Pacific Free Press


  • Written by Mickey Z

Conspicuous consumption comes out of the closet

by Mickey Z.

My wife and I moved into a new apartment earlier this year. Just a few blocks from our old place, it's been a major quality of life improvement in almost every possible way. One unexpected adjustment, however, was closet space. This moderately sized one-bedroom apartment has only two narrow closets. (You couldn't fit a scandalous skeleton in them if you tried.) Keeping in mind that the building is more than 78 years old, how might we explain this egregious "oversight"?

a) The architects were idiots

b) The architects callously cut corners

c) Americans had far less "stuff" in 1928

d) All of the above

Accepting as a given that all humans are idiots that callously cut corners, the can't-miss answer is, of course, D. However, in this particular case, I believe C is far more accurate. In fact, I'll bet the original tenants here considered themselves mighty lucky to even have two closets. They may have believed that whatever didn't fit inside was superfluous. Imagine that: A two-closet existence.

Long before shopping became hard-wired into human biology, Voltaire said,

"When it's a question of money, everybody is of the same religion."
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  • Written by Robert Jensen

Last Sunday: Digging in and digging deep

by Robert Jensen

[Remarks to the first in a series of “Last Sunday” community gatherings in Austin, TX, November 26, 2006.]

We billed Last Sunday as a place for people to come together to explore the intersections of the political, artistic, and spiritual. The idea came out of conversations among friends: Eliza Gilkyson, a singer/songwriter with interests in politics and spirituality; Jim Rigby, a minister who has a knack for stirring up trouble, theologically and politically; and me, a professor involved in a variety of political groups.

There are lots of organizations and movements taking up issues that we care about. Last Sunday was designed not to compete with those, but to create a different kind of space, where people could bring all aspects of themselves for conversation and connection. The name plays off the “First Thursday” tradition on South Congress Avenue, with perhaps an invocation of the Last Supper for some, though I want to be clear that none of us has any messianic inclinations.

We hope people will not only listen to what comes from the stage, but connect with friends and allies in the hall. We hope that existing progressive projects will be strengthened and that new ideas will emerge from those conversations.

So, there’s no hidden agenda tonight. We’re not recruiting or selling anything. Like so many, we’re just hungry for that conversation, that connection, that sense of community.

Okay, but what is Last Sunday really about?
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  • Written by Mike Whitney

The "Gaza-Solution" and the Ongoing War on Islam

by Mike Whitney

“People do not forget. They do not forget the death of their fellows, they do not forget torture and mutilation, they do not forget injustice, they do not forget oppression, they do not forget the terrorism of mighty powers. They not only don’t forget; they also strike back.”

Harold Pinter, Nobel Laureate

The central tenet of American foreign policy hasn’t changed since the early 1980s when Secretary of State Henry Kissinger summarized our involvement in the Iraq-Iraq War saying, “I hope they kill each other.” Kissinger’s dictum reveals the basic racial and religious odium which animates the current policy and has become the organizing principle for maintaining the global empire.

Now that the Muslim world has been systematically ravaged from the southern-most part Gaza to the northern tip of Afghanistan, we can see that the application of the Kissinger Doctrine is an effective method for decimating societies where coveted resources are located.

By all accounts, it’s been a huge success.

The policy seems to be working best in Iraq, where provocative counterinsurgency operations have incited a massive sectarian war. The conflict produces an ever-increasing number of civilian casualties many of whom have been killed by other Iraqis. No doubt Kissinger is gratified that his theory is working out so splendidly.

The western media portrays the disaster in Iraq as the natural upshot of years of repression under the former dictator, Saddam Hussein. But, Saddam had nothing to do with the violence which is ripping Baghdad apart. That’s just a way of pacifying the American public so they can go on their Christmas buying-spree without pangs of remorse. In fact Saddam is no different than America’s other tyrant-friends in Saudi Arabia, Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan. He simply stood in the way of Big Oil’s dream of direct control of Iraq’s resources and created a likely rival for “good friend” Israel.
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  • Written by James Kunstler

The American Fiasco - a Moment of Clarity

by James Kunstler

Last week, I had one of those clarifying moments when the enormity of the American fiasco stirred my livers and lights again. I was riding in a car at sundown between St. Cloud and Minneapolis on I-94 through a fifty-mile-plus corridor of bargain shopping infrastructure on each side of the highway. The largest automobile dealerships I have ever seen lay across the edge of the prairie like so many UFO landing strips, with eerie forests of sodium-vapor lamps shining down on the inventory. The brightly colored signs of the national chain fried food parlors vied for supremacy of the horizon with the big box logos. The opposite lane was a blinding river of light as the cars plied north from the Twin Cities to these distant suburbs in the pre-Thanksgiving rush hour.

