Saturday, May 31, 2008

Majesty, We Have Gone Mad: An open letter to King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia

May, 31 2008 By George Monbiot
George Monbiot's ZSpace Page

Your Majesty,

In common with the leaders of most western nations, our prime minister is urging you to increase your production of oil. I am writing to ask you to ignore him. Like the other leaders he is delusional, and is no longer competent to make his own decisions.

You and I know that there are several reasons for the high price of oil. Low prices at the beginning of this decade discouraged oil companies from investing in future capacity. There is a global shortage of skilled labour, steel and equipment(1). The weak dollar means that the price of oil is higher than it would have been if denominated in another currency. While your government says that financial speculation is an important factor, the Bank of England says it is not(2), so I don't know what to believe. The major oil producers have also become major consumers; in some cases their exports are falling even as their production has risen, because they are consuming more of their own output(3).

But what you know and I do not is the extent to which the price of oil might reflect an absolute shortage of global reserves. You and your advisers are perhaps the only people who know the answer to this question. Your published reserves are, of course, a political artefact unconnected to geological reality. The production quotas assigned to its members by Opec, the oil exporters' cartel, reflect the size of their stated reserves, which means that you have an incentive to exaggerate them. How else could we explain the fact that, despite two decades of furious pumping, your kingdom posts the same reserves as it did in 1988?(4)

You say that you are saving your oil for the benefit of future generations(5). If this is true, it is a rational economic decision: oil in the ground looks like a better investment than money in the bank. But, reluctant as I am to question your majesty's word, I must remind you that some oil analysts are now wondering whether this prudence is a convenient fiction(6). Are you restricting supply because you want to conserve stocks and keep the price high, or are you unable to raise production because your fabled spare capacity does not in fact exist?

I do not expect an answer to this question. I know that the true state of your reserves is a secret so closely guarded that oil analysts now resort to using spy satellites to try to estimate the speed of subsidence of the ground above your oil fields(7), as they have no other means of guessing how fast your reserves are running down.

What I know and you may not is that the high price of oil is currently the only factor implementing British government policy. The government claims that it is seeking to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, by encouraging people to use less fossil fuel. Now, for the first time in years, its wish has come true: people are driving and flying less. The AA reports that about a fifth of drivers are now buying less fuel(8). A new study by the Worldwide Fund for Nature shows that businesses are encouraging their executives to use video conferences instead of flying(9). One of the most fuel-intensive industries of all, business-only air travel, has collapsed altogether(10).

In other words, your restrictions on supply - voluntary or otherwise - are helping the government to meet its carbon targets. So how does it respond? By angrily demanding that you remove them so that we can keep driving and flying as much as we did before. Last week Gordon Brown averred that it's "a scandal that 40% of the oil is controlled by Opec, that their decisions can restrict the supply of oil to the rest of the world, and that at a time when oil is desperately needed, and supply needs to expand, that Opec can withhold supply from the market."(11) In the United States, legislators have gone further: the House of Representatives has voted to a bring a lawsuit against Opec's member states(12), and Democratic senators are trying to block arms sales to your kingdom unless you raise production(13).

This illustrates one of our leaders' delusions. They claim to wish to restrict the demand for fossil fuels, in order to address both climate change and energy security. At the same time, to quote Britain's department for business, they seek to "maximise economic recovery" from their remaining oil, gas and coal reserves(14). They persist in believing that both policies can be pursued at once, apparently unaware that if fossil fuels are extracted they will be burnt, however much they claim to wish to reduce consumption. The only states which appear to be imposing restrictions on the supply of fuel are the members of OPEC, about which Gordon Brown so bitterly complains. Your majesty, we have gone mad, and you alone can cure our affliction, by keeping your taps shut.

Our leaders, though they do not possess the faintest idea of whether or not the oil supplies required to support it will be sustained, are also overseeing a rapid expansion of our transport infrastructure. In the United Kingdom we are building or upgrading thousands of miles of new roads and doubling the capacity of our airports, in the expectation that there will be no restriction in the supply of fuel. The government's central forecast for the long-term price of oil is just $70 a barrel(15).

Over the past few months I have been trying to discover how the government derives this optimistic view. In response to a parliamentary question, it reveals that its projection is based on "the assessment made by the International Energy Agency (IEA) in its 2007 World Energy Outlook."(16) Well last week the Wall Street Journal revealed that the IEA "is preparing a sharp downward revision of its oil-supply forecast". Its final report won't be released until November, but it has already concluded that "future crude supplies could be far tighter than previously thought."(17) Its previous estimates of global production were wrong for one simple and shocking reason: it had based them on anticipated demand, rather than anticipated supply(18). It resolved the question of supply by assuming that it would automatically rise to meet demand, as if it were subject to no inherent restraints.

Our government must have known this, but it has refused to conduct its own analysis of global oil reserves. Uniquely among possible threats to the economy and national security, it has commissioned no research of any kind into this question(19). So earlier this year I asked the department for business what contingency plans it possesses to meet the eventuality that the IEA's estimates could be wrong, and that global supplies of petroleum might peak in the near future. "The Government," it replied, "does not feel the need to hold contingency plans"(20). I am sure I do not need to explain the implications, if its forecasts turn out to be wildly wrong.

Your majesty, I recognise that this is not among your usual duties as the ruler of Saudi Arabia. But I respectfully beg you to save us from ourselves.

Yours Sincerely,

George Monbiot


1. Carola Hoyos, 19th May 2008. Running on empty? Fears over oil supply move into the mainstream. Financial Times.

2. Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, 22nd May 2008. Why oil could soon come barrelling down. The Daily Telegraph.

3. Jeff Rubin and Peter Buchanan, 10th September 2007. OPEC's Growing Call on Itself. Occasional Report # 62. CIBC World Markets.

4. Eg Danny Fortson, 4th January 2008. Oil: the power to shock. The Independent.

5. Carola Hoyos, ibid.

6. Eg Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, 16th May 2008. Day of truth for US- Saudi axis. The Daily Telegraph.

7. Carola Hoyos, ibid.

8. BBC Online, 19th May 2008. Fuel prices 'keep cars off road'.

9. WWF, 2008. Travelling Light: why the UK's biggest companies are seeking alternatives to flying.

10. Eg Kevin Done, 23rd May 2008. Silverjet suspends shares amid funding crisis. Financial Times.

11. Gordon Brown, 19th May 2008. Speech to Google Zeitgeist Conference.

12. Suzy Jagger, 21st May 2008. Congress takes step towards Opec legal challenge. The Times.

13. Ian Black, 17th May 2008. Frustration for Bush as pledge to Saudis fails to win oil concession. The Guardian.

14. Eg, Department of Trade and Industry, May 2007. Meeting the Energy Challenge: a white paper on energy. Para 4.07, page 107.

15. Dan Milmo, 20th May 2008. Road policy oil assumptions attacked. The Guardian.

16. Malcolm Wicks, 2nd April 2008. Parliamentary Answer to question 197009.

17. Neil King Jr and Peter Fritsch, 22nd May 2008. Energy Watchdog Warns of Oil-Production Crunch. Wall Street Journal.

18. ibid.

19. I have asked the four departments with direct interests in future oil supply: DBERR, transport, environment, communities and local government.

20. DBERR, 8th April 2008. Response to FoI request Ref 08/0091.

Published in the Guardian 26th May 2008

From: Z Space - The Spirit Of Resistance Lives

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Death-wish Hillary primes Manchurian Candidate

When I first heard about this statement, a chill went up my spine. I couldn't believe that this candidate was truly as nasty as I'd imagined. It would appear that my imagination fell far short.--Pete

By Alexander Cockburn, Counterpunch

Ever since she realized back in early March that Obama was going to take the nomination Hillary Clinton’s long-term strategy has been to do her best to ensure McCain will win this November so she can become the Democratic nominee in 2012. But she had a short term strategy too and on Friday she deliberately made it explicit in a newspaper office in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. There she suggested that some is likely to step up to the plate and assassinate Barack Obama in the waning moments of the California primary, just as Bobby Kennedy was forty years go almost to the day. The wish is mother to the deed. If anything does happen to Obama in California Mrs Clinton should surely be indicted as a co-conspirator.

