Since absolutely no one has expressed any interest, I thought I'd keep everyone informed about my toings and froings and the mysterious 'Project X' I talked about a while back. Basically I have been far too busy to post recently as have been doing about three jobs, but from mid August this situation should resolve itself. Also, 'Project X', which got started, then stopped, might be becoming activated again. Or not. I will post as soon as I know. If it goes ahead then this blog will become much more of the music and arts type blog it was meant to be, and politics will be shifted off to another home.
Meanwhile I am going to attempt to post some music
cos that's what Atrios does and he my hero. Enjoy. Or not .
Divide and Conquer
This should all be borne in mind when we hear bleating about civil rights and so forth in Venezuela and Bolivia.
'On January 25, Uruguay signed a Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) with the United States that could ultimately dismantle Mercosur and isolate Uruguay in the southern cone....A TIFA, many practiced trade experts say, is often the prelude to a Free Trade Agreement (FTA). If Uruguay ultimately decides to sign a FTA with the U.S.— an option now being heavily debated and which Uruguayan officials have not ruled out—it would come in direct violation of Montevideo’s membership terms in Mercosur. Due to this dispute, Mercosur stands precariously at the brink of unraveling at a time when bilateral disputes and diverging agendas of the five full members seem to be taking center stage at the expense of their solidarity and all-important economic cohesion.....Despite Vázquez’s provocative TIFA signing with the U.S., opposition to a U.S.-Uruguay trade deal remains strong within his own country. Reinaldo Gargano, Uruguay’s foreign minister, strongly opposes a FTA with the U.S. In his support of Uruguay’s ongoing allegiance to Mercosur, Gargano stressed “I continue working for a better Common Market of the South.”.....The question still remains why the U.S. is pushing so emphatically for trade arrangement with Uruguay, with which, relatively speaking, it has only a negligible volume of trade. With a GDP of just $13 billion, a bilateral deal between Uruguay and the U.S. would be, according to the Financial Times, “economically insignificant for the US.” Yet the U.S. still pushes the merger. In truth, the major incentive behind the U.S. desire to sign a FTA with Uruguay may be less about what’s best for the small nation and more about working to unravel Mercosur and build up White House diplomatic and economic leverage in the southern cone.....Unquestionably, Mercosur is viewed by Washington as posing a threat to U.S. interests in South America. The bloc directly and successfully thwarted the now floundering U.S.-planned Free Trade Agreement of the Americas (FTAA), designed to unite all of Latin America and North America (except Cuba) in a hemispheric trade arrangement. Mercosur prohibits its members from signing FTAs with the U.S., and it is actively recruiting a South American trade bloc that would unify all of the region’s nations. The proposed Bank of the South, one of the potential projects of Mercosur, would offer an alternative source of finance to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and other multilateral organizations—such as the World Bank—which do not necessarily have the best track record in favoring genuine development initiatives in Latin America.....Mercosur’s international influence is rising, and, so long as all its members play on the same team, it is likely to continue in this direction. The five full members of the trade group alone represents 250 million people over a span of 4.9 million square miles, with a GDP of $1 trillion. Whatever its shortcomings, the bloc provides its smaller members the ability to compete in the international community for more equal trade agreements.....If Mercosur fails in South America, it will open up the entire region to the possibility of being cherry picked (on a one-by-one basis) by individual trade agreements with the U.S. In its effort to sign an FTA with Uruguay, the U.S. may be taking advantage of a small, disenchanted Mercosur member in hopes of compromising South America’s existing trade bloc structure and shattering many of the region’s important aspirations.....An FTA between Uruguay and the U.S. would destroy the last indigenous economic bloc powerful enough to prevent the U.S. from extending its fingers into all of Latin America. The world has seen what happens to small scale entrepreneurs, be they farmers or businessmen, as well as the fate of some of the smaller and weaker nations, when the U.S. is granted free trade rights within these less developed nations’ borders. Being placed under the mantle of FTA’s far from guarantees a mutually beneficial relationship. Newspaper dailies run recurrent stories about Mexican farmers and small businesses entrepreneurs who are unable to effectively compete with U.S. multinationals, and who are at times forced out of business by their highly competitive U.S. counterparts. Mercosur exists to unite South America under its own collective terms and to give smaller nations like Uruguay the necessary leverage to make substantial demands upon its trade partners. The U.S. is pushing for a South America that trades on the White House’s terms, under a FTAA. Uruguay is but the next step for it to project that influence.
