Tag Archives: Francis Anthony Govia

Feds Seize Websites Suspected of Online Piracy

"More Internet regulation will result in the free and booming frontier of cyberspace, now functioning as the gold rush for enterprise, ceasing to exist. "

Fox News

The U.S. government is shutting down websites suspected of copyrighted infringement or selling counterfeit goods as Congress debates a bill that would give feds more authority to do so.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), an agency within the Homeland Security Department, has seized more than 70 websites in recent days, according to the Wall Street Journal, and posted a notice saying that the domain name has been seized by ICE through court-ordered warrants. The notice also states penalties for willful copyright infringement and trafficking in counterfeit goods.

Neither ICE nor Homeland Security responded to messages seeking comment. An ICE spokeswoman confirmed to the Wall Street Journal that the agency executed court-ordered seizure warrants against a number of domain names but declined additional comment.

“As this is an ongoing investigation, there are no additional details available at this time,” she told the newspaper.

Online publications, including TorrentFreak, first reported the seizures which began on Thursday when ICE agents raided facilities operated by a hip hop file-sharing site called RapGodFathers. Other seized sites that share music or sell goods include torrent-finder.com, timberlandlike.com, dvdsetsonline.com and handbagspop.com.

Some of the siteowners have reportedly complained that their domain names were seized without any notice or warning.

The seizures come as Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., vows to block an online copyright enforcement bill that was unanimously approved last week by the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Read more>>>

Related story:
Age of Censorship and Internet Trade Wars
FBI Wiretapping of Internet Users. “All Your Data Belongs to Us”
The Cybersecurity Directive Goes Viral

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Age of Censorship and Internet Trade Wars

Francis Anthony Govia

Activist Post

New U.S. legislation will impact every user of the Internet. The “Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act” would empower the U.S. Department of Justice to shut down, or block access to, websites found to be dedicated to infringing activities.

The bill also contains provisions to block sites with domain names and Top-Level Domains (TLDs) that are maintained by overseas companies, which exist outside the U.S. legal jurisdiction and enforcement mechanism. The Justice Department would obtain court orders directing United States-based Internet Service Providers to stop resolving the IP addresses that allow customers in the United States to access the infringing websites. As a result, the sites will be inaccessible to U.S.-based Web users who do not use some sort of proxy service. The bill was read twice and referred to the Committee on the Judiciary last Monday; it is sponsored by Senators Hatch, Leahy, Klobuchar, Whitehouse, Schumer, Kohl, Specter, Durbin, Bayh, Voinovich, and Feinstein.

The legislation is expected to have strong support in Hollywood, labor unions and manufacturers, but in some circles — namely grassroots political organizations, alternative press, and Internet start-ups — the response has been lukewarm, and even questioning. They are concerned that the “other purposes” of the legislation include censorship and, if made law, will employ the Justice Department to police the Internet, eventually resulting in the disruption of the free flow of information and trade globally.

To some extent, their concerns are formed by experience. There have been examples of business censorship, and government legislation to curtail what is viewed on the Internet. Infowars reported recently that “London’s St. Pancras International, one of the biggest transport hubs in the West,” implemented “stringent filters that block users of their Wi-Fi service from accessing even mildly political websites.” Sites like prisonplanet.com and thinkprogress.org were not available to customers in some areas. There are plans in Australia to promulgate legislation to institute a “mandatory, countrywide filtering system,” which supporters say is “designed to keep out child abuse content, but which blocks a much wider variety of content and topics.” And recently when media reported about an Iranian website with cartoons denying the Holocaust, some viewers in the U.S. discovered that access to the site was blocked.

Granted, there is recognition in Washington that the Internet is the new frontier for global enterprise, but some perceive that Washington still views the world through the lens of a bygone era. A critic of the bill told me that many nations, including the United States, legislate for businesses founded in a brick-and-mortar world; and attempts to regulate the Internet would be like turning back the clock.

“Nations will act independently and this will be detrimental to customers that use the Internet near and far,” advised the critic.

A similar sentiment was echoed by former Italian Prime Minister, Romano Prodi, in a speech at the Foreign Ministry Faculty of International Relations in Tehran. Mr. Prodi suggested that Italy within Europe must play a greater role in matters of global importance, and that may entail Europe’s acting with greater independence of the United States. The message, though given on a different topic, is not one that instills confidence to those who see governments encroaching on their privacy, and would prefer unrestricted use, or less regulation, of the services for which they pay.

The U.S. legislation for infringement is written to tackle many concerns, and is certainly not archaic in regard to lawmakers’ ambition to affect what goes on well beyond the scope of U.S. jurisdiction.

For infringing sites outside the United States, it provides for in rem action in the District of Columbia to prevent the importation into the United States of goods and services directed to U.S. residents. The effect of this “importation” must be that the owner or operator of the infringing site must harm intellectual property rights holders that are residents of the United States.

The Justice Department will be granted power to serve court orders upon the registry where the domain name registrar is not located in the United States, and upon receipt of such an order, the domain registry must suspend operations of, and lock, the domain name of the infringing site.

During the action intended to “lock the domain name,” a court may determine, at a minimum threshold, that an Internet site is not conducting business to residents in the United States if the Internet site “states that it is not intended, and has measures to prevent, infringing materials from being accessed in or delivered to the United States,” including other provisions in subsection (d)(2)(B). The owner or operator of the “infringing site” shall also have recourse to petition the Justice Department to remove his domain name from an offending list, or petition the court to modify, suspend, or vacate the order in accordance with subsection (h)(1)(B).

The bill has an immunity clause which protects any entity from a cause of action in U.S. courts or administration agency for any action reasonably calculated to comply with an action intended to prevent the infringing site from continuing to do business with U.S.-based customers, receive financial transactions, and other matters under subsection (e)(3).

The U.S. legislation does not appear to put the onus on any businesses, such as Internet Service Providers, to stop known infringement from occurring. This is an interesting stance. In February, an Australian ISP won a precedent-setting copyright infringement lawsuit (Down Under) against the Motion Picture Industry. The bill sponsors may be cognizant of this ruling.

