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Sun

31

Oct

2010

Protest met with rubber bullets - Israeli police shoot ‘hated’ Arab legislator in back
by Jonathon Cook in Nazareth
 
Israeli police injured two Arab legislators on Wedensay in violent clashes provoked by Jewish rightwing extremists staging a march through the northern Arab town of Umm al-Fahm.
 
Haneen Zoubi, a parliament member who has become a national hate figure in Israel and received hundreds of death threats since her participation in an aid flotilla to Gaza in the summer, was among those hurt.
 
Ms Zoubi reported being hit in the back and neck by rubber bullets as she fled the area when police opened fire. In an interview, she said she believed she had been specifically targeted by police snipers after they identified her.
 
Police denied her claims, saying they had used only tear gas and stun grenades.
 
Some 1,500 police were reported to have faced off with hundreds of Arab and Jewish demonstrators in the town.
 
Shimon Koren, the northern police commander, admitted special paramilitary forces had been used against the Arab counter-demonstration, as well as an undercover unit more usually deployed at Palestinian protests in the West Bank.
 
An officer disguised as an Arab demonstrator, from the so-called “mistarvim unit”, was among the injured, apparently after police fired a stun grenade at him by mistake.
 
Ms Zoubi harshly criticised the police violence. “The police proved that they are a far more dangerous threat to me and other Arab citizens than the fascist group that came to Umm al-Fahm,” she said.
 
The march was organised by far-right settlers allied to Kach, a movement that demands the expulsion of Palestinians from both Israel and the occupied territories. The movement was formally outlawed in 1994, but has continued to flourish openly among some settler groups.
 
The organisers said they were demanding the banning of the Islamic Movement, which has its headquarters in Umm al-Fahm.
 

Sun

31

Oct

2010

Tomgram: Ann Jones, The Vote We're Fighting For
by Tom Engelhardt

The other day, on the front page of my hometown newspaper was a shocking tale of Iranian perfidy in Afghanistan headlined “Iran Is Said to Give Top Karzai Aide Cash by the Bagful.”  The mounds of euros reportedly being passed to Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s chief of staff Umar Daudzai were a familiar form of influence peddling -- intended, as the New York Times piece put it, “to buy the loyalty of Mr. Daudzai and promote Iran’s interests in the presidential palace, according to Afghan and Western officials here. Iran uses its influence to help drive a wedge between the Afghans and their American and NATO benefactors, they say.”

The Times even had a vivid account of a “large plastic bag bulging with packets of euro bills” being passed to Daudzai on a plane departing Iran.  Strange, though, how few seem to remember the way American “benefactors” launched this latest disatrous chapter in Afghanistan's three-decade-old catastrophe by proudly delivering their own bag-equivalents stuffed with cash.  Back in 2001, with planning for a U.S. invasion ramping up, CIA agents reportedly appeared in Taliban-free northern Afghanistan with devastatingly convincing arguments for supporting Washington: metal “suitcases” -- okay, when it comes to bribery, call us a little classier than our rivals -- stuffed with millions of dollars in non-sequentially numbered hundred-dollar bills.  Back then, it was called “preparing the ground” for invasion and, at the time, was considered not perfidious corruption but brilliant spycraft.  Of course, in one form or another, as Karzai -- who, as Juan Cole recently commented, “appears not to understand the word ‘corruption’” -- noted in a news conference this week, American money has never stopped flowing in staggering amounts. 

Or what about this for bribery, even if here it's called “a classic carrot-and-stick approach”? The Obama administration recently offered the Pakistani military another $2 billion in weaponry, equipment, and training.  However, the size, scope, and perhaps even existence of the aid package will reportedly be dependent on that military's launching an operation Washington desperately wants against Taliban-allied forces in North Waziristan.  In a less-noted story, the Wall Street Journal reports that the administration has been pushing Pakistan’s government hard to let many more CIA agents into the country.  If that request is finally granted, who knows what they might be bringing in their suitcases.  After all, the CIA has quite an Iranian-style history of successfully bribing politicians, including in Italy and Japan after World War II.  Of course, there the suitcases of cash went to “our” politicians and for perfectly righteous reasons.

Meanwhile at home, in a midterm election season not exactly lighting up the skies with democratic possibilities, cash is raining down, and unnamed corporate entities are seizing the democratic day.  What in our media is called “fundraising” -- if the Iranians were doing it, we’d have another name for it -- is heading for the $2 billion mark for House and Senate races (or, on average, about $4 million for every congressional seat up for grabs in 2010), and that doesn’t even include the approximately $400 million being raised by what our media usually politely term “outside interest groups.”

