An Open Letter to the People and Government of the US - James Petras

by James Petras

(And a Reply to the FARC)

On a November 9, 2006, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia-Peoples Army, (FARC-EP) sent an “Open Letter to the People of the United States”. It was specifically addressed to several Hollywood producers and actors (Michael Moore, Denzel Washington and Oliver Stone) as well as three leftist academics (James Petras, Noam Chomsky and Angela Davis) and a progressive politician (Jessie Jackson). The purpose of the open letter was to solicit our support in facilitating an agreement between the US and Colombian governments and the FARC-EP on exchanging 600 imprisoned guerrillas (including 2 on trial in the US) for 60 rebel-held prisoners including 3 US counter-insurgency experts.

FARC-EP: Terrorist Band or Resistance Movement?

Contrary to the US government position characterizing the FARC-EP as a ‘terrorist organization’, it is the longest standing, largest peasant-based guerrilla movement in the world today. Founded in 1964 by two dozen peasant activists, as a means for defending autonomous rural communities from the violent depredations of the Colombian military and paramilitary, the FARC-EP has grown into a highly organized 20,000 member guerrilla army with several hundred thousand local militia and supporters, highly influential in over 40% of the country. Up until September 11, 2001, the FARC-EP was recognized as a legitimate resistance movement by most of the countries of the European Union, Latin America and for several years was in peace negotiations with the Colombian government headed by President Andrés Pastrana. Prior to 9/11 FARC leaders met with European heads of state to exchange ideas on the peace process. Numerous prominent business leaders from Wall Street, City of London and Bogotá and notables like Queen Noor of Jordan met with FARC leaders in the demilitarized zone during the aborted peace negotiations (1999-2002).

Under heavy pressure from the White House, particularly its leading spokespersons, the right-wing extremists like the notorious Otto Reich, Roger Noriega and, John Bolton, the Pastrana regime abruptly broke off negotiations and in less than 24 hours sent the Colombian Army into the demilitarized area, in an attempt to capture the FARC leaders engaged in negotiations. The ‘surprise’ attack failed but did set the stage for the escalation of the conflict.

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Milton Lost: Can We Regain Paradise?

by Jason Miller

[I dedicate this essay to the untold millions who suffered as a result of Milton Friedman’s creation of an intellectual bulwark for economic brutality. On 11/16/06, Friedman died of heart failure, an ironic cause of death for a heartless individual.]

We have reached the deplorable circumstance where in large measure a very powerful few are in possession of the earth's resources, the land and its riches and all the franchises and other privileges that yield a return. These positions are maintained virtually without taxation; they are immune to the demands made on others. The very poor, who have nothing, are the object of compulsory charity. And the rest -- the workers, the middle-class, the backbone of the country -- are made to support the lot by their labor.

-- Agnes George de Mille (granddaughter of Henry George), New York, 1979

Note that Ms. George de Mille penned her observations before the patron saint of the “have mores” established residence at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. In less than three decades, a Friedman-inspired Reagan and his successors made astounding gains for the “very powerful” de Mille described.

Reagan wielded the scalpel that emasculated organized labor and convinced America that “regulation” is a four letter word. George H.W. Bush further crippled unions and condemned many poor Mexicans to corporate exploitation through his relentless efforts to make NAFTA a reality. Convincing the multitude of his compassion and empathy, Clinton proceeded to sign NAFTA into law and cheerfully eviscerated public assistance.
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Housing Bubble Smack-down

by Mike Whitney

Give me 5 minutes and I’ll convince you that you should sell your house immediately and invest yourlife-savings in gold or a Swiss bank-account.

For some time now we’ve been hearing about the so-called housing bubble and what effect it could have on your net worth and future. Well, the numbers are finally in and you can decide for yourself whether its time to sell now or try to ride out the storm.

In 2000 the total value of homes in the US was $11.4 trillion. Today that number has shot up to $20.3 trillion; nearly double.

At the same time, mortgage-debt in 2000 was a trifling $4.8 trillion (about half) while in 2006 it skyrocketed to a whopping $9.3 trillion.

