Archive for November, 2012

Statement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs – Cuba condemns Israeli aggression against Palestine [Granma Internacional]

Posted in Cuba, Gaza, Israel, Palestine on November 21, 2012 by Zuo Shou / 左手

THE Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Cuba is following with great concern the new escalation of violence and death which the actions of the Israeli armed forces are provoking in the Gaza Strip.

Once again, Israel is utilizing its technical and military superiority to brutally repress the Palestinian population, causing innocent civilian victims as well as enormous material damage, thus aggravating the already precarious living conditions of the population in this small and besieged territory.

In the face of this new aggression against the Palestinian people, Cuba reiterates its most energetic condemnation and calls on the international community to urgently take all measures necessary to halt this criminal act.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirms its most steadfast support for the just cause of the Palestinian people and their inalienable rights, which include the creation of an independent state with East Jerusalem as its capital.

Havana, November 16, 2012.

Article link: http://www.granma.cu/ingles/cuba-i/19nov-declaracion.html

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“Back to 1942” / 《一九四二》- Review of Feng Xiaogang’s 2012 release [Film Business Asia / Sweet & Sour Cinema]

Posted in China, Feng Xiaogang 冯小刚, Sweet & Sour Cinema on November 19, 2012 by Zuo Shou / 左手

12 November 2012

by Derek Elley

Rated 8 out of 10

“Ironic, big-budget drama about a real-life famine in WW2 China defies expectations.”

Box-office magician FENG Xiaogang 馮小剛 has not always fared well artistically (The Banquet 夜宴 (2006), parts of Assembly 集結號 (2007)) when straying from his forte of ironic comedy. But in Back to 1942 一九四二, a megabudget ($35 million) portrayal of the famine in Henan province that claimed 3 million lives in the middle of the Sino-Japanese War, he gets the balance between spectacle, history, human characters and his trademark black humour just about right. Where his previous blockbuster, earthquake drama Aftershock 唐山大地震 (2010), was a very serious affair that tugged directly at the heartstrings, 1942, though dealing with a far bigger tragedy, takes an ironic approach that is more consistent with his overall body of work and makes the movie much more than just a war drama based on real events…

…The inspiration came from [scriptwriter LIU Zhenyun 劉震雲]’s 50-page essay-cum-memoir Remembering 1942 (温故一九四二), in which the Henan native tried to excavate his own family history and capture memories; written with Liu’s trademark irony (very similar to Feng’s), the essay was long thought unadaptable into a movie, having no plot or conventional characters or narrative. After two previous attempts, Feng and Liu finally succeeded, inventing a whole story from scraps in the essay which ambitiously attempts to combine the refugees’ exodus along with political events of the time — and even work into the mix real-life Time war correspondent Theodore H. White who first broke the story in the West.

White’s presence is justified by the major role he played in embarrassing Chiang Kai-shek’s KMT government to acknowledge the problem (though not enough to really solve it). US actor Adrien BRODY gives a reasonable facsimile of the passionate, 27-year-old journalist, without getting much of a chance to develop a real performance. Much more problematic is the presence of another US “name” to boost the film’s international profile: Tim ROBBINS’ extended cameo as a Catholic priest is both redundant to the plot and a distraction from the drama, and not helped by the actor’s wobbly (Oirish?) accent. In fact, the script’s incorporation of western religion into the story — largely to show how useless it was — makes similar scenes in The Flowers of War 金陵十三釵 look almost good: in particular, actor ZHANG Hanyu 張涵予’s Chinese priest, inveighing against godlessness and then being stunned by the horrors of war, is marginally risible and a pointless diversion.

Aside from White’s character, the story of 1942 is a Chinese one, and Feng has assembled a first-rate cast heavy with regulars…

…Given the large number of characters and the concomitant need to perpetually cross-cut between the refugee exodus in Henan and the corridors of power in Chongqing, 1942 doesn’t often build a real head of dramatic steam…

…1942 is not the last word in period blockbusters or movies about Chinese tragedies or human fortitude: it doesn’t pretend to be and, with its opening and closing narration (drawn directly from Liu’s original essay), makes clear its very specific goal. But for such a grim subject it’s not a hard sit or a downbeat one, or one that wallows in misery. It’s sharp, witty, moving and with memorable moments — and a real movie with people rather than an arid pamphlet on history.

