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28 February 2009

Chomsky on Consumerism and Other Topics

25 February 2009

Nobel Prize-Winning Economist Joseph Stiglitz: Obama Has Confused Saving the Banks With Saving the Bankers

Report: Leading Jurists Call for Urgent Steps to Restore Human Rights in efforts to counter terrorism

Muslim Publics Oppose Al Qaeda's Terrorism, But Agree With Its Goal of Driving US Forces Out

February 24, 2009

Support for Including Islamist Groups in Elections

Full Report (PDF) 
Questionnaire/Methodology (PDF)

A study of public opinion in predominantly Muslim countries reveals that very large majorities continue to renounce the use of attacks on civilians as a means of pursuing political goals. At the same time large majorities agree with al Qaeda's goal of pushing the United States to remove its military forces from all Muslim countries and substantial numbers, in some cases majorities, approve of attacks on US troops in Muslim countries.

(Photo: Ed Yourdon)

People in majority-Muslim countries express mixed feelings about al Qaeda and other Islamist groups that use violence, perhaps due to this combination of support for al Qaeda's goals and disapproval of its terrorist methods.

However large majorities support allowing Islamist groups to organize parties and participate in democratic elections. In some majority-Muslim countries, Islamist groups, such as the Muslim Brotherhood, are forbidden from participating in elections.

Steven Kull, director of WorldPublicOpinion.org, comments, "The US faces a conundrum. US efforts to fight terrorism with an expanded military presence in Muslim countries appear to have elicited a backlash and to have bred some sympathy for al Qaeda, even as most reject its terrorist methods."

The survey is part of an ongoing study of Egypt, Pakistan, and Indonesia, with additional polling in Turkey, Jordan, the Palestinian territories, Azerbaijan and Nigeria. It was conducted by WorldPublicOpinion.org with support from the START Consortium at the University of Maryland.

In nearly all nations polled more than seven in 10 say they disapprove of attacks on American civilians. "Bombings and assassinations that are carried out to achieve political or religious goals" are rejected as "not justified at all" by large majorities ranging from 67 to 89 percent. There is a growing belief that attacks on civilians are ineffective, with approximately half now saying that such attacks are hardly ever effective.

At the same time large majorities endorse the goal of al Qaeda to "push the US to remove its bases and its military forces from all Islamic countries," including 87 percent of Egyptians, 64 percent of Indonesians, and 60 percent of Pakistanis.

Asked specifically about the US naval forces based in the Persian Gulf, there is widespread opposition across the Muslim world. Across eight Muslim publics on average, 66 percent said it was a bad idea; only 13 percent called it a good idea. Opposition is largest in Egypt (91%) and among the Palestinians (90%), but opposition is also large in America's NATO ally Turkey (77%).

Significant numbers approve of attacks on US troops based in Muslim countries, presumably as a means to apply pressure for their removal. Respondents were asked about US troops based in Iraq, the Persian Gulf, and Afghanistan. Large majorities approve of attacks in Egypt (78-83%), the Palestinian territories (87-90%), and Jordan (66-72%). In Turkey and Pakistan views are more divided. However, only minorities support attacks in Indonesia and Azerbaijan.

Opposition to US military presence appears to be related to largely negative views of US goals in relation to the Muslim world. A key belief is that the US has goals hostile to Islam itself. Large majorities ranging from 62 percent in Indonesia to 87 percent in Egypt say they believe that the United States seeks "to weaken and divide the Islamic world."

Many also perceive the US having goals of economic domination. Large majorities say that it is a US goal to "maintain control over the oil resources of the Middle East" ranging from 62 percent in Pakistan to nine in 10 in Egypt, Turkey, Azerbaijan, and Jordan, and the Palestinian territories.

Views of al Qaeda are complex. Majorities agree with nearly all of al Qaeda's goals to change US behavior in the Muslim world, to promote Islamist governance, and to preserve and affirm Islamic identity. However, as mentioned, only minorities say they approve of al Qaeda's attacks on Americans. Consistent with this apparent ambivalence, views of groups that attack Americans and Bin Laden are mixed or lukewarm.

