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Posts Tagged ‘Current Events’

Israel Moves One Step Further Away From Democracy

In Benjamin Netanyahu, Foreign Policy, Israel, Mideast Peace, Politics on October 10, 2010 at 4:36 pm

And the United States says nothing, of course:

Cabinet ministers on Sunday approved by a majority vote a controversial proposal which would require every non-Jew wishing to become a citizen of Israel to pledge loyalty to “the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state.”

Twenty-two ministers voted in favor of the proposal, including most of Likud, Shas and Yisrael Beiteinu. Eight ministers were opposed, five of them from the Labor Party and three – Benny Begin, Dan Meridor and Michael Eitan – from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud.


Netanyahu’s Labor coalition partners believe that his support for the loyalty oath is a sop to Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, aimed at winning his Yisrael Beiteinu party’s support for an extension on a settlement construction freeze that expired late last month. The U.S. and EU have urged Israel to extend the construction freeze, and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has warned that he will quit the current round of peace talks if the moratorium on new building in the West Bank is allowed to expire.


CIA Chief Panetta: Iran could have 2 nukes in 2 years. Again.

In Foreign Policy, Iran, Israel, Mainstream Media, Neocons, News, Politics on June 27, 2010 at 6:57 pm

Gee, where have I heard this before?

“In an EXCLUSIVE interview on “This Week,” CIA Director Leon Panetta said if the Iranians chose to pursue making a nuclear weapon, they could have a bomb in two years.

In Iran, “there is a continuing debate right now about whether or not they ought to proceed with a bomb. But they clearly are developing their nuclear capability and that raises concerns,” Panetta said. “Just exactly what are their intentions?”

“We think they have enough low-enriched uranium right now for two weapons,” the CIA Chief said. “They do have to enrich it fully to get there. And we would estimate if they made that decision, it probably would take a year to get there. Probably take another year to develop the kind of weapon delivery system in order to make that viable,” he told host Jake Tapper.”[emphasis added]

So, where have we heard this before? Here:

“Iran is the center of terrorism, fundamentalism and subversion and is in my view more dangerous than Nazism, because Hitler did not possess a nuclear bomb, whereas the Iranians are trying to perfect a nuclear option.”

Benjamin Netanyahu 2009? Try again. These words were in fact uttered by another Israeli prime minister (and now Israeli president), Shimon Peres, in 1996. Four years earlier, in 1992, he’d predicted that Iran would have a nuclear bomb by 1999.

You can’t accuse the Israelis of not crying wolf. Ehud Barak, now defense minister, said in 1996 that Iran would be producing nuclear weapons by 2004.


The issue today is Iran and, more precisely, what President Barack Obama will make of Netanyahu’s prescription that, the economy aside, Obama’s great mission is “preventing Iran from gaining nuclear weapons” — an eventuality newly inscribed on Israeli calendars as “months” away.


Israel’s nuclear warheads, whose function is presumably deterrence of precisely powers like Iran, go unmentioned, of course.

Netanyahu also makes the grotesque claim that the terrible loss of life in the Iran-Iraq war (started by Iraq) “didn’t sear a terrible wound into the Iranian consciousness.” It did just that, which is why Iran’s younger generation seeks reform but not upheaval; and why the country as a whole prizes stability over military adventure.

Arab states, Netanyahu suggests, “fervently hope” that America will, if necessary, use “military power” to stop Iran going nuclear. My recent conversations, including with senior Saudi officials, suggest that’s wrong and the longstanding Israeli attempt to convince Arab states that Iran, not Israel, is their true enemy will fail again.

What’s going on here? Israel, as it has for nearly two decades, is trying to lock in American support and avoid any disadvantageous change in the Middle Eastern balance of power, now overwhelmingly tilted in Jerusalem’s favor, by portraying Iran as a monstrous pariah state bent on imminent nuclear war…

So, how many times is Iran going to get nukes in two years? We’ve been saying this for over a decade. But hey, don’t let the facts get in the way of a good headline. Wouldn’t it have been nice if Jake Tapper had asked Panetta about how the US and Israel have been saying this repeatedly and yet, here we are in 2010 and we’re still just TWO SHORT YEARS AWAY from Iran getting nukes.