Full review link: http://www.filmbiz.asia/reviews/back-to-1942

[Excerpted]

Xi Jinping elected general secretary of CPC Central Committee [Xinhua]

Posted in China, CPC, CPC Central Committee (CPCCC) on November 19, 2012 by Zuo Shou / 左手

BEIJING, Nov. 15 (Xinhua) — Xi Jinping was elected general secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee at the first plenary session of the 18th CPC Central Committee on Thursday morning.

Other members of the newly elected Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the 18th CPC Central Committee are Li Keqiang, Zhang Dejiang, Yu Zhengsheng, Liu Yunshan, Wang Qishan, and Zhang Gaoli.

Article link: http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/special/18cpcnc/2012-11/15/c_131976340.htm

List of members of Standing Committee of Political Bureau of 18th CPC Central Committee [Xinhua]

Posted in China, CPC, CPC Central Committee (CPCCC) on November 19, 2012 by Zuo Shou / 左手

BEIJING, Nov. 15 (Xinhua) — The following is a list of members of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of 18th Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee:

Xi Jinping, Li Keqiang, Zhang Dejiang, Yu Zhengsheng, Liu Yunshan, Wang Qishan and Zhang Gaoli.

They were elected at the first plenary session of the 18th CPC Central Committee on Thursday.

Article link: http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/special/18cpcnc/2012-11/15/c_131976451.htm

“FBI’s abuse of the surveillance state is the real scandal needing investigation” by Glenn Greenwald – Petraeus affair shows US police state in action [Guardian]

Posted in Afghanistan, Corporate Media Critique, FBI, Obama, Pentagon, USA, War crimes on November 18, 2012 by Zuo Shou / 左手

* That the stars of America’s national security establishment are being devoured by out-of-control surveillance is a form of sweet justice *

13 Nov 2012

The Petraeus scandal is receiving intense media scrutiny obviously due to its salacious aspects, leaving one, as always, to fantasize about what a stellar press corps we would have if they devoted a tiny fraction of this energy to dissecting non-sex political scandals (this unintentionally amusing New York Times headline from this morning – “Concern Grows Over Top Military Officers’ Ethics” – illustrates that point: with all the crimes committed by the US military over the last decade and long before, it’s only adultery that causes “concern” over their “ethics”). Nonetheless, several of the emerging revelations are genuinely valuable, particularly those involving the conduct of the FBI and the reach of the US surveillance state.

As is now widely reported, the FBI investigation began when Jill Kelley – a Tampa socialite friendly with Petraeus (and apparently very friendly with Gen. John Allen, the four-star U.S. commander of the war in Afghanistan) – received a half-dozen or so anonymous emails that she found vaguely threatening. She then informed a friend of hers who was an FBI agent, and a major FBI investigation was then launched that set out to determine the identity of the anonymous emailer.

That is the first disturbing fact: it appears that the FBI not only devoted substantial resources, but also engaged in highly invasive surveillance, for no reason other than to do a personal favor for a friend of one of its agents, to find out who was very mildly harassing her by email…

…That this deeply personal motive was what spawned the FBI investigation is bolstered by the fact that the initial investigating agent “was barred from taking part in the case over the summer due to superiors’ concerns that he was personally involved in the case” – indeed, “supervisors soon became concerned that the initial agent might have grown obsessed with the matter” – and was found to have “allegedly sent shirtless photos” to Kelley, and “is now under investigation by the Office of Professional Responsibility, the internal-affairs arm of the FBI”…

…What is most striking is how sweeping, probing and invasive the FBI’s investigation then became, all without any evidence of any actual crime – or the need for any search warrant…

…So all based on a handful of rather unremarkable emails sent to a woman fortunate enough to have a friend at the FBI, the FBI traced all of Broadwell’s physical locations, learned of all the accounts she uses, ended up reading all of her emails, investigated the identity of her anonymous lover (who turned out to be Petraeus), and then possibly read his emails as well. They dug around in all of this without any evidence of any real crime – at most, they had a case of “cyber-harassment” more benign than what regularly appears in my email inbox and that of countless of other people – and, in large part, without the need for any warrant from a court.

