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Thu Dec 15, 2011 at 08:58 AM PST

Facts About Iran

by Deena Stryker

As warnings about the 'threat from Iran' weave in and out of the main story on American TV, which is the Republican problem of who to run against Obama, I receive this from Neill LeRoux, on my Facebook page:

“Besides the RQ 170, Iran has two other US Spy Drones in its possession as well as 4 Israeli Spy Drones… thats quite some collection.

Its also an indication of just how aggressively the US and Israel have been spying on Iran.

Iran complies with all inspection demands made on her by the nuclear inspection body. On average there are 2.5 inspections carried out each and every day.
The greatest threat posed by Iran to Israel and the US is not nuclear… its economic.

Iran has an advanced defence industry. It manufactures most of its own missile systems. It even exports weapons. Its Electronics industry is equally advanced producing its own semi-conductors and components needed for computers, communications etc. It is the worlds fourth largest oil producer and OPEC’s second. It possesses competent and accomplished ship-repair and ship building facilities. It is earmarked to become Asia’s largest auto manufacturer in the near future.

One should never lose sight of the fact that it is largely self sufficient and possesses vast resources. It is also friends with both Russia and China. It also doesn’t waste money attacking other countries all the time…”

The story of its weapons drive is a hoax.


Tue Dec 13, 2011 at 07:41 AM PST

The Gingrich/Huntsman Debate

by Deena Stryker

There’s something that has escaped me regarding the Republican presidential debates: perhaps they are carried routinely by Fox, but none of the other channels mention when and where they can be heard.

This was doubly irritating yesterday when I really wanted to listen to the Huntsman/Gingrich debate.  I started consulting my TV Guide around 5 p.m. concentrating on the 8 pm hour.  Nothing.

Finally I went to Huntsman’s website and saw that the debate had been held at 4 pm and that it would be viewable on C-Span at 8 pm.  But C-Span was showing hour-long House speeches til well after ten.  Finally, on the C-Span website, I was able to hear the debate.

Huntsman’s responses were much more structured, reflecting real knowledge, as opposed to Gingrich, who always seemed to be improvising generalities.  The most important things Huntsman said concerned our relationship with China. Although I don’t think we should elect someone president just because they’ve been Ambassador to the Middle Kingdom, Huntsman’s views are significantly more evolved than those of Obama. At a time when China is our main competitor economically and ecologically, the President has adopted a nineteenth century policy, consisting of beefing up our presence in China’s neighborhood.  (This reminds us of our efforts to install missile defenses to ‘protect Europe’, close to a justifiably wary Russia.) Huntsman’s most salient comment was: “We’re good at tactical thinking, but China is the best long-term strategic thinker.”

Naively, I thought the debate would be all over the morning news.  Chuck Todd’s team were only concerned with the Romney/Gingrich battle.

Maybe tonight we’ll hear about Gingrich and Huntsman, who could almost have been a stand-in for the former Obama, were it not for his insistence that Medicare should be on the table. I don’t know whether he packed the hall, but the applause when he walked out on the stage was twice the volume of that reserved for Newt.
In an article for the Wall Street Journal on December 10th /, Peggy Noonan says that Gingrich “ described himself as "definer of civilization . . . leader (possibly) of the civilizing forces,."  She added: “He is a human hand grenade who walks around with his hand on the pin, saying, "Watch this!"

Just what we need in the China Sea.


Mon Dec 12, 2011 at 08:34 AM PST

Russians Join the Movement

by Deena Stryker

A week of massive demonstrations protesting rigged parliamentary elections failed to suggest to any journalist I heard or read that Vladimir Putin’s hold on Russia may be weakening. Finally, the BBC dares to speculate that he may not be elected President next spring.

How could anyone have thought Russian politics would continue as usual when that usually docile population is out in the streets by the thousands every day, risking police brutality?

The man Putin put in his place when his first two terms as president ran out, Dmitry Medvedev, has ordered an inquiry.  However much he may have ruled in Putin’s shadow, Medvedev is as different from his mentor as could be. Born into a family of academics, Medvedev taught law at St. Petersburg University before becoming involved in politics.  I happen to have attended a small conference in Strasbourg in which a young man from St Petersburg who was working closely with the innovative mayor, Anatoly Sobchak was remarked for his shyness.

The next few months are likely to see a battle for power between the academic and the KGB head. Most of that battle will not be in the news, especially in the United States. Yet it will be a pendant to the American Presidential election, which will also pit a law professor against, probably, a hawk, at a time when the 99% are coalescing around the world.