Softpedia reported that 34 U.S. movie studios and broadcasters filed a lawsuit in Australia against iiNet after the ISP refused to send warning letters to its customers who illegally downloaded movies using BitTorrent. The Australian Justice, Dennis Cowdroy, ruled that while iiNet had knowledge of infringements occurring, and did not act to stop them, such findings do not necessitate a finding that the ISP authorized the infringing activities. Possibly, Hollywood supporters of the U.S. infringement legislation now agree with Cowdroy’s ruling that to ask ISPs to police the Internet would “open them any number of legal claims for anything that might happen over their pipes,” and that would engender strong opposition to the legislation among ISPs in the United States. However, to take on the responsibility of policing the Internet may not seem a burden to Obama’s Justice Department.

Certainly, Hollywood will welcome any new infringement legislation aimed at stemming the loss of royalties through piracy and copyright violation in the digital age. Infringers often meet efforts to protect intellectual property with resilient and thought-out action to thwart the law. As a law intern in Thailand I learned, for example, that illegal duplication facilities for CDs and DVDs existed in mobile transportation. Persons engaged in copyright violations avoided the ability of local enforcement to easily locate them and shut them down. It is a sure bet that those engaged in infringing activities overseas will find ways and new technology to evade laws promulgated by a foreign government (like the U.S.) that will have no jurisdiction over them.

The Obama Justice Department, which tapped Hollywood lawyers, may be charged to police Intellectual Property — an assignment to which attorneys for President George W. Bush were “strongly opposed.” The Republican President threatened to veto a previous version of the bill sponsored by the same Sens. Patrick Leahy and Arlen Specter.

In correspondence to the Senators, attorneys for President Bush wrote that they “strongly opposed” expanding the powers of the Justice Department. Doing so, they said, could undermine the Department’s prosecution of criminal cases and transform it into an office “serving as pro bono lawyers for private copyright holders.”

It is obvious during this era when citizens’ rights are curtailed and infringed upon, with the bipartisan sponsorship of the bill and the composition of the current administration, that the infringement legislation has a better chance of becoming law. But will it open a Pandora’s Box? Will it do exactly what critics suspect it is intended to do: censor more of the Internet, create bottlenecks that will allow governments to intrude on the flow of information and services around the world, and do possible damage to a wider spectrum of businesses (other than those it is intended to protect)?

Many of the dynamic economies that U.S. businesses now compete against were born out of things other than a free market; and other economies are driven, or manipulated by State controls, as is the case of China. Foreign nations may follow the U.S. lead in writing laws to regulate the Internet and address their concerns, but not with the results U.S. legislators necessarily hope to engender.

Through retaliation, or even pretext, governments may decide to regulate, or shut down legitimate Internet traffic and services to violate human rights, hinder trade, and to engage in industry espionage. We already have examples of these developments with China’s efforts to regulate Google, and the recent firestorm when India and other nations, acting within their security concerns, decided to take action to regulate Blackberry and gain access to users’ encrypted corporate e-mails and messages. The offices of Sen. Byron L Dorgan and Rep. Sander M. Levin of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China undertook a hearing in March to investigate if China’s efforts to regulate the Internet contravene free trade and human rights. Delegates to the hearing cited that:

–China’s Internet users remain subject to the arbitrary dictates of state censorship. More than a dozen agencies are involved in implementing a host of laws, regulations, and other tools to try to keep information and ideas from the Chinese people . . .

–China’s censorship practices and control of the Internet have had a terrible impact on human rights advocates. These include ordinary people who promote political freedoms or try to organize online . . . attempting to share information about ongoing government repression.

–Internet censorship and regulation in China have serious economic implications for many U.S. companies . . . [and] often run against basic international trade principles of nondiscrimination and maintaining a level playing field.

To these charges, China responded that it laws regarding the Internet are not much different than those of the West, and that critics are applying a double standard.

Perhaps U.S. lawmakers have forgotten a cause it often champions: that respect for human rights, deregulation, and open trade are important to a dynamic and properly functioning global community. As ownership of patents, trademarks, and copyrights becomes a contested grey area, nations may block business occurring over the Internet through the guise of infringement. Only the rich and powerful will have the resources to go through the legal hurdles at home and/or abroad to clear their domains of actions to lock them, and resume operations. Damage would be done to a business during the course of a legal action brought against it; its customers may simply believe that the domain ceases to exist, with transactions lost forever.

Small businesses could be shut out of that presumptuous dream of going global and becoming rich, while the elite, big businesses and powerful governments can dominate cyberspace. Many micro-states and individuals could be harmed, and educational pursuits stifled through this world of more legislation, regulation, and censorship.

Why should we be concerned about this future for the Internet?

Well, because the Internet is now everyone’s classroom; and perhaps more-so it has become individuals’ business personality. A properly set up website for a Mom-and-Pop enterprise can look as good as that of a billion dollar company’s front-store. The ramifications of more regulation will result in the free and booming frontier of cyberspace, now functioning as the gold rush for enterprise, ceasing to exist.

The U.S. may find it useful to confer with trading partners in the North and the South, and come to an understanding that perhaps unilateral action is not the way to address concerns in regard to a frontier in which everyone has an interest. President George W. Bush may have gotten it right when his attorneys writing on his behalf to Sens. Leahy and Specter implied, when taken altogether, that U.S. law already provides owners of Intellectual Property with effective legal tools to protect their rights. It need not go in the direction proposed by the Senators.

No one wants Washington’s efforts to backfire and force us to return to a world where we have to resort domestically to find the goods and services that we need, such as cheap medicine. Or, to have to wait on someone in a dusty library to find a book or paper we once could have accessed readily over the Internet. Or, in some far corner of the world men will cower in fear of infringing before they cite links as sources of information. A Big Brother that will censor access to the latest celebrity sex videos, or certain religious texts or even Osama bin Laden’s latest rant (however misguided they may be). The result of this could be that owners of presumed “infringing sites” must raise ungodly sums of money to hire attorneys to clear their domain names, while good sites like WikiLeaks (which make governments accountable for their actions) are shut down or blocked here and abroad through a pretext; and Mom-and-Pop operating a start-up Internet business within the cornfields of America are locked out through action suggested by a smooth operator with deep pockets who knows how to play the system and use it against his competitor, blocking sites because somebody with power did not like the owner’s point of view.