Oh, and no mention of the other nuclear power in the region, right? Because that has nothing to do with anything, right? If the point of Israel’s nuclear arsenal is deterrence, then apparently it’s not working if they are claiming every five minutes that within two short years, Iran will have the capability to use nuclear weapons against them.

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It’s Official. Sarah Palin’s Speech at CSU Sucked

In Conservatives, Mainstream Media, News, Politics on June 27, 2010 at 4:48 pm

There was an open mic that caught the negative reaction of the press after the speech.

I have to say I agree with them. I am no Sarah Palin fan but even if she were a liberal, I’d be ashamed of someone who has no clue what they are talking about. She strings together a bunch of soundbites, does her usual sarcasm thing, and that’s it, an easy 200-300K for her effort. It’s all rather pathetic.

It’s only a matter of time until Palin comes out swinging against the “Lamestream Media” because she, like so many on the right, sees herself as a perpetual victim. Annoying.

Joan Walsh at Salon has more.

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Frank Rich Nails It: Obama is Naive, if Not Totally Clueless

In Foreign Policy, Mainstream Media, News, Politics on June 27, 2010 at 12:28 pm

But the question is, will they learn from the events of the last several weeks? It’s not often that I cite with approval a NYT editorial, but this one is right on the money:

What we saw was this: 1) Much of the Beltway establishment was blindsided by Michael Hastings’s scoop, an impressive feat of journalism by a Washington outsider who seemed to know more about what was going on in Washington than most insiders did; 2) Obama’s failure to fire McChrystal months ago for both his arrogance and incompetence was a grievous mistake that illuminates a wider management shortfall at the White House; 3) The present strategy has produced no progress in this nearly nine-year-old war, even as the monthly coalition body count has just reached a new high.

If we and the president don’t absorb these revelations and learn from them, the salutary effects of the drama’s denouement, however triumphant for Obama in the short run, will be for naught.

There were few laughs in the 36 hours of tumult, but Jon Stewart captured them with a montage of cable-news talking heads expressing repeated shock that an interloper from a rock ’n’ roll magazine could gain access to the war command and induce it to speak with self-immolating candor. Politico theorized that Hastings had pulled off his impertinent coup because he was a freelance journalist rather than a beat reporter, and so could risk “burning bridges by publishing many of McChrystal’s remarks.”


Symbolically enough, Hastings was reporting his McChrystal story abroad just as Beltway media heavies and their most bold-faced subjects were dressing up for the annual White House correspondents’ dinner. Rolling Stone has never bought a table or thrown an afterparty for that bacchanal, and it has not even had a Washington bureau since the mid-1970s. Yet the magazine has not only chronicled the McChrystal implosion — and relentlessly tracked the administration’s connections to the “vampire squid” of Goldman Sachs — but has also exposed the shoddy management of the Obama Interior Department. As it happens, the issue of Rolling Stone with the Hastings story also contains a second installment of Tim Dickinson’s devastating dissection of the Ken Salazar cohort, this time detailing how its lax regulation could soon lead to an even uglier repeat of the Gulf of Mexico fiasco when BP and Shell commence offshore drilling in the Arctic Ocean.

The Interior Department follies will end promptly only if Obama has learned the lessons of the attenuated McChrystal debacle. Lesson No. 1 should be to revisit some of his initial hiring decisions. The general’s significant role in the Pentagon’s politically motivated cover-up of Pat Tillman’s friendly-fire death in 2004 should have been disqualifying from the start. The official investigation into that scandal — finding that McChrystal peddled “inaccurate and misleading assertions” — was unambiguous and damning.

Once made the top commander in Afghanistan, the general was kept on long past his expiration date. He should have been cashiered after he took his first public shot at Joe Biden during a London speaking appearance last October. That’s when McChrystal said he would not support the vice president’s more limited war strategy, should the president choose it over his own. According to Jonathan Alter in his book “The Promise,” McChrystal’s London remarks also disclosed information from a C.I.A. report that the general “had no authority to declassify.” These weren’t his only offenses. McChrystal had gone on a showboating personal publicity tour that culminated with “60 Minutes” — even as his own histrionic Afghanistan recommendation somehow leaked to Bob Woodward, disrupting Obama’s war deliberations. The president was livid, Alter writes, but McChrystal was spared because of a White House consensus that he was naïve, not “out of control.”

