Friday, June 13, 2008




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Tim Russert, NBC journalist and political heavyweight host of "Meet the Press," has died after collapsing at NBC's Washington news bureau, a source said. He was 58 years old.

Russert, who rose from the inside world of politics where he was former New York Gov. Mario Cuomo's press secretary and one-time chief of staff to the late Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, was able to successfully cross over to political journalism and rise to become one of its leading lights.

In his role as host of the seminal Sunday morning political program "Meet the Press" - which he took over in 1991 - he became renowned for his hard-nosed interviews where he frequently cornered some of Washington's cagiest political figures with tough questions.

Russert joined NBC News in 1984. In April 1985, he supervised the live broadcasts of the Today program from Rome, negotiating and arranging an appearance by Pope John Paul II - a first for American television. In 1986 and 1987 Russert led NBC News weeklong broadcasts from South America, Australia and China.

In 2008, Time Magazine named him one of the world's 100 most influential people.

Obama campaign aide controversies underscore big business control of Democratic Party

Obama campaign aide controversies underscore big business control of Democratic Party

By Bill Van Auken
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With the primary contests over, the Democratic Party’s presumptive presidential nominee Senator Barack Obama has launched a general election campaign focused on the crisis-ridden American economy, delivering a series of speeches decrying sustained job losses, soaring gas prices, home foreclosures and widening social inequality.

Distracting attention from these stump speeches, however, has been a pair of controversies swirling around two senior advisors to the candidate, whose political biographies are sharply at odds with the quasi-populist rhetoric employed by Obama on the campaign trail.

Much of this rhetoric has mined the same themes that Obama placed at the center of his contest with Senator Hillary Clinton during the primaries, presenting himself as the political outsider, determined to break with a Washington political culture dominated by “special interests” and lobbyists. He assured an audience in North Carolina Monday that as president he would see to it that CEOs cannot “dump your pension with one hand while they collect a bonus with the other.”

It was in this context that a string of reports, beginning with a piece in the Wall Street Journal last Saturday, raised questions about James A. Johnson, the chief advisor selected to direct the search for Obama’s running mate, and struck a decidedly discordant note.

Johnson resigned as head of the vice presidential search team Wednesday. After initially dismissing revelations about the aide’s apparent profiting off of insider deals—an internal campaign memo described the story as “overblown and irrelevant”—the Obama campaign evidently decided to cut its losses.

Among the most damaging of these exposures was the fact that Johnson—described by the Washington Post as “a consummate Washington insider”—received millions of dollars in apparently favorable loans from Countrywide Financial, the country’s largest mortgage lender and a leading vendor of subprime loans, responsible for pushing tens of thousands of borrowers into foreclosure.

Johnson headed Fannie Mae, the huge government-sponsored institution that underwrites much of the US home mortgage market, from 1991 to 1999. Countrywide, now on the brink of bankruptcy and being bought out by Bank of America, was Fannie Mae’s biggest customer, selling it loans that were then packaged into securities for resale to investors.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Johnson’s loans—the first of which he received before leaving Fannie Mae—came out of a special program known within the company as “Friends of Angelo,” for Countrywide CEO Angelo Mozilo.

Mozilo has been specifically targeted by Obama in his speeches attacking CEO “excesses.” It was revealed last month that Mozilo took in a total of $142 million in compensation last year, while Countrywide posted losses of $703 million, eliminated 11,000 jobs and presided over wholesale mortgage defaults and foreclosures. The company is now reportedly under federal investigation for securities fraud.

The fact that the former head of Fannie Mae received $7 million worth of insider loans from such a company suggests more than a whiff of conflict of interest.

The Countrywide connection was combined with the report by the Washington Post that Johnson received a $1.9 million bonus from Fannie Mae in 1998 based on “alleged accounting manipulation” under conditions in which the government-backed agency’s performance justified no bonuses for executives. The paper added, “Even after he left Fannie Mae in 1999, Johnson received millions of dollars in guaranteed consulting fees and perks that included an office, two secretaries and a car and driver for himself and his wife.”

Finally, the New York Times reported that Johnson was “involved in some of the more controversial executive compensation decisions in recent years, serving on the board of five companies that granted lavish pay packages to their executives—and often playing a key role in approving them.” Included among these deals brokered by Johnson was $1.4 billion in stock options for UnitedHealth Group CEO William McGuire.

While the Obama campaign sought to minimize the significance of Johnson’s forced exit, he was anything but a minor figure. A Democratic Party insider going back 30 years, he had played the same role for the party’s 2004 presidential nominee Senator John Kerry. The Post quoted Kerry campaign aides as saying that Johnson had hoped a Democratic victory that year would result in his appointment as White House chief of staff or Treasury secretary. “He had similar ambitions with Obama,” the paper reported.

The Republican Party seized upon Johnson’s resignation to accuse the Obama campaign of hypocrisy and incompetence. “Selecting the vice presidential nominee is the most important decision a presidential candidate can make,” a spokesman for the presumptive Republican nominee Senator John McCain said in a statement. “By entrusting this process to a man who has now been forced to step down because of questionable loans, the American people have reason to question the judgment of a candidate who has shown he will only make the right call when under pressure from the news media.”

Obama’s own spokesmen responded by pointing out that McCain’s campaign has been run almost entirely by lobbyists and that the individual responsible for vetting Republican vice presidential candidates had himself lobbied for Fannie Mae against proposed government regulation. The response, however, seemed to be a backhanded admission that the Democratic Party is no different than the Republicans; that no one’s hands are clean.

Obama’s own reaction to the initial furor was revealing. He dismissed it as a “game that can be played,” while acknowledging that “everybody, you know, who is tangentially related to our campaign, I think, is going to have a whole host of relationships.” But the reality is that such relations, involving millions of dollars in insider loans and bonuses and responsibility for approving hundreds of millions and even billions of dollars of compensation for corporate executives, predominate only in a political party that is thoroughly corrupt and tightly controlled by major financial and corporate interests.

Expressing exasperation, Obama protested, “I would have to hire the vetter to vet the vetters.” In all likelihood, it was figures like Johnson who vetted Obama himself, determining that he would make a suitable candidate who would defend their social interests.

Rubin associate tapped as chief economic advisor

Alongside the sudden departure of Johnson, the announced hiring of another aide also provoked controversy. The Obama campaign selected as its economic policy director Jason Furman, a close associate of former Clinton administration treasury secretary and current Citigroup executive Robert Rubin.

Furman until last week was the director of the Hamilton Project, a think tank set up by Rubin, together with other wealthy Democratic bankers, corporate executives and heads of major Wall Street hedge funds.

Among the members of the Hamilton Project’s advisory council is Obama’s recently departed vetter, James Johnson.

The stated aims of the institution include confronting fiscal imbalances and promoting “entitlement reform,” euphemisms for balancing the budget on the backs of working people by slashing fundamental social programs like Social Security and Medicare. At the same time, it is a firm proponent of “free trade.”

In its statement of principles, the Hamilton Project warns that the US is “not paying its own way” and that the government has “failed to make the tough decisions” that are required.

Obama’s selection of Furman sends a clear signal to Wall Street, just as Bill Clinton’s choice of Rubin as his chief economic advisor did 15 years ago. The message is that the campaign’s vague promises of measures to ameliorate declining real wages, employment and social conditions are meant for public consumption, while real economic policies will be set according to the interests of America’s financial oligarchy.

Rubin’s own legacy after six years of directing the economic policy of the Clinton administration was one of an unprecedented rise in the stock market that enriched a thin layer at the top of American society, while conditions for the majority of the population were driven further down through a wave of corporate downsizing, stagnating real wages and wholesale cuts to existing social programs.

Furman has stirred up controversy within Democratic Party circles by publishing a defense of Wal-Mart and suggesting that privatized Social Security accounts and benefit cuts, along the lines proposed by the Bush administration, should be considered. He has written in favor of corporate tax cuts, bipartisan deficit cutting and presidential vetoes of any measures exceeding the federal budget.

The announcement of Furman’s appointment touched off a nervous protest from within the trade union bureaucracy.