How to else construe her grotesque remarks in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, in the editorial offices of the Argus Leader newspaper. Here she told the editors, "My husband did not wrap up the nomination in 1992 until he won the California primary somewhere in the middle of June, right? We all remember Bobby Kennedy was assassinated in June in California. I don't understand it," she said, dismissing calls to drop out.

There is no other way to construe these sentences, not thrown over her shoulder on a campaign walk, but delivered in measured tones to the Argus-Leader editorial board, but to interpret them as Mrs Clinton’s more or less explicit statement that she is spending a million a day just to keep her hat in the ring because Obama might well get killed. Then, just like the scenario at the end of the Manchurian candidate, Hillary will straddle Obama’s bleeding body, make the speech of her life and become the assured nominee. In fact, right now she’s probably sitting down with some numbed vet and whispering coyly in her best Angela Lansbury mode to the Lawrence Harvey stand-in, “How about passing the time by playing a little solitaire?" I pass on whether Hillary reprises Angela Lansbury’s famous incestuous kiss on her son’s lips. Perhaps Sid Blumenthal is the stand-in, though I doubt he’s a very good shot.

To get added insight into what a truly nasty woman Hillary Clinton is, remember that her remarks on Friday came a couple of days after Edward Kennedy was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor. Next thing you know, his fellow senator is saying that California might well be celebrating the fortieth anniversary of his borther’s murder by killing the candidate he has endorsed for the nomination.

Now Hillary Clinton is dutifully saying that she was misunderstood, that she had no intention, no thought, that she might be taking about SOMEONE KILLING OBAMA, SOMEONE SHOOTING THE BLACK MAN DEAD, JUST LIKE SOMEONE SHOT BOBBY KENNEDY DEAD IN CALIFORNIA, IN CALIFORNIA, DEAD, REALLY DEAD. Oh my heavens no, the thought never crossed my mind.

Recall too that as Jeffrey pointed out in his Wednesday piece here, Mrs Clinton and her mouthpieces have been steadily raising the volume on their verbal-lynching. In South Dakota Mrs Clinton lit the fuse.

The Death of American Liberalism

Now a word about the wider picture: There’s certainly no effective liberal, let alone left presence in mainstream American politics any more. The political primary season, now in its final throes, has resoundingly buttressed this fact, albeit disguising the process by the crafty expedient of making a black man the all-but-certain Democratic nominee.

Take the scene in Portland, Oregon last Monday, on the eve of a vote in that north-western state which sent Barack Obama one step further in formally clinching the Democratic nomination. CounterPunch coeditor Jeffrey St Clair gave a most amusing and enlightening account of it this last Wednesday. How did Hillary Clinton try to remind Oregonians of her claims to be the authentic rep of white working-class America, without whose votes no Democrat can ever win the White House?

She held a press conference in the upscale Portland suburb of Beaverton, in a subdivision where $500,000 homes have gone unsold for the past year. She spoke movingly of the pain being experienced by the developer. A few miles north, homeless Oregonians were besieging the offices of Portland’s mayor, Tom Potter.

As noted above, almost exactly forty years ago John F. Kennedy’s younger brother Bobby was making a similar last-throw bid in California to win the state and seize the Democratic nomination, by dint of a populist campaign. Bobby reached out to California’s poor. There’s no way Bobby would have hunkered down with a property developer. He’d have been heading the homeless in a march to the mayor’s office to demand they be given rent-free accommodation in the unsold mansions.

As a reminder that some things don’t change, Bobby’s second strategy in California was to court the affluent Jewish vote on the West Side of Los Angeles. Just like Hilary he implied that his opponents were all too eager to parley with the sworn enemies of Israel. He demanded that the US government release F-4 Phantom jets to Israel. A young Palestinian called Sirhan Sirhan read of this demand in an article in the New York Review of Books by my dear friend, the late Andrew D. Kopkind. Thus edified by Andy, Sirhan promptly scrawled “RFK Must Die!” in his diary and headed to the Ambassador Hotel. There, shortly after midnight on June 5, 1968, he shot Kennnedy dead with a .22 Iver-Johnson revolver in the hotel kitchen, just as Bobby was shaking hands with a dishwasher. Bobby’s Israel and populist strategies had fatally collided.*

Bobby Kennedy’s younger brother Ted tried to sell the same populism as Bobby in his run for the nomination against Carter in 1978. Ten years later Jesse Jackson, the first black American to take a serious tilt at the Democratic nomination, led many a poor people’s march to City Halls across America.

Not any more. Hilary’s populism has been skin-deep in the literal sense of the term. It’s not been about rich developers, or predatory sub-prime loans. It’s only about the color of Obama’s skin, which Mrs Clinton opines is unsuitable in tint. You want irony? Try tracing the thread that runs from Fanny Lou Hamer and her comrades’ efforts to seat the Mississippi Freedom Democrats at the 1964 convention in Atlanta to Hillary Clinton’s claim that in trying to get Florida’s Democrats seated in the convention in Denver she’s taking us back to the most glorious struggles of the abolitionists against slavery.

The old truism about primary season used to be that Democratic candidates have to run left to capture crucial support from the sort of politically active progressives who vote in Democratic primaries and caucuses. Then, with the nomination secured, the nominee spends the rest of the year running right, to win over middle America.

But Obama has achieved the amazing feat of being the almost-certain nominee without barely a phrase on the record with which John McCain can belabor him for “loony-leftism” or even “outdated liberalism” in the months to come.

Bloated Pentagon budgets? This favored target in past primary seasons has flourished unscathed this year, even though the arms-spending to which Bush’s former defense secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, committed the US government promises certain budgetary catastrophe across the next fifteen years. Obama’s subservience to the US military has been evinced numerous times, most recently when he confided last week to David Brooks, one of the New York Times’s profuse stable of neo-con columnists, that “The [U.S.] generals are light-years ahead of the civilians. They are trying to get the job done rather than look tough.”

What about Wall Street, whose leading bankers have devastated middle-income America with the sub-prime scams? Obama has been tactful, meanwhile hauling in hefty campaign contributions from these same bankers as Pam Martens has described on this website. Health care? No relief for America’s 45 million uninsured from Obama, who offers “reforms” unreservedly deferential to the insurance and pharmaceutical industries. What about labor and the right to form a union – something virtually impossible to do in America today, where it’s (barely) legal to go on strike but almost entirely illegal to win one. Seldom has a Democrat won the nomination with less IOUs to organized labor than Obama.

But, you say, surely Obama prevailed over Hillary in large part because she voted for the war in Iraq and he didn’t. This year Obama’s statements on the war have been carefully hedged. McCain will have a tough time painting him into a corner as a peacenik without himself sounding like a crazed warmonger, (which he frequently does). The war in Iraq is not popular in America, but the antiwar movement is effectively dead.

As a presidential candidate the only politically unorthodox item on Obama’s record is that he has a black skin. As he runs against an elderly, unstable Republican candidate whose own mottled epidermis raises constant uneasy questions about possible battles with cancer Obama should thank Bush 1 for making a black man chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and putting Clarence Thomas on the US Supreme Court, and Bush 2 for making Condoleezza Rice secretary of state. See? Blacks can be trusted! And Obama should thank the Republican Party for nominating a candidate weaker by far than any he might have dreamed of only six months ago. As a member of the Chaos Party I’m none to keen on the man. If McCain choses a real dunderhead as his running mate, I must just go for the Republican ticket.

