Nov. 22, 2010, Issue #163
HUDSON VALLEY ACTIVIST NEWSLETTER
firstname.lastname@example.org, P.O. Box 662, New Paltz, NY 12561
1. A PERFECT STORM OF DESTRUCTION — That's what you get — a local public meeting learns — when impending ecological collapse and climate change are combined with endless wars and global poverty, as now.
2. THE PALESTINIAN SIDE OF THE STORY —Most Americans only know the U.S.-Israel side of the Middle East question. A recent Hudson Valley meeting heard about the Palestinian side for a change. This movement is growing.
3. CANCUN CLIMATE SUMMIT: LOW EXPECTATIONS — Global warming gets worse every year, but the indecisive annual UN conferences on climate change don't seem to get any better.
4. LIFE ON EARTH IS THREATENED — What's required to halt environmental collapse will be an historic reconfiguration of society so that social needs take precedence over individual or corporate profits, and where balance is restored between society and nature.
5. TRILLIONS FOR WAR, PENNIES FOR ENVIRONMENT — Until that equation is reversed, the crisis will only get worse.
6. LOCAL FOOD: NOT JUST A CONSUMER CHOICE — We must learn more about how American companies and the U.S. government work together to create global dependence on unsustainable corporate models of agriculture.
7. THE IMPACT OF CLIMATE CHANGE — As the surface of the Earth heats up, here's what is happening.
8. NATURE HAS NO PRICE TAG — Leftist Latin American nations issue a 10-point resolution on the environment, declaring "Nature is our home and is the system of which we form a part, and therefore it has infinite value, but it does not have a price and is not for sale."
9. JUSTICE FOR THE PALESTINIAN PEOPLE — The tide of U.S. public opinion is slowly turning.
10. "NO. NOT IN MY NAME!" — Jewish refugee from Nazi Germany tells meeting: "Never will I support apartheid, racism and ethnic cleansing. Israel’s policies come with the highest price of suffering."
11. WHICH SIDE ARE YOU ON? — Palestinian student at Bard College tells meeting: "Whenever there’s a polarization on a given issue, there’s always this unhappy tendency to assume that the truth lies somewhere in the middle between both narratives. But in cases of oppression, it simply doesn’t.
12. ISRAEL AND THE PALESTINIANS: MORE THAN MEETS THE EYE — A geostrategic analysis focusing on the U.S. drive for total regional hegemony, the contradiction between Washington and Tel-Aviv, the goals of the right-wing Israeli regime, splits between the Fatah and Hamas and within the Arab world, the role of Iran and the new role of Turkey.
13. THE ENTRAPMENT OF THE NEWBURGH FOUR — The FBI set them up set them up from start to finish. Now they may get life in prison as "terrorists."
14. DRAWING THE LINE ON TAX BREAKS — Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, probably the only progressive left in the Senate, writes that " billionaires are on the warpath. They want more, more, more."
15. HIDING FROM REALITY — "However you want to define the American dream, there is not much of it that’s left anymore."
16. DOMESTIC NEWS BRIEFS
17. INTERNATIONAL NEWS BRIEFS
From the Editor:
Because we have organized two public meetings since the last Newsletter we've been a bit late with this one — but the current issue boasts 7 articles on the environmental calamity and five articles about the Israel-Palestinian crisis, the topics of our meetings, in addition to other stories. We lead off with the two meetings, followed by the climate and then the Palestine articles, and the rest.
1. A PERFECT STORM OF DESTRUCTION
A public meeting combining the issues of impending ecological collapse, climate change, endless wars and global poverty drew 167 people — over half of them students — to an auditorium on the campus of the State University of New York in the Hudson River Valley town of New Paltz.
The Oct. 27 event was titled "The Perfect Storm" because the three issues in concert constitute a serious danger to the existence of life on Earth.
Speaking at the meeting were four SUNY professors (Brian Obach, Kate McCoy, Irwin Sperber and Salvatore Engel-DiMauro), two SUNY students (Nick DePalma and Claire Papell), and three community activists, (Ann Guenther, Donna Goodman and Jack A. Smith).
Most of the speakers concentrated on one or another aspect of the ecological crisis, from climate change to fracking, water shortages to the destruction of the environment. Two speakers connected ecology to war and poverty, warning of "dreadful consequences... within the lifetime of the students in this audience" unless the rich industrialized developed countries of the world are finally motivated to take immediate and drastic action to save life on Earth.
The meeting was organized by the Hudson Valley Activist Newsletter and the local group Peace and Social Progress Now, and sponsored on campus by the Environmental Task Force.
According to the organizers: "The objective was to help broaden the student and community environmental movement orientation from a local to a national and international perspective, and to identify the U.S. as the principal figure in this entire affair. We felt it was effective to show the connection between Washington's abominable ecological record, its penchant for continual warfare, and indifference to global poverty."
The action was endorsed by many local organizations, including such campus groups as Students for Sustainable Agriculture, Students for Fresh Water, and the SUNY Recycling Club.
Other groups included Climate Action Coalition, SUNY Progressive Academic Network, Ulster County Move-On Council, Women in Black New Paltz, Hudson Valley Single Payer, Caribbean & Latin America Support Project, Arts for Peace, New Paltz Greens, Dutchess Greens, Dutchess Peace Coalition, and Mid-Hudson ANSWER.
— The texts of talks by Smith, Goodman and McCoy are below.
2. THE PALESTINIAN SIDE OF THE STORY
Slowly, step by step for nearly a decade, the movement supporting justice for the Palestinian people has been growing in the United States, including in the Hudson Valley, despite the overwhelming support for Israel by the U.S. government and both ruling parties.
One indication of this movement was evident in a public meeting Nov. 10 at the State University of New York in New Paltz when an audience of nearly 145 people, almost half students, listened to "the Palestinian side of the story."
"The great majority of Americans have been exposed only to the official views of Israel and the United States, and not to the views of the Palestinian people," said Donna Goodman, the MC and main organizer of the event. "Tonight's meeting is intended to correct this imbalance."
Nine speakers did so by discussing various aspects of the different points of contention between Israel and it's U.S. patron on one side and the Palestinian people on the other.
The meeting was co-sponsored by the Hudson Valley Activist Newsletter, Middle East Crisis Response — an organization in solidarity with the Palestinians — and Peace and Social Progress Now, a New Paltz activist group. The campus sponsor was the Muslim Students Association. A dozen local groups endorsed the meeting plus two national peace organizations, ANSWER and United National Antiwar Committee.
Two speakers in particular — Lillian Rosengarten, a Jewish refugee from Nazi Germany, and Faris Giacaman, a young Palestinian student at Bard College — symbolized the breadth and the unity of the meeting. (The texts of both talks are reprinted below.)
Referring to the assumption that Israeli policy toward the Palestinians is "being carried out in the name of all Jews," Rosengarten strongly intoned: "This is a lie. No! Not in my name. Never will I support apartheid, racism and ethnic cleansing. Israel’s policies come with the highest price of suffering."
Giacaman was critical of the notion that Israelis and Palestinians should engage in a "dialogue" about their differences to achieve peace, stating this "completely ignores the historical context of the situation in Palestine... [between] the colonizer and the colonized, the oppressor and the oppressed.... Whenever there’s a polarization on a given issue, there’s always this unhappy tendency to assume that the truth lies somewhere in the middle between both narratives. But in cases of oppression, it simply doesn’t."
Other speakers included Joel Kovel, the professor, activist and author of "Overcoming Zionism," among many books; Nada Khader, director of the WESPAC foundation and a former UN Gaza consultant; Mariam Haris, a Muslim student studying at SUNY New Paltz; Jane Toby, SUNY NP teacher and recorder of Palestinian women's histories; Hannah Schwarzchild of Philadelphia (the only non-Hudson Valley speaker), a member of American Jews for a Just Peace; Paul Rehm, a Christian pacifist who was part of a recent peace mission to the West Bank; and Jack A. Smith, editor of the Activist Newsletter.
Smith discussed the broad aspects of the Middle East situation, stating:
"The U.S. is Israel's political, military and economic protector, and Israel functions as Washington's pro-Western, nuclear-armed military surrogate in the region, but there's a contradiction in this relationship. America's drive for regional domination is increasingly compromised by Israel's long subjugation of the Palestinian people. It's a major cause of anti-Americanism among the Arab masses, and for the rise of al-Qaeda. Washington seeks the creation of a weak and subordinate Palestinian state, legally independent of Israel, that will no longer be a detriment to U.S. geostrategic ambitions." (Smith's text is below.)
Co-sponsor Middle East Crisis Response has been active in the Mid-Hudson region since Israel's attack on Lebanon and Gaza in 2006. There are also solidarity groups in the Upper-Hudson and Lower-Hudson Valley, all north of New York City where there are several groups. Over the years the Activist Newsletter has organized three public meetings on behalf of the Palestinians at SUNY New Paltz and several demonstrations in 2006 and also in the winter of 2008-2009 to oppose the devastating invasion of Gaza.
Although a number of American left groups supported the Palestinians for many years, the broad U.S. peace movement virtually ignored the issue for over a half-century until April 2002. At that time the ANSWER coalition organized a mass protest against Israel's invasion of the West Bank that brought over 30,000 Palestinians, Arabs and Muslims to Washington along with nearly twice that number of antiwar demonstrators.
This broke the silence, and now a number of major national and regional peace organizations as well as many solidarity groups across the United States are critical of Israel's colonial domination of the Palestinians.
3. CANCUN CLIMATE SUMMIT: LOW EXPECTATIONS
By Sarah Laskow, Media Consortium
A year ago, it seemed possible — likely, even — that President Barack Obama would sweep into the international negotiations on climate change at Copenhagen and make serious progress on the tangle of issues at stake. The reality was quite different. This year, the expectations for the United Nations Climate Conference in Cancun are less exuberant.
The conference will be held from Nov. 29 to Dec. 10 and the same issues from 2009 are up for debate. Countries like the United States, Britain, and Germany are still contributing an outsize share of carbon to the atmosphere. Countries like India and China are still rapidly increasing their own carbon output. And countries like Bangladesh, Tuvalu, and Bolivia are still bearing an unfair share of the environmental impacts brought on by climate change.
