Thursday, October 30, 2008

Bailing Out the People Not on Obama's Agenda

The job cuts have spread from coast-to-coast and affect every industry and many service employers as well. Auto-related production has been hard hit, with Diez Group announcing the closure of three Michigan metal-stamping plants, cutting 352 jobs. DMAX, a joint venture of GM and Isuzu in Moraine, Ohio, cut 300 jobs. B.F. Goodrich cut 500 jobs at its tire plant in Woodburn, Indiana. Thomas-Built cut 205 jobs at its bus plant in High Point, North Carolina.

Other industrial cuts included a combined total of 1,000 jobs at three North Carolina factories now set to close: Silver Line Building Products in Durham, UCO Fabrics in Rockingham, and IWC Direct at Elm City. ADC Telecommunications cut 190 jobs in Minnesota, and Align Technologies 111 jobs in Santa Clara, California.

Healthcare and public services are also beginning to be hit. Cambridge Health Alliance in Massachusetts cut 650 jobs, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan 100, and the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center 500. Lost Angeles County gave layoff notices to 200 workers because of a budget shortfall.

Even greater public service jobs cuts are coming as the recession hits state tax receipts. One of the biggest government employers, the US Postal Service, has informed its unions that 16,000 craft employees are not covered by the no-layoff clause and could face dismissal.

The Bush administration has proposed no emergency rescue package for the millions of ordinary Americans threatened with the loss of their jobs, homes, or savings. As the recession deepens, discussion has instead centered on extending the financial sector bailout, potentially worth more than $2 trillion, to broader sections of big business.

The Wall Street Journal reported Saturday: "The Treasury Department is considering buying equity stakes in insurance companies, a sign of how the government's $700 billion rescue program could turn into a piggy bank for a range of beleaguered industries ... The Financial Services Roundtable, a Washington trade group, sent a letter Friday to Treasury asking for expansion of the government's equity injection program to include broker-dealers, insurance companies, auto makers and foreign-controlled firms."

Insurance companies are major players on the financial markets, with $1.3 trillion of corporate debt on their books. The Treasury had already planned to buy out the industry's "bad assets", and is now considering whether to inject more public money directly into the sector by purchasing equity stakes. Auto companies want to be included in the scheme so they have access to sufficient capital to proceed with merger plans. The Journal noted that the likely extension of the bailout program "could put a strain" on the sum of money initially proposed, further blowing out the federal government's budget deficit.

The overriding priority of the ruling elite is to ensure that the financial oligarchy which is responsible for the economic crisis remains unaffected by its impact by placing the full burden of the disaster on the backs of the working class. This strategy will remain unaltered in the event of a Democratic victory in the coming presidential election.

Barack Obama's senior economic advisor, Robert Rubin, granted a revealing interview to CBS's "Face the Nation" television program yesterday. Rubin, currently a director of Citigroup, was Treasury secretary during the Clinton administration and is also a former senior executive with Goldman Sachs. He stressed that additional spending under the Democrats' so-called "economic recovery" stimulus plan would be "married to a commitment to long-term fiscal discipline so that we don't risk undermining our bond market and our currency market" and "married with a long-term commitment to re-establishing sound fiscal conditions".

In other words, the agenda remains that of substantially reduced spending on social programs and infrastructure.

The Democrats' proposed $150 billion stimulus is a mere drop in the ocean compared to the bailout package for Wall Street, not to mention the real social needs of the population. But even this meager sum will be targeted towards boosting selected economic sectors, not alleviating rising social distress.

CBS presenter Bob Schieffer asked Rubin whether the stimulus package would involve "some sort of massive public works program like President Roosevelt put into effect during the Great Depression," or whether it would see people in need receiving government checks.

After chuckling in derision after the 1930s public works programs were mentioned, Rubin replied: "Bob, I would say it's neither of the two in quite the way you've described it." He explained that the money would be channeled to city and state administrations so that existing economic and social programs—which are grossly inadequate—can be maintained. He also said that additional tax rebates would be made available.

A New York Times' front-page story yesterday, "Democrats see risk and reward if party sweeps", made clear that there will be no significant shift in domestic economic and social policy even if, as appears likely, the Democrats win the presidency and large majorities in both houses of Congress. Such a victory, the Times' noted, including a 60-member majority in the senate which would break threatened filibusters, "could give Democrats extraordinary muscle to pursue an ambitious agenda on health care, taxes, union rights, energy and national security".

But the article continued: "Chastened by their years in exile, Democrats said they were determined to avoid those pitfalls [of ‘overconfidence'] should voters deliver them control of the White House and Congress... The nature of the Democratic majority, expanded partly through the election of centrists and even conservatives, would also temper Democratic zeal to pursue an overly ideological agenda, Democrats said."

Under the spurious guise of appealing to "centrists" and eschewing an "ideological agenda", Obama and his colleagues are preparing to further entrench the right-wing agenda promoted by successive Republican and Democratic administrations. These developments have exposed Obama's liberal and "left" backers, who have sought to cultivate the illusion that a Democrat election victory would mark some sort of break from Bush's reactionary program.

We Rule You, We Fool You

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

"The Depression: A Long-Term View" -- Immanuel Wallerstein

Immanuel Wallerstein, Senior Research Scholar at Yale University, is the author of The Decline of American Power: The U.S. in a Chaotic World (New Press)

BTW, Wallerstein is not the only one who sees the chaotic abyss looming before us. About a week ago on PBS Newshour, Paul Solomon interviewed some other guys (one an eminent mathematician and the other his student) that think we're in a pickle:

But below is Wallerstein (via Palestinian Pundit); original link here:

The depression has started. Journalists are still coyly enquiring of economists whether or not we may be entering a mere recession. Don't believe it for a minute. We are already at the beginning of a full-blown worldwide depression with extensive unemployment almost everywhere. It may take the form of a classic nominal deflation, with all its negative consequences for ordinary people. Or it might take the form, a bit less likely, of a runaway inflation, which is simply another way in which values deflate, and which is even worse for ordinary people.

Of course everyone is asking what has triggered this depression. Is it the derivatives, which Warren Buffett called "financial weapons of mass destruction"? Or is it the subprime mortgages? Or is it oil speculators? This is a blame game, and of no real importance. This is to concentrate on the dust, as Fernand Braudel called it, of short-term events. If we want to understand what is going on, we need to look at two other temporalities, which are far more revealing. One is that of medium-term cyclical swings. And one is that of the long-term structural trends.

The capitalist world-economy has had, for several hundred years at least, two major forms of cyclical swings. One is the so-called Kondratieff cycles that historically were 50-60 years in length. And the other is the hegemonic cycles which are much longer.

In terms of the hegemonic cycles, the United States was a rising contender for hegemony as of 1873, achieved full hegemonic dominance in 1945, and has been slowly declining since the 1970s. George W. Bush's follies have transformed a slow decline into a precipitate one. And as of now, we are past any semblance of U.S. hegemony. We have entered, as normally happens, a multipolar world. The United States remains a strong power, perhaps still the strongest, but it will continue to decline relative to other powers in the decades to come. There is not much that anyone can do to change this.

The Kondratieff cycles have a different timing. The world came out of the last Kondratieff B-phase in 1945, and then had the strongest A-phase upturn in the history of the modern world-system. It reached its height circa 1967-73, and started on its downturn. This B-phase has gone on much longer than previous B-phases and we are still in it.

