Sunday, November 30, 2008

Will They Be Issued Brown Shirts?

Probly Whoopi won't notice.
Original (via Sam Smith) here:
WASHINGTON (AFP) - The US State Department announced plans on Monday to promote online youth groups as a new and powerful way to fight crime, political oppression and terrorism.

Drawing inspiration from a movement against FARC rebels in Colombia, the State Department is joining forces with Facebook, Google, MTV, Howcast and others in New York City next week to get the "ball rolling."

It said 17 groups from South Africa, Britain and the Middle East which have an online presence like the "Million Voices Against the FARC" will attend a conference at Columbia University Law School from December 3-5.

Observers from seven organizations that do not have an online presence -- such as groups from Iraq and Afghanistan -- will attend. There will also be remote participants from Cuba.

They will forge an "Alliance of Youth Movement," said James Glassman, under secretary of state for public diplomacy.

"The idea is put all these people together, share best practices, produce a manual that will be accessible online and in print to any group that wants to build a youth empowerment organization to push back against violence and oppression around the world," he told reporters.

The conference will be streamed by MTV and Howcast, he said.

The list of organizations due to attend include the Burma Global Action Network, a human rights movement spurred into action by the ruling junta's crackdown on monks and other pro-democracy protesters last year.

There is also Shabab 6 of April, which has emerged as Egypt's largest pro-democracy youth group, and Invisible Children, which spotlights atrocities committed by the Lord's Resistance Army in Uganda, Glassman said.

Others include Fight Back, which fights domestic violence in India, the Save Darfur Coalition, as well as One Million Voices Against Crime in South Africa, said Jared Cohen, from the secretary's policy planning staff.

Also attending will be People's March Against Knife Crime from Britain and Young Civilians from Turkey.

Cohen said Young Civilians is a human rights and pro-democracy organization which works online but has brought thousands of protesters into the streets of Turkey.

Glassman said the State Department is providing about 50,000 dollars in order to help bring delegates from the groups to the United States.

Among the speakers will be actress Whoopi Goldberg and a co-founder of Facebook.

Friday, November 28, 2008

"Thank You America, For Killing Us" -- Rick B

Via Uruknet which added the picture.
Original post here:

I assume that was a rejected headline for this AP report, instead they went with- Iraqi parliament OKs US troops for 3 more years- yeah they okayed it, real casual like- sure fellas you stick around for a while longer, it’s cool.

But, it gets worse-

The long, costly story of American military involvement in Iraq moved closer to an end Thursday when Iraq’s parliament approved a pact that requires all troops to be out in three years, marking the first clear timetable for a U.S. exit since the 2003 invasion that ousted Saddam Hussein. The vote for the security deal followed months of tough talks between U.S. and Iraqi negotiators that at times seemed on the point of collapse, and then days of hardscrabble dealmaking between ethnic and sectarian groups whose centuries-old rifts had hardened during the first four years of the war.

The war has claimed more than 4,200 American lives and killed a far greater, untold number of Iraqis, consumed huge reserves of money and resources and eroded the global stature of the United States, even among its closest allies.

centuries-old rifts‘, get that, these furrners are like that, no mention of the Salvador option eh? But really ‘untold number of Iraqis‘ well yes it is untold by you because you refuse to use the figures from peer reviewed scientific studies that in all other conflicts are accepted methodology, nor the survey results and extrapolation that tell us the untold truth it’s over a million dead. At this point pulling that kind of shit is basically Holocaust denial motherfucker. If you need to vomit read the whole thing. The murders in Mumbai do not go untold, roughly a Predator drone strike level of carnage, thus perception of those dangerous crazy killers marches on, I mean it’s not like say Fallujah, not even comparable, they had air support for that. Thank-fucking-you AP!

"The Wages of Irrational Greed" -- Jesse's Cafe Americain

Portion below; whole thing here:

The actual costs of several of the items can be debated, especially in the case of warfare and its soft and collateral costs. Joe Stiglitz has estimated the cost of the total Iraq war to three trillion dollars when all the expenses are considered.

One can quibble with the details, and even make the case that any expenditures financed by debt are of equal economic value, that there is no difference between pure consumption and greed, and productive investment in infrastructure. That there exists no good or evil and that justice has no penalty or value.

But one has to ask what could have been accomplished, what great achievements could we have endowed to posterity, if we had only restrained the greed of Wall Street and the corruption of the world's economy through the US dollar as its reserve currency which permitted the almost unrestrained creation of debt by a succession of narcissists and sociopaths?

If this chart is not shocking, does not sicken you at heart, repulse you, fill you with righteous anger, make you feel ashamed, then you may be emotionally a child, or perhaps no longer human.
Click on chart to enlarge. Amazing.

Steely Dan: Last Call to do Your Shopping At the Last Mall

Thursday, November 27, 2008

IOF Troops Fire at Children, IOA Demolish Two Homes in O. Jerusalem

BEIT HANUN, (PIC)-- The Israeli occupation troops on Wednesday fired intermittently at a group of children near the northern Gaza Strip crossing of Beit Hanun (Erez).

The Mizan center for human rights said in a statement that the children were looking for old metals at the industrial zone area near the borders.

Meanwhile, in occupied Jerusalem the Jewish-controlled municipality demolished two Palestinian homes in the holy city on Tuesday at the pretext of building without permits.

The two homes were flattened last year and their owners re-built them to provide shelter for their families, one of them was leveled because it is located in the path of the separation wall the Israeli occupation authority is erecting in the West Bank and occupied Jerusalem.

Found on Angry Arab Newservice

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving from All the Children in Iraq -- Mr. Fish

Carlos LaTuff: Gaza Ghetto

See This, Wall Street? This is What It Means to be Human!

Story about a computer error that kicked disabled people off food stamps. Court case put them back.
Portion below; whole thing here:

Such successes, however, have escaped the notice of Ms. Harris, who still lives in a one-bedroom apartment in Brooklyn. Her food stamp allotment has long been restored, but she says she must be very careful to ration her $176 monthly allowance.

She began crying a bit when she described finally receiving the first half of the $444 she was owed from 1999. “I just went out and got a ham,” she said, “and cooked it with cloves, apple juice and raisins. It was very sweet.”

Others who received the money in the last several weeks said they delayed gratification a bit to make the holidays more festive in a year that has otherwise been very tough.

Luis Rosario, 52, who lives in the Bronx with his mother, received $2,333, because he was cut off in 1999 and was just put back in the program.

He said he would use the money to make a Thanksgiving meal of roast pork and turkey for his sister, daughters and grandchildren.

And, he said, he would also take care of Christmas, too. “We usually go to my sister in New Jersey, but she was laid off,” Mr. Rosario said, “so this year we are going to take care of everyone.”

It is a sentiment that would sit well with Abdelkader Louali, who also lives in the Bronx and got a payout of $550. With that money Mr. Louali, who lives alone, purchased some shrimp as a treat, and he also bought $64 in food for neighbors who were in need.

It was a special pleasure to him, he said, to finally be the one who had enough to share with others. “I have $100 left,” he said, “but it is the holidays and I would give it away. You see, my refrigerator is already full.”

"Obama in Bedlam" -- John Ross

And for local people who know Sasha, as John says, she is still out there helping Iraqi refugees.

Portion below; whole thing here:

We are in garbage time. The adulatory garbage being spewed about the virtues of Barrack Obama are a toxic trick on the peoples of the earth. One glaring recent example: 100,000 marched from sea to shining sea in the U.S. last weekend (Nov. 16th) in support of same sex marriage and no one had the moxie to even mention that Barack Obama does not support same sex marriage.

