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Rachel Maddow Defends Western Warmongering in Libya

By David Walsh

On March 21, MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow offered a defense of the Obama administration and its role in launching a military assault on Libya. With tortured logic, Maddow attempted to show that the means by which President Barack Obama made public this new act of Great Power aggression revealed the chasm that separates his administration from that of his predecessor, George W. Bush.

The arguments offered by the MSNBC news program host, a principal voice of the American liberal-left in the mainstream media, are absurd and unworthy, but it is unlikely anyone in and around her circle will object. This social layer is fully committed to the Obama administration and, moreover, to the defense of American imperial interests, with which it identifies, in the final analysis, its own material comfort and peace of mind. This helps explain the collapse of the official anti-war movement in the US since the 2008 election.

Maddow began her program Monday in a typically flippant manner. “In the United States of America, we are used to thinking of ourselves as a superpower, as a world leader, as a country capable of throwing our weight around when we feel the need to. … We go to war all the time—big wars, little wars, medium-sized wars, weird wars, normal wars, wars. America as a country fights a lot of wars.”

Maddow’s cynical tone hints at criticism and a vaguely anti-establishment, even anti-war stance, while actually committing her to no position or analysis whatsoever. Why does the US government go to war so frequently? What has been the character of those wars? What is her attitude toward those conflicts? About that, nothing …

After showing clips of Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and the most recent Bush announcing military actions from the White House (against Grenada, Libya, Iraq, Serbia, and Iraq once more), Maddow told her viewers, “Now that the United States has embarked on its latest new military intervention in Libya, I would love to be able to show you the current president’s Oval Office address on the subject, but there isn’t one.”

Maddow noted that Obama made his public statement about the latest US military action while in Brazil. She continued, “President Obama announced his own military intervention, but he pointedly declined the opportunity to do it in a way that US presidents usually do.” The current administration’s decision, the news program host explained, “to forego the chest-thumping commander-in-chief theater that goes with military intervention of any kind, that in itself is a fascinating and rather blunt demonstration of just how much this presidency is not like that of George W. Bush.”

In other words, Maddow treats Obama’s anti-democratic and unconstitutional act of declaring war behind the backs of Congress and the American people as a positive good.

From there, Maddow presented clips of past presidents, while running for office, posturing as humble, ‘peace’ candidates. She went on, “A candidate named Barack Obama promised that. The difference with Mr. Obama as president is that he appears to be walking more of that walk as well as talking that talk.”

But Obama has launched a military assault against a virtually defenseless country (and, of course, escalated the war in Afghanistan to unprecedented levels, while maintaining 50,000 US troops in Iraq). How is that different from Bush, who also launched such attacks?

Because Obama has gone about it differently, making no Oval Office address, “repeatedly stressing the limited nature of US involvement, promising there will be no ground troops, no matter what” (Maddow), bringing in European allies and various Arab regimes, etc. Obama’s empty phrase that the bulk of US involvement in the Libyan operation would last “A Matter of Days, Not a Matter of Weeks” appeared on the screen throughout the first portion of her program.

Maddow’s defense of Obama’s new war in Libya, which will result in the deaths of thousands and risks unleashing far wider and bloodier conflagrations, sheds light on her and the American liberal-left more generally. There is nothing remotely “progressive” about these people.


American's Lied to About Israel

J-Street advocates genocide with a smile

By Philip Giraldi

J Street is seductive.  Americans have been bombarded with propaganda about Israel ever since the foundation of the country over sixty years ago.  More recently, the United States has been designated by the media and the chattering classes as the protector of the Jewish state with little regard for those actions undertaken by Tel Aviv that impact negatively on US interests.
This is because the Israel Lobby is the most powerful foreign lobby in the United States by far.  The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), which has become the ugly side of the Lobby, has rightly drawn criticism for its bullying tactics and its alignment with extreme right-wing parties in Israel.  Progressives and some conservatives in the United States who support Israel as a homeland for the world’s Jews have been eager to find a more respectable alternative lobby.  That alternative is J Street.