AFL-CIO President John Sweeney issued a statement protesting Furman’s appointment. “For years we’ve expressed strong concerns about corporate influence on the Democratic Party,” said Sweeney. “The fact that our country’s economic policies have become so dominated by the Wall Street agenda—and that it is causing working families real pain—is a top issue we will be raising with Senator Obama.”

The reality is that for decades the labor bureaucracy has upheld the “Wall Street agenda” by seeking to subordinate the struggles of the working class to the Democratic Party. The AFL-CIO’s opposition to Furman is based largely on a nationalist perspective that sees protectionism as a means of defending the bureaucracy’s own interests, based on its alliance with the state and sections of US manufacturers.

The Furman appointment drew a nod of approval from Washington Post columnist and associate editor David Ignatius, who said Obama had chosen “someone who can help him move from the anti-NAFTA left of the party toward the pro-market center that traces its lineage to [the] Clinton administration.”

Ignatius writes in his column Thursday that the choice for economic advisor is “a sign that Obama’s policies will involve ‘Facing the Music,’ as Furman titled a recent Brookings paper he co-wrote about repairing the fiscal damage of the Bush years.”

The tricky problem that Ignatius sees is how to disguise such pro-Wall Street, deficit-slashing policies. Obama, he says, needs to package them as “exciting and visionary” and somehow square them with “the country’s yearning for fundamental change.”

Supreme Court upholds habeas corpus for Guantánamo Bay prisoners

Supreme Court upholds habeas corpus for Guantánamo Bay prisoners

By John Burton
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The United States Supreme Court ruled 5-4 Thursday that prisoners held as “enemy combatants” at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba can immediately file habeas corpus petitions in US district courts challenging the legality of their confinement. Most have been held at the US naval base under brutal conditions, enduring solitary confinement and torture, for more than six years. None has ever had the merits of his case reviewed by a court of law.

The majority opinion in the case, Boumediene et al v. Bush, was authored by Justice Anthony Kennedy, considered the “swing” vote on the court, and joined by the four high court liberals—John Paul Stevens, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, David Souter and Stephen Breyer.

The ruling does not question the executive branch’s ability to declare someone an “enemy combatant,” an unprecedented power the Supreme Court upheld four years ago in Hamdi v. Rumsfeld. (See “The meaning of the US Supreme Court rulings on ‘enemy combatants’”) Nor does Kennedy order the release of any prisoner.

Nevertheless, Kennedy’s opinion is a rebuke to a cornerstone of the Bush administration’s so-called “global war on terror.” By holding unconstitutional the provision of the 2006 Military Commissions Act (MCA) stripping Guantánamo Bay prisoners of their habeas corpus rights, the Supreme Court has stopped the Bush administration from continuing to use the naval base as a legal limbo, where it can imprison people indefinitely without regard for either domestic or international law.

“Within the Constitution’s separation-of-powers structure, few exercises of judicial power are as legitimate or as necessary as the responsibility to hear challenges to the authority of the Executive to imprison a person,” Kennedy wrote for the majority, underlining the importance of the decision for the continued credibility of the judiciary. “Some of these petitioners have been in custody for six years with no definitive judicial determination as to the legality of their detention.”

The four right-wing justices joined together in two particularly vicious dissents, one authored by Chief Justice John Roberts and the other by Associate Justice Antonin Scalia, who all but labeled Kennedy a traitor, stating that his opinion “will almost certainly cause more Americans to be killed.”

In Hamdi, a highly fractured court—none of the opinions received a majority vote—ordered that the government establish tribunals to determine whether individuals are in fact “enemy combatants.” That same day the court also decided Rasul v. Bush, recognizing that Guantánamo prisoners were entitled to file petitions for habeas corpus under the terms of the congressional Habeas Corpus Act.

In response, Bush administration lawyers established Combat Status Review Tribunals (CSRTs)—kangaroo courts where prisoners are denied lawyers and, in most cases, access to the evidence against them—and Congress passed the Detainee Treatment Act (DTA), which revoked habeas corpus for Guantánamo prisoners, giving them access to US courts only for a cursory review of whether CSRT procedures were followed correctly.

In June 2006 the Supreme Court decided in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld that the DTA’s ban on habeas petitions did not apply to those already filed. The Bush administration, with the complicity of key congressional Democrats, rammed through the Military Commissions Act (MCA), which contained a provision depriving federal courts of jurisdiction over all habeas petitions filed by Guantánamo prisoners.

It was that provision the Supreme Court on Thursday held to violate the clause in the body of the Constitution which states: “The privilege of the writ of habeas corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in cases of rebellion or invasion the public safety may require it.” Neither the Bush administration nor Congress invoked the so-called “suspension” clause of the Constitution to justify their revocation of habeas corpus rights.

Kennedy began his analysis with a review of the central role played by the writ in England, outlining its “painstaking” development from the reign of Edward I, through the Magna Carta, to its formal legal embodiment in the Habeas Corpus Act of 1679, “described by Blackstone as the ‘stable bulwark of our liberties.’”

“The Framers viewed freedom from unlawful restraint as a fundamental precept of liberty,” Kennedy wrote. Thus “habeas corpus was one of the few safeguards of liberty specified in a Constitution that, at the outset, had no Bill of Rights.”

Because habeas corpus constitutes a judicial check on unlawful imprisonment by the executive branch, “the Framers deemed the writ be an essential mechanism in the separation-of-powers scheme.” Quoting The Federalist No. 84, Kennedy wrote, “‘The practice of arbitrary imprisonments has been, in all ages, the favorite and most formidable instrument of tyranny.’”

Kennedy rejected Scalia’s principal argument—that habeas corpus rights do not extend to non-citizens outside the sovereign territory of the United States—with the observation that “questions of extraterritoriality turn on objective factors and practical concerns, not formalism.”

Turning to the specifics of habeas jurisdiction over Guantánamo Bay—nominal Cuban territory occupied by the United States pursuant to a $1 perpetual lease extracted over 100 years ago from the nascent Cuban government—Kennedy exposed the Bush administration’s underlying quasi-legal machinations.

“The necessary implication of the argument is that by surrendering formal sovereignty over any unincorporated territory to a third party, while at the same time entering into a lease that grants total control over the territory back to the United States, it would be possible for the political branches to govern without legal constraint.” According to Kennedy, this would enable the executive and legislative branches “to switch the Constitution on or off at will.”

Because “the writ of habeas corpus is itself an indispensable mechanism for monitoring the separation of powers,” Kennedy ruled that “the test for determining the scope of this provision must not be subject to manipulation by those whose power it is designed to restrain.”

Kennedy concluded that “before today the Court has never held that non-citizens detained by our Government in territory over which another country maintains de jure sovereignty have any rights under our Constitution. But the cases before us lack any precise historical parallel. They involve individuals detained by executive order for the duration of a conflict that, if measured from September 11, 2001 to the present, is already among the longest wars in American History... The detainees, moreover, are held in a territory that, while technically not part of the United States, is under the complete and total control of our Government. Under these circumstances the lack of a precedent on point is no barrier to our holding.”

Chief Justice Roberts began his dissent with the preposterous claim that the majority opinion “strikes down as inadequate the most generous set of procedural protections ever afforded aliens detained by this country as enemy combatants.” In fact, these procedures, which include the use of “evidence” obtained through torture, have been denounced by civil liberties organizations in the US and around the world, and even the former chief military prosecutor at Guantánamo has called them a travesty of due process.

The current military trials of alleged 9/11 conspirators being held at Guantánamo feature tape delays of statements by the accused designed to censor their charges concerning the abuse and torture inflicted upon them as well as other revelations that might prove damaging to the US government.

One effect of Thursday’s Supreme Court ruling may be to halt these trials indefinitely.

Roberts continued: “The critical threshold question in these cases, prior to any inquiry about the writ’s scope, is whether the system the political branches designed protects whatever rights the detainees may possess. If so, there is no need for any additional process, whether called ‘habeas’ or something else.”

In other words, the “political branches”—the executive and Congress—are free to “design” procedures for “whatever rights” they deem to exist. This is a formula for judicial abdication and the establishment of a police state.

