Wednesday, January 30, 2008


Habash

The Bearer Of The Dream
- by Lamis Andoni


Link from here

George Habash, the Palestinian leader who was laid to rest on Monday in Amman after six decades of unwavering struggle, had two dreams: an end to the dispossession of his people and the realisation of Arab unity.

He died without seeing either dream come true. In his last years Habash watched, with deep sadness imprinted on his warm persona, as Israel expanded, the Palestinian movement splintered, Iraq fell under US occupation and the Arab World growing increasingly divided.

But he lived and died without forsaking his dream or losing faith in his people.

"His message to the Palestinians was to restore our unity," Issam Al Taher, a senior aide, who saw him a day before his death said.

"Unity, unity, unity -- that was his only message," said Al Taher.

To millions of Palestinians those were not solely the words of a political leader but also a soulful cry from a man described as "the conscience of the Palestinian revolution".

While obituaries in Western newspapers announced the death "of a radical Palestinian who resorted to terror tactics", to his people Habash was the unyielding bearer of their dream.

Missing the point

The world that simply condemns him as "a terrorist" for orchestrating the hijacking of Western planes in the early 1970s, misses an important point: Habash was a product of the generation of the Nakba or catastrophe as Palestinians refer to the 1948 creation of the state of Israel.

After his life was shattered by the violent dispossession of his homeland, Habash was determined to fight back.

Inspired by the anti-colonial struggles, Habash believed that his people should not be forgotten. From his point of view and that of many of his generation, the world was impervious to the fate of a people dispossessed and deprived of their dignity, security and future.

As he repeatedly put it, the world needed to be awakened to the plight of the Palestinians; it had to be disturbed. Palestinians today may or may not agree with his tactics, but his generation remembers that Palestinians were off the world's radar screens until the resistance made itself heard in the 1960s.

He belonged to a generation influenced by Franz Fannon, Mao Zedong, General Vo Nguyen Giap and later by Che Guevara. In their views, colonialism epitomised systematic, institutional violence and subjugation of people under its control.

The chronicle of his life mirrors the combined lives of many Palestinians and Arabs who were determined to put the colonial control of the Arab world behind by leading a movement for unity, justice and independence from foreign influence and domination.

After graduating as a medical doctor from the American University of Beirut, Habash co-founded the Arab Nationalist Movement in 1953 to give voice to a sweeping Pan-Arabism that sought unity as a guarantor of independence.

Endorsing Marxism

In the early 1960s, George Habash, already a paediatrician in Amman known for treating the poor for free, endorsed Marxism as he grew convinced that the national struggle should not be separate from the struggle for social justice.

But it was when he founded the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), a resistance movement advocating armed struggle, that the popular physician became a feared enemy of Israel and Arab governments.

His proclaimed aims of liberating Palestine and taking down Arab governments seen as "lackeys of imperialism" were also at the heart of both the Pan-Arab movement and leftist parties in the region.

The PFLP was able to weave ties with all leftist movements in the world, both political and armed, as it saw itself as part of a larger global struggle.

But it was not until the resounding defeat handed out by Israel to the Arabs in 1967 that Habash and his comrades turn from political activism to armed struggle.

The PFLP's actions, especially the hijackings of airliners, prompted the Jordanian government to place a price on his head. The once compassionate doctor soon found himself on the wanted lists of many Arab and Western governments.

The PFLP gradually changed its tactics, finally dropping attacks against Western countries and target, but did not renounce armed struggle against Israel. It gained more strength and popularity after the PLO was forced to move to Lebanon from Jordan in 1970.

Principled defiance

In the 1970s and throughout the 1980s, Habash emerged as the main political opponent of Yasser Arafat, the PLO leader. However, the two men never severed ties and continued a complex relationship of camaraderie and rivalry until the end. It was during those years, that Habash came to be seen by many Arabs as a symbol of principled defiance.

He rejected the idea of a two–state solution -- the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside Israel that was beginning to become part of the discourse that Arafat and other PLO groups were advocating.

Habash's position was described variously as pure "idealism". But the idea of refusing to renounce the people's right to historic Palestine caught Palestinian and Arab imagination.

When Habash spoke, people listened. Not only did he speak from the heart but it also carried weight as the PFLP rose in strength to challenge the dominant Fatah movement within the PLO.

Tall and handsome, Habash exuded a certain charisma that disarmed his distracters who admired his persistence but criticised what they saw as rigidity. A stroke that partially paralysed half of his body changed his appearance later but did not affect his ardour for the cause.

Meeting Habash

It was that Habash that I saw and met for the first time in Tunis in 1983.

The PLO was expelled from Beirut too and most its leaders moved to this northern Mediterranean capital of Tunisia. Habash moved to Damascus, Syria instead.

On that day the PLO was holding a meeting. Most of the leaders had arrived and then there was a stir and silence. Habash entered slowly on clutches, hampered and subdued by his physical disability.

The hall, filled with hardened fighters, stood on their feet while Arafat hugged Habash and escorted him to his seat. When it was time for Habash to speak, his soft voice carried the warning that the military defeat in Lebanon should not be allowed to become a political defeat.

The PLO, feeling isolated after its loss of its last sanctuary in Lebanon, was pondering ways in which to become an indispensable party in what appeared then as an inevitable path to Arab negotiations with Israel.

Arafat's main argument was that unless the Palestinians made themselves a party in future negotiations, the two prevailing super powers, the US and the Soviet Union, would push for a historic deal without their representation or consent.

Many agreed with what was seen as Arafat's realism. Habash, while not doubting Arafat's commitment, was sceptical. His speech, though halting, was forceful in its message.

Price of inclusion

He argued that that the Palestinians should not be begging for the acceptance of their enemies, that the Palestinians over-eagerness to be included would come at a very high price in the form of gradual compromise of their national rights.

His words resonated in the hall and beyond. People rose to their feet. Habash expressed their dream, but the majority that day voted for what they saw as a new "era of pragmatism" that required new strategy.

The PLO leaders, however, vowed that diplomacy would not preclude armed struggle against Israel

Habash did not relent. He remained a critical and foreboding voice, eventually opposing the 1993 Oslo accords between the PLO and Israel.

When in 1988 the Palestine National Council (PNC), the Palestinian parliament in exile, endorsed the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside Israel, Habash did not join the celebration.

A PLO leader, jubilant at the time about what he believed was a historic step towards independence, later told me that the pain that he saw in Habash's eyes reflected a lingering pain in his own heart. The leader, who became one of the fiercest advocates of the Oslo negotiating process with Israel, like Habash himself, was from a family expelled from their home in Palestine in 1948.

Over the years I saw and interviewed Habash in Algeria, Syria and Jordan: He repeatedly said that no Palestinian leader had the right to kill the hope of the coming generations to realise the dream.

The Oslo accord and especially the events that followed only served to reinforce Habash's belief that Palestinians were being led to submission. But he was not a man who found satisfaction from "proving his point". He watched his people pursue an illusive peace with Israel with growing sadness.

Distressed

He would get so distressed during conversations discussing the events in Palestine and most recently in Iraq, that his wife, and closest friend Hilda, would interfere to stop it.

When Israel besieged Arafat in 2002 in his compound in Ramallah, Habash stood by his rival. When Arafat died, amid Palestinian suspicion that Israel may have been involved, Habash deeply mourned him.

The few times I was able to see him over the last three years, he never stopped monitoring and learning every detail about Palestinian life. His physical ailment deepened the sense of soulful pain he internalized.

Those who were with him during his last days recall how disturbed he was by the rift between Fatah and Hamas. He opposed the strategy of Mahmoud Abbas, the current Palestinian president, of accommodating US and Israeli demands but did not endorse Hamas's military take over of Gaza.

His main concern was the damage brought upon the Palestinians by the most serious internal rift in their history.

Habash, as a political leader, will likely be subjected to the scrutiny of historians. His achievements and failures would be judged kindly and harshly as generations of Palestinian re-evaluate their past.

But as Palestinians bid farewell to Habash, affectionately called Al Hakeem (Arabic for doctor and alternatively, wise man), he will always be remembered as a man who embodied Palestinian and Arab aspirations.

The writer is an Al Jazeera Middle East analyst.


Tuesday, January 29, 2008


Remind Me Again -

Who Is Wiping Who Off The Map




Sunday, January 27, 2008


For the Invaders




Saturday, January 26, 2008


Mexico a Factor




Mexico Could be a Factor in the American Vote


Mexico President Felipe Calderon

An unexpected factor in the US presidential election this year might not come from a primary. Instead, Mexico President Felipe Calderon might play that role. Calderon's mid-February visit to the United States could set the stage.

He is scheduled to meet with immigration reform leaders in New York, Los Angeles, Boston and Chicago. Calderon will reveal at that time his strategy for approaching policymakers concerning migrant rights. He will also meet with key legislators on the issues. In these encounters, he could become a factor in the U.S. election.

