Progressive Calendar 02.02.09
From: David Shove (
Date: Mon, 2 Feb 2009 11:00:16 -0800 (PST)
            P R O G R E S S I V E   C A L E N D A R    02.02.09

1. SF 395/state IRV 2.02 11am
2. Peace walk       2.02 6pm RiverFalls WI
3. Uhcan-mn         2.02 7pm
4. Gordon CAMpaign  2.02 7pm

5. Dakota people    2.03 5pm
6. RNC court watch  2.03 6pm
7. Salon/poetry     2.03 6:30pm
8. Eco design film  2.03 7pm
9. Afghan women     2.03 7pm
10. Amnesty Intl    2.03 7pm StCloud MN
11. StP DFL/Coleman 2.03

12. PC Roberts    - Bankrupt & discredited - the death of US leadership
13. Ralph Nader   - What to do about Wall Street
14. Allan Nairn   - A shift toward worker power? The time is ripe
15. M Shahid Alam - Chomsky on oil and the Israel lobby

--------1 of 15--------

From: David Strand <lavgrn [at]>
Subject: SF 395/state IRV 2.02 11am

Sens. Marty, Scheid & Pappas are introducing a bill on Monday in the state
senate to require IRV be used in local, state and federal elections in
Minnesota!  The Senate will be going into session at 11 AM and it might be
nice to have some people there to mark the occassion!

--------2 of 15--------

From: Nancy Holden <d.n.holden [at]>
Subject: Peace walk 2.02 6pm RiverFalls WI

River Falls Peace and Justice Walkers. We meet every Monday from 6-7 pm on
the UWRF campus at Cascade Ave. and 2nd Street, immediately across from
"Journey" House. We walk through the downtown of River Falls. Contact:
d.n.holden [at] Douglas H Holden 1004 Morgan Road River Falls,
Wisconsin 54022

--------3 of 15--------

From: Joel Albers <joel [at]>
Subject: Uuhcan-mn 2.02 7pm

The next Universal Health Care Action Network - MN (UHCAN-MN)
(first monday of every month) mtg is Monday, Feb 2, 7PM , Walker
Church, downstairs gallery, 3104 16th ave S, Mpls (1 block from
Lake Street and Bloomington Ave).

The major discussion for the mtg would be: organizing an action (press
conference, demo ?) as a public response to the recent worsening of the
health care crisis: 1000s of jobs lost along w/ health insurance, 84,000
people expected to be eliminated from Medical Assistance, and the major
hospitals cutting 100s of staff, including health practitioners. Why the
system needs to change.

other items:

 1.Intros, background, orientation to HC reform movement
 2.Reportbacks: MLK Day, KFAI Wave Project organized by media person
Sheldon Gitis
 3.Starting a legal arm to help victims of HMOs, focal point to change HC
 4.State budget deficit, Pawlenty to cut 85,000 from HC, MN Health Plan
(SP) solution
 5.Organizing Practitioners; UHCAN-MN's new list serve for Practitioners
to network
 6. Action event, demo or press conference to show public resistance ?
 7.Progress of UHCAN-MN's proposed emergency HC fund,A Prairie Health
Companion's Fund
other items ?

--------4 of 15--------

From: Cam Gordon <CamGordon333 [at]>
Subject: Gordon CAMpaign 2.02 7pm

You are all invited to join us for our next campaign team meeting Monday,
February 2nd from 7-9:00 pm at the Blue Moon Cafe on 39th and East Lake
St. Please note the new location. Cam 612 296-0579

--------5 of 15--------

From: Eric Angell <eric-angell [at]>
Subject: Dakota people 2.03 5pm

(SPNN 15/MTN 17/online): MN History, Indigenous Perspective
Wise St. Paul Neighborhood Network (SPNN) viewers:
"Our World In Depth" cablecasts on SPNN Channel 15 on Tuesdays at 5pm,
midnight and Wednesday mornings at 10am, after DemocracyNow!  All
households with basic cable may watch.

Tues, 2/3, 5pm & midnight and Wed, 2/4, 10am

What Does Justice Look Like?
Guest Waziyatawin, Dakota author and scholar of indigenous peoples'
history, describes some of the key events around the founding of the state
of MN 150 years ago.  With an important narrative, Waziyatawin shares the
struggles of the Dakota people to retain their lives, land and identity
and gives an indigenous perspective on current environmental crises.
Cohosted by Karen Redleaf and Eric Angell.

--------6 of 15--------

From: Do'ii <syncopatingrhythmsabyss [at]>
Subject: RNC court watch 2.03 6pm

RNC Court Watchers are in need of participants to help with organizing
court information, documentation and etc.  RNC Court Watchers Meetings are
every Tuesday, 6 P.M. at Caffeto's. Below is announcement for our

Preemptive raids, over 800 people arrested, police brutality on the
streets and torture in Ramsey County Jail. Police have indiscriminately
used rubber bullets, concussion grenades, tasers and chemical irritants to
disperse crowds and incapacitate peaceful, nonviolent protesters. The
RNC-8 and others are facing felonies and years in jail. We must fight this
intimidation, harassment and abuse!

