Tuesday, November 23, 2010

How much Lamer must a Lame Duck limp if a Lame Duck is as Lame a Duck as the Lame, Lame Duck Arlen Spector?

R. Congress

The U.S. Senate is lame enough without it's regular lame duck session. Now we are treated to new lameness from this "greatest deliberative body." The soon-to-be-gone pompous nobody from Pennsylvania, Arlen Spector, has proposed a bill that would give federal protection to Jewish student on college campuses from being "harassed."

Why is this needed? Because Jews are under attack at our universities!! How? By the existence of Palestinian students on those same campuses who have the audacity to actually be there and to even criticize the policies of Israel and the U.S. towards the Palestinians.

Since pro-Zionist and pro-ethnic cleansing Jewish student organizations don't seem to be able to tolerate any political criticism of Israel, then Arlen Spector will come to the rescue to criminalize speech and normal, legal activism on the part of Palestinian student and their allies.

How pathetic and lame can you get? I have a feeling it can and will get much lamer as more and more people see through the lies and phony arguments used to justify the unjustifiable.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

more tales from "the only democracy in the mideast"

By Tammy Obeidallah

Ever since becoming an activist on behalf of Palestine some ten years ago, I have found ironic humor in the label, 'The Middle East’s Only Democracy' used by American policymakers and media in describing the Jewish State. This statement is erroneous on two counts. Anyone with a rudimentary understanding of a democracy knows that Israelis overwhelmingly shun the values associated with such a system; furthermore quite a few countries in the Middle East hold elections regularly. Most recently, Jordan elected a new parliament.

Of course there are those who argue that a democracy simply means “majority rule,” or that government leaders are elected, so technically Israel would qualify. “Democracy” is defined by www.thefreedictionary.com, “government by the people, exercised either directly or through elected representatives.” So in the purely political sense, as Israeli leaders are elected, they have democracy. However, the fifth definition of democracy reads “the principles of social equality and respect for the individual within a community,” a concept diametrically opposed to Israel’s inherently racist establishment.

Not only is Israel content merely to expand settlements on stolen land and deny Arab citizens the basic rights of religious freedom, education, health care and mobility, any form of dissent is quashed. Arab Israeli Knesset member Haneen Zoabi was stripped of her parliamentary privileges for participating in the Gaza freedom flotilla. In addition to receiving numerous death threats, Zoabi was recently shot in the back and neck with rubber bullets during a protest against a march by militant settlers in the town of Umm al-Fahm. Under Zionism, there is no such thing as freedom of assembly or free speech.

Take for instance a recent haiku contest on Facebook sponsored by El Al Airlines. Haiku is a Japanese form of poetry requiring three non-rhyming lines: the first and third line consisting of five syllables, the second line containing seven. I swallowed my pride and became a fan of the page; the possible temporary damage to my reputation seemed well worth it when considering the unwitting audience I would have. However, shortly after I began posting the haiku, a chorus of “she has to be banned” ensued.

I found out that indeed, I had been blocked from posting comments on the site after an hour or so. The El Al fan page administrator deleted all my haiku. I should not have been surprised.

This is the modus operandi of the Zionist machine. Dissent is not tolerated and must be completely obliterated, as in the case of Congressmen and women who dare try and stand up to it: Paul Findley (re-districted out), Cynthia McKinney (trumped up charge assaulting a guard who was harassing her; victim of a smear campaign and voted out), Dennis Kucinich (marginalized and belittled), Jim Traficant (jailed). Prominent figures in the media are silenced, most recently the legendary Helen Thomas and Rick Sanchez, formerly of CNN. Numerous Israeli youth sit in jails for refusing to military duty in the West Bank. The most sinister, however is the way activists Rachel Corrie, Tom Hurndall, Furkan Dogan and 8 other flotilla participants were silenced, along with the untold thousands of Palestinians who have been murdered since 1948 for the “crime” of resisting occupation or while merely trying to live out their daily lives in their homeland.

Yet the legacies of these brave individuals continue, and to honor them, I put forth the haiku again in a place where the hasbara machine cannot penetrate.