False Messiahs are made to be unmasked. Anyone who aspires to be the maximum capo of the world's most homicidal on-going criminal conspiracy is just that, a criminal. Barack Obama is a war criminal-in-waiting masquerading as a peace candidate on the pretext that he will move the Yanqui troops two wars to the east to massacre civilians who did not vote for him. I am not fooled.

I am not invested in the United States of North America. I do not have an IRA or a CD or whatever they call the shekel-sucking scams that are flogged by those who just bankrupted the nation. I have no stocks or bonds or health insurance or retirement account. I don't have a job and I don't pay taxes. I don't drink Coca Cola and I don't drive or own a car. Indeed, I don’t own any property at all. I don't know how to get to Main Street. Hell, I don't even live in this benighted country.

Recession, depression and financial crisis are great equalizers. Bring 'em on! Those of us who live down at the bottom know how to survive. We are not going away.

On the night that Barack Obama was elected commander-in-chief, U.S. killers operating under NATO impunity, murdered at least 40 more Afghani civilians - "NATO" has now snuffed out over a thousand non-combattant lives this year in a war that Obama is pledged to escalate.

Also on Election Night, the Zionists of Israel deliberately bombed Gaza breaking a months-long truce to send the U.S, president-elect a clear and unequivocal message. 48 hours later that message was received and acknowledged and Rahm Israel Emanuel, a member of the Israeli army, was appointed Obama's chief of staff.

The scenario is being written as we read. Before he is done, Barack Obama will bomb bomb bomb Iran. Here in our Americas, he will spit in Hugo Chavez's eye and kick Evo Morales in the balls, prolong the Cuban blockade, and cuddle up to cold-blooded killers like Colombia's Uribe and Mexico's Calderon. Galeano will have many new chapters to write.

My pal Sasha Crow is just back from Amman where she is helping to pick up the pieces of the shattered lives of Iraqi refugees driven out of their homeland by an American war. Despite the evacuation of the White House by a president who wrecked their families and destroyed their livelihoods, the refugees to whom she speaks don't think that Barack Obama is the Messiah either.

Sasha is the motor behind the Collateral Repair Project, a response by grass roots Americans to the unspeakable collateral carnage this country has inflicted upon the innocent to sustain the sort of We're Number One domination of which Barack Obama is an enthusiastic devotee. If you want to make some change that the world can really believe in, send her some real change at

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

"PBS Reports for Big Oil on Venezuela" - Patrick Irelan

I was curious about this FRONTLINE story to be shown tonight. Glad I read this before wasting tape recording it.
Portion below; whole thing here:

The program inevitably starts crawling around inside the head of Hugo Chávez. This is often a waste of time for psychiatrists and always a failure for amateurs. While engaged in this nonsense, Bikel and Company misses one of the most obvious things about the man, the color of his skin. The president of Venezuela is a mestizo, unlike any other president in the country’s history. The oligarchy that has ruled until now is mostly as white as the sickly face of Pedro Carmona on the day when he learned that his presidency would be the shortest in history.

The mass media in Venezuela is controlled by the rich white elite. Day after day, it uses racist terms to describe Chávez and others like him. Only one newspaper and the two state-owned TV stations carry the real news of the Chávez government. One private station, RCTV, lost its broadcast license because it stridently aired its support of the 2002 coup while that coup was actually taking place. RCTV is now available only on cable. Frontline provides the sad story of RCTV, but fails to mention its acts of treason.

The majority of the population in Venezuela is of either mestizo or African descent, people who’ve never before had a president who looked remotely like them. They don’t care if he sings, rides a tractor, or talks for hours. They won’t follow him into a dictatorship, but he isn’t headed in that direction. Frontline cleverly implies that he is.

The U.S. corporate media loves to tell us that Venezuela is about to become another Cuba. The Washington Post suffers from delusions unheard of since the yellow journalism of the Spanish-American War era. Chávez admires Fidel Castro because he overthrew the dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista and has now withstood U.S. interference for half a century. But both men know that their respective revolutions are entirely different.

The members of the Bush administration say that Chávez is undemocratic. What comedians they are. Has Venezuela invaded another country, bombed its towns and cities, hanged its president, killed thousands of civilians, and turned millions of others into refugees? Has Chávez denied prisoners of war all rights, allowed them to be tortured, and broken all the customary international agreements about the treatment of POWs?

Chávez has done none of these things. He even pardoned the men who plotted the coup, after which many of them immediately began verbally attacking him again. I could cite many other falsehoods in Bikel’s fairytale, but I’ve said all I can bear.

Chávez wants nothing more than a mixed economy in which the profits from huge industries are used to benefit all citizens, not just the white descendants of European conquerors. The Chávez government pays the owners for any industries it nationalizes. And it has no interest in the Mom and Pop café down the street. Frontline won’t tell you any of this.

But Chávez does want PDVSA, the national oil company, to serve the interests of all Venezuelans, not merely those of the private club that controlled it before the election of Chávez. After the members of that club went on “strike,” Chavez fired them and hired new people. He wants all citizens to join the club.

Is that really too much to ask?

UN Gen. Assembly President Accuses Israel of Apartheid

Link to original (revised since the below I believe):

Nov. 25, 2008 Staff , THE JERUSALEM POST
UN General Assembly President Miguel d'Escoto Brockmann accused Israel of apartheid and called for "a campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions" against it.

During Monday's UN Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, Brockmann, of Nicaragua, also claimed "our Palestinian brothers and sisters are being crucified" by Israel.

Brockmann made the apartheid allegation twice on Monday, once in the morning at the annual meeting of the UN Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, and again in the General Assembly in the afternoon.

"I spoke this morning about apartheid and how Israeli policies in the Occupied Palestinian Territories appear so similar to the apartheid of an earlier era, a continent away. I believe it is very important that we in the United Nations use this term," he said. "We must not be afraid to call something what it is. It is the United Nations, after all, that passed the International Convention against the Crime of Apartheid, making clear to all the world that such practices of official discrimination must be outlawed wherever they occur.

"More than twenty years ago we in the United Nations took the lead from civil society when we agreed that sanctions were required to provide a non-violent means of pressuring South Africa...Today, perhaps we in the United Nations should consider following the lead of a new generation of civil society, who are calling for a similar non-violent campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions to pressure Israel..."

Anne Bayefsky, Editor of EYEontheUN blasted Brockmann's remarks.

"Brockmann's assault is a gross abuse of the position of Assembly President," she said. "He knows full well that his outrageous personal views will be translated into six languages and Webcast around the world."

"Brockmann's call," continued Bayefsky, "was in effect, a call for the political destruction of Israel by means of the same strategy adopted against apartheid South Africa."

The UN flew only two flags during Monday's event, that of "Palestine" and that of the United Nations.

Photo essay: A dark night in Gaza -- From Sam Habeeb at Gaza Today Blog

Published in the Electronic Intifada with Photo slides:

Over the past few weeks, Israel has tightened its inhumane siege of the Gaza Strip's 1.5 million residents. Ignoring international appeals, Israel closed all border crossings with Gaza thereby preventing basic supplies from entering the tiny coastal strip. This included industrial fuel for Gaza's sole power plant leaving roughly one million people without power as well as food supplies for the UN Agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, despite the call by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to end the siege.

The recent power blackout has pervaded every Palestinian house. Several hospitals have been forced to suspended surgeries and medical treatment. Today, at Shifa hospital, Gaza's largest medical center, one of the generators stopped working leaving parts of the hospital without power. In addition, prices of alternative sources of fuel have increased dramatically and are unaffordable to most in the impoverished Strip.