It is a testament to the dire state of democratic rights in the United States and the degraded condition of American democracy that a shift in a single vote on the high court would be sufficient to make such a sweeping repudiation of democratic rights the law of the land.

Scalia’s dissent is an exercise in hysterical fear-mongering, something that would appear more suited for a Fox Cable News broadcast or talk-radio show than a high court opinion. Both the tone and content of his opinion makes clear it was intended as an appeal to the most reactionary forces in the United States and an effort to whip up such layers against the court majority.

Despite the fact that, according to Kennedy, none of the petitioners in Boumediene et al v. Bush “is a citizen of a nation now at war with the United States,” and “each denies he is a member of the Al Qaeda terrorist network that carried out the September 11 attacks or of the Taliban regime,” Scalia claimed, “Today, for the first time in our Nation’s history, the Court confers a constitutional right to habeas corpus on alien enemies detained abroad by our military forces in the course of an ongoing war.”

“America is at war with radical Islamists,” Scalia continued. “The enemy began by killing Americans and American allies abroad: 241 at the Marine barracks in Lebanon, 19 at the Khobar Towers in Dhahran, 224 at our embassies in Dar es Salaam and Nairobi, and 17 on the USS Cole in Yemen... On September 11, 2001, the enemy brought the battle to American soil, killing 2,749 at the Twin Towers in New York City, 184 at the Pentagon in Washington, DC, and 40 in Pennsylvania... It has threatened further attacks against our homeland; one need only walk about buttressed and barricaded Washington, or board a plane anywhere in the country, to know that the threat is a serious one. Our Armed Forces are now in the field against the enemy, in Afghanistan and Iraq. Last week, 13 of our countrymen in arms were killed.”

Besides crudely conflating legitimate acts of resistance to neo-colonial occupation forces with terrorist acts abroad, Scalia ignores the fact that there has never been a shred of evidence presented in any court of law linking any of the Guantánamo prisoners to any of these incidents.

Asserting that the majority opinion “warps our Constitution” by “invoking judicially brainstormed separation-of-powers principles to establish a manipulable ‘functional’ test for the extraterritorial reach of habeas corpus (and, no doubt, for the extraterritorial reach of other constitutional protections as well),” Scalia concludes, “most tragically, it sets our military commanders the impossible task of proving to a civilian court ... that evidence supports the confinement of each and every enemy prisoner.”

In other words, the United States judiciary should turn over responsibility for deciding who belongs in jail to the military. Scalia’s opinion is nothing less than a demand that democratic rights in the US be lifted and police state powers be granted to the executive branch and the military under the pretext of fighting the so-called “war on terror”—a “war,” never declared by Congress, of indefinite duration and geographical scope against an essentially undefined enemy.

Besides Chief Justice Roberts, Associate Justices Clarence Thomas and Joseph Alito concurred with this justification for military dictatorship.

Both dissents were answered in a brief concurrence with Kennedy issued by Justice Souter, who wrote: “After six years of sustained executive detentions in Guantánamo, subject to habeas jurisdiction but without any actual habeas scrutiny, today’s decision is no judicial victory, but an act of perseverance in trying to make habeas review, and the obligation of the courts to provide it, mean something of value both to prisoners and to the Nation.”

The court battle was led by attorneys from the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) in New York City. “This decision ensures that the executive does not falsely claim credit for detaining and incapacitating terrorists, when in many documented cases they have just swept up innocent men and hidden them from scrutiny,” said CCR President Michael Ratner. He continued: “It rightfully discourages Congress and the President from establishing deceptive, extra-legal proceedings in times of crisis and confirms our qualms about inventing extralegal and inhumane processes to detain human beings—no matter who they are or where they come from.”

President Bush, appearing with Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi of Italy at a Rome press conference, said, “We’ll abide by the court’s decision”—suggesting that he had a choice. He added, “[I]t was a deeply divided court, and I strongly agree with those who dissented.”

Price Of Oil Will Double

Price Of Oil Will Double

An ominous warning that the rapid rise in oil prices has only just begun

By Danny Fortson, Business Correspondent

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The chief executive of the world's largest energy company has issued the most dire warning yet about the soaring the price of oil, predicting that it will hit $250 per barrel "in the foreseeable future".

The forecast from Alexey Miller, the head of the Kremlin-owned gas giant Gazprom, would herald the arrival of £2-per-litre petrol and send shockwaves through the economy. His comments were the most stark to be expressed by an industry executive and come just days after the oil price registered its largest-ever single-day spike, hitting $139.12 per barrel last week amid fears that the world's faltering supply will be unable to keep up with demand.

Mr Miller's prediction is well beyond even the most heady market forecasts, the most extreme of which fall between $150 and $200 per barrel, and was explained only by vague references to demand from the developing world. It nonetheless stoked an already febrile atmosphere of growing public anger across Europe over a soaring fuel cost that is wreaking havoc at nearly every level of the economy.

The British Government was urging motorists yesterday not to panic-buy petrol in anticipation of a strike on Friday by lorry drivers who deliver petrol to forecourts for Royal Dutch Shell, assuring motorists that contingency plans would ensure sufficient supplies.

In Spain, the regional government of Catalonia enacted an emergency action plan to bring in fresh food and fuel supplies after nearly half of its forecourts ran dry and supermarkets shelves were left bare. The situation was the result of the second day of an "indefinite" nationwide strike staged by lorry drivers in Spain seeking their government's help to contain the effects of expensive petrol. Scattered protests by drivers and fisherman in France and Portugal also continued yesterday.

In a speech to the European Business Congress in Deauville, France, Mr Miller offered little prospect of relief. He warned that the world was experiencing a fundamental shift in energy prices that will end at a "radically new level. We expect that the oil price will approach $250 per barrel in the foreseeable future".

Philip Shaw, an economist at Investec Securities, warned that oil at that level would exert an extraordinary drag on the economy at a time when it is already decelerating at a rapid rate. "The word is ouch," he said. "Forecasts are forecasts though, and I think it should be treated with some level of scepticism."

The most visible result of $250 oil would be at the petrol pump, which is already at a record 116.9 pence per litre for unleaded. Because more than half of that price, about 68p, is due to duty and taxes, the general rule of thumb is that each $2 increase for oil means a 1p increase of petrol at the pump. Oil at $250 a barrel would mean an increase of almost 60p in petrol prices, even before VAT.

The price of everything from food to energy would see significant price rises. Household electricity and gas bills are particularly vulnerable. Power companies have begun warning of a second round of major tariff increases for household bills this year that they say they will need to push through just to break even.

Mr Miller placed some of the blame on financial speculators for oil's price rise – it has more than doubled in the past year – but said that the primary reason is simple supply and demand, driven by the rapidly expanding countries of the developing world, principally China and India.

It is a view shared by the International Energy Agency. In its monthly oil report, the developed world's energy watchdog said yesterday that the "abnormally high prices [for oil] are largely explained by fundamentals". But whether the price of oil will reach $250 is uncertain at best. Most expect it to reach a breaking point before that figure. The IEA said that the high price would eventually "choke off" demand and a balance between supply and demand would return.

What is certain is that for Europe, Mr Miller's role will become increasingly important as head of the continent's single biggest gas supplier. He also warned against "protectionist tendencies" in Europe, where worries have grown that the company is being used as a blunt negotiating tool of the Kremlin. "The relationship between Gazprom and Europeans is one of mutual dependence. We rely as much on European consumers as they depend on us," he said.

"In all frankness, I am concerned about certain protectionist tendencies resurfacing in the EU ... How wise it is that the European Commission invents an 'anti-Gazprom clause' to keep investments which are so needed for more efficient satisfaction of raising demand."

Crude's 697% Rally Passes Dot.Com Craze as Economy Spurs `Bubble' Worries

Oil Rally Topped Dot-Com Craze in Speculators' Mania

By Michael Patterson and Elizabeth Stanton

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The rally that drove oil to a record $139.12 a barrel last week surpassed the gains in Internet stocks that preceded the dot-com crash in 2000.

