and regular programmes because of the blockade.
The WFP has had similar problems, sending only 35 trucks out of the 190 it had scheduled to cover Gazans’ needs until the start of February (six more were allowed in between 30 November and 6 December). Not only that: the WFP has to pay to store food that isn’t being sent to Gaza. This cost $215,000 in November alone. If the siege continues, the WFP will have to pay an extra $150,000 for storage in December, money that will be used not to support Palestinians but to benefit Israeli business.
The majority of commercial bakeries in Gaza – 30 out of 47 – have had to close because they have run out of cooking gas. People are using any fuel they can find to cook with. As the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has made clear, cooking-gas canisters are necessary for generating the warmth to incubate broiler chicks. Shortages of gas and animal feed have forced commercial producers to smother hundreds of thousands of chicks. By April, according to the FAO, there will be no poultry there at all: 70 per cent of Gazans rely on chicken as a major source of protein.
Banks, suffering from Israeli restrictions on the transfer of banknotes into the territory were forced to close on 4 December. A sign on the door of one read: ‘Due to the decision of the Palestinian Finance Authority, the bank will be closed today Thursday, 4.12.2008, because of the unavailability of cash money, and the bank will be reopened once the cash money is available.’…
During the week of 30 November, 394,000 litres of industrial diesel were allowed in for the power plant: approximately 18 per cent of the weekly minimum that Israel is legally obliged to allow in. It was enough for one turbine to run for two days before the plant was shut down again. The Gaza Electricity Distribution Company said that most of the Gaza Strip will be without electricity for between four and 12 hours a day. At any given time during these outages, over 65,000 people have no electricity.
No other diesel fuel (for standby generators and transport) was delivered during that week, no petrol (which has been kept out since early November) or cooking gas. Gaza’s hospitals are apparently relying on diesel and gas smuggled from Egypt via the tunnels; these supplies are said to be administered and taxed by Hamas. Even so, two of Gaza’s hospitals have been out of cooking gas since the week of 23 November.
The breakdown of an entire society is happening in front of us, but there is little international response beyond UN warnings which are ignored. The European Union announced recently that it wanted to strengthen its relationship with Israel while the Israeli leadership openly calls for a large-scale invasion of the Gaza Strip and continues its economic stranglehold over the territory with, it appears, the not-so-tacit support of the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah – which has been co-operating with Israel on a number of measures. On 19 December Hamas officially ended its truce with Israel, which Israel said it wanted to renew, because of Israel’s failure to ease the blockade.
How can keeping food and medicine from the people of Gaza protect the people of Israel? How can the impoverishment and suffering of Gaza’s children – more than 50 per cent of the population – benefit anyone?
As Roy notes, the UN has sounded some warnings about the situation in Gaza and has attempted to document the situation there. How has Israel responded to these efforts? Stephen Lendman reports on the treatment given to Richard Falk, a Jewish American who is the UN Human Rights Council Special Investigator for the Occupied Territories.
On December 14, he arrived at Ben Gurion airport, Tel Aviv to perform his assigned duties. He led a three-person mission that intended to visit the West Bank and Gaza, assess conditions on the ground, then report on Israel’s compliance with human rights standards and international humanitarian law….
Nonetheless, he was denied entry and harassed as follows:
despite his UN status, he was put in a holding room with about 20 others experiencing entry problems;
then “treated not as a UN representative, but as some sort of security threat, subjected to an inch-by-inch body search and the most meticulous luggage inspection I have ever witnessed;”
separated from his two UN companions; they were allowed entry and taken to the airport facility about a mile away;
required to put his luggage and cell phone in a room, then taken to a “locked tiny room that smelled of urine and filth;”
five other detainees were with him in very cramped, uncomfortable quarters;
he was confined there for the next 15 hours, “which amounted to a cram course on the miseries of prison life, including dirty sheets, inedible food and lights that were too bright or darkness controlled from the guard office;”
Israel’s “obvious intention (was) to teach me, and more significantly, the UN a lesson: there will be no cooperation with those who make strong criticisms of Israel’s occupation policy.”
One can only imagine the uproar if a UN envoy to, say, Iran or Syria or Russia was given this kind of treatment. Indeed, you don’t have to imagine it. You need only look at news reports of the recent incident when Jimmy Carter and other who had come to investigate depredations by the Mugabe regime in Zimbabwe were turned away at the border. Yet not only has Israel been allowed to impose this horrific collective punishment on Gaza, it is now gathering “international support” for a full-scale assault on the besieged enclave, as Israel’s ynetnews.com reports:
Foreign Affairs Minister Tzipi Livni and Israel’s ambassadors around the world are preparing to launch a global effort in a bid to secure backing for the anticipated operation in the Gaza Strip….
