28 January 2015


 Glenn Greenwald's book "No Place To Hide" has the subtitle - 'Edward Snowden, the NSA, and the U.S. Surveillance State'.

The dedication explains the importance of the book's contents:

"This book is dedicated to all those who have sought to shine a light on the US Government's secret mass surveillance systems, particularly the courageous whistle-blowers who have risked their liberty to do so."

This gives an indication of the direction in which the unfolding narrative will take us, and it is a journey which will leave you wondering whatever happened to the concept of democracy which is the supposed political system in which we live.

The dust-cover of the book gives an excellent summary of the book's contents and I can do no better than to reproduce the item in its entirety:

"In May 2013, Glenn Greenwald set out for Hong Kong to meet and anonymous source who claimed to have astonishing evidence of pervasive government spying and insisted on communicating only through heavily encrypted channels. That source turned out to be the twenty-nine-year-old NSA contractor Edward Snowden, and his revelations about the agency's widespread, systematic overreach proved to be some of the most explosive and consequential news in recent history, triggering a fierce debate over national security and information privacy. As the arguments raged on and the government considers proposals for reform, it is clear that we have yet to see the full impact of Snowden's disclosures.

Now, for the first time, Greenwald puts all the pieces together, recounting the high-intensity ten-day trip to Hong-Kong, examining the broader implications of the surveillance detailed in his reporting for The Guardian, and revealing fresh information on the NSA's unprecedented abuse of power with never-before-seen documents entrusted to him by Snowden himself.

Going beyond NSA specifics, Greenwald also takes on the establishment media, excoriating their habitual avoidance of adversarial reporting on the government and their failure to serve the interests of the people. Finally, he asks what it means both for individuals and for a nation's political health when a government pries so invasively into the private lives of its citizens - and considers what safeguards and forms of oversight are necessary to protect democracy in the digital age. Coming at a landmark moment in American history, No Place to Hide is a fearless, incisive, and essential contribution to our understanding of the US surveillance state."

One of the most important aspects of this book is the fact that the main-stream-media shy away from telling the citizens of our so-called democracies exactly what our governments are doing and what they are keeping hidden from everybody.

An ongoing case in point is the secret number of free-trade agreements the USA is busy negotiating with countries in the Asia-Pacific region and in the Trans-Atlantic area and one only has to examine what the USA has done with the Trade agreement between the USA, Mexico and Canada to see the disastrous outcomes of the populations of those countries.

The more the USA is involved in secret deals and agreements, the worse it will be for all those countries involved. In the end all of us end up with NO PLACE TO HIDE!


It is unfortunate that one's vote has so little value on its own, and very little value with a few in the community whose views are similar to one's own.

When it comes to the current prime minister of Australia who makes a fool of himself every time he opens his mouth, the possibility of more and more people reaching consensus on the overall picture confronting us with the worst prime minister in living history seems to be growing by the minute.

Thank goodness yet again for people like Michael Leuning whose cartoons continue to reach to the essence of those around us as this cartoon from a few years ago illustrates so tellingly:

How much longer we are going to have to put up with the inanities pouring out of Canberra - well, nobody knows, but we have to live in hope that our collective agonies will end at the latest by the next election, due in September 2016.

18 January 2015


The following item came from a Verso blog following on from a Shlomo Sand article in CounterPunch on 16 January 2015 after the recent events in France with Charlie Hebdo. At the end of the article was a link to this item from 3 December 2014, and the one article explains the other.

Shlomo Sand banned from speaking

Shlomo Sand, author of The Invention of the Land of Israel, The Invention of the Jewish Peopleand most recently How I Stopped Being a Jew,was this month prevented from speaking at the University of Nice.

The following is a statement from the UJFP, the French Jewish Union for Peace:
Already banned (effectively) from the Maison des Associations on Nice’s Place Garibaldi two years ago, Shlomo Sand is now silenced in the place where we would least have expected it: the university!

