Tag Archives: free trade

food for thought: on hollywood

there are so many reasons why i don’t live in the u.s. any more. why i can barely stand coming back here at all. but i do it to see my grandma because she is the one reason that it remains difficult for me to live abroad. i’ve spent the last couple of weeks cleaning up her house, cooking, grocery shopping, taking her to doctor appointments, and taking her to auditions. a few years ago my grandma was encouraged to start an acting career at age 85 and she’s had a few bit parts in short films and commercials since then. she’s had two since i’ve been here. one was some italian movie called “christmas in beverly hills” and the other was for an episode of some fox tv show called “house md,” which i’ve never seen. that audition was on the 20th century fox studio lot.

sound stage for "the simpsons"

we drove onto the lot and into the parking garage where my grandma’s agent told us to park. but he also gave us a map showing that we had to walk from there all the way across the studio lot in order to get to the building where the audition would be. i told the guard that it would be impossible for us to do that and asked him for to arrange for us to drive onto the lot so we could park next to the building. silly me: i thought that there would actually be handicapped parking spaces out front. but there were none. all the spaces outside building #52 were reserved for people who work on something called “bones” and “futurama.” so i parked in some other reserved space a bit closer to the building. the only handicapped spot i gleaned was in front of building #1, which was too far of a trek for my grandma and her walker. and i did not think that it would be a good idea to push her into an audition in her wheelchair.

where are the handicapped parking spots?

where are the handicapped parking spots?

when we got into the office building i saw a line of women my grandma’s age and then i saw photos on the wall about this “house md” show that stars someone called hugh laurie (also someone i’ve never heard of, but apparently he’s a big name in hollywood). we went through all this effort for my grandma to utter one line: “ooooooohhhh!” it was funny standing outside the door and listening to all the women go inside and utter this exclamation. i think the scene is a patient in bed and this is obviously a response to something the doctor does. well, it turns out that it was worth the effort because my grandma got the part. she’s going to be in an episode of “house md” this season in a scene with hugh laurie. and it is even a bigger deal because now she has enough credits to join the screen actors guild (sag), a union for actors. this means my grandma will have an easier time getting acting gigs. so tomorrow we are going to get her a sag card.

the acting thing is great for my grandma as it gets her out of the house and interacting with people. otherwise she stays at home too much, which is not good for her physical or mental health. but the whole hollywood thing is one reason i left los angeles way back in 1987. the individualistic and narcissistic attitudes that plague people in hollywood infect everything in the city. for the most part, everything and everyone strikes me as fake. and i’ve never liked this aspect of my home town.

but sometimes good things come out of hollywood. my grandma and i went to see the movie “food, inc.” last night. it featured two writers i really like a lot when it comes to food issues: eric schlosser and michael pollan. the film is important in the way it draws connections among labor, class, environment, health, nutrition, government control and censorship, and what we eat. here is a trailer for the film, which gives you an idea of the subjects it covers:

the film’s one main failing is its lack of attention to how u.s. food policy affects the rest of the world. rami’s blog addresses this issue on a daily basis. michael pollan’s open letter to then president-elect barack obama addressed these issues and showed how they are intertwined in crucial ways:

After cars, the food system uses more fossil fuel than any other sector of the economy — 19 percent. And while the experts disagree about the exact amount, the way we feed ourselves contributes more greenhouse gases to the atmosphere than anything else we do — as much as 37 percent, according to one study. Whenever farmers clear land for crops and till the soil, large quantities of carbon are released into the air. But the 20th-century industrialization of agriculture has increased the amount of greenhouse gases emitted by the food system by an order of magnitude; chemical fertilizers (made from natural gas), pesticides (made from petroleum), farm machinery, modern food processing and packaging and transportation have together transformed a system that in 1940 produced 2.3 calories of food energy for every calorie of fossil-fuel energy it used into one that now takes 10 calories of fossil-fuel energy to produce a single calorie of modern supermarket food. Put another way, when we eat from the industrial-food system, we are eating oil and spewing greenhouse gases. This state of affairs appears all the more absurd when you recall that every calorie we eat is ultimately the product of photosynthesis — a process based on making food energy from sunshine. There is hope and possibility in that simple fact.

In addition to the problems of climate change and America’s oil addiction, you have spoken at length on the campaign trail of the health care crisis. Spending on health care has risen from 5 percent of national income in 1960 to 16 percent today, putting a significant drag on the economy. The goal of ensuring the health of all Americans depends on getting those costs under control. There are several reasons health care has gotten so expensive, but one of the biggest, and perhaps most tractable, is the cost to the system of preventable chronic diseases. Four of the top 10 killers in America today are chronic diseases linked to diet: heart disease, stroke, Type 2 diabetes and cancer. It is no coincidence that in the years national spending on health care went from 5 percent to 16 percent of national income, spending on food has fallen by a comparable amount — from 18 percent of household income to less than 10 percent. While the surfeit of cheap calories that the U.S. food system has produced since the late 1970s may have taken food prices off the political agenda, this has come at a steep cost to public health. You cannot expect to reform the health care system, much less expand coverage, without confronting the public-health catastrophe that is the modern American diet.

The impact of the American food system on the rest of the world will have implications for your foreign and trade policies as well. In the past several months more than 30 nations have experienced food riots, and so far one government has fallen. Should high grain prices persist and shortages develop, you can expect to see the pendulum shift decisively away from free trade, at least in food. Nations that opened their markets to the global flood of cheap grain (under pressure from previous administrations as well as the World Bank and the I.M.F.) lost so many farmers that they now find their ability to feed their own populations hinges on decisions made in Washington (like your predecessor’s precipitous embrace of biofuels) and on Wall Street. They will now rush to rebuild their own agricultural sectors and then seek to protect them by erecting trade barriers. Expect to hear the phrases “food sovereignty” and “food security” on the lips of every foreign leader you meet. Not only the Doha round, but the whole cause of free trade in agriculture is probably dead, the casualty of a cheap food policy that a scant two years ago seemed like a boon for everyone. It is one of the larger paradoxes of our time that the very same food policies that have contributed to overnutrition in the first world are now contributing to undernutrition in the third. But it turns out that too much food can be nearly as big a problem as too little — a lesson we should keep in mind as we set about designing a new approach to food policy.

Rich or poor, countries struggling with soaring food prices are being forcibly reminded that food is a national-security issue. When a nation loses the ability to substantially feed itself, it is not only at the mercy of global commodity markets but of other governments as well. At issue is not only the availability of food, which may be held hostage by a hostile state, but its safety: as recent scandals in China demonstrate, we have little control over the safety of imported foods. The deliberate contamination of our food presents another national-security threat. At his valedictory press conference in 2004, Tommy Thompson, the secretary of health and human services, offered a chilling warning, saying, “I, for the life of me, cannot understand why the terrorists have not attacked our food supply, because it is so easy to do.”

if you click on the link at the beginning of the above-quoted text you’ll find that pollan goes a lot further–both historicizing these problems and offering solutions to them. the film, too, asks people to take action after viewing it as all the participant film productions do. the film people have a website where the update various items that encourage action on the part of their viewers. this is, of course, rare in hollywood. and not all of this film company’s productions on the various social issues are on the mark politically from where i stand. but i think this food film is important and raises issues. the question is if americans can get off their asses and do something about it. that remains to be seen.

there was another really great food documentary i saw last year called “king corn” which was an independent film about how the food industry is destroying agriculture, health, and the environment. it traced and tracked how and where corn travels across the united states and beyond (to a certain extent) in all of its various forms (“food, inc.” covers the subject, too). and they also have a link on their site where you can find out what to do to take action. you can get a good idea about the film from this extended clip (and the film is available for download on itunes):

but as much as i appreciate the various threads these filmmakers pull together to show us how damaging our eating practices are on a national scale, i think some further attention to the ways american agriculture is affecting the planet is necessary. one of the key evil mutli-national corporations featured in the film “food, inc.” is, of course, monsanto. and the film does a great job showing how monsanto bullies farmers into submission, compliance, and bankruptcy. but at the same time this is what is going on globally for the same reasons. just look at what nancy scola explains the u.s. and monsanto are doing in places like india and iraq:

In short, Order 81 was Bremer’s way of telling Monsanto that the same conditions had been created in Iraq that had led to the company’s stunning successes in India.

In issuing Order 81, Bremer didn’t order Iraqi farmers to march over to the closest Monsanto-supplied shop and stock up. But if Monsanto’s experience in India is any guide, he didn’t need to.

Here’s the way it works in India. In the central region of Vidarbha, for example, Monsanto salesmen travel from village to village touting the tremendous, game-changing benefits of Bt cotton, Monsanto’s genetically modified seed sold in India under the Bollgard® label. The salesmen tell farmers of the amazing yields other Vidarbha growers have enjoyed while using their products, plastering villages with posters detailing “True Stories of Farmers Who Have Sown Bt Cotton.” Old-fashioned cotton seeds pale in comparison to Monsanto’s patented wonder seeds, say the salesmen, as much as an average old steer is humbled by a fine Jersey cow.

Part of the trick to Bt cotton’s remarkable promise, say the salesmen, is that Bollgard® was genetically engineered in the lab to contain bacillus thuringiensis, a bacterium that the company claims drastically reduces the need for pesticides. When pesticides are needed, Bt cotton plants are Roundup® Ready — a Monsanto designation meaning that the plants can be drowned in the company’s signature herbicide, none the worse for wear. (Roundup® mercilessly kills nonengineered plants.)

Sounds great, right? The catch is that Bollgard® and Roundup® cost real money. And so Vidarbha’s farmers, somewhat desperate to grow the anemic profit margin that comes with raising cotton in that dry and dusty region, have rushed to both banks and local moneylenders to secure the cash needed to get on board with Monsanto. Of a $3,000 bank loan a Vidarbha farmer might take out, as much as half might go to purchasing a growing season’s worth of Bt seeds.

And the same goes the next season, and the next season after that. In traditional agricultural, farmers can recycle seeds from one harvest to plant the next, or swap seeds with their neighbors at little or no cost. But when it comes to engineered seeds like Bt cotton, Monsanto owns the tiny speck of intellectual property inside each hull, and thus controls the patent. And a farmer wishing to reuse seeds from a Monsanto plant must pay to relicense them from the company each and every growing season.

But farmers who chose to bet the farm, literally, on Bt cotton or other GM seeds aren’t necessarily crazy or deluded. Genetically modified agricultural does hold the tremendous promise of leading to increased yields — incredibly important for farmers feeding their families and communities from limited land and labor.

But when it comes to GM seeds, all’s well when all is well. Farming is a gamble, and the flip side of the great potential reward that genetically modified seeds offer is, of course, great risk. When all goes badly, farmers who have sunk money into Monsanto-driven farming find themselves at the bottom of a far deeper hole than farmers who stuck with traditional growing. Farmers who suffer a failed harvest may find it nearly impossible to secure a new loan from either a bank or local moneylender. With no money to dig him or herself out, that hole only gets deeper.

And that hole is exactly where farmers have found themselves in India’s Vidarbha region, where crop failure — especially the failure of Bt cotton crops — has reached the level of pandemic.

In may be that Bt cotton isn’t well-suited to central India’s rain-driven farming methods; Bollgard® and parched Vidarbha may be as ill-suited as Bremer’s combat boots and Brooks Brothers suits. It may be the unpredictable and unusually dry monsoon seasons that have plagued India of late. But in any case, the result is that more and more of India’s farmers are finding themselves in debt, and with little hope for finding their way out.

And the final way out that so many of them — thousands upon thousands — have chosen is death, and by their own hands. Firm statistics are difficult to come by, but even numbers on the low end of the scale are downright horrifying. The Indian government and NGOs have estimated that, so far this year, at last count more than a thousand farmers have killed themselves in the state of Maharashtra alone. The New York Times pinned it as 17,000 Indian farmers in 2003 alone. A PBS special that aired last month, called “The Dying Fields,” claimed that one farmer commits suicide in Vidarbha every eight hours.

But let’s not be so pessimistic for a moment, and say that Iraqi farmers see the risks of investing in unproven GM seeds. Let’s say they reject the idea that the intellectual property buried inside the seeds they plant is “owned” not by nature, but by Monsanto. Let’s say they decide to keep on keeping on with nonengineered, nonpatented agriculture.

The fact is, they may not have a choice.

Here is where Order 81 starts to look a lot like the forced and mandatory GM-driven agricultural system that cynics tagged it as when it was first announced. Read the letter of the law, and the impact of Order 81 seems limited to using public policy to construct an architecture that’s simply favorable to a company like Monsanto. The directive promotes a corporate agribusiness model a lot like the one we have in the United States today, but it doesn’t really and truly put Monsanto in the driver’s seat of that system.

Actually handing the keys to Monsanto is instead biology’s job.

Biology — how so? That’s a good question for Percy Schmeiser, the Saskatchewan farmer featured in the film The Future of Food, who found himself tangled with Monsanto in a heated lawsuit over the presence of Roundup® Ready canola plants on the margins of his fields.

