Sunday, July 31, 2011

John Nichols: ALEC Exposed - intro to the organization spawning the breadth and depth of right-wing legislation.

You couldn't have missed the commonality of nationwide assaults on corporate regulations, civil liberties, voting rights, health care, the environment, public schools, et al, happening right after the 2010 debacle.  It's not a shock to learn they have a common, until now-hidden origin.  Here's the source, followed by 'click-on's to the various subjects, listed above.  I include one here, and will space out the others in days to come.  -Ed


ALEC Exposed

John Nichols:                                                                                     

The Nation: In the August 1-8 edition


"Never has the time been so right," Louisiana State Representative Noble Ellington told conservative legislators gathered in Washington to plan the radical remaking of policies in the states. It was one month after the 2010 midterm elections. Republicans had grabbed 680 legislative seats and secured a power trifecta—control of both legislative chambers and the governorship—in twenty-one states. Ellington was speaking for hundreds of attendees at a "States and Nation Policy Summit," featuring GOP stars like Texas Governor Rick Perry, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor. Convened by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)—"the nation's largest, non-partisan, individual public-private membership association of state legislators," as the spin-savvy group describes itself—the meeting did not intend to draw up an agenda for the upcoming legislative session. That had already been done by ALEC's elite task forces of lawmakers and corporate representatives. The new legislators were there to grab their weapons: carefully crafted model bills seeking to impose a one-size-fits-all agenda on the states.


Founded in 1973 by Paul Weyrich and other conservative activists frustrated by recent electoral setbacks, ALEC is a critical arm of the right-wing network of policy shops that, with infusions of corporate cash, has evolved to shape American politics. Inspired by Milton Friedman's call for conservatives to "develop alternatives to existing policies [and] keep them alive and available," ALEC's model legislation reflects long-term goals: downsizing government, removing regulations on corporations and making it harder to hold the economically and politically powerful to account. Corporate donors retain veto power over the language, which is developed by the secretive task forces. The task forces cover issues from education to health policy. ALEC's priorities for the 2011 session included bills to privatize education, break unions, deregulate major industries, pass voter ID laws and more. In states across the country they succeeded, with stacks of new laws signed by GOP governors like Ohio's John Kasich and Wisconsin's Scott Walker, both ALEC alums.

The details of ALEC's model bills have been available only to the group's 2,000 legislative and 300 vorporate members. But thanks to a leak to Aliya Rahman, an Ohio-based activist who helped organize protests at ALEC's Spring Task Force meeting in Cincinnati, The Nation has obtained more than 800 documents representing decades of model legislation. Teaming up with the Center for Media and Democracy, The Nation asked policy experts to analyze this never-before-seen archive.

The articles that follow are the first products of that examination. They provide an inside view of the priorities of ALEC's corporate board and billionaire benefactors (including Tea Party funders Charles and David Koch). "Dozens of corporations are investing millions of dollars a year to write business-friendly legislation that is being made into law in statehouses coast to coast, with no regard for the public interest," says Bob Edgar of Common Cause. "This is proof positive of the depth and scope of the corporate reach into our democratic processes." The full archive of ALEC documents is available at a new website,, thanks to the Center for Media and Democracy, which has provided powerful tools for progressives to turn this knowledge into power. The data tell us that the time has come to refocus on the battle to loosen the grip of corporate America and renew democracy in the states.

"Business Domination Inc.," by Joel Rogers and Laura Dresser

"Sabotaging Healthcare," by Wendell Potter

"The Koch Connection," by Lisa Graves

"Starving Public Schools," by Julie Underwood

"Rigging Elections," by John Nichols

John Nichols



* * *


ALEC Exposed: Sabotaging Healthcare


Wendell Potter

The Nation:  In the August 1-8 edition


This article is part of a Nation series exposing the American Legislative Exchange Council, in collaboration with the Center For Media and Democracy. John Nichols introduces the series.
Days after President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act into law, I arrived at the spring 2010 meeting of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) in Denver, where a fellow consumer representative introduced me to one of the hundreds of industry lobbyists swarming the convention center. "She's somebody we can work with," he said, clearly convinced that she would deal with us in good faith, even if we might disagree on certain policy issues. Over the next several months, other consumer reps agreed that she really did seem to want to do what was right for patients, even if the organization that paid her salary often seemed to care more about profits than people.

I was skeptical. I knew from my two decades as an insurance company executive that the industry often conducts duplicitous charm offensives, assuring the public that insurers support consumer-focused reform while executives work surreptitiously to block any reform that might curtail profits. So I was not shocked when I found out that Joan Gardner, executive director of state services for the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association's Office of Policy and Representation, had been keeping something important from us. As a leading member of ALEC's Health and Human Services Task Force, she'd been helping write legislation designed to ensure that any healthcare reform implemented at the state level would benefit insurance companies far more than their policyholders. She was also leading an effort to recruit more dues-paying members to ALEC.

I learned of Gardner's clandestine work when a reform advocate alerted me to a story about a resolution her ALEC committee had drafted in 2008 to forbid "government-mandated health care." Apparently fearful that a bill would reach Obama's desk that would allow states to establish single-payer systems, ALEC crafted the Freedom of Choice in Health Care Act, which, despite its Orwellian name, was written to deny the citizens of any state that passed it the freedom to set up such a system. By declaring that Congressional attempts to regulate health insurance at the federal level would be unconstitutional, it would effectively ban not only a federal single-payer proposal but also a federally created health insurance exchange and a federally operated public insurance option. ALEC has boasted that some forty-four states have introduced its Freedom of Choice in Health Care Act (which itself would not withstand a constitutional challenge). What it hasn't acknowledged is that attempts to pass healthcare-nullification bills have failed in at least twenty-five states. Only eight states have passed the act so far.

Reviewing ALEC's healthcare-related bills and resolutions from the past few years makes it clear that insurers realized early on that the best way to block the profit-threatening provisions of any federal reform would be to attack them at the state level through ALEC. With Democrats in control of both houses of Congress and the White House in 2009, insurers assumed some kind of healthcare reform was inevitable, so they adopted a strategy to shape rather than stop reform. Its top five goals became:

§ Keeping single-payer proposals off the table;

§ Ensuring that the final bill contain a clause requiring all Americans not eligible for an existing federal program to buy coverage from a private insurance company;

§ Preventing the new law from establishing a government-run plan (the "public option") that would compete with private insurers;

§ Making sure that the reform law is implemented primarily at the state level, to keep the federal government from assuming any significant new oversight of private insurers' business practices; and

§ Keeping any new regulations and consumer protections to a minimum.