Calderon's U.S. visit comes a week after Super Tuesday, after the primaries in 24 states will have decided more than half of the Democratic and 41 percent of Republican delegates to their nominating conventions. The nominees should be known by then, or at least the field narrowed to the final few.

The cities Calderon will visit are away from Washington's shadow. Without that hovering specter, friendly encounters might be possible with the people broadly referred to as "legislators" with whom he plans to meet.

Calderon's visit was announced four months after a similar tour was called off when disgruntled migrant leaders complained Mexico failed to support their efforts. Some of this leadership had been responsible for the 2006 immigration reform protests over the punitive immigration legislation authored by Rep. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis. It generated one of the largest demonstrations in U.S. history, but they led to a legislative thud.

Local immigrant leaders have called on consular help from their home countries about matters concerning legal status, human rights, workplace abuses and family break-ups when U.S. officials deport heads of households.

Humanitarian groups on both sides of the border have expressed alarm over the 437 lives lost last year by people trying to cross into the United States, mostly in unauthorized places.

In mid-November, Calderon exhorted the U.S. presidential candidates to stop holding Mexican migrants hostage by their references in hyperbolic campaign speech. Addressing the advisory committee of the Institute of Mexicans Abroad, he rhetorically called out for recognition of the contributions Mexican workers make to the U.S. economy.

There, Calderon first disclosed his government would undertake expanded actions to cast Mexican workers in a more favorable light before the U.S. public. He also announced an initiative to provide humanitarian assistance to children who have been deported to Mexico from the United States.

He said candidates running for the U.S. presidency ought to rise to the occasion and put forward their best proposals for understanding and resolving problems that involve migrating workers.

Traditionally, Mexican migrants have turned to their government for consular help on labor rights issues. This dates as far back as the Roosevelt administration during World War II. But labor issues were specifically excluded from the North American Free Trade Agreement to placate organized labor.

Since the issue went unresolved in that treaty, the informal flow of workers has continued unabated across the border. The trade matter, became a labor issue, and has now transformed into one about illegal immigration.

This gives the Mexican president a legitimate opportunity - an unprecedented one - to go directly to community leaders and nominees.

Calderon appears to let the change get factored into the equation if any reform is coming. Given that all candidates running for president claim this is the year for change, this must be what it looks like.

By preparing to meet with immigrant leaders about a reform strategy further suggests Calderon recognizes the impact the 2006 demonstrations had. By taking his agenda to "legislators," he is creating an opportunity for party nominees to help defuse a potentially volatile situation if they agree to a reform agenda.

The Democratic and Republican candidates, whoever they turn out to be, could mitigate the immigration issue and avoid a misstep when they try to court the issue-sensitive, and crucial, Latino vote.

It remains to be seen which candidates will see this as a genuine opportunity, instead of a chance to bob and weave, fret and run.

Ironically, the political opportunity is not home-grown, but comes from abroad.


Bush Lies About Iraq

The Official Tally: 935 And Counting




2001 - 2003


House of Cards

By Jim Miles
Source: Palestine Chronicle


America today is not the only empire, but it is one that has consistently formulated itself around the ideologies of corporate business, the military, big government, and religious self-righteousness, mass marketing itself and mass exploiting others with military back-up when needed to make itself the biggest and most powerful ever known. Superficially, the empire has used the media interface of corporate business, the well known media companies themselves such as Time-Warner, to keep the general public ill-advised and readily entertained with pulp writing, pulp broadcasting, and computer activities and internet surfing.

The government and military combine to provide “reliable information” from “reliable sources” who wish to remain “anonymous” and thus create a mystique of underhanded cleverness and consequently apparent correctness of information. The CIA along with other putative non-governmental organizations operates ‘think tanks’ and ‘institutes’ to disseminate stories and scare tactics (and significant amounts of money) within America and offshore. Religious groups, now fully into the swing of projecting their interests into the corridors of power, have become more and more publicly involved in the political process, allowing their messianic beliefs and self-righteousness to carry the balance of power, especially within the half of government known as the Republican party, with the other half, the Democrats, mentally supining themselves in order to appear no less patriotic in their pummelling of the world.

The American image still remains strong around the world, and that is readily understood as an image created by a massive corporate and government propaganda effort that displays the finest of American tinsel and glitter and gloss. It would be wonderful but highly unrealistic to imagine a world without that advertising, without the constant images that subtly extol the virtues of American freedoms and purchasing power, the easy life with powerful cars, sexy women, and all the glamour of Hollywood and all the techno-glitter of Apple i-pods. It is a society built upon these images, upon the instant gratification and apparent wealth that is created in this wonderful entity called the United States of America.

The mythologies of ‘rugged individualism’ (as compared to corporate welfare), of Disneyesque happy-ever-after-lands (now found within gated communities and barred roads that keep the uglies out), of ‘free markets’ (as compared to agricultural subsidies and illegal immigrants), of ‘productivity and growth’ (while many OECD countries have higher productivity working less time with better benefits), of a classless society (fully debunked by anyone looking at crime statistics, incarceration rates, educational levels, and many other demographic factors), of ‘rule of law’ and ‘transparency of government’ (when most military contracts are no bids, and the executive is run by a group of unelected patronage and corporate power positions) are readily bought into by a largely complacent public and accepted worldwide, at least with the powerful elites in governments, with the idealized transparency and rule of law delivered mostly through economic coercion by way of the fully non-democratic and non-transparent WTO, IMF, World Bank and various other trade agreements not supported by the populace.

Conversely, the propaganda constantly reduces the rest of the world as being ‘old’ (as in Europe), or lacking in ‘modernity’ (as in the Middle East), or being ‘corrupted cronyism’ (as in Africa and Asia), or more basically, simply the ‘other’, a lesser breed of humanity to be looked down upon, creatures that may or may not be able to uplift themselves to American standards of institutional and personal excellence, but either way are useful commodities as labourers, extractors of wealth, and maybe but not paramount, as consumers. Anything that touches upon the horrors of ‘socialism’ or ‘social democracy’ anything that denies the commodification of essentials to life, now extending to genetically modified foods, water, and the basic genetic structures of indigenous plants and animals including human genetics as well, anything that denies ownership of resources to the ‘forces of the market’ rather than to the benefit of the workers that produce the wealth or the nation that possesses it – all this is considered sacrilege to the American controlled global financial gurus and prophets.

The ‘neutral’ market must rule everything, unsullied by morals, allowing ‘la crème de la crème’ to rise to the top while the rest are uplifted by the ‘trickle down’ effect, whereas the reality shows that markets are anything but neutral, never truly free, and from many of the court cases seen as with Enron, and Arthur Andersen, highly immoral. The rich take care of themselves first, witness the savings and loans scandal of the 1980s, and Bush’s failed business attempts and the buyout of Harken Oil, and the interactions of the Saudis with BCCI, the Bank of Credit and Commerce International, and the billions of dollars made by Prince Bandar and the Saudi government, who supported the Wahhabi fundamentalist sect within their own Islamic theocracy. Nothing neutral or free, or transparent or under rule of law with these operators. The poor, those stuck in Katrina’s aftermath in New Orleans, the blacks segregated by white emigration out of Detroit, the 40 million without medical coverage, all know the lie about trickle down economics and the supposed uplifting effects of neutral market forces. The trickle down effect is negated by the sucking sound of the wealthy absorbing the profits from the huge consumer appetites created in the American public, and from the huge government demands for more money to pursue its military efforts around the world, and from laws and taxes that are written by the wealthy, for the wealthy.

This wonderful financial powerhouse unfortunately relies now more than ever before on the creation of debt to supply the wealth and keep the economy ‘growing’. It is a financial institute built with the strength of a house of cards, susceptible to any stray currents within the financial markets of the world, or susceptible to some other marketers destabilizing it all with a few puffs of air, a whisper or rumour of ‘selling’ American owned debt, causing the cards to tumble and scatter uncontrollably. Globalization has come home to roost (pardon the mixed metaphor, but perhaps one can consider the ‘house of cards’ to be the ‘roost’, a very shaky, unsteady one).

“The economy, stupid.”

Bill Clinton’s electoral campaign targeted economic factors as a crucial point in deciding the outcome of his presidential campaign. The phrase is still applicable and probably will be for a while in one manner or another. But I also relate to it on a personal basis.

Economists live in a wonderfully purified world of jargon that most outside the economic literati, such as myself, have a great deal of trouble understanding what they are truly saying. This study, the ‘science’ of money and men has been called a “ a dreary, desolate and, indeed, quite abject and distressing one; what we might call, by way of eminence, the dismal science.[emphasis added] " Coined at a time when economics was encountering emancipation, the relationship would end up giving “birth to progenies and prodigies; dark extensive moon-calves, unnameable abortions, wide-coiled monstrosities, such as the world has not seen hitherto!”[1] More applicable today it is a dismal science because in all reality there is nothing scientific about it.

