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Preview: Jane Stillwater's Web Log

Jane Stillwater's Web Log

Jane Stillwater is a freelance journalist, war correspondent, blogger, political Cassandra and author of "Bring Your Own Flak Jacket: Helpful Tips for Touring Today's Middle East," now available on Her latest motto is "Stop

Updated: 2018-01-15T08:38:51.825-08:00



Imperialism + Colonialism = Shitehole countries

     You don't have to be Einstein to figure out this equation (not that anyone in Washington is these days).

    After being ruthlessly battered, plundered, sacked, assaulted and robbed for hundreds of years by heartless and unbelievably brutal European and American slave traders, imperialists, colonialists and neo-colonialists, it's a wonder that any countries in Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Latin America can even function at all.
     Never forget that the main reason that so many poor immigrants from other countries leave their homes and their loved ones behind to come to Europe and America is that they are simply following the trail of their stolen stuff.


Stop Wall Street and War Street from destroying our world.   And while you're at it, please buy my books.


Brainwashing, Paul Haggis, Scientology, you & me     Here's a thing:  Professor Mazim Qumsiyeh just pointed out that America has vigorously supported the right of Iranians to protest their government but....  "When a reporter asked a US spokeswoman about the right to protest in Palestine against Israeli occupation, she was at a loss for words.  Land of hypocrisy indeed."     Well, sure, America is the land of hypocrisy -- but mostly it is the land of brainwashing.     For instance, I am currently reading Lawrence Wright's excellent book, "Going Clear".  It's about the various brainwashing techniques used in Scientology -- most of them are repetitious, dangerous and/or violent.  After over 30 years of faithful servitude, however, Paul Haggis finally decided to escape from this mess.  The result?  Suddenly a whole bunch of women showed up, suddenly accusing him of all kinds of sexual mayhem.  Bet every single one of those women is a brainwashed Scientologist.  Read Wright's book to find out why I should think that.     Shame on Scientology if/when they used such a worthy cause as "Me Too" in order to bring down a whistle-blower.  As a woman (and one who has been a victim of attempted rape myself), I totally resent this evil use of such a just and noble cause.     So what's my point?  Scientologists use brainwashing?  Well, duh, of course they do.  But who else uses it?  And why?  We Americans are constantly being brainwashed every waking hour of our lives.  Every single hour of the day and night there is a constant barrage of media telling us what to think and do.  "Go to war," they tell us. "Buy a car.  Take a drug.  Vote against your own best interests."      According to Wright, Scientology apparently has a whole worldwide network of basements and "bases" where Scientologists are manipulated, beaten, starved and/or brainwashed until they submit to its version of the Stockholm syndrome.  When one is actually trapped inside the bubble of Scientology, it becomes increasingly difficult to see any other worldview -- because no other version is allowed inside.    But that's just small potatoes compared to the whole worldwide network of basements and "bases" where America beats, starves, manipulates and/or brainwashes the minds of its Americans until they too submit to our very own version of the Stockholm syndrome.  And when one is actually trapped inside the bubble of American propaganda, it becomes increasingly difficult to see any other worldview -- because no other version is allowed inside.        And as for why we are constantly being barraged by all this propaganda?  What is the end-game of all this constant brainwashing?  Money and power.  But mostly money.  Our money -- becoming theirs.PS:  I just signed up to attend this year's BoucherCon event, being held in the St. Petersburg/Clearwater/Tampa area next September.  Such a deal!  Not only do I get to attend my favorite book convention but also St. Pete is famous for its historic Hotel Vinoy, 25% of Clearwater is owned by Scientology and Tampa is where Leonard Peltier is being held in federal prison for a crime he didn't commit -- but that we have been brainwashed into thinking that he did.  And here's another thing:  Americans are some of the most materially resplendent and highly educated people in all of history -- and [...]


Madam Jane predicts -- disaster ahead!         "Let's face it," Madam Jane said to me as we strolled through thousands of white grave markers in the Golden Gate National Cemetery the other day.  "America just can't continue spending over 60% of its income on murdering people abroad.  It just can't.  No country can afford that kind of luxury item for long."     Hmm.  She might have a point.     "Just look at all these rows and rows and rows of dead people," she said.  "Lives wasted on trumped-up 'wars', sure, but mostly money wasted too.  It's like buying a new Cadillac in order to throw it in a trash compactor while your young children starve.  It's immoral.  It pisses me off."      That could be true too.  You don't just run out and buy a Caddie when there's no food on the table and the rent's coming due.     "And now America is trying to pick a fight with Russia, North Korea, Iran and probably China, while also carrying on 'wars' and proxy 'wars' in Syria, Yemen, Afghanistan, Africa and Central and South America as well.  This is all going to end badly, mark my words.  You'd better start stocking up on toilet paper and soap."     Actually I worry more about running out of food and not staying warm -- but then that's just me.     "Just look at Israel," M.J. continued.  "it is a microcosm of the USA, sort of a mini-me.  it also spends most of its money on weapons too -- and 70 years later, it's still at 'war' with Palestinians who can only throw stones to fight back.  In the last month alone, nuclear-armed Israel has jailed over 400 children for throwing stones and having knives."     I also know that 700,000 Palestinians have spent time in Israeli jails.   Don't Israelis have better things to spend their money on?  Apparently not.     "And look at Saudi Arabia, yet another American mini-me.  It spends most of its money on supporting ISIS and al Qaeda and bombing defenseless Yemen, right?"     I suppose so.     "And 70 years from now, the Yemenis will still be fighting back to the last man -- and with stones too, if that's all they've got.  But by then the fabled Saudi oil wealth will have all run out.  The Saudis are just not planning ahead either.  Obviously they can't see into the future like I can."     Apparently not.     "And the same holds true for the American macrocosm.  We also have spent the last 70 years on murdering people in foreign lands instead of taking care of people at home.  And our time is almost up too."     "Sounds like you're talking about moral proximity, " I replied.  "I just read something about that -- where it's your moral duty to take care of those around you first.  We Americans are not doing that. "     "Damn straight," said Madam Jane.  And then she sighed.  "I truly wish that I could stave off the disaster that's coming our way.  But I can't."PS:  Speaking of disasters and/or keeping warm, I am leaving for Charleston, South Carolina in a few days.  Why?  Because, silly me, last summer I thought Charleston would be a nice place to go and be warm during the winter of 2018.  And then the "Bomb Cyclone" hit.  Yikes!  It was 25 degrees in Charleston this morning.     I don't need Madam Jane to tell me that my future ahead looks cold.____________________________________Stop Wall Street and War Street from destroying our world.   And while you're at it, please buy my books. [...]