J Street, which recently completed its third annual conference in Washington, is a self-proclaimed kinder and gentler advocate of Israeli interests.  It favors peace on equitable terms with the Palestinians and also with Israel’s Arab neighbors.  It opposes expansion of the Israeli settlements on the West Bank because they are an obstacle to peace.  It calls itself "pro-Israel, pro-American, and pro-peace."  If one judges by the enemies it has attracted, including nearly all leading neoconservatives, J Street has to be considered a breath of fresh air and the best option for sustainable peace in the Middle East.

Sounds good, doesn’t it?  But somehow the parts don’t quite add up.  J Street really only differs from AIPAC in tone, not in substance.  It advocates continued and unlimited United States support for Israel, militarily, economically, and politically.  J Street wants Israel to have an overwhelming military advantage over its Arab neighbors and it wants that margin to be provided by Washington.  It wants Republicans and Democrats together to provide political cover for Israel when it attacks Lebanon or bombs the Gazans.  It does not object when Israel exercises a military option against its neighbors. In spite of the fact that the United States is in deep trouble economically while Israel is one of the richest countries in the world and is enjoying an economic boom, J Street was one of the first organizations to complain when Senator Rand Paul called for an end to all foreign aid.

J Street also believes that Israel is and should be a Jewish state with unlimited right of "return" for Jews from anywhere in the world and no such rights for Christians or Muslims who lived in the country before 1948.  A Jewish state, by definition, would have limited rights for the 20% and growing segment of the current Israeli population that is Christian or Muslim.  J Street quixotically supports a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict, even though it knows that the half million Israeli Jews living in settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank cannot be moved and will make two states impossible.  It does not accept a one-state solution, the only one likely to work, that would make the followers of all religions equal citizens in a unified state embracing both Arabs and Jews.  J Street’s Executive Director Jeremy Ben-Ami has called a one-state solution a "nightmare."

J Street seems a lot better than AIPAC, but much of what it advocates sounds familiar.  Ben-Ami has criticized the highly acclaimed John Mearsheimer-Stephen Walt book on the Israel Lobby for its scholarship and refers to the authors as anti-Semites. J Street opposed Israel’s bloody incursion into Gaza, but only because it was disproportionate, and then rejected the UN’s Goldstone report that detailed the war crimes that were committed.  When Israeli commandoes killed nine Turkish citizens on the Mavi Marmara ship trying to break the blockade of Gaza, J Street mourned the loss of life but blamed the victims for deliberately "using the media coverage to further damage Israel’s standing in world opinion."  J Street supports military action against Iran as a "last resort" to incapacitate the country’s nuclear program and denies to Tehran the right to enrich uranium for any purpose.

Supporters of J Street claim that its positions will become more nuanced as its influence grows, but one of the panels at the just-concluded convention debated "Is the Settlement Enterprise Destroying Israel’s Democracy?"  One might well ask why there was a question mark at the end since it is well documented that the settlements bring with them every imaginable evil. Fifteen months ago, J Street sponsored a speaking tour by an Israeli general Danny Rothschild who was advocating a two-state solution with the Palestinians.  He made the rounds in Washington arguing that demographics and common sense dictate that Israel must come to some kind of settlement.  But then, he added, there is "Islamofascism" and also Iran, genuine threats that must be dealt with by force.  So what was the real message, peace with the Palestinians (on Israel’s terms, it might be added), or expand the war against extremism while bombing Iran?

But the real problem with J Street is that it exists at all.  Why should there be a new and powerful lobby in Washington composed of American citizens arguing for a special relationship with any country?  Why should the United States be providing unlimited support to a nation that claims to be a democracy but which limits rights based on religion?  If J Street truly wants to fix Israel it should be working in Israel, not in the United States, because the settlers and hardline right-wing parties are Israeli problems. J Street knows perfectly well that Congress, the White House, and the media will not challenge the Israel status quo so, at best, it is a bit of scam designed to support Israel while making progressives feel more comfortable in lining up behind the effort.

