A man was found hanging inside a two-story-high tent this morning, said the federal Bureau of Land Management, which oversees the festival on the Black Rock Desert in northern Nevada. The man's identity has not been released pending notification of his family.
He dangled for two hours before anyone in the big tent thought to bring him down, said Mark Pirtle, special agent in charge.
"His friends thought he was doing an art piece," he said.
So far, an estimated 36,000 people have arrived at the gathering, with 46,000 expected by the time things end Saturday with the burning of a 40-foot-tall wooden man. Earlier this week, a participant set the structure ablaze and was charged with arson. Burning Man organizers say the man will be rebuilt in time for the official burn.
(Photo of workers assessing arson damage to "the Man" by Brad Horn of the Nevada Appeal, via AP)
Following last Sunday's Democratic presidential debate on ABC News' This Week with George Stephanopoulos, Dennis Kucinich's campaign asked ABC News to address issues it had with treatment Rep. Kucinich (D-Ohio) received both during the debate and afterward in ABC's online coverage. In an email sent out to supporters on Wednesday, the campaign said it "submitted objections and inquiries to ABC News representatives on Monday and Tuesday. ABC News representatives have failed to respond - or even acknowledge - those objections and inquiries." I confirmed with the Kucinich campaign yesterday that it has subsequently been forwarded the same response ABC News Executive Director Andrea Jones sent to The Washington Post and Time magazine.
ABC News representatives felt it necessary to answer the Kucinich campaign's objections when Time magazine's National Political Correspondent Karen Tumulty queried them. Writing on the Time blog Swampland, Tumulty initially says of the Kucinich team's issues with ABC's treatment (which included Kucinich not having a chance to speak until 28 minutes into the debate), "These all seemed like fair complaints to me, so I asked ABC News to respond." Then Tumulty says, "In an e-mail, Executive Director Andrea Jones answered him [Kucinich] point by point."
While I give Tumulty credit for contacting ABC News, her investigative journalism unfortunately ends there. Once she receives the email from Jones, Tumulty slips into stenography mode. Jones' "point by point" response to the Kucinich campaign's complaints does not in itself exculpate or dispel any of ABC's wrongdoing. Tumulty fails to assess the accuracy and logic of Jones' answers.
First, just so we're all up to speed, here are the issues (an aggregate of the thousands of complaints received during and after ABC's debate coverage) that the Kucinich campaign asked ABC News to address:
* Congressman Kucinich was apparently deliberately cropped out of a "Politics Page" photo of the candidates.
* Sometime Monday afternoon, after Congressman Kucinich took a commanding lead in ABC's own on-line "Who won the Democratic debate" survey, the survey was dropped from prominence on the website.
* ABC News has not officially reported the results of its online survey.
* After the results of that survey showed Congressman Kucinich winning handily, ABC News, sometime Monday afternoon, replaced the original survey with a second survey asking "Who is winning the Democratic debate?"
* During the early voting Monday afternoon and evening, U.S. Senator Barack Obama was in the lead. By sometime late Monday or early Tuesday morning, Congressman Kucinich regained the lead by a wide margin in this second survey.
* Sometime Tuesday morning, ABC News apparently dropped the second survey from prominence or killed it entirely.
* AND, as every viewer of the nationally televised Sunday Presidential forum is aware, Congressman Kucinich was not given an opportunity to answer a question from moderator George Stephanopoulos until 28 minutes into the program.
Now back to Tumulty commenting on Jones' response [emphasis below is mine]:
This gist of her answer is this: She denies that Kucinich was cropped out of any photo, noting that "there are 20 photos live on the ABC News website, Mr. Kucinich is in a number of them and there is even one of him and his wife. He is one of 6 candidates who got his own photo in the slide show. As for the images, clearly nothing was cropped, the image in question was shot by Charlie Neibergall of the AP not ABC."
FALSE. Had Tumulty - Time magazine's National Political Correspondent and former member of the White House press corps - simply located the original AP photo (which, at most, should've taken a few minutes online), she would've found Kucinich in it and realized the following version ABC News prominently displayed online after the debate had, indeed, been cropped:
So Jones either lied when she said "clearly nothing was cropped" or was misinformed by someone on her staff. Since Tumulty seems to think her job ends with receiving answers from an ABC News spokesperson, she doesn't question the veracity of Jones' assertion, which is clearly false.
Adding to its duplicity, ABC News has now completely replaced the original photograph in question. If you click on the link in Tumulty's post (which is supposed to bring you to that photo), you are now taken to a wholly different shot that includes Dennis Kucinich and is currently the default debate photo sitting on the ABC News website.
So, in case your keeping score, first ABC disappears Kucinich from a photo by cropping him out, then denies it, then later disappears the original cropped photo, replacing it with a separate photo that includes Kucinich, making it appear as if nothing improper ever occurred.
Eat your heart out Fox News.
Tumulty does later post an update after she manages (she doesn't say how) to find her way to a page on the site Pinkraygun that shows the original AP photo and the doctored ABC photo side-by-side. This compels Tumulty to gingerly concede "there does in fact appear to have been some cropping." First, it was either cropped or it wasn't. "Some cropping" gives the impression a whole cropping didn't occur, which it did. Second, if there was "some cropping," then logic follows that Jones either did some lying or some misinforming. That, in turn, means Tumulty should be doing some follow up with Jones. She does not. Third, a question for Tumulty and her editors over at Time: How did you fail to bring this simple fact to light yourselves? You had three main points to investigate - whether a photo was cropped, whether a poll was manipulated and whether Kucinich was allotted a fair amount of time. Arguably, the cropped photo was the most simple and quick of the three to verify. Did you attempt to find this on your own? If so, what's your excuse for initially failing to obtain such readily available evidence? If not, what's your excuse for failing to pursue this evidence in the first place?
On to the poll(s):
She notes that the poll was and is live on ABC's website. (When I checked it, Kucinich was still winning, with Barack Obama a distant second.) She also notes the poll's disclaimer that it is "not a scientific survey," which seems like a decent reason for ABC not to treat it as a news story.
MISLEADING. Jones' statement circumvents the facts and the original thrust of the Kucinich campaign's complaint about the poll. Tumulty's unobtrusive reporting gives the impression the poll has always been up on ABC's site in clear view and at no time were changes made to it.
FACT: The original poll, prominently displayed, asked, "Who won the Democratic debate?" Once Kucinich jumped ahead, this poll was scuttled from its prominence on the site. As it became clear Kucinich was trouncing his competition, ABC just happened to decide to post a new poll asking, "Who is winning the Democratic debate?" As the Kucinich campaign (and Tumulty) correctly cited, Barack Obama had an early lead in this second poll; but when Kucinich pulled ahead by a wide margin, ABC then dropped this poll from prominence, too. (Because the Kucinich camp had difficulty finding the poll after ABC moved it, they questioned whether ABC may have buried the poll "or killed it entirely." It appears ABC didn't kill it entirely; they just made it difficult for users work to find - which, as anyone who knows anything about online usability, is nearly tantamount to killing it).
Though of lesser importantance (due to the current unverifiable nature of online polls), Tumulty still manages to mishandle Jones' explanation of why ABC News didn't report the poll results. This issue is about nuance and context. Not exactly Tumulty's and the mainstream media's forte.
Yes, the online poll is "not a scientific survey"* (incidentally, it's verboten to mention in the mainstream media that phone surveys, many of which include leading and misleading questions, are often far from scientific accountings as well). But since news outlets (possibly ABC among them) have certainly noted some online polls in the past but in context of their scientific shortcomings, and considering ABC's shenanigans concerning Kucinich, it seems either intellectually dishonest or misinformed for Tumulty to give Jones the free pass "which seems like a decent reason for ABC not to treat it as a news story."
Does Tumulty honestly believe it's "a decent reason"? Or does she merely believe it's decent enough because the target of the question is ABC News and the questioner is the not-so-"viable" candidate Kucinich?
I should note here that Tumulty frames her post with the opening line: "Should the networks and interest groups that have been sponsoring the seemingly endless series of debates and candidate forums start limiting their invitations to those contenders who seem, by whatever definition, 'viable'?" She then claims to like "the idea of including candidates from the second tier--and beyond--in these settings," saying, "You never know when lightning may strike, and how is an underfinanced long-shot going to get a breakout moment otherwise?" and that "candidates such as Dennis Kucinich often are the only ones giving voice to ideas--like single-payer health care and a quick withdrawal from Iraq--that have not been embraced by the leading candidates, despite having significant support among the party rank and file." Yet Tumulty seems incapable of embracing such basic tenets of a democratic political process; instead, she reverts to entrenched media establishment dogma to round out her post's frame: "Still, having decided to include them, should they be given the same amount of time and attention as the leaders in the race?"
This is the journalist we're going to trust to get to the bottom of whether ABC News treated Dennis Kucinich fairly?
Finally, there's ABC's defense of Kucinich receiving so little airtime during the debate and, once again, Tumulty's stenographic framing and conclusions [emphasis below is mine]:
As for Kucinich's complaint that he was not given a question in the first 28 minutes of the debate, Jones notes: "He may not have been addressed in the first 28 minutes, but he was the only candidate questioned in his own segment on This Week with George Stephanopoulos, two weeks in a row, that appearance is posted online as well. Also. Mr. Kucinich was the only candidate to address healthcare in Sunday's debate, and that response was immediately clipped and posted on the ABC News website." Her bottom line: "After back to back appearances on ABC News' This Week with George Stephanopoulos, clearly their claim is not substantiated by the facts nor by the extensive coverage of his candidacy on the ABCNews.com website."
First, Jones' "bottom line" skirts the issue at hand: she concedes ABC's debate moderators failed to address Kucinich in the first 28 minutes of the forum (though she frames her concession with the words "he may not have been addressed" rather than "he wasn't addressed," incorporating shades of doubt, as if this were somehow open to interpretation), but claims that ABC News has provided Kucinich much airtime overall.
Yet here's the real bottom line: In any equitable debate, no candidate should have to remain silent for the first 28 minutes. Period. This is not only unfair to Congressman Kucinich, but to all American citizens for whom news outlets such as ABC are supposed to be informing their decision-making process instead of acting to unduly manipulate it.
What's more, Jones' claim that Kucinich "was the only candidate questioned in his own segment on This Week with George Stephanopoulos, two weeks in a row" and that he had "back to back appearances" on this program is blatantly misleading. (I must admit this one initially slipped by me until, while fact-checking another element of this story, I stumbled across the truth in a conversation I had yesterday with Kucinich campaign spokesman Andy Juniewicz. More on that below).
FACT: Kucinich has made one appearance on This Week with George Stephanopoulos. Jones has the audacity to count Kucinich's appearance at this ABC debate as his second appearance on the show in which - breathing even new life into the word "truthiness" - he's received "his own segment." Can Jones explain how a candidate receives his own segment during a debate? What in the world is she talking about?
Moreover, in a statistical analysis of the debate performed by USA Election Polls, Kucinich was given less time to speak than any candidate with the exception of former Alaska Senator Mike Gravel. Yet it gets worse: in the critical first half of the debate (the time when viewers tend to be most engaged), Kucinich received just 3.4% of airtime, the least of all the candidates. To put that in context, Hillary Clinton, John Edwards and Barack Obama combined to chew up 60.4% of airtime during the first half of the debate.
USA Election Polls also points out:
In fact, even Chris Dodd got more air time than Kucinich which is ridiculous because Kucinich is beating Dodd in the majority of state polls. So if the emphasis was on giving the most time to the leaders in the polls, then what was Dodd doing speaking more than Kucinich?
Nevertheless, Tumulty and Time magazine show no interest in such further incontrovertible proof of the unfair treatment to which ABC News subjected Congressman Kucinich. Instead, Tumulty follows up Jones' "bottom line" by closing her post with these thoughts:
I honestly don't know what the right balance is here when you are dealing with such a large field of candidates, most of whom don't have a prayer of winning. What do you think? Was Kucinich treated unfairly? Or should he be included at all?*
*Not a scientific survey.
Cute. But parting shot at the Kucinich campaign aside, shouldn't Tumulty and Time magazine provide the facts in a piece titled "Dennis Kucinich vs. ABC News"? Instead, we're presented with a slanted, inaccurate, misleading and ill-researched breakdown of events that ends with Tumulty floating the question of whether Kucinich should be allowed to attend these debates in the first place.
And sadly, thanks to The Washington Post, that wasn't the worst coverage of the Kucinich-ABC incident by a major news outlet.
In a post titled "Kucinich Mad at ABC" over at The Washington Post blog The Sleuth (oh the irony), journalist Mary Ann Akers (a former reporter for The Washington Times as well as NPR) doesn't try to hide her contempt for Kucinich while barreling ahead without concern for facts or fact-checking.
She opens her post:
Don't expect to see too many more appearances by Rep. Dennis Kucinich(D-Ohio) on ABC News.
An apparently irate Kucinich sent out a letter to supporters Wednesday accusing the network of ignoring him in the Democratic presidential debate on Sunday's "This Week with George Stephanopoulos."
So since Kucinich - along with, and spurred on by, thousands of other American citizens - objected to ABC's handling of the debate, should we expect, and accept, that ABC has a right to actively work to further marginalize him?
If that's Akers' frame, you can guess where this is going.
Also, because she fails to cite any source, we must assume her characterization of Kucinich as "apparently irate" hinges not on fact but projection. And as it turns out, that is exactly the case.
Yesterday, when I contacted Kucinich campaign spokesman Andy Juniewicz, he addressed Akers unfounded assertion:
"Congressman Kucinich was not irate. Nothing in the email communication expressed anger," said the soft-spoken Juniewicz. "It was just a delineation of what we were hearing from thousands of people who contacted us, many of whom weren't even Kucinich supporters. We asked ABC to respond to the questions they raised." When I asked if Akers or someone else at The Washington Post had spoken with anyone in his campaign about this purported demonstration of anger, Mr. Juniewicz said, "No. No one."
Note to Akers and The Washington Post: Before the Internets, there was the telephone. Some news outlets, though fewer and fewer these days, still find it handy for checking facts.
Moving right along, Akers then runs through roughly the same terrain on which Tumulty trodded, but her condescension and bias is profligate and shameless.
Among Kucinich's charges: he was "deliberately cropped out" of photos; after he took a "commanding lead" in ABC's online survey, the survey was mysteriously "dropped from prominence on the web site"; and "as every viewer of the nationally televised Sunday presidential forum is aware" Kucinich was not asked a question until 28 minutes into the program. (Everyone clocked that at 28 minutes, right?)
"Among Kucinich's charges" blunts the fact they've all been proven to be true (something Akers apparently has no interest in uncovering or presenting). Use of the word "mysteriously" not only mocks the assertion that the poll was buried but conjures the mainstream media's favorite attack on uncomfortable truths: it must be the work of those crazy conspiracy theorists (Akers also disregards the full story - previously addressed above in this post - behind ABC's bizarre and devious manipulation of the debate's polls). "Everyone clocked that at 28 minutes, right?" is not only disparaging but gives the ludicrous impression the Kucinich campaign is contending everyone noticed the precise number of minutes Kucinich had been shut out of the debate; rather, the campaign was noting a simple fact: everyone watching certainly saw that Kucinich didn't get a chance to speak for an usually long duration of time.
We deserve more than such absurd manufactured nitpicking from Akers and The Washington Post. Rather than chasing their tail to portray Kucinich in a poor light, think of how much easier it would've been to just present the facts. And to search them out.
But hey, according to Akers, "ABC News Executive Director Andrea Jones addressed every charge Kucinich made." Incredibly, Akers not only embraces Jones' answers without question, but also unwittingly contradicts Jones' claim that the photo in question was never cropped by providing the ABC debate photo below her post. In other words, the AP photo that ABC undeniably cropped is sitting below Akers' post in which she contends no cropping occurred. Again, all one needs to do is locate the original AP photo. And presto! Cropping mystery solved.
Again, too, Jones is either lying or misinformed, and Akers and The Washington Post (along with Tumulty and Time magazine) are complicit in perpetuating this falsehood.
Escaping Akers' notice or range of journalistic concern as well is ABC's wholesale swapping out of its cropped photo with an altogether new one in which Kucinich appears alongside the rest of the Democratic candidates. ABC News, in effect, has worked diligently to cover up this despicable act, one worthy of Fox News and Orwell's vision of totalitarian media manipulation.
In their coverage of the Kucinich-ABC incident, Time magazine's Tumulty and The Washington Post's Akers wind up crystallizing the extent to which big media rigs the game against a candidate like Congressman Kucinich. In defense of sound and equitable journalism, it is incumbent upon both Time magazine and The Washington Post to correct the record on ABC's actions, and the rest of the news media to hold ABC News accountable for this disgraceful performance.
No news organization - especially one charged with facilitating part of our electoral process - should be able to so grossly transgress such basic journalistic standards and not be held to account. This isn't a partisan issue. Congressman Kucinich's chances of capturing the Democratic nomination are irrelevant to this matter.
This speaks to the viability of our national press.
At a time when the mainstream media is struggling to retain and rebuild both its credibility and coveted market share among Americans, it ignores ABC's actions at its own peril.
I meet a girl,
Once whom I knew
And I still followed her
Her scent intoxicated me,
Her voice was spring,
But I knew she was the sweetest poison
But I followed her
I die when I see her
In my mind
And I know
"The instruments are useful only in measuring the level of reality in which they themselves exist."The Unknown Reality, Volume 1Session 702, Page 195
[i.e. Scientific Instruments....]
"I do not know how to explain some of this, but in your terms there is light within darkness. Light has more manifestations than its physical version, so that even when it may not be physically manifested there is light everywhere, and that light is the source of your physical version and its physical laws."Dreams, Evolution and Value Fulfillment, Volume 1Session 900, Page 230
Stewart A. Alexander for President Peace and Freedom Party Socialist Party USA August 28, 2007 During the month of April 2007, Stewart Alexander was the first candidate to announce that he would seek the nomination for president on the Peace and Freedom Party ticket in California. Now Stewart Alexander is joining 10 other candidates to seek the nomination of the Socialist Party USA to become the next President of the United States. Peace and Freedom Party and Socialist Party USA represent working class people and share common goals. Both parties remain strongly opposed to the US occupation in Iraq and Afghanistan and are demanding an immediate withdrawal of all American and occupying forces from both countries. Stewart Alexander has made ending the Iraq War the number one issue of his campaign. Both parties are opposed to the continued funding of the Iraq war that has now claimed the lives of more than 3,732 Americans and more than 425 American lives in Afghanistan; a war that has devastated Iraq claiming the lives of more the one million Iraqis. All the candidates for Socialist Party USA and Peace and Freedom Party place ending the war as a top campaign issue. Alexander notes that Americans are opposed to Congress wasting billions to fund the Iraq War; however within the next few weeks Congress is preparing to give Bush another $145 billion to continue his war. The two parties are united in the belief that the Bush war on terrorism has actually been an assault on the American working class; to strip away their rights and freedoms. Stewart Alexander has repeatedly accused the Democrats and Republicans for giving President Bush their continued support in this assault against the working class. The Socialist Party USA and Peace and Freedom Party are strong advocates for immigrant rights and oppose the actions of the Bush Administration to deny immigrants their human rights. Stewart Alexander has adamantly opposed border walls and guest worker “slavery” programs. While running as a candidate for California Lieutenant Governor, in the 2006 Mid Term Elections, Alexander had proposed doubling the California minimum wage. Recently the Democratic controlled Congress increase the checks of the lowest paid workers by $2.10; however Alexander wants to increase the federal minimum wage to $10.25 per hour and index it to the cost of living. Across the nation voter dissatisfaction with the rising cost of health care is growing and the two corporate parties, the Democrats and Republicans, continue to back private insurance companies; giving the insurance industry control over the nation’s health care system. Alexander believes a single-payer, universal health care program, is necessary to make good health care available to everyone. Today the majority of Americans have lost confidence in the Democrats and Republicans; the 110th Congress has the lowest voter approval rating in the past 100 years. Alexander says, “Peace and Freedom Party and the Socialist Party USA are reaching out to 298 million people in the US that are without representation. The truth about America’s two party system has now been revealed; the two rights are wrong for America.” Most of the 11 candidates for president, for the two socialist parties, will appear on the ticket for both parties. The candidates have very little funds to spend on their campaigns compared to the presidential campaigns of the two big capitalist parties that are spending millions to promote their campaigns and are dominating the corporate media. Alexander says, “My campaign is about addressing human needs, not protecting the interests and profits of the wealthy few. My mission is to share the hope of socialism, and help working people learn that capitalism only benefits the rich. My family background and my own life of hard work have helped prepare me as a representative of the many who give, rather than the few who take.” For more information search the Web for: Stewart Alexander Enters Race for President; Stewart A. Alexander for President.www.salt-g.comwww.vote-socialist.org/peaceandfreedom-sjv.org/home/www.americanchronicle.com/articles/viewArticle.asp
Shelley’s radical ideals were inseparable from a kind of moral arrogance.
Radicals In the summer of 1812, as the half million soldiers of the Grande Armée marched across Europe in Napoleon’s doomed Russian campaign, a nineteen-year-old in the Devonshire village of Lynmouth set out to change the history of Europe all on his own. Anyone strolling along the beach at Lynmouth that summer, around sunrise or sunset, might have caught him at his epochal work, which to the casual eye would have looked like a boy’s game. He knelt down by the water and launched toy boats, waterproofed with wax and equipped with masts made of sticks, into the Bristol Channel; he launched handmade hot-air balloons, their silk canopies inflating and floating away toward Wales and Ireland.
To Percy Bysshe Shelley, however, these fragile devices were as dangerous to the established order as Napoleon’s grapeshot. Each one contained a copy of “A Declaration of Rights,” a manifesto that set out Shelley’s radical creed in thirty-one propositions. “Government has no rights,” he announced. “All have a right to an equal share in the benefits and burdens of government”; “A Christian, a Deist, a Turk, and a Jew, have equal rights.” It was Shelley’s version of the declarations that had launched the American and French Revolutions, and he saw no reason that his work—though the product of a single ardent mind, instead of a Congress or an Assembly—shouldn’t have equally momentous results. Weren’t poets, as he would write almost a decade later, the unacknowledged legislators of the world?
The image of Shelley entrusting his words to the elements captures both the admirable and the questionable sides of his tumultuous career. Shelley’s certainty that his messages would reach their rightful audience, despite the odds, expresses his faith that justice is radiantly simple. He wrote the “Declaration” in the same spirit, sure that if the world could be made to see the truth, as clearly and passionately as he saw it, all selfishness would disappear. Like Jesus, whom he blasphemed, admired, and at times resembled, Shelley would take no thought for the morrow. He stood to lose personally from the social revolution he preached. As the son of a country squire, he was due to inherit an estate, a title, and a fortune; but he didn’t hesitate to renounce them all for the sake of his ideals. During his first year at Oxford, he published an essay, “The Necessity of Atheism,” and sent it to the university’s leading officials, practically begging to be expelled. When he was, to the horror of his well-meaning, conventional father, Shelley made things worse by eloping with a sixteen-year-old girl, Harriet Westbrook. Cut off by his family, he was reduced to scraping by on small loans, but he remained impulsively generous to friends, and even to strangers.
Unlike the average radical, then, Shelley didn’t just challenge social taboos; he openly violated them, living his personal life in accordance with unpopular principles like equality, women’s rights, and free love. As a result, he became so reviled in England that he had to emigrate, spending the last four years of his life in Italy. Such unworldliness helps to explain why Shelley’s closest friends remembered him as a kind of saint or angel. To Thomas Hogg, whom he met at Oxford, “he was a pure spirit, in the Divine likeness of the Archangel Gabriel; the peace-breathing, lily-bearing Annunciator.”
At the same time, there is something exasperating, or worse, about the idea of Shelley trying to change the world with toy balloons. Throughout his adulthood, he considered himself a serious radical—even claiming, “I consider poetry very subordinate to moral and political science”—whose purpose in life was to advance the cause of liberty in England and Europe. But he consistently displayed an indifference to reality which went deeper than his propaganda techniques. Shelley’s ineffectiveness as an agitator we could dismiss with a smile. But his political beliefs demonstrated the same contempt of consequence, the same elevation of pure motive over practical effects, the same lack of self-awareness. These qualities helped to make Shelley a genuinely illiberal thinker, whose politics verged at times on the totalitarian.
Because his poetry is deeply political, it is impossible to separate Shelley’s abstract ideas from his sensuous, passionate poems. And because he believed, as much as any revolutionary of the nineteen-sixties, that the personal is political, it is equally hard to separate his art from his biography. That is why, during his lifetime and ever since, Shelley’s private life, his politics, and his poetry have presented readers with a single, inextricable problem. “And did you once see Shelley plain?” Robert Browning wrote; the line is famous because nobody ever has.
“Being Shelley” (Pantheon; $30), by Ann Wroe, does not even try to see Shelley plain. Instead, as the title suggests, Wroe tries to see as Shelley saw—to inhabit his consciousness and capture its every movement. This is, as she frankly says, “an experiment,” and any reader who opens the book expecting a conventional biography is in for a surprise. While Wroe offers some basic biographical information and quotes copiously from Shelley’s writings, she does not tell a chronological story or analyze individual poems. Instead, like an alchemist at the cauldron, she volatilizes Shelley’s life and work into their basic elements: her book is divided into sections titled “Earth,” “Water,” “Air,” and “Fire.”
The book is more an act of mediumship than a work of biography, and it depends for its success on the fineness of Wroe’s intuition and the intensity of her identification with her subject. Fortunately, Wroe seems to have Shelley’s entire life and work spread out before her in a mental map, allowing her to draw some unexpected connections. Shelley’s language is kneaded so deeply into her own that some familiarity with the poems is required to recognize all her allusions. “If others thought him ‘a blot,’ he was a bright one,” she writes, subtly quoting Shelley’s sonnet “Lift not the painted veil”: “through the unheeding many he did move, / A splendour among shadows, a bright blot / Upon this gloomy scene.” At times, Wroe shifts from narrative to fuguelike lists of images. “Water could not be counted his friend,” begins one such catalogue, which goes on to show us Shelley being baptized in 1792, getting caught in a rainstorm in 1814, and sketching raindrops in his notebooks, which are themselves smeared with seawater. All the while, Wroe, who assumes some prior knowledge of the Shelley myth, also means us to remember how the poet died. In 1822, just a month before his thirtieth birthday, he drowned off the Italian coast near Livorno, having insisted on launching a small boat even though a storm was brewing.
Wroe’s free-associative method would not get very far with most poets, perhaps. But it is well suited to Shelley, whose poems return again and again, as it were compulsively, to a few primal scenes and images. A boat travelling down a river under a canopy of leaves; a deep, narrow cave in the mountains or by the water; the play of light on the sea—these images seem to bubble up into Shelley’s consciousness from some mysterious elsewhere, much as the landscape of “Kubla Khan” came to Coleridge in a dream. To W. B. Yeats, Shelley’s use of such archetypes was proof that he had access to “some great memory that renews the world and men’s thoughts age after age.” Shelley, Yeats was sure, was “what people call ‘psychic.’ ”
The whole repertoire of Shelley’s archetypes, psychic or otherwise, is on display in “Alastor,” his first major poem, written in 1815, when he was twenty-three. It recounts the visionary quest of a Poet—with an unapologetic capital “P”—who travels the East in search of a woman he once saw in a dream. This “veiled maid” is an embodiment of “Knowledge and truth and virtue.” But it is characteristic of Shelley that she is also a sexual being, and that her visitation takes the form of what we would now call a wet dream. The movement of Shelley’s verse imitates the rhythm of orgasm in a way that still feels startling:
He reared his shuddering limbs, and quelled
His gasping breath, and spread his arms to meet
Her panting bosom; . . . she drew back a while,
Then, yielding to the irresistible joy,
With frantic gesture and short breathless cry
Folded his frame in her dissolving arms.
When the Poet wakes up, he realizes that he cannot live without seeing the maid again. But this need to pursue “Beyond the realms of dream that fleeting shade,” to find the Infinite in the real world, seals his doom. The rest of the poem is a deliquescent series of landscapes and waterscapes, as the Poet pilots his “little shallop” down a river that is nominally in the Caucasus. But no map can point the way to “the shifting domes of sheeted spray / That canopied his path o’er the waste deep,” the “pyramids / Of the tall cedar overarching,” the “Islanded seas, blue mountains, mighty streams, / Dim tracts and vast, robed in the lustrous gloom / Of leaden-coloured even,” which the Poet discovers. “Thou imagest my life,” he declares to the river, and the scenes he passes through “Have each their type in me.” Inevitably, this passage through the landscape of his mind can end only in death.
Shelley’s dreamlike language and sensuous imagery made him one of the favorite poets of the prudish Victorian age, once his sexual radicalism had receded into legend. But this popularity was founded principally on such short lyrics as “To a Skylark” or “Mont Blanc,” whose descriptions of nature can be more easily detached from politics. Today, it is Shelley’s longer, stranger, more aggressively philosophical poems—some of them flawed and incomplete—that seem to represent the core of his achievement. During the poet’s Italian sojourn, masterpieces came in a steady stream. In four years, he produced the mythic drama “Prometheus Unbound,” which began as a translation of Aeschylus and became an apocalyptic allegory of revolution; “The Cenci,” an homage to the Jacobean drama, in which a father’s rape of his daughter becomes a symbol of patriarchal tyranny; “Adonais,” an ode on the death of Keats, which turns the poet into a martyr, slain by an unfeeling world; “Hellas,” a piece of propaganda for the Greek revolution against the Turks; and “The Masque of Anarchy,” a joyous libel of England’s ruling statesmen. As Shelley got older, his political vision grew broader and deeper, until the revolution he imagined was less a change of regime than a renovation of humanity itself. And this far more radical dream, nearly religious in its scope and intensity, is at the heart of his greatest poems.
Shelley’s uncanny power lies in his gift for projecting his deepest fears and longings onto a hallucinatory cosmos. In his highest and most Shelleyan moments, the suggestive richness of his language, along with his ecstatic rhythms, allows him to abolish the distinction between himself and the world. In his essay “A Defence of Poetry,” when he claims and possibly believes that he is describing the effect of Bacon’s prose, he is actually talking about his own verse: “it is a strain which distends and then bursts the circumference of the hearer’s mind and pours itself forth together with it into the universal element with which it has perpetual sympathy.”
That bursting and pouring reaches its highest pitch in “Ode to the West Wind.” Wroe makes much use of Shelley’s notebooks, which are preserved at Oxford and the Huntington Library, to evoke his inner world. Sometimes her interpretations of the poet’s drafts and doodles feel arbitrary, or else overdetermined, as when she sees his handwriting, in a passage about weeping, as “digging and jerking as if in paroxysms of tears.” But she finds something genuinely revelatory in the drafts of the “Ode,” which Shelley wrote on the afternoon of October 25, 1819, in a wood near the Arno in Florence. In trying to define the exact relation between himself and the wind—which he imagines as the “Destroyer and Preserver” of the universe—Shelley made several false starts. “Be thy,” “Be thou through,” “in me,” “to the,” he writes, crossing out the words each time. Finally, he lights on the famous, thrilling lines: “Be thou, spirit fierce, / My spirit! Be thou me, impetuous one!” No prepositions can separate the poet from the world: the two must be not just identified but identical. That is the impossible ambition of Shelley’s poetry, which at moments he seems to make possible through the power of his language.