Without power, Palestinian homes and farms do not have access to fresh water, forcing Gazans to travel long distances for potable water. Moreover, sewage water is not being treated and officials fear that it will leak into and contaminate groundwater wells, spreading disease across Gaza.

On Saturday, 22 November, I toured Gaza City and authenticated the bleak reality of people through my camera. The dark streets further demonstrating the physical and spiritual fatigue experienced by Palestinians, now enduring the 18th month of Israel's siege while the world remains indifferent to their suffering.

Sameh A. Habeeb is a photojournalist, humanitarian and peaceactivist based in Gaza, Palestine. He writes for several news websites on a freelance basis.

Gaza Strip, Palestine

Mob: 00972599306096

Tel: 0097282802825

Skype: Gazatoday, Facebook: Sameh A. habeeb

Posted by Sameh A. Palestine at 9:23 AM 0 comments

Sameh A. Habeeb
Photojournalist & Peace Activist
Gaza Strip, Palestine
Mob: 00972599306096
Tel: 0097282802825
Skype: Gazatoday, Facebook Sameh A. habeeb
Daily Photos:

Monday, November 24, 2008

The Slow Death of Gaza -- Andrea Becker

From the Guardian Newspaper:

It has been two weeks since Israel imposed a complete closure of Gaza, after months when its crossings have been open only for the most minimal of humanitarian supplies. Now it is even worse: two weeks without United Nations food trucks for the 80% of the population entirely dependent on food aid, and no medical supplies or drugs for Gaza's ailing hospitals. No fuel (paid for by the EU) for Gaza's electricity plant, and no fuel for the generators during the long blackouts. Last Monday morning, 33 trucks of food for UN distribution were finally let in – a few days of few supplies for very few, but as the UN asks, then what?

Israel's official explanation for blocking even minimal humanitarian aid, according to IDF spokesperson Major Peter Lerner, was "continued rocket fire and security threats at the crossings". Israel's blockade, in force since Hamas seized control of Gaza in mid-2007, can be described as an intensification of policies designed to isolate the population of Gaza, cripple its economy, and incentivise the population against Hamas by harsh – and illegal – measures of collective punishment. However, these actions are not all new: the blockade is but the terminal end of Israel's closure policy, in place since 1991, which in turn builds on Israel's policies as occupier since 1967.

In practice, Israel's blockade means the denial of a broad range of items – food, industrial, educational, medical – deemed "non-essential" for a population largely unable to be self-sufficient at the end of decades of occupation. It means that industrial, cooking and diesel fuel, normally scarce, are virtually absent now. There are no queues at petrol stations; they are simply shut. The lack of fuel in turn means that sewage and treatment stations cannot function properly, resulting in decreased potable water and tens of millions of litres of untreated or partly treated sewage being dumped into the sea every day. Electricity cuts – previously around eight hours a day, now up to 16 hours a day in many areas – affect all homes and hospitals. Those lucky enough to have generators struggle to find the fuel to make them work, or spare parts to repair them when they break from overuse. Even candles are running out.

There can be no dispute that measures of collective punishment against the civilian population of Gaza are illegal under international humanitarian law. Fuel and food cannot be withheld or wielded as reward or punishment. But international law was tossed aside long ago. The blockade has been presented as punishment for the democratic election of Hamas, punishment for its subsequent takeover of Gaza, and punishment for militant attacks on Israeli civilians. The civilians of Gaza, from the maths teacher in a United Nations refugee camp to the premature baby in an incubator, properly punished for actions over which they have no control, will rise up and get rid of Hamas. Or so it goes.

And so what of these civilian agents of political change?

For all its complexities and tragedies, the over-arching effect of Israel's blockade has been to reduce the entire population to survival mode. Individuals are reduced to the daily detail of survival, and its exhaustions.

Consider Gaza's hospital staff. In hospitals, the blockade is as seemingly benign as doctors not having paper upon which to write diagnostic results or prescriptions, and as sinister as those seconds – between power cut and generator start – when a child on life support doesn't have the oxygen of a mechanical ventilator. A nurse on a neo-natal ward rushes between patients, battling the random schedule of power cuts. A hospital worker tries to keep a few kidney dialysis machines from breaking down, by farming spare parts from those that already have. The surgeon operates without a bulb in the surgery lamp, across from the anaesthetist who can no longer prevent patient pain. The hospital administrator updates lists of essential drugs and medical supplies that have run out, which vaccines from medical fridges are now unusable because they can't be kept cold, and which procedures must be cancelled altogether. The ambulance driver decides whether to respond to an emergency call, based on dwindling petrol in the tank.

By reducing the population to survival mode, the blockade robs people of the time and essence to do anything but negotiate the minutiae of what is and isn't possible in their personal and professional lives. Whether any flour will be available to make bread, where it might be found, how much it now costs. Rich or poor, taxi drivers, human rights defenders, and teachers alike spend hours speculating about where a canister of cooking gas might be found. Exhaustion is gripping hold of all in Gaza. Survival leaves little if no room for political engagement – and beyond exhaustion, anger and frustration are all that is left.

"Finance Has Lost Sight of Its Role" -- Naked Capitalism

Portion below; whole thing here: role.html
But I digress. There is a remarkable failure to acknowledge a key element of the task before us, that is, that the financial system HAS to shrink. Its current size is based on an unsustainable level of debt, a big chunk of which will go bust or be renegotiated. Yet rather than trying to figure out what a new, slimmed down version of banking ought to look like, to ascertain which pieces should be preserved and which jettisoned, the authorities are instead reacting in a completely ad hoc fashion, rushing to put out the latest fire. And in the process, they keep trying to validate overly inflated asset values (a measure straight out of the failed Japan playbook) rather than try to ascertain what their real value might be so as to determine how much recapitalization might ultimately be needed (if you doubt me, Exhibit One is the pending Citi bailout, in which lousy assets will be guaranteed at phony values). Is this denial? Do the authorities fear that if they work up this analysis, it will leak out and the markets will panic? This seems to be the first, most important order of business, yet here we are more than a year into the crisis, still tip-toeing around one of the very biggest issues.

And why is that? Back to the cult issue. Willem Buiter has chastised the Fed for what he calls "cognitive regulatory capture," that is, that they identify far too strongly with the values and world view of their charges. But it isn't just the Fed. The media. and to a lesser degree, society at large has bought into the construct of the importance, value, and virtue of the financial sector, even as it is coming violently apart before our eyes. Why, for instance, the vituperative reaction against a GM bailout, while we assume Citi has to be rescued? A GM bankruptcy would be at least as catastrophic as a Citi failure. but GM elicits attacks for the incompetence of its management and the supposedly unreasonable posture of the UAW (the same free market advocates recoil at a deal struck by consenting adults). The particular target for ire is the autoworker pensions and health plans, as well as their work rules. But the pension plans being underwater is the fault of GM management for not providing for them in the fat years; I personally have trouble with the idea that health care should vary by class; and for the work rules, German and Swedish automakers have strong unions and yet can compete. I see the UAW as having correctly seen GM management feeding at the trough and doing a good job at extracting their share.

And yet the specter of incompetent, and worse, DISHONEST management elicits far less anger. GM may not make the best cars, but Citi and other banks sold products that were terrible, destructive, that resulted in huge losses and are wrecking economies, damage crappy cars could never inflict (environmentalists might quibble, but never has so much seeming wealth evaporated in so little time, and with the main culprits readily identified). They paid huge bonuses, yet their 2004-mid 2007 earnings have been wiped out by subsequent losses. But while UAW workers will have to give up on deals cut earlier, in terms of health care and pension promises (entered into, by the way, to bridge difference over wage levels), I guarantee no Wall Street denizen of the peak years will have to cough up one penny of his bonus from those days.