Join the RNC Court Solidarity Meeting this coming Tuesday at Caffetto's to
find out how you can make a difference in the lives of many innocent

Caffetto's Coffeehouse and Gallery (612)872-0911 708 W 22nd Street,
Minneapolis, MN 55405
Every Tuesday @ 6:00 P.M to 7:00 P.M
participate and help organize RNC court solidarity.
For more information, please contact: rnccourtwatch [at]

--------7 of 15--------

From: patty <pattypax [at]>
Subject: Salon/poetry 2.03 6:30pm

Poetry night. Amaze us with your quirky linguistic insights, your cunning
use of phrases only your psyche understands (darkly), your terpsichorian
alliteration that storms the heavens, the subtle rhythms that linger
linger linger after the words have ended. For a start. [ed]

Pax Salons ( )
are held (unless otherwise noted in advance):
Tuesdays, 6:30 to 8:30 pm.
Mad Hatter's Tea House,
943 W 7th, St Paul, MN

Salons are free but donations encouraged for program and treats.
Call 651-227-3228 or 651-227-2511 for information.

--------8 of 15--------

From: Curt McNamara <mcnam025 [at]>
Subject: Eco design film 2.03 7pm

Celebrate Sustainability Film Series
Doors 6:30 p.m., Film 7 p.m. Free!
MCAD College Center
Minneapolis College of Art and Design
2501 Stevens Ave. S.

Please join us for the following screening about key sustainability issues
affecting our world. Discussion with practicing eco- designers after the

In Ecological Design: Inventing the Future, Buckminster Fuller, Paul
MacCready, Paolo Soleri, Amory and Hunter Lovins, Ian McHarg, and more
provide perspective on topics such as solar architecture, bioshelters,
city farming, domed cities, and electric cars. The Story of Stuff provides
an in-depth look at how our products impact the planets.

--------9 of 15--------

From: Charles Underwood <charleyunderwood [at]>
Subject: Afghan women 2.03 7pm

Tuesday, 2/3, 7 pm, Afghan Institute for Learning president Sakena
Yacoobi gives free talk on "Advancing the Status of Women in
Afghanistan," Weyerhaeuser Chapel, Macalester College, 1600 Grand Ave, St

--------10 of 15--------

From: Gabe Ormsby <gabeo [at]>
Subject: Amnesty Intl 2.03 7pm StCloud MN

Saint Cloud Area Amnesty International meets on Tuesday, February 3rd,
from 7:00 to 8:00 p.m. at the St. Cloud Public Library, 1300 W. St.
Germain, Saint Cloud. For more information contact Jerry Dirks,
320-251-6491 or jerry.dirks [at]

--------11 of 15--------

From: TCDP editor <editor [at]>
Subject: StP DFL/Colemen 2.03

NEWS YOU CAN USE | Precinct caucus time - again!
by Mary Turck, TC Daily Planet

We haven't recovered from the last election, and already the next campaign
season has begun. If you live in St. Paul and vote DFL - and no, the two
conditions are not synonymous - your precinct and ward caucuses are
Tuesday. THIS Tuesday, February 3. In Minneapolis, you have a whole month
to wait for precinct caucuses (March 3), though candidates are already
announcing in both cities. St. Paul will vote for mayor and school board
members in November. Minneapolis will vote for mayor, city council
members, Park and Recreation Board members, and members of the Board of
Estimate and Taxation.

Date: Sun, 1 Feb 2009 16:18:52 -0600
From: Hope For Saint Paul <hopeforsaintpaul [at]>
Subject: No Endorsement for Chris Coleman

As a leader in your community, I am writing you today about a very
important and urgent issue. Please feel free to forward on this message!

With the caucuses leading to the City endorsing convention on Tuesday, it
is time for Progressive St.Paul DFL'ers to make it clear to Chris Coleman
that his leadership (or lack thereof) of the Republican National
Convention, the trampling of free speech rights and the whitewashing of
the event by "his committee" is NOT OKAY. In fact, it is shameful,
embarrassing and a disgrace to our city. It is shameful to our values as a
democracy and as progressives! Leaders like him have no place leading any
further! While there may not currently be any progressive challenger, this
could change, and I encourage you to deny Chris Coleman the DFL
endorsement. It is very plausible, given the rules and the amount of
people who have expressed their lack of trust and shame in having Chris

It only takes 40% of delegates to vote no endorsement! Show up to your
caucus and become a delegate, it's a very easy process.

In addition to his shameful handling of the RNC, Chris Coleman has been an
ineffective, distant and apathetic mayor. He has no MAJOR accomplishment
to show for his tenure (apart from the disaster of the RNC!). Even his 3
re-election campaign mailers last week didn't even list one
accomplishment?!?!?! We deserve progress - we deserve better! We decide
who we endorse - we decide the path of our city by who we pick.

Let's leave the race open for a true progressive to consider entering!
Let's make a clear statement about our values - let's make a clear
statement about free speech, human rights and democracy!

We need a real progressive Mayor, not the conservative Chris Coleman! With
a little time and a little effort we can restore St.Paul to it's
progressive foundations!

p.s. Some may take issue with the anonymity of this email. I know that
many of you will understand that in many instances, especially when
dealing with vindictive individuals, that some anonymity at the beginning
of grassroots campaigns when one is taking on an institutional force and
challenging a structure that has a lot to lose, anonymity can be an
unfortunate necessity. And to be clear, I am not someone, or anyone, who
intends on running for Mayor! Just someone who is disgusted...