To save conspiracists the trouble of writing to me, I should say that Kennedy had just passed the dishwasher, then twisted back and to his left to shake hands, which explains why the entry wound in his head seemed to indicate a shot from a quarter other than where Sirhan was standing.

Who Killed Colonel Sabow?

There was a time, I tell the younger crowd, when the first Arab-American to win a seat in the US Senate failed by only three votes to get a bill through the US senate breaking up the oil companies. This was Jim Abourezk, of South Dakota, who held one of South Dakota’s senate seats through most of the 1970s, and achieved much in his single term. In the latest issue of our newsletter Jim lays out in absorbing and convincing detail the evidence that a colonel in the USMC was murdered on base just before he was going to testify about clandestine arms-for-drugs slights to South America. Subscribe now. You’ll also get Alexander Cockburn on the Amazon. . . Hey, come back, y’all. I said, subscribe, dammit.

Footnote: portions of the first item ran on The First Post last Friday. Alexander Cockburn can be reached at

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Don't Bomb Iran!

This is the new ad campaign from Agit-Pop. It contains the sound-bite equivalent of a lifetime's worth of current global events education for the average FOX viewer concerning Iran. Check it, campers!--Pete

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Billy O Goes Ballistic On Inside Edition In The Early 90's

Apparently Mr. O'reilly was given nothing to read on his teleprompter and became belligerent. He then decided that they were going to "do it live", meaning, for Billy at least, that he would have to improvise due to the obvious complete lack of a run-through. Watch for yourself:

See more funny videos at CollegeHumor

Our Government's Need For An Irrational Enemy

Daniel Larison, at the ACLU Blog, has an interesting piece about our government's absolute need for an irrational enemy. He posits that this is tied to the authorized use of torture by agents of said government.

Mr. Larison believes that in order to sell the use of torture by our own peace-loving government agents to the American public, that the enemy must be portrayed as being completely without a scintilla of rationality, and definitely not accepted as self-interested, rational parties to the general disagreement. For many, Larison has already crossed the line of thinkable thought, since they have been completely mesmerized by the spectacle on their televisual persuasion devices and have surrendered to the notion of "cooler heads in our leadership", a notion which has been shown to be completely ludicrous.

Be advised that Daniel Larison also writes for The American Conservative magazine.--Pete

Read more:

Friday, May 16, 2008

Dispatch from Post-Constitutional Amerikkka

AJ at Police America has a story regarding the police department's use of undue force in Dundalk, Maryland. This says so much about the true legacy of the illegitimate Bush Administration and its dismantling of our republic's hard-won civil liberties.

She was shot at 4:30 AM because police were rooting through her trash and found trace amounts of drugs. They then used a concussion grenade instead of knocking on the door and kicked in the bedroom door unannounced. She thought that intruders had broken in (they had!), and brandished a weapon - legally registered and pointed at the floor - in defense of herself and her family. Without being told to drop her weapon, she was executed, cop style.--Pete

Read more:

Thursday, May 15, 2008



Now that the canonization of Barack Obama, aided by his media acolytes, has slowed a bit, it may be considered less than blasphemy to examine what this circus hath wrought. After all, at some point, even in a mythological age, reality raises its ugly head. What follows are glimpses of a gossamer ghost with all the uncertainty that such an effort involves. After all, even with the best tools, it is hard to measure precisely a ghost.


Obama would almost certainly be a better president than either Bush or his preferred heir apparent, John McCain.

He would also likely be a better president than Bill Clinton. The reasons for this are several. He is vastly more honest. This doesn't mean he is without guile - far from it - but it is, for him, apparently a fallback position rather than, as with Clinton, the first thing you exercise upon arising. Further, even though he comes from Chicago, the worst anyone has been able to hang on him is Tony Rezko. Obama has not been impeached, the governmental equivalent to a criminal indictment. And he has not proclaimed a deep concern for minorities and working class whites while simultaneously screwing them. Finally, Obama would probably bring to an end the 28 year Reagan - Bush - Clinton - Bush era that has been disastrous to America.


Obama does mislead, and not unintentionally it would seem. For example, Obama repeatedly uses the politician's trick of providing desriptions of a problem as a substitute for a prescription. This allows him to delude voters into thinking he has sympathy with them without the need to offer solutions.

Has deceived the voters by not telling them that he would keep American troops in Iraq and he a tendency to shift on a number of issues, such as NAFTA and policy towards Iran, depending on the media tenor of the moment.

Misled on extent on lobbyist support

Wrote in his own book, "I am new enough on the national political scene that I serve as a blank screen on which people of vastly different political stripes project their own views."


Four years ago, Obama was an obscure state senator representing part of one of America's most corrupt and machine-run cities. He is now running as God's gift to America and clean government based on this past, plus what he would like have been a temp job in the U. S. Senate.


Obama's use of southern pulpit cadence and inflection gives him an unfounded reputation for eloquence. His actual words are often corny and trite. He relies on cliches such as hope and change that have far more common with ad agencies than with philosopher kings. He also loses his command of metaphor and meaning when he is removed from a teleprompter and asked some questions, a weakness reflected in his antipathy towards news conferences.


Like Hillary Clinton, Obama has built his campaign around genetic identity rather than on political principles and issues.

Wouldn't have photo taken with San Francisco mayor because he was afraid it would seem that he supported gay marriage


Has offered few good ideas about how to handle the current economic crisis.

Cass Sunstein, a constitutional advisor to Obama, told Jeffrey Rosen of the NY Times: "I would be stunned to find an anti-business [Supreme Court] appointee from either [Clinton or Obama]. There's not a strong interest on the part of Obama or Clinton in demonizing business, and you wouldn't expect to see that in their Supreme Court nominees."

Wrote that conservatives and Bill Clinton were right to destroy social welfare,

Supported making it harder to file class action suits in state courts

Voted for a business-friendly "tort reform" bill

Voted against a 30% interest rate cap on credit cards

Had the most number of foreign lobbyist contributors in the primaries

Is even more popular with Pentagon contractors than McCain

Was most popular of the candidates with K Street lobbyists

Voted against a 30% interest rate cap on credit cards

In 2003, rightwing Democratic Leadership Council named Obama as one of its "100 to Watch." After he was criticized in the black media, Obama disassociated himself with the DLC. But his major economic advisor, Austan Goolsbee, is also chief economist of the conservative organization. Writes Doug Henwood, "Goolsbee has written gushingly about Milton Friedman and denounced the idea of a moratorium on mortgage foreclosures."

Doug Henwood, Left Business Observer: "Top hedge fund honcho Paul Tudor Jones threw a fundraiser for him at his Greenwich house last spring, 'The whole of Greenwich is backing Obama,' one source said of the posh headquarters of the hedge fund industry. They like him because they're socially liberal, up to a point, and probably eager for a little less war, and think he's the man to do their work. They're also confident he wouldn't undertake any renovations to the distribution of wealth."


Has produced no interesting new ideas nor promised to fight for any important new programs


Has no meaningful urban policy


Has not dealt with the criminality of Bush's use of torture.

Aggressively opposed impeachment action against Bush.


Has run his campaign as though leading a cult rather than a political movement.

Has indicated a willingness to name rightwing Christians to his cabinet.


Went to Connecticut to support Joe Lieberman in the primary against Ned Lamont

Paul Street, Z Mag - Obama has lent his support to the aptly named Hamilton Project, formed by corporate-neoliberal Citigroup chair Robert Rubin and other Wall Street Democrats to counter populist rebellion against corporatist tendencies within the Democratic Party. . . Obama was recently hailed as a Hamiltonian believer in limited government and free trade by Republican New York Times columnist David Brooks, who praises Obama for having "a mentality formed by globalization, not the SDS." . . .

