2. Drones Alienate Pakistanis

Sep-28-2012 | Comments Off

Bird’s Eye: So if you can’t rely on your troops, Plan B is to use remote machinery. But that doesn’t seem to be working so well either, as a 9 month US study of the effects of drones reported this week.

* Surprise: US Drones Kill Civilians, Provoke Hatred  Woods Informed Comment

Men, women and children are subjected to almost constant trauma – including fear of attack, severe anxiety, powerlessness, insomnia and high levels of stress – says a nine month investigation into CIA drone strikes in Pakistan by two top US university law schools. More than 130 ‘victims, witnesses and experts’ were interviewed in Pakistan for the study.

A number of those eyewitnesses corroborated the Bureau’s own recent findings – that rescuers have been deliberately targeted by the CIA in the tribal areas. The new study heavily challenges US government claims that few civilians have died in CIA drone strikes, saying that there is ‘significant evidence’ to the contrary.

As the report notes in its executive summary: ‘In the United States, the dominant narrative about the use of drones in Pakistan is of a surgically precise and effective tool that makes the US safer by enabling “targeted killing” of terrorists, with minimal downsides or collateral impacts. This narrative is false.’

* Outrage At Cia’s Deadly ‘Double Tap’ Drone Attacks  The Independent

Late in the evening on 6 June this year an unmanned drone was flying high above the Pakistani village of Datta Khel in north Waziristan. The buzz emitted by America’s fleet of Predators and Reapers are a familiar sound for the inhabitants of the dusty hamlet, which lies next to a riverbed close to Pakistan’s border with Afghanistan and is a stronghold for the Taliban commander Hafiz Gul Bahadur.

As the drone circled it let off the first of its Hellfire missiles, slamming into a small house and reducing it to rubble. When residents rushed to the scene of the attack to see if they could help they were struck again.

According to reports at the time, three local rescuers were killed by a second missile whilst a further strike killed another three people five minutes later. In all, somewhere between 17 and 24 people are thought to have been killed in the attack. The Datta Khel assault was just one of the more than 345 strikes that have hit Pakistan’s tribal areas in the past eight years but it reveals an increasingly common tactic now being used in America’s covert drone wars – the “double-tap” strike.

More and more, while the overall frequency of strikes has fallen since a Nato attack in 2011 killed 24 Pakistani soldiers and strained US-Pakistan relations, initial strikes are now followed up by further missiles in a tactic which lawyers and campaigners say is killing an even greater number of civilians. The tactic has cast such a shadow of fear over strike zones that rescuers often wait for hours before daring to visit the scene of an attack.

* Why Do They Hate Us? 

new poll reveals….



5. About “The Innocence of Muslims”

Sep-21-2012 | Comments Off

Bird’s Eye: Who would have guessed that Neil Gaiman would have the lead story about the bigoted film? But he knew the actress who wrote to him, and he ran her letter, and so the story came out. Al Jazeera sums up the story, and Stephen Walt points out that just how much the extremists on one side depend on the extremists on the other.

* A Letter from a Scared Actress Neil Gaiman’s Journal

Something very bad happened. I desperately need everyone’s help right now.

I don’t know how to start writing this letter. It’s crazy, the world is.. life.. I’m so shattered right now, I don’t know.. I feel very dead inside. 

Last summer I auditioned for an indie low budget feature movie and I landed a supporting role. The movie was about a comet falling into a desert and ancient tribes fighting over it for they thought that the comet had some magical powers.

A year later, the movie was dubbed (without the actors’ permission), the lines were changed drastically and the movie was morphed into an Anti-Islam film. Even the names of the characters were changed. And the character I had scenes with GEORGE became MUHAMMAD. 

I really need your advice right now? How can I have my voice shown to the world so that I can tell them the real story.

* The Attacks In Libya And Beyond  Al Jazeera (Thanks Gabe!)

The lack of humanity has been evident clear across the world this week, from the con-man in California who produced a bigoted anti-Muslim film, to some crackpot, cracker of a preacher who promoted it, to a bunch of zealots in Libya who murdered innocents, people performing public service whose only crime was to be from the country from which the film hailed.