So, how do we explain these enormous increases in value? After all, wasn’t the housing boom just the natural outcome of “supply and demand”?

No it wasn’t. That’s an unfortunate myth that should be interred with the withered remains of Milton “free-market” Friedman.
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"Fast Food Nation" Makes Headlines

by Mickey Z.

In almost every movie ever made, at some point, a character will consume animal products: a cheeseburger, a steak, a tuna sandwich, an omelet, a slice of pizza, a milk shake...whatever. Often, the script will even have characters specifically voice their love for such fare.

In the reviews of these films, of course, you will see no mention of this. No film reviewer would ever condemn a movie simply because the protagonist ate and enjoyed, say, a grilled cheese sandwich.

However, if you were to release a movie that directly addressed the standard American diet and animal consumption, every wiseass writer would be poised and ready to get glib and trivialize the message. It's all part of the subtle, daily conditioning we endure. If you don't believe me, check out some of the headlines for "Fast Food Nation" reviews:

'Fast Food' serves a lot to chew on" (San Jose Mercury News)

"It's a whopper!" (Edmonton Sun)

"Beefing Up 'Fast Food Nation' (Washington Post)

"Mistake on a bun" (Toronto Star)

'Fast Food Nation' bites off too little as a drama" (Seattle Post Intelligencer)

'Fast Food Nation' serves up revolting food for thought" (Los Angeles Daily)

"Linklater spoon-feeds audience 'Fast Food Nation'" (Reno Gazette-Journal)

"Order of 'Fast Food' difficult to stomach" (Boston Herald)
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University Unity - California professors and students join forces

by Seth Sandronsky

The recent election win of an incumbent and centrist GOP governor in California over his Democratic rival by double digits might suggest that the political status quo is alive and well.  Is this gubernatorial landslide a triumph of centrism in the face of left and right extremism?  Have California voters spoken and returned to their market-friendly roles as tame workers and faithful consumers?  Such views might be off the mark.

Consider the coalition actions of union professors and students in the California State University system.  An estimated 1,500 of them rallied at the system’s board of trustees meeting in Long Beach on November 15.  Two dozen of these protesters locked arms in a sit-down action in front of the trustees, bringing to mind the black freedom movement’s fight to end racial segregation in the 1960s.

What is happening that propelled CSU professors and students to demonstrate this way?  Part of the answer is their discontent with rising class size (50 students and up) and student fees, plus six-figure senior management pay that continues after these managers have left the system (also called “golden parachutes”).

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Who's the Comeback Kid Now?

by Will Durst

Guess who the Republicans snuck in as Senate Minority Whip? Trent Lott. Yes, that Trent Lott. Welcome back buddy! You’re a breath of stale air. And just the shot of smack in the arm the GOP needs. A return to the good old high flying junkie days of yore when votes stayed counted and people had priorities. Winning. At all costs.

Don’t worry about those silly racist slur charges. Hardly anybody remembers how or why you were unceremoniously bounced from your Majority leader position in the first place. That was four long years ago, which in politics is measured via carbon dating. It was so long ago we hadn’t discovered the phantom nature of weapons of mass destruction yet. When President Bush had a higher approval rating than the puppy- eating- snake level he’s at now. Back when he acted like he was better than you. And to reclaim a position of power right after the midterms that he fumbled away like a running back wearing ham mittens… genius move. As was the secret ballot. Need more of those in the Senate.

As per your controversial speechifying about how better off America would be if Strom Thurmond’s Presidential bid on the Segregationist Dixiecrat Ticket had been successful: don’t sweat it, people already forgot. Most Americans are hard pressed to recall anything before the last “Lost.” And your 25- 24 vote margin in the Asleep At The Wheel Party Sweepstakes is especially delicious, considering these are the same folks who insist they’re doing all they can to reach out to minorities. Apparently still don’t realize you were arguing integration is bad. Besides, you did apologize, and if nobody could quite understand what you were saying because of the hood muffling your words- tough.
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Criminalizing Compassion in the War on Terror: Muslim Charities and the Case of Dr. Rafil A. Dhafir

By Katherine Hughes
 
“The first question which the priest and the Levite asked was: ‘If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?’ But ... the good Samaritan reversed the question: ‘If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?’”