Getting ahead of the Ahed Tamini story....     Did a sixteen-year-old Palestinian girl named Ahed Tamimi actually dare to slap an Israeli soldier?  Yeah she did.  And not only once but a bunch of times too.  How and why?  Listen up.  Here's the true story.  You heard it here first.    Ahed and her BFF were just sitting around the house playing Candy Crush or whatever, when Ahed looked out her window and saw two Israeli soldiers enter the yard.  "Hey, you -- you with the body armor and the assault rifle and the stun gun," she said to the occupying invader.  "What the freak are you doing in my front yard!"        The occupying invader ignored Ahed.  Maybe he and his buddy had only just stepped inside the gate to take a piss?     Then Ahed lightly poked at the occupying invader's arm a few times, just to get his attention because he was rudely ignoring her.  "This land is mine," she said.  "God gave this land to me..."  Or words to that effect.  And that's when the occupying invader suddenly hauled off and hit her -- and then Ahed slapped him back.  Oops.   And then the BFF and the mom and the sister and the aunt all came out, held hands and made stink-eyes at the O.I. -- and the occupying invader backed away.  End of story?  Not.  The occupying invader came back late that night with even more buddies and more stun guns and assault rifles and, well, you know the drill.  Off to jail.     That's just what happens when you object to Israeli soldiers cluttering up your front yard like some weird armed-to-the-teeth lawn gnomes. ____________________________________Stop Wall Street and War Street from destroying our world.   And while you're at it, please buy my books.   [...]


Holiday blues: How I survived Christmas's war on Me     When I was growing up, Christmas was always an ordeal.  My father was postmaster in our town and he always worked 15 hours a day during the pre-Christmas rush.  My mother always seemed to come down with pneumonia.  And my sister always got her physical work-out by beating me up.  I hated Christmas in Millbrae.  Christmas in Millbrae still haunts my dreams.     So this year I decided to take the bull by the horns and actually spend Christmas in the belly of the beast -- exorcising the ghosts of Millbrae Christmas Past once and for all.  So I took a room at the Inn (obviously not the one in Bethlehem) and then drove around.     I drove past my childhood home.  I drove past my old school.  I walked around the main street.  I got more and more depressed.  Back then I was an outcast, my high school's only Beatnik.  And here I am now, years later, still on the outside looking in -- like that old fairy tale about the little match girl.  Poor me!     But then I trudged back to the Inn and checked my e-mail.  SO many sad stories there.  The Walker fire in San Diego.  Saudi Arabia's cruel plan to starve 17 million Yemenis to death.  The arrest of 16-year-old Ahed Tamimi, Palestine's own Joan of Arc (along with an Israeli journalist's article demanding that she be tortured and raped while in prison).  The tyranny in Honduras, the typhoon in the Philippines, the idiocy in Washington DC.     And then I started to feel better.  And then I even started to feel lucky and blessed.  l even realized that Christmas wasn't making war so much on me after all -- although American "Christians" seem to be making "war" on everyone, both here and abroad.       And then a Christmas miracle happened.  My daughter Tanya showed up, took me out for the best Chinese food ever and spent the entire meal telling me what a wonderful mother I had been.  Doesn't get much better than that.  And her friend Anthony turned out to be one of the very few people in this whole world (besides me) who still knew how to dance the Four Corners!     Nobody knows what the New Year will bring -- but I am hoping with all of my heart that it will finally bring peace to the world, and that all our wealth and hopes will no longer be squandered on creating a cruel and worthless American empire that benefits none of us except the shamelessly wealthy and the heartlessly mean.  And also I am hoping for many more trips to that wonderful Chinese restaurant in Millbrae.PS:  About that so-called war on Christmas that the alt-right is always yelling about?  Bah humbug, just another example about how America's so-called "Christians" have got it so dangerously wrong.  Their idea of a "real" Christmas is when everyone  runs out and buys stuff that they can't afford -- in the name of Jesus.  Huh?  So much for fitting through the eye of a needle.  My eight-year-old HP Pavilion Slimline computer just bit the dust, and now I'm using the public library's Intel Core to check my e-mail.  Santa didn't bring me a new computer for Christmas.  Obviously.  Does that give me a good reason to declare War on Santa?____________________________________Stop Wall Street and War Street from destroying our world.   And while you're at it, please buy my books. [...]


Silent night: 12 weeks after the Wine Country fire     I recently got a chance to spend a night at The Bergson, an upscale bed-and-breakfast in Calistoga, CA.  I jumped at the chance.     And while I was up there, my childhood friend Ron offered to take me on a tour of the ruins of the Wine Country fire.  I jumped at that chance too.  All those hundreds of sad, broken and incinerated ruins of homes that we saw made me just want to cry.     Here we are, just hours before Christmas, all snug in our beds -- and all those other families that lost their homes in that catastrophe, over 1,500 of them, have no room at the inn.     "At midnight on October 6, 2017, a small fire started in the mountains above Calistoga," my friend Ron told me.  "By 4:00 am, the fire was already burning down homes 30 miles away...."  Who would have thought that a fire could travel that fast.     "There were 80-mile-per-hour winds that night."  Who could have predicted stuff like that?     And now, over two months later, these firestorm victims will soon be facing their first post-nightmare Christmas.  "Some of these victims are still sleeping on the couches of relatives.  Some have moved out of the area to places where rents are cheaper.  Some live in RVs and shower at YMCAs.  Before the fire, there was a 5% housing vacancy rate in this area.  Now 5% of the housing stock here has been totally destroyed."     Seeing all those acres and acres and acres of ruins -- ruins of multi-million-dollar mansions and ruins of paycheck-to-paycheck trailer parks -- brought tears to my eyes.     If your home was destroyed in that horrible fire, please know this:  Although the American news cycle may have forgotten about you and moved on to the next front-page story, many of us Americans have not forgotten you.  And to all of you who are homeless?  We wish you a merry Christmas.  And also a good night.  And a roof over your heads on Christmas morning as well.PS:  Paying our taxes to the federal government is exactly like buying life insurance -- and auto insurance and fire insurance and insurance against theft.     And yet when a disaster strikes and it actually comes time to collect on our insurance policies (like after the Wine Country fire or the Walker fire or Katrina or Hugo or Maria), at a time when we most desperately need it?  That's when we suddenly discover that our tax money has all been embezzled -- brazenly stolen by corporate con-men, sleazy "war" contractors, ponzi-scheme banksters and all those white-collar criminals in the White House, congress and the supreme court that Wall Street and War Street lobbyists have forced down our throats.      Sucks to be us.PPS:  I myself be spending Christmas in my old home town, trying to exorcise the ghosts of Senator McCarthy that haunted 1950s Millbrae, and also an unhappy childhood spent living in a small house with two parents who refused to speak to each other.  But at least I had a roof over my head.____________________________________Stop Wall Street and War Street from destroying our world.   And while you're at it, please buy my books.  [...]