Insurers achieved their first four goals, with ALEC playing a key role in a well-coordinated effort to keep the most progressive proposals from being enacted at the state or federal level. Where it fell short was in blocking provisions of the law that will impose more rigorous oversight of insurance companies' business practices. After Obama signed the bill into law, the industry turned its attention to influencing how the new regulations would be written (by the NAIC and federal bureaucrats) and how the law would be implemented in the states.

As its archive reveals, ALEC has been at work for more than a decade on what amounts to a comprehensive wish list for insurers: from turning over the Medicare and Medicaid programs to them—assuring them a vast new stream of revenue—to letting insurers continue marketing substandard yet highly profitable policies while giving them protection from litigation. Republican lawmakers continue to promote model bills from the 1990s. Some of the most far-reaching and industry-favorable measures adopted by ALEC over the years:

§ The Resolution Urging Congress to Create Private Financing of the Medicare Program, initially adopted in 1998, calls on Congress to privatize Medicare by permitting the creation of Individual Medical Accounts, similar to Health Savings Accounts that accompany high-deductible health plans and that have become attractive tax shelters for well-to-do Americans. Individual Medical Accounts, along with vouchers, are a feature of Representative Paul Ryan's federal proposal to privatize Medicare.

§ The Resolution on Medicaid Funding Through a Federal Block Grant, adopted in 2008, urges Congress to replace the current financing mechanism for Medicaid with block grants, as Ryan proposes. In another proposal to privatize the program, the Access to Medicaid Act, beneficiaries would receive vouchers to buy insurance policies in the private market.

§ The Health Care Choice Act for States, adopted in 2007, would permit the sale of individual health insurance policies across state lines, which would not be subject to the mandated benefits required by in-state policies. The effect would be to make comprehensive policies significantly more expensive than they already are. (Wyoming was the first state to enact this model bill, in 2010, followed by Georgia and Maine this year.)

§ The Non-Economic Damage Awards Act, adopted in 2002, would limit medical malpractice awards for damages like pain and suffering to $250,000, making such lawsuits infeasible. (Few lawyers would be willing to represent patients if the total award were limited to that amount because they probably would not be able to cover their costs.) Insurers and the American Medical Association have joined forces in lobbying for such tort reform.

In sum, ALEC's model legislation would not only undermine the consumer protections in the Affordable Care Act; it would shred the social safety net for the most vulnerable among us: older, disabled and poorer Americans, and those who become victims of a system that is supposed to heal, not harm.

Wendell Potter




Saturday, July 30, 2011

Portside Film Reviews - Sarah's Key, Between Two Worlds and Harry Potter

From: Portside Moderator moderator@PORTSIDE.ORG
Sent: Thursday, July 28, 2011 8:07 PM

Portside Film Reviews - Sarah's Key, Between Two Worlds and
Harry Potter

* "Sarah's Key" looks at Holocaust's lasting impact (Bob
Tourtellotte in Retuers)

* Film Chronicles American Jews Caught Between Two Worlds
(Eleanor J. Bader, in Truthout )

* Harry Potter: Jo's Other Ending (Jo (J.K.) Rowling as told
to Greg Palast and the Palast twins in


"Sarah's Key" looks at Holocaust's lasting impact

by Bob Tourtellotte

July 22, 2011

Los Angeles (Reuters) - Seven decades have passed since
French police arrested thousands of Parisian Jews and sent
them to death camps in an incident known as the Vel' d'Hiv
roundup, but for some, the guilt still lingers.

French film "Sarah's Key," which opens in major U.S. cities
on Friday after touching audiences in many European
countries, looks at the notion of national remorse and its
impact not only on the people who lived through it, but
their families and offspring who, in many cases, never even
knew it happened.

Director Gilles Paquet-Brenner is loathe to call "Sarah's
Key" a Holocaust movie in the vein of Steven Spielberg's
"Schindler's List," for instance, because his film is not so
much about the event as its impact on a contemporary family.
And while Vel' d'Hiv took place during World War II,
genocide still happens in modern times in places such as

"Young people can relate to it because history is not
represented as this abstract thing you have to learn in
books," Paquet-Brenner told Reuters. "They understand that
something which seemed so far from them could be right
around the corner."

It's a scary thought, but one that "Sarah's Key" puts front-
and-center for today's audiences.

The movie is adapted from the French novel "Elle s'appelait
Sarah," which had an English-language version that became a
New York Times bestseller.

It begins with the July, 1942 roundup at Vel' d'Hiv and
focuses on one family, their 10-year-old daughter Sarah and
her brother whom she locks in a closet to hide from the
French police.

Sarah escapes from the camp where she is sent only to
discover the horror of what the French, under Nazi rule, did
to their own people and Sarah's family, in particular.

But the tale is not about Sarah. Rather, it follows a modern
U.S. journalist named Julia Jarmond (played by Kristin Scott
Thomas) who is married to a Frenchman whose family owns the
apartment where, years ago, Sarah locked away her brother.

Jarmond is researching the Vel' d'Hiv and comes upon Sarah's
story and soon her own life changes due to her feelings over
the roundup.

Through the film, audiences feel the French national guilt
over the German roundups of Jews in France, but more
importantly, they see the impact that roundup still has
today on an American woman and the man she meets during her
journey -- Sarah's grown son (played by Aidan Quinn).

"There is a sentence in the movie," which Paquet-Brenner
says sums up his feelings about Julia's story: "Sometimes we
have to forget the statistics, and give a face to that"
event. And that is what "Sarah's Key" attempts to do.

So far, critics seem to agree. The movie scores a 76 percent
positive rating on movie review website

Writing for showbusiness website TheWrap, critic Alonso
Duralde calls the film, "a compelling tale about a chapter
of history that plenty of people would no doubt prefer we'd

(Editing by Jill Serjeant)


Film Chronicles American Jews Caught Between Two Worlds

by: Eleanor J. Bader,
Truthout Movie Review

July 23, 2011

"Between Two Worlds"
Produced and directed by Alan Snitow and Deborah Kaufman
Edited by Kenji Yamamoto

People often look surprised when I tell them that my first
exposure to progressive ideas came from Congregation B'Nai
Israel, a reform temple in Bridgeport, Connecticut. I
remember the shul's packed auditorium the night Gloria
Steinem spoke, and I can still call up the I-want-to-be-
like-her feelings that her eloquence aroused. Under the
tutelage of Rabbi Arnold Sher, our youth group studied
apartheid and wrote letters in solidarity with African
National Congress (ANC) freedom fighters. We also marched
against hunger and celebrated civil and human rights

But we never criticized Israel. Instead, I was taught that
the Jewish state was a land without people for a people
without land, and I obediently contributed my babysitting
money to plant trees so that the desert might bloom.

Years later, when I learned about the Nakba, the truth
stung. Worse, when I tried to discuss Palestinian rights, I
was derided for being a self-hating Jew.

