Saturday, January 31, 2009

AlterNet: HuffPo Breaks Huge Corruption Story and Now We Must Do Something About It

By Lawrence Lessig, Huffington Post

You can't make this stuff up. Breaking news from The Huffington Post:

Three days after receiving $25 billion in federal bailout funds, Bank of America Corp. hosted a conference call with conservative activists and business officials to organize opposition to the U.S. labor community's top legislative priority.

Participants on the October 17 call -- including at least one representative from another bailout recipient, AIG -- were urged to persuade their clients to send "large contributions" to groups working against the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), as well as to vulnerable Senate Republicans, who could help block passage of the bill.
...Donations of hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars to Republican senatorial campaigns were needed, they argued..."If a retailer has not gotten involved in this, if he has not spent money on this election, if he has not sent money to [former Sen.] Norm Coleman and all these other guys, they should be shot. They should be thrown out their goddamn jobs," Marcus declared.
Not only are some of the most non-trusted companies in America blatantly trying to buy off Congress, but they're using our bailout money to do it. Enough!

If there was ever a time to join Change Congress's political "donor strike" in support of fundamental campaign finance reform, this is it.

Click here to join the fight for reform.

Together, thousands of us have pledged not to donate a penny more to politicians unless they support "citizen-funded elections" for Congress -- a combination of public financing plus Obama-style small-dollar donations. We have removed $431,000 from the campaign coffers of those who oppose reform, and it's growing by the hour.

Instead of politicians spending their time begging those who got us into this economic crisis for big-dollar checks, politicians will have to spend their time being responsive to regular people. That's the way democracy should work. And now, at this moment of outrageous news, all of us can do our part. Please join the fight for reform today by clicking here, and then forward this news to some friends today.

Thanks for changing Congress,
Lawrence Lessig & Joe Trippi (co-founders, Change Congress)

UPDATE: A commenter at DailyKos smartly said we should Digg and Reddit this. Please do!

© 2009 Huffington Post All rights reserved.
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AlterNet: George W. Bush Gets His Statue in Iraq

By dday, Hullabaloo

George Bush got his statue in Iraq after all.

A sofa-sized statue of the shoe was unveiled Thursday in Tikrit, the hometown of the former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

Baghdad-based artist Laith al-Amari described the fiberglass-and-copper work as a tribute to the pride of the Iraqi people.

The statue is inscribed with a poem honoring Muntadhar al-Zeidi, the Iraqi journalist who stunned the world when he whipped off his loafers and hurled them at Bush during a press conference on Dec. 14.

In the Arab world, even showing someone the sole of a shoe is considered a sign of disrespect.

Heckuva job, George.

Update: (Via ThinkProgress) CNN reports that local authorities took down the monument "at the request of the central government" "We will not allow anyone to use the government facilities and buildings for political motives," said Abdullah Jabara, Salaheddin province's deputy governor.

© 2009 Hullabaloo All rights reserved.
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AlterNet: Just How Fucked Up Is the Discourse Surrounding Israel and Palestine?

By Joshua Holland, AlterNet

OK, here are three facts that I think say a lot about how screwy the discourse over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict really is ...

1. There is a group of regular AlterNet readers and commenters who, based on my writing about the conflict -- and my own meanderings through the comments boards -- have concluded that I'm a Zionist shill, a stooge of American Israel Public Affairs Committee, who will reflexively defend Israel right or wrong. They see in me a monster without a drop of human empathy for the suffering of the Palestinians. They've accused me of silencing any criticism of Israel by calling those who dare to "speak truth to power" anti-Semites.

They believe this to be true, deep down in their heart of hearts.

2. There is another group of regular AlterNet readers and commenters who, based on the very same body of writing, about the very same conflict, have concluded that I am a vicious anti-Semite bent on nothing short of the annihilation of the Jews. Some, perhaps guessing at my heritage because of my surname, suggest that I am a self-loathing Jew, working out some deep psychological issues by calling for Israeli blood to flow freely on the streets. They accuse me of spewing eliminationist rhetoric and see me as being immune to the horrors of terrorism perpetrated against innocents. They see me as a "useful idiot" for a global Islamo-fascist movement.

This, they believe in their heart of hearts.

3. I am, in fact, neither pro-Palestinian* nor pro-Israeli per se; I have a background in security studies and international conflict resolution, and I have a strong belief in international law and a universalist view of human rights. I believe that both Israeli Jews and Palestinian Arabs have the desire and the right to live in peace and that a majority within both groups (or a plurality when the conflict heats up) want little more and find the rejectionists on both sides odious and deserving of blame for the continuation of the bloodshed.

In other words, neither of these groups of readers' impressions -- perfectly divergent -- comes anywhere within miles of my actual views (which I've written about at length).

And that's the point of this post -- just a little anecdote suggesting how hard it is to solve a bloody, decades-long, incredibly tragic conflict dominated by ideologues who just hear what they want to hear.