Freud, Jung, dreams...and nuclear weapons     Let's take a look at the big picture first.       The Pentagon is currently in charge of approximately 9,600 nuclear warheads.  They also own approximately 9,347 lethally-armored drones.  And on the local level in America, SWAT teams here conduct approximately 50,000 raids a year -- cops driving around in wannabe tanks and dressing like Transformers.  Plus untold numbers of American militias and bad guys have weapon arsenals like you wouldn't believe.  And  if that isn't enough to give us nightmares, our very own President and Congressional representatives mostly consist of out-and-out warmongers working for Lockheed, Raytheon, that crook Netanyahu, Saudi baby-killers and the NRA -- and our very own CIA secretly slips billions of our tax dollars into the pockets of al Qaeda and ISIS.     And then of course there are the more mundane dangers that Americans face on a day-to-day basis -- bill collectors, jealous ex-husbands, car accidents, stressful performance anxiety, irate family members, kidnappers, pederasts, rapists, terrorist threats, school shootings and violence on television 24 hours a day.  And then there's also the ever-constant threat of dying from cancer, Altzheimers, obesity, iatrogenic medicine, high blood pressure, toxic chemicals, radioactive waste and/or lack of health insurance.       In America, is there no place left that is safe?     Yeah, there is.       There really is one place in America that is completely and totally safe.  We are completely and totally safe inside of our own dreams -- no matter what Freud and Jung have to say.     And not only are we completely safe inside of our own dreamtime -- but we are powerful too.      All the nuclear weapons and military might that those power-mad bastards and bullies in Washington have access to?  They are all totally worthless, impotent and useless to get inside of our dreams and hurt us.  "Nah-nanny-nanny-nah!"  You can't catch me, fool.  "This is MY dream."      All of those wannabe American bullies' huge stockpiles of weapons can (and will) overwhelm and control us in real life, but they don't have any control at all in our dream worlds.  We do.  They, for all their sick firepower and weaponry up the wazoo, are helpless to do anything at all in our dreams.  They've wasted all their damn money (and ours too) for nothing.  In our dreams, they are merely pathetic playground bullies who are still afraid of being dragged off to the principal's office and sent to detention.     And no matter how many dollars that wealthy men on Wall Street can stockpile in their bulletproof vaults, they still can't harm us in our dreams either.  They can evict us and leave us homeless in real life or steal our pensions or gleefully send our jobs off to China -- but they can never get to us in our dreams.    Just the thought of this fact makes me feel better -- but only a little bit.  Because one other fact still remains.  We as Americans shouldn't have to be hiding[...]


"Anything Trump can do, Netanyahu can do better..."     Remember that old song, "Anything you can do, I can do better"?  Well, it's time to give it a more modern twist and bring it up to date.  Apologies to Irving Berlin.  Here's a more contemporary version:       Any "war" Trump can try to start, Netanyahu has already started one (or five) better.     Any lie Trump can tell, Netanyahu can prevaricate better.     Anything corrupt stuff Trump can do, Netanyahu can be corrupter.     Any bullying of journalists Trump can do, Netanyahu can bully the press better -- although you gotta admit that Trump is hecka better at Twitter.    Any neo-con undemocratic elitist fascist racist greedy thing Trump can do, Netanyahu can do way better (only don't use the F-word with Bibi or you'll be accused of being anti-Semitic).     Any influencing of U.S. elections Trump can do, Netanyahu can influence them better.     Any clandestine support for ISIS and al Qaeda that Trump can do, Netanyahu can do far better (and more clandestinely too!)     Any womanizing Trump can do, Netanyahu has already done it -- they both cheated on their first wives.  I seriously doubt, however, that their third wives ever let them out of the house alone any more.     Any religious hypocrisy Trump can do, Netanyahu can (and does) do better.  Not since Roman times has Judaism been used to such an elaborate extent as a flaming-hot excuse to commit grand larceny.  Trump's use of Christianity to line his own pockets pretty much fades in comparison.     Any moving of the Israeli capital to Jerusalem that Trump can do, Netanyahu has already done better (by moving the capital of America to Tel Aviv of course).     Any civil rights Trump can trample on, Netanyahu can trample on better.     Any oil pipeline spill on native land or other ecological disaster Trump can create, Netanyahu has already gone there.     Any Wall that Trump can build, Netanyahu already built one better (and one that's even more of a waste of American taxpayers' money).     So.  What's my moral here?  That if you like The Donald at all, then you are really gonna love The Bibi.     But if you hate Trump (and also Ronnie Popular, Tricky Dick and the Bush Brothers) for the mess he's created, then perhaps you should avoid Netanyahu altogether in order to keep your blood pressure down.     "But if Netanyahu is so much better than Trump in so many ways," you might ask, "then perhaps America should just put Bibi in the White House instead?"  Oops, too late.  America already does have Netanyahu in the White House.&nbs[...]


"13 Reasons Why": Suicide by propaganda     I'm so full of gloom and doom these days that nobody even invites me to parties any more and most of my out-going e-mails end up in the spam box.  Relatives avoid me during holidays and I don't even like to spend time with my own self.     Still and all, there really is a hecka lot of stuff to be sad and gloomy about these days.  I myself can easily think of at least 13 reasons why things are rapidly going to Hell in a hand-basket around here -- and yet even despite of all this, I am constantly being told again and again that all my clearly-obvious reasons for running screaming into the night are actually good things that are all making the world a better place.     Yes, Big Pharma keeps selling us dangerous snake-oil medications that do us more harm than good -- yet we're still afraid to stop taking them because Big Pharma will get all pissed off at us if we do.  And we're also afraid to complain about all our constant super-saturation by propaganda commercials on TV for medicine that we really don't need.  And 225,000 Americans die each year from iatrogenic diseases -- diseases caused by medical treatment.  "Relax!" Big Pharma tells us.  "These pills are good for you!"  Except for the deadly side effects of course.     And, yes, recent dramatic changes in our climate really are going to kill us -- despite what oil-baron propaganda keeps preaching to us night and day.  And "war" is the number-one cause of adverse climate change too.  All the various weapons that America sells to the Saudis, rains down on Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Afghanistan, Gaza, etc. and uses to attack Americans in our very own cities will eventually come back and bite us in the butt in the form of floods and wildfires and droughts. So much fun!     And, yes, the CIA really did assassinate John Kennedy, blow up the Twin Towers and embroil us in endless and unnecessary "war" in the Middle East -- even though we are bombarded daily (still!) with propaganda telling us otherwise.     And, yes, 17 million people in Yemen really are being systematically starved to death by America and the House of Saud -- no matter what NYT propaganda tells us to the contrary.  Remember when Haile Selassie begged the League of Nations to save his country from genocide by fascists back in 1936?  And we all stood back and did nothing?  It's like that.     And, yes, the German people were brainwashed by Nazi propaganda -- and look where that got them.  Then look where it's getting us.     And, yes, America spends far more money on nuclear weapons than it does on repairing our infrastructure and educating our kids.  I think that the dollar-to-dollar ratio is approximately 20 to one.  Plus radiation and a decaying infrastructure will kill us.  Education won't.  But propagandists keep whispering into our ear, "Nuclear war is a good thing."         And, yes, during the 2016 presidential election we really did have a choice between a war-mongering fascist and a racist fascist, either one of which would be deadly to us.  Hard to decide which one was worse.  So the military-industrial complex decided for us -- and then came up with a whole bunch of propaganda to make us feel better about having th[...]