The United States already has too many special interest lobbies promoting policies that do absolutely nothing good for the American people.  If Israel has become a rogue state, which it has, the problem must be resolved by the Israelis themselves and the diaspora Jews who believe that they have a stake in the outcome.  If the latter really want to have an impact, they should turn in their US passports and move to Israel.  From the American perspective, which should be the only one that matters to US citizens, the best policy for the United States is to disengage from the Arab-Israel conflict, not to become even more deeply involved from another, slightly more palatable perspective offered by J Street.

Gov. Walker's Union Busting Bill Passes Despite Oppisition

By Tom Eley

The Republican-controlled Wisconsin Senate on Wednesday evening passed a bill stripping government workers of collective bargaining rights and forcing them to pay much more for health insurance and pensions. The bill was approved in spite of the absence of 14 Senate Democrats who had fled the state, legally depriving Republicans of the required two-thirds majority quorum for the vote to proceed.

The bill is expected to pass the State Assembly Thursday and be signed into law by Governor Scott Walker by the end of the week.

Republicans claimed legal grounds for the move by temporarily removing from the so-called “budget repair bill” its fiscal components. By doing so, Republicans said that the legislation was no longer a finance bill, and therefore not subject to the quorum requirement. It was a moment of baldfaced lying for Walker and Senate Republican leaders, who in every public statement have declared that the attack on collective bargaining rights was a fiscal matter.

The bill was passed without discussion or debate at about 6:30 p.m. by a hastily-convened special conference committee, which normally convenes to sort out differences in competing bills.

“Tonight, the Senate will be passing the items in the Budget Repair Bill that we can with the 19 members [present],” said Sen. Scott Fitzgerald, the chamber's Republican majority leader, in a statement announcing the move.

The vote was in evident violation of the Wisconsin Open Meetings Law, which requires that public notice of a meeting be made “24 hours prior to the commencement of such meeting unless for good cause such notice is impossible or impractical.”

Thousands flooded to the capitol on hearing word of the bill’s passage. Crowds rushed the capitol building doors, shouting “you are cowards” and “let us in.” Chants of “general strike!” reverberated in and out of the building.

A Socialist Equality Party team was present at the scene. Andre Damon, a reporter for the World Socialist Web Site, was able to speak to thousands of demonstrators both inside and outside of the capitol building. He called for the formation of independent workplace committees to build for a general strike to force Walker out. These demands were met by enthusiasm among the workers present. (Download pdf, “Walker must go! For a general strike in Wisconsin”.)

Trade union officials and their supporters also attempted to address the spontaneous demonstration, including John Nichols of The Nation. They desperately sought to bolster illusions in the Democratic Party, praising the actions of the “Wisconsin 14” who had fled the state.

In fact, the bill’s passage reveals the consequences of the subordination of the mass struggle of Wisconsin workers and youth to the Democratic Party and the trade unions. From the beginning, the flight of the Democratic senators to Illinois was designed to take the initiative out of the hands of the government workers, students, and teachers, who had in the days preceding launched a “sick-in” strike wave against the bill that involved tens of thousands.

The Republicans’ legislative maneuver caught the Democrats flat-footed. Senate Democrats believed they were in advanced discussions with Walker to lessen the bill’s blow to union finances, while maintaining intact its cuts to worker benefits and workplace rights. E-mail exchanges between Walker’s office and Senate Democrats, released by the governor to the media, suggested that a deal was pending which would have required union certification elections every three years instead of each year, among other minor changes. This, Democrats hoped, would provide a degree of political cover for their capitulation—which was imminent, according to several media accounts.

Senator Bob Jauch, a recipient of of the e-mails, only yesterday hailed the communications as “the kind of starting point you can get to achieve a compromise.” The entire approach of the Democrats and the trade unions—that supposedly “wavering” Republicans could be swayed by pressure—has been exposed. The Republicans were far more determined than the “Wisconsin 14” Democrats, who always accepted the bill in principle, differing only with its aim of starving the unions of all dues revenue.

In the aftermath of the bill’s passage through the State Senate, efforts to bolster illusions in the Democrats will shift to the recall elections being launched against a number of Republican senators. Whatever the outcome of these elections, it will do nothing to reverse the assault on workers contained in Walker’s “budget repair bill” or his draconian two-year budget, which slashes Medicaid and public education, and moves toward the privatization of the University of Wisconsin.


