Saturday, October 31, 2009

Amy Goodman interviews "A Woman Among Warlords": Malalai Joya

Afghanistan: "A Woman Among Warlords" Malalai Joya

Democracy Now Interview:
October 28, 2009

AMY GOODMAN: To talk more about Afghanistan, we're joined here in our
firehouse studio by Malalai Joya, one of Afghanistan's leading democracy
activists. In 2005, she became the youngest person ever elected to the
Afghan parliament. She was suspended in 2007 for her denunciation of
warlords and their cronies in government. She has just written her memoir, A
Woman Among Warlords: The Extraordinary Story of an Afghan Woman Who Dared
to Speak Out. It was written with Derrick O'Keefe.

I welcome you to Democracy Now!, Malalai. When you hear in all the US media
"bloodiest month of the eight-year war," of course they're talking about US
soldiers killed in Afghanistan. How does that make you feel? How do we know
how many Afghans have died over these last eight years?

MALALAI JOYA: Yeah, first of all, thanks for this interview. And let me say
in the beginning, on behalf of my people, condolences to those American
mothers who lost their sons recently in Afghanistan, and other moms that
belong to these NATO countries, as their governments these eight years,
waste the blood of their soldiers in Afghanistan and their taxpayers' monies
by supporting warlords, these drug lords and terrorists who are a photocopy
of Taliban, since they come in power.

So, this eight years, about less than 2,000 Talib has been killed, more than
8,000 innocent civilians has been killed. That's why, day by day, we believe
that this is not war on terror, this is war on innocent civilians, as they
even do massacre in Afghanistan, what they did on May, that-in Farah
province, more than 150 civilians has been killed, most of them women and
children. Even they used white phosphorus and cluster bomb. And also, 200
civilians on 9th of September in Kunduz province has been killed, again most
of them women and children. You can see the website of Professor Marc
Herold, this Democrat American man that-to know better about war crime in
Afghanistan they impose on our people.

And at least today's reporters in have to know that even by presence of
thousands troops in Afghanistan, there is no security in Kabul. How-but
around Afghanistan, while the government has no control, now my people are
sandwiched between two powerful enemies: from the sky, occupation forces
bombing and killing innocent civilians-as I said, these troops themselves
are the victim of this wrong policy of their government; on the ground,
Taliban and these warlords together continue to deliver fascism against our

AMY GOODMAN: Tell us about the latest news, Malalai Joya, about the brother
of Hamid Karzai, Ahmed Wali Karzai, the New York Times revealing today that
Ahmed has been on the CIA payroll for much of the past eight years. Who is

MALALAI JOYA: You know, my people call him "Small Bush" in Kandahar
province, this brother of Hamid Karzai. But he's-this is not the first time
that New York Times wrote. Recently also, I wrote that he's a famous drug
trafficker. And many others who have high posts in Karzai's government,
sometimes his ministers, expose each other that they-for persons who had
high posts in Karzai government, they are drug traffickers. And the
government says stop planting of opium, but the governor commanders of the
same province is drug traffickers. This eight years, $36 billion the
government of Afghanistan received, while they themselves give report. Most
of this money went into pocket of warlords, drug lords, [inaudible] lords,
these donors and officials themselves. And at least this example should be
in of that right now. Even some important media is writing and sometimes
exposing these drug lords and these warlords in Afghanistan, that right now
I say that, for example, brother of Hamid Karzai is receiving millions of
dollars through dirty business of opium.

And this was the main project of the CIA in Afghanistan, that under the
banner of women rights, human rights, democracy, they occupied my country.
They imposed these terrorists, blood and creed of the Taliban, on my people.
And also they changed my country to the center of drug. Only [inaudible]
have to know about the deep tragedy of Afghanistan and wrong policy of the
US, that even UN gave report, that recent report of the UN. Right now-oh, my
god, I think you also got this report. Anyway, that right now, as I said,
that they changed Afghanistan to the center of drug. They received millions
of dollars that has been looted. Situation of women is getting worse. And
security, how much important-day by day, it's worse for my people,
especially for the women. And that's why, because of all of these main
reasons, we-day by day, we say this is the mockery of democracy and mockery
of war on terror.

AMY GOODMAN: Does Ahmed Karzai have a relationship with Mullah Omar?


AMY GOODMAN: With Mullah Omar?

MALALAI JOYA: You know, these warlords, they have, of course-that, as I
said, they are blood and creed of each other, they have links with each
other, as now they are negotiating - are ready to negotiating with each
other. Karzai himself called Taliban these dinosaurs' brothers, as-during
the election. And also, Abdullah Abdullah, this main candidate of the
warlords during this so-called free election-

AMY GOODMAN: Who's running for president against Karzai.

MALALAI JOYA: Yeah, they-yeah, both of them. They betrayed a lot my people.
And now they are running for the election, as my people, even they use this
power, that the result of this election will be like the same donkey but
with new saddle. Anyway, both of them call Taliban brothers, these
terrorists. And both of them ready to do negotiate and invite Mullah Omar,
this fascist man, to join the government. Both of them are puppets. And both
of them, that they are busy with this dirty business of opium. And at least
you know better about them. I think only this eight years is enough to know
better about them.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to ask you about the upcoming runoff election scheduled
for November 7th. Earlier this week, the presidential contender, as you were
talking about, Abdullah Abdullah, called for the dismissal of Azizullah
Ludin, the chair of the Independent Electoral Commission. Ludin is a former
Karzai adviser.

ABDULLAH ABDULLAH: Dismissal, immediate dismissal, of Mr. Ludin from the
Election Commission. He has left no credibility for the institution and,
unfortunately, for he, himself, in order to be trusted by the people of
Afghanistan as the head of an independent body.

AMY GOODMAN: Your response, Malalai Joya, to what Abdullah Abdullah is
calling for, to his being removed from the Electoral Commission?

MALALAI JOYA: You know, this election is just a tragic drama, I think the
most fraudulent and also ridiculous election in the world, as election under
the shadow of gun, warlordism, drug lordism, awful corruption, and
occupation forces has no legitimacy at all. As a famous saying, it's not
important who is voting, it's important who's counting. Even my people,
before of the result of the election, they discussed among each other,
people on the streets, that the winner will be picked out by White House, as
now you see that one puppet can be replaced with another puppet. Now,
between two puppet fighting because of the power, $250 million they spent
for this election. They waste the money. And they want to more waste-to
waste more money in Afghanistan.

And also, millions of people did not attend in the election, because they
know that their word will be betrayed, same like in the past, and also their
wishes has no role in this election. As I say, that both of them invite
Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and also Mullah Omar to join the government as a
moderate. And both of them want more occupation forces in Afghanistan, which
will bring more war and more conflict. So both of them betrayed a lot my
people, especially women of my country.

To know better about Abdullah Abdullah, it's in of that-he did civil war
from '92 to '96. He and other brothers of him, like these other warlords who
are right now in power, like Dostum, like Sayyaf, Rabbani, Qanooni, Ismail
Khan, Mohaqiq, these dirty-minded elements, who accused as war criminal. And
Karzai, he choose two cruel men, like Qasim Fahim and Karim Khalili, as vice
president. Even Human Rights Watch said Karzai insulting the people of
Afghanistan. But in spite national and international condemnation, he didn't
change the mind. But I am saying he's betraying my people still more.

AMY GOODMAN: You're a very brave woman, Malalai Joya. I wanted to go to a
clip of you saying essentially this years ago. You called-we're going to go
to the Enemies of Happiness. The film begins in December 2003 in a meeting
of Afghanistan's newly elected constitutional assembly, the Loya Jirga. A
then-unknown twenty-four-year-old woman steps to the microphone to deliver a
speech that will make international headlines and draw threats on her life.

CHAIRMAN: [translated] What are you saying?

MALALAI JOYA: [translated] We kids can't get a word in. I would like to
say a few words, Mr. Chairman.

CHAIRMAN: [translated] Wait a minute. Stay in your seats. One sister says
that she has traveled far. She insists that we haven't given the kids enough
speaking time. You have three minutes, please.

MALALAI JOYA: [translated] My name is Malalai Joya from the Farah
province. With the permission of all those present and in respect of the
martyrs who were killed, I would like to speak. I wish to criticize my
compatriots in this room. Why would you allow criminals to be present at
this Loya Jirga, warlords responsible for our country's situation?
Afghanistan is the center for national and international conflicts. They
oppress women and have ruined our country. They should be prosecuted. They
might be forgiven by the Afghan people, but not by history.

CHAIRMAN: [translated] Sit down! Sit down! The sister has crossed the line
of what is considered common courtesy. She is banished from this assembly
and cannot return. Send her out! Guards, throw her out! She doesn't deserve
to be here.

AMY GOODMAN: That was Malalai Joya, who was standing up, what many have
called "Afghanistan's bravest woman." Malalai Joya, in our firehouse studio,
who has written her memoir called A Woman Among Warlords. Describe what you
were thinking at that moment and how dangerous it was for you.