Times, UK - Obama is hoping to appoint cross-party figures to his cabinet such as Chuck Hagel, the Republican senator for Nebraska and an opponent of the Iraq war, and Richard Lugar, leader of the Republicans on the Senate foreign relations committee. Senior advisers confirmed that Hagel, a highly decorated Vietnam war veteran and one of McCain's closest friends in the Senate, was considered an ideal candidate for defence secretary.

Richard Lugar was rated 0% by SANE. . . rated 0% by AFL-CIO. . . rated 0% BY NARAL. . . rated 12% by American Public Health Association. . . rated 0% by Alliance for Retired Americans. . . rated 27% by the National Education Association. . . rated 5% by League of Conservation Voters. . . He voted no on implementing the 9/11 Commission report. . . Vote against providing habeas corpus for Gitmo prisoners. . .voted no on comprehensive test ban treaty. . .voted against same sex marriage. . . strongly anti-abortion. . . opposed to more federal funding for healthcare. . .voted for unconstitutional wiretapping. . .voted to increase penalties for drug violations

Chuck Hagel was rated 0% by NARAL. . . rated 11% by NAACP. . . rated 0% by Human Rights Coalition. . . rated 100% by Christian Coalition. . . rated 12% by American Public Health Association. . . rated 22% by Alliance for Retired Americans. . . rated 36% by the National Education Association. . . rated 0% by League of Conservation Voters. . . rated 8% by AFL-CIO. . . He is strongly anti-abortion. . .voted for anti-flag desecration amendment. . .voted to increase penalties for drug violations. . . favors privatizing Social Security


Dissed Nader for daring to run for president again

Called the late Paul Wellstone "something of a gadfly"

Progressive Punch ranks Obama 24th in the Senate.


Has no clear plan to leave Iraq and Afghanistan.

His top Iraq advisor wrote that America should keep between 60,000 and 80,000 troops in Iraq as of late 2010. Obama, in his appearances, blurs the difference between combat soldiers and other troops and has given no indication that he would reduce the massive mercenary force in Iraq.

Has hawkish foreign policy advisors involved in past US misdeeds and failures

Would probably be good at international negotiations.

Would improve America's image abroad, at least until he did something stupid.

Supports Israeli aggression and apartheid. Obama has deserted previous support for two-state solution to Mid East situation

Has voted numerous times to continue funding the war

Favored cluster bomb ban in civilian areas

Promises not to sign a trade bill without environmental and labor protections.

Won't rule out first strike nuclear attack on Iran

Called Pakistan "the right battlefield ... in the war on terrorism." Threatened to invade Pakistan

AP - He would return the country to the more "traditional" foreign policy efforts of past presidents, such as George H.W. Bush, John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan. At a town hall event at a local high school gymnasium, Obama praised George H.W. Bush - father of the president - for the way he handled the Persian Gulf War: with a large coalition and carefully defined objectives. . . "The truth is that my foreign policy is actually a return to the traditional bipartisan realistic policy of George Bush's father, of John F. Kennedy, of, in some ways, Ronald Reagan, and it is George Bush that's been naive and it's people like John McCain and, unfortunately, some Democrats that have facilitated him acting in these naive ways that have caused us so much damage in our reputation around the world," he said.


Voted for a nuclear energy bill that included money for bunker buster bombs and full funding for Yucca Mountain.

Comes in at 48th in the ranking of senators by the League of Conservation Voters

Won't oppose nuclear power

Supports federally funded ethanol


Supports the war on drugs

Supports the crack-cocaine sentence disparity

Supports Real ID

Voted against immunity for telecoms' illegal spying on Americans

Supports the PATRIOT Act

Supports the death penalty

Opposes lowering the drinking age to 18

Helped fight for restoration of habeas corpus at Gitmo.

Refused to take a position on the anti-constitutional Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act


Supports No Child Left Behind

Supports charter schools


Has inspired a lot of young and minority voters to get involved in politics


Opposes single payer healthcare

Supported restricting damage awards in medical malpractices suits

Favors healthcare individual mandates that would help insurance companies and banks but not citizens

Received $708,000 from medical and insurance interests between 2001 and 2006


Says "everything is on the table" with Social Security. Clinton seems slightly more supportive of the classic Democratic program


At worst, Obama will be one more fox placed in the chicken coop of democracy by the corporations and their outsourced workers in the media and politics. At best, he will rebel against his upbringing and offer America something new and better. Most likely, however, is that he will serve as a deeply frustrating transition between what should never have happened and what needs to be done - stabilizing our national dysfunctions as they continue to await proper and necessary treatment.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Rev. Wright, the CIA and the AIDS Thing

By William Blum, Counterpunch

"After such knowledge, what forgiveness?" T.S. Eliot

Barack Obama's pastor, Jeremiah Wright, held a press conference at the National Press Club in Washington on April 28, during which he was asked about his earlier statement that the US government had invented the HIV virus, which causes AIDS, "as a means of genocide against people of color".

Wright did not offer any kind of evidence to support his claim. Even more important, the claim makes little sense. Why would the US government want to wipe out people of color? Undoubtedly, many government officials, past and present, have been racists, but the capitalist system at home and its imperialist brother abroad have no overarching ideological or realpolitik need for such a genocide.

During the seven decades of the Cold War, the American power elite was much more interested in a genocide of "communists", of whatever color, wherever they might be found. Many weapons which might further this purpose were researched, including, apparently, an HIV-like virus. Consider this: On June 9, 1969, Dr. Donald M. MacArthur, Deputy Director, Research and Engineering, Department of Defense, testified before Congress:

Within the next 5 to 10 years, it would probably be possible to make a new infective microorganism which could differ in certain important aspects from any known disease-causing organisms. Most important of these is that it might be refractory [resistant] to the immunological and therapeutic processes upon which we depend to maintain our relative freedom from infectious disease. [Hearings before the House Subcommittee of the Committee on Appropriations, "Department of Defense Appropriations for 1970."]

Whether the United States actually developed such a microorganism and what it did with it has not been reported. AIDS was first identified by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 1981. It's certainly possible that the disease arose as a result of Defense Department experiments, and then spread as an unintended consequence.

If you think that our leaders, as wicked as they are, would not stoop to any kind of biological or chemical warfare against people, consider that in 1984 an anti-Castro Cuban exile, on trial in a New York court, testified that in the latter part of 1980 a ship traveled from Florida to Cuba with "a mission to carry some germs to introduce them in Cuba to be used against the Soviets and against the Cuban economy, to begin what was called chemical war, which later on produced results that were not what we had expected, because we thought that it was going to be used against the Soviet forces, and it was used against our own people, and with that we did not agree." [Testimony of Eduardo Victor Arocena Perez, on trial in Federal District Court for the Southern District of New York, transcript of September 10, 1984, pp. 2187-89.]

It's not clear from the testimony whether the Cuban man thought that the germs would somehow be able to confine their actions to only Russians. This was but one of many instances where the CIA or Defense Department used biological or chemical weapons against Cuba and other countries, including in the United States against Americans, at times with fatal consequences. [See: Whiteout: the CIA, Drugs and the Press by Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair, and Rogue State by William Blum.]

William Blum is the author of Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II, Rogue State: a guide to the World's Only Super Power. and West-Bloc Dissident: a Cold War Political Memoir.

He can be reached at

Monday, May 12, 2008

Why All of Our Efforts Won't Stop an Attack on Iran

Make sure you get the gist of the 5th paragraph, and be ready for the manifold lies and half-truths parroted by the PR wing of the Pentagon - the defense contractor-owned media.--Pete

By Gary Leupp, Counterpunch

May 9. I read tonight a brief article by Philip Giraldi posted on the American Conservative website: “War with Iran Might Be Closer than You Think.”