"One person, one vote," an idea that is pretty much toast     At the Berkeley-Albany Bar Association luncheon recently, we had a choice between three different desserts -- cheese cake, chocolate mousse or both.  I voted for both.  We also had a presenter who spoke on the subject of voting access and gerrymandering in America.  The speaker made some very interesting points.     "The democratic concept of 'One person, one vote' has actually never been applied to American voters on the federal level.  Ever.  Perhaps it applies when we vote for members of the House of Representatives, but as for our vote for who will represent us in the Senate?  Not so much -- because voters in rural states such as Wyoming have far more voting power than voters in urban states such as California."  Or words to that effect.       So from the very beginning, our founding fathers made it impossible for "One person, one vote" to actually ever happen.  A New York voter, both then and now, only has 78% of the voting power of an Alabama voter due to Senate restrictions.  Interesting for sure.     "And Republicans are better at gerrymandering than Democrats.  In the 2012 elections, Dems got 51% of the vote but only got 39% of the representation."  Then he talked about something called "the efficiency gap" -- which involved higher math so he sort of lost me.  "In Wisconsin, the voter efficiency gap was 10 to 13 percent, guaranteeing Republican wins even in a Democratic state.  Our system today is profoundly under-representative."     However, we can't just blame it on the Repubs.  "If the Dems were the ones doing the gerrymandering, the Republicans' love of it would go the way of their hatred of the deficit."  Out the window in a New York minute.     "And what about Citizens United?" I asked myself.  "That ruling gives a small handful of rich people a hecka lot more votes than the rest of us poor schmucks."  Citizens United should be illegal for that reason alone.  And apparently the US Senate should be illegal too -- from the perspective of keeping America a democratic country.  But if you want America to be an oligarchy, then it's hardly worth rocking the boat about any of this stuff.     But even though the speaker didn't have time to discuss the effects of voter identification laws, the New Jim Crow laws or electronic vote-hacking, his message was still crystal clear.  The idea of one person and one vote in America?  That ship has pretty much sailed.     So what can we do to save the American ship of state from being run aground by vote-pirates?  Make sure we are the ones who count the votes?  Use only paper ballots?  Don't let dead people vote?  Make voting a legal requirement if you want to get a driver's license or whatever?  Reconfigure the US Senate to represent all of us?  Go after the oligarchs with torches and pitch forks?       There are all kinds of ways to make sure that Americans actually get "One person, one vote" -- and we can do this.  But the only real way to never ever allow "One person, one vote" to become an actual reality in America is to stay silent and do nothing.     Damn it.  I am an American.  I vote.  And I want my vote to count.  I want a choice of three desserts in my ballot box -- not just one slice of dry toast._________________________________ Stop Wall Street and War Street from destroying our world.   And while you're at it, please buy my books.  https://[...]


I had the flu once, back in 1973...      It had been a rather cold winter that year plus I had definitely burned the candle at both ends -- working late every night at the local folk-music coffee house, getting up early to take my daughter Ruby off to pre-school five days a week, spending weekdays over in San Francisco's Castro District as a docent at the Upper Market Street Gallery, hanging out with the Floating Lotus Magic Opera crew at the Woolsey Street House, playing on the Caffè Mediterraneum soccer team and spending time at the Albatross, the Midnight Sun, Brennan's and dancing to Commander Cody at Mandrake's whenever my parents could babysit.  Plus I had a Tibetan Buddhist boyfriend named Peter and also demonstrated against the corrupt Republican government in Washington during my spare time.     And it was always cold during the winter of 1973.  And I was always exhausted.  So I dragged myself and little Ruby down to Puerto Vallarta for two glorious weeks in the sun on the beach at Yelapa.     We got as far as San Diego before the flu struck.     Good grief, do I remember having that flu.  And I vowed never to get the flu ever again.  And I haven't.  And it wasn't because of having no damn flu shots either.     "Your mind wants to keep going going going like a robot," someone told me back then, "but your body needs rest.  So your mind and your body have a big struggle over this and your mind always loses -- because your body simply goes out on strike.  And that's exactly what a flu is.  It's your body going on strike until it finally gets to rack up more hours in bed than your mind thinks that it needs.  That's why, ultimately, there is no real prevention technique for the common cold.  Or for the flu either."     "But what about germs!" I replied.     "Flu germs are constantly with us, 24/7.  Constantly.  They are everywhere.  But they can only actually get to us when our body's defenses are down."     Oh.     So from that day to this, I have always made sure that my body has no real reason to go on strike.  And I never got the flu again.PS:  It also helps a lot that I also wash my hands.  Back in the day, when terrible diseases were rampant, the average American worker avoided baths, lived in unimaginable squalor, had no proper sewage or indoor toilets, survived on bread and potatoes alone and worked 15 hours a day, seven days a week.  No wonder diseases were rampant.     Thus it sort of pisses me off that Big Pharma is taking all the credit for stopping all their big long lists of hundreds of diseases -- when soap and water (and those brave labor unions that gave us the weekend) are often the real stars of the show.____________________________________Stop Wall Street and War Street from destroying our world.   And while you're at it, please buy my books.  [...]


Crazy Rich Saudis: Weird new happenings in The Kingdom     After a whole shite-load of oil was discovered under the desert sands of Arabia (and long after Lawrence of Arabia had turned in his camel), unimaginable mountains of moolah started pouring into the treasury of the royal House of Saud.     Back then, wealthy Saudi princes merely contented themselves with having huge harems, buying up Manhattan real estate, sending their sons to Oxford and buying Paris high couture burkas for their daughters.  However, after a while this playboy vida loca lifestyle seemed to get boring and these rich Saudi princes decided to try their hands at becoming a superpower instead.  "We've got the money.  Why not?"     But they went about it all wrong.       Instead of heeding the teachings of Mohammed [PBUH], they heeded the teachings of Lewis Carroll instead.  "Off with their heads!" they cried.  No no no!  That's not how you become a superpower.  Trust me. -saudi-prince-helicopter- crash/     America has already traveled down that slippery slope and look what happened to us -- broke, decaying internally, morally bankrupt and despised by the rest of the world.  "Off with their heads" can only be taken so far in life.  Doesn't anybody read DC Comics any more or go to Spiderman movies?  A true superpower uses its powers for good.    The Saudis first entered the superpower arena when they got all tied up in the 1990 Gulf so-called "war".  Massacring thousands of Iraqis for fun and profit?  Yummers!  So much more exciting than buying fleet-loads of Bugattis and Ferraris.  But what next?  Buying all those 9-11 "pilots" of course.  Then along came al Qaeda and ISIS, the princes' new toys after that.  Isn't it amazing what money can buy?  Their billions and trillions even purchased them an alliance with murderous Israeli neo-colonialists so that the Saudis too could bomb Gaza (and score all-access passes to Tel Aviv's nightclubs as well as testing their new weapons on people who couldn't fight back).     What a shame.  All that money -- now wasted on terror and death.     But wait, things have just gotten even worse in The Kingdom.  ISIS is now a hot mess and Yemenis are heroically pushing back against the Saudis' genocide-for-oil campaign.  And now Arabia's crazy-rich princes are actually fighting each other as well as fighting Iran, Iraq, Qatar, Yemen, Syria, Lebanon, Armani, Prada and the Green Party.  Yikes!     In the past month alone, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has been jailing Saudi princes, assassinating Saudi princes and generally shouting "Off with their heads!" to any and all princes who stand in his way.     It's not easy being a crazy rich Saudi these days.  However, being a world superpower without a conscience isn't easy either.  Just ask America. Wall Street and War Street from [...]