We now know, thanks to Hastings, that the general was out of control and the White House was naïve. The price has been huge. The McChrystal cadre’s utter distaste for its civilian colleagues on the war team was an ipso facto death sentence for the general’s signature counterinsurgency strategy. You can’t engage in nation building without civilian partnership. As Rachel Maddow said last week of McChrystal, “the guy who was promoting and leading the counterinsurgency strategy has shown by his actions that even he doesn’t believe in it.”

This fundamental contradiction helps explain some of the war’s failures under McChrystal’s aborted command, including the inability to hold Marja (pop. 60,000), which he had vowed to secure in pure counterinsurgency fashion by rolling out a civilian “government in a box” after troops cleared it of the Taliban. Such is the general’s contempt for leadership outside his orbit that it extends even to our allies. The Hastings article opens with McChrystal mocking the French at a time when every ally’s every troop is a precious, dwindling commodity in Afghanistan.


You have to wonder whether McChrystal’s defenders in Washington even read Hastings’s article past its inflammatory opening anecdotes. If so, they would have discovered that the day before the Marja offensive, the general’s good pal Hamid Karzai kept him waiting for hours so he could finish a nap before signing off on the biggest military operation of the year. Poor McChrystal was reduced to begging another official to wake the sleeping president so he could get on with the show.

The war, supported by a steadily declining minority of Americans, has no chance of regaining public favor unless President Obama can explain why American blood and treasure should be at the mercy of this napping Afghan president. Karzai stole an election, can’t provide a government in or out of a box, and has in recent months threatened to defect to the Taliban and accused American forces of staging rocket attacks on his national peace conference. Until last week, Obama’s only real ally in making his case was public apathy. Next to unemployment and the oil spill, Karzai and Afghanistan were but ticks on our body politic, even as the casualty toll passed 1,000. As a senior McChrystal adviser presciently told Hastings, “If Americans pulled back and started paying attention to this war, it would become even less popular.”

The more Obama talks about this war, the more he sounds like George W. Bush, who as we know, didn’t know what the fuck he was doing.

Lanny Davis: The Fake Liberal Strawman

In Economy, Mainstream Media, News, Politics on June 26, 2010 at 11:21 am

Lanny Davis is one of those Democrats that Fox News and the WSJ love- he’s always willing to slam the liberal base of the party and because he’s a Democrat who claims to be a “liberal” his criticisms of the left are accepted as per se legitimate by the corporate media.

Here’s Davis’ last bit of nonsense over at The Hill:

Two events last week involving elements of the Democratic Party who call themselves the “true progressives” show a danger they represent to the progressive change they say they want to effect. Together they offer President Barack Obama an opportunity for a “Sister Souljah moment” — perhaps to save the Democratic Party majority in both houses of Congress, as well as his progressive agenda in the last two years of his administration.

First was the success of Sen. Blanche Lincoln in June 8’s Arkansas Democratic primary, despite a campaign organized by these self-described progressives, along with certain labor unions. Lincoln won the primary, despite the confident predictions of these liberal-left groups at the “netroots.” Labor unions spent nearly $10 million trying to defeat Lincoln, primarily, they said, because she opposed the “card-check” method of organizing a union. Yet labor supported her opponent, Lt. Gov. Bill Halter, who also opposed card-check. Go figure.


The second event was a conference on that June 8 primary day, held in Washington and organized by the Campaign for America’s Future, a self-described “progressive” organization, which cheered denunciations of Obama for “retreat on Guantánamo [and] no movement on worker rights or comprehensive immigration reform,” according to The Washington Post’s Dana Milbank, and shouted down and nearly prevented liberal House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) from speaking. “Progressives have grown ever more dissatisfied [with Obama’s policies] for good reason,” Robert Borosage, the organizer of the conference, said.


But this “eating your own children” syndrome by these so-called progressives also offers Obama an opportunity for a “Sister Souljah moment” — i.e., challenging the base of his own party engaging in these self-destructive tactics.

