Wednesday, February 23, 2011

2-23-11 Activist Calendar

Feb. 23, 2011, Issue #658
Send event announcements to
Dedicated to Helping Build  Activist
Movements  in  the  Hudson  Valley

[Editor's Note:
1. Rallies in support of the Wisconsin public workers are going on all over the country this week and probably next. We counted about 40 of them and that's probably just a small part. This fightback is amazing and a hopeful sign for the future. There are three events tomorrow in the Hudson Valley that we know of, and an Albany action Saturday. Some progressive groups, such as People for the American Way, have just called for protests in every state capital for Saturday, Feb. 26. The AFL-CIO is circulating a petition of solidarity with the Wisconsin workers. It is at]

2. We invite you to attend our March 15 public meeting sponsored by the Hudson Valley Activist Newsletter/Calendar. It's on the anniversary of the Iraq war and concerns Washington's ongoing wars in the Middle East/Central Asia and the impact of uprisings and revolutions taking place in the Arab world. The topic is "What Next for the Middle East — Peace or War, Democracy or Dictatorship?" So come and meet us at SUNY New Paltz Lecture Center 102. Information, map and directions below.
Thursday, Feb. 24, SARATOGA SPRINGS: Demonstrators will gather at 12 noon outside the offices of Republican Rep. Gibson, 513 Broadway, to protest "the extreme proposed cuts to social programs in health care, education and science, and in solidarity with Wisconsin public workers, who are being scapegoated for budget deficits caused by corporate welfare and giveaways to the rich." The nationwide action is sponsored by local supporters of MoveOn. Information, (518) 505-0309,

Thursday, Feb. 24, ALBANY: Demonstrators will gather at 12 noon outside the offices of Rep. Tonko's office, North Pearl and Columbia Sts., at 12 noon to thank the Democratic lawmaker for voting against the Republican budget cuts. They also call for investments in creating jobs, and stand in solidarity with the Wisconsin public workers. The nationwide action is sponsored by local supporters of MoveOn. Information, (518) 436-8638,

Thursday, Feb. 24, KINGSTON: Demonstrators will gather at 12 noon outside the offices of Rep. Maurice Hinchey, 291 Wall Street, to thank him for opposing  the draconian Republican budget cuts and to stand in solidarity with Wisconsin public workers. This rally is being organized by the Ulster County MoveOn Council. Information,

Thursday, Feb. 24, NEW YORK CITY: A labor rally in support of Wisconsin public workers takes place City Hall in Manhattan 12 Noon to 2 p.m. Information, (212) 815-1375.

Thursday, Feb. 24, KINGSTON: Famed civil liberties attorney Martin Stolar will address the Ulster County Bar Association dinner and music event at  Savona’s Trattoria, 11 Broadway. The event is open to the public. The cabaret jazz group of Nancy Tierney and The Boys will perform from 5:30-7 p.m., followed by Stolar. The cost, including dinner, is $25 per person plus tax and gratuity. Stolar is a long-time fighter for progressive causes and people's rights who served many years as the president of the New York City chapter of the National Lawyers Guild. "As a criminal defense attorney," we're informed, he "has represented hundreds of demonstrators, including Black Panthers, civil rights activists, anti-Vietnam war protesters, Young Lords, welfare mothers, student activists, Diallo protesters, anti-Iraq war demonstrators, WEF demonstrators and protesters against the bombing of Vieques in Puerto Rico, and more recently, demonstrators at the Republican National Convention." If you wish to attend, RSVP to the law office of Eric Schneider, (845) 339-6733, or

Friday, Feb. 25, RHINEBECK: Mid-Hudson peace activist Jay Wenk will read his WWII infantry memoir, "Study War No More: A Jewish Kid from Brooklyn Fights the Nazis," 7:30-9 p.m. at Oblong Books, 6422 Montgomery St. Information, (845) 679-6970,,

Friday, Feb. 25, MILLBROOK: The Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies will be screening the documentary "Food, Inc." at 7 p.m. (doors open at 6:30) at their auditorium, 2801 Sharon Turnpike (Rt. 44). The film explores the environmental, health, and economic problems caused by factory farms. Free and public. Information, (845) 677-7600, ext. 121,

Saturday, Feb. 26, ALBANY: The Capital District Area Labor Federation and MoveOn are calling for a demonstration  to support Wisconsin public workers at the State Capitol at 12 noon. In
formation, Kathleen Scales, (518) 452-0404,

Saturday, Feb. 26, POUGHKEEPSIE
: The Real Majority Project is sponsoring a vigil with signs in front of the Bank of America, 11 Raymond Ave., 10:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. We're told, "the bank got $45 billion from the federal bailout — while funneling its tax dollars into 115 offshore tax havens — while we in the middle class and the poor pay for it all with property tax hikes  and less funding for crucial services." Information, or (845) 444-0599.

Saturday, Feb. 26, CATSKILL: A launch party for the new local community radio station WGXC will be held at the Catskill Community Center, 344 Main St., 2-6 p.m. The station, 90.7 FM, will serve Columbia and Green Counties with a 3300 watt transmitter, and non-commercial community-oriented programming. Information, (518) 828-0290,,

Sunday, Feb. 27, MILLBROOK: The Cary Institute will conduct its 2011 free public Winter Ecology Walk at 2 p.m. Meet at 2801 Sharon Tpk. (Rt. 44) and have an interpretive stroll along the snow covered trails, discovering the signs of life in Winter. RSVP required.  Please specify adult or family walk at (845) 677-7600, ext. 121, or

Monday, Feb. 28, WHITE PLAINS: Peace activist and retired long time CIA officer Ray McGovern will be speaking 7-9 p.m. at the Mapleton Conference Center, 52 North Broadway, sponsored by WESPAC. His topic is "Crunch Time in the Middle East." McGovern is a very informed speaker with occasional flashes of warm humor. For his background, Information,

Tuesday March 1, SAUGERTIES: "Gasland," the documentary that exposed fracking, will be screened free at the public library, 4 High St., at 7 p.m.

Tuesday, March 1, ROSENDALE: The new documentary, "Gerrymandering," will be screened at the Rosendale Theater, 408 Main St. at 7 p.m.  A dinner at the Rosendale Cafe, 343 Main St., will precede the film at 5 p.m. The documentary outlines the practice, without public scrutiny, of dividing a geographical area into voting districts to give unfair advantage to one party. The movie is free, dinner is "Dutch treat" (even split of the bill).  Sponsored by League of Women Voters of the Mid-Hudson Region. Information, (845) 658-9048,,

Thursday, March 3, ROCK TAVERN: The Hudson Valley Area Labor Federation and Teamster Local 445 are calling for an event to support Wisconsin public workers at 4:30 p.m. at 15 Stone Castle Rd. Information, (845) 567-7760,

Thursday, March 3, WOODSTOCK: A fundraiser titled, "Two Peoples, One Future — If not Now, When?" will be held at the Community Center, 56 Rock City Rd., 7-9 p.m.  The captain and passengers of the "Jewish boat to Gaza" that was interdicted last year will be present and discuss their experiences. Free and public, donations requested.  Sponsored by Middle East Crisis Response, and U.S. Boat to Gaza. Information, (845) 679-3299,,

Thursday, March 3, ANNANDALE-ON-HUDSON (Bard Campus): Eric Keeling will lecture on "Carbon and Climate: An Essential Focus of Environmental Literacy," at Reem-Kayden Center, Laszlo Z. Bito '60 Auditorium at 12 noon. Sponsored by Bard Biology Department. Information, (845) 752-2332, Campus map:

Thursday, March 3, DELMAR: A public panel discussion entitled, "Revolution in Egypt" will be held at Bethlehem Public Library, 451 Delaware Ave., 6:45-8:45 p.m. Panelists include Mai El Bibary, Joe Lombardo and Steve Breyman. Sponsored by Bethlehem Neighbors for Peace.  Information, (518) 466-1192,,

Friday, March 4, ALBANY: Community members and elected officials will be staying at least one hour in the park to raise money to house homeless people and to help the Homeless Action Committee's "Outreach Van." Funds are raised by participants obtaining sponsors for their time in the park. For pledge sheets or to donate, contact the organizer or visit the web site. The event will last from Friday at 7 p.m., through to 5 a.m. the next morning (Saturday the 5th)." Sponsored by Homeless Action Committee, seeking to "end homelessness in Albany by focusing on its root causes, and providing services to people who are homeless. Information,, 518 426-0554,

Saturday, March 5, HUDSON: Join the "Gathering for Peace, Justice and a Reverence for Life" at 7th St. Park, 7th and Warren Sts., 2-3:30 p.m. From the organizers: "We gather in vigil for all victims around the world and engage in dialogue around Peace and Justice issues. As people struggle to improve their lives, freedom will overcome oppression." This group has been meeting each Saturday after 9/11/2001.  Information, (518) 929-1726,

Saturday, March 5, STONY POINT
: The Community of Living Traditions at Stony Point Center presents a workshop with an award-winning journalist from Gaza. He is Mohammed Omer, a witness to revolution in Egypt and the struggle for freedom in Gaza. Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb is coordinating this event. Omer grew up under occupation and promotes and teaches nonviolent activism for social change. The event takes place 11 a.m.-4 p.m. at The Allison House, 142 West Main St. The cost of $35 ($25 for students) for the day includes lunch. RSVP to Karen at (845) 786-5674, ext. 107, or Information, Rabbi Gottlieb,

Sunday, March 6, NEW PALTZ: Author Marina Sitrin, a visiting professor at SUNY Old Westbury, will deliver a talk on Argentina at a 6 p.m. public meeting at New Paltz Village Hall, 25 Plattekill Ave., a block south of Main St. (Rt. 299). She will discuss the 2001 popular rebellion that sparked a process of revolutionary creativity that continues to this day. Sitrin, who is also a lawyer, has lived in Argentina documenting various social and political movements, and has written two books about her studies: "Horizontalism: Voices of Popular Power in Argentina (2006), and "Revolutions of Everyday Life: Horizontalism & Autonomy in Argentina," to be published next year. The free event sponsored by the Caribbean and Latin America Support Project (CLASP) begins after an optional potluck starting at 5 p.m. Information, (845) 255-0113.

Monday, March 7, NEW PALTZ: The local Pax Christi Chapter meets from 7-9 p.m. at St. Joseph's Church, 34 S. Chestnut St. Join inter-religious dialogue focusing on human rights, woman's issues, and immigration. Sponsored by Pax Christi of the Hudson Valley. Information, (845) 691-8015,

Monday, March 7, POUGHKEEPSIE: Help form strategy for antiwar and anti-recruitment activities at the meeting of Dutchess Peace, to be held at Unitarian Fellowship, 67 S. Randolph Ave. Information, (845) 876-7906,

Monday, March 7, OLD CHATHAM: The film, "The 800 Mile Wall" will be screened at the Powell House Quaker Conference and Retreat Center, 524 Pitt Hall Rd. (off County Rt. 13) at 7 p.m. The film highlights the construction of a separation wall dividing the U.S./Mexico border, Washington's failed border strategy, and possible alternatives. Free and public, refreshments. Information, (518) 766-2992,

Tuesday, March 8, NEW YORK CITY (Hunter College Campus): This year marks the 100th anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire — "The Fire that Ignited a Movement of Women Workers." The death of 146 garment workers, many of them still in their teens, highlighted the plight of immigrant women. The devastating blaze exposed employer disregard for worker safety. A 5:30-7:30 p.m. discussion of the event will be held at Hunter West Bldg., 1st floor lobby, Lexington Ave. and 68th St. (southwest corner). Speakers include Hasia Diner, NYU Professor of American Jewish History; May Y. Chen, unionist and CCNY Adjunct Professor; Priscilla Gonzalez, director of Domestic Workers United; and Kate Kelly, author and historian. Sponsored by Woman's eNews and  the Hunter Women and Gender Studies program. Information,, (212) 244-1720,

Thursday, March 10, WOODSTOCK: The Middle East Crisis Response group of Hudson Valley residents opposed to Israeli and U.S. policies toward the Palestinians meets on the second and fourth Thursdays of the month 7-8:30 p.m. at the Library, 5 Library Lane, just off Tinker St. All welcome. Information, (845) 876-7906,,

