Archive for July, 2007

Bush’s Turkish Gamble

July 31, 2007

Bush’s Turkish Gamble
By Robert D. Novak
Monday, July 30, 2007; A15

The morass in Iraq and deepening difficulties in Afghanistan have not deterred the Bush administration from taking on a dangerous and questionable new secret operation. High-level U.S. officials are working with their Turkish counterparts on a joint military operation to suppress Kurdish guerrillas and capture their leaders. Through covert activity, their goal is to forestall Turkey from invading Iraq.

While detailed operational plans are necessarily concealed, the broad outlines have been presented to select members of Congress as required by law. U.S. Special Forces are to work with the Turkish army to suppress the Kurds’ guerrilla campaign. The Bush administration is trying to prevent another front from opening in Iraq, which would have disastrous consequences. But this gamble risks major exposure and failure.

The Turkish initiative reflects the temperament and personality of George W. Bush. Even faithful congressional supporters of his Iraq policy have been stunned by the president’s upbeat mood, which makes him appear oblivious to the loss of his political base. Despite the failing effort to impose a military solution in Iraq, he is willing to try imposing arms — though clandestinely — on Turkey’s ancient problems with its Kurdish minority, who comprise one-fifth of the country’s population.

The development of an autonomous Kurdish entity inside Iraq, resulting from the decline and fall of Saddam Hussein, has alarmed the Turkish government. That led to Ankara‘s refusal to allow U.S. combat troops to enter Iraq through Turkey, an eleventh-hour complication for the 2003 invasion. As the Kurds’ political power grew inside Iraq, the Turkish government became steadily more uneasy about the centuries-old project of a Kurdistan spreading across international boundaries — and chewing up big pieces of Turkey.

The dormant Turkish Kurd guerrilla fighters of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) came to life. By June, the Turkish government was demonstrating its concern by lobbing artillery shells across the border. Ankara began protesting, to both Washington and Baghdad, that the PKK was using northern Iraq as a base for guerrilla operations. On July 11, in Washington, Turkish Ambassador Nabi Sensoy became the first Turkish official to assert publicly that Iraqi Kurds have claims on Turkish territory. On July 20, just two days before his successful reelection, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan threatened a military incursion into Iraq against the Kurds. Last Wednesday, Murat Karayilan, head of the PKK political council, predicted that “the Turkish Army will attack southern Kurdistan.”

Turkey has a well-trained, well-equipped army of 250,000 near the border, facing some 4,000 PKK fighters hiding in the mountains of northern Iraq. But significant cross-border operations surely would bring to the PKK’s side the military forces of the Kurdistan Regional Government, the best U.S. ally in Iraq. What is Washington to do in the dilemma of two friends battling each other on an unwanted new front in Iraq?

The surprising answer was given in secret briefings on Capitol Hill last week by Eric S. Edelman, a former aide to Vice President Cheney who is now undersecretary of defense for policy. Edelman, a Foreign Service officer who once was U.S. ambassador to Turkey, revealed to lawmakers plans for a covert operation of U.S. Special Forces to help the Turks neutralize the PKK. They would behead the guerrilla organization by helping Turkey get rid of PKK leaders that they have targeted for years.

Edelman’s listeners were stunned. Wasn’t this risky? He responded that he was sure of success, adding that the U.S. role could be concealed and always would be denied. Even if all this is true, some of the briefed lawmakers left wondering whether this was a wise policy for handling the beleaguered Kurds, who had been betrayed so often by the U.S. government in years past.

The plan shows that hard experience has not dissuaded President Bush from attempting difficult ventures employing the use of force. On the contrary, two of the most intrepid supporters of the Iraq intervention — John McCain and Lindsey Graham— were surprised by Bush during a recent meeting with him. When they shared their impressions with colleagues, they commented on how unconcerned the president seemed. That may explain his willingness to embark on such a questionable venture against the Kurds.

© 2007 Creators Syndicate Inc.

Murdoch Seen to Win Control of Dow Jones

July 31, 2007

July 31, 2007

Murdoch Seen to Win Control of Dow Jones

Rupert Murdoch appeared today to have gained enough support from the deeply divided Bancroft family to buy Dow Jones & Company, publisher of The Wall Street Journal, for $5 billion.

Family members and trusts representing about 32 percent of the shareholder vote indicated they would support Mr. Murdoch’s offer, though several details were still being worked out, according to people briefed on the matter.

But a family spokesman issued a statement cautioning that the canvass of family members and trusts was still under way, adding, “Any suggestion that the process has been completed and/or that a particular level of support has been established is at this point premature.”

For Mr. Murdoch, the prospect of acquiring The Journal represents the pinnacle of his long career building the News Corporation into a $28 billion global media empire that already includes more than 100 newspapers around the world, satellite broadcast operations, the Fox television network, the online social networking site MySpace and many other properties.

It also signals the end of an era for Dow Jones and the controlling Bancroft family, an intensely private clan that had allowed The Journal to operate independently and become one of the nation’s most prominent and trusted newspapers, even as its finances deteriorated.

The three dozen members of the Bancroft family had engaged in an intense debate about The Journal’s future. Some argued vociferously that Mr. Murdoch would damage the newspaper’s credibility, while others said that his offer was too good to pass up at a time when the newspaper industry has been struggling.

At $60 a share, News Corporation is paying a heavy premium for a stock that traded around $36 before the offer became public on May 1.

The acquisition of The Journal, along with the planned introduction of the Fox business news channel by the News Corporation in October, makes Mr. Murdoch the most formidable figure in business news in the country.

The deal follows the recent sales of the Tribune and Knight Ridder chains. For The Journal’s competitors and the rest of the industry, it again raises the question of whether newspapers can exist independent of giant media conglomerates as advertising dollars migrate to the Web and readers have access to vast new sources of online information.

As if to mirror to anxiety of the entire newspaper industry, the Bancrofts finally voted on the bid after months of internal debate and shifting alliances within the family, which has controlled Dow Jones for more than a century.