As Ann Jones, TomDispatch regular and author of a remarkable new book, War Is Not Over When It’s Over: Women Speak Out from the Ruins of War (on which more in a future post) suggests, perhaps it's time to be a little less surprised when the “democracy” we installed in Afghanistan turns out to be a democracy of cash-filled bags and suitcases.  Tom

Big Men, Big Money, Big Voting Scam
The American Midterm Election -- in Afghanistan 
By Ann Jones

Afghanistan still awaits final results from the nationwide election held last month to fill the 249 seats of the lower house of parliament. Deciding which of the more than 2,500 candidates won takes time because the Electoral Complaints Commission that investigates voting irregularities, made up of five men handpicked by Afghan President Hamid Karzai, was swamped by more than 4,200 complaints.

Last year, when Karzai himself ran for reelection, he busied himself with backroom deals, while his supporters were caught red-handed stuffing ballot boxes and having a good laugh.  Every Afghan knew that the president who had been foisted on them by foreigners in 2001 was stealing the election.  Yet the international community, led by the United States, proclaimed the process if not exactly “free and fair,” at least “credible” -- which is to say: Hey, what’s a little fraud among friends?

 

Sun

31

Oct

2010

The Chosen Peoples - America, Israel, and the Ordeals of Divine Election - Book Review by Jim Miles
by Jim Miles

The Chosen Peoples - America, Israel, and the Ordeals of Divine Election. Todd Gitlin and Liel Leibowtiz. Simon & Schuster. 2010.

A work on studying chosen peoples needs to be approached with some kind of trepidation when one knows that they themselves are not chosen. If for nothing else, it is impossible to rationally argue against faith in biblical ‘chosenness.’ However, if one accepts the underlying premise that other people believe in their being chosen then the idea of chosenness can be worked with. This appears to be what the authors of this new book “The Chosen Peoples” attempt to examine.

In an historical sense, looking at the way the idea of being chosen affected the decisions and events around the people claiming to be chosen, the authors did a reasonable job. It is much more of an historical overview than a psychological examination of the ramifications that assuming and advocating “divine election” would create. The material covered does provide a slim overview of historical events.

In the Jewish case the mythological biblical events concern the original ‘nation’ of Israel - nation being a term that has several meanings according to its context - and how it develops through the diaspora and on into Zionism and the current problems of Israel/Palestine. In the case of the United States, the historical review starts with the first colonial settlers and their attitudes and actions in relation with the indigenous populations, and then carries forward through several presidencies to the current support of the state of Israel by the U.S. government.

Within these presentation the obvious questions should rise, that “If you are the chosen people, are you acting in a manner in which that divine election was intended? And if not, is there the possibility that the election could be nullified?” The authors put it this way, sort of a half question, “that its [Israel’s] values rested on the people’s commitment to God’s commandments, that the land was theirs only so they might strive to become just?” This is followed by another half question reminding the readers that “Israel’s first two historical sojourns in Zionism ended in exile, with the Lord displeased with His people’s transgressions, their greed and idolatry?”
 

Sun

31

Oct

2010

American Democracy: Pro-Israel Tweedledum and Tweedledee
by Maidhc Ó Cathail in Japan

Helen Keller’s pithy observation about American democracy being little more than a choice “between Tweedledum and Tweedledee” was never more true than in the upcoming midterm elections in the ninth congressional district of Illinois.

In a district which includes the affluent northern suburbs of Chicago along the shore of Lake Michigan, the central issue is not the two wars—or is it now three?—the country is fighting, nor is it the tanking economy, in great part caused by those debt-inducing wars. No, the burning issue here is… who cares more about Israel?
 

Sun

31

Oct

2010

Dr. Mahboob A. Khawaja: How the United States and Britain Lost the Bogus Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan
by Mahboob A. Khawaja Ph.D.
 
Wars are planned, financed and fought by governments, not by groups or ordinary people. Wars are based on political agendas bent on complete control over resources, people and territory. Most wars have multiple reasons, domestic, foreign and global outreach. The U.S.-led wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are fought to maintain US domination worldwide, to occupy the untapped natural resources of the Middle East, in particular oil and gas, and to protect the value of U.S. dollar as a stable international reserve currency. In September 2000, the proactive policy paper written by the neoconservative intellectuals to envision the "Project for the New American Century" (PNAC), sets the milestone, seeking U.S. domination over the rest of the world powers. Its objectives: meeting U.S. energy demands through occupation by force of all the oil and gas resources in the Arab Middle East. The blueprint supports military occupation of the oil-exporting Arab countries and regime change wherever necessary - to fulfill the PNAC policy aims of global domination. Centuries ago, German historian Carl Von Clausewitz wrote On War: “War is not merely a political act but also a real political instrument, a continuation of political commerce, a carrying out of the same by other means.”
 