Francis Anthony Govia received a Bachelor’s degree in International Relations at Boston University where he studied U.S. National Security and Foreign Policy with teachers who inspired him, such as General Fred F. Woerner (Ret.), Ambassador Stephen R. Lyne (Ret.), and Joseph Fewsmith. He received a law degree at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and is a contributor to Activist Post.

Related Story:
Senators Ease Off Internet ‘Censorship’ Bill After Outcry
Engineers Slam Internet ‘Censorship’ Bill Under Review by Senate

“Age of Censorship and Internet Trade Wars” was also published at PrisonPlanet, Uprooted Palestinians, IntelHub, InfoWars, Blacklisted News, LibertyFlame, DavidIcke, Global Information Network Society and other websites. Visit these sites for information and alternative news.

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Tony Blair’s home is occupied by an empty suit

Francis Anthony Govia

The Muffin Post

Somewhere in this big city of New York is a brilliant businessman with considerable resources at his finger-tips who aspires to be as successful as Bill Gates. He is expending all his considerable brain power and expertise to that effort of becoming peer to the second richest man on earth. At some time or another, he may come to realize that even a millionaire, or billionaire such as he, may not attain the loftier goals that he so cherishes. It is not to say that to become as rich or powerful as Bill Gates is impossible, just that men like him are few in each century. There are many things to consider, and many hurdles to overcome before that aspiration can be realized – a man’s aspiration may be larger than his ability, and even if he has the ability to work to achieve all his aspirations, there are actors whose purpose may be to prevent him from achieving them.

There are men in all corners of the globe who may tell you otherwise. They will tell you that your future is limitless, and depending on whom you are, that the mistakes that you make are excusable. There are people who will disguise what they really believe in innuendos. We have come to accept what people say on their face value, or at least learn to live through the lies and deceit indifferently.

Even when young soldiers’ lives are at stake, and the economic problems that we bear have resulted in an ever constricting middle class, we are reluctant to call a spade a spade. We allow men to stoke the public’s passion with messages of fear, and their views remain so unchecked, that we lose our capacity to reason as reasonable men would. There is an ex-Prime Minister who is guilty of this foolishness. His rhetoric is designed to have the President now withdraw the nation’s combat forces from Iraq only to engage them in an endeavor that will bankrupt the country, and deprive us of the very youth that should carry the future.

Tony Blair has told the world that Iran desires a nuclear bomb. In the Guardian, he stated his weighty opinion that the West should use force against Iran if it “continues to develop nuclear weapons.”

“I am saying that I think it is wholly unacceptable for Iran to have a nuclear weapons capability and I think we have got to be prepared to confront them, if necessary militarily. I think there is no alternative to that if they continue to develop nuclear weapons. They need to get that message loud and clear.” Mr. Blair said.

The nation of Iran has steadfastly asserted its right to the peaceful use of nuclear technology under Article IV of the Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Further, it has stated that nowhere in its history has Iran attacked any nation in the UN.

Mr. Blair stated to the Guardian reasons why it is “wholly unacceptable” for Iran to have nuclear weapons. He implied a nuclear bomb in Iran’s hand could somehow be equated to 300,000 deaths in a September 11 attack on U.S. soil instead of “3000 killed in one day.” Secondly, “Iran with a nuclear bomb would mean others in the region acquiring the same capability; it would dramatically alter the balance of power in the region, but also within Islam.”

Does Mr. Blair expect reasonable people to believe that Iran, or its protégés would commit suicide by using a nuclear weapon to carry out an attack on U.S. soil? If that is the case, I suppose hawks such as Mr. Blair do not respect the U.S.’ ability to bring Armageddon on Iran and the whole of the Middle East (for that matter) if such an attack occurs.

A few nuclear weapons in Iran’s hands will only give it the capability of “war deterrence.” Iran will not gain the ability to project that power to match the U.S. hemispheric control. Further, it is firmly established that the enrichment process is the most demanding step in the production of nuclear weapons, and is beyond the technical capabilities of most non-state actors. No state has gone so far to master the enrichment of U-235 beyond 20%, used that highly enriched uranium (HEU) to make a nuclear weapon, only to turn that weapon over to non-state actors. That would be tantamount to putting your best weapons in some else’s control, and national suicide. Iran is unlikely to give its best weapons to a non-state actor.

Further, in spite of what Mr. Blair said, a nation’s aspiration to acquire a nuclear weapon capability and the ability to build a nuclear weapon are totally different things. Many of us are aware that there are technical hurdles to overcome and that the process is very expensive to enrich U-235 to the 95% level to make a proper nuclear bomb. While it is stated that Iran has the ability to enrich U-235 to near the level of 20%, and the possibility, once it has the desire and ability to master other technical hurdles, to make a rudimentary nuclear weapon, the example of Brazil shows that a nation may master the ability to enrich uranium near the 20% threshold, but that does not mean it will be able to produce a nuclear weapon.

Brazil has had the capability to enrich U-235 to near the 20% level since 1987. It exhausted considerable resources and talent to acquire a nuclear weapon, but some twenty three years later, it still has not produced the weapon. Read here. In fact, in the 65 years since the Trinity (Nuclear Test), only a few nations have mastered a home grown ability to manufacture nuclear weapons but if we are to listen to Mr. Blair (and hawks for war), we are to think that the steps to making and detonating a nuclear weapon are like a stroll through the park.

The thoughtful person should read between the lines to discover what is being disguised in the shrill voices for war. The Nuclear Weapons States (NWS) are dictating an addendum to the NPT. The NWS, which comprise the U.S., Russia, France, U.K. and China, wish to forbid certain nations (ones they consider a threat to their hemispheric control or regional interests) from mastering nuclear technology to the point of self-sufficiency. A nation that masters nuclear technology, and certainly the enrichment process, that sits within a geographic location or “heightened zone of interests”, is likely to be labeled a suspect for nuclear proliferation.