The Canadian farmer argued that he had purchased no Monsanto canola seeds, had never planted Monsanto seeds, and was frankly horrified to find that the genetically modified crops had taken hold in his acreage. Perhaps, suggested Schmeiser, the plants in question were the product of a few rogue GM seeds blown from a truck passing by his land?

Monsanto was uninterested in Schmeiser’s theory on how the Roundup® Ready plants got there. As far as the company was concerned, Schmeiser was in possession of an agricultural product whose intellectual property belonged to Monsanto. And it didn’t matter much how that came to pass.

Monsanto’s interpretation of the impact of seed contamination is, of course, a good one if its goal is to eventually own the rights to the world’s seed supply. And that goal may well be in sight. In fact, a 2004 study by the Union of Concerned Scientists found that much of the U.S. seed pool is already contaminated by GM seeds. If that contamination continues unabated, eventually much of the world’s seeds could labor under patents controlled by one agribusiness or another.

In one agricultural realm like Iraq’s, GM contamination could in short order give a company like Monsanto a stranglehold over the market. Post-Order 81 Iraqi farmers who want to resist genetically modified seeds and stick to traditional farming methods may not have that choice. Future generations of Iraqi growers may find that one seed shop in Karbala is selling the same patented seeds as every other shop in town.

And when that happens, what had been a traditional farming community — where financial risk is divided and genetic diversity multiplied through the simple interactions between neighboring farmers — finds itself nothing more than the home to lone farmers caught up in the high-stakes world of international agribusiness.

It’s a world not unfamiliar to former CPA honcho Bremer, if the company he keeps is any indication. Robert Cohen, author of the book Milk A-Z, talks about the Bush administration as the “Monsanto Cabinet.”

Among the many connections between that company and the current White House: Former Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman served on the board of directors of Calgene, a Monsanto subsidiary; one-time Secretary of Defense Don Rumsfeld had an eight-year stint as president of Searle, another Monsanto subsidiary; Clarence Thomas worked as an attorney in Monsanto’s pesticide and agriculture division before coming to the Supreme Court as a George H.W. Bush appointee.

Those connections, as much as anything else, might help to explain the impetus behind and timing of Order 81. Let’s suppose for a minute that GM-driven globalized agriculture is, indeed, in the long-term best interests of the new Iraq. Even in the best of circumstances, such a significant policy shift in so core an economic sector can be expected to cause short-term pain. When Bremer issued the directive, Iraq was hardly in a good place: It had recently been invaded, its government dismantled. Considering the desperate need for immediate stability in Iraq in April 2004, Order 81 begins to look like the triumph of connections and ideology over clear-headed policymaking.

vandana shiva, one of my favorite thinkers and activists, speaks about the danger of allowing multi-national corporations hold intellectual property rights for seeds:

so what is the point of all this? the point is to buy locally. to eat what’s in season. to buy from family farmers. to buy as little as possible from any corporation as much as possible. of course, living in palestine that is much easier to do, especially with food. though not with coffee. and this is one last thing i want to say on the subject. coffee is obviously not grown in the levant. so it is imported. and i have not seen much research on the facts about where it gets imported from and how or who works the coffee bean farms and what are the conditions of those workers? all of these things are really important to me when i buy food. when i buy anything for that matter. and one of the main things “food, inc.” was encouraging towards the end was better labeling. but there is no one who labels like groundwork coffee in los angeles. here is a photo of what the coffee and its label on the shelf of their shops looks like:

where my coffee comes from

where my coffee comes from

and here is their mission statement–if only all businesses could think and act in this manner:

groundwork coffee company dates back to 1990, when Richard Karno decided to expand his rare book & café business by roasting his own coffee. The demand from local restaurants became so great, he began roasting around the clock. groundwork then went on to become one of the very first certified organic coffee roasters in Southern California (as well as the largest organic coffee roaster in Los Angeles), while pioneering sustainable, relationship-based, and organic coffee sourcing.

Coffee is one of the earth’s great resources. In dollars it’s the world’s second most traded commodity. When it comes to pesticides it’s the world’s third most sprayed crop– that’s why we went organic.

Organic certification insures the coffee and the community that grew it are not exposed to harmful pesticides, herbicides or fungicides.

groundwork is committed to advancing both the economic and environmental sustainability of the Arabica coffee bean (it’s actually a “seed,” but bean sounds nicer!). Our goal is to purchase and roast the best organic coffees from around the world, while helping to improve the lives of farmers, processors, roaster operators, and café baristas.

los ziongeles

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driving down ventura boulevard today, which is the main street near my grandma’s house, i was bombarded with cartoon images of what dear ayah calls the “fizz fizz” (personally i prefer the image that kabobfest posted last week of a fizz fizz being chased down the street). these images line a few miles with these the multi-colored posters which are advertising a chabad telethon on a local los angeles television station, ktla, raising money for their religious ministry, which openly and actively proselytizes to recruit jews to make them more jewish among other things.

but there are other posters confronting me in los angeles this week. the other day my friend wendy and i went for a walk in santa monica and passed by a beauty supply store selling zionist colonist terrorist products, marketed by none other than sex and the city’s kristen davis:

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there was a code pink protest of selling these ahava products in los angeles the day i arrived here and here is a photograph that a friend of mine took at it:

ahava los angeles protest

i’m happy that code pink is taking up the cause of boycott through its stolen beauty campaign as the movement certainly needs more energy pumped into it and code pink has a huge base in the u.s. at the same time, i find it disturbing that medea benjamin still thinks that only the west bank and gaza belong to palestine as she says in this brief news report on ahava and how the zionist entity profits from occupying palestine (but that is true of all of historic palestine and products made all over occupied palestine whether in al majdal or in the jordan valley). here is the clip which is well worth watching to see precisely how they profit from just one company:

there is material on code pink’s website that offers information about this particular aspect of the bds campaign and also what you can do to create a boycott ahava action in your community. i recommend not using ahava products, however, if you want to replicate the spreading mud on your body aspect of code pink’s action as that undermines the boycott action you are trying to educate people about. there are plenty of other companies (remember estee lauder and all of the many companies it swallowed up are included in the boycott campaign) that produce similar sorts of products–or use regular mud.

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adri nieuwhof wrote a piece about ahava for electronic intifada a couple of weeks ago contextualizing it in terms of the zionist terrorist colony it is produced in:

Israel enjoys free trade of industrial goods with Europe under the Association Agreement it signed with the European Union in 2000. Yakov Ellis, chief executive officer of the Israeli cosmetics company Ahava, told the BBC radio program Today on 5 November 2008 that his company has benefitted from the free trade with the EU. Ahava owns stores in London and Berlin, and signed a contract in 2008 with the leading French perfumery chain Sephora, which has stores all over Europe, North America, Asia and the Middle East.

Ahava manufactures its cosmetics in the occupied West Bank, using minerals from the Dead Sea. The company’s skin care products are imported into the EU as originating from “The Dead Sea, Israel.” Israeli products originating in the West Bank are not supposed to benefit from the duty-free import to the EU.

Ahava is firmly rooted in the settlements of Mitzpe Shalem and Kaliya in the occupied West Bank. The kibbutzes of the two settlements own 34 percent and six percent of the shares of Ahava, respectively. Both Mitzpe Shalem and Kaliya are close to the shores of the Dead Sea, exploiting it for tourism.

Although one-third of the western shore of the Dead Sea lies in the occupied West Bank, Israel has closed off the entire shore of the Dead Sea and its resources to Palestinians in the West Bank. Kaliya was established as a military outpost shortly after the 1967 war in which Israeli forces occupied the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) and the Gaza Strip, along with Egypt’s Sinai peninsula and Syria’s Golan Heights.

According to the Israeli Coalition of Women for Peace, Ahava manufactures its products in the Ahava Dead Sea cosmetic factory in Mitzpe Shalem settlement. The company also runs a visitors center for tourists in the same settlement. In its authoritative ruling in 2004, the International Court of Justice reaffirmed the illegality of settlement construction, which includes the construction of industrial sites in the settlements. Ahava’s factory and tourist visitors center exist therefore in violation of international law.

Ahava CEO Ellis told the BBC that his company can circumvent the rule that products from the Occupied Palestinian Territories are excluded from the duty-free import to Europe, because Ahava maintains its offices near Tel Aviv, in Israel. However, the EU rules of origin of product refer to the place where the product, or most of it, was manufactured, not to the place where a company’s offices are based.

Despite this subterfuge, Ahava is bound to pay import taxes to EU countries. British customs officials expressed to the BBC their strong concerns that Israeli-produced goods made in settlements in the occupied West Bank may be circumventing import taxes en-route to British high streets.

It is not clear if and how EU member states police the free trade agreement. If the practice in the UK is common in EU countries, the situation is disturbing.

UK Member of Parliament from the governing Labor Party, Dr. Phyllis Starkey, raised questions on the issue to Business Minister Stephen Timms on 17 November 2008. Timms replied that more than 75,000 consignments from Israel entered the UK annually from February 2005 until January 2008. During this period, Israeli exporters were bound to indicate the place of production on the proof of origin documents.

i think that part of the problem of this fixation on just west bank colonies as if there are not colonies all over historic palestine filled with zionist terrorists illegally occupying palestinian land is related to the fact that people rely upon sites like the zionist “who profits” website that, of course, has a vested interest in making sure that those boycotting do not harm to the colonies that the zionists organizing in so-called “peace” groups in the rest of occupied palestine. they need to make sure that their colonies are protected so that palestinian refugees cannot return and reclaim their land and homes that belong to them and have been promised to them under united nations resolution 194. nancy kricorian’s article in alternet continues in this vein of thinking that the bds movement is only about zionist terrorist colonists profiting off the theft of palestinian resources in the west bank and not in the rest of their land. but she misses some key points as she focuses on ahava’s celebrity spokesperson, kristen davis:

While doing research on the Global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement for Palestine, I came across the web site Who Profits, a project of the Israeli Coalition of Women for Peace. On that site I found a list of Israeli and international companies that are directly involved in and profit from the occupation of the Palestinian West Bank. It seemed strategically and morally important to select for our campaign a corporation whose practices were clearly in contravention to international law. Many of the corporations on the Who Profits list were either unfamiliar to me, discouragingly huge, or didn’t seem like obvious targets for a women’s peace group. But I saw one name that I recognized: Ahava Dead Sea Laboratories. In fact, I knew there was a plastic bottle of Ahava Eucalyptus Mineral Bath Salts sitting on the windowsill next to the tub in my bathroom.

If you take a look at Ahava’s web site, you can read about the company’s environmentally responsible practices: “Our manufacturing processes are non-polluting and environmentally conscious. No animals are involved in testing phases and all of our products are encased in recyclable tubes, bottles and jars.” Ahava’s spokeswoman is fresh-faced Sex & The City actress Kristin Davis, whose commitment to doing good is evidenced by her status as an Oxfam Goodwill Ambassador and her position on the advisory board of The Masai Wilderness Conservation Fund. On the Ahava site, Davis is quoted as saying, “My personal beliefs, which include treating both animals and the environment with respect, are equally important to AHAVA.”

If you navigate around the web site you will see pristine images of the Dead Sea, enticing products with beautifully designed labels, and a photo of a water lily leaf with the caption, “This leaf has nothing to hide.” But, unfortunately, Ahava does have something to hide—an ugly secret about its relationship to a brutal occupation. The Hebrew word “Ahava” means love, but there is nothing loving about what the company is doing in the Palestinian territory of the West Bank. Ahava is an Israeli profiteer exploiting the natural resources of occupied Palestine.

it is worth targeting a celebrity spokesperson, i suppose, to try to educate them and encourage them to join the boycott campaign as it seems to garner more publicity. even fox news picked up on this story, which highlights the ways in which davis’ work with oxfam is also becoming problematic given that oxfam, like code pink, fights against colonies in the west bank, but not in the rest of historic palestine:

Davis, 44, has stepped down from her post as a spokeswoman for the human rights organization Oxfam International because of her endorsement of Ahava, an Israeli cosmetics line, according to a report in the New York Post.

Ahava is manufactured by Dead Sea Cosmetics, which is based in the Mitzhe Shalem Jewish settlement in the West Bank — which Oxfam considers “disputed territory.”

Davis signed a multi-year contract with Ahava in 2007. As part of the agreement, the Emmy-nominated actress appears in the global advertising campaign, on the brand’s Web site and in various marketing initiatives.

Davis has said she is “honored” to be “part of a beauty legend that dates back to Cleopatra.” She also stressed her shared beliefs with Ahava in treating animals and the environment with respect.

But the partnership has caused quite a headache for the actress.

“This has been a huge thing,” a source told the Post. “Ahava has factories on disputed land. From Ahahva’s perspective, they are not doing anything wrong. From an Oxfam perspective, Ahava is a polarizing company and Kristin shouldn’t be involved with it.”

A representative from Ahava was not immediately available for comment.

In a statement, Oxfam said Davis has “done great work” and that they highly value her support. Still, the organization says they “remain opposed to settlement trade, in which Ahava is engaged. Both Kristin and Oxfam do not want this issue to detract from the great work we have done in the past and plan to do in the future.”