The characteristics of a Kondratieff B-phase are well-known and match what the world-economy has been experiencing since the 1970s. Profit rates from productive activities go down, especially in those types of production that have been most profitable. Consequently, capitalists who wish to make really high levels of profit turn to the financial arena, engaging in what is basically speculation. Productive activities, in order not to become too unprofitable, tend to move from core zones to other parts of the world-system, trading lower transactions costs for lower personnel costs. This is why jobs have been disappearing from Detroit, Essen, and Nagoya and factories have been expanding in China, India, and Brazil.

As for the speculative bubbles, some people always make a lot of money in them. But speculative bubbles always burst, sooner or later. If one asks why this Kondratieff B-phase has lasted so long, it is because the powers that be - the U.S. Treasury and Federal Reserve Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and their collaborators in western Europe and Japan - have intervened in the market regularly and importantly - 1987 (stock market plunge), 1989 (savings-and-loan collapse), 1997 (East Asian financial fall), 1998 (Long Term Capital Management mismanagement), 2001-2002 (Enron) - to shore up the world-economy. They learned the lessons of previous Kondratieff B-phases, and the powers that be thought they could beat the system. But there are intrinsic limits to doing this. And we have now reached them, as Henry Paulson and Ben Bernanke are learning to their chagrin and probably amazement. This time, it will not be so easy, probably impossible, to avert the worst.

In the past, once a depression wreaked its havoc, the world-economy picked up again, on the basis of innovations that could be quasi-monopolized for a while. So, when people say that the stock market will rise again, this is what they are thinking will happen, this time as in the past, after all the damage has been done to the world's populations. And maybe it will, in a few years or so.

There is however something new that may interfere with this nice cyclical pattern that has sustained the capitalist system for some 500 years. The structural trends may interfere with the cyclical patterns. The basic structural features of capitalism as a world-system operate by certain rules that can be drawn on a chart as a moving upward equilibrium. The problem, as with all structural equilibria of all systems, is that over time the curves tend to move far from equilibrium and it becomes impossible to bring them back to equilibrium.

What has made the system move so far from equilibrium? In very brief, it is because over 500 years the three basic costs of capitalist production - personnel, inputs, and taxation - have steadily risen as a percentage of possible sales price, such that today they make it impossible to obtain the large profits from quasi-monopolized production that have always been the basis of significant capital accumulation. It is not because capitalism is failing at what it does best. It is precisely because it has been doing it so well that it has finally undermined the basis of future accumulation.

What happens when we reach such a point is that the system bifurcates (in the language of complexity studies). The immediate consequence is high chaotic turbulence, which our world-system is experiencing at the moment and will continue to experience for perhaps another 20-50 years. As everyone pushes in whatever direction they think immediately best for each of them, a new order will emerge out of the chaos along one of two alternate and very different paths.

We can assert with confidence that the present system cannot survive. What we cannot predict is which new order will be chosen to replace it, because it will be the result of an infinity of individual pressures. But sooner or later, a new system will be installed. This will not be a capitalist system but it may be far worse (even more polarizing and hierarchical) or much better (relatively democratic and relatively egalitarian) than such a system. The choice of a new system is the major worldwide political struggle of our times.

As for our immediate short-run ad interim prospects, it is clear what is happening everywhere. We have been moving into a protectionist world (forget about so-called globalization). We have been moving into a much larger direct role of government in production. Even the United States and Great Britain are partially nationalizing the banks and the dying big industries. We are moving into populist government-led redistribution, which can take left-of-center social-democratic forms or far right authoritarian forms. And we are moving into acute social conflict within states, as everyone competes over the smaller pie. In the short-run, it is not, by and large, a pretty picture.

Flaw? What Flaw?

McClatchy via Big Picture

Canada Stays Deportation of Army Deserter

Army Times reports:

Oh, Canada! We love ya!

TORONTO — The Federal Court of Canada has stayed the deportation of U.S. war resister Matt Lowell, according to a war resisters support group. Lowell’s deportation had been scheduled for Tuesday.

The group says the stay will give the court time to consider whether Lowell’s appeal of his negative pre-removal risk assessment will be heard.

Lowell fled to Ontario in 2005 and could face seven years in prison on charges of desertion.

He works in computer technology support and has lived with friends in London, Ontario.

His stay follows similar delays granted to war resisters Corey Glass and Jeremy Hinzman.

“We are delighted that the Federal Court has again granted a stay of deportation for a war resister,” said Lee Zaslofsky, coordinator of the War Resisters Support Campaign. “Hopefully, the Court will now hear Matt’s appeal.”

Lowell enlisted in the U.S. Army in 2002. He said what changed his mind was a letter from a friend who joined the military at the same time he did and went to Iraq.

The friend reported having to shoot a child because the child had picked up a gun.

Free Gaza Does It Again -- "Dignity" Lands in Gaza
For Immediate Release October 29, 2008

For More Information, Please Contact: Greta Berlin (Cyprus) +357 99 081 767 / Osama Qashoo (Cyprus) +44 (0)78 3338 1660 / Angela Godfrey Goldstein (Jerusalem) +972 (0)54 736 6393 /
LARNACA - The Free Gaza Movement is delighted to announce that their third boat, the SS Dignity carrying 27 crew and passengers arrived in Gaza at 8:10 Gaza time, in spite of Israeli threats to stop them. In the pouring rain, the boat pulled into port amid cheers from the people of Gaza and tears from the passengers.

David Schermerhorn, one of the crew members called an hour before the boat entered the waters of Gaza and said, "There is a rainbow stretching across the Mediterranean from where we are right now."

Yesterday, The Israel Navy said they would stop the stop our vessel once it reached Israel's territorial waters. Apparently to save face, they said they would harm our boat, arrest us and tow us IF we entered Israeli waters.
The problem for Israel is that the SS Dignity had no intention of getting anywhere near those waters. One of the organizers, Huwaida Arraf cheered, "Once again we've been able to defy an unjust and illegal policy while the rest of the world is too intimidated to do anything. Our small boat is a huge cry to the international community to follow in our footsteps and open a lifeline to the people of Gaza."

For the second time, the Free Gaza Movement has demonstrated that the might of the Israeli navy is no match for a small boat of human rights activists determined to call to the attention of the world the occupation of the people of Gaza.

Dr. Mustafa Barghouti, member of the Palestinian Legislative Council added, "Despite the injustice against the Palestinian people, we believe in justice and will keep on trying to break Israel's siege. The occupation has divided the Palestinians, but our nonviolent resistance has united us."

Osama Qashoo, one of the organizers of the Free Gaza Movement, overjoyed for the second time in three months, "We are all capable of leading a nonviolent and effective movement to end the Israeli Apartheid and expose the injustice that has been meted out to the Palestinians. We in the FG movement have provided the new dictionary, it's up to the Palestinians and the Israelis and the Internationals to add the words."
-- Greta Berlin Media Team Free Gaza Movement 357 99 08 17 67

Saturday, October 25, 2008

US Third Parties Fight to be Heard -- Al Jazeera

Two US presidential candidates have gone head-to-head over issues including the economy, the "war on terror" and flaws in the nation's healthcare system.

But neither man represented the Democrats or the Republicans.

Although they run much lower-profile campaigns than the two presidential contenders, Republican John McCain and Democrat Barack Obama, they are the third-party candidates in this year's race for the White House.

Third parties

Video: Third parties spar over strategy

Video: The impact of independents

Ralph Nader, a longstanding consumer activist, and Chuck Baldwin, a former Baptist priest, took to the modest flag-rimmed stage in Washington DC's Mayflower Hotel on Thursday as cameras fed their images live.

But while the two candidates stand on opposite ends of the political spectrum - Nader a progressive independent and Baldwin representing the conservative Constitution party - no heated words were exchanged and no verbal barbs were directed at the other's platform.

