Friday, March 20, 2009

Holy War: Israeli Soldiers Testify

Israeli Soldiers Testify to War Crimes
The Pulse's picture
The Pulse
Posted March 19, 2009 - 10:01am

"During Operation Cast Lead, Israeli forces killed Palestinian civilians under permissive rules of engagement and intentionally destroyed their property, say soldiers who fought in the offensive," Ha'aretz reported today.

At a lecture at a pre-military academy Israeli soldiers and officers gave personal accounts of murder and brutality.

Ofer Shelah in Ma'ariv:

For the first time since the end of Operation Cast Lead, testimonies have come to the fore of soldiers and officers from different units that took part in the operation. The testimonies . . . paint a harsh picture, very different from the IDF reports: Killing people who were clearly identified as innocent, driving families out of their homes to the open area where a policy was in force according to which whoever remained in the area was not an innocent person and could be shot, acts of vandalism and destroying property and humanitarian supplies, and an atmosphere in which the combatants understood that all this was permitted, and would not be investigated.

Among the participants of the evening, which was held about a month ago, were graduates of the pre-military academy from various infantry units, and one pilot. The commanders' instructions, said many of them, were understood as an unprecedented license to fire. In one case, related one of the soldiers, a platoon commander removed a family from its home and sent it into the street. "He told them to turn right," he related. "A mother and two children didn't understand and turned left.

They forgot to notify the marksman on the roof that they were released and that it was all right and he should hold his fire, and he... you could say that he acted properly, the way the instructions were given... the marksman sees a woman and children approaching him beyond the lines from which he was told that no one could approach. He immediately shot them.

I don't know if he fired at their legs, but in the end he killed them.

I don't think he felt too bad, because from his point of view, he did the job according to the orders he was given."

In another testimony, a company CO was described who shot an old woman to death at a range of about 100 meters, from which it is possible to observe clearly whether there is danger.

The combatants also describe great involvement by military rabbis and other rabbis in the units, and free distribution of information booklets describing the warfare in religious terms. As one soldier put it:

"All these articles had a clear message: We are the Jewish people, we have come to the land by miraculous means, and now we have to fight to remove the Gentiles who are getting in our way and preventing us from occupying the Holy Land... a great many soldiers had a feeling throughout this operation of a religious war."

The Military Police has now been ordered to investigate testimony of wrongful behavior of IDF soldiers in the course of Operation Cast Lead, Israel Radio News reports.

This morning it was reported that the director of a pre-military academy, Danny Zamir, sent a letter to the chief of staff with testimony of academy graduates who took part in the combat in Gaza. They spoke of wrongful behavior of other soldiers toward Palestinians, about unjustified shooting and destruction of property. Army sources said that no IDF commander had heard complaints of this sort. A month ago Israel Radio's military affairs correspondent approached the IDF Spokesperson's Office and asked for its response to reports of irregular incidents in the Gaza operation, including the mistaken fire at Palestinian civilians that is mentioned in Danny Zamir's letter. The IDF Spokesperson's Office responded at the time that it did not know of this or any other unusual incident after inquiring with all the army's units. . . . Defense Minister Barak said that he had only heard of this testimony for the first time this morning, and that he is certain that the IDF, which he called the most moral army in the world, would investigate the allegations seriously.

John Harris and others at the Lawful Rebellion Conference

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Federal Campaign Dirty Tricks Dog Gary Lunn

Documents connect Lunn campaign, third party advertisers
By Andrew MacLeod

Documents filed with Elections Canada draw more connections between the campaign to re-elect Conservative cabinet minister Gary Lunn and third party advertisers in the riding.

Lunn's campaign co-manager, Byng Giraud, helped one of the groups buy signs, the Tyee reported today.

The financial declaration from Citizens Against Higher Taxes lists just one expense: “Byng Giraud Richmond Plastics (has signs) purchase.”

Officials for the group either could not be reached or refused to answer questions. Giraud, however, said, “I picked up some signs for them . . . They just asked me to pick them up, and I said 'sure'.”

During the election period five groups sprouted up to advertise support for Lunn. Four of them shared a financial agent, Van Isle Marina owner Mark Dickinson, and were registered out of the legal office of Lunn associate and Victoria lawyer Bruce Hallsor.

Hallsor was vice-president of the Conservatives' electoral district association for Saanich-Gulf Islands at the time, and remains on the EDA executive in an "election readiness" position.

The Canada Elections Act defines a third party as “a person or a group, other than a candidate, registered party or electoral district association of a registered party.”

“You shouldn't be allowed to be involved with a third party and be involved with a campaign at the same time,” said Duff Conacher, the co-ordinator of the Ottawa advocacy group Democracy Watch.

That a third party would be buying signs from Giraud, as their submission states, raises questions, he said. “It seems to be some evidence there was co-operation and collusion between the third party and the minister's campaign workers.”

The act also prohibits third parties colluding with each other to exceed spending limits of $3,666 in any one riding. The five groups advertising for Lunn spent a total of $15,671.

“It is worthy of an investigation by Elections Canada to determine if what they did would be collusion,” said Conacher. “I feel very comfortable saying I think they did that.”