All that tragic stuff deployed out on the prairie was but the visible part of the storm now being perfected for us. On the radio, Iraq was coming completely apart and with it the illusion of America being able to control a larger set of global events -- with dire implications for all glowing plastic crap along the interstates, and the real-live people behind the headlights in those rivers of cars.

The main fresh impression I had amidst all this is how over it is. The glowing smear of auto-oriented commerce along I-94 (visible from space, no doubt) had the look of being finished twenty minutes ago. Beyond the glowing logos lay the brand new residential subdivisions full of houses that now may never be sold, put up by a home-building industry in such awful trouble that it may soon cease to exist. If suburbia was the Great Work of the American ethos, then our work is done. We perfected it, we completed it, and, like a brand new car five minutes after delivery, it has already lost much of its value. Add a comment

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Women and Children First: The Lessons of Iraq

Women, kids, old, sick most at risk in Iraq, says Reuters. To which we say: Ho-hum.  Old news. We've killed hundreds of thousands of these weaklings already, been killing them for years, with sanctions, bombs, snipers, chaos, deprivation, whatever. Who cares? You know what's really important? If Jim Baker can "seal his legacy in the realm of statesmen" by spraying enough perfume on the shitheap that Junior Bush has made of Iraq so that the high and mighty of the American Establishment can slither out of the mire without smelling too bad.

That's what it's all about, baby, that's the kind of thing that counts. How a lifelong, bloodstained bagman can become a "second Disraeli." How Hillary and Obama can nuance their positions to squeeze maximum political mileage out of the American-made mass slaughter in Iraq. How many he-man poses John McCain can strike on his knees as he grovels to the slavering extremists he thinks will make him president.


That's where the focus of our political discourse will be from here on out. (With frequent side dishes of stern condemnation of the worthless Iraqis for "failing" us, of course.) This time next year – when U.S. forces have either high-tailed it "over the horizon" into Kuwait or else are hunkered down in the (supposedly) permanent bases from which the Bush-Cheney faction have always intended to plunder the spoils of the hydra-headed war they've engendered – the chattering classes that control the public debate will still be chewing the clot-smeared rags of the Beltway power game.


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  • Written by Tom Chartier

Have We Been Fooled Again?

By Tom Chartier

These are the days of large, desperate measures. This is the era of dictators, threats and wars. Unmodified by reasoned debate, lacking the rule of law, this is the age of the mob and demagogue.

Once respected for its freedom, justice and economic opportunity, the United States of America today is reviled for being a police state at home and a perpetrator of illegal wars of abroad.

America’s bright beacon of liberty has been extinguished by the arrogance of neoconservativism. Loathed by a world grown fearful of its motives and actions, America is a shadow of its former self.

How did this happen?  Where did we go wrong?

In a Soma-like six years, Americans have allowed men of dubious integrity to transform the U.S. into the very sort of bellicose monarchy above which this country originally was established to rise.
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  • Written by Paul William Roberts

Canada's Grand Illusion

by Paul William Roberts

"... and therefore the Egyptian law pressed this affair well, 'Let all that break their word and oaths die for it; because they are loaden with a double iniquity,... they destroy piety and reverence towards God, and faith amongst men, which is the greatest ligature of society.' And if princes do falsify their word and lie, their neighbours can have no entercourse with them but by violence and war, and their subjects none but fear and chance. For princes to lie is the greatest undecency in the world: and therefore Diodorus Siculus tells that the Egyptian princes used to wear a golden chain mixed and distinguished with curious stones, and they call it Truth; meaning that nothing was a greater ornament to a prince, nothing ought to be more sacred, or more remembered."

— Jeremy Taylor

All three levels of Canadian government – federal, provincial, and local – proved themselves on Thursday November 23 to be devoid of all substance, deceitful to the electorate and fascistic at heart, unshakably convinced that the cure for what ails society lies with the power of the state to punish those accused of crimes. Standing shoulder to shoulder, the Conservative Prime Minister, along with the Liberal Premier of Ontario and the newly re-elected and allegedly ‘Leftist’ Mayor of Toronto, shamelessly announced new legislation that will, if it is passed, effectively destroy the presumption of innocence that is a key part of the very foundation upon which the English legal system rests.