Instead the pair - who have virtually no chance of occupying the White House - used their limited air time to level criticism at McCain and Obama and at the media they called "derelict" in its duties.

Nader accused Obama of being a "warmonger" and "a corporatist to the core".

Baldwin rounded on the candidate of his former Republican party, saying: "A wasted vote in 2008 is a vote for John McCain, because I don't think McCain can win this election any more than Bob Dole in 1996."

He also accused the mainstream American press of becoming "lapdogs of the two major parties" by all but blocking access to the public for independent candidates.

No access

Notably absent from the debate were Cynthia McKinney, the presidential nominee of the Green Party which backed Nader for the US presidency in 2000, and the Libertarian candidate Bob Barr, one of the highest-profile third-party candidates.

Despite a tradition of riding the latest wave of unhappiness with the two main parties, no independent candidate has ever come close to winning the White House.

One reason for this is a lack of campaign organisation and fundraising comparable to that of the two political behemoths.

In depth

Map: US & the World

Video: Home forclosures leave tenants in the lurch

Focus: US military aid troubles Africa

Send us Your Views on the election campaign

"Barack Obama raises more in one day than our entire campaign," Nader said.

Nader's campaign is spending $4m as opposed to more than $600m that Obama has raised.

Another contentious issue is the privately run presidential debates, which critics call a "shared monopoly" between the Democrats and Republicans.

Michael Kazin, a historian at Georgetown University, told Al Jazeera: "They team up in various ways to make it very difficult for the other parties to first get on the ballot on a state-by-state basis and then to take part in the debates, which on the presidential level have become absolutely critical."

Billionaire Ross Perot was the most successful independent candidate in recent history, winning a place in the 1992 presidential debates.

But although he won a fifth of the popular vote nationwide, he failed to win a single state.

Critics of third-party candidates say they spoil elections by siphoning votes away from candidates who have a real chance of winning.

In 2000, Democrats accused Nader of drawing votes away from Al Gore in Florida, effectively handing the state, and ultimately the presidency, to George Bush.

"If the Democrats wanted to win, they could've won ... it could have been any candidate," one third-party supporter attending the debate said.

Adam Eurich, an architect from Austin, Texas, said he'd vote for Nader "no matter what".

"I mean, I love Obama, but I prefer to vote for third-party candidates," he said.

"It's more about trying to change the mentality of things. If it leads to change decades down the line, that's fine."

Co-opted ideas

Even if the candidates don't get elected though, Herman Cohen, a diplomat who worked in the senior President Bush's administration, says third parties play an important role in the US democratic process.

Nader's campaign is spending about $4m compared to $600m that Obama has raised
"During presidential elections they bring out these tough issues - these emotional issues - and the big parties have to listen," he told Al Jazeera.

"Before [Nader] there was no talk of environmental issues.

"He pounded away at this at every election and, after a while, the public started paying attention and demanding of the mainline politicians that they do something about the environment.'"

Kazin says adopting third-party ideas is a historical pattern.

"One way or another, the major parties tend to co-opt or absorb that discontent after a while, after they see how powerful that third party is," he said.

This election season, the major issue being brought into focus is the financial turmoil plaguing Wall Street and the Bush administration's $700bn rescue plan.

"This $700bn bailout, which is just the first installment ... is a fraud against the American people," Baldwin said as he criticised the financial system as a whole.

"We created money out of thin air ... there is nothing behind our supposed wealth. We've created the greatest debtor nation in the history of the world."

Nader lambasted the government's bailout as well, calling it "the last enactment of the collapse of corporate capitalism".

"We need public prosecution," he said. "People are demanding justice."

With the election less than two weeks away and Obama leading by several points in most major opinion polls, third-party candidates do not look likely to create any upsets this year.

All they can hope for is to be heard.

Report: Palestinians Displaced by Israeli Wall Up 58% Since June

October 24, 2008

Jerusalem – Ma’an – The Israeli-built West Bank separation wall is displacing Palestinians from their homes at alarmingly increasing rates, according to a report issued Thursday.

The Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS) conducted a survey on the impact of the Israeli separation wall, finding that the percentage of displaced households had increased by 58% since June, while closures have doubled.

By the end of June 2008, nine governorates were affected directly by the wall: Jenin, Tubas, Tulkarem, Salfit, and Qalqilia, in the north of the West Bank; Jerusalem, Ramallah and Al-Bireh in the mid-region; with Bethlehem and Hebron in the south.

Fieldwork took place between June and July 2008 and covered 171 localities. 171 localities were affected during the summer months of 2008, compared with 149 localities by the end of May 2005.

The main findings indicated that 14 localities are located behind the wall: 13 localities in the northern West Bank (five in Jenin, seven in Qalqilia, and one in Tulkarem), as well as one in Bethlehem.

The results showed that 49,291 dunums of land have been confiscated since the construction began and through June 2008. Most of the confiscated land was in the northern West Bank (22,141 dunums), according to the report.

In the mid-region, 13,875 dunums were confiscated, while a similar 13,275 dunums were seized in the south.

Salvation Through Fanship -- Michael J. Smith

From "Stop Me Before I Vote Again":

In an earlier post, I marveled at the apparent thick-headedness of some of my neighbors -- elderly upper-west-siders who have seen more of history than I have, and who are certainly no dumber than I am. Yet these alter-kakers are all suddenly decked out in Obamawear -- the hats, the shirts, you've seen it -- and looking very smug.

This in New York, where their efforts -- such as they may be -- are obviously nugatory. The only way Obama could fail to carry this state is to be found in bed with a live boy, a dead woman, Jesse Jackson, and Osama bin Laden, all at the same time.

Part of it, of course, is that many of my neighbors are celebrating, perhaps slightly over-celebrating, a personal moral victory. Yeah, the guy's a schwartzer, but hey, he's a Democrat -- so he's my man. I'm not prejudiced, you know.

But that just pushes the question back a step, doesn't it? Whence arises the psychic income of voting -- even working -- for a Democrat, schwartzer though he may be?

Most of these folks don't appear to be hurting. They can, it seems, afford their exorbitant Manhattan rents or co-op maintenance payments. The Bush years, bad as they may have been for people in Afghanistan, Iraq, Dearborn, and other areas of the Third World, haven't taken too much wind out of my neighbors' sails. But their animus against the current Chief Executive is very intense, and their enthusiasm for the schwartzer correspondingly keen.

There is, of course, the culture thing. They can't stand a hick, my neighbors -- either a halfway real hick, like Sarah Palin, or a totally faux hick, like G W Bush. Those voices, those accents -- vade retro!

But I think the bottom line is that my neighbors believe, like the folks who bought Johann Tetzel's indulgences back in the day, in salvation by works -- where the works in question are inconsequential piaculative acts: a copper coin in the poorbox, a quick little circuit of the Stations in the parish church.

In fact, the inconsequence of supporting Obama is part -- a very important part -- of its charm. These folks don't really want anything to change very much. Why should they? They're not hurting.

But they like to feel righteous, my neighbors. They like to believe they're on the side of the angels. They want their ticket punched: This is to certify that the bearer has done his or her bit for enlightenment, humane values, and peace -- once those pesky terrorists are taken care of. In the meantime, of course, war is fine -- as long as it's smart war, not stupid hick war.

Bush and Co. are obviously bad people. My neighbors think of themselves as good people. And yet one would not really want to turn the world upside down, would one? Surely the badness of our nation can't be... structural? Surely it's just because bad stupid hick-like people are running the show?