Monday, March 14, ALBANY: The faith-based New Sanctuary Movement group gathers on the 2nd Monday of each month in support of local immigrants who are at risk of deportation, and generally assisting families affected by immigration laws. Forms of assistance include distributing groceries, visiting the incarcerated, accompanying immigrants to court, and seeking fair treatment from employers and landlords, among other tasks. From the organizers: "We are people of faith and labor folks who are grateful for the contributions of immigrants." The location is Emmaus House, 45 Trinity Place. Sponsored by New Sanctuary Movement and Albany Catholic Worker. Information, (518) 482-4966,,

Tuesday, March 15, NEW PALTZ (SUNY Campus): A regional public meeting will be held 6:30-8:30 p.m. to discuss Washington ongoing wars in the Middle East/Central Asia and the impact of uprisings and revolutions taking place in the Arab world. Several speakers will address the topic, "What next for the Middle East — Peace or War, Democracy or Dictatorship?" The organizers are the Activist Newsletter/Calendar and Peace and Social Progress Now. This free public meeting, which coincides with demonstrations during the week marking the eighth anniversary of the Iraq war, will be located in the Lecture Center on campus, Room 102. For information or if you wish to volunteer (leafleting, postering, other tasks) or if your organization wishes to become one of the endorsers of this important gathering, contact us at For a campus map and directions,,

Tuesday, March 15, ALBANY: The Capital District Transition Network meets at Albany Public Library, 161 Washington Ave., 7-8:45 p.m. All are invited. "Transition Towns" are locally organized efforts around the world that seek sustainable living methods at the government, business, and citizen level. The Transition group hopes to network with existing and new sustainability groups from Albany, Rensselaer, Schenectady, and Saratoga Counties. Information, (848) 391-9103,

Thursday, March 17, ALBANY: The weekly meeting of Capital District Against Fracking is held at The Woman's Building, 373 Central Ave., 9-11 p.m. Help organize against hydraulic fracturing in the Capital District. Information,

Friday-Sunday March 18-20, NEW YORK CITY (Pace University Campus): This year's popular  Left Forum Conference at Pace University, 1 Pace Plaza (next to City Hall) begins Friday night and continues throughout Saturday and Sunday. More than 200 workshops and plenary sessions and 600 speakers will focus this year's theme: "Towards a Politics of Solidarity." Registration $20-$65. This is one of the most informative and educational meetings of the year for those with progressive or left politics. Much more information including panel schedules and registration is at

Saturday, March 19, NATIONWIDE: Today — the eighth anniversary of the unjust and illegal invasion of Iraq by the United States — is also this year an International Day of Action Against War and Occupation. Actions are taking place in dozens of locations in the U.S. called by the ANSWER Coalition. The Hudson Valley commemoration will be held March 15 in New Paltz (see above). Today, Iraq remains occupied by tens of thousands of U.S. soldiers and foreign mercenaries as the war in Afghanistan is raging and spreading to western Pakistan. The demonstrations will demand an end to all the wars. On the East Coast, the major protest is set for Washington on the 19th where  there will be an massive veterans-led civil resistance at the White House initiated by Veterans for Peace. People from all over the country are joining together for a 12 Noon rally at Lafayette Park, followed by a march on the White House where the resistance will take place. Many people coming to Washington will be also participating in the Sunday, March 20, demonstration at the Quantico Marine Base in Virginia to support PFC Bradley Manning. Quantico is one hour from D.C. Manning is suspected of leaking Iraq and Afghan war logs to WikiLeaks. (PLEASE NOTE: To our knowledge there are no Hudson Valley special buses to this rally, but if you can get there by other means it should be dramatic and worthwhile.) Information,

Thursday, March 24, WOODSTOCK
: The Middle East Crisis Response group of Hudson Valley residents opposed to Israeli and U.S. policies toward the Palestinians meets on the second and fourth Thursdays of the month 7-8:30 p.m. at the Library, 5 Library Lane, just off Tinker St. All welcome. Information, (845) 876-7906,,

Thursday, March 31, TROY (Russell Sage Campus): "Saving Civilization: The Global Fight Against Devastating Climate Change" will be presented at 7:30 p.m. at 45 Ferry St (and Congress St.) in Bush Memorial Hall. The speaker is Steven A. Leibo, professor of international  history and politics at the Sage Colleges. Sponsored by Sage Climate Crisis Center. Information, (518) 244-2330,,

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Activist Calendar + Wisconsin

Feb. 19, 2011, Issue #657
Send event announcements to
Dedicated to Helping Build  Activist
Movements  in  the  Hudson  Valley.
Editor's Note: Our late February/March calendar will be emailed Feb. 24.

We begin with this report:
—The Largest Day of Labor Demonstrations, So Far

MADISON, WISCONSIN: Today is the without a doubt the biggest day of demonstrations yet since workers and students took to the streets a week ago to protest Gov. Scott Walker’s assault on the public sector’s collective bargaining rights.

The streets were filled with chants of “Kill the Bill!” as tens of thousands of people flooded the streets of downtown Madison. Virtually every union from not only the public but also the private sector is present at the demonstration; among them the SEIU, AFSCME, UAW, IBEW, Teamsters, iron workers, plumbers, firefighters, various teachers unions and many more. High school and college students have come out in large numbers to support the workers’ struggle.

The State Capitol has been completely taken over. Students have been occupying the building around the clock and workers have returned each day to press their demands. Security and police have been largely standing aside while workers and students direct protesters coming in and out of the building.  All four floors of the rotunda are presently packed with demonstrators. Banners and signs supporting the workers are hanging throughout the building. A morning rally on the steps of the capitol was followed by a march around the building.

A strong sentiment of solidarity has been forged between the community, students and workers from various unions. Placards with messages such as “United we bargain, divided we beg” and “Ironworkers support teachers” are seen everywhere. Handwritten signs in support of the workers covered the windows of restaurants, cafes and other small businesses around the capitol. A plane flew overhead with a banner stating, “We support working families.” Similar messages of solidarity were seen all around.

The Tea Party, which had scheduled for today its first “big rally” in support of Walker and his legislative assault on labor, mustered only enough support for a minuscule demonstration that was completely dwarfed by the mass presence of labor and its supporters.

The resilience and fighting spirit of the workers have been an inspiration to all who have come out, and given a real-life lesson on the power of organization.  Spirits are high in Madison. The fight is not yet over.
This report was prepared by the ANSWER Coalition,,

Monday, Feb. 21, NEW PALTZ (SUNY Campus): The new documentary "Crossing the American Crises: From Collapse to Action," will be premiered 5-7 p.m. in Lecture Center 108. The most recent creation of documentarians Mike Fox and Silvia Leindecker, "Crossing the American Crises" looks at how ordinary U.S. citizens have experienced, made sense of, and responded to the Great Recession. Like all of their work, it focuses on grassroots experience and struggles. The film will have special appeal to people interested in class, race, and poverty in the United States. Featured in the film are the Vermont Worker’s Center; LA's Bus Rider's Union; Santa Fe's local Business Alliance; Oakland's Green Jobs Now; Baltimore’s United Workers; and “American” workers, truck drivers, farmers, homeless, ex-felons, minorities, natural disaster survivors, indigenous, immigrants, and residents from coast to coast — covering nearly 40 states across the nation. There will be an informal reception at 4 p.m. for the two accomplished journalists and documentarians. This free public event is jointly sponsored by the Departments of Anthropology, Black Studies, and Sociology. Information, Benjamin Junge (Anthropology), Campus map Campus map: About the film,

Tuesday, Feb. 22, POUGHKEEPSIE: The Adriance Library Community Room at 93 Market St. is the venue for a free public showing at 6:30 p.m. of "Catch-22," the cinematic adaptation of Joseph Heller's scathing black comedy about a small group of flyers in the Mediterranean in 1944. Capt. Yossarian (Alan Arkin) tries to escape the travesties of World War II by convincing his Air Force commanders that he's crazy. Sponsored by Dutchess Peace. Information, (845) 876-7906,

Tuesday, Feb. 22, NEW PALTZ:  The Health Risks of Genetically Modified (GM) Foods is the topic of a talk by community activist and organizer Barbara Upton on behalf of the Institute for Responsible Technology. The 7 p.m. event takes place at the Elting Library, 93 Main St. We're told: "About 80% of all processed foods in the supermarket contain GMOs (genetically modified organisms). FDA scientists warned of potential health risks of GM foods and called for long term safety studies, but were ignored. You can keep yourself and family healthy by avoiding GM foods and together we can create a tipping point of consumer rejection that will require labeling like other countries." (Feel free to bring a snack to share.). Information,

Wednesday, Feb. 23, NEW PALTZ (SUNY Campus): "Stop the Budget Cuts — Defend Education" is the theme of a campus/community meeting 4:30-6 p.m. in the auditorium of the Coykendall Science Building. The sponsor is the campus chapter of United University Professions (UUP - AFL-CIO). The state university system has suffered over $500 million in funding reductions in the last two and a half years and an unspecified amount of additional cuts will be made in the 2011-12 budget. This UUP Town Meeting will address the question "Are the Cuts Inevitable?" Speaking will be union president Phillip Smith, among others. Join students, faculty, staff and community members for an informational meeting and discussion. For information, a statement about the budget and a petition,

The Activist Newsletter/Calendar and Peace and Social Progress Now are organizing a regional public meeting at SUNY New Paltz March 15 to mark the eighth anniversary of the Iraq war, to call for an end to the Afghan war, and to analyze the impact of the popular uprisings in the Middle East on U.S. policy. This indoor event takes place, 6:30-8:30 p.m. at SUNY's Lecture Center 102. (We originally announced 104, but this auditorium is much larger.) There will be speakers, music and a brief video. If you wish to volunteer (leafleting, postering, other tasks) or if your organization is willing to become one of the endorsers of this important demonstration, contact us at

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

02-09-11 Activist Newsletter

Feb. 9, 2011, Issue #165


1. OBAMA, THE MODERATE REPUBLICAN — Or, how to win in 2012.

2. WASHINGTON AND THE ARAB REVOLTS — James Petras writes: The U.S. government "searches for an alternative political formula that removes Mubarak, retains and strengthens the political power of the state apparatus, and incorporates a civilian electoral alternative as a means of demobilizing and de-radicalizing the vast popular movement."

3. AVNERY: THE EGYPTIAN EARTHQUAKE — When Egypt moves, the Arab world follows. Whatever transpires in the immediate future in Egypt — democracy or an army dictatorship — It is only a matter of (a short) time before the dictators fall all over the Arab world.

4. IRAN WINS, ISRAEL LOSES IN EGYPT UPRISING — The U.S. strategy to isolate Iran in its region by erecting a phalanx of "pro-West" Arab regimes plus Israel is withering away and Iran's influence as a regional power may touch a qualitatively new level.


6. THE UNMENTIONABLE POOR — In his Jan. 25 State of the Union speech, President Obama neglected to mention the many millions of Americans who are poor, and the fact that African Americans, Latinos and Native Americans are disproportionately the poorest of the poor.

7. THE PALESTINE PAPERS — The left is increasingly critical of the Palestine Authority.

8. WHY IS ISRAEL SO BLIND? — An enlightening brief survey of the history of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.


10. OSHA AT 40: TIME FOR A MAKEOVER — It's time to upgrade the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA).

11. THE 'PERMANENT WAR STATE'  — The growth of American militarism.


13. KNOW YOUR RIGHTS IF STOPPED  BY AUTHORITIES — Given the erosion of certain civil liberties in recent years it's good to know what to do if you're stopped by police, immigration agents or the FBI. Updated ACLU instructions.


By Jack A. Smith, Activist Newsletter

At 9 p.m. Eastern time Jan. 25 President Barack Obama launched his 2012 campaign for reelection as a Democratic President running with a center-right political program reminiscent of what used to be called "moderate Republicanism."

The occasion was Obama's second State of the Union address, in which he assured millions of Americans watching on television that what's "at stake right now is not who wins the next election."

Winning in 2012 is precisely what's at stake, and the presidential speech was the vehicle for candidate Obama to emerge as a hopefully winning combination of two former Presidents —Ronald Reagan of the political right and Bill Clinton of the center, the optimistic Great Communicator and the opportunist Great Triangulater all in one. In foreign affairs, add a third predecessor, G. H. W. Bush, a conservative “realist” in international matters. 