MALALAI JOYA: Yeah, as my people was not sure that I will be alive until
now, same my supporters around the world. But the reason that today I am
alive, because of the strong support of these voiceless, suffer, poor people
of my country. As two years before these warlords, drug lords, these
criminals, they expelled me from the parliament, which was quite illegal act
and anti-freedom of speech.

AMY GOODMAN: You were elected?

MALALAI JOYA: I were elected.


MALALAI JOYA: Yeah, in 2005, for the second time. People voted, and as I was
very famous in Afghanistan and around the world, and if they do not allow
me, as all the boxes was in the hands of this mafia, they're cheating was
clear for the world, not only for my people.

But few Democrats in the parliament, me and others, that in the beginning,
as they made amnesty law that criminals forgive themselves, we raised our
voice against this disgusting law, which gives impunity to criminals. As
much as they can, they continue to their fascism. But despite we raised our
voice, nobody listened the voice. And Karzai also signed this disgusting
law. And one reason that they expelled me from parliament was that, because
I never did compromise with them, even they beated inside of parliament,
they threatened me to rape inside of parliament, and many threats like this.

AMY GOODMAN: They threatened to rape you in parliament?

MALALAI JOYA: Inside of the parliament. And also, all of these threats you
can see on my websites. But now, after when they expelled me from
parliament, now, as in Kabul, I'm changing safe house to safe houses. Even
with burqa and bodyguard, it's not safe. When you compare my life with the
dark period of Taliban, these terrorists, as an activist, that I was
underground activist, on that time, it was risky, but now, under the name of
democracy and by presence of these thousands troops, it is, even with burqa
and bodyguard, not safe. Many assassination attempts. And I am a person, on
behalf of those Democrat and voiceless, innocent people of my country, in
front of you. But many others like me, there is no security for them. They
are underground activists now.

AMY GOODMAN: The big debate in the United States is this surge. Now the
discussion is not how many troops will President Obama-how many more troops
will he send to Afghanistan, or will he send more troops, but how many more.
That's what the debate has become. What is your thought? What should happen
to the US soldiers now?

MALALAI JOYA: You know, that as I said, these troops are the victim of the
wrong policy of their government. They send them for a bad cause: for war.
They say war of Afghanistan is good war, war of Iraq is bad war, while war
is war and impossible to bring democracy, women rights, human rights by war.
And unfortunately, Obama's policy and Obama's message for my people is quite
similar, like his foreign policy like Bush administration. He wants to surge
more troops in Afghanistan, which will bring more conflict, more war.

Obama is going to decorate barbaric Taliban as a moderate, to give them a
chance to bring them also in power, put soft name on these terrorists, while
we have no moderate Talib. And also, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, they invite this
fascist man to joint he government. This terrorist also come in power,
situation will be more bloody. If really Obama honest for my people, at
least they apologize to my people and first of all try to put to the court
the criminal Bush to the ICC, and also many Bushes in my country that, this
eight years, they changed Afghanistan to the safe haven for terrorism and
center of drug.

AMY GOODMAN: But so often in this country, the argument is actually used
that it's the women of Afghanistan who benefit most from the US occupation
and the war.

MALALAI JOYA: They're betrayed more. Opposite. Quite opposite. The first
casualty in my country is the truth. Still they betray the truth, especially
mainstream medias, put dust on the eyes of the people around the world. As
after 9/11 that they occupied Afghanistan, they say women for the first time
do not wear burqa and they are free, while it's a big lie. And today, most
of women are wearing burqa because of security. I wear a burqa just to be
alive, this disgusting burqa, which is symbol of oppression, I think. And
like a shroud for life body most of women are wearing to be alive. Rape
cases, domestic violences and also [inaudible] on the face of the girls and
killing of women increasing rapidly.

AMY GOODMAN: Do you fear for your life when you go home? And why do you
return to Afghanistan, finally, Malalai?

MALALAI JOYA: Of course, I go, because we have lots of responsibility.
Responsibility of Democrat men and women is a lot, as we believe no nation
can donate liberation to another nation. And we are ready to build our
country, if US and its allies let us a little bit breathe in peace. Now
between two powerful enemies, with the withdrawal of one enemy occupation
forces as their government supporting warlords, and also now Taliban. They
stop supporting them, then it's much easier to fight one enemy instead of

If really Obama honest for my people, support the democratic-minded people
of my country, we have a lot. But he not only support democratic-minded
people of my country, he's going to start war in Pakistan by drawing attack
in the border area of Pakistan. And I think the survey that they did of
civilian casualty, those people, innocent people, who has been killed, more
has been killed in the Obama period than even criminal Bush.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to thank you very much for being with us, Malalai Joya,
one of Afghanistan's leading democracy activists. In 2005 she became the
youngest person ever elected in the Afghan parliament. Her memoir is now
out; it's called A Woman Among Warlords: The Extraordinary Story of an
Afghan Woman Who Dared to Speak Out. It was written with Derrick O'Keefe.

Speaking of drones, when we come back from our break, we will talk about the
situation of drones in Pakistan. Stay with us.

MALALAI JOYA: Thank you.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Omar Barghouti: In LA 11/1, & on Jon Stuart's The Daily Show

From: Ivan Olsen
Sent: Friday, October 30, 2009 12:34 PM

Jon Stewart's comedy news show The Daily Show is reportedly under fire from pro-Israeli groups for giving airtime to two pro-Palestinian figures on Wednesday night.

Stewart hosted Palestinian democracy activist Mustafa Barghouti and Jewish American human rights activist Anna Baltzer, author of A Witness in Palestine, who explained the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from the perspective of the Palestinian side.

PLEASE, Please share this link with others.
This is a really good example of PEACE activism, 
the kind of stuff that PACIFICA should be doing more of.
Ivan Olsen


From: Karen Pomer

Subject: Palestinian Leader Omar Barghouti in LA 11/1 -- "Palestine: Thirsting for Justice"

Hello friends of IJAN,
Many of you already know about this event, but here is another reminder. This is a very rare opportunity to see an important leader from Palestine here in LA. Please come out to learn a lot and to show Omar that there is a strong solidarity movement in LA. 
And please spread the word far and wide. -- Apologies for cross and duplicate posting
(See attached color and B/W event flyers. Please print and distribute widely.)



Omar Barghouti
An independent Palestinian researcher and human rights activist, 
Mr. Barghouti is a founding member of PACBI, the Palestinian Campaign 
for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel.

Sunday, November 1, 4-6 PM
Loyola Law School
919 Albany Street, Los Angeles, CA 90015

Access to water is a fundamental human right

Israelis gets 83% of water from aquifers in the occupied West Bank, 
West Bank Palestinians get what's left.

Israel's overpumping of the coastal aquifer, its closures and its 
military attacks on infrastructure limit Palestinian access to water 
in the Gaza Strip.

80,000 Palestinian citizens of Israel have no running water 
or sewage systems.





"This is our South Africa Moment"
  Omar Barghouti

Hosted by The Loyola Chapter of the National Lawyers' Guild

Loyola Law School provides a forum for the dissemination of diverse viewpoints to 

promote the examination of important academic and social issues. This does not 

mean that Loyola Law School endorses those viewpoints

U.S. Quagmire-Building Effort In Afghanistan, States Lower Test Standards

Both articles acurately picture real tragedies, but only one is a farce.
Long Live Moliere. -Ed
From: Sid Shniad

The Onion               October 27, 2009 | Issue 45•44

U.S. Continues Quagmire-Building Effort In Afghanistan


Hill by hill, U.S. forces tirelessly work toward the strategic goal of complete immobility.

KABUL, AFGHANISTAN— According to sources at the Pentagon, American quagmire-building efforts continued apace in Afghanistan this week, as the geographically rugged, politically unstable region remained ungovernable, death tolls continued to rise, and the grim military campaign persisted as hopelessly as ever.

In fact, many government officials now believe that the United States and its allies could be as little as six months away from their ultimate goal: the total quagmirification of Afghanistan.

"We've spent a lot of time and money fostering the turmoil and despair necessary to make this a sustaining quagmire, and we're not going to stop now," President Barack Obama said in a national address Monday night. "It won't be easy, but with enough tactical errors on the ground, shortsighted political strategies, and continued ignorance of our vast cultural differences, we could have a horrific, full-fledged quagmire by 2012."

Added Obama, "Together, we can make Afghanistan into a nightmarish hell-scape Americans will regret for generations to come."

The U.S. plan to build a lasting quagmire in Afghanistan calls for the loss of at least 5,000 coalition troops, nearly 1,500 of whom have already been killed, and a wasted investment of nearly $1 trillion, a quarter of which has thus far been spent.

With more than 80 percent of the country currently under Taliban control, Defense Secretary Robert Gates argued that U.S. nation-dismantling efforts are actually proceeding ahead of schedule.