Then there was the American presidential candidate – Mitt Romney - who grinned like the Cheshire cat as he politicized the death of innocent Americans, including our ambassador to Libya. All of this occurred, mind you, within 24 hours of 9/11, when an act of unspeakable inhumanity led to mass death and suffering in the United States. Not a good few days for the human species, I’d venture to say.

What does this all tell us? Mostly, it reminds us of some sad realities with which we’re already all too acquainted. That while religion and ideology can lead to spirituality and righteous passion (think the civil rights movement), they can also lead to the suppression of women’s rights, the justification of economic subjugation, and when it comes right down to it, hatred for one’s fellow man (and woman) for no other reason than they are “different”.

* Lessons of Benghazi (and beyond)   Stephen M. Walt

Extremists on both sides are engaged in a dangerous duet: They depend on each other for sustenance and reinforcement. The extremist views and radical violence of groups like Al Qaeda create a mirror image here, in the form of paranoid Islamophobes, whose harsh rhetoric and support for endless war against the entire Muslim world in turn gives Islamic extremists potent arguments to use in their battle to win hearts and minds. Matt Duss has a great rundown on this whole problem here. My point is that if you want to make Islamic extremism stronger, you should write a check to your favourite Islamophobe. 



8. New Music

Sep-21-2012 | Comments Off

Bird’s Eye: Three out of four isn’t bad, surely? The Randy Newman is out yesterday, and is a free download at the link. Gangnam Style is just breaking in the west, and Martha Wainwright’s Proserpina was released last week. And while the Talking Heads video is from 1980, it’s just been rediscovered. No, it’s not new, but it was too good not to include it here.

* “I’m Dreaming of a White President” Randy Newman 

Slate: You’re releasing “I’m Dreaming” free of charge, but you’re encouraging listeners to donate to the United Negro College Fund. Why that particular cause?

Newman: I have some concern that kids will hear this and think, “What is he talking about?” If you have a kid and you try irony out on them, they don’t get it at 7, 8 years old. “What do you mean, you’re dreaming of a white president?” It’s a problem. You can’t really hide the Internet from kids. It worries me some particularly because I’ve done Disney and Pixar stuff.  In Toy Story, there’s my voice saying, “You’ve Got a Friend in Me.” And then here’s my voice singing that I want “A real live white man / Who knows the score.” I’d like it to be clearer which side I’m on. Of course, it comes a little late….

* Gangnam Style: South Korean rapper PSY’s social commentary Toronto Star

South Korean rapper PSY’s “Gangnam Style” video has 220 million YouTube views and counting, and it’s easy to see why. No Korean language skills are needed to enjoy the chubby, massively entertaining performer’s crazy horse-riding dance, the song’s addictive chorus and the video’s exquisitely odd series of misadventures.
Beneath the antic, funny surface of his world-conquering song, however, is a sharp social commentary about the country’s newly rich and Gangnam, the affluent district where many of them live. Gangnam is only a small slice of Seoul, but it inspires a complicated mixture of desire, envy and bitterness.

* Martha Wainwright: Proserpina  NOWNESS

Martha Wainwright’s soaring yet delicate harmonies take center stage in her performance of elegy “Proserpina,” written by her late mother, the legendary folk singer Kate McGarrigle, in filmmaker Matthu Placek’s intimate video. Taken from her forthcoming album Come Home to Mama, the track was recorded in Sean Lennon’s New York home studio and continues a lifelong musical dialogue between Wainwright and McGarrigle, who passed away in 2010. “It’s the last song my mother wrote, and of course I also think that she wrote it for me, and for Rufus,” explains Wainwright, referring to her critically acclaimed crooner brother, Rufus Wainwright. “We wrote songs together, ever since we were children. As we sing her songs, I think her voice can be heard in ours, literally through our pipes.”  Placek’s single-take film was inspired by the premise of “Proserpina,” which recounts the story of the creation of the seasons by the Roman goddess Ceres, who withholds the world’s bounty for six months every year in protest about her daughter’s abduction by Pluto, lord of the underworld. “It’s all about Martha’s performance,” says the director, who has also produced music videos for Trixie Whitley and Hannah Cohen. “Martha’s vocal range is insane, it’s outrageous—I’ve never seen anyone like her.”