Yet it is also a Luciferian ambition, which aims to violate some essential order of the world and of the human mind. “He overleaps the bounds,” Shelley writes of the Poet in “Alastor,” and his own poetry lives in a perpetual overreaching. He was well aware that this could be considered a species of pride, and he took a mischievous pleasure in identifying himself with the great villain of pride in English literature, Milton’s Satan. The last line of his “Declaration of Rights” reads, “Awake!—arise!—or be for ever fallen”; there is no attribution, but Shelley hoped that his audience would recognize the words with which Satan rallies the fallen angels in the first book of “Paradise Lost.” In “Julian and Maddalo,” Shelley portrays himself and Lord Byron—thinly disguised as the title characters—in conversation, “forlorn, / Yet pleasing such as once, so poets tell, / The devils held within the dales of Hell, / Concerning God, freewill and destiny.” He even wrote an “Essay on the Devil and Devils,” in which he argued that “Milton’s Devil as a moral being” was “far superior to his God.”
Wroe tries to explain Shelley’s interest in the Devil, and in all kinds of demons and ghosts, by invoking another of her book’s many avatars, “Monster-Shelley”—the side of him that enjoyed reading tales of horror, and liked to scare himself and other people with hideous visions. She even suggests that his vaunted atheism was just another kind of thrill-seeking: “As a devil-figure he was interesting, but not uncommon. He could do much worse, scaring the custom-bound much more thoroughly. Monster-Shelley therefore took the title ‘Atheist’ and blazoned it on his forehead.” This assumption doesn’t do justice to the earnestness and importance of Shelley’s radical commitments—although it is true that there was an element of performance in his atheism, especially at first. His letters just before he was expelled from Oxford, a martyr to the atheist creed, are filled with Voltairean bravado: “Oh! how I wish I were the avenger!—that it were mine to crush the demon; to hurl him to his native hell, never to rise again, and thus to establish for ever perfect and universal toleration.” The sentence is comic in its tonal paradox—the prophet of toleration thundering like a Spanish Inquisitor—and doubly so thanks to Shelley’s failure to recognize the comedy. To Matthew Arnold, indeed, it was this “utter deficiency in humor” that was Shelley’s “disastrous want and weakness.” Arnold did not simply mean that Shelley couldn’t tell a joke but, more fundamentally, that he could not step outside himself and look impartially at his own weaknesses, limitations, and failures. Like many adolescents, but few adults, he did not really believe that he had any.
To his contemporaries, the signal example of Shelley’s moral arrogance was his treatment of his first wife. When Harriet Westbrook, in rebellion against her father and her school, begged Shelley to rescue her, it was the kind of cause that he found hard to resist. He agreed to elope with a girl he had never considered more than a friend. “If I know anything about love, I am not in love,” he had written just weeks before the marriage. He loved the idea of getting married even less: “A kind of ineffable, sickening disgust seizes my mind when I think of this most despotic, most unrequired fetter.” But he recognized that living together out of wedlock would hurt Harriet’s reputation much more than his own, and he agreed to go through with the ceremony.
Things worked well enough for two and a half years, as Shelley enlisted Harriet in his political activities and taught her to parrot his catchphrases. She helped to distribute his youthful tracts but seems to have regarded the activity as little more than a lark. “We throw them out of the window and give them to men that we pass in the streets; for myself I am ready to die of laughter when it is done and Percy looks so grave,” she wrote in a letter. They had already started to grow apart when, in the summer of 1814, Shelley fell in love with Mary Godwin. Mary was then sixteen, the same age that Harriet had been when Shelley married her, and she had intellectual gifts that Harriet could never match. Just as important was her intellectual pedigree: she was the daughter of William Godwin, a radical thinker whom Shelley worshipped, and Mary Wollstonecraft, the crusader for women’s rights. Add the fact that Mary was instantly smitten with Shelley—it seems that they had sex for the first time by her mother’s grave, to mark their spiritual union—and Harriet never really had a chance.
The lovers ran off to Europe, taking with them Mary’s half sister, Jane Clairmont. Harriet, pregnant with Shelley’s second child, was left behind to face scandal and ostracism. Today, it is hardly tempting to add to the chorus of moral indignation that pursued Shelley across Europe and beyond the grave. To marry someone you do not love, and then leave her for someone you do, does not look like a crime under our more liberal sexual dispensation. The truly disturbing aspect of Shelley’s behavior was his self-justifying refusal to acknowledge Harriet’s distress. According to his free-love principles, marriage should not be a permanent, exclusive arrangement; for a man to love different women at different times (and vice versa) was only natural. A heart that loved only one object would build, he wrote in “Epipsychidion,” “a sepulchre for its eternity.” And, because he was sure that his principles were correct, he could not help deducing that his actions were justified. With complete sincerity, he invited Harriet to come to Switzerland and live with him as his sister, while Mary would take over the role of wife. Then Shelley explained that he himself—the man who had just abandoned her—was Harriet’s one “firm and constant friend,” the only person in the world “by whom your feelings will never wilfully be injured. From none can you expect this but me—all else are either unfeeling or selfish.”
The inhumanity of Shelley’s attitude was made even clearer a year and a half later, when Harriet—cut off from her husband, raising Shelley’s two children, and pregnant by another man—drowned herself in the Serpentine, in London. Shelley, again, knew that it could not be his fault. “Everything tends to prove,” he wrote to Mary after hearing the news, “that beyond the shock of so hideous a catastrophe having fallen on a human being once so nearly connected with me, there would in any case have been little to regret.” It is not entirely clear whether the thing that Shelley does not regret is Harriet’s death or merely his own conduct, but the words are chilling. In the months that followed, Shelley embarked on a highly self-righteous legal battle with Harriet’s father for custody of the children he had abandoned. When the ruling came down against him, he felt personally victimized by the Lord Chancellor.
As always with Shelley, the personal had a political aspect. His unshakable faith in his own goodness carried over into his thought, and even his poetry, to dangerous effect. Shelley considered himself a true philanthropist, and was willing to give his time and money to any good cause. But he had an enormous capacity for hatred, especially political hatred. Perhaps Lord Castlereagh, Britain’s Foreign Secretary, deserved Shelley’s indelible attack in “The Masque of Anarchy”: “I met Murder on the way— / He had a mask like Castlereagh.” Shelley’s conviction that all authority figures were tyrants applied not just to unpopular politicians but to priests, schoolmasters, and even parents. In 1811, he inveighed, again without the shadow of a smile, against the oppression visited on Harriet, with whom he had just eloped: “Her father has persecuted her in a most horrible way, by endeavouring to compel her to go to school.”
Quite simply, Shelley believed that anyone who disagreed with him was depraved at heart. As a result, his political vision was essentially Manichaean: “The Manichaean philosophy respecting the origin and government of the world, if not true, is at least an hypothesis conformable to the experience of actual facts,” he wrote. Mankind was made miserable by the willful selfishness of tyrants and priests. And the millennium, in Shelley’s limitless, idealizing vision, was not just a matter of universal suffrage. In “Prometheus Unbound,” he imagines it as a time when the mountains of the moon turn into “living fountains,” “ugly human shapes and visages” grow “mild and lovely,” and it becomes “the pain of bliss / To move, to breathe, to be.”
With so much at stake, wouldn’t it be justified to kill the handful of wicked men who stood between humanity and its golden age? This was precisely the logic of the Terrorists during the French Revolution; and Shelley, though he often deplored the excesses of Jacobinism, never began to understand the perils of its utopian vision, or his own. In “The Assassins,” an unfinished story written in 1814, he imagined a quasi-Jacobin community that would kill the world’s oppressors as unhesitatingly as it would kill poisonous snakes: “And if the poisoner has assumed a human shape, if the bane be distinguished only from the viper’s venom by the excess and extent of its devastation will the savior and avenger here retract and pause entrenched behind the superstition of the indefeasible divinity of man?”
“The Assassins” was a juvenile work, and most of the time Shelley went out of his way to insist that the revolution he desired must be nonviolent. He advocated a form of passive resistance, even in the wake of the Peterloo massacre of 1819, when cavalry charged at a demonstration on the outskirts of Manchester, killing eleven people: “And if then the tyrants dare, / Let them ride among you there, / Slash, and stab, and maim, and hew— / What they like, that let them do.” But these pragmatic caveats remained on the surface. In the depths of his imagination, where his poetry was born, he remained vengefully Manichaean. In “Adonais,” he seems to suggest that the right-wing reviewers who panned Keats’s “Endymion” actually did not have souls. While the dead poet’s “pure spirit” will become “a portion of the Eternal,” he writes, their “cold embers” will “choke the sordid hearth of shame.”
Shelley, who frequently quoted the Platonic injunction “Know thyself,” never knew himself well enough to acknowledge the intolerance and self-righteousness that went hand in hand with his sublime egotism. Instead, exiled in Italy with few friends or readers, he indulged in the voluptuous self-pity that animates so many of his poems. In his own eyes, he was always misunderstood by the world, like the lonely creature he wrote about in “The Sensitive Plant”: “But none ever trembled and panted with bliss / In the garden, the field, or the wilderness, / Like a doe in the noon-tide with love’s sweet want, / As the companionless Sensitive Plant.”
The most important limitation of Wroe’s method is that it leaves her with as little critical perspective on Shelley as Shelley had himself. Being Shelley means feeling as Shelley felt, and Wroe tremblingly recapitulates the poet’s sense of being too fragile for this world: “Rain punished Shelley, too. He stood in it, his heart naked to its freezing, battering drops.” By the time he drowns, Wroe’s Shelley has become literally angelic, ready to return to his heavenly home: “White wings unfolded vastly from his shoulders, as if through this battering frenzy he could rise to the upper sky.” But, if there is one lesson to be drawn from Shelley’s life and work, it is that you can’t trust a man who believes he is an angel.
The explanation of consciousness in accordance with our spin-mediated theory is
schematically shown at the bottom of Figure 1. The geometry inside the spinning circle
represents conscious experience and is part of a Penrose tiling. It symbolizes that
consciousness emerges from the non-computable collapses of entangled quantum states of the mind-pixels under the influence of spacetime dynamics schematically shown as the spinning circle.
So The unity of consciousness is achieved through quantum entanglement of the mind-pixels.
Yesterday, I posted an article about our awful summer and promised a follow-up article on our true hope. Here it is:
As a strong liberal and hard-working grassroots activist (whether paid or volunteer), I often find it difficult to speak of the true source of my hope and what I believe is the only true basis for lasting, peaceful, compassionate change in our society and the world.That source is divine spirituality.Call it what you will—God, Goddess, the Universe, Spirit, Great Spirit, Allah (just Arabic for God, folks), Deus (Latin for God), Divinity, whatever.I believe, yes, have faith, that we live among untold, imperceptible (at least consciously and to most of us) forces and entities that guide us and work with our individual and collective consciousness to co-create the environment in which we live.Think of them as powerful assistants devoted to making immanent our deepest and truest desires, when backed by co-creative action on our part (that one can be scary, I know, but when we are grounded in love and compassion, or work will bear loving and compassionate results).
Cutting to the chase, here is the basic message of hope, exposed in more detail below.Good will always prevail over evil in the long run.In fact, in a true spiritual sense, evil does not exist because it is not love and only love exists in truth.So love and compassion will win out in the long run; it is guaranteed.
Here is the problem for us.The “long run” to spirit may very encompass a time period wholly unsatisfactory to human beings.If we want to see the results of good in our lives or those of our progeny, we have to get working and fast.The forces arrayed against us could very quickly destroy our world and institutions sufficiently to render it impossible to preserve our planet as a place to live a decent life.But if we get working soon enough and in sufficient quantity for the good, our efforts will prevail.It may be a long time in human years, but very positive and lasting results are possible even in the working life of this 46-year old writer.
We have been given amazing communications through ordinary human channels in recent years making the message of hope for the future very clear, but also making clear that a positive outcome is by no means guaranteed and the fate of our world depends on our actions. Some of those communications are A Course in Miracles, the Conversations With God series, just about anything from Marianne Williamson, but I like The Healing of America’s Soul, the Seth Channelings from Jane Roberts, the Kryon channelings from Lee Carroll; and the Miracle of Love series and its progeny through Paul Ferrini from the Christ mind.
Please don’t dismiss me as batty. If you are a committed secularist, agnostic or atheist and have not left already, this is where we agree:our fate depends on our own actions (its just that I believe in Spirit guiding, helping, comforting us along the way).If you must, remember Shakespeare: “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy”.
(Now, you may ask me, how can I call these messages credible, while George Bush’s and the Chritian rightist's alleged messages from God false?Simple.The messages I cite are messages of love.Bush’s and the right-wingers' war-mongering and intolerant words are messages of fear.Meister Echkart, the great modern mystic, said this; “It is a lie, any talk of God that does not comfort you.”How much does war and hatred comfort you?
All of these new communications convey essentially the same message:Loving and compassionate human consciousness was engaged in a consistent social movement toward creating a new a better world for all of us beginning sometime around the 1930’s (seeded, of course, by 18th and 19th century democratic movements) and continuing even today.Around the 1930’s we began to seek societal arrangements that placed the well-being of the many over the power and privilege of the few.People-sovereign government began spreading rapidly; nations began enacting communal policies, such as social security, progressive taxation, protection of labor and, in Europe, Japan and some other places, guaranteed, universal health care.The world rose up against fascism, which, at bottom, was a movement of the privileged to exploit the masses and could have taken hold among the elite in many other nations, including ours.But it did not and the world stood against it. We created the United Nations to build peace and avoid war.
After World War II the United States, Canada, Europe and Latin American specifically, but also unlikely places like Iran and Japan, began to expand democratic government, social welfare programs, labor protection and the like.As a result, the greatest good for the most people began to expand.Later, the world began conscious work to root out racial, gender, ethnic and religious prejudice and repression.We began social and technological efforts to eliminate pollution and protect the natural environment.The common person began to prosper and to take his and her rightful role as sovereign and free to shape society as the people, not the elite, wanted.We also stood against and largely put an end to repressive totalitarianism disguised as communism.
From a spiritual perspective, we were working with a strong collective energy of compassion and love and were co-creating with spirit a world of that nature.Spirit was amazed and impressed.One of the common themes of many recent channels was that the old spiritual messages were shifting.Many spiritual seekers believed the Mayan calendar that placed the end of the world at 2012, and noted the number of astonishing accuracies of this calendar in the past.Many Christians had also begun predicting the end of the world and their apocalypse at the turn of the third millennium.
But the new messages are not that the Mayan mystics and Christian preachers (and many others predicting basically the same thing) were wrong, but that our collective work changed the prophecy and made continuation of life on earth possible beyond the early 21st Century.If you think about how bad global warming and pollution are now and then think how much worse it would be without a strong environmental movement in the last half of the 20th Century and its not hard to imagine THAT climate change could be making life on earth impossible very soon.Combine that with the massive uprising likely from 70 more years of the type of repression we were seeing world-wide in the early 20th Century and with fascism and totalitarian “communism” unopposed, and the end of the world does not look so improbable.
Now, here is the problem today.This new energy of love and compassion made great progress for more than 60 years and still moves forward today in many ways and places.But the old energy of selfishness and self-seeking did not just go away.It was surprised, if you will, by the sudden emergence of love energy and lost many social arguments for a long time before it could gather itself to fight back.
And the old energy fighting back with a vengeance is what we are seeing today.We are caught now in a huge clash for the energy and consciousness of humanity.The old knows it faces huge odds (see next paragraph) and is, despite appearances otherwise, currently losing.That is why its actions and pronouncements are so dramatic and exaggerated.It fears its death is imminent without a huge and sudden push taking it over the top once and for all.
In the United States, in some ways, it appears the resurgence of old energy is winning.But in most ways and in truth, it is not.Even here, we are still seeing continuous progress toward equality for women, racial minorities, and now for homosexuals and transgendered people.Yes, there are set backs and hate speech and actions, but that is the old energy striking back; the general direction remains forward.Europe is still moving generally in the direction of providing for the common good.The amazing and surprising popular sovereignty movement in Latin America is perhaps the most hopeful sign of all.Virtually the entire world is recognizing and acting on the need to change our energy usage and consumption patterns to save the Earth as our life support system, against the best efforts of the old energy.
Even in the United States, the people largely support compassionate societal arrangements and policies that support the common good.Large majorities support some form of universal, guaranteed health care; better environmental protection; a dependable, compassionate safety net for the less fortunate; progressive, but fair taxation of the richest Americans and biggest corporations to support social programs; effective regulation of business to protect the people; and the preservation and protection of our civil rights and liberties and the right to actual sovereignty of the people.Large majorities oppose our imperial wars, excessive militarization and hostile and aggressive foreign policy.
We don’t see these policies enacted because the old energy is strong and has a huge store of old energy power (that’s’ money, folks) behind it.We don’t have the old energy’s money, but we do have ourselves, our greater number and the only true engine of Spirit, Love, behind us.Political organizers say the way to beat organized money is with organized people.Spirit says the same.
So we are facing the old energy making what it knows is its last stand.It will not go quietly.It is desperate and terrified. It actually believes the abandonment of its principles and policies will lead to the end of the world, because for it, the world will end.The loss of the old energy feels like death to the old energy; just as the loss of the new energy feels like death to it (us).
Our hope, as I led off, is that Spirit is Love and Love will always prevail. Our challenge is that spirit will not give us that for which we are not working in co-creative cooperation with spirit.
Many of us are on the fence and doing little or nothing to revive the spirit of compassion as the organizing principle of our society.When the new energy was generally prevailing and rising, it was acceptable for many of us to stay on the fence, not really active, not really working for change, but living our nice and improving lives quietly, just as we want and should be able to do.But the old energy came flying off the fence and is working as hard as it can to reestablish its dominion and rid the world of the new energy for all time.
What we need to prevail is for enough of those who seek the good to get off the fence.We know the Edmond Burke Quote: “The only thing needed for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.”
The opposite, of course, and the hope for our age: all that is needed for good to triumph is for good people to do something.
When enough of us being to work consistently, diligently and with compassionate hearts to seek the greatest good for the most people, we will prevail.Love cannot be stopped, for love is all there is. Btu we have to work, we have to get involved. And, yes that means involved in politics and is social activism. NOW!
A Course In Miracles says this:“Nothing real can be threatened.Nothing unreal exists.Therein lies the peace of God.”Therein lies the source of my faith and hope that we can apply love to our lives and bring peace and harmony to our world.
Authors Website: http://madnessofdivinity.blogspot.com
Authors Bio: Bruce is 46 year-old father of one, stepfather of three and grandfather of two, who left a lucrative law practice at a large national law firm to work, advocate and write for social justice and equality and find a way to incorporate a spiritual life into the material world. He now struggles along to make a decent living while holding true to his deepest principles in Portland Oregon.
How Bush Allowed an Army of For-Profit Contractors to Invade the U.S. Treasury
--From Issue 1034
Posted Aug 23, 2007 8:51 AM
How is it done? How do you screw the taxpayer for millions, get away with it and then ride off into the sunset with one middle finger extended, the other wrapped around a chilled martini? Ask Earnest O. Robbins -- he knows all about being a successful contractor in Iraq.
You start off as a well-connected bureaucrat: in this case, as an Air Force civil engineer, a post from which Robbins was responsible for overseeing 70,000 servicemen and contractors, with an annual budget of $8 billion. You serve with distinction for thirty-four years, becoming such a military all-star that the Air Force frequently sends you to the Hill to testify before Congress -- until one day in the summer of 2003, when you retire to take a job as an executive for Parsons, a private construction company looking to do work in Iraq.
Now you can finally move out of your dull government housing on Bolling Air Force Base and get your wife that dream home you've been promising her all these years. The place on Park Street in Dunn Loring, Virginia, looks pretty good -- four bedrooms, fireplace, garage, 2,900 square feet, a nice starter home in a high-end neighborhood full of spooks, think-tankers and ex-apparatchiks moved on to the nest-egg phase of their faceless careers. On October 20th, 2003, you close the deal for $775,000 and start living that private-sector good life.
A few months later, in March 2004, your company magically wins a contract from the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq to design and build the Baghdad Police College, a facility that's supposed to house and train at least 4,000 police recruits. But two years and $72 million later, you deliver not a functioning police academy but one of the great engineering clusterfucks of all time, a practically useless pile of rubble so badly constructed that its walls and ceilings are literally caked in shit and piss, a result of subpar plumbing in the upper floors.
You've done such a terrible job, in fact, that when auditors from the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction visit the college in the summer of 2006, their report sounds like something out of one of the Saw movies: "We witnessed a light fixture so full of diluted urine and feces that it would not operate," they write, adding that "the urine was so pervasive that it had permanently stained the ceiling tiles" and that "during our visit, a substance dripped from the ceiling onto an assessment team member's shirt." The final report helpfully includes a photo of a sloppy brown splotch on the outstretched arm of the unlucky auditor.
When Congress gets wind of the fiasco, a few members on the House Oversight Committee demand a hearing. To placate them, your company decides to send you to the Hill -- after all, you're a former Air Force major general who used to oversee this kind of contracting operation for the government. So you take your twenty-minute ride in from the suburbs, sit down before the learned gentlemen of the committee and promptly get asked by an irritatingly eager Maryland congressman named Chris Van Hollen how you managed to spend $72 million on a pile of shit.
You blink. Fuck if you know. "I have some conjecture, but that's all it would be" is your deadpan answer.
The room twitters in amazement. It's hard not to applaud the balls of a man who walks into Congress short $72 million in taxpayer money and offers to guess where it all might have gone.
Next thing you know, the congressman is asking you about your company's compensation. Touchy subject -- you've got a "cost-plus" contract, which means you're guaranteed a base-line profit of three percent of your total costs on the deal. The more you spend, the more you make -- and you certainly spent a hell of a lot. But before this milk-faced congressman can even think about suggesting that you give these millions back, you've got to cut him off. "So you won't voluntarily look at this," Van Hollen is mumbling, "and say, given what has happened in this project . . . "
"No, sir, I will not," you snap.
". . . 'We will return the profits.' . . ."
"No, sir, I will not," you repeat.
Your testimony over, you wait out the rest of the hearing, go home, take a bath in one of your four bathrooms, jump into bed with the little woman. . . . A year later, Iraq is still in flames, and your president's administration is safely focused on reclaiming $485 million in aid money from a bunch of toothless black survivors of Hurricane Katrina. But the house you bought for $775K is now assessed at $929,974, and you're sure as hell not giving it back to anyone.
"Yeah, I don't know what I expected him to say," Van Hollen says now about the way Robbins responded to being asked to give the money back. "It just shows the contempt they have for us, for the taxpayer, for everything."
Operation Iraqi Freedom, it turns out, was never a war against Saddam Hussein's Iraq. It was an invasion of the federal budget, and no occupying force in history has ever been this efficient. George W. Bush's war in the Mesopotamian desert was an experiment of sorts, a crude first take at his vision of a fully privatized American government. In Iraq the lines between essential government services and for-profit enterprises have been blurred to the point of absurdity -- to the point where wounded soldiers have to pay retail prices for fresh underwear, where modern-day chattel are imported from the Third World at slave wages to peel the potatoes we once assigned to grunts in KP, where private companies are guaranteed huge profits no matter how badly they fuck things up.
And just maybe, reviewing this appalling history of invoicing orgies and million-dollar boondoggles, it's not so far-fetched to think that this is the way someone up there would like things run all over -- not just in Iraq but in Iowa, too, with the state police working for Corrections Corporation of America, and DHL with the contract to deliver every Christmas card. And why not? What the Bush administration has created in Iraq is a sort of paradise of perverted capitalism, where revenues are forcibly extracted from the customer by the state, and obscene profits are handed out not by the market but by an unaccountable government bureaucracy. This is the triumphant culmination of two centuries of flawed white-people thinking, a preposterous mix of authoritarian socialism and laissez-faire profiteering, with all the worst aspects of both ideologies rolled up into one pointless, supremely idiotic military adventure -- American men and women dying by the thousands, so that Karl Marx and Adam Smith can blow each other in a Middle Eastern glory hole.
It was an awful idea, perhaps the worst America has ever tried on foreign soil. But if you were in on it, it was great work while it lasted. Since time immemorial, the distribution of government largesse had followed a staid, paper-laden procedure in which the federal government would post the details of a contract in periodicals like Commerce Business Daily or, more recently, on the FedBizOpps Web site. Competitive bids were solicited and contracts were awarded in accordance with the labyrinthine print of the U.S. Code, a straightforward system that worked well enough before the Bush years that, as one lawyer puts it, you could "count the number of cases of criminal fraud on the fingers of one hand."
There were exceptions to the rule, of course -- emergencies that required immediate awards, contracts where there was only one available source of materials or labor, classified deals that involved national security. What no one knew at the beginning of the war was that the Bush administration had essentially decided to treat the entire Iraqi theater as an exception to the rules. All you had to do was get to Iraq and the game was on.
But getting there wasn't easy. To travel to Iraq, would-be contractors needed permission from the Bush administration, which was far from blind in its appraisal of applicants. In a much-ballyhooed example of favoritism, the White House originally installed a clown named Jim O'Beirne at the relevant evaluation desk in the Department of Defense. O'Beirne proved to be a classic Bush villain, a moron's moron who judged applicants not on their Arabic skills or their relevant expertise but on their Republican bona fides; he sent a twenty-four-year-old who had never worked in finance to manage the reopening of the Iraqi stock exchange, and appointed a recent graduate of an evangelical university for home-schooled kids who had no accounting experience to manage Iraq's $13 billion budget. James K. Haveman, who had served as Michigan's community-health director under a GOP governor, was put in charge of rehabilitating Iraq's health-care system and decided that what this war-ravaged, malnourished, sanitation-deficient country most urgently needed was . . . an anti-smoking campaign.
Town-selectmen types like Haveman weren't the only people who got passes to enter Iraq in the first few years. The administration also greenlighted brash, modern-day forty-niners like Scott Custer and Mike Battles, a pair of ex-Army officers and bottom-rank Republican pols (Battles had run for Congress in Rhode Island and had been a Fox News commentator) who had decided to form a security company called Custer Battles and make it big in Iraq. "Battles knew some people from his congressional run, and that's how they got there," says Alan Grayson, an attorney who led a whistle-blower lawsuit against the pair for defrauding the government.
Before coming to Iraq, Custer Battles hadn't done even a million dollars in business. The company's own Web site brags that Battles had to borrow cab fare from Jordan to Iraq and arrived in Baghdad with less than $500 in his pocket. But he had good timing, arriving just as a security contract for Baghdad International Airport was being "put up" for bid. The company site raves that Custer spent "three sleepless nights" penning an offer that impressed the CPA enough to hand the partners $2 million in cash, which Battles promptly stuffed into a duffel bag and drove to deposit in a Lebanese bank.
Custer Battles had lucked into a sort of Willy Wonka's paradise for contractors, where a small pool of Republican-friendly businessmen would basically hang around the Green Zone waiting for a contracting agency to come up with a work order. In the early days of the war, the idea of "competition" was a farce, with deals handed out so quickly that there was no possibility of making rational or fairly priced estimates. According to those familiar with the process, contracting agencies would request phony "bids" from several contractors, even though the winner had been picked in advance. "The losers would play ball because they knew that eventually it would be their turn to be the winner," says Grayson.
To make such deals legal, someone in the military would simply sign a piece of paper invoking an exception. "I know one guy whose business was buying weapons on the black market for contractors," says Pratap Chatterjee, a writer who has spent months in the Mideast researching a forthcoming book on Iraq contracts. "It's illegal -- but he got military people to sign papers allowing him to do it."
The system not only had the advantage of eliminating red tape in a war zone, it also encouraged the "entrepreneurship" of patriots like Custer and Battles, who went from bumming cab fare to doing $100 million in government contracts practically overnight. And what business they did! The bid that Custer claimed to have spent "three sleepless nights" putting together was later described by Col. Richard Ballard, then the inspector general of the Army, as looking "like something that you and I would write over a bottle of vodka, complete with all the spelling and syntax errors and annexes to be filled in later." The two simply "presented it the next day and then got awarded about a $15 million contract."
The deal charged Custer Battles with the responsibility to perform airport security for civilian flights. But there were never any civilian flights into Baghdad's airport during the life of their contract, so the CPA gave them a job managing an airport checkpoint, which they failed miserably. They were also given scads of money to buy expensive X-ray equipment and set up an advanced canine bomb-sniffing system, but they never bought the equipment. As for the dog, Ballard reported, "I eventually saw one dog. The dog did not appear to be a certified, trained dog." When the dog was brought to the checkpoint, he added, it would lie down and "refuse to sniff the vehicles" -- as outstanding a metaphor for U.S. contractor performance in Iraq as has yet been produced.
Like most contractors, Custer Battles was on a cost-plus arrangement, which means its profits were guaranteed to rise with its spending. But according to testimony by officials and former employees, the partners also charged the government millions by making out phony invoices to shell companies they controlled. In another stroke of genius, they found a bunch of abandoned Iraqi Airways forklifts on airport property, repainted them to disguise the company markings and billed them to U.S. taxpayers as new equipment. Every time they scratched their asses, they earned; there was so much money around for contractors, officials literally used $100,000 wads of cash as toys. "Yes -- $100 bills in plastic wrap," Frank Willis, a former CPA official, acknowledged in Senate testimony about Custer Battles. "We played football with the plastic-wrapped bricks for a little while."
The Custer Battles show only ended when the pair left a spreadsheet behind after a meeting with CPA officials -- a spreadsheet that scrupulously detailed the pair's phony invoicing. "It was the worst case of fraud I've ever seen, hands down," says Grayson. "But it's also got to be the first instance in history of a defendant leaving behind a spreadsheet full of evidence of the crime."
But even being the clumsiest war profiteers of all time was not enough to bring swift justice upon the heads of Mr. Custer and Mr. Battles -- and this is where the story of America's reconstruction effort gets really interesting. The Bush administration not only refused to prosecute the pair -- it actually tried to stop a lawsuit filed against the contractors by whistle-blowers hoping to recover the stolen money. The administration argued that Custer Battles could not be found guilty of defrauding the U.S. government because the CPA was not part of the U.S. government. When the lawsuit went forward despite the administration's objections, Custer and Battles mounted a defense that recalled Nuremberg and Lt. Calley, arguing that they could not be guilty of theft since it was done with the government's approval.