Davis’ spokeswoman told the Post that the actress is “passionate about her relationship with Oxfam, and she intends to work with them and other humanitarian causes for years to come.”

but what i find compelling is yet another argument illustrating the hypocrisy of davis. clearly she doesn’t believe in the rights of human beings, but she does speak about the rights of animals and the environment on the ahava website:

My personal beliefs, which include treating both animals and the environment with respect, are equally important to AHAVA.

so this leaves me wondering if a different argument were made, say, about the environment, would davis then cancel her contract with the zionist colonist terrorist company? because the zionist entity’s theft of minerals from occupied palestine is leading to serious environmental damage:

The level of the Dead Sea continues to drop at the rate of about one metre per year and has lost about a third of its volume, mainly in the last 30 years. Besides being a unique ecosystem and rich with minerals, the sea is known in Hebrew as the “Salt Sea” for its remarkably high salt content.

Environmentalists say excessive mineral mining from the sea, and the dehydration and pollution of its natural water source, the River Jordan, have contributed to the drop.

notice that this environmental damage is something that this irin news report dates back 30 years–which is, of course, a time in which the zionist entity came to control and destroy this sea, not to mention its general destruction of environmental resources, especially water.

ah, yes, water. which brings me to yet another los angeles-zionist entity connection. my home town’s mayor, antonio villaraigosa, decided to embark on a campaign to supposedly save the environment in california by collaborating with zionist terrorist colonists. i find this so ironic for so many reasons. first of all, as a mexican american he is well aware of the fact that california is occupied land in layers. california used to be mexico. and yet villaraigosa told aipac:

Villaraigosa said Israel’s struggle in the Middle East echoes his own Hispanic community’s “struggle for civil rights” and said that when it comes to the Jewish state, “my roots run deep” — recounting visiting his Jewish neighbors while growing up in East Los Angeles.

here is what the los angeles mayor had to say about his visit to the zionist entity last summer in an op-ed for the jewish journal:

Los Angeles has long had a special relationship with the state and the people of Israel. It is a partnership founded on innovation and common hopes; a bond defined by shared dreams for a future of peace, security, and sustainability; a connection that grows stronger each time we establish new ties with our counterparts in the Jewish state.

Over the past week, I led a delegation of civic, faith, business and community leaders on a trip that will help make Los Angeles stronger, safer, more secure and better stewards of the environment — and all Angelenos stand to reap the benefits of our efforts.

In just a few days, we signed agreements to strengthen security at our airport and enhance our counterterrorism capabilities. We initiated partnerships to protect our ports and reduce our carbon footprint. We took a series of steps to revitalize the L.A. River, expand the city’s water conservation and recycling initiatives and invest in the technologies of tomorrow. From homeland security and public safety to environmental innovation and green development, Los Angeles is set to receive the best Israel has to offer in the fields where the Jewish state leads the world — and Los Angeles will be better off as a result.

Some of the most memorable and moving moments of the mission came in our meetings with Israel’s top political leaders. President Shimon Peres told us about Israel’s drive to grow green and continue to rededicate its efforts to make the desert bloom. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert outlined the challenges of leading a democratic nation in a neighborhood of dictators and despots. Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni engaged us in a discussion on the ongoing struggle for peace, while former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu explained what must be done to secure his country and develop a vibrant economy. Finally, the mayors of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv shared their visions for prosperity and vitality in Israel’s largest cities.

Beyond the lasting impact of our security and green technology exchange, and beyond the extraordinary sessions with living political legends, there was one experience — one set of images — that will remain etched in my memory forever.

During the second day of the mission, we traveled to Sderot — a city devastated by years of rocket attacks and red alerts, and a town representing the front line of Israel’s fight against indiscriminate violence and causeless hatred. There, in the midst of the terror we all see on the nightly news and at the epicenter of fear for so many families, children expressed their desire for normalcy before a backdrop of bomb shelters in their schoolyards. Students demonstrated a commitment to a strong education in schools forced to invest in reinforced rooftops instead of new books and materials. Parents looked on with joy and pride as their kids got the opportunity to dance and sing and perform for their guests. And when we looked into the eyes of Sderot’s youth, we could see the hope, spirit, innocence and exhilaration that emanate from the hearts of so many young people worldwide.

After this visit to Sderot and throughout the entire state of Israel, I came away with a powerful reminder of the unique character and incredible story of the Jewish people. It is a tale of resilience in the face of adversity; of a determination to succeed despite impossible odds; of a commitment to innovation; of a will to preserve their homeland; of an unflagging and unwavering faith in “tikkun olam” and “tzedakah,” in repairing the world and pursuing justice, in the values that have sustained Jews for thousands of years and made Israel a true “light unto the nations.”

After 60 years of constant threat and endless challenges, I can safely say that Israel today is stronger than ever. It is a state that remains a beacon of light and a bastion of promise for nations and communities across the globe. It is a country that believes in what’s possible and never falters in its struggle for a brighter future. This mission and these experiences brought the history of the Jewish state into focus and gave us all reason to join our brothers and sisters halfway around the world in the hope — hatikvah — that, one day soon, Israel would once again be a free nation, a secure state and a peaceful homeland.

his trip to the zionist entity, unfortunately, solidified the stance he now takes with respect to support the colonial project on occupied palestinian land. here is what he had to say about the zionist entity’s savaging of gaza to the los angeles times:

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa threw his support behind Israel this afternoon, backing the country in its latest strikes against Hamas and its invasion of the Gaza Strip.

The announcement, made during a news conference, pleased Jewish leaders in Los Angeles but sparked anger among local Muslim groups.

“I’ve been to Sderot and seen the wreckage caused by a constant barrage of rocket attacks,” Villaraigosa said of the city in southern Israel. “I’ve met parents afraid to let their kids play in the streets and students unable to go to school each day. I’ve walked along empty roads, visited vacant buildings and witnessed the sheer destruction of a town decimated by eight years of missile strikes.”

The mayor wasn’t alone in his backing. He was joined by City Council members Wendy Greuel, Janice Hahn, Jack Weiss and Dennis Zine. Jacob Dayan, Israel’s consulate general to the southwestern United States, thanked the mayor and council members for their support at the news conference at the Jewish Federation’s Goldsmith Center, on Wilshire Boulevard.

“At a time like this, in a fight like this, where the odds and the deck are stacked against Israel, thank God Los Angeles and thank God Mayor Villaraigosa are there to stand with Israel,” said Councilman Weiss, who represents the city’s 5th District.

The council members said they too have visited Sderot over the last few years so they could see for themselves the destruction that Villaraigosa had told them about after his trips.

The mayor took the stance that Israel is not the aggressor in this latest battle, which started 11 days ago and expanded to a ground invasion of Gaza on Saturday. The operation has left hundreds of Palestinians dead and thousands wounded in the Gaza Strip.

“No country would sit silently while innocent families are threatened and civilian lives are at risk,” he said. “Israel is no different. It must act against the Hamas leaders targeting the innocent. And it must be allowed to exercise its right and responsibility to defend itself.”

Villaraigosa said he personally has kept in touch with officials at the Israeli Consulate since the recent conflict began.

When asked why he didn’t reach out to the city’s Palestinian community personally as he did with Israeli Consulate officials and the city’s Jewish community leaders, Villaraigosa said he would be willing to sit down with members of Los Angeles’ Palestinian and Muslim communities to address any issues.

The mayor’s news conference was followed by a news conference held by the Muslim Public Affairs Council, a national Muslim advocacy group, questioning why Villaraigosa would want to take a side on a battle about 6,000 miles away.

“Why is the mayor of Los Angeles dragging himself and his constituents into international conflicts in the Middle East?” the council’s executive director, Salam Al-Marayati, said in a statement. “We elected the mayor to represent all Angelenos, not to take the side of a specific group of citizens on a foreign issue.” The council’s news conference was held at the Islamic Shura Center of Southern California, on Vermont Avenue.

The center also issued a statement challenging Villaraigosa’s stance on Israel’s invasion of Gaza.

“The Islamic Shura Council is disappointed and feels betrayed by the Mayor’s one-eyed perspective on the tragedy of colossal proportions in Gaza,” the statement said. “While we grant the right for the Mayor to his opinion, we also believe he is obligated to recognize all perspectives to any situation. The Mayor failed Los Angelenos in this regard and we hold him responsible.”

The Islamic Shura Council of Southern California is an umbrella organization for mosques and other Muslim organizations, and the Jewish Federation is an umbrella group for Jewish organizations.

but back to the water issue. one of the reasons for the trip to the zionist entity last year was to sign a deal with a zionist terrorist colonist water company:

The City of Los Angeles signed an agreement with an Israeli water technology company.

On a visit to Israel last week, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa signed a cooperation agreement with the Kinarot-Jordan Valley Technology Incubator, the Israeli business daily Globes reported.

The agreement will allow the technology start-up to launch pilot projects at the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power. Los Angeles has suffered from chronic water shortages.

“Israel is a global leader in high-tech and environmental solutions. As such, we intend to utilize the know-how of our Israeli friends to deal with the challenges we face from drought and global warming,” Vilaraigosa told Globes.

While in Israel, Villaraigosa also signed a security and anti-terrorism agreement between Los Angeles International Airport and Ben Gurion Airport.

The mayor was forced this week to defend the cost of traveling to Israel with a delegation while the city faces a possible $300 million budget shortfall.

the zionist terrorist colonist company, kinrot, villaraigosa is collaborating with is located in the jordan valley, the same region of occupied palestine where ahava sits and steals on palestinian land. and like ahava kinrot steals palestinian water in order to run its operation, as well as land and a host of other resources. these zionist companies–like the zionist entity where they exist on occupied palestinian land–rupture and distort language much like the zionist entity itself by inverting reality. so a company that profits by depleting the dead sea somehow becomes an environmentally aware company.

it is not just the los angeles mayor who is helping the colonial project in palestine. it’s also wealthy zionists like irving moskowitz who has a bingo parlor in los angeles; he uses the profits to hep build new colonies in palestine, for jews only, of course. here is a piece by chris mcgreal that was in the guardian a few weeks ago on this casino in the hawiian gardens neighborhood:

For the winning punters chancing their luck at Hawaiian Gardens’ charity bingo hall in the heart of one of California’s poorest towns, the big prize is $500. The losers walk away with little more than an assurance that their dollars are destined for a good cause.

But the real winners and losers live many thousands of miles away, where the profits from the nightly ritual of numbers-calling fund what critics describe as a form of ethnic cleansing by extremist organisations.

Each dollar spent on bingo by the mostly Latino residents of Hawaiian Gardens, on the outskirts of Los Angeles, helps fund Jewish settlements on Palestinian land in some of the most sensitive areas of occupied East Jerusalem, particularly the Muslim quarter of the old city, and West Bank towns such as Hebron where the Israeli military has forced Arabs out of their properties in their thousands.

‘The majority of bingo customers don’t realise where their money is going’ Link to this audio

Over the past 20 years, the bingo hall has funnelled tens of millions of dollars in to what its opponents — including rabbis serving the Hawaiian Gardens area — describe as an ideologically-driven strategy to grab land for Israel, as well as contributing to influential American groups and thinktanks backing Israel’s more hawkish governments.

But the bingo operation, owned by an American Jewish doctor and millionaire, Irving Moskowitz, has taken on added significance in recent weeks as President Barack Obama has laid down a marker to Israel in demanding an end to settlement construction, which the White House regards as a major obstacle to peace. “Moskowitz is taking millions from the poorest town in California and sending it to the settlements,” said Haim Dov Beliak, a rabbi serving Hawaiian Gardens and one of the Jewish religious leaders in California who have campaigned to block the flow of funds to the settlers.

“The money Moskowitz puts in to the settlements has changed the game. Moskowitz has helped build a hardcore of the settler movement that may number 50-70,000.

“He’s not paying for all of it but he puts the money up front for the vanguards that get things off the ground. That ties Israel’s hands. That ties the hands of the Obama administration. If the administration wants to be serious about stopping the settlers it has to begin in Hawaiian Gardens.”

Moskowitz is an 80-year-old retired doctor and orthodox Jewish millionaire who built a fortune buying and selling hospitals. In 1988 he also bought the faltering bingo hall in Hawaiian Gardens which, under California law, can only be run as not-for-profit operation so Moskowitz brought it under the wing of a charitable foundation he had established in his own name.

The foundation, which did not respond to requests for an interview, bills the bingo operation as of great benefit to the local community through donations to a number of groups, such as the Hawaiian Gardens food bank, as well as scholarships. It has also given money for disaster relief in Central America, Kosovo and parts of the US.

But tax returns show that the bulk of the donations go to what the foundation describes as “charitable support” to an array of organisations in Israel.

and one final zionnazi tale from los angeles for the night. today santa monica hosted some zionist terrorist colonist musical act called the idan raichel project. the zionist entity’s ministry of culture (also known as the ministry of cultural theft) sponsored the event. a friend of mine involved in the boycott movement in seattle led the protest up there the other night. here is what she wrote in an email about it:

The Idan Raichel Project protest last night turned out to be interesting in a somewhat unexpected ways. I will try and summarize that evening briefly.

First, even though our local (Seattle) Palestine activism listserv is infiltrated, with some recipients on it who clearly have signed on just to find out what we’re up to, and bring on the haters to our events, this time, there were no counter-protesters.