Crude rose 697 percent since trading at $17.45 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange in November 2001, and reached 28 record highs this year. The last time a similar pattern was seen in equities was eight years ago, when Internet-related stocks sent the Nasdaq Composite Index up 640 percent to its highest level ever, according to data compiled by Bloomberg and Bespoke Investment Group LLC.

The Nasdaq tumbled 78 percent from its March 2000 peak, erasing about $6 trillion of market value, as investors concluded that prices weren't supported by profits at companies such as Broadcom Inc. Billionaire investor George Soros and Stephen Schork, president of Schork Group Inc., say oil is ready to tumble because prices aren't justified by supply and demand. and

''There's nothing different between this mania, the dot-com mania, the real estate mania, the Dow Jones mania of the 1920s, the South Sea bubble and the Dutch tulip-bulb mania,'' said Schork, whose Villanova, Pennsylvania-based firm advises the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, Wall Street firms and oil companies on the outlook for energy prices. ''History repeats itself over and over and over again.''

China, India

Oil climbed on growing demand from China and India, whose economies expanded the past seven years at an average annual pace of 10.2 percent and 7.3 percent, respectively. Supply disruptions in Nigeria and Iraq and declining production in Russia also boosted prices. Investors added about $250 billion to commodity index trading strategies since 2003, according to Mike Masters, president and founder of Masters Capital Management, a St. Croix- based hedge fund.

Crude futures fell 1.4 percent to $134.84 a barrel at 10:37 a.m. in New York today. The Nasdaq added 1.6 percent to 2,441.92 on oil's decline and a government report on consumer prices that matched economists' forecast.

Money is flowing into oil as the global economy slows. The worst U.S. housing slump since the 1930s and more than $390 billion of writedowns and credit losses at banks will slow global growth to 2.7 percent this year from 3.7 percent in 2007, according to the World Bank.

Investor Demand

The U.S. economy's expansion may slow to 1.3 percent this year from 2.2 percent in 2007, dragging down oil demand by 240,000 barrels a day, according to economists surveyed by Bloomberg and Energy Department data. In China, the second- biggest fuel consumer after the U.S., economic growth may fall to 10.1 percent from 11.9 percent, the Bloomberg survey shows.

''I don't know if you can classify it as a bubble or not,'' said Masters. ''But there is no question that investor demand is having an effect on price. Very little of it has to do with physical supply and demand of crude oil.'' Masters testified at a Senate hearing in May on the role of speculators in commodities markets.

Gains in oil are the result of a ''bubble'' caused by speculation from index funds and a tight balance between supply and demand, Soros said in testimony before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation on June 3. ''The bubble is superimposed on an upward trend in oil prices that has a strong foundation in reality,'' he said.

'Momentum Players'

Commodity index traders account for about 40 percent of the open interest, or outstanding contracts, in the 12 agricultural commodities for which the Commodity Futures Trading Commission reports data, according to Chicago-based Bianco Research LLC.

Crude futures more than doubled in the past year and surged $10.75 a barrel on June 6, the biggest rise on record and the largest in percentage terms since June 1996. Robert Aliber, a professor of economics emeritus at the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business, says the risk of a ''correction'' has increased because prices climbed so fast.

''You've got speculation in a lot of commodities and that seems to be driving up the price,'' Aliber, co-author of ''Manias, Panics, and Crashes: A History of Financial Crises,'' said in an interview from Hanover, New Hampshire. ''Movements are dominated by momentum players who predict price changes from Wednesday to Friday on the basis of the price change from Monday to Wednesday.''

Limited Supply

Burton Malkiel, a Princeton University economics professor and author of ''A Random Walk Down Wall Street,'' says the rise in oil may be justified because supplies are limited and demand in developing economies is increasing. That distinguishes oil from the market for technology stocks in the 1990s, where supply ''could be expanded infinitely'' and new stock issues helped push down prices, he said.

''The picture is fundamentally different than the Internet picture,'' Malkiel said in an interview from Princeton, New Jersey. ''I'm not saying we're running out of oil, but we're clearly supply-constrained. Five and 10 years from now, the price is going to be higher than $134.''

The Nasdaq reached a record intraday high of 5,132.52 on March 10, 2000, in a rally that started in June 1994. Investors plowed $199 billion into mutual funds dedicated to U.S. equities during the 10-month stretch leading up to the peak, including $36.5 billion in February of that year, data from TrimTabs Investment Research in Sausalito, California show.

The flood helped boost the price-to-earnings ratio on shares of Irvine, California-based Broadcom to 617 in March 2000, according to Bloomberg data. Shares of the semiconductor maker, which surged 351 percent in 1999, lost 89 percent over the next three years. Broadcom gained 3.4 percent to $26.17 in Nasdaq trading today.

''You can look at the chart and say oil's taking on the characteristics of a bubble,'' said James Bianco, the president of Bianco Research. Still, ''it may have a long way to go before it eventually peaks,'' he said.

Ron Paul to end campaign outside Texas convention

Ron Paul to end campaign outside Texas convention

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AUSTIN, Texas — Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul will end his campaign Thursday night and announce a new effort to help elect libertarian-leaning Republicans to public offices around the country.

Campaign spokesman Jessee Benton said the announcement, expected during a speech outside the Texas Republican convention, was "not a disappointment at all. I think this is really exciting."

Paul's announcement will be a formality.

The 72-year-old Texas congressman won few delegates during the Republican primaries. But he raised millions of dollars online and developed a large, grass-roots following among those who backed his call for end the war in Iraq and smaller government at home.

Supporters have pushed for a speaking role for him at the Republican National Convention in September in St. Paul, Minn.

Paul has said he won't endorse Sen. John McCain, the likely GOP presidential nominee. Benton said that was unlikely to change.

The Jewish Experience

The Jewish Experience

By Gilad Atzmon

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For more than half a century, those who have been trying to combat the forces that are behind the Israeli paradigm have been identifying Israeli policies and practice with Zionism and Zionist Ideology. I am afraid to say that they were wrong all the way along. Indeed, Zionism’s project dictates the plunder of Palestine in the name of Jewish national aspiration. It is also true to argue that Israel has been rather efficient in translating the Zionist philosophy into a devastating oppressive and murderous practice. Yet, Israelis, or more precisely, the vast majority of Israeli-born secular Jews, are not motivated or fuelled by Zionist ideology. Its spirit or symbols are virtually meaningless to them. As bizarre as it may sound to some, Zionism is either a foreign or just an archaic notion for most Israeli-born secular Jews.

Since the vast majority of Israelis are confused by the notion of Zionism, most forms of criticism that would label itself as anti-Zionist would have hardly any effect on Israel, Israeli politics or on the Israeli people. In other words, in the last sixty years, those who have been using the paradigm of Zionism and its antipode have been preaching to the converted.

A total review of the amalgam formed by Israel, Zionism and Jewishness is now overdue.

Intimate Departure

Once a year around Easter, my family leaves me behind for two weeks. My wife Tali and our two kids Mai (12) and Yann (7) make their way to Israel. My wife calls it a family visit, she insists that the kids must see their close relatives and my views on Israel, Jewish identity and global Zionism should never stand in the way or interfere with family matters. For the obvious reasons, I myself never go to Israel. I had decided ten years ago that unless Israel becomes a state of its citizens, I have nothing to do there.

In our first parental years in London Tali and I had some discussions about her favourite choice of Easter break. Initially I didn’t approve. I insisted that schlepping innocent youngsters to the apartheid ‘Jews only state’ would contribute little to their future well-being, and in fact, it may distort their ethical senses. In those early parental years Tali dismissed my fears, she argued that our kids should be treated as free human beings. They must be entitled to see their family and it is down to them to make up their minds when they are ready to do so.

When our kids were very young, I found it pretty difficult to sustain my argument. Mai and Yann didn’t have any interest in political or ethical complexities. However, as my kids grew up, their journey in and out of the Hebraic shtetl had become a major education chapter for myself more than for anyone else. Observing my kids transformed into light Israelophiles opened my eyes. I happened to grasp the impact of Israel and Zionism through the juvenile eyes of my British kids. I had learned to admit how easy it may be to fall in love with Israel.