The UNIA (Université de Nice Inter-Âge) had planned a public lecture for Wednesday 19 November entitled ‘Actuality of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict’, organised and presented by Yvan Gastaut (professor of contemporary history) with Shlomo Sand, professor at the University of Tel Aviv, invited to come and speak. We learned on the 6ththat this meeting had been cancelled – without any explanation.
What had happened, then? A technical problem at the venue? A participant falling ill, or being otherwise occupied?


With a simple email dated 2 November (and all our citations come from this document), Mr. Roger Guedj, emeritus professor at the Université de Nice Sophia-Antipolis, warned the ‘leadership’ of the UNIA against the invite offered ‘to a questionable and widely-questioned historian on a particularly sensitive subject linked to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict’ and who ‘questions the creation of the State of Israel’.
Is the university not the proper place for controversy and debate? Alas! Mr. Guedj decided already: ‘lectures on current topics must be the object of consensus…’ In conclusion, he ‘hope[d] that it [would be] postponed, awaiting our leadership’s discussion of whether it is appropriate’. There was soon consensus at the UNIA… and this was put into action, with the meeting cancelled.

Two professors from the University of Nice, alerted to this, immediately expressed their indignation:
Jean-Marc Lévy-Leblond (extracts): ‘S. Sand’s theses are, certainly, the object of doubt, but that does not at all make him a “dubious” historian, and his academic position is testament enough to this…

No, Sand does not at all challenge the existence of the State of Israel, indeed he is an Israeli citizen… the UNIA has the vocation of developing (rather than doling out....) culture, and in a convivial atmosphere, I shoud hope; but I do not much believe in harmony, since culture is only alive through and in confrontations’.

André Tosel (extracts): ‘I know and have read this historian of great intellectual talent and moral courage. This decision silences and sullies the university world for which UNIA claims to stand. Intellectual life does not consist of giving your blessing or dodging the issue. The contradictions of history have to be taken head on, arguing loyally and with respect in the discussion of analyses, rather than being neutralised by the reigning moral order’s prejudices regarding what can be expressed.

 These latter, alas, are a speciality of Nice’s. The university body and the Université de Nice Sophia-Antipolis must restore their intellectual prestige marred by this decision, repudiating and overturning it without delay!

The Zionists will not dictate their rewriting of history, in Nice or anywhere else!

Shlomo Sand is an Israeli academic who teaches at the University of Tel-Aviv –and he isn’t censored there – and is the author of many works of history including The Invention of the Jewish People and The Invention of the Land of Israel. The Zionists cannot forgive him for having questioned the founding myths of their ideology, namely the exile of the Jews and their return.

We can have disagreements with Shlomo Sand, as with any researcher. The Zionists have chosen to try to gag him. The meeting that was meant to take place at the Université de Nice Inter-Âge on 19 November was banned without explanation after the intervention of a professor from the Université de Nice Sophia-Antipolis, arguing that a lecture on the subject ‘Actuality of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict’ would have to be the object of consensus, this not being the case for ‘such a dubious historian’.

Too much – it’s too much! The Israeli government has just committed acts against the Palestinian population that the Russell Tribunal on Palestine called war crimes, crimes against humanity and incitement to genocide. Israel society in its majority approves of these crimes, partly because it is worn down by an incessant propaganda that denies Palestinians their dignity and their rights.

We will not let those who support a criminal policy silence our voices. We salute the two Nice academics, Jean-Marc Lévy-Leblond and André Tosel, who have protested against this attack on freedom of expression. Nice, whose mayor treats Roma people as ‘delinquents’ and banned Rachid Bouchareb’s ‘outlaw’ film, is a city where this freedom is under threat. Already two years ago, Shlomo Sand was forbidden from speaking in Nice. And in that same city in 2003, a meeting with Leila Shahid, Michel Warschawski and Dominique Vidal was also banned.