Sadly, the silencing of dissent over Israeli politics has a
long and sordid history. Casualties abound: Professor Norman
Finkelstein, author of "The Holocaust Industry," was denied
tenure by DePaul University in 2007 following a vitriolic
campaign lambasting his scholarship. Adjunct professor
Kristofer Petersen-Overton, a student at the Graduate Center
of the City University of New York (CUNY), came under fire
in 2010 for "spurious scholarship," a charge his supporters
believe was a direct outgrowth of his outspoken criticism of
Israel's occupation of Gaza. And this spring, Pulitzer
Prize-winning playwright Tony Kushner was deemed ineligible
for an honorary degree from New York City's John Jay College
of Criminal Justice after trustee Jeffrey S. Wiesenfeld
accused Kushner of being disloyal to Israel. Kushner's
offense? Suggesting that Israel discriminated against

Kushner won this skirmish - ultimately receiving the degree
thanks to an international outcry - as did Petersen-Overton,
but the Israel: Love It or Be Silent Movement continues to
lash out at critics of Zion.

Indeed, on June 15, 2011, FrontPage Magazine - an
unabashedly right-wing publication - published a list of
"Jewish enemies of Israel." On the roster were more than a
dozen people, including Joel Beinin, Jeremy Ben-Ami, Noam
Chomsky, Neve Gordon, Michael Lerner, Amos Oz, Eyal Sivan,
Steven Spielberg and, of course, Tony Kushner.

"Between Two Worlds," Alan Snitow and Deborah Kaufman's
provocative film about Jewish-American identity in the 21st
century, opens with another searing example of the quashing
of dissent. The scene is the 2009 San Francisco Jewish Film
Festival, an annual event that, since 1981, had drawn more
than 35,000 filmgoers a year. The festival's executive
director Peter Stein, who plans to leave his post later this
year, opened the event by asking the audience to consider
what makes a particular piece of celluloid "a Jewish film."
Before he finished his speech, the heckling began: a vocal
group of audience members was dismayed that a laudatory film
about Rachel Corrie, a young American who died in 2003 while
protesting the Israeli bulldozing of Palestinian homes, was
being screened.

"I did not expect it to blow up into the firestorm that it
did," Stein admits to the filmmakers. What's more, he did
not expect the barrage of hate mail that he received. The
film zooms in on his computer screen and highlights several
particularly hateful phrases: anti-Semite; fool; demon; and
tool of forces that wish to undermine Israel, among them.

The film further interrogates several additional recipients
of community ire. Daniel Sokatch, former CEO of the Jewish
Community Federation of San Francisco, a funder of the
festival, describes being told that contributions to the
federation would cease unless he denounced the movie. He
calls it "neo-McCarthyism" and notes the chilling effect
such threats have had on community discussions.

Cecilie Surasky, deputy director of Jewish Voice for Peace,
a group that supports boycott, divestment and sanctions
(BDS) against Israel, knows that BDS is contentious. At the
same time, she argues that the fight for justice is at the
heart of what it means to be Jewish. For Surasky, the
Talmudic injunction to repair the world is not idle talk,
and she states that even if members of the Jewish community
disagree with the BDS strategy, the concept of equality, and
what it means for Palestinian and Jewish coexistence, needs
to be vigorously examined.

Snitow and Kaufman agree, and "Between Two Worlds" is at its
best when articulating questions that are central to the
lives of contemporary American Jews. Who gets to decide what
being Jewish is or isn't? they ask. Who determines what can
be debated and what topics are off limits?

Unfortunately, the film never fully answers these questions,
opting instead to address a vast array of personal and
political themes, from the community's anxieties over
assimilation, to intermarriage, to post-Holocaust anti-
Semitism. This focus makes "Between Two Worlds" more
episodic than conclusive. In fact, the film scratches the
surface of multiple subjects rather than homing in on
anything definitive.

That said, I found several scenes particularly compelling -
albeit disturbing. Rabbi Marvin Hier of the Simon Wiesenthal
Center in Los Angeles is the firebrand behind the planned
construction of a $250 million Holocaust memorial and Museum
of Tolerance in West Jerusalem. His passionate defense of
the center's decision to raze an 800-year-old Muslim
cemetery to erect the Frank Gehry-designed building is
shockingly blas,.

Others interviewed by Kaufman and Snitow are appalled by
Hier's cavalier attitude. "Allowing this construction
destroys the hope that Jerusalem can be a city of peace,"
says journalist Gershon Baskin.

Rabbi Irwin Kula of the National Jewish Center for Learning
and Leadership champions ongoing efforts to educate young
people about the Nazi Holocaust. Nonetheless, he cautions
that there is a downside to the continual focus on
atrocities. "The dangerous thing about the Holocaust, about
being abused, is that you go insular and tribal and look at
everyone through the prism of, 'They are my enemy,'" he

It's a sobering assessment. A subsequent scene moves viewers
to the campus of the University of California-Berkeley,
where students were at loggerheads over a proposal to divest
from Israel. Although the bid was defeated in the spring of
2010, the polarization between Israel's largely Jewish
supporters and largely Muslim detractors is gut-churning,
and one can't help but wonder what it will take to get these
parties to hear one another.

There are clearly no easy solutions.

"Judaism does not have a specific politics," Rabbi Kula
concludes. "Its job is to undermine any politics that
becomes too absolute."

Perhaps that's the best we can hope for, that an anti-
authoritarian ethos will keep the morally rigid at bay, so
that the voice of dissent can continue to prod the
uncritical. Call me an idealist, but I hope we can do better
than this and forge a community that values human beings
regardless of class, race, ethnic heritage or religious
beliefs. Yes, I know that this is most likely a pipe dream
A few days ago, a cartoon landed in my inbox. It depicted a
man holding an ax and wearing a T-shirt with an Israeli flag
on it. The man was approaching a firebox. The tag line: "In
case of criticism of Israel, scream anti-Semite."

I laughed, because in the end, there's nothing to be gained
by crying.

***"Between Two Worlds" will be shown from August
5-11 at The Roxie in San Francisco. For more
information, email or visit The film is also on Facebook,

[Eleanor J. Bader is a freelance writer, teacher and
feminist activist from Brooklyn, New York. She writes for
The Brooklyn Rail,, and other progressive blogs and


Harry Potter: Jo's Other Ending

By Jo (J.K.) Rowling as told to Greg Palast and the Palast
July 19, 2011

Some of you may recall that, years ago, when I lived in
England, writing for The Guardian, when I shared the
bestseller list with Jo Rowling (she at the pinnacle, me in
the valley), we became buds through my twins' love for her
astonishing work.

