Dec 10, 2014

Die Linke's Sahra Wagenknecht slams Merkel in Bundestag for being US stooge [video]

Sarah Wagenknecht speech in Bundenstag targets Merkel

In a powerful Bundestag speech, Deputy Chair of the German Die Linke (Left Party), Sahra Wagenknecht, accused Angela Merkel of being an enabler of US interests, to the detriment of Germany and the EU.

Wagenknecht called into question Merkel's position on "spheres of influence" and international law, citing numerous instances in the course of which Merkel's great ally the United States has trampled over international law... Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya... to name a few.

The indented excerpts beneath are from Wagenknecht's speech. They are taken from the English translation that accompanies the video.

In your speech in Sydney Ms Merkel you are terribly outraged by the fact that 25 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall there continues to exist an old way of thinking of "spheres of influence" which tramples on international law... That begs the question: "Mrs Merkel, where on earth do you live? And where have you been living for the past 25 years? Where were you when the United States trampled international law in Iraq, to expand its sphere of influence over Iraqi oil? Where were you, when with Germany's participation international law in Afghanistan was and is being trampled? Where were you when Libya was bombed... when the Syrian opposition was armed and affiliated with ISIS after weapons deliveries? Was all that in your opinion, in accordance with international law?"

Wagenknecht made direct reference to Zbigniew Brzezinski's book The Grand Chessboard: the primacy of America and its Geostrategic Imperatives which she characterized as an old way of thinking about spheres of influence. She accused Merkel of being an instrument for the furtherment of these US-driven geostrategic designs.

With regard to Europe, Brzezinski argues for a decisive NATO expansion eastward: first in Central Europe, then in the South, then in the Baltic States and, finally, in the Ukraine. Because as the author [Brzezinski] convincingly justifies: "every step of expansion automatically expands the immediate sphere of influence of the United States." This is an old way of thinking in terms of "spheres of influence" which was very successfully implemented, and you really, never, ever noticed it Mrs Merkel? On the contrary, you belonged to those who further implemented and supported that in Europe! You were just one of the "vassals" to use Brzezinski's words, which endorsed this strategy.

Mrs Merkel, now you've driven Germany to a renewed "Cold War" with Russia, poisoned the political climate and jeopardized peace in Europe. You have instigated a senseless economic war, which massively harms primarily the German and European economy. You are warning us of fire, Mrs Merkel, but you are one of those who are running around with lighted matches.

On Ukraine, Wagenknecht made explicit reference to the Nazi presence in Kiev's police and security apparatus and pointed to the brutal policies directed at the pro-Russian people of eastern Ukraine.

In Ukraine you cooperate with a regime, in which the important functions of the police and security services are occupied by recognized Nazis! President Poroshenko talks of "total war." He stopped all payments to pensioners and hospitals in eastern Ukraine! And for prime minister Yatsenyuk the insurgents are, quote, "creatures that must be destroyed." Instead of working with these thugs, we finally again need a German foreign policy in which security and peace is more important than the instructions from Washington.

Video link beneath. For non-German speakers click "CC" on toolbar to get English subtitles.

Dec 5, 2014

RCMP backtracking on release of video by Ottawa shooter Zehaf-Bibeau reeks of political influence

RCMP - Zehaf-Bibeau video

After we were told the video made by Ottawa shooter Michael Zehaf-Bibeau would be made available to the public, the RCMP has changed its mind, or had it changed for them. RCMP commissioner Bob Paulson wasn't exactly clear on the specifics. He said there may be a release of "some aspects of a transcript of the video"... whatever that means.

Given the terrorist narrative favored by the government and also by the police, how can the public be sure that 'aspects of the transcript' aren't cherry picked to reenforce the preferred narrative. Surely the honest and transparent thing to do would be to release the video for the public to make its own judgment or alternatively release the entire transcript, rather than "aspects" of it. If as some claim, there are concerns about the video being exploited in some way for jihadi propaganda, the odds of that happening would be diminished considerably if a transcript was involved - cop out though that would still be - because there is no compelling reason to sit on the video.

There are any number of jihad-inspired videos in circulation that glorify jihad and attack the West... lots of audio-visual incentive out there for anyone influenced by such material. The release of Zehaf-Bibeau's video - assuming it contains any such content - would not likely make a substantial difference one way or another.

In giving reasons for withholding the video, Paulson also made vague allusions to "some sort of court process." But given what we know this doesn't add up. Zehaf-Bibeau is dead and there were no known accomplices.

The decision to withhold the video seems to be more about political calculations. Perhaps Harper is concerned that the video's contents might in some way influence public opinion about Canada's involvement in the US-led war in the Middle East... part of the government's deeply misguided foreign policy agenda.

On the other hand if Zehaf-Bibeau's video plays into the terrorist narrative, which we were led to believe was the case, you would think the authorities would be keen to exploit it to publicly confirm their initial suspicions and allegations. The reluctance to go public suggests that all of its contents might not fit the bill when it comes to adding credence to the 'official narrative'... prompting perhaps the proposed limited release of "aspects" of the transcript.