* Obviously, in the context of our ridiculously binary, pathetically oversimplified discourse around Israel and Palestine, I can rightly be considered "pro-Palestinian."

Joshua Holland is an editor and senior writer at AlterNet.
© 2009 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.
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AlterNet: Obama Strikes Back, Plans Payback for House Republicans

By Steve Benen, Washington Monthly

The White House has invested quite a bit of time and energy reaching out to congressional Republicans. Late yesterday, the president's efforts were rewarded with exactly zero GOP votes on an economic stimulus plan. The Politico reported that when Republicans announced their opposition, the minority party "slapped" Obama's "outstretched hand" as part of a "coordinated effort to embarrass" the president.

We're starting to get a sense of how the White House plans to respond.

Pushing back against the unanimous House Republican vote against President Obama's stimulus plan, the White House plans to release state-by-state job figures "so we can put a number on what folks voted for and against," an administration aide said.

"It's clear the Republicans who voted against the stimulus represent constituents who will be stunned to learn their member of Congress voted against [saving or] creating 4 million jobs," the aide said.

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said the lawmakers will have to answer to their constituents. A Democratic official added: "We will run campaigns in their districts."

What's more, Greg Sargent reports that a coalition of groups and unions, including Americans United for Change, Political Action, AFSCME and SEIU, are launching a new television ad targeting Republican senators and pressuring them to vote for President Obama's stimulus package.

The spot shows some arresting images of the recession -- chained up factories, empty warehouses -- and features Obama talking about our dire economic times and his economic package, an effort to harness Obama's popularity to push the plan at a time when Republicans are training their fire on House Dems, rather than the White House.

The ad is set to air in four states, targeting Sens. Susan Collins (Maine), Chuck Grassley (Iowa), Judd Gregg (New Hampshire), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) and Olympia Snowe (Maine). Three of the five -- Grassley, Gregg, and Murkowski -- are up for re-election next year.

© 2009 Washington Monthly All rights reserved.
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Thursday, January 29, 2009

No More Killer Cops!

An entreaty from, intended to put pressure on the Alameda County DA to investigate assault charges against officer Tony Pirone, shown needlessly slamming Oscar Grant in the face just before another officer discharged a firearm point blank into his back.--Pete

Dear Friends,

It wasn't just one cop attacking Oscar Grant on New Year's Eve. A new video shows that before Grant was killed, officer Tony Pirone punched him in the face without cause. Experts have called it criminal. So why has the District Attorney said he's not pursuing charges?

It took two weeks and thousands of people speaking out before the DA charged Oscar Grant's killer with murder. It's going to take continued public pressure to see that justice is served throughout this case.

I've joined ColorOfChange in publicly confronting the Alameda County DA and calling on California's Attorney General to keep a close watch on the case. Please join me--you can see the new video and add your voice by clicking here:

Local news reported on the video showing Pirone assaulting Oscar Grant last week,(1,2) but it has been on the Internet for weeks.(3) As with the shooting, the video doesn't leave a lot of room for explaining away Pirone's actions. It makes it clear that with no physical provocation, he punched Oscar Grant so hard that Grant immediately went down. This is assault, and it is a crime.

Unfortunately, it appears that Alameda County District Attorney Tom Orloff is once again falling asleep at the wheel. First, he took two long weeks to make the decision to file charges against Oscar Grant's murderer. Then he declared that he was "not actively pursuing"(4) charges against other officers, even though he had access to all the video we've seen, BART's internal investigative report, and the evidence collected under his own investigation.

Law professor Peter Keane from UC Hastings College of the Law, couldn't have said it any clearer: "If the district attorney is saying he's not going to charge any officer except Mehserle, in my opinion he's not doing his job."(5)

Orloff's inaction further calls into question his commitment to justice for Oscar Grant. Given Alameda County's terrible record of prosecuting police abuses, we can't simply trust that Orloff's office has the will to pursue justice wherever it leads.

That's why the California Attorney General needs to once again place an observer in the Alameda County District Attorney's office for the duration of any prosecutions related to Oscar Grant's murder. And Orloff needs to tell the public how not seeking charges against Pirone could possibly be in the interest of justice.

Please join me in demanding justice, and ask your friends and family to do the same. It only takes a minute:



5. See reference 1. Thanks.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Alternet: Obama's other family-planning move

It's good to have some good news to report on the new administration besides "Bush is gone"! Let's all hope this is a trend that will extend to the other mass murderous campaigns left over from the last administration, Afghanistan and Iraq.--Pete
By Steve Benen, Washington Monthly

President Obama's decision to repeal the global gag rule ("Mexico City Policy") will make a huge difference in the lives of countless families around the world. With a stroke of a pen, Obama has taken a key step towards advancing international family planning and women's health.

But let's also note the other important move Obama made on family planning yesterday.

In a related move, Obama also said he would restore funding to the U.N. Population Fund (UNFPA). Both he and Clinton had pledged to reverse a Bush administration determination that assistance to the organization violated U.S. law known as the Kemp-Kasten amendment.