But Jo knows that I found the conclusion of her series a
sorry let-down, a second-rate "Show Down at the OK Corral"
for Wizards. In my opinion (and she does not at all agree),
Jo was too distracted by a concern for how the ending would
play on film.

I bugged her about it until she told me the "other" endings.
Every author has them - and we all look over our old drafts,
after publication, and say, "Damn! I should have used that
version" - then we lock it away before someone sees it and

No, Jo wouldn't show me typed copies, but she told me a
couple of "I could have done this" endings.

One of them knocked me over, and I have to share it. (Sorry
Jo, that's the danger of befriending an investigative
reporter - if you forget to use the magical words, "This is
off the record.") I can understand, though, why she would
put aside this quieter, yet far more harrowing, conclusion.

I wrote it down that night in October 2007. I don't claim
that this is exactly word-for-word as she told it to me (Jo:
please edit!) and I left out all the side stuff about me
telling my oblivious kids, "You really should listen to
this; years from now you'll want to say you heard this," and
the minor mishap with my coffee.

But I just have to put it out here and hope that Jo and her
publisher don't slam me with an Avada Kedavra curse.

I'll assume you've read the books - and if you haven't, for
shame! - so I won't introduce this at all except to say that
this alternative (and quite troubling) ending veers away
from the printed and film versions just before Harry's final
confrontation with The Dark Lord, Voldemort.

And please: If you want to say that I didn't get her voice
and story details exactly, keep in mind that I'm working
from mental notes - and that I'm no J.K. Rowling. But then,
no one is.

To the Forbidden Forest

Harry marched toward the field where Voldemort waited with
his pack of Dementors. Harry's scar burned brutally, saving
him the pain of thinking too deeply about his decision,
likely to bring him nothing but death.

What special evil, what deadly and devious spell had the
Dark Lord prepared for Harry's destruction? Voldemort had
hunted after Harry for more than a decade; doubtless
Voldemort would arm himself with a special curse far more
powerful and final than the Avada Kedavra which had failed
to kill Harry as a child.

Harry was terribly right. The Dark Lord, in his clearing in
the Forbidden Forest, was preparing a charm as devastating
as Harry feared, and far more horrific. As Harry marched to
this fated meeting, Voldemort passed his wand among the icy
Dementors, commanding each to lay their Kiss upon it.

Voldemort, in those pained, lonely nights of his exile and
recovery, had conceived of a way to hurl a Dementor's kiss
from his wand, the kiss that would take away the soul of its
victim forever. And now he would blast Harry with hundreds
of them. Voldemort's reward would be greater than watching
Harry's burial. He would have Harry frozen in place,
Harry's living being encased for eternity at the moment of
Harry's ultimate humiliation and defeat, a terrifying
monument to Voldemort's victory for all to see for all time.
Voldemort's joy rose with every Dementor's kiss to his wand.

Harry could feel their grave-like cold as he approached and
the pull of their despair. It was hopeless, and he was
helpless in the face of it. And he knew it.

But then, Harry felt the presence of a young man and woman,
though he could not see them. These two ghosts lovingly
held his body up and raised his spirit. It was, he was
certain, the last remaining life-force of his parents,
making one last sacrifice by joining him on his final
journey. He allowed himself a moment of peaceful happiness,
feeling them so close.

Then he stopped. Harry shivered with a deep chill of
recognition. They were not his parents. They were
Voldemort's: the young Tom Riddle and his bride who, for
this occasion, had taken back her beautiful maid's
countenance. They said, using no words, "Our dearest son, we
will not allow you to be harmed."

Were their words for him? Or for Voldemort? Somehow, it
didn't seem to matter - they seemed so kind when he needed
nothing more at this moment than a parent's love.

Harry, and the two warm spirits becoming more visible,
approached the edge of the swirling crowd of Voldemort's
followers, who parted, preparing to give the victim an easy
corridor to his doom.

Voldemort's wand had returned to his white, skeletal hand.
The Dark Lord pointed it confidently to where Harry would
surely emerge from the crowd, not yet to destroy Potter but
to hold him while he prepared to give Harry an oration on
the eternal punishment about to strike him.

Voldemort laughed when Harry stumbled through. But when the
Dark Lord saw the specters of his parents, he howled as if
cut in half. With his furious heart in flames, Voldemort
immediately unleashed the deadly Kisses, bellowing, "Oppugno
Mortimbessios!" And all the vile terrors of the Dementors,
in an unstoppable flash from his wand, rushed toward Harry
and the spirits at his side.

It was only a hundredth of a second for Voldemort's curse to
reach Harry. But somehow the world seemed to slow down, the
Earth ceased to rotate; all on the planet held still, though
Harry was aware he was free to move. Harry had planned every
shield charm for his defense, but all now were clearly
useless. Harry found himself unable to do more than calmly
bend to one knee and bow his head, preparing to accept the
force of the blow and his death and end.

As he kneeled, in that quiet moment outside time, the two
shadows flew from him toward Voldemort. And Voldemort
changed. The Dementors' chill wind, and Time, moved
backward; and there was Voldemort, growing to his younger,
more potent, frightening self.

The curse struck Harry's scar, obliterating it, then, in a
loud roar, he felt the crushing pain of his skull opening,
and then the shrieking curse rushing from his head - back
toward the wand that sent it.

As the curse turned back toward him, Voldemort continued to
grow younger still, until he was a little child again with
his mother and father at his side. When they realized the
full force of Voldemort's own spell was about to strike him,
his parents put their reassuring arms around their son to
protect him from this ultimate blow.

And then it struck. And now the three entwined souls, Tom
Riddle, his wife and young child, would remain forever
entombed in that one moment, never able to leave.

And never wanting to.

Hogwarts AD 2130

The headmaster, his stringy white beard uncombed and his
wrinkled, bald head topped by a drooping wizard's cap,
looked with wistful gratitude at the empty picture frame
he'd convinced the Ministry to put up, despite their
reluctance. He knew he'd soon be residing in that little
square etched with the name, "Harry Potter," separated from
Albus Dumbledore's only by the portraits of Headmistresses
McGonagall and Chang.

The old wizard could hear below the school abuzz with
preparations for his 150th birthday. He shifted Ginny, a
bird of paradise, to a perch nearer his desk. His wife,
rather than grow old, had turned herself into this beautiful
bird, but still insisted on giving un-birdlike advice.
"Harry, dearest, you can't miss your own birthday party.
And it's so lovely outside."

Indeed, the summer day had brought out scores of picnickers
who had come to set their baskets and blankets out near the
warm light cast by the living statue of the happy family
with the little child. No one but the old headmaster knew
who was encased in that glowing sphere. When the Dementors
were released from the spell of Voldemort, they, and indeed
every wizard excepting Harry and the shade of Albus, were
cleansed of all memory of the Dark Lord. Now, after more
than a century, curiosity about the family in the statue had
long ago ceased. Harry had simply ordered a plaque placed
there. It said only, "Riddles."