--------12 of 15--------

A Bankrupt and Discredited Country
The Death of American Leadership
February 2, 2009

Vast numbers of people in the United States and abroad are hoping that
President Obama will end America's illegal wars, halt America's support
for Israel's massacre of Lebanese and Palestinians, and punish, instead of
reward, the shyster banksters whose fraudulent financial instruments have
destroyed economics and imposed massive sufferings on people all over the
world.  If Obama's appointments are an indication, all of these hopeful
people are going to be disappointed.

Obama chose as his Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, the man who helped
Bush's Treasury Secretary, Hank Paulson, engineer the $700 billion dollar
rip off of the US taxpayer, money that was gifted to the banksters who
destroyed Americans' pensions, jobs and health care coverage.

These banksters, and the negligent federal regulators that enabled them,
should be put in prison, not handed hundreds of billions of dollars.

Obama's National Economic Council is just as depressing.  Clinton's
Treasury Secretary, Larry Summers, is its head.  Summers recently declared
that he had no inkling that a financial crisis was about to hit.  Why did
Obama put a person without a clue in charge?

Summer's colleagues are just as bad. Obama has appointed Diana Farrell,
lead author of a phony study that claimed offshoring of American jobs is a
win-win game for Americans, as deputy director of the National Economic
Council.  Farrell is affiliated with McKinsey & Company, a firm that helps
American corporations offshore their operations.  In his book, Outsourcing
America, economist Ron Hira tore Farrell's McKinsey report to shreds.

Why not appoint Ron Hira and Nouriel Roubina, who predicted the crisis, to
the National Economic Council?

The discouraging fact is that even when faced with crisis in the economy
and in foreign policy, the American political system is incapable of
producing any leadership.  Here we are in the worst economic crisis in a
lifetime, perhaps in our history, and on the brink of war in Pakistan and
Iran while escalating the war in Afghanistan, and all we get is a
government made up of the very people who have brought us to these crises.

The era of American leadership has passed.  America's shyster financial
system has brought economic crisis to the world.  America's wars of
aggression are seen as serving no purpose except the enrichment of the
military industries associated with Dick Cheney.  The world is looking
elsewhere for leadership.

Vladimir Putin made a play for this role at Davos, where his speech at the
opening ceremony was the most intelligent speech of the event.

Putin reminded the World Economic Forum that "just a year ago, American
delegates speaking from this rostrum emphasized the US economy's
fundamental stability and its cloudless prospects.  Today, investment
banks, the pride of Wall Street, have virtually ceased to exist.  In just
12 months, they have posted losses exceeding the profits they made in the
last 25 years".

Putin made his case that the existing financial system based on the US
dollar and American financial hegemony has failed.

Putin showed that his economic understanding was superior to that of the
Obama team when he said that creating more debt on top of the "hopeless
debts," as Obama is doing, would "prolong the crisis".

With another swipe at America's failed economic leadership, Putin said it
is time to get rid of virtual money, false financial reports, and dubious
credit ratings.  Putin proposed a new reserve currency system to "replace
the obsolete unipolar world concept".

Putin said that a secure world requires cooperation which requires trust.
He made it clear that the Americans have proven that they cannot be

This was a powerful message.  It got a lot of applause.

Paul Craig  Roberts was associate editor and columnist for the Wall Street
Journal, columnist for Business Week, and columnist for the Scripps Howard

--------13 of 15--------

How "Brilliant" Men Crashed the Economy
What to Do About Wall Street
February 2, 2009

Soon after the passage in 1999 of the Clinton-Rubin-Summers-P. Graham
deregulation of the financial industry, I boarded a US Air flight to
Boston and discovered none other than then-Secretary of the Treasury
Lawrence Summers a few seats away. He was speaking loudly and constantly
on his cell phone. When the plane took off he invited me to sit by him and

After reviewing the contents of this Citibank-friendly new law called the
Financial Modernization Act, I asked him: "Do you think the big banks have
too much power"?

He paused for a few seconds and replied: "Not Yet". Intrigued by his two
word answer, I noted the rejection of modest pro-consumer provisions,
adding that now that the banks had had their round, wasn't it time for the
consumers to have their own round soon?

He allowed that such an expectation was not unreasonable and that he was
willing to meet with some seasoned consumer advocates and go over such an
agenda. We sent him an agenda, and met with Mr. Summers and his staff.
Unfortunately, neither his boss, Bill Clinton, nor the Congress were in
any mood to revisit this heavily lobbied federal deregulation law and
reconsider the blocked consumer rights.

The rest is unfolding, tragic history. The law abolished the
Glass-Steagall Act which separated commercial banking from investment
banking. This opened the floodgates for unwise mergers, acquisitions and
other unregulated risky financial instruments. Laced with limitless greed,
casino capitalism ran wild, tanking economies here and abroad.

One champion of this market fundamentalism was Alan Greenspan, then
chairman of the Federal Reserve. Last October before a House Committee,
Greenspan admitted he was mistaken and expressed astonishment at how
corporations could not even safeguard their own self-interest from going
over steep speculative cliffs.