We can also recall the case of Stéphen Hessel, barred from speaking at the École Normale Supérieur in 2011, or the ‘Israel, Apartheid State’ conference banned at Paris VIII in 2012. The UJFP (French Jewish Union for Peace) denounces these attacks on freedom of expression, which serve only to cover up for the destruction of Palestine that is currently underway. It demands that Shlomo Sand be able to speak freely at the university.


Translated from the French by David Broder. 


CounterPunch Weekend Edition January 16-18  Suis Charlie Chaplin

A Fetid Wind of Racism Hovers Over Europe


Nothing justifies an assassination, all the more a mass murder committed in cold blood. What has happened in Paris, the beginning of January, constitutes an absolutely inexcusable crime.

To say that involves nothing original: millions of people think and feel likewise on this account. However, in the light of this appalling tragedy, one of the first questions that occurrs to me is the following: in spite of the profound disgust experienced by the murders, is it obligatory to identify oneself with the victims’ actions? Must I be Charlie because the victims were the supreme incarnation of the ‘liberty of expression’, as the President of the Republic has declared? Am I Charlie, not only because I am a secular atheist, but also because of my fundamental antipathy towards the oppressive roots of the three principal Western monotheistic religions?

Certain caricatures published in Charlie Hebdo, that I’ve seen ages ago, appeared to me to be in bad taste; only a minority amongst them made me laugh. But isn’t the problem to be found there! In the majority of the caricatures on Islam published by the weekly, in the course of the last decade, I have discerned a manipulative aggro intended to further seduce the readership, obviously non-Muslim.

The reproduction by Charlie of the caricatures published in the Danish magazine seemed to me appalling. Already, in 2006, I had perceived as pure provocation the drawing of Mohammed decked in a turban in the form of a bomb. This is not so much a caricature against Islamists as a stupid conflation of Islam with Terror; it’s on a par with identifying Judaism with money!

It has been affirmed that Charlie, impartially, lays into all religions, but this is a lie. Certainly, it mocks Christians, and, sometimes, Jews. However, neither the Danish magazine, nor Charlie would permit themselves (fortunately) to publish a caricature presenting the prophet Moses, with kippah and ritual fringes, in the guise of a wily money-lender, hovering on a street corner. It is good that in the society these days called ‘Judeo-Christian’ (sic), it should no longer be possible to publically disseminate anti-Jewish hatred, as was the case in the not-too-distant past. I am for the liberty of expression while being at the same time opposed to racist incitement.

I admit to, gladly, tolerating the restrictions imposed on Dieudonné from expressing too far and wide his ‘criticism’ and his ‘jokes’ against Jews. On the other hand, I am positively opposed to attempts to restrain him physically. And if, by chance, some idiot attacks him, I will not be very shocked … albeit I will not go so far as to brandish a placard with the inscription: ‘je suis Dieudonné’.

In 1886, there was published in Paris La France juive of Edouard Drumont. And in 2014, the day of the assassinations committed by the three idiot criminals, there appears, under the title: Soumission [Submission], effectively Muslim France, of Michel Houellebecq. The pamphlet La France juive was a genuine bestseller by the end of the 19th Century. Even before its appearance in the bookstores, Soumission was already a bestseller!

These two books, each in its own time, have benefited from sizeable and heated media coverage. There are, certainly, differences between them. Amongst other things, Houellebecq knows that, at the beginning of the 21st Century, it is no longer acceptable to generate fear-mongering of a Jewish threat, but that it remains readily acceptable to sell books implying a Muslim threat. Alain Soral, less adept, has not understood the ‘rules’ and, for this fact, he is marginalized in the media – and so much the better! Houellebecq, on the other hand, has been invited, with much fanfare, to appear on the coveted 8 o’clock program (journal de 20 heures) of French public television, while his book is simultaneously responsible for the dissemination of the fear of Islam.