"I will go," he told his feathered wife, "but I have to keep
an eye on the boy for a bit." Harry's great, great
grandson, not yet able to walk, silently played on the rug
with his chocolate frog. Then suddenly, in inexplicable
anger, little Tom crushed the candy animal. Harry watched
this, and knew the whole world would soon darken again for
generations to come.



[Investigative journalist Greg Palast's reports can be seen
on BBC Television Newsnight or at Your
thoughts on this other ending for the HP series welcome at
the Greg Palast Facebook page. Palast's new book, Vultures'
Picnic, will be published by Penguin USA in November 2011.

Follow Palast on Facebook ]



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Friday, July 29, 2011

Mike Davis: Hurtling toward Disaster,0,448545.story


Hurtling toward economic chaos

The economies of the U.S., Europe and China are on the edge of disaster


By Mike Davis

LA Times Op-Ed: July 26, 2011


When my old gang and I were 14 or 15 years old, many centuries ago, we yearned for immortality in the fiery wreck of a '40 Ford or '57 Chevy. Our J. K. Rowling was Henry Gregor Felsen, the ex- Marine who wrote the 1950s bestselling masterpieces "Hot Rod," "Street Rod" and "Crash Club."

His books — highly praised by the National Safety Council — were deterrents to unsafe driving, meant to scare my generation straight with huge dollops of teenage gore. In fact, he was our asphalt Homer, praising doomed teenage heroes and inviting us to emulate their legend.

One of his books ends with an apocalyptic collision at a crossroads in a small Iowa town, and the deaths of the teens are graphically described. We loved this passage so much that we used to read it aloud to one another.

It's hard not to think of the great Felsen, who died in 1995, while browsing the newspaper these days. There, after all, are the "tea party" Republicans, accelerator punched to the floor, grinning like demons as they approach Deadman's Curve. (John Boehner and David Brooks, in the back seat, are of course screaming in fear.)

The Felsen analogy seems even stronger when you leave local turf for the global view of things. From the air, where those Iowa cornstalks don't conceal a developing convergent tragedy, the world economic situation looks distinctly like a crash waiting to happen. From three directions, the United States, the European Union and China are blindly speeding toward the same intersection. The question is: Will anyone survive to attend the prom?

Let me reprise the obvious but seldom discussed. Even if debt-limit doomsday is averted, President Obama has already hocked the farm and sold the kids. With breathtaking contempt for the liberal wing of his own party, he has offered to put the sacrosanct remnant of the New Deal safety net on the auction block to appease a hypothetical "center" and win reelection at any price. (Dick Nixon, old socialist, where are you now that we need you?)

As a result, like the Phoenicians in the Bible, we'll sacrifice our children (and their schoolteachers) to Moloch, now called Deficit. The bloodbath in the public sector, together with an abrupt shut-off of unemployment benefits, would negatively multiply through the demand side of the economy until joblessness is in the teens and Lady Gaga is singing "Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?"

Lest we forget, we also live in a globalized economy in which Americans are consumers of the last resort and the dollar is still the haven for the planet's hoarded surplus value. The new recession that the Republicans are engineering with such impunity will instantly put into doubt all three pillars of McWorld, each already shakier than generally imagined: American consumption, European stability and Chinese growth.

Across the Atlantic, the European Union is demonstrating that it is exclusively a union of big banks and mega-creditors, grimly determined to make the Greeks sell off the Parthenon and the Irish emigrate to Australia. One doesn't have to be a Keynesian to know that, should this happen, the winds will only blow colder thereafter.

China, of course, now holds up the world, but the question is: For how much longer? Officially, the People's Republic of China is in the midst of an epochal transition from an export-based economy to a consumer-based one. The ultimate goal of which is not only to turn the average Chinese into a suburban motorist but to break the perverse dependency that ties that country's growth to an American trade deficit Beijing must, in turn, finance to keep the yuan from appreciating.

Unfortunately for the Chinese, and possibly the world, that country's planned consumer boom is quickly morphing into a dangerous real estate bubble. China has caught the Dubai virus and now, every city there with more than 1 million inhabitants (at least 160 at last count) aspires to brand itself with a Rem Koolhaas skyscraper or a destination mega-mall. The result has been an orgy of overconstruction.

Despite the reassuring image of omniscient Beijing mandarins in cool control of the financial system, China actually seems to be functioning more like 160 iterations of "Boardwalk Empire," in which big-city political bosses and allied private developers are able to forge their own backdoor deals with giant state banks.

In effect, a shadow banking system has arisen with big banks moving loans off their balance sheets into phony trust companies and thus evading official caps on total lending. Moody's Investors Service reported this month that the Chinese banking system was concealing $500 billion in problematic loans, mainly for municipal vanity projects. Another rating service warned that nonperforming loans could constitute as much as 30% of bank portfolios.

Real estate speculation, meanwhile, is vacuuming up domestic savings as urban families, faced with soaring home values, rush to invest in property before they are priced out of the market. (Sound familiar?) According to Business Week, residential housing investment now accounts for 9% of the gross domestic product, up from only 3.4% in 2003.

So, will Chengdu become the next Orlando, Fla., or China Construction Bank the next Lehman Bros.? Odd, the credulity of so many otherwise conservative pundits, who have bought into the idea that the Chinese communist leadership has discovered the law of perpetual motion, creating a market economy immune to business cycles or speculative manias.

If China has a hard landing, it will also break the bones of leading suppliers like Brazil, Indonesia and Australia. Japan, already mired in recession after triple mega-disasters, is acutely sensitive to further shocks from its principal markets. And the Arab Spring may turn to winter if new governments cannot grow employment or contain the inflation of food prices.

As the three great economic blocs accelerate toward synchronized deep recession, I find that I'm no longer as thrilled as I was at 14 by the prospect of a classic Felsen ending — all tangled metal and young bodies.

Mike Davis teaches in the creative writing program at UC Riverside. He is the author of "Planet of Slums," among many other works. He's currently writing a book about employment, global warming and urban reconstruction. This is adapted from a piece at

Copyright © 2011, Los Angeles Times


Thursday, July 28, 2011

FW: Amanda Marcotte: Talking About Abortion



From: Ed Pearl []
Sent: Thursday, July 28, 2011 7:32 AM
To: Ed Pearl
Subject: Amanda Marcotte: Talking About Abortion


10 Things I'd Say to the Anti-Choice Fanatics Trying to End Access to Abortion

Here are ten realities pro-choicers should throw in the face of opponents of choice they have the misfortune to get into arguments with.