Economists do use mathematics a lot, especially statistics, but there is no scientific method of experimental deconstruction that relates to what they do, which is mostly talk about the wonderful statistics they create. Statistics, for those who have studied them without delving into the details, can be used for both sides of many arguments, according to the manner in which a phrase is turned around that statistic and what supporting data are included or left out. Opinion polls are example of statistics that are meaningless in the ‘real’ world as they are exactly that, an opinion, not reality, although the opinions on diverse topics are often represented as great truths.

The GDP is the most obvious statistical effort to hide what is happening in the world, as most countries do have increases in their GDP when they encounter the IMF, and the World Bank, as in Mexico where the statistic does not reveal the increasing gap between rich and poor, the impoverishment of the farmers as American subsidized corn destroys their markets, and an economy that relies on the billions of dollars in remittances from illegal immigrants to support those left at home. It is all a wonderful economic fairy tale that allows the IMF and World Bank to rationalize their own economic goodness and continue on with a losing cause with no apparent remorse for the damages incurred along the way.

Trying to understand what the economic problems of the United States are took some time for me to get through the jargon, but it reduces down to a few simple applications that any householder running an intelligent monthly budget based on money in and money out can understand.

The basis of the problem is that U.S. industrial production has declined significantly over the past two decades, while the service sector has grown immensely to become the “new dominant economic sector. Debt was a critical enabler.”[2] In other words, economic ‘wealth’ and ‘growth’ in America has been created by the manipulations of a huge debt; wealth and growth are flimsy statistical apparitions that could vanish quickly if someone shouted “boo” at the appropriate time. The economy is financed by debt, and “this debt and credit revolution constitutes the third major peril hanging over the future of the United States” (the other two being the military/oil connection and the rise of the Republican theocracy).[3]

The U.S. economy has always been based on consumption as previous historical events have attested to, leading to the first level of debt, that of the consumers. Americans have kept their economy rolling as “consumer spending accounted for more than two-thirds of the $11 trillion national economy” with “many consumers unable to resist the overpowering mantra: spend, spend, spend…” that comes “pouring out of Madison Avenue’s American dream machine.” [4]

As an aside, but a significant one, it should be noted that war is also a major ‘consumptive’ enterprise, consuming large amounts of raw materials and human resources for production, consuming lives and their future contributions to a whole society on a large scale, and consuming the environment through chemical weapons and land-mines/cluster bombs left behind to consume even more after the war is ‘over’. Direct military expenditures are 4 per cent of the GDP,[5] but an accounting of all other ‘militarized’ damages as above and other militarized budgets (war in Iraq/Afghanistan, the CIA, anything related to ‘homeland terror’, aid to Israel and other countries) would raise this proportion significantly. Consumption truly is an American way of life and death. The cost of war in Iraq alone - and not including costs to Iraq per se, but costs incurred by America - is conservatively estimated at 1.2 trillion dollars[6] – a figure largely and truly unimaginable – it is simply a grotesquely big number that defies comprehension of its consequences.

But to continue with the ‘average’ American, any individual catastrophe, with the average American having a negative saving rate, can tip any particular individual into poverty: a work disability, or a medical emergency can quickly destroy a family. On a broader scale, if interest rates are allowed to increase too much, and the over-extended mortgages and huge credit card debts become too much to manage, and with the no-escape bankruptcy laws now in effect, broad swaths of the middle and working class could quickly become impoverished.

Americans have used the increased value of their homes, artificially inflated to keep the economy rolling, withdrawing over $600 billion to pay off credit card debt and for personal spending.[7] As the housing market flattens out, with the bubble burst now well under way, and as wages continue to stay flat, the economic house of cards becomes less and less stable. It is not just the consumer at fault as corporate America has financed itself as well largely through debt.

The highly volatile money markets, stock markets, and corporate financings, the deregulation that has allowed all kinds of new and complex financial structures to develop is a second major factor in the frailty of the U.S. economy. Trillions of dollars have been placed into “such opaque standards as credit derivatives, credit derivative futures, and collateralized debt obligations.”[8] Those are terms that I have yet been able to understand clearly, along with others, “even more opaque, such as split capital trusts, collateralized debt obligations, and market credit default swaps.”[9] These wonderful new enterprises in the jargon of economics – with some degree of intention – keep it a mystery except to a few acolytes who profess to actually understand it, although along the way I have come across those much more immersed in economics than myself, who were intelligent enough to admit they could not truly fathom what the terms meant either. At any rate, they appear to be high-risk management items of various kinds for buying and selling other peoples debt – to the amount of “a whopping $17.3 trillion, enough to sink the entire economy if the market takes a nosedive.” [10] These debt structures of course are all inter-twined, with personal debt beholden to the corporations, and the corporation beholden to each other and various governments, the whole structure riding along comfortably so long as no ill wind blows. “Banks simply do not understand the chain of exposure and who owns what. Senior financial regulators and bankers now admit as much.”[11]

An aspect of debt that is readily understood is the national debt – at least readily understood for its definition, but again using numbers with place values well beyond the visualizing ken of most everyone, including, I would argue, most economists who bandy the amount around with great pride in their use of truly large but objectively meaningless large numbers. The understood part is that the nation owes a ton of money to other nations from whom they have borrowed money to finance their ongoing consumption, and the other nations so far are willing to carry the debt. However, if they decide they no longer want to carry that debt, if they stop purchasing the bonds and debentures (the latter being unsecured bonds relying on the goodwill of the government to repay them, if no way else other than to print more money, or raise more taxes, and it is obvious what the American government prefers), then the value and goodwill of the dollar will collapse.

The majority of this debt is owned by international central banks in China, Japan, Taiwan and South Korea who have their own motives for “purchasing short-term Treasuries [bonds and debentures] with negative real returns, their obvious motivation was to keep lucrative export markets open.”[12] In common terms, they are trading off investment losses in order to sustain their profit making exports to the over-consuming Americans, who no longer manufacture many of the products they want to buy.

There is a fourth aspect to debt, that of the current account deficit, simply defined as “money transactions with the rest of the world.”[13] It is “the broadest measurement of how much more Americans buy…than they sell.”[14] The current account problem is tied in with the national debt. The amount borrowed is staggering, as “the US has to borrow from foreign lenders (mostly Japan and China) $900 billion annually or nearly $2.5 billion every single day to finance the gap between payments and receipts from the rest of the world”[15] My simplest definition, economics for dummies, arrives at this: Americans buy more than they sell in a year (current account); year over year, Americans have to borrow money to continue that buying spree (national debt).

All these debts added up are more than staggering, and they defy all the precepts about fiscal prudence that has ever been preached to the average working layperson, yet it is okay for the government to encourage this debt policy. Taken all in total, "All Uncle Sam's debt, including private household consumer credit-card, mortgage etc debt of about $10 trillion, plus corporate and financial, with options, derivatives and the like, and state and local government debt comes to an unvisualizable, indeed unimaginable, $37 trillion, which is nearly four times Uncle Sam's GDP [gross domestic product – emphasis added]"[16]

Perhaps it is just all numbers and the economy can once again go percolating along as the economists juggle their statistics and print more money and everyone believes that the financial house is stronger than a house of cards. In my daily transactions, the run of the mill ordinary life I lead, which in itself is a blessing compared to the majority of the rest of the world upon whose labour this wealth has been built, these thoughts rest unquietly not so far in the back of my mind anymore. War and nuclear devastation are one thing, economic collapse, while not as disastrous for the environment and the third world (I imagine Cuba and Venezuela might actually weather the financial storm, being financially isolated as they are anyway – how ironic) would certainly affect my life and those of millions of other working people. The poor would not see much change; they have next to nothing anyway. The truly wealthy might not be quite so wealthy, but they always seem to hang onto their ill-gotten gains, or conversely, perhaps go on a buying spree of now cheap enterprises within which they could employ dirt-cheap labour. It is the hundreds of millions in the middle who would be affected most. The end result might just be the military application of nuclear weapons on a chosen target, as the wounded economic beast strikes out at its media created imaginary foes, blaming the rest of the world for their own stupid culpability.

That, of course, is paranoid conjecture. Only time will tell, but in the meantime, hopefully some solutions, some soft landings, will avail themselves in order that the economic puzzle of huge debts – the house of cards - resolves itself rather than collapsing into its empty basement.

The American empire is based on this house of cards, the borrowing of huge sums of money to keep the consumptive engines burning up as many commodities as can be created. The disasters of the IMF and the World Bank and the many free trade negotiations and agreements, instruments of the empire along with the military that I have previously examined, have negatively affected hundreds of millions of people globally. Something as apparently simple as a change from American petrodollars to the Euro petrodollar (one of the reasons, not stated, that the U.S. invaded Iraq, with one of its first actions being to restore Iraqi oil to the dollar base from the euro) or the hint to the central banks that China is disposing of its American reserves, or a drastic increase and sustaining of oil prices resulting in high inflation, could pull a keystone card out of the imperial arch. Ironically it was a homebuilt housing mortgage market that seems to have triggered the stock market collapse.