The concert was scheduled to start at 7 p.m., this is in a venue (the Triple Door) which is not a concert hall, but a cozy restaurant with a stage, so we knew people would be trickling in early, to have a table/booth and drinks/appetizers before the performance. We were there at 5:45 p.m, handing out two different types of handbill, one specifically about the IRP (whitewashing Israeli war crimes), another about the situation in Gaza. There were quite a few of us, and I’d say we gave out the literature to most of the audience :-)

Shortly after we had gotten there, none other than Idan himself (with his bodyguard) came out to talk to us, because someone had told him there were protesters outside the venue. I immediately recognized him when I saw a small-ish young man with brown-not-black dreadlocks coming out and looking around, and I went straight to him and asked “Are you Idan,” he said “Yes, I was told there were protesters outside, so I would like to talk to you about what I do, who I am….”

We shook hands, I told him I appreciated his coming out to talk to us, and explained that we were protesting him as part of the boycott of Israeli “cultural ambassadors” who whitewash Israeli war crimes.

He responded with “Let me tell you about the Idan Raichel Project. We are a very large group, reaching about 85 musicians at times, some are Arab, others are ultra-right wing Zionists, and we are not political, we are strictly about Israeli culture, I want to present my culture, Israeli culture, and I steer away from politics.”

I told him that, from my readings about him, he wants to project Israeli culture as a culture of tolerance and multiculturalism, and he nodded eagerly, saying he felt that his contribution was to push his society further into “tolerance and multiculturalism,” hence his inclusion of Arabs in the band. He loves introducing Israelis, who otherwise homogenize all Arabs as “Hamas,” to such wonders as Mahmoud Darwish, Fairuz, and Umm Kulthum.

We talked for quite a while, and all he kept repeating was that he is not political, strictly cultural, and I tried hard to make him grasp that the two are inseparable, and that, besides, he is fully political in many ways that we have researched. I told him that we have read his support for the Gaza assault, and he denied that. Here’s the quote, in a March 2009 article in the Forward: “While Raichel’s music bears explicit and implicit messages of love, Raichel is perhaps a bit more realpolitik than his dreadlocks suggest. He defends Israel’s recent Gazan incursion: “Israel had to protect cities in southern Israel from being bombed — and they’d been bombed not for eight hours, and not eight days, and not eight months, but eight years. For eight years, Hamas was bombing five cities in Israel. I think that the Palestinian people are victims of the Hamas organization.”

I told him about the damning Gush Shalom press release about him, and he said he doesn’t care what Gush Shalom says. I told him he should care.

At some point, we talked about settlements, and he says he only plays in settlements that, by International Law, would eventually be part of Israel. I told him every single settlement is illegal, according to International Law, and he acted like he didn’t know that. Then we somehow got onto the two-state (dis)solution, and I said something about “what, the 17% of historic Palestine that would make up the Palestinian state?” and he said he doesn’t know what percent of historic Palestine remains, to the Palestinians. I told him he should know that.

Basically, it was all denial of statements he has made (such as the one in Forward), claims of ignorance, and claims of being all about culture, not politics. Eventually, he needed to go in to his show, and offered me a free ticket, and I said no, I have not been convinced that he is not whitewashing Israeli crimes, and that I/we will continue to protest and boycott his shows until he denounces Israel’s crimes. He insisted that he refuses to make any political statement, and I quoted him Arhundati Roy: “The trouble is, once you see it, it can’t be unseen. And once you see it, saying nothing, doing nothing becomes as political an act as speaking out. There is no neutrality. Either way, you are accountable.”

So…. he gave me his email address, after making me promise I would not share/publicize it, and said he would be happy to continue the conversation. I most certainly will contact him.

I do have to say, to his credit, that he is NOT arrogant at all, and that he actually asked his bodyguard to basically shut up, when his bodyguard aggressively (tone and posture) yelled at me “You support the Khamas suicide bombers.” But he is most certainly an intellectual lightweight.

He’s playing tonight also, and we will be there, to convey the message that he has not convinced us he is all culture, no politics.

love the accent my friend captured in the paragraph above. the article my friend referred to above, by gush shalom from a couple of years ago, offers a bit more context about this group which should be boycotted if they come to a city near you. unfortunately, no one in los angeles had their act together to get anything going. code pink wanted to do it, but took too long to respond to the emails. here is the article that illustrates at least one way in which this group is not just cultural, but decidedly political:

Singers Idan Reichal, Ehud Banai, Ety Ankary and the Madreygot Group are scheduled to perform at the festival planned by the Gush Etzion settlers (in the Bethlehem Region of the West Bank) during the Sukkot Holiday, in order to “celebrate” forty years to the creation of settlements there. As explicitly stated in the settlers’ own website, this is part of a campaign aimed at legitimizing these settlements in the Israeli public opinion, i.e. preventing a peace agreement which would necessitate their dismantling.

Use of the name “Gush Etzion” (The Etzion Bloc) in itself constitutes an attempt to cheat the public. “Gush Etzion” was the name of a cluster of four small kibbutzim which stubbornly resisted Arab forces in 1948 until being destroyed and around which a heroic myth developed in Israel. There might have been a legitimate claim for recreating them (had israel been willing to recreate in exchange four Palestinian villages destroyed in the same war). However, nowadays this name is applied to dozens of small and big settlements which take up enormous territory all around the Palestinian city of Bethlehem, and bear no connection or resemblance to the pre-1948 “Gush Etzion”, including the ever – expanding settlement-city of Efrat.

The one and only purpose for the creation of these settlements is to cut the West Bank to pieces, cut the cities of Bethlehem and Hebron off from each other, and deny to the Palestinians the territorial continuity which is vital for genuine statehood. On these very days, inhabitants of villages in this area such as Umm Salamuna conduct, with the help of Israeli and international peace volunteers, a persistent struggle against the Separation Fence, which cuts deeply into their land and pass it into the possession of the Gush Etzion settlers . The settlers themselves, however, are displeased with the route of the fence, and demand to change it so as to gain even far more Palestinian land.

The Israeli artists who had avoided military service, have been already for months the target of an intensive hate campaign in the media. But the artists who for monetary gain collaborate with the settlers in a project aimed at preventing any chance for peace, at perpetuating hatred and bloodshed – about them nobody is talking.

The artists Idan Reichal, Ehud Banai, Ety Ankary and the Madreygot Group have made themselves into mercenaries and lackeys of the settlers – not even out of ideology, but simply after getting considerable amounts of money. They are all scheduled to appear at the “Israeli Home” festival organized by the settlers on the forthcoming Sukkot Holiday. Idan Reichel is due to appear on the “central stage” to be erected at the settlement of Nokdim – home of the arch – racist demagogue Avigdor Lieberman.

Artists who have prostituted themselves in such a shameful way do not deserve to have Israeli peace seekers come to their performances or spend money for their CD’s.

indigenous solidarity

today i held the second class about american indians at ibdaa cultural center in deheishe refugee camp. i have about 12 students in the class who are using it to both improve their english skills and learn more about indigenous history, rights, and resistance before an american indian solidarity group comes to visit here at the end of the summer. here is a posting from their new website, which shows ways you can help support the delegation:

THE DELEGATION is a project of a collective of grassroots youth groups in the U.S. and Palestine. We have been committed to connecting Native and immigrant youth in the U.S with youth in Palestine by creating remote forums for us to reflect together and bridge our struggles. This first-ever cross-continental exchange is an opportunity for youth to learn first hand from each other by sharing tools of empowerment and education.

Our journey to Palestine is part of an on-going process of connecting the shared experiences of Indigenous peoples across the world for the ultimate goal of land rights, justice and peace. Through the creation of a magazine, blog, music CD, video, photo essay, poetry and other arts media during and after our trip, we plan to share our stories and involve our communities in building a national and international movement against displacement. We will create solidarity networks across the borders/walls built to divide us.

YOU can support the Indigenous Youth Delegation to Palestine!

1) Become a sponsor or make an individual donation! This is a grassroots effort and 100% of the money you raise goes directly into travel, equipment, food, housing and other important supplies. We would be happy to honor your sponsorship in ways including: Acknowledging your generosity in the media materials produced from the trip; Holding an educational workshop on Indigenous Solidarity before and/or after our trip; To speak/perform/share for your organization before and/or after our trip.

MAILING DONATIONS: You can send contributions directly to P.O. Box 40597, San Francisco CA 94140.

ONLINE DONATIONS: We have also set up a Facebook Causes page where you can donate: Help Send Native Youth to Palestine! Or, you can also click here to pay safely online with Paypal.

2) Organize or help promote/attend a benefit party or show! Each delegate is raising the money to cover their $1100 plane ticket to Palestine.

3) Donate high quality equipment! We are going to be conducting music, video, and photography workshops with the youth in Palestine as well as documenting the delegation in general. We would be so thankful if you could donate high quality video cameras, digital cameras, DV tapes, digital recorders, and other high quality media-making equipment.

4) Share our trip and our “ask” letter with your network of friends! We can send you a PDF about the trip/donations; flyers for our event; and information about upcoming events!

julia good fox is one of the people who has helped to get this delegation off the ground. she wrote an excellent article in indian country last year after her visit to palestine in which she said:

Contrary to widely-held beliefs, the crisis in Palestine is relatively recent in origin. As historians and scholars will remind us, Jewish people generally thrived and lived in respectful coexistence with Christians and Muslims in Palestine while they were subjected to prejudice (and far worse) in Europe and the United States. It was only during the mid-20th century that sustained violence began to occur between the populations – when the U.S. and Europe, out of their collective guilt for allowing the Shoah to happen, formed the state of Israel on top of Palestine.

This formation did not occur on empty land. Known as “Al-Nakba” (Arabic for “the Cataclysm”), this 1948 event involved the expulsion of an estimated one million Palestinians from cities and villages, massacres, torture and rape, and the destruction of nearly 500 Palestinian villages. Zionism, which activist Gabe Camacho has correctly described as synonymous with manifest destiny, is the hegemonic ideology of the colonizers in the Holy Land. And one of the ideas of Zionism/Manifest Destiny is the concept of “Indian country,” an anti-human rights activity that the U.S. exports internationally.

“Indian Country” is a U.S.-designated term for our remaining and secondary homelands; however, the term also is common in the U.S. military and colonization parlance such as when it was employed in the invasion of Vietnam or as seen in the ongoing occupation of Iraq. We see this term in action, too, in Palestine.

Although we and the Palestinians are at different places in the politics of colonization and decolonization, as survivors of manifest destiny (and often combatants against present-day cultural practices of anti-Indianism), we immediately – and viscerally – recognize the extraordinary historic and contemporary parallels between the Palestinians and our nations and tribes. Perhaps one of the most recognizable similarities that we encounter is the theft and fractionalization of Palestinian land, a process that we might know better as “removal” and “allotment.” A strengthened and stabilized land-base is the basis of self-determination, and the Palestinian struggle to liberate and protect their land certainly resonates with our people.

While in Palestine last summer, I saw billboards and other advertisements for new housing developments for Israelis (on land stolen from the Palestinians); Israelis are given financial incentives to move to these areas, much like how the settlers were provided for by the United States regarding our lands. Yet, land theft, no matter how it is sanitized or censored in the political, educational and cultural arenas, is an attack on human rights. Land theft also is in violation of the UN Genocide Convention which recognizes that such robbery is accompanied by an assault on the families, languages, religions and spirituality, and other cultural practices of a tribe or nation. The theft of a people’s land results in the fracturing of the community and families, directly interfering with social relationships, economies and languages. It brings intergenerational consequences for families, especially children. Indigenous peoples recognize the relationship between land and the well-being of a people, and are on an intimate basis with the damage that occurs when this relationship is severed by military force and ongoing colonization.

one of the poems in the arabic textbook for the students at ibdaa, which was put together by the youth solidarity network, contains the arabic version of a mahmoud darwish poem written about american indians (which, in arabic, unfortunately, is الهندي الأحمر، which is literally, “red indian” when translated into english, though i’m teaching my students more appropriate words like أصلي, which means indigenous). here is part of the poem, and the link here will give you the most of the poem in translation; i cannot seem to find it in arabic online.

2

The white man will never understand the ancient words
here in spirits roaming free
between sky and trees.

Let Columbus scour the seas to find India,
it’s his right!
He can call our ghosts the names of spices,
he can call us Red Indians,
he can fiddle with his compass to correct his course,
twist all the errors of the North wind,
but outside the narrow world to his map
he can’t believe that all men are born equal
the same as air and water,
the same as people in Barcelona,
except that they happen to worship Nature’s God in everything
and not gold.
Columbus was free to look for a language
he couldn’t find here,
to look for gold in the skulls of our ancestors.
He took his fill from the flesh of our living
and our dead.
So why is he bent on carrying out his deadly war
even from the grave?
When we have nothing left to give
but a few ruinous trinkets, a few tiny feathers to
embroider our lakes?

All told,
you killed over seventy million hearts,
more than enough for you to return from slaughter
as king on the throne of a new age.

Isn’t it about time, stranger,
for us to meet face to face in the same age,
both of us strangers to the same land,
meeting at the tip of an abyss?