A very different set of expectations is building in the climate movement this year. If last year was about moving forward as fast as possible, this year, climate activists seem resigned to the idea that politicians just aren’t getting it. Change, when it comes, will have to be built on a popular movement, not a political negotiation.
Last year, climate activists put their faith in international leaders to make progress. This year, they believe that it’s up to them, as outside actors, to marshal a grassroots movement and pressure their leaders towards decreased carbon emissions.
“There’s a recognition that the insider strategy to push from inside the Beltway to impact what will happen in DC, or what will happen in Cancun has really not succeeded,” Rose Braz, climate campaign director at the Center for Biological Diversity, told Making Contact’s Andrew Stelzer. “What we’re doing in conjunction with a number of groups across the country and across the world is really build the type of movement that will change what happens in Cancun, what changes what happens in DC from the bottom up.”
Here’s one example of this new strategy: as Zachary Shahan writes at Change.org, La Via Campesina, an international peasant movement, is coordinating a march that will begin in San Luis Potosi, Guadalajara, Acapulco, Oaxaca, and Chiapas, then converge on Cancun. The march will include “thousands of farmers, indigenous people, rural villagers, urbanites, and more,” Shahan reports.
"After they arrive in Cancun, the organizers are planning an 'Alternative Global Forum for Life and Environmental and Social Justice' for the final days of the negotiations, which they say will be a mass mobilization of peasants, indigenous [peoples] and social movements. The action extends far beyond Cancun, though. Actually, they are organizing thousands of Cancuns around the world on this day to denounce what they see as false climate solutions."
These actions echo the strategy that environmentalist and author Bill McKibben and other climate leaders are promoting to push for climate change policies in the U.S. All this talk about building momentum from the bottom up, from populations, means that anyone looking for change is now looking years into the future.
Of course, ultimately, politicians will need to agree on a couple of standards. In particular, how much carbon each country should be emitting and how fast each country should power down its current emission levels. The U.S. is one of the biggest stumbling blocks to agreement on these questions, especially due to the recent mid-term elections. As Claudia Salerno, Venezuela’s lead climate change negotiator wrote at AlterNet:
"Unlike what many suggest, China is not the problem. China, along with India and others, have made considerable commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and are already working to realize them. Other developing countries have done the same, although we only generate a virtual drop in the bucket of global carbon emissions. The key player missing here is the U.S."
[This report is excerpted from the author's Nov. 12 article for the Media Consortium. The following paragraphs by the Activist Newsletter underscore the menace of delaying dramatic action to reduce dependence on fossil fuels.]
The International Energy Agency (IEA) revealed Nov. 9 that world energy demand will increase 36% between 2008 and 2035, and that fossil fuels will continue to dominate the world's energy mix throughout these years. The IEA is an intergovernmental organisation which acts as energy policy advisor to 28 industrialized countries.
According to Solar Novus Today, the report from the IEA's newly released World Energy Outlook "concludes that broad greenhouse gas policy commitments and plans of countries around the world will not be sufficient to avoid significant increases in average global temperatures. As a result of dependence on fossil fuels, the concentration of greenhouse gases in Earth's atmosphere are projected to stabilize at the equivalent of 650 parts per million (ppm) of carbon dioxide, resulting in a likely long-term temperature rise of more than 3.5°C (6.3°F) above pre-industrial levels."
At last December's UN climate change conference in Copenhagen the stated goal was limiting the long-term temperature rise to less than 2°C, which is thought to correspond to stabilizing greenhouse gases at the equivalent of 450 ppm of carbon dioxide. Many scientists and developing countries, along with much of the international environmental movement, maintain 350 ppm should be the maximum level. The longer the industrialized nations stall, the worse it gets.
4. LIFE ON EARTH IS THREATENED
[Following is the text of a talk delivered at the Perfect Storm public meeting at SUNY New Paltz, Oct. 27, 2010, by Activist Newsletter editor Jack A. Smith, a co-chair of Peace and Social Progress Now.]
After perhaps 600 generations of human civilization, life on Earth is entering a period of extreme jeopardy. This is largely a product of the industrialization brought about during the last 10 generations. We can live with industrial society, but it must be organized far differently because its unintended consequences — climate change and ecological collapse — are leading toward disaster.
I imagine most of us here try to do something for the environment. Maybe it's turning off unneeded lights, or conserving water, or consuming local farm products, or riding our bikes for small errands, or adopting a vegetarian/vegan diet, or turning down the thermostat a few degrees at home and wearing a sweater.
Many of us are trying to leave a smaller ecological footprint. That's absolutely necessary. But we must act upon something more important — and that is insuring we have a sustainable Earth upon which to leave our smaller footprint.
The dilemma we face goes far beyond our personal actions. For instance, we try to cut down on waste, but household waste (also known as municipal solid waste) accounts for less than 3% of total accumulation of American waste. The rest derives from industries, businesses, construction and demolition. This far larger amount is the result of the production-consumption methodologies and excesses of the advanced industrialized capitalist countries.
All these countries adhere to what has become an ecologically unsustainable global free market economic structure. Driven by profit, this system is inherently compelled to expand production by inducing ever-increasing individual and societal consumption by those who can afford it while heedlessly depleting our planet's natural resources.
There are three main problems today that endanger life on Earth. We call them, in combination, a "perfect storm" because each component intensifies the others until utter chaos ensues, probably this century unless there is a demand for drastic change and restructuring by the world's peoples.
• Global warming and the potential collapse of Earth's ecological system constitute the main danger. The governments of all the wealthy industrial societies mainly responsible for the crisis must adopt bold, immediate, concerted measures to deflect this danger.
But despite melting glaciers and arctic ice packs, changes in temperature and weather patterns, desertification and chemical pollution, depleting aquifers and limited access to drinking water, the prospect of rising flood tides, reduced crop yields in poor societies, and mass extinctions of wildlife, the responsible countries are doing virtually nothing, in good part because of the stubborn inaction of the U.S. government.
• Impending wars are the second problem, particularly resource wars for energy as oil peaks and declines. The United States spends over $1 trillion a year on the Pentagon and the national security apparatus, more than the rest of the world combined, but peanuts to counteract climate change or alleviate poverty.
To justify these enormous expenses Washington points to the threat of terrorism. At most there are 50 members of al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, and several hundred — maybe twice that — in the rest of the world. But the Bush-Obama governments have created such exaggerated fears of terrorism that few Americans question that half their tax money goes for war, or even rebel at being photographed nude and/or have their private parts groped by government employees before boarding planes at many U.S. airports.
The Pentagon maintains up to nearly 1,000 large and small military bases abroad to accommodate some 400,000 troops continuously stationed around the world to advance and protect an empire of a new type based on global hegemony. In addition to the present wars in the Middle East and Central Asia, the Pentagon has blueprints for future wars on land, sea, air, space and cyberspace. Preventing future wars, and particularly a catastrophic world war, is nearly as important as halting environmental collapse.
• Worldwide poverty is the third problem, and it will increase as populations expand and global warming takes its toll on water, land and food supplies. Half the world's 6.8 billion people, mostly in Asia, Africa and Latin America, live below a poverty line of less than $2.50 a day. By 2050, when the world population is over 9 billion, 70% of humankind will live in urban and rural slums.
Such poverty is as intolerable as war and climate change, but as long as war gets all the money, and the environment and the poor are shortchanged, the gathering perfect storm is more menacing every day.
American society, so wealthy and essentially secure, appears indifferent to the immense suffering of our world's poorest multitudes, and to the wars — so often our wars — that since 1812 inevitably transpire on other people's territory. But we'd best not remain indifferent to climate change because when the icecaps melt and the temperatures rise Manhattan is not much better protected than the sea-level Maldives in the Indian Ocean.
Meanwhile, the wealthy developed countries consume enough manufactured products, extract enough of nature's resources, and exude enough greenhouse gases from fossil fuels for a planet one and a half times larger than our Earth. According to the World Wildlife Fund's just released 2010 Living Planet Report:
"Humanity's ecological footprint exceeded the Earth's biocapacity — the area actually available to produce renewable resources and absorb CO2 — by 50%. In other words, it would take 1.5 Earths to keep up with humanity's consumption of natural resources,... a doubling of our demands on the natural world since the 1960s." The report goes on to say that in 20 years two Earths will be required.
It can't work — and our country is largely responsible for this crisis because on a per capita basis America is by far the greatest producer of errant greenhouse gases that create global warming.
Despite the Democratic Party's large majority in Congress, the Obama Administration's environmental program —tepid to begin with — is getting nowhere except for two of its biggest, and worst initiatives: Extended offshore oil drilling and more nuclear power plants, even though there is no safe means to dispose of deadly radioactive wastes.
As a result of Washington's timid approach to the crisis, public opinion polls show that markedly fewer Americans today, compared to just a few years ago, see global warming as a serious threat.
This situation will only get worse when the Republicans dominate the House of Representatives in January. Virtually the entire Republican congressional delegation are climate change deniers who dispute the scientific verdict that human activity is mainly responsible for global warming. There will no noteworthy environmental legislation from Washington for many years, if then.
And there is little doubt — based on the performance of the major industrial nations addicted to fossil fuels — that the UN climate conference in Mexico starting the end of November will fail to produce substantial results.
The United States insists upon being universally recognized as the unrivaled world leader — the nation with the know-how and the economic, political and military strength to get things done. But on the key issues that require world leadership — to restore ecological balance, end the wars, and launch an audacious effort to overcome poverty, hunger and inequality — Washington's efforts are either nonexistent, inadequate or counterproductive.
Under the present circumstances, and within the lifetime of the students in this audience, I believe it is likely we will experience dreadful consequences from global warming and ecological degeneration, debilitating world poverty, and wars including World War III.
I said under the present circumstances. Those circumstances can change, but not of themselves, and the political system appears incapable of generating the serious countermeasures that involve restructuring the economic base of society. The two ruling parties are essentially dedicated to maintaining the profitable industrialization policies that are creating the developing catastrophe for our world.
Throughout American history, the most important vehicles for progressive social change of magnitude have been mass movements of people making strong uncompromised demands on the political structure.