Support for Islamist groups participating in the political process, though, is quite strong. Respondents were reminded that "in some countries there is a debate about whether Islamist political groups should be allowed to organize parties and run candidates in elections," and then asked to choose between two statements. Majorities or pluralities in every country chose the statement "All people should have the right to organize themselves into political parties and run candidates, including Islamist groups," including Pakistan (83%), Indonesia (81%), Azerbaijan (75%), Palestinian territories (69%), Turkey (53%), and Jordan (50%). Few chose the statement "Islamist groups should not be allowed to organize and run candidates because their ultimate goals are not consistent with democracy."

In all Muslim publics polled, majorities see US support for democracy in Muslim countries as conditional at best. Only very small minorities say "the US favors democracy in Muslim countries whether or not the government is cooperative with the US." The most common response is that the US favors democracy only if the government is cooperative, while nearly as many say that the US simply opposes democracy in the Muslim countries.

The surveys were conducted July through September 2008. As part of an ongoing study, in-depth surveys were conducted in Egypt (1,101 interviews), Indonesia (1,120 interviews), and Pakistan (1,200 interviews). This research was supported by the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START) at the University of Maryland. Additional polling, as part of a WorldPublicOpinion.org network survey, included Azerbaijan (sample size 600), Jordan (583), the Palestinian territories (638), and Turkey (1,023). All of these samples were national probability samples conducted through face-to-face interviewing. Margins of error range from +/- 3 to 4 percentage points. Muslims in Nigeria were also polled.

For more information, see the full report (PDF) or the questionnaire (PDF).

24 February 2009

Altering Bailout Rules, US Moves Closer to Nationalizing Troubled Banks

The Obama administration has revamped the terms of its emergency aid to troubled financial firms that could lead to the government nationalizing some of the country’s largest banks. With nationalized banks on the horizon, we speak to Robert Johnson, former chief economist of the Senate Banking Committee, and former investment banker turned journalist, Nomi Prins.

The Obama administration has revamped the terms of its emergency aid to troubled financial firms that could lead to the government nationalizing some of the country’s largest banks.

In a joint statement, the Treasury Department, the Federal Reserve and federal bank regulatory agencies announced yesterday the government might demand a direct ownership stake in major banks that do not have enough capital to withstand an extreme recession. The government will begin a series of so-called “stress tests” this week on twenty of the country’s largest banks with $100 billion dollars in assets.

The Obama administration has confirmed it is already in talks with Citigroup, that could raise its stake in the company–one of the world’s largest financial institutions–to as much as 40 percent.

The news was welcomed by some investors. Even as the Dow Jones industrial average plunged on Monday to its lowest close in twelve years, shares of Citigroup climbed 10 percent. And shares of another troubled firm, Bank of America, rose about 3 percent.

But administration officials emphasized that nationalizing any of the major banks was their least favorite solution to the banking crisis. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner has said he wants to avoid an explicit takeover that would put the government in charge of running the banks but, as a last resort, the government would consider taking temporary control.

Meanwhile, President Obama takes center stage this evening to announce his broader agenda for jolting the country out of deep recession and confronting long-term economic challenges. Obama will deliver a State of the Union-style address at 9 p.m. Eastern time in his first appearance before a joint session of Congress since taking office.

Nomi Prins, former investment banker turned journalist. She used to run the European analytics group at Bear Stearns and is now a senior fellow at Demos. She is the author of two books: Other People’s Money: The Corporate Mugging of Americaand Jacked: How Conservatives Are Picking Your Pocket. Her upcoming book is called It Takes a Pillage.

Robert Johnson, former chief economist of the Senate Banking Committee and a former managing director at Soros Fund Management. His latest article is Nationalize Failing Banks? Think Twice.