He can challenge those who prefer the perfect over the good, who seem to prefer to defeat Blue Dog House Democrats and Senate moderates from Republican or marginal districts and states, even if that means setting back the progressive cause substantially with the Republicans winning back the House and narrowing the margin in the Senate way below the current filibuster-proof 60 votes.

That would be the right thing to do for President Obama — and it would be the right politics. By doing so, he will have a chance of winning back those political independents and moderates who supported him for president in 2008 but, polls show, have now become less supportive of him and the Democratic Party….

Let me translate Lanny Davis’ argument- progressives should just STFU and stop complaining that Obama has backed off of all of his key campaign promises/policy positions that HE articulated, and let the adults in the DNC and DLC handle things because, after all, the Republicans are worse.

This reasoning is why nothing ever changes. This is why gays still have to serve in silence in the military, why BP was allowed to operate with minimal to no regulatory oversight, why the financial crisis almost destroyed the global economy and why we became a nation which tolerates such undemocratic policies as torture, rendition and targeted assassinations of Americans abroad.

That progressives and many moderates elected Obama because they wanted REAL change and because they agreed with his stated policy positions during the campaign, is of little importance to Lanny Davis. But he is not alone in this “Blame the Liberals” campaign. To hear these faux liberal establishment types talk, you would think that Obama had campaigned on a platform to NOT close Gitmo, to NOT roll back some of Bush’s most repugnant, secretive terrorism policies, to NOT take on Wall Street full force (as opposed to the window dressing legislation he’s lauding).

But then again, Lanny Davis is the guy who went and worked PR for the coup government of Honduras after the elected President was kidnapped and illegally spirited off to another country, so what can you expect? Basically, policies which maintain the elite status quo benefit Lanny, so anything that threatens to disrupt that is going to be a target of his ire. The thing is, no one really on the left really buys into Lanny’s BS because we’re not fooled by his “I’m a liberal but…” nonsense.

Greg Grandin of NYU pretty much exposes Lanny Davis for the corporatist fraud that he is:

Last Friday, I debated lawyer-turned-lobbyist Lanny Davis, now working for the business backers of the recent Honduran coup, on Democracy Now! It actually wasn’t much of a debate — in the way that word means an exchange of ideas — as Davis was fast out of the box, preemptively trying to taint host Amy Goodman and me as “ideologues.”


Recently, Davis has been hired by corporations to derail the labor-backed Employee Free Choice Act, which would make it easier for unions to organize, all the while touting himself as a “pro-labor liberal.”

Davis was also the chief U.S. lobbyist of the military dictatorship in Pakistan in the late 90s and played an important role in strengthening relations between then President Bill Clinton and de facto president General Perez Musharraf.

Now Lanny Davis finds himself defending another de facto regime in Honduras that is engaging in “grave and systemic” political repression, suspending due process, harassing independent journalists, killing or disappearing at least ten people, and detaining hundreds as “constitutional,” all the while touting himself as a (Honduran) constitutional expert.

The Honduran coup occurred on June 28, when soldiers, working on behalf of a small group of business and political elite who control the country, kidnapped democratically elected president Manuel Zelaya and sent him into exile. Since then, the military-backed de facto regime of Roberto Micheletti has tried to argue to the world that it was acting constitutionally, even though nearly every country in Latin America, along with the European Union, isn’t buying it. Only in the U.S. is there a debate as to whether Micheletti government is legal or not — largely thanks to the lobbying efforts of Lanny Davis.

Davis’s argument is based on a disingenuous description of the legal and political maneuvers by Zelaya’s opponents in the Supreme Court and Congress prior to the coup. He calls these power grabs constitutional.

Never mind that several clear violations of Honduras’ constitution were carried out on June 28th, including the detention of president Zelaya by the armed forces (violation of articles 293 and 272), his forced deportation to another country (violation of art. 102) and Congress’ decision to destitute the president (this is not within Congress’ constitutional attributions).

But the best response to this position — in addition to pointing out that Davis’ description of events is so selective as to be false (see below for details) — is that throughout Latin America’s long history of coups, those who executed them usually counted on legal and political backing. Pinochet in Chile, for example, had both.

In retrospect, I should have made this point. But Davis was running through so many lies — they were too focused and polished to be simple mistakes or errors of interpretation — it was hard to catch up.