Racial segregation lasted a hundred years after the Civil War. It ended because of the mass uprising of the African American people and their allies. Women struggled for the democratic right to vote for a hundred years until their mass movement finally prevailed. The large U.S. peace movement struggled for 10 years in opposition to the Vietnam War until Washington pulled all its troops and CIA agents out that poor beleaguered peasant society.
Given political, economic and ideological realities during these conservative decades, it seems inconceivable that Washington on its own will launch the process of saving life on Earth. To move forward, millions of people must band together in a nationwide movement with steadfast leadership demanding decisive action from the political system.
Ultimately, what's required will be an historic reconfiguration of society to accommodate a new Grand Compact between human society and the natural world — a condition where social needs take precedence over individual or corporate profits, and where balance is restored between society and nature.
We do not own our planet. We are its guests. We must treat it with respect. And above all, it is imperative for us to make it livable and safe for future generations.
5. TRILLIONS FOR WAR, PENNIES FOR ENVIRONMENT
[Following is the text of a talk delivered at the Perfect Storm public meeting at SUNY New Paltz, Oct. 27, 2010, by Donna Goodman, a United University Professions statewide delegate from the college, co-chair of Peace and Social Progress Now, and Activist Newsletter copy editor.]
Please count with me to six seconds. 1... 2... 3... 4... 5... 6.
During that brief time, two important things took place:
First, one child somewhere in our world, probably a child of color in Africa or Asia or Latin America, died of starvation or malnutrition. In one full day, that's 14,400 dead children.
During that same 6 seconds, the U.S. government will have spent $38,000 fighting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. In one full day that's $548,000,000.
Does anyone doubt that just a relative fraction of what the United States spends on these two fruitless wars in one day could have prevented the starvation of those 14,400 children, plus a lot more? Do the math.
Over a year's time, American taxpayers finance $200 billion all told for the Iraq/Afghanistan wars (a probable underestimate). During the same year, nearly 15 million children suffer slow and painful deaths from hunger/malnutrition throughout the world.
At the same time, another nearly 8,000 children die each day, also from poverty but due to lack of medical care for easily preventable diseases, polluted water, lack of sanitation, diarrhea and other causes.
Thus, 22,000 children die of poverty every day of the year, almost entirely in the developing world. They die, according to UNICEF, "quietly, in some of the poorest villages on Earth, far removed from the scrutiny and the conscience of the world."
But of course the richer industrialized world knows what's happening, and allows it to happen, though with a certain hand-wringing. The affluent countries could eliminate this nightmare in a decade. It may take many hundreds of billion of dollars, as will a crash program to halt global warming, but the money is there. Our government probably could do it alone if wasn't fixated on war spending, and on increasing the wealth of the bloated rich.
Washington claims that the cost of the Iraq and Afghan wars so far is a trillion dollars — and that's certainly enough to make a huge dent in poverty and climate change — but this figure is a gross underestimate.
The respected Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz and Harvard Professor Linda Bilmes wrote a book two years ago estimating the cost of the Iraq war only. It was titled "The Three Trillion Dollar War." They based their calculations on the "hidden" costs of the war that include enormous medical care expenses over the next 50 years for tens of thousands of badly wounded soldiers, other benefits, equipment replacement, and interest on war debts that will take many decades to pay off.
Just last week, Stiglitz increased the Iraq war cost figure to $4 trillion. He referred to it as the "credit card war." For those who doubt these figures check out the Joint Economic Committee of Congress, which estimates the Iraq war ultimately will cost $3.5 trillion.
Do you know that $400 billion of our tax money this year will go toward paying off past war debts, perhaps as far back as World War II? We'll pay these debts forever because Washington is always borrowing to plan for or start new wars.
That $4 trillion for the totally unnecessary Iraq war probably could have ended the threat of the impending ecological and global warming disaster, plus eliminated global poverty. And if that wasn't enough, adding the long term real cost of the Afghan war would have done the trick.
This is but one example of the misdirection of the U.S. government's unparalleled wealth away from constructively fighting climate change and poverty in favor of destructively launching a resource war for oil against Iraq, and a thrust for geopolitical advantage over China and Russia in Central Asia by invading Afghanistan — the real reasons for these counterproductive wars.
About a billion people, largely in the developing countries, suffer from chronic hunger — although there is sufficient food in the world to feed all 6.5 billion of us. According to University of Vermont Professor Fred Magdoff this hunger figure does not include "those suffering from vitamin and nutrient deficiencies and other forms of malnutrition. The total number of food insecure people... is probably closer to 3 billion." And climate change is making the situation worse.
Referring to a food crisis, partly resulting from the impact of global warming on farm lands, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon declared "There can be no food security without climate security. If the glaciers of the Himalayas melt, it will affect the livelihoods and survival of 300 million people in China and up to a billion people in Asia." The melting has started, slowly at first.
Ban pointed out that global warming is affecting "Africa's small farmers, who produce most of the continent's food and depend mostly on rain. [They] could see harvests drop by 50% by 2020." This is happening at a time when "food production will have to increase by 70% over the next 40 years when world population surpasses 9 billion," according to the UN's World Summit on Food Security last November. But the International Center for Tropical Agriculture just reported that "by 2050, as a result of climate change, global 'potential to produce food, could decline by 5-10%."
The world today is not without food or money, but both are unequally distributed. "The richest 2% of the people own more than half the household wealth in the world," according to Maude Barlow of the Council of Canadians. The richest 10% accounts for 85% of total global assets.
The net worth of the world's 1,011 billionaires exceeds that of about 3.2 billion people — half the global population. The "bottom half" possess less than 1% of world wealth
In the U.S., the richest one-hundredth of one percent of families possess 22.2% of the nation's wealth. The rest of the top 10% takes 73.8% The bottom 90% of us control just 4% of the nation's wealth.
In conclusion I'd like to note that in fiscal year 2011 the United States will spend $1.4 trillion on war and national security — $720 billion for the Pentagon, $155 billion in military-security spending in other budgets, and $552 billion for "past military expenditures," mostly veterans benefits and interest on war debt. This accounts for about half our tax money.
You get the point. Inattention to global warming, grossly unequal income and food distribution, and war, militarism and imperialism are swiftly developing into a perfect storm that threatens the very existence of life on Earth. Is this the kind of world we want? If not, only one question remains: Since our wealthy, industrialized, powerful and dominant society is the principal malefactor by far, what are we going to do about it?
6. LOCAL FOOD: NOT JUST A CONSUMER CHOICE
[Here is the text of a brief talk by Kate McCoy at the Perfect Storm meeting. She is an Assistant Professor of Educational Foundations at SUNY New Paltz and education director at the Brook Farm Project.]
Living in the Hudson Valley, it can be easy to take for granted our access to local food — if we are among the privileged who can afford it, or who can see past the prevailing idea that we can’t. Between community supported agriculture, farm markets, and locally owned retail stores that make an effort to carry local produce, meat, and dairy — we are blessed with opportunities to eat locally grown food, keep our food dollars in our communities, and reduce the environmental impact of our food choices.
I often hear the phrase “Vote with your dollars!” implying that all we need to do to ensure our access to local food systems is to spend our money in ways that support them. Surely this is absolutely necessary, but I worry that such a perspective places too much faith in an imaginary free market. From municipal restrictions on having chickens in your backyard, to state prohibitions on selling raw milk, to corporate agriculture’s influence on federal policy, to U.S.-sanctioned bans on saving seeds in Iraq — access to local food is a profoundly political issue. It is not simply a matter of how we exercise our choices as consumers. Those choices could cease to exist.
I want to show a short campaign video from candidate Francis Thicke, [an ecology-minded farmer] who is running for Iowa Secretary of Agriculture.[He lost.] His campaign speaks to the issues in ways that people can easily grasp: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lY29b4o1mJQ&feature=channel ...
I am not usually in the business of making pronouncements about what people must do, but on this issue I make an exception. In New York, we can’t vote for Francis Thicke, but we must vote with our votes and actions, not just with our dollars. We must get involved in local government, become active in local food movements that educate the public and push politicians, and continue to educate ourselves about what is going on in our communities, our states, our country, and across the planet. We need to commit ourselves to changing policies to promote local food systems and economies and environmentally sustainable agriculture. We must make sure that people across the socioeconomic spectrum have access to locally and sustainably grown food.
We must also learn more about how American companies and the U.S. government work together to create global dependence on unsustainable corporate models of agriculture.
Consider, for example, the activities of an organization called the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa, largely funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Farmers in Africa have spoken out against the activities and aims of this group, rejecting its focus on creating dependence on agribusiness inputs (for example, hybrid seeds and chemical fertilizers and pesticides). These farmers are calling for local and sustainable efforts that put farmers in charge. Philanthropic organizations such as the Alliance for Green Revolution in Africa often have reassuring names and keep their operations under the radar. Their agendas must be questioned. Their activities must be subjected to public scrutiny.
We cannot fool ourselves by thinking that a commitment to local food is just a matter of how we spend our money. It is vital that we get political about local food.
7. THE IMPACT OF CLIMATE CHANGE
Global warming is already taking place, and as it proceeds it will have an increasingly negative impact upon all life on Earth. The Nature Conservancy has briefly outlined what a portion of that impact will look like:
• HIGHER TEMPERATURES: Heat-trapping gases emitted by power plants, automobiles, deforestation and other sources are warming up the planet. In fact, the five hottest years on record have all occurred since 1997 and the 10 hottest since 1990, including the warmest year on record — 2005.
High temperatures are to blame for an increase in heat-related deaths and illness, rising seas, increased storm intensity, and many of the other dangerous consequences of climate change.
During the 20th century, the Earth’s average temperature rose one degree Fahrenheit to its highest level in the past four centuries – believed to be the fastest rise in a thousand years.
Scientists project that if emissions of heat-trapping carbon emissions aren’t reduced, average surface temperatures could increase by 3 to 10 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of the century.
Don’t let average temperatures fool you: A one-degree increase may be found in one place, a 12-degree increase in another place, and yet other areas may become much colder.
The planet’s oceans are also warming, which is causing dangerous consequences such as stronger storms, coral bleaching and rising seas.