The Middle East is a heightened zone of interests to the U.S. So too, for that matter, are the Korean Peninsula and Japan.
Following Mr. Blair’s considerable opinion, the U.S. and its allies should go to war to prevent nuclear proliferation in Iran, which sits in the Middle East. Note that Mr. Blair has conveniently left out that Israel is an undeclared holder of nuclear weapons within proximity to Iran. Mr. Blair is also echoing Israel’s Prime Minister exact words that state that “Iran acquiring nuclear weapons is unacceptable.” Mr. Blair is assuming his customary role of being the trusted second to another world leader who stands at the podium.

Mr. Blair is the special envoy for the Quartet on the Middle East. His charge is to facilitate Peace. Yet he has no reservation in expressing his preference for war, and to urge that we unleash untold damage to a revered civilization and a world economy that could only result in the enrichment of oil companies in which Tony Blair has a vested interest. Read here. No one actually believes that Iran, should it acquire a nuclear weapon will use it to carry out an attack on New York. What friends of Israel truly fear is that Iran may one day possess weapons that will deter others from carrying out a preemptive attack against Iran. The friends of Israel disguise that argument in statements like “Iran with a nuclear bomb would mean others in the region acquiring the same capability.” Perhaps, Mr. Blair should agitate that the earth will be a safer place if all nations dispossess themselves of nuclear weapons.

The world is not going to wake up tomorrow and discover that Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Syria, Oman, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, and Kuwait have nuclear weapons because Iran has managed to enrich U-235 to the level where it can be used for medical research. Further, and duly noted, it is preferred that the nuclear armed nations dispossess themselves of nuclear weapons. Nevertheless, the reality is that the world has managed to cope and live without the use of nuclear weapons in war since the U.S.’ first use of it – and in spite of the ascension of nations such as China, North Korea, India, Pakistan and Israel to the nuclear club. At each step of the way nations that disapproved of those that ascended to the “club” had a choice to exercise their right to war but no nation pursued that course of action. They understood that the best alternative to war is containment, and after that, engagement through diplomacy and trade.

As most nations will find, their aspirations to obtain nuclear technology, master fuel enrichment, and build a nuclear weapon are not easily achieved. The nations that achieve the status of developing a home grown nuclear arsenal exist on a plateau akin to figures in society such as Carlos Slim, Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, Mukesh Ambani, and Lakshmi Mittal: they are within a peer group a cut high above the rest.

SOME RESOURCE MATERIAL:

“Tony Blair: West should use force if Iran continues to develop nuclear weapons” by Mark Tran, Guardian.co.uk, September 1, 2010.
“Treaty on the Non Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons”, International Atomic Energy Agency, INFCIRC/140, April 22, 1970.
“Some Facts and Materials on the Peaceful Nuclear Program of the Islamic Republic of Iran” by H.E. Dr. Zarif, December 23, 2006.
“Minimization of Highly Enriched Uranium (HEU) in the Civilian Nuclear Sector” by the Norwegian Project Secretariat.
“Definition of Weapons-Usable Uranium-233” by C. W. Forsberg, C. M. Hopper, Oak Ridge National Laboratory*Oak Ridge, Tennessee 37831-6180; J. L. Richter, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Los Alamos, New Mexico 87545; H. C. Vantine, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Livermore, California 94550.
“Iran says it will make fuel for research reactor” by Ali Akbar Dareini, Associated Press, August 30, 2010.
“Blair’s fight to keep his oil cash secret: Former PM’s deals are revealed as his earnings since 2007 reach £20million by Jason Groves, The Daily Mail, March 19, 2010.
Brazil and Weapons of Mass Destruction, GolobalSecurity.org.


Francis Anthony Govia received a Bachelor’s degree in International Relations at Boston University where he studied U.S. National Security and Foreign Policy with teachers who inspired him, such as General Fred F. Woerner (Ret.), Ambassador Stephen R. Lyne (Ret.), and Joseph Fewsmith. He received a law degree at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and is a contributor to Activist Post.

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Sometimes we win

By Govia

Thru time
It is love that keeps
Us together.
The kindness
Of good friends that
Quiets the storms.

Your soft hand
Resting on his
At the end of a brutal day
That keeps things
In perspective.

His strong hands
Rubbing
Your feet
That makes you feel
Cherished.

In the world
There are many
Who share a similar
Experience.

People drawn
Together in
A common cause –
Or for one reason or another
Share a special
Connection
With something
Or someone

The connection for what
We speaks
Is remarkably
Beyond Faith.

It is intrinsically
Indescribable.

It is beyond reason
That we relinquish
Our individuality:

With so much sincerity,
We become captive
To that which makes
Us complete.

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As long as the Sun

By Govia

In the end there
Is nothing but
Those thoughts
My friend

Shadows that
Dance
And no one
Sees but you.

Gifts of God
That ask for Life
That is yours
To give

To occupy space
With the gravity
Of feelings earned.

No one can deter greatness!
No one should deter you!

No one can deter
Thoughts that come from
The incubator
Of the unconquerable mind
And sit on a page.

This life will end
And so too yours,
But words live on,
Words live
As long as the sun.

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Cricket at New St.

By Govia

Brother bowled right
And batted left.
He was good
At driving balls thru
The covers
But was
Not as tenacious
As Boycott.

At New Street
We salvaged wood
(From carpenters who
Made coffins at Jenkin’s)
And carved them
Into sturdy bats.

Balls
We made from
Bicycle tubes that couldn’t
Be repaired –

We would cut them into
Rings with scissors
And knitted them over paper –
Often with a “lost” golf ball sitting
At the core.

On weekends
Neighbors gathered
to form teams.

One sweep to fine leg
That crossed the next sidewalk
Along the ground
Was four.
A massive hook
That flew
Over the line at long leg
was a sure six.

We smashed balls
Thru doorways
And windows
But no one ever complained
Except Misses Palmer
(The old white lady
Whom we routinely
Ignored).

Occasionally a cop
Would make us stop
But only long enough to
See him go his way.