My kids love it there. They adore the blue sky, they go on and on about the sea and the sandy beaches. I guess that they love humus and falafel. It doesn’t take a genius to realise that everything I have mentioned so far belongs to the land - i.e., Palestine rather than the state - i.e., Israel. However, it doesn’t end there. They also love to talk in Hebrew surrounded by Hebrew speakers, to laugh in Hebrew and even to get upset in Hebrew. They love the Hebraic Chutzpah that is inherently entangled with the Israeli openness. At the end of the day, Hebrew is their mother tongue.

When Tali and the kids land in cloudy London they happen to be confused and lost for a while. Tali becomes slightly nostalgic about the successful theatrical career she left behind. This obviously makes a lot of sense. The case of my kids is slightly more complicated. They are Brits. Though Hebrew is their mother tongue, English is their first language. In London they clearly miss some liberties they celebrated there: they want to keep on playing in the open fields, to bathe in the glorious Mediterranean sun overwhelmed by the dry spring blossoms. But far more noticeably, Israel resolves what seems as their inevitable emerging identity complex. While here in London they are troubled with their ethnic identity, they can never decide who they are, whether they are ex-Israelis, ex-Jews, Secular Jews, Christian by culture, the descendents of a Hebrew speaking Palestinian, the son and daughter of a notorious proud self-hater and so on. In Israel, and especially with their family around, none of those questions come into play. The Israelis tend to accept you as a qualified brother as long as you are not an Arab. While in multi-ethnic London my kids are often confronted with some obvious questions regarding their origin, questions they find hard to tackle a lot because of myself and my stand, in Israel those questions are non-existent.

When my kids come back to London, for a week or so they make me feel as if it is me and my lunacy which imposed these winter exilic conditions upon them. Deep inside I know that they are absolutely right. ‘Tough’, is all I can say in my defence.

For a week or so after their return my kids become light Zionists. It is not that they dispute what I say about Palestine, it is not that they develop any sense of Jewish national aspiration, it is not that my kids are blind to the suffering of the Palestinian people either. In fact my seven-year-old son is horrified by the gigantic wall and can’t stop asking about the people who live behind it. But, there is something they experience in Israel, something that makes Zionism into the biggest successful Jewish Diaspora narrative for over two millennia. It is not the ideology that makes Zionism successful, my kids do not care about ideology, they probably do not know what the word means. It is not the politics either, my kids do not know much about politics. It is all about belonging. Zionism is a symbolic identifier and it provides the Diaspora Jews with a symbolic order. It gives a signifier to every possible appearance, it creates a coherent and consistent world. It gives name to the sea, the sky, the sun, the land, brotherhood, yearning and friendship. But it also gives a name to the enemy, the goyim and even the self-haters. Zionism is a lucid world order, unfortunately it is merciless and murderous as well.

Through the eyes of my young kids I have an opportunity to study the meaning of Israel rather than its politics or practices. Through them I can see what Israel is there to offer and how forceful it may be. Analysing my children’s empathic relationship with Israel, I have now grasped that the contemporary Jewish experience is premised on two inherent sets of dialectics. One is set between Eretz Yisrael and the Diaspora, the other can be formulated as ‘love yourself as much as you hate anyone else’.

Eretz Yisrael and the Diaspora

“I am a human being, I am a Jew and I am an Israeli. Zionism was an instrument to move me from the Jewish state of being to the Israeli state of being. I think it was Ben-Gurion who said that the Zionist movement was the scaffolding to build the home, and that after the state’s establishment it should be dismantled.” (Avraham Burg, ‘Leaving the Zionist ghetto’ in an Interview with Ari Shavit, 25 July 2007)

As far as Israeli-born secular Jews are concerned, Zionism means very little. If Zionism is there to maintain that Jews are entitled to national home in Zion, the Israeli-born Jew lives this very realty to start with. For him/her, Zionism is a remote historical chapter associated with an old picture of a man with a big black beard (Herzl). For the Israelis, Zionism is not a transformation awaiting to happen, it is rather a boring, tedious, dated and dull historical chapter on the verge of bla bla. It is far less interesting than contemporary Olmert’s cash envelops or Obama turning into an Israeli Spokesman. Indeed, for the new Israelites, GalutGalut. Like other migrant populations, they just search for a better life. It must be mentioned that for most Israelis, Israel is far from being a heroic glorious location. Naturally, after 60 years with the same woman, one may fail to see her beauty anymore. (Diaspora) has some bad connotations. It is associated with ghettos, with shame and persecution, yet, this term doesn’t ascribe to downtown Manhattan or London’s Soho. In other words, Israelis do not tend to identify their migration out of Israel as a return to the

The so-called ‘Israeli’ i.e., an Israeli-born secular Jew, the successful product of post-revolutionary Zionism, is now so used to his existence in the region that he has lost his Jewish survival instinct. Instead, he adopts the most hedonistic interpretation of Western enlightened individualism that abolishes the last reminiscence of tribal collectivism. This may explain why Israel had been defeated in the last Lebanon war. The new Israeli doesn’t see any real reason to sacrifice himself on a collective Jewish altar. He is far more interested in exploring the pragmatic aspects of the philosophy of ‘good life’. This may explain as well why the Israeli military cannot tackle the growing threat of Qassam rockets. In order to do so, Israeli generals need to implement some courageous ground tactics. Seemingly, they learned their lesson in Lebanon: hedonistic societies do not produce Spartan warriors and without real warriors at your disposal you may better off fighting from afar. Instead of sending special infantry units into Gaza at dawn, it is apparently far easier to drop bombs on populated neighbourhoods or alternatively to starve its habitants to submission. Needless to say, the Palestinians, the Syrians, the Hezbollah, the Iranians and the entire Muslim world see it all. Day by day they review the Israeli cowardice tactics, they know that Israel’s days are numbered.

As interesting as it may sound, the Israelis are not that concerned with their fatal inevitable emerging reality, at least not consciously. Because their tribal survival instinct has been replaced by enlightened individualism, the young Israeli is concerned largely with personal survival rather than with any collective plan. The Israeli can go as far as asking, “how the hell can I get out of here?” The new secular Israeli Jew is an escapist. As soon as he/she finishes his/her compulsory duty, he or she would either rush to the airport or learn how to ’switch off’ all news channels. The amount of Israelis who leave their homeland is growing by the day. The rest, those who are doomed to stay, develop an apathetic culture of indifference.

Beaufort and Sderot

I recently watched Beaufort, an Israeli award winning war film. Though I wasn’t at all overwhelmed with the cinematic achievement, the film is an astonishing exposure of Israeli fatigue and defeatism. The film tells the story of an IDF special infantry unit (Golany) that is dug-in in a bunker within a Byzantine fortress on top of a mountain in southern Lebanon. The plot takes place days before the 1st Israeli withdrawal from Southern Lebanon (2000). As it happens, the Israeli platoons are surrounded by Hezbollah warriors. Days and night they live in trenches, hide in concrete shelters and are subject to constant barrages of mortars and missiles. Though they all plan life after that hell they are caught into, they happen to die one after the other by an enemy they don’t even see.

The Israelis loved Beaufort, the world was slightly less convinced of its cinematic quality. If you ask yourself why the Israelis loved it so much, here is my answer. For the Israelis, the situation in the Beaufort is an allegory of a state that comes to realise its temporality and futile existence. As much as the Israeli soldiers are dreaming to run away as far as they can get, whether it is settling in NYC or ‘getting stoned’ in Goa, the Israeli society is coming to terms with its doomed fatality. Like the soldiers in the film, the Israelis want to become Americans, Parisians, Londoners and Berliners. The numbers of Israelis who are queuing for Polish passports are increasing by the day. Beaufort the film is a metaphor of a society that comes to terms with itself being in a siege. A society that comes to realise that there maybe no escape route whether it is a physical one or by the means of growing indifference. The film can be interpreted as a parable of a society that comes to terms with the gravest notion of its own temporality.