If it were simply a housing market collapse, with the rest of the economy still relatively strong, it might be a short-term milder recession. The efforts of the administration to help the situation do nothing but aggravate it. The 145 billion being returned to the taxpayer has to be borrowed from foreign sources, simply adding to that debt. The spending that the Americans will do with their magnificent $800 rebate is also money that is being spent on foreign goods. Consider that “According to reports, 70% of the goods on Wal-Mart shelves are made in China.” In reference to the number of manufactured goods being produced in the U.S. it is also important to note, ”In 2007, prior to the onset of the 2008 recession, 217,000 manufacturing jobs were lost. The US now has fewer manufacturing jobs than it had in 1950 when the population was half the current size.” [17]

In an economy defined as “military keynesianism”, Chalmers Johnson writes of the necessity of “liquidating the global empire” and bringing the defence budget into line with actual need, much less than the 55 per cent of global military expenditures that it now spends. Otherwise: “If we do these things we have a chance of squeaking by. If we don't, we face probable national insolvency and a long depression.” [18]

With the enormous debt at all levels, intertwined throughout various corporations and governments, with a senseless war for strategic oil control costing billions of dollars daily and creating overwhelming negative response to the American way, the world could be in for a long haul where major restructuring of the global markets might take decades to work out. Pessimistic? For sure, but the market collapse has been foreseen as a possible/probable event by alternate media for some time, while all the local financial advisors still run the tired and true mantra of “holding on” and “riding it out”. Be prepared for a long ride.


Thursday, January 24, 2008


Dubai


If this is the way the world is to go, how fast will our resources and environment last? Why must mankind use our planet so unnaturally? Under the circumstances we are in, wouldn't simple be more appropriate?
DUBAI

If you wonder what happens......
to all that oil money.......


Dubai in 1990 prior to the building spree


The same stree in 2003


Last year



The madness. Dubai is said to currently have 15-25% of all the
world 's cranes.


The Dubai Waterfront. When completed it will become the largest waterfront development in the world.


All of this was built in the last 5 years, including that island that looks
like a palm tree

The Palm Islands in Dubai. New Dutch dredging technology was used to
create these massive man made islands. They are the largest artificial islands in the world and can be seen from space. Three of these Palms
will be made with the last one being the largest of them all. Upon completion, the resort will have 2,000 villas, 40 luxury hotels, shopping centers, movie theaters, and many other facilities. It is expected to support a population of approximately 500,000 people. It is advertised as
being visible from the moon.


The World Islands. 300 artificially created islands in the shape of the
world. Each island will have an estimated cost of $25-30 million.

The Burj al-Arab hotel in Dubai . The worlds tallest hotel. Considered the only '7 star' hotel and the most luxurious hotel in the world. It stands on an artificial island in the sea.


Hydropolis, the world's first underwater hotel. Entirely built in Germany and then assembled inDubai, it is scheduled to be completed by 2009 after many delays.

The Burj Dubai. Construction began in 2005 and is expected to be complete by 2008. At an estimated height of over 800 meters, it will
easily be world's tallest building when finished. It will be almost 40%
taller than the the current tallest building, the Yaipei 101.

This is what downtown Dubai will look like around 2008-2009. More
than 140 stories of the Burj Dubai have already been completed. It is already the worlds tallest man made structure and it is still not scheduled to be completed for at least another year.

The Trump International Hotel & Tower, which will be the centerpiece of
one of the palm islands, The Palm Jumeirah.

Currently, the largest amusement park collection in the world is Walt
Disney World Resort in Orlando, which is also the largest single-site
employer in the United states with 58,000 employees. Dubailand will be twice the size. Dubailand will be built on 3 billion square feet (107 miles^2) at an estimated $20 billion price tag. The site will include a
purported 45 mega projects and 200 hundred other smaller projects.


Dubai Sports City

A huge collection of sports arenas located in Dubailand.Currently, the Walt Disney World Resort is the #1 tourist destination in the world. Once fully completed, Dubailand will easily take overthat title since it is
expected to attract 200,000 visitors daily.


Some of the tallest buildings in the world, such as Ocean Heights and The Princess Tower, which will be the largest residential building in the world at over a 100 stories, will line the Dubai Marina.

The U.A.E. Spaceport would be the first spaceport in the world if construction ever gets under way.

The Dubai Metro system, once completed, will become the largest fully
automated rail system in the world.

The Dubai World Central International Airport will become the largest
airport in size when it is completed. It will also eventually become the busiest airport in the world, based on passenger volume.

There are more construction workers in Dubai than there are actual
citizens.






Tuesday, January 22, 2008


Globalisation:

New Rulers Of The World


By John Pilger

There was international outcry in 1997 when the text of a secret agreement on investment was leaked and published on the Internet. Behind closed doors, the world's richest nations had been negotiating a Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI) which would give multinational corporations unprecedented powers over governments and local communities across the world.

Under the MAI there would be no stopping multinationals from taking over the domestic industries of their choice. Performance requirements on foreign companies would be banned.

The MAI negotiations collapsed in late 1998 in the face of international resistance from community groups, campaigners and MPs who recognised the threat it posed to democracy worldwide. Yet since that time, multinationals have been exploring new ways of opening up lucrative markets which are still closed to them. And they are taking a particular interest in the public services sector of Europe.

Trade is generally understood to mean trade in goods, whether raw commodities or manufactured products. However, the Uruguay Round of GATT expanded the scope of negotiations to include trade in services, which now account for over 20% of all world trade.

Examples of trade in services include banking, tourism or telecommunications, where a foreign company will be providing the service in question - for instance, the presence of HSBC (the Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation) on the British high street in place of what was the Midland Bank.

However, the services sector is far broader than financial services or communications. In fact, it includes the public health, education, water and sanitations services - public goods that have traditionally been seen as too important to commit to the free market.

The WTO's General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) commits governments to liberalisation of their service sectors. Like most WTO agreements, GATS was designed to favour the interests of multinational corporations - particularly, in this case, those of the USA.

As noted by David Hartridge, Director of the WTO's Services Division, "Without the enormous pressure generated by the American financial services sector, particularly companies like American Express and Citicorp, there would have been no services agreement."

Under the cover of current GATS negotiations, the world's multinationals are trying to expand their access to services. The USA's Coalition of Service Industries brings together the main multinationals working in the US services industry. With encouragement from the WTO itself, they have targeted the national health services of European countries as their prime objective for privatisation in the current negotiations on GATS.

In many of the world's poorest countries, privatisation of essential public services has already taken place as a result of structural adjustment programmes imposed by the IMF and World Bank. The effects of this privatisation programme have been disastrous, as the World Bank itself admits.

The introduction of school fees where there was previously free education has driven many poor families to withdraw their children from school, while hospital fees have put basic health care beyond the reach of millions.

Although they acknowledge the harm which privatisation has brought to poor communities in the Third World, the World Bank and IMF still insist on prescribing it as an economic model. Water privatisation is just one example. The World Bank notes that water in Haiti's capital Port-au-Prince costs up to 10 times as much from the private sector as it does from the public supply, and that poor families in Mauritania now have to spend a fifth of their household income on water.

Yet both the World Bank and the IMF continue to force water privatisation on developing countries. During 2000 alone, the IMF made water privatisation or full cost recovery a condition of loan agreements to 12 African countries. The World Bank has promised Ghana an extra $100 million in loans if it privatises its water supply.

The other key privatisation which threatens the developing world is the privatisation of knowledge. At the same time as liberalisation has opened up access to the markets and resources of the developing world, the WTO's controversial TRIPs agreement (on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights) has closed down developing countries' access to the new technology and medical advances which could greatly benefit their people.

Countries such as India, Brazil and Thailand have developed their own pharmaceutical industries over the course of many years, producing generic medicines for a fraction of the cost of brand-named drugs made by multinationals. The drug flucanazole, which is used to treat HIV-related meningitis, costs around $50 for 100 tablets in India, while the brand-name equivalents cost $700 in Indonesia and $800 in the Philippines - prices far beyond the reach of most people in those countries.

Yet the WTO aims to restrict the right of developing countries to produce cheaper drugs for their own people, forcing them instead to accept private ownership of brand-named medicines through long patents. In 1998 the WTO ruled that the Indian government must amend its national legislation in line with the TRIPs agreement to give greater rights to pharmaceutical companies' patents.