The jury disagreed, finding Custer Battles guilty of ripping off taxpayers. But the verdict was set aside by T.S. Ellis III, a federal judge who cited the administration's "the CPA is not us" argument. The very fact that private contractors, aided by the government itself, could evade conviction for what even Ellis, a Reagan-appointed judge, called "significant" evidence of fraud, says everything you need to know about the true nature of the war we are fighting in Iraq. Is it really possible to bilk American taxpayers for repainted forklifts stolen from Iraqi Airways and claim that you were just following orders? It is, when your commander in chief is George W. Bush. font >There isn't a brazen, two-bit, purse-snatching money caper you can think of that didn't happen at least 10,000 times with your tax dollars in Iraq. At the very outset of the occupation, when L. Paul Bremer was installed as head of the CPA, one of his first brilliant ideas for managing the country was to have $12 billion in cash flown into Baghdad on huge wooden pallets and stored in palaces and government buildings. To pay contractors, he'd have agents go to the various stashes -- a pile of $200 million in one of Saddam's former palaces was watched by a single soldier, who left the key to the vault in a backpack on his desk when he went out to lunch -- withdraw the money, then crisscross the country to pay the bills. When desperate auditors later tried to trace the paths of the money, one agent could account for only $6,306,836 of some $23 million he'd withdrawn. Bremer's office "acknowledged not having any supporting documentation" for $25 million given to a different agent. A ministry that claimed to have paid 8,206 guards was able to document payouts to only 602. An agent who was told by auditors that he still owed $1,878,870 magically produced exactly that amount, which, as the auditors dryly noted, "suggests that the agent had a reserve of cash."
In short, some $8.8 billion of the $12 billion proved impossible to find. "Who in their right mind would send 360 tons of cash into a war zone?" asked Rep. Henry Waxman, chairman of the House Oversight Committee. "But that's exactly what our government did."
Because contractors were paid on cost-plus arrangements, they had a powerful incentive to spend to the hilt. The undisputed master of milking the system is KBR, the former Halliburton subsidiary so ubiquitous in Iraq that soldiers even encounter its customer-survey sheets in outhouses. The company has been exposed by whistle-blowers in numerous Senate hearings for everything from double-charging taxpayers for $617,000 worth of sodas to overcharging the government 600 percent for fuel shipments. When things went wrong, KBR simply scrapped expensive gear: The company dumped 50,000 pounds of nails in the desert because they were too short, and left the Army no choice but to set fire to a supply truck that had a flat tire. "They did not have the proper wrench to change the tire," an Iraq vet named Richard Murphy told investigators, "so the decision was made to torch the truck."
In perhaps the ultimate example of military capitalism, KBR reportedly ran convoys of empty trucks back and forth across the insurgent-laden desert, pointlessly risking the lives of soldiers and drivers so the company could charge the taxpayer for its phantom deliveries. Truckers for KBR, knowing full well that the trips were bullshit, derisively referred to their cargo as "sailboat fuel."
In Fallujah, where the company was paid based on how many soldiers used the base rec center, KBR supervisors ordered employees to juke the head count by taking an hourly tally of every soldier in the facility. "They were counting the same soldier five, six, seven times," says Linda Warren, a former postal worker who was employed by KBR in Fallujah. "I was even directed to count every empty bottle of water left behind in the facility as though they were troops who had been there."
Yet for all the money KBR charged taxpayers for the rec center, it didn't provide much in the way of services to the soldiers engaged in the heaviest fighting of the war. When Warren ordered a karaoke machine, the company gave her a cardboard box stuffed with jumbled-up electronic components. "We had to borrow laptops from the troops to set up a music night," says Warren, who had a son serving in Fallujah at the time. "These boys needed R&R more than anything, but the company wouldn't spend a dime." (KBR refused requests for an interview, but has denied that it inflated troop counts or committed other wrongdoing in Iraq.)
One of the most dependable methods for burning taxpayer funds was simply to do nothing. After securing a contract in Iraq, companies would mobilize their teams, rush them into the war zone and then wait, citing the security situation or delayed paperwork -- all the while charging the government for housing, meals and other expenses. Last year, a government audit of twelve major contracts awarded to KBR, Parsons and other companies found that idle time often accounted for more than half of a contract's total costs. In one deal awarded to KBR, the company's "indirect" administrative costs were $52.7 million, and its direct costs -- the costs associated with the actual job -- were only $13.4 million.
Companies jacked up the costs even higher by hiring out layers of subcontractors to do their work for them. In some cases, each subcontractor had its own cost-plus arrangement. "We called those 'cascading contracts,' " says Rep. Van Hollen. "Each subcontractor piles on a lot of costs, and eventually they would snowball into a huge payout. It was a green light for waste."
In March 2004, Parsons -- the firm represented by Earnest O. Robbins -- was given nearly $1 million to build a fire station in Ainkawa, a small Christian community in one of the safest parts of Iraq. Parsons subcontracted the design to a British company called TPS Consult and the construction to a California firm called Innovative Technical Solutions Inc. ITSI, in turn, hired an Iraqi outfit called Zozik to do the actual labor.
A year and a half later, government auditors visited the site and found that the fire station was less than half finished. What little had been built was marred by serious design flaws, including concrete columns so shoddily constructed that they were riddled with holes that looked like "honeycombing." But getting the fuck-ups fixed proved problematic. The auditors "made a request that was sent to the Army Corps, which delivered it to Parsons, who then asked ITSI, which asked TPS Consult to check on the work done by Zozik," writes Chatterjee, who describes the mess in his forthcoming book, Baghdad Bonanza. The multiple layers of subcontractors made it almost impossible to resolve the issue -- and every day the delays dragged on meant more money for the companies.
Sometimes the government simply handed out money to companies it made up out of thin air. In 2006, the Army Corps of Engineers found itself unable to award contracts by the September deadline imposed by Congress, meaning it would have to "de-obligate" the money and return it to the government. Rather than suffer that awful fate, the corps obligated $362 million -- spread out over ninety-six different contracts -- to "Dummy Vendor." In their report on the mess, auditors noted that money to nobody "does not constitute proper obligations."
But even obligating money to no one was better than what sometimes happened in Iraq: handing out U.S. funds to the enemy. Since the beginning of the war, rumors have abounded about contractors paying protection money to insurgents to avoid attacks. No less an authority than Ahmed Chalabi, the head of the Iraqi National Congress, claimed that such payoffs are a "significant source" of income for Al Qaeda. Moreover, when things go missing in Iraq -- like bricks of $100 bills, or weapons, or trucks -- it is a fair assumption that some of the wayward booty ends up in the wrong hands. In July, a federal audit found that 190,000 weapons are missing in Iraq -- nearly one out of every three arms supplied by the United States. "These weapons almost certainly ended up on the black market, where they are repurchased by insurgents," says Chatterjee. font >For all the creative ways that contractors came up with to waste, mismanage and steal public money in Iraq, the standard remained good old-fashioned fucking up. Take the case of the Basra Children's Hospital, a much-ballyhooed "do-gooder" project championed by Laura Bush and Condi Rice. This was exactly the sort of grandstanding, self-serving, indulgent and ultimately useless project that tended to get the go-ahead under reconstruction. Like the expensive telephone-based disease-notification database approved for use in hospitals without telephones, or the natural-gas-powered electricity turbines greenlighted for installation in a country without ready sources of natural gas, the Basra Children's Hospital was a state-of-the-art medical facility set to be built in a town without safe drinking water. "Why build a hospital for kids, when the kids have no clean water?" said Rep. Jim Kolbe, a Republican from Arizona.
Bechtel was given $50 million to build the hospital -- but a year later, with the price tag soaring to $169 million, the company was pulled off the project without a single bed being ready for use. The government was unfazed: Bechtel, explained USAID spokesman David Snider, was "under a 'term contract,' which means their job is over when their money ends."
Their job is over when their money ends. When I call Snider to clarify this amazing statement, he declines to discuss the matter further. But if you look over the history of the Iraqi reconstruction effort, you will find versions of this excuse everywhere. When Custer Battles was caught delivering broken trucks to the Army, a military official says the company told him, "We were only told we had to deliver the trucks. The contract doesn't say they had to work."
Such excuses speak to a monstrous vacuum of patriotism; it would be hard to imagine contractors being so blithely disinterested in results during World War II, where every wasted dollar might mean another American boy dead from gangrene in the Ardennes. But the rampant waste of money and resources also suggests a widespread contempt for the ostensible "purpose" of our presence in Iraq. Asked to cast a vote for the war effort, contractors responded by swiping everything they could get their hands on -- and the administration's acquiescence in their thievery suggests that it, too, saw making a buck as the true mission of the war. Two witnesses scheduled to testify before Congress against Custer Battles ultimately declined not only because they had received death threats but because they, too, were contractors and feared that they would be shut out of future government deals. To repeat: Witnesses were afraid to testify in an effort to recover government funds because they feared reprisal from the government.
The Bush administration's lack of interest in recovering stolen funds is one of the great scandals of the war. The White House has failed to litigate a single case against a contractor under the False Claims Act and has not sued anybody for breach of contract. It even declined to join in a lawsuit filed by whistle-blowers who are accusing KBR of improper invoicing in Fallujah. "For all the Bush administration claims to do in the war against terrorism," Grayson said in congressional testimony, "it is a no-show in the war against war profiteers." In nearly five years of some of the worst graft and looting in American history, the administration has recovered less than $6 million.
What's more, when anyone in the government tried to question what contractors were up to with taxpayer money, they were immediately blackballed and treated like an enemy. Take the case of Bunnatine "Bunny" Greenhouse, an outspoken and energetic woman of sixty-three who served as the chief procurement executive for the Army Corps of Engineers. In her position, Greenhouse was responsible for signing off on sole-source contracts -- those awarded without competitive bids and thus most prone to corruption. Long before Iraq, she had begun to notice favoritism in the awarding of contracts to KBR, which was careful to recruit executives who had served in the military. "That was why I joined the corps: to stop this kind of clubby contracting," she says.
A few weeks before the Iraq War started, Greenhouse was asked to sign off on the contract to restore Iraqi oil. The deal, she noticed, was suspicious on a number of fronts. For one thing, the company that had designed the project, KBR, was the same company that was being awarded the contract -- a highly unusual and improper situation. For another, the corps wanted to award a massive "emergency" contract to KBR with no competition for up to five years, which Greenhouse thought was crazy. Who ever heard of a five-year emergency? After auditing the deal, the Pentagon found that KBR had overcharged the government $61 million for fuel. "The abuse related to contracts awarded to KBR," Greenhouse testified before the Senate, "represents the most blatant and improper contract abuse I have witnessed during the course of my professional career."
And how did her superiors in the Pentagon respond to the wrongdoing highlighted by their own chief procurement officer? First they gave KBR a waiver for the overbilling, blaming the problem on an Iraqi subcontractor. Then they dealt with Greenhouse by demoting her and cutting her salary, citing a negative performance review. The retaliation sent a clear message to any would-be whistle-blowers. "It puts a chill on you," Greenhouse says. "People are scared stiff."
They were scared stiff in Iraq, too, and for good reason. When civilian employees complained about looting or other improprieties, contractors sometimes threatened to throw them outside the gates of their bases -- a life-threatening situation for any American. Robert Isakson, a former FBI agent who worked for Custer Battles, says that when he refused to go along with one scam involving a dummy company in Lebanon, he was detained by company security guards, who seized his ID badge and barred him from the base in Baghdad. He eventually had to make a hazardous, Papillon-esque journey across hostile Iraq to Jordan just to survive. (Custer Battles denies the charge.)
James Garrison, who worked at a KBR ice plant in Al Asad, recalls an incident when Indian employees threatened to go on strike: "They pulled a bus up, got them in there and said, 'We'll ship you outside the front gate if you want to go on strike.' " Not surprisingly, the workers changed their mind about a work stoppage.
You know the old adage: You don't pay a hooker to spend the night, you pay her to leave in the morning. That maxim also applies to civilian workers in Iraq. A soldier is a citizen with rights, a man to be treated with honor and respect as a protector of us all; if one loses a limb, you've got to take care of him, in theory for his whole life. But a mercenary is just another piece of equipment you can bill to the taxpayer: If one is hurt on the job, you can just throw it away and buy another one. Today there are more civilians working for private contractors in Iraq than there are troops on the ground. The totality of the thievery in Iraq is such that even the honor of patriotic service has been stolen -- we've replaced soldiers and heroes with disposable commodities, men we expected to give us a big bang for a buck and to never call us again.
Russell Skoug, who worked as a refrigeration technician for a contractor called Wolfpack, found that out the hard way. These days Skoug is back home in Diboll, Texas, and he doesn't move around much; he considers it a big accomplishment if he can make it to his mailbox and back once a day. "I'm doing a lot if I can do that much," he says, laughing a little.
A year ago, on September 11th, Skoug was working for Wolfpack at a base in Heet, Iraq. It was a convoy day -- trucks braved the trip in and out of the base every third day -- and Skoug had a generator he needed to fix. So he agreed to make a run to Al Asad. "If I would've realized that it was September 11th, I never would've went out," he says. It would turn out to be the last run he would ever make in Iraq.
An Air Force vet, Skoug had come to Iraq as a civilian to repair refrigeration units and air conditioners for a KBR subcontractor called LSI. But when he arrived, he discovered that LSI had hired him to fix Humvees. "I didn't know jack-squat about Humvees," he says. "I could maybe change the oil, that was it." (Asked about Skoug's additional assignment, KBR boasted: "Part of the reason for our success is our ability to employ individuals with multiple capabilities.")
Working with him on his crew were two other refrigeration technicians, neither of whom knew anything about fixing Humvees. Since Skoug and most of his co-workers had worked for KBR in Afghanistan, they were familiar with cost-plus contracting. The buzz around the base was that cost-plus was the reason LSI was hiring air-conditioning guys to work on unfamiliar military equipment at a cost to the taxpayer of $80,000 a year. "They was doing the same thing as KBR: just filling the body count," says Skoug.
Thanks to low troop levels, all the military repair guys had been pressed into service to fight the war, so Skoug was forced to sit in the military storeroom on the base and study vehicle manuals that, as a civilian, he wasn't allowed to check out of the building. That was how America fought terrorism in Iraq: It hired civilian air-conditioning techs to fix Humvees using the instruction manual while the real Humvee repairmen, earning a third of what the helpless civilians were paid, drove around in circles outside the wire waiting to get blown up by insurgents.
After much pleading and cajoling, Skoug managed to convince LSI to let him repair some refrigeration units. But it turned out that the company didn't have any tools for the job. "They gave me a screwdriver and a Leatherman, and that's it," he recalls. "We didn't even have freon gauges." When Skoug managed to scrounge and cannibalize parts to get the job done, he impressed the executives at Wolfpack enough to hire him away from LSI for $10,000 a month. The job required Skoug, who had been given no formal security training, to travel regularly on dangerous convoys between bases. Wolfpack issued him an armored vehicle, a Yugoslav-made AK-47 and a handgun, and wished him luck.
For nearly a year, Skoug did the job, trying at each stop to overcome the hostility that many troops felt for civilian contractors who surfed the Internet and played pool and watched movies all day for big dollars while soldiers carrying seventy-pound packs of gear labored in huts with broken air conditioning the civilian techs couldn't be bothered to repair. "They'd have the easiest thing to fix, and they wouldn't do it," Skoug says. "They'd write that they'd fixed it or that they just needed a part and then just leave it." At Haditha Dam, Skoug witnessed a near-brawl after some Marines, trying to get some sleep after returning from patrol, couldn't get a group of "KBR dudes" to turn down the television in a common area late at night.
Toward the end of Skoug's stay, insurgent activity in his area increased to the point where the soldiers leading his convoys would often drive only at night and without lights. Skoug and his co-workers asked Wolfpack to provide them with night-vision goggles that cost as little as $1,000 a pair, but the company refused. "Their attitude was, we don't need 'em and we're not buying 'em," says Thomas Lane, a Wolfpack employee who served as Skoug's security man on the night of September 11th.
On that evening, the soldiers leading the convoy refused to let Skoug drive his own vehicle back to Heet without night-vision goggles. So a soldier took Skoug's car, and Skoug was forced to be a passenger in a military vehicle. "We start out the front gate, and I find out that the truck that I was in was the frickin' lead truck," he recalls. "And I'm going, 'Oh, great.' "
The bomb went off about a half-hour later, ripping through the truck floor and destroying four inches of Skoug's left femur. "The windshield looked like there was a film on it," he says. "I find out later it was a film -- it was blood and meat and stuff all over the windshield on the inside." Skoug was loaded into the back of a Humvee, his legs hanging out, and evacuated to an Army hospital in Germany before being airlifted back to the States.
When Skoug arrived, it was his wife, Linda, who had to handle all his affairs. She was the one who arranged for an air ambulance to take him to Houston, where she had persuaded an orthopedic hospital to admit him as a patient. She had to do this because almost right from the start, Wolfpack washed its hands of Russell Skoug. The insurance policy he had been given turned out to be useless -- the company denied all coverage, beginning with a $72,597 bill for his stay in the German hospital. Despite assurances from Wolfpack chief Mark Atwood that he would cover all Skoug's expenses, neither he nor the insurance company would pay for the $16,000 trip in the air ambulance. Nobody paid for the operations Skoug had in Houston -- as many as three a day, every day for a month. And nobody paid for his subsequent rehab stint in another Houston hospital -- despite the fact that military law requires every company contracting with the government to fully insure all of its employees in the war zone.
Now that he's out, sitting at home on his couch with only partial use of his left hand and left leg, Skoug has a stack of unpaid medical bills almost three inches tall. As he speaks, he keeps fidgeting. He apologizes, explaining that he can't sit still for very long. Why? Because Skoug can no longer afford pain medication. "I take ibuprofen sometimes," he says, "but basically I just grin and bear it."
And here's where this story turns into something perfectly symbolic of everything that the war in Iraq stands for, a window into the soul of for-profit contractors who not only left behind a breathtaking legacy of fraud, waste and corruption but, through their calculating, greed-fueled hijacking of this generation's broadest and most far-reaching foreign-policy initiative, pushed America into previously unknown realms of moral insanity. When I contact Mark Atwood and ask him to explain how he could watch one of his best employees get blown up and crippled for life, and then cut him loose with debts totaling well over half a million dollars, Atwood, safe in his office in Kuwait City and contentedly suckling at the taxpayer teat, decides that answering this one question is just too much to ask of poor old him.
"Right now," Atwood says, "I just want some peace."
When Linda Skoug petitioned Atwood for help, he refused, pointing out that he had kept his now-useless employee on the payroll for four whole months before firing him. "After I have put forth to help you all out," he wrote in an e-mail, "you are going to get on me for your husband not having insurance." He even implied that Skoug had brought the accident upon himself by allowing the Army to place him at the head of the convoy: "He was not even suppose [sic] to be in the lead vehicle to begin with."
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the story of the Iraq War in a nutshell. In the history of balls, the world has never seen anything like the private contractors George W. Bush summoned to serve in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Collectively, they are the final, polished result of 231 years of natural selection in the crucible of American capitalism: a bureaucrat class capable of stealing the same dollar twice -- once from the taxpayer and once from a veteran in a wheelchair.
The explanations that contractors offer for all the missing dollars, all the myriad ways they looted the treasury and screwed guys like Russell Skoug, rank among the most diabolical, shameless, tongue-twisting bullshit in history. Going back over the various congressional hearings and trying to decipher the corporate responses to the mountains of thefts and fuck-ups is a thrilling intellectual journey, not unlike tackling the Pharaonic hieroglyphs or the mating chatter of colobus monkeys. Standing before Congress, contractors and the officials who are supposed to monitor them say things like "As long as we have the undefinitized contract issue that we have . . . we will continue to see the same kinds of sustension rates" (translation: We can't get back any of the fucking money) and "The need for to-fitnessization was viewed as voluntary, and that was inaccurate as the general counsel to the Army observed in a June opinion" (translation: The contractor wasn't aware that he was required to keep costs down) and "If we don't know where we're trying to go and don't have measures, then we won't know how much longer it's going to take us to get there" (translation: There never was a plan in place, other than to let contractors rip off every dollar they could).
According to the most reliable estimates, we have doled out more than $500 billion for the war, as well as $44 billion for the Iraqi reconstruction effort. And what did America's contractors give us for that money? They built big steaming shit piles, set brand-new trucks on fire, drove back and forth across the desert for no reason at all and dumped bags of nails in ditches. For the most part, nobody at home cared, because war on some level is always a waste. But what happened in Iraq went beyond inefficiency, beyond fraud even. This was about the business of government being corrupted by the profit motive to such an extraordinary degree that now we all have to wonder how we will ever be able to depend on the state to do its job in the future. If catastrophic failure is worth billions, where's the incentive to deliver success? There's no profit in patriotism, no cost-plus angle on common decency. Sixty years after America liberated Europe, those are just words, and words don't pay the bills.
A dear friend of mine recently blogged about Merleau-Ponty's notion of The Flesh, which has inspired this post. Towards the end of his short life, Merleau-Ponty wrote less and less of "the Body" and more and more of "the Flesh". As I understand it, he used this concept of the Flesh to describe the realm of the intersubjective.
This is something which I have hitherto been trying to theorise as the "Unself" - that space between us where self and other merge; That immaterial domain of relations which nonetheless has such material effects. The Unself, however, is not limited to intersubjectivity between people, but also between people and the natural world: where the world becomes an extension of mind. The Unself is a subjectivity which supercedes the traditional liberal notion of the Subject; a subjectivity which transgresses the delimitations of skin and skull. Everything is connected, I keep thinking to myself. What always comes to mind at these moments is that brilliant philosophical movie, "I Heart Huckabees". Hahaha :-) Yes, everything is connected...
I haven't read enough about Merleau-Ponty's concept of the Flesh yet to know if what I am saying approximates what he was saying, but I believe the Unself and the Flesh might be synergistic concepts.
Furthermore, Merleau-Ponty's move from a discourse on the Body to a newer discourse on the Flesh is encouraging for me, seeing that I had always thought that notions of the Body and Embodiment never went far enough... Yes, embodiment connects the mental with the corporeal... but apart from embodying thoughts, desires, values, etc., should we not also have to ENACT them? Thus, while "embodiment" connects the mental with the corporeal, perhaps the concept of "enaction" could be used to connect the corporeal with the social. It's the movement through which a conscientisised  subject plugs into the social ecology... an intentionality geared towards the recomposition of the social web, towards a context-generative collective imagination! (as opposed to simply a "context-driven" imagination).
I believe Francisco Varela has written of the concept of "enaction", though I'm not yet sure if he uses it in the same way I do. There are so many leads for me to explore!
 I am translating this word from the Portuguese word "conscientizado", though I'm not sure if the English version holds. I really don't know if there is an English equivalent.
The National Women's History Project says, "At the behest of Rep. Bella Abzug (D-NY), in 1971 the U.S. Congress designated August 26th as 'Women’s Equality Day.' The date was selected to commemorate the 1920 passage of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, granting women the right to vote. This was the culmination of a massive, peaceful civil rights movement by women that had its formal beginnings in 1848 at the world’s first women’s rights convention, in Seneca Falls, New York."
The 2nd Annual California Women's Equality Day Parade & Rally will take place on Saturday, August 25th, beginning at 9:30am at Sacramento's Southside Park, at 7th & T Streets. There will be a rally on the West Steps of the Capitol at 11am. A related event during the weekend will be a "Great Women of Jazz, 1890-1990" concert at 7:00 pm on Friday, August 24th, at the 24th Street Theater in Sacramento.
On Thursday, August 30th, Radical Women will hold an event to celebrate the anniversary of U.S. women's right to vote, at 7pm at the new New Valencia Hall, which is located at 625 Larkin Street, Suite 202 , San Francisco. Before the evening begins, there will be a Summer Dinner, with a vegetarian option, available at 6:15pm for a $7.00 donation.
NWHP's Women's Equality Day Site | Women's Equality Parade | Radical Women
Most folks I know have a preferred candidate - Hillary, Obama, Edwards or Gore. But the crazy thing is, they will turn right around and say, “you know who I really want to vote for? Kucninch.”
I have those same feelings - I love Kucinich and think he would make the best President. His values most closely resemble my own. Why not vote for him?
Irrational fear. Total fear that the Republicans will lie about Kucinich and Fred Thompson will win the election. Wait, the GOP is gonna lie anyway, no matter what, so why the fear?
One thing I finally noticed about Kucinich during the AFL-CIO debate was how Kucinich always made more points during his alloted time than other candidates. I have been thinking about this and found the answer when I was reading the transcript. Kucinich doesn’t equivocate. He doesn’t dance around an issue - he goes straight for the explanation and since his past is not littered with idiotic support of bad bills, HE has nothing to fear, so why do I?
Yes, why do I fear? Do I think Hillary can win? No. I think she loses the election, the second she is nominated. Isn’t THAT something to fear? Do we think Fred Thompson, Gingrich or whatever other ass-wipe the GOP nominates will give a shit about universal healthcare, the environment or peace? Nope, it will be a straight continuation of 8 years of BushCo. Isn’t my fear displaced?
Who is the strongest Democrat in Congress? Kucinich.
What Congressman never LOST their spine in the politically crushing days after 9-11? Kucinich.
Who knows how to answer a direct question asked by We The People? Kucinich.
I think something changed for Kucinich during the AFL-CIO debate - I can’t put my finger on it, but something changed. Maybe it was his eagerness to address We The People with truth, honesty and integrity? Maybe it was just the other candidates equivocating on whatever nonsense answer their staff prepared for them months ago?
Maybe it was because the other candidates showed fear and Kucinich didn’t. He never flinched.
That is leadership as I see it. And from this point forward I will NOT fear to support Kucinich.
He is just like me. My values are the same as his. If I was in Congress, I would vote like he does. I no longer fear. I refuse to allow the GOP to manipulate me into supporting lesser candidates.
That just might be called courage.
Going back and watching Kucinich in earlier debates via YouTube, one thing I noticed was how he usually said thank-you for the question and was always very polite but firm and stern in his beliefs.
Since I published Part 1, I heard in response two distinct voices, “Thank God people are starting to get Kucinich!” and the other was “He can’t win.” Well, neither can Hillary but that doesn’t stop people from supporting her and dumping stink-loads of cash in her bank account. She is the only Democratic candidate that will motivate conservatives to come to the polls and vote AGAINST her. Obama and Edwards don’t fuel that level of hatred. And in America, that is saying a LOT about Obama. At least America is maturing on ONE issue.
There was one other minority position, but it was the most disturbing. Paraphrasing here, “We tried voting our beliefs with McGovern and you saw where that got us!” Friends, the Republicans ALWAYS vote on their beliefs and they are more successful than the Democrats. Why must progressives lower their standards? The Republicans don’t. Since I have been voting, conservatives got two terms for Reagan, one for Bush Senior and TWO for Bush Junior - the later being the WORST PRESIDENT IN AMERICAN HISTORY.
The fact isn’t the Dems fail because they vote their beliefs, the Dems fail because that can’t articulate what they believe in. Jesse Helms was bat-shit crazy but he constantly won and he had NO problem articulating his beliefs.
Well, this is true to a point. Dennis Kucinich always speaks his mind, directly to the point with nary a waver. You know where he stands.
My question is, do you know where YOU stand?
In Parts One and Two, I discussed the support Kucinich has and the irrational fear also associated with electing Kucinich. Today, I want to focus on the secondary soundbite I have heard over the last few weeks about Kucinich. The Kucinich critics to have their work cut out for them because they need to go back FORTY YEARS to find something to complain about. Their soundbite is “he drove Cleveland into bankruptcy.” This, it turns out, is a lie. It is a Halliburton straw man with a touch of Sopranos level intrigue.
Dennis Kucinich started out as the Mayor of Cleveland in 1977 - the youngest Mayor of a large city in America. The city was hip deep in trouble with it’s finances and crime. Not to mention, when Kucinich was sworn in, Cleveland was in one of its worst snow storms with winds of over 100 miles per hour - a sign of things to come.
He made good appointments and bad appointments for his administration and one of those, the Chief of Police, Richard Hongisto, proved to be real bad. The fiasco went so terribly wrong that a recall election was called and Kucinich won - maintaining control of the failing city.
One of his campaign promises was to not sell Cleveland’s public electricity utility, Cleveland Public Power to Cleveland Electric Illuminating Company - a corrupt company with a stack of federal violations of anti-trust laws held against it. When Kucinich got in office, the mafia figured out that this young Mayor was actually going to keep his word and NOT sell Cleveland Public Power to Cleveland Electric Illuminating Company so the mafia put a hit out for the murder of Kucinich. Yep, Dennis Kucinich was the target of mafioso assassins, but that was nothing compared to the EXTREME pressure of the city council and local banks had placed on Kucinich to sell the utility. In the end, Kucinich still said no.
How many times have we wished for that tenacity in our politicians when dealing with Halliburton?
The main city creditor, Cleveland Trust, ignored all of Kucinich’s debt restructuring plans and placed the city in default of payment. Here is the kicker - the bank’s board had seven members who were on the payroll of Cleveland Electric Illuminating Company and they were also on that company’s board. The collusion was right out of the Cheney Play Book. The bank was a major shareholder in CEI and thus the sale of the city’s municipal light utility would have benefited the bank, not the citizens of Cleveland.
And again, Kucinich stood his ground. He put the decision to the people, vote to sell to CEI or vote for a .5% tax increase. Cleveland voted for higher taxes. Corporate interests lost and remarkably, the mafia recalled the assassin.
Cleveland never went into bankruptcy and the loan was paid and would have been paid if CEI and Cleveland Trust weren’t involved in a conspiracy to rob the citizens of Cleveland of almost a third of a billion dollars, in 1970’s money.
CEI was later acquired by FirstEnergy, the company was responsible for the 2003 blackout. Cleveland Public Power is still cranking out the watts to the city of Cleveland. Cleveland Trust is now Key Bank.
So that is the story, Kucinich is guilty of not bowing to Big Energy and ignored the deployment of assassins just to keep a campaign promise.
Here is my question, which of the “leading candidates” in this race; Clinton, Obama or Edwards would have withstood that kind of pressure?
Is it any wonder Ohio keeps sending Kucinich back to Congress? They know which side he is on.
VIDEO LINKJust several recent stories that suggest a cascading of novelty, in case you missed them while staring into this abyss.
Scientists from Russia, Germany and Australia have found that inorganic dust in plasma exhibits characteristics of self-organization, attraction and reproduction: "all the necessary properties to qualify them as candidates for inorganic living matter."
And perhaps it is an Alternative Reality Game after all: Oxford Professor of Philosopher Nick Bostrom has set the odds at one-in-four of our universe being a sophisticated simulation.
"If the morphogenic field is not subject to the inverse square laws that indicate decreased influence over distance, then I can't see why it couldn't be located at the conclusion of a cosmological process. One of the things that's always puzzled me about the Big Bang is the notion of singularity. This theory cannot predict behavior outside its domain, yet everything that happens and all our other theories follow from it. The immense improbability that modern science rests on, but cares not to discuss, is the belief that the universe sprang from nothing in a single moment. If you can believe that, then it's very hard to see what you can't believe."
- Terence McKenna, in Chaos, Creativity, and Cosmic Consciousness
Leaders of Bilderberg have gathered the appropriate flunkies at the Fairmont Le Chateau Montebello, about 50 miles outside Quebec, to accomplish a North American Union without congressional action.