We played every great cricketer
That ever lived:
Frank Worrell
Gary Sobers
Clive Lloyd
The Chappell brothers
Rohan Kanhai
Donald Bradman
Sir Vivian Richards
And Joey Carew…
The names have faded
From the memory
And replaced in time:
So too
The game
Is no longer played
at New St.

_____
There have been many great cricketers. Among them Kapil Dev, Sunil Gavaskar, Ian Botham, Desmond Haynes, Gordon Greenidge, Ricky Pointing, and Brian Lara. “Cricket at New St. was written to recount some of them, and the author apologizes for not having mentioned some of the bowlers of the time Here is a video of the Master Blaster, Viv Richards, one of the best stroke-players of the game.

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For Stephen R. Lyne*

By Govia

There are those
Who believe
Their sons and daughters
Have failed them.

Their purposes
Derailed by one
Fault or
Another.

I say to them
No one is
A failure
Until they
Are dead.

A teacher once
Told a story about
Those who
Worked in the
Diplomatic Corps –
One got up
And left the
Perfectly good job.

They all thought
That he was crazy.

He spent several years
Being knocked around
The block
Then came roaring back
In a greater capacity
And fired the whole
Lot of them.

You guys
Don’t want to
Take any risk
He said.

For those inclined
To think
That they are failures –
You are not.

As long as you
Have life
You can still
reinvent
yourself.

_____
*Ambassador Stephen R. Lyne (Ret.) once told a story to students in the Department of International Relations at Boston University.

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Rosedale

By Govia

In a park near JFK
Canadian geese often gather near a pond –
To the angst of an old friend
I like to call them ducks –
I walked the dogs there last Saturday.

There
Young men often gather for a game of soccer
or cricket,
The melting pot of the USA
engaged in sports besides
the national pastime.

I sat in the parking lot one morning
Watching two men in an EMS truck
eating breakfast,
The singled quiet of the day soothed their frazzled
nerves between the grind of work.

Through paths lined by trees
big women and straggling men
labored at capturing figures
from the past.

The secrets of this place
Are often violated by jets that fly over –
They carry many who have moved beyond
the glass ceiling:

But here
little fish nibble at the bottom
of a small pond,
while others hurry to cross a bridge
to get to a larger one.

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For Whom the Bell Tolls: Will the U.S. meet the challenges of the 21st Century

The U.S. Future Is In Jeopardy

Francis Anthony Govia

The Muffin Post

A View of Manhattan from Forest Hills

By now it is well circulated the article by Paul Krugman “America Goes Dark”, New York Times. Mr. Krugman paints a picture of what is perceptibly the decline of the United States as a nation. According to Krugman “the lights are going out all over America — literally. Colorado Springs has made headlines with its desperate attempt to save money by turning off a third of its streetlights, but similar things are either happening or being contemplated across the nation, from Philadelphia to Fresno. “

Most of us would accept a little dimming of the lights in the United States was it not for a more troubling reality expressed by Krugman. Cash strapped systems are cutting back on seemingly everything. Teachers are being laid off. Educational programs are being cancelled – and services that were provided by the government for generations have apparently become not so essential after all – they are no longer being offered.

The near future does not bode well for Americans either. Planned austerity measures by state and local governments are expected to be “a major drag on the economy’ and lead to even more “devastatingly high unemployment,” says Krugman. This is what the citizens of this great nation have to expect in an economy already rocked by 9.5 % unemployment and a stubborn recession that refuses to go away.

Only a short walk down the block in the neighborhood, and there are many “For Rent” signs in a place once teaming with business. Jobs are being offered at half the salary they used to be offered a few years ago, and when they are offered at all, there are so many qualified applicants from whom to choose it becomes harder for the unemployed to get back on their feet. So how is it possible that America is going so backward?

Krugman’s case for the U.S. stepping backward – when other nations are doing otherwise — is attributed to the many decades of rhetoric by voters demonizing waste and big government. The voters are somehow responsible for the roads that will not be paved, the investments that cannot be made in education, the lights that are being extinguished, and the “essential services” that are being halted. But isn’t that awfully generous a conclusion – for some? Krugman appears to have absolved the government, special interests groups, and bureaucrats who dictate policy for the U.S. of the problems that now plague our ability to move forward.

Krugman’s conclusion is not an error of judgment. It is a voice of careful calculation. The fact is most of us are tired of hearing what has caused the U.S. to decline, or at least, are unwilling to accept it. Scholars must find new ways to define failure, and where to assign the responsibility for it. Every writer is guilty of assigning too much blame on one thing or another.

Not many want to hear that the country’s military expenditures and war effort have sprung out of control. We do not want to accept a conclusion that if we do not rein in costs we will go the way of the Soviet Union — a country buckled by the sheer weight of those who planned for war. For reasons of special interests, partisanship, or simple ignorance, some of us refuse to accept that the U.S. lost a grand opportunity at the close of the Clinton era (when our nation had a budget surplus) to keep putting her best foot forward. It chose to invest in an unnecessary war in Iraq instead of investing in its people where it would have gotten a better return. Like any bad investment made by an investor, the nation now sees more red. Our purpose to do better simply got derailed.

The war in Iraq was one we could have done without. The war in Afghanistan, considering the unprincipled attack on the World Trade Center and the pseudo-military attack on the pentagon, was a war of necessity. Managing these two wars have placed an unmitigated burden on our economy and society. We must fast lose our appetite for war or the nation will decline at an even faster rate.

The priorities we made for our war efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan have so tapped our treasury, and have given so little in return, that the U.S. is digging itself an early decline and it is hastening the rise of China. To meet new challenges and overcome our current fiscal handicap, the U.S. will have to do the following. It must ignore hawks and special interest groups who advocate war with Iran. It must give priority to its domestic programs over its foreign policy initiatives, and allocate more of its funds to the former. It must consider earnestly whether the nation can bear the burden of any new taxes before they are instituted. It must curtail expenditures dedicated to its current theatres of conflict, and give more priority to diplomacy. It must cut costs at home.