We have what is ours and
we have what is yours of the sky.
Yours air and water, such as we have.
Ours pebbles, such as we have,
yours iron, such as you have.

In the shadow domain, let us share the light.
Take what you need of the night
but leave us a few stars to bury our celestial dead.
Take what you need of the sea
but leave us a few waves in which to catch our fish.
Take all the gold of the earth and sun
but leave the land of our names to us.

Then go back, stranger.
Search for India once more!

3

Our names: branching leaves of divine speech,
birds that soar higher than a gun.

You who come from beyond the sea, bent on war,
don’t cut down the tree of our names,
don’t gallop your flaming horses across
the open plains.
You have your god and we have ours,
you have your religion and we have ours.
Don’t bury your God
in books that back up your claim of
your land over our land,
don’t appoint your God to be a mere
courtier in the palace of the King.

Take the rose of our dreams
and see what we’ve seen of joy.
Sleep in the shade of our willows
and start to fly like a dove–
this, after all, is what our ancestors did
when they flew away in peace
and returned in peace.

You won’t remember leaving the Mediterranean,
eternity’s solitude in the middle of a forest
rather than on the edge of a cliff.
What you lack is the wisdom of defeat,
a lost war, a rock standing firm
in the rush of time’s furious river,
an hour of reverie for a necessary sky of dust to
ripen inside,
an hour of hesitation between one path and another.

One day Euripides will be missing
as well as the hymns of Canaan and Babylon,
Solomon’s Song of Songs for Shulamith
and the yearning lily of the valley.
What you white men need will be the memory of
how to tame the horses of madness,
hearts polished by pumice in a flurry of violins.
All this you will need,
as well as a hesitant gun.

(But if you must kill, white man, don’t slay
the creatures that befriended us.
Don’t slaughter our past.)

You will need a treaty with our ghosts on those
sterile winter nights,
a less bright sun, a less full moon
for the crime to appear
less glamorous on the screen.

So take your time
as you dismember God.

4

We know what this elegant enigma conceals from us:

a heaven dies.

A willow strays, wind-footed,
a beast establishes its kingdom
in hollows of wounded space,
ocean-waters drench the wood of our doors with salt,
earth’s a primordial burden heavier than before
but similar to something we’ve known since the
beginning of time.

Winds will recite our beginning and our end
though our present bleeds
and our days are buried in the ashes of legend.

We know that Athens is not ours
and can identify the color of the days
from puff clouds or rising smoke.
But Athens isn’t yours as well,
yet we know what mighty iron is preparing for us
for the gods that failed
to defend the salt in our bread.
We know that truth is stronger than righteousness,
and that times changed
when the technology of weapons changed.

Who will raise our voices to the rainless clouds?
Who will rinse the light after we’re gone?
Who will tend our temples,
who will safeguard our traditions
from the clash of steel?

“We bring you civilization,” said the stranger.
“We’re the masters of time
come to inherit this land of yours.
March in Indian file so we can tally you
on the face of the lake, corpse by corpse.
Keep marching, so the Gospels may thrive!
We want God all to ourselves
because the best Indians are dead Indians
in the eyes of the Lord.”

The Lord is white and the day is white.

You have your world and we have ours.
What the stranger says is truly strange.
He digs a well deep in the earth to bury the sky.
Truly strange, what the stranger says!
He hunts down our children, as well as butterflies.
O stranger, what promises do you make to our garden,
zinc flowers prettier than ours?

Fine.

But do you know that a deer
will never approach grass that’s been
stained with our blood?

Buffaloes are our brothers and sisters, as well as
everything that grows.
Don’t dig any deeper!
Don’t pierce the shell of the turtle that carries our grandmother
the earth on its back!
Our trees are her hair,
and we adorn ourselves with her blooms.

“There’s no death on earth,”
so don’t break her delicate formation!
Don’t bruise the earth, don’t smash
the smooth mirror of her orchards,
don’t startle her, don’t murder the river-waisted one
whose grandchildren we are.

We’ll be gone soon enough.

Take our blood,
but leave the earth alone:
God’s most elaborate
writing on the face of the waters,
for His sake and ours.

We still hear our ancestors’ voices on the wind,
we listen to their pulse in the flowering trees.
This earth is our grandmother, each stone sacred,
and the hut where gods dwelt with us
and stars lit up our nights of prayer.
We roamed naked and walked barefoot to touch
the souls of the stones
so that the spirit or air would unfold us in women
who would replenish nature’s gifts.

Our history was her history.

To endure our life
go away and come back.

Return the spirits,
one by one,
to the earth.

We keep the memory of our loved ones in jars,
like oil and salt, whose names we tied
to wings of water birds.

We were here first,
no ceiling to separate our blue doors from the sky,
no horses to graze where our deer used to graze,
no strangers bursting in on the night of our wives.

O give the wind a flute to weep for the people
of this wounded place,
and tomorrow to weep for you.

And tomorrow to weep for you.

5

Tending our last fires
we fail to acknowledge your greetings.

Don’t write commandments
from your new steel god for us.

Don’t demand peace treaties from the dead.
There’s no one left to greet you in peace,
which is nowhere to be seen.

We lived and flourished before the onslaught of
English guns, French wine and influenza,
living in harmony side by side with the Deer People,
learning our oral history by heart.
We brought you tidings of innocence and daisies.
But you have your god and we have ours.
You have your past and we have ours.
Time is a river
blurred by the tears we gaze through.
But don’t you ever
memorize a few lines of poetry, perhaps,
to restrain yourself from massacre?

Weren’t you born of a woman?
Didn’t you suckle the milk of longing
from your mother as we did?

Didn’t you attach paper wings to your shoulders
to chase swallows as we did?

We brought you tidings of the Spring.
(Don’t point your guns at us!)

We can exchange gifts, we can sing:
My people were here once, then they died here…
Chestnut trees hide their souls here.
My people will return in the air,
in water
in light…

Take my motherland by the sword!

I refuse to sign a treaty between victim and killer.

I refuse to sign a bill of sale
that takes possession
of so much as one inch of my weed patch,
of so much as one inch of my cornfield
even if it’s my last salutation to the sun!

As I wade into the river wrapped in my name only
I know I’m returning to my mother’s bosom
so that you, white master, can enter your Age.

Enter your brutal statues of liberty over my corpse.
Engrave your iron crosses on my stony shadow,
for soon I will rise to the height of the song
sung by those multitudes suicided by their
dispersion through history
at a mass where our voices will soar like birds:

Here strangers won
over salt and sea mixed with clouds.
Here strangers won
over corn husks within us
as they laid down their cables for
lightning and electricity.

Here’s where the grieving eagle
dived to his death.
Here’s where strangers won over us
leaving us nothing for the New Age.

Here our bodies evaporate, cloud by cloud, into space.
Here our spirits glow, star by star, in the sky of song.

6

A long time will have to go by before our
present becomes our past, just like us.

We will face our death, but first
we’ll defend the trees we wear.

We’ll venerate the bell of night, the moon
hanging over our shacks.

We’ll defend our leaping deer,
the clay of our jars, the feathers
in the wings of our last songs.

Soon you’ll raise your world over ours,
blazing a trail from our graveyards to a satellite.

This is the Iron Age: distilled from a lump of coal,
champagne bubbling for the mighty!

There are dead and there are colonies.
There are dead and there are bulldozers.
There are dead and there are hospitals.
There are dead and there are radar screens
to observe the dead
as they die more than once in this life,
screens to observe the dead who live on after death
as well as those who die
to lift the earth above all that has died.

O white master, where are you taking my people
and yours?

Into what abyss
is this robot bristling with aircraft carriers and jets
consigning the earth?

To what fathomless pit
will you descend?

It’s your to decide.

A new Rome, a technological Sparta and an
ideology for the insane…
but we’d rather depart from an Age
our minds can’t accept.

Once a people,
now we’d rather flock to the land of birds.
We’ll take a peek at our homeland through stones,
glimpse it through openings in clouds,
through the speech of stars,
through the air suspended above lakes,
between soft tassel fringes in ears of corn.

We’ll emerge from the flower of the grave.
We’ll lean out of the poplar’s leaves
of all that besieges you, O white man,
of all the dead who are still dying,
both those who live and those
who return to tell the tale.

Let’s give the earth enough time to tell
the whole truth about your and us.

The whole truth about us.
The whole truth about you.

7

In rooms you build,
the dead are already asleep.

Over bridges you construct,
the dead are already passing.

There are dead who light up the night
of butterflies,
and the dead who come at dawn
to drink your tea
as peaceful as on the day your
guns mowed them down.

O you who are guests in this place,
leave a few chairs empty

for your hosts to read out
the conditions for peace
in a treaty with the dead.

interestingly, this blog that put the translation of the poem above has a comment by none other than russell means in which he responds to darwish:

THE SONG OF THE PALESTINIAN
Euro-male,where do you come from?
Is not your mother sacred?
Is not your mother’s life sacred?
Is not her children sacred?
Do you understand rebirth?

I think not.

Do you understand being free?
Do you understand the sand?
Do you understand the rivers?
Do you understand the olive tree?
Do you understand the rocks?
Do you understand the air you breath?
Do you understand peace of mind?

I think not.

You know locks.
You know keys.
You know possessions.
You know theft.
You know destruction.
You know prison.
You know torture.
You know murder.
You know rape.

There is rebirth.
I will return as lightning.

russell means wrote an important piece this week about the massacre of indigenous in peru, highlighting that the need for global indigenous solidarity is as necessary as ever:

On June 6, near a stretch of highway known as the Devil’s Curve in the northern Peruvian Amazon, police began firing live rounds into a multitude of indigenous protestors — many wearing feathered crowns and carrying spears. In the neighboring towns of Bagua Grande, Bagua Chica and Utcubamba, shots also came from police snipers on rooftops, and from a helicopter that hovered above the mass of people. Both natives and mestizos took to the streets protesting the bloody repression. From his office in Bagua a representative for the international organization “Save the Children” reported that children as young as four years-old were wounded by indiscriminate police shooting. President Alan García had hinted the government would respond forcefully to “restore order” in the insurgent Amazonian provinces, where he had declared a state of siege on May 9 suspending most constitutional liberties. The repression was swift and fierce.

By the end of the day a number of government and the president’s party APRA offices were destroyed, 9 policemen and approximately 40 protesters were killed. Overwhelmed by the number of the wounded small local hospitals were forced to close their doors. A doctor in Bagua Grande described the repression as a “barbarian act” similar to those committed in Beirut by the Israeli occupying forces a few years ago. A Church official denounced that many of the civilian wounded and killed at the Devil’s Curve were forcefully taken to the military barracks of El Milagro. From Bagua, a local journalist declared to Ideele Radio that following the killings policemen dumped bagged bodies in the Utcubamba River. Indigenous leaders have accused García of “genocide” and have called for an international campaign of solidarity with their struggle. Indigenous unrest in the Peruvian Amazon began late last year. After an ebb of a few months, the uprising regained force again on April 9. Since then, Amazonian indigenous groups have sustained intensifying protests for more than two months, including shutdowns of oil and gas pumping stations as well as blockades of road and river traffic.

The Devil’s Curve massacre is not the only instance of repression. García recently sent in the Navy to violently break through indigenous blockades on the Napo River, also in northern Peru. But few expected such a violent reaction from the government. García says the response was appropriate and blamed the indigenous for thinking they could decide what happens in their territories: “These people don’t have crowns. They aren’t first-class citizens who can say… ‘You [the government] don’t have the right to be here.’ No way.” The president called the protesters “pseudo-indigenous.”

Indigenous representative Alberto Pizango called Devil’s Curve the “worst slaughter of our people in 20 years.” And added, “Our protest has been peaceful.” We’re 5,000 natives [in the blockade] that just want respect for our territory and the environment.”

Protester’s top demand is the repeal of a series of decrees, known collectively as the “Law of the Jungle,” signed by García last year. The President decreed the legislative package using extraordinary powers granted to him by Peru’s Congress to enact legislation required by the 2006 U.S.-Peru Free Trade Agreement. Indigenous groups are also demanding the creation of a permanent commission with indigenous representation to discuss solutions to their territorial, developmental, health and educational problems.

One of the most controversial aspects of the decrees is that they allow private interests to buy up indigenous lands and resources. Following a colonial logic of “progress,” García’s decrees foster the commodification of indigenous territories, ecological reserves, communal and public lands, water, and biogenetic resources to the benefit of powerful transnational interests. What’s more, the “Law of the Jungle” implicitly conceives of indigenous Amazonia as an open, empty, bountiful, and underdeveloped frontier and its inhabitants as obstacles to neoliberal modernization and investment schemes.

monthly review zine has a bunch of videos posted today of solidarity with the indgenous of peru, which are worth watching. they also posted an urgent action alert to support the indigenous people of peru (and there is a video on this site too worth watching):

URGENT ACTION ALERT

Peru’s Amazon Indigenous Peoples need you to TAKE ACTION now!