News from a different land...oh hold on it's our land.
The American colony, Jordan, tends to be ignored in the Western media. However, here is a piece that not only mentions but but draws attention to some salient facts that are rarely noted in our wonderful free press.
'Although the Mukhabarat (note: Jordan's Gestapo) may (note: or may not) be less brutal than its counterparts in Ba'athist Iraq or Syria, it has been accused of abuses, harassment and torture. "Half the country is working for the Mukharabat," said Naim al-Haddad, a Palestinian mechanic. "People are afraid to talk." Thus the anxious faces at the sight of strangers asking questions in Irbid.
There are suspicions too, despite the bombings, that the terrorist threat is exaggerated. Jordanians and foreigners remain sceptical about the official version of an al-Qaida plot in 2004 to attack Mukhabarat and other government premises, and the US embassy, with toxic chemicals....
(Jordan's) links with Washington are a fact of life for the political elite - the Mukhabarat works closely with the CIA and Mossad, as well as MI6 - though increasingly unpopular with ordinary people....
Jordan, population 5.6 million, is often described as an uneasy kingdom, caught in the crossfire of conflicts involving Israel, the Palestinians and Iraq. King Hussein
lost a large chunk of his most fertile territory to Israel
in 1967 and crushed Palestinian
guerrillas in "Black September" 1970 but gave up Jordan's claim to the occupied West Bank in 1988.
He abandoned his pro-western instincts in 1990 by backing Saddam Hussein over the invasion of Kuwait. In 1994 he made peace with Israel. King Abdullah, right, in power since 1999, allowed US special forces into Jordan and Iraqi police now train on his territory. Real power resides with the monarchy, though some dissent is tolerated. He declared a "war on extremism" after the Amman bombings.'
'War on extremism'? Don't you mean a 'war on terror'?
Israelis retaliate after attack by Lebanese Army
Aren't subeditors great? Read this article
'Israeli tanks shelled Lebanese Army positions late last night after coming under fire as they joined an operation to comb the border area for explosive devices placed by Hizbollah guerrillas.
The Israel Defence Forces said early today that an engineering force had been searching for further devices after finding four along the border on Monday, when it came under fire from Lebanese Army units.
It said that the Lebanese units had fired warning shots towards IDF forces operating within Israeli sovereign territory, though north of the perimeter fence, despite an official warning to the United Nations Interim Forces in Lebanon [Unifil] that it would be conducting a sweep of the area.
The IDF said that despite warnings to stop, the Lebanese troops then fired at the Israeli forces who then returned fire. As Unifil now strengthened as an international force after the end of last summer's Lebanon war sought to mediate, the Israeli military said that it was not aware of any injuries, although there were unconfirmed reports of Lebanese troops being wounded.'
Uncomfirmed by whom? Well by the I"D"F presumably. Of course the headline does not state, accurately: 'Israelis claim
they were attacked by Lebanese Army'.
In any case, I thought the Israelis had a problem with the mysterious country of Hizbollahstan, not the Arabic democracy of Lebanon? After all, the Israelis are desperate for democracy to take root in the Arabic world, so they can have a 'partner for peace'. I mean, consider how happy they were at the last Palestinian elections.
And remember, the best thing about Japan is it is so crime free.
'The fatal shooting of a senior gangster in Tokyo has sparked fears of an all-out turf war between two of Japan's fiercest underworld organisations.
Police have arrested two members of a gang affiliated to the Sumiyoshi-kai, Japan's second-biggest crime syndicate, on suspicion of firing shots at the office of a rival gang in apparent retaliation for the killing of Ryoichi Sugiura, a senior member of a Sumiyoshi affiliate.
One of the suspects was quoted by police as saying that he and his accomplice had targeted a group linked to the Yamaguchi-gumi, Japan's most powerful crime syndicate, in apparent retaliation for Sugiura's death, according to the Mainichi Shimbun newspaper.'