Greenspan and Summers were deemed "brilliant" by the press and most of
Congress. Summers' predecessor at Treasury - Robert Rubin - was also a
charter member of the Oracles - those larger-than-life men who just knew
that the unfettered market and giant financial conglomerates would be the
one-stop shopping mart consumers were assumed to be craving.

Now the world knows that these men belong to the "oops oligarchy" that
bails itself out while it lets the companies collapse into the handcuffed
arms of Uncle Sam and bridled taxpayers who have to pay for unconditional
megabailouts. Instead of the Wall Street crooks being convicted and
imprisoned, they have fled the jurisdiction with their self-determined
compensation. Corporate crime pays, while pensions and mutual fund savings

Now comes the next stage of the Washington rescue effort in a variety of
stimulus packages which every vendor group imaginable wants a piece of
these days. When trillions are offered, many come running.

As the public focus is on how much, when and where all this money should
be spent, there are very serious consequences to be foreseen and
forestalled. First, consider how much more concentrated corporate power is
occurring. Forced or willing mergers, acquisitions and panic takeovers of
big banks by bigger banks along with bankruptcies of companies further
reduce what is left of quality competition for consumer benefit.

Remember the anti-trust laws. Obama needs to be their champion. The
fallout from the Wall Street binge is likely to lead to a country run by
an even smaller handful of monopolistic global goliaths.

In the stampede for stimulus legislation, there is a foreboding feeling on
Capitol Hill that there is no proposal on the table to pay for it other
than by the children and grandchildren. Just the opposite is raining down
on them. Everybody including the private equity gamblers, Las Vegas
casinos and Hollywood studios along with the banks and auto companies are
looking for tax breaks.

So with the economy deteriorating and taxes being cut, where is the
enormous money coming from? From borrowing and from printing money. So
look out for big time inflation and decline in the dollar's value
vis-a-vis other currencies.

In all the hundreds of pages of stimulus bills, there is nothing that
would facilitate the banding together of consumers and investors into
strong advocacy groups. We have long proposed Financial Consumer
Associations, privately and voluntarily funded through inserts in the
monthly statements of financial firms.

If this bailout/stimulus/Wall Street funny money waste, fraud and abuse
sounds confusing, that is because it is. A brand new paperback "Why Wall
Street Can't Be Fixed and How to Replace It: Agenda For a New Economy" by
long-time corporate critic, David C. Korten will explain some of the
wheeling and dealing.

You don't have to agree with all or many of Korten's nostrums. Just read
Part II - The Case For Eliminating Wall Street. He considers three central

First, do Wall Street Institutions do anything so vital for the national
interest that they justify trillions of dollars to save them from the
consequences of their own excess?

Second, is it possible that the whole Wall Street edifice is built on an
illusion of phantom wealth that carries deadly economic, social, and
environmental consequences for the larger society?

Third, are there other ways to provide needed financial services with
greater results and at lesser cost?

Ralph Nader is the author of The Seventeen Traditions.

--------14 of 15--------

A Shift Toward Worker Power?
The Time is Ripe to Tip the System, Now
by Allan Nairn
January 31st, 2009
Dissident Voice

In bad situations, people lower their standards for what it is that
constitutes good news.

There's a very sick man with a withered arm, but it hasn't been amputated,
contrary to what a garbled and panic-inducing report had indicated.

Similarly, a boy has been coughing for three months, but a TB test says it
isn't TB.

Saying this, the parent, on a cell phone from the Burma border can be
heard shivering in the rare cold, even though the family has just invested
in a blanket - their second, which is now handy, since for three nights
they've been sleeping in the forest to dodge police who (in a case of bad
good news) aren't seeking bribes, but are instead seeking to catch people
and - word has it - ship them to Naypyidaw (the capital) for one year's
bondage labor.

The question always is, bad compared to what? One person's dump is
another's home hearth.

And that can be said literally, since, not far from that coughing family,
there is a garbage dump where others live in slime. But they live there
not as bottom-dwellers, but as relatively speaking, rich aunts and uncles
- economic migrants - who periodically transfer money back home, since by
picking (and living in) trash they make more cash than do their relatives
on, or off, the farm in Burma.

There are dump cities around the world.

In Guatemala, they feature vultures (the bird kind). In the Philippines
there are frequent dump-slides, killing people.

And in Cambodia, The New York Times just visited a dump city and used the
existence of this particular hell to argue against labor standards on the
grounds that if people would only work more cheaply, that would create
more jobs for, say, dump dwellers, on the neoliberal assumption that
capitalists don't currently have enough desperate, oppressed, potential
workers to choose from (See Nicholas D. Kristof, "Where Sweatshops Are a
Dream," The New York Times, January 14, 2009).

Very poor people can indeed be delighted when what we call a sweatshop
comes to town (see my posting of Nov. 8, 2007, "Duduk - Duduk, Ngobrol -
Ngobrol. Sitting Around Talking, in Indonesia".), but what the Times
misses is that they would be even more delighted if it paid them better
wages, didn't rape and fondle the female workers, didn't spray them with
toxics, etc.

Whether or not that happens and whether or not enough jobs get created
depends crucially on the balance of power.

