This Christmas, say no to fir

by Mickey Z.

On my way to the elevated subway station today, I caught sight of my neighborhood's most clearcut (pun very much intended) sign that Santa season is fully upon us: Christmas tree lots. I detect the familiar faces of the folks‹positioned, as always, in front of Rite Aid‹hawking pines and firs long since separated from their roots. According to the National Christmas Tree Association, approximately 30-35 million "real" Christmas trees are sold in the U.S. every year and roughly 100,000 people are employed in the Christmas tree industry.

"As soon as the turkey's in the Tupperware, thoughts turn to getting ready for Christmas," begins one recent newspaper story. "And what says Christmas more than the tree?" Yep, as Thanksgiving is to the turkeys, Christmas is to evergreen. It almost seems to go unnoticed that the enduring symbols of winter's two most celebrated holidays are the annual targets of human killing sprees. You can sing "O Christmas Tree" until you go hoarse, but that tree you just bought is dying before your eyes.

Ninety-eight percent of all American Christmas trees are grown on the more than 21,000 Christmas tree farms; these farms eat up about 450,000 acres of land. It takes about 7-10 years for a Christmas tree to mature, and for every harvested tree, 2-3 seedlings are planted. Think of it like factory farming for firs. Add a comment
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Noam Chomsky and Gilbert Achcar's New Book: Perilous Power

by Stephen Lendman

Noam Chomsky needs no introduction. He's MIT Institute Professor Emeritus of linguistics and a leading anti-war critic and voice for over 40 years for social equity and justice. He's also one of the world's most influential and widely cited intellectuals on the Left. Gilbert Achcar is a Lebanese-French academic, author, social activist, Middle East expert and professor of politics and international relations at the University of Paris. Their new book, Perilous Power, is based on 14 hours of dialogue between them over three days in January, 2006 and updated six months later in July in a separate Epilogue at the end. It covers US foreign policy in the most volatile and turbulent region in the world, the Middle East, and discusses the wars in Iraq, Palestine, Lebanon and Afghanistan as well as such key issues as terrorism, fundamentalism, oil, democracy, possible war against Iran and much more. Chomsky and Achcar collaborated with Stephen Shalom, Professor of Political Science at William Paterson University acting as moderator to pose questions and keep the discussion on track.

The book is divided into five chapters. This review will cover each of them in enough detail to give the reader a good sense of their flavor and content. Add a comment
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Tomgram: Elizabeth de la Vega, Indicting Bush

by Tom Engelhardt

Think of it as a Tomdispatch.com milestone. This is now the first website to "indict" the President, the Vice President, and their colleagues for defrauding us into war in Iraq. I put that "indict" in quotes because what follows, as former federal prosecutor Elizabeth de la Vega makes clear in her new book United States v. George W. Bush et al., is "not an actual indictment." It can't be, of course; but consider it the second best thing.

De la Vega has, in her career as a prosecutor, prepared numerous fraud indictments and, as she argued in the first excerpt from her book posted at Tomdispatch earlier this week, "A Fraud Worse than Enron," what George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and their senior officials committed was a crime, not just in the colloquial sense of the word, but in the legal sense too (and not a victimless crime either). While their crime was of a magnitude that puts even Enron, no less run-of-the-mill fraud cases, to shame, it also has all the elements of a typical, small-time scam.

De la Vega's "hypothetical indictment" of George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Condoleezza Rice, and Colin Powell that you are about to read remains, unfortunately, in the realm of fantasy. But only for now. Until our world comes more fully to grips with the criminal nature of the Bush administration's acts, you can at least turn to the full de la Vega book. A Tomdispatch.com special project, produced in conjunction with Seven Stories Press, a wonderful independent publisher, it's officially published on December 1st (but available now).  Add a comment
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Be All That You Can Be: Leave the Army

By David Swanson

As long as there has been a U.S. military, people have been leaving it. That choice has never been more appropriate than today. Individuals who signed up to defend the United States are engaged in a war that was sold on the basis of lies, was entirely unnecessary, is making us less safe, has nothing to do with defending anyone, and which involves the horror of slaughtering men, women, and children by the hundreds of thousands. The majority of Americans want the war to end and just voted accordingly in the Congressional elections. The majority of Iraqis want the war to end. The majority of American service men and women in Iraq want the war to end. And taking part in this war is illegal, whether you are ordered to do so or not.

Approximately 6,000 Americans have refused to report for duty or deserted in order to avoid taking part in this war, or to avoid taking further part in it. Many have objected to the stop loss program that requires them to serve longer than they had agreed to. Others have objected to the rationale behind the war and the horrors that are part of it. Many are best able to support their families by avoiding military service that is poorly compensated. In the cases we know the most about, one motivation for desertion that is clearly absent is cowardice. While quiet desertion tends not to result in any penalty, public opposition and resistance often means prison.