The outcome remained in doubt until the final days, with family members and trustees who control their stock jockeying for position and switching sides, shifting millions of shares from one side of the vote to another.

To the last, people inside and outside Dow Jones who opposed the sale to the News Corporation were trying to arrange alternative deals that would allow some family Bancroft family members to sell and others to keep control of the company.

Brad Greenspan, an Internet entrepreneur, said that in the last few days, he had arranged conversations between one of his tentative backers for such a bid, Intel Capital, and Leslie Hill, a family member who sits on the Dow Jones board.

The Bancroft family, which has owned Dow Jones since 1902, holds 64 percent of the shareholder vote, most of it in a complex series of dozens of trusts with some three dozen beneficiaries. But the bulk of the voting power rests with a handful of members of family’s oldest generation who are the primary trustees, and with family lawyers who are also trustees.

Advisers to News Corporation said it needed family members representing at least 30 to 34 percent of the total shareholder vote to commit to the deal before proceeding with it, assured of topping 50 percent in an actual ballot.

The Ottaway family, with 7 percent of the vote, was solidly opposed to the sale. That left 29 percent of the vote in other hands, expected to be overwhelmingly in favor, but it is hard to estimate what fraction of those shareholders would have voted no, and how many simply have not voted. The deal requires more than half the total votes outstanding.

For Mr. Murdoch, the Dow Jones takeover gives him not only one of the world’s great media trophy properties and a larger voice in national affairs, but also a ready source of material and credibility for his newest big gamble, the Fox Business Channel he plans to begin in October.

Under a deal with CNBC, that channel has the exclusive right to use Dow Jones content and have Dow Jones reporters and editors appear on its programs until 2012. But Mr. Murdoch, whose new channel would compete with CNBC, has long been known for taking the long view, willing to wait years for his investments to pay off.

Dow Jones’s centerpiece is The Journal, with domestic circulation of more than 2 million six days a week, second only to USA Today, but the company also includes many other parts, like the financial weekly Barron’s, Dow Jones Newswires, the Web site MarketWatch and Factiva, an electronic news archive and information service.

Analysts predict that News Corporation would sell some or all of Dow Jones’s 23 small daily and weekly newspapers, most of them in New England and upstate New York.

Mr. Murdoch first made his offer to Dow Jones’s chief executive, Richard F. Zannino, over breakfast on March 29, and made a formal, written bid to the board on April 17, but the news did not break until May 1.

On May 2, Mr. Zannino made a presentation to the Dow Jones board that made it seem to many of them that the company’s prospects on its own were poor and that he favored a sale. He later insisted that he had not meant to give those impressions, but even so, the presentation had a sobering effect, and most of the board clearly thought that Mr. Murdoch’s $60-a-share offer was simply too good to pass up.

That breakfast with Mr. Murdoch set in motion a four-month struggle within the Bancroft family. Factions formed and dissolved, and momentum swung widely as family members changed sides, children were pitted against parents and, in some cases, siblings opposed one another.

For a private, reserved clan that had long frowned on confrontation or aggressive involvement in the company’s affairs, it was a long, uncomfortable conflict, played out with the news media trying to dissect their personalities and rivalries. And for much of that time, shareholders and executives at both companies could do little but watch and wait as the family labored to reach a conclusion.

Half of Iraq ‘in absolute poverty’

July 31, 2007

Iraqi children are most at risk from the mounting crisis, the joint report says [EPA]
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“Iraqis are suffering from a growing lack of food, shelter, water and sanitation, health care, education, and employment,” said the report, compiled by Oxfam and the NGO Co-ordination Committee in Iraq (NCCI).

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The report also says two million people within the country are currently displced, while more than two million are refugees.

Most of those refugees have fled to Jordan and Syria.

 

‘Grim picture’

 

“Many of the figures and percentages in the report were actually derived from UN sources… so we concur with the findings”

Said Arikit, spokesman for the UN mission in Iraq

Read the joint report

Said Arikit, a spokesman for the UN mission in Iraq, told Al Jazeera the report painted a “grim picture”.

 

“Many of the figures and percentages in the report were actually derived from UN sources… so we concur with the findings,” he said.

 

“The government of Iraq is definitely the authority in Iraq and it bears responsibility for the welfare of its people.”

 

Iraqi services have been left in crisis as most of those seeking refuge are professionals, according to the report.

 

“The ‘brain drain’ that Iraq is experiencing is further stretching already inadequate public services, as thousands of medical staff, teachers, water engineers, and other professionals are forced to leave the country,” it said.

 

The entry of Iraqi refugees to neighbouring countries has placed a growing strain on health, education and social services in the two countries.

 

Ration crisis

 

Only 60 per cent of the four million people who depend on food assistance have access to rations from the government-run public distribution system, down from 96 per cent in 2004, the report said.

 

The number of Iraqis without access to adequate water supplies has risen from 50 per cent to 70 per cent since 2003.

 

The lack of effective sanitation was also highlighted by the joint report, which said 80 per cent of people in Iraq did not have safe access.

 

The report said children were the hardest hit by the fall in living standards, stating child malnutrition rates have risen from 19 per cent before the US-led invasion in 2003 to 28 percent currently.

 

“Despite the constraints imposed by the government of Iraq, the UN and the international donors can do more to deliver humanitarian assistance to reduce unnecessary suffering,” the report said.

 

One recommendation called for the government of Nuri al-Maliki, Iraq’s prime minister, to decentralise the distribution of aid to local authorities, and make it easier for civil society organisations to operate.

 

Deaths fall

 

Meanwhile in Iraq, officials from the US military say they have seen a drop in US troop deaths in July.

 

In April, the number of US soldiers who died was 104, increased sharply in May when 126 servicemen died, and decreased slightly with 101 troops dead in June.

 

For the month of July, at least 69 US soldiers have died, about half the casualties in May.