In March 2001 a group of 39 drugs companies launched a court case under the TRIPs agreement against the South African government's Medicines Act. Nelson Mandela introduced the Medicines Act in 1997 in order to allow South Africa to obtain the cheapest medicines to fight AIDS, tuberculosis and other infectious diseases. The Act requires pharmacists to prescribe a cheaper generic version of brand-named drugs wherever possible, and empowers the South African health minister to override pharmaceutical patents when public health is at stake.

With over four million of its people known to be HIV positive, the South African government is arguing that the Medicines Act is essential to the protection of public health. Yet the drugs companies contend that South Africa must fulfil its responsibilities as a WTO member and put private patents before public health. The UN has spoken out against the TRIPs agreement as a violation of human rights.


Monday, January 21, 2008


Andean Coalition




Qollauyo/Bolivia in the heart and struggle of the Indigenous peoples of Abya Yala/America!



CAOI-Coordinadora Andina de Organizaciones Indígenas (Andean Coalition of Indigenous Organisations). La Paz, January 17, 2008

The originario authorities, indigenous organisations, mallkus and leaders of the Aymara, Quechua, Poqra, Mapuche, Kichwa, Pemón, Miskitu, Guaraní, Ayoreo, Chiquitano and other First Nations, part of the more than 400 societies and cultures that have existed since before the states of Abya Yala, and present at the international workshop convoked by the Andean Coordinator of Indigenous Organisations (CAOI) “Indigenous Peoples, Constitution and Plurinational States”, which met during the days 15, 16 and 17 of January 2008 in the city of La Paz, Bolivia:

AFFIRM that we participated in this workshop, which occurred within a South American context that is seeing political structural changes occur as a result of the moves by Indigenous Peoples to go from resistance to the construction of power; demanding and exercising political structural changes in the old nation-states, each time more privatised and denationalised; and opening up new democratic and participatory spaces of social equity in order to “live the good life”/ Sumaq Kawsay/ Sumaq Tamaña, and overcome neoliberal developmentalism.

DENOUNCE that in a number of our territories and lands throughout Abya Yala, we are having to confront permanent conflicts, due to territorial invasion, persecution by judges and polices and a growing criminalisation of our rights and movements; a product of the imposition of policies that favour the looting by transnational companies, with the support of many false democrats.

VERIFY that in Bolivia, the indigenous movement and society excluded by Eurocentric (neo-colonial) policies have been fighting to achieve changes and that due to the fascism of the right that impedes, blocks, sabotages and manipulates via the media in order to stop the changes, represented in by the broad majority vote for brother president Evo Morales, becoming a reality. What the right has lost in a decade of elections they pretend to recuperate through open boycott; something which must not remain unpunished.

As a result, we agree to, proclaiming it to Abya Yala and the world:

RATIFY our firm decision, as Indigenous Peoples who are make up Abya Yala, to reconstruct our Peoples, fighting for inclusion and the construction of Plurinacional Status and Intercultural Societies; with new governments that recognise our territories and collective rights and implement public policies, knowledge and intercultural democracies; having as a principal for these societies Unity in Diversity; and the construction of alternative societies on the basis of the proposals from Indigenous Peoples.

PERSIST in the idea that, as indigenous peoples, we will continue to dialogue, proposing internal territorial restructuring in which the ancestral traditions of our people are taken into consideration, which is far removed from all types of violent confrontation such as has been occurring in some countries, where politicians stoke up fear about the incorporation of state indigenous policies and have been militarising regions and displacing peoples, for the sole purpose of facilitate looting and neoliberal economic policies.

SOLIDARIZE with the struggle of the Mapuche People, in particular the brothers who have been arrested, persecuted and are on hunger strike in defence of their survival as Peoples and their means of living, such as their territories, forests, mountains and seas; we demand the cessation of repression against the Mapuche People, which only benefits the interests and privileges of power and which continues to be an open wound in Chilean society.

REITERATE that there will be no peace or development whilst there is exclusion and poverty produced by governments and monolithic and vertical policies. As Peoples we call for a constant mobilisation to wipe out all forms of exploitation, racism and confrontation by the states or transnational interests.

REJECT the late intent by the oligarchy of the denominated “half moon” to reopen and reconsider the text of the new Political Constitution of Bolivia - which has already been approved - with the objective of maintaining their domination over lands and natural resources in order to privilege a few and exclude the broad national majorities.

ACCOMPANY the entire process of change in Bolivia, where, with the active participation of the indigenous movement, they have approved a new Carta Magna that recognises rights for all. We ask that human rights organisations and the UN investigate the racial violence perpetrated by oligarchic groups in the denominated “half moon”. It is inconceivable that at the same historic moment, a historic declaration is approved in the UN and yet it remains mute in front of this unpunished racist fascism.

BACK the National Constituent Assembly of Ecuador in order to make possible the creation of a Plurinational State with the participation of the Indigenous Nationalities and Peoples, with the aim of constructing a solidarity-based, reciprocal and egalitarian country that guarantees institutional and political stability in the medium and long term.

REAFFIRM that, in support for the process of constitutional change in Bolivia, we will deepen and broaden our mobilisations in order to back the approved constitution, and so that the same advances and rights can also be incorporated into the next Ecuadorian Constitution.

CALL on our peoples and allied indigenous and social movements of the world, in solidarity with the Bolivian people and in order to back their process, to declare ourselves in alert and permanent solidarity in front of any threat against Bolivia by the same transnational powers of always.

CALL for participation in the Social Summit of the Peoples to be held in Lima, in May 2008, where, with the mobilisation of the indigenous peoples and social movements of the Andean countries and solidarity activists from Europe, we will develop our alternative proposals to the Association Agreement (FTA, Free Trade Agreement) between the European Union and the Community of Andean Nations (CAN). After 516 years, old Europe pretends to re-impose its chains of neocolonialisation; we will respond together with Túpac Amaru, Micaela Bastidas, Tùpac Katari, Bartolina Sisa and the martyrs of the struggle of the Mapuche, the indigenous people of Bolivia and Abya Yala, to say they never killed our roots and that we are in the time of the new Pachakutik: of the decolonialisation of power, states and knowledge in the Abya Yala.


Friday, January 18, 2008


Snail Revolution

Encounters with the Zapatistas


by Rebecca Solnit

(Appeared on Jan. 16 on Zmag, Link)

I grew up listening to vinyl records, dense spirals of information that we played at 33-1/3 revolutions per minute. The original use of the word revolution was in this sense -- of something coming round or turning round, the revolution of the heavenly bodies, for example. It's interesting to think that just as the word radical comes from the Latin word for "roots" and meant going to the root of a problem, so revolution originally means to rotate, to return, or to cycle, something those who live according to the agricultural cycles of the year know well.

Only in 1450, says my old Oxford Etymological Dictionary, does it come to mean "an instance of a great change in affairs or in some particular thing." 1450: 42 years before Columbus sailed on his first voyage to the not-so-new world, not long after Gutenberg invented moveable type in Europe, where time itself was coming to seem less cyclical and more linear -- as in the second definition of this new sense of revolution in my dictionary, "a complete overthrow of the established government in any country or state by those who were previously subject to it."

We live in revolutionary times, but the revolution we are living through is a slow turning around from one set of beliefs and practices toward another, a turn so slow that most people fail to observe our society revolving -- or rebelling. The true revolutionary needs to be as patient as a snail.

The revolution is not some sudden change that has yet to come, but the very transformative and questioning atmosphere in which all of us have lived for the past half century, since perhaps the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1955, or the publication of Rachel Carson's attack on the corporate-industrial-chemical complex, Silent Spring, in 1962; certainly, since the amazing events of 1989, when the peoples of Eastern Europe nonviolently liberated themselves from their Soviet-totalitarian governments; the people of South Africa undermined the white apartheid regime of that country and cleared the way for Nelson Mandela to get out of jail; or, since 1992, when the Native peoples of the Americas upended the celebration of the 500th anniversary of Columbus's arrival in this hemisphere with a radical rewriting of history and an assertion that they are still here; or even 1994, when this radical rewriting wrote a new chapter in southern Mexico called Zapatismo.

Five years ago, the Zapatista revolution took as one of its principal symbols the snail and its spiral shell. Their revolution spirals outward and backward, away from some of the colossal mistakes of capitalism's savage alienation, industrialism's regimentation, and toward old ways and small things; it also spirals inward via new words and new thoughts. The astonishing force of the Zapatistas has come from their being deeply rooted in the ancient past -- "we teach our children our language to keep alive our grandmothers" said one Zapatista woman -- and prophetic of the half-born other world in which, as they say, many worlds are possible. They travel both ways on their spiral.