Madam Jane predicts -- nothing!     "I'm all confused about the future," I complained to Madam Jane this morning over a nice cup of herb tea.  "Do you see anything in your crystal ball that can guide me?  Should I travel off somewhere to report on the news?  Should I stay at home and chill out?  And what should I do over Christmas?"     "Sorry," replied Madam Jane.  "I've got nothing."  You've got nothing?  Zilch?  Nothing at all?  There's no future for me?  Wha?     I'd love to go down to Puerto Rico and help out.  I'd love to go off to the Philippines to see how that new anti-colonial president is doing.  A trip to Syria is always good.  America and Israel always keep saying that they are closing in on Assad.  Yeah, right.  Seems to me like just another lame excuse to pour more of our taxpayers' money down an already-very-clogged drain.  America's "war" on Syria is just as useless and cruel now as its "war" on Vietnam was useless and cruel back in the day.  America has no business in Syria.  But I have!     Maybe I could go off to Juarez.  Lots of hot news there about what those NAFTA criminals are up to this time around.  Maybe I could go to Flora-duh.  Or to Washington DC and watch Joe McCarthy's ghost deck the halls.  Or else try once again to sneak into poor sweet Yemen to report on the ugly Saudi/US-driven genocide there.  Or go to almost any place in Africa.  There is such a large number of places in America's worthless has-been outdated dying undemocratic brutal and stupid empire that could use a good op-ed reporter right now -- and I am the best!     "Sorry," replied Madam Jane.  "The stars are just not aligned in your favor."  And neither is my bank account either.  Maybe I should just hang around here in the San Francisco Bay Area this winter -- which seems to be the only sane place left in the world.     "Yes, I can see the Bay Area seceding from the rest of the planet," replied Madam Jane.  "Perhaps you might actually have a future here."   Sounds boring.  But I'll take it.  Think globally, act locally?  Better that than no future at all.  PS:  If I really wanted to write about some of the many lives that have been ruined by the decaying American empire, I would only have to walk down the mean streets of any American city to see thousands of human beings who have been broken by a cruel system that puts the twin evils of power and money above everything else -- and especially above the teachings of Christ, Buddha, Moses, Mohammad and just about everyone else I respect.PPS:  Maybe I'll just have a merry little Bay Area Christmas this year and take public transportation to the Dickens Fair, the KPFA Christmas crafts fair, the Union Square tree-lighting ceremony and, in the spirit of Jesus, to all the away-in-a-manger homeless encampments that are springing up like mushrooms around here.  And perhaps I'll even buy a tree.  And celebrate Hanukkah, Buddha's birthday, the Hindu Festival of Lights, Mohammad's birthday and any other religious celebration that I can think of.       You can never have too many celebrations of hope -- especially when Madam Jane is currently staring off into the void and muttering, "No future.  No future at all.&nb[...]


Zionist bullies: Congress is terrified of them -- and I am too!     Back in the day, a Zionist used to be someone who thought that creating a Jewish state in Palestine (or elsewhere) might be a really good idea.     Israeli and American Zionists today, however, are a whole different kettle of fish.  Hell, you can't even describe them as Jewish any more (sure, they still wear yarmulkes -- but only to show off).  The Jewish prophet Micah, world-renowned for his intense love of Justice, must be rolling over in his grave right now.  And as for Moses, the very first Jew to use a stone to Tweet "Thou shalt not kill or steal"?  After watching Dayan, Sharon, Netanyahu and all those treasonous dual-citizenship Zionists in Washington take the Lord's name in vain again and again (and again), our Moses must be seriously pissed off.       I myself have been bullied by modern-day Zionists and, trust me, it is definitely not a Jewish thing that they do.  Emphatically not a mitzvah.    For instance, in the past year alone, Zionists have libeled me extensively on the internet, slandered me in person, posted obscenities on my FB page, arranged for me to be denied entry into occupied Palestine, tried to get my landlord to evict me, manhandled me painfully, wrongfully accused me of practicing law without a license (I'm a notary public), accused me of being too old (!) and even falsely reported me for tax evasion -- simply because I went on FaceBook and protested injustices in Palestine.     But all the terrible bullying and stalking that I've listed above is just one small account of what has happened to only me alone, just one of over 300 million Americans, just a grandmother, a retiree -- basically a nobody with hardly no influence at all.  Even my own children don't listen to me!     And if Zionists take all this trouble to do all these terrible things to just little old me, then you can probably imagine what kind of hard-core gangsta leans they must be putting on people who actually do have any influence -- such as our members of Congress, our judges, our generals, our governors and even our presidents:     Actually, our entire American government at every single level seems to be terrified of Zionists -- and with very good reason.  Government representatives all know for sure that unless they chose Zionists' and Israeli neo-colonialists' best interests over choosing what is best for America, then they will never get re-elected.  But our government guys aren't the only ones who are terrified of Zionists.       College professors are terrified of saying anything against Zionists, scared out of their wits that they might become the next Denis Rancourt or Norman Finkelstein -- both fired for speaking out against the[...]


Toronto, Canada: The new melting pot     Thanksgiving is coming up pretty soon, right?  Pilgrims and Indians, turkeys and pumpkin pies.  So now might be a good time to ask ourselves, "Why did the Pilgrims come over here in the first place?"  Let us review.     It was cold and wet and rainy on Plymouth Rock back in 1621 and there was no WalMart and no AirBnB.  Pilgrims must have been out of their minds to come here!  So why did they come?  Pilgrims came here because Britain was a hot mess back in the day.     Today, Americans just love to go visit Merry Old England and I myself totally look forward to the annual San Francisco Dickens Christmas Faire every year.  But Britain wasn't like that back when the Pilgrims left it -- way before Prince what's-his-name married Kate Middleton.     No, the Pilgrims left Britain because they were forced to.  It was a matter of life and death.  They were basically refugees.  And a whole bunch of other refugees from all over Europe followed them here later -- and America became a huge melting pot of ideas, cultures and religions.     But now the New World's melting pot has moved to Toronto.  Everywhere I look here, I see people from foreign lands who, like the original Pilgrims, also came to seek refuge from the craziness of their former homelands.  But there is a really big difference between the 1621 Pilgrims and the 2017 Toronto refugees -- and the difference is clear.      Every single refugee in Toronto (and there are thousands and thousands of them from all over the entire world) is here in Toronto today for one reason and one reason only:  Because their own home country has been systematically attacked, invaded, bombed, infiltrated, irradiated, impoverished, stolen and/or devastated by the USA.  Back in 1620, American Indians were perfectly happy to live where they lived -- until the Europeans came, that is.  Not such a hot Thanksgiving for them, now was it?  More like a Halloween.____________________________________Stop Wall Street and War Street from destroying our world.   And while you're at it, please buy my books.  [...]