* The Talking Heads Concert Film You Haven’t Seen   Open Culture

Few bands can boast a performance so image-defining as the one the Talking Heads pulled off in Jonathan Demme’s Stop Making Sense. Given its physical meticulousness, its seamless editing, and its refined aesthetic sense — qualities rarely prioritized in rock concert films — its place in the zeitgeist seems well earned. But that picture opened in 1984, when the band had already released its most widely respected albums, and when they had only four years to go before effectively dissolving. Live in Rome, which you can now watch uncut on YouTube, captures the Heads in 1980, a less established moment in their history. David Byrne and company express the same kind of off-kilter energy on display in Stop Making Sense — the enthusiasm of punks who also happen to be musicology nerds — but here they express it in a simpler, more traditionally “rock concert-ish” setting.

Talking Heads enthusiasts, note that Live in Rome features the group’s full “Afro-Funk Orchestra” lineup. Additionally, you’ll see on guitar a certain Adrian Belew, who would begin fronting King Crimson the following year. (As he might, in another reality, have fronted the Heads themselves; in our reality, he turned down an offer to take Byrne’s place.) The songs not heard in Stop Making Sense include “Stay Hungry,” “Cities,” “I Zimbra,” “Drugs,” “Houses in Motion,” “Born Under Punches,” and “The Great Curve.”



Sept 6th, 2012 :: Year 9, Issue 30

Sep-07-2012 | Comments (2)

1. The Shape of the Economy

Bird’s Eye: The economy is lopsided. Those at the top get a disproportionate share, and as money equals power, they have the power to remain at the top. This is particularly so in the US, in which corporations are allowed unlimited donations. And wealthy corporations want governments who will help them to become wealthier, whatever the cost to other parts of society. The three folks below get this. Pass it on.

* 21 Basic Points On The Economy  Ian Welsh

4) The upper middle class job market has recovered, which is why those folks are no longer panicking and are telling you that the economy isn’t so bad as all that.

5) The failure to force the rich to take their losses and to break up the banks means that the same people who caused the 2007/8 financial crisis still control the economy and the government.

10) Austerity is a means by which the rich can buy up assets which are not normally on the market for cheap.

11) the wealth of the rich and major corporations has recovered and in many countries exceeded its prior highs.  They are doing fine. Austerity is not hurting them. They control your politicians.  The depression will not end until it is in their interest for it to do so, or their wealth and power is broken.

* Elizabeth Warren Speech at the DNC HuffPo

We’re Americans. We celebrate success. We just don’t want the game to be rigged. We’ve fought to level the playing field before. About a century ago, when corrosive greed threatened our economy and our way of life, the American people came together under the leadership of Teddy Roosevelt and other progressives, to bring our nation back from the brink.

We started to take children out of factories and put them in schools. We began to give meaning to the words “consumer protection” by making our food and medicine safe. And we gave the little guys a better chance to compete by preventing the big guys from rigging the markets. We turned adversity into progress because that’s what we do.

…The Republican vision is clear: “I’ve got mine, the rest of you are on your own.” Republicans say they don’t believe in government. Sure they do. They believe in government to help themselves and their powerful friends. After all, Mitt Romney’s the guy who said corporations are people.

No, Governor Romney, corporations are not people. People have hearts, they have kids, they get jobs, they get sick, they cry, they dance. They live, they love, and they die. And that matters. That matters because we don’t run this country for corporations, we run it for people. And that’s why we need Barack Obama.

* America’s Prosperity Requires A Level Playing Field  Joseph Stiglitz L.A. Times

Despite what the debt and deficit hawks would have you believe, we can’t cut our way back to prosperity. No large economy has ever recovered from serious recession through austerity. But there is another factor holding our economy back: inequality.

Any solution to today’s problems requires addressing the economy’s underlying weakness: a deficiency in aggregate demand. Firms won’t invest if there is no demand for their products. And one of the key reasons for lack of demand is America’s level of inequality — the highest in the advanced countries.

Because those at the top spend a much smaller portion of their income than those in the bottom and middle, when money moves from the bottom and middle to the top (as has been happening in America in the last dozen years), demand drops. The best way to promote employment today and sustained economic growth for the future, therefore, is to focus on the underlying problem of inequality. And this better economic performance in turn will generate more tax revenue, improving the country’s fiscal position.



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