On a wing and a prayer

Flying is one of the safest modes of travel — i.e., unless you are flying a Boeing 737 NG. As the following investigation by Tim Tate reveals, the FAA and Boeing have been covering up serious structural flaws with this most widely used model. Next time you are on a 737, just hope that the manufacturers have read Arthur Miller’s All My Sons.

Air travel is a question of trust, but a People & Power investigation asks what happens when that trust is shaken.

Pakistan’s Elephantine Corruption

by Tariq Ali

The Wikileaks confirm what we already know about Af-Pak. Pakistan is a US satrapy: its military and political leaders constitute a venal elite happy to kill and maim its people at the behest of a foreign power. The US proconsul in Islamabad, Anne Patterson, emerges as a shrewd diplomat, repeatedly warning her country of the consequences in Pakistan if they carry on as before. Amusing but hardly a surprise is Zardari reassuring the US that if he were assassinated his sister, Faryal Talpur, would replace him and all would continue as before. Always nice to know that the country is regarded by its ruler as a personal fiefdom.

Then we have the country’s military boss, General Kayani, sweetly suggesting that the Pushtun leader Asfandyar Wali Khan, a beneficiary of US funds, might be a possible president: confirmation, if any were needed, that the uniformed ones are the real power in the land, sharing it at the moment with the US Embassy.

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Government ‘politicising’ Pakistan aid

It has been over six weeks since heavy rains caused devastating floods across Pakistan and the UN has launched an unprecedented disaster appeal for $2bn. Pakistan has already received more than $1bn in emergency donations but some opposition politicians accuse the government of playing politics with international aid money. Al Jazeera’s Kamal Hyder asked the politicians representing both the opposition and the government if the flood victims are receiving aid regardless of their political affinity.

Pakistan: Between Drones and a Deluge

by Tariq Ali

As if everyday life in Pakistan weren’t dispiriting enough, last month the swift and turbulent Indus burst its banks and swathes of the country disappeared under water. Divine punishment, the poor said, but they were the ones who suffered. Allah rarely targets the rich. As the floods came and the country panicked, its president fled the bunker and went on a tour of inspection to France and Britain.

The floodwaters have now receded in many parts of the country, leaving 20 million people homeless. The province of Sindh, however, is still under threat and 800,000 people are marooned without food. Aid agencies estimate the bail-out costs for the country at between seven and ten billion dollars, but only $800 million has been pledged by foreign donors, in total contrast to the support given after the devastating earthquake of 2005. The rebuilt towns and villages are proof that not all the money was stolen that time. But despite this, little help has been forthcoming from abroad, the result of a combination of Islamophobia and distrust of the Zardari government on financial matters.

Did the rulers of Pakistan treat the worst natural disaster to hit their country as an emergency, and pull out all the stops without thinking of themselves or drooling at the prospects of foreign aid pouring in? Like hell they did. For the whole of August the plutocracy floundered hopelessly as the catastrophe grew. The army did its best, but was hindered by the war on terror. As nearly a million people came under threat from the floodwater in Jacobabad, the local authorities were informed that the nearby Shahbaz airbase could not be used for rescue operations. In response to a parliamentary question from the opposition, the health secretary, Khushnood Lashari, explained: ‘Health relief operations are not possible in the flood-affected areas of Jacobabad because the airbase is controlled by the United States.’ It was not necessary to add that those on the base were busy arming and dispatching drones to hit villages in northern Pakistan. In Swat, closer to the AfPak war zones, a detachment of marines was made available to airlift tribal elders to safety, in an attempt presumably to win hearts and minds. Some hope.

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Floods, Islamophobia, and Apathy

by Tariq Ali

While Zardari was inspecting his French chateau...

A disaster of biblical scope: the floods triggered by heavy monsoon rains a month ago have affected more than 17.2 million people and killed over 1,500, according to Pakistan’s disaster management body. August is the monsoon season in Pakistan. This year a hard rain keeps falling, which is why the floodwaters are not abating. Nearly two thousand deaths and over 20 million people are homeless. The man-made disasters – war in Afghanistan, its spillage into Pakistan – are bad enough. Now the country faces its worst ever natural disaster. Most governments would find it difficult to cope, but the current regime is virtually paralyzed.

Over the last sixty years, the ruling elite in the country has never been able to construct a social infrastructure for its people. This is a structural defect that goes deep and affects the bulk of the population adversely. Today the country’s rulers eagerly follow the neoliberal dictates of the IMF, to keep the loans flowing. Not helpful at the best of times they are useless when the country is undergoing its worst humanitarian crisis of recent decades.

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A Class War by Any Other Name

IDF Economics: Keynote Speaker Chief of the IDF General Staff, Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi addressing the audience at the Friends of the IDF 2010 National NY Gala Dinner, where 20 million dollars was raised

About a month ago I wrote an article about a bill proposition to heavily fine initiators and encouragers of a boycott directed at the state of Israel. On Wednesday, I joined a “Non Violence Short Course”. Today a friend posted an article on my Facebook wall [translation of important parts below] about the inflated “security budget”. I’m an activist in Israel, so naturally the boycott, nonviolence and the IDF budget all fall within my interest span. But this morning, as I read this very not-new news article about wining and dining generals, the assumptions tickling at last month’s article were driven home like a punch in the gut: Class war.