Lt. Ehren Watada, the first U.S. military commissioned officer to publicly refuse to fight in Iraq , has said that he will not obey an illegal order. He faces court martial on February 4, 2007, for obeying the law. Sgt. Camilo Mejia was one of the first Iraq War vets to publicly refuse to return to Iraq – for which he served 9 months in prison. Mejia objected to the war as based on lies and to the murdering and torturing of civilians that he witnessed. Sgt. Kevin Benderman is serving a 15-month sentence for the crime of applying for conscientious objector status and refusing to serve any longer in Iraq . Marine Corps reservist Stephen Funk was the first enlisted man to publicly refuse deployment to Iraq , and he spent 6 months in prison as a result. He said: "I will not obey an unjust war based on deception by our leaders."

Dan Felushko enlisted as a Marine after September 11, 2001. When ordered to Iraq he deserted, commenting: "I didn't want 'Died Deluded in Iraq ' over my gravestone. I didn't see a connection between the attack on America and Saddam Hussein." Add a comment
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Why Inciting Outrage is not Enough

by Aaron Sussman

Over the past several years, people who care about what is happening in the world and who feel compelled to tell the truth about it have had a tremendous realization: we have the means of production to make media.This realization has spurred a media revolution in which the traditional model of passively consuming the news through a corporate filter has given way to a new model of active citizenship and aggressive truth-telling.

With at least 60 million blogs in existence, according to Technorati.com, there are a lot of voices vying for our attention. Though citizen journalists and alternative media-makers often struggle to find distribution and reach a substantial audience, their presence has dramatically and positively altered the media-political complex during this era of columnists bribed by administration officials, news stories created and prepackaged by federal government agencies, increasingly concentrated ownership over the media, nationalism, profit-seeking, risk-averse careerism, and censorship.

It is a clear sign of the democratization of the media when the Internet, once the headquarters of only the political fringe, provides such a strong progressive community that the “Net-Roots” can influence an election on any scale. For a long time, it was only the independent and alternative media that questioned the policies of this government, while the mainstream media became either dormant or complicit.  Add a comment
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Tomgram: Elizabeth de la Vega, Bringing Bush to Court

by Tom Engelhardt

Keep in mind, I've run Tomdispatch.com for only a few years, but I've been a book editor in mainstream publishing for over 30 years. Sometime last spring, I was on the phone with former federal prosecutor Elizabeth de la Vega talking about books she might someday write, when she suddenly said to me, "You know what I'd like to do?" When I asked what, she replied, "What I've done all my life."

"What's that," I wondered innocently enough.

"I'd like to draft an indictment of President Bush and his senior aides, and present the case for prewar intelligence fraud to a grand jury, just as if it were an actual case of mine, using the evidence we already have in the public record. That's the book I'd like to do."

With those three decades of publishing experience, I never doubted that this was an idea whose time should come -- and now it has. De la Vega has drawn up that indictment -- a "hypothetical" one, she hastens to add -- convened that grand jury, and held seven days of testimony. Yes, it's a grand jury directly out of her fertile brain and the federal agents who testify are fictional, but all the facts are true. She understands the case against the Bush administration down to the last detail; and she's produced, to my mind, the book of the post-election, investigative season: United States v. George W. Bush et al.
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The Alleged "Liquid Bombing" Plot Revisited -- Maybe It Was Possible After All

by Winter Patriot

As described in media reports of the day, the alleged "liquid bombing" plot which was allegedly foiled during the second week of August was to have been a synchronized attack in which terrorists would make bombs out of harmless liquids aboard moving airplanes and blow those planes out of the sky more or less simultaneously, causing "mass murder on an unimaginable scale".

As described in a few blog posts and one British report, but not in any major US media, the alleged plot relied on many factors which were seen by some skeptics as considerably unlikely.

A recent article by Jason Bennetto in The Independent claims that because of the clumsy way in which the alleged plot was broken up, beginning with the arrest of Rashid Rauf in Pakistan, many of the alleged plotters disappeared before they could be arrested. Most of the reaction in the left blogosphere has restricted itself to either simply mirroring the article, or else using it to criticize Bush over his foolishness and perhaps pointing to the timing of the arrests in context of political events in the USA at the time.

But if these "terrorists" -- this so-called second wave -- are still at large, then it makes sense both to ask how viable the plan was at the time, and to re-examine its viability now, in light of recent changes to airport security.

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When Failure is Better than Success: What Americans, and the World, Owe to the Disaster in Iraq

by Andrew Bard Schmookler



There can be no doubt that the failed American invasion of Iraq has been a terrible thing. Because of this American failure, the Iraqi people have suffered horrific trauma and destruction, and there’s no indication that their ordeal will end anytime soon. For America, too, this botched invasion has proved most costly: in blood, in treasure, and in national reputation. The order of the world has been rent, the global stage dominated by violence initiated by its leading nation in an act interpreted by most of the world’s people’s as an unjustified act of aggression.

Looking at these developments from the standpoint of the year 2000, it would appear to be an unmitigated catastrophe.