Through the program, host Amy Goodman demonstrated almost superhuman restraint, professionally refusing to respond to Davis’s provocations. His very first lie accused her of an ideological rant, for simply reporting the truth, for saying that Zelaya accepted a proposal to settle the crisis brokered by Costa Rican president Oscar Arias. This is demonstrably true — Zelaya has repeatedly indicated a willingness to accept the compromise; Micheletti, on the other hand, is playing for time until November’s regularly scheduled presidential elections — yet Davis repeatedly insisted otherwise. My favorite part of the debate took place about a third into the show, when in response to me pointing out that he was carrying out ad hominem attacks, Davis said that I was the one engaging in ad hominem, since I used the word “elite” to describe supporters of the coup. “‘Elite’ is an ad hominem word,” Davis said.

You can read the point-by-point take down of Davis’ lies about the Honduran coup here.

And then of course there is Lanny Davis’ “Israel-First” philosophy which self-defeatingly claims that essentially, Israel can do no wrong and that they should NEVER be publicly called out for ANYTHING, ever. Lanny begins every one of his hasbara meme’s on HuffPo or The Hill or wherever else with the empty assertion that he supports a two state solution. Big deal. By making the claim publicly, he hopes to not come across as the pandering, apologist that he is. What good is verbally supporting a two state solution when any attempt to get the parties to make concrete steps in that direction is violently opposed by the AIPAC crowd, of which Lanny is a proud member? Any call for Israel to stop building illegal settlements is tantamount to a full revocation of U.S. support for Israel in Davis’ knee-jerk, Israel-First world.

Of course, those of us who actually support Israel, realize that sometimes friends have to disclose uncomfortable truths and not always just in private. Blindly supporting the Israeli government even when their policies are dangerous, self-defeating and in some cases, illegal, is not “helping” or “supporting” Israel. In fact, it simply adds to their growing isolation. To not make any distinction between the policies of Likud and the other more moderate political parties in Israel is just ridiculous, as is the refusal to question the policies and hateful rhetoric of people like Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman. To blame everything on Israel’s enemies while ignoring the frequent slights Israel levels at her allies, is hardly sound policy. It’s time Israel starts to act like the mature, sovereign nation state it is (or should be) and start taking responsibility for some of its more self-defeating policies rather than simply running behind the U.S. for cover. But as long as people like Lanny Davis, Anthony Weiner, Chuck Schumer, Abe Foxman, etc. manipulate media coverage of the issue and use the age-old tactic of claiming any criticism of Israel represents anti-Semitism or anti-Israeli sentiment, it’s unlikely that the government of Benyamin Netanyahu will change course any time soon.

Elizabeth Warren Supports Plans for Consumer Protection Agency

In Consumer Protection, Corporate Malfeasance, Economy, News, Politics on June 23, 2010 at 6:56 pm

Ok, I’m an Elizabeth Warren fan- if more people were like her and more importantly, if more members of Congress had heeded her advice a decade ago we might not have had the global financial crisis. She advocated years ago for a Consumer Financial Protection Agency and during the campaign, Barack Obama said he supported her vision of what it should look like. Today however, two years after the economic meltdown the White House has backed off its original demands for an agency that actually has teeth and seems to have left it entirely in the hands of Congress, where the banking lobby is doing everything possible to kill it.

Over at the Huffington Post, this caught my eye:

Elizabeth Warren, the Harvard professor who originated the idea of the consumer financial protection agency, supports the current version of the bureau that Wall Street reform conference committee negotiators are settling on, she told the Huffington Post.

Though her endorsement isn’t a ringing one, Warren, who chairs the congressional panel overseeing the bailout, said that the version emerging from negotiators is strong enough to rein in abuses in the lending industry despite exemptions that Congress has carved out for auto dealers.

“I’m disappointed that Congress seems to be taking the side of auto lenders and big banks over the Pentagon, community banks, and all the public interest groups that oppose an auto dealer carve-out, and there are some other problems as well,” said Warren. “But right now the bureau has the authority and the independence it needs to fix the broken credit market. I keep waiting for an incoming missile that means the banks have won their fight to destroy this consumer agency, but that hasn’t happened so far — and I don’t think it will.”