Greedy High Profile Child Psychiatrist & Sick Drug Company = Bad News for Kids

Another reason to end for-profit healthcare.

Portion below; whole thing here:

When a Congressional investigation revealed in June that he had earned far more money from drug makers than he had reported to his university, Dr. Joseph Biederman, a world-renowned child psychiatrist, said that his “interests are solely in the advancement of medical treatment through rigorous and objective study.”

But e-mails and internal documents from Johnson & Johnson made public in a court filing reveal that Dr. Biederman pushed the company to fund a research center at Massachusetts General Hospital whose goal was “to move forward the commercial goals of J&J,” the documents state. The documents also show that Johnson & Johnson wrote a draft summary of a study that Dr. Biederman, of Harvard University, was said to author.

Dr. Biederman’s work helped to fuel a 40-fold increase from 1994 to 2003 in the diagnosis of pediatric bipolar disorder and a rapid rise in the use of powerful, risky and expensive antipsychotic medicines in children. Although many of his studies are small and often financed by drug makers, Dr. Biederman has had a vast influence on the field largely because of his position at one of the most prestigious medical institutions in the world.

Johnson & Johnson manufactures Risperdal, also known as risperidone, a popular antipsychotic medicine. More than a quarter of Risperdal’s use is in children and adolescents.

Last week, a panel of federal drug experts said that medicines like Risperdal are being used far too cavalierly in children and that federal drug regulators must do more to warn doctors of their substantial risks. Other popular antipsychotic medicines, also referred to as neuroleptics, are Zyprexa, made by Eli Lilly; Seroquel, made by AstraZeneca; Geodon, made by Pfizer; and Abilify, made by Bristol-Myers Squibb.

Thousands of parents have sued Johnson & Johnson, AstraZeneca and Eli Lilly, claiming that their children were injured after taking the medicines, whose risks the companies minimized, the parents claim. As part of the suits, plaintiffs’ attorneys have demanded millions of documents from the companies. Nearly all of those documents have been provided under judicial seals, but a select few that mentioned Dr. Biederman became public after plaintiffs attorneys sought a judge’s order to require Dr. Biederman to be interviewed by plaintiff attorneys under oath.

"The Rise and Fall of Citigroup" -- Pam Martens

And if you want to know who Pam Martens is, read the whole article and see her amazing prescient speech to the Fed in 1998.

Portion below; whole thing here:

It took the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act, legislation crafted after the 1929 crash barring commercial banks from merging with their casino cousins (investment banks and brokerage firms) to bring Citigroup to life.

Sandy Weill took Travelers Insurance, the Smith Barney brokerage firm (which had been combined with the Shearson brokerage firm), the investment bank Salomon Brothers and announced on April 6, 1998 that he would be merging all of these units with the commercial banking giant, Citicorp, owner of Citibank. Never one to let laws get in his way, Mr. Weill announced this deal despite the fact that this combination was not allowed at the time because of the Glass-Steagall Act.

It would take “a village” in the Clinton administration to get Glass-Steagall repealed and allow the creation of the colossal financial monster that would take precisely one decade to pay its founder $1 billion and then implode in a sea of losses. The village included Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin who successfully lobbied for the repeal of the investor-protection law, then left his cabinet position in the Clinton administration and moved his game marker to the Board of Citigroup 17 days before the bill gutting Glass-Steagall was signed into law on November 12, 1999. Mr. Rubin would collect over $150 million from Citigroup in the next 9 years for his Board service, without ever drawing the go-to-jail card; not even when he picked up the phone and called a Treasury official and asked the government to stop the credit rating agencies from downgrading the debt of Enron, to whom Citigroup had major exposure. In that one instance, he was rebuffed.

And, of course, the village included Alan Greenspan who rarely saw an investor-protection regulation to which he didn’t proceed to take a machete. Now, after 19 years of making the country listen to his mutterings before Congress in verbose, convoluted academic-speak; after he has assisted handily in turning Wall Street into the Dollar Store and once thriving companies into a barren wasteland of receiverships, bankruptcies and collapsing stock prices, he offers a broken country a one-liner: he got it wrong.

Palestinian Expert Says Israeli Torture of Palestinian Prisoners Is ‘Routine’

November 23, 2008

Ramallah – Ma’an – It came as no surprise to Abdun-Nasser Farawna when the Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronot published a report about a "top secret" Israeli intelligence document authorizing the use of torture against Palestinian prisoners.

Farawna, a former prisoner and an expert in prisoners’ affairs, said torture "began in 1967 as a policy which later got legal coverage and judicial immunity. It aims at destroying Palestinian and Arab prisoners both physically and psychologically."

To Farawna, Israel’s use of torture is neither secret nor new.

Farawna said the legalization of torture in Israel dates back at least to the report of a government commission headed by Supreme Court President Moshe Landau in 1987. Landau was charged with examining government interrogation techniques. His committee came up with a two-part report. One half of the report was kept secret and contained a list of permissible interrogation tactics.

According to Farawna, the Landau document protected Israeli intelligence officers from prosecution for torturing Palestinian prisoners. The recommendations in the document were approved by the Israeli Knesset, and have been amended since.

The central conclusion of the report, that "the exertion of a moderate degree of physical pressure cannot be avoided," has not been changed.

Farwana explains that the newly revealed Israeli document allows interrogators to use non-traditional techniques of physical and psychological torture, including slapping, violent shaking, hunger, sleep deprivation and forcing prisoners to stand for long periods.

According to the document, officers can also exert psychological pressure by accusing the prisoner of collaboration in front of other prisoners, or revealing confidential information about him. Interrogators can also arrest family members, including women, to place further pressure, or they can threaten to demolish his family home or deport him.

Farwana asserted that Israeli interrogators are still torturing Palestinian prisoners "on a daily basis."

According to Farawna’s own research, 95% of Palestinians who have been imprisoned in Israel have been beaten; 89% were deprived of sleep for long times; 82% were forced to stand in difficult positions for long periods; 55% were subjected to extreme hot and cold temperatures; 50% had pressure applied to their testicles.

Furthermore, Farawna said that since 1967, 70 prisoners have died in Israeli custody as a result of torture.

US Official Calls for End to Israeli Occupation

General James Jones, the US State Department Security Advisor for Israel-Palestine, has called for a NATO (North American Treaty Organization) force to be deployed in the West Bank to replace the 40-year long Israeli occupation.

General James Jones
General James Jones

Palestinian officials have, in the past, expressed support for a NATO deployment in the West Bank. But Israel has refused, saying that only Israeli intelligence forces have the ability to maintain control of the Palestinian population.

Jones challenged the Israeli assumption that Palestinians cannot be trusted to run their own country, saying that the NATO force would eventually be replaced by Palestinian security forces that would be in charge of the security of the future Palestinian state.

The US Security Advisor, deployed to the region by current US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, is rumored to be US President-elect Barack Obama's pick for National Security Advisor. In that position, he could potentially help shape US policy toward the Middle East.

According to Israeli sources, Israel has demanded that any future Palestinian security force be completely disarmed, and under Israeli control.

Found on Angry Arab Newservice

Sunday, November 23, 2008

"Western Progressive Opinion: Bring on the Victims! Condemn the Fighters!"