 

Iraq’s police say the number of civilian deaths also decreased by 36 per cent, from an estimated high of 1,900 in May to 1,342 in June.

 

General David Petraeus, the US commander in Iraq, said: “The sheikhs and the tribes and the leaders have banded together and made a decision to oppose al-Qaeda and that has resulted in a substantially improved security situation.”

 

Despite what appears to be at least a temporary let-up in both military and civilian deaths, many say there will be no security without a stable Iraqi government.

 

Rice seeks Arab front against Iran

July 31, 2007

Rice is in Sharm el-Sheikh to try to secure an anti-Tehran grouping and financial help for Iraq [EPA]
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The negotiations took place at the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh.

 

Condoleezza Rice and Robert Gates, the two US officials, were due to meet Hosni Mubarak, the Egyptian president, before flying to Saudi Arabia for talks with King Abdullah.

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This is Rice and Gates’s first joint tour of the region.

 

At a news conference following the meeting with the ministers, Rice said she had discussed the challenges facing Lebanon and Washington’s commitment to a two-state solution in Palestine.

 

Military aid

 

Earlier, on her way to Sharm el-Sheikh, Rice said that “as security permits, we hope more states would undertake more diplomatic missions to Iraq”.

 

She also appealed for Arab countries to further cut Iraqi debts.

 

“He who wants to make peace does not start out with an arms initiative which is dangerous for the region”

Walid Muallem, Syria’s foreign minister

Arab diplomatic missions in Baghdad have scaled back their  representation after a campaign of attacks and kidnappings.

 

On Monday, the US announced military aid worth more than $43bn to Egypt, Israel, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states in an effort to boost its Middle East allies against Iran.

 

Egypt will receive $13bn in aid over 10 years while $30bn will go to Israel over the same period, Rice said.

 

Rice said that an unspecified defence aid package was allocated for Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states.

 

The Saudi package is expected to upgrade the country’s missile defences and air force and increase its naval capabilities, a defence official said on Saturday.

 

Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf countries are likely to receive as much as $20bn over 10 years, he said.

 

Rice said: “This effort will help bolster forces of moderation and support a broader strategy to counter the negative influences of al-Qaeda, Hezbollah, Syria, and Iran.”

 

Syria’s foreign minister called the US administration’s armaments deal “dangerous”.

 

“He who wants to make peace does not start out with an arms  initiative which is dangerous for the region,” Walid Muallem said on Tuesday.

Iran anger

 

Tehran accused the US on Monday of creating fear and causing divisions in the Middle East by announcing the major package of arms deals.

 

Mohammad Ali Hosseini, Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman, said: “America has always considered one policy in this region and that is creating fear and concerns in the countries of the region and trying to harm the good relations between these countries.”

 

However, Nicholas Burns, the US undersecretary of state, characterised the deals as a continuation of existing policy.

 

“It’s not as if we’re introducing some new element in the region,” he said. “Iran is a factor in this, but it wasn’t the overriding factor.”

 

He said he saw no conflict between the aid packages to Saudi Arabia and Egypt, whose governments have a long record of human-rights abuses, and the current administration’s long-term goal of promoting democracy in the region, led by George Bush, the US president.

The Fear Factor by Ron Paul

July 31, 2007
The Fear Factor
by Rep. Ron Paul

While fear itself is not always the product of irrationality, once experienced, it tends to lead away from reason, especially if the experience is extreme in duration or intensity. When people are fearful they tend to be willing to irrationally surrender their rights.

Thus, fear is a threat to rational liberty. The psychology of fear is an essential component of those who would have us believe we must increasingly rely on the elite who manage the apparatus of the central government.

The statement “Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety” has been attributed to Benjamin Franklin. It is clear:, people seek out safety and security when they are in a state of fear, and it is the result of this psychological state that often leads to the surrender of liberty.

As Washington moves towards it summer legislative recess, indications of fear are apparent. Things seem similar to the days before the war in Iraq. Prior to the beginning of the war, several government officials began using phrases like “we don’t want the smoking gun to come in the form of a mushroom cloud,” and they spoke of drone airplanes being sent to our country to do us great harm.

It is hard to overstate the damage this approach does psychologically, especially to younger people. Of course, we now know there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, let alone any capacity to put them to successful use.

To calm fears, Americans accepted the PATRIOT Act and the doctrine of preemptive war. We tolerated new laws that allow the government to snoop on us, listen to our phone calls, track our financial dealings, make us strip down at airports, and even limit the rights of habeas corpus and trial by jury. Like some dysfunctional episode of the Twilight Zone, we allowed the summit of our imagination to be linked up with the pit of our fears.

Paranoia can be treated, but the loss of liberty resulting from the social psychology to which we continue to subject ourselves is not easily reversed. People who would have previously battled against encroachments on civil liberties now explain the “necessity” of those “temporary security measures” Franklin is said to have railed against.

Americans must reflect on their irrational fears if we are to turn the tide against the steady erosion of our freedoms. Fear is the enemy. The logically confusing admonition to “fear only fear” does not help; instead, we must battle against irrational fear and the fearmongers who promote it.

It is incumbent on a great nation to remain confident, if it wishes to remain free. We need not be ignorant of real threats to our safety, against which we must remain vigilant. We need only to banish to the ash heap of history the notion that we ought to be ruled by our fears and those who use them to enhance their own power.

Who’s Minding the Mind?

July 31, 2007

July 31, 2007

Who’s Minding the Mind?

In a recent experiment, psychologists at Yale altered people’s judgments of a stranger by handing them a cup of coffee.

The study participants, college students, had no idea that their social instincts were being deliberately manipulated. On the way to the laboratory, they had bumped into a laboratory assistant, who was holding textbooks, a clipboard, papers and a cup of hot or iced coffee — and asked for a hand with the cup.

That was all it took: The students who held a cup of iced coffee rated a hypothetical person they later read about as being much colder, less social and more selfish than did their fellow students, who had momentarily held a cup of hot java.