As history demonstrates repeatedly, throughout the 2500 years during which we have bothered to record it with any continuity, the public that is sufficiently frightened will grant its rulers unlimited powers in the interests of its own safety, but when these powers are abused assiduously by the state possessing them — and they always are — it is too late to regret conferring them without falling foul of the same legislation.

I have lived in Canada for the last twenty years solely because I felt it was the best place on earth to be that also had a language I spoke. I came to realize, furthermore, that Canadians in general actually were the decent, fair-minded and peaceable people they thought they were, and indeed, with their intensely multicultural cities, might one day be viewed as a prototype for global citizenry.

This may yet prove to be the case, but the evidence for it has been increasingly less convincing recently, and yesterday’s convocation of traitors to the cause of liberal democracy showed with painful clarity that Canadians need to wake up to the neo-conservative cancer that has been diligently working away for several months now at strangling the arteries feeding their country’s political and social freedoms. Add a comment

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Gorilla Radio for Monday November 27, 2006

This week on GR, What on earth are you eating? National Coordinator for the Canadian office of the Centre for Science in the Public Interest, Bill Jeffery on food labelling legislation. And; Canadian Action Party leader Connie Fogal and the impending death of Canada. And; Janine Bandcroft bringing us up to speed on some of the good things to get up to in and around Victoria this week.

Gorilla Radio for Monday November 27, 2006

C. L. Cook

PEJ News
November 27, 2006

If we are what we eat, then most Canadians have no idea of just what consistutes their...constitutions. Canada is experiencing a health crisis. Diabetes rates are skyrocketting for both types I and II; heart disease, and the myriad health complications associated with obesity are making ill and killing thousands of citizens every year, and yet the country is getting fatter by the day. And the forecast for future generations doesn't look good if current trends continue.

But how to address the issue?

Bill Jeffery is the National Coordinator for the Canadian office of the Centre for Science in the Public Interest, a non-profit health advocacy organization specializing in nutrition and food safety issues in Canada and the United States. The centre is a supporter of MP Tom Wappel's proposed Bill C-283, an act to amend food labelling laws in this country.

Bill Jeffery in the first half.

And; as 2006 winds down, it could come to be known as the last Canadian year. The 21st was touted by some, not so long ago, as Canada's century, but secret plans to subvert the nation and merge Canada, the U.S., and Mexico into a so-called North American Union may prove now to be the end of the line for this nation.

Connie Fogal is the leader of the Canadian Action Party, and constitutional law lawyer, who says “under agreements entered under the Liberal regime post 9/11 including the Smart Border Plan and the Security and Prosperity Partnership Agreement, Canada is now but a step away from surrendering national sovereignty and being subsumed into a so-called North American Union.Connie Fogal and the death of a nation in the second half.

And Janine Bandcroft will be here at the bottom of the hour to bring us up to speed with all that's good to do in and around Victoria this week. But first, Bill Jeffery and getting the goods on the food we eat.

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  • Written by Frank Pitz

American Idolized

by Frank Pitz

So, the Democrats won, Rummy quit, why am I not jumping for joy and getting out here in cyberspace with more rah, rah postings?  Perhaps a psychological impediment has grabbed hold; or could it just be plain old skepticism?   But then again, it may just be a case of the blahs, caused by the daily bombardment of “stuff.”

I’m generally “the glass is half full” kind of person, and meditate on a semi-regular basis, which tends to help through most down episodes.    But, sometimes you want to just chuck it all and scream, “stop the world, I want to get off.”   Read a piece recently on AlterNet titled “The Clownification of America” by Stephen Pizzo.  He wrapped an article around that particular quote by James Howard Kunstler.  It summed up for me-in a small way- just why I am feeling a bit of disquiet right now.

We’ve been American Idolized damn near to the point of no return.  It is, after all, Orwell personified; up to and including the ubiquitous electronic eyes and ears of Big Brother surrounding us completely.
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Green Farm Truck — “For Sale.” — Used: A running 1948 Studebaker.

by Art James

“For Sale.” The Classified Advertisement Column.

Isn’t it a sorrowful day reading the front page news? It’s also filled with absurdity for me to have decided to put-up my farm truck For Sale. About the best occupation, IMHO, is to be in the organic farm business. To be out of harmony with multi-millions of people I can’t manage to live without, (we all need to eat) joins me to them in fate and destiny to offer up for sale, my used 1948 Studebaker farm truck. Or, and I question, if trying to sell something, in a worse sense a potential vanity symbol, offering it to my fellow human kin, something, I am not supposed to get? What is the monetary worth of a running farm truck soul? I’m the worst one alive to give others financial advice. The answer is beyond my ken.