The wars are declared by the few and not the majority masses. The small ruling elite who plans and wages war is often afraid of citizenry reaction and refusal to accept the rationality of a war. Throughout history, European nationalism institutionalized the doctrine of war as a necessary means to promote national interest and racial superiority over "the other". Most proponents of wars have used “fear” as one of the major instruments of propaganda and manipulation to perpetuate allegiance from the ordinary folks to the elite warmongers in a crisis situation. Sheldon Richman (“War is Government Program” ICS, 05/2007), notes that “war is more dangerous than other government programs and not just for the obvious reason – mass murder….war is useful in keeping the population in a state of fear and therefore trustful of their rulers.”
 
Ordinary citizens do not have passion for war as it disturbs their safety and security, and destroys the living habitats. The ruling elite, the actual warmongers, force people to think in extreme terms of hatred and rejection of others so that people would be forced to align with the rulers to support and finance the war efforts. Sheldon Richman describes how Herman Goering, Hitler’s second in command, understood the discourse of war-making:

“Of course the people don’t want war….but after all, it’s the leaders of the country who determine the policy, and it’s always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether, it’s a democracy or a fascist dictatorship or a parliament or a Communist dictatorship.” (Sheldon Richman, “War is Government Program”)

Paul Craig Roberts (“The Collapse of America Power”: ICS, 03/2008), attempts to explain how the British Empire had collapsed once its financial assets were depleted because of the 2nd World War debts. Correlli Barnett (The Collapse of British Power, 1972) states that at the beginning of WWII, Britain had limited gold and foreign exchange funds to meet the pressing demands of the war. The British Government asked the U.S. to help finance their ability to sustain the war. Thus, ‘this dependency signaled the end of British power.’ For its draconian wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the United States is heavily dependent on China, Japan and Saudi Arabia. It is well known that the U.S. treasury owes trillions of dollars to its foreign debtors and therefore, its financial dependency is increasingly becoming an obvious indicator of the end of U.S. global hegemony and its wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Now that the US financial system has broken down and some of the leading banking institutions have gone into bankruptcy, the roller coaster repercussions can be seen across the U.S. economic, social and political spectrum of life. Under the Bush administration, U.S. capability and vitality has shrunk and in fact the country appears to be dismantled as a superpower in global affairs. It is no wonder that other nations of world no longer seem to take the U.S. and its traditional influence, seriously.
 

Sun

31

Oct

2010

“Bad puppets” surging as U.S. values decay U.S. Drifting Towards Repression as its Afghan Strategy
by Matthew Nasuti

Ethical U.S. officials in Afghanistan are losing their behind-the-scenes battles for the soul of Afghanistan. Those Americans who support a free and honest central government are being marginalized by those who support a return to power of the feudal warlords. The allure of the corrupt warlords is based on the fantasy that repression will provide a sufficient amount of temporary security so as to permit the United States to abandon Afghanistan with honor. As with the Shah of Iran in 1979, repression is usually the last gasp of an inept government that is unwilling to reform and adapt.

This story begins with a dispatch filed by Ben Sheppard of AFP on February 20, 2010. He interviewed U.S. Commander Russell McCormick of NATO’s Provincial Reconstruction Team in Nuristan Province, Afghanistan. McCormick defended the American decision to support former terrorist Mullah Sadiq (previously a member of Hisb-I-Islami) and his militia in Kamdesh district. Sadiq has a history of attacks against civilians and Coalition forces. The fear is, according to Ben Sheppard, that Sadiq may be simply using the Americans to eliminate his terrorist rivals. Commander McCormick, seemingly oblivious to the concept of warlord treachery, bizarrely describes Sadiq as:

“influential, intelligent, and he uses diplomacy and true Islam - rather than the barbaric form that the Taliban professes.”

Apparently the Pentagon’s test for “True Islam” is as follows:

If you are corrupt and kill civilians, but profess loyalty to the United States you are a “good Muslim.”