Sun Dec 11, 2011 at 10:14 AM PST

Huntsman, Again

by Deena Stryker

On May 21 I published a blog titled  ‘My Bet is On Huntsman’:

“On February 19th, 2007, I wrote in this space that ‘Obama would ‘continue a graceful yet powerful surge to the White House’.

Today I predict that barring an Act of God, John Huntsman, the only candidate that Obama rightly fears, will represent the Republican party in the 2012 presidential election.

Huntsman made his debut on mainstream TV yesterday from a New Hampshire living room, chatting with John King.  It was a relaxed, yet extensive introduction to the man who until a month ago was President Obama’s Ambassador to China.
Last night on Rachel Maddow’s show this ‘also Mormon’ ex-governor of Utah got plaudits from the progressive Democratic ex-mayor of Salt Lake City, Rocky Anderson......A Huntsman/Obama debate, more than any other today conceivable, will be worth watching.

The only opposition candidate who is an intellectual match for Obama, Huntsman will appeal to those who have given up on the President’s ability to bring change, hoping that this sophisticated Republican will tame his greedy fellows.
Unless the Chinese disavow him, his insider’s view of the country that is overtaking us will be valuable to the business community. Yet he is perfectly credible in shirt-sleeves.

Huntsman will be dubbed a ‘Rockefeller Republican’ by the pundits. A Nation reader wrote this week that Republicans used to believe in government, convinced they could manage it better than Democrats. The 2012 election will not be over who can manage government better, but how much of it there should be.  And Huntsman will argue that there is too much of it in China.”

On June 5th I wrote “The Unwrapping of Huntsman”, and on August 23, in a show of great creativity, I followed with “The Unveiling of Huntsman”:

"The face to face with Piers Morgan ”revealed him to be a white version of Obama, matching him in intelligence and balance, yet jocular where Obama is pondered, feisty compared to no-drama-Obama.

I’d wager that the Republican grownups are a little less distraught, while Obama must be wondering whether it was clever of him to send Huntsman to China - no wild goose chase, it turns out.”

Today I’m wondering whether Huntsman has been kept in the shadows, interviewed once in a while by a major news personality - today, by Christiane Amanpour - by Republican Party design, or a semi-conscious awareness that every other candidate was a loser?  Even at this late date, I would not rule out an upset.

Tomorrow Huntsman will engage in a ‘Lincoln-Douglas’ type of debate, intended to allow for extended answers, with frontrunner Newt Gingrich.  The famous Lincoln/Douglas debate is described at length and compared to contemporary debates at

Huntsman says he has managed to climb above 5% in New Hampshire, which will hold the first primary election of the 2012 Presidential campaign on January 10th.
As an early and consistent Obama supporter, I can think of several reasons why the President has not been able to carry out his promise of change. Though I cannot imagine voting for a Republican, at this axial moment in world history, it may be that he could achieve with a Republican Congress what Nixon achieved by reinstating relations with China, which Democratic Presidents had not dared to do.

On the other hand, I do not really believe that any country will be conducting business as usual, two years after the Arab Spring, already a worldwide revolt of the few against the many.


Every morning when I wake up and turn on the TV while making breakfast, I have the same reaction: why is the news all about which presidential candidate said or did what,  and what are his chances of being the candidate to face Obama, and what does so and so think about it, and what is the White House doing about it?

Finally, this morning I got one of those alpha moments as I was waking up: we’re witnessing the political harnessing of the three ring circus!

If I remember correctly, in your standard circus, there is usually one ring where the main attractions are featured, while the other two are there to fill the space. (My readers, ever ready to pounce on the slightest erroneous detail, will forgive me if my circus facts are totally wrong: I’m taking ‘poetic license’ today, for the cause.)
With respect to the news, what we have is a very good imitation of a three ring circus: Keep the audience’s attention focused on the main ring, no matter what happens in the other two.

In the two side rings, the Climate Conference in Durban (South Africa) gears up, even as BP lures winter vacationers to the Gulf Coast which it trashed a few years ago; Iranian students sack the British Embassy in Teheran; NATO quibbles with Pakistan over whose first shot resulted in 24 Pakistani military deaths; Russia approves the Arab Leagues sanctions against Syria, and Northern Israel is shelled from Lebanon.
I’m reminded that in recent days someone, I think it was Chris Matthews, replayed a 2007 Democracy Now interview of  retired General Wesley Clarke in which he describes how, ten days after 9/11, a Pentagon officer informed him of plans to achieve regime change in no fewer than seven Middle Eastern countries.