Lunn's own campaign, according to recently released campaign financing reports, spent $89, 575 on election expenses, putting him within a couple thousand dollars of the spending limit in the riding.

Asked how he reponds to allegations his four groups could have colluded through him, financial agent Dickinson said, “You have a real good day, OK.”

Neither Hallsor nor Lunn returned calls.

Elections Canada's policy is to neither confirm nor deny whether an investigation is underway.

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee’s Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria. Reach him here.

Robo Calls
6 minutes ago
People interested in this topic must lobby democracy watch and other such justice institutes to demand an investigation by Elections Canada. Currently the RCMP is sidestepping the issue and stick handling people to Elections Canada with complaints about this riding at the time of the election.

While there is no doubt the legal minds behind Lunn abused the third party apparatus there is also clear and undeniable evidence that fraudulent efforts were undertaken by automated phoning in the riding in the eleventh hour of the campaign.

The implications are serious. The following references are potential violations of sections from the Elections Act as cited.

The trickery caused the obstruction of a candidate [502(2)(b)] and someone was making an impersonation of an official agent [502(2)(c)]. Both of these would lead to 7-year bans from holding office. There would also be a 5-year ban for the publication of false statements concerning the withdrawal of a candidate [502(1)(a)].

Fearsome Gaza Fuels Nine-Nation Monitoring Agreement

A Hypocritical 'Fear' of Gaza
by Nadia Hijab

As the United States and its partners move to neutralize a great “threat to regional peace and security” -- namely, arms smuggling to Gaza, they continue to neglect the illegal and inhumane treatment of Palestinians by Israel.

I feel so much safer now. I really do.

Major world powers -- Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, the United Kingdom, and the United States -- are joining forces to stop arms smuggling into Gaza.

The nine-nation agreement averts a huge threat to the region. I know because the State Department said so: The United States and its partners will move quickly to block “this threat to regional peace and security.”

And don’t forget the threat that Gaza poses to Canada.

The whole Gaza Strip is only twice the size of Washington DC. But size has little to do with the amount of damage an entity can inflict. Washington should know, having caused a fair amount of damage itself over the years.

As the globe struggles with an economic meltdown that sober analysts say will lead to bloody riots and civil war, it sure is a relief that nine nations are keeping their eye on the ball in Gaza.

Of course, there is a much easier, more effective, way for the international community to stop Hamas rockets: a ceasefire. Ceasefires between Israel and Hamas have worked for months on end for years. The most recent truce held for four months; it broke down in November after Israel killed six Hamas fighters in a Gaza raid.

Some Israelis have expressed understanding of why Hamas fires rockets at Israel. The respected Haaretz columnist Gideon Levy wrote in 2006: “If the Palestinians had not fired Qassams. ...[would] Israel have lifted the economic siege that it imposed on Gaza? ... Nonsense. If the Gazans were sitting quietly, as Israel expects them to do, their case would disappear from the agenda -- here and around the world.”

As Levy foresaw, Israel’s economic siege against Gaza has gone on for over two years, ceasefires notwithstanding.

I applaud Levy’s courage for saying what he did. I read almost everything he writes and have often thought that if all Israelis were as fair-minded as Levy, the conflict would be over tomorrow.

But I don’t use his line of argument about the rockets. Indiscriminate attacks on civilians violate the laws of war, no matter who carries them out, no matter what weapons they use, and no matter what the provocation.

I believe international law is the only thing that keeps barbarians at bay. And, when you apply these same standards to Israel, you prove that everything it does in the occupied territories violates the law, from the colonies in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, to the siege of Gaza.

The American Jewish law professor Richard Falk, who is the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Palestinian human rights, has called Israel’s siege a crime against humanity. And in an insightful analysis in Le Monde diplomatique a few days ago, he argued that Israel’s 22-day assault on Gaza that began on December 27 was a crime against peace because other means were available, namely a ceasefire.

The problem is that Western nations make life difficult for adherents of international law because they cherry pick it so badly. Where is the nine-nation agreement to hold Israel accountable for its violations in Gaza -- and for its 42-year occupation of Palestinian land?

The Gaza war led Amnesty International to call for an arms embargo on Israel and Hamas as well as US suspension of military aid to Israel because of “gross violations of the laws of war and of human rights” -- a first for the human rights organization.

The nine nations should have at least done the same. Instead, hypocrites all, they turn a blind eye to Israel’s numerous violations, thus enabling it to act with impunity and becoming complicit themselves. And they turn the screws on Gaza, where even food aid is still a trickle. Israel’s banned items this week included jam, biscuits, and tomato paste.

But here’s hope! Emails from the State Department announce a visit by Hamas. Now there’s one for the history books.

Correction: The Administration is actually meeting with Northern Ireland leaders Martin McGuinness and Gerry Adams -- men representing generations of resisters to British -- not Israeli -- domination. In their long struggle for liberation and for equal rights, the Irish resorted to unlawful violence in retaliation to the violence of British occupation and rule, and were jailed and tarred as terrorists until peace was negotiated.

Still, the small bright spot on the Palestinian horizon is that US special envoy George Mitchell understands these realities.