Indeed, the bureau was left for dead almost as often as the public option was during the health care debate, yet it rose after each assault. Backers of the CFPA — which has now become the CFPB — wanted an independent director, an independent source of funding that Congress can’t cut off and independent authority to write and enforce rules.


While the CFPB isn’t a stand-alone agency — it will be housed within the Federal Reserve — the Fed does not have authority over it. Instead, the Fed is required to fund the bureau, meaning members of future Congresses can’t cut off funding for the CFPB….

You know, the financial industry essentially almost brought down the entire global economy and the deregulation, predatory practices and total lack of business ethics all played a role. And yet despite all this, the democrats (including the White House) and the GOP still can’t even get behind strong consumer protections. Where is the outrage? This should have been easy for the Democrats given the palpable and justified anger at Wall Street. And yet, the Democrats, despite controlling both houses of Congress and the White House, couldn’t lead a bunch of ants across a picnic table.

If they won’t stand up for the average consumer because of pressure from the very people who brought the economy crashing down, then what is it exactly that they do stand for?

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Fareed Zakaria Politely Points Out That John McCain is a Total Ass

In Foreign Policy, Iran, Mainstream Media, Neocons, News, Politics on June 20, 2010 at 6:54 pm

Do you remember way back when, there was a man named Senator John McCain who while quite conservative, would still stick to certain principles and would buck his own party, and in particular, the far right? Well, that guy is gone- he left sometime around 2005 and in 2008 he morphed into an embarrassingly predictable wingnut who repeated every neoconservative and far right talking point that his advisers could spoon feed him followed by a shot of Ensure.

McCain thinks regime change in Iran is a swell idea. Why does he think this? Because his knowledge of the geopolitical landscape of Iran is so finely tuned that he can make such a radical proposition? No. Remember, this is the guy who helped sell the Iraq War and sat back quietly while the administration tilted at windmills in Iraq while negligently allowing the Taliban to regain control of Afghanistan. It’s pretty safe to say John McCain doesn’t know, and doesn’t care, all that much about the politics of Iran. And thank God we have real journalists like Fareed Zakaria (as opposed to say, Wolf Blitzer) who are willing to point that out:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

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Obama Finding Another Excuse to Slow Down Repeal of DADT

In Gay Rights, News, Politics on June 20, 2010 at 3:59 pm

Is it me or does Secretary Gates not look too disappointed that the POTUS may have to veto a spending bill with a provision calling for the repeal of DADT in it? Even when Gates says he supports the repeal, I don’t think he does and calling for yet another study is just going to slow down the repeal for another year or more.

Also, while it’s one thing to be prepared for a big policy change, it’s quite another to essentially let the rank and file military decide if they support the policy change or not. If that had been the case at the time the military was ordered to desegregate it never would have happened. The message being sent from the top brass, including Admiral Mullen and the head of the Department of Defense, Bob Gates, is that those who don’t agree with the policy change should make very sure that they voice that disapproval. This sends a very mixed message and in my view, is a way of sabotaging the repeal.

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Israeli PR Backfires. Again.

In Israel, News, Politics on June 20, 2010 at 2:11 pm

The Israel PR machine has been claiming it has been the victim of unfair treatment from the U.N. Correspondents Association, but as it turns out, that isn’t the case. Rather, Israel wanted the Association to set aside its rules regarding a mandatory Q&A which would take place after Israel presented their documentary footage of what they claim happened aboard the Mavi Marmara when nine activists were killed:

Israel has engaged in a war of words with the United Nations Correspondents Association which hosted an event during which a passenger on board the Mavi Marmara was allowed to show a video that was shot as Israeli commandoes raided the aid ship.

The Israeli mission to the UN took aim at UNCA in a letter dated June 17. It says Israel was denied the opportunity to present its point of view to UN journalists and demands an apology.

“Offering UN media facilities to screen video produced by a one-sided activist while actively preventing a Member State of the United Nations an opportunity to respond in real time is severely unethical,” Israeli spokesperson Mirit Cohen wrote in her complaint.

Cohen had asked to show a five minute film put together by the IDF right after a screening of footage smuggled out of Israel by Brazilian-American activist Iara Lee.

She told the Israeli press that she was asked to reschedule at the last minute.