Yet in the main circus ring, the news is all about Herman Cain’s love life.


Mon Nov 28, 2011 at 06:48 AM PST

Occupation or Revolution?

by Deena Stryker

Here is a recent quote from the Occupy movement:

“The Occupy movement is born of the simple belief that humanity could meet our common needs if not for the predation and greed of the very few.”

That is a left-wing credo no matter how you slice it.  

Now two quotes from Ted Rall’s new book, not very cleverly titled The Anti-American Manifesto:

“The story of the United States of America as we know it - not merely as the world’s dominant superpower, but as a discrete political, economic, and geographic entity - is drawing to a close, due to a convergence of emerging economic, environmental and political crises ...Nothing lasts forever, empires least of all. There’s going to be an intense, violent, probably haphazard struggle for control.  It’s going to come down to us versus them.”

As the Occupy movement continues to spread throughout the country, pundits continue to ask when it will make specific demands, or put forth a program. If Ted Rall is right, the situation is beyond repair by demands, or even a change of program. If the Occupy movement decides to get behind any presidential candidate, the logical choice would be Green Party candidate, Jill Stein. But there is a consensus among Occupiers and others that elections will be useless, at least until the Constitution is amended (for which there is a call:

The independent third party that does not want to be a party, Americans Elect apparently thinks the right person in the White House will solve all our problems. It has adopted the method used in Iceland to nominate and vote for candidates on-line. But that does not make it a left-wing operation. Its CEO, Elliot Ackerman admits: “A lot of the folks that engage with us are socially liberal and fiscally conservative.”  In a word, libertarians.

Honor goes to the Occupy movement for being peaceable, while groups that are likely to be attracted to Americans Elect have been practicing military skills for years in the woods. As Occupiers take pepper spray and tear gas sitting down, a tight-knit right-wing/libertarian community flocks to gun shows and exchanges ideas for taking on the government.

Personally, I agree with Rall that violence is inevitable: his historical and political ducks are lined up perfectly. But he contradicts himself when he suggests toward the end of his book that the enemies of our enemies should be our friends, and therefore that the left should enter into a temporary alliance with the right that knows how to shoot.
In defense of this idea he refers to the French partisan groups that helped end the Nazi occupation of their country.  Some were Catholic and right-wing, others were Catholic and left-wing, still others were Communists or Socialists. They cooperated to oust the Germans, knowing they would thrash out their differences afterward. Like other European countries, the French are still doing that, which is why they have been governed alternately by the left and the right, with the social benefits gained by a powerful left never in question.

Alas, we are not a European country benefitting from a socialist tradition that has endured since the French Revolution.  As Rall points out, the statement in the 1776 Declaration of Independence giving us the right, and even the duty, to overthrow an unsatisfactory government, was quickly counter-manded by the four Aliens and Seditions Acts, that authorized deportation of anyone advocating the overthrow of the government, forever linking foreigners with sedition.  Our government by and for the people lasted only twenty-two years, the last act being passed by 1798.

Dylan Ratigan interviewed Rall on November 9th,, with his friendly way of navigating the unimaginable. The negative comments to the transcript were all from the woodsmen. Neither the Occupiers nor the left’s high priests had anything to say.

Yet Rall’s book draws a blueprint for action: the formation by anyone and everyone of small action cells consisting of people that can fully trust each other. As India’s Adivasi discovered when they refused to leave their mineral rich forest, confrontation with a well-funded, trained military, non-violence rarely works. The Adivasi need the support of the Maoists to stay in their homes.


Mon Nov 21, 2011 at 08:48 AM PST

Syria and Other Back Stories

by Deena Stryker

    As Syria spirals toward civil war, key background information is absent from the news:

    Syria is the last of the countries known in the Arab world as the front-line states. The long presence/influence in the Eastern Mediterranean of France, which continued to be an emblem of revolution even in the countries it colonized, probably contributed to Syria’s espousal of Baathism, an Islamic version of socialism, its close ties with an Iranian regime born of revolution, and its hardline stance vis a vis America’s protege, Israel.

    Jordan has been a firm ally since 1994. But the Egyptian revolution showed that rank and file Egyptians do not support their country’s 1972 peace accord with Israel. The main point of dissension with Syria is a 700 square mile rocky plateau known as the Golan Heights which divides northern Israel from southern Syria. As the Syrian people follow in the footsteps of Tunisia, Egypt and Libya, revolting against their President, Syria risks becoming more of a potential threat to Israel than it has been under Bashar el-Assad, a consummate politician.