• HEAT-RELATED ILLNESS AND DISEASE: As temperatures rise, so do the risks of heat-related illness and even death for the most vulnerable human populations.
In 2003, for example, extreme heat waves caused more than 20,000 deaths in Europe and more than 1,500 deaths in India. Scientists have linked the deadly heat waves to climate change and warn of more to come.
In addition to heat-related illness, climate change may increase the spread of infectious diseases, mainly because warmer temperatures allow disease-carrying insects, animals and microbes to survive in areas where they were once thwarted by cold weather.
Diseases and pests that were once limited to the tropics — such as mosquitoes that carry malaria — may find hospitable conditions in new areas that were once too cold to support them.
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that climate change may have caused more than 150,000 deaths in the year 2000 alone, with an increase in deaths likely in the future.
• RISK OF DROUGHT, FIRE, FLOODS: Climate change is intensifying the circulation of water on, above and below the surface of the Earth — causing drought and floods to be more frequent, severe and widespread.
Higher temperatures increase the amount of moisture that evaporates from land and water, leading to drought in many areas. Lands affected by drought are more vulnerable to flooding once rain falls.
As temperatures rise globally, droughts will become more frequent and more severe, with potentially devastating consequences for agriculture, water supply and human health. This phenomenon has already been observed in some parts of Asia and Africa, where droughts have become longer and more intense.
Hot temperatures and dry conditions also increase the likelihood of forest fires. In the conifer forests of the western United States, earlier snowmelts, longer summers and an increase in spring and summer temperatures have increased fire frequency by 400% percent and have increased the amount of land burned by 650% since 1970.
• STRONGER STORMS: Scientific research indicates that climate change will cause hurricanes and tropical storms to become more intense — lasting longer, unleashing stronger winds, and causing more damage to coastal ecosystems and communities.
Scientists point to higher ocean temperatures as the main culprit, since hurricanes and tropical storms get their energy from warm water. As sea surface temperatures rise, developing storms will contain more energy.
At the same time, other factors such as rising sea levels, disappearing wetlands, and increased coastal development threaten to intensify the damage caused by hurricanes and tropical storms.
• RISING SEAS: As the Earth heats up, sea levels rise because warmer water takes up more room than colder water, a process known as thermal expansion. Melting glaciers compound the problem by dumping even more fresh water into the oceans.
Rising seas threaten to inundate low-lying areas and islands, threaten dense coastal populations, erode shorelines, damage property and destroy ecosystems such as mangroves and wetlands that protect coasts against storms.
Sea levels have risen between four and eight inches in the past 100 years. Current projections suggest that sea levels could continue to rise between 4 inches and 36 inches over the next 100 years.
A 36-inch increase in sea levels would swamp every city on the East Coast of the United States, from Miami to Boston.
Worldwide, approximately 100 million people live within three feet of sea level. Sea level rise associated with climate change could displace tens of millions of people in low-lying areas – especially in developing countries. Inhabitants of some small island countries that rest barely above the existing sea level are already abandoning their islands, some of the world’s first climate change refugees.
• CHANGING LANDSCAPES: Rising temperatures and changing patterns of rain and snow are forcing trees and plants around the world to move toward polar regions and up mountain slopes.
These vegetation shifts will undermine much of the work the conservation community has accomplished to date, with the potential to permanently change the face of Conservancy preserves, local land trusts, and even our national parks.
In the tundra, thawing permafrost will allow shrubs and trees to take root. In the Great Plains of the United States, grasslands will likely become forests. And New England’s fiery fall foliage will eventually fade as maple and beech forests shift north toward cooler temperatures.
As plant communities try to adjust to the changing climate by moving toward cooler areas, the animals that depend on them will be forced to move. Development and other barriers may block the migration of both plants and animals.
Some species and communities such as polar bears and alpine meadows may be left without any remaining viable habitat, putting much of our treasured wildlife at risk.
• WILDLIFE AT RISK: Rising temperatures are changing weather and vegetation patterns across the globe, forcing animal species to migrate to new, cooler areas in order to survive.
The rapid nature of climate change is likely to exceed the ability of many species to migrate or adjust. Experts predict that one-fourth of Earth’s species will be headed for extinction by 2050 if the warming trend continues at its current rate.
Many species are already feeling the heat:
In 1999, the death of the last Golden Toad in Central America marked the first documented species extinction driven by climate change.
Due to melting ice in the Arctic, polar bears may be gone from the planet in as little as 100 years.
In the tropics, increased sea temperatures are causing more coral reefs to “bleach,” as the heat kills colorful algae that are necessary to coral health and survival.
Several U.S. states may even lose their official birds as they head for cooler climates — including the Baltimore oriole of Maryland, black-capped chickadee of Massachusetts, and the American goldfinch of Iowa.
8. NATURE HAS NO PRICE TAG
Five developing Latin American nations are playing a leadership role in criticizing some of the most highly developed industrialized countries, led by the U.S., for lack of progress in climate change deliberations and for putting forward counterproductive proposals.
The five —Bolivia, Cuba, Ecuador, Nicaragua, and Venezuela — are the leading members of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA), a progressive trade and economic organization. They declare: "Nature is our home and is the system of which we form a part, and therefore it has infinite value, but it does not have a price and is not for sale." Following is the English text of a 10 point environmental resolution they approved Nov. 5 at a meeting in La Paz:
1. There is within the United Nations a push to promote the concept of a "green economy" or a "Global Green New Deal" in order to extend capitalism in the economic, social and environmental arenas, in which nature is seen as "capital" for producing tradable environmental goods and services that should then be valued in monetary terms and assigned a price so that they can be commercialized with the purpose of obtaining profits.
2. Studies are being carried out and manipulated, such as the Stern Report on the Economics of Climate Change and the study on the Economy of Ecosystems and Biodiversity , among others, in order to promote the privatization and the mercantilization of nature through the development of markets for environmental services, among other instruments.
3. Those who promote this new form of privatization and mercantilization of nature wish to develop a new kind of property rights which are not exercised over a natural resource in itself, but rather, over the functions offered by particular ecosystems, thus opening up the possibility of commercializing them in the market through certificates, bonds, credits, etc.
4. Under this capitalist conception that seeks only to guarantee benefit for those few who wield economic power: water should be privatized and distributed only to those that can afford to pay for it, forests are only good for capturing emissions and for selling on the carbon market that allows rich countries to avoid reducing emissions within their own territories, and genetic resources must be appropriated and patented for the enjoyment of those who possess modern technology.
The right to safe drinking water and sanitation is a human right that is essential for the full enjoyment of life, which has been endorsed by the United Nations and can only be guaranteed through the recognition and defense of the rights of Mother Earth.
States are responsible for guaranteeing the sovereignty of the peoples over their natural patrimony and natural resources.
1. That nature is our home and is the system of which we form a part, and that therefore it has infinite value, but does not have a price and is not for sale.
2. Our commitment to preventing capitalism from continuing to expand in the spheres that are essential to life and nature, being that this is one of the greatest challenges confronting humanity.
3. Our absolute rejection of the privatization, monetization and mercantilization of nature, for it leads to a greater imbalance in the environment and goes against our ethical principles.
4. Our condemnation of unsustainable models of economic growth that are created at the expense of our resources and the sovereignty of our peoples.
5. Only a humanity that is conscious of its present and future responsibilities, and states with the political will to carry out their role, can change the course of history and restore equilibrium in nature and life as a whole.
6. That instead of promoting the privatization of goods and services that come from nature, it is essential to recognize that these have a collective character, and, as such, should be conserved as public goods, respecting the sovereignty of states.
7. It is not the invisible hand of the market that will allow for the recuperation of equilibrium on Mother Earth. Only with the conscious intervention of state and society through policies, public regulations, and the strengthening of public services can the equilibrium of nature be restored.
8. Cancun cannot be another Copenhagen; we hope that accords will be reached in which developed countries truly act according to the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities, and effectively assume their obligation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, without making climate change into a business through the promotion and creation of carbon market mechanisms.
9. That, committed to life, the countries present at this meeting agree to include in our permanent agenda, among other actions, the realization of a referendum on climate change and the promotion of the participation of the peoples of the world.
10. That it is urgent to adopt at the United Nations a Universal Declaration on the Rights of Mother Earth.
— This article appears in Climate and Capitalism, Nov. 15, 2010
9. JUSTICE FOR THE PALESTINIAN PEOPLE
[Following are the opening remarks of Donna Goodman, the MC for the evening, at the Nov. 10 meeting on Israel/Palestine at SUNY New Paltz.]
The Israel/Palestine crisis is one of the most important and potentially dangerous disputes in the world, which all people of good faith want to see resolved.
Yet the great majority of Americans have been exposed only to the official views of Israel and the United States, and not to the views of the Palestinian people.
Our own political leaders support Israel almost unconditionally, regardless of who is in power, in either Israel or the U.S. Our mass media usually demonizes the Palestinians and their cause, and through its sensationalism about terrorism often casts suspicion on Arabs and Muslims in general.
Tonight's meeting is intended to correct this imbalance by presenting the information that is missing from the mainstream media, government pronouncements, and the general public discourse: in particular the perspectives of the Palestinian people in the Middle East and Muslim people here in the U.S. We need information from all sides in order to make informed judgments about a situation of historic significance in which our own country is a major player.
We believe the tide of U.S. public opinion is beginning to turn — first of all toward recognizing the importance of discussing all aspects of this issue in public. In other parts of the world, including Israel, people have been discussing and debating it for many years. The American people are relative newcomers to this debate, and we hope tonight's meeting will make a difference in our Mid-Hudson community.
We may also be approaching a turning point in U.S. public opinion toward the Palestinian side of the story. More and more people reject the notion that to question or criticize the actions of the Israeli state is an expression of anti-Semitism. And a large sector of the American antiwar movement — so silent for many decades — has within the last several years become sharply critical of Israel's occupation of the Palestinian territories and its violence against the people of Gaza and the West Bank.