Portion below; whole thing here:
Let us consider the issue in greater detail. PPIs [Prominent Progressive Intellectuals] justified their support for Obama on the basis of his campaign rhetoric in favor of peace and justice, even as he voted for Bush’s war budgets and foreign aid programs funding the murder of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, Afghanis, Palestinians, Colombians, Somalis and Pakistanis and the dispossessing and displacement of at least 10 million people from their towns, farms and homes. The very same PPI reject and refuse to apply the ‘lesser evil’ criteria in support of Hamas, the democratically elected Palestinian administration in the Gaza, which is in the forefront of the struggle against the brutal Israeli colonial occupation – because it is ‘violent’ (which means it ‘retaliates against almost daily Israeli armed assaults), seeks a ‘theocratic state’ (similar to the theologically defined ‘Jewish’ state of Israel), represses dissidents (in the form of occasional crackdowns on CIA-funded Fatah functionaries and militias). At best the PPIs take an interest only in the Palestinian victims of Israel’s genocidal embargo of food, water, fuel and medicine; it protests against overt racist assaults by Israel’s colonial Judeo-fascist settlers when they assault school girls on their way to school or elderly farmers in their orchards; they protest the arbitrary and deliberate delays at Israeli military checkpoints, which cause the deaths of acutely ill Palestinians, cancer victims, women in labor, men with heart attacks and people in need of kidney dialysis by preventing them from reaching medical facilities. In other words the PPI support the Palestinians as victims but condemn them as fighters who challenge their executioners. The PPI’s support for victims is a cost-free posture, providing credibility to the ‘progressive’ label; opposition to the fighters assures the establishment that the PPI’s criticism will not adversely affect the US empire-building and its Israeli allies.

The most outspoken, self-proclaimed progressive ‘libertarians’ and ‘democrats’ in the Western world claim to support national self-determination and oppose imperial conquests, yet they unfailingly reject the real-existing mass popular movements demanding self-determination and leading the struggle against imperial conquest and foreign occupation. Almost without exception they denounce national resistance movements for not fitting their preconceived notions of perfect justice, peaceful tolerance and secular, democratic principles, which their idea of a resistance movement should embody. Yet the PPI do not impose such criteria in advocating support for candidates in their own countries. Hezbollah is flatly rejected as too ‘clerical’ by the PPIs, but British progressives supported Tony Blair, the leader of the Labor Party and his role as bloody accomplice to Clinton, Bush, Sharon and a whole host of servile puppet regimes in Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia and elsewhere.

In terms of military aggression – and deaths, loss of limbs and homes – the ‘lesser evil’ Democrats and European Social Democrats and Center-Left politicians have a far worse record that the Taliban, Hezbollah, Hamas and Sadrist forces. More to the point, the living conditions and safety of the vast majority of the people in Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon and Somalia – by any standard – were vastly better under the independent if authoritarian rule of Saddam Hussain, the clerical Taliban in Afghanistan, the Islamic Councils in Somalia than under the US-EU military occupations and client regimes. Some of the PPIs avoid the real and difficult choices by pretending that there are ‘third choices’ just on the horizon in countries currently under imperial and colonial conquest and occupation: They reject the imperial armies and the anti-imperial resistance in the name of abstract progressive libertarian principles. The shameless cant and hypocrisy of their position is clear when the same issue is posed in terms of political choices within the imperial mother country. Here the PPIs have a thousand and one arguments to back one (Obama) of the two major imperial war party presidential candidates; here ‘realism’ and ‘lesser evil’ arguments come to the fore. And what ‘choices’ are made! The same libertarians and democrats who condemn the Taliban for its destruction of ancient religious monuments support Democratic candidates, like Obama, who propose to escalate the US military occupation in Afghanistan and intensify the killing fields in South Asia.
There are profound moral and political dilemmas in making political choices in a world in which destructive imperial wars are led by liberal electoral politicians and vigorously resisted by clerical and secular authoritarian movements and leaders. But the historical record of the past three hundred years is clear: Western parliamentarian imperialism and its contemporary legacy has destroyed and undermined far more lives and livelihoods in far more countries over a greater time span than even the worst of the post colonial regimes. Moreover, the colonial wars, pursued by ‘lesser evil’ electoral regimes and politicians, have had a profoundly destructive impact on the very ‘democratic values’ in the Western countries, which the PPIs profess to defend.

Robert Rubin's Citigroup: Too Big to Fail Too

For those who want to know how "Bob" Rubin (Obama adviser) got the bank to be "too big to fail," read this NYtimes article "Citigroup Saw No Red Flags":

For those who just want to know how OUR money will be spent on these criminal vampires, p
ortion below; whole thing here:

The plan for Citigroup was still under discussion on Sunday afternoon, and it was unclear exactly how the arrangement might work. One question is how Citigroup and the government would determine the level of losses that the bank itself must bear before the government steps in. Another is whether any additional government money for Citigroup, which has already received $25 billion under the initial rescue plan, would come from the $700 billion industry bailout that Congress approved in October or from other sources, like the Federal Reserve or the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.

Regulators were debating various terms of the arrangement on Sunday, including whether the government would receive preferred stock or warrants, which are instruments that give holders the right to buy stock. Preferred stock would be more beneficial to taxpayers because Citigroup would pay dividends on those shares; warrants would be more attractive to Citigroup’s existing shareholders, since they would not immediately dilute the value of their investments as much as preferred stock.

Once the nation’s largest and mightiest financial company, Citigroup lost half its value in the stock market last week as the bank confronted a crisis of confidence. Although Citigroup executives maintain the bank is sound, investors worry that its finances are deteriorating. Citigroup has suffered staggering losses for a year now, and few analysts think the pain is over. Many investors worry that the bank needs additional capital.

With more than $2 trillion in assets and operations in more than 100 countries, Citigroup is so large and interconnected that its troubles could spill over into other institutions. Indeed, Citigroup is widely viewed, both in Washington and on Wall Street, as too big to be allowed to fail.

Even so, federal regulators want to restore confidence in the company without being seen as bailing out its shareholders.

Citigroup executives reached out to Federal Reserve and Treasury last week as they sought to stabilize the company’s stock, which has plunged 87 percent this year.

Free Gaza: Interview w/Founders Greta Berlin & Mary Hughes-Thompson

Portion below; whole thing here:

Joe Fallisi : Among the people who founded Free Gaza as well among its organizers, there are many mostly mature women, and normal people. Can you tell me something about that? I think this is a new thing, something you can find, for instance, in Italy among the founders and organizers of the strong and new movements against the construction of the new military USA base in Vicenza. Common citizens, from common families; mothers and fathers - especially mothers - who finally, out of frustration, decided to take in their own hands their lives and destiny. And spontaneously adopting libertarian ways of self-organization.

Greta Berlin : Well, out of the first five organizers, four of us are definitely women, between 30 and 74 years. Certainly, the two of us who are older came out of the 60’s revolution in the US for women’s rights and African/American civil rights. That was true of the man as well.

We based this project on the simple premise that Palestinians don’t need humanitarian aid. They need their civil rights. They are perfectly capable of taking care of themselves if given the opportunity to exercise the rights granted to everyone in international law.

As the movement expanded, we were proud to have many people join, the youngest on board the first voyage was 22 and the oldest was 81. The 44 people who went on the first trip represented 17 countries. On the second trip, the 23 passengers on board represented 13 countries.

Mary Hughes-Thompson : I think - I hope - more people are recognizing the value of "seniorpower." Too many younger people see us as older, retired, past our prime, gray haired, a bit out of shape. They need to know we were all achievers in our own time and we have all of that to contribute. For the most part all of the younger people in the project had no problem with the fact I was old enough to be their grandmother. (And I’m hoping the one who said I was ancient was just kidding)

Joe Fallisi : How do you think your action will develop in the future? What are your next plans and steps to fight against the Gaza siege and, more in general, against the Zionist oppression, for the final freedom of Palestine?