Disaster victim? Need help? Too bad for ya!Here's a poem I just wrote:     Hurricanes, wildfires and floods -- oh my!       "Help Help Help!" you mournfully cry.     "You're on your own," our corporatized government replies.     "We gots other uses for your dollar supply."     Wait, what?  Exactly what other uses are our corporatized government talking about?  "Don't we pay out our hard-earned tax dollars so that our government will have enough money saved up to be able to help us out in emergencies like these -- sort of like paying into an insurance policy and then expecting a return?"  You might think that.  And you would be wrong.      Fire destroyed your home?  Obsessed gunmen shot up your kids?  Floods made a wreck of your new carpet?  Hurricanes stole your front porch?  Too bad for ya.  All your tax dollars have gone off to Wall Street and War Street.  None left for you.  Get over it.     Currently, our tax dollars are going almost exclusively toward making America's billionaires even richer than they now are.  "Crazy Rich Americans."  Sorry, but you ain't never gonna get your hands on that $$$ again -- even though it was originally yours in the first place.  Trickle-up economics.  Sucks to be you.     And it sucks to be living in the Middle East too, BTW.  Americans now look on in horror at the brutal firestorms raging through NorCal.  And yet nightmare firestorms like these are an everyday occurrence in places like Iraq, Libya, Syria, Gaza, Ukraine, Afghanistan, etc. -- thanks to America's very own masters of "war".PS:  I'm up here in Toronto at a convention of murder-mystery readers and writers.  But there's really no great mystery about who is murdering America's national budget.  See above.PPS:  Toronto is the ultimate melting pot for all kinds of races, ethnicities and cultures.  "There are at least 120 languages spoken here," someone just told me.  I didn't even know that there even were 120 languages.     "And Toronto is one of the safest cities in the entire world."  Muslims on every street corner, Blacks and Asians everywhere you look -- as well as a hecka lot of White people.  And everyone gets along just fine.     And the police here don't need or want to dress up like Robocops and/or ride around in tanks.  And nobody here tries to blow up anything or shoot up stadiums or schools either.      So what's my point?  How come, after America spends so much money making "war" on so many countries on the other side of the globe, that somehow America's "wars" always seem to come home to roost in America?  Perhaps Canadians have a better idea.____________________________________Stop Wall Street and War Street from destroying our world.   And while you're at it, please buy my books -- thus helping me support my addiction to Justice and Truth.      Plus my latest book, a thrilling murder mystery entitled "Road Trip to Damascus" is now available!  [...]


"Road Trip to Damascus": My new online book-launch party!     "How exactly does one go about writing a book," you might ask.  It's easy.  Write about something you know.  Write 500 words a day until you have a whole bunch of pages.  Get it published.  Sit back and be all proud of yourself.  But then comes the fun part -- throw yourself an online book-launch party including digital confetti, digital balloons and even digital cake!  Then invite all of your friends.     Yes, I really did just finish writing my very first murder-mystery.  Yes, it is now available on Amazon and Kindle.  Yes, it has a hot new cover photo of me being far ahead of the current punk trend by dying my hair black, way back in 1965 (Abby on NCIS eat your heart out).  And, yes, the book is reasonably priced.  And interesting.  And fun.  Do please buy it now.       Buy it here:  I'll soon be leaving for this year's BoucherCon book convention in Toronto, and will be trying to get all the murder-mystery lovers there to buy my book too.  Wish me luck.  Here' the blurb on the back of my book:      How in the world can we expect a relatively naïve (and unarmed) soccer mom from suburban Virginia to be able to take on the meanest and most powerful super-villain in history—and then actually live to tell the tale?  And how can she also find time to search across the entire planet for a missing physics professor on the run for his life?  And can she also get her kids to soccer practice on time….      As Marcy travels from city to city across the globe while desperately attempting to save Professor Ayyad and his earth-shattering new discovery that could change the international balance of power forever, our heroine is obviously into this mix way over her head.      These daunting tasks seem impossible for Marcy to accomplish—as she struggles to survive a dangerous mission that resembles playing "Where's Waldo" with the Devil.  But unfortunately she is the only person available who can save the professor, bring down an evil empire and even return to suburban Virginia before anyone in her family notices that she is gone.________________________________________________Stop Wall Street and War Street from destroying our world.   And while you're at it, please buy my books -- thus helping me support my addiction to Justice and Truth.      Plus my latest book, a thrilling murder mystery entitled "Road Trip to Damascus" is now available!  [...]


Saudi Arabia: House Arab or field Arab?     "Black Lives Matter" is a slogan that is frequently used in America today.  But do Black lives really matter in America right now?  Probably not.     And also, do Arab lives in the Middle East matter either?  Clearly not.      But what about all those rich dudes in Saudi Arabia?  Will all their crazy-rich moola save them from ultimately being seen as just a better-dressed version of "raghead" by the West, where Islamophobia is rank?  Do Saudi lives really matter?  Or are the Saudis only there to serve Western leaders their sweet tea before being sent back out to pick cotton again? PS:  Between the massacres in Yemen, Gaza, Mosul, Raqqa and Las Vegas as well as the callous treatment of victims of Irma, Maria and Harvey, one beings to wonder if any human life matters any more. ________________________________________________Stop Wall Street and War Street from destroying our world.   And while you're at it, please buy my books -- thus helping me support my addiction to Justice and Truth.      Plus my latest book, a thrilling murder mystery entitled "Road Trip to Damascus" is now available!  [...]


Israel: From the "You gotta be kidding me" department....      Believe it or not, Yahoo News just ran with the following headline: "Israel is Going to War in Syria to Fight Iran".  Then the article goes on to say, "Israeli officials believe that Iran is winning its bid for dominance in the Middle East."  Yeah, duh!     Of course Iran is winning that bid -- winning it hands down, taking the trick without even trying.  And why?  Just think for a minute.  Why would anyone in their right mind in the Middle East even consider wanting Israel to be the dominant force in the Middle East when everyone there clearly sees what Israeli neo-colonialists have done to the Arabs in Gaza -- and now have in mind for them too.       After seeing exactly what abominable horrors go on once Israeli neo-colonialists get their hands on your turf, Arabs have no choice but to fight tooth and nail to keep this nightmare from happening to them too.  Good grief, can you blame them?      As the Biblical prophet Micah once said, "A little bit of love and justice goes a long way."  And in this case, a little bit of dominance by the sadists in Tel Aviv goes a really really long way.  Would you seriously want the butchers of Sabra and Shatilla to get their hands on your home town?  With Yom Kippur upon us, how can these creepy gonifs even have the chutzpah to claim to be Jewish!     Would you really want to invite these dudes to your party?  Might as well just invite Freddy Kreuger.     And speaking of nightmares, who the freak on this entire freaking planet would ever want to invite America to their party either?  Everyone in this world with any kind of a TV set saw in glorious living color exactly what happened to Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Vietnam, Cambodia, Honduras, Chile, Ukraine, Libya -- and even freaking Puerto Rico -- after America arrived at their party without an invitation.  "Nightmare on Elm Street"?  Nah, global nightmare.  Eat your heart out, Freddy!     Why would anyone on earth ever want America to be the "dominant power" here either? __________________________________________________________Stop Wall Street and War Street from destroying our world.   And while you're at it, please buy my books -- thus helping me support my addiction to Justice and Truth.      Plus my latest book, a thrilling murder mystery entitled "Road Trip to Damascus" is now available!  [...]