But UNCA president, Giampaolo Pioli, fired back.

… It was you who turned down our offer to screen your Israeli film and make your statement directly before or after Ms. Lee’s presentation, you who refused to take the stage alongside Ms Lee to present your side of the story, you who declined to take questions from UNCA journalists – a requirement for all UNCA presentations.

Why can’t Israel just accept the rules, go show their film, answer some questions and be done with it? Why does everything always have to be some big anti-Israel conspiracy? Sometimes all it is is Israel’s refusal to follow the same rules that everyone else is asked to follow. That’s not victimization, that’s just being difficult. And if you think I’m anti-Israel, think again. I am anti-Likudnik. I think the policies of Benyamin Netanyahu are a disaster for Israel, and by extension, the U.S.

To get a better idea of just how Israel tried to turn the tables on the Correspondents Association when they found out they might have to, *gasp*, do what every other nation or organization does and actually answer questions after the film is shown, here is the email exchange between the head of the Association and the spokesperson for the Israeli Mission to the U.N.:

Email exchange between Pioli and Cohen from June 10:

From Mirit Cohen:

Please find bellow the link to the short film from the IDF spokesperson unit re the events on the Mavi Marmara, which we ask to screen today after the other film. We will make a short statment as well.”

Thank you,

Mirit Cohen.

From Giampaolo Pioli:

Dear Mirit

We must show the IDF film after the Q and A with Iara Lee

UN correspondent will attend your event and you will have the same Q and A time.


From Mirit Choen:

That won’t going to happen, I’m sorry. It’s only five minutes that I insist to screen right after her film as a comment. If you won’t allow it the Israeli mission will consider to send a formal letter of complaint to the SG and you should know that the Israeli press going to write about this saga.

Please let me know what you decide.

From Giampaolo Pioli:

Dear Mirit,

Do you think it would work to show your film and make your statement at 10 minutes before 4pm (1550)? we can send out an email now to all UNCA members so that we get back-to-back film showings. The advantage is that you would get the first word.

We would like to repeat our request that you take questions. UNCA members agreed after a problematic climate change event last year that everyone using UNCA as a forum for presentations must take questions. If you do not, that’s up to you, but you will get a few questions thrown at you and there’s nothing we can do to stop that.

Please let me know asap if you can live with that.



From Mirit Cohen:

Thanks Giampaolo,

But I have to admit that I am exhausted from all this process and we won’t take part at this one sided event.

Thank you anyway and I do hope for a better co-operation in the future.


The complaint from the Israeli Spokesperson:

Dear Mr. Pioli,

I write this letter of complaint to officially protest your mishandling of the events surrounding the screening of footage by Ms. Iara Lee on 9 June 2010 at United Nations Headquarters in New York.

Offering UN media facilities to screen video produced by a one-sided activist while actively preventing a Member State of the United Nations an opportunity to respond in real time is severely unethical. In the current circumstances, your decision to ban the Permanent Mission of Israel from offering any feedback or comment during the aforementioned screening ensured that the reporters invited to the event would be offered only part of the story rather than a more complete set of facts so that they themselves could have made an informed analysis of the events in question. Furthermore, the fact that you cancelled the participation of the Permanent Mission of Israel only two hours prior to the commencement of the screening raises grave doubts as to the reasons behind this decision.

I have shared these concerns with you directly, though I believe that the members of the UN Correspondents Association deserve a more comprehensive set of facts regarding the events that took place onboard the Mavi Marmara on 31 May 2010. As such, I have decided to share with the members of UNCA the footage prepared by Israel.

In conclusion, I certainly expect that you will look into the decision that led to Israel’s non-participation in the event on 9 June. Furthermore, I expect an official apology from you and your association regarding this mistake. I – along with fair-minded journalists – expect that you as the President of the United Nations Correspondents Association would exercise responsible journalistic practices and demonstrate a commitment to balanced and objective news.

Thank you for attention to this unfortunate matter.


Mirit Cohen

Spokesperson, Mission of Israel to the UN

UNCA’s response:

Dear Ms Cohen,

Your letter of protest came as a surprise to members of the United Nations Correspondents Association. It is factually incorrect and distorts the exchanges that took place on June 10 (not June 9) between UNCA and your mission.