When workers are weak, it is indeed true that cutting labor standards can
get more factories built. But by that Times/Davos/Burma-junta logic of job
creation, you should also abolish the minimum wage, permit prostitution,
even permit human bondage/ slavery, since each of those steps would indeed
- under weak-worker conditions - induce the creation of new jobs.
(Inconsistently, the Times editorially does support the minimum wage, and
that Times writer has, as it happens, crusaded against poor-country

A better job-creation solution is to change the power balance and make
workers strong, in which case capital is the one that has to take bad news
as good, adjust their expectations downward, and realize that if they want
to put their capital to work they'll have to pay people enough to, say,
eat well.

It's true that, depending on what kind of historical moment one is in,
such a job solution may not always be pragmatic.

If say, for example, interest rates were high, capital could say: "Screw
these workers, who needs a factory? For now, we'll just put our money in

Or if capital were riding higher than usual in political leverage, it
could just say to a government bent on imposing laws to strengthen
workers: "Screw you, government. What do we businesses need from you? What
are you going to do, bribe us?"

But of course, those are not the conditions that exist today.

Today, in what's called the financial crisis (though for those hungry,
life has always been "crisis", even when rich people were calling it
"prosperity"), interest rates are very low and business needs a lot from

Workers (or unemployed) are, of course, today still more vulnerable than
bosses, but the key changeable variable now is government: it has
leverage, perhaps unprecedented leverage, as businesses pant for
government's bailout trillions.

And vis-a-vis worker-staffed production, businesses need to get that
revivified, since stashing cash in banks is not now hugely rewarding.

Which is to say, this could be a moment for a power shift - from workers
being weak to being strong - but only if people force government to kick
in on the workers' side to, for one thing, use its leverage and condition
bailouts on deep, thoroughgoing reforms that hugely elevate labor
standards, not cut them, and that alter how capital is owned and
controlled so that the crisis-induced power shift stays permanent and
maybe even opens the door to a more rational, less-killing, system that,
at the least, does not starve people.

That's not current rich-world government policy, and angry workers aren't
currently mobilized.

But they could be, if some see without illusion that this strange moment
could be their opening.

It could be if they make it so, without waiting for team Obama.

Sad but true, US economic policy is now shaped by the man, Prof. Lawrence
Summers, who wrote the Concise Encyclopedia of Economics entry on
"Unemployment" and observed - to the great pleasure of Bush Jr's advisers
- that: "If unemployment insurance were eliminated, the unemployment rate
would drop . . . Another cause of long-term unemployment is unionization .
. ." (Lawrence H. Summers, .Unemployment,. The Concise Encyclopedia of
Economics, 2008).

These Summers quotations were highlighted on the blog of Bush's old
economics chief, Gregory Mankiw, of Harvard, who told neoliberals not to
worry too much about the orientation of Obama Democrats.

Mankiw wrote: "What would you call a group of economists who are skeptical
of regulating mortgage markets, who think unemployment insurance and
unions increase unemployment, who say that tax hikes retard economic
growth, and who believe that the recovery from the Great Depression was a
monetary phenomenon rather than the result of New Deal fiscal policy? No,
it is not a right-wing cabal. It's Team Obama . . ." (".The Next Team,"
Greg Mankiw's Blog, Nov. 30, 2008. Mankiw followed with extensive
quotations from Summers and other Obama economists).

Again, such neoliberal thinking only works in a politically weak-worker

But that doesn't have to be the environment now - and for the future,
unless workers decide, by inaction, to politically amputate their own

Allan Nairn is an award-winning U.S. investigative journalist whose
writings have focused on US foreign policy in such countries as Indonesia,
East Timor, Guatemala, El Salvador and Haiti. Vist his blog.Allan Nairn is
an award-winning U.S. investigative journalist whose writings have focused
on US foreign policy in such countries as Indonesia, East Timor,
Guatemala, El Salvador and Haiti.

--------15 of 15--------

Chomsky on Oil and the Israel Lobby
by M. Shahid Alam
January 31st, 2009
Dissident Voice

In the slow evolution of US relations with Israel since 1948, as the
latter mutated from a strategic liability to a strategic asset, Israel and
its Jewish allies in the United States have always occupied the driver.s
seat. President Truman had shepherded the creation of Israel in 1947 not
because the American establishment saw it as a strategic asset; this much
is clear. "No one," writes Cheryl Rubenberg, "not even the Israelis
themselves, argues that the United States supported the creation of the
Jewish state for reasons of security or national interest".1 Domestic
politics, in an election year, was the primary force behind President
Truman's decision to support the creation of Israel. In addition, the
damage to US interests due to the creation of Israel - although massive -
was not immediate. This was expected to unfold slowly: and its first blows
would be borne by the British who were still the paramount power in the

Nevertheless, soon after he had helped to create Israel, President Truman
moved decisively to appear to distance the United States from the new
state. Instead of committing American troops to protect Israel, when it
fought against five Arab armies, he imposed an even-handed arms embargo on
both sides in the conflict. Had Israel been dismantled [at birth],
President Truman would have urged steps to protect the Jewish colonists in
Palestine, but he would have accepted a premature end to the Zionist state
as fait accompli. Zionist pressures failed to persuade President Truman to
lift the arms embargo. Ironically, military deliveries from Czechoslovakia
may have saved the day for Israel.