Obama, in his statement, said he looked forward to working with Congress to fulfill that promise: "By resuming funding to UNFPA, the U.S. will be joining 180 other donor nations working collaboratively to reduce poverty, improve the health of women and children, prevent HIV/AIDS and provide family planning assistance to women in 154 countries."

Thoraya Ahmed Obaid, executive director of the U.N. Population Fund, said: "The president's actions send a strong message about his leadership and his desire to support causes that will promote peace and dignity, equality for women and girls and economic development in the poorest regions of the world."

Indeed, it does more than just send a message; by restoring UNFPA funding, Obama is poised to save some lives.

This never should have been controversial. In Bush's first term, the former president intended to maintain UNFPA funding at Clinton-era levels. Then- Secretary of State Colin Powell told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, "We recognize that UNFPA does invaluable work through its programs in maternal and child health care, voluntary family planning, screening for reproductive tract cancers, breast-feeding promotion and HIV/AIDS prevention." The administration sought the money, and Congress overwhelmingly approved it.

And then, some right-wing activists with the Bush administration's ear, starting complaining bitterly. Since its inception in 1969, the Fund has won widespread recognition for its work in improving the lives of women in developing countries, but for far-right leaders, most notably in the religious right, UNFPA is a pro-abortion enterprise that supports China's one-child policy.

Bush put a hold on the money he'd already requested and received, so he could investigate UNFPA's work in China. When international investigators and a U.S. team found "no evidence that UNFPA has knowingly supported or participated in the management of a program of coercive abortion or involuntary sterilization" in China, Bush suppressed the findings and blocked the funding anyway. It's a callous, twisted position he maintained for the rest of his terms in office.

Because of Bush's actions on UNFPA, fewer women in developing countries received pre-natal care, fewer doctors were trained to deal with pregnancy complications, fewer HIV prevention programs could operate, and less medical equipment was made available to expectant mothers.

Obama is going to make this right.

© 2009 Washington Monthly All rights reserved.
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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

How Arne Duncan Thinks About Children

Via Undernews:

I am not a manager of 600 schools. I'm a portfolio manager of 600 schools and I'm trying to improve the portfolio.
-- Arne Duncan, the new education secretary speaking of the Chicago schools he ran.

The Inaugural Address: the Digested Read

Of course, we can all get together and hope for change, or change for hope, or hope for change that we can really use, or change for use that we can really hope...let's just hope that the President has gone nuts temporarily and doesn't mean to increase troop levels in Afghanistan in the traditional manner of distraction politics.--Pete

By C. G. Estabrook

My fellow citizens:

We are in the midst of crisis. Our nation is at war [against an Axis...oops] against a Network of Violence and Hatred.

America's decline can be arrested, [just so long as we can scare hell out of the American people] because the challenges we face are real. [Really, they are.]

We need unity of purpose [to get rid of naysayers]. No more worn-out dogmas [like "no aggressive war"] that for far too long have strangled our politics. [Some are actually trying to stop the Mideast War.]

But we have a noble idea: [spread Freedom...oops] that all are equal, all are free, and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness [as we define it].

[One Nation, one People, and one President] are greater than all the differences of birth or wealth or faction. We must begin again the work of remaking America [in the image and likeness of the Best People.]

We'll create new jobs and lay a new foundation for growth [by paying rich people first]. The stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long no longer apply. [This has been called elsewhere "Gleichschaltung."]

The Founding Fathers, faced with perils we can scarcely imagine [but we'll draw some parallels], drafted a charter to assure the rule of law [and of course their undisturbed possession of their wealth].

The justness of our cause [is so obvious it can't even be discussed]...

We will begin to responsibly leave Iraq to its people [as split as that infinitive]. and forge a hard-earned peace in Afghanistan, [as mixed as that metaphor].

With old friends [Israel] and former foes [Russia], we will work tirelessly to lessen the nuclear threat, [of course we don't admit Israel has any nukes] and roll back the specter of a warming planet [because you know how dangerous those rolling specters are.]

We will not apologize for our way of life [even though it's fucking nuts], nor will we waver in its defense. [You do remember the Bush Doctrine, Ms. Palin?]

And for those who seek to advance their aims by inducing terror and slaughtering innocents, we say to you now that our spirit is stronger; you cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you [i.e., no one induces terror or slaughters innocents like us.]

To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect. [Look how we respected those thousands of dead and wounded Gazans.]

To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict, or blame their society's ills on the West [How could they do THAT?!]:

Know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy. [Pay no attention to Gaza, or a million dead in Iraq; but don't plan any Afghan wedding parties.]

To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent [Hey, what happened to the shoe-thrower?], know that you are on the wrong side of history; but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist [and cross your palm with a little something from Gen. Petraeus].

As we consider the road that unfolds before us [actually, I'm having trouble re-folding the Road Map], we remember with humble gratitude those brave Americans who, at this very hour, patrol far-off deserts and distant mountains [in spite of what the people who live there might think].