Martin Luther King, Jr.

“The truth shall set you free? Maybe. But first the Truth must be set free.”

Wole Soyinka, Nigerian playwright, educator.


Since the events of 9/11 the government has implemented powerful new prosecutorial tools to gain convictions in its War on Terror. In an article entitled, “Terrorist Financing,” Jeff Breinholt, Deputy Chief of the Department of Justice's Counterterrorism Section, explains these tools and how they are being used to win convictions.On page thirty-one of the article he lists the statutes being used in the criminal prosecution of terrorist financing and among these statutes is the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA), which Breinholt also labels as “United States economic sanctions.” IEEPA provides the President of the United States with authority to deal with any “unusual and extraordinary threat” that has its source in whole or substantial part outside the United States; this includes threat to “national security, foreign policy, and the economy.”

Prosecutors armed with the statutes listed in Breinholt’s paper are further empowered by using them in conjunction with the “material support of terrorism” laws, Executive Order 13224, and civil asset forfeiture laws, particularly those under IEEPA, which were amended by the PATRIOT Act. Under the IEEPA civil asset forfeiture provisions the government can close down an organization and seize its assets while an investigation is ongoing, without probable cause of criminal activity and without any charges ever being brought against anyone.

E.O. 13224 was issued on September 23, 2001, and introduced a blacklist of organizations and individuals suspected of terrorism, materially aiding terrorism, or associating with terrorists. IEEPA and international law permit humanitarian assistance for these suspects, including food, clothing and medicine, but this humanitarian aid is outlawed under the E.O. 13224. The penalty, for an IEEPA violation, for organizations that knowingly engage in terrorist financing already carries a sentence of twenty years to life in prison. What this new provision does is “drastically increase the penalties for knowing violations of non-terrorism-related IEEPA offenses.” People with a concern for civil liberties are troubled by the fact that the government provides no legal definition of what they consider a “specially designated terrorist” and by the broad manner in which the government is interpreting the new rules.
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Saving Condi's Life

by Mickey Z.

There's a disturbing dynamic that occurs on every Manhattan street corner, every minute of every day. By simply watching the typical New York City pedestrian when he or she reaches the corner at a red light, you get a pretty good idea of what it's like to deal with an overcrowded, rancorous metropolitan area on a daily basis: No one waits on the sidewalk.

Even if a thousand cars are racing by, practically every single New Yorker insists on stepping a few steps out into the street while waiting for the light to change. They'll even go as far as squeezing themselves past other impatient street-crossers just to get to the front of the pack. We are so hyped up, so overstressed, so programmed to do everything fast that we can't even endure waiting 30 seconds for a damn traffic light. We'll risk death by stepping off the curb in order to get a head start on the green light.

With this in mind, here's a little thought experiment: Let's say I'm on such a corner as a pedestrian pushes past me-too harried to realize that she is stepping directly into the path of an oncoming SUV. I reach out, grab hold of her jacket, and yank her back to safety...only to realize it was none other than Condoleezza Rice. I wonder: How might that make me feel?
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Determined to Discriminate in the Name of “God”

By Mel Seesholtz, Ph.D.

“Welcome to Americans for Truth, the only national organization devoted exclusively to exposing and countering the homosexual activist agenda.” That’s the proud-to-promote bigotry greeting on the AFT website.

The “homosexual agenda” they want to counter was eloquently exposed by Rep. Barney Frank:

We want all people in the United States to enjoy the same legal rights as everyone else, unless they have forfeited them by violating the rights of others. We believe this should include some things that are, apparently, very controversial.

They include the right to serve, fight, and even die on behalf of our country in the military; the right to earn a living by working hard and being judged wholly on the quality of our work; the right for teenagers to attend high school without being shoved, punched, or otherwise attacked; and, yes, the right to express not only love for another person but a willingness to be legally as well as morally responsible for his or her well-being.