Once Israel had defeated the armies of Arab proto-states and expelled the
Palestinians to emerge as an exclusively Jewish colonial-settler state in
1949, these brute facts would work in its favor. Led by the United States,
the Western powers would recognize Israel, aware that they would have to
defend this liability. At the same time, the humiliation of defeat had
given an impetus to Arab nationalists across the region, who directed
their anger against Israel and its Western sponsors.

This placed Israel in a strong position to accelerate its transformation
into a strategic asset. In tandem with the Jewish lobby in the United
States, Israel sought to maximize the assistance it could receive from the
West through policies that stoked Arab nationalism; and as Israel's
military superiority grew this emboldened it to increase its aggressive
posture towards the Arabs. Israel had the power to set in motion a vicious
circle that would soon create the Arab threat against which it would
defend the West. As a result, at various points during the 1950s, France,
the United States, and Britain began to regard Israel as a strategic

America's embrace of Israel did not begin in 1967. Israel's victory in the
June War only accelerated a process that had been underway since its
creation - even before its creation. Indeed, the Zionists had decided in
1939 to pursue the United States as their new mother country; they knew
that they could use the very large and influential population of American
Jews to win official US backing for their goals.

This paid off handsomely in 1948; but thereafter, the United States sought
to contain the damage that would flow from the creation of Israel.
However, these efforts would be self-defeating; the die had been cast.
Israel - not the United States - was in the driver's seat; and Israel
would seek to maximize the negative fallout from its creation. As Israel
succeeded in augmenting - within limits - the Arab threat to itself and
the United States, the Jewish lobby would regain confidence; it would
re-organize to reinforce Israel's claim that it was now a strategic asset.

We have here another vicious circle - virtuous, for Israel. The Jewish
lobby would gain strength as the Arab-cum-Soviet threat to the Middle East
grew. When Israel scaled back the Arab threat in 1967, the Jewish lobby
would step in to spend the political capital the Jewish state had garnered
in the United States. The Israeli capture of Jerusalem in 1967 also
energized the Christian Zionists, who, with encouragement from Jewish
Zionists, would organize, enter into Republican politics, and soon become
a major ally of the Jewish lobby. The sky was now the limit for Israel and
the Zionists in the United States. The special relationship would become
more special under every new presidency.

Several writers on the American left have pooh-poohed the charge that the
Jewish lobby has been a leading force shaping America's Middle East
policy. They argue that the United States has supported Israel because of
the convergence of their interests in the region.2 Oil, primarily Saudi
Arabian oil, they maintain correctly, is "a stupendous source of strategic
power, and one of the greatest material prizes in world history".3
Incorrectly, however, they insist that this is what has driven US policy
towards the Middle East.

A priori, this is an odd position to maintain, since Britain - up until
1948 - had managed quite well to maintain complete control over Middle
Eastern oil, a dominance the United States could not sustain "despite" the
"strategic support" of Israel. Successively, they argue, Western control
over oil came under threat from Arab nationalism and militant Islamism.
Israel has demonstrated its strategic value by holding in check and,
later, defeating, the Arab nationalist challenge. Since then, Israel has
fought the Islamist challenge to US hegemony over the region.

It may be useful to examine Noam Chomsky's analysis of this relationship,
since he enjoys iconic status amongst both liberal and leftists in the
United States. Chomsky frames his analysis of "causal factors" behind the
special relationship as essentially a choice between "domestic pressure
groups" and "US strategic interests". He finds two limitations in the
argument that the "American Jewish community" is the chief protagonist of
the special relationship between Israel and the United States.

First, "it underestimates the scope of the 'support for Israel,' and
second, it overestimates the role of political pressure groups in
decision-making". Chomsky points out that the Israel lobby is "far
broader" than the American Jewish community; it embraces liberal opinion,
labor leaders, Christian fundamentalists, conservative hawks, and "fervent
cold warriors of all stripes".4 While this broader definition of the
Israel lobby is appropriate, and this is what most users of the term have
in mind, Chomsky thinks that the presence of this "far broader" support
for Israel diminishes the role that American Jews play in this lobby.

Two hidden assumptions underpin Chomsky's claim that a broader Israel
lobby shifts the locus of lobbying to non-Jewish groups. First, he fails
to account for the strong overlap - barring the Christian fundamentalists
- between the American Jewish community and the other domestic pressure
groups he enumerates. In the United States, this overlap has existed since
the early decades of the twentieth century, and increased considerably in
the post-War period. It is scarcely to be doubted that Jews hold - and
deservedly so - a disproportionate share of the leadership positions in
corporations, the labor movement, and those professions that shape public
discourse. Starting in the 1980s, the ascendancy of Jewish
neoconservatives - together with their think tanks - gave American Jews an
equally influential voice in conservative circles. Certainly, the weight
of Jewish neoconservative opinion during the early years of President Bush
- both inside and outside his administration - has been second to that of
none. The substantial Jewish presence in the leadership circles of the
other pressure groups undermines Chomsky's contention that the pro-Israeli
group is "far broader" than the American Jewish community.