Comes now Mr Obama, with his un-hick-like demeanor, his obvious intelligence, and his soothingly obvious determination to keep the world right side up. What could be better? Obamaphilia registers your commitment to intelligence, un-hickery -- and the world as it is.

Breaking the Silence in Hebron

The fundamental human rights of the Palestinians in Hebron are continually violated. (

JERUSALEM – Breaking the Silence, an organisation of Israeli Defence Force (IDF) veterans, conducts tours in the West Bank city of Hebron, the only Palestinian city with a settlement in its midst.

In this second largest Palestinian city of 165,000 Palestinians live some 800 Jewish settlers—heavily guarded by Israeli military, and bent on out-populating the Palestinians. As a result of the settlement, which is located in the heart of Hebron’s commercial district and old city, the fundamental human rights of the Palestinians, especially those living in its immediate vicinity, are continually violated.

I served in Hebron as a soldier in the IDF before Breaking the Silence was founded. Today, I walk through the streets of Hebron unarmed, drawing on my memories as a soldier and knowledge as an activist to explain to fellow Israelis the moral consequences of a prolonged occupation, the price paid not only by Palestinians, who suffer the most, but also by us Israelis.

We are compromising our moral ground and fundamental Jewish ethics in order to uphold an unsustainable political structure.

The purpose of these tours is clear to me, but it also raises questions about the use of tourism to advance what appears to be a political cause, or, in our eyes, a moral one as well.

Critics on the Right claim that our presence disturbs the delicate balance in the city, plays into the hands of terrorists, and creates a political provocation. Critics on the Left claim that we are misguided colonialists taking advantage of our occupation-granted privileges to travel freely on the same streets which the Palestinian residents cannot access, that we view Hebron as if it were some sort of a zoo or an anthropological amusement. Both groups of critics maintain that we have not been invited to Hebron by any local group.

It is true that Breaking the Silence was not invited to Hebron, either by the Palestinians or by the Israeli settlers living there. But it is also true that the Palestinians in the area of Hebron around the Jewish settlements have welcomed us with open arms, although we would continue to conduct the tours even if they did not.

What, then, is the point of these controversial tours?

The answer for us is quite simple: we tour Hebron because Hebron “belongs” to us as humans who care about the rights of other humans, be they Palestinian, Israeli or anybody else. In this sense, Hebron belongs to all of us, just like every other place in the world where there is injustice. Decent human beings must take responsibility for the suffering of the Palestinians in Hebron, just as they should take responsibility for genocide in Darfur, xenophobic violence in South Africa, political repression in China, and any other infringement of rights of humans taking place around the world.

As Israelis who are in control of this part of Hebron through our police, our military, our taxes, and our settlers, Hebron belongs to us more than to others. It is therefore our responsibility, as Israelis, to see firsthand the consequences of the Occupation, just as a homeowner must know that the pipes in his home are leaking in order to fix them.

And as Israeli soldiers who served in Hebron, who controlled, and still control the daily life of the Palestinian population, the city also belongs to us. We soldiers are very much a part of the landscape as long as the Occupation continues.

And that is the problem with the word "tourism". It implies that we are seeing something which is foreign to us, that only the rightful owners of the site being toured can show us around. Some would say it is the Palestinians; and others would say it is the settlers. The political question of to whom the city belongs is important, but it cannot dictate to us the question of our responsibility. That question can only be framed in terms of the universal values of liberty and equality, where there is freedom of movement and security for all.

-- Mikhael Manekin is the director of Breaking the Silence. He lives in Jerusalem with his wife and baby daughter. This article is distributed by the Common Ground News Service and can be accessed at GCNews.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Stay of Execution for Troy Davis -- Thanks to All Who Helped

Dear Linda,

I am delighted to share some good news with you! Troy Davis received a stay of execution based on a new last-minute appeal filed this past Wednesday to the federal appeals court in Atlanta. As a result, he will not be executed on Monday, October 27th, as originally scheduled.

Your action has succeeded in putting a spotlight on Troy's case worldwide and bringing about this victory. At least 300,000 individuals have written letters in support of Troy. Additionally, prominent leaders such as former President Jimmy Carter, the Pope, and Archbishop Desmond Tutu have all called for justice in this case.

Yesterday, Amnesty International organized a Global Day of Action in which hundreds of activists in dozens of countries around the world came together to stand in solidarity for Troy. From Atlanta to Seattle, New York to Paris and Milan– hundreds of supporters gathered at rallies wearing T-shirts and holding signs that read "I am Troy Davis." On Wednesday, the European Legislature issued a statement calling for Troy's execution to be halted.

While we pause to celebrate this good news, we cannot forget that Troy still faces the very real possibility of execution—despite the fact that no physical evidence tied him to the 1989 murder of a police officer in Savannah, GA, and that 7 of the 9 eyewitnesses have since recanted their testimony.

This case has taken many twists and turns. On September 12th, the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles denied clemency for Troy Anthony Davis, and scheduled his execution for September 23rd. The U.S. Supreme Court stayed Davis' execution just hours before it was scheduled to take place. But in deciding not to hear his case, the court lifted its stay and a new execution date was set for Monday, October 27th.

On Thursday October 23, in 30 cities around the globe, activists stood up for justice and in support of fairness for Troy Davis.

We now await the decision of the federal appeals court, which will determine whether Troy's case warrants a new hearing. We believe their ruling could happen at any time during the next month.

I want to thank you again for playing such an essential part in Amnesty International's efforts to bring justice for Troy Davis. That's why I hope you'll take a minute right now to join Amnesty International and help us keep up this fight.

To stay informed about Troy Davis' case and to find out how to take additional actions, please visit:

In solidarity,

Sue Gunawardena-Vaughn
Director, Death Penalty Abolition Campaign
Amnesty International USA

Thursday, October 23, 2008

First Nations People Show the Way

Indians march on the Pan American Highway in Santander de Quilichao, Colombia, Thursday. Thousands of Indians march toward the city of Cali to push for land rights and to protest against free-trade negotiations and attacks on the indigenous population in the country.

(October 23, 2008)

Associated Press

Greenspan Admits "Flaw" in His Free Market Ideology

Link to original:

Facing a firing line of questions from Washington lawmakers, Alan Greenspan, the former Federal Reserve chairman once considered the infallible maestro of the financial system, admitted on Thursday that he “made a mistake” in trusting that free markets could regulate themselves without government oversight.

A fervent proponent of deregulation during his 18-year tenure at the Fed’s helm, Mr. Greenspan has faced mounting criticism this year for having refused to consider cracking down on credit derivatives, an unchecked market whose excesses partially led to the current financial crisis.

Although he defended the use of derivatives in general, Mr. Greenspan, who left office in 2006, told members of the House Committee of Government Oversight and Reform that he was “partially” wrong in not having tried to regulate the market for credit default swaps.

But in a tense exchange with Representative Henry Waxman, the California Democrat who is chairman of the committee, Mr. Greenspan conceded a more serious flaw in his own philosophy that unfettered free markets sit at the root of a superior economy.

“I made a mistake in presuming that the self-interests of organizations, specifically banks and others, were such as that they were best capable of protecting their own shareholders and their equity in the firms,” Mr. Greenspan said.

Referring to his free-market ideology, Mr. Greenspan added: “I have found a flaw. I don’t know how significant or permanent it is. But I have been very distressed by that fact.”

Mr. Waxman pressed the former Fed chair to clarify his words. “In other words, you found that your view of the world, your ideology, was not right, it was not working,” Mr. Waxman said.