Revolutionary Landscapes

At the end of 2007, I arrived on their territory for a remarkable meeting between the Zapatista women and the world, the third of their encuentros since the 1994 launch of their revolution. Somehow, among the miracles of Zapatista words and ideas I read at a distance, I lost sight of what a revolution might look like, must look like, on the ground -- until late last year when I arrived on that pale, dusty ground after a long ride in a van on winding, deeply rutted dirt roads through the forested highlands and agricultural clearings of Chiapas, Mexico. The five hours of travel from the big town of San Cristobal de las Casas through that intricate landscape took us past countless small cornfields on slopes, wooden houses, thatched pigsties and henhouses, gaunt horses, a town or two, more forest, and then more forest, even a waterfall.

Everything was green except the dry cornstalks, a lush green in which December flowers grew. There were tree-sized versions of what looked like the common, roadside, yellow black-eyed susans of the American west and a palm-sized, lavender-pink flower on equally tall, airily branching stalks whose breathtaking beauty seemed to come from equal parts vitality, vulnerability, and bravura -- a little like the women I listened to for the next few days.

The van stopped at the junction that led to the center of the community of La Garrucha. There, we checked in with men with bandannas covering the lower halves of their faces, who sent us on to a field of tents further uphill. The big sign behind them read, "You are in Territory of Zapatistas in Rebellion. Here the People Govern and the Government Obeys." Next to it, another sign addressed the political prisoners from last year's remarkable uprising in Oaxaca in which, for four months, the inhabitants held the city and airwaves and kept the government out. It concluded, "You are not alone. You are with us. EZLN."

As many of you may know, EZLN stands for Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional (Zapatista Army for National Liberation), a name akin to those from many earlier Latin American uprisings. The Zapatistas -- mostly Mayan indigenous rebels from remote, rural communities of Chiapas, Mexico's southernmost and poorest state -- had made careful preparations for a decade before their January 1, 1994 uprising.

They began like conventional rebels, arming themselves and seizing six towns. They chose that first day of January because it was the date that the North American Free Trade Agreement went into effect, which meant utter devastation for small farmers in Mexico; but they had also been inspired by the 500th anniversary, 14 months before, of Columbus's arrival in the Americas and the way native groups had reframed that half-millenium as one of endurance and injustice for the indigenous peoples of this hemisphere.

Their rebellion was also meant to take the world at least a step beyond the false dichotomy between capitalism and the official state socialism of the Soviet Union which had collapsed in 1991. It was to be the first realization of what needed to come next: a rebellion, above all, against capitalism and neoliberalism. Fourteen years later, it is a qualified success: many landless campesino families in Zapatista-controlled Chiapas now have land; many who were subjugated now govern themselves; many who were crushed now have a sense of agency and power. Five areas in Chiapas have existed outside the reach of the Mexican government, under their own radically different rules, since that revolution.

Beyond that, the Zapatistas have given the world a model -- and, perhaps even more important, a language -- with which to re-imagine revolution, community, hope, and possibility. Even if, in the near future, they were to be definitively defeated on their own territory, their dreams, powerful as they have been, are not likely to die. And there are clouds on the horizon: the government of President Felipe Calderón may turn what has, for the last 14 years, been a low-intensity conflict in Chiapas into a full-fledged war of extermination. A war on dreams, on hope, on rights, and on the old goals of the hero of the Mexican Revolution a century before, Emiliano Zapata: tierra y libertad, land and liberty.

The Zapatistas emerged from the jungle in 1994, armed with words as well as guns. Their initial proclamation, the First Declaration of the Lacandon Jungle, rang with familiar, outmoded-sounding revolutionary rhetoric, but shortly after the uprising took the world by storm, the Zapatistas' tone shifted. They have been largely nonviolent ever since, except in self-defense, though they are ringed by the Mexican army and local paramilitaries (and maintain their own disciplined army, a long line of whose masked troops patrolled La Garrucha at night, armed with sticks). What shifted most was their language, which metamorphosed into something unprecedented -- a revolutionary poetry full of brilliant analysis as well as of metaphor, imagery, and humor, the fruit of extraordinary imaginations.

Some of their current stickers and t-shirts -- the Zapatistas generate more cool paraphernalia than any rock band -- speak of "el fuego y la palabra," the fire and the word. Many of those words came from the inspired pen of their military commander, the nonindigenous Subcomandante Marcos, but that pen reflected the language of a people whose memory is long and environment is rich -- if not in money and ease, then in animals, images, traditions, and ideas.

Take, for example, the word caracol, which literally means snail or spiral shell. In August 2003, the Zapatistas renamed their five autonomous communities caracoles. The snail then became an important image. I noticed everywhere embroideries, t-shirts, and murals showing that land snail with the spiraling shell. Often the snail wore a black ski mask. The term caracol has the vivid vitality, the groundedness, that often escapes metaphors as they become part of our disembodied language.

When they reorganized as caracoles, the Zapatistas reached back to Mayan myth to explain what the symbol meant to them. Or Subcomandante Marcos did, attributing the story as he does with many stories to "Old Antonio," who may be a fiction, a composite, or a real source of the indigenous lore of the region:

"The wise ones of olden times say that the hearts of men and women are in the shape of a caracol, and that those who have good in their hearts and thoughts walk from one place to the other, awakening gods and men for them to check that the world remains right. They say that they say that they said that the caracol represents entering into the heart, that this is what the very first ones called knowledge. They say that they say that they said that the caracol also represents exiting from the heart to walk the world.... The caracoles will be like doors to enter into the communities and for the communities to come out; like windows to see us inside and also for us to see outside; like loudspeakers in order to send far and wide our word and also to hear the words from the one who is far away."

The caracoles are clusters of villages, but described as spirals they reach out to encompass the whole world and begin from within the heart. And so I arrived in the center of one caracol, a little further up the road from those defiant signs, in the broad, unpaved plaza around which the public buildings of the village of La Garrucha are clustered, including a substantial two-story, half-built clinic. Walking across that clearing were Zapatista women in embroidered blouses or broad collars and aprons stitched of rows of ribbon that looked like inverted rainbows -- and those ever-present ski masks in which all Zapatistas have appeared publicly since their first moment out of the jungles in 1994. (Or almost all, a few wear bandannas instead.)

That first glimpse was breathtaking. Seeing and hearing those women for the three days that followed, living briefly on rebel territory, watching people brave enough to defy an army and the world's reigning ideology, imaginative enough to invent (or reclaim) a viable alternative was one of the great passages of my life. The Zapatistas had been to me a beautiful idea, an inspiration, a new language, a new kind of revolution. When they spoke at this Third Encounter of the Zapatista Peoples with the People of the World, they became a specific group of people grappling with practical problems. I thought of Martin Luther King Jr. when he said he had been to the mountaintop. I have been to the forest.



The Words of the Third Encounter

The encuentro was held in a big shed-like auditorium with a corrugated tin roof and crossbeams so long they could only have been hewn from local trees -- they would never have made it around the bends in the local roads. The wooden walls were hung with banners and painted with murals. (One, of an armed Zapatista woman, said, "cellulite sí, anorexia, no.") An unfinished mural showed a monumental ear of corn whose top half merged into the Zapatista ski mask, the eyes peering out of the corn. Among the embroideries local artisans offered were depictions of cornstalks with Zapatista faces where the ears would be. All of this -- snails and corn-become-Zapatistas alike -- portrayed the rebels as natural, pervasive, and fruitful.

Three or four times a day, a man on a high, roofed-over stage outside the hall would play a jaunty snippet of a tune on an organ and perhaps 250 of the colorfully dressed Zapatista women in balaclavas or bandannas would walk single file into the auditorium and seat themselves onstage on rows of backless benches. The women who had come from around the world to listen would gather on the remaining benches, and men would cluster around the back of the hall. Then, one caracol at a time, they would deliver short statements and take written questions. Over the course of four days, all five caracoles delivered reflections on practical and ideological aspects of their situation. Pithy and direct, they dealt with difficult (sometimes obnoxious) questions with deftness. They spoke of the challenge of living a revolution that meant autonomy from the Mexican government, but also of learning how to govern themselves and determine for themselves what liberty and justice mean.

The Zapatista rebellion has been feminist from its inception: Many of the comandantes are women -- this encuentro was dedicated to the memory of deceased Comandante Ramona, whose image was everywhere -- and the liberation of the women of the Zapatista regions has been a core part of the struggle. The testimonies addressed what this meant -- liberation from forced marriages, illiteracy, domestic violence, and other forms of subjugation. The women read aloud, some of them nervous, their voices strained -- and this reading and writing was itself testimony to the spread both of literacy and of Spanish as part of the revolution. The first language of many Zapatistas is an indigenous one, and so they spoke their Spanish with formal, declarative clarity. They often began with a formal address to the audience that spiraled outward: "hermanos y hermanas, compañeras y compañeros de la selva, pueblos del Mexico, pueblos del mundo, sociedad civile" -- "brothers and sisters, companions of the rainforest, people of Mexico, people of the world, civil society." And then they would speak of what revolution had meant for them.