Tell the Peruvian Government:

* Immediately suspend violent repression of indigenous protests and the State of Emergency
* Repeal the Free Trade Laws that allow oil, logging, and agricultural corporations easy entry into indigenous territories
* Respect indigenous peoples’ constitutionally guaranteed rights to self-determination, to their ancestral territories, and to prior consultation
* Enter into good faith process of dialogue with indigenous peoples to resolve this conflict

Since April 9th communities throughout the Peruvian Amazon have been protesting new laws that usher in an unprecedented wave of extractive industries into the Amazon Rainforest. President Alan Garcia’s government passed these laws under “fast track” authority he had received from the Peruvian congress to make laws to facilitate the Free Trade Agreement with the United States and to make Peru more economically “competitive”.

Over 30,000 indigenous people have taken to blockading roads, rivers, and railways to demand the repeal of these new laws that allow oil, mining and logging companies to enter indigenous territories without seeking prior consultation or consent. The protests have led to disruptions of transport as well as the interruption of oil production.

In the early morning of June 5, Peruvian military police staged a violent raid on a group of indigenous people at a peaceful blockade on a road outside of Bagua, in a remote area of northern Peruvian Amazon. Several thousand indigenous peoples were forcibly dispersed by tear gas and real bullets. Initial reports of fatalities include at least eleven indigenous people, along with nine police officers. For more information, click here.

We need you to immediately TAKE ACTION adding your voice in solidarity with thousands of indigenous people. Send a letter today to the Garcia Administration demanding an end to the violent repression and respect for the constitutionally guaranteed rights of indigenous peoples.

As one of the Earth’s largest tropical rainforests, the Amazon plays a critical role in safeguarding the global climate. Its destruction releases massive amounts of global warming gases into the atmosphere, worsening climate change. Indigenous peoples are the guardians of the Amazon rainforest. They need your support.

Go to www.amazonwatch.org/peru-action-alert.php to send a letter to the Garcia Administration.

of course this issue in peru is particularly urgent, but these indigenous are global: there is a new website tracking land global grabs that displace indigenous people that is worth checking out.

obama: clinton redux

jeremy scahill of blackwater fame–whose book should be a must read for every american–was on democracy now! today and has an important article on alternet that i’ll post in full below. the interview and the article make it abundantly clear why activists have our work cut out for us if we don’t want more of the same in the u.s. if we don’t want worse than the same.

This is Change? 20 Hawks, Clintonites and Neocons to Watch for in Obama’s White House

By Jeremy Scahill, AlterNet. Posted November 20, 2008.

U.S. policy is not about one individual, and no matter how much faith people place in President-elect Barack Obama, the policies he enacts will be fruit of a tree with many roots. Among them: his personal politics and views, the disastrous realities his administration will inherit, and, of course, unpredictable future crises. But the best immediate indicator of what an Obama administration might look like can be found in the people he surrounds himself with and who he appoints to his Cabinet. And, frankly, when it comes to foreign policy, it is not looking good.

Obama has a momentous opportunity to do what he repeatedly promised over the course of his campaign: bring actual change. But the more we learn about who Obama is considering for top positions in his administration, the more his inner circle resembles a staff reunion of President Bill Clinton’s White House. Although Obama brought some progressives on board early in his campaign, his foreign policy team is now dominated by the hawkish, old-guard Democrats of the 1990s. This has been particularly true since Hillary Clinton conceded defeat in the Democratic primary, freeing many of her top advisors to join Obama’s team.

“What happened to all this talk about change?” a member of the Clinton foreign policy team recently asked the Washington Post. “This isn’t lightly flavored with Clintons. This is all Clintons, all the time.”

Amid the euphoria over Obama’s election and the end of the Bush era, it is critical to recall what 1990s U.S. foreign policy actually looked like. Bill Clinton’s boiled down to a one-two punch from the hidden hand of the free market, backed up by the iron fist of U.S. militarism. Clinton took office and almost immediately bombed Iraq (ostensibly in retaliation for an alleged plot by Saddam Hussein to assassinate former President George H.W. Bush). He presided over a ruthless regime of economic sanctions that killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, and under the guise of the so-called No-Fly Zones in northern and southern Iraq, authorized the longest sustained U.S. bombing campaign since Vietnam.

Under Clinton, Yugoslavia was bombed and dismantled as part of what Noam Chomsky described as the “New Military Humanism.” Sudan and Afghanistan were attacked, Haiti was destabilized and “free trade” deals like the North America Free Trade Agreement and the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade radically escalated the spread of corporate-dominated globalization that hurt U.S. workers and devastated developing countries. Clinton accelerated the militarization of the so-called War on Drugs in Central and Latin America and supported privatization of U.S. military operations, giving lucrative contracts to Halliburton and other war contractors. Meanwhile, U.S. weapons sales to countries like Turkey and Indonesia aided genocidal campaigns against the Kurds and the East Timorese.

The prospect of Obama’s foreign policy being, at least in part, an extension of the Clinton Doctrine is real. Even more disturbing, several of the individuals at the center of Obama’s transition and emerging foreign policy teams were top players in creating and implementing foreign policies that would pave the way for projects eventually carried out under the Bush/Cheney administration. With their assistance, Obama has already charted out several hawkish stances. Among them:

– His plan to escalate the war in Afghanistan;

– An Iraq plan that could turn into a downsized and rebranded occupation that keeps U.S. forces in Iraq for the foreseeable future;

– His labeling of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard as a “terrorist organization;”

– His pledge to use unilateral force inside of Pakistan to defend U.S. interests;

– His position, presented before the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), that Jerusalem “must remain undivided” — a remark that infuriated Palestinian officials and which he later attempted to reframe;

– His plan to continue the War on Drugs, a backdoor U.S. counterinsurgency campaign in Central and Latin America;

– His refusal to “rule out” using Blackwater and other armed private forces in U.S. war zones, despite previously introducing legislation to regulate these companies and bring them under U.S. law.

Obama did not arrive at these positions in a vacuum. They were carefully crafted in consultation with his foreign policy team. While the verdict is still out on a few people, many members of his inner foreign policy circle — including some who have received or are bound to receive Cabinet posts — supported the invasion and occupation of Iraq. Some promoted the myth that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction. A few have worked with the neoconservative Project for the New American Century, whose radical agenda was adopted by the Bush/Cheney administration. And most have proven track records of supporting or implementing militaristic, offensive U.S. foreign policy. “After a masterful campaign, Barack Obama seems headed toward some fateful mistakes as he assembles his administration by heeding the advice of Washington’s Democratic insider community, a collective group that represents little ‘change you can believe in,’” notes veteran journalist Robert Parry, the former Associated Press and Newsweek reporter who broke many of the stories in the Iran-Contra scandal in the 1980s.

As news breaks and speculation abounds about cabinet appointments, here are 20 people to watch as Obama builds the team who will shape U.S. foreign policy for at least four years:

Joe Biden

There was no stronger sign that Obama’s foreign policy would follow the hawkish tradition of the Democratic foreign policy establishment than his selection of Sen. Joe Biden as his running mate. Much has been written on Biden’s tenure as head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, but his role in the invasion and occupation of Iraq stands out. Biden is not just one more Democratic lawmaker who now calls his vote to authorize the use of force in Iraq “mistaken;” Biden was actually an important facilitator of the war.

In the summer of 2002, when the United States was “debating” a potential attack on Iraq, Biden presided over hearings whose ostensible purpose was to weigh all existing options. But instead of calling on experts whose testimony could challenge the case for war — Iraq’s alleged WMD possession and its supposed ties to al-Qaida — Biden’s hearings treated the invasion as a foregone conclusion. His refusal to call on two individuals in particular ensured that testimony that could have proven invaluable to an actual debate was never heard: Former Chief United Nations Weapons Inspector Scott Ritter and Hans von Sponeck, a 32-year veteran diplomat and the former head of the U.N.’s Iraq program.

Both men say they made it clear to Biden’s office that they were ready and willing to testify; Ritter knew more about the dismantling of Iraq’s WMD program than perhaps any other U.S. citizen and would have been in prime position to debunk the misinformation and outright lies being peddled by the White House. Meanwhile, von Sponeck had just returned from Iraq, where he had observed Ansar al Islam rebels in the north of Iraq — the so-called al-Qaida connection — and could have testified that, rather than colluding with Saddam’s regime, they were in a battle against it. Moreover, he would have pointed out that they were operating in the U.S.-enforced safe haven of Iraqi Kurdistan. “Evidence of al-Qaida/lraq collaboration does not exist, neither in the training of operatives nor in support to Ansar-al-Islam,” von Sponeck wrote in an Op-Ed published shortly before the July 2002 hearings. “The U.S. Department of Defense and the CIA know perfectly well that today’s Iraq poses no threat to anyone in the region, let alone in the United States. To argue otherwise is dishonest.”

With both men barred from testifying, rather than eliciting an array of informed opinions, Biden’s committee whitewashed Bush’s lies and helped lead the country to war. Biden himself promoted the administration’s false claims that were used to justify the invasion of Iraq, declaring on the Senate floor, “[Saddam Hussein] possesses chemical and biological weapons and is seeking nuclear weapons.”

With the war underway, Biden was then the genius who passionately promoted the ridiculous plan to partition Iraq into three areas based on religion and ethnicity, attempting to Balkanize one of the strongest Arab states in the world.

“He’s a part of the old Democratic establishment,” says retired Army Col. Ann Wright, the State Department diplomat who reopened the U.S. embassy in Kabul in 2002. Biden, she says, has “had a long history with foreign affairs, [but] it’s not the type of foreign affairs that I want.”

Rahm Emanuel

Obama’s appointment of Illinois Congressman Rahm Emanuel as Chief of Staff is a clear sign that Clinton-era neoliberal hawks will be well-represented at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. A former senior Clinton advisor, Emanuel is a hard-line supporter of Israel’s “targeted assassination” policy and actually volunteered to work with the Israeli Army during the 1991 Gulf War. He is close to the right-wing Democratic Leadership Council and was the only member of the Illinois Democratic delegation in the Congress to vote for the invasion of Iraq. Unlike many of his colleagues, Emanuel still defends his vote. As chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in 2006, Emanuel promoted the campaigns of 22 candidates, only one of who supported a swift withdrawal from Iraq, and denied crucial Party funding to anti-war candidates. “As for Iraq policy, at the right time, we will have a position,” he said in December 2005. As Philip Giraldi recently pointed out on Antiwar.com, Emanuel “advocates increasing the size of the U.S. Army by 100,000 soldiers and creating a domestic spying organization like Britain’s MI5. More recently, he has supported mandatory paramilitary national service for all Americans between the ages of 18 and 25.”

While Obama has at times been critical of Clinton-era free trade agreements, Emanuel was one of the key people in the Clinton White House who brokered the successful passage of NAFTA.

Hillary Rodham Clinton

For all the buzz and speculation about the possibility that Sen. Clinton may be named Secretary of State, most media coverage has focused on her rivalry with Obama during the primary, along with the prospect of her husband having to face the intense personal, financial and political vetting process required to secure a job in the new administration. But the question of how Clinton would lead the operations at Foggy Bottom calls for scrutiny of her positions vis-a-vis Obama’s stated foreign-policy goals.

Clinton was an ardent defender of her husband’s economic and military war against Iraq throughout the 1990s, including the Iraq Liberation Act of 1998, which ultimately laid the path for President George W. Bush’s invasion. Later, as a U.S. senator, she not only voted to authorize the war, but aided the Bush administration’s propaganda campaign in the lead-up to the invasion. “Saddam Hussein has worked to rebuild his chemical and biological weapons stock, his missile-delivery capability and his nuclear program,” Clinton said when rising to support the measure in October 2002. “He has also given aid, comfort and sanctuary to terrorists, including al-Qaida members … I want to insure that Saddam Hussein makes no mistake about our national unity and for our support for the president’s efforts to wage America’s war against terrorists and weapons of mass destruction.”

“The man who vowed to deliver us from 28 years of Bushes and Clintons has been stocking up on Clintonites,” New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd recently wrote. “How, one may ask, can he put Hillary — who voted to authorize the Iraq war without even reading the intelligence assessment — in charge of patching up a foreign policy and a world riven by that war?”

Beyond Iraq, Clinton shocked many and sparked official protests by Tehran at the United Nations when asked during the presidential campaign what she would do as president if Iran attacked Israel with nuclear weapons. “I want the Iranians to know that if I’m the president, we will attack Iran,” she declared. “In the next 10 years, during which they might foolishly consider launching an attack on Israel, we would be able to totally obliterate them.”

Clinton has not shied away from supporting offensive foreign policy tactics in the past. Recalling her husband’s weighing the decision of whether to attack Yugoslavia, she said in 1999, “I urged him to bomb. … You cannot let this go on at the end of a century that has seen the major holocaust of our time. What do we have NATO for if not to defend our way of life?”

Madeleine Albright

While Obama’s house is flush with Clintonian officials like former Secretary of State Warren Christopher, Defense Secretary William Perry, Director of the State Department Office of Policy Planning Greg Craig (who was officially named Obama’s White House Counsel) and Navy Secretary Richard Danzig, perhaps most influential is Madeleine Albright, Bill Clinton’s former Secretary of State and U.N. ambassador. Albright recently served as a proxy for Obama, representing him at the G-20 summit earlier this month. Whether or not she is awarded an official role in the administration, Albright will be a major force in shaping Obama’s foreign policy.