One day, peace and justice will reign in Palestine and Israel, and Hamas leaders will be invited to the White House. The only question is how many Palestinians will suffer siege, assaults, and broken hearts at seeing their children driven into malnutrition and illiteracy and their land laid waste. With their new, misguided policy the nine nations provide no answer.

Nadia Hijab is a Senior Fellow at the Institute for Palestine Studies in Washington D.C.

Copyright © 2009 Nadia Hijab – distributed by Agence Global

Release Date: 20 March 2009
Word Count: 803
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Israel Lobby Running Scared?

Like the ad agency Hill & Knowlton, which had to defend Philip Morris, the hated cigarette company that repeatedly denied the link between its products and cancer, the Israel lobby knows that it will have difficulty selling cartons of menthol smooth Netanyahu-Lieberman 100s to American consumers.

Is the Israel Lobby Running Scared?
by Robert Dreyfuss

Is the Israel lobby in Washington an all-powerful force? Or is it, perhaps, running scared?

Judging by the outcome of the Charles W. ("Chas") Freeman affair this week, it might seem as if the Israeli lobby is fearsome indeed. Seen more broadly, however, the controversy over Freeman could be the Israel lobby's Waterloo.

Let's recap. On February 19, Laura Rozen reported at that Freeman had been selected by Admiral Dennis Blair, the director of national intelligence, to serve in a key post as chairman of the National Intelligence Council (NIC). The NIC, the official in-house think tank of the intelligence community, takes input from 16 intelligence agencies and produces what are called "national intelligence estimates" on crucial topics of the day as guidance for Washington policymakers. For that job, Freeman boasted a stellar résumé: fluent in Mandarin Chinese, widely experienced in Latin America, Asia, and Africa, a former U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia during the first Gulf War, and an ex-assistant secretary of defense during the Reagan administration.

A wry, outspoken iconoclast, Freeman had, however, crossed one of Washington's red lines by virtue of his strong criticism of the U.S.-Israeli relationship. Over the years, he had, in fact, honed a critique of Israel that was both eloquent and powerful. Hours after the Foreign Policy story was posted, Steve Rosen, a former official of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), launched what would soon become a veritable barrage of criticism of Freeman on his right-wing blog.

Rosen himself has already been indicted by the Department of Justice in an espionage scandal over the transfer of classified information to outside parties involving a colleague at AIPAC, a former official in Donald Rumsfeld's Pentagon, and an official at the Israeli embassy. His blog, Obama Mideast Monitor, is hosted by the Middle East Forum website run by Daniel Pipes, a hard-core, pro-Israeli rightist, whose Middle East Quarterly is, in turn, edited by Michael Rubin of the American Enterprise Institute. Over approximately two weeks, Rosen would post 19 pieces on the Freeman story.

The essence of Rosen's criticism centered on the former ambassador's strongly worded critique of Israel. (That was no secret. Freeman had repeatedly denounced many of Israel's policies and Washington's too-close relationship with Jerusalem. "The brutal oppression of the Palestinians by the Israeli occupation shows no sign of ending," said Freeman in 2007. "American identification with Israel has become total.") But Rosen, and those who followed his lead, broadened their attacks to make unfounded or exaggerated claims, taking quotes and emails out of context, and accusing Freeman of being a pro-Arab "lobbyist," of being too closely identified with Saudi Arabia, and of being cavalier about China's treatment of dissidents. They tried to paint the sober, conservative former U.S. official as a wild-eyed radical, an anti-Semite, and a pawn of the Saudi king.

From Rosen's blog, the anti-Freeman vitriol spread to other right-wing, Zionist, and neoconservative blogs, then to the websites of neocons mouthpieces like the New Republic, Commentary, National Review, and the Weekly Standard, which referred to Freeman as a "Saudi puppet." From there, it would spread to the Atlantic and then to the op-ed pages of the Wall Street Journal, where Gabriel Schoenfeld called Freeman a "China-coddling Israel basher," and the Washington Post, where Jonathan Chait of the New Republic labeled Freeman a "fanatic."

Before long, staunch partisans for Israel on Capitol Hill were getting into the act. These would, in the end, include Representative Steve Israel and Senator Charles Schumer, both New York Democrats; a group of Republican House members led by John Boehner of Ohio, the minority leader, and Eric Cantor of Virginia, the Republican Whip; seven Republican members of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence; and, finally, Senator Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, who engaged in a sharp exchange with Admiral Blair about Freeman at a Senate hearing.

Though Blair strongly defended Freeman, the two men got no support from an anxious White House, which took (politely put) a hands-off approach. Seeing the writing on the wall -- all over the wall, in fact -- Freeman came to the conclusion that, even if he could withstand the storm, his ability to do the job had, in effect, already been torpedoed. Whatever output the National Intelligence Council might produce under his leadership, as Freeman told me in an interview, would instantly be attacked. "Anything that it produced that was politically controversial would immediately be attributed to me as some sort of political deviant, and be discredited," he said.

On March 10, Freeman bowed out, but not with a whimper. In a letter to friends and colleagues, he launched a defiant, departing counterstrike that may, in fact, have helped to change the very nature of Washington politics. "The tactics of the Israel lobby plumb the depths of dishonor and indecency and include character assassination, selective misquotation, the willful distortion of the record, the fabrication of falsehoods, and an utter disregard for the truth," wrote Freeman. "The aim of this lobby is control of the policy process through the exercise of a veto over the appointment of people who dispute the wisdom of its views."