This is the same test the CIA used in the 1980’s when it backed warlords such as Gulbuddin Hekmatyr and it is the same test being used today by the CIA to fund warlords in other countries such as Somalia. This is all reminiscent of the American prisons in Iraq under Major General Douglas Stone where prisoners were reportedly taught a “moderate hadith” which included a course entitled “good Muslim, good citizen.” [see Slate.com article by Andrew K. Woods]

A second disturbing report was filed on August 29, 2010, from Kandahar by Dion Nissenbaum of McClatchy Newspapers. He interviewed Chris Harich, the U.S. Department of State’s representative in the Arghandab District of Kandahar. Harich told Nissenbaum that in the recent elections in Arghandab for District Governor, the United States was initially disappointed with the results because Haj Shan Mohammed Ahmadi was not the U.S. Embassy’s first choice. Harich’s off-handed comment should have been followed up on because the U.S. Embassy is not supposed to be supporting candidates and interfering in local Afghan elections.

Harich was then asked to evaluate the new District Governor. He responded that Mr. Ahmadi is “an outspoken and reliable U.S. ally.” The criterion for good government officials in Afghanistan seems to be that they profess loyalty to the United States. The criteria instead should be that he or she be honest, fair and competent. By all accounts, Mr. Ahmadi has performed in a lackluster manner as Governor, but he retains U.S. Embassy support because he remains a loyal puppet.
 

Sun

31

Oct

2010

Mickey Z: When Criminals Vote…
by Mickey Z

Election Day is mental illness in plain view—unabashed, unfettered lunacy not even trying to masquerade as sanity. If we woke up, it would take perhaps 3-5 seconds to recognize this: Obama is a heinous criminal. His Republican rivals (sic) are heinous criminals.
 
Then again, the same can be said for the volunteer soldiers and all those who give the orders; the law enforcement types and all those who give the orders; the judges; the professional liars who stock the media ranks; and, of course, the humans that comprise the power structure of Corporate America.
 
Since we habitually choose denial instead of rebellion, our willingness to play along at home by, for example, analyzing the subtle nuances that differentiate Obama from his Tea Party haters makes us heinous criminals, too. When things are as bad as they are now, there's more than enough guilt to go around.
 
Just about everything aspect of the US and global culture (e.g. raping the environment, the propaganda machine, avaricious materialism, insatiable military conquest, sexism, homophobia, racism, patriarchy, etc.) adds up to death and destruction. Yet we—the species with the allegedly superior cognitive skills—opt to spend our time getting worked up over which wing of the corporate party gets more votes on the first Tuesday in November.
 

Sun

31

Oct

2010

Dr. Tom Termotto: Strangelets, Black Holes and the GOD Particle
by Tom Termotto

The Large Hadron Collider (LHC), the world’s largest and highest-energy particle accelerator that straddles the border of France and Switzerland, is quite busy lately playing with the most basic ingredients of the universe. Much of humanity is completely oblivious to what is taking place there, even though the elemental forces of creation are being manipulated as never before. Perhaps it’s time to take a closer look at some of the more profound questions surrounding this type of scientific research. For the uninitiated, a more thorough description of the LHC with many informative links has been provided below.


Click on the picture to enlarge.

The LHC lies in a tunnel 27 kilometres (17 mi) in circumference, as much as 175 metres (574 ft) beneath the Franco-Swiss border near Geneva, Switzerland. This synchrotron is designed to collide opposing particle beams of either protons at an energy of 7 teraelectronvolts (1.12 microjoules) per particle, of lead nuclei at an energy of 574 TeV (92.0 µJ) per nucleus.[1][2] The term hadron refers to particles composed of quarks.

The Large Hadron Collider was built by the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) with the intention of testing various predictions of high-energy physics, including the existence of the hypothesized Higgs boson[3] and of the large family of new particles predicted by supersymmetry.[4] It is funded by and built in collaboration with over 10,000 scientists and engineers from over 100 countries as well as hundreds of universities and laboratories.[5]

On 10 September 2008, the proton beams were successfully circulated in the main ring of the LHC for the first time,[6] but 9 days later operations were halted due to a serious fault.[7] On 20 November 2009 they were successfully circulated again,[8] with the first proton–proton collisions being recorded 3 days later at the injection energy of 450 GeV per beam.[9] After the 2009 winter shutdown, the LHC was restarted and the beam was ramped up to 3.5 TeV per beam,[10] half its designed energy.[11]. On 30 March 2010, the first planned collisions took place between two 3.5 TeV beams, which set a new world record for the highest-energy man-made particle collisions.[12] ” (Per Wikipedia)
 

Sun

31

Oct

2010

New Book Suggests Torture of Prisoners Widespread
by Sherwood Ross
 
Although U.S. officials have attributed the torture of Muslim prisoners in their custody to a handful of maverick guards, in fact such criminal acts were widely perpetrated and systemic, likely involving large numbers of military personnel, a book by a survivor suggests. Additionally, guards were responsible for countless acts of murder, including death by crucifixion, lynching, poisoning, snakebite, withholding of medicines, starvation, and bludgeoning of innocent victims. And the murders committed by U.S. troops numbered at least in the hundreds, according to reliable sources.