“Absolutely, precisely,” Mr. Greenspan replied. “You know, that’s precisely the reason I was shocked, because I have been going for 40 years or more with very considerable evidence that it was working exceptionally well.”

The oversight committee is holding hearings to determine what gaps in the regulatory structure abetted the crisis that has roiled the world’s financial markets.

Mr. Greenspan appeared alongside Christopher Cox, the chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, and John Snow, who served as secretary of the Treasury early in the Bush administration.

In his prepared remarks, Mr. Greenspan said he was in “a state of shocked disbelief” about the breakdown in the ability of banks to regulate themselves. He also warned about the economic consequences of the crisis, saying that he “cannot see how we will avoid a significant rise in layoffs and unemployment.” Consumer spending will decline, too, he said, adding that a stabilization of home prices would be necessary to bring the crisis to its end.

Saying that his thinking “has evolved” in the last year, Mr. Greenspan also defended his record. “In 2005, I raised concerns that the protracted period of underpricing of risk, if history was any guide, would have dire consequences,” he said. “This crisis, however, has turned out to be much broader than anything I could have imagined.”

This Way Happiness Lies -- Andrew Simms in The Guardian

Portion below; whole thing here:

One unintended consequence of the current global financial crisis is that it will reveal what some have known for a long time, namely that a new economics is already emerging. The tragedy is that the crisis-ridden financial system has long since failed to do the basic job required – underpin the productive economy and the fundamental operating systems upon which we all depend. These have been variously neglected, taken for granted or cannibalised by finance. They include the core economy of family, neighbourhood, community and society, and the natural economy of the biosphere, our oceans forests and fields.

That is why, as we aim for recovery, we should not be trying to get back to how things were before. Before was built on an illusion of limitless credit and unlimited natural resources. It was unsustainable for many reasons. Injecting liquidity into the system and looking for signs of recovery in the return of consumer binge-spending on the high street will simply lay the foundations for an even bigger crash in the future. Consumerism is highly addictive, giving a brief high that quickly wears off and is damaging to both the individual and the world around them.

For a society like Britain, there is a large and growing literature that shows, fairly conclusively, we have been looking in the wrong place to find greater life satisfaction and measure the economy's success. With most people having most of their basic material needs met, organising society to achieve progress through indiscriminately rising consumption not only doesn't work – the fall-out from the long hours, throwaway, materialistic, individualistic, status-obsessed culture that accompanies it, is counter-productive, undermining and ultimately destructive.

For a vision of what an alternative might look like, the current edition of New Scientist magazine contains enough economic heresy (but scientific common sense) to choke every finance minister in the northern hemisphere and the whole staff of the International Monetary Fund. Best is the vision for what the country and economy could like in 2020. In it, we have moved from an economy of over-consumption, through-put and waste, and the anachronism of overwork and unemployment, to one which the ecological economist Herman Daly describes as, "a subtle and complex economics of maintenance, qualitative improvements, sharing, frugality, and adaptation to natural limits. It is an economics of better, not bigger."

The good thing about such an economy is that it is rich in employment and the thick weave of local, micro-economic relationships that help to create resilient economies and bind communities together. Instead of worshipping the invisible, and usually remote, hand of the market economy (which too often can be caught picking the pockets of the poor), you design an economic system in which resources flow and circulate effectively to serve the invisible heart of the core economy – made up of family, neighbourhood, community and civil society.

It is already happening in place but could quickly move to a much bigger scale. Google tell their staff to spend 10% of their time not doing their job. They're free to get involved with the local community. The company has found that as a result it has made staff more innovative. A lot of research shows that such community involvement also has a very positive payback in terms of life satisfaction. A 10% rule could be introduced across the economy with time credited to the local community. But we could go further. In Britain, the idea of a shorter working week was sullied by the chaos of the 1970s. But again, if people who over-work, worked less, employment could be more equally distributed. Coupled with other innovations to ensure a basic income guaranteeing basic needs, shorter working weeks help turn us from being time-poor, to time-affluent. With more time for family, community and creative learning it makes for happier people and better neighbourhoods.

A duty of reciprocity in public services could also help nurture the core economy. People who offer time, as simple as making visits to the elderly and infirm, could earn time credits to use public services like leisure centres at off peak times.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Boycott and Palestinian Groups -- Omar Barghouti

Since the launch of the Palestinian boycott movement a few years ago, we have experienced an awkward phenomenon that demands urgent comment. Several organizations known for years -- in some cases, decades -- for their tireless Palestine solidarity work stood firmly against the Palestinian civil society Call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions, BDS, issued on July 9, 2005, for various reasons. Some said such tactics were “harmful” to the Palestinian struggle. Others opined that BDS would undermine the so-called Israeli “peace” movement. Others, still, stated that boycotting Israel would invite accusations of anti-Semitism and betrayal of the Holocaust victims, thereby setting back Palestine solidarity work in a substantial way.

Many other arguments were written in thousands of articles over the years, but they were less significant or consequential; so I shall focus only on the above three.

Boycott is counter-productive?

Is it? Who is to judge? A Call signed by more than 170 Palestinian political parties, unions, NGOs and networks, representing the entire spectrum of Palestinian civil society -- under occupation, in Israel, and in the diaspora – cannot be “counter-productive” unless Palestinians are not rational or intelligent enough to know or articulate what is in their best interest. This argument smacks of patronization and betrays a colonial attitude that we thought -- hoped! -- was extinct in liberal Europe.

Pragmatically speaking, the BDS process has proved over the past few years that it is among the most effective forms of civil, non-violent Palestinian resistance to Israeli colonial and apartheid regime. The sheer breadth and depth of support this Call has garnered among major trade unions, academic associations, church groups, and other grassroots organizations in South Africa, the UK, Ireland, Canada, Norway, Sweden, and even the US, among others, attest to the efficacy and enormous potential of this campaign in resisting Israeli injustice. For the first time in decades, many movements in Europe, for instance, that have supported peace with justice in Palestine through demonstrations, public appeals and -- mostly marginal -- media work, discovered a process that they can actively and effectively contribute to and that promises to bring about concrete results on the ground, as proved to be the case in the struggle against apartheid struggle in South Africa. Judging by results so far, and as our South African comrades have told us repeatedly, our BDS campaign is moving at a faster pace than theirs ever did.

BDS Undermines the Israeli “Peace” Movement?

What Israeli peace movement? There is no such creature. The so-called peace groups in Israel largely work to improve Israeli oppression against the Palestinians, rather than eliminate it, with their chief objective being the guarantee of Israel’s future as a “Jewish” -- i.e. exclusivist -- State. The most radical Israeli “Zionist-left” groups are still Zionist, adhering to the racist principles of Zionism that view the indigenous Palestinians as lesser humans that are an obstacle or a “demographic threat” to be dealt with. Specifically, they are opposed to the UN-sanctioned rights of the Palestinian refugees, ethnically cleansed during the Nakba and ever since, to return to their homes and lands, simply because they are the “wrong” type. These groups also oppose ending the unique form of apartheid that dominates the entire State of Israel, where a decades-old system of racial discrimination, enshrined in the law, treats “non-Jewish” citizens of the State as second-class citizens who are not entitled to all the rights that Jewish citizens enjoy. If this the Israeli “peace” movement, then no conscientious person should feel sorry about undermining it!