By Amanda Marcotte

Alternet: July 27, 2011  

The anti-choice movement would be nowhere without a heavy denial of reality based on the promotion of myths about sex, about birth control, about women’s bodies, but especially about abortion. While the majority of Americans are pro-choice, the constant drumbeat of stories makes the public wonder if there isn’t some truth to the stereotypes, causing even pro-choice people to support regulations such as waiting periods, parental notification laws, and ultrasound laws that only serve to make it harder for women in need to get abortions.

With that in mind, here’s ten realities pro-choicers should throw in the face of anti-abortion fanatics they have the misfortune to get into arguments with:

1) Most abortions take place early in pregnancy. Anti-abortion propaganda tends to focus on late term fetuses and even pictures of babies and small children, falsely implying that what’s evacuated during your typical abortion is basically the same as a baby. They shouldn’t be able to get away with this, but instead should acknowledge that nine out of ten abortions take place in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. Additionally, the growth of medical abortion means a much larger percentage of abortions---62% overall---take place before the 9th week of pregnancy. In fact, in most abortions, the term “fetus” is incorrect, as doctors classify it as an embryo until the 11th week of pregnancy. At 8 weeks, and embryo is about ½ an inch long, and at 12 weeks, the fetus is a little over 2 inches long. In contrast, a full-term baby is an average 20 inches long, a full 40 times larger than the size of the average embryo during an abortion. The response to the bloody fetus pictures anti-choicers love should be pictures showing how small ½ an inch really is.

2) If not for anti-choicers, even more women would get abortions much earlier in their pregnancies. Most women want to terminate unwanted pregnancies as soon as possible, but there are some women who wait until 12 or 16 or even 20 weeks to terminate a pregnancy for elective reasons. Why do about 10% of women having abortions wait until early in their second trimester? It’s not because they’re stupid or indifferent to the growing fetus inside them. Research indicates that women delay having abortions because they have trouble deciding, they struggle to come up with the funds, and because they may have to travel and overcome legal obstacles to get an abortion. When anti-choicers focus on abortions that happen at 14 or 16 weeks, they should be asked what they’re doing to make sure women are getting abortions earlier: Do they support Medicaid funding? Do they want to help make sure there’s an easy to access provider in every county? If abortions after an embryo turns to a fetus bother you so much, you should be making sure women who want abortions can get them earlier in their pregnancies.

3) Doctors perform late term abortions because of medical indications, often on women who desperately wanted the baby. Anti-choicers like to lump all abortions together, implying that women wait until they’re 20 weeks pregnant or more to terminate a pregnancy because it somehow just occurred to them that they didn’t want to have a baby. But the rule of thumb with abortion is, “The later the termination, the higher the odds that the woman needed it for medical reasons.” Indeed, doctors who perform abortions after 24 usually require, as a matter of practice and of law, that the women have medical necessity reasons for abortion. Before he died, Dr. George Tiller had to have a second doctor confirm every diagnosis of a medical condition allowing post-24 week abortions. When he was accused of fudging these records to allow for elective abortions, the court found that Dr. Tiller innocent of all the charges.

4) Women who get abortions aren’t afraid of being mothers. Anti-choice protesters like to shout at women going into clinics about how they would really like motherhood if they tried it out. In reality, women who have abortions are fully cognizant of the joys and pains of motherhood; 61% of women having abortion are already mothers. Anti-choicers who wax poetic about motherhood should be asked to explain why women who are already mothers would therefore choose abortion.

5) Abortion is physically safe. Anti-choice propaganda dwells on calling abortion clinics “abortion mills” and even going so far to call, as Michele Bachmann did, abortion an “act of violence” committed against the woman getting it. The truth is that abortion is a simple outpatient procedure that’s on the high end of safety for a medical procedure. The vast majority of abortions have no complications at all, and abortion is considered many times safer than childbirth. There are no long term health effects of abortion; anti-choice claims that it’s correlated to breast cancer have been repeatedly shown to be false. When anti-choicers get hysterical about how abortion is “violence”, they should be made to answer for the statistics that show it’s much safer than childbirth.

6) Abortion is mentally safe. In order to dissuade women from abortion, anti-choicers claim it will invoke depression and possibly even post-traumatic stress disorder. But repeated studies show not only that abortion doesn’t cause depression, but that giving birth can. In fact, mental illness can be a medical indicator for abortion; for women for whom giving birth can aggravate mental health problems, an abortion is often necessary to prevent further degradation of their mental health. Andrea Yates is good evidence against the contention that childbirth is a panacea, but anti-choicers should explain why they think they know better than the American Psychological Association when it comes to the mental health effects of abortion.

7) Women who get abortions take responsibility for their decision. Much anti-choice propaganda and legislation portrays women getting abortions as too stupid or cowed to understand the gravity of their decision. Supporters of mandatory ultrasounds argue that once women realize there’s an embryo in there, they’ll dash out of the clinic, an argument that assumes women must think they’re growing puppies or lemons in there and have to be set straight. The truth is that women who get abortions know that they’re terminating a pregnancy and are determined to do it long before they set foot in the doctor’s office. When dealing with supports of ultrasound laws, I recommend referencing this study of women who looked at ultrasound images before an abortion. The research showed that none of the women who did so changed their minds, and a substantial majority found that the images didn’t have much of an effect on their feelings at all.

8) Abortion providers are responsible medical professionals who work to make sure their patients are healthy and avoid future unintended pregnancies. Anti-choicers refuse to acknowledge that abortion providers are medical professionals who put their patients first, instead using terms such as “abortion industry” and claiming that abortion providers are trying to increase the abortion rate to make more money. First of all, abortion prices are relatively low compared to other medical procedures. Your average abortion costs around $500. The average cost of childbirth is 17 times as much. Ask an anti-choicer why a doctor who is just in it for the money wouldn’t go for the more lucrative profession of delivering babies.  When the words “abortion industry” come up, it’s fun to ask anti-choicers if they know what the term “non-profit” means, as the nation’s single largest provider of abortions, Planned Parenthood, is a non-profit. Additionally, Planned Parenthood works tirelessly to reduce the abortion rate by promoting sex education and contraception, the very tools necessary to prevent unintended pregnancy and therefore abortion. Contraception counseling to prevent future abortions is a regular feature in abortion care.

9) Women get abortions because they’re being responsible. Abortion is often characterized, even by some pro-choicers, as the result of women’s irresponsibility. Women are assumed to get pregnant because they were being irresponsible, and all too often, abortion is characterized as the “easy way out”. The truth is more complex. More than half of women getting abortions were trying to prevent pregnancy by using a contraception method the month they got pregnant. Moreover, it’s not like abortion is all cake and roses, but in fact it’s an unpleasant medical procedure that resembles all those other ones you get when you’re being responsible for your health. Most women getting abortions cite their personal responsibilities as a reason to get an abortion: responsibilities to actual children, financial responsibilities, work and school responsibilities. An honest society would view waiting to have children until you’re prepared for them as a sign that someone is responsible, instead of evidence that she’s irresponsible.