A bad wind, a fetid wind of dangerous racism, hovers over Europe: there exists a fundamental difference between challenging a religion or a dominant belief in a society, and that of attacking or inciting against the religion of a dominated minority. If, in the breast of ‘Judeo-Muslim’ [no less ridiculous than the Judeo-Christian label] society – in Saudi Arabia, in the Gulf Emirates – there is a groundswell of protests and warnings against the dominant religion that oppresses workers in their thousands, and millions of women, we have the responsibility to support the persecuted protestors. Now, as one well knows, Western leaders, far from encouraging the would-be disciples of Voltaire and Rousseau in the Middle East, maintain their total support to the religious regimes the most repressive.

On the other hand, in France or in Denmark, in Germany or in Spain populated by millions of Muslim workers, more often forced into the worst jobs, at the bottom of the social scale, it is necessary to show the greatest prudence before criticizing Islam, and above all to not crudely ridicule it.

At the moment, and particularly after this terrible massacre, my sympathy goes to the Muslims who reside in ghettos adjacent to the metropolises, who are at considerable risk of becoming the second victims of the murders perpetrated at Charlie Hebdo and at the Hyper Casher supermarket. I continue to take as a reference point the ‘original Charlie’: the great Charlie Chaplin who never mocked the poor and the little-educated.

Moreover, and knowing that one’s writings always occur in context, how to not raise the fact that, for more than a year, so many French troops are present in Africa to ‘combat the jihadists’, when no serious debate has taken place in France on the usefulness or the damage of these military interventions? The colonial gendarme of yesteryear, who carries an incontestable responsibility in the chaotic heritage of [arbitrary] borders and regimes, is today ‘recalled’ to reinstall ‘law and order’ by means of its latterday neo-colonial gendarmerie.

France joins the military coalition in Iraq, beside the US military, firefighting pyromaniac, responsible for the chaos created in the region, and notably in the rise to power of the frightful ‘Daesh’. Allied with the ‘enlightened’ Saudi leadership, and other ardent partisans of the ‘liberty of expression’ in the Middle East, [France] shores up the illogical border carve-up that it had imposed a century ago according to its imperialist interests. It is summoned to bombard those who threaten the precious oil reserves whose product it consumes, without understanding that, in doing so, it invites the risk of terror attacks in the heart of the metropolis.

But, in fact, it is possible that this process is well understood. The enlightened West can’t possibly be the naive and innocent victim as it loves to present itself. Of course, for an assassin to kill in cold blood innocent and unarmed people it is necessary to be cruel and perverse. But it is necessary to be hypocritical or stupid to close one’s eyes on the particulars that have provided the foundations of this tragedy.

This is also proof of a blindness that we had better understand: this conflict will further escalate if we don’t all work together, atheists and believers, to open true ways of living together without hating each other.

Shlomo Sand is the author of How I Stopped Being a Jew, Verso, 2014.
In November 2014 Sand was denied the opportunity to talk at a University in France (seat of the liberty of expression). The UJFP summarises the affair here.
An earlier version of this article was published on the site of the Union Juive Française pour la Paix, and reproduced on Mediapart. Translated from the Hebrew by Michel Bilis; translated from Bilis’ French by Evan Jones.




16 January 2015


From Antony Loewenstein's web site on 16 January 2015:

The devastating cry of Guantanamo Bay inmate Fahd Ghazy

A powerful short film from the Centre for Constitutional Rights on Yemeni man Fahd Ghazy who has been imprisoned for 12 years. No crime. No guilt.
This is what causes terrorism and resistance:


There seems to be no bottom to the pit started being dug in 1992 by Paul Keating, prime minister of Australia at that time to incarcerate asylum seekers in Australia's concentration camp hell-holes around the country.

Since 1992 the position by successive politicians has been made worse and worse as they endeavour to outdo each other in their cruel treatment of human beings who are fleeing from their own hell-holes and who have now unfortunately landed in new hell-holes in another country.

Existing hell-holes and equivalent concentration camps have long been features of the indigenous landscape of Australia, so human rights abuses can now be spread out into areas unthinkable some years ago.