Interestingly enough, as much as the soldiers in the Beaufort and the people of Sderot or Ashkelon are confused by their will to leave everything behind and to run for their life, as much as they can’t see the point in clinging to where they are, for the Diaspora Jew, Israel is nothing less than a lucid model of glory. Israel is both the meaning and the meaning in its making. For the Diaspora Jew, Israel is the symbolic transformation aiming at liberation and even redemption of the Jewish misery. Israel is everything the Diaspora Jew is not. It is full of chutzpah, it is forceful, it is militant, it stands for what it believes in. Accordingly, for a young Jew from Golders Green or Brooklyn, making Aliyah or even just joining what he or she mistakenly regards as the heroic Israeli army, is far more glorious than joining dad’s law firm, dental studio, or accountant company.

Being horrified by the remote possibility that my kids may surprise me one day by suggesting that they may consider spending some time in Israel on their own without their mother’s parental guidance, I recently started to grasp that which Israel is there to offer world Jews. In fact, not many Jewish parents would stop their son or daughter from joining the IDF, why should they? The IDF is a very safe army to be in, it avoids ground battle, it kills from afar, it values its soldier as much as it loves inflicting the ultimate pain on others. Every Jewish father must accept that it may be useful for his youngster to learn how to drive a tank, fly a helicopter or shoot an MK 47. Unlike the shockingly under-equipped Palestinian warriors who die in vast quantities on a daily basis, the Israeli soldiers hardly risk their lives. Hence, the heroic Aliyah and even joining the IDF, seems to be a safe adventure, at least for the time being.

Though it is rather clear that most young Diaspora Jews choose to get on with their lives wherever they are and to avoid ‘taking advantage of’ the Zionist Aliyah challenge, Zionism still provides them with a symbolic identifier. Zionism and its Aliyah operators offer them the opportunity to either identify with the few who went that far or to themselves become soldiers in one of the strongest armies in the world.

Wandering Around

Zionism invented the Jewish nation and set its national home, Israel, into a devastating conflict that is now taking a global shape and has become a serious global threat. Yet, for the Israelis, those who happen to be in the eye of the storm, ‘Zionism’ means very little. Israelis join the IDF not because they are Zionists but because they are Jews (as opposed to the Muslims around them). This crucial realisation may convey a new meaning for the notion of the ‘wandering Jew’. The dialectic that is set between the Diaspora and Eretz Yisrael leads towards a counter flow of migration, aspiration and yearning. The Diaspora Jews are aspired by Israel in the light of the Zionist fantasy, the Israeli Jews, on the other hand, are determined to escape their emerging siege. The Diaspora is heading towards Eretz Yisrael, the Israeli Jews, at large, are desperate to get out.

This counter flow of migration/aspiration is far from being a matter of contingency, in fact it is the direct product of the holy Judaic scriptures. As I explored in my ‘Esther to AIPAC’ paper[1], more and more Bible scholars are now disputing the historicity of the Bible. Seemingly, the Bible is for most part “written after the Babylonian Exile and whose writings rework (and in large part invent) previous Israelite history so that it reflects and reiterates the experiences of those returning from the Babylonian exile.”

Consequently, the Bible, being an exilic text, leads to a fragmented reality in which the Diaspora Jew yearns for ‘homecoming’ yet once at home, the ideology loses its appeal. The case of Zionism is shockingly similar, it has managed to aspire some Jews about Zion, yet, once in Zion, the ideology fails to provide for the domestic adventure.

We can clearly detect a dialectic tension between Zionism, a Diaspora Jewish identity and Israeliness, which is largely related to the Hebraic project. Zionism and Israel are two diverse poles that together form the contemporary Jewish Experience.

Love Yourself as much as you Hate Everyone Else

Once we understand the dialectic opposition between Eretz Yisrael and the Diaspora, we are ready to move on and reflect upon the unique complimentarily relationships between the two.

As much as Eretz Yisrael and the Diaspora establish a counter flow of aspiration and migration, Israel is there to establish a coherent and consistent symbolic interpretation of Jewish tribal chauvinism and supremacy. Israel makes ‘love yourself as much as you hate everyone else’ into a devastating reality, in which the self-lover happens to be capable of inflicting the ultimate pain on his surrounding neighbours.

In order to understand the Jewish concept of self-loving, we may have to reflect first on the issue that makes this particular form of personal emotional consciousness take place: the issue of chosenness.

While the religious Judaic understanding of Jewish chosenness is realised as a moral burden in which Jews are ordered by God to stand as a model of ethical behaviour, the secular Jewish interpretation is reduced into a banal chauvinist form of racially orientated supremacy. It clearly encourages those who are lucky enough to have a Jewish mother to love themselves blindly. It is crucial to mention at this stage that in most cases Jewish supremacy would lead to a certain level of dismissal of the elementary rights of the other. In many cases it leads toward animosity and even hatred whether latent or manifest.

It is this supremacy which stands at the heart of the Zionist claim for Palestine at the expense of its indigenous inhabitants. But it obviously doesn’t end with Palestine, the radical manifestation of Jewish lobbying for extension of the “War Against Terror” as expressed, for instance, by the AJC is just another example. I would never dare say that this type of war mongering is inherent to Jews (as people), yet, unfortunately, it is rather symptomatic to Jewish tribal political thinking left, right and centre. Thus, it shouldn’t take us by surprise that at the forefront of the struggle for humanism and universal ethics we meet Jews such as Jesus, Spinoza and Marx. These people who went out of their way to introduce a notion of brotherhood stood primarily against the tribal supremacy they found in themselves and in their cultural heritage. They above all protested against what was familiar to them and suggested brotherhood and love instead.

However, we may note that Jesus, Spinoza and Marx, didn’t manage to transform the Jews (as a collective), though they had a bit of success with some of them. Seemingly, the move from hard-core dogmatic monotheistic tribalism towards tolerant pluralist universalism is on the verge of the impossible. Indeed, more than a few Jews have managed to leave God behind, as we know some had become Marxists but somehow even many of those remained loyal to their monotheistic tribally exclusive ‘Jews only’ philosophy (Bund, JAZ). Others moved as far as becoming a ‘nation like other nations’ (Zionism) except that they made sure they cleansed and killed those who didn’t fit ethnically to their vision of themselves (1948 Nakba). Some became so liberal and cosmopolitan that they managed to reduce contemporary global conflict into a simplistic take on ’soft drink’. “People who drink Coca Cola do not fight each other”, they informed us. This may be the truth, however, as it seems, the Coke drinkers have recently killed 1.5 million Iraqis all in the name of ‘democracy’.

It is extremely crucial to mention that many Jews have managed to assimilate and to leave their tribal traits behind, they operate as ordinary human beings. They have nothing to do with Bund, Neocons or Zionism. Seemingly, those truly liberated beings are not the subject of my study, and I can only wish them luck and success.

However, though Jews are divided between themselves on many things, they are united in fighting those who they collectively identify as their enemies. It took me a while to realise that those who operate under the exclusive Jewish banner within the Palestinian solidarity and the Anti-War movements are primarily concerned with fighting any references to Jewish lobbying or Jewish power.

One explanation was provided earlier on. Zionism per se, has little to do with Israel, it is an internal Diaspora Jewish discourse. Consequently, the debate between Zionists and Jewish anti-Zionists has no significance on Israel or the struggle against Israeli actions. It is there to keep the debate within the family while planting more confusion amongst the goyim. It allows the Jewish ethnic campaigner to maintain that “not all Jews are Zionists, in fact there are almost two dozen ‘Jewish Anti Zionists’ around the world”. As pathetic as it may sound, this dull argument has been good enough to effectively shatter any criticism of Jewish ethnocentric lobbying that may have been voiced the last four decades. Seemingly (and unfortunately), when it comes to ‘action’, the Zionists and the so-called Jewish ‘anti’-Zionists are acting as one people. Why are they acting as one people? Because they are one people. Are they really one people? It doesn’t matter as long as they themselves believe to be or act as if they are. And what is it that makes them into one people? They probably hate everyone else as much as they love themselves.