They have something to tell us today ["Bring us home!"], just as the fallen heroes who lie in Arlington whisper through the ages. ["That's an ill phrase, a vile phrase...."]

We honor them not only because they are guardians of our liberty [exactly whose liberty are they guarding in the Mideast? ExxonMobil's?], but because they embody the spirit of service; [of course, if they don't, we'll force them to enlist because there are no jobs...]

[Several paragraphs of absolute bilge and balderdash here, ending with a demand for] a recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation and the world [which will be enforced in reverse order].

This is the price and the promise of citizenship. This is the source of our confidence -- the knowledge that God calls on us to shape an uncertain destiny. [And you're hearing it from The One.]

This is ... why a man whose father less than 60 years ago might not have been served at a local restaurant can now stand before you to take a most sacred oath. ["Luo, I am your FAAATHER...."]

When the outcome of our revolution was most in doubt, the father of our nation ordered these words be read to the people: "the city and the country, alarmed at one common danger, came forth to meet it." ["I can feel your Paine."]

With eyes fixed on the horizon and God's grace upon us, we carried forth that great gift of Freedom and delivered it safely to future generations. [Freedom Lives! or is that Frodo? or Fredo?...]

The Digested Read, Digested:

We're going to keep killing people, and that's OK.

C. G. Estabrook is a retired visiting professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the host of "News from Neptune, the TV Edition," on Urbana Public Television and on the website; he can be contacted at

Israeli Homefield Scoreboard

Since the first rocket was launched into Israel in 2002 up until the December 17, 2008 invasion of Gaza, the Israel body count was maybe two dozen.

The Palestinian body count was 2,700.

That would be about 100 to one.

Since the invasion, the Israeli body count is 14.

The Palestinian body count was more than 1,400.

That would be about 100 to one.

--Russell Mokhiber, Editor, Corporate Crime Reporter

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The people teach their leaders how to lead

From remarks at an Inauguration Day Assembly at Lausanne Collegiate School in Memphis, Tenn.

Pablo J. Davis - We'll hear much, rightly, about Barack Obama's becoming the first president of acknowledged African descent.

We'll hear much of his electoral mandate, the strongest of any first - term president in two decades. And his thoughtful, cool, and unflappable bearing, reassuring to so many in these difficult times.

We're right to consider this day historic. But if we see the Inauguration as the end of the story, we'll be making a great mistake. We need to think of this moment as a beginning.

Why? A character in one of German dramatist Bertolt Brecht's plays laments, "Pity this land, that has no hero." To which another character replies, "Pity the land that needs a hero."

Many people, fearful of the times and dazzled by the president - elect's qualities, see him as a political savior.

But there's a trap in such thinking. The presidency is hugely important, but presidents do not achieve by themselves, or strictly from above, or following a detailed plan.

Lincoln's emancipation of enslaved Americans, Teddy Roosevelt's progressive reforms, FDR's creation of safeguards for old age and widowhood - none of these goals sprang fully - formed from the brow of any of these men, great as they were. In each case, strong pressure from the people forced greater goals on the president.

Often in history, the people have led and the leaders have followed. Or, if you prefer, the people have taught their leaders how to lead.

This president, like all others, will on Day One find his desk piled high with IOU's from people and organizations of great wealth and power.

But will he hear from all of the people? Only if we see democracy as more than just elections - as 365- days- per- year dialogue and work between the people and the government.

What I say applies to those who supported Obama in the election and those who didn't.

The issues aren't abstract. Will you have decent work in coming years -- or, indeed, any work? Will you be able to stay in your home? Will you have access to health care? Will the country continue to wage wars, and to what ends? Will our political liberties survive?

Like it or not, government's actions, in our names and with our tax moneys, will have much to say about all this.

Stay informed. Learn about public - policy organizations. And above all let the new president and the Congress hear - - by letter, by phone, by email - - from you, from us, from "We, the people."

Saturday, January 17, 2009

American Fascists

Holy Shit! Can you believe this guy? The scariest part is that he has loyal followers. These people are dangerous to all that is right and real. I mean, what century are we in?

This piece is cadged from Alternet (

Try not to panic, maybe you can calm me down...Pe

In Bruce Wilson's video, on April 17, 2005 Rick Warren tells 30,000 of his followers at a rally in Angel Stadium, right next to Disneyland, that he had been given a vision, a three point plan for the next 25 years:

It is the global expansion of the Kingdom of God.

It is the total mobilzation of this church.

And the third part of this dream is a radical devotion of every believer.