“There is considerable speculation,” writes the former CIA officer, “and buzz in Washington today suggesting that the National Security Council has agreed in principle to proceed with plans to attack an Iranian al-Qods [Revolutionary Guards]-run camp that is believed to be training Iraqi militants. The camp that will be targeted is one of several located near Tehran.”

Giraldi provides details. He reports that the meeting came as “the direct result” of Hizbollah advances in Lebanon in recent days. (Recall that the U.S. State Department lists the Shiite organization Hizbollah as “terrorist” and as a tool of both Iran and Baathist Syria. In fact it is probably the country’s largest and most popular political party and has built significant ties with some Christian and Sunni groups. Hizbollah’s rapid seizure of the Muslim sections of Beirut, accomplished with little resistance, may have been deliberately provoked by the U.S.-backed quasi-government of Lebanon when the latter shut down the party’s private communications network.)

Defense Secretary Robert Gates, according to Giraldi, was the only senior official present urging delay. That suggests that the military is not enthusiastic about a widened war in Southwest Asia, but that the other regular members of the NSC (Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley as well as President Bush and Vice President Cheney) are willing to provoke just that.

They will do what they do with the solid backing of Congress, the presidential candidates, and the mainstream press which if history is our guide will for a time shape shockingly malleable public opinion. Yes, I fear that we (most of us) will be fooled again.

The Congress has passed near-unanimous resolutions against Iran, endorsing the administration’s unprecedented designation of a component of a nation’s military as a “terrorist organization.” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will be on board the program. Recall how after the Democratic victory two years ago she capitulated to AIPAC by stripping from a military spending bill the requirement that Bush seek Congressional approval before attacking Iran. (That was after she’d pointedly declared that Bush-Cheney impeachment hearings were “off the table.” And after Rep. John Conyers, head of the House Judiciary Committee and sometimes maverick, bitterly disappointed those pinning their hopes on him by going along with the Democratic leadership’s line. And after the Democrats had made it clear they weren’t serious about ending the war they’d been elected to end---showing us how very well the democratic system works in this country.)

John McCain, Barack Obama, and Hillary Clinton (all of whom agree that an attack on Iran is “on the table”) will publicly approve. The media will call upon the same “military analysts”/military industry consultants who have been disseminating Pentagon propaganda for pay since 2002 to explain why the attack is justified and necessary. The main talking-point has been decided: “Iran is killing American soldiers in Iraq.” Public opinion polls will show the public divided, but a majority in support of the action because, regardless of their feelings about the war in Iraq, they want to “support our troops” and after all, Iran was asking for it by interfering in Iraq and attacking us.

All the “exposure” that so many journalists and academics have tried to provide for years will have failed to prevent another illegal attack on a sovereign nation based on lies and bound to produce more outrage against the U.S. throughout the world. A cruise missile strike on an alleged training camp site won’t end there. It will be designed to provoke an Iranian response and legitimate further U.S. attacks, not only on Iran but Syria and Lebanon, probably in coordination with Israel. Some in Israel badly want the U.S. to behead all their main enemies in the region before their good friend George Bush leaves the White House. If that means regional chaos---clashes between Iranian and U.S. forces, the fall of the Maliki puppet regime in Baghdad (which actually is friendly with Tehran and says it’s playing a positive role in Iraq), the collapse of Shiite cooperation with the U.S. occupation, Iran-Iraq border clashes, U.S. forays into Iranian territory, the closing of ranks in fractious Iran against the imperialist assault on their country---so be it!

If it means renewed war in Lebanon including Israeli invasion, an Iranian shift from supporting U.S. puppet Karzai to Iran’s longtime enemy the Taliban in Afghanistan, active Syrian support for Sunni forces in Iraq, the disintegration of the fragile Sunni-“Coalition” alliance against al-Qaeda in western Iraq as the region descends into a Shiite-Sunni war---so be it! If it means the use of nuclear weapons against Iran to try to cow its leaders and people into accepting a U.S.-Israeli blueprint for the region---so be it! If it means the unthinkable in the U.S.—a return to the draft---so be it! All of this will at least have prevented the “nuclear holocaust” that the neocons, Cheney and Bush have been insisting the Iranians plan to inflict on the Jewish state unless they are stopped now. (No matter that all the U.S. intelligence agencies in their National Intelligence Estimate on Iran published late last year agreed that Iran does not now have a nuclear weapons program. And no matter that the Ahmadinejad quote about “wiping Israel off the map” has been exposed as a lie by Juan Cole and others.)

If Benjamin Netanyahu is Israeli prime minister at the time of the planned attack on Iran, a time of apocalyptic confusion might be the perfect opportunity to empty the West Bank of its Palestinians. This NSC agreement “in principle” to attack Iran is an agreement to risk all these ramifications, confident that the press and politicians will cooperate.

* * * * *

So often in recent months I’ve started to write a column exposing some recent lie (or at least some report pertaining to Iran or Syria that strikes me as obvious neocon-generated disinformation) only to give up midway through. Not because of writer’s block, fatigue, or even the thought that “Someone else has already written this, or someone like Alex Cockburn or Justin Raimondo or Scott Ritter or Gordon Prather will in the next day or so.” It’s more a matter of despairing at how much exposure can accomplish.

A friend of mine was saying last month, “People are ‘exposured’ out. They’re “Chomskyed” out.” He was speaking about young antiwar activists mainly, but his point was that people who know what’s going on are eager to act on the knowledge. To paraphrase Marx, the point is not to expose the world, or have it further exposed to you, but to change it.

The readership of sites like Counterpunch, Dissident Voice, and know the main points. They know that Dick Cheney, the most powerful vice president in history (and the most secrecy-obsessed among powerful figures in U.S. history), has made his office the hub of a cabal of neocons hell-bent of effecting “regime change” throughout Southwest Asia by the end of Bush’s second term. They know that the Office of Special Plans fabricated “intelligence” to terrify the masses and gain support for the invasion of Iraq. They know that U.S. intelligence has actually concluded that Iran has no nuclear weapons program, and that the UN’s IAEA scientists have found no evidence for one. But they also know that Cheney insists that he knows there’s one, just as the neocons such as Norman Podhoretz and Michael Ledeen know there’s one. Just as top Israeli officials know there’s one as they demand U.S. action against Iran. They know there’s a huge anti-Iran propaganda campaign underway very similar to the one that preceded the lie campaign leading up to the Iraq War now in its disastrous sixth year. They know that the U.S. is funding terrorist groups to carry out attacks in Iran. They know that the administration’s allegations about a Syrian nuclear program are highly dubious.

They know that there are conflicts between the traditional intelligence community and the neocons, and that the latter draw upon a coherent (Straussian) philosophy that justifies the “noble lie” in order to induce the foolish masses to support what the “wise”---who must conceal their real objectives---want them to support. They distrust anything the administration says about Lebanon, Somalia, Sudan…

Yes, they’re “Chomskyed out.”

Maybe we need to shift the focus of exposure a bit. From the particular to the general. From nasty individuals to nasty institutions. From the symptoms to the system.

What’s worse? Cheney and his attorney David Addington crafting a document in November 2001, bypassing routine staff review before receiving Bush’s signature, which denied “foreign terrorist” suspects in the U.S. access to any courts and allowing for their indefinite detention? (This was exposed by Barton Gellman and Jo Becker in the Washington Post last summer.) Or the failure of the elected officials in Congress to even start impeachment proceedings against Cheney and Bush?

What’s worse? John Yoo writing up his torture memos in 2002 as a Justice Department employee, as eventually exposed in the mainstream press? Or the decision of the trustees of the University of California, Berkeley to hire him as a law professor in 2003?