As well, Pentagon architects designed prisons that were sadistic torture chambers in themselves, barely six feet high and seven feet wide, in which human beings were kept for months or years at a time---spaces which, one prisoner noted, are smaller than the legal requirements in Germany for doghouses. Architects who knowingly designed these hellholes may have also committed crimes against humanity.

After the photographs of sadism at Iraq’s Abu Ghraib in May, 2004, shocked the world,  President Bush called the revelations “a stain on our country’s honor and our country’s reputation.” He told visiting King Abdullah of Jordan in the Oval Office that “I was sorry for the humiliation suffered by the Iraqi prisoners, and the humiliation suffered by their families.” Bush told The Washington Post, “I told him (Abdullah) I was equally sorry that people who have been seeing those pictures didn’t understand the true nature and heart of America.” A year later, Lynddie England and 10 others from the 372nd Military Police Company were convicted of torture at Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad, Iraq, yet the events of that prison were likely duplicated everywhere across the spectrum of Pentagon and CIA detention camps acting on orders from the Bush White House.

Although President Bush made the Abu Ghraib revelations sound like nothing worse than “humiliation” in fact, the Abu Ghraib photos gave the world a glimpse into far greater crimes of every sordid type---and reports compiled from other sources indicated that to be captured by the Americans was a veritable descent into hell.
 

Wed

27

Oct

2010

Rebuilding Local Economies
by Anna White

The grassroots movement for economic localisation represents a positive and practical response to the challenges of food insecurity, climate change, peak oil and financial instability. Governments should support this alternative vision for sustainable, human-scale development, writes Anna White. A version of this article appeared in the Commonwealth Finance Ministers Meeting Reference Report 2010. To view the original PDF version, click here.

From the burgeoning popularity of farmers’ markets and co-operatives to the revitalisation of community banking, people are organising to reclaim the economy from large profit-driven corporations and ‘too big to fail’ financial institutions. The small-scale and diversity of these local initiatives masks the immense potential they hold for addressing fundamental flaws in the current model of economic development. Rather than treat the swing towards the local as a fad or misplaced radicalism, the policy community should work to support this alternative vision for sustainable, human-scale development.

Why localise?

The concept of discriminating in favour of local economies is by no means new. One of the most well known advocates of protecting the local is none other than John Maynard Keynes, as emphasised in his famous essay of 1933, On National Self-Sufficiency: “I sympathise with those who would minimise, rather than those who would maximise economic entanglements among nations. Ideas, knowledge, science, hospitality, travel – these are things that of their nature should be international. But let goods be homespun wherever it is reasonable and conveniently possible, and above all, let finance be primarily national.”

Of course, the world has changed in ways that Keynes could not have anticipated. For contemporary advocates of what is often referred to as ‘localisation’, the issues extend far beyond the protection of local jobs and industry. To dismiss supporters of small-scale, community-oriented economic development as protectionists – as many do – is to misconstrue both the motivation and the methods of those involved. The growing emphasis on greater self-reliance should instead be considered in light of a number of unresolved crises that are the unintended consequences of a globalised economic framework: food insecurity, climate change, peak oil and financial instability.

Hunger in the global food system

Global food production has increased significantly over recent decades, yet so too has the number of people suffering from chronic hunger. Recently revised figures reveal that victims of global hunger remain at an unacceptable high of 925 million (UN Food and Agriculture Organization, 2010). Lack of available food supply is not the fundamental problem, as current production levels are more than sufficient to meet global needs. The structural causes of food insecurity are rooted in an over-dependence on volatile international markets in basic food commodities, both in developing and developed countries.

Market volatility – largely a result of speculative activity – not only results in price hikes for the poorest households who spend up to 90 per cent of their income on food, but it can also push prices down for farmers whose livelihoods depend on export crops. The media and many NGOs have also paid much attention to increasing malnutrition in agricultural areas where cash crops, including biofuel crops, have replaced local food production.

The conclusions of the International Assessment of Agricultural Science and Technology for Development, undertaken by 400 scientists under the auspices of the UN and the World Bank, clearly state that the focus on export crops has left many small-scale producers (the majority of the rural poor) vulnerable to volatile international market conditions and international competition, often from subsidised producers in the North.
 