But that isn’t all the FBI learned. It was revealed this morning that they also discovered “alleged inappropriate communication” to Kelley from Gen. Allen, who is not only the top commander in Afghanistan but was also just nominated by President Obama to be the Commander of US European Command and Supreme Allied Commander Europe (a nomination now “on hold”).

…So not only did the FBI – again, all without any real evidence of a crime – trace the locations and identity of Broadwell and Petreaus, and read through Broadwell’s emails (and possibly Petraeus’), but they also got their hands on and read through 20,000-30,000 pages of emails between Gen. Allen and Kelley.

This is a surveillance state run amok. It also highlights how any remnants of internet anonymity have been all but obliterated by the union between the state and technology companies.

But, as unwarranted and invasive as this all is, there is some sweet justice in having the stars of America’s national security state destroyed by the very surveillance system which they implemented and over which they preside. As Trevor Timm of the Electronic Frontier Foundation put it this morning: “Who knew the key to stopping the Surveillance State was to just wait until it got so big that it ate itself?”

It is usually the case that abuses of state power become a source for concern and opposition only when they begin to subsume the elites who are responsible for those abuses….

…having the career of the beloved CIA Director and the commanding general in Afghanistan instantly destroyed due to highly invasive and unwarranted electronic surveillance is almost enough to make one believe not only that there is a god, but that he is an ardent civil libertarian.

The US operates a sprawling, unaccountable Surveillance State that – in violent breach of the core guarantees of the Fourth Amendment – monitors and records virtually everything even the most law-abiding citizens do. Just to get a flavor for how pervasive it is, recall that the Washington Post, in its 2010 three-part “Top Secret America” series, reported: “Every day, collection systems at the National Security Agency intercept and store 1.7 billion e-mails, phone calls and other types of communications…”

…And the Obama administration has spent the last four years aggressively seeking to expand that Surveillance State, including by agitating for Congressional action to amend the Patriot Act to include Internet and browsing data among the records obtainable by the FBI without court approval and demanding legislation requiring that all Internet communications contain a government “backdoor” of surveillance.

Based on what is known, what is most disturbing about the whole Petraeus scandal is not the sexual activities that it revealed, but the wildly out-of-control government surveillance powers which enabled these revelations. What requires investigation here is not Petraeus and Allen and their various sexual partners but the FBI and the whole sprawling, unaccountable surveillance system that has been built.

Full article link: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/nov/13/petraeus-surveillance-state-fbi

[Excerpted]

“Corporate Media Lose Their Favorite ‘Warrior Scholar'” – MSM sycophants can’t stop kissing Petraeus’ butt [FAIR]

Posted in Afghanistan, CIA, Pentagon, US imperialism, USA on November 17, 2012 by Zuo Shou / 左手

Posted on 11/13/2012

by Peter Hart

There’s no doubt that the sex scandal that prompted CIA director David Petraeus’s sudden resignation late last week is a big story. New details–verified or not–seem to arrive almost by the hour.

But the reason it seems to have shaken so many media figures is because Petraeus was uniquely beloved by many in the corporate media, who considered him both an accessible source and a war hero…

…CNN host Wolf Blitzer (11/9/12) sounded grave…, calling the resignation

a very, very sad moment given his distinguished military career, his career more recently in the intelligence community, one of the most brilliant generals by all accounts we have had over the years, a Ph.D., graduate of Princeton University. Somebody who is not only a general, but a scholar who knows the stuff and by all accounts doing an excellent job over at the CIA. So it is a very sad moment not only for him and his family, but for everyone who knows him and indeed for the country right now.

In case that wasn’t clear, Blitzer reiterated: “I want to just underscore how sad this is for the U.S. military, the Army, the CIA, indeed the country, that someone of this stature must end a career under these circumstances.”