"We've made a complete mess of local institutions, and moving forward this substantial lack of infrastructure will be the cornerstone of our strategy to ensure long-term chaos in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region," said Gates, gesturing to a complex, 6-foot-tall wall map of what were either newly established al-Qaeda bases in Waziristan, tribal trade routes over the Hindu Kush, or perhaps U.S. military outposts of some kind. "I couldn't be happier with our progress. This place is a complete clusterfuck."

Enlarge Image Quagmire Map

A number of Pentagon officials said they were proudly holding on to their false glimmer of hope for a victory that remains forever out of reach, and explained that waging a war that can only end in sorrow has validated all their efforts.

The U.S. effort in Afghanistan hasn't always looked so bleak. In 2004, when Afghanistan ratified a new constitution and directly elected a leader for the first time in its history, a number of government officials feared the quagmire would fail and perhaps even lead to relative peace and security. But American military and diplomatic initiatives to prop up the corrupt regime of Hamid Karzai paved the way for this year's utterly fraudulent presidential election, an event which gave the quagmire-building effort a much needed shot in the arm.

"Some say the war in Afghanistan is already a quagmire, being as it's gone on for eight years and the situation on the ground continues to rapidly deteriorate," said Gen. Stanley McChrystal. "But I know we can do better. There are still dozens of tribal allies to alienate, troop morale could sink even lower, to the point of mutiny, and by continuing to fire a bunch of missiles from unmanned predator drones we have the opportunity to scare the living shit out of every last civilian in the region."

Continued McChrystal, "If we play our cards right, the word 'Afghanistan' could soon replace the word 'Iraq' as the agreed-upon successor to the word 'Vietnam' in the American political lexicon."

The loose network of warlords who rule the Afghan countryside were also optimistic about quagmire-building efforts.

"Our nation is already impossibly fragmented, but I believe the United States has the ability to make things even worse here," said a local tribal leader, who asked to speak anonymously due to his constantly shifting alliances with the two sides. "Afghanistan has a proud, ancient tradition of quagmires: Soviet Russia, the British Empire, Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan. These are big shoes to fill, but if anyone can do it, these foolish Americans can."

With President Karzai's government maintaining ties to known drug traffickers, and 68,000 U.S. soldiers struggling to police a harsh, challenging landscape, all the conditions for a multigenerational quagmire seem to be in place.

For many analysts, the question now is: How will Obama ensure the U.S. entanglement in the region remains permanent? By deploying more troops, by withdrawing them and leaving behind an unspeakable disaster, by increasing sympathy for the Taliban in nuclear-armed Pakistan? There are so many options on the table that many feel a quagmire is virtually guaranteed.

"We have so much to thank the Americans for," said Marshal Muhammad Qasim Fahim, a notorious warlord who will become vice president if Karzai wins a runoff election scheduled for Nov. 7. "Not only have they created a lawless environment that has allowed us to capture 90 percent of the opium market, but their heroin habits have made a few of us very rich."

"I love the Americans and I hope they stay for many years," he added. "Many, many, many, many years."


Federal Researchers Find Lower Standards in Schools

NY Times: October 29, 2009
A new federal study shows that nearly a third of the states lowered their
academic proficiency standards in recent years, a step that helps schools
stay ahead of sanctions under the No Child Left Behind law. But lowering
standards also confuses parents about how children's achievement compares
with those in other states and countries.

The study, released Thursday, was the first by the federal Department of
Education's research arm to use a statistical comparison between federal and
state tests to analyze whether states had changed their testing standards.

It found that 15 states lowered their proficiency standards in fourth- or
eighth-grade reading or math from 2005 to 2007. Three states, Maine,
Oklahoma and Wyoming, lowered standards in both subjects at both grade
levels, the study said.

Eight states increased the rigor of their standards in one or both subjects
and grades. Some states raised standards in one subject but lowered them in
another, including New York, which raised the rigor of its fourth-grade-math
standard but lowered the standard in eighth-grade reading, the study said.

"Over all, standards were more likely to be lower than higher," in 2007,
compared with the earlier year, said Peggy G. Carr, an associate
commissioner at the department.

Under the No Child law, signed in 2002, all schools must bring 100 percent
of students to the proficient level on states' reading and math tests by
2014, and schools that fall short of rising annual targets face sanctions.
In California, for instance, elementary schools must raise the percentage of
students scoring above the proficient level by 11 percentage points every
year from now through 2014.

Facing this challenge, the study found that some states had been redefining
proficiency down, allowing a lower score on a state test to qualify as

"At a time when we should be raising standards to compete in the global
economy, more states are lowering the bar than raising it," Secretary of
Education Arne Duncan said in a statement. "We're lying to our children."

The 15 states that lowered one or more standards were Delaware, Georgia,
Hawaii, Illinois, Kentucky, Maine, Michigan, Missouri, New York, Ohio,
Oklahoma, Oregon, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wyoming. Eight that raised
one or more standards were Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Missouri, Montana, New
York, North Carolina, and Virginia.

Louis Fabrizio, a director at the North Carolina Department of Public
Instruction, said that under the No Child law, states face a dilemma. "When
you set standards, do you want to show success under N.C.L.B. by having
higher percentages of students at proficiency, in which case you'll set
lower standards?" Mr. Fabrizio asked. "Or do you want to do the right thing
for kids, by setting them higher so they're comparable with our global

In the study, researchers compared the results of state tests and the
National Assessment of Educational Progress in 2005 and 2007, identifying a
score on the national assessment that was equivalent to each state's
definition of proficiency.

The study found wide variation among states, with standards highest in
Massachusetts and South Carolina. Georgia, Oklahoma and Tennessee had
standards that were among the lowest.

Forty-eight states are working cooperatively to create common academic
standards. Authorities in Texas and Alaska declined to join the effort.

Russ Whitehurst, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, said it was
unlikely that the effort would soon produce a nationwide system that would
allow parents and employers to easily compare test results from state to
state, partly, he said, because "states would still have to agree on a
common test."

"And that's heavy lifting," Mr. Whitehurst said.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Baker: People Power Matters, Friday, Health Care March in Echo Park

People Power Matters: The Public Option Lives!

by: Dean Baker,
t r u t h o u t : 26 October 2009

   In spite of the best efforts of the insurance industry and their
followers in Congress and the media, it is still very possible that the
health reform bill passed by Congress will include a robust public plan.
This is a case where the simple facts and persistent grassroots pressure may
overcome the political power of a major industry.

    If the bill passes with a serious public plan, it could make an enormous
difference for the future of health care in the United States. However, the
fact that the public option is even on the table at this point, after all
the political experts had counted it out, shows the enormous potential for
popular pressure to influence policy debates in this country.

    The basic story is that President Obama and the Democratic leadership in
Congress had always been lukewarm in their support of a public plan.
President Obama had included it in his original proposal, but has made it
clear on numerous occasions that he did not view it as an essential part of
his health care plan.

    Of course, that is not the way that presidents get measures passed that
they really want. President Clinton never said that he didn't view NAFTA as
being a big part of his trade policy. President Bush didn't say that
Congressional authorization of the Iraq war was a relatively small matter in
his larger foreign policy agenda. President Obama's statements, that a
public option was not essential, were an invitation to Congress to give him
a bill that did not include a public plan.

    This could have been the end of the story for a public plan, except for
the determined efforts of progressive activists to insist that Congress
include a public plan. While the plan's opponents argued that the leadership
did not have the 60 votes needed in the Senate to end a filibuster, public
plan supporters pointed out that public plan opponents did not have the 218
votes needed in the House to get a health care plan approved without a
public option. The logic was simple, if progressive members in the House
refused to back a health care bill without a public plan, then any health
care bill that passes Congress would have to include a public option. A
large coalition of progressive groups kept up the pressure, insisting that
Democrats in the House insist that any bill include a public option. They
bombarded members with phone calls, faxes, emails and staged protests and
organized petitions. This coalition was helped by polls that consistently
show a large majority of the public support giving people the option to join
a Medicare-type public plan. In fact, a recent New York Times poll showed
people supporting a public option by a margin of 65 to 26 percent. The same
poll showed that overall health care reform package losing by a small

    Supporters of a public plan have also been helped by the facts. The
Congressional Budget Office's analysis shows that a robust public plan, with
rates tied to Medicare rates, can save $100 billion over the next decade.
This is a substantial portion of the money needed to cover the cost of the
health care bill. Given the popular support for a public plan and the
evidence that it could save substantial amounts of money, it is clear that
opponents of a public option are not responding to constituents or concerns
over costs.

    The sustained pressure from progressives seems to have firmed support
for a public plan in the House, but there is still the issue of getting 60
votes in the Senate. Here, it is important to make a distinction that the
media and political pundits have tried to hide. It is not necessary to get
60 senators who will support a public plan. It is necessary to get 60
senators who will allow the Senate to vote on a public plan. This is very

    Until recently, filibusters were unusual. It was standard practice for a
senator to support cloture - allowing a piece of legislation to come up for
a vote - but then to vote against the bill itself. Filibusters were reserved
for extraordinary issues that members of the Senate felt were especially

    Currently, Democrats have 60 seats in the Senate. This means that the
party just needs its members to allow the central piece of its president's
legislative agenda to come to a vote. That should not require too much party
discipline; after all, the senators could still vote against the bill

    It's too early to know if this "no filibuster" path will succeed, but
the fact that a public plan is still in the mix is a testament to the
ability of grassroots activists to move the national political agenda. The
political insiders will do their best to deny it, but political pressure
from the masses can and does make a difference. It has made a difference in
the debate over health care and it can make a difference in other areas.
Let's see what a little grassroots activism can do for the Wall Street
----- Original Message -----
Sent: Tuesday, October 27, 2009 7:12 PM
Subject: Oct 30 Health Care March

Demand Health Care Now!