Bilderberg met at the same site in 1983. The Aug. 20-21 session of the unknown Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP) is struggling to define its goal of a borderless union of the United States, Mexico and Canada as something Americans will welcome, after it has been accomplished.
On the agenda is a report by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), which is being translated into Spanish and French so all three governments can celebrate it together. The report explains how “hemispheric integration” will be a blessing for all and not a surrender of sovereignty. It is to be presented to the three governments in September.
The trustees of CSIS who are attending this closed meeting include Henry Kissinger, Bilderberg and Trilateral; Zbigniew Brzezinski, Trilateral; and Harold Brown, former defense secretary and Trilateral. Also participating is Richard Armitage, Bilderberg. Other Bilderberg-Trilateralists may be attending but have not been identified.
The “North American Future 2025 Project” report stresses “economic integration” and “labor mobility.” It calls for the “international migration of labor” and “international movement not only of goods and capital, but also of people.” It stresses the “free flow of people across national borders.” It calls for action to “integrate governments.” The three nations are to work on “harmonizing legislation” and regulations.
Bilderberg is fighting back from severe setbacks in its long-range goal of dividing the world into three great regions for the administrative convenience of a world government under the United Nations. The European Union was to have been fully integrated into a single state by 2000, but seven years later, there is strong resistance in France, Germany and Britain.
NAFTA was to quickly expand throughout the Western Hemisphere with an “American Union” emerging. Now, there is great resistance to NAFTA itself among voters and, consequently, congressmen.
President Bush started the country on the road to integration on April 22, 2001, when he signed the Declaration of Quebec City in which he made a “commitment to hemispheric integration.” Participants claim it can be accomplished without legislation and their final agreement would not be a “treaty” requiring Senate ratification.
But when this “agreement” is sprung on the American people, Congress will feel compelled to react to the outrage.
this is what the totally administered German society brings about...please sign the petition... thanks...c.Univ.Ass. Dr. Christian FuchsAssistant Professor for Internet and SocietyICT&S Center - Advanced Studies and Researchin Information and Communication Technologies & Societyhttp://www.icts.uni-salzburg.atUniversity of SalzburgSigmund Haffner Gasse 185020 SalzburgAustriachristian.email@example.comPhone +43 662 8044 4823Fax +43 662 6389 4800Information-Society-Technology:http://fuchs.icts.sbg.ac.athttp://www.icts.uni-salzburg.at/fuchs/Managing Editor of tripleC - peer reviewed open accessonline journal for the foundations of information science:http://triplec.uti.atForthcoming BOOK:Fuchs, Christian (2008) Internet and Society: Social Theory in theInformation Age. New York: Routledge.***On 31st July 2007 the flats and workplaces of Dr. Andrej Holm and Dr.Matthias B., as well as of two other persons, were searched by thepolice. Dr. Andrej Holm was arrested, flown by helicopter to the GermanFederal Court in Karlsruhe and brought before the custodial judge. Sincethen he has been held in pretrial confinement in a Berlin jail. All fourpeople have been charged with "membership in a terrorist associationaccording to ? 129a StGB" (German Penal Code, section 7 on 'Crimesagainst Public Order'). They are alleged to be members of a so-called"militante gruppe" (mg). The text of the search warrant revealed thatpreliminary proceedings against these four people have been going onsince September 2006 and that the four had since been under constantsurveillance.All four accused are critical social scientists and they do exactly whatsociologists and political scientists should be doing.To read more about this situation, please visit:http://einstellung.so36.net/en/openletterNewspaper article about those accused:"International Protest Over Berlin Sociologist's Arrest"http://www.dw-world.de/dw/article/0,2144,2742395,00.htmlYou can sign a petition at:http://www.policing-crowds.org/petition.htmlBest wishes,ManuelManuel B. AalbersGraduate School of Architecture, Planning and PreservationColumbia UniversityNew Yorkm.firstname.lastname@example.org ***** This email came through the mailinglist of the Critical PoliticalEconomy Research Network of the European Sociological Associationhttp://criticalpoliticaleconomy.blogspot.com/
Kicking cops out of your bookstoreOf all the things I had on my agenda today, kicking some cops out of our infoshop here in Kansas City was not on my list. And I had a list when I went to the bookstore this afternoon, an agenda for our volunteer meeting tonight. Somewhere around the middle of the afternoon, when two of us were doing remodeling work on the space, I stepped outside to talk to somebody in a storefront a few doors down. When I walked back to the infoshop, I found a posse of armed U.S. marshalls standing on the sidewalk outside our bookstore. I went into our space and found a woman agent, who was wearing a vest and had weapons, asking questions of two people inside our store. I challenged her to show a warrant and she responded that she didn’t need to show a warrant. I asked her again to produce a warrant and she responded that the store was open to the public and that she just wanted to ask questions. She was getting mad at this point and appeared ready to threaten me with violence. She said something about “not wanting to go there” with her, which I took as a threat. I told her bluntly that we weren’t going to answer any of her questions.
She left our store, met up with the other terrorists and proceeded to enter and search the building next door. During their operations, she found time to glare at me twice as she walked by our bookstore.
You don’t have to answer police questions. Don’t let them bully you. Sometimes you can fight the law and the law blinks.
By Andy Gammill The first test of the new dress code in Indianapolis Public Schools went smoothly Monday as the district began enforcing the rules at its eight year-round schools. Administrators watched closely as students arrived Monday to ensure they wore white, navy or red collared shirts and dressy slacks or shorts. But they caught few dress code scofflaws. "This morning when we came in, we had 20 students that weren't in compliance," Longfellow Middle School Principal Phyllis Barnes said. "Then we got it down to nine that weren't completely in compliance." For Longfellow students whose parents couldn't bring the appropriate attire to school, teachers supplied clothing they had bought with their own money, or the students were placed in a discipline room for the rest of the day. In most classrooms, though, row after row of students wore the white, red and navy polo shirts. Superintendent Eugene White instituted the dress code, which is so strict that many refer to it as a uniform. Among the many types of clothing banned are jeans, T-shirts, jackets and anything with writing or designs on it. Shirts must be tucked in, and pants must be worn on the waist. White argued that the dress code would send a message that IPS had high expectations and help students to focus on their priorities. He has said this year the district will change how students dress, behave and learn. The true test will come Sept. 4, when the district begins enforcing the policy for all of its 36,000 students, including those at its seven high schools. District officials have lined up donations and support from township poor relief funds for students whose families can't afford the clothes. Many parents in the district have supported the policy, although students have grumbled. "I don't like it," said Phillip Lewis, 14, as he sat in social studies class at Longfellow. "They're ugly." But he and all of his classmates were in the uniform. At Donnan Middle School, Principal Dexter Suggs said only three or four students had violated the dress code. A boy stood outside the front office in the morning and changed from a T-shirt into a red polo shirt. As students walked down the hall, a few were pulled aside for minor violations, and students without belts were given yellow cord to tie up their trousers. The most serious violations there and at other schools were students wearing black shirts, which aren't permitted, or having small stripes on shirts. Administrators stood outside the front doors at Marshall Middle School and separated students who violated the dress code. About 30 were sent to the auditorium and required to call home for other clothes. Although everyone else obeyed the dress code, many remained unhappy about it. A boy in a white polo shirt and tan slacks took out his frustration as he walked through the front door and called out, "I can't wear this."
-the man of science whose mind is bent upon the mastery of the physical universe-
"According to an adopted theory, every ponderable atom is differentiated from a tenuous fluid, filling all space merely by spinning motion, as a whirl of water in a calm lake. By being set in movement this fluid, the ether, becomes gross matter. Its movement arrested, the primary substance reverts to its normal state. It appears, then, possible for man through harnessed energy of the medium and suitable agencies for starting and stopping ether whirls to cause matter to form and disappear. At his command, almost without effort on his part, old worlds would vanish and new ones would spring into being. He could alter the size of this planet, control its seasons, adjust its distance from the sun, guide it on its eternal journey along any path he might choose, through the depths of the universe. He could make planets collide and produce his suns and stars, his heat and light; he could originate life in all its infinite forms. To cause at will the birth and death of matter would be man's grandest deed, which would give him the mastery of physical creation, make him fulfill his ultimate destiny." - New York Times, April 21st, 1908 (p.5 column 6)
Somewhere in the Hamptons a high-roller is cursing his cleaning lady and shaking his fists at the lawn guys. The American poor, who are usually tactful enough to remain invisible to the multi-millionaire class, suddenly leaped onto the scene and started smashing the global financial system. Incredibly enough, this may be the first case in history in which the downtrodden manage to bring down an unfair economic system without going to the trouble of a revolution.
First they stopped paying their mortgages, a move in which they were joined by many financially stretched middle class folks, though the poor definitely led the way. All right, these were trick mortgages, many of them designed to be unaffordable within two years of signing the contract. There were “NINJA” loans, for example, awarded to people with “no income, no job or assets.” Conservative columnist Niall Fergusen laments the low levels of “economic literacy” that allowed people to be exploited by sub-prime loans. Why didn’t these low-income folks get lawyers to go over the fine print? And don’t they have personal financial advisors anyway?
Then, in a diabolically clever move, the poor - a category which now roughly coincides with the working class — stopped shopping. Both Wal-Mart and Home Depot announced disappointing second quarter performances, plunging the market into another Arctic-style meltdown. H. Lee Scott, CEO of the low-wage Wal-Mart empire, admitted with admirable sensitivity, that “it’s no secret that many customers are running out of money at the end of the month.”
I wish I could report that the current attack on capitalism represents a deliberate strategy on the part of the poor, that there have been secret meetings in break rooms and parking lots around the country, where cell leaders issued instructions like, “You, Vinny — don’t make any mortgage payment this month. And Caroline, forget that back-to-school shopping, OK?” But all the evidence suggests that the current crisis is something the high-rollers brought down on themselves.
When, for example, the largest private employer in America, which is Wal-Mart, starts experiencing a shortage of customers, it needs to take a long, hard look in the mirror. About a century ago, Henry Ford realized that his company would only prosper if his own workers earned enough to buy Fords. Wal-Mart, on the other hand, never seemed to figure out that its cruelly low wages would eventually curtail its own growth, even at the company’s famously discounted prices.
The sad truth is that people earning Wal-Mart-level wages tend to favor the fashions available at the Salvation Army. Nor do they have much use for Wal-Mart’s other departments, such as Electronics, Lawn and Garden, and Pharmacy.
It gets worse though. While with one hand the high-rollers, H. Lee Scott among them, squeezed the American worker’s wages, the other hand was reaching out with the tempting offer of credit. In fact, easy credit became the American substitute for decent wages. Once you worked for your money, but now you were supposed to pay for it. Once you could count on earning enough to save for a home. Now you’ll never earn that much, but, as the lenders were saying — heh, heh — do we have a mortgage for you!
Pay day loans, rent-to-buy furniture and exorbitant credit card interest rates for the poor were just the beginning. In its May 21st cover story on “The Poverty Business,” BusinessWeek documented the stampede, in the just the last few years, to lend money to the people who could least afford to pay the interest: Buy your dream home! Refinance your house! Take on a car loan even if your credit rating sucks! Financiamos a Todos! Somehow, no one bothered to figure out where the poor were going to get the money to pay for all the money they were being offered.
Personally, I prefer my revolutions to be a little more pro-active. There should be marches and rallies, banners and sit-ins, possibly a nice color theme like red or orange. Certainly, there should be a vision of what you intend to replace the bad old system with — European-style social democracy, Latin American-style socialism, or how about just American capitalism with some regulation thrown in?
Global capitalism will survive the current credit crisis; already, the government has rushed in to soothe the feverish markets. But in the long term, a system that depends on extracting every last cent from the poor cannot hope for a healthy prognosis. Who would have thought that foreclosures in Stockton and Cleveland would roil the markets of London and Shanghai? The poor have risen up and spoken; only it sounds less like a shout of protest than a low, strangled, cry of pain.
by ALAN FRAMWASHINGTONLiberals read more books than conservatives. The head of the book publishing industry's trade group says she knows why — and there's little flattering about conservative readers in her explanation.
"The Karl Roves of the world have built a generation that just wants a couple slogans: 'No, don't raise my taxes, no new taxes,'" Pat Schroeder, president of the American Association of Publishers, said in a recent interview. "It's pretty hard to write a book saying, 'No new taxes, no new taxes, no new taxes' on every page."
Schroeder, who as a Colorado Democrat was once one of Congress' most liberal House members, was responding to an Associated Press-Ipsos poll that found people who consider themselves liberals are more prodigious book readers than conservatives.
She said liberals tend to be policy wonks who "can't say anything in less than paragraphs. We really want the whole picture, want to peel the onion."
The book publishing industry is predominantly liberal, though conservative books by authors like former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., and pundit Ann Coulter have been best sellers in recent years. Overall, book sales have been flat as publishers seek to woo readers lured away by the Internet, movies and television.
Rove, President Bush's departing political adviser, is known as a prodigious reader. White House spokesman Tony Fratto said Schroeder was "confusing volume with quality" with her remarks.
"Obfuscation usually requires a lot more words than if you simply focus on fundamental principles, so I'm not at all surprised by the loquaciousness of liberals," he said.
"As head of a book publishing association, she probably shouldn't malign any readers," said Mary Matalin, a GOP strategist who oversees a line of books by conservative authors, Threshold, at Simon & Schuster. Matalin said conservatives and others aren't necessarily reading less, but are getting more information online and from magazines.
The AP-Ipsos poll found 22 percent of liberals and moderates said they had not read a book within the past year, compared with 34 percent of conservatives.
Among those who had read at least one book, liberals typically read nine books in the year, with half reading more than that and half less. Conservatives typically read eight, moderates five.
By slightly wider margins, Democrats tended to read more books than Republicans and independents. There were no differences by political party in the percentage of those who said they had not read at least one book.
The poll involved telephone interviews with 1,003 adults and was conducted August 6 to 8. It has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.
AP Manager of News Surveys Trevor Tompson and AP News Survey Specialist Dennis Junius contributed to this report.
By BUDDHIKA JAYAMAHA, WESLEY D. SMITH, JEREMY ROEBUCK, OMAR MORA, EDWARD SANDMEIER, YANCE T. GRAY and JEREMY A. MURPHY
Published: August 19, 2007
VIEWED from Iraq at the tail end of a 15-month deployment, the political debate in Washington is indeed surreal. Counterinsurgency is, by definition, a competition between insurgents and counterinsurgents for the control and support of a population. To believe that Americans, with an occupying force that long ago outlived its reluctant welcome, can win over a recalcitrant local population and win this counterinsurgency is far-fetched. As responsible infantrymen and noncommissioned officers with the 82nd Airborne Division soon heading back home, we are skeptical of recent press coverage portraying the conflict as increasingly manageable and feel it has neglected the mounting civil, political and social unrest we see every day. (Obviously, these are our personal views and should not be seen as official within our chain of command.)
The claim that we are increasingly in control of the battlefields in Iraq is an assessment arrived at through a flawed, American-centered framework. Yes, we are militarily superior, but our successes are offset by failures elsewhere. What soldiers call the “battle space” remains the same, with changes only at the margins. It is crowded with actors who do not fit neatly into boxes: Sunni extremists, Al Qaeda terrorists, Shiite militiamen, criminals and armed tribes. This situation is made more complex by the questionable loyalties and Janus-faced role of the Iraqi police and Iraqi Army, which have been trained and armed at United States taxpayers’ expense.
A few nights ago, for example, we witnessed the death of one American soldier and the critical wounding of two others when a lethal armor-piercing explosive was detonated between an Iraqi Army checkpoint and a police one. Local Iraqis readily testified to American investigators that Iraqi police and Army officers escorted the triggermen and helped plant the bomb. These civilians highlighted their own predicament: had they informed the Americans of the bomb before the incident, the Iraqi Army, the police or the local Shiite militia would have killed their families.
As many grunts will tell you, this is a near-routine event. Reports that a majority of Iraqi Army commanders are now reliable partners can be considered only misleading rhetoric. The truth is that battalion commanders, even if well meaning, have little to no influence over the thousands of obstinate men under them, in an incoherent chain of command, who are really loyal only to their militias.
Similarly, Sunnis, who have been underrepresented in the new Iraqi armed forces, now find themselves forming militias, sometimes with our tacit support. Sunnis recognize that the best guarantee they may have against Shiite militias and the Shiite-dominated government is to form their own armed bands. We arm them to aid in our fight against Al Qaeda.
However, while creating proxies is essential in winning a counterinsurgency, it requires that the proxies are loyal to the center that we claim to support. Armed Sunni tribes have indeed become effective surrogates, but the enduring question is where their loyalties would lie in our absence. The Iraqi government finds itself working at cross purposes with us on this issue because it is justifiably fearful that Sunni militias will turn on it should the Americans leave.
In short, we operate in a bewildering context of determined enemies and questionable allies, one where the balance of forces on the ground remains entirely unclear. (In the course of writing this article, this fact became all too clear: one of us, Staff Sergeant Murphy, an Army Ranger and reconnaissance team leader, was shot in the head during a “time-sensitive target acquisition mission” on Aug. 12; he is expected to survive and is being flown to a military hospital in the United States.) While we have the will and the resources to fight in this context, we are effectively hamstrung because realities on the ground require measures we will always refuse — namely, the widespread use of lethal and brutal force.
Given the situation, it is important not to assess security from an American-centered perspective. The ability of, say, American observers to safely walk down the streets of formerly violent towns is not a resounding indicator of security. What matters is the experience of the local citizenry and the future of our counterinsurgency. When we take this view, we see that a vast majority of Iraqis feel increasingly insecure and view us as an occupation force that has failed to produce normalcy after four years and is increasingly unlikely to do so as we continue to arm each warring side.
Coupling our military strategy to an insistence that the Iraqis meet political benchmarks for reconciliation is also unhelpful. The morass in the government has fueled impatience and confusion while providing no semblance of security to average Iraqis. Leaders are far from arriving at a lasting political settlement. This should not be surprising, since a lasting political solution will not be possible while the military situation remains in constant flux.
The Iraqi government is run by the main coalition partners of the Shiite-dominated United Iraqi Alliance, with Kurds as minority members. The Shiite clerical establishment formed the alliance to make sure its people did not succumb to the same mistake as in 1920: rebelling against the occupying Western force (then the British) and losing what they believed was their inherent right to rule Iraq as the majority. The qualified and reluctant welcome we received from the Shiites since the invasion has to be seen in that historical context. They saw in us something useful for the moment.
Now that moment is passing, as the Shiites have achieved what they believe is rightfully theirs. Their next task is to figure out how best to consolidate the gains, because reconciliation without consolidation risks losing it all. Washington’s insistence that the Iraqis correct the three gravest mistakes we made — de-Baathification, the dismantling of the Iraqi Army and the creation of a loose federalist system of government — places us at cross purposes with the government we have committed to support.
Political reconciliation in Iraq will occur, but not at our insistence or in ways that meet our benchmarks. It will happen on Iraqi terms when the reality on the battlefield is congruent with that in the political sphere. There will be no magnanimous solutions that please every party the way we expect, and there will be winners and losers. The choice we have left is to decide which side we will take. Trying to please every party in the conflict — as we do now — will only ensure we are hated by all in the long run.
At the same time, the most important front in the counterinsurgency, improving basic social and economic conditions, is the one on which we have failed most miserably. Two million Iraqis are in refugee camps in bordering countries. Close to two million more are internally displaced and now fill many urban slums. Cities lack regular electricity, telephone services and sanitation. “Lucky” Iraqis live in gated communities barricaded with concrete blast walls that provide them with a sense of communal claustrophobia rather than any sense of security we would consider normal.
In a lawless environment where men with guns rule the streets, engaging in the banalities of life has become a death-defying act. Four years into our occupation, we have failed on every promise, while we have substituted Baath Party tyranny with a tyranny of Islamist, militia and criminal violence. When the primary preoccupation of average Iraqis is when and how they are likely to be killed, we can hardly feel smug as we hand out care packages. As an Iraqi man told us a few days ago with deep resignation, “We need security, not free food.”
In the end, we need to recognize that our presence may have released Iraqis from the grip of a tyrant, but that it has also robbed them of their self-respect. They will soon realize that the best way to regain dignity is to call us what we are — an army of occupation — and force our withdrawal.
Until that happens, it would be prudent for us to increasingly let Iraqis take center stage in all matters, to come up with a nuanced policy in which we assist them from the margins but let them resolve their differences as they see fit. This suggestion is not meant to be defeatist, but rather to highlight our pursuit of incompatible policies to absurd ends without recognizing the incongruities.
We need not talk about our morale. As committed soldiers, we will see this mission through.
Buddhika Jayamaha is an Army specialist. Wesley D. Smith is a sergeant. Jeremy Roebuck is a sergeant. Omar Mora is a sergeant. Edward Sandmeier is a sergeant. Yance T. Gray is a staff sergeant. Jeremy A. Murphy is a staff sergeant.
Well, it looks like the 2008 election campaign is in full swing, or is it? Does anyone know who the Greens are running? Or the Socialists? Or the Progressives or Populists or Workers World? Nah, I guess we don't need them to get started. They can fill in the chorus parts at the end of the play. All we need is Big Politics. Come and get it. One party for the price of two!
Democrats and Republicans alike beseech us to get out there and vote, and why not? Besides making these self-anointed guardians of democracy seem open and civic-minded, there is the reassuring prospect that each will get their standard split (results will not vary greatly from 50/50). The virtual monopoly control of election apparat enjoyed by these two parties make them confident they will not have to face serious challenges from minor party candidates.
We are counseled that every vote matters, even a single one. While this may be true on the Supreme Court, a school board, or even a village election, as the vote count grows larger the odds alone make it progressively more unlikely that a single vote could be decisive.
The pivotal Florida count in the 2000 presidential election may seem to support one-vote-matters theory. Out of 5,861,785 votes cast in the State a mere 537 vote margin decided the whole shebang (via the Supreme Court). Okay, so 537 is not 1 but it's tantalizingly close considering the total number of votes. Didn't this prove that a single vote could, in principle, make the difference?
Forget it! It's not a matter of odds. It's a matter of appearance. In an election of sufficient size and importance, a single vote will never be decisive. That is the Florida lesson. Remembering Florida, think what would happen if the difference was a single vote, which, taking the Florida figures, works out to a margin of .000017 percent. Since this is hideously less than the margin of error in the count it would never be allowed to stand. It would be challenged and re-challenged until the margin raised high enough to quell some of the surrounding noise. All of which means one thing. Your vote will never matter!
Both parties see it as a bad sign when voters stay away from the polls. It signifies that people may have stopped paying attention. Democrats and Republicans each struggle to maintain the illusion that they are uniquely suited to guide the country that they alone deserve to lead by dint of tradition.
The absurdity is compounded each election cycle by these stalwart defenders of the status quo each promising to bring about the next great change, exploiting the public's thirst for it.
While we are encouraged to vote for change, in our system it works the opposite way. At the present stage, the entrenched power of Big Politics is such as to render any rival upstart stillborn. It won't happen at the ballot box, not in the expected sense. Voting is their game and you can't beat someone at their own game.
When 100 million people vote each major party will get between 40 and 60 million each, leaving mavericks the crumbs and millions of votes to overcome. Since mavericks are the only people who represent true change (supply your own proof), what we get is reluctance to change.
If only 1 million people vote each major party will have ulcers at the prospect of their vulnerability to the maverick. The fewer people who vote, the fewer needed to upset the power balance. Is this a partial explanation of why the establishment frets about low voter turnout?
So the message is if you really want to see things shaken up, stay away from the polls. This will take some discipline considering how it counters the prevailing advice. Your vote may be personal to you, but to those in control it is a commodity. It is bought and paid for in accordance with a formula (dollar/vote correspondence) well known to those in the field (applied electioneering), only you're not supposed to know this, even though you really know this.
You may feel that you vote freely, but ask yourself why you don't feel free to vote for a minor party candidate. Ask yourself why you don't want to "waste" your vote, yet instead reward with it the very parties responsible for this state of futility.
The army teaches a valuable survival lesson. When you are captured, the best time to escape is as soon as you can, because it gets harder as you go on. This presupposes something so obvious that it can be overlooked. That you know you are captive! Applying this to discussed circumstances, our primary obstacle may be that we do not fully recognize that all is futile.
Protestors march through the streets of Ottawa 19 Aug on their way to Parliment building...
by Michel Comte Mon Aug 20, 1:18 AM ET
A meeting of US, Canada and Mexico leaders on Monday and Tuesday has attracted "an eclectic group" of demonstrators united in opposition to further integration of North America.
Hundreds of anti-globalization protestors, environmentalists, peaceniks, and civil rights groups joined to taunt Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper, US President George W. Bush, and Mexico's President Felipe Calderon.
The three North American leaders are expected to discuss trade and security at a two-day Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP) summit in Montebello, Quebec, 80 kilometers (50 miles) east of Ottawa.
The SPP was launched at the first "Three Amigos" summit in Waco, Texas, in March 2005. A second meeting followed in Cancun, Mexico, in 2006.
With placards reading "Reclaim democracy," "Basta Bush" and "No to Fortress America," the demonstrators marched from the Canadian parliament to the US and Mexican embassies, railing against the framework for greater security and economic integration of the three nations.
"This summit has certainly attracted an eclectic group of protestors," said Peggy Land of the Raging Grannies, taking time away from her grandchildren to wave a sign politely decrying: "The SPP sucks, dear."
"It's our only chance to be heard and to present our grievances to Mr. Harper, Mr. Bush and Mr. Calderon," she explained.
Indeed, during the summit, protestors will be kept out by a fence, three meters (10 feet) high and running 2.5-kilometers (1.5 miles) around the meeting place.
They will be "seen and heard," but only virtually -- via an audio-video feed set up by organizers.
The arrangement is "in compliance with (a Canadian) court's decision that protesters have a right to be 'seen and heard,'" said Sandra Buckler, a spokeswoman for host Stephen Harper.
But it has riled protestors.
"They've made it very difficult to protest at this summit," lamented Elizabeth May, Canada's Green Party chief.
In defiance, several protestors said they planned to try to get as close to the meeting site as possible, refusing to be "caged" in a forest clearing set up for them by summit organizers.
On Parliament Hill in Ottawa, meanwhile, peace activists bashed US policies in general, but the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, especially. "Troops out of Afghanistan," said posters.
The Canadian wife of Mohamed Harkat, an accused Al-Qaeda sleeper agent facing deportation to Algeria, where he says he would be tortured and killed, spoke out against Canadian and US anti-terrorism laws at the rally, saying they breached civil liberties.
Even 9/11 conspiracy theorists were on hand to tout an alternative version of the September 11, 2001 attacks that killed some 3,000 in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania, saying the White House was surely behind it.
"I'm here to try to get support from anti-Bush and anti-war activists. We're trying to expose 9/11 as the biggest lie ever told," said Ian Woods.
"The SPP is an opportunity for big business to ruin democracy," he added, more in tune with his fellow demonstrators. "It's about corporate control."
According to officials, Harper, Bush and Calderon are expected to discuss current market turmoil, trade and security, and strategies to stem pandemics.
They may also confer on product safety, following recent recalls of toys, dog food and toothpaste, and growing worries about defective "made in China" goods imported into North America.
But demonstrators say they fear the result will have a severe and negative impact on civil liberties, environmental and energy policies, as well as Canadian, US and Mexican sovereignty.
"We're not having any say in the SPP. It's undemocratic," said raging granny Peggy Land, accusing Harper, Bush and Calderon of making decisions behind closed doors without consulting with voters.
McLEAN, Virginia - Peter Gelderloos would admit he is not your typical American tourist. While other Americans in Barcelona might be hopping between tapas bars, he was hanging out at a squatters' rights protest, lending support to the protesters.
But police in Barcelona say he was more than an innocent bystander. They charged him with public disorder and illegal demonstration for what they characterize as an instigating role in the April protest that got out of control. He could face up to six years in prison if convicted, an unusually stiff penalty because of the protest's conclusion _ the explosion of a massive firecracker.
Gelderloos, 25, of Vienna, Virginia, says the charges are ridiculous. He says he barely knew the protesters and could not have been involved in organizing or leading them. He believes that his political beliefs _ he is an anarchist who sometimes dresses the part _ caused police to treat him suspiciously.
''The cop was sure I was a terrorist because he was sure I was a squatter, and he was sure I was a squatter because he thought I looked like one (I was wearing a political t-shirt and had some slogans scribbled on my shoes),'' Gelderloos wrote in an account of his arrest that has been posted on Web sites dedicated to radical political causes.
Gelderloos is free on bond awaiting trial, but the terms of his release essentially bar him from coming back to the United States since he is required to check in at the Barcelona courthouse every two weeks. His lawyer has advised him that it may be two years or more before his case goes to trial.
Spanish police say Gelderloos was one of the leaders in a group of several dozen squatters protesting the city's gentrification. They were holding a procession on Las Ramblas, a main pedestrian drag in Barcelona.
The protesters were pushing a shopping cart rigged to look like it had a cannon sticking out of it, said a Spanish police official in Barcelona who spoke on condition of anonymity in line with police policy there.
At one point, Gelderloos and several other protesters started to scream ''We have a bomb, we have a bomb'' and then the firecracker exploded, the police official said. The official said Gelderloos was among those who set off the firecracker.
''People who did not know it was a joke could have had panic attacks,'' the official said.
Gelderloos offered a different account of the April 23 arrest: He said he had arrived in Spain at the end of March, alone and unable to speak Spanish. While he was interested in learning about Europe's radical social movements, he was traveling on a tourist visa and was, from a practical and legal standpoint, a tourist.
''Even anarchists take vacations,'' he wrote.
In an e-mail interview, Gelderloos said he had met some of the participants prior to the protest.
''Naturally I was interested in it, but I had not helped organize it and when the (firecracker) went off I was leaving to meet another friend,'' he said. ''The contention that I got intimately involved with criminal elements or whomever in this timeframe is fairly absurd.''
When police broke up the protest, Gelderloos said he did what he would normally do in the U.S.: follow and monitor the police to document any abuse or see if those arrested need assistance. It was then that he says a police officer asked him a question. Gelderloos responded by saying he did not understand Spanish very well and showing the officer his passport.
The officer took the passport and walked to the police station, with Gelderloos following. It was only then, Gelderloos said, that he learned he was under arrest.
Gelderloos' father, Duane Gelderloos, said he is worried that his son will not get a fair hearing, in part because of anti-American sentiment across the world. He noted a comment that a judge made to Gelderloos at an initial court appearance. According to Peter Gelderloos, the judge said during the hearing that the U.S. would put him in Guantanamo for what he had done.
''It's so obvious he's being framed on this thing,'' the father said. ''I think it has to be a factor _ this sense that 'America's having this war on terror, here's back at you.'''
Gelderloos' supporters in the U.S. organized a series of phone-call protests to the Spanish Embassy in Washington in late June, said Tariq Khan, a friend and fellow anti-war activist in northern Virginia.