Ignorant tourists
Celebrate sixty-plus years
Of ethnic cleansing.

Bustling Tel Aviv
Welcoming occupiers
Atop Lydda's graves.

Stealing Holy Land
As amid scorched olive trees
More settlements rise.

Arrogant squatters
Frolic on stolen beaches
Kids in Gaza die.

El Al transporting
Still more and more invaders
to dear Palestine.

Flight attendants' thobes
Food service is falafel
Theft of a culture.

Big jet engines scream
Not unlike those that have rained
Hell upon Gaza.

And then there was my daughter’s contribution:
El Al carrying
"Israeli" stowaways to
Steal from Palestine

El Al's jet engines
Cannot drown out the screams of
White phosphorus wounds.

Airline of the blind
You see touristy mudbaths
Not Gaza's bloodbath.

- Tammy Obeidallah contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Obama's Injustice Department's war on free speech

from mondoweiss.com

U.S. Justice Department prepares for the ominous expansion of law prohibiting ‘material support’ for terrorism
Nov 10, 2010 07:07 pm | Michael Deutsch

In late September the FBI carried out a series of raids of homes and anti-war offices of public activists in Minneapolis and Chicago. Following the raids the Obama Justice Department subpoenaed 14 activists to a grand jury in Chicago and also subpoenaed the files of several anti-war and community organizations. In carrying out these repressive actions, the Justice department was taking its lead from the Supreme Court’s 6-3 opinion last June in Holder v. the Humanitarian Law Project which decided that non-violent First Amendment speech and advocacy “coordinated with” or “under the direction of” a foreign group listed by the Secretary of State as “terrorist” was a crime.

The search warrants and grand jury subpoenas make it quite clear that the federal prosecutors are intent on accusing public non-violent political organizers, many affiliated with Freedom Road Socialist Organization (FRSO), of providing “material support,” through their public advocacy, for the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). The Secretary of State has determined that both the PLFP and the FARC “threaten US national security, foreign policy or economic interests,” a finding not reviewable by the Courts, and listed both groups as foreign terrorist organizations (FTO).

In 1996, Congress made it a crime then punishable by 10 years, later increased to 15 years, to anyone in the U.S. who provides “material support or resources to a foreign terrorist organization or attempts or conspires to do so.” The present statute defines “material support or resources” as:

any property, tangible or intangible, or service, including currency or monetary instruments or financial services, lodging training, expert advice or assistance, safe houses, false documentation or identification, communications equipment, facilities, weapons, lethal substances, explosives, personnel and transportation except medicine or religious materials.

In the Humanitarian Law Project case, human rights workers wanted to teach members of the Kurdistan PKK, which seeks an independent Kurdish state, and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), which sought an independent state in Sri Lanka, how to use humanitarian and international law to peacefully resolve disputes, and to obtain relief from the United Nations and other international bodies for human rights abuses by the governments of Turkey and Sri Lanka. Both organizations were designated as FTOs by the Secretary of State in a closed hearing, in which the evidence is heard secretly.

Despite the non-violent, peacemaking goal of this speech and training, the majority of the Supreme Court nonetheless interpreted the law to make such conduct a crime. Finding a whole new exception to the First Amendment, the Court decided that any support, even if it involves non-violent efforts towards peace, is illegal under the law since it “frees up other resources within the organization that may be put to violent ends,” and also helps lend “legitimacy” to foreign terrorist groups. Writing for the majority, Chief Justice Roberts, despite the lack of any evidence, further opined that the FTO, could use the human rights law to “intimidate, harass or destruct” its adversaries, and that even peace talks themselves could be used as a cover to re-arm for further attacks. Thus, the Court’s opinion criminalizes efforts by independent groups to work for peace if they in anyway cooperate or coordinate with designated FTOs.

The Court distinguishes what it refers to “independent advocacy” which it finds is not prohibited by the statute, from “advocacy performed in coordination with, or at the direction of, a foreign terrorist organization, which is for the first time found to be a crime under the statute. The exact line as to where independent advocacy becomes impermissible coordination is left open and vague.