Freeman put it more metaphorically to me: "It was a nice way of, as the Chinese say, killing a chicken to scare the monkeys." By destroying his appointment, Freeman claimed, the Israel lobby hoped to intimidate other critics of Israel and U.S. Middle East policy who might seek jobs in the Obama administration.

On Triumphs, Hysterias, and Mobs
It remains to be seen just how many "monkeys" are trembling. Certainly, the Israel lobby crowed in triumph. Daniel Pipes, for instance, quickly praised Rosen's role in bringing down Freeman:

"What you may not know is that Steven J. Rosen of the Middle East Forum was the person who first brought attention to the problematic nature of Freeman's appointment," wrote Pipes. "Within hours, the word was out, and three weeks later Freeman has conceded defeat. Only someone with Steve's stature and credibility could have made this happen."

The Zionist Organization of America, a far-right advocacy group that supports Israel, sent out follow-up Action Alerts to its membership, ringing further alarm bells about Freeman as part of a campaign to mobilize public opinion and Congress. Behind the scenes, AIPAC quietly used its considerable clout, especially with friends and allies in the media. And Chuck Schumer, who had trotted over to the White House to talk to Rahm Emanuel, President Obama's chief of staff, later said bluntly:

"Charles Freeman was the wrong guy for this position. His statements against Israel were way over the top and severely out of step with the administration. I repeatedly urged the White House to reject him, and I am glad they did the right thing."

Numerous reporters, including Max Blumenthal at the Daily Beast website and Spencer Ackerman of Firedoglake, have effectively documented the role of the Israel lobby, including AIPAC, in sabotaging Freeman's appointment. From their accounts and others, it seems clear that the lobby left its fingerprints all over Freeman's National Intelligence Council corpse. (Indeed, Time's Joe Klein described the attack on Freeman as an "assassination," adding that the term "lobby" doesn't do justice to the methods of the various lobbying groups, individuals, and publications: "He was the victim of a mob, not a lobby. The mob was composed primarily of Jewish neoconservatives.")

On the other hand, the Washington Post, in a near-hysterical editorial, decided to pretend that the Israel lobby really doesn't exist, accusing Freeman instead of sending out a "crackpot tirade." Huffed the Post, "Mr. Freeman issued a two-page screed on Tuesday in which he described himself as the victim of a shadowy and sinister 'Lobby'... His statement was a grotesque libel."

The Post's case might have been stronger, had it not, just one day earlier, printed an editorial in which it called on Attorney General Eric Holder to exonerate Steve Rosen and drop the espionage case against him. Entitled "Time to Call It Quits," the editorial said: "The matter involves Steven J. Rosen and Keith Weissman, two former officials for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC... A trial has been scheduled for June in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. Mr. Holder should pull the plug on this prosecution long before then."

In his interview with me, Freeman noted the propensity members of the Israel lobby have for denying the lobby's existence, even while taking credit for having forced him out and simultaneously claiming that they had nothing to do with it. "We're now at the ludicrous stage where those who boasted of having done it and who described how they did it are now denying that they did it," he said.

Running Scared
The Israel lobby has regularly denied its own existence even as it has long carried on with its work, in stealth as in the bright sunlight. In retrospect, however, l'affaire Freeman may prove a game changer. It has already sparked a new, more intense mainstream focus on the lobby, one that far surpasses the flap that began in March, 2006, over the publication of an essay by John Mearsheimer and Steven Walt in the London Review of Books that was, in 2007, expanded into a book, The Israel Lobby. In fact, one of the sins committed by Freeman, according to his critics, is that an organization he headed, the Middle East Policy Council, published an early version of the Mearsheimer-Walt thesis -- which argued that a powerful, pro-Israel coalition exercises undue influence over American policymakers -- in its journal.

In his blog at Foreign Policy, Walt reacted to Freeman's decision to withdraw by writing: "For all of you out there who may have questioned whether there was a powerful 'Israel lobby,' or who admitted that it existed but didn't think it had much influence, or who thought that the real problem was some supposedly all-powerful 'Saudi lobby,' think again."

What the Freeman affair brought was unwanted, often front-page attention to the lobby. Writers at countless blogs and websites -- including yours truly -- dissected or reported on the lobby's assault on Freeman, including Daniel Luban and Jim Lobe at, Glenn Greenwald in his column, M.J. Rosenberg of the Israel Peace Forum, and Phil Weiss at Mondoweiss. Far more striking, however, is that for the first time in memory, both the New York Times and the Washington Post ran page-one stories about the Freeman controversy that specifically used the phrase "Israel lobby," while detailing the charges and countercharges that followed upon Freeman's claim that the lobby did him in.

This new attention to the lobby's work comes at a critical moment, which is why the toppling of Freeman might be its Waterloo.

As a start, right-wing partisans of Israel have grown increasingly anxious about the direction that President Obama intends to take when it comes to U.S. policy toward Israel, the Palestinians, Iran, and the Middle East generally. Despite the way, last June, Obama recited a pro-Israeli catechism in a speech at AIPAC's national conference in Washington, they remain unconvinced that he will prove reliable on their policy concerns. Among other things, they have long been suspicious of his reputed openness to Palestinian points of view.