The thing about corporate media’s love affair with Petraeus that there were never any attempts to hide it. As ABC military reporter Martha Raddatz once put it (6/23/10): “A warrior and a scholar, Petraeus is sometimes jokingly referred to as a water walker, since almost everything he touches seems to turn to gold…”

…Petraeus understood how to use the media, and reporters understood that regular contact with a military commander was unusual…

…Journalist Michael Hastings, whose book The Operators takes a critical look at the Afghan War, had a much different view. “More so than any other leading military figure, Petraeus’ entire philosophy has been based on hiding the truth, on deception, on building a false image,” he argued (BuzzFeed, 11/11/12).

Hastings points to Petraeus’ failures in Iraq, starting with a troubled 2004 program to train Iraqi security forces. He adds:

On his final Iraq tour, during the so-called “surge,” he pulled off what is perhaps the most impressive con job in recent American history. He convinced the entire Washington establishment that we won the war.

And the “success” of Petraeus’ Iraq surge led to an escalation of the Afghan War based on the notion that the same could happen there. A critical assessment of Petraeus’s record could also be found on Democracy Now! (11/12/12), courtesy of guest Juan Cole. But those discussions were few and far between.

Full article link: http://www.fair.org/blog/2012/11/13/corporate-media-lose-their-favorite-warrior-scholar/#comments

Excerpted by Zuo Shuo

“Petraeus scandal is reported with compelled veneration of all things military” by Glenn Greenwald [Guardian]

Posted in Afghanistan, Black propaganda, Capitalist media double standard, CIA, Corporate Media Critique, Iraq, Libya, NATO invasion, Pentagon, Psychological warfare, War crimes on November 17, 2012 by Zuo Shou / 左手

* The reverence for the former CIA Director is part of a wider religious-like worship of the national security state. *

[Whereas I always saw Petraeus as a sociopathic war criminal and military failure of historic dimensions, to boot. Also Greenwald pulls punches by implying the US is a pure “democracy” and failing to deploy some appropriate term with ‘fascist’ in it to describe such a delusional society that worships the destructive and genocidal US military – Zuo Shou]

10 November 2012

A prime rule of US political culture is that nothing rivets, animates or delights the political media like a sex scandal. From Bill Clinton, Gary Hart, and Eliot Spitzer to John Edwards, Larry Craig and David Vitter, their titillation and joy is palpable as they revel in every last arousing detail. This giddy package is delivered draped in a sanctimonious wrapping: their excitement at reporting on these scandals is matched only by their self-righteous condemnations of the moral failings of the responsible person.

All of these behaviors have long been constant, inevitable features of every political sex scandal – until [now]. Now, none of these sentiments is permitted because the newest salacious scandal features at its center Gen. David Petraeus, who resigned…as CIA Director, citing an extramarital affair.

It has now been widely reported that the affair was with Paula Broadwell, the author of a truly fawning hagiography of Petraeus entitled “All In”, and someone whom Petraeus, in her own words, “mentored” when he sat on her dissertation committee. The FBI discovered the affair when it investigated whether she had attempted to gain access to his emails and other classified information. In an interview about Broadwell’s book that she gave to the Daily Show back in January, one that is incredibly fascinating and revealing to watch in retrospect, Jon Stewart identified this as the primary question raised by her biography of Petraeus: “is he awesome, or super-awesome?”

Gen. Petraeus is the single most revered man in the most venerated American institution: the National Security State and, specifically, its military. As a result, all the rules are different. Speaking ill of David Petraeus – or the military or CIA as an institution – is strictly prohibited within our adversarial watchdog press corps. Thus, even as he resigns in disgrace, leading media figures are alternatively mournful and worshipful as they discuss it…

[Examples of delusional media figures irrationally lauding Petraeus in the midst of his downfall listed…]

Meanwhile, Michael Hastings – whose Rolling Stone cover story ended Gen. McChrystal’s career by including numerous intemperate quotes and, in doing so, revealingly prompted widespread animosity among his media colleagues for the crime of Making a General Look Bad – was on MSNBC yesterday with Martin Bashir. Hastings explained how the media has been devoted to Petraeus’ glorification and thus ignored all the substantive reasons why Petraeus should have received far more media scrutiny and criticism in the past. In response, Bashir – who has previously demonstrated his contempt for anyone who speaks ill of a US General – expressed his anger at Hastings (“That’s a fairly harsh assessment of a man who is regarded by many in the military as an outstanding four-star general”) and then quickly cut him off just over two minutes into the segment.