March for Health care Public Option

Friday, October 30

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Hedges: War Is a Hate Crime, Don't Build Up

Hi. The top article is profound and deals with the contradictory,
disheartening political process that is forced upon even the best
of our representatives. It's doubly interesting and far more hopeful
in tandem with the second essay, authored by the same person
Hedges identifies as the paragon of war, sexualized. The hope
being -people can change. Why else try, let alone perservere?

War Is a Hate Crime

By Chris Hedges
Truthdig: Oct. 26, 2009

Violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people is wrong. So
is violence against people in Afghanistan and Iraq. But in the bizarre
culture of identity politics, there are no alliances among the oppressed.
The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, the first
major federal civil rights law protecting lesbian, gay, bisexual and
transgender people, passed last week, was attached to a $680-billion measure
outlining the Pentagon's budget, which includes $130 billion for ongoing
military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Democratic majority in
Congress, under the cover of protecting some innocents, authorized massive
acts of violence against other innocents.

It was a clever piece of marketing. It blunted debate about new funding for
war. And behind the closed doors of the caucus rooms, the Democratic
leadership told Blue Dog Democrats, who are squeamish about defending gays
or lesbians from hate crimes, that they could justify the vote as support
for the war. They told liberal Democrats, who are squeamish about unlimited
funding for war, that they could defend the vote as a step forward in the
battle for civil rights. Gender equality groups, by selfishly narrowing
their concern to themselves, participated in the dirty game.

"Every thinking person wants to take a stand against hate crimes, but isn't
war the most offensive of hate crimes?" asked Rep. Dennis Kucinich, who did
not vote for the bill, when I spoke to him by phone. "To have people have to
make a choice, or contemplate the hierarchy of hate crimes, is cynical. I
don't vote to fund wars. If you are opposed to war, you don't vote to
authorize or appropriate money. Congress, historically and constitutionally,
has the power to fund or defund a war. The more Congress participates in
authorizing spending for war, the more likely it is that we will be there
for a long, long time. This reflects an even larger question. All the
attention is paid to what President Obama is going to do right now with
respect to Iraq and Afghanistan. The truth is the Democratic Congress could
have ended the war when it took control just after 2006. We were given
control of the Congress by the American people in November 2006 specifically
to end the war. It did not happen. The funding continues. And while the
attention is on the president, Congress clearly has the authority at any
time to stop the funding. And yet it doesn't. Worse yet, it finds other ways
to garner votes for bills that authorize funding for war. The spending
juggernaut moves forward, a companion to the inconscient force of war

The brutality of Matthew Shepard's killers, who beat him to death for being
gay, is a product of a culture that glorifies violence and sadism. It is the
product of a militarized culture. We have more police, prisons, inmates,
spies, mercenaries, weapons and troops than any other nation on Earth. Our
military, which swallows half of the federal budget, is enormously
popular-as if it is not part of government. The military values of
hyper-masculinity, blind obedience and violence are an electric current that
run through reality television and trash-talk programs where contestants
endure pain while they betray and manipulate those around them in a ruthless
world of competition. Friendship and compassion are banished.

This hyper-masculinity is at the core of pornography with its fusion of
violence and eroticism, as well as its physical and emotional degradation of
women. It is an expression of the corporate state where human beings are
reduced to commodities and companies have become proto-fascist enclaves
devoted to maximizing profit. Militarism crushes the capacity for moral
autonomy and difference. It isolates us from each other. It has its logical
fruition in Abu Ghraib, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, along with our
lack of compassion for our homeless, our poor, our mentally ill, our
unemployed, our sick, and yes, our gay, lesbian, transgender and bisexual

Klaus Theweleit in his two volumes entitled "Male Fantasies," which draw on
the bitter alienation of demobilized veterans in Germany following the end
of World War I, argues that a militarized culture attacks all that is
culturally defined as the feminine, including love, gentleness, compassion
and acceptance of difference. It sees any sexual ambiguity as a threat to
male "hardness" and the clearly defined roles required by the militarized
state. The continued support for our permanent war economy, the continued
elevation of military values as the highest good, sustains the perverted
ethic, rigid social roles and emotional numbness that Theweleit explored. It
is a moral cancer that ensures there will be more Matthew Shepards.

Fascism, Theweleit argued, is not so much a form of government or a
particular structuring of the economy or a system, but the creation of
potent slogans and symbols that form a kind of psychic economy which places
sexuality in the service of destruction. The "core of all fascist propaganda
is a battle against everything that constitutes enjoyment and pleasure,"
Theweleit wrote. And our culture, while it disdains the name of fascism,
embraces its dark ethic.

New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, interviewed in 2003 by Charlie
Rose, spoke in this sexualized language of violence to justify the war in
Iraq, a moment preserved on YouTube (see video below):

"What they needed to see was American boys and girls going house to house,
from Basra to Baghdad, and basically saying, 'Which part of this sentence
don't you understand?' " Friedman said. " 'You don't think, you know, we
care about our open society? You think this bubble fantasy, we're just gonna
let it grow? Well, suck on this.' That, Charlie, was what this war was
about. We could have hit Saudi Arabia, it was part of that bubble. Could
have hit Pakistan. We hit Iraq because we could."

This is the kind of twisted logic the killers of Matthew Shepard would

The philosopher Theodor Adorno wrote, in words gay activists should have
heeded, that exclusive preoccupation with personal concerns and indifference
to the suffering of others beyond the self-identified group made fascism and
the Holocaust possible.

"The inability to identify with others was unquestionably the most important
psychological condition for the fact that something like Auschwitz could
have occurred in the midst of more or less civilized and innocent people,"
Adorno wrote. "What is called fellow traveling was primarily business
interest: one pursues one's own advantage before all else, and simply not to
endanger oneself, does not talk too much. That is a general law of the
status quo. The silence under the terror was only its consequence. The
coldness of the societal monad, the isolated competitor, was the
precondition, as indifference to the fate of others, for the fact that only
very few people reacted. The torturers know this, and they put it to test
ever anew."

Chris Hedges, whose column is published on Truthdig every Monday, spent two
decades as a foreign reporter covering wars in Latin America, Africa, Europe
and the Middle East. He has written nine books, including "Empire of
Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle" (2009) and "War
Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning" (2003).


Don't Build Up

NY Times Op-Ed: October 27, 2009

It is crunch time on Afghanistan, so here's my vote: We need to be thinking
about how to reduce our footprint and our goals there in a responsible way,
not dig in deeper. We simply do not have the Afghan partners, the NATO
allies, the domestic support, the financial resources or the national
interests to justify an enlarged and prolonged nation-building effort in

I base this conclusion on three principles. First, when I think back on all
the moments of progress in that part of the world - all the times when a key
player in the Middle East actually did something that put a smile on my
face - all of them have one thing in common: America had nothing to do with

America helped build out what they started, but the breakthrough didn't
start with us. We can fan the flames, but the parties themselves have to
light the fires of moderation. And whenever we try to do it for them,
whenever we want it more than they do, we fail and they languish.

The Camp David peace treaty was not initiated by Jimmy Carter. Rather, the
Egyptian president, Anwar Sadat, went to Jerusalem in 1977 after Israel's
Moshe Dayan held secret talks in Morocco with Sadat aide Hassan Tuhami. Both
countries decided that they wanted a separate peace - outside of the Geneva
comprehensive framework pushed by Mr. Carter.

The Oslo peace accords started in Oslo - in secret 1992-93 talks between the
P.L.O. representative, Ahmed Qurei, and the Israeli professor Yair
Hirschfeld. Israelis and Palestinians alone hammered out a broad deal and
unveiled it to the Americans in the summer of 1993, much to Washington's

The U.S. surge in Iraq was militarily successful because it was preceded by
an Iraqi uprising sparked by a Sunni tribal leader, Sheik Abdul Sattar Abu
Risha, who, using his own forces, set out to evict the pro-Al Qaeda thugs
who had taken over Sunni towns and were imposing a fundamentalist lifestyle.
The U.S. surge gave that movement vital assistance to grow. But the spark
was lit by the Iraqis.

The Cedar Revolution in Lebanon, the Israeli withdrawals from Gaza and
Lebanon, the Green Revolution in Iran and the Pakistani decision to finally
fight their own Taliban in Waziristan - because those Taliban were
threatening the Pakistani middle class - were all examples of moderate,
silent majorities acting on their own.