By count of the National Priorities Project, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have already cost the U.S. $1.9 trillion, of which $741 billion have been spent in Iraq. These war funds do not include requested funds for fiscal year 2011, and that will be evident when Congress completes their budget process in the fall. Wise heads would think that in order to invest in education, health, infrastructure development, and social services, the country must at least wind down and eventually curtail its effort in Iraq, and stubbornly refuse to engage in any new major war effort. The Federal, State, and local governments could then concentrate on putting resources (including the best of the young) into projects where they would likely get a better return. Not so. While there is hope for cutting the war effort in Iraq, Afghanistan is likely to cost the U.S. more in the near future. USA Today published an article by Richard Wolf in May which revealed that for the first time since 2003, the war in Afghanistan had outpaced Iraq’s. As president Obama ratchets up his administration’s plan to defeat a resurgent and tenacious Taliban in Afghanistan, it is expected that costs will surpass the $105 billion allocated to it in 2010 fiscal year.

Is there a way to get out of this fiscal quandary, manage current wars, and improve our society? The Nation’s brightest have now turned to the past for answers. They advocate that we will have to ask the richest 2% of Americans to go back to paying the tax rates they paid during the Clinton-era boom to end the regression. The “U.S. Is Bankrupt and We Don’t Even Know It” read the headline written by Boston University professor of Economics, Laurence Kotlikoff in an article published by Bloomberg last Tuesday. With due respect to professor Kotlikoff, and other fine scholars who acknowledge the same, the U.S. is bankrupt and we know it because many of us are feeling the pains. We hope for change. No one knows for sure if rolling back the tax benefits given to the rich by George W. Bush – a recommendation implied by Krugman – will improve the “F” given to the U.S. by the International Monetary Fund in its recent review. Is that the change we need? According to Kotlikoff, the U.S. will need “an immediate and permanent doubling of our personal-income, corporate and federal taxes as well as the payroll levy set down in the Federal Insurance Contribution Act” to accomplish that goal. Such a tax hike will give the U.S. “a surplus equal to 5% of its Gross Domestic Product this year – a standard the U.S. must maintain for many years to come to meet spending” that is scheduled.

So how do we meet the obligations of the nation staggering under $130 trillion in debt? It order to meet those obligations, National Review recently cited an article in Forbes written by Bruce Bartlett that says the country needs an 81% increase in taxes. See, “The Other National Debt” by Kevin D. Williamson. That recommendation spells disaster to most. Which American family can afford to pay double its current taxes? Who can afford to pay – that much more in taxes?

The case for maintaining the U.S. eminence in the world cannot be settled by a mere doubling of taxes, or by increasing the tax burden on the rich. Such an aspiration can only be achieved by the redoubling our efforts at home, cutting some of our costs here and even more of that we spend for our military ventures overseas. Americans must look inward, and tackle what ails us at home. We must give up the mentality of hawks and special interest groups who are trying to impress the world with our military projections and accoutrements but ignore that the true strength of a nation is what is developed within. Societies grow rich during times of peace, and not when they are systematically engaged in conflict.

It appears that U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates agrees with this fierce reality. Last Monday he announced a number of measures intended to cut costs in the Pentagon’s budget. See, “Pentagon Plans Steps to Reduce Budget and Jobs”, New York Times. By his analysis, the “U.S. is unlikely to repeat a mission on the scale of those in Afghanistan and Iraq anytime soon.” The nation simply cannot afford to undertake any more “forced regime change followed by nation building under fire.” Gates appears to subscribe to a new military doctrine that calls for “building partner capacity”: “helping other countries defend themselves or, if necessary, fight alongside U.S. forces by providing them with equipment, training, or other forms of security assistance.” He warned against a “creeping militarization” of U.S. foreign policy, and advocated a strengthening “for diplomacy and development and for greater emphasis on civilian programs.” See, “Helping Others Defend Themselves” by Robert Gates, Foreign Affairs, May/June 2010. But by far, it seems, the U.S. needs to change its way of thinking, and do away permanently with minefields that occupy too much of the nation’s time and resources.

Minefields in our past that threaten to derail our future are known to most people before the words are written. Specifically, the Middle East is the zone of conflict that presents the most danger to the U.S. standing as a superpower.

U.S. commitment to the Israel’s security, considering Palestinians’ aspiration for nationhood, is a minefield. The U.S.-Iran impasse over the nuclear refinement, or what could also be easily defined as the bookends of a U.S.-Iran-Israel standoff, absorb too much us of the nation’s energy. That too is a major minefield.

The cessation of hostilities between Israel and the Palestinian people is important to the U.S. For that goal to be realized, Palestinians who live in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem must receive the acceptable compromise leading to the building of Palestinian state. Israel and the United States cannot continue to prepare for war indefinitely, and if history has thought us anything, technological superiority in military terms have never been a sure purveyor of peace.

Moreover, the militarization of Israel’s foreign policy, and its ‘freedom of action” to use force unilaterally whenever it wants, is of considerable angst to the U.S., and a danger to our interests. They engender a whole host of negative factors, and could at any moment interfere with the world’s access to cheap and unmitigated flow of fossil fuels that the permutations of conflict would inevitably bring. The U.S. must devote considerably fewer resources to its allies, including Israel. Should the Palestinians achieve nationhood soon, the U.S. and Israel would disrupt a strategy on which the fundamentalists in the region thrive through grievances and misuse.

The U.S. Iran impasse over the refinement of nuclear fuel is even more critical, and dangerous to the U.S. in the near future, especially if it leads to the war for which the hawks agitate. The U.S. should absolutely not get into a war with Iran for such an undertaking will have a disastrous effect on the economies of the world that are already burdened with increased costs of energy – battered into stagnation and recession, and a whole other list of symptoms that are negative, and resultant from the war in Iraq.

War with Iran will cause the U.S. in excess of what it has already spent in Iraq and Afghanistan. It will expose us to a whole new level of terrorist activity. Even if the U.S. were to achieve its military purpose, the nation will have the burden of managing a country more than three times the size of Iraq and with over twice the population.