Findings like this one, as improbable as they seem, have poured forth in psychological research over the last few years. New studies have found that people tidy up more thoroughly when there’s a faint tang of cleaning liquid in the air; they become more competitive if there’s a briefcase in sight, or more cooperative if they glimpse words like “dependable” and “support” — all without being aware of the change, or what prompted it.

Psychologists say that “priming” people in this way is not some form of hypnotism, or even subliminal seduction; rather, it’s a demonstration of how everyday sights, smells and sounds can selectively activate goals or motives that people already have.

More fundamentally, the new studies reveal a subconscious brain that is far more active, purposeful and independent than previously known. Goals, whether to eat, mate or devour an iced latte, are like neural software programs that can only be run one at a time, and the unconscious is perfectly capable of running the program it chooses.

The give and take between these unconscious choices and our rational, conscious aims can help explain some of the more mystifying realities of behavior, like how we can be generous one moment and petty the next, or act rudely at a dinner party when convinced we are emanating charm.

“When it comes to our behavior from moment to moment, the big question is, ‘What to do next?’ ” said John A. Bargh, a professor of psychology at Yale and a co-author, with Lawrence Williams, of the coffee study, which was presented at a recent psychology conference. “Well, we’re finding that we have these unconscious behavioral guidance systems that are continually furnishing suggestions through the day about what to do next, and the brain is considering and often acting on those, all before conscious awareness.”

Dr. Bargh added: “Sometimes those goals are in line with our conscious intentions and purposes, and sometimes they’re not.”

Priming the Unconscious

The idea of subliminal influence has a mixed reputation among scientists because of a history of advertising hype and apparent fraud. In 1957, an ad man named James Vicary claimed to have increased sales of Coca-Cola and popcorn at a movie theater in Fort Lee, N.J., by secretly flashing the words “Eat popcorn” and “Drink Coke” during the film, too quickly to be consciously noticed. But advertisers and regulators doubted his story from the beginning, and in a 1962 interview, Mr. Vicary acknowledged that he had trumped up the findings to gain attention for his business.

Later studies of products promising subliminal improvement, for things like memory and self-esteem, found no effect.

Some scientists also caution against overstating the implications of the latest research on priming unconscious goals. The new research “doesn’t prove that consciousness never does anything,” wrote Roy Baumeister, a professor of psychology at Florida State University, in an e-mail message. “It’s rather like showing you can hot-wire a car to start the ignition without keys. That’s important and potentially useful information, but it doesn’t prove that keys don’t exist or that keys are useless.”

Yet he and most in the field now agree that the evidence for psychological hot-wiring has become overwhelming. In one 2004 experiment, psychologists led by Aaron Kay, then at Stanford University and now at the University of Waterloo, had students take part in a one-on-one investment game with another, unseen player.

Half the students played while sitting at a large table, at the other end of which was a briefcase and a black leather portfolio. These students were far stingier with their money than the others, who played in an identical room, but with a backpack on the table instead.

The mere presence of the briefcase, noticed but not consciously registered, generated business-related associations and expectations, the authors argue, leading the brain to run the most appropriate goal program: compete. The students had no sense of whether they had acted selfishly or generously.

In another experiment, published in 2005, Dutch psychologists had undergraduates sit in a cubicle and fill out a questionnaire. Hidden in the room was a bucket of water with a splash of citrus-scented cleaning fluid, giving off a faint odor. After completing the questionnaire, the young men and women had a snack, a crumbly biscuit provided by laboratory staff members.

The researchers covertly filmed the snack time and found that these students cleared away crumbs three times more often than a comparison group, who had taken the same questionnaire in a room with no cleaning scent. “That is a very big effect, and they really had no idea they were doing it,” said Henk Aarts, a psychologist at Utrecht University and the senior author of the study.

The Same Brain Circuits

The real-world evidence for these unconscious effects is clear to anyone who has ever run out to the car to avoid the rain and ended up driving too fast, or rushed off to pick up dry cleaning and returned with wine and cigarettes — but no pressed slacks.

The brain appears to use the very same neural circuits to execute an unconscious act as it does a conscious one. In a study that appeared in the journal Science in May, a team of English and French neuroscientists performed brain imaging on 18 men and women who were playing a computer game for money. The players held a handgrip and were told that the tighter they squeezed when an image of money flashed on the screen, the more of the loot they could keep.

As expected, the players squeezed harder when the image of a British pound flashed by than when the image of a penny did — regardless of whether they consciously perceived the pictures, many of which flew by subliminally. But the circuits activated in their brains were similar as well: an area called the ventral pallidum was particularly active whenever the participants responded.

“This area is located in what used to be called the reptilian brain, well below the conscious areas of the brain,” said the study’s senior author, Chris Frith, a professor in neuropsychology at University College London who wrote the book “Making Up The Mind: How the Brain Creates our Mental World.”

The results suggest a “bottom-up” decision-making process, in which the ventral pallidum is part of a circuit that first weighs the reward and decides, then interacts with the higher-level, conscious regions later, if at all, Dr. Frith said.

Scientists have spent years trying to pinpoint the exact neural regions that support conscious awareness, so far in vain. But there’s little doubt it involves the prefrontal cortex, the thin outer layer of brain tissue behind the forehead, and experiments like this one show that it can be one of the last neural areas to know when a decision is made.

This bottom-up order makes sense from an evolutionary perspective. The subcortical areas of the brain evolved first and would have had to help individuals fight, flee and scavenge well before conscious, distinctly human layers were added later in evolutionary history. In this sense, Dr. Bargh argues, unconscious goals can be seen as open-ended, adaptive agents acting on behalf of the broad, genetically encoded aims — automatic survival systems.

In several studies, researchers have also shown that, once covertly activated, an unconscious goal persists with the same determination that is evident in our conscious pursuits. Study participants primed to be cooperative are assiduous in their teamwork, for instance, helping others and sharing resources in games that last 20 minutes or longer. Ditto for those set up to be aggressive.