Sat

23

Oct

2010

Children of Catastrophe: Journey from a Palestinian Refugee Camp to America
CHILDREN OF CATASTROPHE
by Elias Harb
A great deal has been written over the years addressing the Palestine–Israel conflict, and the creation of the Palestinian refugee problem. However, few works on the subject really present the personal aspect: What is it like to be a refugee? What propels a decent human being to take up arms, to become a freedom fighter or a “terrorist?”
This book tells the remarkable story of one such refugee, following his journey from childhood in the Nahr El Bared Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon, becoming a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), through to eventual emigration, a new life as an engineer in the United States, and a ‘return’ trip to historic Palestine.
Jamal Kanj joined me in an exclusive interview to discuss his book Children of Catastrophe: 

ELIAS HARB: In your book you convey the personal aspect of the life of the refugees. Can you tell us what inspired you to write Children of Catastrophe?
JAMAL K. KANJ: The Americans and the West in general are not well aware of the Palestinian experience. On the surface and at an emotional level, they are generally more sympathetic towards Israel, but this is mainly due to their lack of understanding or total disconnect with the human side of the Palestinian story.
Also one must recognize that the peculiar relationship between Israel and the West is deeply rooted in a long history of abhorrent Western anti Semitism culminating in the Holocaust. Hence, it was a mix of sympathy, guilt, and religious institutions in America and Europe which played an important role in shaping the lopsided view towards the Palestine Israel conflict.
Having lived in the US for thirty years after leaving the camp, I discovered that most people tend to switch off when trying to make an intellectual or historical argument explaining the Palestinian position. At the same time, I observed that the majority can better connect and listen when the intellectual or the historical argument is framed within the personal experience. During those 30 years, almost everyone whom I came to know at a social level consciously or subconsciously became more sympathetic with the Palestinians.
To sum it up, the main impetuous for writing this book remains my strong conviction that we, as Palestinians have a powerful story to share with the rest of the world, especially in the West. Throughout the pages of this book, I hope to connect with all those whom I have not, or may not have the honor meeting personally, to share with them the personal aspects of the Palestinian side of the story.
 

Wed

27

Oct

2010

Normon Solomon : Top “Tossup” House Race for Progressives: Raul Grijalva

by Normon Solomon

On Sunday, when the New York Times put a "tossup" label on three dozen House races with Democrats running for re-election, there were very few genuine progressives involved. In fact, just three of the lawmakers on the list are members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. And only one of them is a progressive standout: Raul Grijalva.

With a record of grassroots activism that goes back four decades, Grijalva is the real deal. Since 2003, his presence in Congress -- representing a heavily Latino district in Southern Arizona -- has been a force of nature for progressive advocacy on issues ranging from healthcare and education to war. And immigration.

Now, the forces of xenophobia and bogus "populism" think they smell blood.

Nowhere in the United States is political courage for progressive principles more on the line this Election Day than in the battle to re-elect Grijalva.

Two years ago, he won with a 30 percent margin. This time, the race is very tight for reasons that have little to do with his Republican opponent, a 28-year-old rocket scientist named Ruth McClung.

"Democrats are facing tough races in what they once thought were safe areas around the country," the Los Angeles Times noted over the weekend, "but Grijalva faces an additional burden. He called for a boycott of his state after Gov. Jan Brewer signed a tough immigration law, known as SB 1070, in April."

Much more than "tough," that law -- now largely tied up in court -- is the essence of systematic racial profiling. In effect, it requires police to target Latinos. In response, Grijalva spoke up for human rights.
 

Wed

27

Oct

2010

Democracy: For Sale by Owner

by Stephen P. Pizzo

If you've ever been in sales you've heard it a million times at sales meetings: "Money talks, bullshit walks."

Okay, so that's the sales world. No surprises there.

But these days you are more likely to hear that old saw in political meetings and the halls of government. We all know what the "money" part refers to -- money. But, in the political context these days the "bullshit" part refers to public policy. It's for sale, and you're either a buyer or you're wasting their time.

Increasingly, if you want to talk with a candidate or elected official about some public policy issue, you better not show up with only issues in your bag. Because if you fail to also pack a goodly gob of loud-talking money as well, you and your public policy "bullshit" are going to be told to take a walk.

Money has always been "the mother's milk of politics," but since the Supreme Court ruling last year that made legal hummungeoius contributions from anonymous sources, money has become the high test rocket fuel of politics. At the ballot box we individuals get only one vote. But now corporate sources and the super-rich, using dollar bills as ballots, get millions, tens of millions, or even hundreds of millions of votes -- each.

Which is why we're now totally, and possibly irreversibly screwed.