Those who claim that “most” Israelis simply do not know about the crimes of the occupation and need to be talked to, not boycotted, are not only assuming wrong premises, but also reaching a false conclusion. Most Israelis obediently serve in the occupation army without qualms or moral pangs, as part of the obligatory reserve duty. They, therefore, know first-hand about the occupation’s crimes since they either participate in committing them, directly, or watch them being perpetrated in silence, thereby indirectly colluding in them. Plus, the Palestinian BDS was never a blanket boycott against individual Israelis. It is consistently institutional in nature, targeting all Israeli academic, cultural, economic and political institutions, specifically because they are complicit in maintaining the occupation and other forms of racist and colonial oppression against the indigenous Palestinians. Finally, “talking” to Israelis, as in the flourishing “peace” industry’s dialogue groups, has not only been misleading and terribly harmful to the struggle for a just peace, giving the false impression that coexistence can be achieved despite the Zionist oppression, but has also failed to bring about any positive change in Israeli public opinion towards supporting justice as a condition for peace. The Israeli-Jewish public is steadily and dangerously shifting to the fanatic right, with a growing majority supporting fascist solutions, such as ethnic cleansing -- called “transfer” in the sanitized Israeli mainstream jargon -- of the remaining indigenous Palestinians.

Dialogue and joint Palestinian Israeli struggle can only be justifiable, constructive and conducive to just peace if directed against the occupation and other forms of oppression and based on international law and basic human and political rights, particularly our inalienable right to self determination.

Based on the above, the only true fighters for peace in Israel are those who support our three fundamental rights: the right of return for Palestinian refugees; full equality for the Palestinian citizens of Israel; and ending the occupation and colonial rule. Those are our true partners. They ALL support various forms of BDS, not only out of principle, but also because they realize that genuine, sustainable peace and security for all can never be achieved without justice, international law, universal human rights and, most crucially, equality. BDS will only strengthen that true peace – with justice – movement in Israel and everywhere else.

European solidarity groups that consciously allow Zionist left figures and movements to dictate their agendas, steering them away from coordinating with Palestinian civil society and understanding its real needs, rather than committing themselves first and foremost to human rights and international law, hardly deserve the name “solidarity” groups.

On the other hand, groups that, for tactical reasons, support only a subset of BDS, or a targeted boycott of specific products or organizations in Israel or supporting Israel, are also our partners, of course. Boycott is not a one-size-fits-all type of process. It must be customized to suit a particular context to be most effective. What is important to agree on, though, is why we are boycotting and towards what ends. BDS is a rights-based approach with clear objectives that ought to form a common denominator for all groups in solidarity with Palestine. Ending the three main forms of Israeli injustice and advocating the corresponding Palestinian rights are the basic requirements for this international campaign to be effective and in harmony with the express needs and aspirations of Palestinian civil society.

BDS Promotes Anti-Semitism?

Rather than reinventing the wheel, I shall just copy here some of what I wrote earlier, in a longer article refuting the main anti-boycott arguments:

“As the French philosopher Etienne Balibar says, ‘Israel should not be allowed to instrumentalize the genocide of European Jews to put [itself] above the law of nations.’ Beyond that, by turning a blind eye to Israel’s oppression, as the U.S. and most of official Europe often do, the West has in fact perpetuated the misery, the human suffering and the injustice that have ensued since the Holocaust.

As to the anti-Semitism charge, it is patently misplaced and clearly used as a tool of intellectual intimidation. It is hardly worth reiterating that Palestinian calls for boycott, divestment and sanctions do not target Jews or even Israelis qua Jews. They are strictly directed against Israel as a colonial power that violates Palestinian rights and international law. The growing support among progressive European and American Jews for effective pressure on Israel is one counter-argument that is not well publicized.”

Moreover, considering actions and positions that target Israeli apartheid and colonial rule anti-Semitic is itself anti-Semitic, as was argued by many before me, for they assume that all Jews, per se, are somehow responsible for Israeli crimes, a patently racist assumption that belongs to the “collective responsibility” school of thought – criminalized at Nuremberg -- and directly feeds anti-Semitism.

BDS is a civil form of struggle against Israel, regardless what religion most Israelis follow. It hardly matters what faith your oppressors belong to, really -- whether they are Jewish, Christian, Muslim or Hindu is almost irrelevant! The ONLY thing that matters is that they are illegally, immorally oppressing you.

Projects supporting Palestinian steadfastness under occupation, whether in the health, education, social or even political domains, are crucial and always needed. Many Palestinians, particularly the most vulnerable, cannot survive the cruelty of occupation without them. We appreciate the support for these projects tremendously – at least those of them that are not corrupt or corrupting, as many are. But this does not mean that we are for a moment convinced that such projects alone, plus token support for some abstract notion of “peace,” can advance our struggle for freedom and justice. Only by ending the occupation and apartheid can we get there. And, experience tells us, the most reliable, morally justifiable way to do that is by treating Israel as apartheid South Africa was, by applying various, context-sensitive and evolving measures of BDS against it. There is no better way to achieve just peace in Palestine and the entire region.

Omar Barghouti is a freelance choreographer, cultural analyst and founding member of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (

Monday, October 20, 2008

Israeli Heart Hardened Against Sick Children -- Amnesty International
I wanted to find the original link to the Amnesty call, and I did originally, but now it is not there. Hmmmmm. Wonder what happened to it. Okay, now I found it again, but without the contact info. Anyway, below is the whole story. Please contact Israeli authorities about this. Linda

16 October 2008


Sami Atwa Abu Ishaq (m), aged 5 months
Ahmed Nahid Mohsin (m), aged 1.5 years
Soheb Wael Alqasas (m), aged 5 years
Hamza Hassan Abu Habel (m), aged 1.2 years
Ahmed Talat Abu Omar (m), aged 6 years
Mohammed Ashraf Abu Ajwah (m), aged 1.2 years

The children named above suffer from serious heart conditions including congenital heart defects commonly known as holes in the heart. All the children need urgent surgery that cannot be provided in Gaza, which lacks both the necessary medical facilities and specialists. The children were due to be operated on by a team of British heart specialists at Makassad Hospital in East Jerusalem during the week beginning 4 October 2008. They were not able to leave the Gaza Strip because the Israeli authorities refused permissions to their mothers/grandmothers to leave Gaza to accompany them. Soheb Wael Alqasas has already missed six appointments for his surgery in recent months because his mother and grandmother were repeatedly refused permits to accompany him to the hospital in Jerusalem.

A team of Italian heart specialists will be conducting a week of paediatric cardiac surgery at the Makassad Hospital from 6 November. It is imperative that the six children are able to attend the Makassad Hospital in time to undergo surgery by the visiting team of specialists. For this to be possible their relatives must be allowed to travel with them to the hospital in Jerusalem.


Medical facilities in Gaza lack the specialized staff and equipment to treat a range of conditions, including cardiovascular illnesses and cancer. Israel is required under international law to ensure that Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank have access to the same level of medical provision and hospital treatment as they provide to Israeli nationals. The blockade of Gaza and the refusal to allow patients to leave the Gaza Strip to obtain medical treatment, unobtainable in Gaza, constitutes collective punishment which is prohibited under international humanitarian law.

The Israeli authorities control the Gaza Strip’s borders and often refuse to allow critically ill patients to leave for medical treatment which is not available in Gaza. Sometimes no answer is given to the request, but in most cases permission is refused on "security" grounds. However, the Israeli authorities do not ever provide any evidence or information to substantiate their allegations that these patients are a "security threat" – making it impossible for the patients to challenge the allegations. Some of the patients who have been refused passage out of Gaza were in a critical condition and unable to move. As well, on 8 October 2008 the Israeli authorities refused permission to enter Gaza to an Israeli medical team, who were to carry out operations and medical consultations and provide training on trauma and post-traumatic treatment over three days.