This may help explain how someone can show up at a party in good spirits and then for some unknown reason — the host’s loafers? the family portrait on the wall? some political comment? — turn a little sour, without realizing the change until later, when a friend remarks on it. “I was rude? Really? When?”

Mark Schaller, a psychologist at the University of British Columbia, in Vancouver, has done research showing that when self-protective instincts are primed — simply by turning down the lights in a room, for instance — white people who are normally tolerant become unconsciously more likely to detect hostility in the faces of black men with neutral expressions.

“Sometimes nonconscious effects can be bigger in sheer magnitude than conscious ones,” Dr. Schaller said, “because we can’t moderate stuff we don’t have conscious access to, and the goal stays active.”

Until it is satisfied, that is, when the program is subsequently suppressed, research suggests. In one 2006 study, for instance, researchers had Northwestern University undergraduates recall an unethical deed from their past, like betraying a friend, or a virtuous one, like returning lost property. Afterward, the students had their choice of a gift, an antiseptic wipe or a pencil; and those who had recalled bad behavior were twice as likely as the others to take the wipe. They had been primed to psychologically “cleanse” their consciences.

Once their hands were wiped, the students became less likely to agree to volunteer their time to help with a graduate school project. Their hands were clean: the unconscious goal had been satisfied and now was being suppressed, the findings suggest.

What You Don’t Know

Using subtle cues for self-improvement is something like trying to tickle yourself, Dr. Bargh said: priming doesn’t work if you’re aware of it. Manipulating others, while possible, is dicey. “We know that as soon as people feel they’re being manipulated, they do the opposite; it backfires,” he said.

And researchers do not yet know how or when, exactly, unconscious drives may suddenly become conscious; or under which circumstances people are able to override hidden urges by force of will. Millions have quit smoking, for instance, and uncounted numbers have resisted darker urges to misbehave that they don’t even fully understand.

Yet the new research on priming makes it clear that we are not alone in our own consciousness. We have company, an invisible partner who has strong reactions about the world that don’t always agree with our own, but whose instincts, these studies clearly show, are at least as likely to be helpful, and attentive to others, as they are to be disruptive.

Couple Terrorized, Assaulted and Arrested for Flying an Upside Down U.S. Flag

July 31, 2007

Couple Terrorized, Assaulted and Arrested For Flying an Upside Down U.S. Flag
Police officer recently returned from Iraq smashed into Kuhn’s home, choked husband and then claimed they assaulted him

By: Alex Jones and Paul Watson    

A North Carolina couple who were terrorized by a police officer who had recently returned from Iraq are now fighting back, after sheriff’s deputy Brian Scarborough broke into their house, assaulted them and then arrested the Kuhns for the crime of flying an upside down U.S. flag.

Mark and Deborah Kuhn of Asheville, North Carolina made headlines last week when they were arrested for flying an upside down U.S. flag, a commonly recognized sign of distress, in their backyard, after police claimed they were violating a statute for “desecration of the flag”.

As is supported by the United States Flag Code as well as a similar incident in 2001, flying the flag upside down is not a mark of disrespect, and in fact is considered by many to be the highest form of patriotism.

However, since 9/11 there have been several cases where individuals have been harassed, intimidated and even arrested for inverting the flag, by those who confuse a love of government with a love of country. Buncombe County Sheriff’s deputy Brian Scarborough had just returned from Iraq and according to the Deborah Kuhn, was sent by his staff Sergeant from the local National Guard to “deal with” the Kuhns after a local resident complained about the flag, a fact that was later admitted on TV news. A National Guard soldier in military fatigues had also previously visited the Kuhn’s to harass them about the flag.

“This is a distress signal, we’re not trying to desecrate the flag,” Kuhn told Scarborough when he told the couple they were violating a statute. Police claimed the messages attached to the flag were the problem, but the notes merely pointed out that the upside down flag represented a distress signal and a warning that the country was in danger.

Even though Kuhn took the flag down, the officer immediately demanded that the couple show their ID’s and when they refused told them to put their hands behind their back and was about to arrest them before the couple shut and locked the door.

Scarborough then proceeded to kick the door in, “And the next thing we know, the glass is flying, he unlocks the deadbolt and he comes into our house after us,” Kuhn told The Alex Jones Show.

The officer then pursued Mark Kuhn through the house before intercepting him in the kitchen and putting him in a choke hold.

Deborah Kuhn called 911 to report that the officer had broken into the home and was assaulting her husband.

The officer then pulled out pepper spray to which Mark Kuhn responded, “Are you going to spray me in my house?” before Scarborough whipped out his billy club and the Kuhn’s ran out of the house into the street, pleading for help from their neighbors.

“Nine police cars showed up, they whipped out the Tasers, they said ‘get down we’re gonna Taser you’ added Kuhn.

The couple were handcuffed, arrested and bundled into a squad car, to the protests of numerous neighbors who demanded to know why the Kuhns were being incarcerated, but were told to leave by police.

Contradicting the police’s account of the incident, that Buncombe County Sheriff’s deputy Brian Scarborough was injured when the Kuhn’s slammed the door on his hand, Deborah Kuhn vehemently maintains that Scarborough smashed the glass of their door with his bare fist before breaking in, a description which is backed up by three other eyewitnesses, one of which appeared on TV later that day.

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The Kuhn’s are now also being charged with “assault on a government employee” – meaning that the new definition of assault is if a police officer cuts his hand by breaking into your house and putting you in a choke hold – you have assaulted him.

Scarborough claims that Deborah Kuhn slapped him while she was on the phone to the police, but the audio file of the call (listen here) clearly contradicts this.

They each face over a year in prison.

The Kuhn’s case is similar in many ways to that of Kelly Rushing, a man from Lyon County Kentucky, who was arrested and charged for handing out videotapes of Ron Paul videos to police officers. Rushing was later found not guilty of the offence of “terroristic threats” but continues to be harassed by police.