    Aside from Israel’s present military advantage of owning a big hill overlooking its neighbors territory, its eventual withdrawal to the pre-1967 border would give Syria control of the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee, Israel’s main source of fresh water. That is why America is acting behind the scenes to achieve Syria’s ouster from the Arab League, and some in Congress are calling for an intervention modeled on that in Libya.

    Some readers have criticized what I call my ‘kitchen sink’ approach to politics.  In fact, it is a deliberate effort to familiarize them with systems thinking, in which the whole is more than the sum of its parts. In the present case, other back stories are necessary to complete the Syria/Israel close-up.

    Many Americans see the continuities between Bush and Obama (alas), but are unaware of other, similar phenomena in other countries. For example, Communist Soviet Union policies continue in Cossack Capitalist Russia. To understand why Russia, like the Soviet Union, supports Baathist Syria, opposing Arab League sanctions, or why it defends Iran’s nuclear program, we need to know that five hundred years of Mongol rule constituted a primitive form of communism in which all land belonged to the state, and princes were merely its caretakers.  (See ‘The Russian Tradition’ by Tibor Szamuely.)

    China too has a long ‘socialist’ ethos, which in turn harks back to Confucian bureaucracy and Taoism’s recommendation that rulers be reasonable. In a contradiction that is only a surface phenomenon, China continues to support left-wing regimes, such as Cuba and Brazil, Iran and Syria. Unlike the United States, China is not proud to be one of the biggest polluters of the atmosphere, and even as it tries to pull millions into the ‘middle class’, it realizes the need for worldwide cooperation against climate change.

     In America, the notion of ‘fair play’ still implies that ‘the best man wins’, ruling out compassion for the underdog. Since we defeated the Indians, we have gone from one conquest to another, either by force or intimidation. The handy term ‘populism’ has blurred the difference between capitalism and socialism.

    We continue to back Israeli politicians who cling to the back story of invincibility even as neighboring peoples come closer to imposing a settlement with the Palestinians. And like the Israelis, we believe our big boot tradition can crush the wave of revolt that is sweeping the world. Intended as a warning to China, President Obama announced an increased U.S. presence in the Far East. But as with the situation of Israel, this strategic decision comes across as the pouting of a child whose toys are being taken away, one by one.


I was just formulating a comment to the raid on the Oakland protesters, helicopters and all, when a raid on Zucotti park in New York was reported.

Few readers may remember that in 2002, President Bush quashed a proposal by Vice President Cheney to use U.S. troops to arrest the Lackawanna Six, accused of being terrorists.

Now, the Fourth Amendment bans “unreasonable” searches and seizures without probable cause. And the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878 generally prohibits the military from acting in a law enforcement capacity.

In the Lackawanna discussions, the Cheney camp cited an Oct. 23, 2001 memorandum from the Justice Department affirming that domestic use of the military against Al Qaeda would be legal because it served a national security rather than a law enforcement purpose.

The memorandum, declassified in March, was written by John Yoo and Robert Delahunty in response to a question by then White House counsel Alberto Gonzales about the president’s authority to use the military to combat terrorist activities in the United States, was.  It affirmed that:  “The president has ample constitutional and statutory authority to deploy the military against international or foreign terrorists operating within the United States.”.

News reports of the Oakland evacuation signal police helicopters flying overhead as police moved in to evacuate the protest site.

You don’t have to be paranoid to imagine the day when U.S. army helicopters will be called in to quell riots set off by bank closings, layoffs or unmanageable weather events.  It’s already happening in what is called ‘the biggest democracy in the world’.

The Indian writer Arundati Roy, appeared yesterday on Democracy Now. According to Wikipedia, India is characterized as a ‘sovereign socialist secular democratic republic”, and its ruling party, the INC, is described as ‘center left’.  But those labels have not protected it from the ravages of the world financial system.

Roy’s soft voice is the first one I hear lamenting that other countries aspire to the American model. (It didn’t just happen to India, but to Iceland and most of Europe, and their peoples know the Euro crisis stems from that fatal attraction.)

In 2005 the Indian government signed Memorandums of Understanding to allow international mining companies to harvest the minerals from the country’s Central Forest. Then it set up Operation Green Hunt, in which two hundred thousand heavily armed troops pushed 350 thousand Adivasi (traditional forest dwellers) out of 600 villages, forcing them into camps.

In her new book, "Walking with the Comrades," Arundati Roy describes her time among the Adivasi, who are supported by Maoist guerillas, each group borrowing from the other. For Roy, the forest in Central India and New York’s Zucotti Park “in the heart of Empire”, are connected, and OW needs to formulate “some kind of vision to replace this particular model in which a small group of people have unlimited power and wealth.”  