No less important, while the appointments of Hillary Clinton as his secretary of state and Rahm Emanuel as his chief of staff were reassuring, other appointments were far less so. They were, for instance, concerned by several of Obama's campaign advisers -- and not only Robert Malley of the International Crisis Group and former National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski, who were quietly eased out of Obamaland early in 2008. An additional source of worry was Daniel Shapiro and Daniel Kurtzer, both Jewish, who served as Obama's top Middle East aides during the campaign and were seen as not sufficiently loyal to the causes favored by hardline, right-wing types.

Since the election, many lobby members have viewed a number of Obama's top appointments, including Shapiro, who's taken the Middle East portfolio at the National Security Council, and Kurtzer, who's in line for a top State Department job, with great unease. Take retired Marine general and now National Security Advisor James L. Jones, who, like Brzezinski, is seen as too sympathetic to the Palestinian point of view and who reputedly wrote a report last year highly critical of Israel's occupation policies; or consider George Mitchell, the U.S. special envoy to the Middle East, who is regarded by many pro-Israeli hawks as far too level-headed and even-handed to be a good mediator; or, to mention one more appointment, Samantha Power, author of A Problem from Hell and now a National Security Council official who has, in the past, made comments sharply critical of Israel.

Of all of these figures, Freeman, because of his record of blunt statements, was the most vulnerable. His appointment looked like low-hanging fruit when it came to launching a concerted, preemptive attack on the administration. As it happens, however, this may prove anything but a moment of strength for the lobby. After all, the recent three-week Israeli assault on Gaza had already generated a barrage of headlines and television images that made Israel look like a bully nation with little regard for Palestinian lives, including those of women and children. According to polls taken in the wake of Gaza, growing numbers of Americans, including many in the Jewish community, have begun to exhibit doubts about Israel's actions, a rare moment when public opinion has begun to tilt against Israel.

Perhaps most important of all, Israel is about to be run by an extremist, ultra right-wing government led by Likud Party leader Bibi Netanyahu, and including the even more extreme party of Avigdor Lieberman, as well as a host of radical-right religious parties. It's an ugly coalition that is guaranteed to clash with the priorities of the Obama White House.

As a result, the arrival of the Netanyahu-Lieberman government is also guaranteed to prove a crisis moment for the Israel lobby. It will present an enormous public-relations problem, akin to the one that faced ad agency Hill & Knowlton during the decades in which it had to defend Philip Morris, the hated cigarette company that repeatedly denied the link between its products and cancer. The Israel lobby knows that it will be difficult to sell cartons of menthol smooth Netanyahu-Lieberman 100s to American consumers.

Indeed, Freeman told me: "The only thing I regret is that in my statement I embraced the term 'Israel lobby.' This isn't really a lobby by, for, or about Israel. It's really, well, I've decided I'm going to call it from now on the [Avigdor] Lieberman lobby. It's the very right-wing Likud in Israel and its fanatic supporters here. And Avigdor Lieberman is really the guy that they really agree with."

So here's the reality behind the Freeman debacle: Already worried over Team Obama, suffering the after-effects of the Gaza debacle, and about to be burdened with the Netanyahu-Lieberman problem, the Israel lobby is undoubtedly running scared. They succeeded in knocking off Freeman, but the true test of their strength is yet to come.

Robert Dreyfuss is a contributing editor to The Nation magazine, and the author of Devil's Game: How the United States Helped Unleash Fundamentalist Islam (Metropolitan). This article first appeared at

Copyright © 2009 Robert Dreyfuss -- distributed by Agence Global

Release Date: 18 March 2009
Word Count: 2,509
Rights & Permissions Contact: Agence Global, 1.336.686.9002,

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Who Owns the Heavens and the Rains?

Who owns Colorado's rainwater?
By Nicholas Riccardi

Environmentalists and others like to gather it in containers for use in drier times. But state law says it belongs to those who bought the rights to waterways.

March 18, 2009
Reporting from Denver -- Every time it rains here, Kris Holstrom knowingly breaks the law.

Holstrom's violation is the fancifully painted 55-gallon buckets underneath the gutters of her farmhouse on a mesa 15 miles from the resort town of Telluride. The barrels catch rain and snowmelt, which Holstrom uses to irrigate the small vegetable garden she and her husband maintain.

But according to the state of Colorado, the rain that falls on Holstrom's property is not hers to keep. It should be allowed to fall to the ground and flow unimpeded into surrounding creeks and streams, the law states, to become the property of farmers, ranchers, developers and water agencies that have bought the rights to those waterways.

What Holstrom does is called rainwater harvesting. It's a practice that dates back to the dawn of civilization, and is increasingly in vogue among environmentalists and others who pursue sustainable lifestyles. They collect varying amounts of water, depending on the rainfall and the vessels they collect it in. The only risk involved
is losing it to evaporation. Or running afoul of Western states' water laws.

Those laws, some of them more than a century old, have governed the development of the region since pioneer days.

"If you try to collect rainwater, well, that water really belongs to someone else," said Doug Kemper, executive director of the Colorado Water Congress. "We get into a very detailed accounting on every little drop."