It also mirrors the case of an Alabama man, who was arrested in 2004 for displaying a sign in his yard that read “Our Courts System is a Joke,” under the pretext that it was illegal to criticize the authorities.

We are encouraging our listeners and readers to call the following number and remind the officials concerned that this is not Russia or Nazi Germany, and that officer Scarborough’s conduct was shameful and an insult to everything America is supposed to stand for.

Scarborough’s experience in Iraq of kicking down doors and taking innocent people to camps is not something that should be brought back to America, and the charges against the Kuhns should be dropped immediately along with a formal apology issued.

Sheriff Van Duncan’s Office: 828-250-4503

Click here to listen to the interview with Deborah Kuhn.

Anarchy made easy by Rich

July 30, 2007

Anarchy made easy by Rich


Rich


Featured writer
Dandelion Salad

by Rich
Rich’s blog
Thumb Jig

A young and clever George Orwell knew the significance of a beautiful idea. He left his wife and career in England to fight in the Spanish Civil War in December of 1936, siding with the Anarchists who opposed Hitler-backed Nationalist, Francisco Franco. The upsurge of fascism so frightened the fresh faced idealist that he was willing to die to end it. Orwell recognized the elegance of the Spanish Anarchists’ radically different way of administrating their affairs. As a result of the war, his affection for the new society was inverse to his disgust for totalitarianism, a position that informed his future classics Animal Farm and the prescient 1984.

A society like the Anarchist collectives had never before or since existed, an entirely autonomous community divested of centralized rule. But how would a modern Anarchist system operate? Could there be roads, bridges or sanitation? Who would defend the masses from oppression? If it were sustainable back then would it be more so today?

The Principles of Anarchy: An Introduction

An Anarchist is against all categories of authority. The most obvious being government, but in a free society corporations and organized religion would also be relinquished. Modified versions of Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, etc. would be acceptable as long as they were personal expressions of faith and not a component of a larger hierarchic structure such as the Catholic Church. These institutions constrict the freedom of their adherents. It is impossible to move unencumbered while under the thumb of any system which asserts control from aloft. Today’s dominant attitudes of helplessness and disenchantment can be linked to this cultural feature. People elect Representatives to govern while citizens play no direct part in legislation. As bureaucracies grow (because that’s what Capitalism does – it expands) they monopolize the lion’s share of wealth and power. It is the goal of Anarchism to bridge this chasm and place people in charge of themselves.

Under Anarchism all property serves as a public resource, therefore it is false to assume nothing is owned in Anarchistic communities. On the contrary, the public owns everything. This is why it is believed, as proprietors, individuals are more inclined to be dutiful stewards of what belongs to them. A timeless example of this principle in action can be taken from the book of Nehemiah. In it Nehemiah must rebuild the walls of Jerusalem after a vicious attack. He assigns laborers to work on restoring, not the sections of the wall farthest from where they live, but sections of the wall nearest to each worker, ensuring a quick and meritorious result.

The story of Nehemiah and the wall of Jerusalem illustrates the underpinnings of the Anarchist’s view of human nature. Everyone is an egotist at heart, selfish and individualistic. But most people are social animals as well capable of compassion and sympathetic toward sufferers. This is why the laborers Nehemiah placed in charge of the construction of the wall cooperated with each other. They wanted protection. Anarchist collectives would work for the same reason. The members of the collective value nourishment, social relationships and creative expression, and would enter into a social contract without the supervision of government. Unfortunately, there is one fatal flaw in this story. To any self-respecting Anarchist Nehemiah must go.

There’s no business like no business

From the perspective of the Anarchist, Capitalism degrades human potential when greed becomes the engine of society. Profits justify all beastly pursuits: theft, murder, deceit. The only unpardonable sin is losing money. Cities, for example, serve as a surplus of available labor for corporations. The design of a city centers around the needs of businesses, clustering employees and their families around factories, providing the employees with food, clothing and entertainment along with modes of control. The aim of Anarchists would be to abolish these inhibiting conditions.

After wresting authority away from their corporate handlers the workers would go on to erect “syndicates”. Each syndicate would be devoted to a specific aspect of production necessary for the continuance of the community. One syndicate would specialize in chairs another in toilets and another in ceiling fans and so on and so forth. The workers in a particular syndicate would have dominion over the policies in their workplace. Each worker has an equal vote in the direction of their co-operative. For the day-to-day decisions required to run a complex syndicate workers would divide the collective into administrative branches through popular vote. At this point it is up to an individual to persuade their fellow workers of their education and skills in order to be placed in the proper administrative branch.

In keeping with the spirit of self-management the community also deserves a say in how their syndicates operate. That is why all the syndicates would be owned by everyone in a commune. A collection of syndicates is called a confederation. Just how workers determine the best methods of how their syndicate produces, the members of the confederation decide what is produced and how much.

It is important to keep in mind that this is the formula of choice when it comes to any Anarchist commune. Hospitals, schools and the military are all organized in this fashion. The reason for this is simple. When a syndicate’s course is no longer navigated by the workers, but by a tiny elite, it reverts back into a corporation.

A worthy aside, the word “labor” has a different meaning in a free society. Within the current system people compliment machines in an assembly line mentality, but self-facilitating communes would use technology to eliminate dangerous, tedious and undesirable work. The result would be an abundance of leisure time with a few hours of intermittent labor resembling art more than drudgery. Those assembly lines would run themselves leaving the workers to decorate the products at the end. And even in cases like the construction of roads and bridges, the hazardous aspects will be automated and workers, free from bosses and arbitrary deadlines, will take pride in what they produce because it will be for their benefit.

When workers manage themselves it is unlikely they would pollute their streams and sky or maintain an unsafe working environment. Today’s corporations have made these practices apart of their culture. Consumption and competition animates Capitalism but in tomorrow’s society producers and consumers will be one in the same.