10) Conservative policies cause the abortion rate to be higher than it needs to be. No one wants an abortion. Women aren’t getting pregnant on purpose so they can enjoy an expensive suctioning of their uterine lining. So why are there 1.2 million abortions a year in America? Part of it is just bad luck; sometimes contraception fails and unwanted pregnancies happen. That will always be with us.

However, 46% of women who get abortions weren’t using a contraceptive method the month they got pregnant, indicating that conservative policies that discourage regular contraception use---everything from abstinence-only education to objecting to any measures that make contraception cheaper and easier to obtain---have been effective in keeping women from using contraception as regularly as they should. In addition, abortion rates are much higher for women living in poverty, and three quarters of women getting abortions say they can’t afford a child. If anti-choicers start moaning about the high rate of abortions, ask them what they intend to do about it. Do they want to make birth control free for all women? What about expansive social welfare that makes it easier for pregnant women living in poverty to say yes to having this baby? Most anti-choicers are generally conservative, and most will get really angry really quick if you start to mention concrete solutions to lower the abortion rate.





Scheer: Debt Madness Was Always About Killing Social Security, Borowitz on the Crisis


Debt Madness Was Always About Killing Social Security

Robert Scheer

Truthdig: July 27, 2011

This phony debt crisis has now passed through the looking glass into the realm where madness reigns. What should have been an uneventful moment in which lawmakers make good on the nation’s contractual obligations has instead been seized upon by Republican hypocrites as a moment to settle ideological scores that have nothing to do with the debt.

Hypocrites, because their radical free market ideology, and the resulting total deregulation of the financial markets, is what caused the debt to spiral out of control this last decade. That and the wars George W. Bush launched but didn’t have the integrity to responsibly finance. The consequence was a banking bubble and crash leading to a 50 percent run-up of the debt that has nothing to do with the “entitlements” that those same Republicans have always wanted to destroy. 

Even Barack Obama has put cuts in those programs into play, warning ominously that a failure to lift the debt ceiling could cause the government to stop sending out Social Security checks. Why, when the Social Security trust fund is fully funded for the next quarter-century and is owed money by the U.S. Treasury rather than the other way around? Why would we pay foreign creditors before American seniors? The answer, offered as conventional wisdom by leaders of both parties, is that we cannot endanger our credit by failing to back our bonds, even though the Republicans have aroused the alarm of the main U.S. credit rating agencies by their brinkmanship on the debt.

What a topsy-turvy world when the same credit rating agencies that gave the thumbs up to the bankers’ toxic mortgage-backed securities and credit default swaps now threaten the AAA rating of U.S. Treasury bonds. According to them, it will not be enough to merely lift the debt ceiling—what had been assumed by both Republican and Democratic presidents to be a routine act. In addition to that, as the credit agency Standard & Poor’s has insisted, more than $4 trillion has to be cut from programs that mostly benefit the victims of the banking meltdown. Otherwise the agencies will downgrade the U.S. credit rating, leading to higher interest rates that will destroy what remains of the U.S. housing market, dim the prospect for any improvement in employment and further enrich the Chinese government and other holders of U.S. debt.

President Obama and the Senate Democratic leadership are clearly poised to cave in to those demands in the spirit of “compromise,” Obama’s favorite word, but the Republicans keep upping the ante. The GOP is shameless: Speaker John Boehner has sanctimoniously responded to Obama’s plea for a bargain that gives up almost everything to the right wing by rebuffing the president on the grounds that the Republican Party is the last line of defense against big government. 

Boehner dared blame Obama for “the largest spending binge in American history,” which he attributed to the health care reform, most of which has yet to be enacted, and a stimulus program that was an underfunded effort to save American jobs. Not a word from Boehner or the other Republicans about the banking collapse that resulted from their deregulatory policies, the real cause of the inflated debt.

Boehner’s slogan, “I’ve always believed, the bigger government, the smaller the people,” is downright bizarre coming from someone who supported the Bush tax cuts for the rich, the banking bailout and the highest war spending since World War II, all of which is what caused government to get this big. Was it job stimulus spending that kept GM jobs in this country that made people smaller, or the loss of their homes and jobs as a result of the policies that are at the core of the Republican program?

What is at stake is a radical Republican agenda to totally reverse the progress in economic justice that began with the great reforms of Franklin Roosevelt and his New Deal. Consider the direct consequence of the economic crisis that unfettered Wall Street greed has wrought, particularly in reversing the gains made by the most underprivileged sectors of the population. As The Wall Street Journal reported, based on a Pew Research Center study from 2005 to 2009, “The wealth gap between whites and each of the nation’s two largest minorities—Hispanics and blacks—has widened to unprecedented levels amid the housing crisis and the recession. … The disparities are the greatest since the government began tracking such data a quarter-century ago. …”

But there is plenty of suffering to go around as a result of the deep recession. The wealth of whites in that period declined by 16 percent, not to mention the ever-greater chasm between the top 2 percent and everyone else. That’s the same 2 percent whose tax cuts the Republicans are determined to preserve.

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July 27, 2011

Debt Ceiling Crisis: Like Y2K With Assholes Instead of Computers

Majority of Congressmen No Longer Remember Which Deal They Like

WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report) – With less than one week until the President and Congress run out of time to make a deal, most experts agree that the debt ceiling crisis is like Y2K all over again, only with assholes instead of computers.

This grim assessment comes on the heels of a new poll showing that a majority of congressmen can no longer remember which debt deal they like.

As the August 2 deadline approaches, several nightmare scenarios loom, including one in which the United States would officially become a province of China and would be renamed Panda Gardens 2.

The Chinese government proposed that name to avoid confusion with Panda Gardens, a popular Shanghai noodle shop.

In another possibility being openly discussed, the United States would cease to exist as an actual country but would continue in an online-only version.

In this scenario, Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) would no longer be Speaker of the House but would instead be become an angry little orange avatar.

As for President Obama, he would step down and be replaced by Roger Goodell, commissioner of the National Football League.

“What can I say?” a resigned Mr. Obama told reporters today.  “At least Roger got a deal done.”  Pre-order Andy Borowitz’s new book and save 40%!



Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Bill Fletcher: "Well, It Is an Occupation!", Muddy Waters: 'Hochie Coochie Man" - Ash Grove concert Video

"Well, It Is an Occupation!"

What is going on in the occupied Palestinian territories is not really an occupation; it is an annexation-in-progress.”