There is an old Jewish saying, “Tell me who your friends are and I will tell you who you are”, it would be most appropriate to amend it into a far more refined reading of Jewish contemporary tribal politics. “Just tell me who you hate and I’ll tell you who you are”. If, for instance, you hate Finkelstein, Atzmon, Blankfort, Mearsheimer & Walt and so on, you must be Jewish. If you just don’t agree with any of the above you can actually be anyone.

Hatred and even personal loathing is sadly symptomatic to Jewish tribal politics, probably something to do with Jewish politics being marginal and defined by negation. Noticeably, Israel has managed to perfect it and give it real new meaning. While the Diaspora Jew is entitled to love himself, his hatred to the other is largely suppressed. As much as some Jews may like to follow their religious calling and spit on churches[2] or just destroy the lives of prominent academics and artists, hatred and violence is not tolerated within the contemporary Western discourse. This is exactly where Israel comes into play. As much as the Israelis love themselves, they are capable of hating anyone else. They are capable of starving millions of Palestinians, they are capable of killing when they feel like it. Israel made ‘love yourself/ hate everyone else’ into a viable practice. It resolved the most inherent ambivalent tension having to do with self-loving while being amongst others. Israel doesn’t just hate Prof. Finkelstein, it is capable of detaining and deporting him as well. Israel doesn’t just hate the Palestinians, it is equally capable of starving them, locking them behind walls and barbed wire, bombing them and even nuking the hardliners when the time is ripe.

This is the most frightening aspect of complimentarily between Eretz Yisrael and the Diaspora. It is the materialisation of a hate-ridden society. After two millennia of wandering, the newly reformed national Jew is capable of not just hating but also of inflicting the ultimate pain on those he may hate.

Exploring the Jewish Question

Once a year, around Easter, my family leaves me behind for two weeks. My wife Tali and our two kids Mai and Yann make their way to Israel. I can clearly see how much they love it there. I can clearly understand what is it that they love there. Gladly, I can say that at least for the time being, my kids are not madly in love with themselves and do not see themselves as part of any tribal collective. Consequently, they do not hate anyone either.

However, through their experience I can see what Israel is there to offer, especially to those who do not dwell there. I can see how successful the Israeli adventure looks from afar. Through their experience I learn about the dialectic between the Israel/Hebraic domestic quest and the Zionist/Diaspora aspiration. The negation and complimentarily between the Hebraic and the Diaspora is the essence of contemporary Jewish experience.

If we want to tackle the crimes committed by Israel and the evil promoted by global Zionist lobbies, we better initiate a profound study of the Jewish question and the Jewish experience. It is not just Israel or Zionism but rather the unique devastating amalgam of complexity formed by both. Unless we question the Jewish experience, we are doomed to continue wasting our time employing irrelevant archaic 19th century terminology that has nothing to do with the conflict.

Once we are brave enough to explore the Jewish question and Jewish identity we may be able to understand that Israeli apartheid is not just political circumstances, it is actually a natural outcome of a particular racially orientated tribal philosophy. The Israeli wall is not a political measure but rather a manifestation of an exclusive racist attitude that stands at the core of the Jewish notion of segregation. Once we stand up and insist upon interpreting Israeli/Zionist scrutinising of the Jewish question we may as well grasp why Senator Obama rushed to the AIPAC conference three hours after his nomination for the Democratic Party was secured. The set of promises made by Obama, Clinton and McCain in AIPAC a few days ago is in fact a true reflection of the contemporary Jewish experience. The senators feed the Jewish American prominent lobbyists exactly with the food they want to swallow. At the expense of the Palestinians, Iraqis, Syrians, Iranians and billion Muslims, American politicians openly promise that America will keep being biased. Seemingly, America prefers to appease its tiny Jewish minority instead of being an international mediator and a true genuine negotiator.

I would strongly argue that in the light of the crimes committed by the Jewish state in the name of the Jewish people, we are perfectly entitled to question the philosophy and praxis involved with Jewish experience. We should never be intimidated by Jewish ethnic activists and Zionist smear campaigners.

Since Jews do not form a race but largely succumb to some different forms of collective, racially orientated politics, we shouldn’t be afraid of touching the matter. Once we take it as a given that Jews do not form a race, the study of Jewish identity and politics is neither racism nor essentialism. It is actually the very opposite, it is in fact a critical reading of racist ideology and its inherent supremacy.

Those of us who regard Israel and Zionism as the grave danger to world peace must pursue in this study. Rather than focusing separately on Zionism or Israel, we must learn the unique amalgam of complexity that is formed by both. This dialectic compound shapes the contemporary notion of Jewish Experience. Zionism in itself is no more than a decoy. It is there to grab our attention and divert our focus. Seemingly our attack on Zionism has no significance on Israel, its policies and its people. At the most, it disturbs some Zionist Jews.

As much as the study of the ‘Jewish Experience’ may help us to save millions of lives of Palestinians, Iraqis, Syrians and Iranians, it is also a Jewish collective interest to understand the true nature of the Jewish experience and politics. At the end of the day, it is Jewish politics (rather than religion) that may eventually demonise the entire Jewish collective for the next millennia to come. It is a Jewish collective interest to stop the political beast before it is too late.

I owe it to my Palestinian brothers and sisters, I owe it to myself, I owe it to Yann and Mai, I want to make sure that by the time they protest against my own ‘anti-Jewish experience’ I’ll be clever enough to discuss it all with them in an open and thoughtful manner.


[2] According to Dr. Israel Shahak, in his book Jewish History, Jewish Religion, this practice has ancient roots and has become increasingly commonplace: Dishonoring Christian religious symbols is an old religious duty in Judaism. Spitting on the cross, and especially on the Crucifix, and spitting when a Jew passes a church, have been obligatory from around AD 200 for pious Jews. In the past, when the danger of anti-Semitic hostility was a real one, the pious Jews were commanded by their rabbis either to spit so that the reason for doing so would be unknown, or to spit onto their chests, not actually on the cross or openly before the church.

Gilad Atzmon is a jazz musician, composer, producer and writer.

Ron Paul: Nancy Pelosi Pulled Iran Bill On Request of Israel

Nancy Pelosi Pulled Iran Bill On Request of Israel

Ron Paul: in a speech given on 06 June 2008, congressman Ron Paul, tells how speaker of the house, Nancy Pelosi, acting on behalf of israel and AIPAC, 'deliberately' pulled a supplemental bill requiring congressional approval for attacking Iran.

Combatting Dishonest Military Recruitment

Issues You Won’t Hear about During the Campaign: The Pentagon’s Lust for Young Latino Bodies

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Here’s an issue we can safely assume the candidates will conveniently ignore: the massive recruitment efforts of the U.S. Pentagon. This video doc by Jorge Mariscal and my friends at Project Yano details the machinations of the U.S. war machine in its efforts to not just survive to fight another day, but to simply survive.

As I’ve said previously, given the vastness of the U.S. military presence abroad, we can expect the Pentagon’s multi-billion (yes BILLION) dollar effort to recruit young bodies to intensify at home. Because of the rapid decline in the number of young blacks and women opting out of military service, the Pentagon has taken an unprecedented and very expensive interest in young Latinos.

So, if you want to destroy the Empire, you can do so non-violently by supporting anti-military recruitment efforts like those of Project Yano, the AFSC and a growing galaxy of organizations doing their part to bring down Sauron’s tower by bringing down the number of our kids doing Sauron’s bidding.

Check out this video by project Yano. Those of you who are teachers or those who work in community organizations can use it with young people to counteract the effects of the seamless system of war consciousness created by private-public partnerships like those documented in James Derderian’s book about what he calls the “military-industrial-media-entertainment network”.

So, Project Yano’s kind of media work previews what must be the future tactics of any effort to destroy the workings of militarism in the minds of our young. Check it out.

Grand Theft Digital; How Corporate Broadcasters Are Hijacking Digital TV

Grand Theft Digital; How Corporate Broadcasters Are Hijacking Digital TV

by BAR Managing Editor Bruce Dixon

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The FCC has spent millions of dollars "educating" the public on the transition from analog to to digital TV. But what they haven't told the American people is that on February 18, 2009 every one of the nation's more than 1700 analog TV broadcasters gets three, four or more new TV channels --- for nothing. No public service obligation, no local news or education programming, and no channels for black or Latino broadcasters, local entrepreneurs or communities.