Gelderloos acknowledged that his political beliefs are unorthodox. In 2002 he was sentenced to six months in prison for trespassing at a Georgia military base as part of a protest against the U.S. military's training of Latin American soldiers. He has been active in a variety of radical groups, including Copwatch, Anarchist Black Cross and Food Not Bombs.
Even within the anarchist community his ideas are controversial. He wrote a recently published book, ''How Nonviolence Protects the State,'' that questions the effectiveness of nonviolent social resistance. While he has written favorably of violent resistance, he said that doesn't mean he acted violently in Barcelona.
''I don't see what these ideas have to do with my guilt or innocence. I'm not accused of injuring anyone,'' Gelderloos said. ''It seems to me that the basic protections our system pretends to grant consistently do not apply to people whose beliefs are not within the permitted range and I hope that is not the case here.''
Peter Gelderloos said he believes his arrest highlights a broader issue of aggressive police tactics in Spain, where he says police have only reformed minimally since the days of the repressive Franco regime.
A 2005 report from the European Commissioner on Human Rights cited problems including a failure to inform foreign prisoners of their rights and frequent violations of speedy-trial rights.
The U.S. Consulate in Barcelona declined to comment on the case, citing privacy rules.
Greed and Folly on Wall Street By RALPH NADER August 18 / 19, 2007 CounterPunch The corporate capitalists' knees are shaking a bit. Their manipulation of the sub-prime housing market has led to a spreading credit crunch and liquidity crisis. So it is time for them to call on Uncle Sam--the all purpose bailout man. Only don't call it a bailout yet. It is just an injection of over $200 billion in the past week to stabilize the heaving financial markets by the European Central Bank and our Federal Reserve. Governments to the rescue--again. My father many years ago asked his children during dinner table conversation: "Why will capitalism always survive?" His answer: "Because socialism will always be used to save it." As a small businessman himself (a restaurateur), he was not referring to the little guys on Main Street. He was talking about the Big Boys. Today, we call these self-paying CEOs "corporate capitalists." Central Banks are government regulators after all. Among other impacts, they regulate interest rates. But they are so saturated with banking executives or former banking officials on their Boards, Committees and at the helms, that they see themselves as part and parcel saviors of their banking brethren. Brother Henry M. Paulson, formerly with the Goldman-Sachs investment giant and now U.S. Treasury Secretary just said: "The markets are resilient. They can absorb those losses. We've gone through challenging times in the markets, and we will rise to the challenge." We? Paulson is a government official who is supposed to be worrying about the people first--such as the millions of homeowners who are slated to lose their homes in the next 18 months. How to help these "borrowers, not the wheeler-dealers," as columnist Paul Krugman described his "workouts, not bailouts" plan in The New York Times (August 17, 2007) should be Paulson's chief concern. Secretary Paulson did tell The New York Times that federal regulators should try to eliminate fraud and market manipulation and that there needs to be more disclosure of the holdings and actions of hedge funds and other private pools of capital. Well, that's talk. Where is the action? Krugman, an economist, believes that the current real-estate bubble was "both caused and was fed by widespread malfeasance. Rating agencies like Moody's Investors Service, which get paid a lot of money for rating mortgage-backed securities," seemed to be performing much like the major accounting firms that rubber-stamped the inflated, deceptive financial statements of the Enrons and the Worldcoms. Passing on the risks of these mortgage loans through more and more complicated financial transactions, which are in turn bet on by the huge derivatives markets, allows wider transmission of these risk viruses throughout the national and the global financial markets. A kind of dominoes effect sets in and induces panic selling and panic inability to obtain daily commercial loans in the stiffening credit markets. The European Central Bank recently has poured tens of billions of Euros into the global financial system after the giant French bank BNP Paribas SA froze three of its investment funds. If matters get worse, the Central Banks will inject more money into the system. If financial markets start collapsing along with investor confidence, then Uncle Sam will certainly adopt additional direct bailout options. One man--Mervyn King, the Governor of the Bank of England, is the lone central banker who resists intervening in the markets. "Interest rates," he asserts, "aren't a policy instrument to protect unwise lenders from the consequences of their unwise decisions." Bailing out investors and their risky investments would just induce them to take on bigger risks next time, expecting another bailout, he believes. More and more, corporate capitalists in side and beyond the financial markets do not want to behave as capitalists-willing to take the losses along with the profits. They want Washington, D.C., meaning you the taxpayers, to pay for their facilities (as with big time sports stadiums) or take on their losses because they believe that they are too big to be allowed to fail (as with large banks or industrial companies). These corporate capitalists should be exposed when they always say that government is the problem whenever it moves to help the little guys with health and safety regulations, for example, but government is wonderful when the bureaucrats are summoned to perform missions to rescue them from their own greed and folly. Ralph Nader is the author of The Seventeen Traditions
Well I suppose I first got involved in radical politics as a matter of course, during the late 1960s when it was a part of the culture. The counterculture, as we called it then, was very eclectic and all embracing. It included fashions of dress, styles of music, philosophical positions, and, inevitably, political positions. And although there would be various political leanings coming to the fore from time to time, I suppose that the overall consensus political standpoint was probably an anarchist one. Although probably back in those days, when I was a very young teenager, I didn’t necessarily put it into those terms.
Authors on Anarchism - an Interview with Alan Moore
I'm working on a zine/book in which I interview anarchist fiction authors about how radicalism informs their work. (to be released by Strangers in a Tangled Wilderness) Here then, is the transcript of my conversation with comic book author Alan Moore:
I'll start with the basics: What are your associations with anarchism? Do you consider yourself an anarchist? How did you first get involved in radical politics?
Well I suppose I first got involved in radical politics as a matter of course, during the late 1960s when it was a part of the culture. The counterculture, as we called it then, was very eclectic and all embracing. It included fashions of dress, styles of music, philosophical positions, and, inevitably, political positions. And although there would be various political leanings coming to the fore from time to time, I suppose that the overall consensus political standpoint was probably an anarchist one. Although probably back in those days, when I was a very young teenager, I didn’t necessarily put it into those terms. I was probably not familiar enough with the concepts of anarchy to actually label myself as such. It was later, as I went into my twenties and started to think about things more seriously that I came to a conclusion that basically the only political standpoint that I could possibly adhere to would be an anarchist one.
It furthermore occurred to me that, basically, anarchy is in fact the only political position that is actually possible. I believe that all other political states are in fact variations or outgrowths of a basic state of anarchy; after all, when you mention the idea of anarchy to most people they will tell you what a bad idea it is because the biggest gang would just take over. Which is pretty much how I see contemporary society. We live in a badly developed anarchist situation in which the biggest gang has taken over and have declared that it is not an anarchist situation—that it is a capitalist or a communist situation. But I tend to think that anarchy is the most natural form of politics for a human being to actually practice. All it means, the word, is no leaders. An-archon. No leaders.
And I think that if we actually look at nature without prejudice, we find that this is the state of affairs that usually pertains. I mean, previous naturalists have looked at groups of animals and have said: “ah yes this animal is the alpha male, so he is the leader of the group.” Whereas later research tends to suggest that this is simply the researcher projecting his own social visions onto a group of animals, and that if you observe them more closely you will find out that, yes there is this big tough male that seems to handle most of the fights, but that the most important member of the herd is probably this female at the back that everybody seems to gather around during any conflict. There are other animals within the herd that might have an importance in terms of finding new territory. In fact the herd does not actually structure itself in terms of hierarchies; every animal seems to have its own position within the herd.
And actually, if you look at most natural human groupings of people, such as a family or a group of friends, you will find that again, we don’t have leaders. Unless you’re talking about some incredibly rigid Victorian family, there is nobody that could be said to be the leader of the family; everybody has their own function. And it seems to me that anarchy is the state that most naturally obtains when you’re talking about ordinary human beings living their lives in a natural way. Its only when you get these fairly alien structures of order that are represented by our major political schools of thought, that you start to get these terrible problems arising—problems regarding our status within the hierarchy, the uncertainties and insecurities that are the result of that. You get these jealousies, these power struggles, which by and large, don’t really afflict the rest of the animal kingdom. It seems to me that the idea of leaders is an unnatural one that was probably thought up by a leader at some point in antiquity; leaders have been brutally enforcing that idea ever since, to the point where most people cannot conceive of an alternative.
This is one of the things about anarchy: if we were to take out all the leaders tomorrow, and put them up against a wall and shoot them— and it’s a lovely thought, so let me just dwell on that for a moment before I dismiss it—but if we were to do that, society would probably collapse, because the majority of people have had thousands of years of being conditioned to depend upon leadership from a source outside themselves. That has become a crutch to an awful lot of people, and if you were to simply kick it away, then those people would simply fall over and take society with them. In order for any workable and realistic state of anarchy to be achieved, you will obviously have to educate people—and educate them massively—towards a state where they could actually take responsibility for their own actions and simultaneously be aware that they are acting in a wider group: that they must allow other people within that group to take responsibility for their own actions. Which on a small scale, as it works in families or in groups of friends, doesn’t seem to be that implausible, but it would take an awful lot of education to get people to think about living their lives in that way. And obviously, no government, no state, is ever going to educate people to the point where the state itself would become irrelevant. So if people are going to be educated to the point where they can take responsibility for their own laws and their own actions and become, to my mind, fully actualized human beings, then it will have to come from some source other than the state or government.
There have been underground traditions, both underground political traditions and underground spiritual traditions. There have been people such as John Bunyan, who spent almost 30 years in prison in nearby Bedford. This is the author of “The Pilgrim’s Progress” who spent nearly 30 years in prison because the spiritual ideas he was espousing were so incendiary. This was a part of a movement; around the 17th century in England there were all sorts of strange ideas bubbling to the surface, particularly around the area where I live, in the midlands. You’ve got all of these religions—although they were often considered heretical—which were stating that there was no need for priests, that there was no need for leaders; they were hoping to announce a nation of saints. That everybody would become a saint, and that they would become mechanic philosophers. People could work all day, as say a tinker, but that in the evening they could stand up and preach the word of the Lord with as much authority as any person in a pulpit. This looks to be a glorious idea, but you can see how it would have terrified the authorities at the time.
And indeed it was during the 17th century that, partly fueled by similar ideas, Oliver Cromwell rose up and commenced the British civil war, which eventually led to the beheading of Charles I. I mean it was, in the phrase of one of the best books about the period, “literally a case of the world turned upside down.” There have been these underground traditions, whether they are spiritual or purely political, that have expressed anarchist ideas for centuries, and these days there is even more potential for the dissemination of ideas like that. With the growth of the internet and the growth of communication in general, these ideas are much harder to suppress. Simply putting John Bunyan in jail for 30 years isn’t really going to cut it anymore. Also, the internet does suggest possibilities for throwing off centralized state control.
There was a very interesting piece, a 10 minute television broadcast, made over here by a gentleman from the London school of economics, a lecturer who looked like the least threatening man that you can imagine. He didn’t look like an apocalyptic political firebrand by any means; he looked like and was an accountant and an economist. And yet the actual picture he was painting was quite compelling. He was saying that the only reason that governments are governments is that they control the currency; they don’t actually do anything for us that we don’t pay for, other than expose us to the threat of foreign wars by their reckless actions. They don’t actually really even govern us; all they do is control the currency and rake off the proceeds.
Now in the past, if you wanted to get yourself thrown into jail forever than the best way of going about it woulda been not to have molested children or gone on a serial killing spree or something like that, the best way would have been to try to establish your own currency. Because the nature of currency is a kind of magic: these pieces of metal or pieces of paper only have value as long as people believe that they do. If somebody were to introduce another kind of piece of metal or piece of paper, and if people were to start believing in that form of currency more than yours, then all of your wealth would suddenly vanish. So attempts to introduce alternative currencies in the past have been ruthlessly stamped out. And with the internet, that is no longer anywhere near as easy. In fact, a lot of modern companies have rewards schemes; supermarkets run reward schemes that are in certain senses like a form of currency. A lot of companies have schemes in which workers will be paid in credits which can be redeemed from almost anything from a house to a tin of beans at the company store. There are also green economies that are starting up here and there whereby you’ll have say, an underprivileged place in England where you have an out-of-work mechanic who wants his house decorated. He will, as an out-of-work mechanic, have accumulated green credits by doing the odd job around the neighborhood—fixing peoples cars, stuff like that—and he will be able to spend those credits by getting in touch with an out-of-work decorator who will come and paint his house for him.
Now again, schemes like this are increasingly difficult to control, and what this lecturer from the London school of economics was saying is that in the future we would have to be prepared a situation in which we have firstly, no currency, and secondly, as a result of that, no government. So there are ways in which technology itself and the ways in which we respond to technology—the ways in which we adapt our culture and our way of living to accommodate breakthroughs and movements in technology—might give us a way to move around government. To evolve around government to a point where such a thing is no longer necessary or desirable. That is perhaps an optimistic vision, but it’s one of the only realistic ways I can see it happening.
I don’t believe that a violent revolution is ever going to work, simply on the grounds that it never has in the past. I mean, speaking as a resident of Northampton, during the English civil war we backed Cromwell—we provided all the boots for his army—and we were a center of antiroyalist sentiment. Incidentally, we provided all the boots to the Confederates as well, so obviously we know how to pick a winner. Cromwell’s revolution? I guess it succeeded. The king was beheaded, which was quite early in the day for beheading; amongst the European monarchy, I think we can claim to have kicked off that trend. But give it another ten years; as it turned out, Cromwell himself was a monster. He was every bit the monster that Charles I had been. In some ways he was worse. When Cromwell died, the restoration happened. Charles II came to power and was so pissed off with the people of Northampton that he pulled down our castle. And the status quo was restored. I really don’t think that a violent revolution is ever going to provide a long-term solution to the problems of the ordinary person. I think that is something that we had best handle ourselves, and which we are most likely to achieve by the simple evolution of western society. But that might take quite a while, and whether we have that amount of time is, of course, open to debate.
So I suppose that those are my principal thoughts upon anarchy. They’ve been with me for a long time. Way back in the early 80s, when I was first kicking off writing V for Vendetta for the English magazine Warrior, the story was very much a result of me actually sitting down and thinking about what the real extreme poles of politics were. Because it struck me that simple capitalism and communism were not the two poles around which the whole of political thinking revolved. It struck me that two much more representative extremes were to be found in fascism and anarchy.
Fascism is a complete abdication of personal responsibility. You are surrendering all responsibility for your own actions to the state on the belief that in unity there is strength, which was the definition of fascism represented by the original roman symbol of the bundle of bound twigs. Yes, it is a very persuasive argument: “In unity there is strength.” But inevitably people tend to come to a conclusion that the bundle of bound twigs will be much stronger if all the twigs are of a uniform size and shape, that there aren’t any oddly shaped or bent twigs that are disturbing the bundle. So it goes from “in unity there is strength” to “in uniformity there is strength” and from there it proceeds to the excesses of fascism as we’ve seen them exercised throughout the 20th century and into the 21st.
Now anarchy, on the other hand, is almost starting from the principle that “in diversity, there is strength,” which makes much more sense from the point of view of looking at the natural world. Nature, and the forces of evolution—if you happen to be living in a country where they still believe in the forces of evolution, of course —did not really see fit to follow that “in unity and in uniformity there is strength” idea. If you want to talk about successful species, then you’re talking about bats and beetles; there are thousands of different varieties of different bat and beetle. Certain sorts of tree and bush have diversified so splendidly that there are now thousands of different examples of this basic species. Now you contrast that to something like horses or humans, where there’s one basic type of human, and two maybe three basic types of horses. In terms of the evolutionary tree, we are very bare, denuded branches. The whole program of evolution seems to be to diversify, because in diversity there is strength.
And if you apply that on a social level, then you get something like anarchy. Everybody is recognized as having their own abilities, their own particular agendas, and everybody has their own need to work cooperatively with other people. So it’s conceivable that the same kind of circumstances that obtain in a small human grouping, like a family or like a collection of friends, could be made to obtain in a wider human grouping like a civilization.
So I suppose those are pretty much my thoughts at the moment upon anarchy. Although of course with anarchy, it’s a fairly shifting commodity, so if you ask me tomorrow I might have a different idea. In "writing for comics" you write about how stories can have relevance to the world around us, how stories can be "useful" in some way. How do you think that stories can be useful? And how do politics inform your work?
Well, I think that stories are probably more than just useful; they are probably vital. I think that if you actually examine the relationship between real life and fiction, you’ll find that we most often predicate our real lives upon fictions that we have applied from somewhere. From our earliest days in the caves I’m certain we have, when assembling our own personalities, tried to borrow qualities —perhaps from real people that we admire, but as often as not from some completely mythical person, some god or some hero, some character from a storybook. Whether this is a good idea or not, this tends to be what we do. The way that we talk, the way that we act, the way that we behave, we’re probably taking our example from some fiction or prototype. Even if it’s a real person who’s inspiring us, it may be that they were partly inspired by fictional examples. And given that, it is quite easy to see that in a sense, our entire lives— individually or as a culture—are a kind of narrative.
It’s a kind of fiction, it is not a reality in the sense that it is something concrete and fixed; we constantly fictionalize our own experience. We edit our own experience. There are bits of it that we simply misremember, and there are bits of it that we deliberately edit out because they’re not of interest to us or perhaps they show us in a bad light. So we’re constantly revising, both as individuals and as nations, our own past. We’re turning it moment by moment into a kind of fiction, that is the way that we assemble our daily reality. We are not experiencing reality directly, we are simply experiencing our perception of reality. All of these signals pulsing down optic nerves, and in the tympanums of our ears, from those we compose, moment by moment, our view of reality. And inevitably, because people’s perceptions are different, and the constructions that people put on things are different, then there is no such thing as a cold, objective reality that is solid and fixed and not open to interpretation. Inevitably, we are to some extent creating a fiction every second of our lives, the fiction of who we are, the fiction of what our lives are about, the meanings that we give to things.
So to some degree, stories are at the absolute center of human existence. Sometimes to disastrous effect; if you think about how various ancient religious stories—that may have been intended at the time as no more than fables—have led to so many devastating wars up to and including the present day. Obviously there are some occasions when the fictions that we base our lives upon lead us into some terrifying territory. So yes, I think that stories have a great part to play, in some ways more than the development of laws or the development of any other kind of sociological marker. I think that it is the development of our fictions and the development of our stories that tend to be the real measure of our progress. I tend to think that when we look back at culture, we’re generally looking at art as the measure of the high points of our culture. We’re not looking at war, or the major, benign political events. We’re generally looking at cultural highpoints, such as a story.
As to how politics relate to the storytelling process, I’d say that it’s probably in the same way that politics relate to everything. I mean, as the old feminist maxim used to go, “the personal is the political.” We don’t really live in an existence where the different aspects of our society are compartmentalized in the way that they are in bookshops. In a bookshop, you’ll have a section that is about history, that is about politics, that is about the contemporary living, or the environment, or modern thinking, modern attitudes. All of these things are political. All of these things are not compartmentalized; they’re all mixed up together. And I think that inevitably there is going to be a political element in everything that we do or don’t do. In everything we believe, or do not believe.
I mean, in terms of politics I think that it’s important to remember what the word actually means. Politics sometimes sells itself as having an ethical dimension, as if there was good politics and bad politics. As far as I understand it, the word actually has the same root as the word polite. It is the art of conveying information in a politic way, in a way that will be discrete and diplomatic and will offend the least people. And basically we’re talking about spin. Rather than being purely a late 20th, early 21st century term, it’s obvious that politics have always been nothing but spin. But, that said, it is the system which is interwoven with our everyday lives, so every aspect our lives is bound to have a political element, including writing fiction.
I suppose any form of art can be said to be propaganda for a state of mind. Inevitably, if you are creating a painting, or writing a story, you are making propaganda, in a sense, for the way that you feel, the way that you think, the way that you see the world. You are trying to express your own view of reality and existence, and that is inevitably going to be a political action—especially if your view of existence is too far removed from the mainstream view of existence. Which is how an awful lot of writers have gotten into terrible trouble in the past.
Have you run into any problems with your publishers, owing to your radical politics?
Well, no, surprisingly. I largely got into comics under the influence of the American underground comics; that was probably the background that I was coming from, a kind of adulation of American underground culture, including its comic strips. Now that background was always very, very political. So right from the start there would probably always be some politically satirical element, at least from time to time. When it was necessary, or felt right for the story, there would be some satirical political element creeping in to my work right from the earliest days. A lot of the very early little short stories I did for 2000AD, little twist-ending science-fiction tales. When it was possible I would try to get some kind of political moral, or simply moral, into stories like that. Simply because it made them better stories, and it made me feel better about writing them because I was expressing my own beliefs.
Now because those stories were popular, because they sold more comics, I never had any problem at all. Even if the people publishing the books didn’t share my beliefs or politics—and in most instances their politics would have been 180 degrees away from mine—they at least understood their own sales figures. And they seemed to be able to live with that, with publishing views to which they themselves they did not subscribe, so long as the readers were buying the books in large numbers. They are prepared to forgive you anything if you’re making enough money for them. I think that’s the general message that I’ve taken from my career in comics; that if you’re good enough, if you’re popular enough, if you’re making enough money, then they will quite cheerfully allow you to use their publishing facilities to disseminate ideas that perhaps are very, very radical. Perhaps even in some contexts, potentially dangerous. This is the beauty of capitalism: there is an inherent greed that is more concerned with raking in the money than in whatever message might be being circulated. So no, I’ve never really had any problems with that.
Can you point to any effect that your stories have had on the world?
I can’t think that many positive ones. I would like to think that some of my work has opened up people’s thinking about certain areas. On a very primitive level, it would be nice to think that people thought a little bit differently about the comics medium as a result of my work, and saw greater possibility in it. And realized what a useful tool for disseminating information it was. That would be an accomplishment. That would have added a very useful implement to the arsenal of people who are seeking social change, because comics can be an incredibly useful tool in that regard. I’d also like to think that perhaps, on a higher level, that some of my work has the potential to radically change enough people’s ideas upon a subject. To perhaps, eventually, decades after my own death, affect some kind of minor change in the way that people see and organize society. Some of my magical work that I’ve done is an attempt to get people to see reality and it’s possibilities in a different light. I’d like to think that that might have some kind of impact eventually. I’d like to think that Lost Girls, with its attempt to rehabilitate the whole notion of pornography, might have some benign effects. That people will be able to potentially come up with a form of pornography which is not ugly, which is intelligent, and which potentially makes pornography into a kind of beautiful, welcoming arena in which our most closely guarded sexual secrets can be discussed in an open and healthy way. Where our shameful fantasies are not left to fester and to turn into something monstrous in the dark inside us. It would be nice to think that maybe stuff like Lost Girls and the magical material might have the potential to actually change the way people think.
With relation to the magic, I can remember one the last conversations I had with my very dear and much missed friend, the writer Kathy Acker. This was very soon after I had just become interested and involved with magic. I was saying to her how the way I was then seeing things was that basically magic was about the last and best bastion of revolution. The political revolution, the sexual revolution, these things had their part and had their limits, whereas the idea of a magical revolution would revolve around actually changing people’s consciousnesses, which is to say, actually changing the nature of perceived reality. Kathy agreed with that completely—it sort of followed on some of her own experiences—and I still think that that is true. In some ways, magic is the most political of all of the areas that I’m involved with.
For example, we were talking earlier—well I was talking earlier— about anarchy and fascism being the two poles of politics. On one hand you’ve got fascism, with the bound bundle of twigs, the idea that in unity and uniformity there is strength; on the other you have anarchy, which is completely determined by the individual, and where the individual determines his or her own life. Now if you move that into the spiritual domain, then in religion, I find very much the spiritual equivalent of fascism. The word “religion” comes from the root word ligare, which is the same root word as ligature, and ligament, and basically means “bound together in one belief.” It’s basically the same as the idea behind fascism; there’s not even necessarily a spiritual component it. Everything from the Republican Party to the Girl Guides could be seen as a religion, in that they are bound together in one belief. So to me, like I said, religion becomes very much the spiritual equivalent of fascism. And by the same token, magic becomes the spiritual equivalent of anarchy, in that it is purely about self-determination, with the magician simply a human being writ large, and in more dramatic terms, standing at the center of his or her own universe. Which I think is a kind of a spiritual statement of the basic anarchist position. I find an awful lot in common between anarchist politics and the pursuit of magic, that there’s a great sympathy there.
Have you heard of the A for Anarchy project that happened in New York City with the release of the movie version of V for Vendetta?
No I haven’t, please go on, inform me.
Some anarchist activist types started tabling outside of the movie showings with information about how Hollywood had taken the politics out of the movie.
Ah, now that is fantastic, that is really good to hear, because that’s one of the things that had distressed me. What had originally been a straightforward battle of ideas between anarchy and fascism had been turned into a kind of ham-fisted parable of 9-11 and the war against terror, in which the words anarchy and fascism appear nowhere. I mean, at the time I was thinking: look, if they wanted to protest about George Bush and the way that American society is going since 9-11—which would completely understandable—then why don’t they do what I did back in the 1980s when I didn’t like the way that England was going under Margaret Thatcher, which is to do a story in my own country, that was clearly about events that were happening right then in my own country, and kind of make it obvious that that’s what you’re talking about. It struck me that for Hollywood to make V for Vendetta, it was a way for thwarted and impotent American liberals to feel that they were making some kind of statement about how pissed off they were with the current situation without really risking anything. It’s all set in England, which I think that probably, in most American eyes, is kind of a fairytale kingdom where we still perhaps still have giants. It doesn’t really exist; it might as well be in the Land of Oz for most Americans. So you can get set your political parable in this fantasy environment called England, and then you can vent your spleen against George Bush and the neo- conservatives. Those were my feelings, and I must admit those are completely based upon not having seen the film even once, but having read a certain amount of the screenplay. That was enough.
But that’s really interesting about the A for Anarchy demonstrations. That’s fantastic.
“Every man needs an enemy” — this saying, which I heard from two different American men who did not know about each other — sounded quite astonishing to me each time. Naturally being used to generalized language, I assumed the word “man” meant “person”; and as I have never had the need of an enemy, I felt quite baffled until I recalled Robert Graves’ theory about ancient mythology.
In his book The White Goddess, he explains the essence of the ancient theme of poetry, which is the story of the birth, life, death and resurrection of the God of the Year; this god, representing the seasons of the year, is sometimes divided into two: the God of the Waxing Year, and his twin and rival, the God of the Waning Year.
The first is the protagonist of the story, the second is the antagonist, and for the completeness of the tale, one cannot exist without the other. In the two stations of the year when they meet, one always kills the other and takes his place by the side of the great Nature goddess, who is the twins’ mother, lover and killer. Thus, each of the two mythological characters needs his enemy to be a whole person.
It must be remembered that in ancient pagan mythology, none of the twins is either good or evil, both are necessary to make one whole, as summer needs winter, day needs night, light needs darkness. It is a natural dichotomy existing in nature, which human beings have tried to understand and interpret throughout their existence as Homo sapiens.
The idea of this rivalry for love and power is best represented by the ancient Canaanite myth of Baal (meaning ‘Master’) and Mot (meaning ‘Death’). The goddess Anat is the sister and lover of these twin brothers (the role of mother is filled by the Mother goddess Athrat/Astarte, while Anat’s role as a killer is subtly masked, this written myth being later than its original tale of the single all-powerful Nature goddess).
The story goes thus: at the season of spring, when all rains cease and the vegetation begins to dry up in that area of the eastern coast of the Mediterranean sea, Mot kills Baal — who represents both the rains and the green vegetation — and buries him in a hidden place up north, from which the sun never shines.
At the height of summer (in the month of Tamuz, the Babylonian counterpart of Baal), Anat with the help of the Sun goddess, finds Baal’s grave, takes his body out and mourns him. She then catches Mot in the shape of the dry wheat, cuts him down — i.e. reaps him — thrashes him and scatters his body to the wind as the dust-like chaff.
In the autumn, Baal comes back to life, bring rains which cause the earth to soften and the green grass to grow again; the grains of wheat (also called corn), which represent Mot’s dead body, are buried in the belly of the earth — i.e. sown — from which the corn grows green in the body of Baal, and the cycle begins all over again. It is quite clear here that both seasons of the year, and both aspects of the corn, are necessary for life to exist and continue.
This pagan belief in the yearly dichotomy was so strong that in some places the myth and the connection between the Goddess’ love and the political power were used not only as a basis for ritual but also for actual reality. In his book The Greek Myths, Graves presents historical evidence for such a religious-political situation: in some city-states of ancient Greece, in the pre-classical period, there existed seasonal alterations between pairs of rulers. One of these pairs was the twin brothers Castor and Pollux, called the Dioscuri (“twins”), who seasonally interchanged the Spartan throne; after their death the brothers became gods and were fixed in the sky as the stars representing the Zodiac’s Gemini (“twins”) sign.
The myth is symbolic, both for reality and for the ritual, and it is not always possible to differentiate between the two. In the European year, the Sacred King symbolizing the increasing year marries the Goddess’ young priestess of Spring and Summer; his rival brother, symbolizing the decreasing year, marries the old priestess of Autumn and Winter, who is also the Goddess of Death. Ritualistically, when the Sacred King marries the Death goddess, he dies and becomes King of the Underworld.
In my opinion, the whole idea that a good literary story needs a conflict between a protagonist and an antagonist stems from the theory of rivalry between the God of the Waxing Year and the God of the Waning Year. This literary idea is particularly prominent in the 19th century in what is called Romantic literature (which must be distinguished from the more recent “romantic novel”). Two such prominent books are those written by the Brontë sisters, Emily and Charlotte.
In Emily Brontë’s book Wuthering Heights, the heroine Kathy is in love with Heathcliff, who represents in his appearance and character the God of Death or King of the Underworld: he is black, wild, surly, and belongs to the lowest possible class. The myth makes his match with the young girl Kathy impossible because he represents the gloomy god of Autumn, and she marries the pleasant and handsome Linton, who clearly represents the God of Spring and Light.
Heathcliff, penniless, wanders to faraway lands and acquires great wealth, thus identifies even more with the Roman Pluto, the Underworld’s god of Riches. When Heathcliff returns, Kathy dies, as if he brought her death with him. But a dead woman usually becomes herself the Goddess of Death, and she takes him also to his grave. Thus they unite, in the way they had always been meant for each other as dwellers of the Underworld, when Kathy is no longer young and pretty. She is, however, all along the story, the one who holds in her hands the rule and motivation of love and power.
Strangely enough, in the same year that Emily’s book Wuthering Heights was published (1847), Charlotte had her Jane Eire published as well — a book that is clearly based on the same theme. In it, Rochester is the parallel of Heathcliff, the dark and wild man in whom the heroine falls in love, although Rochester is highborn and much more cultured than Heathcliff.
His rival in pursuing Jane’s hand is the vicar Rivers, who parallels Linton both in appearance and in his cool and logical nature. Jane Eire, though, differs from Kathy in her much more decisive character. She does not hesitate to choose Rochester, particularly because of his warm heart; she even disregards his later disfigurement, having rejected the highly moralistic Rivers. She is much more the figure of the Great Goddess than the poorly muddled Kathy, though less pretty in her appearance. In both books there is a very strong sense of the woman’s right to choose her lover with no prejudice.