There are many reasons for the growing support of the Palestinian quest for justice and liberation. For some it is a matter of freedom for a colonized people. For others it is a simple matter of fairness and equity, for Jews and Palestinians alike. Some believe that for Israel to survive as a Jewish state it must make a just peace with the Palestinians. Still others believe Israel must change in more fundamental ways, giving up its identity as a Jewish state in order to become a true multinational democracy.
We hope tonight's discussion will help to build all the movements that are seeking peace in the Middle East through justice for the Palestinian people.
10. "NO. NOT IN MY NAME!"
[Following is the text of the talk and poem delivered by Hudson Valley resident Lillian Rosengarten at the Nov. 10 meeting on Israel/Palestine at SUNY New Paltz. She was the only American on the "Jewish Boat to Gaza" that was intercepted two months ago off the coast of the Palestinian territory by the Israeli Navy.]
I am here today with a clear message. I am a refugee from Nazi Germany. I am Jewish.
The Israeli government promotes a harmful assumption, that their so called self protective policies, the walls of cement, the fences of barbed wire, the dehumanization of an entire Palestinian population, the water shortages, the destruction of homes and land, the blockades, the imprisonments, the killings, are being carried out in the name of all Jews.
This is a lie. No! Not in my name. Never will I support apartheid, racism and ethnic cleansing. Israel’s policies come with the highest price of suffering.
I raise my voice with those who join me to break the silence and to expose the deception . It is important for my Palestinian brothers and sisters to hear, for the world to hear, for Jews and non-Jews to hear there are many of us who will not be silent in the face of the extreme cruelty of the Israeli amoral army that seeks to squeeze life from an entire population of Palestinians and now Bedouins in the name of their nirvana, the Jewish non secular state.
It took me a long time to have the courage of my convictions. I was never religious — a cultural Jew of sorts completely assimilated as were my parents in Germany. But when I heard there was a Jewish boat that would sail to Gaza in late September as a symbol of solidarity with the Palestinian struggle for liberation, I knew I had to go.
Nine Jews including myself, were on this amazing little catamaran, united in our common goal to enter Gaza with a message of love and support. We wanted to show the world that when we look into the eyes of our brothers and sisters, we see ourselves.
This experience that ended with my deportation and a warning that I could not return to Israel — this experience changed the course of my life. I will never until my last breath stop speaking out against the crimes of the Jewish State. We must end the cycles of hate, and tear down the walls.
I am consumed now with breaking down the barriers of hate. I write essays, I speak my truth to whoever is willing to hear, and I write poems.
I have tried to keep my words brief and hope I conveyed what needed to be said. I would like to close with a recent poem titled “Victim." The poem says what I want to covey to you here.
By Lillian Rosengarten. Dedicated to the memory of Paul Celan.
“You were my death: you I could hold when all fell away from me. “
Dare we whisper of racial hate, cruelty that feeds voraciously
Righteous moral certainty ready to taint the earth with blood
Yours and mine in the name of nationalism.
Ugly word reminds me of “uber mensch.”
Do you remember once our well made clothes were warm and stylish,
party dresses decked with bows, ribbons in the hair,
families who loved, houses filled with flowers and the stuff of life.
Things everybody knows, or wants to know.
Before the yellow star took it all away, shopkeepers and bakers, professors,
poets, doctors and artists, students and teachers, homosexuals, gypsies, lovers
Dare we whisper how hate tainted the earth with their blood
As the world looked on.
Racist oppression, cruelty, righteous moral certainty ready to strike.
In the name of nationalism, in the name of Jews.
But I am not this Jew and cannot be a Jew
who looks on in silence and indifference, who legitimizes collective cruelty,
no power, no land, no thing, the blood of war carelessly justified.
It’s all too familiar and I am tired.
Remember the hunted generations before and only yesterday.
A great burden has wrapped itself around me .
I scream collective pain heavy with sadness.
You! For the sake of humanity stand with me.
Hold me in your arms for I burn with a fever of grief
I eat my power to give me courage
Grotesque amoral army, dare we whisper or shout
Victimizers! What cruel twist of fate has blinded you?
A haunted people now fiercely perverse. Once you too were brutalized.
Moral army, have you forgotten?
Has the past inferno faded to fiction
or lost in your unconscious as you dream of nirvana in the Jewish state?
I feel the presence of an enemy, the boat can sail no more.
Ghouls in military attire walk across a vast terrain scorched and silent.
New killing fields leave not a trace, not one skull for memory’s sake
only tears of glass. I beg the demons of the night.
Lift the darkness one more time.
Hold me in your arms before I die
11. WHICH SIDE ARE YOU ON?
[Following is the text of the talk delivered by Faris Giacaman at the Nov. 10 meeting on Israel/Palestine at SUNY New Paltz.]
My name is Faris, I’m a Palestinian student studying at Bard College.
I’d like to say a few words that I think echo the purpose of this event (showing the Palestinian side of the story).
As a Palestinian, you can’t image how many times I’ve been approached by people, many of them genuine and well-meaning, who are eager to inform me of various activities that they’ve participated in that promote “coexistence” and “dialogue” between both sides of the “conflict.” And they no doubt expected me to smile and nod along approvingly, because who would ever be against “coexistence”?
These types of “coexistence” initiatives are part of a larger widespread phenomenon, and have been going on ever since 1993—and they’re not small-scale, either. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, “between 1993 and 2000 [alone], Western governments and foundations spent between $20 million and $25 million on the dialogue groups.”
When I was a high school student in the Palestinian city of Ramallah, one of the better known “people-to-people” initiatives, called Seeds of Peace, often visited my school and asked students to join their program. Almost every year, they would send a few of my Palestinian classmates to a summer camp in the US with a similar group of Israeli students.
The logic behind groups like Seeds of Peace is that the Israel-Palestine conflict is born out of mutual hatred and, therefore, you need some kind of face-to-face dialogue between both sides in order for them to recognize one another’s humanity and reconcile their differences. The stated purpose of such groups is to “build bridges” and “overcome barriers.”
So that’s quite a happy and rosy picture that they paint, and it’s why people I meet are always perplexed to hear that I think these types of initiatives can be highly damaging to truly understanding the Israel-Palestine conflict. I’d even go so far to say that these types of initiatives are, at worst, immoral.
The presumption that dialogue is needed in order to achieve peace completely ignores the historical context of the situation in Palestine. It assumes that both sides have committed, more or less, an equal amount of atrocities against one another, and are equally culpable for the wrongs that have been done. It’s assumed that not one side is either completely right or completely wrong, but that both sides have legitimate claims that should be addressed, and certain blind spots that must be overcome. Listening to both sides, therefore, would help in overcoming these blind spots.
This is the infamous “balanced” or “moderate” approach to this issue. However, the reality on the ground is vastly different than the “moderate” view of this so-called “conflict.” Even the word “conflict” is misleading, because it implies a dispute between two symmetric parties. The reality is not so; it is not a case of simple misunderstanding or mutual hatred which stands in the way of peace. The context of the situation in Israel/Palestine is a context of the colonizer and the colonized, the oppressor and the oppressed.
Let’s take an example: When black South Africans were fighting racial discrimination in apartheid South Africa, one wouldn’t have suggested that they calm down and try to understand the other point of view (i.e. the point of view of South African white supremacists). Or to take another example closer to home, in the U.S. if you had black civil rights activists in the '60s demanding equal rights, one wouldn’t have told them to stop being so one-sided and to consider the other side's point of view — because the other point of view was racist.
I’d like to close by saying that this doesn’t preclude joint Israeli-Palestinian cooperation initiatives when those initiatives are focused towards ending injustice and oppression. In fact, there are Israeli activists who stand alongside the Palestinians in solidarity. Those Israelis are our allies.
Whenever there’s a polarization on a given issue, there’s always this unhappy tendency to assume that the truth lies somewhere in the middle between both narratives. But in cases of oppression, it simply doesn’t.
I think that whenever we feel too reluctant to take a stand on this issue, we should keep in mind the words of Archbishop Desmond Tutu. He said that “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”
12. ISRAEL AND THE PALESTINIANS:
FAR MORE THAN MEETS THE EYE
[Following is the talk by Activist Newsletter editor Jack A. Smith, at the Nov. 10 Israel/Palestine meeting at SUNY New Paltz, including paragraphs omitted from original draft to keep within time limits.]
Good evening. I'm going to discuss some of the geostrategic aspects of the Middle East situation.
Israel's oppression of the Palestinian people is the most daunting international issue confronting the world today, but the facts of the matter are not particularly complex.
Israel is illegally occupying Palestinian land that it invaded 43 years ago. The UN says Israel must withdraw, but it won't. Israel is supposed to be fulfilling a commitment to help pave the way for an independent, sustainable Palestinian state, but isn't.
The Tel-Aviv government treats the 4.2 million Palestinians living in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem like colonial subjects to be manipulated, deprived and punished at will.
These problems are compounded by several related factors:
First and foremost — because it influences all else — the United States exercises political and military hegemony throughout the Middle East. The reason is that the region is the repository of the world's largest reserves of petroleum and considerable natural gas, primarily in the Arabian Peninsula and the littoral states of the Persian Gulf.
Washington has ceaselessly intervened in the Middle East since collaborating with Great Britain to overthrow Iran's democratic government in 1953 after it nationalized its oil fields. Since then, in country after country, the U.S. has helped regional authoritarian governments impede social progress, destroyed left movements, and prolonged to this day the existence of undemocratic regimes.
The U.S. is Israel's political, military and economic protector, and Israel functions as Washington's pro-Western, nuclear-armed military surrogate in the region, but there's a contradiction in this relationship.
America's drive for regional domination is increasingly compromised by Israel's long subjugation of the Palestinian people. It's a major cause of anti-Americanism among the Arab masses, and for the rise of al-Qaeda for that matter. Washington seeks the creation of a weak and subordinate Palestinian state, legally independent of Israel, that will no longer be a detriment to U.S. geostrategic ambitions.
President Obama had to know from the start that the current peace talks would fail. But his goal is at least to convey the impression to the Muslim world that the U.S. wishes to alleviate the Palestinian plight, even as it rides roughshod over Muslim Iraq, Afghanistan, western Pakistan and Yemen.
Other problems include the following:
• Near paralyzing differences exist on many issues between the main ruling parties in the Israeli political system, virtually halting any progress on the Palestinian crisis.