There's a McCarthyism app for that: Jumping on the anti-Russian bandwagon      Did we learn nothing from the 1950s horrors created by Senator Joe McCarthy, the infamous House Un-American Activities Committee and that stupid disaster euphemistically called The Cold War?  Apparently not.  I don't know about you but I myself never want to live through that sorry-arsed shite ever again.  I'd rather eat worms.     And do we really want a whole new generation of American children to spend their entire childhoods hiding under their desks at school, thinking that duck-and-cover will save them from nuclear attacks and having nightmares about atomic bombs -- when all this neo-McCarthyism is a made-up danger meant to sell weapons and further unmanly political gains -- just like the original McCarthyism was?     Russia saved Syria from ISIS.  We should be proud of Putin, be glad to have him as an ally and not turn him into a villain when anyone who bothers to do even a modicum of research can easily find out that it was America that sponsored ISIS.  Geez Louise.     And then there's this:  Israel tampered with our 2016 elections  Israel tampered with our 2014 elections.  Israel tampered with our 2012 elections.  Israel tampered with our 2010 elections.  Israel tampered with our 2008 elections.  Israel tampered with our 2006 elections.  Israel tampered with our 2004 elections.  Israel tampered with our 2002 elections -- and Israel also tampered with our humongous post-9-11 policy disasters.  How come no one is screaming bloody murder about Israel these days?      Saudi Arabia is a horrid dictatorship -- one that makes Putin look like freaking Saint Theresa.  So are we starting a New Cold War with the Saudis?  Don't make me laugh.    And why the freak is America spending trillions of dollars in Afghanistan now -- as well as in the past 16 bloody gruesome gory unproductive years?  According to journalist Caleb Maupin, it's to give Russia trouble.  Do we really need to spend trillions on giving Putin a headache?  When it is you and I who are  getting the headache instead?     "Russia Russia Russia."  America sounds like the Brady Bunch.       Do you really wanna poke at the Russian Bear -- who would much rather just stay in its cave and hibernate?  Well then go on ahead.  But don't be surprised when the Russian Bear (and the Chinese Bear and the Iranian Bear too) gets pissed off, comes out of hibernation and bites you in the arse.  But, unfortunately, it will also bite me in the arse too.  Sucks to be us.     But go on ahead with your bad self, America.  Go ahead and jump on the anti-Russian bandwagon.  See what it got you in the 1950s.  See what it will get you now.  The new McCarthyism 2.0 app?  It's just as full of dangerous viruses and bugs now as it was way back then -- or worse.  Much w[...]


Not lost in translation: A report from North Korea by a Lebanese journalist      An Arab-speaking friend of mine just sent me his translation of an article in Al-Akhbar, written by a journalist who was actually in North Korea recently -- unlike most American journalists who are basically arm-chair speculators who wouldn't go near Pyongyang with a ten-foot pole and, instead, just want to make up negative stories.      The author was writing about celebrations of the 69th anniversary of the founding of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea few days ago.  She says, "North Koreans have not been able to relax and take a breath from hostilities since the end of World War II".  Good grief.  That's a hecka long time to live in fear.  And also remember that in the two years after 1950, five million Koreans were slaughtered by American invaders.  Think Iraq's Shock and Awe -- only on a much larger scale.  Pyongyang, for instance, was totally flattened, all due to the same type of lies that started the U.S. "war" on Iraq.       The article's author accompanies a Lebanese soccer team to the Hermit kingdom and here are the results.     "Months before my trip, I learned by chance that a soccer match would be bringing the Lebanese national football team to play the Korean team in Pyongyang, so I applied to accompany the team.  'No kidding!' was the first reaction of my colleagues, who admitted that no one 'even thinks of escorting the sports teams there'.      "'Why are you in Pyongyang anyway?' is a question I've been asked constantly both before and during my five-day visit to the Korean capital, and before even reaching it."  She was given many warnings before she left.  "Do you know that you will not be able to talk to anyone on the street over there?  You do know that you won't be able to write a political article when you get back, right?  And after this trip, you will not be able to get any visa to any other country!"  Interesting.  Sounds more like the USA's policy than North Korea's.  She was also warned that, "They will take away your books, pens, camera and phone."      "It was a tiring journey and  after long travel, we got to Beijing and from there to Pyongyang via Korean Airlines.  The elegant flight attendants smiled, but nothing reduced our tension, enthusiasm and adrenaline as we entered Pyongyang airport, which was empty of any other passengers.  The inspection was precise, automatic and manual, the security men and women checked our faces carefully. One of the security personnel at the entry window smiled and stamped my passport, giving me permission to enter.  No one searched my larger suitcase, and the security men did not open my carry-on bag.  They asked me very gently to hand over my phone and the camera.  After a few seconds, they returned them to me without any question, request or condition."  TSA, eat your heart out!      "Tension gradually disappeared and the view of green fields along the road leading to the city helped to calm minds and souls.  We entered Pyongyang at sunset.  Workers and staff returning from their jobs, walking and biking, wide paved clean streets semi-empty of cars, and lots of trees on both sides of the road.  Pyongyang welcomes its visitors with an ama[...]


Zionists vs. Bedouins: Losers take all.     Over a century ago, a handful of wealthy Zionists got together and came up with a plan to beg, borrow or steal a "Jewish State" somewhere -- but where?  Their first three choices were South America, Africa and the Middle East.     They must have tossed a coin to make their decision and the Middle East must have won -- or perhaps "lost" might be a better word to use.  In any case, Lady Luck appears to have made a very big mistake here.  Why?  To find out you gotta look at history.     Thousands of years ago, wandering traders called Nabataeans pretty much controlled a whole bunch of the Middle East.  Even King Solomon and Alexander the Great couldn't get them to budge.  They also built a legendary capital city -- Petra.   Nabataeans also served as the prototype for modern-day Bedouins.      Then along came the Brits and the French, and they used their superior military firepower to divide the Middle East into arbitrary "nations" -- but the people there had been Bedouins for too long and the European late arrivals soon discovered that getting them to stay inside of these arbitrary "nations" was like herding cats.      And then the Zionists also invited themselves to the party.  "This land is mine," they declared, "and we have the nukes to prove it."     But still even to this day, the Bedouins still just keep wandering around the Middle East like they have done for the last 4,000 years -- even despite all those neo-colonialist carpet bombings, tanks, F-16s, napalm, DU, concentration camps, occupation, war crimes and torture.  Even despite all these decades of neo-colonialist cruelty, the salt-of-the-earth Bedouins still have their horses, their camels, their trade routes, their tribes, their Ford 150s, their slingshots -- and their will to survive.     Even after over a century of being invaded by Brits, Turks, Zionists, Saudis, Frogs and Americans, the Bedouin are still taking care of business.  It's like the old story of the tortoise and the hare.  In the long run, my money is on the Bedouin.  Still don't believe me?  Just ask the ancient Romans, Greeks, Israelites -- and of course Ozymandias.  "Boundless and bare, the lone and level sands stretch far away".     And the biggest irony yet?  According to Google, both the ancient Israelites (not to be confused with the current Israeli neo-colonialists of European origin BTW) and the ancient Nabataeans have all sprung from the very same people, all originated in the very same place.  Where?  Wait for it?  YEMEN!  Yes indeed.  Both of these wandering tribes have their roots in the very same country that Israeli, American and Saudi neo-colonialists are currently working so very hard to destroy.  Yemenis are their homies!  Speaking of Bedouins, I just met one personally and he guided me all through the ancient Nabataean city of Petra -- on his horse, in a genuine Bedouin outfit reminiscent of Captain Jack Sparrow or Indiana Jones (if nothing else Bedouins are flexible -- and they too watch TV).     Ahmed, aka Captain Jac[...]