* * *
A variation of that myth appears in ancient Egyptian mythology. Osiris, who was a counterpart of Baal’s as the God of Vegetation and Corn, was brother and lover to the great Nature goddess Isis. He is killed by Seth, who came from the desert and thus representing, like the Canaanite Mot, dry and barren weather; Seth was also supposed to want Isis for himself.
But the situation here is more complicated. Having been killed, Osiris becomes God of the Underworld, which Baal never did; but his son Horus replaces him as the protagonist, being a Sun god who kills Seth in revenge for his father. A relatively late interpretation of the myth ascribes to Seth an evil nature, which he did not initially have. The connection between Osiris and his son Horus was expressed by the Egyptians’ custom of identifying the living king, Pharaoh, with Horus, while after his death he would become “Osiris.” It is interesting to note that Osiris, though a god of the Underworld and thus in charge of Death, was never considered evil.
This classical situation is found in Shakespeare’s Hamlet, where the evil brother has murdered the rightful king and married his traitorous wife. Parallel to the Egyptian myth, Hamlet is required to avenge his father’s betrayal and death on the evildoers. Unlike Osiris’s son Horus, Hamlet is unable to do that, preferring to kill himself instead.
The idea of the goddess’ being free to give her love to whomever she thinks deserves it — even if it really depends on the change of seasons — gave her in time a bad name as a treacherous person. This idea is well presented in the Mesopotamian myth of Gilgamesh.
In a culture where a king attains his rule through a ritualistic marriage to the Goddess, Gimgamesh King of Erekh refuses this marriage to the Great Goddess Ishtar on the ground that she kills her lovers, and he fears for his life with her. The enraged goddess, then, causes the king’s bosom friend Enkidu to sleep with her priestess and then kills him, as is his due according to the myth.
The poem definitely expresses a man’s revolt against the existing system in which there is so much power given to the Goddess over his life. Here again there is no identification of Gilgamesh and Enkidu as good and evil; the difference between them is that one is a civilized king and the other as wild as an animal — his character plainly stems from earlier human life, which is much more involved with Nature and the Nature goddess than Gilgamesh is.
There is a new situation here, in which the female of the trio is considered treacherous, without any consideration for the old symbolism, and for the necessities of nature and life connected with nature. It seems that the idea of woman’s treacherous nature has been advanced in mythology with the advance of male power over the female, as is told by the Babylonian myth of the young (upstart) god Mardukh killing the Great Goddess Tiamat, Mother of all beings. This upheaval is expressed in a well-known Welsh myth where the struggle for domination between male and female is still going on.
The myth tells the life story of Llew Llaw Gyffes, whose name is translated by Robert Graves “the Lion with the Steady Hand” and by others as “Lugh (the Sun god) with the Long Arm.” Llew’s mother is Arianrhod, whom Graves identifies with the Greek Nature goddess Ariadne; but in the changing scene in Wales, she has limited power over humans and nature, being under the rule of her uncle, Math the Magician.
Arianrhod gives birth to Llew with no husband to her name, thus proves her independence of male rule and raises the wrath of her male relatives. She puts obstacles on her son’s way to have a name, bear arms or take an earthly wife, but is tricked by her uncle and her cousin Gwydion into doing it. The wife, Blodeuwedd, is made of flowers and thus a suitable bride for the young hero, whose leonine name signifies him as the representative of the Sun of Spring; but she betrays him at Midsummer, giving her love to his guest Gronw Pebyr, who is not only after her love but also after Llew’s property.
Gronw kills his host who turns into an Eagle, whose flesh is eaten by an old sow — another figure of the Goddess, in charge of Death and Inspiration. Blodeuwedd, whose name means “owl” and thus identified also with the Goddess of Wisdom, flies away in the shape of this bird.
In the end, Gwydion finds Llew, rescues him and returns him to his property, where he kills Gronw in turn. This story is a mixture of ancient female mythological elements and later male rule over them. Here, although Gronw who kills his host is nowhere called “evil,” the woman is certainly considered a traitor to her husband and to society.
The idea of assigning to the two representatives of the year the characters of good and evil seems to have originated in the Zoroastrian religion of Persia. There, the ancient dichotomy was represented by the rivalry between Ahura Mazda, god of Light and everything good, and Ahrimon, god of Darkness and everything evil.
The idea was taken up by the budding Christianity, probably in Rome, where Persian ideas were rife, and deepened to become the basis on which that new religion was built. The ruling entity in the world was divided between God in Heaven and Satan in the Underworld (or Hell), with the traitorous Woman taking her part mainly with evil, unless she abstains from using the power of her sex appeal.
This idea became well established in medieval times, appearing in many fairy tales, which were the popular literature of the period. One of its classical representatives is the book of Thousand and One Nights, and one of its best-known stories is that of Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves. In this story, as in many other tales, which appear, for instance, in the Grimm brothers’ collection, one of the brothers is rich and evil, the other is poor but good (rich and evil, as has been mentioned, fit the character of the Underworld Roman god Pluto). The poor and good brother is, naturally, the hero of the story, and is the one who finds the thieves’ treasure, which causes his rich but still greedy brother’s death.
An interesting character plays the role of the Goddess in this story, in the figure of the adopted slave girl Marjanah (who, in translations, is called either Morganna or Marianna — both names of the Great Goddess). With her beauty and wisdom she helps Ali Baba to win his fight against the cruel thieves; in the end she is given to Ali Baba’s son as a wife and wins an important place in society. This strong woman definitely takes the side of “good” in this story.
Two of the 19th century Romantic novels mentioned above have used the idea that when a woman has two potential lovers, one must be good and the other evil; the woman’s choice between them defines her as innocent or as a traitor.
One of these books is The Count of Monte Christo where, in order to get Mercedes, the woman he loves, Ferdinand turns his rival, the pure-hearted Edmond Dantes who is supposed to be his friend, over to the French authorities as a traitor and supporter of the exiled ruler Napoleon Bonaparte.
Dantes escapes his tomb-like prison, and in the figure of Monte Christo gets his revenge on Ferdinand. Mercedes, who had married Ferdinand in Dantes’ absence, is considered by him a traitor, until he finds out she had been told he was dead.
Her own doubts of her actions lead her in the end to the neutral place of a nunnery. The now rich Dantes, together with his actions of revenge, must be identified as evil. This oscillating story between good and evil and their changing place forms a very tortuous presentation of the struggle for love and power.
Jane Austen’s book Persuasion is much simpler than that, and the parts of good and evil are well defined in it. The evil doer is Anne’s cousin Elliot, who is discovered as a dishonest man who had acquired his wealth in crooked ways. Her other suitor is the righteous Captain Wentworth, who has earned his money honestly.
Anne, the heroine, indeed holds in her hand the power of happiness for either of these men, and in the end she makes the good choice, which will be the best for her. In this book, a craving for riches which is the symbol of the Underworld and evil, is indeed the power behind the scenes which really determines who is good and who is evil.
There is, then, a development, which can be clearly seen from the various stages of ancient myth, to medieval fairy tales and modern literature, especially in regard to the position of Woman between the two rivals and the various ideas about good and evil who vie for her love and the power it grants.
When the Goddess of Nature ruled alone, there was no good or evil but the necessities of existence; with the advance of the moralistic monotheistic religions, and the deterioration of woman’s position in society, there was also a change in such ideas, which have been well expressed in the literatures of all periods, and which — if I may be so bold as to say — plague us to this day.
Noam Chomsky interviewed by
Gabriel Matthew Schivone
August 16, 2007
Printer Friendly VersionEMail Article to a Friend [Conference Interview with Noam Chomsky, The Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Mon. June 25, 2007]
The Responsibility of Intellectuals
GMS: Addressing a community of mostly students during a public forum at the steps of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, in 1969, you expressed: “This particular community is a very relevant one to consider at a place like MIT because, of course, you’re all free to enter this community—in fact, you’re invited and encouraged to enter it. The community of technical intelligentsia, and weapons designers, and counterinsurgency experts, and pragmatic planners of an American empire is one that you have a great deal of inducement to become associated with. The inducements, in fact, are very real; their rewards in power, and affluence, and prestige and authority are quite significant.” Let’s start off talking about the significance of these inducements, on both a university and societal level. How crucial is it, in your view, that students particularly consider and understand this, as you describe, highly technocratic social order of the academic community and its function in society, that is, comparably to the more directly associated professional scholarship considering it?
CHOMSKY: How important it is, to an individual, depends on what that individual’s goals in life are. If the goals are to enrich yourself, gain privilege, do technically interesting work—in brief, if the goals are self-satisfaction—then these questions are of no particular relevance. If you care about the consequences of your actions, what’s happening in the world, what the future will be like for your grandchildren and so on, then they’re very crucial. So, it’s a question of what choices people make.
What makes students a natural audience to speak to? And do you think it’s worth ‘speaking truth’ to the professional scholarship as well or differently? Are there any short- or long-term possibilities here?
I’m always uneasy about the concept of “speaking truth,” as if we somehow know the truth and only have to enlighten others who have not risen to our elevated level. The search for truth is a cooperative, unending endeavor. We can, and should, engage in it to the extent we can and encourage others to do so as well, seeking to free ourselves from constraints imposed by coercive institutions, dogma, irrationality, excessive conformity and lack of initiative and imagination, and numerous other obstacles.
As for possibilities, they are limited only by will and choice.
Students are at a stage of their lives where these choices are most urgent and compelling, and when they also enjoy unusual, if not unique, freedom and opportunity to explore the choices available, to evaluate them, and to pursue them.
In your view, what is it about the privileges within university education and academic scholarship which, as you assert in some of the things you’ve written, correlate with them a greater responsibility for catastrophic atrocities such as the Vietnam War or those in the Middle East in which the United States is now involved?
Well, there are really some moral truisms. One of them is that opportunity confers responsibility. If you have very limited opportunities, then you have limited responsibility for what you do. If you have substantial opportunity you have greater responsibility for what you do. I mean, that’s kind of elementary, I don’t know how it can be discussed.
And the people who we call ‘intellectuals’ are just those who happen to have substantial opportunity. They have privilege, they have resources, they have training. In our society, they have a high degree of freedom—not a hundred percent, but quite a lot—and that gives them a range of choices that they can pursue with a fair degree of freedom, and that hence simply confers responsibility for the predictable consequences of the choices they make.
The Rise of a Technical Intelligentsia
I think at this point it may do well for us to go over a bit the beginnings and evolution of the ideological currents which now prevail throughout modern social intellectual life in the U.S. Essentially, from where may we trace the development of this strong coterie of technical experts in the schools, and elsewhere, sometimes having been referred to as a ‘bought’ or ‘secular priesthood’?
Well, it really goes back to the latter-part of the nineteenth century, when there was substantial discussion—not just in the United States but in Europe, too—of what was then sometimes called ‘a new class’ of scientific intellectuals. In that period of time there was a level of knowledge and technical expertise accumulating that allowed a kind of managerial class of educated, trained people to have a greater share in decision-making and planning. It was thought that they were a new class displacing the aristocracy, the owners, political leaders and so on, and they could have a larger role—and of course they liked that idea.
Out of this group developed an ideology of technocratic planning. In industry it was called ‘scientific management’. It developed in intellectual life with a concept of what was called a ‘responsible class’ of technocratic, serious intellectuals who could solve the world’s problems rationally, and would have to be protected from the ‘vulgar masses’ who might interfere with them. And it goes right up until the present.
Just how realistic this is, is another question, but for the class of technical intellectuals, it’s a very attractive conception that, ‘We are the rational, intelligent people, and management and decision-making should be in our hands.’
Actually, as I’ve pointed out in some of the things I’ve written, it’s very close to Bolshevism. And, in fact, if you put side-by-side, say, statements by people like Robert McNamara and V.I. Lenin, it’s strikingly similar. In both cases there’s a conception of a vanguard of rational planners who know the direction that society ought to go and can make efficient decisions, and have to be allowed to do so without interference from, what one of them, Walter Lippmann, called the ‘meddlesome and ignorant outsiders’ , namely, the population, who just get in the way.
It’s not an entirely new conception: it’s just a new category of people. Two hundred years ago you didn’t have an easily identifiable class of technical intellectuals, just generally educated people. But as scientific and technical progress increased there were people who felt they can appropriate it and become the proper managers of the society, in every domain. That, as I said, goes from scientific management in industry, to social and political control.
There are periods in history, for example, during the Kennedy years, when these ideas really flourished. There were, as they called themselves, ‘the best and the brightest.’ The ‘smart guys’ who could run everything if only they were allowed to; who could do things scientifically without people getting in their way.
It’s a pretty constant strain, and understandable. And it underlies the fear and dislike of democracy that runs through elite culture always, and very dramatically right now. It often correlates closely with posturing about love of democracy. As any reader of Orwell would expect, these two things tend to correlate. The more you hate democracy, the more you talk about how wonderful it is and how much you’re dedicated to it. It’s one of the clearer expressions of the visceral fear and dislike of democracy, and of allowing, again, going back to Lippmann, the ‘ignorant and meddlesome outsiders’ to get in our way. They have to be distracted and marginalized somehow while we can take care of the serious questions.
Now, that’s the basic strain. And you find it all the time, but increasingly in the modern period when, at least, claims to expertise become somewhat more plausible. Whether they’re authentic or not is, again, a different question. But, the claims to expertise are very striking. So, economists tell you, ‘We know how to run the economy’; the political scientists tell you, ‘We know how to run the world, and you keep out of it because you don’t have special knowledge and training.’
When you look at it, the claims tend to erode pretty quickly. It’s not quantum physics; there is, at least, a pretense, and sometimes, some justification for the claims. But what matters for human life is, typically, well within the reach of the concerned person who is willing to undertake some effort.
Given the, albeit, self-proclaimed notion that this new class is entitled to decision-making, how close are they to actual policy, then?
My feeling is that they’re nowhere near as powerful as they think they are. So, when, say, John Kenneth Galbraith wrote about the technocratic elite which is taking over the running of society—or when McNamara wrote about it, or others—there’s a lot of illusion there. Meaning, they can gain positions of authority and decision-making when they act in the interests of those who really own and run the society. You can have people that are just as competent, or more competent, and who have conceptions of social and economic order that run counter to, say, corporate power, and they’re not going to be in the planning sectors. So, to get into those planning sectors you first of all have to conform to the interests of the real concentrations of power.
And, again, there are a lot of illusions about this—in the media, too. Tom Wicker is a famous example, one of the ‘left commentators’ of the New York Times. He would get very angry when critics would tell him he’s conforming to power interests and that he’s keeping within the doctrinal framework of the media, which goes back to their corporate structure and so on. And he would answer, very angrily—and correctly—that nobody tells him what to say. He writes anything he wants,—which is absolutely true. But if he wasn’t writing the things he did he wouldn’t have a column in the New York Times.
That’s the kind of thing that is very hard to perceive. People do not want—or often are not able—to perceive that they are conforming to external authority. They feel themselves to be very free—and indeed they are—as long as they conform. But power lies elsewhere. That’s as old as history in the modern period. It’s often very explicit.
Adam Smith, for example, discussing England, quite interestingly pointed out that the merchants and manufacturers—the economic forces of his day—are the ‘principal architects of policy’, and they make sure that their own interests are ‘most peculiarly attended to’, no matter how grievous the effect on others, including the people in England. And that’s a good principle of statecraft, and social and economic planning, which runs pretty much to the present. When you get people with management and decision-making skills, they can enter into that system and they can make the actual decisions—within a framework that’s set within the real concentrations of power. And now it’s not the merchants and manufacturers of Adam Smith’s day, it’s the multinational corporations, financial institutions, and so on. But, stray too far beyond their concerns and you won’t be the decision-maker.
It’s not a mechanical phenomenon, but it’s overwhelmingly true that the people who make it to decision-making positions (that is, what they think of as decision-making positions) are those who conform to the basic framework of the people who fundamentally own and run the society. That’s why you have a certain choice of technocratic managers and not some other choice of people equally or better capable of carrying out policies but have different ideas.
What about degrees of responsibility and shared burdens of guilt on an individual level? What can we learn about how one views oneself often in positions of power or authority?
You almost never find anyone, whether it’s in a weapons plant, or planning agency, or in corporate management, or almost anywhere, who says, ‘I’m really a bad guy, and I just want to do things that benefit myself and my friends.’ Almost invariably you get noble rhetoric like: ‘We’re working for the benefit of the people.’ The corporate executive who is slaving for the benefit of the workers and community; the friendly banker who just wants to help everybody start their business; the political leader who’s trying to bring freedom and justice to the world—and they probably all believe it. I’m not suggesting that they’re lying. There’s an array of routine justifications for whatever you’re doing. And it’s easy to believe them. It’s very hard to look into the mirror and say, ‘Yeah, that guy looking at me is a vicious criminal.’ It’s much easier to say, ‘That guy looking at me is really very benign, self-sacrificing, and he has to do these things because it’s for the benefit of everyone.’
Or you get respected moralists like Reinhold Niebuhr, who was once called ‘the theologian of the establishment’. And the reason is because he presented a framework which, essentially, justified just about anything they wanted to do. His thesis is dressed up in long words and so on (it’s what you do if you’re an intellectual). But what it came down to is that, ‘Even if you try to do good, evil’s going to come out of it; that’s the paradox of grace’. —And that’s wonderful for war criminals. ‘We try to do good but evil necessarily comes out of it.’ And it’s influential. So, I don’t think that people in decision-making positions are lying when they describe themselves as benevolent. —Or people working on more advanced nuclear weapons. Ask them what they’re doing, they’ll say: ‘We’re trying to preserve the peace of the world.’ People who are devising military strategies that are massacring people, they’ll say, ‘Well, that’s the cost you have to pay for freedom and justice’, and so on.
But, we don’t take those sentiments seriously when we hear them from enemies, say, from Stalinist commissars. They’ll give you the same answers. But, we don’t take that seriously because they can know what they’re doing if they choose to. If they choose not to, that’s their choice. If they choose to believe self-satisfying propaganda, that’s their choice. But it doesn’t change the moral responsibility. We understand that perfectly well with regard to others. It’s very hard to apply the same reasoning to ourselves.
In fact, one of the—maybe the most—elementary of moral principles is that of universality, that is, If something’s right for me, it’s right for you; if it’s wrong for you, it’s wrong for me. Any moral code that is even worth looking at has that at its core somehow. But that principle is overwhelmingly disregarded all the time. If you want to run through examples we can easily do it. Take, say, George W. Bush, since he happens to be president. If you apply the standards that we applied to Nazi war criminals at Nuremberg, he’d be hanged. Is it an even conceivable possibility? It’s not even discussable. Because we don’t apply to ourselves the principles we apply to others.
There’s a lot of talk about ‘terror’ and how awful it is. Whose terror? Our terror against them? I mean, is that considered reprehensible? No, it’s considered highly moral; it’s considered self-defense, and so on. Now, their terror against us, that’s awful, and terrible, and so on.
But, to try to rise to the level of becoming a minimal moral agent, and just enter in the domain of moral discourse is very difficult. Because that means accepting the principle of universality. And you can experiment for yourself and see how often that’s accepted, either in personal or political life. Very rarely.
Looking at Nuremberg and the Culture of Torture
What about criminal responsibility and intellectuals? Nuremberg is an interesting precedent.
The Nuremberg case is a very interesting precedent. First of all, the Nuremberg trials—of all the tribunals that have taken place, from then until today—it is, I think, the most serious by far. But, nevertheless, it was very seriously flawed. And it was recognized to be. When Telford Taylor, the chief prosecutor, wrote about it, he recognized that it was flawed, and it was so for a number of fundamental reasons. For one thing, the Nazi war criminals were being tried for crimes that had not yet been declared to be crimes. So, it was ex post facto. ‘We’re now declaring these things you did to be crimes.’ That is already questionable.
Secondly, the choice of what was considered a crime was based on a very explicit criterion, namely, denial of the principle of universality. In other words, something was called a crime at Nuremberg if they did it and we didn’t do it.
So, for example, the bombing of urban concentrations was not considered a crime. The bombings of Tokyo, Dresden, and so on—those aren’t crimes. Why? Because we did them. So, therefore, it’s not a crime. In fact, Nazi war criminals who were charged were able to escape prosecution when they could show that the Americans and the British did the same thing they did. Admiral Doenitz, a submarine commander who was involved in all kinds of war crimes, called in the defense a high official in the British admiralty and, I think, Admiral Nimitz from the United States, who testified that, ‘Yeah, that’s the kind of thing we did.’ And, therefore, they weren’t sentenced for these crimes. Doenitz was absolved. And that’s the way it ran through. Now, that’s a very serious flaw. Nevertheless, of all the tribunals, that’s the most serious one.
When Chief Justice Jackson, chief counsel for the prosecution, spoke to the tribunal and explained to them the importance of what they were doing, he said, to paraphrase, that: ‘We are handing these defendants a poisoned chalice, and if we ever sip from it we must be subject to the same punishments, otherwise this whole trial is a farce.’ Well, you can look at the history from then on, and we’ve sipped from the poisoned chalice many times, but it’s never been considered a crime. So, that means we are saying that trial was a farce.
Interestingly, in Jackson’s opening statement he claimed that the defense did not wish to incriminate the whole German populace from whence the defendants came, for the crimes they committed, but only the “planners and designers” of those crimes, “the inciters and leaders without whose evil architecture the world would not have been for so long scourged with the violence and lawlessness…of this terrible war.”
That’s correct. And that’s another principle which we flatly reject. So, at Nuremberg, we weren’t trying the people who threw Jews into crematoria; we were trying the leaders. When we ever have a trial for crimes it’s of some low-level person—like a torturer from Abu Ghraib—not the people who were setting up the framework from which they operate. And we certainly don’t try political leaders for the crime of aggression. That’s out of the question. The invasion of Iraq was about as clear-cut a case of aggression than you can imagine. In fact, by the Nuremberg principles, if you read them carefully, the U.S. war against Nicaragua was a crime of aggression for which Ronald Reagan should have been tried. But, it’s inconceivable; you can’t even mention it in the West. And the reason is our radical denial of the most elementary moral truisms. We just flatly reject them. We don’t even think we reject them, and that’s even worse than rejecting them outright.
I mean, if we were able to say to ourselves, ‘Look, we are totally immoral, we don’t accept elementary moral principles,’ that would be a kind of respectable position in a certain way. But, when we sink to the level where we cannot even perceive that we’re violating elementary moral principles and international law, that’s pretty bad. But that’s the nature of the intellectual culture—not just in the United States—but in powerful societies everywhere.
You mentioned Doenitz escaping culpability for his crimes. Two who didn’t escape punishment and were among the most severely punished at Nuremberg were Julius Streicher, an editor of a major newspaper, and—also an interesting example—Dr. Wolfram Sievers of the Ahnenerbe Society’s Institute of Military Scientific Research, whose own crimes were traced back to the University of Strasbourg. Not the typical people prosecuted for international war crimes, it seems, given their civilian professions.
Yeah; and there’s a justification for that, namely, those defendants could understand what they were doing. They could understand the consequences of the work that they were carrying out. But, of course, if we were to accept this awful principle of universality, that would have a pretty long reach—to journalists, university researchers, and so on.
Let me quote for you the mission statement of the Army Research Office. This “premier extramural” research agency of the Army is grounded upon “developing and exploiting innovative advances to insure the Nation’s technological superiority.” It executes this mission “through conduct of an aggressive basic science research program on behalf of the Army so that cutting-edge scientific discoveries and the general store of scientific knowledge will be optimally used to develop and improve weapons systems that establish land-force dominance.”
This is a pentagon office, and they’re doing their job. In our system, the military is under civilian control. Civilians assign a certain task to the military: their job is to obey, and carry the role out, otherwise you quit. That’s what it means to have a military under civilian control. So, you can’t really blame them for their mission statement. They’re doing what they’re told to do by the civilian authorities. The civilian authorities are the culpable ones. If we don’t like those policies (and I don’t, and you don’t), then we go back to those civilians who designed the framework and gave the orders.
You can, as the Nuremberg precedents indicated, be charged with obeying illegal orders, but that’s often a stretch. If a person is in a position of military command, they are sworn, in fact, to obey civilian orders, even if they don’t like them. If you say they’re really just criminal orders, then, yes, they can reject them, and get into trouble and so on. But this is just carrying out the function that they’re ordered to carry out. So, we go straight back to the civilian authority and then to the general intellectual culture, which regards this as proper and legitimate. And now we’re back to universities, newspapers, the centers of the doctrinal system.
It’s just the forthright honesty of the mission statement which is also very striking, I think.
Well, it’s like going to an armory and finding out they’re making better guns. That’s what they’re supposed to do. Their orders are, ‘Make this gun work better.’, and so they’re doing it. And, if they’re honest, they’ll say, ‘Yeah, that’s what we’re doing; that’s what the civilian authorities told us to do.’
At some point, people have to ask, ‘Do I want to make a better gun?’ That’s where the Nuremberg issues arise. But, you really can’t blame people very severely for carrying out the orders that they’re told to carry out when there’s nothing in the culture that tells them there’s anything wrong with it. I mean, you have to be kind of like a moral hero to perceive it, to break out of the cultural framework and say, ‘Look, what I’m doing is wrong.’ Like somebody who deserts from the army because they think the war is wrong. That’s not the place to assign guilt, I think. Just as at Nuremberg. As I said, they didn’t try the SS guards who threw people into crematoria, at Nuremberg. They might have been tried elsewhere, but not at Nuremberg.
But, in this case, the results of the ARO’s mission statement in harvesting scholarly work for better weapons design, it’s professors, scholars, researchers, scientific designers, etc., who have these choices to focus serious intellectual effort and to be so used for such ends, and who aren’t acting necessarily from direct orders but are acting more out of freewill.
It’s freewill, but don’t forget that there’s a general intellectual culture that raises no objection to this.
Let’s take the Iraq war. There’s libraries of material arguing about the war, debating it, asking ‘What should we do?’, this and that, and the other thing. Now, try to find a sentence somewhere that says that ‘carrying out a war of aggression is the supreme international crime, which differs from other war crimes in that it encompasses all the evil that follows’ (paraphrasing from Nuremberg). Try to find that somewhere. —I mean, you can find it. I’ve written about it, and you can find a couple other dozen people who have written about it in the world. But is it part of the intellectual culture? Can you find it in a newspaper, or in a journal; in Congress; any public discourse; anything that’s part of the general exchange of knowledge and ideas? I mean, do students study it in school? Do they have courses where they teach students that ‘to carry out a war of aggression is the supreme international crime which encompasses all the evil that follows’?
So, for example, if sectarian warfare is a horrible atrocity, as it is, who’s responsible? By the principles of Nuremberg, Bush, Rumsfeld, Cheney, Wolfowitz, Rice—they’re responsible for sectarian warfare because they carried out the supreme international crime which encompasses all the evil that follows. Try and find somebody who points that out. You can’t. Because our dominant intellectual culture accepts as legitimate our crushing anybody we like.
And take Iran. Both political parties—and practically the whole press—accept it as legitimate and, in fact, honorable, that ‘all options are on the table’, presumably including nuclear weapons, to quote Hilary Clinton and everyone else. ‘All options are on the table’ means we threaten war. Well, there’s something called the U.N. Charter, which outlaws ‘the threat or use of force’ in international affairs. Does anybody care? Actually, I saw one op-ed somewhere by Ray Takeyh, an Iran specialist close to the government, who pointed out that threats are serious violations of international law. But that’s so rare that when you find it it’s like finding a diamond in a pile of hay or something. It’s not part of the culture. We’re allowed to threaten anyone we want—and to attack anyone we want. And, when a person grows up and acts in a culture like that, they’re culpable in a sense, but the culpability is much broader.
I was just reading a couple days ago a review of a new book by Steven Miles, a medical doctor and bioethicist, who ran through 35,000 pages of documents he got from the Freedom of Information Act on the torture in Abu Ghraib. And the question that concerned him is, ‘What were the doctors doing during all of this?’ All through those torture sessions there were doctors, nurses, behavioral scientists and others who were organizing them. What were they doing when this torture was going on? Well, you go through the detailed record and it turns out that they were designing and improving it. Just like Nazi doctors.
Robert Jay Lifton did a big study on Nazi doctors. He points out in connection with the Nazi doctors that, in a way, it’s not those individual doctors who had the final guilt, it was a culture and a society which accepted torture and criminal activities as legitimate. The same is true with the tortures at Abu Ghraib. I mean, just to focus on them as if they’re somehow terrible people is just a serious mistake. They’re coming out of a culture that regards this as legitimate. Maybe there are some excesses you don’t really do but torture in interrogation is considered legitimate.
There’s a big debate now on, ‘Who’s an enemy combatant?’; a big technical debate. Suppose we invade another country and we capture somebody who’s defending the country against our invasion: what do you mean to call them an ‘enemy combatant’? If some country invaded the United States and let’s say you were captured throwing a rock at one of the soldiers, would it be legitimate to send you to the equivalent of Guantanamo, and then have a debate about whether you’re a ‘lawful’ or ‘unlawful’ combatant? The whole discussion is kind of, like, off in outer space somewhere. But, in a culture which accepts that we own and rule the world, it’s reasonable. But, also, we should go back to the roots of the intellectual or moral culture, not just to the individuals directly involved.
As you mentioned before, whether students are taught serious moral principles: At my school, the University of Arizona, there are courses in bioethics—required ones, in fact, to hard scientific undergraduates (I took one, out of interest)— which mostly just discuss scenarios in terms of ‘slippery slopes’ and hypothetical questions within certain bounds, and still none at all in the social sciences or humanities. Do you think there should be? Would that be beneficial?
If they were honest, yes. If they’re honest they’d be talking about what we’re talking about, and doing case studies. There’s no point pontificating about high minded principles. That’s easy. Nazi doctors could do that, too.
Let’s take a look at the cases and ask how the principles apply—to Vietnam; to El Salvador; to Iraq; to Palestine—just run through the cases and see how the principles apply to our own actions. That’s what is of prime importance, and what is least discussed.
As a note to end on, there seems to be some very serious aberrations and defects in our society and our level of culture. How, in your view, might they be corrected and a new level of culture be established, say, one in which torture isn’t accepted? (After all, slavery and child labor were each accepted for a long period of time and now are not.)
Your examples give the answer to the question, the only answer that has ever been known. Slavery and child labor didn’t become unacceptable by magic. It took hard, dedicated, courageous work by lots of people. The same is true of torture, which was once completely routine.
If I remember correctly, the renowned Norwegian criminologist Nils Christie wrote somewhere that prisons began to proliferate in Norway in the early 19th century. They weren’t much needed before, when the punishment for robbery could be driving a stake through the hand of the accused. Now it’s perhaps the most civilized country on earth.
There has been a gradual codification of constraints against torture, and they have had some effect, though only limited, even before the Bush regression to savagery. Alfred McCoy’s work reviews that ugly history. Still, there is improvement, and there can be more if enough people are willing to undertake the efforts that led to large-scale rejection of slavery and child labor—still far from complete.