Contrary to your claim, at no time were we “actively preventing a Member State of the United Nations an opportunity to respond in real time” to the screening of footage by Ms. Iara Lee at United Nations Headquarters in New York. You know very well that that’s not what happened. Even more preposterous is your insinuation that we have some kind of ulterior motive: “(T)he fact that you cancelled the participation of the Permanent Mission of Israel only two hours prior to the commencement of the screening raises grave doubts as to the reasons behind this decision.”

Instead it was you who turned down our offer to screen your Israeli film and make your statement directly before or after Ms. Lee’s presentation, you who refused to take the stage alongside Ms. Lee to present your side of the story, you who declined to take questions from UNCA journalists – a requirement for all UNCA presentations.

What was your reason for turning down our offers? You were tired out by our discussions during which you raised your voice with me and rejected all of our proposals for how you could participate. As you put it in your email: “I have to admit that I am exhausted from all this process and we won’t take part at this one sided event.” (see our email exchange below).

UNCA sees no reason to apologise. UNCA Executive Committee members behaved fairly and professionally, offering both sides the chance to present their version of what happened on May 31. We wanted a balanced event but you were not willing to take part in one. Your approach to our organisation was both undignified and unprofessional. If anyone is owed an apology it is the United Nations Correspondents Association.

We hope to have better co-operation in the future based on mutual respect.

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Obama Restarts Illegal Spying Program

In News, Politics on June 20, 2010 at 1:43 pm

Who’d have thought that the great Barack Obama, the guy who in 2008 presented himself as the liberal alternative to Hillary Clinton, would be continuing some of the Bush administration’s most odious anti-terrorism policies?

From Raw Story:

The Pentagon’s spy unit has quietly begun to rebuild a database for tracking potential terrorist threats that was shut down after it emerged that it had been collecting information on American anti-war activists.

The Defense Intelligence Agency filed notice this week that it plans to create a new section called Foreign Intelligence and Counterintelligence Operation Records, whose purpose will be to “document intelligence, counterintelligence, counterterrorism and counternarcotic operations relating to the protection of national security.”

But while the unit’s name refers to “foreign intelligence,” civil liberties advocates and the Pentagon’s own description of the program suggest that Americans will likely be included in the new database.

FICOR replaces a program called Talon, which the DIA created in 2002 under then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld as part of the counterterrorism efforts following the 9/11 attacks. It was disbanded in 2007 after it emerged that Talon had retained information on anti-war protesters, including Quakers, even after it was determined they posed no threat to national security.

So what’s wrong this? Well, Talon was stopped but the illegal information the program obtained will possibly be transferred to the Foreign Intelligence and Counterintelligence Operation Records (FICOR). It kind of makes you wonder why the non-terrorism-related domestic information obtained by Talon was even kept by the Defense Intelligence Agency. Also, given the title of the program contains the word “Foreign” it raises the question as to just how much “domestic” spying will be going on. Remember the good old days when the government needed a warrant prior to a search and seizure and spying on Americans was off limits without said warrant? Well, those days are over. Given FICOR will retain Social Security numbers, and only Americans have such numbers, it’s pretty obvious that there is a domestic component to this program:

“It’s a little hard to tell what this is exactly, but we do know that DIA took over ‘offensive counterintelligence’ for the DoD once CIFA was abandoned,” said Mike German, a former FBI Special Agent who is now policy counsel with the American Civil Liberties Union. “It therefore makes sense that this new DIA data base would be collecting the same types of information that CIFA collected improperly, so Americans should be just as concerned.”

The Defense Department has also started collecting Suspicious Activity Reports, German pointed out, “which they share with federal, state and local law enforcement through the FBI eGuardian system.”

Tuesday’s announcement in the Federal Register was vague about the kinds of intelligence the new records center will hold.

It said that it would hold information on “individuals involved in, or of interest to, DoD intelligence, counterintelligence, counterterrorism and counter-narcotic operations or analytical projects as well as individuals involved in foreign intelligence and/or training activities.”

The kinds of records it intends to hold, according to the Federal Register, include “Social Security Number (SSN), address, citizenship documentation, biometric data, passport number, vehicle identification number and vehicle/vessel license data.”

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