'At the height of the Cold War in the early 1980s, Yasuhiro Nakasone, then prime minister of Japan, reaffirming his country's strong commitment to its supreme ally the United States against Soviet threats, declared that Japan would serve as an "unsinkable aircraft carrier" in the Pacific. Now that the lone superpower is once again facing security threats and waging a war against the so-called "axis of evil", it requires an unwavering commitment to its purpose and direction from its allies. It is indeed very fortunate to have received that commitment, not from one but from two of its most trusted allies in the Pacific. Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi of Japan and his Australian counterpart John Howard, both conservative and strongly committed to the US, have offered all possible assistance to US President George W Bush....
Moderates, extremists, terrorists, democrats...oh it's all so confusing.
'The fact is, of course, that by "moderate" and "extremist," the Bush administration really means "those who do what the U.S. and Israel want" and "those who don't do what the U.S. and Israel want." The idea that Saudi Arabia, land of Wahhabism, public beheadings and 15 of 19 9/11 attackers, is "moderate" is ridiculous. Egypt? Back when Bush was still talking about democracy and pressuring President Mubarak to reform his corrupt and autocratic government, it would have taken a face of brass to call it "moderate." But now that we realize that democracy means the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas, democracy isn't such a big deal, and U.S.-friendly autocrats are suddenly "moderate
Something that bears a remote relationship to the truth is published in a UK paper. It doesn't go far enough: it fails to describe the origins of these regimes (mainly in Sykes-Picot, and the innumerable Western backed coups and 'interventions' since), and she describes Jordan as ' the state closest to the western ideal' ('Human Rights Watch found that Jordan’s General Intelligence Department (GID) frequently carries out arbitrary arrests and abuses suspects in its own detention facility and that many suspects are held in incommunicado detention but never charged with a crime.' ). But it's a start.
Western leaders have simply chosen a few Arab rulers they believe are still saleable to western audiences. And, as the word moderate has been repeated by western leaders and echoed in the international media, these rulers have begun to believe their own billing. But who are they, and are they moderate? Their selection has been fluid at the periphery but solid at the core. Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt clearly qualify, whereas Syria, an ally during the 1990-91 Gulf war, was once at the periphery but fell out of step with US interests after 9/11. Likewise, after the death of Arafat and the victory of Hamas, Fatah became moderate, while Iran, moderate under the shah, became "radical" after the 1979 Islamic revolution.
This minuet of political marketing may play well in the west, but not in the Arab world, where the double standards and manipulation are all too plain to see. The Saudi Wahhabis are, after all, fanatics; Egypt's Hosni Mubarak is intolerant of dissent; and Jordan, the state closest to the western ideal, is a marginal player. These countries' appalling human rights records, lack of transparency and repression rank them among the world's least moderate. Is there such a thing as a "moderate public beheading"? For the US and UK governments there clearly is, because all departures from the ideals of liberal democracy and social justice are rooted in "tradition". Hence bribes, beheadings and the oppression of women and minorities are traditional, and because whatever is traditional is not radical, it must be moderate.'
As someone once said: read the whole thing.
Dissidents, sorry I meant terrorists, arrested.
'Ten men arrested in Saudi Arabia on suspicion of funding terrorism include known political activists detained in the past over calls for reform in the absolute monarchy, a lawyer said yesterday.
The Interior Ministry said on Saturday it had arrested 10 people, including a foreign resident, for collecting donations and giving them to “suspicious elements”.
It said the arrests were part of police operations against “funding terrorism”.
Bassem Alem, a lawyer representing some of the men, said they were reformers who had recently been warned by the Interior Ministry, overseen by hawkish Prince Nayef bin Abdulaziz, to halt their meetings and petitions.'
Tony Blair is expected to lead the prosecution, by explaining that the Saudi Junta have 'their culture, their way of life.'
Terrorists in Iran
'A controversial exile movement cited by President George W. Bush as a source of information on Iran's nuclear ambitions is condemned for psychologically and physically abusing its own members in a new report by Human Rights Watch.