“It will take time to convince skeptics that the promotion of democracy is not a mask for imperialism or a recipe for the kind of chaos we have seen in the Persian Gulf,” Albright recently wrote. “And it will take time to establish the right identity for America in a world that has grown suspicious of all who claim a monopoly on virtue and that has become reluctant to follow the lead of any one country.”

Albright should know. She was one of the key architects in the dismantling of Yugoslavia during the 1990s. In the lead-up to the 1999 “Kosovo war,” she oversaw the U.S. attempt to coerce the Yugoslav government to deny its own sovereignty in return for not being bombed. Albright demanded that the Yugoslav government sign a document that would have been unacceptable to any sovereign nation. Known as the Rambouillet Accord, it included a provision that would have guaranteed U.S. and NATO forces “free and unrestricted passage and unimpeded access throughout” all of Yugoslavia — not just Kosovo — while also seeking to immunize those occupation forces “from any form of arrest, investigation or detention by the authorities in [Yugoslavia].” Moreover, it would have granted the occupiers “the use of airports, roads, rails and ports without payment.” Similar to Bush’s Iraq plan years later, the Rambouillet Accord mandated that the economy of Kosovo “shall function in accordance with free-market principles.”

When Yugoslavia refused to sign the document, Albright and others in the Clinton administration unleashed the 78-day NATO bombing of Serbia, which targeted civilian infrastructure. (Prior to the attack, Albright said the U.S. government felt “the Serbs need a little bombing.”) She and the Clinton administration also supported the rise to power in Kosovo of a terrorist mafia that carried out its own ethnic-cleansing campaign against the province’s minorities.

Perhaps Albright’s most notorious moment came with her enthusiastic support of the economic war against the civilian population of Iraq. When confronted by Lesley Stahl of “60 Minutes” that the sanctions were responsible for the deaths of “a half-million children … more children than died in Hiroshima,” Albright responded, “I think this is a very hard choice, but the price — we think the price is worth it.” (While defending the policy, Albright later called her choice of words “a terrible mistake, hasty, clumsy, and wrong.”)

Richard Holbrooke

Like Albright, Holbrooke will have major sway over U.S. policy, whether or not he gets an official job. A career diplomat since the Vietnam War, Holbrooke’s most recent government post was as President Clinton’s ambassador to the U.N. Among the many violent policies he helped implement and enforce was the U.S.-backed Indonesian genocide in East Timor. Holbrooke was an Assistant Secretary of State in the late 1970s at the height of the slaughter and was the point man on East Timor for the Carter Administration.

According to Brad Simpson, director of the Indonesia and East Timor Documentation Project at the National Security Archive at George Washington University, “It was Holbrooke and Zbigniew Brzezinski [another top Obama advisor], both now leading lights in the Democratic Party, who played point in trying to frustrate the efforts of congressional human-rights activists to try and condition or stop U.S. military assistance to Indonesia, and in fact accelerated the flow of weapons to Indonesia at the height of the genocide.”

Holbrooke, too, was a major player in the dismantling of Yugoslavia and praised the bombing of Serb Television, which killed 16 media workers, as a significant victory. (The man who ordered that bombing, now-retired Army Gen. Wesley Clark, is another Obama foreign policy insider who could end up in his cabinet. While Clark is known for being relatively progressive on social issues, as Supreme Allied Commander of NATO, he ordered bombings and attacks that Amnesty International labeled war crimes.)

Like many in Obama’s foreign policy circle, Holbrooke also supported the Iraq war. In early 2003, shortly after then-Secretary of State Colin Powell’s speech to the UN, where he presented the administration’s fraud-laden case for war to the UN (a speech Powell has since called a “blot” on his reputation), Holbrooke said: “It was a masterful job of diplomacy by Colin Powell and his colleagues, and it does not require a second vote to go to war. … Saddam is the most dangerous government leader in the world today, he poses a threat to the region, he could pose a larger threat if he got weapons of mass destruction deployed, and we have a legitimate right to take action.”

Dennis Ross

Middle East envoy for both George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton, Ross was one of the primary authors of Obama’s aforementioned speech before AIPAC this summer. He cut his teeth working under famed neoconservative Paul Wolfowitz at the Pentagon in the 1970s and worked closely with the Project for the New American Century. Ross has been a staunch supporter of Israel and has fanned the flames for a more hostile stance toward Iran. As the lead U.S. negotiator between Israel and numerous Arab nations under Clinton, Ross’ team acted, in the words of one U.S. official who worked under him, as “Israel’s lawyer.”

“The ‘no surprises’ policy, under which we had to run everything by Israel first, stripped our policy of the independence and flexibility required for serious peacemaking,” wrote U.S. diplomat Aaron David Miller in 2005. “If we couldn’t put proposals on the table without checking with the Israelis first, and refused to push back when they said no, how effective could our mediation be? Far too often, particularly when it came to Israeli-Palestinian diplomacy, our departure point was not what was needed to reach an agreement acceptable to both sides but what would pass with only one — Israel.” After the Clinton White House, Ross worked for the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, a hawkish pro-Israel think tank, and for FOX News, where he repeatedly pressed for war against Iraq.

Martin Indyk

Founder of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Indyk spent years working for AIPAC and served as Clinton’s ambassador to Israel and Assistant Secretary of State for Near East Affairs, while also playing a major role in developing U.S. policy toward Iraq and Iran. In addition to his work for the U.S. government, he has worked for the Israeli government and with PNAC.

“Barack Obama has painted himself into a corner by appealing to the most hard-line, pro-Israel elements in this country,” Ali Abunimah, founder of ElectronicInifada.net, recently told Amy Goodman of Democracy Now!, describing Indyk and Dennis Ross as “two of the most pro-Israel officials from the Clinton era, who are totally distrusted by Palestinians and others across the Middle East, because they’re seen as lifelong advocates for Israeli positions.”

Anthony Lake

Clinton’s former National Security Advisor was an early supporter of Obama and one of the few top Clintonites to initially back the president-elect. Lake began his foreign policy work in the U.S. Foreign Service during Vietnam, working with Henry Kissinger on the “September Group,” a secret team tasked with developing a military strategy to deliver a “savage, decisive blow against North Vietnam.”

Decades later, after working for various administrations, Lake “was the main force behind the U.S. invasion of Haiti in the mid-Clinton years,” according to veteran journalist Allan Nairn, whose groundbreaking reporting revealed U.S. support for Haitian death squads in the 1990s. “They brought back Aristide essentially in political chains, pledged to support a World Bank/IMF overhaul of the economy, which resulted in an increase in malnutrition deaths among Haitians, and set the stage for the current ongoing political disaster in Haiti.” Clinton nominated Lake as CIA Director, but he failed to win Senate confirmation.

Lee Hamilton

Hamilton is a former chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and was co-chairman of both the Iraq Study Group and 9/11 Commission. Robert Parry, who has covered Hamilton’s career extensively, recently ran a piece on Consortium News that characterized him this way: “Whenever the Republicans have a touchy national-security scandal to put to rest, their favorite Democratic investigator is Lee Hamilton. … Hamilton’s carefully honed skill for balancing truth against political comity has elevated him to the status of a Washington Wise Man.”

Susan Rice

Former Assistant Secretary of Sate Susan Rice, who served on Bill Clinton’s National Security Council, is a potential candidate for the post of ambassador to the U.N. or as a deputy national security advisor. She, too, promoted the myth that Saddam had WMDs. “It’s clear that Iraq poses a major threat,” she said in 2002. “It’s clear that its weapons of mass destruction need to be dealt with forcefully, and that’s the path we’re on.” (After the invasion, discussing Saddam’s alleged possession of WMDs, she said, “I don’t think many informed people doubted that.”)

Rice has also been a passionate advocate for a U.S. military attack against Sudan over the Darfur crisis. In an op-ed co-authored with Anthony Lake, she wrote, “The United States, preferably with NATO involvement and African political support, would strike Sudanese airfields, aircraft and other military assets. It could blockade Port Sudan, through which Sudan’s oil exports flow. Then U.N. troops would deploy — by force, if necessary, with U.S. and NATO backing.”

John Brennan

A longtime CIA official and former head of the National Counterterrorism Center, Brennan is one of the coordinators of Obama’s intelligence transition team and a top contender for either CIA Director or Director of National Intelligence. He was also recently described by Glenn Greenwald as “an ardent supporter of torture and one of the most emphatic advocates of FISA expansions and telecom immunity.” While claiming to oppose waterboarding, labeling it “inconsistent with American values” and “something that should be prohibited,” Brennan has simultaneously praised the results achieved by “enhanced interrogation” techniques. “There has been a lot of information that has come out from these interrogation procedures that the agency has, in fact, used against the real hard-core terrorists,” Brennan said in a 2007 interview. “It has saved lives. And let’s not forget, these are hardened terrorists who have been responsible for 9/11, who have shown no remorse at all for the death of 3,000 innocents.”

Brennan has described the CIA’s extraordinary rendition program — the government-run kidnap-and-torture program enacted under Clinton — as an absolutely vital tool. “I have been intimately familiar now over the past decade with the cases of rendition that the U.S. Government has been involved in,” he said in a December 2005 interview. “And I can say without a doubt that it has been very successful as far as producing intelligence that has saved lives.”

Brennan is currently the head of Analysis Corporation, a private intelligence company that was recently implicated in the breach of Obama and Sen. John McCain’s passport records. He is also the current chairman of the Intelligence and National Security Alliance (INSA), a trade association of private intelligence contractors who have dramatically increased their role in sensitive U.S. national security operations. (Current Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell is former chairman of the INSA.)

Jami Miscik

Miscik, who works alongside Brennan on Obama’s transitional team, was the CIA’s Deputy Director for Intelligence in the run-up to the Iraq war. She was one of the key officials responsible for sidelining intel that contradicted the official line on WMD, while promoting intel that backed it up.

“When the administration insisted on an intelligence assessment of Saddam Hussein’s relationship to al-Qaida, Miscik blocked the skeptics (who were later vindicated) within the CIA’s Mideast analytical directorate and instructed the less-skeptical counterterrorism analysts to ‘stretch to the maximum the evidence you had,’ ” journalist Spencer Ackerman recently wrote in the Washington Independent. “It’s hard to think of a more egregious case of sacrificing sound intelligence analysis in order to accommodate the strategic fantasies of an administration. … The idea that Miscik is helping staff Obama’s top intelligence picks is most certainly not change we can believe in.” What’s more, she went on to a lucrative post as the Global Head of Sovereign Risk for the now-bankrupt Lehman Brothers.

John Kerry and Bill Richardson

Both Sen. Kerry and Gov. Richardson have been identified as possible contenders for Secretary of State. While neither is likely to be as hawkish as Hillary Clinton, both have taken pro-war positions. Kerry promoted the WMD lie and voted to invade Iraq. “Why is Saddam Hussein attempting to develop nuclear weapons when most nations don’t even try?” Kerry asked on the Senate floor in October 2002. “According to intelligence, Iraq has chemical and biological weapons … Iraq is developing unmanned aerial vehicles capable of delivering chemical and biological warfare agents.”

Richardson, whose Iraq plan during his 2008 presidential campaign was more progressive and far-reaching than Obama’s, served as Bill Clinton’s ambassador to the UN. In this capacity, he supported Clinton’s December 1998 bombing of Baghdad and the U.S.-led sanctions against Iraq. “We think this man is a threat to the international community, and he threatens a lot of the neighbors in his region and future generations there with anthrax and VX,” Richardson told an interviewer in February 1998.

While Clinton’s Secretary of Energy, Richardson publicly named Wen Ho Lee, a scientist at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, as a target in an espionage investigation. Lee was accused of passing nuclear secrets to the Chinese government. Lee was later cleared of those charges and won a settlement against the U.S. government.

Robert Gates

Washington consensus is that Obama will likely keep Robert Gates, George W. Bush’s Defense Secretary, as his own Secretary of Defense. While Gates has occasionally proved to be a stark contrast to former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, he would hardly represent a break from the policies of the Bush administration. Quite the opposite; according to the Washington Post, in the interest of a “smooth transition,” Gates “has ordered hundreds of political appointees at the Pentagon canvassed to see whether they wish to stay on in the new administration, has streamlined policy briefings and has set up suites for President-elect Barack Obama’s transition team just down the hall from his own E-ring office.” The Post reports that Gates could stay on for a brief period and then be replaced by Richard Danzig, who was Clinton’s Secretary of the Navy. Other names currently being tossed around are Democratic Sen. Jack Reed, Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel (a critic of the Iraq occupation) and Republican Sen. Richard Lugar, who served alongside Biden on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Ivo H. Daalder

Daalder was National Security Council Director for European Affairs under President Clinton. Like other Obama advisors, he has worked with the Project for the New American Century and signed a 2005 letter from PNAC to Congressional leaders, calling for an increase in U.S. ground troops in Iraq and beyond.