"We had no rights," one of them said about the era before the rebellion. Another added, "The saddest part is that we couldn't understand our own difficulties, why we were being abused. No one had told us about our rights."

"The struggle is not just for ourselves, it's for everyone," said a third. Another spoke to us directly: "We invite you to organize as women of the world in order to get rid of neoliberalism, which has hurt all of us."

They spoke of how their lives had improved since 1994. On New Year's Eve, one of the masked women declared:

"Who we think is responsible [for the oppressions] is the capitalist system, but now we no longer fear. They humiliated us for too long, but as Zapatistas no one will mistreat us. Even if our husbands still mistreat us, we know we are human beings. Now, women aren't as mistreated by husbands and fathers. Now, some husbands support and help us and don't make all the decisions -- not in all households, but poco a poco. We invite all women to defend our rights and combat machismo."

They spoke of the practical work of remaking the world and setting the future free, of implementing new possibilities for education, healthcare, and community organization, of the everyday workings of a new society. Some of them carried their babies -- and their lives -- onstage and, in one poignant moment, a little girl dashed across that stage to kiss and hug her masked mother. Sometimes the young daughters wore masks too.

A Zapatista named Maribel spoke of how the rebellion started, of the secrecy in which they met and organized before the uprising:

"We learned to advance while still hiding until January 1. This is when the seed grew, when we brought ourselves into the light. On January 1, 1994, we brought our dreams and hopes throughout Mexico and the world -- and we will continue to care for this seed. This seed of ours we are giving for our children. We hope you all will struggle even though it is in a different form. The struggle [is] for everybody..."

The Zapatistas have not won an easy or secure future, but what they have achieved is dignity, a word that cropped up constantly during the encuentro, as in all their earlier statements. And they have created hope. Hope (esperanza) was another inescapable word in Zapatista territory. There was la tienda de esperanza, the unpainted wooden store of hope, that sold tangerines and avacados. A few mornings, I had café con leche and sweet rice cooked with milk and cinnamon at a comedor whose handlettered sign read: "Canteen of autonomous communities in rebellion...dreams of hope." The Zapatista minibus was crowned with the slogan "the collective [which also means bus in Spanish] makes hope."

After midnight, at the very dawn of the New Year, when men were invited to speak again, one mounted the platform from which the New Year's dance music was blasting to say that he and the other men had listened and learned a lot.

This revolution is neither perfect nor complete -- mutterings about its various shortcomings weren't hard to hear from elsewhere in Mexico or the internationals at the encuentro (who asked many testing questions about these campesinas' positions on, say, transgendered identity and abortion) -- but it is an astonishing and fruitful beginning.



The Speed of Snails and Dreams

Many of their hopes have been realized. The testimony of the women dealt with this in specific terms: gains in land, rights, dignity, liberty, autonomy, literacy, a good local government that obeys the people rather than a bad one that tramples them. Under siege, they have created community with each other and reached out to the world.

Emerging from the jungles and from impoverishment, they were one of the first clear voices against corporate globalization -- the neoliberal agenda that looked, in the 1990s, as though it might succeed in taking over the world. That was, of course, before the surprise shutdown of the World Trade Organization in Seattle in 1999 and other innovative, successful global acts of resistance against that agenda and its impact. The Zapatistas articulated just how audacious indigenous rebellion against invisibility, powerlessness, and marginalization could be -- and this was before other indigenous movements from Bolivia to northern Canada took a share of real power in the Americas. Their image of "a world in which many worlds are possible" came to describe the emergence of broad coalitions spanning great differences, of alliances between hunter-gatherers, small-scale farmers, factory workers, human rights activists, and environmentalists in France, India, Korea, Mexico, Bolivia, Kenya, and elsewhere.

Their vision represented the antithesis of the homogenous world envisioned both by the proponents of "globalism" and by the modernist revolutions of the twentieth century. They have gone a long way toward reinventing the language of politics. They have been a beacon for everyone who wants to make a world that is more inventive, more democratic, more decentralized, more grassroots, more playful. Now, they face a threat from the Mexican government that could savage the caracoles of resistance, crush the rights and dignity that the women of the encuentro embodied even as they spoke of them -- and shed much blood.

During the 1980s, when our government was sponsoring the dirty wars in Central America, two U.S. groups in particular countered those politics of repression, torture, and death. One was the Pledge of Resistance, which gathered the signatures of hundreds of thousands who promised to respond with civil disobedience if the U.S. invaded Sandinista-run Nicaragua or otherwise deepened its involvement with the dictatorships and death squads of Central America. Another was Witness for Peace, which placed gringos as observers and unarmed protectors in communities throughout Central America.

While killing or disappearing campesinos could be carried out with ease in countries like El Salvador and Guatemala, doing the same to U.S. citizens, or in front of them, was a riskier proposition. The Yankee witnesses used the privilege of their color and citizenship as a shield for others and then testified to what they saw. We have come to a moment when we need to strengthen the solidarity so many activists around the world have felt for the Zapatistas, strengthen it into something that can protect the sources of "the fire and the word" -- the fire that has warmed so many who have a rebel heart, the word that has taught us to imagine the world anew.

The United States and Mexico both have eagles as their emblems, predators which attack from above. The Zapatistas have chosen a snail in a spiral shell, a small creature, easy to overlook. It speaks of modesty, humility, closeness to the earth, and of the recognition that a revolution may start like lightning but is realized slowly, patiently, steadily. The old idea of revolution was that we would trade one government for another and somehow this new government would set us free and change everything. More and more of us now understand that change is a discipline lived every day, as those women standing before us testified; that revolution only secures the territory in which life can change. Launching a revolution is not easy, as the decade of planning before the 1994 Zapatista uprising demonstrated, and living one is hard too, a faith and discipline that must not falter until the threats and old habits are gone -- if then. True revolution is slow.

There's a wonderful passage in Robert Richardson's biography of Thoreau in which he speaks of the Europe-wide revolution of 1848 and says of the New England milieu and its proliferating cooperative communities at that time, "Most of the founders were more interested in building models, which would be emulated because they succeeded, than in the destruction of the existing order. Still American utopian socialism had much in common with the spirit of 1848."

This says very directly that you can reach out and change the state and its institutions, which we recognize as revolution, or you can make your own institutions beyond the reach of the state, which is also revolutionary. This creating -- rather than simply rebelling -- has been much of the nature of revolution in our time, as people reinvent family, gender, food systems, work, housing, education, economics, medicine and doctor-patient relations, the imagination of the environment, and the language to talk about it, not to speak of more and more of everyday life. The fantasy of a revolution is that it will make everything different, and regime revolutions generally make a difference, sometimes a significantly positive one, but the making of radical differences in everyday life is a more protracted, incremental process. It's where leaders are irrelevant and every life matters.

Give the Zapatistas time -- the slow, unfolding time of the spiral and the journey of the snail -- to keep making their world, the one that illuminates what else our lives and societies could be. Our revolution must be as different as our temperate-zone, post-industrial society is to their subtropical agrarianism, but also guided by the slow forces of dignity, imagination, and hope, as well as the playfulness they display in their imagery and language. The testimony in the auditorium ended late on December 31. At midnight, amid dancing, the revolution turned 14. May it long continue to spiral inward and outward.

The last time Rebecca Solnit camped out on rebel territory, she was an organizer for the Western Shoshone Defense Project that insists -- with good legal grounds -- that the Shoshone in Nevada had never ceded their land to the U.S. government. That story is told in her 1994 book Savage Dreams: A Journey into the Landscape Wars of the American West, but the subsequent inspiration of the Zapatistas is most evident in the book Tom Engelhardt helped her to bring into being, Hope in the Dark: Untold Histories, Wild Possibilities. She is 11 chapters into her next book.

[This article first appeared on Tomdispatch.com, a weblog of the Nation Institute, which offers a steady flow of alternate sources, news, and opinion from Tom Engelhardt, long time editor in publishing, co-founder of the American Empire Project and author of The End of Victory Culture (University of Massachusetts Press), which has just been thoroughly updated in a newly issued edition that deals with victory culture's crash-and-burn sequel in Iraq.]


Thursday, January 17, 2008


Lebanon & Middle East

The Sad Story



Three people died yesterday and their impacts are nothing on the grassroots level and political level. One of the deceased has been married for four months only, while the other had been married for 2 years, and had a baby child. The sad part of the story, the accusations remain flying between 14th of March and the Opposition on the grass root level.

A friend of mine Pro-Opposition & Resistance, on the eve of the explosion, tells me that the US blew the car with same material they supplied Fatah Islam. In fact they knew exactly how much to use explosives (Security Forces have declared 20 Kilograms of TNT were used in the detonated car) in order not to kill the Embassy’s two employees (who turned out to be Feltman’s scout cars. I argued left and right with him on the issue, and how he was certain of that fact (or the other fact that the government funded Fatah Islam which brings us back to Seymour Hersh’s original scenario), and he goes “they are desperate, they need to get more sympathy from the International Community.” This totally blew my mind off, what more solidarity the government needs? The government has so much international sympathy to the extent the Opposition failed drastically to oust them out. Hassan Nasrallah himself admitted that fact. He argues: “Because Bush is in the region”. Well, again, I told him without evidence, you can’t prove anything, and in fact, there are all possible scenarios. Sadly, I was talking to a wall.