Given the deep split in the Republican Party between the old line right wing, which controls the majority of the obstructionist GOP caucus in the Senate and House, and the hard line Tea Party far right extremists, Obama evidently thinks that "rational conservatism" — once associated with GOP moderates before they became extinct — is his ticket to win the next election.

But judging by the political content of Obama's speech — his soaring nationalist oratory about the superiority of America and its people, and glittering generalities about what he intends to accomplish in the next six years — the only serious winners in 2012, as in 2008, will be big business, big finance and big military.

The White House team obviously decided that in these troubled economic and political times Obama's most productive approach to the State of the Union message would be a sanguine recitation of the good news, ignoring most of the bad news, and focusing on national unity, a bright future at home, and America's continued world leadership — if only we pull together.

Despite the economic travail still visited upon scores of millions of Americans, Obama praised "our free enterprise system" and declared: "We are poised for progress. Two years after the worst recession most of U.S. have ever known, the stock market has come roaring back. Corporate profits are up. The economy is growing again.... These steps we've taken over the last two years may have broken the back of this recession, but to win the future, we'll need to take on challenges that have been decades in the making."

The theme of the one-hour election speech was "Winning The Future" — a slogan with about as much content as the vacuous "Change We Can Believe In," and "Yes We Can." Obama reiterated the phrase eight times as he called upon the American electorate to join him in • overcoming economic challenges, • reducing the deficit, • reforming government, • encouraging innovation, • improving eduction, • rebuilding America, • creating Democratic-Republican unity in Congress, and  especially •doing what he actually termed "big things."

The New York Times noted with understatement that "The speech was light on new policy proposals." Indeed, light as a feather. The president did not seem to possess specific plans, or the hint of adequate financing, or the political backing to attain any of these objectives.

How could most of them possibly succeed under such conditions, especially when the government has just entered its third year with an annual deficit of nearly 10% of GDP while tax breaks for the super rich have just been extended, and neither of the two ruling parties has the fortitude to raise taxes?

Given this conundrum, the U.S. edition of the influential Economist magazine (Jan. 27) concluded succinctly that President Obama delivered "a strikingly unaudacious speech [that] failed to address America's problems."

At the same time, the component states of the union are going broke, though that never made it into the State of the Union address. For instance, New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Feb. 1 that his state was "functionally bankrupt" as he proposed draconian cuts in the education and Medicaid budgets.

Most of the states and the Federal government seem to be largely compensating for the Great Recession — brought about by the bankers, financiers and their political enablers — by slashing services for the working and middle classes and the poor.

In addition to these problems, of course, there's also dangerously high unemployment, millions of foreclosed homes, increasing poverty, an educational system in decline, a decaying infrastructure, tattered social safety nets, an expanding war in Afghanistan, a Pentagon and national security budget of over a trillion dollars a year, and increasing environmental destruction exacerbated by impending climate change.

It is possible to resolve this perfect storm of difficulties over time through planning, sacrifice, boldness and a commitment to rebuild America as a more egalitarian, anti-militarist and non-hegemonic society, but only in Reagan's mythical Shining City Upon a Hill can it be done through rhetoric alone. A perfect example of such empty rhetoric is contained in this uplifting passage from President Obama's speech:

"We need to out-innovate, out-educate, and out-build the rest of the world. (Applause.) We have to make America the best place on Earth to do business. We need to take responsibility for our deficit and reform our government. That's how our people will prosper. That's how we'll win the future. (Applause) The first step in winning the future is encouraging American innovation."

In only one instance did Obama proffer the semblance of a concrete plan, and enthusiastic Republican votes will make it possible: "I am proposing," Obama told the assemblage, "that starting this year we freeze annual domestic spending for the next five years. (Applause.) Now, this would reduce the deficit by more than $400 billion over the next decade (sic), and will bring discretionary spending to the lowest share of our economy since Dwight Eisenhower was President. This freeze will require painful cuts." The pain assuredly will not be felt by the rich.

The main focus of Obama's address was on jobs, which he mentioned 26 times without once uttering the word "unemployment" or "jobless." Officially, unemployment in February is 9% but when part-time workers who need full-time jobs are included, along with "discouraged" workers who have been seeking employment so long they have given up, the real total is double that figure.

The President spoke with sympathy about workers unable to find employment and spent time explaining some of the factors behind the lack of jobs, including international competition, the need for more sophisticated skills, high technology innovation, and American capitalism's switch from manufacturing to more profitable service industries. He did not mention the accelerated class war declared over 30 years ago by big business and its political supporters against American workers and the union movement that resulted in the stagnant wages, diminished benefits, weakened pensions, and job insecurity that made the sudden impact of the Great Recession much worse for many working people.

For all the words devoted to jobs, Obama managed not to put forward a jobs program. Since the White House will not propose another economic stimulus, much less consider a crash federal jobs program to directly hire the unemployed, he seems satisfied to provide additional tax incentives for businesses to begin hiring again, coupled with the promise of an impressive future infrastructure building program that probably won't get of off the ground.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka — clinging to the Democratic Party as a drowning man to a life preserver, even though the party's center-right leadership ignores the needs of the working class — almost, but not entirely, appeared to be taking Obama's oratory at face value: "We strongly support the President’s vision on infrastructure to create good jobs and succeed in a global economy, and working people are ready to work with him and hold him to his promises," said Trumka. He complained mildly about "corporations that outsource American jobs" and said "we should not be cutting government spending when the economy is so weak."

Most U.S. businesses are doing quite well. Profits in the third-quarter of last year increased at an annual rate of $1,659 trillion, said to be "the steepest annual surge since officials began tracking such matters 60 years ago." Nationwide profits have increased 12% in the last three years. The Dow cracked 12,000 in January, partly in response to Obama's State of the Union promise to overhaul the corporate tax system, which corporations believe will enhance their profits.

Yet, many American companies remain very slow to hire additional workers. Why?

"One obvious possibility," wrote David Leonhardt in the Jan. 19 New York Times, "is the balance of power between employers and employees.... American employers operate with few restraints. Unions have withered, at least in the private sector, and courts have grown friendlier to business. Many companies can now come much closer to setting the terms of their relationship with employees, letting them go when they become a drag on profits and relying on remaining workers or temporary ones when business picks up."

Leonhardt continued: "For corporate America, the Great Recession is over. For the American worker it's not." He doesn't expect unemployment will drop below 6% for at least five more years.

The President's address was perhaps more important for what he left out than what was included.

Obama omitted any mention of global warming, though it was a repeated theme in the 2008 campaign and was included in last year's State of the Union. True, the antediluvian climate-change deniers in Congress and Republican voters get apoplexy when it is mentioned — but that's no reason to cave in. It is all the more reason why he should use his bully pulpit to enlighten the American people about the scientific argument regarding climate change. Significantly fewer people today believe climate change is a danger compared to five years ago, according to the polls.

President Obama mentioned Rep. Gabrielle Giffords — who was shot in Tucson two weeks earlier in a massacre that left six dead, including a 9-year-old girl, and 14 wounded — at the beginning of his speech. He also said "the dreams of a little girl in Tucson are not so different than those of our own children, and that they all deserve the chance to be fulfilled." But he refused to say a word about tightening gun laws, though that, too, was one of his election issues. Commented Paul Helmke, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence: "How can President Obama tell us [about the child] without talking about the gun violence that destroyed those dreams?" He evidently doesn't wish to aggravate the gun lobby and Republican voters.

A major omission was mention of the historic gap not simply between rich and poor but between the rich and the great majority of American families. It's one of the principal characteristics of our society that explains what is wrong with America, but there's nothing to quote from the State of the Union. Instead we will quote a recent statement by independent Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, the only self-described socialist in Congress:

"The billionaires are on the warpath. They want more, more, more. The top 1% now controls more wealth [cash and assets] 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!"

Obama also left out such words as "poverty," "hunger," or "homelessness" to reference the nearly 50 million poor Americans, or the word "foreclosures," lest it would remind his audience that the administration's foreclosure program is a shambles.

On the other hand, the President did mention and justly took a bow for overturning the Don't Ask, Don't Tell regulation in the Armed Forces. "Starting this year," he said, "no American will be forbidden from serving the country they love because of who they love." (Applause.) As usual, however, he balanced a liberal gesture with a conservative one, when he immediately followed with: "And with that change, I call on all our college campuses to open their doors to our military recruiters and ROTC. It is time to leave behind the divisive battles of the past. It is time to move forward as one nation." (Applause.) "One nation," evidently, has no room for dissent or opposition to militarism.

A good part of Obama's talk concerned education and the need for individuals to obtain greater learning to compete for jobs and for the U.S. to compete economically with other countries. His vehicle for enhancing education is the administration's "Race to the Top" education program. He commented: "To all 50 states, we said, 'If you show us the most innovative plans to improve teacher quality and student achievement, we'll show you the money.'"

The money involved amounts to $1.35 billion this year if it is all given out.  In the past only 10 of some 45 states who applied for grants received them. In this connection it is worthwhile to note that Gov. Cuomo is requesting a cut of $2.45 billion in the New York State education budget this year, $1.10 billion more than the entire "Race" funding. Scores of other states and cities are cutting school budgets as well. Only 2% of every Federal tax dollar goes to education, as opposed to well over 50% for the Pentagon and other national security expenses.

New York University Professor Diane Ravitch is one of Race to the Top's critics, referring to the program as Bush's third term in education" In an article a few months ago titled Obama's Race to the Top Will Not Improve Education, she noted:

"Mr. Obama was unfazed by the scathing critique of the 'Race' by the nation's leading civil rights organizations, who insisted that access to federal funding should be based on need, not competition.... President Obama and [Education] Secretary Duncan need to stop and think. They are heading in the wrong direction. On their present course, they will end up demoralizing teachers, closing schools that are struggling to improve, dismantling the teaching profession, destabilizing communities, and harming public education." [1]

The troubled American infrastructure was an important point in the address. The president said: "Our infrastructure used to be the best, but our lead has slipped.... We have to do better.... We'll make sure this is fully paid for, attract private investment, and pick projects based [on] what's best for the economy, not politicians." This will be interesting to watch at a time of fiscal austerity, when the bulk of funding goes to needless wars. Here's how the infrastructure situation looks according to the National Priorities Project:

"The President noted that 'our own engineers graded our nation's infrastructure, they gave us a D.' In fact, according to the American Society of Civil Engineers, 26% of our bridges are structurally deficient or functionally obsolete, 33% of our major roads are in poor or mediocre condition, and the water systems that serve 10% of the U.S. population are in serious need of repair. President Obama proposed '[putting] more Americans to work repairing crumbling roads and bridges. We'll make sure this is fully paid for.' Yet the President did not specify how this work would be funded. ASCE estimates that the total cost to meet our infrastructure needs is $2.2 trillion and that federal stimulus funding will cover only 8% of the cost."

Although he ignored climate change, President Obama devoted some remarks to energy. He said: "Some folks want wind and solar. Others want nuclear, clean coal and natural gas. To meet this goal, we will need them all -- and I urge Democrats and Republicans to work together to make it happen." (Applause.)

Aside from the fact that the Federal government is investing far too few dollars and effort into reducing dependency on fossil fuels there is considerable debate within the environmentally-conscious community about the use of nuclear, clean coal and natural gas. Nuclear because a safe way of disposing of deadly wastes remains elusive and also because of the danger of an explosion. Coal because "clean" coal isn't clean. Natural gas, because while it burns cleaner than oil, it remains a significant source of CO2 in the atmosphere, and also because extracting it will require extremely dangerous fracking (hydraulic fracturing) to meet demand.

According to the New York Times "He called for an end to subsidies for oil companies and set a goal of reducing dependence on polluting fuels over the next quarter-century, but without any mechanism to enforce it." If the subsidies end for these richest companies in the world it will amount to about $4 billion a year for five years. This is out of a projected 2011 budget deficit of $1.5 trillion, and higher in future years — helpful, but a drop in the proverbial bucket.