There are several revealing lessons about this media swooning for Petraeus even as he exits from a scandal that would normally send them into tittering delight. First, military worship is the central religion of America’s political and media culture. The military is by far the most respected and beloved institution among the US population – a dangerous fact in any democracy [sic] – and, even assuming they wanted to (which they don’t), our brave denizens of establishment journalism are petrified of running afoul of that kind of popular sentiment…

…Yet US journalists – whose ostensible role is to be adversarial to powerful and secretive political institutions (which includes, first and foremost, the National Security State) – are the most pious high priests of this national religion. John Parker, former military reporter and fellow of the University of Maryland Knight Center for Specialized Journalism-Military Reporting, wrote an extraordinarily good letter back in 2010 regarding why leading Pentagon reporters were so angry at WikiLeaks for revealing government secrets: because they identify with the military to the point of uncritical adoration:

“The career trend of too many Pentagon journalists typically arrives at the same vanishing point: Over time they are co-opted by a combination of awe – interacting so closely with the most powerfully romanticized force of violence in the history of humanity – and the admirable and seductive allure of the sharp, amazingly focused demeanor of highly trained military minds. Top military officers have their s*** together and it’s personally humbling for reporters who’ve never served to witness that kind of impeccable competence. These unspoken factors, not to mention the inner pull of reporters’ innate patriotism, have lured otherwise smart journalists to abandon – justifiably in their minds – their professional obligation to treat all sources equally and skeptically. . . .

“Pentagon journalists and informed members of the public would benefit from watching ‘The Selling of the Pentagon’, a 1971 documentary. It details how, in the height of the Vietnam War, the Pentagon sophisticatedly used taxpayer money against taxpayers in an effort to sway their opinions toward the Pentagon’s desires for unlimited war. Forty years later, the techniques of shaping public opinion via media has evolved exponentially. It has reached the point where flipping major journalists is a matter of painting in their personal numbers.”

That is what makes this media worship of All Things Military not only creepy to behold, but downright dangerous.

Second, it is truly remarkable what ends people’s careers in Washington – and what does not end them. As Hastings detailed in that interview, Petraeus has left a string of failures and even scandals behind him: a disastrous Iraqi training program, a worsening of the war in Afghanistan since he ran it, the attempt to convert the CIA into principally a para-military force, the series of misleading statements about the Benghazi attack and the revealed large CIA presence in Libya. To that one could add the constant killing of innocent people in the Muslim world without a whiff of due process, transparency or oversight.

Yet none of those issues provokes the slightest concern from our intrepid press corps. His career and reputation could never be damaged, let alone ended, by any of that. Instead, it takes a sex scandal – a revelation that he had carried on a perfectly legal extramarital affair – to force him from power. That is the warped world of Washington. Of all the heinous things the CIA does, the only one that seems to attract the notice or concern of our media is a banal sex scandal. Listening to media coverage, one would think an extramarital affair is the worst thing the CIA ever did, maybe even the only bad thing it ever did (Andrea Mitchell: “an agency that has many things to be proud about: many things to be proud about”).

Third, there is something deeply symbolic and revealing about this whole episode. Broadwell ended up spending substantial time with Petraeus when she, in essence, embedded with him and followed him around Afghanistan in order to write her biography. What ended up being produced was not only the type of propagandistic hagiography such arrangements typically produce, but also deeply personal affection as well.

This is access journalism and the embedding dynamic in its classic form, just a bit more vividly expressed. The very close and inter-dependent relationship between media figures and the political and military officials they cover often produces exactly these same sentiments even if they do not find the full-scale expression as they did in this case. In that regard, the relationship between the now-former CIA Director and his fawning hagiographer should be studied in journalism schools to see the results reliably produced by access journalism and the embedding process. Whatever Broadwell did for Petraeus is what US media figures are routinely doing for political and especially military officials with their “journalism”.

Full article link: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/nov/10/petraeus-scandal-media-military

[Excerpted]