Back in 1976 I felt I was dieing in my marriage and was ready to bolt. But I was reading Seth’s, The Nature of Personal Reality, and had to finish reading AND absorbing it before leaving. I knew it was important to do so. It took awhile because these were concepts that were not talked about in those days at all, so in that way revolutionary, but so very true to my heart that I knew it was very important for me to examine myself before making any life altering moves. As a result I have never regretted leaving my marriage even though things got more than rough more than once. I haven’t read much Seth since the 70’s, since after reading all his books I pretty much integrated what he had to say into my life, but I came across this recently and enjoyed mulling through the seeds of some of my first a-ha’s…
So for old time sake here are some quotes. I’m sure you will recognize the perfect accord with our more recent channelers like Abraham-Hicks and others who’s teachings now are seen in The Secret.
Excerpts (part 1) from
The Nature of Personal Reality
Channeled by Jane Roberts
You cannot escape your own attitudes, for they will form the nature of what you see. Quite literally you see what you want to see; and you see your own thoughts and emotional attitudes materialized in physical form. If changes are to occur, they must be mental and psychic changes. These will be reflected in your environment. Negative, distrustful, fearful, or degrading attitudes toward anyone work against the self.
Telepathy operates constantly. If you continually expect an individual to behave in a particular manner, then you are constantly sending him telepathic suggestions that he will do so. Each individual reacts to suggestion. According to the specific conditions existing at the time, such an individual will to some extent or another act according to the mass suggestions he receives.
These mass suggestions include not only those given to him by others, both verbally and telepathically, but also those he has given to himself, both in the waking and dream states. If an individual is in a state of despondency, this is because he has already become prey to negative suggestions of his own and others…
There are obviously ways in which you mold your own conditions, protect yourself from your own negative suggestions and those of others. You must learn to erase a negative thought or picture by replacing it with its opposite.
What you see in others is the materialization - the projection of what you think you are - not necessarily, however, of what you are. For example, if others seem deceitful to you, it is because you deceive yourself, and then project this outward upon others.
…If an individual sees only evil and desolation in the physical world, it is because he is obsessed with evil and desolation and projects them outward, and closes his eyes to all else. If you want to know what you think of yourself, then ask yourself what you think of others, and you will find your answer.
…and all of this without his realizing his basic concept of himself, and without recognizing that he projects his feared weaknesses outward unto others.
True self-knowledge is indispensable for health or vitality. The recognition of the truth about the self simply means that you must first discover what you think about yourself, subconsciously. If it is a good image, build upon it. If it is a poor one, recognize it as only the opinion you have held of yourself and not as an absolute state.
…remember to recognize resentment when he feels it, and then to realize that resentment can be dismissed. The initial recognition must be made, however. Then have him imagine plucking out the resentment by the roots and replacing it with a positive feeling. But he must imagine the plucking-out process.
This is the difference between repression and positive action. In repression the resentment is shoved beneath and ignored. With our method it is recognized, imaginatively plucked out as being undesirable, and replaced by the thought of peace and constructive energy.
If desire for health leads instead to an emphasis upon symptoms to be overcome, you would be better off to avoid all thoughts of health or illness and concentrate in other directions, such as work. Such an emphasis can lead to a focus upon obstacles that stand in the way, and this reinforces the negative condition.
People react to negative suggestions only when their own frame of mind is negative. Then we close ourselves off from the constructive energies we need.
You are a multidimensional personality, and within you lies all the knowledge about yourself, your challenges and problems, that you will ever need to know. Others can help you in their own way… But my mission is to remind you of the incredible power within your own being, and to encourage you to recognize and use it.
…Ideas have an electromagnetic reality. Beliefs are strong ideas about the nature of reality. (later: Your thoughts have a very definite vital reality. Beliefs are thoughts reinforced by imagination and emotion concerning the nature of your reality.) Ideas generate emotion. Like attracts like, so similar ideas group about each other and you accept those that fit in with your particular “system” of ideas.
CORVALLIS, Ore. -- A new study from Oregon State University shows that when it comes to reducing dependence on foreign oil, other methods, such as raising the gas tax, cost up to 28 times less than using biofuels.
“The potential is quite small and the cost is quite high,” said OSU professor William Jaeger a co-author of the study.
Researchers spent about a year looking into the cost effectiveness and viability of canola biodiesel, corn-based ethanol and wood-based ethanol. All three fuel types have significant short comings, according to Jaeger, and all three fuel types studied would not even provide one percent of the energy used in Oregon.
The study also found it costs significant amounts of energy to produce the biofuels. For every 10 units of corn-based ethanol energy, eight units of energy are used in producing the fuel. For canola-based biodiesel, for every 10 units of energy, six units of energy are required to make the biodiesel.
Watch the KGW report
OSU researchers also looked into the viability of an alternative fuel industry in Oregon. Jaeger said it is not possible for the state to grow its entire energy needs by using corn or canola.
Many biofuels such as ethanol and biodiesel are heavily subsidized. Jaeger said it is more costly to depend on those fuels as a way to reduce dependence on foreign oil.
Jaeger, an OSU professor of the department of agricultural and resource economics, said raising the gas tax is a proven way to reduce fuel consumption. Fuel economy standards can also help. “One mile per gallon increase in the fuel economy standards would do more towards energy independence than all three of these bio fuels put together,” said Jaeger.
This study was released just as Portland begins a push to encourage the use of more renewable energy.
Portland commissioner Randy Leonard is a supporter of canola-based biodiesel and pushed for a requirement for all services stations within the city limits to sell biodiesel. That requirement took effect August 15.
“We need to divorce ourselves from petroleum as quickly as we can,” said Leonard.
In October 2006 Leonard led a trip to Eastern Oregon to encourage farmers to grow more canola to help spark the fledgling biodisel industry.
While Leonard acknowledges some of the shortcomings of corn-based ethnanol, he remains a steadfast supporter of canola-based biodiesel. “Biodiesel by all accounts is a true alternative fuel that could be the future of America’s independence from getting petroleum products from getting imported in this country,” said Leonard.
However Jaeger said leaders “should look very carefully at the facts and keep in mind what our goals are and not be led to believe something is going to save the day in terms of energy independence.”
Jaeger said when the report was released he received many e-mails and telephone calls expressing dissatisfaction with his study. He said it was the state that asked for the research into alternative fuels and claims that no money from the oil industry funded this study.
“My agenda as an economist is to understand the facts and hope that a clear careful analysis will help policy makers make better decision,” said Jaeger.
Despite the different perspectives Jaeger and Leonard have on biofuels, both agree it is time to lessen dependence on foreign oil.
Stewart A. Alexander for President Peace and Freedom Party August 15, 2007 These days the presidential candidates for the Democratic Party are sounding more like replacement candidates for Bush; on the issue of ending the Iraq War. All the candidates, with the exception of Representative Dennis Kucinich and Governor Bill Richardson, are making open-ended commitments to keep American forces in Iraq and the Middle East region for years. While Bill Richardson has a one-point plan to get out of Iraq, “Get Out” even leaving equipment behind, Kucinich supports an immediate withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan. All the other Democratic presidential candidates are sounding more like Bush rather than opponents of the occupation. Due to the outspoken position of Kucinich, regarding the war, he has been censored by most of the corporate media. To gain the nomination and support of the two corporate parties, the Democratic and Republican candidates are claiming American troops must remain in Iraq and the region to protect vital American interest and to protect the civilian population. Dennis Kucinich has adamantly charged that the occupation of Iraq has always been about controlling Iraq’s vast oil reserves, 115 billions barrels of reserve. Today over 85 percent of all Americans are opposed to the war; more than 57 percent favor an immediate withdrawal according to recent polls. Most Americans now believe going into Iraq was a mistake and favor bringing American troops home. As of the present none of the Democratic candidates have offered any real solutions to end the war; most of the candidates have focused more on what should be done to protect the vast oil reserves and fewer concerns on the human cost. Since the war began in March 2003, America has lost 4,126 troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. Even though the US military has declined to report or keep records of Iraqi and Afghan casualties, scientific data has determined that civilian casualties have surpassed one million and the refugee crisis is beyond four million; a fact that none of the Democratic, Republican or the candidates from either party will even discuss. Despite their rhetoric, most of the candidates representing the two corporate parties are now poised to resume and finance the war past 2008 and into the next decade. Recent estimates indicate the war could cost American tax payers more than two trillion dollars. Only the Peace and Freedom Party and the Socialist Party USA are demanding an immediate withdrawal of all troops from Iraq and Afghanistan. Both parties, and their presidential candidates, are rejecting the false claim that logistic difficulties may require further intervention and bloodshed. This is a systematic political crisis in the US that will not be resolved with either the corporate controlled Democrats or Republicans. The people of America need a real political alternative to this nightmare. I urge working people across the nation to work in their unions and other organizations to take direct action to stop the war now. The ILWU Local 10 in San Francisco has called for an international labor conference to support labor action against this criminal war on October 20; I fully support this initiative by ILWU Local 10 and ILWU Local 34. Workers have the power and the ability to shut the war down. In the course of human events, the Democrats and Republicans would still be in Vietnam if that nation was sitting on 115 billion barrels of oil; the Democrats and Republicans are determine to protect the interest of the capitalist and American imperialism no matter what the cost. For more information search the Web for: Stewart A. Alexander, Presidential Candidate Wants Iraq Vote on Ballot; Democrats Retreat before Bush. http://www.salt-g.comhttp://banderasnews.com/0704/eded-countingthecost.htmhttp://banderasnews.com/0705/edop-demsretreat.htm
It’s time for new featured channels! Our user and load numbers are growing fast and there’s no shortage of fun to be had in our catalog. Here’s some new and notable channels I think you’ll appreciate. Check out our blog’s sidebar to watch them.
The Sam Seder Show
Sam Seder hosts “Seder on Sundays” on the Air America Radio Network. He’s a comedian, an author and now a podcaster. Someone from his online community built a SplashCast “widget” for Sam, posted it to his very active blog and it has since spread to fans’ sites around the web.
Oddly enough when I mentioned Rage Against The Machine, I compared their impact on American antiwar politics with the linguist and antiwar academic Noam Chomsky, who has pretty much bored and underwhelmed me with his hypereducated elitist antiwar blather since the Vietnam War. To me, Chomsky is the epitome of political protest heard by just an elite and passionless handful, his thoughts and ideas cared about by fewer.
Rage Against The Machine, it turns out, has been singing some Noam Chomsky lyrics since they re-united, and Noam got Rage into their latest national media controversy.
So hoorah for Rage and hoorah even for the boring old fuddy-duddy academic Professor Noam Chomsky. Maybe he's not such a stiff after all. And maybe a few members of Rage actually know how to read. They sure pissed off Faux Noise ("Scare and Unbalanced") and the deranged homophobe and psychopath Ann Coulter and Hannity & Colmes.
Rage Against The MachineReunion (2007)
[image] Zack de la Rocha performing with Rage Against the Machine at Coachella 2007.
Members of the band had been offered large sums of money to reunite for concerts and tours, and had turned the offers down. Rumors of bad blood between de la Rocha and the other former band members subsequently circulated, but Commerford said that he and de la Rocha see each other often and go surfing together, while Morello said he and de la Rocha communicate by phone, and had met up at a September 15, 2005 protest in support of the South Central Farm. Morello and de la Rocha were photographed together at the protest, the first photograph of the two since the band's breakup. 
Rumors that Rage Against the Machine could reunite at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival were circulating in mid-January, and were confirmed on January 22. The band was confirmed to be headlining the final day of Coachella 2007. The reunion was described by Morello as primarily being a vehicle to voice the band's opposition to the "right-wing purgatory" the United States has "slid into" under the George W. Bush administration since RATM's dissolution. Though the performance was initially thought to be a one-off, this turned out not to be the case.
[This reunion concert at Coachella was when I first blogged about Rage Against.]
On April 14, 2007, Morello and de la Rocha reunited onstage early to perform a brief acoustic set in downtown Chicago at a Coalition of Immokalee Workers rally in support of fairness in the fast food industry. Morello described the event as "very exciting for everybody in the room, myself included." This was followed by the scheduled Coachella performance on Sunday, April 29. The band played in front of an EZLN backdrop
[EZLN: The Zapatista Army of National Liberation (Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional, EZLN) is an armed revolutionary group based in Chiapas, one of the poorest states of Mexico.]
to the largest crowds of the festival; their performance was widely considered the festival's most anticipated.
De la Rocha made a speech during "Wake Up", citing a statement by Noam Chomsky regarding the Nuremburg trials, as follows:
...if the same laws were applied to U.S. presidents as were applied to the Nazis after World War II […] every single one of them, every last rich white one of them from Truman on, would have been hung to death and shot — and this current administration is no exception. They should be hung, and tried, and shot. As any war criminal should be.
But the challenges that we face, they go way beyond administrations, way beyond elections, way beyond every four years of pulling levers, way beyond that. Because this whole rotten system has become so vicious and cruel that in order to sustain itself, it needs to destroy entire countries and profit from their reconstruction in order to survive—and that's not a system that changes every four years, it's a system that we have to break down, generation after generation after generation after generation after generation…Wake up.
The event led to a media furor. A clip of Zack's speech found its way to the Fox News program “Hannity & Colmes.” An on-screen headline read,
ROCK GROUP 'RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE' SAYS BUSH ADMIN SHOULD BE SHOT
Ann Coulter (a guest on the show) quipped, “They’re losers, their fans are losers, and there’s a lot of violence coming from the left wing.”
On July 28th and 29th, Rage headlined the Hip Hop festival Rock the Bells with the Wu Tang Clan and Cypress Hill. On July 28, they closed their set with Wake Up just as they had done at Coachella. During this, De La Rocha made another statement, defending the band from Fox News, who he alleged misquoted his speech at Coachella:
A couple of months ago, those fascist motherfuckers at the Fox News Network attempted to pin this band into a corner by suggesting that we said that the president should be assassinated. Nah, what we said was that he should be brought to trial as war criminal and hung and shot. THAT'S what we said. And we don't back away from the position because the real assassinator is Bush and Cheney and the whole administration for the lives they have destroyed here and in Iraq. They're the ones. And what they refused to air which was far more provocative in my mind and in the minds of my bandmates is this: this system has become so brutal and vicious and cruel that it needs to start wars and profit from the destruction around the world in order to survive as a world power. THAT's what we said.
And we refuse not to stand up, we refuse to back down from that position not only for the poor kids who are being left out in the desert to die, but for the Iraqi youth, the Iraqi people, their families and their friends, and their youth who are standing up and resisting the U.S. occupation every day. And if we truly want to end this fucking miserable war, we have to stand up with the same force that the Iraqi youth are standing up with every day, and bring these motherfuckers to their knees. Wake up…
MANILA, Philippne s- “Kalipay Mu,” a research by Troy Bernardo reveals, “is a pre-colonial ceremony led by tribal shamans called babaylan who were mostly female. Keepers of ancient secrets and wisdom, babaylan brought people to higher states of consciousness. The spirit was awakened, encouraging the Divine energy to move through the body, consequently inducing spiritual ecstasy, healing, and the removal of mental, physical and emotional blockages. The arrival of the Spaniards virtually wiped out the babaylan and their practices and replaced them with the Roman Catholic religion.”
Healing ritual revived
After centuries of repression, the Filipino ritual has finally resurfaced. Today’s ritual of Kalipay Mu (that I attended) begins when the healer’s thumb pierces the top of the receiver’s head. There’s a light that extends from the tip of one’s fingers (like a laser beam) and shuts off the mind. When one is not being too mental, energy flows through body, expressing itself in visions, energy shifts or movement. The movement (or inner dance) is either simple or elaborate and differs from person to person.
Reported Kalipay Mu effects are “a sensation of intense happiness” and later on “a rapid acceleration of one’s spiritual development.” “It is much like the peeling of masks,” Troy reports. “The glue that fastens them together is released and layer by layer these false faces fall away. Either one hangs on to them, a useless gesture, or simply lets go, which sets us free.”
Whatever one’s belief or non-belief system, the message of Kalipay Mu is that the state of higher consciousness one achieves (whether from this or similar rituals) is a call for action. It is God’s call to service and it resonates deep in the Filipino soul.
“Kalipay Mu can easily be taught to anyone,” says its main exponent Pi (long i, please) Villaraza, whose mission is “to teach it to individuals, who will heal themselves, who will heal their neighbors, who will heal the community, who will heal the nation and the planet.”
Let Pi introduce himself.
“My name is Alberto Juntura Villaraza III. Old friends call me Pompet and new ones call me Pi, the result of dividing the circumference by its diameter, or Pi the 16th letter of the Greek alphabet, (or Pi the pastry). I have just turned 31.
“My upbringing was normal upper middle class—La Salle Greenhills, some time with the University of Asia and the Pacific, and YFU (Youth for Understanding) exchange student in High School. My major was Integrated Marketing which initiated me into the world of business such as financing and organizing events. For a while after the 911 bombing I studied and worked in the US. I have held jobs as varied as consultant of a big investment firm, as country manager of the world’s largest travel agency for students and backpackers, and waiter in a Taco Bell outlet.
“The definitive beginning of my spiritual journey was in San Gabriel Valley near Pasadena where I lived next to a mountain that I felt was magical. One day I woke up very early feeling there was someone out there on the road that I had to meet. After I had jogged for a while he was there—standing on my path. A big Mexican fellow.
“He told me he wanted to climb the mountain and would I accompany him? I had always wanted to go up that mountain and somehow I trusted the stranger so I said yes. He told me our meeting was no accident. He asked me if I was sure I wanted to go because it was possible that we may never make it back.
“We used his car. After 20 minutes there was a roadblock and we had to walk. From the trunk he took two jackets and a Bible. It was a very long climb. Once every so often we rested. The Mexican told me things about myself, my childhood and my future—a promise of things to come. (Everything he predicted has since come to pass).
“At one point he opened the Bible to read a passage from Isaiah. ‘Come, let us go up to the Mountain of the Lord and He will teach us his ways and we shall walk in His path.’ Images began to flood my mind. Everything in my life fell into place. I began to understand my path and it was not at all connected to the corporate world I was in. Despite my upbringing I had always been shy and quiet, attracted to the mystical life. My heroes were Jesus Christ, Ghandi and—Superman! The Mexican told me that I was being made to choose, to commit to what the world was asking of me.
“The stranger and I walked for about 11 hours. Without eating or drinking. We were not hungry and we felt very high. We had traveled so far up and there was snow on the ground. It was very cold. At the peak we stayed for an hour, looking down at creation. Isn’t this what you really came for? the Mexican asked, and I agreed. It was getting really cold so we decided to go down.
“As we descended, he began to limp. He had had hip surgery, he said. His limping got progressively worse. Eventually the Mexican collapsed. I couldn’t wake him. I began to be really frightened. But I decided to let it go, whether he dies or I die on top of this mountain. Just then two lights in the sky, brighter than stars, appeared to reassure me that I was not alone.
“After a long time I was able to shake my companion awake. Are you better? I asked. No, I’m worse, he said. He began to crawl. Things in front of me seemed to disintegrate like building blocks of the universe. All that remained was an overwhelming feeling of love. It was my first mystical experience that forever changed my perspective.
“I sent the Mexican the powerful energy I felt and suddenly he stood up and could walk. His car, that we had long searched for suddenly was there. Everything normalized. The stranger dropped me off at my door.
“When am I going to see you again? I asked, and the Mexican said, It doesn’t happen that way. In the past, every time you needed me, I came, and every time I needed you, you were there. But this is the last time. He said I would do a whole lot of walking from then on.
“I did. I walked all over Mindanao. From Siargao (north of Surigao) to Butuan, through Bukidnon, to different parts of Davao. Mostly I walked five kilometers a day, once doing Iligan in 30 hrs. When I was tired I rode a bus. There is something about walking that centers the soul. It’s about cleansing, getting your limbs in order, learning to eat less and less. It was clear that I was walking for a reason. And the Bible always guided me.
“In Davao, a Filipino grandmother spirit that had followed me all over Mindanao, instructed me to tutor children in homes that would accept me. I also did healing—reflexology, taught by a priest in Camiguin who knew taichi and shibashi. On Mt. Apo, I came upon a small community who told me about a Papa Guiverna who, in the 30s walked all over the Philippines. I went to many cults and even nests of rebels, meeting the kindest Muslims in my life.
“On the road one day in Davao someone handed me P100. I didn’t know what to do with it. I went to the market, bought bananas and began giving them away to people. Now, P100 is a lot of bananas in Davao and I had to go back and forth again and again to fetch the fruit and give them all away.
“In Victoria mall, while I was reading a book, two ladies approached. They started putting plates of food on my table—vegetable dishes and rice, even a cold coke. Why? I asked. They just smiled and left. I felt protected, like someone was saying, Stop Worrying. HE KNOWS.
“I also began to connect to another grandma spirit, an American who called herself the Peace Pilgrim. She became famous for walking seven times in 28 years across the US with the message ‘Overcome falsehood with truth, hatred with love.’ She brought no cash and only three changes of clothing. It made an impact on the America of the 70s. (“Forrest Gump” was partly inspired by her story). I thought to myself, Here we are, so proud of being a Catholic nation but how much of Christ’s teachings do we really practice? The Peace Pilgrim walked her talk. She died on July 7 (7/7) on the year that I was born. I strongly felt that I was her continuation.
“Palawan is an open space for dreamers and spiritual artists. I had planned to stay only for three days, but when I stepped off the boat I knew I wasn’t going to leave. I stayed for two years. Much of the time I lived in an island called Kalipay (Happiness) composed of a deserted beach and a lush mountain. I had no money, no food. There were two run-down beach houses abandoned by foreigners who had built them. I preferred sleeping high above, on a makeshift bed of tree branches lashed together.
“I lived on coconuts and bananas. I learned how to climb a coconut tree, forever wet with rain, and coexist with the monkeys, squirrels, snakes, monitor lizards and geckos who lived there. Boars and wild cats were also company. Much later, in a clearing, I grew vegetables according to the Flower of Life pattern that I knew. I ate them raw. It made me realize how life-giving uncooked food was. I felt very light, no cholesterol and no fat in my body. People get sick of malaria the first week they’re in the wilderness but I did not contract it in two years. Someone seemed to be taking care of me.
“Things happen when you empty your body and your mind. Since there is no stressful life to keep up, you need to eat only once a day. You are freed of the weight of trauma and fear. You shed the fear of dying, of having to worry if you are wasting your life by never becoming a doctor or a lawyer, of having to plan every single day. There is nothing to do. You are forced into a conversation with God.
Dark night of the soul
“Each one seeking enlightenment goes through some dark night of the soul, withdrawing to desert, wilderness or mountain. Even Jesus Christ had to undergo it, and began to live his mission only at the ripe age of 30. Superman wasn’t born invincible. He too had a retreat called Fortress of Solitude in the North Pole. Mine was to undergo a Robinson Crusoe-Tarzan-like experience, “Castaway” with a spiritual framework.
“While I was in Kalipay Mountain my fingers danced involuntarily, the movement accelerating as I absorbed the light of the sun and the moon. My fingers snaked around my thumb while my hand traveled to my abdomen, my heart, my throat, around my head. It took a while to realize that my fingers were moving around my higher chakra points. This would happen five to seven times a day. I was being taught a dance.
“After one deep meditation and elevated awareness I was propelled by a force that made me dance wildly, do somersaults, fight. I heard a voice whisper clearly. ‘The Mother and I are now one.’ The energy in my body was being deployed for a higher evolution.
“I did Kalipay Mu healing in many parts of the Philippines, moving from province to province. In the cities especially Manila, it is very noisy, the distractions are endless. Much easier to just stay in Kalipay and be stagnantly happy. Sometimes I ache just to run back to Paradise. But then I ask myself, Why is it that I chose to be born in the Philippines and in the state the world is in today? It’s one thing to remember you’re made of love, another thing to announce it to the world and another to demonstrate it, manifest it. The only real love is when it’s already in action.”
I dreamt a dream! What can it mean?
And that I was a maiden Queen
Guarded by an Angel mild:
Witless woe was ne'er beguiled!
And I wept both night and day,
And he wiped my tears away;
And I wept both day and night,
And hid from him my heart's delight.
So he took his wings, and fled;
Then the morn blushed rosy red.
I dried my tears, and armed my fears
With ten-thousand shields and spears.
Soon my Angel came again;
I was armed, he came in vain;
For the time of youth was fled,
And grey hairs were on my head.
People use the term 'anarchy' recklessly, Daniel Morley Johnson says. They might be surprised at what it actually means
DANIEL MORLEY JOHNSON
August 11, 2007
It wasn't your usual government leak. Jeffrey Monaghan, a contract employee at Environment Canada, was arrested at his office by the RCMP in May for allegedly leaking the Harper government's climate plan a month earlier. What made this leak more interesting is that Monaghan plays in a punk band that has targeted Stephen Harper in song lyrics, and he has also been involved with Ottawa's anarchist bookshop in a similar project. His band's website has links to the radical environmental group Earth First. All of which led one Calgary newspaper columnist to label Monaghan's "odious" beliefs - what we might call anarchism - "political chaos."
Anarchism is typically associated with some sort of menace and, increasingly, with terrorism. David Graeber, a self-proclaimed anarchist and formerly associate professor of anthropology at Yale, was dismissed by that university despite being hailed as one of the world's foremost young anthropologists. Many believe Yale's decision not to rehire Graeber - who will take a position at the University of London this year - was based on his personal politics, his writings on anarchism and his support of unionized teaching assistants. Yale has given no reason for Graeber's dismissal.
Rather than being understood as a complex political philosophy, anarchism is popularly regarded as chaos (the word actually comes from the Greek meaning "without rulers"). Anarchy conjures up images of bombing government offices or the total disarray that would apparently follow social revolution. We tend not to think of anarchists as intellectuals or teachers or bus drivers. Anarchism is dismissed as utopian and/or violent, hence the reaction against it.
In modern times, many philosophers of anarchism have been European: Pierre-Joseph Proudhon (France), Mikhail Bakunin (Russia), Emma Goldman (a Russian who died in Toronto) and Alexander Berkman (Russia). Perhaps the most important theorist of anarchism was the Russian Peter Kropotkin, whose 1892 book The Conquest of Bread (first published in English by Chapman & Hall, in 1906; available in several subsequent editions) explains Kropotkin's ideal anarchist- communalist society. He asks why so few people are rich while the majority of people live in poverty, causing the latter to sell their labour to the former. The problem with this, for anarchists, is that the exploited masses are not truly free - Kropotkin says they are more like serfs - and are not, therefore, able to realize their creative or human potential.
Kropotkin details a plan to remedy this through social revolution, and his solutions are simple: equal time for work and creative pursuits; everyone contributes to food production; all people share the work that needs to be done in exchange for housing and freedom. He calls for a redistribution of material goods and an end to greedy extravagance - "to every man according to his needs." This is all based on the belief that people who do not have to worry about starvation or paying for private property will not sell their labour to others, no longer enabling a ruling wealthy class.
Kropotkin is most convincing because he provides examples of how non-hierarchical, non-state-controlled relationships that are fair and efficient already exist. Think of any voluntary association or collective. Recall the outpouring of spontaneous human generosity that is exhibited after a natural disaster or other tragic event. There would be no need for force because humans only need to be forced to do things that are against their best interests; free people who make their own decisions do not need to be coerced. Dissenters would have the choice to build their own societies with like-minded people, as happens in any voluntary group today.
Emma Goldman lived part of her life writing and speaking in the United States, from 1906-1918 publishing the radical magazine Mother Earth, which contained work by writers and artists including Tolstoy, Man Ray and Eugene O'Neill. Peter Glassgold's Anarchy! An Anthology of Emma Goldman's Mother Earth (Counterpoint, 2001) collects dozens of pieces from the magazine, and is a good introduction to several different anarchist points of view. These texts are wide-ranging in subject, covering anarchist perspectives on education, literature, women's rights (including Goldman's 1916 piece on birth control), civil liberties, war, peace and history.
In the anthology, Voltairine de Cleyre illustrates how the libertarian founders of the United States upheld anarchist principles - "that government is best which governs least" - to create a free federation made up of free local communities. Berkman discusses the ways that prisons isolate and debilitate inmates rather than rehabilitating them. In his essay Without Government, Max Baginski explains how state institutions suppress human virtue through the use or threat of force. He also recognizes, like many anarchists, that the government only confuses and complicates the most basic transactions. (Waited all day in a passport or driver's license office lately?) This anthology, which contains a contextual essay by editor Glassgold, illustrates the breadth of issues taken up by anarchist writers.
Anarchism is a philosophy that aims to bring justice to all people oppressed by the elites. Ethnic groups have reinterpreted anarchist theory to support their struggles, for example, the black Anarchist Panther movement in the United States. Canadian Mohawk scholar Taiaiake Alfred elaborates an anarcho-indigenist theory in Wasáse: Indigenous Pathways of Action and Freedom (Broadview, 2005).
Much of Alfred's book is concerned with proposing ways for indigenous peoples to resist settler colonialism and regenerate themselves and their communities. Alfred blends what he calls an indigenous warrior ethic with the anarchist principles of justice, freedom, self-determination and "anti-institutional, radically democratic" forms of governance. He draws, for instance, on Rotinoshonni (Iroquois) traditions of government, in addition to what Vaclav Havel described as utopia: a decentralized economy, local decision-making, government based on true direct democracy, "a sort of spiritual socialism," as Alfred understands it.
Alfred sees parallels between indigenous and anarchist ways of living: rejection of legalized oppressive systems, non-participation in those systems that are seen as part of Canadian settler colonization, and a belief in bringing about change through direct action against state power.
The state tends to view indigenous and anarchist action in the same way, and sometimes responds with violence: Think of the 2001 Quebec City protests and the use of force by the Ontario Provincial Police at Six Nations in April, 2006. Alfred points out we are seeing increasing alliances between natives and settler activists in Canada, particularly around indigenous people's land claims.
Anarchism is not chaos or disorder; it is a complex set of philosophies positing that we would all be better off without rulers, particularly those who greedily disregard the well-being of the majority of people. If anarchism sounds utopian, hence implausible, recall the words of another writer who had anarchist tendencies, Henry David Thoreau: "In the long run men hit only what they aim at. Therefore, though they should fail immediately, they had better aim at something high."
Daniel Morley Johnson is a PhD student in comparative literature at the University of Alberta.
The Passionate Pilgrim, VIII.“If music and sweet poetry agree”
If music and sweet poetry agree,
As they must needs, the sister and the brother,
Then must the love be great ’twixt thee and me,
Because thou lov’st the one, and I the other.
Dowland to thee is dear, whose heavenly touch
Upon the lute doth ravish human sense;
Spenser to me, whose deep conceit is such
As, passing all conceit, needs no defence.
Thou lov’st to hear the sweet melodious sound
That Phoebus’ lute, the queen of music, makes;
And I in deep delight am chiefly drown’d
Whenas himself to singing he betakes.