• A debilitating split separates the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) in the West Bank and the Hamas government in Gaza.
• Arab governments support the Palestinian cause, but most are now well within the U.S. sphere of influence, and are thus compromised.
These factors in combination impede a progressive resolution of the Israel-Palestine conflict. But the actions of two non-Arab Muslim countries — Sunni Turkey and Shi'ite Iran — may make a difference in future developments.
Israeli politics has moved increasingly to the right in recent decades. The ruling parties and coalitions are center right, right and far right — with the latter imbued with racism. There are no ruling leftist parties.
The current ruling coalition, led by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu of the right-wing Likud party, governs largely from the far right. This is due to the influence of smaller extreme right coalition partners and ultra-orthodox religionists, many of whom maintain that Palestinians have no right to any land within the alleged God-delineated boundaries of Biblical Israel.
The result is the government's refusal to withdraw from the occupied lands, and to continue building settlements in the Palestinian West Bank, East Jerusalem and Syria's Golan Heights — which now accommodate about a half million Jews. It is against international laws to which the U.S. subscribes for an occupying power to resettle the territory with its own citizens.
Netanyahu even refused to order a brief moratorium on new settlements for the duration of his direct talks with PNA President Mahmoud Abbas, who then ended the talks until another suspension is declared. Just last week the government announced it would build another 1,300 new apartments for Jews in East Jerusalem, several months after revealing plans for 1,600 apartments.
Abbas said last week that if Netanyahu persists, "there are alternatives to negotiations," including seeking UN Security Council recognition of an independent Palestinian state, bypassing Israel and the U.S. The Obama Administration made it clear to Abbas his suggestion was "not helpful."
To keep the talks going, President Obama offered generous inducements to Netanyahu to extend the freeze for two more months. [Update: When the Israeli leader rejected the offer, Washington offered a second and more lucrative bribe for a three-month moratorium on building settlements, excluding East Jerusalem. This included a gift of $3 billion worth of advanced fighter planes, a promise to veto any UN Security Council resolution on the Palestine question that Tel-Aviv opposed, and a pledge not to request another halt in settlement building. Such an inducement —an act of public self-humiliation by the timorous Obama Administration — is still being "considered" by Netanyahu, who seems to play President Obama like a fiddle.]
Israel's center-right Kadima party, out of power and now headed by Tzipi Livni, a former foreign minister, is willing to form a less reactionary Likud-Kadima government, which probably would be joined by the opportunist center-right Labor party, now part of the governing Likud coalition.
Livni says that such a coalition government would accept the U.S. proposal for a temporary suspension of settlement building. She told Netanyahu that his coalition's intransigence is damaging Israel's interests and security.
Netanyahu hasn't budged so far, though it would free him from the far right fanatics practically paralyzing Israeli politics. Despite his obliging rhetoric the prime minister agrees with the far right's desire to keep as much of the Palestinian territories as possible. He also does not want to lose the leadership of the right wing to his foreign minister and rival, Avigdor Lieberman, an anti-Arab bigot with neofascist tendencies.
The U.S. subsidizes and manipulates the quasi government of the Palestine National Authority which is composed of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) coalition led by Fatah, a much weakened and far less popular organization in recent years than the resistance-minded force it was during most of the years it was led by the late Yasser Arafat. A dozen Palestinian organizations — mostly left but including Islamic Hamas — have been critical of Abbas and the PNA's relationship with Washington. They criticized the talks as a sham.
Neither Washington nor Tel-Aviv recognize or speak to the Hamas government in Gaza, including to Ismail Haniyeh who became the PNA's Prime Minister after the January 2006 democratic election for the Legislative Council, which previously was led by Fatah.
The next year, as a consequence of a virtual civil war between Fatah and Hamas, President Abbas dismissed Haniyeh as Prime Minister. The Hamas leader contested the firing as illegal and continues to function as Prime Minister in Gaza only, legally backed by the Legislative Council. The new Prime Minister Abbas named functions as such in the West Bank only, and is recognized by Obama and Netanyahu though not by the Palestinian Legislative Council.
Israel and the U.S. demonize the democratically elected Hamas government in Gaza, but it cannot be forgotten that in earlier years Israel encouraged the growth of Islamic Hamas as an alternative to the secular and then-leftist Fatah. Much to Tel-Aviv's regret, given its earlier hopes, Hamas turned out to be as dedicated to the national struggle as Fatah and the PLO.
One of the counts against Hamas is that it refuses to recognize Israel, but Hamas has let it be known it is not inflexible when it comes making a balanced and sustainable deal. Fatah, with which the U.S. and Israel are dealing through the Palestinian Authority, does not recognize Israel, either.
In reality, whether or not a political party "recognizes" a state has no legal significance. Recognition is a state to state affair, not party to state. It's fairly certain that an eventual Palestinian state would exchange mutual recognitions with Israel.
The two Palestinian factions remain far apart, but recognize the need for tactical unity. Talks between both sides began in September, broke down but resumed and made progress on three disputed questions. A tough remaining issue concerns the control of Palestinian security forces, which Fatah refuses to share with Hamas.
All the Arab countries support the Palestinians rhetorically, and some do so materially. But some also fear the impact of an independent, progressive, secular Palestinian state on their own undemocratic, conservative regimes, and would prefer a weak, dependent Palestine, as does Washington.
Only two Arab states maintain diplomatic relations with Israel — Egypt and Jordan — but most other Arab governments are no longer antagonistic and are expected to resume normal relations after a Palestinian state is organized.
Egypt is the most powerful Arab state. The authoritarian Cairo regime of President Hosni Mubarak is in Uncle Sam's pocket, extracting an annual subsidy of $1.3 billion a year. Cairo despises Hamas because it is ideologically associated with the Muslim Brotherhood, Mubarak's principal internal enemy.
The monarchy of Jordan, with its large Palestinian population, is in Uncle Sam's other pocket (collecting $540 million a year) because the Hashemite Kingdom is insecure about a possibly progressive Arab republic at its doorstep.
Syria supports the Palestinians and maintains cordial relations with both Fatah and Hamas, but it can't stand up to Washington. And Lebanon has too often been an Israeli battlefield for it to invite Tel-Aviv's ire.
Saudi Arabia and the oil-rich Arab Gulf States give a nod and some money to the Palestinian cause but genuflect to Washington's global power. The rest of the Arab countries, including former radical states such as Libya, rally for Palestinians at Arab League meetings, but do little else.
This leaves the two wild cards in the region — Turkey and Iran — both capable of complicating the U.S.-Israeli domination game in the Middle East.
Turkey, long a West-leaning NATO member and close ally of Israel and the United States, began seeking closer ties with some Arab nations a few years ago. Evidently the Ankara government has decided that circumstances dictate it is time for Turkey to assume the role of an influential Middle Eastern power, independent of Washington and Tel-Aviv.
In 2009 Prime Minister Erdogan condemned Israel's invasion of Gaza with a ferocity that made its old allies blanch. Earlier this year Turkey and Brazil unexpectedly announced they had obtained a nuclear fuel swap agreement with Iran, obviating additional U.S.-UN sanctions — an initiative Washington rejected. And then a few months ago Israeli commandoes interdicted the Gaza Freedom Flotilla, killing nine unarmed Turkish civilians. This provoked an extremely harsh outcry from the Turkish government and people.
Turkey retains diplomatic, economic and other relations with the U.S. and Israel, but its independent involvement in regional affairs, anger at Israel's treatment of the Palestinians, friendship with Iran and Syria, and willingness to confront both its old allies has generated deep suspicions in Washington and Tel-Aviv.
There have been suggestions Turkey is going to adopt the posture of a radical Islamic state, but this is incorrect. While it is true Turkey's strict secularity since its defeat in World War I has weakened in recent years, its secular tradition remains strong.
Iran has long been in U.S.-Israeli bomb sights. President Bush was planning regime change in Tehran until Iraq blew up in his face. Both Presidents Obama and Netanyahu preposterously charge that the Islamic republic seeks to construct nuclear weapons with which to threaten Israel and other countries.
Iran is surrounded by U.S.-Israeli military power, and is being strangled with sanctions. An honest appraisal shows that Tehran's military strategy is defensive, as President Obama — who retains an interest in regime change — is well aware.
Tehran is no military threat, much less the "existential" threat Tel-Aviv claims. Israel's only existential threat is if the U.S. withdraws political/military support and halts its annual $3 billion military subsidy and billions in other favors.
Israel's antagonism toward Iran is unrelated to a potential Iranian attack. It opposes Tehran because it is one of the very few governments that actively support and help finance Palestinian resistance, and because it backs the Hezbollah resistance movement in Lebanon.
America's antagonism is not based on fears of Iranian aggression or nuclear threats. Iran possesses immense oil deposits. The U.S. seeks to control the oil or at least grab priority rights before global oil shortages commence. Washington also regards the Tehran government's public opposition to U.S. imperialism as an obstacle to its long range geopolitical strategy. And if Iran ever teamed up with Turkey, Syria and even Shi'ite Iraq, that would be a game changer. These are the reasons for U.S.-Israeli threats against Iran.
The Middle East often looks static, with American power ruling the region, especially where the Palestinians are concerned. But that's deceptive. No one knows what is going to transpire in the next years. There are many possibilities for change germinating throughout the Middle East, especially as other world nations rise while the U.S. continues to engage in an historic decline.
13. THE ENTRAPMENT OF THE NEWBURGH FOUR
By Nathan Rosenblum, Activist Newsletter
The recent conviction of the Newburgh Four on charges of plotting to blow up military aircraft and bomb synagogues is significant on a number of levels. It apparently affirms the legality of government entrapment and does not consider the actual inability to carry out an incident to be a mitigating factor.
These legal developments raise the possibility of similar convictions occurring in the future under similar circumstances. They therefore require some analysis, particularly in light of increased levels of surveillance and anti-Muslim bigotry in the United States in recent months.
The four men, all residents of the somewhat down and out Hudson River Valley city of Newburgh, are James Cromitie (44), David Williams IV (29), Onta Williams (34), and Laguerre Payen (29). All are poor, African American, and Muslim.