Obama noted that "The Secretary of Defense has also agreed to cut tens of billions of dollars in spending that he and his generals believe our military can do without."(Applause.) This should not be construed to mean the Pentagon budget will shrink. For years many members of Congress have supported constituent war manufacturer projects that the Pentagon said it didn't need but which were approved anyway. But with the huge deficit, Congress may okay elimination of unnecessary weapons costing some $78 billion over the next five years. This comes to some $15.6 billion a year, but new "needed" weapons and the other accouterments of war will continue to increase defense spending.

The president informed the American people that their "paychecks are a little bigger today... thanks to the tax cuts we passed." He didn't follow up by specifying that the paychecks of the millionaire class got "a lot bigger," due to his administration's capitulation to the right wing demand to continue Bush's millionaire tax cuts.

President Obama hardly spoke of foreign affairs. But he framed much of his speech around the need to "sustain the leadership that has made America not just a place on a map, but the light to the world." This is a principal goal of Obama Administration policy: the retention of Washington's unipolar dominion over worldly affairs at a time when U.S. economic and political power is in decline while other nations, particularly from the global "south," are rising.

Most of his brief foreign remarks referred to America's propensity for warring against poor countries. "We must defeat determined enemies, wherever they are," he declared, continuing George W. Bush's mantra that there are potential terrorists lurking behind every tree.

The president lauded the freedom fighters in Tunisia, "where the will of the people proved more powerful than the writ of a dictator. And tonight, let us be clear: The United States of America stands with the people of Tunisia, and supports the democratic aspirations of all people."

This evidently was not the time to mention that the United States, and the Obama Administration until a few days earlier, supported the dictatorial regime politically and financially. Soon after the speech, the Egyptian people rose up against another dictator that the U.S. defended and financed for decades. When it looked like the masses might win, the U.S. started to change its tune. Both these incidents, and there are more to come, will continue to facilitate the decline of world's remaining superpower.

The Obama Administration is hardly unique in being guided by expediency instead of principle in foreign affairs, and the same rule obtains about what is put in and what is left out of State of the Union messages. It's an election document, not an honest appraisal, and 2012 is around the corner. Enter Mr. Moderate Republican, all geared up to lead America in doing "big things" once again.

[1] Ravich's full article  on education is at  An excellent analysis of the Race to the Top Program appears in the Spring 2010 issue of Rethinking Schools,


By James Petras

To understand the Obama regime’s policy toward Egypt, the Mubarak dictatorship and the popular uprising it is essential to locate it in an historical context.  The essential point is that Washington, after several decades of being deeply embedded in the state structures of the Arab dictatorships, from Tunisia through Morocco, Egypt, Yemen, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and the Palestinian Authority, is attempting to re-orient its policies to incorporate and/or graft liberal-electoral politicians onto the existing power configurations.

While most commentators and journalists  spill tons of ink about the “dilemmas” of U.S. power , the novelty of the Egyptian events and Washington’s day to day policy pronouncements, there are ample historical precedents which are essential to understand the strategic direction of Obama’s policies.

U.S. foreign policy has a long history of installing, financing, arming and backing dictatorial regimes which back its imperial policies and interests as long as they retain control over their people.

In the past, Republican and Democratic presidents worked closely for over 30 years with the Trujillo dictatorship in the Dominican Republic; installed the autocratic Diem regime in pre-revolutionary Vietnam in the 1950s; collaborated with two generations of Somoza family terror regimes in Nicaragua; financed and promoted the military coup in Cuba in 1952, Brazil in 1964, Chile in 1973, and Argentina in 1976 and the subsequent repressive regimes.  When popular upheavals challenged these U.S. backed dictatorships, and a social as well as political revolution appeared likely to succeed, Washington responded with a three track policy:  publicly criticizing the human rights violations and advocating democratic reforms; privately signaling continued support to the ruler; and thirdly, seeking an elite alternative which could substitute for the incumbent and preserve the state apparatus, the economic system and support U.S. strategic imperial interests. 

For the U.S. there are no strategic relationships, only permanent imperial interests, namely preservation of the client state  The dictatorships assume that their relationships with Washington is strategic:  hence the shock and dismay when they are sacrificed to save the state apparatus.  Fearing revolution, Washington has had reluctant client despots, unwilling to move on, assassinated (Trujillo and Diem).  Some are provided sanctuaries abroad (Somoza, Batista), others are pressured  into power-sharing (Pinochet) or appointed as visiting scholars to Harvard, Georgetown or some other “prestigious” academic posting.

The Washington calculus on when to reshuffle the regime is based on an estimate of the capacity of the dictator to weather the political uprising, the strength and loyalty of the armed forces and the availability of a pliable replacement.  The risk of waiting too long, of sticking with the dictator, is that the uprising radicalizes:  the ensuing change sweeps away both the regime and the state apparatus, turning a political uprising into a social revolution.  Just such a ‘miscalculation’ occurred in 1959 in the run-up to the Cuban revolution, when Washington stood by Batista and was not able to present a viable pro U.S. alternative coalition linked to the old state apparatus.  A similar miscalculation occurred in Nicaragua, when President Carter, while criticizing Somoza, stayed the course, and stood passively by as the regime was overthrown and the revolutionary forces destroyed the U.S. and Israeli trained military, secret police and intelligence apparatus, and went on to nationalize U.S. property and develop an independent foreign policy.

Washington moved with greater initiative, in Latin America in the 1980s. It promoted negotiated electoral transitions which replaced dictators with pliable neo-liberal electoral politicians, who pledged to preserve the existing state apparatus, defend the privileged foreign and domestic elites and back U.S. regional and international interests. Obama has been extremely hesitant to oust Mubarak for several reasons, even as the movement grows in number and anti-Washington sentiment deepens.  The White House has many clients around the world — including Honduras, Mexico, Indonesia, Jordan and Algeria — who believe they have a strategic relationship with Washington and would lose confidence in their future if Mubarak was dumped.

Secondly, the highly influential leading pro-Israel organizations in the U.S. (AIPAC, the Presidents of the Major American Jewish Organizations) and their army of scribes have mobilized congressional leaders to pressure the White House to continue backing Mubarak, as Israel is the prime beneficiary of a dictator who is at the throat of the Egyptians (and Palestinians) and at the feet of the Jewish state.

As a result the Obama regime has moved slowly, under fear and pressure of the growing Egyptian popular movement. It searches for an alternative political formula that removes Mubarak, retains and strengthens the political power of the state apparatus and incorporates a civilian electoral alternative as a means of demobilizing and de-radicalizing the vast popular movement.

The major obstacle to ousting Mubarak is that a major sector of the state apparatus, especially the 325,000 Central Security Forces and the 60,000 National Guard are directly under the Interior Ministry and Mubarak.  Secondly, top Generals in the Army (468,500 members) have buttressed Mubarak for 30 years and have been enriched by their control over very lucrative companies in a wide range of fields.  They will not support any civilian ‘coalition’ that calls into question their economic privileges and power to set the political parameters of any electoral system. The supreme commander of the Egyptian military is a longtime client of the U.S. and a willing collaborator with Israel.

Obama is resolutely in favor of collaborating with and ensuring the preservation of these coercive bodies. But he also needs to convince them to replace Mubarak and allow for a new regime which can defuse the mass movement which is increasingly opposed to U.S. hegemony and subservience to Israel.  Obama will do everything necessary to retain the cohesion of the state and avoid any splits which might lead to a mass movement – soldier alliance which could convert the uprising into a revolution.

Washington has opened talks with the most conservative liberal and clerical sectors of the anti-Mubarak movement.  At first it tried to convince them to negotiate with Mubarak – a dead end position which was rejected by all sectors of the opposition, top and bottom.  Then Obama tried to sell a phony “promise” from Mubarak that he would not run in the elections, nine months later.

The movement and its leaders rejected that proposal also.  So Obama raised the rhetoric for ‘immediate changes’ but without any substantive measures backing it up.  To convince Obama of his continued power base, Mubarak sent his formidable thug-lumpen secret police to violently seize the streets from the movement.  A test of strength: the Army stood by; the assault raised the ante of a civil war, with radical consequences.  Washington and the E.U.  pressured the Mubarak regime to back off — for now.  But the image of a pro-democracy military was tarnished, as killings and injuries multiplied in the thousands.

As the pressure of the movement intensifies, Obama is cross pressured by the pro Mubarak Israel Lobby and its Congressional entourage on the one hand, and on the other by knowledgeable advisors who call on him to follow past practices and move decisively to sacrifice the regime to save the state while the liberal-clerical electoral option is still on the table.

But Obama hesitates and like a wary crustacean, he moves sideways and backwards, believing his own grandiloquent rhetoric is a substitute for action … hoping that sooner or later, the uprising will end with Mubarakism without Mubarak: a regime able to demobilize the popular movements and willing to promote elections which result in elected officials following the general line of their predecessor.

Nevertheless, there are many uncertainties in a political reshuffle:  a democratic citizenry, 83% unfavorable to Washington, will possess the experience of struggle and freedom to call for a realignment of policy, especially to cease being a policeman enforcing the Israeli blockade of Gaza, and providing support  for U.S. puppets in North Africa, Lebanon, Yemen,  Jordan and Saudi Arabia.

Secondly free elections will open debate and increase pressure for greater social spending, the expropriation of the seventy billion dollar empire of the Mubarak clan and the crony capitalists who pillage the economy. The masses will demand a reallocation of public expenditure from the overblown coercive apparatus to productive, job generating employment.   A limited political opening may lead to a second round, in which new social and political conflicts will divide the anti-Mubarak forces, a conflict between the advocates of  social democracy and elite backers of neo-liberal electoralism. 

The anti-dictatorial moment is only the first phase of a prolonged struggle toward definitive emancipation not only in Egypt but throughout the Arab world.  The outcome depends on the degree to which the masses develop their own independent organization and leaders.

—James Petras is a Professor (Emeritus) of Sociology at SUNY Binghamton University, and the author of over 60 books. This article appears on his website,



[Here is the view of events in Egypt and its impact on Israel by the leader of Gush Shalom, the Israeli Peace Bloc. It was written Feb. 4, 2011.]
By Uri Avnery

We are in the middle of a geological event. An earthquake of epoch-making dimensions is changing the landscape of our region. Mountains turn into valleys, islands emerge from the sea, volcanoes cover the land with lava.

People are afraid of change. When it happens, they tend to deny, ignore, pretend that nothing really important is happening.

Israelis are no exception. While in neighboring Egypt earth-shattering events were taking place, Israel was absorbed with a scandal in the army high command. The Minister of Defense abhors the incumbent Chief of Staff and makes no secret of it. The presumptive new chief was exposed as a liar and his appointment canceled. These were the headlines.

But what is happening now in Egypt will change our lives.

As usual, nobody foresaw it. The much-feted Mossad was taken by surprise, as was the CIA and all the other celebrated services of this kind.

Yet there should have been no surprise at all - except about the incredible force of the eruption. In the last few years, we have mentioned many times in this column that all over the Arab world, multitudes of young people are growing up with a profound contempt for their leaders, and that sooner or later this will lead to an uprising. These were not prophesies, but rather a sober analysis of probabilities.

The turmoil in Egypt was caused by economic factors: the rising cost of living, the poverty, the unemployment, the hopelessness of the educated young. But let there be no mistake: the underlying causes are far more profound. They can be summed up in one word: Palestine.

In Arab culture, nothing is more important than honor. People can suffer deprivation, but they will not stand humiliation.

Yet what every young Arab from Morocco to Oman saw daily was his leaders humiliating themselves, forsaking their Palestinian brothers in order to gain favor and money from America, collaborating with the Israeli occupation, cringing before the new colonizers. This was deeply humiliating for young people brought up on the achievements of Arab culture in times gone by and the glories of the early Caliphs.

Nowhere was this loss of honor more obvious than in Egypt, which openly collaborated with the Israeli leadership in imposing the shameful blockade on the Gaza Strip, condemning 1.5 million Arabs to malnutrition and worse. It was never just an Israeli blockade, but an Israeli-Egyptian one, lubricated by 1.5 billion U.S. dollars every year.

I have reflected many times – out loud – how I would feel if I were a 15 year-old boy in Alexandria, Amman or Aleppo, seeing my leaders behave like abject slaves of the Americans and the Israelis, while oppressing and despoiling their own subjects. At that age, I myself joined a terrorist organization. Why would an Arab boy be different?