There is a second problem with Chomsky's argument. Implicitly, he assumes
that the different pro-Israeli groups have existed, acted and evolved
independently of each other; alternatively, the impact of the lobbying
efforts of these groups is merely additive. This ignores the galvanizing
role that Jewish organizations have played in mobilizing Gentile opinion
behind the Zionist project. The activism of the American Jews - as
individuals and groups - has operated at several levels. Certainly, the
leaders of the Zionist movement have directed a large part of their
energies to lobbying at the highest levels of official decision-making. At
the same time, they have created, and they orchestrate, a layered network
of Zionist organizations who have worked very hard to create support for
their aims in the broader American civil society.

American Jews have worked through several channels to influence civil
society. As growing numbers of American Jews embraced Zionist goals during
the 1940s, as their commitment to Zionism deepened, this forced the
largest Jewish organizations to embrace Zionist goals. In addition, since
their earliest days, the Zionists have created the organizations, allies,
networks and ideas that would translate into media, congressional and
presidential support for the Zionist project. In addition, since Jewish
Americans made up a growing fraction of the activists and leaders in
various branches of civil society - the labor, civil rights and feminist
movements - it was natural that the major organs of civil society came to
embrace Zionist aims. It makes little sense, then, to maintain that the
pro-Israeli positions of mainstream American organizations had emerged
independently of the activism of the American Jewish community.

Does our contention fail in the case of the Christian Evangelicals because
of the absence of Jews in their ranks? In this case, the movement has
received the strongest impetus from the in-gathering of Jews that has
proceeded in Israel since the late nineteenth century. The
dispensationalist stream within Protestant Christians in the United States
- who believe that the in-gathering of Jews in Israel will precede the
Second Coming - has been energized by every Zionist success on the ground.
They have viewed these successes - the launching of Zionism, the Balfour
Declaration, the creation of Israel, the capture of Jerusalem, "Judea" and
"Samaria" in 1967 - as so many confirmations of their dispensationalist
eschatology. The movement expanded with every Zionist victory. At the same
time, it would be utterly naive to rule out direct relations between the
Zionists and the leaders of the evangelical movement. The Zionists have
rarely shrunk from accepting support even when it has come from groups
with unedifying beliefs.

Noam Chomsky raises a second objection against the ability of the Jewish
lobby to influence policy on its own steam. "No pressure group," he
maintains, "will dominate access to public opinion or maintain consistent
influence over policy-making unless its aims are close to those of elite
elements with real power [emphases added]".5 One problem with this
argument is easily stated. It pits the Jewish lobby as one "pressure
group" -. amongst many - arrayed against all the others that hold the real
power. This equation of the Jewish lobby with a narrowly defined "pressure
group" is misleading. We have argued - a position that is well supported
by the evidence - that Jewish protagonists of Zionism have worked through
many different channels to influence public opinion, the composition of
political classes, and political decisions. They work through the organs
that shape public opinion to determine what Americans know about Israel,
how they think about Israel, and what they can say about it. This is no
little Cuban lobby, Polish lobby or Korean lobby. Once we recognize the
scale of financial resources the Jewish lobby commands, the array of
political forces it can mobilize, and the tools it commands to direct
public opinion on the Middle East, we would shrink from calling it a

Chomsky quickly proceeds to undermine his own argument about "elite
elements with real power". He explains that the "[elite] elements are not
uniform in interests or (in the case of shared interests) in tactical
judgments; and on some issues, such as this one [policy towards Israel],
they have often been divided".6 Yet, despite the differences in their
interests, their tactics, and their divisions, Chomsky maintains that
these "elite elements" have "real power". Oddly, these "divided" elites -
whoever they are - exercise the power of veto over the multi-faceted
Jewish lobby with its deep pockets, hierarchical organizations, and
influence over key organs of civil society, campaign contributions,
popular votes, etc.

Chomsky's argument shifts again - a second time in the same paragraph -
away from "elite elements" to "America's changing conceptions of its
political-strategic interests" in the Middle East.6 This suggests a new
theory of the chief determinant of US policy towards Israel. At the heart
of these "political-strategic interests" is the oil wealth of the Middle
East - and the twin threats to American control over this oil wealth from
Arab nationalists and the Soviets. Presumably, Israel protects these
"political-strategic interests" by holding the Arabs and the Soviets at
bay. Chomsky conveniently forgets that the Arab nationalist threat to US
interests in the Middle East was - in large part - the product of Israel's
insertion into the region, its ethnic cleansing of Palestinians, and its
aggressive posture towards Arabs since its creation. It is unnecessary to
account for the Soviet threat, since they entered the region on the back
of Arab nationalist discontent. Indeed, had Israel never been created, it
is more than likely that all the states in the Middle East - just like
Turkey and Pakistan - would have remained firmly within the Western sphere
of influence.

In another attempt to convince his readers that oil has driven US policy
towards the Middle East, Chomsky claims that the United States was
"committed to win and keep this prize [Saudi oil]". Presumably, the United
States could not keep this "prize" without help from Israel.