Petra, Jordan: Yet another victim of 9-11     Of all the countries affected by 9-11, America has been hit the absolute worst -- but not in the way that most Americans still think.  According to David Ray Griffin's new book "Bush and Cheney: How They Ruined America and the World," It wasn't the Twin Tower bombing that screwed us Americans royally.  It was the war-mongering anti-democratic racist corporate-owned police state that we've been stuck with as a result.     I want my old pre-9-11 America back!      In any case, I am currently hanging out at one of the ultimate Seven Wonders of the modern world (according to UNESCO -- honest, I didn't make this stuff up!)  Petra by moonlight?  One of the most amazing sights you could ever see in your life.  An adventure in esthetic fabulousness for sure.  Bucket-list awesomeness!     Plus I got to ride horseback through it all and escorted by an extremely handsome Bedouin guide.  Rudolph Valentino, eat your heart out.    There's a blurb inside the Petra museum stating that the people who built Petra were lovers -- not fighters.  They believed in diplomacy above all.  Well, not exactly above everything else.  They believed in Art for Art's Sake even more.  "If it isn't beautiful, then don't waste our time," appeared to be their motto.  These were my kind of people!     America spends trillions of $$$ on weapons and war every year.  The Nabataeans who built Petra would have been totally shocked.  "What a waste of time and money," they would have said, "when you could be painting or playing music or carving in stone instead."  I gotta agree with them there.  After all, what have all its many nefarious, perfidious, immoral and downright slimy "wars" achieved for Americans today?  Plus everyone all across the planet hates us and fears us -- among other things (see above).       The American military-industrial complex seems to have mistaken anger and fear for beauty and love.  Not the same thing, guys.  Get real.     Anyway, here I am in beautiful Petra, hanging out with Bedouins and feeling very very very lucky.  Are you also feeling that lucky too?  Or just lied to, threatened and over-taxed?  But I digress.     On September 11, 2001, we all know what happened (or at least we pretend that we do).  And I've already mentioned some of the rotten stuff that has happened to us since then.  Plus all those billionaires created by weapon sales, millions of people needlessly slaughtered in the Middle East and America's economy in shreds.  Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Syria are in shreds too.  But Petra, in Jordan, is also a victim of 9-11.  Petra's economy is in shreds as well.       "We used to have 5,000 people a day come and tour Petra," one of the locals just told me, "but now we are lucky if 500 a day show up."  At one of the seven most beautiful sights in the world?  Only a very few tourists are showing up?     Get a life, Americans.  Stop being so fearful.  Come to Petra!&[...]


Grilled: My experience at the Israeli border    There are chickens outside my window right now -- but they are not Israeli chickens.  They aren't even Palestinian chickens either.  Long story.  Bethlehem was my original destination.  But then I got side-tracked for a while.     At the border between Jordan and Israel/Palestine the other day, I handed over my passport to a sweet-looking 20-something Israeli border guard.  She did not give it back.  I waited an hour.  "Can I please have my passport back now?" I meekly asked a few times more -- long after almost everybody and his brother who came on the bus with me had already passed through.     "It's in the office."       I waited another half-hour, asked a few more times and then finally went off to the freaking office myself.  "The computer's down," they told me at the front desk. What?  They want to run my name through a computer now?  Now it's beginning to sound a bit too much like Big Brother.  But still, I bet they won't have to search very far.  I've been on some weird hyper-Zionist's radar a lot lately and he's been threatening to use his influence in Israel to get me banned there.  Apparently Israel is a democratic country -- just as long as you don't practice free speech.  But maybe he's Netanyahu's new BFF?  If so, I'm screwed.     At that point, however, this really nice young woman and this really nice young man popped up from out of nowhere and started to lead me off into the bowels of the office's inner sanctum, a warren of small interrogation rooms in the back.  "This is bound to end badly," I thought to myself, seriously considering grabbing onto a door frame, shouting "Attica!" and refusing to move.  But I didn't.     "Leave your purse and computer bag in this cupboard," said the really nice young man.  Yeah, right.       "How do I know they'll be safe?"     "We'll keep an eye on them."  I just bet that you will.  But the really nice young man appeared to be non-threatening, friendly and having only my best interests at heart -- plus did I really have any other choice?     Next they herded me into one of their many interrogation rooms where a friendly-looking detective-type was seated at a computer -- maybe like that guy on CSI?  And he started asking me questions.  "Are you here to be in a demonstration?"  Er, no.       "I'm here to go to Bethlehem and have a nice chit-chat with Jesus."     "Have you ever been in any demonstrations before?"  Well, sure.  I'm from freaking Berkeley.  What do you think.  MLK, Vietnam, 1960s stuff.  Homelessness, ICE, that illegal Syria invasion, neo-Nazi White supremacists, modern stuff.     "Do you know about ISM?"  The International Solidarity Movement, Rachael Corrie's group?  If I say yes, will they run me over with a bulldozer too?     "Yes, I do," I replied.  "And I also know about AIPAC."  Couldn't resist throwing that in.  But then I noticed a tiny video camera on the desk that was pointed straight at me.  Oh goodie!  Now I'm gonna [...]


Middle East travel: S-o-o-o frustrating!     Here I am in Amman, Jordan -- staying at a cheap hotel that only costs $21 a night.  But it's safe and has functioning plumbing, a bed, a card table, several electrical outlets, free breakfasts and an owner who is totally nice -- plus the guy in the room next door appears to have a fabulous sex life.     And there are no bedbugs.     But being in Amman is also extremely frustrating from a tourist's point of view.  Why?  I'll tell you why.  The ancient pre-Roman city of Petra, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that will totally knock your socks off, is only a three-hour car ride away.     However.     The Syrian border is only 45 minutes away by car -- but it might as well be on the moon  thanks to ISIS and its BFFs in America, Turkey, Israel and Saudi Arabia.     And the border between Jordan and Palestine is only 45 minutes away too -- and once you're on the West Bank, it should only be an hour's drive to Bethlehem or to Jenin, Ramallah, Jericho or wherever.  Jerusalem itself is practically right around the corner from Amman as the crow flies.  Hell, even Gaza is not all that far away from where I sit in my hotel room right now.  It's probably even closer than Petra.     Technically.     But by the time one crosses a very stern border and goes through tons of checkpoints and deals with Israel's all-pervasive Occupation bureaucracy and the IDF's whole super-militarized tap dance, one coulda just hired an Uber and driven to Petra three times over -- and with 87% less aggravation and at one-tenth the price.  It would be like as if you had to pass through five different checkpoints to get from north Berkeley to south Berkeley -- and not get pissed off while doing it.     Plus right over from Jordan in the other direction lies Iraq.  There's even a big green sign on the freeway from the airport that reads "Next Exit:  Saudi Arabia and Iraq".  And Yemen isn't that much farther away either.  Even Lebanon and the Golan Heights are within driving range of my hotel.     Theoretically.     The whole heart of the entire freaking Middle East is not much bigger than the greater San Francisco Bay Area, and it sometimes seems like the only real difference between the two is that the Bay Area doesn't have colonialism, imperialism and the CIA to tie everything all up in knots.  Yet.PS:  I'm still wallowing in the miry swamp of jet lag.  Haven't slept more than six hours in the past four days.  Oh well.  "Sleep when you're dead".  Plus once I got past a certain tipping point, I don't appear to need any sleep at all.  But then neither do zombies.  But I digress.PPS:  Yesterday I visited The Citadel, Amman's most famous ruin.  And located there, right next to each other, were ancient Neolithic ruins, ancient Roman ruins, ancient Byzantine Christian ruins and ancient Islamic ruins -- all in one place.[...]