There may be terror attacks taking place all over the world, but Australia is guilty of terror attacks relating to torture and worse of human beings being incarcerated in camps even apartheid South Africa hadn't quite achieved in its years of horror.

Mind you, the Israelis are overtaking most of the world's oppressors with their treatment of Palestine and the Palestinians, but one horror does not excuse another horror, and, as used to be the old saying, two wrongs don't make a right!!

The latest appalling situation is taking place in the Manus Island concentration camp where news has managed to leak out of people sewing their lips together and swallowing razor blades -ffs!! What next - operating on themselves and removing their guts from their bodies while they are potentially still alive? Burning themselves to death? The potential horrors are endless and beyond contemplation.

Who is going to put a stop to it all - and when???

I certainly won't be living long enough to see it all come to an end with a just and humane resolution.

08 January 2015


Generally speaking. most Australians live - or exist - somewhere between the 18th and 20th centuries. Not too many have progressed to be living in the 21st century, and even some of those who are edging in that direction sometimes just don't quite make it that far.

Human rights are very fragile and most so-called democratic governments pay lip service to the notion that they are practising democracies.

In Australia in 2015 we have the situation where the word euthanasia is unacceptable as a concept and the views and practices of one particular doctor are seen as a threat to the population at large - as if all of a sudden 23 million people are about to commit suicide!

Euthanasia campaigner Philip Nitschke opens appeal against Medical Board over registration

November 10, 2014 - smh


Julie-Anne Davies

Appeal: Philip Nitschke's conduct is under scrutiny.
Appeal: Philip Nitschke's conduct is under scrutiny. Photo: Glenn Campbell
It seemed fitting that euthanasia campaigner Philip Nitschke should be fighting for his medical licence and his professional reputation in the town where he first shot to world attention.
 On Monday in Darwin, Mr Nitschke began his appeal  in the Northern Territory Civil and Administrative Tribunal against the decision by the  Medical Board of Australia to  suspend his registration after he admitted supporting a 45-year-old Perth man's decision to commit suicide.
The case was not about  voluntary euthanasia nor rational suicide but "a very precisely focused interim hearing into Mr Nitschke's conduct into the death of a man", Ms Lisa Chapman SC for the Medical Board of Australia told the hearing.
In emails between Mr Nitschke and Mr Brayley, Mr Nitschke chose to be registered as a doctor, Ms Chapman said.
"If he hadn't, the board would have no jurisdiction [to suspend his licence]."
Ms Chapman said the emails contained very specific information about various ways to commit suicide.
"The gas flow, where to buy the cylinders from. How to take the peaceful pill.
"He obtained scant information about Mr Brayley before he died."
Before  Monday's hearing, Mr Nitschke's barrister Peter Nugent told Fairfax the appeal as "the trial of a dangerous idea".
"It is a controversial subject," he said. "Mr Nitschke is a controversial figure.
"The views which he holds are not abhorrent, they're not out there, they are not even out of step with mainstream Australia's view."
On Monday afternoon the board conceded Mr Nitschke was not in a doctor/patient relationship with Mr Brayley.  
Fairfax understands that the board will argue it was forced to use its emergency powers to protect vulnerable suicidal people from Mr Nitschke and his "dangerous ideas". More seriously, the board is expected to tell the five-member panel, it had to act because Mr Nitschke possessed the means to transform  these ideas into action.
The hearing is set down for five days.  It is understood the board's lawyers will say that Mr Nitschke's euthanasia book, The Peaceful Pill Handbook, is a practical guide to different methods of suicide, and while banned in Australia it is freely available through the internet.
Further, it is believed the board will argue that Mr Nitschke updates e-book subscribers of overseas suppliers of the illegal drug Nembutal, and through his workshops advises people on end-of-life drugs.
Mr Nitschke told Fairfax the opportunity for people to choose to end their life needed to be "enshrined as an option".
"Individuals in a society must have the ability to make decisions over their own lives. Life is a precious gift and so we need to be able to fight for that option."
The hearing continues.