Frank Jaeger of the Parker Water and Sanitation District, on the arid foothills south of Denver, sees water harvesting as an insidious attempt to take water from entities that have paid dearly for the resource.

"Every drop of water that comes down keeps the ground wet and helps the flow of the river," Jaeger said. He scoffs at arguments that harvesters like Holstrom only take a few drops from rivers.

"Everything always starts with one little bite at a time."

Increasingly, however, states are trying to make the practice more welcome. Bills in Colorado and Utah, two states that have limited harvesting over the years, would adjust their laws to allow it in certain scenarios, over the protest of people like Jaeger.

Organic farmers and urban dreamers aren't the only people pushing to legalize water harvesting. Developer Harold Smethills wants to build more than 10,000 homes southwest of Denver that would be supplied by giant cisterns that capture the rain that falls on the 3,200-acre subdivision. He supports the change in Colorado law.

"We believe there is something to rainwater harvesting," Smethills said. "We believe it makes economic sense."

Collected rainwater is generally considered "gray water," or water that is not reliably pure enough to drink but can be used to water yards, flush toilets and power heaters. In some states, developers try to include a network of cisterns and catchment pools in every subdivision, but in others, those who catch the rain tend to do so covertly.

In Colorado, rights to bodies of water are held by entities who get preference based on the dates of their claims. Like many other Western states, Colorado has more claims than available water, and even those who hold rights dating back to the late 19th century sometimes find they do not get all of the water they should.

"If I decide to [take rainwater] in 2009, somewhere, maybe 100 miles downstream, there's a water right that outdates me by 100 years" that's losing water, said Kevin Rein, assistant state engineer.

State Sen. Chris Romer found out about this facet of state water policy when he built his ecological dream house in Denver, entirely powered by solar energy. He wanted to install a system to catch rainwater, but the state said it couldn't be permitted.

"It was stunning to me that this common-sense thing couldn't be done," said Romer, a Democrat. He sponsored a bill last year to allow water harvesting, but it did not pass.

"Welcome to water politics in Colorado," Romer said. "You don't touch my gun, you don't touch my whiskey, and you don't touch my water."

Romer and Republican state Rep. Marsha Looper introduced bills this year to allow harvesting in certain circumstances. Armed with a study that shows that 97% of rainwater that falls on the soil never makes it to streams, they propose to allow harvesting in 11 pilot projects in urban areas, and for rural users like Kris Holstrom whose wells are depleted by drought.

In contrast to the high-stakes maneuvering in the capital, Holstrom looks upon the state's regulation of rainwater with exasperated amusement.

Holstrom, director of sustainability for Telluride, and her husband, John, have lived on their farm since 1988. During the severe drought at the start of this decade, their well began drying up. Placing rain barrels under the gutters was the natural thing to do, said Holstrom, 51.

"Rain out here comes occasionally, and can come really hard," she said. "To be able to store it for when you need it is really great."

Holstrom had a vague awareness of state regulations. She decided to test it last summer when she was teaching a class on water harvesting. She called the state water department, which told her it was technically illegal, though it was unlikely that she would be cited.

Holstrom is known in southwestern Colorado for a lifestyle and causes that many deem quixotic. The land she and her husband own holds a yurt and tepees to house "interns" who help on their organic farm in the summers. It boasts a greenhouse, which even on a recent snowy day held an oasis of rosemary, artichokes, salad greens and a fig tree.

She plucked a bit of greens from one plant and munched on it as goldfish swam in a small, algae-filled pond that helps heat the enclosure. "This has been my passion for a long time -- trying to live the best way I know how," she said.

Patriots and Assassins

Of Patriots and Assassins
by Pat Buchanan
During Nixon's historic trip to China in 1972, his interpreter and I, free for a few hours, conscripted a driver to take us on a tour of Beijing. Somewhere in my files are photos from that day we toured the grim city of Chairman Mao in the time of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution.

The interpreter: Charles Freeman — the same Charles Freeman Adm. Dennis Blair chose to chair the National Intelligence Council that prepares National Intelligence Estimates on critical national security issues such as Iran's nuclear program.

Educated at Yale and Harvard Law, Freeman has served his country in Delhi, Taipei, Bangkok and Beijing. He was Ronald Reagan's deputy assistant secretary of state for Africa and Bill Clinton's assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs. George Bush I named him ambassador to Saudi Arabia. Freeman was our man in Riyadh when Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf and 500,000 U.S. troops arrived to evict the army of Saddam Hussein from Kuwait.

In 1997, Freeman succeeded George McGovern as president of the Middle East Policy Council — and he began to speak out.

He opposed the bombing of Serbia and said aloud what few privately deny: Reflexive support for Israel's repression of the Palestinian people is high among the reasons America is no longer seen as a beacon of liberation in the Arab and Muslim world.

Freeman echoed the Obama of yesterday, who bravely blurted, "Nobody is suffering more than the Palestinian people."

At MEPC, however, Freeman committed a great crime. He published "The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy" by Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer, which went onto the New York Times best-seller list — and put Freeman on AIPAC's enemies list.