As reported by Ynet, the triumvirate of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Livni ruled in favor of the operation in a clandestine meeting last Thursday. The international diplomatic groundwork was one of the steps the three agreed would have to precede the operation.
So on the holiest of days in the homeland of Christ, we stand on the precipice of an even greater disaster. And when it happens, let no one say they didn’t see it coming. As Lendman notes, Falk has been speaking forcefully on the growing horror and atrocity in Gaza for a long time. In an article from July 2007, Falk wrote:
“It is especially painful for me, as an American Jew, to feel compelled to portray the ongoing and intensifying abuse of the Palestinian people by Israel through a reliance on such an inflammatory metaphor as ‘holocaust’….Is it an irresponsible overstatement to associate the treatment of Palestinians (in such terms)? I think not.”
He condemned Israel’s actions in Gaza and referred to subjecting “an entire human community to life-endangering conditions of utmost cruelty.” He called it “a holocaust-in-the-making” and appealed to world governments and international public opinion “to act urgently to prevent these current genocidal tendencies from culminating in a collective tragedy.”
He urged concerted action to spare Gazans “from further pain and suffering.” He took umbrage with how America supports Israel and with European governments for having “lent their weight to recent illicit (and overt) efforts to crush Hamas as (the legitimate) Palestinian (government).” He referred to “Israel’s impunity under America’s geopolitical umbrella,” and the immorality of the international community watching Gaza’s “ugly spectacle unfold while some of its most influential members actively encourage and assist Israel” in its efforts…
He condemned Israel for being “more determined than ever to foment civil war in Palestine,” arm and pit Fatah against Hamas, “make Gazans pay with their well being and lives,” crush their will, and maintain separate Gaza and West Bank “destinies…”
“To persist with such an approach under present circumstances is indeed genocidal, and risks destroying an entire Palestinian community….” This prospect sends a “warning of a Palestinian holocaust in the making, and should remind the world of the famous post-Nazi pledge of ‘never again.’”
It seems to be the tragic fate of this generation of Israel to teach the world, once more, the bitter lesson of the universality of human evil. This base drive to impose suffering on others — out of fear, out of greed, out of the lust to dominate — lives in us all, in every individual, every nation, every people, every tribe, every sect, every clan. It must be resisted at all of these levels — beginning within, of course. And when it breaks out into the open, we must condemn it forthrightly, call it what it is, no matter what form it takes or who unleashes it.
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yankee 30 said:
I read this morning that our ghoulish homeland security secretary is forecasting five years of terror threats based on instability in the middle-east! Real luminaries, our fearless leaders!
December 26, 2008
scott douglas said:
While the population density of the Gaza strip is not up to Warsaw Ghetto standards, it is nonetheless currently the most crowded piece of hell on earth. Two thirds of the human beings trapped there are already refugees from Palestine, not native Gazans. The tactic of restricting caloric intake to weaken subject populations is not figuratively ‘Nazi,’ it is literally what took place in Warsaw and elsewhere under the Nazi terror regime. It is a war crime. As I type this footnote, there are Reuters reports of massive missile strikes beginning against the crowded urban enclave launched from aircraft of the Israeli government, supplied by US manufacturers and paid for largely with American tax dollars. You know, the money the US makes from your labor – leaving you the remainder “to buy the funeral-coats and anti-dotes they show (you) on TV.” While I recognize that there are at least two points of view in every national conflict, I cannot fathom any Zionist looking upon the actions of the Nation of Israel in this instance with anything but grave sadness, contempt, and a sickened stomach-curdled horror shot through with the looming Fear of God…
But enough of this useless hyperbole: Let the tanks roll!
December 27, 2008 | url
One imagines the Zionists see
One imagines the Zionists see a time coming when an impoverished U.S. calls its forces home and no longer has money to squander on the state of Israel and foreign aid and military arsenals for thuggish shitholes pretending democracy. They’re out to exterminate the Palestinians before Uncle Sam quits buying the bullets.
December 27, 2008 | url
yankee 30 said:
Yes, yes, and until Uncle Sam quits buying the bullets, we can only reel in horrorstruck awe! Though ‘defense’ will be the last sector to see budget cuts, the day is coming. The ‘live free or die’ ethic has merit, but, unfortunately, most of the dying is being done by the unarmed and unprotected. In this cruelest of meantimes, organized, peaceful, non-participation, is the only response. And may God have mercy.
December 27, 2008
Nice to know where our hard-earned tax money is going, eh?
Is it time to refuse to pay that portion that goes to pay for Zionazi thuggery yet?
Politics | Tags: European Union, Gaza Strip, Israel, Middle East, Politics of Israel, United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, UNRWA, World Food Programme | Comment (0)