A dictator may be tolerated when he reflects national dignity. But a dictator who expresses national shame is a tree without roots – any strong wind can blow him over.

For me, the only question was where in the Arab world it would start. Egypt – like Tunisia – was low on my list. Yet here it is – the great Arab revolution taking place in Egypt.

This is a wonder in itself. If Tunisia was a small wonder, this is a huge one.

I love the Egyptian people. True, one cannot really like 88 million individuals, but one can certainly like one people more than another. In this respect, one is allowed to generalize.

The Egyptians you meet in the streets, in the homes of the intellectual elite and in the alleys of the poorest of the poor, are an incredibly patient lot. They are endowed with an irrepressible sense of humor. They are also immensely proud of the country and its 8,000 years of history.

For an Israeli, used to his aggressive compatriots, the almost complete lack of aggressiveness of the Egyptians is astonishing. I vividly remember one particular scene: I was in a taxi in Cairo when it collided with another. Both drivers leapt out and started to curse each other in blood-curling terms. And then quite suddenly, both of them stopped shouting and burst into laughter.

A Westerner coming to Egypt either loves it or hates it. The moment you set your foot on Egyptian soil, time loses its tyranny. Everything becomes less urgent, everything is muddled, yet in a miraculous way things sort themselves out. Patience seems boundless. This may mislead a dictator. Because patience can end suddenly.

It’s like a faulty dam on a river. The water rises behind the dam, imperceptibly slowly and silently – but if it reaches a critical level, the dam will burst, sweeping everything before it.

My own first meeting with Egypt was intoxicating. After Anwar Sadat’s unprecedented visit to Jerusalem, I rushed to Cairo. I had no visa. I shall never forget the moment I presented my Israeli passport to the stout official at the airport. He leafed through it, becoming more and more bewildered – and then he raised his head with a wide smile and said "marhaba,” welcome. At the time we were the only three Israelis in the huge city, and we were feted like kings, almost expecting at any moment to be lifted onto people’s shoulders. Peace was in the air, and the masses of Egypt loved it.

It took no more than a few months for this to change profoundly. Sadat hoped – sincerely, I believe – that he was also bringing deliverance to the Palestinians. Under intense pressure from Menachem Begin and Jimmy Carter, he agreed to a vague wording. Soon enough he learned that Begin did not dream of fulfilling this obligation. For Begin, the peace agreement with Egypt was a separate peace to enable him to intensify the war against the Palestinians.

The Egyptians – starting with the cultural elite and filtering down to the masses – never forgave this. They felt deceived. There may not be much love for the Palestinians – but betraying a poor relative is shameful in Arab tradition. Seeing Hosni Mubarak collaborating with this betrayal led many Egyptians to despise him. This contempt lies beneath everything that happened this week. Consciously or unconsciously, the millions who are shouting "Mubarak Go Away" echo this contempt.

In every revolution there is the "Yeltsin Moment." The columns of tanks are sent into the capital to reinstate the dictatorship. At the critical moment, the masses confront the soldiers. If the soldiers refuse to shoot, the game is over. Yeltsin climbed on the tank, ElBaradei addressed the masses in al Tahrir [Liberation] Square. That is the moment a prudent dictator flees abroad, as did the Shah and now the Tunisian boss.

Then there is the "Berlin Moment,” when a regime crumbles and nobody in power knows what to do, and only the anonymous masses seem to know exactly what they want: they wanted the Wall to fall.

And there is the "Ceausescu moment.” The dictator stands on the balcony addressing the crowd, when suddenly from below a chorus of "Down With The Tyrant!" swells up. For a moment, the dictator is speechless, moving his lips noiselessly, then he disappears. This, in a way, happened to Mubarak, making a ridiculous speech and trying in vain to stem the tide.

If Mubarak is cut off from reality, Binyamin Netanyahu is no less. He and his colleagues seem unable to grasp the fateful meaning of these events for Israel.

When Egypt moves, the Arab world follows. Whatever transpires in the immediate future in Egypt – democracy or an army dictatorship - It is only a matter of (a short) time before the dictators fall all over the Arab world, and the masses will shape a new reality, without the generals.

Everything the Israeli leadership has done in the last 44 years of occupation or 63 years of its existence is becoming obsolete. We are facing a new reality. We can ignore it – insisting that we are "a villa in the jungle,” as Ehud Barak famously put it – or find our proper place in the new reality.

Peace with the Palestinians is no longer a luxury. It is an absolute necessity. Peace now, peace quickly. Peace with the Palestinians, and then peace with the democratic masses all over the Arab world, peace with the reasonable Islamic forces (like Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood, who are quite different from al-Qaeda), peace with the leaders who are about to emerge in Egypt and everywhere.



[Following is an excerpt from a Feb. 1 report by Asia Times correspondent, by M. K. Bhadrakumar.]

The two regional powers most affected by the turmoil in the Middle East are going to be Iran and Israel. Life sometimes offers strange parallels. There is much in common between the two intractable adversaries.

These two non-Arab countries appear curiously "stable" in a region caught in a maelstrom. No one points an accusing finger at either as the "hidden hand" behind the turmoil in their neighborhood — not even their worst detractors. In fact, both seem taken by surprise by the torrential flow of events and are figuring out how to assimilate the as-yet unfathomable meaning of what is unfolding.

Both are astute enough to know that small things ignite volcanic eruptions — a sealed train running from Germany to Russia, a sermon given by an old imam in exile under an apple tree on the outskirts of Paris or a conscientious police officer refusing an order to fire on agitators on a Tirana street. And neither can quite divine what secrets the heaving streets of Cairo are still to yield.

But there is also a fundamental difference. For Iran, it all boils down to how big a winner it is going to be. For Israel, though, it is about cutting losses. But then, it is also a see-saw where the winner cannot take it all.

Tehran has been quick to speak out in support of the popular uprising in Egypt. It has also been the lone voice in the region to do so. Religious, political and military circles in Tehran and the Foreign Ministry have spoken.

The most significant statement so far came from Majlis (parliament) speaker Ali Larijani, who announced Iran's support for the popular uprisings in Tunis and Egypt, describing them as having a "spark" for other movements in the Middle East. Larijani said, "The evolutionary trend of that regional revolution has surprised the dictatorial governments" and the revolution of the "free-hearted" has transcended the boundaries of nationalism.

A top military commander, deputy head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps Gen. Hossein Salami, echoed the sentiments: "Egypt is the heart of the Arab world... therefore, any political changes or socio-political revolutions in Egypt could repeat in many other Islamic countries." He said Egypt had become a backyard for Israel and "geostrategic back-up for the United States' policies toward Africa." Salami claimed Iran's ideological affinity with the Egyptian uprising, calling it a "manifestation of the Islamic Revolution [of 1979] in the Middle East and the world of Islam."

The religious establishment is obviously elated. Tehran's provisional Friday prayers leader Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami said the uprisings signified the birth of an "Islamic Middle East" based on principles of religion and democracy.

A statement by the Iranian Foreign Ministry said, "The demonstrations by the Muslim Egyptian nation are a movement seeking the realization of justice and the Egyptian people's national and ideological demands." It advised the Hosni Mubarak regime to listen to "this Muslim nation's voice," accept the "Islamic awakening" and submit to people's demands.

Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi added, "Today, Egypt and its people are drawing on the invaluable experience of the Middle East's contemporary history and getting ready to determine their own fate and reclaim their influential status in the region." He told the Majlis, "Vigilant regional nations inspired by religious teachings and Islamic awakening are seeking to free themselves of the domination of hegemonic powers and gain real independence."

Tehran estimates that the Middle Eastern region has reached a historic crossroads and the pent-up popular anger against the autocratic regimes has finally erupted. It reaches out to establish an overarching Islamic affinity with the popular movements but would be cautious not to be seen exhorting the Arab people to revolt. Tehran will use the emergent opportunity to make bridges with its Arab neighbors and to break out of the regional isolation imposed by the U.S.

The overall regional situation is moving in a direction favorable to Iran. A Tehran-sponsored government has begun working in Baghdad and a Hezbollah-dominated government is assuming power in Beirut. The al-Jazeera leaks regarding secret deals between the head of Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas and U.S. and Israel boosts Hamas' status as the voice of resistance. Iran's ties with Syria remain strong and the harmony with Turkey is unprecedented.

On the other hand, the disarray within the Palestinian camp and the fluidity in Cairo become major obstacles for Washington to resume any peace process in the conceivable future, which means the Obama Administration's dismal record in the Middle East remains in full display, adding to its discomfiture on the Arab street.

It also works in Tehran's favor that the Obama administration has its hands full coping with the cataclysmic changes sweeping the region. The Iran nuclear issue gets relegated to the backburner by Washington's new priorities. Washington is going to be bogged down with the making of the "New Middle East."

Meanwhile, the entire U.S. strategy to isolate Iran in its region by erecting a phalanx of "pro-West" Arab regimes plus Israel is withering away and Iran's influence as a regional power may touch a qualitatively new level.

The extreme nervousness in Tel Aviv stands out in contrast with the jubilation in Tehran. Israelis are generally garrulous and disdainful about their Arab neighborhood, but no longer so. They put up a brave face that the Mubarak regime will somehow weather the storm.

An Israeli official told Agence France-Presse, "It is in the fundamental interests of Egypt to maintain its privileged ties with the West, and maintaining peace with Israel." An Israeli researcher took a fallback position. "Even if the Muslim Brotherhood, who have criticized 'illegal ties with Israel' come to power, the army and Egyptian security services would oppose it with all their might."

Israel's best bet is that the newly appointed Egyptian Vice President, Gen. Omar Suleiman, (who used to be the intelligence chief and worked closely with the Israeli security establishment) somehow establishes himself on the debris of the Mubarak regime.

But Tel Aviv is not taking chances. Israeli diplomats based in Cairo were quietly evacuated by helicopter and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has ordered government spokesmen not to make comments. As a leading politician put it, "Israel cannot do anything about what is happening there. All we can do is to express our support for Mubarak and hope the riots pass quietly."

Israel didn't anticipate the uprising. On Jan. 25, as protests erupted in Cairo, Israel's new chief of military intelligence, Aviv Kochavi, told the Knesset (parliament) committee on foreign affairs and defense that Mubarak's government was not under threat and the Muslim Brotherhood wasn't organized well enough to threaten the regime.

What is the worst-case scenario for Israel? Israeli fears appear on several templates. Without doubt, the strategic challenge is that Israel may face acute regional isolation. A commentator in the Israeli daily Ha'aretz newspaper noted, "The fading power of ... Mubarak's government leaves Israel in a state of strategic distress. Without Mubarak, Israel is left with almost no friends in the Middle East; last year Israel saw its alliance with Turkey collapse. From now on it will be hard for Israel to trust an Egyptian government torn apart by internal strife."

The 1979 peace treaty with Egypt not only brought peace dividends to Israel by allowing it to slash its disproportionately high defense expenditure but also gave the armed forces the latitude to concentrate on the so-called "northern front" — Syria, Lebanon and Iran — and the Palestinian settlements. The uncertainties in Egypt necessitate a major redeployment of forces in the south, especially on the Philadelphi Corridor between Sinai and Gaza, which Palestinian guerillas use to source supplies.

There are choppy waters ahead....

— Former Ambassador M. K. Bhadrakumar was a career diplomat in the Indian Foreign Service. His assignments included the Soviet Union, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Germany, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Kuwait and Turkey. His articles regularly appear in Asia Times,



[A number of liberal writers have been critical of President Obama's State of the Union message Jan. 25. Here are excerpts from two: 1. Robert Scheer, author and editor-in chief of the website Truthdig. 2. Robert L. Borosage, President of Institute for America's Future.}

ROBERT SCHEER: "What is the state of the union? You certainly couldn't tell from that platitudinous hogwash that the president dished out Tuesday evening. I had expected Barack Obama to be his eloquent self, appealing to our better nature, but instead he was mealy-mouthed in avoiding the tough choices that a leader should delineate in a time of trouble. He embraced clean air and a faster Internet while ignoring the depth of our economic pain and the Wall Street scoundrels who were responsible — understandably so, since they so prominently populate the highest reaches of his administration. He had the effrontery to condemn "a parade of lobbyists" for rigging government after he appointed the top Washington representative of JPMorgan Chase to be his new chief of staff.