The second person to join us on the table was a pro-Future & Government, and his argument was “Iran are teaching the Americans a lesson on Lebanese soil, henceforth, the Opposition are putting their foot in the face of the government.” I argue back, but how are you so sure that is the case? His reply: “Man, you are smart, Bush, Middle East, Escalations on Iran? Do the Math!” I reply back: what about Shaker el Absi? He answers: “Well, then it is Syria’s fault in that case, because they brought him to Lebanon! If only Bush visited the region!” I go : “Are you insane? Allowing the man who gave Israel to bomb the hell out of Lebanon? If Tony Blair when visited all chaos broke loose, the same with Kofi Annan, you want Bush?! Sure, if you want a full blooded confrontations to explode… the government is still being criticized for having lunch with Condi during the July War!” He goes: “Yes, it was the Prime Minister’s way of blocking the bloodshed!”

After a while debating with these two, then hearing debating, it was one of those fiascos that never end.

I have reached a conclusion that Lebanon is similar to theology, it is a never ending form of debate. The sad part of the story, three families are burying their beloved in coffins. One family had to come from Aleppo to confirm their son’s corpse. Two wives became widows. And the grassroots level, the party affiliated members still perceive this situation as scoring points. Then they all will say: “yes, it is sad what happened to the families!” But for sure, they will forget about these families and look again against each other to score points. Meanwhile, three bystanders were killed for nothing. They will be called by both sides as martyrs; however, do their families care? Just today one family was blaming the entire politicians of Lebanon. Which brings me to ask the question: why no schools/institutions closed today to mourn the deceased? Because they were common people?!

This is a classic case of what was mentioned in Marx’s 101 writings. The elite mobilize the masses against each other, while the masses themselves pay the price. Of course, you need an enemy, both camps have that: Syria/Iran versus USA/Israel/Gulf. What is most striking that so many have died, it is becoming common news!

I wonder how our fellow Palestinians survive in this bloodshed on daily basis! Just yesterday 17 people got killed, children die everyday, and the Palestinians live in a canned box. Worse, they have two parties butchering each other instead of defending their rights The civilians there suffer, whether from their leaders or from the Israeli artillery (which is often the case)! I didn’t even start with Iraq, where almost everyday 40 to 100 people die on daily basis.

Yes, this is the New Middle East.: he Middle East of Bloodshed, tyranny, and hypocrisy. When a bomb takes place in Beirut, they just say: thank heavens it wasn’t near us. People simply gave up hope to capture those invisible hands!” Palestinian Mothers burying their children or vice versa, children burying their mothers! Iraq under heavy bombardment from all forms of quasi-ethnic fuelling, vengeance, terrorism, and US Occupation! And we haven’t even talked about the poverty status supported by the US: the Al-Saud regime & the Mubarak regime.

I may have went a bit ashtray from the original topic, but I see it all combined. The Proletariat are suffering from their leaders’ affiliation. Zionism is increasing the gap between the Jews and the Arabs, and Egyptian statistics convey a terrible number of above 90% wearing the veil due to welfare nods because the US insist on supporting Mubarak.

As for Lebanon, it is a failed nation (to use Chomsky’s terminologies). The Arabs refuse to work with Israel (or at least used to refuse) and henceforth go pay lip-service to the US president who has been demanding that Israel is a pure ethnic Jewish nation that needs to be defended. If that is the case, what is the difference between Milosevic’s Serbia and Zionist Israel?

So many disgusting topics to mention, such a long road to emancipate the Proletariat into a single striking force against their oppressors, starting by dumping all 14th of March/Opposition cadres in the Sea! The government/Opposition followers fail to mention how everything (up to daily commodities such as Cheese) is on the rise. In fact, both factions blame each other and argue that once a Lebanese President is elected things will be better (if they ever do, and if that is the core problem of Lebanon, a tiny presidential chair whose president barely has any authority)! Enough of scapegoating "The Other"!

No War but Class War


Wednesday, January 16, 2008


The World

According to Wall Street


By Ian Williams. The Guardian January 15, 2008

Foreign Policy magazine in the US complains this month that "in France and Germany, students are being forced to undergo a dangerous indoctrination. Taught that economic principles such as capitalism, free markets and entrepreneurship are savage, unhealthy and immoral, these children are raised on a diet of prejudice and bias. Rooting it out may determine whether Europe's economies prosper or continue to be left behind."

The article, written by Newsweek's economics chief Stefan Theil, is titled Europe's Philosophy of Failure. In fact, Europe is doing quite well by any objective measures, and it seems somewhat counterfactual to cluck on in this unbalanced way just as the US economy, buoyed only by a continuing flood of Chinese money, teeters on the edge of a crash, as subprime mortgages and derivatives trading erode the financial foundations of Wall Street.

Undaunted by reality, Foreign Policy continues complaining about Germany and France: "Millions of children are being raised on prejudice and disinformation. Educated in schools that teach a skewed ideology, they are exposed to a dogma that runs counter to core beliefs shared by many other western countries. They study from textbooks filled with a doctrine of dissent.Extracting these children from the jaws of bias could mean the difference between world prosperity and menacing global rifts."

Shocked, shocked, as only the country that gave the world Enron, the savings and loan scandal and the almost obligatory half-billion-dollar CEO golden parachute can be, the magazine inveighs: "In both France and Germany, for instance, schools have helped ingrain a serious aversion to capitalism. In one 2005 poll, just 36% of French citizens said they supported the free-enterprise system. In Germany, meanwhile, support for socialist ideals is running at all-time highs - 47% in 2007 versus 36% in 1991."

Portentously the article concludes: "A biased view of economics feeds into many of the world's most vexing problems, from the growth of populism to the global rise of anti-American, anti-capitalist attitudes."

This unsubstantiated prejudice masquerading as economic analysis is pervasive in the US business world. I once interviewed the CEO of an American company that had subsidiaries in Holland and Scotland. He complained that in Holland he had to provide six weeks holiday for the staff and six months of paid sick leave. And although it was not so bad in Scotland, it was far worse than in the US, where he only had to offer two weeks vacation and 10 days sick leave.

I asked him which were his most productive and profitable plants. Holland, Scotland and the US last, he replied. And he could not see the connection. This quasi-theological horror of creeping "socialism" permeates American business, whose leaders have a vision of a Europe mired in perpetual recession.

A country that had built its prosperity behind high tariff walls, with huge government subsidies and infrastructural investments, has spent decades preaching the opposite to a waiting world. George Bush senior had the integrity to call it voodoo economics. The Russians listened and were only rescued from their economic folly when Bush junior's wars quadrupled the price of oil.

The same week that Theil's diatribe was published, the Oxford Economics consultancy calculated that Britain - National Health Service and mandatory holidays notwithstanding - has outstripped the US in terms of GDP per capita. In fact the figures probably understate European living standards compared with the US. While actual workers' income in the US has been stagnant for 30 years and in fact has declined under President Bush, American politicians and business executives have conspired for decades to ensure that the proceeds of the growth in the US economy have flowed overwhelmingly to a tiny
percentage.

In Germany and France, as well as Britain, there is near universal health coverage, and incomes and employment have been growing steadily. The "stagnant" German economy, in taking over East Germany, did the equivalent of the US incorporating Mexico and giving a dollar per peso, and it still grew.

So, serious magazines should really have articles about the amazing country that persuades its students and voters that it has the best health system in the world, when over 45 million of its citizens have no coverage, another 20 million have inadequate coverage and most working people's insurance is effectively revocable at the caprice of greedy executives. They should be pointing out that the US comes 29th in life expectancy, which may also have something to do with the complete absence of legal holidays, statutory paid maternity leave and one in four children in the world's biggest economy living in poverty.

The official excuse for those bloated CEO pay packages is that they make the US economy more productive - but the US comes below "socialistic" Finland, Sweden, Denmark and Switzerland in global competitiveness.

Journalists should really analyse a media and education system that persuades voters that its economy leads the world in growth, when all the proceeds are funnelled to the top 1% of the population; that thinks that tax cuts for that 1% help ordinary Americans prosper; or that it is a "death tax", killing enterprise, for Paris Hilton to pay a percentage of her multimillion-dollar legacy to the IRS.

There are indeed lessons that Europe can learn from the US, but, when the reflexive prejudices are discounted, the statistics suggest that there would be much for Americans to learn from Europe, above all that the road to economic success does not entail widening inequality and impoverishing the working population.

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