Bill Fletcher

The Black Commentator: Friday, July 22, 2011


I recently returned from North Africa and Palestine. I found myself giving a talk to a group in the USA where I mentioned my trip as a way of discussing the manner in which events can unfold very rapidly. I mentioned that I had been to North Africa and the occupied Palestinian territories.

Barely had I finished speaking than an individual rose from their chair and moved toward the front of the room. When the session broke the individual approached me and challenged my use of the term "occupied Palestinian territories," claiming that terminology is inflammatory and that I should have used a more neutral term like "West Bank" or "the disputed territories."

I looked at the individual and listened to what they said. I then responded:  "Well. it IS an occupation!"

It is difficult to describe the Occupied Territories. I have followed the Israeli/Palestinian conflict since the June 1967 War and I have been an advocate for peace and justice for the Palestinians since the spring of 1969. I have studied countless documents, articles, speeches, etc. I have seen pictures of the so-called settlements and the apartheid separation Wall. Yet, to be honest, I still was not prepared for what I actually experienced.

I was part of a labor delegation. When we crossed from Jordan into the Occupied Territories we immediately experienced the arrogance of the Israeli occupiers. While waiting on line to go to the first passport control I waswatched by an Israeli security person. I somehow knew that this was not a good sign. When my delegation awaited clearance to actually enter the Occupied Territories this same security person came up to me and me alone (in my delegation) and proceeded to ask me all sorts of questions about the objectives of my visit. Perhaps it was my naturally curly hair, or perhaps it was that I am told that I look North African, but in any case, there was nothing approaching politeness in this exchange. The Israelis held us at the border for about two hours for no apparent reason and then let most of my delegation through. They then held one member of my delegation - not me - for an additional hour, again for no apparent reason and without explanation or apology (when they were released).

Driving from the border to Nablus is actually quite beautiful except for a few things. You drive past these so-called settlements. You can clearly distinguish an Israeli settlement from a Palestinian village or town, both by the newness but also by the often lush character of the surroundings of the settlements. But here it is important for me to note that even the use of the term "settlement" does not convey what you see. You see, in effect, either very big farms or you see suburban communities. I don't know about you but when I hear "settlement" I tend to think about something that can be easily disassembled. Forget that idea, my friend. These settlers have no intention of going anywhere.

This brings up another point or question of terminology. What is going on in the occupied Palestinian territories is not really an occupation; it is an annexation-in-progress. The Palestinians are being squeezed out, with the obvious Israeli hope being that they will simply give up and move out of the West Bank and go to Jordan, Lebanon, or who knows where ever, but just out of the area. When you think about an occupation, you think about the troops of one country taking over another-which, of course, happened to the West Bank-but you do not normally think about settlers moving in, unless you are thinking about the way that the United States expanded west; the manner in which Morocco took over the Western Sahara; or what we have been witnessing in Palestine. Whatever the original ambitions of the Israelis in the aftermath of the June 1967 War, it is clear that the settlements are no longer a bargaining chip but are there as part of a process of annexation.

This is a slow-moving annexation that is accompanied by slippery rhetoric out of the Israeli government. The creation of the so-called Separation Wall, but what most of the world condemns as the Apartheid Wall, is all part of the annexation process. The Wall is one of the ugliest, most offensive pieces of work you will see. It was NOT created along the so-called Green Line (the pre-1967 border of Israel) but along lines that protect some of the key territories that the Israeli government seeks to formally annex. It also is used to divide Palestinian territories such that farmers are separated from their land.

When you stand near the wall, however, you do not think much about the larger political issues at stake. Rather, it feels like you are inside a prison. You look up and down the expanse of the Wall at the guard towers and, frankly, you do not know what will happen next. The environmental damage created through the building of the Wall is a sight in and of itself. Piles of dirt, rubbish, concrete, weeds, etc., on the Palestinian side of the Wall reminded me of construction debris that some contractor `forgot' to remove from a project. This damage makes the land in the immediate vicinity of the Wall useless and, for all intents and purposes, dead.

The sense of being imprisoned was more stark when we witnessed thousands of Palestinian workers pass through the Qalqeelya border crossing to go to Israel for work. We arrived at the border crossing around 3:30am and workers (men and women) were already crossing the border, though in small numbers. As dawn approached this trickle of workers turned into a flood.

The workers proceeded down a covered walkway and then went to a turnstile, reminiscent of one you might find in a subway system. But this was not a turnstile that one can jump over, but fully metal where only one person at a time can pass, assuming that the light over the turnstile is green. There is an assembly point on the other side where the workers then gather and seek transportation to their jobs. They have to arrange their own transportation, either through their employers or on their own, because public Israeli transportation is denied them. They cannot drive into Israel and go to work because that is forbidden. The process is so demanding that many Palestinian workers remain at their worksites   for days rather than go back and forth in this process. And, while this is going on, it is all under the watchful eye of the Israeli guard tower, shouting commands to the Palestinians in Hebrew.

The violence of the Occupation is what you feel more than any other sensation. Not the violence that you hear about on mainstream television when they discuss a terrorist attack or a military action, but rather the silent violence that includes traffic signs in big Hebrew letters, while the Arabic wording has been crossed out by fanatical settlers. Or it may be the violence of the apartheid Wall, supposedly constructed to stop Palestinian terrorist and military attacks, yet no one can seem to explain if that were the case, why the Wall was not built on the Green Line rather than over and through Palestinian territories.

There were moments when I forgot where I was. My own anger boiled to the surface and I came close to yelling at the Israeli security personnel or making signs at them with my fingers, only to stop myself and realize that I was not an angry African American in the USA (which carries its own set of risks), but a North African-looking man in Occupied Palestine who could easily get shot - or cause my colleagues to get shot - with the assurance that my wife would get a letter of apology from the Israeli government for the incident, which they would certainly alleged to have been the result of my unprovoked actions.

This is what Palestinians experience every day and then some.

So, yes, this is a violent occupation, and no semantics will get around that simple fact. Editorial Board member, Bill Fletcher, Jr., is a Senior Scholar with the Institute for Policy Studies, the immediate past president ofTransAfricaForum and co-author of Solidarity Divided: The Crisis in Organized Labor and a New Path toward Social Justice (University of California Press), which examines the crisis of organized labor in the USA.


* * *

From: Wolfgang's Vault [mailto:

Sent: Wednesday, July 27, 2011 3:07 AM
Subject: Muddy Waters performs "Hoochie Coochie Man", July 29, 1971




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Concert Video from Wolfgang's Vault


Muddy Waters, "Hoochie Coochie Man"



Muddy Waters


"Hoochie Coochie Man"


Ash Grove on July 29, 1971




The quintessential blues man, Muddy Waters straddled the divide between spare Delta blues and the electrified sound of Chicago's south side like none other. Watch Video »




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