The speech was a distraction from what seriously ails us: an unabated mortgage crisis, stubbornly high unemployment and a debt that spiraled out of control while the government wasted trillions making the bankers whole. Instead the president conveyed the insular optimism of his fat-cat associates: "We are poised for progress. Two years after the worst recession most of us have ever known, the stock market has come roaring back. Corporate profits are up. The economy is growing again." How convenient to ignore the fact that this bubble of prosperity, which has failed the tens of millions losing their homes and jobs, was floated by enormous government indebtedness now forcing deep cuts in social services including state financial aid for those better-educated students the president claims to be so concerned about.

ROBERT L. BOROSAGE: Obama movingly described the plight of working Americans who found their jobs, indeed their dreams, shipped out from under them. But Americans aren't losing jobs and income and security, as the president then suggested, because of "revolutions in technology" and China and India "educating their children" and "investing in new research." As Germany's success as a high wage export nation proves, Americans have lost wages, benefits and job security, and are scarred by Gilded Age inequality because of failed public policies: a Wall Street trade policy explicitly designed to facilitate the export of jobs rather than products; a corporate war on labor plus executive pay policies that keep workers from capturing a fair share of productivity gains; and inadequate investment in areas vital to our growth, and of course, successive top end tax cuts.

The flawed diagnosis leads to an inadequate prescription. Investment in education, R&D and infrastructure is essential, as the president said. A move to new energy and capturing a lead in the green industrial revolution are vital. But the Chinese are using their mercantilist toolkit to make themselves the global manufacturer of solar panels and windmills. Without a serious industrial policy and a reformed trade policy that challenges Chinese mercantilism, U.S. technology and companies will build green jobs abroad.


By the Activist Newsletter

In his State of the Union speech Jan. 25 President Obama neglected to mention the many millions of Americans who are poor, and the fact that African Americans, Latinos and Native Americans are disproportionately the poorest of the poor.

Nor does the Obama Administration put forward the semblance of a poverty program, or even discuss the particular plight of its poorest constituencies.

In his New York Times column Jan. 29, Charles M. Blow noted that "It was only the second time since Harry S. Truman’s State of the Union address in 1948 that such a speech by a Democratic president did not include a single mention of poverty or the plight of the poor." The other president was Jimmy Carter in 1980, but he "did mention the poor in a written version that he submitted to Congress."

Poor and low-income Americans provided Obama with the largest percentage of Democratic votes (73% and 60% respectively in 2008), and blacks and Latinos were his biggest supporters (90% and 67%). Noting that the Republicans, of course, are worse than the Democrats on matters of poverty and ethnicity, Blow asked: "Does that give him [Obama] license to obviate his moral responsibility to his electoral devotees?.... Does keeping him in the White House dictate keeping them in the shadows?"

The following few paragraphs will shed some light on those shadows. They are excerpted and edited from a 45-page report published Jan. 14 by the nonprofit organization United for a Fair Economy titled "State of the Dream 2011: Austerity for Whom?"

The official unemployment rate is 15.8% among blacks and 13% among Latinos as of December 2010. The White unemployment rate is 8.5%. These unemployment numbers move up significantly when discouraged and under-employed workers are included.

While blacks gained five cents to each white dollar of median family income from 1947 to 1977, they gained only one cent in the 32 years since [as income zoomed for the rich and stagnated in general for the working class and lower middle class]. Blacks earn 57 cents and Latinos earn 59 cents to each dollar of white median family income. In terms of net worth — all assets minus debts — blacks hold 10 cents and Latinos hold 12 cents for every dollar of net wealth whites hold. Blacks are 2.7 times as likely as whites to have zero or negative net worth. Latinos are two times as likely as whites to have zero or negative net worth. Among retirement-age seniors, 60% of blacks and 65% of Latinos rely on Social Security for more than 80% of their income, while only 46% of whites do.

Blacks will be disproportionately affected by the current attacks on public sector workers. Blacks are 30% more likely than the overall workforce to work in public sector jobs as teachers, social workers, bus drivers, public health inspectors and other valuable roles, and they are 70% as likely to work for the federal government.

Bush Administration tax breaks —which the Obama Administration helped extend for two more years — disproportionately flow into the hands of high-income and high-wealth whites. The tax extension heavily favors whites, who are three times as likely as blacks and 4.6 times as likely as Latinos to have annual incomes in excess of $250,000.

Concluding his column, mentioned above, Charles Blow observed that President Obama "appears to be moving, often at a full sprint, away from the people who once carried him."

— [A copy of the full United for a Fair Economy report or just the executive summary are at]



[Following is a critical look at the Palestinian Authority, led by President Mahmoud Abbas, by left-wing Mideast analyst Richard Becker. He is the author of Palestine, Israel and the U.S. Empire," published in 2009. This article was written Feb. 3 for Liberation newspaper.]

By Richard Becker

Nearly 1,700 internal and diplomatic documents known as the “Palestine Papers” were released by the Al Jazeera news network in January. The documents deal mainly with negotiations between the governments of the U.S., Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA), the quasi-governmental agency that administers Palestinian affairs in parts of the West Bank.

First and foremost, the released documents prove beyond the last shadow of doubt that the often-repeated Zionist mantra, “Israel wants peace but it cannot find a partner for peace,” is nothing but pure propaganda.

The proposals put forward by the PA in 2008—including a surrender of most of Jerusalem and the right of return for more than six million Palestinian refugees, and acceptance of Israeli domination over a future Palestinian “state”—could justifiably be characterized as abject surrender to the Israeli side on all the biggest issues on the table.

But in reality the biggest issue from the Israeli standpoint is not on the table at all: Israel’s absorption of all or nearly all the land of Palestine. Since the Oslo “Peace Process” began in 1993, the Israelis approach to negotiations has been, in the words of a former Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) adviser Michael Tarazy: “We are negotiating about sharing a pizza and in the meantime Israel is eating it.”

The consistent Israeli approach, regardless of whether a Labor or Kadima or Likud party-led government was in office, has been to talk peace while creating new “facts on the ground” in the West Bank in the form of hundreds of settlements.

Underlining this reality was the response by then-Israeli foreign minister Tzipi Livni to the PA negotiators’ offer of surrender on virtually all major points: “We do not like this suggestion because it does not meet our demands.” In typical condescending colonialist fashion, she added, “Probably it was not easy for you to think about it, but I really appreciate it.”

It has been clear for a long time that the leadership of the PA, headed by President Mahmoud Abbas, is collaborationist. It represents the comprador bourgeoisie, that is, the capitalist elements tied to and dependent upon U.S. imperialism. It is willing—more than willing—to compromise the historic demands of the Palestinian cause in order to gain some territory, even if very truncated, that it can rule over.

This has been the aim of every emerging capitalist class, comprador or otherwise. Above all, they want to rule over a state and be able to exploit the labor of the working class and peasants within the borders of their state.

The PA has violently repressed opposition forces in the West Bank, called upon the Israeli, Egyptian and the U.S. governments to tighten the blockade of Gaza (whose government is led by its rival Hamas), and collaborated with the Israelis in the targeting and imprisonment of resistance fighters from other organizations in the West Bank.

Abbas’s term in office officially ended in 2009. But realizing the widespread unpopularity of its government, scheduled elections have been put off indefinitely by the PA.

More than 60,000 PA security forces are being trained and armed by the Pentagon. These security forces dispersed a recent demonstration in Ramallah in solidarity with the Egyptian people in their struggle to oust the Mubarak regime.

The PA, ironically aligned with the Israeli government, continues to support Mubarak in the face of overwhelming Palestinian and Arab solidarity with the Egyptian people’s liberation struggle. Hamas has also stopped anti-Mubarak protests in Gaza, where it is the governing party.

The PA’s core doctrine is based on the concept that only the U.S. is in a position to force an economically and militarily much more powerful Israel to negotiate a Palestinian “state,” albeit of some truncated size, shape and rights.

In order to maintain its relationship with Washington, the current PA leadership must serve U.S. interests. A particularly odious example of its subservient position came in 2010 when, at Washington’s behest, the PA opposed a U.N. vote on the Goldstone Report. The report accused Israel of war crimes in its 2008-2009 invasion of Gaza.

Abbas’s position came as a shock even to the supporters in Fatah, the dominant party in the PA. Washington’s policy has aimed to make the PA another client government in the regime, like those in Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Yemen, Iraq, Tunisia, Morocco and elsewhere.

As the Palestine Papers make clear, U.S. negotiators, with a sharp understanding of the dependent position of the PA, relentlessly pressured PA negotiators to accept Israeli demands.

The Palestinian left, working-class and progressive nationalist forces have opposed and denounced the sham “peace process” since the Oslo Accords were signed in 1993. Their predictions about where this process would lead have been fully confirmed.

The left has maintained that negotiations based on the current relationship of forces can only produce negative and potentially disastrous outcomes for the Palestinian cause. The Palestinians have had to confront a formidable triple alliance: Imperialism, Israel and the reactionary Arab regimes.

The Arab masses feel deep solidarity in general with the Palestinians, but have themselves been suppressed by the reactionary client regimes that fear both the Palestinian struggle and their own masses.

Real hope for the Palestinian cause, the left has argued, is tied to a major shift in this relationship of forces, particularly revolutionary developments in the Arab world.

Now that hope may be coming to fruition. The growing revolutionary movements in Tunisia, Egypt and Yemen are the basis of great encouragement not only for the people in those countries, but the Palestinians and all the Arab people. Of the greatest importance is what happens in Egypt, the largest Arab country with 80 million people.

The 1978 Camp David Accord, orchestrated by President Jimmy Carter and signed by President Hosni Mubarak’s predecessor Anwar Sadat, Israeli leader Menachem Begin and Carter has been generally portrayed in the United States as a great step forward for “peace” in the Middle East.

It was anything but. Camp David broke the historic Arab alliance, in which Egypt was the leading power, and brought Egypt into the U.S. orbit and led to the opening of its economy to capitalist neoliberalism. It paved the way for the devastating U.S.-backed invasion and occupation of Lebanon in 1982—an occupation that lasted for 18 years until Israel was finally driven out by a popular resistance movement.

After Sadat’s assassination, Mubarak took over in 1981. His brutally repressive regime has received vast “security assistance” (mostly for use against the Egyptian people) from the U.S. government, played a key role in maintaining the blockade of Gaza and brought added pressure to bear on the Palestinians to capitulate to Israel and the United States.

The fall of the Mubarak regime would be a social earthquake in the Middle East.

In contrast to the traitorous position taken by the PA leadership, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, the second largest organization in the PLO,  issued a statement emphasizing the link between the Palestinian cause and the revolutionary struggle that have erupted in the Arab world.

“At this pinnacle moment for the Arab people, we totally and unwaveringly stand by the choice of the Egyptian nation for democracy and progress … the Palestinian people and its national liberation movement is an integral part of the struggle of the peoples of the Arab nation. Every step forward of this great emancipation movement of the Arab people affects the Palestinian cause and empowers our struggle for liberation.”



[The following article, written by a supporter of Israel, appeared in the Feb. 2 Political Correction website. His brief retelling of the peace efforts between the Israeli and Palestinian leaders is quite informative.]

By M.J. Rosenberg

Those of U.S. in the pro-Israel, pro-peace camp do not enjoy being proven right — although we invariably are.

Our standard recommendation to Israel is that it should move quickly to achieve agreements with the Arab states and the stateless Palestinians before it is too late.

And the Israeli response is that there is no urgency to make peace — except on Israeli terms — because Israel is strong and the Arabs are weak.

The most egregious example of this phenomenon comes from Egypt, where in 1971 President Anwar Sadat offered to begin negotiations toward peace in exchange for a two-mile wide Israeli withdrawal from the east bank of the Suez Canal, which Israel had captured along with the rest of the Sinai Peninsula in the 1967 war.

The Nixon administration told the Israeli government to explore the idea because Sadat was intent on going to war if he did not get his territory back.

The peace camp in Israel and its allies here urged Israel to follow Nixon's advice and hear Sadat out. The [pro-Israel] lobby, of course, told Nixon to mind his own business.