Civil equality is what the so-called ‘homosexual agenda” is all about. Denying civil equality is what AFT is all about, as was well illustrated by its president, Peter LaBarbera, in one of his recent “press releases.” Consider his convoluted words and overt desire to discriminate.
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Iran turns up the Heat

by Mike Whitney

By now, anyone with a lick of sense can see that the war in Iraq has been a dead-loss. Still, few people understand how it has disrupted the region’s strategic balance and is quickening America’s decline as a world power.

The US is already facing fierce headwinds in the near future withthe deflating housing market,the falling dollar, and the growing prospects of a deep recession. A sudden realignment in the Middle East would be a major hit to the American economy. Even so, it’s looking more and more like big changes are on the way.

The problem is that American power is waning just as Iran’s is ascendant. This doesn’t bode well for the “Great Satan” whose economy relies on dependable sources of cheap oil.

Iran is playing a clever game in Iraq using US occupation forces to crush the Ba’athist-led resistance while expanding their influence via the Shiite militias. This is a “lose-lose” situation for the United States. American troops must continue to focus on one enemy while they inadvertently strengthen the other. How long will it be before the Bush administration sees that they’ve been supporting the very group which is most hostile to American interests?
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Family Feud: Little Bush Hits Back at Daddy

by Chris Floyd

Bush Initiates Iraq Policy Review Separate From Baker Group's (Washington Post)

Excerpt: President Bush formally launched a sweeping internal review of Iraq policy yesterday, pulling together studies underway by various government agencies, according to U.S. officials. The initiative… parallels the effort by the bipartisan Iraq Study Group to salvage U.S. policy in Iraq, develop an exit strategy and protect long-term U.S. interests in the region…The White House's decision changes the dynamics of what happens next to U.S. policy deliberations. The administration will have its own working document as well as recommendations from an independent bipartisan commission to consider as it struggles to prevent further deterioration in Iraq.

When I saw the Newsweek cover featuring Big Daddy Bush muscling toward the front with a diminished little Dubya skulking in the background, my first thought was: How is Junior going to react to this? Bush II's resentment toward his father is well-known -- a resentment no doubt compounded by his lifelong, abject dependence on Daddy's financial and political pull -- and I knew that Little Bush would not simply accept this media humiliation and move on.
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Freshman Class War: New Senator Sends Message on Economic Injustice

by Chris Floyd

I don't know that much about Jim Webb. I don't know how he will actually vote when lobbyist push comes to corporate shove in the Senate. And I certainly don't buy into the propensity of so many in the blogosphere (not to mention the mainstream media) to fall into swoons of hero worship over this or that politician.

But I will say this: Webb's recent opinion column – in the Wall Street Journal, no less – put the facts about the elitist rapine of the American people about as squarely as you could hope for from an elected official writing in an Establishment paper. If Webb backs up these insights with political guts, he could serve as a formidable champion for economic justice – or at least (and more likely, given the near-total corporate-elite control of Congress) an outspoken gadfly, in the Proxmire mold, who by stating bald truth draws constant attention to the hypocrisy and servility of his colleagues.

What I found especially interesting was Webb's insider exposé of the true attitudes of the corporate elite – their overwhelming sense of entitlement, their utterly callous dismissal of the rabble they squeeze their riches from. Let us have more of this, Senator Webb.

Some excerpts:

The most important--and unfortunately the least debated--issue in politics today is our society's steady drift toward a class-based system, the likes of which we have not seen since the 19th century. America's top tier has grown infinitely richer and more removed over the past 25 years. It is not unfair to say that they are literally living in a different country. Few among them send their children to public schools; fewer still send their loved ones to fight our wars. They own most of our stocks, making the stock market an unreliable indicator of the economic health of working people. The top 1% now takes in an astounding 16% of national income, up from 8% in 1980. The tax codes protect them, just as they protect corporate America, through a vast system of loopholes.
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