• Written by James Kunstler

A Christmas Orphan

by James Howard Kunstler
[PUBLISHER'S NOTE: James Kunstler dug up this piece of fiction which has been buried on his website for years. I thought I would spotlight it in the spirit of the season]

It is a momentous occasion when any child hears that it may not be the person it thinks it is, that it may even be an orphan, which, except for never being born, is the closest thing there is to being no person at all. Perhaps Jeff Greenaway, eleven years old, heard it wrong. This is quite possible since it was a thing overheard rather than told to him directly.

He overheard it in the course of an argument between his parents. Being civilized city people from good backgrounds, his parents hardly ever quarreled. But it was Christmas time, and Jeff’s father had come home from the Friday night office party rather late — ten o’clock — and tipsy — he was not drunk — and bearing a reddish-pink smudge on his shirt collar — just a holiday peck from Gloria Oldfield, the boss’s secretary, who was “almost sixty years old, for Godsake” — and altogether Jeff’s mother was not amused.

Who knows what had gotten into her that day? There was a morning session with Dr. Krajak, the dentist, but just a cleaning and some investigative poking with the ghastly instruments, no drilling or, God forbid, root canal. There were the crowds at Bloomingdales in the afternoon, a mob of women very much like herself, moiling through clouds of perfume samples — but to suggest it is a hardship to spend money at holiday time in New York City would strain anyone’s credulity. Perhaps it was her time of the month — but there are things in this world of mystery that not even an omniscient narrator can tell. At any rate, after Jeff’s father came home late that evening, they had a fight.

As it happened, Jeff was in his room enjoying an episode of The Twilight Zone on television. The show was about an elderly commuter who leaves the modern city on the 6:10 train and instead of going home to the suburbs ends up in the turn-of-the-century small town of his youth — the catch, of course, being that he has died of a heart attack on the train and gone to heaven. Jeff never got to that part, however. He began to hear raised voices emanating from his parents’ bedroom about the time that the old geezer in the TV show first stepped off the train into the quaint town of Drakesburg with its horses and buggies, its bandshell in the park, its gartered shop-keepers, and its kids happily rolling their hoops across the town square. Jeff’s mother shouted, very audibly, “I never should have married you!”

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  • Written by Nicola Nasser

Pre-empting Arab Mediation in Palestinian Divide

by Nicola Nasser

The U.S administration and Israel are accelerating their coordinated meddling in the internal Palestinian divide between the Fatah-led presidency and the Hamas-led government to pre-empt a series of Arab mediation efforts, the latest of which is a UAE-Syrian try according to a member of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).

The PLO official, who preferred to remain anonymous, said that President Mahmoud Abbas authorized the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to negotiate with Syria on behalf of Hamas, whose politburo chairman, Khaled Misha’al, is based in Damascus, a draft for forming a Palestinian national unity government on the basis of the national consensus document (the prisoners’ document), recognizing the PLO by Hamas, and respecting the accords signed by the PLO with Israel.

However the undeclared UAE-Syrian effort-in-the-offing seems to have been overtaken by the latest Israeli-U.S. moves to foil Arab mediation. Faced practically with choosing between national unity and lifting the Israeli-U.S. siege, the PLO leadership has opted to give priority to the second option, a choice that led it to voluntarily accept bypassing the Palestinian government by visiting western leaders and diplomats, to turn a blind eye to the western diplomatic boycott imposed on this government and to receive selective “humanitarian aid” through the PA presidency.

Within this context Abbas met with the Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in Jerusalem on Saturday in a long-awaited summit, during which Olmert only “promised” to release $100 million out of more than $600 million illegally held by Israel as a “humanitarian” gesture, but failed to agree on a prisoner swap and deferred to joint committees the Palestinian demands of releasing some of more than 10.0000 Palestinian detainees in Israeli jails -- including the Speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) and more then 60 cabinet ministers and lawmakers -- the easing of West Bank travel military restrictions and increasing the traffic through the main cargo crossing between Gaza Strip and Israel.

The meager results of the meeting won’t lift or essentially alleviate the year-long tight economic and financial siege. Expressing Moscow's support for Abbas' efforts to resolve the crisis through national consensus, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told a press conference in Moscow last week that foreign interests had “knowingly and deliberately intervened to thwart the Palestinian dialogue on the formation of a national unity government.”

The question now is not of getting the Israelis and Palestinians to talk, but of getting the Palestinians to talk to each other so they can talk to others.  Add a comment

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  • Written by James Petras

Why Condemning Israel and the Zionist Lobby is so Important

by James Petras

“It’s no great secret why the Jewish agencies continue to trumpet support for the discredited policies of this failed administration. They see defense of Israel as their number-one goal, trumping all other items on the agenda. That single-mindedness binds them ever closer to a White House that has made combating Islamic terrorism its signature campaign. The campaign’s effects on the world have been catastrophic. But that is no concern of the Jewish agencies.”
December 8, 2006 statement by JJ Goldberg, editor of Forward (the leading Jewish weekly in the United States)


Many Jewish writers, including those who are somewhat critical of Israel, have raised pointed questions about our critique of the Zionist power configuration (ZPC) in the United States and what they wrongly claim are our singular harsh critique of the state of Israel. Some of these accusers claim to see signs of ‘latent anti-Semitism’, others, of a more ‘leftist’ coloration, deny the influential role of the ZPC arguing that US foreign policy is a product of ‘geo-politics or the interests of big oil. With the recent publication of several widely circulated texts, highly critical of the power of the Zionist ‘lobby’, several liberal pro-Israel publicists generously conceded that it is a topic that should be debated (and not automatically stigmatized and dismissed) and perhaps be ‘taken into account.’
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  • Written by Mike Whitney

Washington’s Game in Turkmenistan

by Mike Whitney

Was the Bush administration involved in the death of Turkmenistan’s President, Saparmurat Niyazov?

After all, Niyazov met all the criteria for Bush’s policy of “regime change”. He controlled massive natural gas reserves and he refused to take orders directly from Washington. Typically, these are the only factors that are weighed when considering whether a change of leadership is in order.

Naturally, Niyazov was on the same “target list” as Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Hugo Chavez and Saddam Hussein, the other foreign leaders whose only real crime is that they control vital supplies of dwindling resources. This puts themat odds with the American oil giants whose plansto expand their corporate empire throughout Central Asia and the Middle East is now a matter of public record.

Turkmenistan has reserves which amount to 22.5 trillion cubic meters, the second largest supplies in all of Asia. At this point nearly all of Turkmenistan’s gas is pumped through Russian energy giant Gazprom’s pipelines. As economist Mikail Delyagin said, “Because of Gazprom’s mismanagement, the European part of Russia cannot exist without Turkmen gas. Control over it is a categorical imperative for Russia’s development during the next 10 years”. (Victor Yasmann RFE/RL Current Affairs)

Disruption of supplies from Turkmenistan would be a severe blow to Gazprom’s economic vitality.

The Bush team wants to build a pipeline under the Caspian Sea to pump natural gas reserves to the West through Azerbaijan, Georgia, Turkey and out the Mediterranean corridor or down through Bush’s “new colony” in Afghanistan through Pakistan to the coast.If the Bush plan goes forward it would be a major setback to Gazprom which depends on Turkmenistan’s gas to supply Ukraine and Europe. As Stratford says, “Without those shipments, Russian state energy firm Gazprom would find it impossible to satisfy both domestic Russian natural gas demand and fulfill its export contracts to Europe and Turkey”.
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  • Written by ddjango .

A Challenge for the Left: What Will It Take?

by ddjango

There is, in America, a potentially powerful, but presently only nascent (if even that), force for positive change. I submit that if that force is not unleashed in the coming months, there is no hope for reversing a catastrophic path toward what will be the final world war. The political terrain is now littered with explosive devices and our government, all of it, carries around the ignition engines, just looking for an opportunity to push the little buttons.

That force is the American political Left. At present, though, it's just a sleeping giant. What will it take to wake it up, feed it, and unleash its power to drive positive change?

For new readers here, let me clarify that by "American Left" I do not mean the so-called "progressive" or "liberal" wing of the Democratic Party. There are indeed several members of Congress, such as Barbara Lee, Dennis Kucinich, and John Conyers, who take a decidedly leftist position. For the most part, however, those who now call themselves "progressive" are really classical, middle-of-the-road politicians who have consistently supported the Bush administration's foreign and domestic policies.

Keeping abreast of the new Congress's plans for the upcoming session, it is clear that the Democrats will not take up the issues that the "Hard Left" sees as critical priorities: an immediate exit from Iraq, demilitarization of our society, rescinding the PATRIOT Act, reversing the attack on civil rights, rescinding tax breaks for the richest citizens and corporations, and impeaching Bush and Cheney. Add a comment

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  • Written by Jason Miller

Shouting Truth to Depraved Power (and Its Unwitting Accomplices): “Stephen Lendman Sounds Off”

by Jason Miller

I recently had the privilege of conducting a “cyber interview” with one of the preeminent domestic critics of the American Empire. Despite his relatively recent start, Stephen Lendman has rapidly become one of the most ubiquitous and well-respected chroniclers of truth in the alternative media community. Asserting unflinching support for social democracy, Hugo Chavez, and the countless victims of US foreign and domestic policy, Lendman has penned a growing stack of essays assailing the brutality of American Capitalism and the genocidal crimes of unbridled United States militarism.
Recently receiving a well-deserved page on Third World Traveler (1), Stephen Lendman is taking his place amongst the likes of Petras and Chomsky, men he cites as his inspirations.

Here is a glimpse of Stephen and his worldview:

What is your educational background and what type of work did you do in your “former life”?

During my formal working life I read moderately as able and followed with horror and revulsion many world and national events but never wrote or spoke out about them. That began changing when I retired at the end of 1999 at age 65. I began reading heavily and now have an extensive library that includes many of the renowned giants I revere like Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn, Ed Herman, James Petras, Edward Said, Gore Vidal, Michel Chossudovsky, John Pilger and dozens of others including many not as well known to the greater public like June Jordan, now passed much too young and terribly missed. Her very name inspires me for who she was and what she stood for and did in her life. A truly remarkable and courageous woman.

I tell people I never wrote anything other than business reports, memos and such since finishing my master's thesis in 1959 till, by accident, late last year I wrote a long letter to Norman Finkelstein praising one of his books. He asked permission to post it on his web site and requested I submit it to other sites which I did, got a few postings, and it all took off from there but slowly at first.

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  • Written by Andrew Bard Schmookler

Why “Good Will Toward Men” Has Become More of a Challenge for Me: My Christmas Thoughts

by Andrew Bard Schmookler,

A couple of weeks ago, I did a radio show to Virginia, and after that one in Minnesota, that was framed by these questions:

What are your feelings toward humanity, meaning toward people in general? That is, what do you feel when you look at, or think about, the mass of humankind? What has shaped your feelings? Have they ever changed, and if so what changed them? Are you glad about what you feel toward people generally, or do you wish you felt something different?
In general, my choice of topics for discussion on my radio shows is largely shaped by what issues are alive for me, and this one was no exception. For more than two years, I have struggled with a subtle but deep-seated shift in my underlying sense of people in general.

This was the result of two profound, evidently somewhat traumatic, experiences that came close together.

One was local, where a group of people –and an institution– whom I trusted and for whom I’d had very high regard shocked me by acting in a way that was altogether without integrity and honesty.
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  • Written by Winter Patriot

A Packet of Fear for Christmas: Channel Tunnel Threat "Far Graver" Than WWII

Jason Burke, writing for The Observer, has all the scary details.
The Channel tunnel has been targeted by a group of Islamic militant terrorists aiming to cause maximum carnage during the holiday season, according to French and American secret services.

The plan, which the French DGSE foreign intelligence service became aware of earlier this year, is revealed in a secret report to the French government on threat levels. The report, dated December 19, indicates that the tip-off came from the American CIA.
Remember this.
British and French intelligence agencies have run a series of checks of the security system protecting the 31-mile tunnel but the threat level, the DGSE warns, remains high. British security services remain on high alert throughout the holiday period.

According to the French sources, the plan was put together in Pakistan and is being directed from there.
Remember this, too.
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  • Written by Dave Lindorff

Crime of the Century: Are Bush & Cheney Planning Early Attack on Iran?

by Dave Lindorff

Back on October 9, I wrote in the Atlantic Free Press  and  The Nation that it looked like the Bush-Cheney gang, worried about the November election, was gearing up for an unprovoked attack on Iran's nuclear facilities, with a carrier strike group led by the USS Eisenhower being ordered to depart a month early from Norfolk, VA to join the already-on-station USS Enterprise. That article was based on reports from angry sailors based on the Eisenhower who had leaked word of their mission.

There was, thankfully, no attack on Iran before Election Day, but it is starting to look like I may have been right about the plan after all, but wrong about the timing.

As the threat of a catastrophic US election-eve attack on Iran started to look increasingly likely, reports began to trickle out of the Pentagon that the generals and admirals were protesting. They knew that the US military is stretched to the limit in Iraq and Afghanistan, and that a war with Iran would be a disaster of historic proportions. To bolster their blocking efforts, the Iraq Study Group, headed by Republican fixer and former Secretary of State (under Bush Pere) James Baker, which had been slated to release its report on what to do about Iraq in January, 2007, pushed forward its report. Baker, together with co-chair Lee Hamilton, went prematurely public with the group’s conclusion that the Iraq war was a failure, and that the US should be trying to negotiate with Iran, not attack that country.

That joint effort appeared to have blocked Bush and Cheney’s war plan, but the reprieve may have only been temporary.
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  • Written by Ramzy Baroud

Middle East Peace Process: Stagnation by Design

by Ramzy Baroud

I began the preface of my latest book, “The Second Palestinian Intifada: A Chronicle of a People’s Struggle,” by making the following claim: “The second Palestinian uprising will be etched in history as an era where a major shift in the rules of the game has occurred.” But have they? If they have, to what extent and for what purpose?

This question remains critical, especially in a time when brutality against Palestinians at the hands of the Israeli Army is at an all time high. Daily, my email inbox is flooded with messages from readers asking “what can possibly be done to end this cycle of insanity and violence?” Is there anything we can learn from the sacrifices and struggles of the years of the Second Intifada? Perhaps it is within everyone’s interests to look back to those years to find some sense of resolve to the quagmire in which we find ourselves today. But in doing so, we must analyze its failures as well as its successes.

Only a well defined and careful comprehension of the Intifada can explain the many dichotomies it presented, its seeming contradictions at times. How could a popular rebellion of an historically oppressed group of people foster so much corruption, disunity and infighting? How could the same uprising that fought for the most basic manifestation of peace, justice and life, inspire death, martyrdom and suicide?
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Last Bad Deal Gone Down: War Profits Trump the Rule of Law

by Chris Floyd

This is my latest piece for Truthout.org.

I. The Wings of the Dove

Slush funds, oil sheikhs, prostitutes, Swiss banks, kickbacks, blackmail, bagmen, arms deals, war plans, climbdowns, big lies and Dick Cheney – it's a scandal that has it all, corruption and cowardice at the highest levels, a festering canker at the very heart of world politics, where the War on Terror meets the slaughter in Iraq. Yet chances are you've never heard about it – even though it happened just a few days ago. The fog of war profiteering, it seems, is just as thick as the fog of war.

But here's how the deal went down. On Dec. 14, the UK Attorney General, Lord Goldsmith (Pete Goldsmith as was, before his longtime crony Tony Blair raised him to the peerage), peremptorily shut down a two-year investigation by the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) into a massive corruption case involving Britain's biggest military contractor and members of the Saudi royal family. SFO bulldogs had just forced their way into the holy of holies of the great global backroom – Swiss bank accounts – when Pete pulled the plug. Continuing with the investigation, said His Lordship, "would not be in the national interest."

It certainly wasn't in the interest of BAE Systems, the British arms merchant which has become one of the top 10 U.S. military firms as well, through its voracious acquisitions during the profitable War on Terror – including some juicy hook-ups with the Carlyle Group, the former corporate crib of George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush and still current home of the family fixer, James Baker. BAE director Phillip Carroll is also quite at home in the White House inner circle: a former chairman of Shell Oil, he was tapped by George II to be the first "Senior Adviser to the Iraqi Ministry of Oil" in those heady "Mission Accomplished" days of 2003. BAE has allegedly managed to "disappear" approximately $2 billion in shavings from one of the largest and longest-running arms deals in history – the UK-Saudi warplane program known as "al-Yamanah" (Arabic for "the dove"). Al-Yamanah has been flying for 18 years now, with periodic augmentations, pumping almost $80 billion into BAE's coffers, with negotiations for $12 billion in additional planes now nearing completion. SFO investigators had followed the missing money from the deal into a network of Swiss bank accounts and the usual Enronian web of offshore front companies. Add a comment

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  • Written by Winter Patriot

Appearances: Would-Be Terrorist Appears In Court; Invasion of Iraq Appears Justified

by Winter Patriot

The suddenly famous "Air Grenadist" of Rockford, Illinois, Derrick Shareef, appeared in a federal court in Chicago on Wednesday, December 20, but did not speak as his attorney waived twice. One: No, the Federales were not required to present any evidence against him. Two: No, the judge was not required to deny him bail.

 Derrick Shareef was arrested two weeks ago in Rockford, while attempting to trade a pair of speakers for a handgun, some ammo and four hand grenades. He supposedly needed these things because he was allegedly planning to attack a Rockford shopping center. But the grenades and the ammo were duds, the "arms dealer" was an FBI agent, and rather than the box of grenades he thought he was trading for, Derrick Shareef has found trouble of a different kind. He is in danger of spending the next 40 years in prison.

In previous reports, I have suggested that the Feds will have to drop at least one of the two charges filed against Derrick Shareef, the charge involving "using a weapon of mass destruction". Unfortunately, this description of the charge, which I read in a news account and took at face value, is misleading. Rather than reading the newspapers, I've been reading the law, and finding two big surprises:
1. Derrick Shareef appears to be in much more trouble than I originally thought, and
2. the American invasion of Iraq appears to have been justified.
More on that later. But first, the news...
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