The Israeli army imposed a siege on the Gaza Strip in June 2007 when Hamas took over the Palestinian security forces there. The Israeli authorities closed Gaza’s main gate to the outside world, the Gaza-Egypt border which is only allowed to open on rare occasions for exceptional "humanitarian" cases. The only other passage out of Gaza, the Erez crossing with Israel, is closed to all Gazans except for exceptional medical or other "humanitarian" cases.

RECOMMENDED ACTION: Using your own words, please create and send a message
- expressing grave concern that critically ill children (please name them) have not been able to leave Gaza to access potentially life-saving treatment in Jerusalem;
- pointing out that under international law, Israel, as the occupying power, has the responsibility to ensure that the population of Gaza has access to medical care to the same extent as Israeli nationals.


Shimon Peres
President of the State of Israel
The Office of the President
3 Hanassi Street
Jerusalem 92188, Israel
Fax: 011 972 2 561 1033 / 011 972 2 566 4838
Email: OR
Salutation: Dear President

Ehud Barak
Minister of Defence
Ministry of Defence
37 Kaplan Street
Tel Aviv 61909, Israel
Fax: 011 972 3 691 6940
Salutation: Dear Minister

Yacov Ben Yizri
Minister of Health
Ministry of Health
2 Ben Tabai Street
PO Box 1176
Jerusalem 91010, Israel
Fax: 011 972 2 678 7662 / 011 972 2 623 3026
Salutation: Dear Minister


His Excellency Alan BAKER
Ambassador for Israel
50 O’Connor Street, Suite 1005
Ottawa, Ontario K1P 6L2
Fax: (613) 567-9878

Please dispatch your messages without delay. Thank you.

Urgent Action Office
Amnesty International Canada
14 Dundonald Street
Toronto ON M4Y 1K2
(416) 363 9933 ext 25

War Resisters Deserve Sanctuary! -- Howard Lisnoff

End portion of article below; whole thing here:

War resisters note the failure of the U.S. government to justify the war in Iraq by the illusory weapons of mass destruction. Some object to the killing of civilians in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Others point to the quest for oil on the part of the U.S. as a primary objective rather than any imagined democratization of Iraq. Many object to the torture of civilians and suspected terror suspects at Guantanamo Bay prison camp and at black sites (secret C.I.A. prisons) operated around the world. All of the latter are clearly condemned by The Nuremberg Principles. That the Federal Court ruled that resister Jeremy Hinzman did not qualify under Nuremberg Principle IV in 2006 is a decision that flies in the face of the lessons of World War II and the Nazi terror of that war.

While one reason given for the war in Afghanistan is the terror attack of September 11, 2001, that war, along with Iraq War are wars of imperialist aggression to extend the military power of the U.S. and its control over oil supplies in the Middle East and Central Asia.

U.S. law is also clear on banning torture during wartime. The War Crimes Act of 1996 and a federal anti-torture statute, United States Code 2340A, both ban torture. In addition, The Uniform Code of Military Justice prohibits torture. These laws supplement the ban on torture and the mistreatment of civilians during wartime encoded into The Geneva Conventions. The Charter of the United Nations bans wars of aggression.

War resisters have a well-founded fear of returning to military custody. As I point out in “When Torture Was Practiced On U.S. Soil” (CounterPunch, July 26, 2008), military prisons are known for the mistreatment of those who oppose war.

In an anomaly of international law, The International Criminal Court established in 2002 to prosecute individuals for genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and crimes of aggression has not seen a leader of a superpower or other economic and political power in the dock at The Hague. The U.S. has not joined. Yet prosecutors go to extreme lengths to bring resisters to account for their actions. Much is made of the fact that they signed a contract to enter the military, but little is said or allowed in their defense when they protest war crimes and crimes of aggression through their actions.

There is absolutely no justification in objecting to war resisters right to sanctuary solely because a military is a voluntary force. The rules of war apply equally to wars fought by conscripts and those fought with volunteers: there is no justifiable distinction between the two kinds of forces. That many object to war after joining the military is not surprising. The simple fact of military training is that it teaches those who were just recently civilians how to kill. Military training dehumanizes the enemy. The reality is that in contemporary warfare about 90 per cent of casualties are innocent civilians. The latter, in and of itself, makes modern warfare indefensible! “Good” wars are not wars that target civilians and imprison the innocent and subject the innocent to torture! The wars that war resisters object to are wars of aggression. Resisters deserve sanctuary!

"Macmillan USA Encyclopedia Damns Zionism as Racism" -- Yousef Abudayyeh

Original link at Palestine Think Tank:

And the Jewish mostly zionist community in the US is going nuts.

The “Encyclopedia of Race and Racism,” which carries the names of both Macmillan Reference USA (now owned by the Michigan-based Gale, Cengage Learning company) and the Macmillan Social Science Library is including “zionism ” in the section that talks about racism in a clear understanding that zionism is racism. After all the UN has a resolution that equates zionism with rasicm!OpenDocument. Or just look what the zionists are doing to the Palestinians.

Please do you part and contact the publishing company and urge them not to yield on this issue and take zionism out of that section. They are getting a lot of heat from the zionists and we need to make sure that people everywhere will support them in referencing the right explanation in the right section. They can be reached at

Phone: 1-800-877-4253
Fax: 1-877-363-4253 Monday-Friday 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. EST or
Outside U.S. and Canada:Visit

Thank you!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

A Letter to America: Why Must the Show Go On? Mary Rizzo on Palestine Think Tank

The end portion below; whole thing here:

So, Americans are convinced they are going to have some bright future, with the change they can believe in, or even the change they need. Good for them. When they wake up, please tell them that we are sick to the teeth of the show. Sick of the parade of wives and children and ministers. Sick of the smiling and nodding human wall that claps at every empty word uttered by the leaders who have been bought and sold precisely by the same folks who have bought and sold the American citizen up the river.

Americans complain about the system too, don’t get me wrong. But why do they never lift a pinky finger to change the voting system? The dreaded Electoral College…. man, I remember them saying that would be a thing of the past about 6 campaigns ago. The deceptive Black Box voting and uncounted Absentee Votes will give a bit of drama to the election night coverage, but the pundits will assure us everything is totally fair and without a loop.

Race is always an issue, and isn’t this sad? In a nation that can boast the mystery of diversity, the great melting pot, why does every candidate have to be the standard carbon copy as far as policy and beliefs, catering to a certain profile of voter that is far more conservative than most people I know would admit? I thought that those great ideals such as separation of Church and State, All Men are Created Equal and whatnot were at least something to aim for. But the candidates are parading their "personal Christian Minister" around, (until he says something embarrassing, then they are expected to dump him unceremoniously), doing race-specific campaigning and denying that America is still as racist as it was in the 60s.

If I tell people I’d only use my (uncounted, most likely) Absentee Vote to elect Ralph Nader or Cynthia McKinney, my progressive friends tell me I am helping the Republicans get elected. I beg to differ. Even if they don’t get the votes, they get elected sometimes. Even if the people are "sick of things" a wartime president gets re-elected. It’s happened before, in fact, it always happens, and even without the smoke and whistles, the Americans realise what is in their immediate interests, they always go for the most warlike Party, the one that can assure them "cheap oil". What have I got to do with it? Why should I play a part in that game and cast a vote for one of the two showmen? They have both tired me out with their finger-pointing, their two-steps, their pats on the backs, their baby-kissing and Minister and lobby ass-licking.

I refuse. I refuse to play the game. They can force me to watch the show, but they can’t make me applaud.