There has been some debate in parliament about whether or not the term "terrorism" should be used in describing Zehaf-Bibeau's actions. But from the outset it was clear that the government was dead set on labeling it a "terrorist attack" despite information about Zehaf-Bibeau's past that indicate mental and emotional problems were a likely trigger.

Zehaf-Bibeau's mother, Susan Bibeau, who presumably knew her son better than most, denied that he was a terrorist acting "on behalf of some grand ideology or for a political motive." She said he felt "cornered" and "acted  in despair." She is also skeptical of the radicalization theory and said she believes "mental illness is at the center of this tragedy."

According to a recent poll Susan Bibeau's view is shared by a high percentage of Canadians ... while 36% describe the shooting as a "terrorist attack" 38% believe mental illness played a part in it.

Although the Harper government has been careful not to appear to be chaffing at the bit to beef up enforcement powers in the wake of the attack... given the reactionary right-wing nature of this government you can be sure it wants to extract as much mileage as possible from the incident. The wheels are apparently in motion.  On Monday a Commons committee passed Bill C-44 that hands additional powers to the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS). According to Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney, another bill is in the works that will boost law enforcement powers in the areas of surveillance, detention and arrest.

In the course of conjecturing out loud when and if the Zehaf-Bibeau video might see the light of day, RCMP chief Paulson wasn't big on specifics...  "I don’t know when it’s going to be released. It will certainly be released some day, but I would be a fool to say when it will be released."

Ottawa puppet masters

Zehaf-Bibeau video not released by RCMP

New free security tool Detekt scans for hard-to-find surveillance spyware: just launched by Amnesty, EFF

anti-malware Detekt released by Amnesty and EFF

Activists, journalists or just the average concerned citizen who want to know if their computers and mobile devices are a target of unwanted surveillance now have access to a badly needed resource. A German security researcher named Claudio Guarnieri is behind a free new security tool named Detekt. It scans PCs and mobile devices for traces of surveillance spyware that everyday anti-malware programs are likely to miss.

According to Wired Guarnieri works with The Honeypot Project and Shadowserver Foundation developing open source tools.

Amnesty news describes what Detekt is and how it works:

Detekt is a free tool that scans your computer for traces of known surveillance spyware used by governments to target and monitor human rights defenders and journalists around the world. By alerting them to the fact that they are being spied on, they will have the opportunity to take precautions.

It was developed by security researchers and has been used to assist in Citizen Lab's investigations into government use of spyware against human rights defenders, journalists and activists as well as by security trainers to educate on the nature of targeted surveillance.

Amnesty International is partnering with Privacy International, Digitale Gesellschaft and the Electronic Frontier Foundation to release Detekt to the public for the first time.

The release of Detekt is certainly timely given the growing number of cyber threats. As this Guardian article reports the trade in surveillance technologies has shown massive growth over recent years. Surveillance software is being sold to governments and agencies that have no scruples about exploiting it in order to spy on PCs, email, text messages and phone calls of people on their watch list.

Wired UK quotes Marek Marczynski, head of security at Amnesty who had this to say about Detekt and the need for such a tool: "Governments are increasingly using dangerous and sophisticated technology that allows them to read activists and journalists' private emails and remotely turn on their computer's camera or microphone to secretly record their activities... Detekt is a simple tool that will alert activists to such intrusions so they can take action."

Detekt developer Claudio Guarnieri was part of a team that discovered that FinFisher surveillance spyware was showing up on the computers of government and law enforcement agencies worldwide. FinFisher command and control centers have been found in some 35 countries. Recently Wikileaks released copies of FinFisher software in order to further the effort of tech researchers in coming up with counter measures.

When it comes to comparisons between Detekt and commercial security software, Guarnieri is quoted in media reports saying: "Antivirus software is rigorously evaded every time this kind of spyware is released and used. We are using detection techniques that have proved to be successful up to this point, and the goal is to provide it to the public and have the quickest and largest adoption possible."

He went on to say: "I want to empower just about anyone, the ones that do not have resources to acquire noisy and intrusive security software and the ones that are perhaps even prevented from buying any due to economic embargoes... I'm not really interested in drawing a comparison with security vendors, they have a different audience and a different scope. I'm interested in empowering the people with a choice to opt out from surveillance. What companies are doing for profit does not interest me."

Amnesty International, Digitale Gesellschaft, Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and Privacy International are working together to get Detekt out to their networks.

If you would like to download the software and give it a try you can do so from resistsurveillance.org. When running Detekt disconnect from the internet and run the program as administrator.

Dec 3, 2014

Atlanta billboard features Banksy's mural of West Bank wall: 'Christ at the Checkpoint' conference

West Bank Wall and holy family in Atlanta Banksy billboard

This is a two-part post dealing with resistance to the Israeli occupation. The common thread is Christian-related... in one case billboard art with a controversial slant on the the nativity story and in another the growing evangelical resistance to Israeli occupation.

Thanks to ifAmericansknew.org, a billboard in Atlanta is host to the artwork of British mural artist Banksy. It shows Joseph and Mary enroute to Bethlehem, but in this nativity tale the path they are on leads directly to the West Bank wall. In a realistic touch, the rendering of the wall includes a watchtower and graffiti. The disturbing juxtaposition of the Christian nativity story with draconian Israeli security, is underscored by the ironic inscription "O little town of Bethlehem."