Money is not important. When we have been robbed and become broke money is very important. People have declined offers to sell the soul and have witnessed a Black Friday procession of crows’ line up to haul-off loads of material objects post-thanksgiving which will just possess and benumb them. To ask, “How to keep” things which can imperceptibly ruin ‘us’ is like buying worry-wrinkles for our forehead. Taking advice from me about financial investments and “how to keep” things is to try to learn if maybe I can sell my version of a status SUV. Who wants to gain status? A progress in life when we were born was learning to place foot in front of foot. We learned how to walk. Yet come what may, ‘we people’ all march along to finish life’s journey some way or another. In other words, as we grow with age, it’s best not to horde corn in our barn that may mildew.
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  • Written by Shahid Alam

Zionism: Pitting the West Against Islam

by M. Shahid Alam

It is tempting to celebrate the creation of Israel as a great triumph, perhaps the greatest in Jewish history. Indeed, the history of Israel has often been read as the heroic saga of a people marked for extinction, who emerged from Nazi death camps – from Auschwitz, Belzec and Treblinka – to establish their own state in 1948, a Jewish haven and a democracy that has prospered even as it has defended itself valiantly against unceasing Arab threats and aggression. Without taking away anything from the sufferings of European Jews, I will insist that this way of thinking about Israel – apart from its mythologizing – has merit only as a partisan narrative. It seeks to insulate Israel against the charge of a devastating colonization by falsifying history, by camouflaging the imperialist dynamics that brought it into existence, and denying the perilous future with which it now confronts the Jews, the West and the Islamic world.


When we examine the consequences that have flowed from the creation of Israel, when we contemplate the greater horrors that may yet flow from the logic of Zionism, Israel triumphs appear in a different light. We are forced to examine these triumphs with growing dread and incredulity. Israel’s early triumphs, though real from a narrow Zionist standpoint, have slowly mutated by a fateful process into ever-widening circles of conflict that now threaten to escalate into major wars between the West and Islam. Although this conflict has its source in colonial ambitions, the dialectics of this conflict have slowly endowed it with the force and rhetoric of a civilizational war: and perhaps worse, a religious war. This is the tragedy of Israel. It is not a fortuitous tragedy. Driven by history, chance and cunning, the Zionists wedged themselves between two historical adversaries, the West and Islam, and by harnessing the strength of the first against the second, it has produced the conditions of a conflict that has grown deeper over time. 

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  • Written by Seth Sandronsky

The Washington Post's War Against Social Security - Editorializing while reporting

By Seth Sandronsky

Lori Montgomery of the Washington Post reporter has a problem with Social Security. 

She writes:
"the rising costs of Social Security and government health-care programs by offering to open talks with no preconditions."
They are on tap as subject for debate in future talks between the GOP and Democrats in Congress.

Medicare and Medicaid are at-risk financially.  In brief, the reason for the financial fragility of Medicare and Medicaid is the affordability crisis of the U.S. health-care system.

Against this backdrop of the national health-care crisis, Social Security is the most successful insurance program going.  The key to its success is the social pooling of risk.  Social Security is not an investment. Add a comment

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  • Written by Jason Miller

Blind Obedience to the Canons of Capitalism: Sick Societies, American Dalits, a Nation of Lady Macbeths

By Jason Miller

[Author’s Note to Establish Context: I composed this on 11/24/06, the day after Thanksgiving]


“Tell me where do I belong in this sick society?

….Look at yourself instead of looking at me. With accusation in your eyes. Do you want me crucified for my profanity?

….Tell me the truth and I’ll admit to my guilt if you’ll try to understand. But is that blood that’s on your hand from your democracy?”

-Ozzy Osbourne, You’re no Different, 1983

Bow your heads and drop to your knees, brothers and sisters! Feel the power of the Holy Dollar coursing through your being as you humbly offer your prayers, exaltations and gratitude to Mighty Mammon!

Lay the perpetual argument to rest. There is no separation of church and state.

It is indisputable that the United States is one nation, under God. Our nation worships the unholy trinity of the Dollar, Acquisitiveness, and Opulence with the fanaticism of the Inquisitors.