The message: "People do not change when we tell them they should," said the
Johns Hopkins University foreign policy expert Michael Mandelbaum. "They
change when they tell themselves they must."

And when the moderate silent majorities take ownership of their own futures,
we win. When they won't, when we want them to compromise more than they do,
we lose. The locals sense they have us over a barrel, so they exploit our
naïve goodwill and presence to loot their countries and to defeat their
internal foes.

That's how I see Afghanistan today. I see no moderate spark. I see our
secretary of state pleading with President Hamid Karzai to re-do an election
that he blatantly stole. I also see us begging Israelis to stop building
more crazy settlements or Palestinians to come to negotiations. It is time
to stop subsidizing their nonsense. Let them all start paying retail for
their extremism, not wholesale. Then you'll see movement.

What if we shrink our presence in Afghanistan? Won't Al Qaeda return, the
Taliban be energized and Pakistan collapse? Maybe. Maybe not. This gets to
my second principle: In the Middle East, all politics - everything that
matters - happens the morning after the morning after. Be patient. Yes, the
morning after we shrink down in Afghanistan, the Taliban will celebrate,
Pakistan will quake and bin Laden will issue an exultant video.

And the morning after the morning after, the Taliban factions will start
fighting each other, the Pakistani Army will have to destroy their Taliban,
or be destroyed by them, Afghanistan's warlords will carve up the country,
and, if bin Laden comes out of his cave, he'll get zapped by a drone.

My last guiding principle: We are the world. A strong, healthy and
self-confident America is what holds the world together and on a decent
path. A weak America would be a disaster for us and the world. China, Russia
and Al Qaeda all love the idea of America doing a long, slow bleed in
Afghanistan. I don't.

The U.S. military has given its assessment. It said that stabilizing
Afghanistan and removing it as a threat requires rebuilding that whole
country. Unfortunately, that is a 20-year project at best, and we can't
afford it. So our political leadership needs to insist on a strategy that
will get the most security for less money and less presence. We simply don't
have the surplus we had when we started the war on terrorism after 9/11 -
and we desperately need nation-building at home. We have to be smarter.
finish Iraq, because a decent outcome there really could positively impact
the whole Arab-Muslim world, and limit our exposure elsewhere. Iraq matters.

Yes, shrinking down in Afghanistan will create new threats, but expanding
there will, too. I'd rather deal with the new threats with a stronger

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Margolis: American Strings in Afghan Election, Changing the World

Americans Pull Strings in Afghan Election

By Eric Margolis

October 26, 2009 "Toronto Sun" -- Henry Kissinger once observed that
being America's ally can be more dangerous than being its enemy.

Take poor Hamid Karzai, the amiable former business consultant and CIA
"asset" installed by Washington as Afghanistan's president. As the U.S.
increasingly gets its backside kicked in Afghanistan, it has blamed the
powerless Karzai for its woes and bumbling.

You can almost hear Washington rebuking, "Bad puppet! Bad puppet!"

The U.S. Congressional Research service just revealed it costs a
staggering $1.3 million per annum to keep an American soldier in
Afghanistan. Costs for Canadian troops are likely similar. This huge expense
can't go on forever.

The U.S. government has wanted to dump Karzai, but could not find an
equally obedient but more effective replacement. There was talk of imposing
an American "chief executive officer" on him. Or, in the lexicon of the old
British Raj, an Imperial Viceroy.

Washington finally decided to try to shore up Karzai's regime and give
it some legitimacy by staging national elections in August. The UN, which
has increasingly become an arm of U.S. foreign policy, was brought in to
make the vote kosher. Canada eagerly joined this charade.

No political parties were allowed to run. Only individuals supporting
the West's occupation of Afghanistan were allowed on the ballot.

Occupation army

The vote was conducted under the guns of a foreign occupation army --
a clear violation of international law. The U.S. funded the election
commission and guarded polling places from a discreet distance. The Soviets
were much more subtle when they rigged Afghan elections.

As I wrote before the election, it was all a great big fraud within a
larger fraud designed to fool American, Canadian and European voters into
believing democracy had flowered in Afghanistan. Cynical Afghans knew the
vote would be rigged. Most Pashtun, the nation's ethnic majority, didn't
vote. The "election" was an embarrassing fiasco.

To no surprise, Washington's man in Kabul, Hamid Karzai, won. But his
supporters went overboard in stuffing ballot boxes to avoid a possible
runoff with rival Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, another American ally. The Karzai
and Abdullah camps were bitterly feuding over division of U.S. aid and drug
money that has totally corrupted Afghanistan.

The vote was discredited, thwarting the Obama administration's plans
to use the election as justification for sending more troops to Afghanistan.
The White House's Plan B: Forcing its two feuding "assets," Karzai and
Abdullah, into a coalition. But two puppets on a string are no better than

Washington just arm-twisted Karzai into agreeing to a run-off vote
that will likely be as bogus as the last one. In Afghanistan, ethnicity and
tribe trump everything else. Karzai is a Pashtun, but has almost no roots in
tribal politics.

The suave Abdullah, who is also in Washington's pocket, is half
Pashtun, half Tajik. But he is seen as a Tajik who speaks for this ethnic
minority which detests and scorns the majority Pashtun. Tajiks will vote for
Abdullah, Pashtun will not. If the U.S. manages to force Abdullah into a
coalition with Karzai, Pashtun -- 55% of the population -- won't back the
new regime which many Afghans will see as western yes-men and

Abdullah also has some very unsavoury friends from the north: Former
Afghan Communist Party bigwigs Mohammed Fahim and Uzbek warlord Rashid
Dostam -- both major war criminals. Behind them stand the Tajik Northern
Alliance and resurrected Afghan Communist Party, both funded by Russia and
backed by Iran and India.

Ironically, the U.S. is now closely allied with the Afghan Communists
and fighting its former Pashtun allies from the 1980s anti-Soviet struggle.
Most North Americans have no idea they are now backing Afghan Communists and
the men who control most of Afghanistan's booming drug trade.

If Hamid Karzai really wants to establish himself as an authentic
national leader, he should demand the U.S. and NATO withdraw their
occupation forces and let Afghans settle their own disputes in traditional


Changing the World

NY Times: Op-Ed: October 26, 2009

One of the most cherished items in my possession is a postcard that was sent
from Mississippi to the Upper West Side of Manhattan in June 1964.

"Dear Mom and Dad," it says, "I have arrived safely in Meridian,
Mississippi. This is a wonderful town and the weather is fine. I wish you
were here. The people in this city are wonderful and our reception was very
good. All my love, Andy."

That was the last word sent to his family by Andrew Goodman, a 20-year-old
college student who was murdered by the Ku Klux Klan, along with fellow
civil rights workers Michael Schwerner and James Chaney, on his first full
day in Mississippi - June 21, the same date as the postmark on the card. The
goal of the three young men had been to help register blacks to vote.

The postcard was given to me by Andrew's brother, David, who has become a
good friend.

Andrew and that postcard came to mind over the weekend as I was thinking
about the sense of helplessness so many ordinary Americans have been feeling
as the nation is confronted with one enormous, seemingly intractable problem
after another. The helplessness is beginning to border on paralysis. The
wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, nearly a decade long, are going badly, and
there is no endgame in sight.

Monday morning's coffee was accompanied by stories about suicide bombings in
the heart of Baghdad that killed at least 150 people and wounded more than
500 and helicopter crashes in Afghanistan that killed 14 Americans.

Here at home, the terrible toll from the worst economic downturn since the
Great Depression continues, with no end to the joblessness in sight and no
comprehensible plans for fashioning a healthy economy for the years ahead.
The government's finances resemble a Ponzi scheme. If you want to see the
epidemic that is really clobbering American families, look past the H1N1
virus to the home foreclosure crisis.

The Times ran a Page A1 article on Monday that said layoffs, foreclosures
and other problems associated with the recession had resulted in big
increases in the number of runaway children, many of whom were living in
dangerous conditions in the streets.

Americans have tended to watch with a remarkable (I think frightening)
degree of passivity as crises of all sorts have gripped the country and sent
millions of lives into tailspins. Where people once might have deluged their
elected representatives with complaints, joined unions, resisted mass
firings, confronted their employers with serious demands, marched for social
justice and created brand new civic organizations to fight for the things
they believed in, the tendency now is to assume that there is little or
nothing ordinary individuals can do about the conditions that plague them.

This is so wrong. It is the kind of thinking that would have stopped the
civil rights movement in its tracks, that would have kept women in the
kitchen or the steno pool, that would have prevented labor unions from
forcing open the doors that led to the creation of a vast middle class.

This passivity and sense of helplessness most likely stems from the refusal
of so many Americans over the past few decades to acknowledge any sense of
personal responsibility for the policies and choices that have led the
country into such a dismal state of affairs, and to turn their backs on any
real obligation to help others who were struggling.

Those chickens have come home to roost. Being an American has become a
spectator sport. Most Americans watch the news the way you'd watch a
ballgame, or a long-running television series, believing that they have no
more control over important real-life events than a viewer would have over a
coach's strategy or a script for "Law & Order."