What’s worse? Judith Miller’s willingness to funnel disinformation to the American people through her NYT articles before and after the Iraq invasion? Or the Time’s willingness to publish them, and now those of her sometimes co-author Michael Gordon, cheerleading the coming Iran attack?

The Congress, the Justice Department, academia, and the press are all complicit in imperialist war and attacks on the Constitution. Does this mean the system isn’t working, or that it’s working all too well?

Is the system supposed to expose itself, through congressional hearings, investigative reporting, war crimes trials? Or is it, serving the small minority it’s designed to serve, supposed to simply tolerate exposure (in the name of freedom of the press) while saturating citizens with propaganda? (If the exposure ever gets widely enough disseminated, and threatens to undermine its objectives, it can always “kill the messenger”---or at least accuse the writer of undermining national security, abetting terrorism, etc.)

Voting for “antiwar” Democrats two years ago didn’t end the war. Even millions in the streets, peacefully demonstrating as the system encourages, didn’t prevent the assault on Iraq over five years ago. Now there’s no feasible political recourse to stop an attack on Iran. And little time to mobilize mass demonstrations against it. It will come as a thief in the night, presented to the American people as a fait accompli. As the Bush-Cheney cowboys ride off into the sunset, smirkin’ and grinnin’ and slapping each other’s backs, the people will start to pay.

A character in Bertolt Brecht’s The Beggar’s Opera asks what’s worse---robbing a bank, or owning a bank? The system itself, that is to say, is the criminal product of wrongly acquired wealth, much of it obtained through imperialist war. Exposure alone, no matter how voluminous, eloquent and persuasive, will not change it.

Gary Leupp is Professor of History at Tufts University, and Adjunct Professor of Comparative Religion. He is the author of Servants, Shophands and Laborers in in the Cities of Tokugawa Japan; Male Colors: The Construction of Homosexuality in Tokugawa Japan; and Interracial Intimacy in Japan: Western Men and Japanese Women, 1543-1900. He is also a contributor to CounterPunch's merciless chronicle of the wars on Iraq, Afghanistan and Yugoslavia, Imperial Crusades.

He can be reached at:

Thursday, May 08, 2008

The Self-Righteous Rich

A Counterpunch lens to correct for the insular world view of the corporate-controlled press.--Pete

Rockefeller Family Fables
By Sharon Smith, Counterpunch

On April 30th, reporters flocked to the penthouse suite of a Midtown Manhattan hotel where fifteen representatives of the Rockefeller dynasty were holding court. There, the Rockefellers chastised oil giant Exxon-Mobil for failing to invest in “alternative energy” sources, invoking their own moral authority as Exxon-Mobil’s longest standing shareholders.

Family spokesperson Neva Rockefeller Goodwin sanctimoniously recalled the memory of her great-grandfather, John D. Rockefeller, founder of Standard Oil and originator of the family fortune. “Kerosene was the alternative energy of its day when he realized it could replace whale oil,” she argued. “Part of John D. Rockefeller’s genius was in recognizing early the need and opportunity for a transition to a better, cheaper and cleaner fuel.”

But the indignation of today’s generation of Rockefellers—who inherited their own exorbitant wealth from Standard Oil, Exxon-Mobil’s parent corporation—is aimed more at ensuring the continued financial health of the family’s trust funds than concern for the future of the world’s population. As Peter O'Neill, great-great-grandson of John D. Rockefeller, commented at the press conference, “I have a world of respect for what the company has done well. In fact, if the next 20 years of the energy business were just going to be about oil and gas, we probably wouldn't be here today.”

Nevertheless, the corporate media obediently described the Rockefellers as concerned environmentalists. The New York Times ran the headline, “Can Rockefeller Heirs Turn Exxon Greener?” News outlets quoted freely from the Rockefellers’ press release, which described John D. Rockefeller as “one of the first major philanthropists in the U.S. and the World” and the family’s Rockefeller Foundation’s mission as "promot[ing] the well-being of mankind throughout the world.”

The family fable concocted above warrants a rebuttal. Standard Oil was the world’s first oil monopoly, and Rockefeller’s greed was insatiable. Indeed, the Rockefeller family legacy is deeply entangled with the U.S.’ current reliance on oil—and automobiles. Moreover, the family’s “philanthropic” pursuits include a peculiar preoccupation with lowering the birth rates of the world’s black and brown populations throughout the twentieth century—highlighting the absurdity of their claim to be promoting the well being of humankind. Mainstream journalists could easily uncover these unsavory aspects of the family history but instead report the Rockefellers’ self-sanitized version, with all its glaring omissions.

* * *

Indeed, the family’s selective memory of its patriarch, John D. Rockefeller, as a saintly philanthropist stands in sharp contrast to his role as a nineteenth-century robber baron. “God gave me my money,” he said. “Having been endowed with the gift I possess, I believe it is my duty to make money and still more money and to use the money I make for the good of my fellow man according to the dictates of my conscience.”

Rockefeller’s conscience apparently did not dictate paying his employees more than a starvation wage. His admirers praise him for making gasoline affordable to average Americans, and he did indeed aim to produce large amounts of "cheap and good" gasoline for mass consumption, successfully lowering the price of gas from 58 cents to 8 cents a gallon. But he achieved this goal through ruthless union busting, hiring his own private militias to crush workers who dared to go on strike to demand higher wages.

The private armies of the Rockefeller-owned Colorado Fuel & Iron Rockefeller was a cutthroat capitalist who built his oil monopoly in the decades after the Civil War using methods more in keeping with the bribery, blackmail and back stabbing of a mafia family than an honest entrepreneur. As he once proclaimed, "I would rather earn 1 percent off a [sic] 100 people's efforts than 100 percent of my own efforts.” This credo made him the richest man in the world.

As he quietly bought up his smaller oil competitors with these methods, Rockefeller entered into secret—and illegal—agreements with railroad magnates that gave discounts as off-the books rebates to his growing oil monopoly, easily driving smaller refiners out of business. By 1879, Standard Oil controlled 90 percent of the oil refining business in the U.S. When the Supreme Court finally forced Rockefeller to formally disband Standard Oil as a monopoly trust in 1911, the damage was done. Indeed, the breakup doubled the value of his stock and gave birth to oil conglomerates Esso and Mobil (now Exxon-Mobil), Arco and Amoco (now BP), Pennzoil (now Shell), Chevron and Conoco. Rockefeller spent his remaining decades playing golf.
* * *

John D. Rockefeller’s descendents have happily carried on in the robber baron’s tradition, alongside a public relations machine that routinely airbrushes the family history. These heirs have never needed to work a day in their lives to afford the best of everything money could buy. The Rockefeller name ensures each generation a ten-figure trust fund and a guaranteed spot at an elite university, enabled by the Rockefeller family’s generous donations. The many chapels, libraries, museums and other buildings bearing the Rockefeller name on private campuses across the U.S. bear testament to the family’s self-serving approach to gift giving. Most recently, David M. Rockefeller, Sr., former chairman, president and CEO of Chase Manhattan Bank, and former chairman of the board of the Rockefeller Group, donated a record $100 million to Harvard University, citing his fond memories as part of the class of ’36.

By design, the Rockefellers have received no blame for their pivotal role in destroying the vast trolley car system that dominated U.S. cities before the 1940s, thereby increasing city dwellers’ dependency on automobiles and gas-fueled bus lines. Yet the Rockefellers’ Standard Oil of California joined General Motors, Firestone Tire, Standard Oil of California and Phillips Petroleum to form the National City Lines holding company, which bought out and dismantled more than 100 trolley systems in 45 cities (including New York, Detroit, Baltimore, Philadelphia, St. Louis, Salt Lake City, Tulsa, Minneapolis and Los Angeles) between 1936 and 1950.