Bethlehem today is a far cry from the biblical version revisited in Christmas pageants. The present day version is ringed with security, not unlike a barricaded fortress.

The motivation behind bringing issues such as the Israeli occupation to the attention of the American public is addressed on the website of ifAmericansknew.org: 

The mission of If Americans Knew is to inform and educate the American public on issues of major significance that are unreported, underreported, or misreported in the American media.

It is our belief that when Americans know the facts on a subject, they will, in the final analysis, act in accordance with morality, justice, and the best interests of their nation, and of the world. With insufficient information, or distorted information, they may do the precise opposite.

On ifAmericanslknew.org there is also this commentary about the brutal political and social realities underlying the Banksy mural.

Security structures, even Israeli ones, can't suppress creativity. The West Bank wall features some impressive artwork. Along with spontaneous graffiti there are murals with themes of resistance... for example this mural of the famous Palestinian freedom fighter Leila Khalid.

Leila Khalid Palestinain resistance


The mural of Joseph and Mary beneath the West Bank wall is just one of a number of murals by Banksy that deal with Palestinian themes. During time spent in Palestine, he produced a number of murals including some on or near the West Bank wall. Beneath are a few examples of his work... view others here.


Banksy artwork on West Bank


Banksy mural of girl searching Israeli soldier


The Atlanta billboard graphically exposes the brutal reality of Israeli occupation. Although there is no publicly stated connection with evangelical activism, the Christian-themed billboard art appears at a time when many American evangelicals have been openly questioning the unconditional allegiance that their churches have traditionally given to Israel. A number of influential evangelical leaders have been looking more critically at the dehumanizing reality of Israeli occupation, with a number stepping up and expressing solidarity with the Palestinian people.

This is a development that hasn't gone unnoticed by Christian Zionist organizations such as Christians United for Israel (CUFI). Its executive director, David Borg, recently made a statement that acknowledges a profound change in the position taken by increasing numbers of evangelicals on the subject of Israel.

Borg: "With every passing month, more evidence is emerging that these anti-Israel Christians are succeeding in reaching beyond the evangelical left and are influencing the mainstream. In particular, they are penetrating the evangelical world at its soft underbelly: the millennial generation. These young believers (roughly ages 18 to 30) are rebelling against what they perceive as the excessive biblical literalism and political conservatism of their parents. As they strive with a renewed vigor to imitate Jesus’ stand with the oppressed and downtrodden, they want to decide for themselves which party is being oppressed in the Arab-Israeli conflict."

The term "anti-Israel" used by Borg might be considered misleading. Activists I read and likely those also of Christian evangelical persuasion are challenging the system of occupation and systematized oppression that has evolved from a great historical injustice. This is quite different from an anti-Israel position that for example calls for the destruction of the state.

In March of this year a 'Christ at the Checkpoint' conference was held by the Bethlehem Bible College. It was a 5-day event and as Electronic Intifada reported: "... attracted major speakers both from within the Palestinian Christian community as well as international evangelicals, including Tony Campolo, Gary Burge, Stephen Sizer, John Ortberg and Shane Claiborne. Messianic Jewish speakers were also invited."

Alex Awad of the Bethlehem Bible College told Electronic Intifada: "This is a conference about sitting down together, Christians, Muslims, whoever comes, discussing theology, in this environment of occupation... We want people to come, see the wall, see the checkpoints, see the reality on the ground, and then open the Bible."

More about the goals of the conference here. There is also this in-depth article about the conference posted on the Israeli news website 972 Mag.

The Bethlehem conference raised considerable alarm in Israeli media and government circles. The prospect of one of Israel's most supportive constituencies - evangelical Christians -  showing signs of identifying with the Palestinians has sparked some vitriolic criticism. A number of Israeli media outlets accused the Bethlehem conference of being 'anti-Semitic.' An Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said: "The attempt to use religious motifs in order to mobilize political propaganda and agitate the feelings of the faithful through the manipulation of religion and politics is an unacceptable and shameful act. Using religion for the purpose of incitement in the service of political interests stains the person who does it with a stain of indelible infamy."

The increasingly reactionary, racist and militaristic Israeli state presents a moral dilemma - and not only for evangelical Christians. Religious Jews, particularly of the Orthodox persuasion, understand that tying their identity to Israel involves compromise... a compromise many aren't prepared to make.

The impact of Zionism on Jewish identity is powerfully addressed by Yakov M. Rabkin - Professor of History at the University of Montreal - in his book Threat Within: A Century of Jewish Opposition to Zionism.

In this passage Rabkin describes the impact of Zionism on pure Torah-based Judaism:

Worse than the toll of suffering, exploitation, death, and desecration of the Torah, has been the inner rot that Zionism has injected into the Jewish soul. It has dug deep into the essence of being a Jew ... It has wreaked havoc among Jews both in Israel and America, by casting us in the role of Goliath-like oppressors. It has made cruelty and corruption the norm for its followers.