In order for social democratic governments around the world to be spared the siren calls of Wall Street, America must work its way to a social democratic system, the only one that can meet the just demands of the 99%. Failing that, there will eventually be Maoists in the Central Plains, and army helicopters over our cities, to rein in domestic 'terrorists'.


         Ever since reading his book ‘Washington Rules’ I have admired Andrew Bacevich. Today he publishes in Tom Dispatch and Alternet a piece that establishes new rules for American political commentators. They need no longer sidestep the real issue: that of ideology.
         Bacevich’s main points are:
    - “Ours has long been a political system based on expectations of ever-increasing material abundance, promising more for everyone. Confronted with evidence of a radically changing environment, those holding (or aspiring to) positions of influence simply turn a blind eye, refusing even to begin to adjust to a new reality.    
    - “We can neither liberate nor dominate nor tame the Islamic world.
US policy in the Middle East has been “to keep a lid on, exclude mischief-makers, and at the same time extract from the Middle East whatever it had on offer.  The preferred American MO was to align with authoritarian regimes, offering arms, security guarantees, and other blandishments in return for promises of behavior consistent with Washington’s preferences.  Concern for the wellbeing of peoples living in the region (Israelis excepted) never figured as more than an afterthought. 
    Taking Bacevich’s arguments one step further, in a Nation piece on the Occupy Movement: The International Battlefield, from Athens to Oakland”, Alexander Cockburn dares to quote Lenin: “There is never a final collapse of capitalism unless there is an alternative.”
        Many will be quick to assume that Cockburn is siding with his fence-sitting colleagues.  In fact, instead of focusing on its lack of specific demands, he writes: “The strength of the occupy movement lies in the simplicity and truth of its basic message: the few are rich the many are poor.  In terms of its pretensions, the capitalist system has failed.”
        Now that two prominent writers have confirmed the conclusions of lesser contributors to the debate, hopefully the worldwide movement of the many can achieve what Lenin’s call: ‘Workers of the world, unite!’ could not: the end of a system that he observed in its childhood, before Freud, Jung, Maslow, Eric Berne and insider trading.


The Cuban Missile Crisis will go down in history as the time when the Third World War was almost started.  It happened in October, 1962.  President John F. Kennedy feared that Nikita Khruschev had placed Soviet missiles in Cuba to threaten the U.S.  After days of a tense stand-off, the missiles were removed, essentially putting paid to the claim that Cuba constituted a threat to the U.S.

In 1991, with the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the Russian Bear exited the island that stands ninety miles off the tip of Florida.

Now, fifty years later, we learn from today’s report,, that the Chinese Dragon had been ramping up its presence in Cuba for several years. Five hundred Cuban students are now learning Mandarin at the Confucius Institute of the University of Havana.

China is Cuba’s second largest trading partner after Venezuela, and is participating in preparations to exploit Cuba’s off-shore oil fields.

Whether it fears the bear or the dragon, the eagle has been shooting itself in the foot for more than half a century.


I don’t know if it’s still being taught in K-12, but I learned that ancient Greece was the cradle of Western Civilization - you know, the Parthenon, the original Democracy 101.

The Golden Age of Greek culture, known as Classical Greece, occured five hundred years before the birth of Christ.  The death of Alexander the Great in 323 BC marked the beginning of the Hellenistic period, which ended with the annexation of Greece by Rome in 146 BC.  

Greek culture conquered Rome, but the importance of "Greece proper" (that is, the territory of modern Greece) declined sharply. The great centers of Hellenistic culture were now Alexandria and Antioch, capitals of Ptolemaic Egypt and Seleucid Syria, their influence reaching as far as Afghanistan until the advent of Christianity

Roman rule marked the end of Greek political independence for centuries. After that came the Greek Byzantine Empire, which in turn was conquered by the Ottoman Turks whose rule lasted to the early nineteenth century. (Turkey ruled over all of Eastern Europe for 500 years, creating the economic lag that many in the West thought was the result of Postwar Soviet rule.)  

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On October 27th a grand conference was held in Reykjavik complete with representatives of the IMF, the government and the financial sector, to congratulate themselves on the deeds that squelched Iceland’s revolution.
Here is the text of a letter signed by twenty-two activists from all walks of life on behalf of the general public and sent to the foreign participants before the conference, to point out the discrepancies between the government’s claims and reality.  They also lit red warning flares in front of the building where the conference was to take place.

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