The Swedish national pension fund AP7 is the latest institution to follow the socially responsible investment example of Dutch ASN Bank by excluding the French transportation giant Alstom from its portfolio. Alstom was excluded because of the company’s involvement in Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land.
Sunday, March 22 was World Water Day. The environment editor of the Sunday Herald Rob Edwards did a decent report on the growing water crisis around the world which includes interviews with my friends Tommy Kane and Kyle Mitchell, two of the world’s leading experts on water. However, the article did not emphasize how privatization is exacerbating the crisis. Here I produce in full warnings from both Tommy and Kyle, who later today will also be introducing the Scottish premiere of the award-winning film Blue Gold: World Water Wars at 7pm in Strathclyde University’s McCance Building, Lecture Theatre 1. (There will be a wine reception to follow.) The event is open to all, so if you are in the vicinity do drop by.
In Scotland despite – or possibly because of – the overwhelming rejection of water privatisation at the now famous Strathclyde referendum there has been a concerted, clever and tacit campaign by legislators, regulators, think tanks and businesses to turn Scottish Water into a private company in all but name. By changing its corporate structure, outsourcing contracts to private companies and tapping into the Private Finance Initiative a public sector body has been almost overwhelmingly commercialised. Worryingly, these changes are conducive to a future private ownership structure.
Human Rights Watch has released a new detailed report charging the Israeli government with committing numerous and repeated grave violations of the laws of war. The report entitled ‘Rain of Fire’ focuses on the illegal use of white phosphorus in Gaza and is only the latest in a growing series of evidence documenting Israeli war crimes. Additionaly, HRW “found no evidence that Hamas fighters used Palestinian civilians as human shields – a key Israeli claim – in the area at the time of the attacks it researched.” Here is the Guardian’s brief summary of HRW’s main findings:
Israel’s military fired white phosphorus over crowded areas of Gaza repeatedly and indiscriminately in its three-week war, killing and injuring civilians and committing war crimes, Human Rights Watch said today.
In a 71-page report, the rights group said the repeated use of air-burst white phosphorus artillery shells in populated areas of Gaza was not incidental or accidental, but revealed “a pattern or policy of conduct”.
An article in yesterday’s Financial Times reported some interesting (if characteristically deluded) perspectives from the Israeli right in its closing paragraphs. International condemnation of Israel’s latest atrocities has apparently been blamed on the ‘Palestinian PR Machine’. At first I thought this ‘machine’ was as subtle and obscure as other figments of the neocon/Likudnik imagination. However, readers should be aware that according to a security source of mine it is indeed as powerful and frightful as these bizarre statements suggest and furthermore it can be launched within 45 minutes. Its existence is also confirmed by Emanuele Ottolenghi of St Antony’s College, Oxford (oh yes and the American Jewish Committee’s Transatlantic Institute).
So it’s no laughing matter. In fact it’s so powerful that it requires an even greater propaganda assault than Israel has already launched (in retaliation naturally). According to the Financial Times:
To counter these forces and repair Israel’s standing, one rightwing commentator this week went so far as to call for an Israeli ministry for PR. Adi Mintz said the ministry should be fitted out with “many dozens of video teams, editors and producers that would generate materials and immediately distribute them to all media outlets”. Israel’s message, he added, should be heard not just in America, but also “on television screens in Romania and China”.
Edward Said – Culture and Imperialism (57:23): MP3
Imperial power is constructed on a bedrock not only of force but of culture as well. Culture provides the underpinning, justification and validation of empire. Its crudest manifestation is perhaps Kipling’s “White man’s burden.” A more refined version is the French “mission civilisatrice,” civilizing mission. Imperialism is often thought of as a European phenomenon of the past. In fact it continues today in new shapes and forms. The US carries out its imperial policies behind the facade of democracy and freedom. Culture and politics produce a system of control that transcends military power to include a hegemony of representations and images that dominate the imaginations of both the oppressor and the oppressed.
I am stealing Glenn Greenwald’s characteristically brilliant post on the incestuous relationship between the elite media and the political class. Bear in mind that Howard Kurtz is the same hack who led the government counteroffensive against Gary Webb (see here and here) — the journalist who had exposed a CIA operation, later confirmed by an internal investigation, that showed that the agency had been funding its covert ops in Central America by aiding the smuggling of crack cocained into California — by destroying his career. Here Greenwald destroys Kurtz and all that he represents.
Howard Kurtz: government and media need a “cease-fire” now and then
(updated below – Update II – Update III – Update IV)
I know the [DC media/political] dinners may project an image that we’re all just a bunch of cozy Washington insiders, but I don’t think they’re that big a deal. There’s such a built-in adversarial relationship between the press and the pols that spending a couple of evenings in a kind of light-hearted cease-fire doesn’t strike me as a terrible thing.
That is some very penetrating media criticism there. The media and political leaders are at each other’s throats so viciously, they have such sharply conflicting interests, that it’s a wonder they can even be in the same room together without physical confrontation. For instance, it was the same Howie Kurtz who, in 2004, wrote this about what happened at his own newspaper: Continue reading “You know, fiction!”
Frank Rich had an excellent column in the Sunday New York Times in which he suggested that President Obama’s economic team is unsuited to deal with the financial crisis. “I fear,” he wrote, “that too many of the administration’s officials are too marinated in the insiders’ culture to police it, reform it or own up to their own past complicity with it.” Let’s hope his fears are proven wrong.
But Rich’s column points to a larger and possibly more disturbing feature of our predicament: very few of the country’s economic experts foresaw the tsunami that is now upon us. Indeed, most of them thought that the global economy was working well and needed nothing more than some tweaking here and there. This is why Obama ended up appointing a team of economic experts who not only failed to see the storm coming, but in the case of Timothy Geithner and Larry Summers, promoted policies that helped cause it. Simply put, there were hardly any sagacious business people, economists, or policymakers who he could have turned to for help.