So America, get on with your elections. But get it over with quickly. Put one of your favourite sons in office. It really doesn’t matter who it is. The rest of the world expects it will keep getting four more years of your war, your cultural and economic hegemony, your air and water pollution, your toxic waste and occupation of land and space. Four more years of your arrogance and refusal to apologise. Bring It On.

Locked in the Hebron Ghetto -- Palestine Think Tank

Friday, October 17, 2008

“Be Utopian, Demand the Realistic”--Robert Pollin on the Way Forward

The finish to a good interview of Robert Pollin by Mike Whitney. Robert Pollin is a Professor of Economics and founding Co-Director of the Political Economy Research Institute (PERI) at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

Whole interview here:

Liberals and progressives in the US seem much more focused on social issues than economic ones. Only recently, have they become more aware of the growing polarization between rich and poor and the inherent shortcomings of this crisis-prone, bubble-generating, wealth-shifting system. As the financial crisis spreads into the real economy triggering increasing unemployment, falling demand, tightening credit and soaring foreclosures; there will probably be many opportunities for change. Do you foresee a rise in "issue-oriented" populist movements or, maybe, a third political party? What are the immediate economic goals that progressives should pursue?

Robert Pollin: I do think we are in the midst of a major historic turning point, equivalent to the 1930s New Deal, or the emergence in 1979/80 of full-tilt neoliberalism under Thatcher in the UK and Reagan in the U.S. It seems clear that the economic agenda will rise to the top of the heap as a focus of concern for the left. This is not to denigrate other issues, such as the environment, anti-imperialism, racism, or sexism. But I think we will now be able to start seeing more clearly the connections between a critique of neoliberal capitalism and these other arenas of social and political struggle. For example, with the environment, it was only a year or so ago that the conventional wisdom held firmly that we could either have a clean environment, or a growing economy with an abundance of good jobs, but we couldn’t possibly have both. Trade-offs such as this were inevitable. You were simply a confused, mushy thinker if you didn’t understand this. It is now becoming clear that building a clean energy economy—and by this I mean a zero fossil fuel driven economy, with no “clean coal” and no nukes—can also be the engine to build a full employment economy as well as help construct a stable financial system.

Of course, to put such an agenda in place will mean treading through multiple political minefields. Should people work within their communities alone? In unions? Form a left caucus within the Democratic Party? For environmental justice groups? Keep trying to build third parties? I think all these approaches have merit, and that we on the left should try all of them. We should also have enough humility to acknowledge that none of us really knows what will work best under any given set of circumstances. Let’s try a lot of things, keep learning, and stay open-minded. And I would emphasize one other thing. During the 1968 uprising in France, one of the most bracing slogans to have emerged out that struggle was “Be Realistic, Demand the Impossible.” I am more inclined to embrace its mirror image as a guide for moving forward. That is, “Be Utopian, Demand the Realistic.”

Suheir Hammad Mic Check Poem Poetry Performance in Olympia--via Al-Falasteenyia

How the Banksters are Making a Killing Off the Bailout -- Pam Martens

Portion below; whole thing here:

What most Americans do not understand, because mainstream media rarely explains it, is the incestuous relationship between the U.S. Treasury and this small band of financial marauders who busted the entire financial system with insane levels of leveraged derivative bets.

The bulk of the $125 billion will be dispersed among Uncle Sam’s own brokers, or in street parlance, Primary Dealers. Primary dealers are those financial firms anointed by the Federal Reserve to participate in the Fed’s open market activities and are required to participate to a significant degree in buying up Treasury securities at every Treasury auction. In other words, without these firms, the U.S. Government would have no means of financing its own funding needs.

Treasury, therefore, has an obvious conflict of interest in keeping these firms alive, even when they are the walking dead. Here’s how much of the $125 Billion the Fed’s Primary Dealers will collect: Citigroup, $25 Billion; JPMorgan Chase & Co., $25 Billion; Bank of America and its soon to be acquired brokerage, Merrill Lynch, $25 Billion; Goldman Sachs, $10 Billion; Morgan Stanley, $10 Billion. In other words, of the first $125 billion outlay from the emergency bailout fund, 76% is going to shore up Uncle Sam’s brokers and $300,000 is going to retain one of Wall Street’s favorite law firms.

In 1988 there were 46 primary dealers. That number had shrunk to 30 by 1999. In June 2008 there were 20, in no small part as a result of the mergers facilitated by Simpson, Thacher & Bartlett. In rapid succession since July, three more have disappeared from bad bets: Countrywide Securities (shotgun marriage with Bank of America); Lehman Brothers, bankrupt; Bear, Stearns (shotgun marriage with J.P. Morgan Securities). That currently leaves 17 and that number will drop to 16 when Merrill Lynch is folded into Bank of America. (The rest of the 16 primary dealers that are not getting part of the $125 billion are foreign banks.)

In addition to the repeal of the depression era, investor protection legislation known as the Glass Steagall Act, the removal of credit default swaps from regulation by the Commodity Futures Modernization Act of 2000, various U.S. Supreme Court decisions upholding Wall Street’s ability to run its own private justice system shrouded in darkness, there was one more key regulatory change that greased the tracks of this train wreck. On January 22, 1992 the Federal Reserve announced that its New York region would “discontinue the ‘dealer surveillance’ now exercised over Primary Dealers through the monitoring of specific Federal Reserve standards and through regular on-site inspection visits by Federal Reserve dealer surveillance staff.”

In other words, as bank consolidation left the country with fewer and fewer Primary Dealers and more and more “too big to fail candidates,” instead of beefing up surveillance, the Federal Reserve amazingly dropped inspections. Who was at the helm of the Federal Reserve when this nutty decision was made: the same man who lobbied for the repeal of the Glass Steagall Act that ushered in the merger of depositor banks with casino investment banks and brokerages; the same man who lobbied for the passage of the Commodity Futures Modernization Act of 2000 to allow for unregulated derivatives markets. The man, of course, is Alan Greenspan who served a breathtaking 19 years as Chairman of the Federal Reserve. That, by the way, is the approximate number I would assign to how many years it will take to repair the collapse of confidence engendered by his crony wealth transfer system created under the guise of free market capitalism.

Pam Martens worked on Wall Street for 21 years; she has no security position, long or shot, in any company mentioned in this article. She writes on public interest issues from New Hampshire. She can be reached at

The Walls -- By Nesreen Melek

Original link:

The invaders built walls to separate Iraqis

But Iraqis decided to draw paintings on these walls,

Iraqis drew rivers like the ones they had before the invaders contaminated it

They drew palm trees full of dates like the ones which were scattered on the fertile soil before the brutal invasion

They drew faces of girls and women full of despair like the ones who were raped by the American soldiers

They drew faces of children with puzzled faces like the ones who witnessed the American wars

They drew faces of girls hiding their faces like the ones who are selling their bodies to support their families

They drew sad faces of boys who were left without parents

They drew angry faces of men like the ones who were rapped and tortured in Abu Ghraib

They drew nice houses like the one the Iraqi had before the invasion

They drew gardens with orange trees full of blossoms like the one Iraqis had before the American bombed the houses on the civilians

They drew birds flying peacefully like the ones which were flying in the skies of Iraqi cities before American planes took over the sky

They drew families gathered together with happy faces like the families used to be before their invasion

Iraqis will remember when they look at these walls daily, the pain, the agony, the torture, the rape, the lack of security, the stolen dreams, the looting and the aggression of the invaders

One day, these walls will be demolished by the will of the young Iraqis, they will rise and scream: No more killing, no more rape, no more torture and no more wars

Memories of the invaders brutality will stay in the Iraqi minds and the minds of others