Oh, and look here; we are exporting America's new form of cash-n-carry democracy to those countries we are sending your soldiers to die to make "free and democratic." (See article that follows)

I wonder if we can develop guns for our soldiers that fire silver dollars instead of bullets? Oh hell, sign me disgusted.

Why Karzai readily admits receiving bags of Iranian cash

Afghan President Hamid Karzai says he accepts bags of cash from Iran. What do the Iranians want in return?

That bald acknowledgment brings out into the open two uncomfortable facts confronting the US plan to build a modern democracy in Afghanistan. Just as in Iraq, Iran is successfully buying influence with Afghan leaders. And Mr. Karzai – like many members of Afghanistan's political class – sees bags of cash as a perfectly legitimate tool of statecraft.

Iran’s efforts may extend beyond Karzai’s palace. Members of Parliament say other politicians are taking Iranian money. And recent media reports claim that the Iranians are paying the Taliban to kill US soldiers.

What does Iran want for its bags of cash? First and foremost, Iran wants pressure put on international forces to leave its doorstep.

“The Iranians are happy with the Karzai regime being established in Afghanistan – in this way, the US and Iran are aligned. But when it comes to international forces in Afghanistan, the Iranians are quite unhappy about this,” says Waliullah Rahmani, head of the Kabul Center for Strategic Studies.

The US invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan put American forces on the ground on either side of Iran. In Afghanistan, US forces at Shindand Airbase are less than 75 miles from the Iranian border.

Read more here.

 

 
 

Wed

27

Oct

2010

More Anti-Gay Rhetoric, Misogyny, and Another Hysterical Attack on Halloween
by Mel Seesholtz Ph.D.

Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC) has always been a mouthpiece for the radical Christian Right and their anti-gay, misogynist agenda, and he’s still at it:

DeMint: Gays Shouldn’t Teach

By Michelle Garcia

Addressing a group of conservative voters on Friday, Sen. Jim DeMint, reiterated his belief that openly gay people and unmarried straight women who sleep with a partner shouldn't teach children.… DeMint said he was cast as a pariah in Washington for once saying that openly gay teachers and women who have sex outside of marriage should not teach in a classroom. “[When I said those things,] no one came to my defense,” he said, according to the report. “But everyone would come to me and whisper that I shouldn't back down. They don't want government purging their rights and their freedom to religion.”

Typical of the Christian Right’s misogyny, Sen. DeMint didn’t seem to mention men “who have sex outside of marriage,” so I guess it’s okay for male teachers – and those who plan to become teachers – to have premarital sex. But, wait! In Sen. DeMint’s fantasy world “women who have sex outside of marriage should not teach in a classroom.” So having sex with them is out, as is having sex with any woman who might become a teacher. So better stick to women in professions such as medicine, the law, journalism. But, wait! Would the senator also feel those women were “tainted” and, therefore, like all other “unmarried straight women who sleep with a partner,” unqualified to be in those professions and incapable of carrying out their professional responsibilities?

So I guess those unmarried male teachers will just have to pleasure themselves. But, wait! Sen. DeMint would surely pervert some biblical passage – probably beginning with Genesis 38:9 – to condemn masturbation (although there is no direct prohibition against it in the Bible). Guess there’s just no sexual outlet for unmarried male teachers or unmarried men who plan to become teachers. Sorry guys…

As for gay men and women who are teachers or plan to become teachers, well, true to the Christian Right’s perverted agenda, you’re just plain screwed, metaphorically speaking of course. It seems Sen. DeMint would just like you to disappear so he and his fellow anti-gay misogynists can live more comfortably wrapped in their perverted biblical worldview that justifies hating and demeaning others: the very antithesis of the Christian message.

And then there are the other notorious anti-gays who also pervert Christianity for their own malicious agendas: Rev. Ken Hutcherston, Rev. David Barton, and a popular medium that gives them voice, Joseph Farah’s WorldNetDaily (aka “Wing Nut Daily”). From a report by People for the American Way’s Right Wing Watch:

David Barton Call For Government Regulation of Gay Sex

Submitted by Kyle on October 5, 2010 - 12:21pm

Back in August, Ken Hutcherson wrote a column for WorldNetDaily in which he argued that the behavior of gays ought to be regulated by the government for health reasons:

“Legislators around the country are considering banning sugar and fatty foods in schools, removing salt and butter from restaurants and want to control what temperature you can have in your own homes, because they fear the potential of health problems. Perhaps they should consider banning the promotion of a lifestyle that the Centers For Disease Control has determined actually causes HIV/AIDS. On the Day of Silence, an entire school day is set aside to ensure every young, impressionable student is exposed to homosexuality. Does this really make sense ”