Private Bradley Manning; Caged Like an Animal, Ignored Like a Criminal

By Kate Randall

Private First Class Bradley Manning, suspected by the United States Army of being WikiLeaks’ source for thousands of classified military reports and diplomatic cables, was stripped naked in his cell Wednesday and Thursday nights.

This degrading treatment at the brig at the Marine base in Quantico, Virginia came alongside notification March 3 by the Army that Manning was facing 22 additional charges, including a charge of “aiding the enemy,” which carries the death penalty. (See “US Army charges accused WikiLeaks source Private Bradely Manning with capital offense”)

According to Manning’s lawyer, David E. Coombs, Manning, 23, was inexplicably stripped of his clothing on the night of March 2 and then forced to remain naked in his cell for the next seven hours. Coombs wrote in his March 3 blog, “At 5:00 a.m., the Brig sounded the wake-up call for the detainees. At this point, PFC Manning was forced to stand naked at the front of his cell.”

Shortly after 5:00 a.m., the duty brig supervisor arrived and walked through the facility to conduct a prisoner count. Following this, Manning was told to sit on his bed, and about 10 minutes later a guard came to his cell and returned his clothing. The young private was told the same thing would happen the following night.

According to Coombs’ March 4 blog, the same treatment was meted out the night of March 3. The decision to strip Manning of his clothing was made by the brig commander, Chief Warrant Officer-2 Denise Barnes. Coombs writes that according to a Marine spokesman, “the decision was ‘not punitive’ and done in accordance with Brig rules.”

Coombs notes: “There can be no conceivable justification for requiring a soldier to surrender all his clothing, remain naked in his cell for seven hours, and then stand at attention the subsequent morning. This treatment is even more degrading considering that PFC Manning is being monitored—both by direct observation and by video—at all times.” Brig officials informed Manning’s defense that the decision to strip Manning and have him remain naked overnight was made without consulting the brig’s mental health providers.

This debased treatment constitutes an escalation of the torture to which Manning has been subjected in his 10 months of solitary confinement at the brig. He has been convicted of no crime, but has earned the wrath of US military and government authorities for allegedly aiding WikiLeaks’ exposure of US atrocities in Iraq and Afghanistan and other imperialist crimes and conspiracies around the world.

While not displaying any suicidal tendencies, and against the advice of military psychiatrists, Manning is being held under a prevention of injury order (POI). Confined to his cell 23 hours a day, he is allowed out for only one hour of exercise a day in an empty room where he can walk but is forbidden to run. He is not permitted to sleep during the day, and is severely restricted in the use of his eyeglasses and reading material.

In an appearance on the MSNBC cable television channel Thursday, Pentagon Press Secretary Geoffrey Morrell attributed the conditions of Manning’s imprisonment to “the seriousness of the charges he’s facing, the potential length of sentence, the national security implications and also the potential harm… that he could do to himself or from others,” adding that the brutal treatment was “for his [PFC Manning’s] own good.”
Manning’s friend, David House, a researcher at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and one of the few people to have visited him in prison, spoke Thursday of seeing Manning go from a “bright-eyed intelligent young man” to someone who appeared “catatonic” at times, with “very high difficulty carrying on day-to-day conversation.”

“For me this has been like watching a really good friend succumb to an illness or something,” House said, “I think that Bradley Manning is being punished this way because the US government wants him to crack ahead of his trial.”

The most serious of the new charges brought Wednesday in Manning’s court martial process is the charge brought under Article 104 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice of “aiding the enemy” by supplying information “either directly or indirectly.” By not specifying the identity of the alleged “enemy,” the Pentagon leaves open the possibility that this could refer to WikiLeaks and individuals like the whistleblower web site’s founder, Julian Assange, who as the enemy could be targeted for military action.

The military has stated that Assange and WikiLeaks are not the unnamed enemy. “It’s not WikiLeaks, OK?” said Shaunteh Kelly, chief of media relations for the US Army Military District of Washington. She added, “Given that this is a national security case during a time of war, identifying this information may potentially compromise ongoing military operations.”