Despite the fantasies of the hawks, the costs of war with Iran would be detrimental to the U.S. standing as the world’s lone super power. The likely beneficiaries of such a war would be China and/or Russia, which is exactly the opposite result those interested in U.S. national security would hope to result. War with Iran goes totally against the grain of what Robert Gates foresee as a possible doctrine for U.S. military engagement in the hour of now. It is counterproductive to our need to rebuild the nation, balance the nation’s budget, and pay down its debt.

While wise heads would hope that the U.S. would sidestep that possible minefield, they are many (including the Tea Party) who have endorsed the U.S. getting entangled in a war with Iran. They are pushing the U.S. into making the same mistakes, and to undertake the same faulty analysis that lead to war with Iraq. A case for war was made by Jeffrey Golberg in an article published by Atlantic entitled “The Point Of No Return”. This article is worthy of examination considering the nation’s appetite for war. Writers Fynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett have since debunked Golberg’s argument in their article published by Foreign Policy. See, “The Weak Case for War with Iran”.

Goldberg and company believe that a war between the U.S. and Iran is necessary to Israel’s security, and should be undertaken “so that Israel won’t have to” which appears an implausible reason to sacrifice American lives as any most have heard. The Leveretts counter that American lives are not dispensable. They cautioned against the U.S. going to war with Iran for what has been described as a necessity to save Israel from experiencing “a dilution of quality” or “an accelerated brain drain” over perceived security concerns. The U.S. should not go to war to bolster “Israelis’ perception regarding their country’s raison d’être” implied the authors.

The Leveretts stated the most compelling reasons for the U.S. to maintain a commitment to non-military engagement in regard to Iran. In the light of those who would have the U.S. relinquish its rights to dictate the terms and chain of events leading to this nation’s engagement in another major war, the U.S. should state clearly and succinctly to the Israelis that it does not condone the bombing of Iran’s nuclear facilities by Israel, and should that nation move unilaterally against the U.S. wishes and take such steps, it will do so without help, and its efforts will be obstructed. The U.S. should never have to act as any other nation’s bouncer in a bar room.

Consider the U.S. has to now constructively engage in diplomacy with allies and foes alike, it should roll back sanctions against Iran, and manage the issue of nuclear proliferation within the strict understanding of Article IV of the Treaty on the Non-proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. It must capitalize on Iranians’ psyche that have long abhorred the use of weapons of mass destruction through its experiences at the receiving end of that form of military aggression by Saddam Hussein. It is within reason that the U.S. preserves its empire and standing among nations.

LISTED & SUGGESTED READING:

“America Goes Dark” by Paul Krugman, New York Times, August 8, 2010.
“Afghan War Costs Now Outpace Iraq’s” by Richard Wolf, USA TODAY, May 13, 2010.
“U.S. Is Bankrupt and We Don’t Even Know It” by Laurence Kotlikoff, Bloomberg, August 10, 2010.
“The Other National Debt” by Kevin D. Williamson, National Review, June 21, 2010.
“Pentagon Plans Steps to Reduce Budget and Jobs” by Thom Shanker, New York Times, April 9, 2010.
“Helping Others Defend Themselves” by Robert Gates, Foreign Affairs, May/June 2010.
“The Point of No Return” by Jeffrey Goldberg, Atlantic, September 2010.
“The Weak case For War with Iran” by Flynt Leverett, Hillary Mann Leverett, Foreign Policy, August 11, 2010.
“After Iran Gets The Bomb” by James Lindsay & Ray Takeyh, Foreign Affairs, March/April 2010.
“Iran’s Nuclear Programme: The Western Opposition is more Geo-political than Legal” by Dr. Subhash Kapila, South Asia Analysis Group, September 27, 2005.
“Iran Sanctions: The Road does not Inspire Confidence” by Bhaskar Roy, South Asia Analysis Group, June 17, 2010.
“Iran’s Nuclear Program” by The New York Times.
“Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons,” IAEA.
“Decline and Fall” (When the American Empire Goes, It is likely to Go Quickly) by Niall Ferguson, Foreign Affairs, March/April 2010.
“The Geography of Chinese Power” by Robert D. Kaplan, Foreign Affairs, May/June 2010.


Francis Anthony Govia received a Bachelor’s degree in International Relations at Boston University where he studied U.S. National Security and Foreign Policy with teachers who inspired him, such as General Fred F. Woerner (Ret.), Ambassador Stephen R. Lyne (Ret.), and Joseph Fewsmith. He received a law degree at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and is a contributor to Activist Post.

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Nations that lose the high ground

Francis Anthony Govia

The Muffin Post

This article was published by Activist Post and carried by Uprooted Palestinians.

Map of Israel, West Bank, Gaza Strip and the Golan Heights

There is a compelling movie called The Diary of Anne Frank that is recommended. It is about a Jewish girl and her family who spent over two years in an attic hiding from Hitler’s goons. Anne Frank survived for much of that time through the generosity of former employees of her father who risked their own lives to bring food to these outcasts. Like many Jews in Hitler’s Germany, their fate was not uplifting. Anne’s mother, sister, father and friends were betrayed to the powers that be, and with exception of her father, died after being transferred to concentration camps. Her father lived near forty years longer, but can you imagine the memories that tormented him before his physical being expired? History says that Hitler killed six million Jews while the civilized governments of the West tried to appease him. Were it not for a blunder that lead his armies to attack Russia, and a similar miscalculation by the Japanese in bombing Pearl Harbor (incidents which galvanized support amongst the Allied Powers and led to the fall the Axis Powers), it is possible that Germany would have become Europe’s ruler, and not a partner in what is today the earth’s most esteemed political union.

The descendants of Jews who experienced the sickness, deprivation, and chaos of World War II are the catalyst for some of today’s stories of injustice. So History has an uncomfortable way of repeating itself, but sometimes the protagonists and the antagonists are different. Jews who were once vilified and murdered are now accomplished political and military forces in at least two parts of the world (Israel and the United States). The State of Israel which has an umbilical cord tied to the mightiest nation on earth (the United States) is a de facto sixth permanent member of the U.N. Security Council, and uses its power to intimidate, threaten, kill and deprive the Palestinian people of the basic necessities of life, suffrage, and ownership rights to which every human aspire.