On February 17, 2009 a massive, but so far little-noted corporate theft of the public airwaves will be consummated as US analog TV stations switch to digital TV (DTV) broadcasting. Digital broadcast technology enables three, four and sometimes more separate channels to be compressed into the space formerly occupied by a single old-fashioned analog TV channel. So when the transition from analog to digital TV occurs nationwide on February 17, 2009 each of the nation's more than 1700 broadcast TV license holders will suddenly have two, three or more additional channels, a gift from the taxpayers worth an estimated $70 billion.

Back in the mid 1990s, the owners of TV stations promised Congress that the advent of DTV would bring with it wide selection of new programming, educational and children's shows, frequently updated local newscasts and interactive content, all free over the new digital broadcast airwaves. Of course, they lied.

"Broadcasters have no idea how they will fill the extra channels they'll get on February 18, 2009," Communications Workers of America's Carrie Biggs-Adams told BAR. They don't have the content and they don't have a clue. There are only so many reruns, reality shows and home shopping networks."

An article by David Hatch in the June 7 National Journal confirms this

With the February 17 shift to digital broadcasting just over eight months away, broadcasters are finding that the business model for multiple channels is not panning out. An often-repeated refrain is that there's no money in it. "You're not creating any new advertisers, and you're not creating any new viewers," said Shaun Sheehan, vice president of the Tribune Co., which carried an all-music channel called The Tube on some of its secondary digital stations before the network folded in October.

"It's just a pure business decision," said James McQuivey, a media analyst with Boston-based Forrester Research. "Do I run the risk of rolling out new channels that will dilute my audience base?"

The National Association of Broadcasters cited statistics from BIA Financial, a Chantilly, Va.-based research firm, indicating that 351 television stations are multicasting.

But that figure includes public broadcasters, which have invested heavily in extra stations and account for a large chunk of the ones available--compared with their commercial counterparts.

When commercial outlets do multicast, it is often to transmit redundant weather maps, which involves minimal investment and little or no on-air talent. These radar scopes are so widespread that they've saturated the airwaves in some markets, including Washington, where viewers have three to choose from. Commercial broadcasters "can say that they do have some content on there," the FCC source said derisively.

Although the airwaves are the property of the public under US law, and broadcasters receive their licenses from the FCC only on the condition that they serve the public interest, neither Congress nor the FCC, have attached any public service or public interest requirement to the thousands of new DTV channels that current broadcasters will receive. And current broadcasters, according to the deal worked out by Congress and the FCC back in the 1990s, are the only ones upon whom the new stations made possible by DTV will be bestowed. They're in. Congress and the FCC, in their wisdom didn't think local governments, schools, colleges, libraries, unions, community organizations, local churches, blacks, Latinos or females deserved a shot at any of the thousands of new DTV channels. They're out. That's it and that's all.

The DTV transition has been engineered at every level to shield broadcasters from public scrutiny or accountability. You'd think four times as many TV stations would mean the FCC would have to issue four times as many broadcast licenses. But the issuance of new licenses would make public debate about who gets them and under what conditions unavoidable. So the new stations will be brought online under existing licenses.

The simple fact that DTV means the number of available channels will increase three or four times without a single broadcast license being issued to any new players is being carefully and deliberately concealed from the American people, lest there be a public debate on whether broadcasters actually deserve the new channels, and to what other use the newly available public spectrum might be put. For example, to find a reference to and definition of "digital multicasting", the technical name for the ability to place multiple channels in the bandwidth formerly occupied by a single analog channel, you have to hit the "What is DTV" page on the FCC web site, then click the link on the word "multicasting" and read the pop-up to learn that DTV

"allow(s) each digital broadcast station to split its bit stream into 2, 3, 4 or more individual channels of programming and/or data services. (For example, on channel 7, you could watch 7-1, 7-2, 7-3 or 7-4.)"

BAR had to spend 30 minutes on the phone, calling a half dozen FCC numbers and speaking to nine staffers just to find that reference. There are others, but few are easily discovered.

What's easy to find in the press and on the FCC's DTV site are the empty promises of broadcasters that DTV will mean more programming choices for the public, along with hundreds of thousands of words about whether old and new TV sets will be able to receive the new DTV signals and how well, who needs set-top converter boxes and who doesn't and who pays for them and how.

The broadcast industry is a closed club which reaps vast private profits from its monopoly use of a limited public resource, namely the public airwaves. No clever entrepreneur or smart engineer invented the broadcast spectrum that carries radio, TV and other wireless communications. The spectrum is a fundamental property of the physical universe. The FCC is charged with regulating the use of the spectrum in the public interest.

But the FCC is effectively the captive and sock puppet for the broadcasters club. The FCC has managed to spend millions on informing the public about the impending transition to DTV, with a staff of hundreds, public meetings, extensive web sites, dozens of videos, and complete "outreach toolkits" full of sample press releases for government and community organizations to conduct DTV transition awareness programs. The FCC's desired level of public "awareness" is limited to how to acquire a converter box or a DTV-capable set and turn it on. This treatment of the American people as "consumers" --- as commodities to be manipulated rather than empowered citizens, the actual owners of the broadcast spectrum is conclusive evidence that the FCC is wholly captured by and run in the interest of the broadcast industry.

Although the FCC's digital TV web site and handouts repeat the empty promises of broadcasters for more variety, for educational and public service programming on DTV they do it without mentioning that there will be three or four times as many channels, let alone entertaining the question whose channels those will be. The questions of who owns the limited resource of broadcast airwaves, who is entitled to broadcast licenses and under what conditions, and in whose interest the public spectrum must be managed are entirely absent from the FCC's public "awareness" programs. The fix is definitely in.

On February 18, 2009, 1700 existing TV broadcasters get multiple new channels with no public service obligation. The rest of us get nothing, unless you count set-top converter boxes and more channels to watch infomercials, "reality" shows, the jewelry channel and the home shopping network in beautiful high-def TV. Although broadcast TV is a local medium with most station footprints only a few dozen miles in radius, the transition will occur simultaneously nationwide. This will make local organizing aimed at opening up distribution of new licenses for the new channels or forcing some degree of broadcaster accountability extraordinarily difficult. But there is one bright spot.

The FCC, in its wisdom, has designated an early test rollout of the new broadcast regime to take effect in a single city; Wilmington NC, on September 8, 2008. Wilmington is an historic port city with a population of about 100,000, a quarter of whom are black.

If there is truly a nationwide movement for media justice it must rear its head in the next few weeks. The people of Wilmington NC know they deserve more choices, more localism, more news and more control over their media than they have now. Right now, they don't know know that Wilmington's four local TV stations are about to become sixteen stations with no increase in local accountability, no new local news or public service, no local arts, and certainly no local ownership. They must be told.

If there is a nationwide media justice "movement" worthy of that name it will concentrate its resources in a public education campaign and a mass mobilization, first in Wilmington NC and then nationwide with the aim of overthrowing the cozy deal broadcasters have worked out with their puppets in the FCC and the Congress. There will be another new Congress soon, and another president. This is a political moment when much is possible, but only in the context of a broad and sustained demand to overthrow the secretive sweetheart deal broadcasters have cooked up for themselves to monopolize the newly available digital TV channels. That's what real movements do --- they seize key political moments, they conduct mass education campaigns to take us someplace we would never go without them.

The FCC, the current Congress and candidates for the next one, presidential candidates and everybody else should be forced to explain repeatedly over the next few months why thousands of newly available digital TV channels should not go to thousands of new local broadcasters --- to community organizations, local entrepreneurs, local churches, schools and unions, to blacks, Latinos, Native Americans and to women. It's our spectrum. It's our public space. It's our right.

If a nationwide movement for media justice really exists, it must begin to expose the privatization of the public airwaves hidden in plain sight under the guise of the "transition" from analog to digital TV. It must harness the power of the people to challenge this grand theft of our digital destiny.