Greta Berlin : We will continue going to Gaza as often as we can afford. We have talked about flying a small plane into the Gaza airport and even having a blimp hover into Gaza, making a statement that Israel still occupies the air space as well as the land and sea.

Mary Hughes-Thompson : We will do our best to keep the sea lanes open, and end the siege byair. We would like to see a trade route established so that goods as well as people can get in and out of Gaza. We will continue to join those who protest against Israel’s inhumane siege, and against the US for providing billions of dollars annually to finance it.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

As with Michigan, So Go We?

Portion below; whole thing here:

It is the same story in other parts of Michigan, as the state’s already entrenched recession — in at least its fifth year, according to economic experts — digs deeper as a result of the recent global financial crisis.

New data show the state’s unemployment rate crept up to 9.3 percent, almost three times what it was in 2000, and, along with Rhode Island, the highest in the country. Just last week, Herman Miller Inc., an office furniture company based in Zeeland, Mich., announced that it would eliminate or lay off 400 to 650 workers, many of them in western Michigan. SKD Automotive, an auto parts manufacturer in Jonesville, Mich., where it is the largest employer, indicated it would eliminate 300 jobs.

As a result of the steady job losses that began in the summer of 2000, 1.82 million Michigan residents, or close to 20 percent of the population, are now on some form of public assistance, including food stamps and home heating credits, a record for the state.

That Prius Has Blood on It

Cartoon by Khalil Bendib

End portion of article below; link to original here:

In 2007, the Wall Street Journal noted, “Toyota Motor sets the bar for labor costs in the U.S. auto industry.” Recognition of that influence was echoed that same years by Automotive News: “Toyota is going to set the pattern for the entire industry – wages, benefits and pensions.”

Toyota’s clout was driven by its increasing profitability and market share. In the first quarter of 2008, it passed General Motors to become the world’s largest auto company, selling 2.41 million vehicles compared to G.M.’s 2.25 million. In the U.S in the first six months of 2008, Toyota sold 300,000 more vehicles than G.M.

Toyota’s strategy has been simple: Build good cars; hold wages and benefits down, to the degree possible. And with U.S. car makers in a crisis of plummeting sales, plant closings and mass layoffs, holding down wages is becoming much more possible.

In the U.S., Toyota has set up non-union plants in the South – far from the unionized auto industry stronghold of the Midwest. Blunting support for unionization is Toyota’s practice of paying wages nearly on par with the U.S. auto companies (around $25 an hour in comparison with G.M.’s $26 to $28) – although with much lower benefits.

Meanwhile the Big Three’s falling sales and market share have forced the American companies to adopt, and their workers to accept, two-tier wage and temporary worker schemes eerily similar to those used for years by Toyota – just to compete. And the race to the bottom seems to be just warming up. In September 2008, an internal Toyota memo leaked from its Georgetown, Kentucky plant, laid out management’s plans to cut $300 million in labor costs in its U.S. operations.

In April 2008, the Wall Street Journal reported that Toyota plans to end its practice of pegging its hourly wages to UAW rates, and will now pay new hires only 50 percent above the local prevailing wage. In Kentucky, this would mean a savings of about 12 percent, or $3.00 per worker hour – which, of course, will put even more of a squeeze on the Big Three U.S. auto companies and their unionized workforce.

Barbara Briggs is assistant director of the National Labor Committee in Support of Worker and Human Rights. In June 2008, the New York-based NLC released a 60 page report, The Toyota You Don’t Know: The Race to the Bottom in the Auto Industry. The full report can be accessed via the NLC’s website:

Thursday, November 20, 2008


Massiyahu Prison, Lida, Israel (20 November, 2008) - Three Human Rights Observers (HRO) with the International Solidarity Movement will begin a hunger strike tomorrow in protest over their illegal detention by Israel. The three HROs, Darlene Wallach of the U.S., Vittorio Arrigoni of Italy, and Andrew Muncie of Scotland, were forcibly abducted by the Israeli Navy on Tuesday, while accompanying unarmed Palestinian fishermen off the coast of the Gaza Strip.

According to Wallach, "We were fishing about 7 miles off the shores of Gaza. The Israeli soldiers came on board the three boats via four Zodiacs. The frogmen came up and over each boat. They used a taser on Vik while he was still on the boat, then tried to push him backwards onto a sharp piece of wood. He jumped into the sea to avoid being hurt more than he already was and was in the water for quite a while. Then they came for me and forced me into the Zodiac at the point of a gun. They kidnapped me and Andrew and Vik and all of the Palestinian fishermen."

Israel abducted and later released 15 Palestinian fishermen during the incident, and confiscated their fishing boats. The HROs are refusing to be deported, and refusing to eat, until the boats are returned--undamaged--to their rightful owners in Gaza.

"We R on hunger strike and want 2 go before judge in court. No deportation til boats are returned 2 fishermen," was the text message sent out from jail by the HROs this afternoon.

At court today, HRO Andrew Muncie asked the judge under what law they had been arrested. According to the judge, their detention was authorized by the Oslo Accords "because it is forbidden by military law for you to fish 7 and a half miles off the coast. It is a no-fishing zone."

However, the Oslo accords grant Palestinians the right to fish 20 miles off their own coast. When Andrew's attorney handed a copy of that portion of the Oslo accords to the judge, she had no comment.

On August 23, 2008, Wallach, Muncie and Arrigoni were among 44 participants in the Free Gaza Movement who were aboard the first boats in forty-one years to enter Gaza by sea, breaking the Israeli blockade. They remained in Gaza to participate in human rights activities with the International Solidarity Movement. They have been living and working in Gaza since the summer, providing accompaniment to Palestinian farmers and fishermen, and documenting Israeli human rights abuses in the Gaza Strip.

The three will stop eating tomorrow morning until the confiscated fishing boats are "returned in the condition they were in when the frogmen boarded the boats, with any damage they made repaired."

For More Information, Please Contact:
Neta Golan (ISM Palestine) +972 (0)598 184 169 / +972 (0)22 971 824
Fida Qishta (ISM Gaza) +972 (0)599 681 1669
Donna Wallach (ISM Gaza) +972 (0)598 836 420
All three detained HROs are available for press interviews. Please contact the ISM for more information and for their phone numbers.

Disaster Warning as Gaza Still Cut Off

Portion below; whole thing here:

Several international relief agencies have warned of a full-scale humanitarian disaster should food and medicine continue being blocked from entering the strip. On Sunday, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency announced that it had to stop distributing food to the about 750,000 Palestinians who rely on it for their immediate needs.

On Monday, Israel allowed a limited shipment of food and medicine to reach the strip, but the army shut the border again after three rockets were fired across the border on Tuesday, and yesterday it was reported that Gaza’s biggest mill had closed because of a lack of wheat. Gazans are also suffering regular electricity blackouts as a result of the scarcity of fuel.

Foreign journalists, meanwhile, are protesting against a ban on international media entering the Gaza Strip, also in effect since Nov 4.

The Foreign Press Association, which represents journalists working for international media in the region, has slammed the decision by the Israeli government as a “serious violation” of press freedom.

In an open letter published on Tuesday, the FPA said the decision to bar journalists from Gaza was an “unprecedented restriction of press freedom” and said its protests to the Israeli government had gone unheeded.

“Never before have journalists been prevented from doing their work in this way. We believe it is vital that journalists be allowed to find out for themselves what is going on in Gaza. Israel controls access to Gaza. Israel must allow professional journalists access to this important story.”