Seizing on this overbroad definition of “material support,” the U.S. government is now moving on political groups and activists who are clearly exercising fundamental First Amendment rights in vocally opposing the government’s branding of foreign liberation movements as terrorist and support their struggles against U.S. backed repressive regimes and illegal occupations.

Under the new definition of “material support,” the efforts of President Jimmy Carter to monitor the elections in Lebanon and coordinate with the political parties there including the designated FTO, Hezbollah, could well be prosecuted as a crime. Similarly, the publication of op-ed articles by FTO spokesmen from Hamas or other designated groups by the New York Times or Washington Post, or the filing by human rights attorneys of amicus briefs arguing against a group’s terrorist designation or the statute itself could also now be prosecuted. Of course, the first targets of this draconian expansion of the material support law will not be a former president or the establishment media, but members of a Marxist organization and vocal opponents of the governments of Israel and Colombia and the U.S. policies supporting these repressive governments.

President Obama in his foreword to the recent autobiography of Nelson Mandela, Conversations with Myself, wrote that “Mandela’s sacrifice was so great that it called upon people everywhere to do what they could on behalf of human progress. [and] . . . [t]he the first time I became politically active was during my college years, when I joined a campaign on behalf of divestment, and the effort to end apartheid in South Africa.” At the time of Mr. Obama’s First Amendment advocacy, Mr. Mandela and his organization the African National Congress (ANC) were denounced as terrorist by the U.S. government. The “material support” law, if in effect back then, would have opened Mr. Obama up to potential criminal prosecution. It is ironic, and the height of hypocrisy, that this same man who speaks with such reverence for Mr. Mandela and recalls his own support for the struggle against apartheid, now allows the Justice Department under his command to criminalize similar First Amendment advocacy against Israeli apartheid and repressive foreign governments.

To provide financial support for the legal expenses those under attack contact: tax deductible checks can be sent to the National Lawyers Guild Foundation. c/o National Lawyers Guild, 132 Nassau St. Room 922, New York, N.Y. 10038

Michael Deutsch is a lawyer with the People's Law Office in Chicago and has been representing political activists and victims of government repression for the past 40 years.

Friday, November 5, 2010

The midterm election results got you down? Don't worry. It's not important. We were all screwed decades ago


R. Congress

Fueled by unlimited corporate money and various pockets of "tea party" nitwits, the Repubs took back the house, some senate seats and a lot of governorships and state legislatures. Now they can re-gerrymander the congressional districts for 2012 and steal votes in the presidential election, what else is new?

Is this some new rightward plunge? Is tea bag tyranny on the march? Is it a Wall Street takeover?

Nope. Wall Street and corporate America took over long ago. Elections are commodities to be bought and sold. In 2008 the financial elite bought more into Obama. This year they purchased a different product.

Its important to look at the political and economic trajectory of the USA over the last 50 years (it's possible to go back farther,but does it matter?). Year after year income inequality has grown as industry was shut down and/or went overseas and high paying working class jobs disappeared, leading to the shrinkage of union membership from a high of 35% in the 1950s to something less than 12% (and most of that in government services). Even though only 35% of the workforce was organized during the peak years of the AFL-CIO, it forced many employers to offer higher wages and benefits just to keep the unions out.

The share of taxes paid by the rich and big business has gone down. Surveys show a decline in social mobility. All in all the standard of living is lower than decades ago and is getting lower and the amount of wealth concentrated in a few hands is staggering.

What social gains that were made from the FDR great depression era and LBJ's Great Society of the 1960s have been or are being dismantled, despite the alleged bold national health care plan which greatly benefits insurance companies, and include cuts in Medicare. The new legislation that attempts to reinstate some regulation of Wall Street is half-baked and easily evaded. But it does create the illusion that Obama and the Democrats are looking out for the little guy.

there's more: The infrastructure has been allowed to collapse. Privatizations schemes which rip off the public and give no benefit for their fake "services" are promoted: For profit prisons, youth detention camps, mercenaries disguised as "security firms" operate (as we know) in Iraq, Afghanistan, in this country, and who knows where else.