In 1949, these corporate defendants were acquitted of conspiring to monopolize transportation services. Indeed, the corporations behind National City Lines were each fined just $5,000—while each of their directors paid a mere $1 fine—a small price to pay for the windfall in profits they all enjoyed in the decades that followed. Congress offered up tax dollars to build the enormous highway infrastructure that encouraged automobile travel in the 1950s, while federal investment in mass transit and train systems languished. As Noam Chomsky noted, “By the mid-1960s, one out of six business enterprises was directly dependent on the motor vehicle industry.”

* * *

No Rockefeller family history would be complete without highlighting their central role in shaping twentieth century population control policy, aimed explicitly at curbing birth rates among the non-Caucasian poor. Beginning in 1910, Rockefeller money flowed into organizations such as the Race Betterment Foundation and the Eugenics Section of the American Breeders Association, which spearheaded the eugenics movement—the “science” of “improving heredity.” These organizations, also funded by the upstanding Carnegie, Harriman and Kellogg families, sponsored academics claiming that those at the top of the social ladder had proven their racial superiority, while those at the bottom were biologically incapable of success. The eugenics movement encouraged the “superior” races to marry each other and have lots of children, while promoting forced sterilization, racial segregation and deportation of immigrants of those deemed “unfit” to reproduce.
The “superior” races so admired by the eugenics movement were “Nordic,” with blond hair and blue eyes, and the movement soon gained an admirer in Adolph Hitler. In 1924’s "Mein Kampf," Hitler noted, "There is today one state in which at least weak beginnings toward a better conception (of immigration) are noticeable. Of course, it is not our model German Republic, but the United States." By the 1920s, the Rockefeller Foundation was already providing hundreds of thousands of dollars to fund eugenics research in Germany; in 1929 alone, $317,000 of Rockefeller money went to the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Brain Research, according to Edwin Black, writing in the San Francisco Chronicle in 2003. Although the Rockefellers had withdrawn all funding to German research by the onset of the Second World War in 1939, Black argued, “[B]y that time, the die had been cast. The talented men Rockefeller and Carnegie financed, the great institutions they helped found, and the science they helped create took on a scientific momentum of their own.”

By the 1930s, the wheels for forced sterilization were also in motion inside the U.S. Laws were enacted in 27 states in 1932, calling for compulsory sterilization of the “feeble-minded, insane, criminal, and physically defective.” In 1939, the Birth Control Federation of America, as historian Dorothy E. Roberts described, “planned a ‘Negro Project’ designed to limit reproduction by blacks ‘who still breed carelessly and disastrously, with the result that the increase among Negroes, even more than among whites, is from that portion of the population least intelligent and fit, and least able to rear children properly.’” In 1974, an Alabama court found that between 100,000 and 150,000 poor black teenagers had been sterilized in that state alone.

After World War Two, population control agencies set their sights overseas. In the 1960s, the International Planned Parenthood Foundation, heavily funded by the Rockefellers alongside the U.S. government, played a key role in a coercive sterilization programs targeting Third World populations. By 1968, one-third of women of childbearing age in Puerto Rico—still a U.S. colony—had been permanently sterilized, often without their knowledge or consent. Rockefeller-funded programs sterilized 40,000 women in Colombia between 1963 and 1965, according to feminist author Bonnie Mass. These are just two examples among many.

The self-righteous claims of the current generation of Rockefellers must be viewed in this context. They have kept silent since the 1989 Exxon-Valdez Alaskan oil spill, even as Exxon-Mobil has refused to pay court-ordered compensation to the nearly 33,000 Alaskans who won a lawsuit against Exxon in 1994 for the company’s “reckless” behavior. Nor have they uttered a word of protest following news that growing numbers of employed workers across the U.S. are lining up at food pantries due to the skyrocketing price of food and gasoline. As Bill Bolling, founder of the Atlanta Community Food Bank, told CNN, "People are giving up buying groceries so that they can pay rent and put gas in the car."

Today’s Rockefellers praise Exxon-Mobil for its current status as the most profitable corporation in U.S. history, having raked in a record $40.6 billion in profits in 2007. They are merely watching out for their own parasitical futures.

Sharon Smith is the author of Women and Socialism and Subterranean Fire: a History of Working-Class Radicalism in the United States. She can be reached at:

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

The Mysterious Stranger

Incredible vision of Twain's "The Mysterious Stranger"! Why Haven't I seen this before?--Pete

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Prison Power Play

I just watched this piece by Laura Ling on regarding the control of prison populations by organized prison syndicates such as Nuestra Familia and the Aryan Brotherhood. The organization is always along racial lines and transgression by their members is always punishable by physical harm or death. The piece is somewhat short, but captures a general feel for what life must be like for these societal outcasts. I commend Ms. Ling on her courage and hope that she will go on to produce a more in-depth work regarding our overly punitive, incarceration nation and how our American socio/economic macro-structure correlates to prison organization micro-structures as well as how the two intersect.

Here is the video, with more commentary to follow.--Pete

Friday, May 02, 2008

America's Gulag Just Keeps Growing

By Ethan Nadelmann, AlterNet
Posted on April 25, 2008

We're No. 1! We're No. 1! The New York Times' Adam Liptak wrote a disturbing front-page story on Wednesday about how the United States dwarfs the rest of the world when it comes to locking up its citizens. The United States has less than 5 percent of the world's population, but a quarter of the world's prisoners. There are now 2.3 million people behind bars in the United States. According to the Justice Department's Bureau of Justice Statistics' most recent report, the number of people incarcerated in U.S. prisons and jails jumped by more than 60,000 in the year ending June 30, 2006. That jump represents the largest increase since 2000.

The United States continues to rank first among all nations in both total prison/jail population and per capita incarceration rates. The United States has held first place for decades, followed by China (with more than four times our population) at 1.6 million and Russia at 885,670, according to the International Centre for Prison Studies at King's College in London.

America's prison population explosion is fed in good part by the failed drug war policies of the past 30-plus years. Back in 1980, around 50,000 people were incarcerated for drug law violations. The total is now roughly 500,000. And this number does not even include hundreds of thousands of parolees and probationers who are incarcerated for technical violations, such as a drug relapse, nor does it include nondrug offenses committed under the influence of drugs, or to support a drug habit, or crimes of violence committed by drug sellers.

The Liptak piece describes criminologists and legal scholars in other industrialized countries as being mystified and appalled by the number of Americans incarcerated and length of the prison sentences. "The U.S. pursues the war on drugs with an ignorant fanaticism," said Vivian Stern, a research fellow at the Centre for Prison Studies at King's College in London. In the past Europeans came to America to study the prison system, but now they look at U.S. policies to see what not to do.

Two powerful forces are at play today. On the one hand, public opinion strongly supports alternatives to incarceration for nonviolent and especially low-level drug law violators -- and state legislatures around the country are beginning to follow suit. The paramount example to date is Prop. 36, the Californian "treatment instead of incarceration" ballot initiative in 2000 that won with 61 percent of the vote notwithstanding the opposition of political and law enforcement officials. On the other hand, the prison-industrial complex has become a powerful force in American society, able to make the most of the political inertia that sustains knee-jerk, lock-'em-up policies. There are some prosecutors quoted in the Times story who try to spin the draconian sentences as the byproduct of democracy: that elected officials are just responding to their constituents' desire to lock up the bad guys and throw away the keys. There's no doubt some truth in this, but far more insidious is how many politicians exploit fears about drugs to make themselves look "tough on crime."

Voters should be outraged that their tax money continues to be wasted on failed drug war policies. It's time for a change.

Despite hundreds of billions of dollars spent and millions of Americans incarcerated, illegal drugs remain cheap, potent and widely available in every community; and the harms associated with them -- addiction, overdose, and the spread of HIV/AIDS and hepatitis -- continue to mount. Meanwhile, the war on drugs has created new problems of its own, including rampant racial disparities in the criminal justice system, broken families, increased poverty, unchecked federal power and eroded civil liberties. Our elected officials need new metrics to determine whether progress is being made.