Warren goes on to deliver this horrifying homily:
In April 1939, In a stadium much like this, in Munich Germany, they packed it out with young men and women in brown shirts for a fanatical man standing behind a podium named Adolf Hitler, the personification of evil. And in that stadium those with the brown shirts formed a sign that said in in the whole stadium "Hitler we are yours." And they nearly took the world...
Warren then decribes the dedication of Lenin and Mao's followers and then in a jaw dropping moment says:
When I hear those kinds of stories, I think, what would happen if American Christians, if world Christians, if just the Christians in this stadium said, "Jesus, we are yours"? What kind of spiritual awakening would be have?
Warren then exhorts the crowd to hold up the sign by their seats that say "Whatever it takes" and concludes his speech with:
I'm looking at a stadium full of people saying, "Whatever it takes, god".
Holy Shit!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

U.S.-backed Israeli massacre in Gaza, continued...

The latest numbers from Gaza put further truth to the lies told not only by the corporate defense contractor-owned media outlets but even by our Democratic representatives in the Senate and the House, like Reid and Pelosi.

885 dead and over 3400 wounded. 85% of the dead and injured are civilians, almost one third of them are children.

There is increasing evidence of the use by the Israeli military of white phosphorus, a substance that burns human flesh to the bone and is considered illegal internationally and its use a war crime. Hospitals are reporting more and more deep burns which cannot even be cleaned and dressed for lack of gauze, which tends to burn when in contact with residual phosphorus anyway.

For those who continue to parrot the party line calling this massacre retaliation for the missile attacks by Hamas into southern Israel, be advised that until 2 weeks ago, a total of 17 Israeli civilians had been killed by those rockets. The number of Palestinian civilian deaths due to Israeli rocket fire runs well into the thousands. While the violence on both sides needs to be quashed, rest assured that the Hamas government is well within their right of resistance to retaliate for the year-long Israeli blockade of food, medical supplies, energy and water into Gaza. The murderous apartheid government of Israel is indeed the aggressor.

Guerrilla warfare, called terrorism by powerful in order to further vilify their enemies, is always necessary when resisting violent occupation of wildly disproportionate military might. If this be terrorism, what then to call the collective punishment being so horribly meted out by the Israeli military for home-made rocket launches? The notion of the right to defend the citizenry runs both ways, does it not?

It is interesting to note that this obvious holocaust of ethnic cleansing is being carried out by Israel, who should know better the pain of such attempts at genocide.


Saturday, January 03, 2009

Brian Eno: Stealing Gaza

It's a mistake to believe that celebrities have some sort of wisdom that we uncelebrated folk lack simply because our culture has been usurped by mass media and they happen to be its players. However, when a celebrity lands a commentary on Counterpunch and I read it, wondering why the hell I didn't write it, I feel the need to post it to my relatively harmless blog. That he's a groundbreaking musician and artist helps, too, as far as this music freak is concerned.--Pete

Stealing Gaza
By Brian Eno, Counterpunch
It's a tragedy that the Israelis - a people who must understand better than almost anybody the horrors of oppression - are now acting as oppressors. As the great Jewish writer Primo Levi once remarked "Everybody has their Jews, and for the Israelis it's the Palestinians". By creating a middle Eastern version of the Warsaw ghetto they are recapitulating their own history as though they've forgotten it. And by trying to paint an equivalence between the Palestinians - with their homemade rockets and stone-throwing teenagers - and themselves - with one of the most sophisticated military machines in the world - they sacrifice all credibility.

The Israelis are a gifted and resourceful people who fully deserve the right to live in peace, but who seem intent on squandering every chance to allow that to happen. It's difficult to avoid the conclusion that this conflict serves the political and economic purposes of Israel so well that they have every interest in maintaining it. While there is fighting they can continue to build illegal settlements. While there is fighting they continue to receive huge quantities of military aid from the United States. And while there is fighting they can avoid looking candidly at themselves and the ruthlessness into which they are descending.

Gaza is now an experiment in provocation. Stuff one and a half million people into a tiny space, stifle their access to water, electricity, food and medical treatment, destroy their livelihoods, and humiliate them regularly...and, surprise, surprise - they turn hostile. Now why would you want to make that experiment?

Because the hostility you provoke is the whole point. Now 'under attack' you can cast yourself as the victim, and call out the helicopter gunships and the F16 attack fighters and the heavy tanks and the guided missiles, and destroy yet more of the pathetic remains of infrastructure that the Palestinian state still has left. And then you can point to it as a hopeless case, unfit to govern itself, a terrorist state, a state with which you couldn't possibly reach an accommodation.

And then you can carry on with business as usual, quietly stealing their homeland.

Brian Eno is a musician and music producer.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Resident Bush lays out the bullshit for the livng-room sheep

WASHINGTON – President George W. Bush on Friday branded the Hamas rocket attacks on Israel an "act of terror" and outlined his own condition for a cease-fire in Gaza, saying no peace deal would be acceptable without monitoring to halt the flow of smuggled weapons to terrorist groups.

Bush chose his weekly taped radio address to speak for the first time about one of the bloodiest Mideast clashes in decades. It began a week ago. Israeli warplanes have rained bombs on Gaza, targeting the Palestinian militant group Hamas, which has traumatized southern Israel with intensifying rocket attacks.