Euthanasia activist Philip Nitschke loses legal battle to practice medicine

January 7, 2015 - 5:07PM

Julia Medew

Dr Philip Nitschke.
Dr Philip Nitschke. Photo: David Mariuz
Prominent euthanasia campaigner Philip Nitschke has lost a legal battle to protect his registration to practice medicine after a tribunal ruled he posed a serious risk to the public and could undermine confidence in the medical profession.
But Dr Nitschke has vowed to appeal the decision by the Northern Territory Health Professional Review Tribunal, saying doctors have to face the "harsh reality" that many people, including those who are not terminally ill, believe they have a right to end their own lives.
The tribunal ruled that the Medical Board of Australia's decision to use its emergency powers to suspend Dr Nitschke's registration last year was warranted. The suspension followed reports Dr Nitschke had supported Nigel Brayley, a murder suspect who was not terminally ill when he ended his own life last year. When Mr Brayley told him of his plans to end his own life, Dr Nitschke did not refer him to a medical practitioner.
In an appeal of the board's decision to the tribunal, Dr Nitschke argued he was not in a doctor patient relationship with Mr Brayley when they discussed end of life options and that people without a terminal illness could make a rational decision to commit suicide.
But in a strongly worded judgement, the tribunal said Dr Nitschke posed a risk to public health and safety because he interacted with large numbers of people considering suicide and his views might cause people to "follow the pathway to suicide believing it to be a pathway sanctioned by a medical practitioner and perhaps the medical profession generally".
It said his views may also mislead people about the values of doctors and undermine confidence in them.
In a written statement, Dr Nitschke said he was disappointed but not surprised by the decision which he was now appealing in the Darwin Supreme Court.
He said the tribunal's finding meant doctors were obliged to treat strangers they meet in a social setting, even if they are not in a state where they are permitted to practice medicine.
"A doctor who fails to do so is, in the view of the tribunal, a danger to public health and safety whose right to practice medicine must be suspended immediately," he said.
"The decision, if left unturned, creates a very dangerous precedent which applies to every Australian medical practitioner".
Dr Nitschke's barrister, Peter Nugent, said it was an error of law for the tribunal not to consider the "enormous body of medical literature addressing the issue of rational suicide". He expects the Supreme Court appeal to be listed for hearing in coming months.
Dr Nitschke said: "Voluntary euthanasia and rational suicide are very challenging issues for the medical profession.  It is cases such as this which will hopefully encourage the medical profession to face the harsh reality that the belief held by many elderly people, and some who are not, that no doctor has the right to tell them when they can or can't exit this life – can be rational and not a product of depression or mental illness."
"We might not like or agree with such decisions but they cannot be interpreted as meaning that person is depressed or mentally incompetent. Nothing could be further from the truth," he said.

06 January 2015


Successive Australian governments have, for at least the last 40 years, slavishly followed the United States of America into every adventure it has perpetrated in the name of democracy and world order.

Need one mention Iraq, Afghanistan, the middle east in general  and Palestine/Israel in particular?

As wars in these countries have "progressed from strength to strength" (irony intended!), human rights have continued to be disregarded more and more.

Think of Julian Assange, Bradley - now Chelsea Manning, Guantanamo Bay, torture, rendition, drones and everything illegal according to the International Criminal Court legislation, and think of the war horrors all these countries continue to be subjected to.

Think also of the foot soldiers who carry the burdens of the irresponsibilities of all our governments and think of the people we end up with as citizens - broke and destroyed and prone to suicide on an alarming basis day by day.

Then, while you are sitting and weeping and in despair, read the following items from "Courage to Resist" in the United States and ask yourselves why there aren't more organisations such as this around the world including Australia!


Free Chelsea Manning


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90 years old, political gay activist, hosting two web sites, one personal: http://www.red-jos.net one shared with my partner, 94-year-old Ken Lovett: http://www.josken.net and also this blog. The blog now has an alphabetical index: http://www.red-jos.net/alpha3.htm