Welcome to the neighborhood

For all the praise in reference to “the people” it could be wrongfully assumed Anarchists romanticize the masses. Untrue. Anarchists make no illusions about the gullibility of massive groups of people. It is the multitude who allowed the minority, the wealthy oligarchy of policy-makers, to enslave them in the first place. The answer is to transform the majority into well-educated cells.

Communes are structured in exactly this way. While they will communicate with other communes it is important to reach a balance so as not to become bloated with a large population. When free people are taught outside the restrictions of a repressive society it is difficult to imagine this being a problem. Work in an Anarchist society is voluntary so if someone wants to leave a syndicate, or even a commune, he or she may. The end result being a vibrant culture in a constant state of flux.

But even with each individual expressing him or herself freely without the deterrence of laws a few basic needs will remain. Health care will be just as vital as ever. Hospitals would function in the same way as syndicates. The doctors and nurses would organize, split into administrative branches based on their training and abilities, and be available for public use at any time. Doctors would visit the homes of the handicapped and the elderly who cannot care for themselves. The treatment people receive under this system, it could be said, would be superior because they would be cared for as patients and not customers. Additionally, those who entered into the health care profession would not do so for material gain but because of their passion for the work.

Some criminal element could be expected to dwell inside any commune. Plenty of crime would have been extinguished after the socialization of a community’s resources. Still a fraction of criminals would linger. Prisons have never been a popular solution and embodies everything Anarchists abhor about authoritarian rule. Instead the treatment of a criminal would be based upon their specific crime. He or she may be ostracized from the commune through popular vote or, depending upon the crime, given an opportunity to observe the destructive effects they had on the community. Popular opinion also would be used to pressure an injurious individual. A court system, constructed by the people of the commune and served in by everyone via lottery, would determine the guilt or innocence of an individual as well as his or her punishment. For those who need to be removed from society altogether, such as rapists, child molesters and sociopaths, asylums would be built in order to treat the offender without harm to others.

As for protection, a police force could be built if a commune desired. However, it would not patrol neighborhoods in the traditional sense, instead it would be an on-call service, much like a fire department, for anyone who wished to utilize it. And just like any other syndicate in the commune, the people hold sway over the policies of the police force. So if somebody abuses his or her power they can be immediately dismissed.

Anarchy made easy?

Because there have been so few examples of functional Anarchist societies in history these suggestions cannot be seen as gospel truth. Many of these ideas are taken either from noteworthy Anarchist thinkers or from the Spanish Civil War where they were put into practice. Freedom requires massive amounts of education on a large scale. It took the people of Spain seventy years to prepare for their revolution all the while overcoming illiteracy and a civil war, but with the internet and relative peace (at least here in the United States) the conditions are markedly better to annunciate the message. Isn’t it time to start thinking like George Orwell and recognize the significance of this beautiful idea?

And Then There Was One, The Final Holdout: 9-11

July 30, 2007

And Then There Was One, The Final Holdout: 9-11

Reggie, Contributing Editor
TvNewsLIES.org
Monday July 30, 2007

Not to worry, this is not about truth seekers or conspiracy theories. It’s not about the long list of anomalies and discrepancies in the official story of 9/11. It’s not even about the undeniable fact that the events of 9/11 gave George Bush and his handlers the keys to the neocon kingdom of empire. It really is not.

What it’s about is the strangest phenomenon I can recall in my entire adult life. It’s about what I perceive to be an extraordinary lapse in the logic of millions of otherwise sensible Americans. And it’s about something I cannot wrap my mind around, no matter how I try. Maybe someone out there can help me understand what’s going on.

In preface, let me also say that this is not about being uninformed. Granted, the corporate media have suppressed any discussion, debate or investigative reporting about the attacks on the United States that purportedly ‘changed everything.’ That reality aside, even the most fawn-like pundits on the airwaves understand that the ship of state is sinking, and that it is time to challenge the lies of this administration. But, it seems that lie after lie has become fair game for disclosure, or at least for some discussion at this point. As a result, each day, the American people in larger and larger numbers understand that they have been taken for a terrible and costly ride by the lies they were told by this President and his cohorts.

That is, every lie but one.

Finally, nearly seven years after a stolen election that was itself based on lies, greater numbers of Americans are no longer blindly accepting the talking points emanating from the White House as the Gospel truth. In more and more media outlets the Bush lies are openly being identified as such, – rather than by every other euphemism meant to soften the ugliness of a government lying to its people. If people are not totally convinced, at least they hear debates and discussions and competing viewpoints. If nothing else, they are beginning to have doubts about the daily mantras that had them mesmerized for so long.

So let’s take a look at just the short list of these lies, so as better to understand my dilemma about the lone holdout: 9/11. Bear with me:

At this point in time, many, if not most Americans know that the men and women in the Bush White House clearly and deliberately LIED to them, both by omission and commission about:

– The Bush connection to the bin Laden family.

– Escorting dozens of members of the bin Laden family out of US after 9/11

– The Patriot Act having been written decades before 9/11

– The call for a ‘new Pearl Harbor’ by the neocons who orchestrated the wars

– A totally invalid and false connection between Iraq and the ‘War on Terror

– Regular, politically timed terror alerts

– Toxic air quality at Ground Zero after 9/11

– The ‘junk science’ of Global Warming and its effects around the globe

– WH orders to suppress and politicize reports on by the Surgeon General

– Plans for wars with Iraq and Afghanistan that were made before 9/11

– Saddam Hussein’s possession of WMD

– Saddam Hussein’s connection to Al Qaeda

– Saddam Hussein’s involvement in 9/11

– Saddam Hussein’s threat to the US or his neighbors

– Having NO plans for an extended occupation of Iraq or for keeping the peace

– Inadequate armor and supplies for our men and women in uniform

– Supposed ‘progress’ in Iraq, time after time

– Fudged numbers of civilian deaths in Afghanistan and Iraq

– The staged ‘toppling’ of Saddam’s statue

– The staged rescue of Jessica Lynch

– The lies about Pat Tillman’s death by friendly fire

– Illegal warrantless spying on US citizens

– Torture at Abu Ghraib and other prisons in Iraq and Afghanistan

– Rendition of detainees to other countries for torture

– Outing Valerie Plame as a CIA operative

– White House involvement in the firing of federal prosecutors…

There are so many more lies to list, but I think you get the idea.