"The United States is leading diplomatic efforts to achieve a meaningful cease-fire that is fully respected," Bush said. "Another one-way cease-fire that leads to rocket attacks on Israel is not acceptable. And promises from Hamas will not suffice — there must be monitoring mechanisms in place to help ensure that smuggling of weapons to terrorist groups in Gaza comes to an end."

Read more, if you can stand it...

Are All Americans Guilty?

Paul Craig Roberts: Whatever Happened to Western Morality?

On the last day of the old year in CounterPunch, two Israelis, Jeff Halper who heads the Israeli peace movement ICAHD and Neve Gordon who is chairman of the department of politics and government at Ben-Gurion University, asked, “Where’s the Academic Outrage Over the Bombing of a University in Gaza?”

“Not one of the nearly 450 presidents of American colleges and universities who prominently denounced an effort by British academics to boycott Israeli universities in September 2007 have raised their voice in opposition to Israel’s bombardment of the Islamic University of Gaza earlier this week,” report Halper and Gordon. They note that Columbia University president Lee C. Bollinger, who has in the past ignorantly insulted Islamic representatives, “has been silent.”

It is the goyim moralists who are silent, not the Jews. It is the Israeli newspaper, Haaretz, not the goyim media, that provides reports of Israel’s abuse of Palestinians. Gideon Levy’s “The Neighborhood Bully Strikes Again” was published in Haaretz (29 December), not in the goyim press. Levy’s words--“Once again, Israel’s violent responses, even if there is justification for them, exceed all proportion and cross every red line of humaneness, morality, international law and wisdom”--are not words that can appear in American print or TV media. Such words, printed in Israeli newspapers, never reach the goyim.

The extent of Americans’ ignorance is breathtaking. Israel has the Palestinians jammed into tightly controlled ghettos known as Gaza and the West Bank. With Egypt’s help, Israel controls the inflows of food, medicines, water, and energy into Gaza. Palestinians in Gaza are not permitted to enter Israel or Egypt. Last week a humanitarian ship bringing food and medicine was rammed by Israeli gunboats and turned away.

In the West Bank Palestinians are walled off from their fields, jobs, medical care, education, water, and from one another by endless checkpoints, roads for “Jews only,” walls, barbed wire, and machine gun towers. Palestinians are being evicted from their towns house by house, block by block.

Israel’s slow theft of Palestine is illegal under international law but protected by US “diplomacy.”

The Palestinians are no more of a threat to Israel than Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto were a threat to the Nazi state. Yet, everywhere in America--Congress, the executive branch, the print and TV media, the universities, evangelical Christian institutions--there is the belief that Israel is on the verge of annihilation by Palestinian terrorists. This ignorance, so carefully cultivated by the Israel Lobby, turns genocidal aggression into self-defense.

It fools Americans, but it doesn’t fool Israelis. The Israelis have always known that “self-defense” is a cloak for a Zionist policy of territorial expansion. The policy is controversial within Israel. Many Israelis object, just as many Americans object to President Bush’s illegal wars and violations of US civil liberties. Many Israelis give voice to their moral conscience, but they are overwhelmed by vested interests.

Karl Marx declared morality to be merely a mask for vested interests. The writings of Marx and Engels are scornful of good will and moral ideals as effective forces in history. The Israeli state epitomizes Marx’s doctrine that power alone is the effective force.

Many American conservatives share the Israeli state’s belief in the efficacy of power. Conservatives who turned against Bush’s wars did so because the US was not brutal enough. They turned away from Bush’s long inconclusive wars in the way that fans desert a losing team.

Americans used to say that “the pen is mightier than the sword,” but this hasn’t been the case for US and Israeli aggression. The success the two regimes have had in instilling fear into their populations is part of the explanation for the impotence of morality. Another part of the explanation is that vested interests are a powerful constraint on morality.

Consider the case of Lee Bollinger. Columbia University is dependent on Jewish money, faculty and students. If Bollinger were to take a stand against Israel’s mistreatment of the Palestinians, he would be denounced as an anti-semite. Presidents of competitor universities would not come to his defense. They would pile on in hopes of recruiting Columbia’s top faculty and students and redirecting the flow of financial resources from Columbia to themselves.

An American newspaper or TV network that took a stand against Israel’s abuse of Palestinians would be confronted with an advertising boycott organized by AIPAC. American politicians who criticize Israel go down to defeat by Israel Lobby money.

Hegel gave too much emphasis to ideas, Marx too much to material interests. Both forces operate in the world. There are times in history when revolutionary ideas shatter material interests. Other times the two coexist in a balance of power. In other times material interests prevail over morality.

We are living in the latter time. Financial interests, the military-security complex, and the Israel Lobby are the powers that rule America. They are buttressed by neoconservatives and Christian Zionists and by the patriotic hubris that America is the main force for good operating in the world. The evils America commits are dismissed as necessary to the service of good. The destruction of Iraq, for example, is justified as “bringing freedom and democracy to the Iraqi people.”