Yet, from another perspective –a valid and important perspective—this ongoing disaster in Iraq is good news. It’s good news only in terms of the alternative. That is, in terms of the alternative if one takes as givens the Bushites’ being in power in the United States and, especially, their decision to invade Iraq.
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Litvinenko And Limonov

by John Weaver

Since every British tabloid has linked the dissident Litvinenko with Politkovskaya, let’s link on...

As it happens, both Litvinenko and Politkovskaya were virtually unknown in Russia. You won’t find a copy of their ’sensational’ books anywhere here - nor in the Russian language, that anyone can read.

Their combined threat to the Kremlin didn’t add up to the square root of squilch.

All this will come as a shock to Daily Telegraph readers, but there isn’t really a lot of call for ‘fierce critics of Putin’ these days. Putin has a popularity rating of 79% at the last count.

Given Tony Blair’s 22% at the last council elections, one might well ask which country’s citizens are being forced to live under an unpopular regime.
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"Our War Against Canada": Alex Cox and the Long March of American Militarism

by Chris Floyd

This piece was written for Truthout.org.

I. Echoes From the Past and Future


The images look familiar, even comforting in a way, steeped in the heroic black-and-white tints of classic movies and World War II newsreels. Unshaven, wisecracking G.I.s slogging gamely through urb an combat. Tanks crawling over broken walls, past burned-out buildings. Quick cut to the skies: lumbering bombers releasing their payloads over sprawling cities, while fighters dart in and out around them and black clouds of ack-ack explode with sudden menace. A brief sweep of the enemy dead, frozen in their final agonies across a churned-up field. Then a long line of refugees, plodding along the edge of a highway while American troop trucks, jeeps, and half-tracks roar past them in the opposite direction.

But there's something slightly wrong, something askew in the pictures. The shop signs in that ruined city – they're all in English. The road signs in that shot of the highway are in Spanish. And those refugees aren't white German burghers or French villagers; they're…brown, like Mexicans, maybe. And look, the fighters swooping in to strafe our bombers – they've got maple leafs painted on their fuselages. And there, amongst the enemy dead, a corpse still clutching his battalion's flag: a Union Jack.

This is the kind of cognitive dissonance evoked by a new screenplay from renowned director Alex Cox: "Our War Against Canada." The British-born Cox – long resident in the United States – is planning a three-part, 90-minute documentary on the all-too-true story of serious American plans to wage war against Canada, Mexico and Great Britain in the years before World War II. These detailed schemes are filled with "echoes from the future," in Pasternak's apt phrase: eerie prefigurements and deep-rooted patterns that have been played out – in reality, not just on paper – over and over down through the decades, and now confront us once again, most starkly and horribly, in Iraq. Add a comment
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Hugo Chavez Gains An Ecuadoran Ally

by Stephen Lendman

Ecuador's Supreme Electoral Tribunal is still counting the votes in the November 26 presidential runoff election but the results seem clear - with one-half of them tallied so far they show: the peoples' candidate, Rafael Correa, 68% and the bible-toting billionaire banana tycoon oligarch who's also the richest man in the country, Alvaro Noboa, - 32% - results consistent with two exit polls and an unofficial citizens election watchdog group, but without the completion of the suspended vote count in the Guayas province that's a Noboa stronghold that when done should raise his percent of the total but nowhere near enough to close the current electoral gap against him.

The people have spoken, and the Washington-directed election-riggers failed for the second time this month to arrange for their man to steal what the people of Ecuador voted en masse to deny them - the same way it turned out on November 7 when Nicaraguans reelected Daniel Ortega despite strong opposition to his candidacy from Washington. Again the people won, and it's a good omen for Hugo Chavez six days before Venezuelans vote on Sunday hoping to prove what the latest independent polls show - that he should win reelection impressively and get to serve another six year term as the country's president.

Ecuadorans voted for populist economist and self-styled "humanist, leftist Christian" candidate Rafael Correa who promised big changes in another Latin American country ruled up to now by and for the interests of capital and against the public welfare. Washington's choice was Alvaro Noboa who as of last night hadn't yet conceded but may have by now as Correa's lead is too great for him to overcome, barring any yet to be uncovered mass vote fraud undiscovered so far but that can't be ruled out.
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Conspicuous consumption comes out of the closet

by Mickey Z.

My wife and I moved into a new apartment earlier this year. Just a few blocks from our old place, it's been a major quality of life improvement in almost every possible way. One unexpected adjustment, however, was closet space. This moderately sized one-bedroom apartment has only two narrow closets. (You couldn't fit a scandalous skeleton in them if you tried.) Keeping in mind that the building is more than 78 years old, how might we explain this egregious "oversight"?

a) The architects were idiots

b) The architects callously cut corners

c) Americans had far less "stuff" in 1928

d) All of the above

Accepting as a given that all humans are idiots that callously cut corners, the can't-miss answer is, of course, D. However, in this particular case, I believe C is far more accurate. In fact, I'll bet the original tenants here considered themselves mighty lucky to even have two closets. They may have believed that whatever didn't fit inside was superfluous. Imagine that: A two-closet existence.

Long before shopping became hard-wired into human biology, Voltaire said,

"When it's a question of money, everybody is of the same religion."
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