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  • Written by Aseem Shrivastava

India on 20 cents a day - The fine print in the reporting of global poverty estimates

by Aseem Shrivastava

The World Bank — which has to be applauded for having made the first such attempt — started making international comparisons of poverty only about two decades back. For obvious reasons of convenience it developed two simple notions of poverty. The US Treasury being the power behind the institution, and the dollar being the reserve currency by design, the lower poverty line was set at $1 a day per capita. Those below it were considered to be “the poorest of the poor”. The upper poverty line was set at $2 a day. Those living on $1—2 a day were still poor, but not as badly off. The updated numbers today, corrected for inflation, are $1.08 and $2.15.

The vagaries of purchasing power (dis)parities

However, there was a problem. It was realized that $1 goes much farther in purchasing necessary items of consumption in a poor country compared to a rich one. (Moreover, exchange rates do not take into account non—traded goods.) Using prevailing exchange rates, Rs.45 can buy more in India than $1 can in America. So unless it was corrected for the lower cost of living in poor countries — enabling access to a bigger amount of real goods for the same amount of money — this measure of poverty was likely to give an overestimate of the number of poor people living in absolute poverty. To make purchasing power across countries comparable, economists developed what is known as the PPP (purchasing power parity) index. Taking into account the lower cost of living in impoverished countries, a conversion factor is now applied to market exchange rates to calculate what is minimally necessary to survive there.
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  • Written by Stephen Lendman

Hugo Chavez Holds Commanding Lead Eight Days Before Election

by Stephen Lendman

Hugo Chavez holds an insurmountable lead in two late November polls - one by Ipsos Venezuela/the AP-Ipsos Poll and the other by Zogby International-University of Miami. Both were released on November 24 and are the most current and reliable data available and are consistent with most independent poll results for months. This is in stark contrast to several fraudulent US National Endowment of Democracy (NED)-financed oligarch-run ones published to create a false perception of public sentiment in preparation for cries of fraud once the election results are in.

This is now standard US operating practice in all developing countries when Washington fears an unacceptable electoral outcome, so it tries to subvert the democratic process by engineering one in its favor. That's how it's playing out in Venezuela now where things are in place to create the myth of what's impossible to achieve in fact to help Washington pull off its scheme to remove the main "threat" to its hegemony in the hemisphere. It's not likely to work any better now than in the failed 2002 coup attempt, but there will be mass-staged street protests that may get violent before it's over proving it.
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Toronto's Dead Multitudes

by Chris Cook

A couple of weeks past, a small group of Toronto's citizens observed a grim milestone in Canada's richest city; the marking of a memorial for the 500th Canadian to die homeless on Toronto's cold streets.

Out the windows of my cosy apartment, the first snows of winter fall on famously tepid Victoria. Early in the year to be sure, for a city these last years that rarely sees snow at all. It reminds; we are Canadians afterall, living in a cold country whose climate is not always friendly to human survival. It's a fact easy to forget living here on the mild Pacific coast, and living easy, with a job and the bills paid.

But my happy situation is one not shared by all living here. Unemployment, under employment, and low pay is common here, as everywhere in Canada today;  common here as elsewhere too is high rent, and a lack of affordable rental housing. Combined with the abrogation of their duty to the welfare of the people by all levels of government, the current economic environment is the "perfect storm" for the poor.  

Years ago, during the "good times" in the Eighties, I lived in Toronto, where winter is winter, and the working ethos is roughly summed up as: Sink or Swim! Living downtown, the homeless were a common sight; I would see them, bundles of rags, curled up fetal-like over the ventilation grates of the highrise office towers. The tower's, deserted and ablaze with light, heaters mind the comfort of the machines inside, while its excess warmth helps keep some anonymous indigent alive another night.
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  • Written by Linda Milazzo

"Americans Can't Handle Another Impeachment" Is Republican Propaganda. Don't Be Deceived.

by Linda Milazzo

"Americans can't handle another impeachment."  So say the supporters of George W. Bush in their anti-impeachment propaganda.

The truth is Americans CAN handle another impeachment. They CAN handle the truth. In fact, if Americans don't bring Bush and Cheney to justice after the atrocities they've committed, this nation will never reclaim its moral authority. And the people of this nation will be despised for unleashing these dangerous men on the world.

"Americans can't handle another impeachment" isn't a truth. It's a device. Like 'weapons of mass destruction.' 'A mushroom cloud.' 'Gassed his own people.' 'Sought significant quantities of uranium from A-f-r-i-c-a.' These are the sound bytes, the parroted propaganda, which brought us to war. Each is a proven lie, told time and again by well-rehearsed pundits. Verbatim delivery. Robotic form. Repeated ad nauseam by grown-up children of the damned. It sounded good for Nicholson in "A Few Good Men," but rings pretty hollow here. Americans CAN handle and probe for the truth.

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