Hence, when his name surfaced as Blair's choice to chair the NIC, the Israel Firsters went berserk, with Steven Rosen declaring him to be a "textbook case of the old-line Arabism" that infected the Department of State when Gen. George Marshall was secretary.

And who is Rosen?

A former fixture at AIPAC, Rosen faces imminent federal criminal prosecution under the Espionage Act for transferring top-secret Pentagon documents to the Israeli Embassy. Rosen's accomplice, Larry Franklin, is serving a 12-year sentence.

Picking up the Rosen dog whistle, the neocommentariat came howling. To Gabriel Schoenfeld, late of Commentary, Freeman is a "China coddling Israel basher." Tom Piatak of Chronicles found no fewer than five blogs from National Review Online, in two hours, savaging Freemen, two by Jonah Goldberg and two by Michael Rubin.

Rich Lowry of NR calls Freeman "Chas of Arabia," a diplomat of "odious" views, a "lap dog" and "blinkered ideologue" who enjoys "pandering to and making excuses for the world's dictators and terrorists."

To The New Republic's Jonathan Chait, Freeman is a "fanatic." To Jeffrey Goldberg of Atlantic, formerly of the Israeli Army, Chait's piece was dead on.
Click to learn more...
To TNR ex-publisher Marty Peretz, Freeman is a "bought man." To Michael Goldfarb of The Weekly Standard, Freeman is a "shill for the Saudis," who defends "corrupt Arab states that foment and support terror."

Freeman is denounced as a shill of Saudi Arabia — by people who have spent careers shilling for the Israeli lobby and Likud.

Within this smear bund (Murray Rothbard's phrase), who has given America a tenth of the patriotic service and loyalty of Chas Freeman?

What were the specific charges? That, in private life, Freeman advised a Chinese company. Would the Israel Firsters have used that argument against Al Haig or Henry Kissinger?

Saudi contributions to MEPC should disqualify Freeman, they say. But what did they say when Douglas Feith, Richard Perle, David Wurmser and the rest with inextricable ties to Israel stove-piped to the press the cherry-picked War Party propaganda lies about a "Prague connection" between Mohammed Atta and Iraqi intelligence, yellow cake from Niger, Saddam and al-Qaida, Saddam and the anthrax attacks, "mushroom clouds," "aluminum tubes" and WMD?

Who among them questioned State's decision to hand the Iran portfolio to Dennis Ross of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, a creation and front of AIPAC?

Realizing the assaults would not end, Freeman last week withdrew, saying, "I do not believe the National Intelligence Council could function effectively while its chair was under constant attack by unscrupulous people with a passionate attachment to the views of a political faction of a foreign country."

The foreign country is Israel; the political faction Likud.

Nor did Freeman shrink at naming the source of the noxious campaign of slander against him.

"The tactics of the Israel lobby plumb the depths of dishonor and indecency and include character assassination, selective misquotation, the willful distortion of the record, the fabrication of falsehoods and an utter disregard for the truth."

"A lobby," Steve Rosen confided in an AIPAC internal memo, "is like a night flower; it thrives in the dark and dies in the sun."

Yes, and long ago, Al Smith addressed the age-old problem of the Rosens within: "The best way to kill anything un-American is to drag it out into the open, because anything un-American cannot live in the sunlight."

Well done, Ambassador Freeman.

Patrick Buchanan is the author of the new book "Churchill, Hitler and 'The Unnecessary War." To find out more about Patrick Buchanan, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate web page at

Monday, March 16, 2009

Criminalizing Charity: Harper Following the Bush Path

Criminalizing charity
The Star (Toronto)
Mar 14, 2009 04:30 AM

Is Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government prepared to criminalize empathy? If not, it shouldn't even consider bringing charges against the 115 Canadians and others who chipped in to buy a $996 plane ticket to bring Abousfian Abdelrazik home from Sudan. He's the Montrealer who has been stuck in Khartoum since 2003.

The Sudanese first held him for suspected terrorist ties but found no evidence. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police have no evidence of wrongdoing. And Ottawa said it would give him travel documents to come home if he got a paid-up air ticket. In the meantime, he has been granted "safe haven" at the Canadian embassy for nearly a year.

Inexplicably, Abdelrazik remains on a United Nations terror watch list. His lawyer believes he was jailed on the Canadian Security Intelligence Service's recommendation. As a Canadian, he can legally return home. But in the bizarre world of 9/11 security, the people who shelled out for his ticket can be charged and sentenced to 10 years for financially helping someone who is on the UN list, his lawyer says.

The contributors include former Liberal cabinet minister Warren Allmand and former Progressive Conservative leadership candidate David Orchard, plus university professors, lawyers, artists and others.

This is crazy. These people are not Al Qaeda sympathizers with criminal intent. They are decent folk who are acting out of pity for a stranded Canadian whose own government won't help. They deserve credit, not condemnation. It would be outrageous to charge them.

Harper should issue a statement that the anti-terror laws have no bearing on this case. Then get Abdelrazik on the first flight home.


This is their Achilles heel!

IF everyone is equal before the law, then there is either one law, or no law, or
decree by fiat. In other words, open dictatorship!