A number of commentators, including myself, predict a decline in America’s economic power. As this occurs, Israel will have to abandon its policy of violence. With the accumulated hatred that its policies have fomented, Israel will be vulnerable.

The world will need to remember that although Israel is a Jewish state, it is a state whose policies many Jews find objectionable, just as a majority of American Jews oppose President Bush’s wars of aggression in the Middle East and his unconstitutional policies at home. We must not confuse Israel’s Zionist government with world Jewry, just as we must not confuse the American people with the war criminals in the Bush Regime.

Consider, who do you trust with your civil liberties, the US Department of Justice or the ACLU’s phalanx of Jewish attorneys?

We must avoid the mistake that was made by blaming the German people for Hitler. It was the aristocratic German military that tried to remove Hitler. In contrast, Democratic Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi blocked the attempt to impeach George W. Bush and Dick Cheney. Pelosi is a discredit to California, but shall we blame all of America for Pelosi’s defense of war criminals? How can we do so when US Rep. Dennis Kucinich courageously read out the articles of impeachment on the House floor?

Are all Americans guilty because Kucinich did not prevail?

Paul Craig Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan administration. He is coauthor of The Tyranny of Good Intentions.He can be reached at:

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Obama on the Gaza Massacre: "No Comment".

Excerpted and paraphrased from Wajahat Ali, Counterpunch

President-elect Obama remains inappropriately quiet on the hell that Israel rains down on Gaza with the implicit approval of BushCo, but earlier this summer he endorsed Israel's right to defend itself against Qassam rockets by stating,
"If someone were sending rockets into my house where my two daughters sleep at night, I would do anything to stop it.”
One wonders, however, if President elect Obama’s principles of safety, dignity and self defense apply to Palestinians as well? If Obama and President Bush’s daughters were forced to suspend their emergency hospital operations due to fuel shortages, beg for 300 essential medicines, drink contaminated water that causes malnutrition and anemia in children, eat bread made of animal feed, and renounce electricity because their main power plant was forced to shut down, what would they do?

Israel Has No Intention of Granting a Palestinian State

If Hamas Did Not Exist
By Jennifer Lowenstein, Counterpunch

Let us get one thing perfectly straight. If the wholesale mutilation and degradation of the Gaza Strip is going to continue; if Israel’s will is at one with that of the United States; if the European Union, Russia, the United Nations and all the international legal agencies and organizations spread across the globe are going to continue to sit by like hollow mannequins doing nothing but making repeated “calls” for a “ceasefire” on “both sides”; if the cowardly, obsequious and supine Arab States are going to stand by watching their brethren get slaughtered by the hour while the world’s bullying Superpower eyes them threateningly from Washington lest they say something a little to their disliking; then let us at least tell the truth why this hell on earth is taking place.

The state terror unleashed from the skies and on the ground against the Gaza Strip as we speak has nothing to do with Hamas. It has nothing to do with “Terror”. It has nothing to do with the long-term “security” of the Jewish State or with Hizbullah or Syria or Iran except insofar as it is aggravating the conditions that have led up to this crisis today. It has nothing to do with some conjured-up “war” – a cynical and overused euphemism that amounts to little more the wholesale enslavement of any nation that dares claim its sovereign rights; that dares assert that its resources are its own; that doesn’t want one of the Empire’s obscene military bases sitting on its cherished land.

This crisis has nothing to do with freedom, democracy, justice or peace. It is not about Mahmoud Zahhar or Khalid Mash’al or Ismail Haniyeh. It is not about Hassan Nasrallah or Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. These are all circumstantial players who have gained a role in the current tempest only now that the situation has been allowed for 61 years to develop into the catastrophe that it is today. The Islamist factor has colored and will continue to color the atmosphere of the crisis; it has enlisted the current leaders and mobilized wide sectors of the world’s population. The primary symbols today are Islamic – the mosques, the Qur’an, the references to the Prophet Muhammad and to Jihad. But these symbols could disappear and the impasse would continue.

There was a time when Fatah and the PFLP held the day; when few Palestinians wanted anything to do with Islamist policies and politics. Such politics have nothing to do with primitive rockets being fired over the border, or smuggling tunnels and black-market weapons; just as Arafat’s Fatah had little to do with stones and suicide bombings. The associations are coincidental; the creations of a given political environment. They are the result of something entirely different than what the lying politicians and their analysts are telling you. They have become part of the landscape of human events in the modern Middle East today; but incidentals wholly as lethal, or as recalcitrant, deadly, angry or incorrigible could just as soon have been in their places.

Strip away the clich├ęs and the vacuous newspeak blaring out across the servile media and its pathetic corps of voluntary state servants in the Western world and what you will find is the naked desire for hegemony; for power over the weak and dominion over the world’s wealth. Worse yet you will find that the selfishness, the hatred and indifference, the racism and bigotry, the egotism and hedonism that we try so hard to cover up with our sophisticated jargon, our refined academic theories and models actually help to guide our basest and ugliest desires. The callousness with which we in indulge in them all are endemic to our very culture; thriving here like flies on a corpse.