In spite of repeated requests, the Israeli ministry of defence was not available for comment. Israeli officials had said no official decision has been made to stop journalists from reaching Gaza, but that preventing them from doing so in the past two weeks was consistent with army policy only to allow passage for essential humanitarian staff.

In Gaza, officials and human rights activists said Israel was trying to prevent foreign journalists from revealing the reality there.

“Israel doesn’t want journalists to report on the conditions in Gaza that have resulted from the Israeli siege,” said Eyad Sarraj, a psychiatrist with the Gaza Community Mental Health Project and a human-rights activist. “Israel doesn’t want journalists from all over the world to bear evidence to what they are doing here.”

Mr Sarraj also suggested that Israel was preparing a major military operation, a suspicion echoed by Ahmad Yousef, a senior Hamas official.

“Israel might be planning something. For this, they don’t want any journalists here to cover their brutality against Palestinians... Journalists are those that can open the eyes of the world by showing them what is really going on in Gaza.”

Monday, November 17, 2008

"Bankers Shake Down Congress and the G-20"

Below is a short clip from an article by economist Michael Hudson that should have us getting our pitchforks out. Whole article is here:

Mr. Paulson under George Bush in 2008 is looking like the U.S. counterpart to Anatoly Chubais under Boris Yeltsin in 1996. Just as Russian neoliberals led by Chubais were promoted by Clinton Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin of Goldman Sachs, today’s Wall Street power grab to replace the government as the economy’s central planner is being orchestrated by another Treasury Secretary from Goldman Sachs, empowered to decide which kleptocrats are to receive what public resources and on what terms, aided by “Helicopter” Ben Bernanke at the Federal Reserve. Mr. Bernanke’s famous quip about helicopters dropping money to get the economy moving seems to be limited to Wall Street for use in buying financial assets, not real goods and services for the population at large.

"Vigilante Man: Crime Without End, Amen" -- Chris Floyd

Thanks to Chris Floyd for the pick up of this info. Didn't see it ANYWHERE here.
Portion below; whole thing here:
The Iraq War? Illegal. Who says so? The former top law lord of America's main ally in the invasion and occupation. What does it mean? It means that the whole mass-murdering operation was, has been, and remains a damnable crime against humanity by any and all legal standards, even those of the invading countries themselves. (To say nothing of the moral abomination involved).

And from this, what follows? Nothing. No prosecutions. No justice for the victims, no punishment for the murder bosses -- some of whom are already slithering across the bloodsoaked corridors of the imperial courts to join the circles of power again. The rest are leisurely packing their bags for a cozy, coddled, easy retirement -- while their corporate cronies continue to feast on the blood money of the soon-to-be-augmented war machine.

But who cares about all that! Wonder what kind of puppy the Obamas are gonna get? Wonder what they're gonna name it? And do ya think Obama really will get the NCAA to bring in a football playoff? Glorioski, ain't it a grand time to be alive?

From the Guardian:

One of Britain's most authoritative judicial figures last night delivered a blistering attack on the invasion of Iraq, describing it as a serious violation of international law, and accusing Britain and the US of acting like a "world vigilante". Lord Bingham, in his first major speech since retiring as the senior law lord, rejected the then attorney general's defence of the 2003 invasion as fundamentally flawed.

Contradicting head-on Lord Goldsmith's advice that the invasion was lawful, Bingham stated: "It was not plain that Iraq had failed to comply in a manner justifying resort to force and there were no strong factual grounds or hard evidence to show that it had." Adding his weight to the body of international legal opinion opposed to the invasion, Bingham said that to argue, as the British government had done, that Britain and the US could unilaterally decide that Iraq had broken UN resolutions "passes belief".

Governments were bound by international law as much as by their domestic laws, he said. "The current ministerial code," he added "binding on British ministers, requires them as an overarching duty to 'comply with the law, including international law and treaty obligations'."

"Feeding People Is Easy" -- Calvin Tudge, Biologist and Writer

Portion below; whole thing here:

But the food chain we have now is not designed to feed people. In line with the modern cure-all—the allegedly free global market—it is designed to produce the maximum amount of cash in the shortest time. Stated thus, our approach to our most important material endeavour seems unbelievably crass—but that is how things are nonetheless. The global free market might be good for some things (perhaps we get better computers and warships that way) but for farming, and hence for humanity as a whole, it is disastrous. The simplistic business rules that may (or may not) apply to other enterprises are fatal to Enlightened Agriculture and so, since we depend on agriculture absolutely, they are proving fatal for us.

When cash rules, sound biology goes to the wall and common sense and humanity are for wimps. The goal must be to maximize whatever is most expensive—which means livestock. So now we feed well over half the staples that could be feeding us, to cattle, pigs, and poultry. So instead of helping us to feed ourselves, our animals compete with us. By 2050, on present trends, the world’s livestock will consume enough to feed four billion people—equal to the total population of the early 1970s, when the United Nations held its first international conference to discuss the world’s food crisis. That livestock will mostly be consumed by people already weighed down with too much saturated fat—for the moment mostly in the west, but increasingly in India and China. The poor will remain poor. So will most farmers. The traders and their shareholders will grow rich. For this, forests are felled and the last of the world’s fresh water is squandered—for example on the soya of Brazil, grown to feed the cattle of Europe and now their biggest agricultural earner.

Cash-based farming is not mixed, because that is complicated and labour must be cut and cut again to save costs. So we have cereals from horizon to horizon, cocooned in pesticide, while piggeries in the United States (and soon in Europe, with American backing and European taxpayers’ cash) sometimes harbour a million beasts apiece—unbelievably foul and each producing in passing as much ordure as Manchester. Such farming is dangerous. To save money, corners must be cut. Britain’s epidemics of foot and mouth disease and BSE were not acts of God. They were brought about by cut-price husbandry. The same government that lectures us on health and safety came close, with BSE, to killing us all off.

Worst of all, though—at least in the immediate term—cut-price monocultural farming puts people out of work. That is what it is designed to do. Countries with the fewest farmers are deemed to be the most “advanced”. Britain and the US are the world’s brand leaders, with about one per cent of their workforce full time on the land. Both eke out their rural workforce with immigrant labour of conveniently dubious legal status who can be seriously underpaid—but we don’t talk about that, and in any case that’s the market, and the market must rule. In the US, there are more people in jail than fulltime on the land. In both countries, prisons are a major growth industry.

In the Third World, 60 per cent of people live on the land. If poor countries industrialize their farming as Britain and the US have done, and as they are increasingly pressured to do, then this would put two billion out of work. Unemployment is the royal road to destitution: what a dreadful joke the “war on poverty” really is. Alternative industries are promised, but there are none on the horizon and cannot be—for no “alternative” can employ the numbers that farming does. There aren’t enough resources for all the world to be as industrial as Britain is. Now, one billion people are living in urban slums. There seems to be a vague feeling in high places that this is a temporary state of affairs—but in truth, slums too are a growth industry, or would be if their inhabitants could pay taxes.

In reality, then, our food problems are of two kinds. The first is to grow food well, get it to people, and then cook it properly. That should be fairly straightforward. Far, far harder is to circumvent the corporates and their attendant governments. New Labour has applied the same general strategy to food as to all things: to sell off the assets to the highest bidders and to hand the reins and profits to the corporates, which in this case means Tesco, Monsanto, and the makers of agrochemicals. The aim is not to grow good food, but to maximize cash. That, in all ways, is immensely destructive. In short, the greatest threat to humanity comes from our own leaders. Now that really is a problem.