Now the threat of destroying public education for all and replacing it with for profit schools (both "charter" or otherwise) is taking real form and gaining ground. Arne Duncan, Obama's Secty. of Education is part of the privatization crowd. He and Obama have chimed in on the latest sport of blaming everything on the teacher's unions.

The huge enrichment and the extreme predatory nature of the banks was enabled by both Democratic and Republican administrations. The Clinton White House enacted neo-liberal domestic financial and international trade policies. These policies are exactly the same as the Republican policies of deregulation and anything goes capitalism. And why not? Since any strong organized labor movement has been wiped out, where else can Democrats raise money but from banks and corporations? George W, son of George H W, just expanded on what Clinton had begun. They are both complicit in the 2008 crash. Obama has staffed his administration with Clintonian free market idiots and he's going to find us a way forward?

The political spectrum has moved steadily rightward. Obama, a timid centrists and pro-business politician is branded as a flaming bolshevik. Anything resembling decent pro people policies has become marginal. The chances of a progressive electoral movement getting anywhere are less than nothing.

The whole system is rigged anyway. Democracy? It's getting marginalized. Our antiquated and openly corrupt electoral system bends everything rightward. States with a population of 432 people and 10,000 cattle have the same two votes in the senate as New York or California? When Eugene V. Debs ran as the Socialist candidate fro president in 1912 he called for the abolition of the US Senate for good reason (he got 6% of the popular vote). Popular sovereignty? Fuggedaboudit! We have the electoral college and gerrymandered electoral districts.

Both parties have initiated and carried out a regular chipping away of democratic rights in terms of government spying on citizens involved in legal political activities. The war on terror has accelerated this trend so that now habeus corpus is nearly dead, anyone can be designated an enemy combatant and jailed indefinitely on secret or no evidence. Obama has had the Atty. Gen.Holder uphold Bush's illegal Guantanamo prison, renditions, and other anti-democratic policies. The FBI is starting to intimidate and threaten people engaged in peaceful protest against our multiple wars (take your pick Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, etc). These are all Obama's policies now.

Of course since the end of WW II the USA has become a militarized national security state (see Gore Vidal as well as Noam Chomsky) with military bases around the world, a thriving arms industry and an intention to police the world or die trying (or have other people die). Learn anything from Vietnam? Yes. Abolish the draft to reduce the chance of protests. Repeat Vietnam? Certainly. Let's just use more technology, psy-ops, and propaganda.

Did you notice that the wars of the USA and it's continued backing of Israeli theft of Palestinian land and ethnic cleansing was not an issue in the Midterm elections? Some of us thought Obama was supposed to be against these wars, or so he said before the 2008 elections. Oops! guess he lied.

While all of the above has been happening there have been Republicans and Democrats in the White House, the House and Senate has been run in turn by both parties. Both of them are complicit in the transfer of wealth from the majority to a handful of stupendously rich individuals, banks and corporations. Both are complicit in the USA wars of imperial dominance (and "collateral damage" ie. mass murder in Vietnam, Chile, Argentina, South Africa, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan etc etc...did I forget the invasion of Panama by Geo. H. W. Bush. they only killed a thousand or so. for what reason no one can remember). Then there are killings and oppression by proxy, Nicaraguan contras, death squads in El Salvador and Guatemala, military and economic aid to Apartheid South Africa, and Apartheid Israel. and on and on.

What's my point? For the last 50 years everything has been going to hell. The rich get richer. Everyone else gets poorer, real democracy declines, corruption is now public policy, America is the world's warmonger state and low income youth are the cannon fodder. With no jobs, many "volunteer" because of lack of options. The Democrats are just as responsible for all of this as the Republicans,

There is no choice here. Why fool yourself? If you are in sympathy with the Palestinian's fight for basic human rights, or you want us to get out of Iraq, Afghanistan, et al. If you are worried about basic democratic rights, or oppose racism, then Obama is no more your friend than man-tan Boehner from Cincinnati.