Sarah Sewall

Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Peacekeeping and Humanitarian Assistance during the Clinton administration, Sewall served as a top advisor to Obama during the campaign and is almost certain to be selected for a post in his administration. In 2007, Sewall worked with the U.S. military and Army Gen. David Petraeus, writing the introduction to the University of Chicago edition of the Army/Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual. She was criticized for this collaboration by Tom Hayden, who wrote, “the Petraeus plan draws intellectual legitimacy from Harvard’s Carr Center for Human Rights Policy, whose director, Sarah Sewall, proudly embraces an ‘unprecedented collaboration [as] a human rights center partnered with the armed forces.’”

“Humanitarians often avoid wading into the conduct of war for fear of becoming complicit in its purpose,” she wrote in the introduction. “‘The field manual requires engagement precisely from those who fear that its words lack meaning.”

Michele Flournoy

Flournoy and former Clinton Deputy Defense Secretary John White are co-heading Obama’s defense transition team. Flournoy was a senior Clinton appointee at the Pentagon. She currently runs the Center for a New American Security, a center-right think-tank. There is speculation that Obama could eventually name her as the first woman to serve as defense secretary. As the Wall Street Journal recently reported: “While at CNAS, Flournoy helped to write a report that called for reducing the open-ended American military commitment in Iraq and replacing it with a policy of ‘conditional engagement’ there. Significantly, the paper rejected the idea of withdrawing troops according to the sort of a fixed timeline that Obama espoused during the presidential campaign. Obama has in recent weeks signaled that he was willing to shelve the idea, bringing him more in line with Flournoy’s thinking.” Flournoy has also worked with the neoconservative Project for the New American Century.

Wendy Sherman and Tom Donilon

Currently employed at Madeline Albright’s consulting firm, the Albright Group, Sherman worked under Albright at the State Department, coordinating U.S. policy on North Korea. She is now coordinating the State Department transition team for Obama. Tom Donilon, her co-coordinator, was Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs and Chief of Staff at the State Department under Clinton. Interestingly, Sherman and Donilon both have ties to Fannie Mae that didn’t make it onto their official bios on Obama’s change.gov website. “Donilon was Fannie’s general counsel and executive vice president for law and policy from 1999 until the spring of 2005, a period during which the company was rocked by accounting problems,” reports the Wall Street Journal.

***

While many of the figures at the center of Obama’s foreign policy team are well-known, two of its most important members have never held national elected office or a high-profile government position. While they cannot be characterized as Clinton-era hawks, it will be important to watch Denis McDonough and Mark Lippert, co-coordinators of the Obama foreign policy team. From 2000 to 2005, McDonough served as foreign policy advisor to Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle and worked extensively on the use-of-force authorizations for the attacks on Afghanistan and Iraq, both of which Daschle supported. From 1996 to 1999, McDonough was a professional staff member of the House International Relations Committee during the debate over the bombing of Yugoslavia. More recently, he was at the Center for American Progress working under John Podesta, Clinton’s former chief of staff and the current head of the Obama transition.

Mark Lippert is a close personal friend of Obama’s. He has worked for Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy, as well as the Senate Appropriations Committee and the Democratic Policy Committee. He is a lieutenant in the Navy Reserve and spent a year in Iraq working intelligence for the Navy SEALs. “According to those who’ve worked closely with Lippert,” Robert Dreyfuss recently wrote in The Nation, “he is a conservative, cautious centrist who often pulled Obama to the right on Iraq, Iran and the Middle East and who has been a consistent advocate for increased military spending. ‘Even before Obama announced for the presidency, Lippert wanted Obama to be seen as tough on Iran,’ says a lobbyist who’s worked the Iran issue on Capitol Hill, ‘He’s clearly more hawkish than the senator.’ “

***

Barack Obama campaigned on a pledge to bring change to Washington. “I don’t want to just end the war,” he said early this year. “I want to end the mindset that got us into war.” That is going to be very difficult if Obama employs a foreign policy team that was central to creating that mindset, before and during the presidency of George W. Bush.

“Twenty-three senators and 133 House members who voted against the war — and countless other notable individuals who spoke out against it and the dubious claims leading to war — are apparently not even being considered for these crucial positions,” observes Sam Husseini of the Institute for Public Accuracy. This includes dozens of former military and intelligence officials who spoke out forcefully against the war and continue to oppose militaristic policy, as well as credible national security experts who have articulated their visions for a foreign policy based on justice.

Obama does have a chance to change the mindset that got us into war. More significantly, he has a popular mandate to forcefully challenge the militaristic, hawkish tradition of modern U.S. foreign policy. But that work would begin by bringing on board people who would challenge this tradition, not those who have been complicit in creating it and are bound to continue advancing it.

Jeremy Scahill pledges to be the same journalist under an Obama administration that he was during Bill Clinton and George Bush’s presidencies. He is the author of Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army and is a frequent contributor to The Nation and Democracy Now! He is a Puffin Foundation Writing Fellow at the Nation Institute.

apparently money doesn’t change anything

In The Nation magazine this week Naomi Klein makes a powerful pronouncement:

The more details emerge, the clearer it becomes that Washington’s handling of the Wall Street bailout is not merely incompetent. It is borderline criminal.

Klein was on Democracy Now! today and elaborates hear argument in light of the G 20 summit and provides some important commentary:

Here are some highlights from the Democracy Now! transcript:

NAOMI KLEIN: First of all, the equity deals that were negotiated with the largest banks and also some smaller banks, representing $250 billion worth of the bailout money, this is the deal to inject equity into the banks in—to inject capital into the banks in exchange for equity. The idea was to address the so-called credit crunch to get banks lending again. The legislation that enabled this was quite explicit that it had to encourage lending. Barney Frank, who was one of the architects of that legislation, has said that it violates the act if the money is not going to that purpose and is instead going to bonuses, is instead going to dividends, going to salaries, going to mergers. He said that violates the acts, i.e. it’s illegal. But what we know is that it’s going precisely to those purposes. It is going to bonuses. It is going to shareholders. And it is not going to lending. The banks have been quite explicit about this. Citibank has talked about using the money to buy other banks….

But if we look at what just came out of the G20 summit, it’s really been a reassertion of the very—this very ideology of deregulation. On the one hand, you have the statement that you started the program with, where the world leaders said that this crisis was born of the shadow banking industry, not enough oversight, not enough regulation, too much complexity. At the same time, when they talk about solutions, they’re calling for resurrecting the failed World Trade Organization talks that collapsed this summer. And we heard, if you recall, this summer, when the Doha talks collapsed, that globalization and the Washington Consensus were dead, because developing countries had rejected it.

The other thing that they’re calling for is a greater role for the International Monetary Fund. And it’s important to understand that the reason why the International Monetary Fund and the World Trade Organization and the whole free trade agenda, generally, has been in collapse in recent years is because countries around the world are no longer willing to accept the conditions attached to joining this club, the conditions attached to an International Monetary Fund loan. In reasserting a greater role for the International Monetary Fund, in calling for the World Trade Organization talks to get back on track, these world leaders are actually calling for more financial market deregulation, more of the same….

Yeah, this bailout is really not a bailout at all; it’s a parting gift to the people that the Bush—that George Bush once referred to jokingly as “my base.” You know, in one of my columns recently, I likened it to what European colonial rulers used to do when they finally realized they had to hand over power; they would loot the treasury on the way out the door.

And the reason why there has been this dramatic change in policy just in recent days, where Henry Paulson has said, “OK, well, we’re not going to do what we originally had said at all,” which is use the bailout money to buy distressed assets, to buy bad debts, “Now we’re going to go from these equity deals with the banks to bailing out credit card companies”—the reason for that is that that first $250 billion was essentially money down the drain. They are admitting that it didn’t do what it was supposed to do, which was increase lending. So, now they’re making it up as they go along. It’s take three, take four, take five. But we’re supposed to somehow not notice that $250 billion, an astronomical sum, was just wasted, going to bonuses, going to shareholder payouts, going to CEO salaries. And now they’re trying another method to get lending going. But it really was the parting gift, Amy.

And if we think about what this money means, and this is—you know, this crisis isn’t over, and the same people who justified this bailout, who clamored for this bailout, are the very people who are going to turn around and say to Barack Obama, “We can’t afford for you to make good on your election promises. We can’t afford universal healthcare. In fact, we can’t afford what meager services Americans get in exchange for their tax dollars, like Social Security payments.” We’re already hearing this lowering of expectations now in the national discourse. So, the money—this really is, you know, reverse Robin Hood gone mad. The money has been given to the people who needed it least, and it’s going to be used to justify austerity measures imposed against those who need it most. It’s going to be used to justify cuts to food stamps. It’s going to be used to justify cuts to Social Security, to healthcare, let alone being used to justify why more ambitious plans for a national healthcare program, for green energy are not affordable. So people have to be ready for this. You know, the next shock is yet to come….

AMY GOODMAN: Your final thought, this, on the bailing out of the auto industry, the Big Three in Detroit, starting with General Motors?

NAOMI KLEIN: Well, obviously, it shouldn’t be a blank check. You know, I always think about what the International Monetary Fund does when developing countries come and ask for a loan. Think about what they’re doing right now. The International Monetary Fund says, “You want a loan? Well, here’s our list of conditions.” They used to call it structural adjustment. The same thing could be done to the auto industry. If they’re coming for a bailout, they should be structurally adjusted, and taxpayers should be playing IMF to the auto industry and insisting that they change the way they work, that they build green automobiles, that they protect jobs. It can’t simply be a blank check.

If you want a really good idea about what the IMF and its structural adjustments have meant for the global south, Stephanie Black’s eloquent and smart documentary, Life and Debt is worth watching. Anyone who has read Jamaica Kincaid’s mesmerizing book A Small Place will recognize her words here in the narration.

There is also more bad news on Obama decisions-in-the-making. Also on Democracy Now! and worth listening to are Melvin Goodman and Michael Ratner who discuss various people Obama may be bringing to his team who were responsible for some of the gravest blunders of the last eight years.

John Brennan and Jami Miscik, both former intelligence officials under George Tenet, are leading Barack Obama’s review of intelligence agencies and helping make recommendations to the new administration. Brennan has supported warrantless wiretapping and extraordinary rendition, and Miscik was involved with the politicized intelligence alleging weapons of mass destruction in the lead-up to the war on Iraq.

In an op-ed in the Baltimore Sun, Melvin Goodman has this to say about some of Obama’s choices:

Ms. Miscik was deputy director of intelligence for Mr. Tenet during the run-up to the Iraq war, when intelligence was manipulated to support the Bush administration’s decision to use force in Iraq. She endorsed the politicized findings of the National Intelligence Estimate on Iraqi weapons of mass destruction in October 2002, as well as the unclassified White Paper of October 2002 that was designed to sway votes on the authorization to use force against Iraq. Ms. Miscik was also a willing participant in the crafting of Secretary of State Colin L. Powell’s regrettable speech to the United Nations in February 2003, which was designed to sway the international community.

Other key members of Mr. Obama’s intelligence advisory panel have been former CIA Deputy Director John McLaughlin, who helped to suppress proof that various sources of intelligence in Iraqi WMD were in fact fabricators, and Rob Richer, a senior clandestine services officer who was a key implementer of the renditions and detentions program.

And while the new Status of Forces agreement between Iraq and the U.S. makes it unlikely that troops will be leaving in substantial numbers any time soon–not that they would all have been removed by Obama regardless of this agreement–what of those private contractors who are responsible for some of the most reprehensible war crimes in occupied Iraq? Here is what Jeremy Scahill has to say:

In a brief interview with Democracy Now! in February, Obama explained his position when asked about the report in The Nation.

Here’s the problem: we have 140,000 private contractors right there, so unless we want to replace all of or a big chunk of those with US troops, we can’t draw down the contractors faster than we can draw down our troops,” Obama said. “So what I want to do is draw–I want them out in the same way that we make sure that we draw out our own combat troops.”

As Obama’s inauguration day draws near, he is facing increased calls from Democrats who have spent years investigating Blackwater to ban the company. Most prominent among these is Henry Waxman, chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. He called on Obama to cancel Blackwater’s security contracts. “I don’t see any reason to have a contract with Blackwater,” says Waxman. “They haven’t lived up to their contract, and we shouldn’t be having these private military contracts. We should use our own military.”

As of now, Blackwater’s Iraq contract expires in April (it was extended for a year by the State Department despite numerous investigations). “I think there should be very strong handcuffs put on this whole outsourcing question, but particularly with these private security contractors like DynCorp and Blackwater,” says Vermont Democrat Peter Welch, who serves on the Oversight Committee with Waxman and supports the calls for Obama to cancel Blackwater’s security contracts. “It’s just an incredible waste of taxpayer money. It dishonors the Code of Military Conduct. Our soldiers are over there. They abide by rules. Blackwater doesn’t.”

Ahhh…the more things “change” the more they stay the same. Unless it comes from the grassroots, the people we will not see change as the ever-hopeful Rania reminds me:

We should always remember that the only significant changes that have happened in our history have come from ordinary people.

The massive anti-slave movement led by William Wilberforce, the Peasants’ Revolt, the Tolpuddle Martyrs who gave us the trade union movement, suffragettes who gave the women the vote, and the Chartists who helped us on the road to democracy.

So what are you going to do?