On Thursday, the military said that the word “enemy” in the charge against Manning referred to any hostile forces that could benefit from learning about classified military tactics. If such a catch-all definition of “aiding the enemy” were applied to civilians, it could be used to prosecute any media outlet or Internet site that published classified military-related material leaked by a whistleblower.

The escalation of the torturous treatment of Manning, coming on the heels of the new charges laid against him, is likely aimed at getting Manning to provide information implicating Assange and WikiLeaks. More broadly, the military and the Obama administration are seeking to make an example of Manning so as to intimidate others from exposing the crimes of US imperialism.

Although military prosecutors have said they are not seeking the death penalty, the decision is ultimately up to Maj. Gen. Karl R. Horst, the Military District of Washington commander, who could refer the “aiding the enemy” charge as a capital offense.

Final charges in Manning’s case are expected in late May or early June at a provisional hearing in the court-martial process.

Fellow Orthodox Laity, We Must Band Together To Call For The Orthodox Church to Hold a Series Discussion on Homosexuality.

Once upon a time, there was a blog called, JN1034, but now that blog is no more and good riddance to it. I know it sounds harsh and I don't say it lightly. JN1034 lured in individuals such as myself who were questioning the common Orthodox consensus of banning gay marriage and forbidding the ordination of women.

At first they released tension by being a mouthpiece for the frustrations felt by myself and others that the Church was remaining rather silent on these issues. They, the bloggers, rambled on and on about how they were high ranking priests under the Ecumenical Patriarch, but of course they couldn't prove it because they had to remain anonymous. So...we never really actually, knew if they were telling the truth. But that's not the point really. Whether they were who they said they were really doesn't matter. The point is, they were really...iffy, for lack of a better word.

I must say, looking back, I found Jn1034 to be very proud and arrogant. They didn't always seem that way, but it seems as time went on they got worse and worse. They began explaining their position a lot less and instead bragging about their position a lot more.

At any rate, there's no need for them. A constructive dialogue in the Orthodox Church which creates a truthful view of homosexuality is up to us, the laity; not them. We need not advocate either for or against.

We need only band together and declare with one voice that we want a discussion. A real discussion. Not one of those sudo-moral discussion of the past were some aged intolerant priest teaching the congregation about homosexuality with a fictional, gay, "little billy" character.

"Today kids we're going to discussion why homosexuality is wrong. This is little billy. Little billy wants to be popular and modern. Little billy wants to be called little Susie. Oh look, now little Susie is doing meth and beating children. Now how could you defend a life style that involves meth a beating children?"

And that would be the end of the discussion. And the congregation would walk out being none the smarter for having listened to that intolerant crap.

So...we need to band together with other Orthodox (they must be Orthodox) and declare loud and clear that past discussions within the Church have been stereotyped, unproductive, unclear, and dismissive.

We need to tell the highest authorities in the Orthodox world, make them understand, this issue cannot be ignored any longer. The laity demand and answer and the Church has been unclear. Even the passages in the Bible, are unclear. Furthermore the passages used to condemn gays in America are in English. How accurate are those English phrases? Do they even have the same meaning?

Even to this day, I have no clue what the passage in Romans is really referring to. I even read St. John Chrysostom's homily on it, and he didn't even clarify what exactly it was about. He just kept saying it was something which he would not mention.

Anyway, we need a dialogue. A long and serious dialogue, which involves homosexual members of our own Church.

We do not need JN1034 to reemerge with their arrogance and sometimes, questionable doctrine.

We are the laity. When we work together, our voice is louder, clearer and taken more seriously. If anything JN1034 is nothing more than "diverted dissent", our own dis-info unit to 1984's Goldstien.

Get your friends, get your neighbors, get your clergy, to say, "We want a dialogue." That's it. Nothing more. Not, we want gay marriage, not, we don't want gay marriage. No, just, "We want a dialogue."
One that is serious. One that isn't run by biased agendas or special interest groups.
We need our Church Hierarchy to sit down and look gay couples in the face to tell them and tell the Church once and for all, whether gay marriage is in, or out.