Strip away the current symbols and language of the victims of our selfish and devastating whims and you will find the simple, impassioned and unaffected cries of the downtrodden; of the ‘wretched of the earth’ begging you to cease your cold aggression against their children and their homes; their families and their villages; begging you to leave them alone to have their fish and their bread, their oranges, their olives and their thyme; asking you first politely and then with increasing disbelief why you cannot let them live undisturbed on the land of their ancestors; unexploited, free of the fear of expulsion; of ravishment and devastation; free of permits and roadblocks and checkpoints and crossings; of monstrous concrete walls, guard towers, concrete bunkers, and barbed wire; of tanks and prisons and torture and death. Why is life without these policies and instruments of hell impossible?

The answer is because Israel has no intention of allowing a viable, sovereign Palestinian state on its borders. It had no intention of allowing it in 1948 when it grabbed 24 per cent more land than what it was allotted legally, if unfairly, by UN Resolution 181. It had no intention of allowing it throughout the massacres and ploys of the 1950s. It had no intention of allowing two states when it conquered the remaining 22 per cent of historic Palestine in 1967 and reinterpreted UN Security Council Resolution 248 to its own liking despite the overwhelming international consensus stating that Israel would receive full international recognition within secure and recognized borders if it withdrew from the lands it had only recently occupied.

It had no intention of acknowledging Palestinian national rights at the United Nations in 1974, when –alone with the United States—it voted against a two-state solution. It had no intention of allowing a comprehensive peace settlement when Egypt stood ready to deliver but received, and obediently accepted, a separate peace exclusive of the rights of Palestinians and the remaining peoples of the region. It had no intention of working toward a just two-state solution in 1978 or 1982 when it invaded, fire-bombed, blasted and bulldozed Beirut so that it might annex the West Bank without hassle. It had no intention of granting a Palestinian state in 1987 when the first Intifada spread across occupied Palestine, into the Diaspora and the into the spirits of the global dispossessed, or when Israel deliberately aided the newly formed Hamas movement so that it might undermine the strength of the more secular-nationalist factions.

Israel had no intention of granting a Palestinian state at Madrid or at Oslo where the PLO was superseded by the quivering, quisling Palestinian Authority, too many of whose cronies grasped at the wealth and prestige it gave them at the expense of their own kin. As Israel beamed into the world’s satellites and microphones its desire for peace and a two-state solution, it more than doubled the number of illegal Jewish settlements on the ground in the West Bank and around East Jerusalem, annexing them as it built and continues to build a superstructure of bypass roads and highways over the remaining, severed cities and villages of earthly Palestine. It has annexed the Jordan valley, the international border of Jordan, expelling any ‘locals’ inhabiting that land. It speaks with a viper’s tongue over the multiple amputee of Palestine whose head shall soon be severed from its body in the name of justice, peace and security.

Through the home demolitions, the assaults on civil society that attempted to cast Palestinian history and culture into a chasm of oblivion; through the unspeakable destruction of the refugee camp sieges and infrastructure bombardments of the second Intifada, through assassinations and summary executions, past the grandiose farce of disengagement and up to the nullification of free, fair and democratic Palestinian elections Israel has made its view known again and again in the strongest possible language, the language of military might, of threats, intimidation, harassment, defamation and degradation.

Israel, with the unconditional and approving support of the United States, has made it dramatically clear to the entire world over and over and over again, repeating in action after action that it will accept no viable Palestinian state next to its borders. What will it take for the rest of us to hear? What will it take to end the criminal silence of the ‘international community’? What will it take to see past the lies and indoctrination to what is taking place before us day after day in full view of the eyes of the world? The more horrific the actions on the ground, the more insistent are the words of peace. To listen and watch without hearing or seeing allows the indifference, the ignorance and complicity to continue and deepens with each grave our collective shame.

The destruction of Gaza has nothing to do with Hamas. Israel will accept no authority in the Palestinian territories that it does not ultimately control. Any individual, leader, faction or movement that fails to accede to Israel’s demands or that seeks genuine sovereignty and the equality of all nations in the region; any government or popular movement that demands the applicability of international humanitarian law and of the universal declaration of human rights for its own people will be unacceptable for the Jewish State. Those dreaming of one state must be forced to ask themselves what Israel would do to a population of 4 million Palestinians within its borders when it commits on a daily, if not hourly basis, crimes against their collective humanity while they live alongside its borders? What will suddenly make the raison d’etre, the self-proclaimed purpose of Israel’s reason for being change if the Palestinian territories are annexed to it outright?

The lifeblood of the Palestinian National Movement flows through the streets of Gaza today. Every drop that falls waters the soil of vengeance, bitterness and hatred not only in Palestine but across the Middle East and much of the world. We do have a choice over whether or not this should continue. Now is the time to make it.

Jennifer Loewenstein is the Associate Director of the Middle East Studies Program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She can be reached at