Solution cannot be found through patient reform—for the powers-that-be cannot change to the extent that is needed without sawing off the branch they sit on. Direct confrontation—all out revolution—is pointless because the world’s leading governments grant themselves new powers with each passing week.

But there is a third option: Renaissance. People who actually give a damn must just start doing the things that obviously need doing, and ignore the powers-that-be: let Tesco and the rest whither on the vine. Gandhi would surely have approved. In my new book I float the idea of “The Worldwide Food Club”: a cooperative of farmers and preparers (cooks, brewers, bakers, charcutiers) on the one hand, who want above all to provide good food by the best possible means; and of consumers on the other, who are happy to pay a proper price for food properly produced. To be sure, the movement must begin with the relatively affluent. But cheap food is not really cheap and in any case we should ask why countries like Britain and the US which claim to have such successful economies should have so many poor people. Certainly the answer to poverty does not lie with an economy that is designed to make the rich richer.

The Club must work because it is what most people want—or if not most, then at least a critical mass. Only a monster could be satisfied with the world as it is. Only the most hopeless optimist could suppose that with present strategies, things can get better. Most of what is needed is already out there—The Soil Association and the growing ranks of organic farmers, and other farmers dedicated to “kind” food; excellent bakers and cooks who know exactly what is needed, and care; fair trade movements; the Slow Food Movement, which emphasises the unbreakable link between sound farming and great cooking; that minority of scientists and technologists who are not employed simply to strengthen the corporate hand but ARE truly TUNED to the needs of humanity. It is just a question of bringing it all together into one coherent cause. That cause, in one phrase, I suggest is “Enlightened Agriculture”—and that, the bit that really counts, really should be easy.

Gaza's Nervous Wait for Aid - 11/13/08

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Troops home...Eventually?! by Cindy Sheehan

Original link:
George Bush is the most hated president in American history. Number Two, Harry S. Truman, left office with a 64% disapproval rating and George Bush's is now a very dismal, yet richly deserved 76%. I can't remember a time when Americans have been so united in anything since we were actually a compassionate country after the tragedy on 9-11.

Barack Obama and the Democrats rode this wave of hatred for nearly all things Republican on November 4th. The reason for the Democratic victories could not have been because the Democrats give a viable alternative to the Republicans, because most of the time, they do not. In the contest for the highest office in the land, the Republicans threw a bone to their old and decrepit dog, McCain and offered us an even weaker (but younger) choice for his running mate. The deck was stacked for Obama and this was a year that practically anyone could have beaten McCain/Palin (in fact, polls showed that Hillary would have beaten McCain even worse).

I confess, I have become cynical about the political process since I witnessed little (if any) progress towards peace and economic justice after the Democrats regained some power in 2006. I have little hope that Emperor-Elect Obama will voluntarily give up any imperial power or reduce the size of the US Empire as he has already promised to increase US presence in Afghanistan and Super-Duper-Size our military to levels never seen before and can only be used for spreading corporate-imperialism. I hope I am wrong but I am not going to drink the blue flavored Kool-Aid anymore than I would drink the Red flavored Kool-Aid and give Obama a free pass because he chooses to put a (D) behind his name instead of the dreaded (R).

I am willing to give an Obama regime the chance to prove me wrong but I do not think that the movements that put him in power should relax. Obama has proven to be resistant to constituent pressure as he voted to give telecom companies and BushCo immunity from prosecution for smashing the 4th Amendment to bits and pieces as he voted to and pressured other people to vote for the bankster bailouts which has proven to be disastrous. How can anyone who has been alive the last 8 years, but especially a Constitutional attorney/professor vote to give billions (really trillions) of dollars to a corrupt administration that has proven to be criminally inept and callous in every way?

In my refusal to be coma-tized by Obama, whom I have met several times and think he is very smart and very likable (like some people think about George), I have been confronted by friends and strangers alike who do not want facts pointed out to them, just like Republican war hawks and troop "supporters" do not want the facts that Dick and George dodged Vietnam and reduced Veteran's benefits pointed out to them.

Recently, I was on a cable access show here in San Francisco and I was talking about the FISA abomination and pointed out the "pesky" fact that Obama voted for it and a very nice woman who had already voted for me in early voting called and said: "I don't believe that Obama would vote to take away our rights!" I told her that it was a fact that I did not pull out of thin air and she said: "Then he must have had a good reason." Where have our critical thinking skills gone? It is human nature to be partisan for your political party, but to give up your brains and your rights to either party is just plain wrong.

After election day, I received an email from a person who said that he "liked" me and would have voted for me, if I didn't lie about Obama and his funding. He said: "the reason that he has so much money is that WE GAVE IT TO HIM!" I haven't heard from him since I sent him this link that shows how much corporate money Obama also took.

The most gut wrenching emails I have received are from friends who have literally been in the ditches with me saying things like: "Obama has to send more troops to Afghanistan to catch Osama bin Laden, that's a no brainer." Well, I guess I have no brains, because in the first place, has it been established that bin Laden is even in Afghanistan and secondly, do we need two combat brigades in Afghanistan to catch one very tall man with failing kidneys? Afghanistan is now our second longest military misadventure and was the downfall of the USSR's empire. Iraq, Afghanistan and our warfare state may be the downfall of ours if Obama continues the Bush trajectory and his war OF terror. Do not get me wrong, I believe our empire should crumble, but if we do it voluntarily, we may retain some dignity. Additonally, when the empire crumbles, it will crumble on We the People and the ones who have been making immoral profits are already scampering away to places like Dubai (Halliburton after it has soaked US taxpayers for over 20 billion) to preserve their ill-gotten gains.

I was at the No on 8 Protest at City Hall yesterday when a participant and I got into a discussion about civil rights. He said that we reclaimed them on November 4th when Obama (who does not support same gender marriage) was elected. I said, "How so, Obama voted to reauthorize the USA PATRIOT ACT." The young man brilliantly retorted with: "No, he didn't." I replied with: "He most certainly did and what did you think of him voting for the FISA Modernization Act?" At which point, the man turned around and walked away. That's the rabid Republican way and the new rabid Obama-ite way. If a fact doesn't conform to your worldview, then walk away from it and the un-truth fairy will hopefully scrub it from your mind with a wave of her magic wand.

Obama's statements on Iraq are exactly the same as Bush's. He will bring the troops home in a responsible manner when the Generals on the ground tell him it is safe to do so. However, the Iraqi Cabinet has now agreed to the Status of Force Agreement (SOFA) that keeps US troops in Iraq until 2011. I do not think the Parliament or the people of Iraq will agree to this SOFA, as one Bagdad resident put it: "We don't want an agreement with America. We don't want an agreement with Israel... We fully and totally reject this security pact." The Iraqi people will not lie down and accept this as US citizens have. It is unconscionable to think that our forces will be under Iraqi authority, but to also think that we will be infecting that unfortunate nation for another three years after we never should have gone in there in the first place.

The anti-war movement must stick to its "Troops home immediately" mantra and not be lulled into complacency by slick marketing and empty rhetoric. We never accepted the "Troops home eventually" crap and we must not accept it now.

Red, Blue, Green or Purple, we should not allow ourselves to be rocked back to sleep and re-abdicate our responsibilities to our Republic or to humanity. We are going to go through some very rocky economic times before we come out the other end.

Are we going to come out the other end as victims or victors?
Authors Bio: Cindy Sheehan is the mother of Spc. Casey Austin Sheehan, who was KIA in Iraq on 04/04/04. She is a co-founder and President of Gold Star Families for Peace and the author of two books: Not One More Mother's Child and Dear President Bush.