It's time for a new bottom line for U.S. drug policy -- one that focuses on reducing the cumulative death, disease, crime and suffering associated with both drug misuse and drug prohibition. A good start would be enacting short- and long-term national goals for reducing the problems associated with both drugs and the war on drugs. Such goals should include reducing social problems like drug addiction, overdose deaths, the spread of HIV/AIDS from injection drug use, racial disparities in the criminal justice system, and the enormous number of nonviolent offenders behind bars. Federal drug agencies should be judged -- and funded -- according to their ability to meet these goals.

Ethan Nadelmann is the executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance.

© 2008 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.
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Democrats Okay Funds for Covert Ops

So much for the anti-war Demos. They have all but admitted that they are "convinced" that nothing will be done until next year. So fucking do something, then!--Pete

Secret Bush "Finding" Widens War On Iran


Six weeks ago, President Bush signed a secret finding authorizing a covert offensive against the Iranian regime that, according to those familiar with its contents, "unprecedented in its scope."

Bush’s secret directive covers actions across a huge geographic area – from Lebanon to Afghanistan – but is also far more sweeping in the type of actions permitted under its guidelines – up to and including the assassination of targeted officials. This widened scope clears the way, for example, for full support for the military arm of Mujahedin-e Khalq, the cultish Iranian opposition group, despite its enduring position on the State Department's list of terrorist groups.

Similarly, covert funds can now flow without restriction to Jundullah, or "army of god," the militant Sunni group in Iranian Baluchistan – just across the Afghan border -- whose leader was featured not long ago on Dan Rather Reports cutting his brother in law's throat.

Other elements that will benefit from U.S. largesse and advice include Iranian Kurdish nationalists, as well the Ahwazi arabs of south west Iran. Further afield, operations against Iran's Hezbollah allies in Lebanon will be stepped up, along with efforts to destabilize the Syrian regime.

All this costs money, which in turn must be authorized by Congress, or at least a by few witting members of the intelligence committees. That has not proved a problem. An initial outlay of $300 million to finance implementation of the finding has been swiftly approved with bipartisan support, apparently regardless of the unpopularity of the current war and the perilous condition of the U.S. economy.

Until recently, the administration faced a serious obstacle to action against Iran in the form of Centcom commander Admiral William Fallon, who made no secret of his contempt for official determination to take us to war. In a widely publicized incident last January, Iranian patrol boats approached a U.S. ship in what the Pentagon described as a "taunting" manner. According to Centcom staff officers, the American commander on the spot was about to open fire. At that point, the U.S. was close to war. He desisted only when Fallon personally and explicitly ordered him not to shoot. The White House, according to the staff officers, was "absolutely furious" with Fallon for defusing the incident.

Fallon has since departed. His abrupt resignation in early March followed the publication of his unvarnished views on our policy of confrontation with Iran, something that is unlikely to happen to his replacement, George Bush's favorite general, David Petraeus.

Though Petraeus is not due to take formal command at Centcom until late summer, there are abundant signs that something may happen before then. A Marine amphibious force, originally due to leave San Diego for the Persian Gulf in mid June, has had its sailing date abruptly moved up to May 4. A scheduled meeting in Europe between French diplomats acting as intermediaries for the U.S. and Iranian representatives has been abruptly cancelled in the last two weeks. Petraeus is said to be at work on a master briefing for congress to demonstrate conclusively that the Iranians are the source of our current troubles in Iraq, thanks to their support for the Shia militia currently under attack by U.S. forces in Baghdad.

Interestingly, despite the bellicose complaints, Petraeus has made little effort to seal the Iran-Iraq border, and in any case two thirds of U.S. casualties still come from Sunni insurgents. "The Shia account for less than one third," a recently returned member of the command staff in Baghdad familiar with the relevant intelligence told me, "but if you want a war you have to sell it."

Even without the covert initiatives described above, the huge and growing armada currently on station in the Gulf is an impressive symbol of American power.

Armed Might of US Married By Begging Bowl to Arabs

Sometime in the next two weeks, fleet radar operator may notice a blip on their screens that represents something rather more profound: America's growing financial weakness. The blip will be former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin's plane commencing its descent into Abu Dhabi. Rubin's responsibility these days is to help keep Citigroup afloat despite a balance sheet still waterlogged, despite frantic bail out efforts by the Federal Reserve and others, by staggering losses in mortgage bonds. The Abu Dhabi Sovereign Wealth Fund injected $7.5 billion last November (albeit at a sub-prime interest rate of eleven percent,) but the bank's urgent need for fresh capital persists, and Abu Dhabi is where the money is.

Even if those radar operators pay no attention to Mr. Rubin's flight, and the ironic contrast it illustrates between American military power and financial weakness, others will, and not just in Tehran. There's not much a finding can do about that.

Andrew Cockburn is a regular CounterPunch contributor. He lives in Washington DC. His most recent book is Rumsfeld: His Rise, Fall and Catastrophic Legacy.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Mental Barriers in Palestine

By Mats Svensson, Counterpunch

t is dry, it is hot. Black string bikinis descend the small steps meeting black flapping swimming trunks. They look naked thanks to the black mud. Both bodies entirely black, only the feet remain white. Salt easily penetrates the skin, making it soft and filled with wellbeing.

The water is salty. I protect my eyes, protect myself. I feel that I am constantly protecting myself. Protecting myself from inner conflicts. Protecting myself from myself, from my own anxiety, my prejudices, stories, childhood, education, manipulation, songs, sermons…

I’m filled with strong emotions when I look towards that powerful mountain, the mountain near the Holy City. Protecting myself from what I see, from what I feel, from what I hear.

Eat a salad by the Dead Sea.

I’m near, but far from, the conflict, the war. Carry a barrier, a mental barrier. Over there, there is war; here, there is peace. Peace behind a mud mask.

We float around like corks in this Shangri-la on the shores of the Dead Sea. A sea that is disappearing and which will soon really be a dead sea, a sea without water, only salt.

Take a shower; leave Shangri-la, the string bikinis, the flapping black swimming trunks, all the water pipes, lifeguards and happy children.

Quickly transported from East to West over the mountain. Pass through a checkpoint without stopping (driving a diplomatic car) and within two hours I am sitting on the Mediterranean drinking chilled white wine.

Sitting by the Mediterranean Shangri-la among fortunate children, fortunate couples newly in love, looking out over the sea that slowly goes to sleep.

The sun ebbs to the horizon and the children build sandcastles.

I made a quick trip through Palestinian lands. Two hours from East to West.

I exist in the same way as all Israelis, tourists, and most diplomats. Don’t need to see, hear, taste or feel. Palestine is felt for only a few minutes. No soldier stopped me, no wall, no struggle, no dead, no hospital, no Palestinian families, no discussions, no rifles pointed at me.

Lunch at the Dead Sea, a chilled glass of white wine by the Mediterranean.

In between were Palestinian lands I never saw.

Are they really there? Or have they disappeared like a shadow under an olive tree?

Just something we read about but never have to confront. We read about them in the daily news to understand, to be able to take part in discussions. But I never need to see them, be part of them, or taste them.

Tonight, I’m going through the latest political reports. Reading about Rafah, about the wall, about new settlements, about Jimmy Carter, about the economy, about the killings, about suicide bombers, about the children, about Gaza. I have to read the latest reports. It’s important, important to be able to take part in the discussions, to show that I am aware, that I understand.

To be balanced, I must know.

Mats Svensson, a former Swedish diplomat working on the staff of SIDA, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, is presently following the ongoing occupation of Palestine. He can be reached at