If they will not bar or arrest Bush, we must bring charges against all who sponsor
the World Wide War Criminals Tour, including those in gov't who aid and abet by
turning a blind eye (Harper, his cabinet and Opposition Leaders)

By parliamentary tradition, those accused of wrong doing, not to mention, charged
with an offense, MUST step down!!

This hypocrisy must be exposed and exploited at every opportunity.


Anti-Terrorism Act deserves to stay dead
The Gazette (Montreal) - Quebec,Canada
Canada's Anti-Terrorism Act, passed in the panic-stricken aftermath of 9/11, died a well-deserved death in 2007. It was a hastily concocted piece of ...


have YOU said NO to BUSH yet ???

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Harper Tories Move on "Secret" Indian Act Reforms

Secret documents reveal sweeping new rules for natives

Native leaders warned Ottawa not to re-open the governance file unless it's willing to hold wide-ranging consultations but classified papers show government moving ahead

Globe and Mail. March 3, 2009 at 3:00 AM EDT

OTTAWA - The federal government is secretly planning an overhaul of the rules governing Canada's reserves that is far more sweeping than what Ottawa is telling Canada's chiefs and native leaders. Documents show the government wants to address concerns over the way native leaders are selected, including the fact that not all communities use secret ballots, have clear term limits or written rules for picking leaders. But addressing these very issues triggered widespread protests from native leaders six years ago when the Liberal government brought in its doomed First Nations Governance Act.

Native leaders have warned Ottawa not to re-open the governance file unless it is willing to hold wide-ranging consultations to ensure the changes protect native rights and are affordable to bands.

Now, hundreds of pages of classified documents - including a draft memorandum to cabinet, and other Indian Affairs notes marked "secret" and "protected" - obtained by The Globe and Mail show that the government is moving ahead in these areas with far more limited consultations than what native leaders have demanded. The documents include a series of briefing notes and presentations drafted by Indian Affairs officials over the past year as they prepared a new policy aimed at improving the accountability of band leaders for the funds they receive from Ottawa. The documents make repeated references to the First Nations Governance Act of 2002, noting that
while the Liberals abandoned it due to the controversy, there is still a need to address the outdated rules governing the way reserves are run.

In an interview, Indian Affairs Minister Chuck Strahl said it is "completely untrue" that his department is secretly proposing measures that were in the Governance Act. "There is no legislation planned and so it's not like the Governance Act," he argued. "But my goodness, if you want to scare people in first nations country, you just talk about [former Liberal Indian Affairs minister] Bob Nault's Governance Act." That assurance appears to be contradicted by the documents, which show the areas being addressed in the Conservative reform - such as ensuring secret ballot elections and allowing all off-reserve members to vote - are the very issues that were at the heart of the Liberal initiative. In fact, the minister changed his tone when told The Globe had documents describing the measures as a less-ambitious version of the Governance Act. "Trust me. When we do the review, it won't be to say:
'How do we make things less accountable and less transparent?' " he said.
"And I'd be very surprised if any First Nation nowadays would say the objective is less transparency and less accountability."

One document marked secret and dated Feb. 19, 2008, asks for the approval of Indian Affairs' associate deputy minister to seek cabinet's approval to change the policies for funding band councils. It describes the measures as "less ambitious" and "more modest" than the Governance Act. But it also recommends that the new policies "would not be optional." The documents suggest the new policy will revive the central elements of the Governance Act, including mandatory rules for bands on how to conduct elections and make their spending public to members.

Since the defeat of the Governance Act, Ottawa has faced calls from editorial writers and groups such as the Canadian Taxpayers Federation to revisit the issue of accountability on reserves. While the documents note these pressures, they also show that Ottawa is knowingly exposing itself to the same charge of inadequate consultation that doomed the Governance Act.

The documents say that Indian Affairs scaled back its budget for consulting native leaders to $1.2-million from $5-million, and produced a communications plan aimed at keeping the changes quiet. "A low-profile communications approach is recommended," states one document, titled "communications strategy" and marked "protected." Under the heading "risks," a July 10, 2008, Indian Affairs presentation states that it may look like Indian Affairs "has already decided" on its reforms and that "with little
time and funds, first nation participation will be limited."

After the consultation meetings with some aboriginal leaders, the government is aiming for the changes to take effect on April 1, 2010. Because the changes will be brought in as new policy rather than a new law, they can be implemented without triggering a debate in Parliament over legislation. The documents indicate a desire to challenge the selection of community leaders by "custom," a broad term that allows use of native traditions that do not always involve secret ballot elections or written rules.

Further, another document indicates Ottawa wants to impose access-to-information rules on reserves, a measure the Conservatives were unable to win support for as part of the 2006 Federal Accountability Act. The documents also show the government is not telling chiefs one of its main motivations for changing the way band employee pensions are funded. Indian Affairs told chiefs in a written letter the changes will "simplify" reporting duties.

However, the documents show the change is motivated at least in part by a desire to get Ottawa off the hook in the face of possible lawsuits for under-funding pensions and ignoring mismanagement of pension funds. "It wouldn't surprise me that that's in the mix of discussions and it should be, but that's not the driving force behind the process," Mr. Strahl said.

A spokesperson for Indian Affairs, Margot Geduld, declined to answer a list of specific questions for this story. "We don't comment on leaked documents," she said.