As for the Israeli cabinet, it told Nixon's emissary, Assistant Secretary of State Joseph Sisco, that it had no interest in discussing Egypt's offer. It voted for keeping all of the Sinai Peninsula and sending Egypt a simple message: no. After all, the Egyptians had shown just four years earlier that they were no match for the IDF.

Two years later, the Egyptians attacked, and within hours all of Israel's positions along the canal were overrun and its soldiers killed. By the time the war ended, Israel had lost 3,000 soldiers and almost the state itself. And then, a few years later, it gave up the entire Sinai anyway, not just the two-mile strip Egypt had demanded in 1971.

The peace camp was proven right. But I don't recall anyone being happy about it. On the contrary, we were devastated. 3,000 Israelis (and thousands more Egyptians) were killed in a war that might have been prevented if the Israeli government had simply agreed to talk.

This pattern has been repeated over and over again. The Oslo Israeli-Palestinian peace process, which gave Israel its safest and most optimistic years in its history, collapsed after Prime Ministers Binyamin Netanyahu and Ehud Barak repeatedly refused to live up to its terms.

During the Oslo process, Yasir Arafat's Palestinian Authority did what it was supposed to do: it combated terrorism so effectively (Hamas had launched a series of deadly bus bombings to thwart the peace process) that Netanyahu himself telephoned Arafat to thank him. By 1999, terrorism was effectively defeated in Israel. It was an amazing time, with the free and safe movement of goods and people from Israel to the West Bank and back again — not the way it is today, with a towering wall separating Israelis from Palestinians and dividing Palestinians on one side from Palestinians on the other.

But the temporary end of terrorism did not achieve the transfer of any actual territory to the Palestinians. Netanyahu and Barak nickeled and dimed the Palestinians to death — actually, to the death of the peace process, which for all intents and purposes is now buried. By the time Clinton convened the Camp David summit in 2000, any good will between the two sides was gone.

One could go on and on. According to President Bill Clinton, Prime Minister Ehud Barak could have had peace with Syria in 2000 until, at the very last minute, Barak chickened out. (He was afraid of the settlers.) The opportunity for full peace with Syria (which would almost certainly also mean peace with Lebanon as well as a lowering of tensions with Syria's ally, Iran) came again in December 2008.

The Turks had brokered a deal with the Syrians that Prime Minister Olmert celebrated with a five-hour Ankara dinner with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Olmert went home. The Turks waited for Israel's final approval.

And then this is what happened next, according to Israeli New York University professor Alon Ben-Meir:

 .” the utter surprise and dismay of the Turkish government, five days after Olmert returned to Jerusalem, Israel began a massive incursion into Gaza. Ankara felt betrayed by the Israeli action and deceived by Olmert's failure to inform the Turkish Prime Minister of Israel's pending operation of which he, as the Prime Minister, was obviously fully aware of and could have disclosed to his Turkish counterpart while he was still in Ankara. For Mr. Erdogan, the problem was compounded not only because he did not hear from Olmert the message of peace which he eagerly anticipated, but a 'declaration' of war with all of its potential regional consequences.

"It is hard to describe the depth of the Turks' disappointment, not only because they were left in the dark, but because a major breakthrough in the Arab-Israeli peace process of historical magnitude was snatched away."

This incident was a major first step toward the collapse of Israeli-Turkish friendship, which — along with the relationship with Mubarak's Egypt — was the cornerstone of Israel's sense of security. Who's left? Jordan. However, Israel consistently ignores King Abdullah's demands that it end the occupation of the West Bank and the blockade of Gaza.

And then there is our own country. President Obama put his prestige on the line to achieve an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict but all Israel did in response was to ridicule him and reject every suggestion the president made (no matter that Israel receives more U.S. aid than any other country, by far).

Anyone who cares about Israel at all has to be appalled by these repeated blunders — all backed by AIPAC and its cutouts in Congress.

When will Israel's supposed friends learn? Maybe never. In today's New York Times, Yossi Klein Halevi, an influential Israeli journalist, expresses fear, almost terror, about the Egyptian revolution. He tells of "the grim assumption" that

.”.. it is just a matter of time before the only real opposition group in Egypt, the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood, takes power. Israelis fear that Egypt will go the way of Iran or Turkey, with Islamists gaining control through violence or gradual co-optation."

Note how Halevi conflates Turkey with Iran (a ridiculous comparison based only on the fact that democratic Turkey opposes Israel's blockade of Gaza) and then adds Egypt to the list.

And then there is the latest fright word, the Muslim Brotherhood. You would never know it from Halevi, but the Brotherhood is nonviolent, has always opposed Al Qaeda, and condemned 9/11 and other acts of international terrorism.

Yes, they are an Islamic organization which would prefer an Egypt based on Islamic law, much as the Shas party (a significant part of Israel's ruling coalition) pushes for an Israel based on its extreme interpretation of Torah.

Halevi (and other lobby types) may want the Muslim Brotherhood to be terrorists but, sadly for them, that is not true. And, besides, the Jan. 25 revolution is not a Muslim Brotherhood revolution. They support it — almost all Egyptians do — but that does not make it theirs. Nor do they claim otherwise.

The bottom line: I am happy for the Egyptian people, but I am sad for Israel — not because it is genuinely threatened by this revolution but because Israel's leaders seem determined to turn the revolution against them.

One can only hope that Israel, and its lobby, wakes up. I hate always being proven right when it comes to Israel. I care about it too much.


By Activist Newsletter

Some 1,200 demonstrators rallied Jan. 30 in front of the Rancho Las Palmas Resort in Rancho Mirage, Calif., where a group of wealthy conservative business leaders met to discuss political strategy. Some 25 nonviolent activists were arrested.

The rally protested the power of big business corporations in U.S. society. A main target was the ultra-right political activity of the billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch, who organized the annual right wing event with other corporate entities and conservative movement operators.

The demonstration was mainly put together by liberal group Common Cause with support from the California Courage Campaign, CREDO,,, the California Nurses Association, and United Domestic Workers of America. Event organizers chartered buses from several locations around Southern California.

Many activists met at a hotel ballroom directly across from the resort, where they heard speakers decry the conservative strategy session unfolding inside the Rancho Las Palmas resort. The crowd outside on Bob Hope Drive eventually grew to an estimated 1,200, according to the Riverside County Sheriff's Department. Signs read `"Medicare for All,'' "Troops Home Now'' and "Tea Party Founded and Funded By The Kochs."

A heavy police presence, adorned with riot helmets and visors, formed a blockade at the resort's gates, so the protesters moved to the other side of Bob Hope Drive, which was blocked to traffic for 50 minutes until the conclusion. No laws were broken, and there were no disputes. Sheriff deputies said the organizers had made previous arrangements with them for the 25 "passive arrests" before the protest began. They were cited for trespassing on resort grounds, and were released from a local holding facility on their promise to appear in court.

The Koch Brothers have heavily funded conservative and libertarian causes for over a generation. They financed the Citizens United challenge to federal campaign laws that resulted in a 5-4 ruling by the conservative Supreme Court that corporations or other groups may anonymously spend unlimited amounts of money on candidates for public office. Progressives view the decision as a serious assault upon democracy.

— Information based on reports from AP, KESQ-TV (Palm Springs, CA), and Fire Dog Lake.


By Tom O’Connor

The notion that Democrats and Republicans could come together and enact legislation that would protect American workers from on-the-job injury or death seems almost unthinkable today, but 40 years ago, that is precisely what happened.

On Dec. 29, 1970, President Richard Nixon signed into law the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA), a compromise that sought to “assure every working man and woman in the Nation safe and healthful working conditions and to preserve our human resources,” according to its text.

The OSH Act has saved many thousands of lives. If workers had the same risk of death on the job as they did in 1933, government figures estimated that 40,000 more workers would die every year.

But today, the regulatory system that is the legacy of that landmark legislation is broken. The OSH Act has not been significantly updated since it became law and OSHA is hopelessly overmatched, struggling to oversee a 21st century workplace with 20th century tools. Nearly 5,000 American workers pay the price every year — with their lives.

OSHA is woefully understaffed, given the magnitude of its task. A mere 2,000 inspectors endeavor to cover more than 7 million worksites. The sanctions they can use against employers who routinely flout the law are too weak to function as deterrents.

When violations are discovered — all too often after the tragic fact —  the penalties are laughable. The average penalty for a violation resulting in a worker’s death is only about $4,000.

Criminal penalties are nearly impossible to impose, even in cases of reckless disregard for workers’ lives. As a result, far too many employers make the calculation that it is simply cheaper to pay the fine, if they are one of the few who are caught, than it is to invest in a safe workplace.

Other federal agencies overseeing health, safety, and environmental regulations — from EPA to the FDA — all have been updated in the years since they were created to reflect changing circumstances. OSHA simply has not kept pace.

The fact is, OSHA will never have sufficient resources to protect all American workers. OSHA investigators cannot be everywhere at once.

We need to rethink how to make workplaces safe. The answer lies not in developing new OSHA standards on a one-by-one basis. This process has produced important worker protections in the last 40 years, but business and industry interests have learned that they can block new regulations indefinitely by constant legal challenges and political pressure. As a result, new OSHA standards to protect workers have become exceedingly rare.

A whole new approach has been proposed by OSHA Director David Michaels. His new Injury and Illness Prevention Program Standard, if enacted, would require employers to assess their workplaces, determine what hazards are present, and come up with solutions.

The standard doesn’t tell employers exactly how they should prevent hazards, but instead provides flexibility in determining the best way to protect employees.

How would this avoid giving employers giant loopholes? Who’s to check? OSHA inspectors, already overstretched, would need a bigger enforcement budget, certainly.

But to stand any chance of success, these efforts must include meaningful worker participation. Workers know the hazards in their workplaces better than anyone. They must be allowed to participate actively in identifying workplace hazards and they must have the right to stop work, without fear of retaliation, if a hazardous situation develops.

Giving workers that measure of control over workplace safety in an environment of 7.2% private-sector union density would be no small feat. Health and safety advocates agree that safety committees should be mandatory in union workplaces. But in non-union shops, would a boss-dominated safety committee be desirable?

Workers, with or without a union, need new rights to protect themselves. Armed with that confidence, the workers on the Deepwater Horizon rig and at the Upper Big Branch Mine [in West Virginia where 29 miners died] might have been able to prevent last year’s disasters at their workplaces.

Without it, we’ll be stuck in the same piecemeal system that fails to address the total picture of safety on the job — and wait for the next workplace disaster to strike.

— From Labor Notes magazine Jan. 14. Tom O’Connor is executive director of the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health, a coalition of unions, health and technical professionals, and others interested in promoting worker health and safety.


By Gareth Porter

Fifty years after Dwight D. Eisenhower’s January 17, 1961 speech on the “military-industrial complex," that threat has morphed into a far more powerful and sinister force than Eisenhower could have imagined. It has become a “Permanent War State," with the power to keep the United States at war continuously for the indefinite future. 

But despite their seeming invulnerability, the vested interests behind U.S. militarism have been seriously shaken twice in the past four decades by some combination of public revulsion against a major war, opposition to high military spending, serious concern about the budget deficit and a change in perception of the external threat. Today, the Permanent War State faces the first three of those dangers to its power simultaneously — and in a larger context of the worst economic crisis since the great depression.

When Eisenhower warned in this farewell address of the “potential” for the “disastrous rise of misplaced power," he was referring to the danger that militarist interests would gain control over the country’s national security policy. The only  reason it didn’t happen on Ike’s watch is that he stood up to the military and its allies.

The Air Force and the Army were so unhappy with his “New Look” military policy that they each waged political campaigns against it. The Army demanded that Ike reverse his budget cuts and beef up conventional forces. The Air Force twice fabricated intelligence to support its claim that the Soviet Union was rapidly overtaking the United States in strategic striking power — first in bombers, later in ballistic missiles. 

But Ike defied both services, reducing Army manpower by 44% from its 1953 level and refusing to order a crash program for bombers or for missiles. He also rejected military recommendations for war in Indochina, bombing attacks on China and an ultimatum to the Soviet Union.

After Eisenhower, it became clear that the alliance of militarist interests included not only the military services and their industrial clients but civilian officials in the Pentagon, the CIA’s Directorate of Operations, top officials at the State Department and the White House national security adviser. During the Kennedy and Johnson administrations, that militarist alliance succeeded in pushing the White House into a war in Vietnam, despite the reluctance of both presidents, as documented in my book Perils of Dominance.