The column apparently impressed David Barton and Rick Green of Wallbuilders enough to make Hutcherson and his column the focus of their radio program today during which the two discussed the need to have the government to regulate homosexual conduct while warning that failure to do so would lead to the destruction of the United States within three generations: [audio of interview available]

Government regulation? And exactly how would that work? Bedroom police? Concentration camps? And then there’s Hutcherson’s ignorant, fear-mongering statement: “a lifestyle that the Centers For Disease Control has determined actually causes HIV/AIDS.” The only “cause” of AIDS is the HIV virus that globally afflicts more straight people than gays, even adjusting for relative percentages of populations. But then again, hate and fear are the primary weapons of the radical Christian Right.
 

Wed

27

Oct

2010

Everyday is Halloween in Empire: The Zombie Apocalypse Of Duopoly
by Phil Rockstroh

Because, at this time of the year, we take pleasure in being frightened, let's shuffle through the US Empire's House of Horrors. On our tour, we cringe before: Brain-eating zombies of exponential destruction; soul-sucking vampires of eternal self-justification; right-wing, talk show demons whose wrathful voices rage into empty air; road-rage werewolves; hungry ghosts shuffling the aisles of supermarkets, convenience stores, corporate restaurant franchises and the food courts of shopping malls; and, running on a continuous video loop, The Fat, Mindless Blob That Ate the Planet.

The US mass media is rife with imagery of vampires, werewolves, zombies and other symbols of suppressed rage, insatiable craving and submerged terror. These narratives, resonate with the warnings implicit in nightmares, reveal the culture's tormented soul. By foisting imagery so arresting that it cannot be ignored, nightmares break through the ego's wall of denial; their disturbing imagery can be read as a wakeup call from the psyche that augurs warning and insists upon change.

On a cultural level, a profusion of nightmare imagery warns: paradigm shift or perish. Accordingly, the hack-scripted B-movie of the current political system could be titled: Duopoly Of The Dead: The Democratic/Republican Zombie Apocalypse. By their almost exclusive devotion to maintaining the status quo, these hulking, putrefying parties of the undead shamble through public life … risen from the mouldering grave to tear the flesh from the present and eat the brains of the living. Neither party questions the zombie values of empire. Hence, in a soul-defying attempt to reanimate, by imperial might, the decomposing corpse of US power and influence, both parties are culpable for the senseless deaths of multitudes worldwide.

This zombie empire and its planet-decimating, neo-liberal death cult are marching toward the boneyard of history. What an empire contributes to the world is equivalent to the carnage an army of zombies inflicts upon the scenery of B-movies. Zombies (neither living nor dead creatures that create exponentially larger numbers of themselves) are an apt metaphor for the entropy inherent to closed systems -- the exponentially destructive force of The Second Law of Thermodynamics. 

That is why I'm not a member of either party extant in our current duopoly: I'm betting on the emergence of the Entropy Party. It is the only party with a plausible platform; the only party that will keep its promises.

The US Empire is dead meat. We should lose the imagery of a noble and lofty bald eagle: rotting road kill should be proclaimed our official national animal.

When I hear people respond to a request or brush off a small affront with the popular rejoinder, "no worries, " I think, you have no worries, how is that even possible? Are they now selling nitrous oxide balloons at Starbucks?
 

Wed

27

Oct

2010

Handicapping the Global Midterms - Winners and Losers
by Tom Engelhardt

You can’t turn on the TV news or pick up a paper these days without stumbling across the latest political poll and the pros explaining how to parse it, or some set of commentators, pundits, and reporters placing their bets on the midterm elections.  The media, of course, loves a political horse race and, as those 2010 midterms grow ever closer, you can easily feel like you’re not catching the news but visiting an Off-Track Betting parlor.

Fortified by rounds of new polls and all those talking heads calibrating and recalibrating prospective winners and losers, seats “leaning Democratic” and “leaning Republican,” the election season has essentially become an endless handicapping session.  This is how American politics is now framed -- as a months or years-long serial election for which November 2nd is a kind of hangover.  Then, only weeks after the results are in, the next set of polls will be out and election 2012, the Big Show, will be on the agenda with all the regular handicappers starting to gather at all the usual places.

Doesn’t it strike you as odd, though, that this mania for handicapping remains so parochially electoral?  After all, it could be applied to so many things, including the state of the world at large as seen from Washington.  So consider this my one-man tip sheet on what you could think of as the global midterms, focused on prospective winners and losers, as well as those “on the cusp,” including crucial countries and key personalities.
 
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