Each has been convicted of petty crimes in the past, although never for a violent offence. None of them own a computer, a car, or have a driver’s license. Payen, a native of Haiti, is a crack addict, certified as a paranoid schizophrenic, and has frequently lived on the street. According to family members, the men care for ill relatives and do not speak a great deal about their faith.
The four were convicted of 30 out of 32 charges by a federal court jury in New York City Oct. 18. They are due for sentencing next March and could receive life sentences for being lured into a crazy FBI charade by promises of having a little cash in their pockets for once. The defense plans to appeal.
The conviction relied on the testimony of one man — Shahed Hussain (codename Malik), age 53, a Pakistani immigrant. He has been working for the FBI since 2002 when he agreed to become an infiltrator to avoid deportation on a fraud charge. A defense lawyer characterized Hussain as a “treacherous, clever, completely ingenious dissembler.” Earlier he was the main witness in the 2003-2004 entrapment case of the Albany Two.
Hussain is reported to have promised each of the Newburg Four $5,000 and once mentioned a sum as high as $250,000 In addition, the men were promised cars, marijuana and vacations for cooperating. The FBI informant even purchased groceries for Cromitie, who was identified by the prosecution as the group's ringleader.
At one point, when Cromitie stopped communicating with Hussain for a month, the informant told him his life was endangered, then made the $250,000 offer. Cromitie then agreed to proceed with the plan. David Williams was promised enough money to pay for a liver transplant for his brother (not fellow defendant Onta Williams).
Defense lawyers maintain that Hussain planned all of the logistics. Under FBI guidance he selected the targets, supplied maps and displayed a dummy Stinger missile for the four. He gave Cromitie a camera to take pictures of possible targets — which the "ringleader" promptly sold the next day for $60, without out taking pictures.
A recently released report indicated that security at Stewart Air National Guard Base was told not to worry about one of the four, who had been seen in the vicinity, because it was unlikely he would do anything untoward without the FBI paid informant being present.
The public response to the conviction is significant. The case has attracted international media coverage, particularly in the Middle East. Conservative American groups, including such Jewish organizations such as the Anti-Defamation League, Wiesenthal Center and numerous others, have applauded the convictions of four Muslim "terrorists."
A coalition including some Muslim, left, peace and social justice groups has been formed to oppose the conviction. One prominent figure playing an important role in the opposition is Alicia McWilliams, the aunt of David Williams. According to her, the entrapment of her nephew and the other three men is indicative of major problems and corruption in the Department of Justice and the FBI. She states, “Obama needs to clean up the Justice Department.”
A rally of about 30 people was held in Newburgh Oct. 22 to protest the conviction. According to Orange County resident Bennett Weiss, one of the organizers, "The real terrorism in this case is the government's entrapment of these four men."
14. DRAWING THE LINE ON TAX BREAKS
[Editor's Note: The election defeat of Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wisconsin) means one of the last progressives is leaving the U.S. Senate. Hardly any senators remain who are willing to fight for the people. The foremost among them — and perhaps the only real progressive left when the Senate reconvenes in January — is Vermont's Bernie Sanders, an Independent who caucuses with the Democrats. This article, which Sanders wrote Nov. 19, provides a measure of the man.]
By Sen. Bernie Sanders
The billionaires are on the warpath. They want more, more, more. The top 1% now controls more wealth than the bottom 90% combined. Not enough!
In 2007, the top 1% of U.S. income earners made 23.5% of all income — more than the bottom 50% combined. Not enough! The share of income going to the top 1% has nearly tripled since the mid-1970s. Not enough! Eighty percent of all new income earned from 1980 to 2005 has gone to the top 1%. Not enough!
Wall Street executives, with their obscene compensation packages, now earn more than they did before we bailed them out. Not enough! With the middle class collapsing and the rich getting richer, the United States now has by far the most unequal distribution of income and wealth of any major country on earth. Not enough!
The very rich want more, more, more, and they are prepared to dismantle the existing political and social order to get it. During the midterm campaign, as a result of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, billionaires were able to pour hundreds of millions of dollars of secret money into the campaign — helping to elect dozens of members of Congress.
Now, having made their investment, they want their congressional employees to produce. Republicans in Congress, needless to say, are all on board. The issue is whether a Democratic president and Senate will go along to get along. Or will they draw a clear line at protecting the interests of the middle class and other, more vulnerable populations while tackling our economic and budgetary problems in earnest?
Despite Republicans’ loud rhetoric about the “deficit crisis,” the GOP now wants to add $700 billion to the national debt over the next 10 years — by extending the Bush tax breaks for the top 2% of earners. Families who earn $1 million a year or more would receive, on average, a tax break of $100,000 a year.
Republicans also want to eliminate or significantly reduce the estate tax, which has existed since 1916. Its elimination would add, over 10 years, about $1 trillion to our national debt.
All benefits would go to the top 0.3%. More than 99.7% of families would not gain a nickel. But Wal-Mart's Walton family would receive an estimated tax break of more than $30 billion if the estate tax were repealed.
That’s just the start. The billionaires and their supporters in Congress are hell-bent on taking us back to the 1920s, eliminating all traces of social legislation designed to protect working families, the elderly, children and the disabled. No “social contract” for them. They want it all.
They want to privatize or dismantle Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid and let the elderly, the sick and the poor fend for themselves.
They want to expand our disastrous trade policies so corporations can continue throwing U.S. workers out on the street as they outsource jobs to China and other countries known for low wages. Some want to eliminate the minimum wage so American workers can have the “freedom” to work for $3 an hour.
They want to eliminate or slash the Department of Education, making it harder for working class kids to get a decent education, child care or the help they need to go to college.
They want to rescind the modest financial reform bill so Wall Street executives can engage in all the reckless behavior that has been so devastating to our economy.
They want to curtail the powers of the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy so ExxonMobil can remain the most profitable corporation in history and oil and coal companies can continue to pollute our air and water.
They want to make sure billionaire hedge-fund managers have a lower federal tax rate than middle-class teachers, nurses, firefighters and police officers by maintaining a loophole in the tax code known as “carried interest.”
We know what billionaires and their Republican supporters want. They’ve been upfront about it.
But what about Democrats? Will President Barack Obama continue to reach out and compromise with people who have made it abundantly clear that the only agreement they want is unconditional surrender? Or will he use the powerful skills we saw in his 2008 presidential campaign and bring working families, young people, the elderly and the poor together to fight these attacks on their well-being?
Will Senate Democrats continue to pass tepid legislation, or will they use their majority status to protect the interests of ordinary Americans and — for a change — put Republicans on the defensive?
While it’s true billionaires and their supporters are “fired up and ready to go,” there’s another, more important truth: There are a lot more of us than there are of them. Now is the time for us to stand together, educate and organize. Now is the time to roll back this orgy of greed.
15. HIDING FROM REALITY
[Editor's Note: Have you noticed that several better known liberal newspaper columnists are saying some things these days that only writers to their left articulated not too long ago? New York Times columnist Bob Herbert may not go as far as some of the more radical writers, but his depictions of the social and political contradictions afflicting the U.S. reach an audience of many millions. His Nov. 19 column is a good case in point. It follows.]
By Bob Herbert
However you want to define the American dream, there is not much of it that’s left anymore.
Wherever you choose to look — at the economy and jobs, the public schools, the budget deficits, the nonstop warfare overseas — you’ll see a country in sad shape. Standards of living are declining, and American parents increasingly believe that their children will inherit a very bad deal.
We’re in denial about the extent of the rot in the system, and the effort that would be required to turn things around. It will likely take many years, perhaps a decade or more, to get employment back to a level at which one could fairly say the economy is thriving.
Consider this startling information from the Pew Hispanic Center: in the year following the official end of the Great Recession in June 2009, foreign-born workers in the U.S. gained 656,000 jobs while native-born workers lost 1.2 million. But even as the hiring of immigrants picked up during that period, those same workers “experienced a sharp decline in earnings.”
What this shows is not that we should discriminate against foreign-born workers, but that the U.S. needs to develop a full-employment economy that provides jobs for all who want to work at pay that enables the workers and their families to enjoy a decent standard of living. In other words, a resurrection of the American dream.
Right now, nothing close to that is happening.
The human suffering in the years required to recover from the recession will continue to be immense. And that suffering will only be made worse if the nation embarks on a misguided crash program of deficit reduction that in the short term will undermine any recovery, and in the long term will make true deficit reduction that much harder to achieve.
The wreckage from the recession and the nation’s mindlessly destructive policies in the years leading up to the recession is all around us. We still don’t have the money to pay for the wars that we insist on fighting year after year. We have neither the will nor the common sense to either raise taxes to pay for the wars, or stop fighting them.
State and local governments, faced with fiscal nightmares, are reducing services, cutting their work forces, hacking away at health and pension benefits, and raising taxes and fees. So far it hasn’t been enough, so there is more carnage to come. In many cases, the austerity measures are punishing some of the most vulnerable people, including children, the sick and the disabled.
For all the talk about the need to improve the public schools and get rid of incompetent teachers, school systems around the country are being hammered with dreadful cutbacks and teachers are being let go in droves, not because they are incompetent, but strictly for budget reasons. There was a time when the United States understood the importance of educating its young people and led the way in compulsory public schooling. It also built the finest higher education system in the world. Now, although no one will admit it publicly, we’ve decided to go in another direction.
In New York City, for example, Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s choice to run the public school system is Cathleen Black, a wealthy corporate executive with no background in education whose children attended expensive private schools. Mr. Bloomberg has asserted that Ms. Black’s management expertise will be a boon to the city’s public school children. But the truth is that Ms. Black, if she gets a necessary waiver for her new job, will be presiding over budget cuts that can only hurt the schools. As part of a proposed austerity budget, the mayor is planning to eliminate the jobs of thousands of public school teachers over the next two years. Take that, kids.
We’ve become a hapless, can’t-do society, and it’s, frankly, embarrassing. Public figures talk endlessly about “transformative changes” in public education, but the years go by and we see no such thing. Politicians across the spectrum insist that they are all about job creation while the employment situation in the real world remains beyond pathetic.
All we are good at is bulldozing money to the very wealthy. No wonder the country is in such a deep slide.