With that kind of attitude, Andrew Goodman would never have left the comfort
of his family home in Manhattan. Rosa Parks would have gotten up and given
her seat to a white person, and the Montgomery bus boycott would never have
happened. Betty Friedan would never have written "The Feminine Mystique."

The nation's political leaders and their corporate puppet masters have
fouled this nation up to a fare-thee-well. We will not be pulled from the
morass without a big effort from an active citizenry, and that means a
citizenry fired with a sense of mission and the belief that their actions,
in concert with others, can make a profound difference.

It can start with just a few small steps. Mrs. Parks helped transform a
nation by refusing to budge from her seat. Maybe you want to speak up
publicly about an important issue, or host a house party, or perhaps arrange
a meeting of soon-to-be dismissed employees, or parents at a troubled

It's a risk, sure. But the need is great, and that's how you change the

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Get Lit Players/Tim Robbins Thursday! Showdown in Chicago, Sit in at CIGNA Wed

Hi. You're probably aware that the Get Lits are one of the
featured acts in the Ash Grove's Beyond November series.
I couldn't be more proud and delighted at their rapid climb
to recognition, state-wide, even nationally, and now here,
on a big stage in their own field. Try it, you'll love it. Kudos
to Diane Luby Lane, founder, director and den mother. We
share the same roller-coaster, without safety bars.


Get Lit Players & Tim Robbins at WTF Festival, this Thursday!

From: Sherry Banz
To: Diane Lane ; GetLit
Sent: Monday, October 26, 2009 6:55 PM


Come have a blast with the award winning Get Lit Players - the ONLY classic
TEEN poetry troupe in America!

Teens from the audience will be invited on stage to perform too! So bring
your kids, your students, other educators!!!

Share in this community building experience!

Leave inspired!!!

Event is PAY WHAT YOU CAN!!!

When - This Thursday, October 29th 8 PM - 9:30 PM

Where - The Actor's Gang Theater at the Ivy Substation
9070 Venice Blvd, Culver City, CA 90232


Showdown in Chicago: Protesters Rally Against Big Banks' Anti-Reform

by Meg White
Buzzflash: 10/26/09

Though the stretch of South Wacker Drive is more Wall Street than it is Wild
West, this week it is the scene of what is billed as a "Showdown in
Chicago." Monday morning, a large group of protesters crowded the block
surrounding the downtown Chicago headquarters of Goldman Sachs.

"Bust up big banks! Bailout? No thanks!" they screamed in unison. Their
target was the American Bankers Association (ABA), the largest lobby group
for financial institutions, holding their annual convention in Chicago this

The protest was organized by National People's Action, a Chicago-based
network of metropolitan, regional, and statewide organizations working to
"build grassroots power." Despite their recruitment of local heavy-hitters
including the Service Employees International Union and Action Now, with
cross-promotion from national groups such as to the Center for
Economic and Policy Research, there was a genuine grassroots feel to the

As businessmen and women in suits skirting the crowd had to walk in front of
a cordon of Chicago cops in the street in order to get by, protesters young
and old held a combination of signs registering their disgust with financial
institutions. One grandmotherly-looking woman held a sign that said "Kidz
say Goldman sux." Another sign reached back to the language of Reaganomics,
complaining of being "pissed" after "being trickled down on" for so long.

Not that the mass-produced signs didn't have flair to them as well.
Oversized "warrants" called for the arrest of former Bank of America Chair
Ken Lewis as well as Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf and others. The "superhero"
known as Downsized Man was there with a sign that shouted "Reclaim America!"

Other protesters had personal stories to tell.

Keith Scribner, president of UE local 1174, was in Chicago representing his
fellow union members from Quad City Die Casting in Moline, IL. Back in May,
the factory owners told the workers there that they were going to have to
close down, not because they were out of money, but because Wells Fargo
wouldn't lend the 60-year-old company the money it needed to continue doing
business. When they finally closed the doors Sept. 4, all 100 employees
became unemployed, and none were compensated for their lost vacation time,
nor their health benefits, which the bank had stopped paying out way back in
May. Scribner said the total owed to the union members is $220,000.

"That's why were here. We're protesting because they owe us money," he said.

Now Scribner is fighting two banks, because as Wells Fargo denies his
benefits, Bank of America is foreclosing on his house.

"This guy got a double whammy. His business closed even though it could have
stayed open another 50 years. And he's losing his house and the bank won't
even talk to him about how to stay in it. They just don't care," said Leah
Fried, an organizer with UE. "They don't care about rising unemployment,
they don't care about people losing their homes, they don't care about
homelessness. They don't care. So unless we force the issue, it will not

Organizers of today's protest picked Goldman at least partially because of
their profit margins. They called protesters to come out and stand in the
drizzle to "ask Goldman Sachs to donate its entire projected $23 billion
dollar bonus pool to prevent every foreclosure in America in 2010 and lift
one million families out of the poverty and joblessness that was caused by
Goldman Sachs' gambling with our economy."

But it's more than simple payback motivating today's protesters; the heavy
resistance being put up by banks to new regulatory reforms designed to keep
the country from getting into this mess again plays a significant role, too.
In fact, the annual ABA meeting that protesters are attempting to disrupt
specifically focuses on teaching bankers how to help derail progress in the

While the excess symbolized by the ABA conference's "Roaring '20s dance
party" has gotten a good deal of attention (AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka
says, "Why wouldn't they celebrate the era of wild money and hot times
(which slid into the Great Depression)? After all, the bankers are doing
well these days"), other ABA events have earned the ire of Chicagoans.

The ABA schedule includes "special strategic sessions" concentrating on a
variety of accredited classes, including one on acquiring other failing
banks, another on dealing with changes in executive pay and a third targeted
at "unwinding government intervention." Regarding the proposed regulations
working through Congress, the ABA says it is the "elimination of the thrift
charter and creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Agency, that ABA
found extremely troublesome."

Another focus of the event is halfway across the country in Washington.
Organizers say that the six largest banks have spent more than $35 million
fighting congressional action on financial reform this year alone. And if
the constant weakening of regulatory reform legislation on the Hill is any
indication, it was money well spent.

"We're pushing the banks to do what's right... And more importantly, we're
going to force elected officials to act more swiftly to rein in these
practices that are so abusive," Fried said. "The American people have to
force our government to act. We know that they act in the interests of
whoever is paying them the most money in their campaign funds. And so what
we need to do is just flex our muscle. And that's the bottom line, we have
to force the government to do the right thing just like we have to force
banks to do the right thing."

Today's protest and accompanying march are part of a three-day event that
ends in a rally tomorrow. While the healthcare debate winds down, the
attempt to switch popular anger from insurance lobbyists to financial ones
may prove difficult. But Fried isn't worried about keeping people engaged,
insisting that this is only the beginning of what is becoming for more and
more people a very personal fight.

"If you're losing your home, or your business closed because a bank wouldn't
give it credit, it's not esoteric at all. It's your life," Fried said.
"There's nothing more concrete that eating and having a place to live. And
that's what this is about."


From: Karen Pomer

MEDIA ADVISORY: Sit-in at CIGNA insurance, 10am Wednesday, 10/28
Contact: Laura Flanagan, (305) 542-3570,
Lacy MacAuley, (202) 445-4692,
Follow us on Twitter@mob4healthcare

Citizens and health care providers
participate in Sit-in, risk arrest at the CIGNA health insurance office in

Sit-in is part of a national mobilization to end insurance abuse and win
health care for all; Matt Hendrickson, MD MPH, will risk arrest for health
care for all

What: Los Angeles joins in national day of sit-ins at health insurance
companies to demand single-payer health care.
When: Wednesday, October 28, 2009, 10am
Where: CIGNA insurance, 400 N. Brand Blvd., Glendale, CA 91203
Who: Citizens and health care providers who are fed up with insurance
company greed and are calling for real reform, Medicare for All, a single
payer plan

Glendale, CA - On Wednesday, October 28, a variety of groups with the
message "patients not profits," and "insurance companies are the real death
panels" will hold a sit-in with civil disobedience, street theater, music,
and a rally at an insurance company in Glendale. The events will express the
American people's outrage at the crimes of the health insurance industry,

. Murder: A new Harvard study found that 45,000 Americans a year die because
they don't have health insurance. For the insured, denial of care and
delays in approving care cause an uncounted number of deaths.

. Causing sickness and suffering for millions of people with treatable
health conditions who can't get the care they need.

. Breach of contract: Insurance companies routinely cancel the policies of
many thousands of people after they became sick.

. Theft and waste of 30% of the U.S. health care dollar-money that could
provide comprehensive care to all. While they were charging unaffordable
premiums, denying treatment, and canceling policies, the profits of the top
10 health insurance companies went up 428% from 2000 to 2007.