This argument fails because it ignores history. Starting in 1933, American
oil corporations - who later merged to form Aramco - gained exclusive
rights to explore, produce and market Saudi oil. Saudi Arabia first
acquired a 25 percent ownership stake in Aramco in 1973. Had there emerged
an Arab nationalist threat to US control over Saudi oil in the 1950s - in
the absence of Israel - the United States could have handled it by
establishing one or more military bases in Saudi Arabia or, preferably, in
one of the Emirates, since American military presence in Saudi Arabia
might inflame Islamic sentiments. Far from helping entrench American
control of Saudi oil, Israel, by radicalizing Arab nationalism, gave Saudi
Arabia the excuse to first gain a 25 percent stake in Aramco and then
nationalize it in 1988.

Chomsky claims that the United States was committed to winning and keeping
the "stupendous" oil prize. This claim is not supported by the results
that America's Middle Eastern policy has produced on the ground over the
years. If the United States was indeed committed to this goal, it would
have pursued a Middle East policy that could be expected to maximize -
with the lowest risks of failure - the access of US oil corporations to
exploration, production and distribution rights over oil in this region.
This is not the case.

In creating, aiding and arming Israel, the United States has followed a
policy that could easily have been foreseen to produce, as it did produce,
exactly the opposite effects. It gave a boost to Arab nationalism,
radicalized it, and led within a few years to the Arab nationalist
takeover of three of the four key states in the Arab world. In turn, this
contributed to the nationalization of oil wealth even in those Arab
countries that remained clients of the United States, not to speak of
countries that were taken over by Arab nationalists, who excluded the US
oil corporations from this industry altogether. In addition, America's
Middle Eastern policy converted the Middle East into a leading arena of
wars. It also became a source of deep tensions between the US and the
Soviets, since US partisanship of Israel forced the Arab nationalist
regimes to ally themselves with the Soviet Union. In the October War of
1973, the United States provoked the Arab nations - because of its
decision to re-supply the Israeli army during the war - to impose a costly
oil embargo against the United States. In opposition to the pleadings of
its oil corporations, the United States has also prevented them from doing
business with three oil-producing nations in the Middle East - Iran, Iraq
and Libya.7

If oil had been driving America's Middle East policy, we should have seen
the fingerprints of the oil lobby all over this policy. In recent decades,
according to Mearsheimer and Walt, the oil lobby has directed its efforts
"almost entirely on their commercial interests rather than on broader
aspects of foreign policy". They focus most of their lobbying efforts on
getting the best deals on tax policies, government regulations, drilling
rights, etc. Even the AIPAC bears witness to this. In the early 1980s,
Morris J. Amitay, former executive director of AIPAC, noted, "We rarely
see them [oil corporations] lobbying on foreign policy issues. In a sense,
we have the field to ourselves".8

Why does it matter whether it is oil or the Jewish lobby that determines
US policy towards Israel and the Middle East?

The answer to this question has important consequences. It will determine
who is in charge, and, therefore, who should be targeted by people who
oppose Israel's war mongering and its destruction of Palestinian society.
If US policy is driven by America's strategic interests - and Israel is a
strategic US asset - opposing this policy will not be easy. If Israel
keeps the oil flowing, keeps it cheap, and keeps down the Arabs and
Islamists - all this for a few billion dollars a year - that is a bargain.
In this case, opponents of this policy face an uphill task. Sure, they can
document the immoral consequences of this policy - as Noam Chomsky and
others do. Such moral arguments, however, will not cut much ice. What are
the chances that Americans can be persuaded to sacrifice their "stupendous
prize" because it kills a few tens of thousands of Arabs?

On the other hand, if the Jewish lobby drives US policy towards the Middle
East, there is some room for optimism. Most importantly, the opponents of
this policy have to dethrone the reigning paradigm, which claims that
Israel is a strategic asset. In addition, it is necessary to focus
attention on each element of the real costs - economic, political and
moral - that Israel imposes on the United States. Winning these
intellectual arguments will be half the battle won; this will persuade
growing numbers of Americans to oppose a policy because it hurts them.
Simultaneously, those who seek justice for the Palestinians must organize
to oppose the power of the Israel lobby and take actions that force Israel
to bear the moral, economic and political consequences of its destructive
policies in the Middle East.

1 .Virtually every professional in the foreign affairs bureaucracy,
including the secretaries of state and war (later, defense) and the joint
chiefs of staff, opposed the creation of Israel from the standpoint of US
national interests (Rubenberg: 1986, 9-10).. [.]

2 For criticisms of Chomsky, see James Petras, The Power of Israel in the
United States (Atlanta: Clarity Press, 2006): 168-81; and Jeff Blankfort,
.Damage control: Noam Chomsky and the Israeli-Palestine conflict.. [.]

3  This assessment comes from a 1945 report of the State Department
1999, 17). [.]

4 Noam Chomsky, Fateful Triangle: 13. [.]

5 Noam Chomsky, Fateful triangle: 17. [.]

6 Noam Chomsky, Fateful Triangle: 17. [.] [.]

7 Mearsheimer and Walt, The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy (Farrar,
Straus and Giroux, 2006): 143. [.]

8 Mearsheimer and Walt, The Israel Lobby: 145. [.]

M. Shahid Alam is professor of economics at Northeastern University. He is
author of Challenging the New Orientalism (2007). He may be contacted at:
alqalam02760 [at] Copyright  2007 M. Shahid Alam.


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