But just when the power of the militarist alliance seemed unstoppable in the late 1960s, the public turned decisively against the Vietnam War, and a long period of public pressure to reduce military spending began. As a result, military manpower was reduced to below even the Eisenhower era levels.

For more than a decade the alliance of militarist interests was effectively constrained from advocating a more aggressive military posture.

Even during the Reagan era, after a temporary surge in military spending, popular fear of the Soviet Union melted away in response to the rise of Gorbachev, just as the burgeoning federal budget deficit was becoming yet another threat to the militarist bloc. As it became clear that the Cold War was drawing to a close, the militarist interests faced the likely loss of much of their power and resources.  

But in mid-1990 they got an unexpected break when Saddam Hussein occupied Kuwait. George H. W. Bush — a key figure in the militarist complex as former CIA Director — seized the opportunity to launch a war that would end the “Vietnam syndrome." The Bush administration turned a popular clear-cut military victory in the 1991 Gulf War into a rationale for further use of military force in the Middle East. Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney’s 1992 military strategy for the next decade said, “We must be prepared to act decisively in the Middle East/Persian Gulf region as we did in Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm if our vital interests are threatened anew.” 

The Bush administration pressured the Saudis and other Arab regimes in the Gulf to allow longer-term bases for the U.S. Air Force, and over the next eight years, U.S. planes flew an annual average of 8,000 sorties in the “no fly zones” the United States had declared over most of Iraq, drawing frequent anti-aircraft fire.

The United States was already in a de facto state of war with Iraq well before George W. Bush’s presidency.

The 9/11 attacks were the biggest single boon to the militarist alliance.  The Bush administration exploited the climate of fear to railroad the country into a war of aggression against Iraq. The underlying strategy, approved by the military leadership after 9/11, was to use Iraq as a base from which to wage a campaign of regime change in a long list of countries. 

That fateful decision only spurred recruitment and greater activism by al Qaeda and other jihadist groups, which expanded into Iraq and other countries. 

Instead of reversing the ill-considered use of military force, however, the same coalition of officials pushed for an even more militarized approach to jihadism. Over the next few years, it gained unprecedented power over resources and policy at home and further extended its reach abroad:

• The Special Operations Forces, which operate in almost complete secrecy, obtained extraordinary authority to track down and kill or capture al Qaeda suspects not only in Iraq and Afghanistan, but in many more countries.
• The CIA sought and obtained virtually unlimited freedom to carry out drone strikes in secrecy and without any meaningful oversight by Congress.
• The Pentagon embraced the idea of the “long war” — a 20-year strategy envisioning deployment of U.S. troops in dozens of countries, and the Army adopted the idea of “the era of persistent warfare” as its rationale for more budgetary resources.
• The military budget doubled from 1998 to 2008 in the biggest explosion of military spending since the early 1950s — and now accounts for 56% of discretionary federal spending.
• The military leadership used its political clout to ensure that U.S. forces would continue to fight in Afghanistan indefinitely, even after the premises of its strategy were shown to have been false.

Those moves have completed the process of creating a “Permanent War State” — a set of institutions with the authority to wage largely secret wars across a vast expanse of the globe for the indefinite future. 

But the power of this new state formation is still subject to the same political dynamics that have threatened militarist interests twice before: popular antipathy to a major war, broad demands for reduced military spending and the necessity to reduce the federal budget deficit and debt.

The percentage of Americans who believe the war in Afghanistan is not worth fighting has now reached 60% for the first time. And as the crisis over the federal debt reaches it climax, the swollen defense budget should bear the brunt of deep budget cuts.

As early as 2005, a Pew Research Center survey found that, when respondents were given the opportunity to express a preference for budget cuts by major accounts, they opted to reduce  military spending by 31%. In another survey by the Pew Center a year ago, 76% of respondents, frustrated by the continued failure of the U.S. economy, wanted the United States to put top priority in its domestic problems.  

The only thing missing from this picture is a grassroots political movement organized specifically to demand an end to the Permanent War State. Such a movement could establish firm legal restraints on the institutions that threaten American Democratic institutions through a massive educational and lobbying effort. This is the right historical moment to harness the latent anti-militarist sentiment in the country to a conscious strategy for political change.

— Gareth Porter is an investigative historian and journalist on U.S. national security policy. He writes regularly for Inter Press Service. Porter is the author of four books, the latest of which is Perils of Dominance: Imbalance of Power and the Road to War in Vietnam.


By Enrique Vasquez

The U.S. government Jan. 14 announced the elimination of some aspects of its economic warfare against Cuba, effectively bringing back rules in place during the Clinton administration.

Changes include permitting travel to Cuba by U.S. citizens for academic, educational, cultural and religious purposes as well as sending limited remittances. The new measures will also permit U.S. international airports to request permission to operate charter flights to Cuba under limited conditions. However, there will be no reciprocity for Cuban companies to travel to the United States.

Using typical anti-Cuba doublespeak, White House officials stated that "President Barack Obama believes that these measures, combined with continuation of the embargo, are important steps to achieve a widely shared goal of a Cuba respecting the basic rights of all its citizens."

Although these changes are positive, they will only allow select sectors of the U.S. population to travel to Cuba. U.S. citizens will remain the only people in the world who cannot freely travel to Cuba. Trade and diplomatic relations will also remain unchanged between the two countries.

These changes to U.S. policy towards Cuba do nothing to end the ongoing threats against the island nation of 12 million people. As the Cuban government pointed out, the new measures “keep intact the economic, financial and trade blockade.”

The Cuban Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement: “The adoption of these measures is the result of efforts by broad sectors of U.S. society which, in their majority, have been demanding the end of the criminal blockade of Cuba and the elimination of the absurd prohibition of travel to our country.

“It is also an expression of recognition that the U.S. policy towards Cuba has failed and new ways to accomplish the historic objective of dominating our people are being sought. Although the measures are positive ones, they are much less than what is being justly demanded, their reach is very limited and they do not modify policy against Cuba....

“These measures confirm that there is no willingness to change the policy of blockade and destabilization against Cuba. Upon announcing them, U.S. government officials made it very clear that the blockade will remain in force and that the administration is proposing to use the new measures to strengthen subversion and intervention in Cuba's internal affairs.”

The struggle to end the blockade on Cuba continues as many countries throughout the world condemn the criminality of the U.S. government. In 2010, for the 19th consecutive year, the U.N. General Assembly voted for the U.S. government to end its blockade of Cuba with 187 member states standing in solidarity with the Cuban people — the greatest majority ever....

— Excerpted from Liberation Jan. 29,



[Given the erosion of certain civil liberties in recent years it's good to know what to do if you're stopped by police, immigration agents or the FBI. Many people have no clear idea about their legal rights in such matters. A few months ago the American Civil Liberties Union updated its fact sheet on individual rights when questioned. The text follows.]

We rely on the police to keep us safe and treat us all fairly, regardless of race, ethnicity, national origin or religion. Here are tips for interacting with police and understanding your rights. (Note: Some state laws may vary. Separate rules apply at checkpoints and when entering the U.S., including at airports.)

What to do if you're stopped by police, immigration agents or the FBI

• You have the right to remain silent. If you wish to exercise that right, say so out loud.
• You have the right to refuse to consent to a search of yourself, your car or your home.
• If you are not under arrest, you have the right to calmly leave.
• You have the right to a lawyer if you are arrested. Ask for one immediately.
• Regardless of your immigration or citizenship status, you have constitutional rights.

• Do stay calm and be polite.
• Do not interfere with or obstruct the police.
• Do not lie or give false documents.
• Do prepare yourself and your family in case you are arrested.
• Do remember the details of the encounter.
• Do file a written complaint or call your local ACLU if you feel your rights have been violated.


Stay calm. Don't run. Don't argue, resist or obstruct the police, even if you are innocent or police are violating your rights. Keep your hands where police can see them.

Ask if you are free to leave. If the officer says yes, calmly and silently walk away. If you are under arrest, you have a right to know why.

You have the right to remain silent and cannot be punished for refusing to answer questions. If you wish to remain silent, tell the officer out loud. In some states, you must give your name if asked to identify yourself.

You do not have to consent to a search of yourself or your belongings, but police may "pat down" your clothing if they suspect a weapon. You should not physically resist, but you have the right to refuse consent for any further search. If you do consent, it can affect you later in court.


Stop the car in a safe place as quickly as possible. Turn off the car, turn on the internal light, open the window part way and place your hands on the wheel.

Upon request, show police your driver's license, registration and proof of insurance.

If an officer or immigration agent asks to look inside your car, you can refuse to consent to the search. But if police believe your car contains evidence of a crime, your car can be searched without your consent.

Both drivers and passengers have the right to remain silent. If you are a passenger, you can ask if you are free to leave. If the officer says yes, sit silently or calmly leave. Even if the officer says no, you have the right to remain silent.


You have the right to remain silent and do not have to discuss your immigration or citizenship status with police, immigration agents or any other officials. You do not have to answer questions about where you were born, whether you are a U.S. citizen, or how you entered the country. (Separate rules apply at international borders and airports, and for individuals on certain nonimmigrant visas, including tourists and business travelers.)

If you are not a U.S. citizen and an immigration agent requests your immigration papers, you must show them if you have them with you. If you are over 18, carry your immigration documents with you at all times. If you do not have immigration papers, say you want to remain silent.

Do not lie about your citizenship status or provide fake documents.


If the police or immigration agents come to your home, you do not have to let them in unless they have certain kinds of warrants.

Ask the officer to slip the warrant under the door or hold it up to the window so you can inspect it. A search warrant allows police to enter the address listed on the warrant, but officers can only search the areas and for the items listed. An arrest warrant allows police to enter the home of the person listed on the warrant if they believe the person is inside. A warrant of removal/deportation (ICE warrant) does not allow officers to enter a home without consent.

Even if officers have a warrant, you have the right to remain silent. If you choose to speak to the officers, step outside and close the door.


If an FBI agent comes to your home or workplace, you do not have to answer any questions. Tell the agent you want to speak to a lawyer first.

If you are asked to meet with FBI agents for an interview, you have the right to say you do not want to be interviewed. If you agree to an interview, have a lawyer present. You do not have to answer any questions you feel uncomfortable answering, and can say that you will only answer questions on a specific topic.


Do not resist arrest, even if you believe the arrest is unfair.

Say you wish to remain silent and ask for a lawyer immediately. Don't give any explanations or excuses. If you can't pay for a lawyer, you have the right to a free one. Don't say anything, sign anything or make any decisions without a lawyer.

You have the right to make a local phone call. The police cannot listen if you call a lawyer.

Prepare yourself and your family in case you are arrested. Memorize the phone numbers of your family and your lawyer. Make emergency plans if you have children or take medication.

Special considerations for non-citizens:
• Ask your lawyer about the effect of a criminal conviction or plea on your immigration status.
• Don't discuss your immigration status with anyone but your lawyer.
• While you are in jail, an immigration agent may visit you. Do not answer questions or sign anything before talking to a lawyer.
• Read all papers fully. If you do not understand or cannot read the papers, tell the officer you need an interpreter.


You have the right to a lawyer, but the government does not have to provide one for you. If you do not have a lawyer, ask for a list of free or low-cost legal services.

You have the right to contact your consulate or have an officer inform the consulate of your arrest.

Tell the ICE agent you wish to remain silent. Do not discuss your immigration status with anyone but your lawyer.

Do not sign anything, such as a voluntary departure or stipulated removal, without talking to a lawyer. If you sign, you may be giving up your opportunity to try to stay in the U.S.

Remember your immigration number ("A" number) and give it to your family. It will help family members locate you.

Keep a copy of your immigration documents with someone you trust.


Remember: police misconduct cannot be challenged on the street. Don't physically resist officers or threaten to file a complaint.

Write down everything you remember, including officers' badge and patrol car numbers, which agency the officers were from, and any other details. Get contact information for witnesses. If you are injured, take photographs of your injuries (but seek medical attention first).

File a written complaint with the agency's internal affairs division or civilian complaint board. In most cases, you can file a complaint anonymously if you wish.

Call your local ACLU or visit