"The insurance industry is the main cause of the collapse of the American
health care system. It should not be part of the solution," said Matt
Hendrickson, MD MPH, a doctor who will be risking arrest on Wednesday at the
CIGNA health insurance office in Glendale, CA. "I'm putting myself on the
line because I can no longer stand to see my patients struggle to afford the
care they need while one out of every three health care dollars in our
country goes to pay for administration and insurance company profits."
The sit-in is part of the Patients Not Profit campaign of the Mobilization
for Health Care for All. The mobilization was launched by the organizations
Prosperity Agenda, Healthcare-NOW!, and the Center for the Working Poor. The
upcoming LA action has been organized by the Center for the Working Poor.

Participants in Wednesday's act of civil disobedience think that the health
care bill fails to address the real cause of our health care crisis, the
insurance companies. They will point out that health insurance companies
that deny people the care they need are the real death panels.

The organizers have the following statements:

We support SB 810 (California Sen. Mark Leno's legislation for a single
payer system in California) and HR 676 (U.S. Rep. John Conyers' bill to
improve Medicare and expand it to cover everyone in the U.S.)

We demand that any federal health reform include a provision to allow states
to adopt single payer systems (the Kucinich amendment in the House).

We need one system of publicly funded, privately delivered health care that
includes everyone.

For more information:
Mobilization for Health Care
Prosperity Agenda,
Center for Working Poor,


Israel Into The Dock, The real outrage

From: Sid Shniad

The First Step: Israel Into The Dock

By Dr. Alan Sabrosky
Salem News: October 20, 2009

The UN Human Rights Council (HRC) Resolution based on the Goldstone Report
is a damning condemnation of Israel. The original meaning of being "caught
red-handed" was literally being "caught bloody-handed," with the victim's
blood on one's own hands. In Gaza, Israel has been caught red-handed in that
literal sense, and for the first time in its history, is approaching the
dock in the international court of opinion and, hopefully, of justice as

This case could be a watershed event. For Israel and its US Government (USG)
puppet-patron, the moment of truth in the UN is rapidly approaching. So let
us look at the key elements of the HRC special session that sent this
resolution to the UN General Assembly (UNGA).

Voting Patterns

Voting patterns on the HRC are important, as they provide insights into what
might happen later on the Security Council (UNSC) and in the General

1. Of the permanent members of the Security Council, Russia and China
supported the resolution, Britain and France did not vote (the equivalent of
hiding under the table!), only the US opposed it;

2. France and Norway did not vote for or against the resolution, but they
did support the conclusions of the Goldstone Report;

3. Both major Sub-Saharan African states (Nigeria and South Africa) voted
for it;

4. Two of the Asian "Big Three" (India and China) voted for it, the third
(Japan) just abstained;

5. Two of the usual US supporters in SW and SE Asia (Pakistan and the
Philippines) voted for it; and

6. Three of the four largest Latin American states (Argentina, Brazil,
Chile) voted for it, the fourth (Mexico) abstained.

What makes this significant -- since the US lobbied hard first to keep the
Goldstone Report from even reaching the HRC, and then for others to vote
against the HRC resolution -- is that many states who voted for it, or
abstained, would normally have been in the US corner. This is NOT a good
sign for the US and Israel of how the General Assembly will go, and perhaps
even the Security Council, which could easily have a majority of 10 or 11
supporting the resolution (in whatever form it reaches the them), with
France and Britain either abstaining or not voting. Very bad for the US, for
even though its veto would kill any punishment of Israel there, there would
be enough votes to ask the General Assembly officially to invoke the
"Uniting for Peace Resolution."

And several powerful states would not be at all unhappy to see the US
discomfited here. Russia would take great pleasure from being on the winning
side of a General Assembly vote that turned a US-inspired weapon against its
own creator. China would see it as an opportunity to reaffirm its own
growing prestige, as would India, which in addition has long been a strong
and active supporter of UN peacekeeping operations. Countries like Brazil
and Nigeria have little reason to support the US and none to support Israel,
while even Japan could easily surprise the US -- and take satisfaction from
doing so.

Reservations About the Resolution

US criticism of the HRC resolution should be disregarded, as Washington only
parrots Israel's wishes here. So can the odd criticism that the initial
report lacked an Israeli perspective, simply because Israel refused to
cooperate with Goldstone -- not surprisingly, since the report made it clear
that nothing Israel might have added would have exonerated it in any way.

But other reservations need to be addressed. One is that the resolution did
not mention Hamas. I agree it might have been better to have included
Goldstone's condemnation of Hamas offenses as well, but it is legitimate as
it stands for five reasons: (1) Israel committed the great majority of the
violations; (2) Israel had an overwhelming preponderance of military power;
(3) Palestinians suffered almost all of the death and destruction; (4)
Israel has a long, sordid history of ignoring UN commissions and
resolutions, and of attacking UN facilities and killing UN staff, as when
the clearly marked UNRWA facility in Gaza was bombed; and (5) the HRC focus
is properly on the actions of the oppressor (Israel) and not on those of the
oppressed (the Palestinians).

Another is that it did not accord Israel the right of self-defense. But
Israel's claim to self-defense in its savaging of Gaza is specious, because
Israel -- like all occupiers and oppressors -- has no inherent right of
self-defense against its victims. Who, for instance, would have accepted
Nazi Germany's assertion that its brutal reprisals against the Czechs for
their assassination of a Nazi commander named Reinhard Heydrich was an
exercise in self-defense? No one, and no one should accept Israel's claim,

A third is that holding Israel accountable for its actions will somehow
endanger the Middle East peace process. But there is no peace process,
simply meaningless discussions to the dead end (for Palestinians and the
rest of the region) of Israeli hegemony, and under Netanyahu or any
electable government in Israel, there is not and cannot be one. There will
be an enforced peace imposed from outside of the Middle East, over the
objections and obstruction of Israel, or there will be none at all.


Netanyahu's assertion that he will prolong the diplomatic battle over the
Goldstone Report and the subsequent HRC resolution is akin to a lawyer for a
serial murderer trying to delay the trial in the hope that the witnesses
will die of boredom or old age. It is also predictable. Since promises,
excuses and offers of aid no longer suffice, it is inevitable that bluster,
threats and blackmail will come to the forefront.

But Netanyahu knows that AIPAC has too much money for anyone else to
outspend it within America, and the US (if it uses it) has too much muscle
to be ignored by many of the smaller UN members. Give the US six months to
lobby for votes, and this whole thing could fail. If that happens, a unique
opportunity will be lost.

So rather than attempt to evade the certain US veto on the Security Council
and its intransigence throughout this process, confront it head on as soon
as possible in the General Assembly, where there are no vetoes. Explore all
ways of invoking the "Uniting for Peace Resolution" (UNGA 377A) -- this is
the instrument of choice, and its time is now.

Done properly, this could be the start of a real diplomatic revolution on
the path to an enforced peace in Palestine and an end to Israeli oppression
of the Palestinians. But if those countries supporting justice for Palestine
do not act now, while attention is focused and the momentum is building, it
will all have been for nothing. They will have no one to blame for their
failure except themselves.

Alan Sabrosky (Ph.D, University of Michigan) is a ten-year US Marine Corps
veteran and a graduate of the US Army War College. He can be contacted at


The real outrage should be ours

NICOLE FRITZ - Executive Eirector of the Southern Africa Litigation

Mail & Guardian Online Oct 23 2009 14:55

In the weeks since the publication of the report of the UN fact-finding
mission on the Gaza conflict, headed by Justice Richard Goldstone, a
firestorm of controversy has broken around the report and its authors.
Goldstone, in particular, has come in for vicious criticism -- individuals
like RW Johnson using the occasion to peddle bitter distortions of
Goldstone's past for public consumption (as evidenced last week in the
London Sunday Times).

But that South Africa's Chief Rabbi, Warren Goldstein, writing in South
African and Israeli newspapers last week, would use his position as
spiritual leader of South Africa's Jewish community -- a community in which
Goldstone counts himself -- to allege that Goldstone acted without integrity
and care and that his work represents a disgrace to basic notions of
justice, equality and the rule of law, represents a new level in the attack.

The arguments made by Goldstein against the Goldstone report are by now
well-rehearsed and are to be found in almost every attack on the report:
that the UN's Human Rights Council is biased and that the inclusion of
Christine Chinkin in the mission indicates that the mission itself was
biased. Goldstein does add his own unique perspective: telling us that a
judicial inquiry would have required a far greater time-period, ignoring
that this was explicitly a fact-finding mission, of the type most recently
conducted in Darfur.

These central criticisms have been addressed countless times over. We have
no intention of repeating them here because to do so diverts attention from
the substance of the report which would appear the very object of the

We want to be clear: the report documents and condemns in unequivocal terms
the rocket-fire by Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups into Israel, and
no sensible reader of the report can honestly believe that its authors make
common cause with entities they so categorically denounce.

But the report also makes undeniably plain, and thus elicits so much
spurious and distracting criticism, that Israel with its almost unparalleled
firepower, waging war in built-up civilian areas of Gaza, conducted its
operations in a way that can only be understood as a "deliberately
disproportionate attack designed to punish, humiliate and terrorize a
civilian population".