Noam Chomsky Interview: See Description Below

Kind of a strange interview; see blurb:
On February 17, 2009 we had the pleasure of meeting Noam Chomsky in a virtual classroom for a learning conversation. A learning conversation with a great author, professor, teacher or public speaker is the concept of the free of charge Virtual Round Table on Demand program which is conducted by LANCELOT School (www.lancelotschool.com). Those requesting the author are encouraged to collect 5 great questions which they would like to ask the author (teacher, professor or public speaker). The following is a recording of those 5 questions. http://chomsky.pbwiki.com/5-questions LANCELOT School is an innovative, inspiring and sociable teacher training center for language teachers. Virtual Round Table with Noam Chomsky was sponsored by LearningTimes (www.learningtimes.com) and InstantPresenter.com (www.instantpresenter.com)
The system kind of sucks, in my instructional-designer opinion, and the presenter wasn't too on the ball, either. But there's some interesting potential there, and Chomsky has intelligent things to say, as per usual.

Mel Brooks's The Critic, 1963

Robert Fisk on Gaza and the media, rabble.ca

23 February 2009

President Obama to Sanction Israel?

Take Action: President Obama to Sanction Israel?

February 23, 2009

Tomorrow, President Obama is expected to address a joint session of Congress and deliver a "blueprint" for his FY2010 budget.

According to the terms of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed between the United States and Israel in 2007 and made public by the US Campaign, the President is expected to request $2.775 billion in military aid to Israel in FY2010.

However, there are growing indications that the Obama Administration is considering sanctioning Israel. According to a senior Israeli security official in a Feb. 17 article in Ma'ariv, Israel fears that Special Envoy George Mitchell will convince the White House to cut military aid as a response to Israel's ongoing settlement activities in the occupied West Bank. A Feb. 15 Ha'aretz article speculated that amounts available for U.S. loan guarantees to Israel would be cut for the same reason.

Meanwhile, last Thursday, Sen. John Kerry and Reps. Keith Ellison and Brian Baird visited the occupied Gaza Strip to assess the damage from Israel's recent war and ongoing siege. This was the first time any U.S. government official visited Gaza in more than three years. After their visit, Ellison and Baird released a strong press release, stating:

"If this had happened in our own country, there would be national outrage and an appeal for urgent assistance.  We are glad that the Obama administration acted quickly to send much needed funding for this effort but the arbitrary and unreasonable Israeli limitations on food and repair essentials is unacceptable and indefensible.  People, innocent children, women and non-combatants, are going without water, food and sanitation, while the things they so desperately need are sitting in trucks at the border, being denied permission to go in."

Keep up the momentum to hold Israel accountable by taking action below.


1. Encourage President Obama to sanction Israel for its misuse of U.S. weapons.
Send a letter to the President today asking him to investigate Israel's prior misuses of U.S. weapons against Palestinians and to reconsider his anticipated request for additional weapons in his upcoming budget. To send your letter, please click here.

2. Thank Sen. Kerry and Reps. Ellison and Baird for visiting the occupied Gaza Strip. Contact these Members of Congress to thank them for visiting Gaza to assess the damage from Israel's war and ongoing siege, and be sure to thank Reps. Ellison and Baird for their strong statement.

Sen. John Kerry: 202-224-2742
Rep. Brian Baird: 202-225-3536

Rep. Keith Ellison: 202-225-4755

3. Organize to challenge U.S. military aid to Israel in your community. Even as we begin to see glimmers of hope that the United States is considering changing its policy of unconditional support for Israel and holding it accountable for its human rights abuses of Palestinians, we have to organize on a long-term, sustained basis to make this happen.

Since February 2008, we have sent nearly 1,000 organizing packets to people and organizations all over the country to educate and mobilize people in their communities to challenge military aid to Israel. Check out our Google map showing the locations where people are organizing.

Sign up today as a volunteer organizer with us and we'll send you an organizing packet complete with postcards, petitions, and fact sheets.

Sign up today!

4. Learn more about U.S. military aid to Israel and its dire impact on Palestinians. Watch our recent Capitol Hill policy briefing, "Armed and Dangerous: Weapons Transfers to Israel during the Bush Administration," and download a PowerPoint presentation on the topic by clicking here.

5. Make a tax-deductible contribution to support this work. If you value the work that we do to challenge U.S. military aid to Israel, then please consider making a generous one-time contribution or join our Olive Branch Club and make a recurring monthly donation.

US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation