Expanding Markets and Dying Oceans: Eating the Planet Like a Bag of Doritos for Jesus.

by Phil Rockstroh

"Standing next to me in this lonely crowd,
Is a man who swears he's not to blame."

- Bob Dylan

It has been reported that George W. Bush is counting on the judgment of history to redeem the perception that he has been at the helm of a failed presidency. This notion is as muttering-at-the-wallpaper crazy as had Jeffery Dahmer, before his murder, been expecting gourmet chefs to someday champion his culinary choices. In the present day United States, our insulated leaders (who merely reflect the insularity of the daily lives of the nation's people) have shunned reality to such a degree, one would think that they spend their time writing wishful letters to Santa Claus instead of creating policy and law.

There's a well-know witticism from the 1980s about Ronald Reagan that played-off a ubiquitous television commercial of the time that went, "Ronald Reagan is not the president: He just plays one on TV." A similar trope can be said of the present day United States. We're no longer an empire: We just resemble one on TV.

How did it come to be that our ability to apprehend reality is in such short supply, at a time when the consequences of such dangerous folly will prove so tragic and lasting?
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Class War Weapon of Choice – For the Holidays and All Days

by Joel S. Hirschhorn

The motto of the United States of Consumption is “In More We Trust.”  The contribution of American culture to humanity is consumption obsession.   Our epidemic of obesity, our land gluttonous suburban sprawl, our monster-size environmental footprint, our ravenous automobile addiction, and our heartless greed are symptoms of a deep-seated, sick mental state that keeps the economy humming.  And it keeps increasing economic inequality and apartheid. 

Mass consumption is also a distraction from the self-inflicted defeat facing working- and middle-class Americans in the class war they are losing.  Americans are enslaving themselves with their spending and delusional prosperity.  The rich and super-rich in their McMansions, luxury cars, yachts, swank spas and private jets surely are laughing at how easy it is to manipulate the 80 percent of the population that keeps enriching them. 

Many common folks are deluding themselves that they have a fair shot at joining America’s super-rich — those households worth at least $10 million.  According to an Elite Traveler poll, they will be spending 25 percent more this year than last on holiday parties, travel, and shopping.  Among the top holiday spending categories: spirits for entertaining (up 57 percent to $22,300) and yacht charters (up 12 percent to $410,600). The awesomely affluent will also be averaging $91,100 on holiday jewelry, $36,400 on designer fashions, $52,000 on luxury watches, and $25,700 on flat screen TVs and other electronics.  Nearly 25 percent of them will travel by private jet just to shop for holiday gifts.  Of course, there are many Americans who do have a good chance of joining the super-rich.  They are the rich Americans.
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Not So Wonderful

by James Kunstler

It's a Wonderful Life, Frank Capra's 1946 Christmas card to America, is full of strange and bitter lessons about who we were and who we have become. It also illustrates the perversity of history -- the fact that things sometimes end up the opposite of the way we expect.

The movie concerns the life and career of one George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart) and his neighbors in the prototypical main street town of Bedford Falls. The story's arc runs roughly from about 1910 to the 1946 "present." By the 1920s, young George yearns to break free of the "crummy little town" (as he calls it), but circumstances keep him bound to it through the years, and to the family business, a little local "building and loan" bank of the kind that also used to be called "thrifts" and later "savings and loans," now extinct institutions.

Bailey Building and Loan gets whipsawed by the boom of the 1920s and then the Great Depression. World War Two comes and goes. Over the decades, George is bedeviled by the town villain, scheming rival banker Mr. (no first name) Potter (Lionel Barrymore), who is always trying to shut down or take over Bailey Building and Loan.

Eventually, Mr. Potter gets the better of George, who attempts suicide, but is saved by an avuncular guardian angel named Clarence, who shows George how much worse off his town (and, by extension, the world) would be if George had never been born. The rest is George coming to his senses on Christmas Eve, amid caroling and bell ringing, realizing how wonderful all the vicissitudes of small town life, and family, and banking really have been. Add a comment
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The Mind of the Breadbaker

by Andrew Bard Schmookler

From the time my little son was eight months old, he and I have done the grocery shopping together. When Nathaniel was a toddler, discovering at every turn what the world was about, I used to joke that I took him to the supermarket because I wanted him to know where food really comes from. It's not just something that's there when you open the refrigerator, I'd say, you've got to go to the Source, some place like Safeway, where it sits on the shelves. He shouldn't take our getting our daily bread for granted, I'd declare solemnly.

Back then we lived inside the Washington Beltway, but before our boy was four we left. I had found that my spirit was withering from living in a landscape where earth was just an occasional break from the pavement, just something allowed to exist in the interstices of the human grid. After a decade in a realm where the human element tyrannizes over everything, I yearned to have a place where the land around me was shaped less by my own kind than by the hand of living nature.

We moved out to the mountains of Virginia, and Nathaniel worked with me as we carved some terraces out of the hillside to grow our own herbs and vegetables. We carried chicken manure and horse manure down the slope to enrich the soil, we planted our seeds, we carefully monitored the moisture levels in the earth to make sure our plants had what they needed to thrive, and we kept some seeds from one year's harvest to plant the next. The idea of his knowing where our food came from was no longer just a joke. Add a comment
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US and Latin America: Overview for 2006 and Perspectives for 2007 - James Petras

by James Petras

Introduction: Escalation of Warfare

To understand US-Latin American relations this year and its likely trajectory in 2007 it is obligatory to consider three dimensions:

1) the global context of US-LA relations;
2) internal dynamics of the US and
3) the real practical political-economic consequences of the 2006 elections in Latin America.

US imperial policy continues to pursue military victories in Iraq and Afghanistan, to give unconditional support to Israel’s war against the elected Palestinian Government and to threaten a direct or Israeli attack on Iran. In other words, the prolonged, costly and inconclusive wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon and Palestine during 2006 will continue in 2007. Further military escalation, includes increased US troops and spending for wars in the Middle East; an extra $800 million USD in addition to the annual $3 billion USD for Israeli war plans against Lebanon, Palestine and especially Iran. Those commentators who interpreted US policy via public opinion polls, electoral processes (the victory of the Democrats), advisory reports (Baker’s Iraq Study Group) and casualty rates in Iraq, and predicted a ‘gradual’ withdrawal, failed to understand the logic of the White House’s political strategy. For the Bush regime, the military failures are a result of the application of insufficient power: what is necessary, they argue, is greater numbers of soldiers and bigger military budgets (BBC 12/16/06).
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Crocodile Tears

by Will Durst

The latest form of political theater descending on DC is the crying of crocodile tears. And this season’s nominations for biggest mock drops are destined to be swept by Beltway players in their demonstration of their fake concern for South Dakota Senator Tim Johnson. Phony sanctimony has long been a staple of the American way of life. Each of us had an aunt whose major talent was feigning fawning sympathy. Usually she had a mole.

Mine was Aunt Hoogolah who loved to amplify the distress of other family members hoping to drop her daughter’s ranking on the screw- up chart indelibly chalked on relatives’ minds. Sorry for the convoluted syntax there, but trying to adhere to the embargo on use of the term “black sheep” until the Michael Richards on- stage flip- out has been superseded by another celebrity meltdown. Once the Mel Gibson torch has been passed.

Right now our newspapers and televisions are witnessing such a flurry of fake solicitude they should be handing out snow blowers. Mostly I’m talking about the excruciating sympathy leaking out of the mouths of political pundits everywhere, expressing commiseration for Tim Johnson’s medical situation in their most grave and sincere voice. For ten seconds. Then high pitched squeals as they excitedly speculate for the rest of the show on possible ramifications resulting from his imminent demise. Add a comment
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Annals of the Damned Human Race: Liberating Afghans, Body and Soul

by Chris Floyd

Let us turn once again to the other war, the "good war" in Afghanistan, where four years ago George W. Bush famously liberated the suffering Afghan people from the clutches of the militant Islamic e xtremists of the Taliban into the hands of the militant Islamic extremists of the Northern Alliance (and their U.S.-picked frontman, Hamid "Why, Yes, I Did Once Work for Oil Barons, Why Do You Ask?" Karzai).

In the Good War – long touted as a success not only by the compulsive liars of the Administration but also by the fat and sassy conventional wisdomists who gorge themselves on eager lappings of Bushist cud – the fighting is now far more brutal and intense than it was in the brief autumn campaign in 2001 that led to overwhelming "victory." In fact, more than 1,000 innocent civilians have been killed by US and NATO bombs in the last year alone, the Christian Science Monitor reports.

Afghanistan was largely abandoned to its fate after Bush launched his "war of choice" (that ringing Friedmanish phrase) in Iraq. As we now know, the Bush team didn't really want to bother with Afghanistan at all – Iraq was their target from Day One – but felt they had to go through the motions ther e because of the "hunt for Osama" thing. Of course, they didn't take that very seriously either, allowing bin Laden to escape in spectacular fashion, riding out of a supposedly iron-clad seige on horseback. Why, one would almost think that the Bush Administration was trying to make a world-shaking mythical figure out of the pretentious, third-rate crackpot. (Then again, that's what the Bush Team is good at: inflating pretentious third-rate crackpots into world figures. Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice -- these goobers couldn't run a popsicle stand, much less an empire. Yet now their dull and murky mental heavings, like those of bin Laden, spew death across the globe. ) Add a comment
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Counterproductive U.S. Advice to Palestinians

by Nicola Nasser

Regardless of good will or bad faith, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ decision to go without national consensus to early presidential and parliamentary elections was divisive, counterproductive and conforms to U.S.-Israeli plans to remove the Islamic Resistance Movement “Hamas” from power or pressure it into accepting what its rival Fatah had accepted: A peace process on their dictated terms and conditions.

“I have decided to call for early presidential and parliamentary elections,” Abbas said in a televised 90-minute speech on Saturday, in an effort to break a political nine-month deadlocked dialogue mainly bilateral between Fatah, the former ruling movement, and the incumbent Hamas.  “Let’s return to the people to have their say, and let them be the judge.”

Early election was among several options floated with the aim of outmaneuvering Hamas including a referendum, declaring a state of emergency, calling for early legislative election, forming an emergency government or a government of independents or technocrats.

Chairman of the Higher Committee of the Central Election Commission (CEC), Hanna M. Nasser, said after a meeting with Abbas in the West Bank city of Ramallah on Sunday that the CEC needs 110 days after the issuance of the relevant presidential decree, which has yet to be issued, to organize the election; the CEC decided five days earlier to start updating the voter's list as from mid-January 2007.
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Powell, Baker, Hamilton -- Thanks for Nothing

By Norman Solomon

When Colin Powell endorsed the Iraq Study Group report during his Dec. 17 appearance on “Face the Nation,” it was another curtain call for a tragic farce.

Four years ago, “moderates” like Powell were making the invasion of Iraq possible. Now, in the guise of speaking truth to power, Powell and ISG co-chairs James Baker and Lee Hamilton are refueling the U.S. war effort by depicting it as a problem of strategy and management.

But the U.S. war effort is a problem of lies and slaughter.

The Baker-Hamilton report stakes out a position for managerial changes that dodge the fundamental immorality of the war effort. And President Bush shows every sign of rejecting the report’s call for scaling down that effort.

Meanwhile, most people in the United States favor military disengagement. According to a new Wall Street Journal / NBC News poll, “Seven in 10 say they want the new Congress to pressure the White House to begin bringing troops home within six months.” Add a comment
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The Iraq Catch-22

by Larry C Johnson

Regardless of your feelings or beliefs about sending more U.S troops to Iraq, you must accept the painful truth that anything we do to salvage or strengthen the existing Shia-dominated government in Iraq redounds to the benefit of Iran. If we weigh in on the side of the Sunni insurgents we run a serious risk that the Shias will attack us in strength and, at least for the short time, cut our supply lines that run through the heart of Shia territory. Moreover, anything we do to militarily challenge Iran will weaken our influence in Iraq and jeopardize the mission of our forces in Iraq.

George Bush has made his choice and it is calamitous. He rejected out of hand the proposal to "Go Home". And dismissed the "Go Long" course of action, which would have emphasized counterinsurgency, public works vice combat, and diplomatic overtures to Iran and Syria. Instead, he has thrown his weight behind "Go Strong".

The key elements of the "go strong" plan are outlined in the accompanying analysis by Pat Lang (see Stalingrad on the Tigris?). What is not yet announced, but implicit in the plan, is a direct attack on Moqtada al Sadr and his militia, the Jayshi al Mahdi (JAM). During their meeting in Jordan last month, George Bush reportedly told Maliki in no uncertain terms that he would have to separate himself from al Sadr or become a casualty in the upcoming offensive against the bearded cleric. Ironically, Moqtada al Sadr has discouraged sectartian strife rather than egged it on and, among the various Shia clerics, is more receptive to working with Sunni counterparts to rebuild Iraq.
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Aljazeera: The Plot thickens

By Ramzy Baroud

The launch of Aljazeera International on November 15, the English arm of Aljazeera Satellite Television was hardly an ordinary event.

It was another notable addition to the growing global efforts aimed at counterbalancing American-European domination over world media: deciding on what story is to be told and how, thus shaping public opinion, reinforcing Westerns policies, disseminating its own ideas and ideals, at the expense of the almost entirely neglected and utterly hapless audiences that neither relate nor wish to identify with such discourses.

It’s still too early of course, to appraise, in any serious fashion, academic or otherwise, the performance of Aljazeera English, and whether it has lived up to its own ideals and the expectations of its projected audience. However, it must be said that the clash of discourses and the calls for a balanced media is hardly new. This topic is in dire need of urgent and continual discussion.

Clearly, the need for Aljazeera, and subsequently its English service, came from the realization that the presentation of events in Arab countries are far from fair in the mainstream media in the US and elsewhere in the West. Further, the public’s opinion of these events is not only scarce, but bits and pieces that they may perceive are often tainted.  Add a comment
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America Files Fraud Charges Against Bush

By Ahmed Amr

The Grand Jury indictment was hand delivered in a plain brown envelope. Because it arrived late, I decided to have dinner before unsealing the package. I had enough clues about the contents to know it was going to be a long night.

By dawn - I was still up desperately fighting off the temptation to sleep. Every page of the indictment revived buried memories from the scene of the crime. Long forgotten details were resurrected in vivid color. To my surprise, there was also a lot of evidence that I wasn't aware of - the kind of details only a professional investigator knows how to dig up.

After a few hours of sleep - I got up and instinctively reached for the indictment. The charges were conspiracy to defraud the United States of America. An ex-district attorney from California had taken it upon herself to prosecute Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Powell and Rice for systematically lying to the American people to make a fraudulent case for launching a war in Iraq.

By noon, I was done. I had read the indictment, seen the compelling evidence, waded through an instructive lecture explaining the exact legal definition of conspiracy and fraud and accepted an implicit invitation to sit on the Grand Jury.

It was a closed and shut case. There was no beating the rap. The former district attorney had obviously done her homework and she was going to cakewalk her case from the Grand Jury to a full-blown trial.
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