How else to explain the destruction of water treatment facilities, the only
flour-mill in Gaza, egg-producing chicken farms? How to fathom Israeli
soldiers threatening to shoot a wife and her children as they sought to help
her husband, who lay, handcuffed and bleeding to death from a gunshot wounds
already inflicted by Israeli soldiers? How to make sense of the death of 22
family members in a house precision-targeted by Israel, which Israel
explained it had mistaken for a munitions factory next door? Yet in the
remaining twelve days of the siege Israel never sought to target what it
claimed was the real munitions depot.

The outrage of Israeli officials, and their supporters such as Goldstein, is
disingenuous when Israel's own military officials have gone on record
declaring their strategy of disproportionate force -- one General explaining
the decision to inflict great damage and destruction on villages on the
grounds that "from our standpoint, these are not civilian villages, they are
military bases".

The real outrage should be ours -- ordinary civilians the world over. When a
state, with unparalleled firepower consciously blurs the line between
soldier and civilian, none of us is safe. And it is that development, and
not as Rabbi Goldstein alleges of the Goldstone report, that is the real
"disgrace to the most basic notions of justice, equality and the rule of

We wouldn't presume to tell Goldstein about the Jewish faith and its law,
even as he lectures us on his understanding of secular law, but he would do
well to ask that Israel heed the words of that esteemed Israeli philosopher,
Avishai Margalit, writing together with Michael Walzer.

"Conduct your war in the presence of non-combatants on the other side with
the same care as if your citizens were the non-combatants. A guideline like
that should not seem strange to people who are guided by the counterfactual
line from the Passover Haggadah, 'In every generation, a man must regard
himself as if he had come out of Egypt.'"

Monday, October 26, 2009

Krugman: The Banks Are Not Alright, Why Wall Street Reform Is Stuck in Reverse

The Banks Are Not Alright

NY Times Op-Ed: October 18, 2009

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. O.K., maybe not
literally the worst, but definitely bad. And the contrast between the
immense good fortune of a few and the continuing suffering of all too many
boded ill for the future.

I'm talking, of course, about the state of the banks.

The lucky few garnered most of the headlines, as many reacted with fury to
the spectacle of Goldman Sachs making record profits and paying huge bonuses
even as the rest of America, the victim of a slump made on Wall Street,
continues to bleed jobs.

But it's not a simple case of flourishing banks versus ailing workers: banks
that are actually in the business of lending, as opposed to trading, are
still in trouble. Most notably, Citigroup and Bank of America, which
silenced talk of nationalization earlier this year by claiming that they had
returned to profitability, are now - you guessed it - back to reporting

Ask the people at Goldman, and they'll tell you that it's nobody's business
but their own how much they earn. But as one critic recently put it: "There
is no financial institution that exists today that is not the direct or
indirect beneficiary of trillions of dollars of taxpayer support for the
financial system." Indeed: Goldman has made a lot of money in its trading
operations, but it was only able to stay in that game thanks to policies
that put vast amounts of public money at risk, from the bailout of A.I.G. to
the guarantees extended to many of Goldman's bonds.

So who was this thundering bank critic? None other than Lawrence Summers,
the Obama administration's chief economist - and one of the architects of
the administration's bank policy, which up until now has been to go easy on
financial institutions and hope that they mend themselves.

Why the change in tone? Administration officials are furious at the way the
financial industry, just months after receiving a gigantic taxpayer bailout,
is lobbying fiercely against serious reform. But you have to wonder what
they expected to happen. They followed a softly, softly policy, providing
aid with few strings, back when all of Wall Street was on the ropes; this
left them with very little leverage over firms like Goldman that are now,
once again, making a lot of money.

But there's an even bigger problem: while the wheeler-dealer side of the
financial industry, a k a trading operations, is highly profitable again,
the part of banking that really matters - lending, which fuels investment
and job creation - is not. Key banks remain financially weak, and their
weakness is hurting the economy as a whole.

You may recall that earlier this year there was a big debate about how to
get the banks lending again. Some analysts, myself included, argued that at
least some major banks needed a large injection of capital from taxpayers,
and that the only way to do this was to temporarily nationalize the most
troubled banks. The debate faded out, however, after Citigroup and Bank of
America, the banking system's weakest links, announced surprise profits. All
was well, we were told, now that the banks were profitable again.

But a funny thing happened on the way back to a sound banking system: last
week both Citi and BofA announced losses in the third quarter. What

Part of the answer is that those earlier profits were in part a figment of
the accountants' imaginations. More broadly, however, we're looking at
payback from the real economy. In the first phase of the crisis, Main Street
was punished for Wall Street's misdeeds; now broad economic distress,
especially persistent high unemployment, is leading to big losses on
mortgage loans and credit cards.

And here's the thing: The continuing weakness of many banks is helping to
perpetuate that economic distress. Banks remain reluctant to lend, and tight
credit, especially for small businesses, stands in the way of the strong
recovery we need.

So now what? Mr. Summers still insists that the administration did the right
thing: more government provision of capital, he says, would not "have been
an availing strategy for solving problems." Whatever. In any case, as a
political matter the moment for radical action on banks has clearly passed.

The main thing for the time being is probably to do as much as possible to
support job growth. With luck, this will produce a virtuous circle in which
an improving economy strengthens the banks, which then become more willing
to lend.

Beyond that, we desperately need to pass effective financial reform. For if
we don't, bankers will soon be taking even bigger risks than they did in the
run-up to this crisis. After all, the lesson from the last few months has
been very clear: When bankers gamble with other people's money, it's heads
they win, tails the rest of us lose.


Why Wall Street Reform Is Stuck in Reverse

by: Robert Reich
Robert Reich's Blog: 21 October 2009

At a conference in London, a Goldman Sachs international adviser, Brian
Griffiths, praised inequality. As his company was putting aside $16.7
billion for compensation and benefits in the first nine months of 2009, up
46 percent from a year earlier, Griffiths told us not to worry. "We have to
tolerate the inequality as a way to achieve greater prosperity and
opportunity for all," he said.

Eight months ago it looked as if Wall Street was in store for strong
financial regulation -- oversight of derivative trading, pay linked to
long-term performance, much higher capital requirements, an end to conflicts
of interest (i.e. credit rating agencies being paid by the very companies
whose securities they're rating), and even resurrection of the
Glass-Steagall Act separating commercial from investment banking.

Today, Congress is struggling to produce the tiniest shards of
regulation that would at least give the appearance of doing something to
rein in the Street.

What happened in the intervening months? Two things. First, America's
attention wandered. We're now focusing on health care, Letterman's frolics,
and little boys who hide in attics rather than balloons. And, hey, the Dow
is up again. The politicians who put off Wall Street regulation for ten
months knew that the public would probably lose interest by now.

Second, the banks keep paying off Congress. The big guns on Wall Street
increased their political donations last month after increasing their
lobbying muscle. Morgan Stanley's Political Action Committee donated
$110,000 in September, for example, of which Democrats got $43,000.

Official Wall Street PAC donations are piddling compared to the tens of
millions of dollars that Wall Street executives dole out to candidates on
their own (or with a gentle nudge from their firms). Remember -- the Street
is where the money is. Executives and traders on the Street have become the
single biggest sources of money for Democrats as well as Republicans. And
with mid-term elections looming next year, you can bet every member of
Congress has a glint in his or her eye directed at the Street.

That's why the President went to Wall Street to raise money Tuesday
night, gleaning about $2 million for the effort. He politely asked the crowd
to cooperate with reform -- "If there are members of the financial industry
in the audience today, I would ask that you join us in passing necessary
reforms" -- but those were hardly fighting words. It's hard to fight people
you're trying to squeeze money out of.

Which is the essential problem.

Ken Feinberg, the President's "pay czar" came down hard on executive
pay yesterday, for those banks still collecting money under TARP, as well he
should. But Feinberg isn't trying to pass new financial reform legislation,
and TARP no longer covers several of the biggest banks with the highest pay
and bonuses -- although they're still getting subsidized by the government
with low-interest loans.

Wall Street and the Treasury want us to believe that the TARP money
will be repaid to taxpayers, but Neil Barofsky, the special inspector
general keeping watch over TARP, said yesterday that just 17 percent of the
TARP money has been repaid, and "[i]t's extremely unlikely that taxpayers
will see a full return on their investment." Later he told a reporter that
it's unlikely "we'll get a lot of our money back at all."

Brian Griffiths, the Goldman international adviser who told us
inequality is good for us, doesn't know what he's talking about. America is
lurching toward inequality once again, led by the financial industry. The
Street is back to where it was in 2007, but most of the rest of us are
poorer than we were then -- largely due to the meltdown that occurred
because Wall Street overreached. The oddity is that we bailed out the
Street, including Griffiths and his colleagues, but apparently won't even be

And now that Griffiths et al knows his firm and the other big ones on
the Street are too big to fail, he and his colleagues will make even bigger
gambles in the future with our money.