Am I wrong to believe that in any other life situation there would be a different reaction to a series of important lies? If you became aware that your plumber or your neighbor or your doctor, or anyone at all in your life lied to you over and over and over about issues that were relevant to your well being, would you ever again believe ANYTHING that person said to you? I really don’t think so.

So, after becoming aware of lie after lie after lie by Bushco, why would anyone in his or her right mind FULLY EMBRACE THE OFFICIAL STORY OF WHAT HAPPENED ON 9/11 WITHOUT A SINGLE QUESTION? Why would anyone in the United Sates of America conclude that the official version of the most important event in recent American history AS TOLD BY PROVEN LIARS is true?

Help me out here, please.

It makes no sense to me at all. Especially, since the most telling part of all this illogic is this: NONE OF THE LIES ON THE ABOVE LIST WOULD HAVE BEEN NECESSARY OR EVEN POSSIBLE WERE IT NOT FOR AN UNSWERVING ACCEPTANCE BY MOST AMERICANS OF THE OFFICIAL VERSION OF 9/11.

Bottom line: I fully understand how difficult it is to believe anything other than the official government story of 9/11. The editor of TvNewsLIES.org has examined the reasons behind the refusal of so many Americans to believe the mounds of evidence that challenge the credibility of the story we have been told. Fine and good.

But, frankly, for the purpose of this article, your personal opinion about who was responsible for 9/11 is irrelevant. It makes no difference at all. What matters is that we examine the strange illogic that stops millions of Americans from questioning a possible lie – one that may matter more than any other. These same Americans now seem willing to openly question many of the lies that are told and repeated ad nauseam by the President and his clan. They are now for more skeptical about their messages and far more hesitant to believe anything George W. Bush tells them in his speeches and press conferences.

But they still will not consider for a moment that the official story of 9/11 as told by this lying government may also be a lie. Ergo, the illogic I cannot understand..

The official story of 9/11 has been told by professional, experienced, and successful liars.
Think about that as you try to explain the need to believe it.

Maybe it will take another 9/11, as we’ve recently been warned may happen very soon, to convince Americans that the most egregious and damaging of all the lies told by the Bush administration must not remain off limits.

We really have few choices left. We have to reach that logical moment when we can openly discuss and debate and examine the available information about 9/11, no matter what the outcome may be. We have to retrieve our collective abilities to examine the events of that day. Perhaps, then, we finally can say about the lies we have heard….:

…and then there were none.

Report Finds Dire Humanitarian Crisis in Iraq

July 30, 2007

July 30, 2007

 

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/07/30/world/middleeast/30cnd-Iraq.html

Report Finds Dire Humanitarian Crisis in Iraq

AMMAN, Jordan, July 30 — Poverty, hunger and public health continue to worsen in Iraq, according to a report released today from Oxfam International, which demands more humanitarian aid from abroad and calls on the Iraqi government to immediately decentralize the distribution of food and medical supplies.

The report, a compendium of research from the United Nations, the Iraqi government and non-profit organizations that Oxfam works with or funds, offers little original data, but it provides one of the most comprehensive pictures to date of the humanitarian crisis within Iraq, and what it describes as a slow-motion response from Iraq’s government, the United States, the United Nations and the European Union.

The report states that as many as four million Iraqis are in dire need of help getting food, many of them children; 70 percent of the country now lacks access to adequate water supplies, up from 50 percent in 2003, and 90 percent of the country’s hospitals lack basic medical and surgical supplies.

One survey cited in the report, completed in May by the Iraqi Ministry of Planning, found that 43 percent of Iraqis live in “absolute poverty,” on less than $1 a day.

Unemployment and hunger are particularly acute among the estimated two million people displaced from their homes by violence — those who “have no incomes and are running out of coping mechanisms,” the report says.

The solutions proposed by Oxfam, an international aid organization that opposed the 2003 American invasion and helps groups in Iraq from an office in Amman, focus on both Iraqi policy and international funding.

Specifically, the report calls on Iraq to expand and decentralize its distribution of food rations and emergency cash payments to widows. Medical and other aid supplies, currently kept in seven Baghdad warehouses, should be pushed out to the provinces and managed by local authorities rather than the inefficient central government, the report says.

Citing policies of non-governmental organizations in Iraq that restrict the acceptance of money from countries involved in the country’s conflict, Oxfam also called on countries without troops in Iraq to send more money for aid. According to the report, funding cuts and the challenges of providing assistance in an insecure environment have limited what the United Nations and its partners can do for Iraqis. The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, for example, used to work with 20 partners in Iraq; it now has only 11, the report says.

“The government of Iraq, international donors, and the United Nations system have been focused on reconstruction, development, and building political institutions and have overlooked the harsh daily struggle for survival now faced by many,” the report says.

Oxfam’s analysis offers no suggestions for how to root out the corruption that has hobbled the Iraqi government and international aid efforts in the past, nor does it address the links between criminal militias and Iraqi government agencies, like the Ministry of Health, which is run by the political party loyal to Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr.

It focuses almost exclusively on the need for more money and the better distribution of aid.

Joost Hiltermann, an Iraq analyst at the International Crisis Group, an organization of experts on conflicts, said that at this point in Iraq, the focus is justified. Corruption, he said, is beyond the purview of groups like Oxfam and the lack of organized aid needs to be immediately addressed.

“The priority,” he said, “is to get aid going regardless of such problems.”