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No thanks, Ester Kurz

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s address to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee last week provided a fleeting glimpse of hidden corruption at the core of the US-Israel “special” relationship.  The inner halls of the annual AIPAC conference were a safe harbor for hardcore lobbyists buffeted by the Obama administration’s unyielding opposition to illegal settlements and Gen. David Petraeus’s analysis that American favoritism for Israel was putting US troops at risk.  Clinton, a politician who has received almost as much Israel lobby largess as her husband, publicly praised an AIPAC operative now known to have played a role in corrupting US-Israel Free Trade Area negotiations in 1984.

Irrepressible investigative  reporter Jeff Stein noted that an inconvenient archive of a 1984-1987 FBI investigation into Israeli-AIPAC theft of US government property and economic espionage began circulating across the Internet on March 10, 2010.  Former executive director Thomas Dine (who left AIPAC to work for the US government-run Al-Hurra Middle East satellite channel), chief lobbyist Douglas Bloomfield (now an omnipresent pundit for the Jerusalem Post and other media outlets) and Israeli Minister of Economics Dan Halpern (currently at the America-Israel Chamber of Commerce) all appear in the FBI’s investigation for their various roles in obtaining, duplicating, trafficking and covering up AIPAC’s possession of classified trade data stolen from 70 major US companies and workers groups opposed to the US-Israel Free Trade Area.

The purloined report is still classified, rendering it difficult to know precisely which trade secrets and confidential market data AIPAC and Israel used in their lobbying and export promotions to the US market. But the passage of time has quantified the sordid results of the theft.  The US-Israel Free Trade Area is an anomaly among bilateral US trade deals, producing an $80 billion cumulative deficit to the US since signed. This contrasts with the year 2009 $80 billion total surplus the US harvested from its other bilateral trade deals with such countries as Singapore, Australia and Morocco.  The institutionalized theft and routine misappropriations that tainted trade deal negotiations continue to this day.

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On the real “Climategate”

If you saw Johann Hari’s widely-circulated indictment of corruption in the conservation movement in The Nation, you should watch his interview from Tuesday’s Democracy Now! With Christine MacDonald, he lays out the real outage in the environmental community — the collusion between several of the largest conservation groups and some of the world’s worst polluters. As he wrote last week:

Groups like Conservation International are among the most trusted “brands” in America, pledged to protect and defend nature. Yet as we confront the biggest ecological crisis in human history, many of the green organizations meant to be leading the fight are busy shoveling up hard cash from the world’s worst polluters–and burying science-based environmentalism in return. Sometimes the corruption is subtle; sometimes it is blatant. In the middle of a swirl of bogus climate scandals trumped up by deniers, here is the real Climategate, waiting to be exposed.

MacDonald, meanwhile, has authored Green, Inc. which similarly exposes the complacency of a number of organizations in the wake of alarming corruption and corporate influence.

Bring on The Third Intifada!

After hearing that the Palestine Liberation Organization has decided to abandon a resolution requesting the Human Rights Council to forward Goldstone’s report to the UN Security Council, the thought flashed through my head that if I was Palestinian, I’d vote Hamas. What could have possibly possessed them, but a sheer disconnect from their people? One must ask, is their money that good?

Fatah Vs. Hamas
On many occasions, we that are born free (all is relative) find it hard to understand Palestinian mentality. Just this week, I’ve had exhausting debates about the safety of children, during the Bil’in weekly protest. Though I can’t defend or agree with allowing your children to be near the fence, when the army is 101% likely to fire gas grenades, I firmly believe that mindsets under occupation are something we don’t fully understand. Maybe when I’m a mother to a child that’s been snatched from his bed at night, arrested, beaten and interrogated, I’ll have a different perspective on danger.

By the same token, I believe it may be extraordinarily hard to make that fateful choice, when you’re at the voting booth. Although Hamas has been cynical towards its people during the Gaza massacre (claiming to have “won the war” and other flamboyant rhetoric), as if militaristic ego was a top priority; If I were Palestinian this latest in a long line of PLO sell-outs would seem much more cynical, to me.

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The Wall Street White House

Andrew Cockburn on ‘How Goldman Sachs and Citi Run the Show‘.

Is this where Obamas financial policies are made?
Is this where Obama's financial policies are made?

Robert Hormats, Vice Chairman of Goldman Sachs, is to be installed as Under Secretary of Economics, Business, and  Agricultural Affairs. This  comes as one more, probably unnecessary reminder of the total control exercised by Wall Street  over the Obama administration’s economic and financial policy.  True, Hormats is “a talker rather than a decider” according to one former White House official, but he will find plenty of old friends used to making decisions, almost all of  them uniformly disastrous for the U.S. and global economy.

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