We don’t even seem to realize how deep a hole we’re in. If student test scores jumped a couple of points or the jobless rate fell by a point and half, the politicians and the news media would crow as if something great had been achieved. That’s how people behave when they’re in denial.
America will never get its act together until we recognize how much trouble we’re really in, and how much effort and shared sacrifice is needed to stop the decline. Only then will we be able to begin resuscitating the dream.
16. DOMESTIC NEWS BRIEFS
By the Activist Newsletter
•• EPA SUBPOENAS FRACKING SECRETS — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has issued a subpoena to Halliburton, requiring information about the chemicals used by the energy and engineering company to fracture shale rocks, releasing the natural gas they contain. Halliburton had failed to voluntarily meet EPA's requests for information needed for a congressionally mandated hydraulic fracturing study to investigate the potential adverse impacts of the practice on drinking water and public health. EPA's Office of Research and Development will conduct the scientific study to examine the possible relationships between hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, and drinking water quality. Halliburton has been given until December 1 to submit the requested information. (Environment News Service, Nov. 11.)
•• HEALTHCARE LAW CONSUMER RISK — Washington: When Congress passed the health care law, it envisioned doctors and hospitals joining forces, coordinating care and holding down costs, with the prospect of earning government bonuses for controlling costs.
Now, eight months into the new law there is a growing frenzy of mergers involving hospitals, clinics and doctor groups eager to share costs and savings, and cash in on the incentives. They, in turn, have deployed a small army of lawyers and lobbyists trying to persuade the Obama administration to relax or waive a body of older laws intended to thwart health care monopolies, and to protect against shoddy care and fraudulent billing of patients or Medicare. Consumer advocates fear that the health care law could worsen some of the very problems it was meant to solve — by reducing competition, driving up costs and creating incentives for doctors and hospitals to stint on care, in order to retain their cost-saving bonuses. (New York Times, Nov. 21, full article: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/21/health/policy/21health.html?_r=1&ref=todayspaper&pagewanted=print)
•• $86M TO DEFEAT HEALTHCARE REFORM — Newly disclosed figures show the nation’s largest health insurance corporations funneled some $86.2 million to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to oppose healthcare reform last year. Companies including United Health and CIGNA provided the money through their main lobbying group, America’s Health Insurance Plans. The spending exceeded the group’s entire budget from the year before and accounted for 40% of the Chamber’s 2009 budget. The money was used to fund ads, polling and public events to stir opposition to the healthcare overhaul. An anonymous source confirmed to Bloomberg News that "the money came from insurers because federal tax laws don’t require identification of donors. " (Democracy Now, Nov. 19.)
•• TAX AND SPEND, FOR THE PEOPLE — The average American working family is well aware of the astronomical cost of childcare, but may not know other countries have it much better. U.S. public funding on formal child care for children below the age of three lags far behind most of the developed world, according to the Economic Policy Institute survey of government spending in 14 developed nations.
Comparisons between the United States and 13 other developed nations were made using purchasing power parity. Annual funding of $794 per child in the United States compares with amounts more than twice as large in Australia and Belgium. Several other countries, from Japan, to the U.K. and Denmark spend more than three times as much on child care. The top five: Denmark is the most generous nation — spending $8,126 annually on childcare below three years. Norway is second with $6,425, Sweden $6,409, United Kingdom $3,563, France $2,858. Yes, these countries pay higher taxes but their services for the people are so much better than the support provided by the richest country in the world. (Activist Newsletter.)
•• JOB LOSS TAKES TOLL ON HEALTH AND LIFE — The stress of joblessness — and the loss of health insurance that often accompanies it — can increase the risk of serious health problems, researchers say. Healthy workers are 83% more likely to report health problems if they join the ranks of the unemployed, according to a study by Dr. Kate Strully, an assistant professor at the State University of New York at Albany.
Some of the major reasons that job loss is causing disease, Strully said Nov. 5, are the loss of a main income source and employer-sponsored health insurance — and earnings reductions that can last 15 to 20 years even if the worker is hired again. "All of these things can negatively affect people's health habits, like exercise and diet," she said. "It's more difficult to prevent health conditions and manage pre-existing ones without health insurance. We know from loads of evidence that bad jobs are bad for you, or at least associated with bad health." The stress associated with losing a job can affect immune functions, the ability to fight infection, heightened inflammatory responses associated with cardiovascular disease, and slowed metabolism and associated risks like diabetes, Strully said. (CNN, Nov. 10.)
•• BUSH'S SMOKING GUN — Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) said Nov. 10 that President George W. Bush's recent admission that he approved the waterboarding of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was "a smoking gun" and renewed his call for Attorney General Eric Holder to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate torture. But Nadler, the current chair of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, doesn't expect Holder to act. "Judging by the record of this Attorney General, he will not pay attention, he will not respond," Nadler said in an interview on MSNBC on Wednesday." The human rights group Amnesty International is calling on the Obama administration to prosecute Bush following his admission. "Under international law, anyone involved in torture must be brought to justice," Amnesty said. Last week, the new UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Juan Ernesto Méndez said, "The United States has a duty to investigate every act of torture. Unfortunately, we haven’t seen much in the way of accountability." (TPM, Nov. 11, and other sources.)
17. INTERNATIONAL NEWS BRIEFS
By the Activist Newsletter
•• MOROCCO ATTACKS WEST SAHARA PROTEST — Moroccan security forces last week raided an impromptu camp in Western Sahara where some 20,000 Sahrawis had been staging a massive protest against the Moroccan occupation. (Sahrawis is an Arabic term meaning from the desert.) The Moroccan forces used water cannons, tear gas, batons, and fired rubber bullets to break up the protest camp. Dozens of protesters were wounded. Morocco has announced it will establish a military trial for over 100 Sahrawi activists who participated in the organization of the camp.
The raid ended what had been described as the biggest protest in Western Sahara since colonial Spain withdrew from the Northwest African territory — which adjoining Morocco then annexed — 35 years ago. The people of the territory have conducted a long struggle for independence led by the Polisario Front. After the attack, thousands of demonstrators took to the streets of Madrid, the Spanish capital, to protest the crackdown. They burnt Moroccan flags and chanted "Free Sahara now," demanding Morocco quit the Western Sahara. Among those demonstrating were trade unionists, European lawmakers, and civil rights, left and solidarity organizations. On Nov. 16 the UN Security Council refused a request by Polisario to investigate the incident. (From various sources.)
•• CHINA VOWS TO FIGHT CLIMATE CHANGE: The Chinese government will "positively explore" new ways for low-carbon development in order to effectively control greenhouse gas emissions and contribute to the global sustainable development, according to a statement released Nov. 19 after a meeting of the Chinese national leadership team on combating climate change led by Premier Wen Jiabao. They reported China will strive to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and energy consumption per unit of GDP, to boost energy efficiency, promote low-carbon technology, and establish carbon trade markets.
The Beijing government has promised to cut its carbon intensity by 40-45% within 10 years compared to 2005 levels. On Nov. 10, Vice Premier Li Keqiang said China will firmly embrace green and low-carbon development ideals and step up efforts in saving resources and protecting the ecological environment. (Xinhua news agency.)
•• EXPANDED U.S. WAR ROLE IN YEMEN: New details have been revealed on the Obama Administration’s expansion of military operations to hunt al-Qaeda operatives in Yemen. According to the Wall Street Journal, the United States is considering proposals to establish Yemeni military bases in remote areas backed by U.S. Special Operations Forces. The White House is also discussing plans to place control of Special Operations teams hunting for al-Qaeda members under control of the Central Intelligence Agency. (Democracy Now, Nov. 16.)
•• VENEZUELAN WORKERS MARCH FOR MORE RIGHTS — Thousands of Venezuelan workers took to the streets of Caracas Nov. 9, demanding greater participation in their country’s nascent socialist economy. Carrying banners that read, “Neither Capital nor Bureaucrats — More Socialism and More Revolution,” thousands of workers, union representatives, members of leftist political parties and other popular organizations took their demands to the Ministry of Communes and Social Protection, the National Assembly and the offices of the Vice Presidency.
Venezuela’s National Workers’ Union (UNETE), the organizers of the demonstration, called for the immediate passing of a new and radical labor law, the resolution of pending collective labor contracts, and the empowerment of workers within their unions, especially at worksites that now belong to the network of recently nationalized industries.
As a result of recent nationalizations by the government of President Hugo Chávez and ongoing grassroots efforts by radical workers and their political parties, many of the workers at the march demanded the Bolivarian Revolution go beyond the simple passing of a new labor law. Instead, many called for a transition from what they called a “socialism in theory and in discourse” to a socialism in practice. (By Venezuela Analysis Nov. 11.)
•• BOLIVIA'S ARMY DECLARES ITSELF SOCIALIST — La Paz: Bolivia’s army, with the support of President Evo Morales, declared itself “socialist, anti-imperialist and anti-capitalist.” Army chief Gen. Antonio Cueto said Nov. 14 at ceremonies marking the 200th anniversary of Bolivia's army: "We declare ourselves to be anti-imperialist, because in Bolivia no external power should ever impose its will on us.... We must act with sovereignty and live in dignity. We also declare ourselves anti-capitalist because that system is destroying Mother Earth.” Cueto noted that the constitution adopted last year “clears the way for the army to develop as a socialist, communal institution.” (EFE Spanish news agency and Bolivia Rising, Nov. 17.)
•• ARAB WORLD VULNERABLE TO CLIMATE CHANGE — BEIRUT: Dust storms scour Iraq. Freak floods wreak havoc in Saudi Arabia and Yemen. Rising sea levels erode Egypt's coast. Hotter, drier weather worsens water scarcity in the Middle East, the world's most water-short region. The Arab world is already suffering impacts consistent with climate change predictions. Although scientists are wary of linking specific events to global warming, they are urging Arab governments to act now to protect against potential disasters. While the region as a whole has contributed relatively little to historic greenhouse gas emissions, it is among the most vulnerable to climate change, and emissions are surging. There are huge variations in per capita greenhouse gas emissions across the region with very high rates for several oil and gas producers. (Reuters, Nov. 14, 2010.)