The Jews of Israel are rewriting History in such a way that they have lost the high ground, and are committing crimes as heinous as Hitler’s. They blockade and falsely imprison 1.5 million Palestinians who live in the Gaza Strip. The Palestinians survival depends on those who burrow under the borders of Egypt to risk life and limb to bring in necessities like food. Yet irresponsible publishers print articles intended to support that life in the Gaza Strip is functioning normally. How can life be normal in the Gaza Strip when its people are denied access to the outside world by a cruel and oppressive regime in Israel? Are theirs the life that human beings are content to live anywhere else on earth?

Only the foolish could believe that a naval blockade of the Gaza Strip is necessary for the security of Israel, a mighty and effective military force in the Middle East, against Hamas, a force weaker than Lebanon, a nation that Israel threatened recently with retaliation if it so much as allow a ship laden with humanitarian good to sail from its ports to the Gaza. Only a fool could believe that Israel is afraid of Hamas when the Jewish state is saber rattling and willing to take on Iran, an enemy with a potent military establishment that dwarfs Hamas. The Gaza Strip is an ambitious dream of Israel for territorial expansion and destruction of Palestinians.

Like Anne Frank, a Palestinian child knows what it is like to be persona non grata. A Palestinian life can be altered dramatically by a decision made in Tel Aviv, or through a powerful Jewish lobby in Washington DC. All that a Palestinian has can be destroyed or taken away by a government in Israel whose actions will only be appeased by the governments of the West. The government of Israel has no legal authority over the peoples of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank but it dictates the life they live.

The Special Envoy for the Quartet on the Middle East, Tony Blair

There is doubt that the governments of the West and Russia intend to bring about a lasting and permanent peace in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Were these governments to be interested in a satisfactory and permanent solution to that cinder box they helped to create they would not have appointed Tony Blair as the Special Envoy for the Quartet on the Middle East. Mr. Blair served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom which is one of the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council. During his time as Prime Minister, Mr. Blair’s esteemed office was consumed by an ineffectual foreign policy, and the nation’s energy was exhausted while assisting President George W. Bush in creating another quagmire for the West in Iraq. Mr. Blair’s appointment to negotiate and facilitate solutions to do away with the stalemate in Palestine establishes that the West is interested in keeping the status quo as it now stands on the ground in the Middle East. For there to be a cessation of hostility between Israel and the people of Palestine four important and necessary steps must be implemented. First, the West must appoint a respectable and neutral person to Mr. Blair’s position with the authority and understanding that a Palestinian state is to be realized even if it is to be imposed on Israel. Second, the West should move speedily to implement sanctions against Israel and its industries should it continue to encroach on Palestinian lands, and break International Law. Third, humanitarian aid must flow unhindered in the Gaza Strip. Fourth, Palestinians of the Gaza Strip must have free access to the outside world.

Israel will not comply with any condition placed on it as long as it knows that there are no consequences to its actions. None of us will be truly free from the burdens of the Middle East until we solve the problem that was created when the British foisted the idea of a Jewish State on the residents of Palestine that lead to formation of Israel in 1948. The walls that are being built around Israel will not bring peace, freedom or protection from those they consider their erstwhile enemies. Walls are mere fixtures, and over time they become as ineffective as the Great Walls of China, and those that tumbled down in Berlin, for they are too immobile to deal with a dynamic and continuously shifting situation such as life.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu writes about transfiguration in his book entitled ‘God Has A Dream’

Archbishop Desmond Tutu once wrote of his experience of Apartheid in South Africa that freedom is indivisible. No one is free until we are all free. The slave owner was not free until his slaves became free for it is true that much of his energies were consumed trying to prevent his slaves from revolting and killing him. The whites of South Africa and the United States were not free until they understood that all men are created equal and endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights as Thomas Jefferson wrote, among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. During Apartheid in South Africa and segregation in the United States everyone were trapped by a condition of fear. The Jews of Israel and the United States will never be free until the Palestinians of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip are treated with the same respect as their Jewish brothers, and the Palestinians too realize their dream of freedom and nationhood. This is a process that Desmond Tutu kindly refers to as transfiguration; the earth is renewed when goodness reigns supreme as a rite of passage. The Archbishop in his wisdom seems to suggest that transfiguration occurs even to the most unlikely situation. Maybe his pragmatism will outlast the views of the cynics that now run our government and justice system whose laws criminalize the humanitarian effort. These leaders are not securing our safety. They are prolonging our servitude to fear. They have acquired the disease of the mind like foreign terrorists that now paralyze our nation. They devalue the universal pragmatism that charity turns weapons into ploughshares.

The governments of the West are responsible for the deprivation that Palestinians know. Our civilized nations of the West have said that Israel has the right to self defense, but do not acknowledge that the Palestinians should and need a similar right. Our esteemed governments of the West sit idly and speak with forked tongues while Israel’s creeping policy of genocide is exacted on Palestinians whose traditions and people have existed in a territory since biblical times.

Our great country of the United States has allowed innocent blood to fall recklessly in Palestine. The great Presidential office of the United States has become impotent when dealing with an Israel it has tied to its umbilical cord which hinders our ingenuity and maneuverability. So too is the functioning of our senate ineffective when the leaders in the two most important parties in our nation, Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid and Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell have no new advice to give our President. They are messengers of a foreign power. They say to our President that the United States must stay the course of a failed foreign policy that will not punish the irresponsible actions of a rogue Israel that we sustain with the blood of our children. Instead of taking the high ground, the greatest nation on earth chose to live in the gutter of a tiny nation’s foreign policy.


Francis Anthony Govia received a Bachelor’s degree in International Relations at Boston University where he studied U.S. National Security and Foreign Policy with teachers who inspired him, such as General Fred F. Woerner (Ret.), Ambassador Stephen R. Lyne (Ret.), and Joseph Fewsmith. He received a law degree at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and is a contributor to Activist Post.

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