One god is god of both, as poets feign;
One knight loves both, and both in thee remain.
I don't speak for Cindy Sheehan—whom I admire unreservedly—or for her campaign. When I say "we" in what follows, I'm really just giving my own perspective on this campaign, as one of her supporters.
I see this campaign as aiming much higher than putting Cindy Sheehan in Congress in 2009. Well before that time, we aim to help restore our Constitution, to end a war and avert starting a new one, and to remove from power two officials—George W. Bush and Richard Cheney--who block those objectives before they can do more harm in their remaining months in office.
That's an ambitious project; but there's a clear path to achieving it. We will work to change public awareness and, as a result, Nancy Pelosi's policies as Speaker of the House well before the election, by revealing to the public real alternatives to the courses she and the Democrats have followed so far, and demonstrating the breadth and strength of public support for those alternatives.
The truth is that Democrats, and even Republicans, can do much better than they have been doing, under Pelosi's leadership in the House, to protect our freedoms and our security. In this campaign we will publicize specifics of what can and should be done, and let the public tell the politicians which approach they want.
One essential demand is for Pelosi to encourage, rather than to block, Congressional investigations of past and ongoing administration deception, unwisdom, illegality and unconstitutionality in pursuing an aggressive war and in curtailing our rights. Such investigations, calling forth testimony under oath of current and former officials many of whom are eager to tell the truth at last, as well as demonstrating continued administration stonewalling, will almost surely lead to what does not yet exist: irresistible pressure from a belatedly-informed public for the impeachment and removal of Bush and Cheney.
Further, we need Pelosi's leadership in rescinding the unconstitutional parts—which will not leave much—of the Patriot Acts, the Military Commisions Act and the recent, outrageous legislation purporting to legalize warrantless wiretaps and data mining. And—absolutely essential to ending our war in Iraq, ever—public pressure is needed to demand that Congress defund our indefinite occupation, providing funds only for the orderly, safe withdrawal of all our troops, contractors and bases on an announced time-table.
If this campaign can help bring about even the first of these, it will also, almost incidentally, put Cindy Sheehan within reach of success in the election. This is, in fact, a historic campaign opportunity, exploiting an opening unique in American politics. At this moment, Cindy appears to face insuperable odds, opposing without party support a powerful, heavily-funded incumbent. But we aim to change that. All we are asking is for Nancy Pelosi to do what she should: to uphold her oath of office, which is not to obey a Commander-in-Chief or to enlarge a Democratic majority but to uphold and defend the Constitution.
If we can induce her to do that, then a year from now Cindy Sheehan should be running for an open seat, or against a brand-new incumbent appointed by our Republican governor. Nancy Pelosi, third in line for succession when Bush and Cheney are impeached and removed, will be in the White House. That will, as it happens, leave an open field for Cindy.
So you see, it's nothing personal for us. After all, as representatives of big business go, Nancy Pelosi is better than most. We don't aim to kick her out of politics, we aim to kick her upstairs. And there's a bonus: President Pelosi as a write-in candidate in November. She's far from ideal, from the point of view of members of this campaign, but for a Democrats we could do a lot worse. Off the record, some of us see this as the best strategy for keeping Hillary out of the White House without letting a Republican in.
So there it is: a vision for 2009 that can evoke some real enthusiasm: Cindy in the House, Pelosi in the White House, the US out of Iraq. Our Constitution back, and Bush and Cheney under criminal indictment.
[Remarks of Daniel Ellsberg at a press conference August 9, 2007 at which Cindy Sheehan announced her independent candidacy for the 8th Congressional District of California, an office now held by Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House.]
Today is Tuesday, with all the donations combined I’m now at $2,000. Thank you for helping make this accomplishment possible. I’m making great progress, but I’ve only got a couple days left to make up the rest of the money and I can really use your support to make this a reality. During the past month I’ve introduced a variety of possibilities for the future of San Francisco that you won’t hear from anyone else running. Some of my ideas have already been contemplated by those in power and I’ve only just begun. It may not be possible for me to defeat Gavin Newsom, but I’m confident that I can give him a run for his money and use this election as a means to push an alternative perspective to the forefront of city politics, and develop a model for participatory democracy, but I need your help.
Three thousand dollars seems like a lot of money, but it’s only six $500 donations. It’s also thirty $100 donations or sixty $50s and we’re there. I know times are tough, but if you believe in an alternative to business as usual, if you believe that I am a worthy adversary for Gavin Newsom, then I implore you to give what you can because I’m not going to be on the ballot if you don’t. Thank you!
The US writer Noam Chomsky talks about the mechanisms behind modern communication, an essential instrument of government in democratic countries - as important to our governments as propaganda is to a dictatorship. Noam Chomsky interviewed by Daniel Mermet
DM: Let's start with the media issue. In the May 2005 referendum on the European constitution, most newspapers in France supported a yes vote, yet 55% of the electorate voted no. This suggests there is a limit to how far the media can manipulate public opinion. Do you think voters were also saying no to the media?
NC: It's a complex subject, but the little in-depth research carried out in this field suggests that, in fact, the media exert greater influence over the most highly educated fraction of the population. Mass public opinion seems less influenced by the line adopted by the media.
Take the eventuality of a war against Iran. Three-quarters of Americans think the United States should stop its military threats and concentrate on reaching agreement by diplomatic means. Surveys carried out by western pollsters suggest that public opinion in Iran and the US is also moving closer on some aspects of the nuclear issue. The vast majority of the population of both countries think that the area from Israel to Iran should be completely clear of nuclear weapons, including those held by US forces operating in the region. But you would have to search long and hard to find this kind of information in the media.
The main political parties in either country do not defend this view either. If Iran and the US were true democracies, in which the majority really decided public policy, they would undoubtedly have already solved the current nuclear disagreement. And there are other similar instances. Look at the US federal budget. Most Americans want less military spending and more welfare expenditure, credits for the United Nations, and economic and international humanitarian aid. They also want to cancel the tax reductions decided by President George Bush for the benefit of the biggest taxpayers.
On all these topics, White House policy is completely at odds with what public opinion wants. But the media rarely publish the polls that highlight this persistent public opposition. Not only are citizens excluded from political power, they are also kept in a state of ignorance as to the true state of public opinion. There is growing international concern about the massive US double deficit affecting trade and the budget. But both are closely linked to a third deficit, the democratic deficit that is constantly growing, not only in the US but all over the western world.
DM: When a leading journalist or TV news presenter is asked whether they are subject to pressure or censorship, they say they are completely free to express their own opinions. So how does thought control work in a democratic society? We know how it works in dictatorships.
NC: As you say, journalists immediately reply: "No one has been exerting any pressure on me. I write what I want." And it's true. But if they defended positions contrary to the dominant norm, someone else would soon be writing editorials in their place. Obviously it is not a hard-and-fast rule: the US press sometimes publishes even my work, and the US is not a totalitarian country. But anyone who fails to fulfill certain minimum requirements does not stand a chance of becoming an established commentator.
It is one of the big differences between the propaganda system of a totalitarian state and the way democratic societies go about things. Exaggerating slightly, in totalitarian countries the state decides the official line and everyone must then comply. Democratic societies operate differently. The line is never presented as such, merely implied. This involves brainwashing people who are still at liberty. Even the passionate debates in the main media stay within the bounds of commonly accepted, implicit rules, which sideline a large number of contrary views. The system of control in democratic societies is extremely effective. We do not notice the line any more than we notice the air we breathe. We sometimes even imagine we are seeing a lively debate. The system of control is much more powerful than in totalitarian systems.
Look at Germany in the early 1930s. We tend to forget that it was the most advanced country in Europe, taking the lead in art, science, technology, literature and philosophy. Then, in no time at all, it suffered a complete reversal of fortune and became the most barbaric, murderous state in human history. All that was achieved by using fear: fear of the Bolsheviks, the Jews, the Americans, the Gypsies - everyone who, according to the Nazis, was threatening the core values of European culture and the direct descendants of Greek civilisation (as the philosopher Martin Heidegger wrote in 1935). However, most of the German media who inundated the population with these messages were using marketing techniques developed by US advertising agents.
The same method is always used to impose an ideology. Violence is not enough to dominate people: some other justification is required. When one person wields power over another - whether they are a dictator, a colonist, a bureaucrat, a spouse or a boss - they need an ideology justifying their action. And it is always the same: their domination is exerted for the good of the underdog. Those in power always present themselves as being altruistic, disinterested and generous.
In the 1930s the rules for Nazi propaganda involved using simple words and repeating them in association with emotions and phobia. When Hitler invaded the Sudetenland in 1938 he cited the noblest, most charitable motives: the need for a humanitarian intervention to prevent the ethnic cleansing of German speakers. Henceforward everyone would be living under Germany's protective wing, with the support of the world's most artistically and culturally advanced country.
When it comes to propaganda (though in a sense nothing has changed since the days of Athens) there have been some minor improvements. The instruments available now are much more refined, in particular - surprising as it may seem - in the countries with the greatest civil liberties, Britain and the US. The contemporary public relations industry was born there in the 1920s, an activity we may also refer to as opinion forming or propaganda.
Both countries had made such progress in democratic rights (women's suffrage, freedom of speech) that state violence was no longer sufficient to contain the desire for liberty. So those in power sought other ways of manufacturing consent. The PR industry produces, in the true sense of the term, concept, acceptance and submission. It controls people's minds and ideas. It is a major advance on totalitarian rule, as it is much more agreeable to be subjected to advertising than to torture.
In the US, freedom of speech is protected to an extent that I think is unheard of in any other country. This is quite a recent change. Since the 1960s the Supreme Court has set very high standards for freedom of speech, in keeping with a basic principle established by the 18th century Enlightenment. The court upholds the principle of free speech, the only limitation being participation in a criminal act. If I walk into a shop to commit a robbery with an accomplice holding a gun and I say "Shoot", my words are not protected by the constitution. Otherwise there has to be a really serious motive to call into question freedom of speech. The Supreme Court has even upheld this principle for the benefit of members of the Ku Klux Klan.
In France and Britain, and I believe the rest of Europe, the definition of freedom of speech is more restrictive. In my view the essential point is whether the state is entitled to determine historical truth and to punish those who contest such truth. If we allow the state to exert such powers we are accepting Stalinist methods. French intellectuals have difficulty admitting that they are inclined to do just that. Yet when we refuse such behaviour there should be no exceptions. The state should have no means of punishing anyone who claims that the sun rotates around the earth. There is a very elementary side to the principle of freedom of speech: either we defend it in the case of opinions we find hateful, or we do not defend it at all. Even Hitler and Stalin acknowledged the right to freedom of speech of those who were defending their point of view.
I find it distressing to have to discuss such issues two centuries after Voltaire who, as we all know, said: "I shall defend my opinions till I die, but I will give up my life so that you may defend yours." It would be a great disservice to the memory of the victims of the Holocaust to adopt one of the basic doctrines of their murderers.
DM: In one of your books you quote Milton Friedman as saying that "profit-making is the essence of democracy".
NC: Profit and democracy are so contrary that there is no scope for comment. The aim of democracy is to leave people free to decide how they live and to make any political choices concerning them. Making a profit is a disease in our society, based on specific organisations. A decent, ethical society would pay only marginal attention to profits. Take my university department [at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology]: a few scientists work very hard to earn lots of money, but they are considered a little odd and slightly deranged, almost pathological cases. Most of the academic community is more concerned about trying to break new ground, out of intellectual interest and for the general good.
DM: In a recent tribute, Jean Ziegler wrote: "There have been three forms of totalitarian rule: Stalinism, Nazism and now Tina [the acronym from British prime minister Margaret Thatcher's statement, "There is no alternative" - that is, to economic liberalism and global free-market capitalism]." Do you think they can be compared?
NC: I don't think they should be placed on the same footing. Fighting Tina means confronting a system of intellectual control that cannot be compared with concentration camps or the gulag. US policies provoke massive opposition all over the world. In Latin America, Argentina and Venezuela have thrown out the International Monetary Fund. Washington can no longer stage military takeovers in Latin America as it did 20 or 30 years ago. The whole continent now rejects the neo-liberal economic programme forcibly imposed on it by the US in the 1980s and 1990s. There are signs of the same opposition to the global market all over the world.
The Global Justice Movement, which attracts a great deal of media attention at each World Social Forum (WSF), is hard at work all year. It is a new departure and perhaps the start of a real International. But its main objective is to prove that there is an alternative. What better example of a different form of global exchange than the WSF itself. Hostile media organisations refer to anyone opposed to the neo-liberal global market as antis, whereas in fact they are campaigning for another form of global market, for the people.
We can easily observe the contrast between the two parties because their meetings coincide. We have the World Economic Forum, in Davos, which is striving to promote global economic integration but in the exclusive interests of financiers, banks and pension funds. These organisations happen to control the media too. They defend their conception of global integration, which is there to serve investors. The dominant media consider that this form of integration is the only one to qualify as globalisation. Davos is a good example of how ideological propaganda works in democratic societies. It is so effective that even WSF participants sometimes accept the ill-intentioned "anti" label. I spoke at the Forum in Porto Alegre and took part in the Via Campesina conference. They represent the majority of the world's population.
DM: Critics tend to lump you together with the anarchists and libertarian socialists. What would be the role of the state in a real democracy?
NC: We are living here and now, not in some imaginary universe. And here and now there are tyrannical organisations - big corporations. They are the closest thing to a totalitarian institution. They are, to all intents and purposes, quite unaccountable to the general public or society as a whole. They behave like predators, preying on other smaller companies. People have only one means of defending themselves and that is the state. Nor is it a very effective shield because it is often closely linked to the predators. But there is a far from negligible difference. General Electric is accountable to no one, whereas the state must occasionally explain its actions to the public.
Once democracy has been enlarged far enough for citizens to control the means of production and trade, and they take part in the overall running and management of the environment in which they live, then the state will gradually be able to disappear. It will be replaced by voluntary associations at our place of work and where we live.
DM: You mean soviets?
NC: The first things that Lenin and Trotsky destroyed, immediately after the October revolution, were the soviets, the workers' councils and all the democratic bodies. In this respect Lenin and Trotsky were the worst enemies of socialism in the 20th century. But as orthodox Marxists they thought that a backward country such as Russia was incapable of achieving socialism immediately, and must first be forcibly industrialised.
In 1989, when the communist system collapsed, I thought this event was, paradoxically, a victory for socialism. My conception of socialism requires, at least, democratic control of production, trade and other aspects of human existence.
However the two main propaganda systems agreed to maintain that the tyrannical system set up by Lenin and Trotsky, subsequently turned into a political monstrosity by Stalin, was socialism. Western leaders could not fail to be enchanted by this outrageous use of the term, which enabled them to cast aspersions on the real thing for decades. With comparable enthusiasm, but working in the opposite direction, the Soviet propaganda system tried to exploit the sympathy and commitment that the true socialist ideal inspired among the working masses.
DM: Isn't it the case that all forms of autonomous organisation based on anarchist principles have ultimately collapsed?
NC: There are no set anarchist principles, no libertarian creed to which we must all swear allegiance. Anarchism - at least as I understand it - is a movement that tries to identify organisations exerting authority and domination, to ask them to justify their actions and, if they are unable to do so, as often happens, to try to supersede them.
Far from collapsing, anarchism and libertarian thought are flourishing. They have given rise to real progress in many fields. Forms of oppression and injustice that were once barely recognised, less still disputed, are no longer allowed. That in itself is a success, a step forward for all humankind, certainly not a failure.
LISTENTuesday, August 7th, 2007Freedom Next Time: Filmmaker & Journalist John Pilger on Propaganda, the Press, Censorship and Resisting the American Empire"Liberal Democracy is moving toward a form of corporate dictatorship. This is an historic shift, and the media must not be allowed to be its façade, but itself made into a popular, burning issue, and subjected to direct action," said John Pilger. "That great whistleblower Tom Paine warned that if the majority of the people were denied the truth and the ideas of truth, it was time to storm what he called the Bastille of words. That time is now." We spend the hour airing a recent lecture by the acclaimed Australian filmmaker and muckraker. When Rupert Murdoch won his bid to take over Dow Jones and the Wall Street Journal last week, the Australian media baron brought one of America's oldest, most respected and widely circulated newspapers into his vast media empire. Murdoch's News Corp media conglomerate owns more than 175 other newspapers as well as the Fox Television network, 21st Century Fox film studios, several satellite networks, MySpace.com, HarperCollins, and much more.Besides amassing a media empire, Murdoch has repeatedly been accused of using his media holdings to advance his political agenda. In 2003, all of Murdoch's 175 newspapers supported the Iraq invasion. He spoke to former British Prime Minister Tony Blair in the lead-up to the invasion, some in Blair's inner circle even called him “the 24th member of the [Blair] Cabinet.”After the announcement of the five billion dollar sale, Murdoch told the New York Times that in order for the Wall Street Journal to remain editorially independent it needed to make healthy profits. Murdoch said, "The first road to freedom, is viability."Well, one of Rupert Murdoch's fellow countrymen, an Australian who also resides in Britain, strongly disagrees. John Pilger - the eminent investigative journalist and documentary filmmaker - is a harsh critic of the corporate media. Pilger began his career in journalism close to half a century ago. He has made over 50 documentaries and is the author of numerous books, his most recent is titled "Freedom Next Time: Resisting the Empire."Today, we spend the hour with John Pilger talking about journalism, war, propaganda, and silence. * John Pilger, speaking during the Socialism 2007 conference in Chicago. JOHN PILGER: The title of this talk is Freedom Next Time, which is the title of my book, and the book is meant as an antidote to the propaganda that is so often disguised as journalism. So I thought I would talk today about journalism, about war by journalism, propaganda, and silence, and how that silence might be broken. Edward Bernays, the so-called father of public relations, wrote about an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country. He was referring to journalism, the media. That was almost 80 years ago, not long after corporate journalism was invented. It is a history few journalist talk about or know about, and it began with the arrival of corporate advertising. As the new corporations began taking over the press, something called "professional journalism" was invented. To attract big advertisers, the new corporate press had to appear respectable, pillars of the establishment—objective, impartial, balanced. The first schools of journalism were set up, and a mythology of liberal neutrality was spun around the professional journalist. The right to freedom of expression was associated with the new media and with the great corporations, and the whole thing was, as Robert McChesney put it so well, "entirely bogus".For what the public did not know was that in order to be professional, journalists had to ensure that news and opinion were dominated by official sources, and that has not changed. Go through the New York Times on any day, and check the sources of the main political stories—domestic and foreign—you'll find they're dominated by government and other established interests. That is the essence of professional journalism. I am not suggesting that independent journalism was or is excluded, but it is more likely to be an honorable exception. Think of the role Judith Miller played in the New York Times in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq. Yes, her work became a scandal, but only after it played a powerful role in promoting an invasion based on lies. Yet, Miller's parroting of official sources and vested interests was not all that different from the work of many famous Times reporters, such as the celebrated W.H. Lawrence, who helped cover up the true effects of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima in August, 1945. "No Radioactivity in Hiroshima Ruin," was the headline on his report, and it was false.Consider how the power of this invisible government has grown. In 1983 the principle global media was owned by 50 corporations, most of them American. In 2002 this had fallen to just 9 corporations. Today it is probably about 5. Rupert Murdoch has predicted that there will be just three global media giants, and his company will be one of them. This concentration of power is not exclusive of course to the United States. The BBC has announced it is expanding its broadcasts to the United States, because it believes Americans want principled, objective, neutral journalism for which the BBC is famous. They have launched BBC America. You may have seen the advertising.The BBC began in 1922, just before the corporate press began in America. Its founder was Lord John Reith, who believed that impartiality and objectivity were the essence of professionalism. In the same year the British establishment was under siege. The unions had called a general strike and the Tories were terrified that a revolution was on the way. The new BBC came to their rescue. In high secrecy, Lord Reith wrote anti-union speeches for the Tory Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin and broadcast them to the nation, while refusing to allow the labor leaders to put their side until the strike was over.So, a pattern was set. Impartiality was a principle certainly: a principle to be suspended whenever the establishment was under threat. And that principle has been upheld ever since.Take the invasion of Iraq. There are two studies of the BBC's reporting. One shows that the BBC gave just 2 percent of its coverage of Iraq to antiwar dissent—2 percent. That is less than the antiwar coverage of ABC, NBC, and CBS. A second study by the University of Wales shows that in the buildup to the invasion, 90 percent of the BBC's references to weapons of mass destruction suggested that Saddam Hussein actually possessed them, and that by clear implication Bush and Blair were right. We now know that the BBC and other British media were used by the British secret intelligence service MI-6. In what they called Operation Mass Appeal, MI-6 agents planted stories about Saddam's weapons of mass destruction, such as weapons hidden in his palaces and in secret underground bunkers. All of these stories were fake. But that's not the point. The point is that the work of MI-6 was unnecessary, because professional journalism on its own would have produced the same result.Listen to the BBC's man in Washington, Matt Frei, shortly after the invasion. "There is not doubt," he told viewers in the UK and all over the world, "That the desire to bring good, to bring American values to the rest of the world, and especially now in the Middle East, is especially tied up with American military power." In 2005 the same reporter lauded the architect of the invasion, Paul Wolfowitz, as someone who "believes passionately in the power of democracy and grassroots development." That was before the little incident at the World Bank.None of this is unusual. BBC news routinely describes the invasion as a miscalculation. Not Illegal, not unprovoked, not based on lies, but a miscalculation.The words "mistake" and "blunder" are common BBC news currency, along with "failure"—which at least suggests that if the deliberate, calculated, unprovoked, illegal assault on defenseless Iraq had succeeded, that would have been just fine. Whenever I hear these words I remember Edward Herman's marvelous essay about normalizing the unthinkable. For that's what media clichéd language does and is designed to do—it normalizes the unthinkable; of the degradation of war, of severed limbs, of maimed children, all of which I've seen. One of my favorite stories about the Cold War concerns a group of Russian journalists who were touring the United States. On the final day of their visit, they were asked by the host for their impressions. "I have to tell you," said the spokesman, "that we were astonished to find after reading all the newspapers and watching TV day after day that all the opinions on all the vital issues are the same. To get that result in our country we send journalists to the gulag. We even tear out their fingernails. Here you don't have to do any of that. What is the secret?"What is the secret? It is a question seldom asked in newsrooms, in media colleges, in journalism journals, and yet the answer to that question is critical to the lives of millions of people. On August 24 last year the New York Times declared this in an editorial: "If we had known then what we know now the invasion if Iraq would have been stopped by a popular outcry." This amazing admission was saying, in effect, that journalists had betrayed the public by not doing their job and by accepting and amplifying and echoing the lies of Bush and his gang, instead of challenging them and exposing them. What the Times didn't say was that had that paper and the rest of the media exposed the lies, up to a million people might be alive today. That's the belief now of a number of senior establishment journalists. Few of them—they've spoken to me about it—few of them will say it in public.Ironically, I began to understand how censorship worked in so-called free societies when I reported from totalitarian societies. During the 1970s I filmed secretly in Czechoslovakia, then a Stalinist dictatorship. I interviewed members of the dissident group Charter 77, including the novelist Zdener Urbanek, and this is what he told me. "In dictatorships we are more fortunate that you in the West in one respect. We believe nothing of what we read in the newspapers and nothing of what we watch on television, because we know its propaganda and lies. Unlike you in the West. We've learned to look behind the propaganda and to read between the lines, and unlike you, we know that the real truth is always subversive."Vandana Shiva has called this subjugated knowledge. The great Irish muckraker Claud Cockburn got it right when he wrote, "Never believe anything until it's officially denied."One of the oldest clichés of war is that truth is the first casualty. No it's not. Journalism is the first casualty. When the Vietnam War was over, the magazine Encounter published an article by Robert Elegant, a distinguished correspondent who had covered the war. "For the first time in modern history," he wrote, the outcome of a war was determined not on the battlefield, but on the printed page, and above all on the television screen." He held journalists responsible for losing the war by opposing it in their reporting. Robert Elegant's view became the received wisdom in Washington and it still is. In Iraq the Pentagon invented the embedded journalist because it believed that critical reporting had lost Vietnam.The very opposite was true. On my first day as a young reporter in Saigon, I called at the bureaus of the main newspapers and TV companies. I noticed that some of them had a pinboard on the wall on which were gruesome photographs, mostly of bodies of Vietnamese and of American soldiers holding up severed ears and testicles. In one office was a photograph of a man being tortured; above the torturers head was a stick-on comic balloon with the words, "that'll teach you to talk to the press." None of these pictures were ever published or even put on the wire. I asked why. I was told that the public would never accept them. Anyway, to publish them would not be objective or impartial. At first, I accepted the apparent logic of this. I too had grown up on stories of the good war against Germany and Japan, that ethical bath that cleansed the Anglo-American world of all evil. But the longer I stayed in Vietnam, the more I realized that our atrocities were not isolated, nor were they aberrations, but the war itself was an atrocity. That was the big story, and it was seldom news. Yes, the tactics and effectiveness of the military were questioned by some very fine reporters. But the word "invasion" was never used. The anodyne word used was "involved." America was involved in Vietnam. The fiction of a well-intentioned, blundering giant, stuck in an Asian quagmire, was repeated incessantly. It was left to whistleblowers back home to tell the subversive truth, those like Daniel Ellsberg and Seymour Hersh, with his scoop of the My-Lai massacre. There were 649 reporters in Vietnam on March 16, 1968—the day that the My-Lai massacre happened—and not one of them reported it.In both Vietnam and Iraq, deliberate policies and strategies have bordered on genocide. In Vietnam, the forced dispossession of millions of people and the creation of free fire zones; In Iraq, an American-enforced embargo that ran through the 1990s like a medieval siege, and killed, according to the United Nations Children's fund, half a million children under the age of five. In both Vietnam and Iraq, banned weapons were used against civilians as deliberate experiments. Agent Orange changed the genetic and environmental order in Vietnam. The military called this Operation Hades. When Congress found out, it was renamed the friendlier Operation Ranch Hand, and nothing change. That's pretty much how Congress has reacted to the war in Iraq. The Democrats have damned it, rebranded it, and extended it. The Hollywood movies that followed the Vietnam War were an extension of the journalism, of normalizing the unthinkable. Yes, some of the movies were critical of the military's tactics, but all of them were careful to concentrate on the angst of the invaders. The first of these movies is now considered a classic. It's The Deerhunter, whose message was that America had suffered, America was stricken, American boys had done their best against oriental barbarians. The message was all the more pernicious, because the Deerhunter was brilliantly made and acted. I have to admit it's the only movie that has made me shout out loud in a Cinema in protest. Oliver Stone's acclaimed movie Platoon was said to be antiwar, and it did show glimpses of the Vietnamese as human beings, but it also promoted above all the American invader as victim.I wasn't going to mention The Green Berets when I set down to write this, until I read the other day that John Wayne was the most influential movie who ever lived. I a saw the Green Berets starring John Wayne on a Saturday night in 1968 in Montgomery Alabama. (I was down there to interview the then-infamous governor George Wallace). I had just come back from Vietnam, and I couldn't believe how absurd this movie was. So I laughed out loud, and I laughed and laughed. And it wasn't long before the atmosphere around me grew very cold. My companion, who had been a Freedom Rider in the South, said, "Let's get the hell out of here and run like hell."We were chased all the way back to our hotel, but I doubt if any of our pursuers were aware that John Wayne, their hero, had lied so he wouldn't have to fight in World War II. And yet the phony role model of Wayne sent thousands of Americans to their deaths in Vietnam, with the notable exceptions of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney.Last year, in his acceptance of the Nobel Prize for Literature, the playwright Harold Pinter made an epoch speech. He asked why, and I quote him, "The systematic brutality, the widespread atrocities, the ruthless suppression of independent thought in Stalinist Russia were well know in the West, while American state crimes were merely superficially recorded, left alone, documented." And yet across the world the extinction and suffering of countless human beings could be attributed to rampant American power. "But," said Pinter, "You wouldn't know it. It never happened. Nothing ever happened. Even while it was happening it wasn't happening. It didn't matter. It was of no interest." Pinter's words were more than the surreal. The BBC ignored the speech of Britain's most famous dramatist.I've made a number of documentaries about Cambodia. The first was Year Zero: the Silent Death of Cambodia. It describes the American bombing that provided the catalyst for the rise of Pol Pot. What Nixon and Kissinger had started, Pol Pot completed—CIA files alone leave no doubt of that. I offered Year Zero to PBS and took it to Washington. The PBS executives who saw it were shocked. They whispered among themselves. They asked me to wait outside. One of them finally emerged and said, "John, we admire your film. But we are disturbed that it says the United States prepared the way for Pol Pot."I said, "Do you dispute the evidence?" I had quoted a number of CIA documents. "Oh, no," he replied. "But we've decided to call in a journalistic adjudicator."Now the term "journalist adjudicator" might have been invented by George Orwell. In fact they managed to find one of only three journalists who had been invited to Cambodia by Pol Pot. And of course he turned his thumbs down on the film, and I never heard from PBS again. Year Zero was broadcast in some 60 countries and became one of the most watched documentaries in the world. It was never shown in the United States. Of the five films I have made on Cambodia, one of them was shown by WNET, the PBS station in New York. I believe it was shown at about one in the morning. On the basis of this single showing, when most people are asleep, it was awarded an Emmy. What marvelous irony. It was worthy of a prize but not an audience.Harold Pinter's subversive truth, I believe, was that he made the connection between imperialism and fascism, and described a battle for history that's almost never reported. This is the great silence of the media age. And this is the secret heart of propaganda today. A propaganda so vast in scope that I'm always astonished that so many Americans know and understand as much as they do. We are talking about a system, of course, not personalities. And yet, a great many people today think that the problem is George W. Bush and his gang. And yes, the Bush gang are extreme. But my experience is that they are no more than an extreme version of what has gone on before. In my lifetime, more wars have been started by liberal Democrats than by Republicans. Ignoring this truth is a guarantee that the propaganda system and the war-making system will continue. We've had a branch of the Democratic party running Britain for the last 10 years. Blair, apparently a liberal, has taken Britain to war more times than any prime minister in the modern era. Yes, his current pal is George Bush, but his first love was Bill Clinton, the most violent president of the late 20th century. Blair's successor, Gordon Brown is also a devotee of Clinton and Bush. The other day, Brown said, "The days of Britain having to apologize for the British Empire are over. We should celebrate."Like Blair, like Clinton, like Bush, Brown believes in the liberal truth that the battle for history has been won; that the millions who died in British-imposed famines in British imperial India will be forgotten—like the millions who have died in the American Empire will be forgotten. And like Blair, his successor is confident that professional journalism is on his side. For most journalists, whether they realize it or not, are groomed to be tribunes of an ideology that regards itself as non-ideological, that presents itself as the natural center, the very fulcrum of modern life. This may very well be the most powerful and dangerous ideology we have ever known because it is open-ended. This is liberalism. I'm not denying the virtues of liberalism—far from it. We are all beneficiaries of them. But if we deny its dangers, its open-ended project, and the all-consuming power of its propaganda, then we deny our right to true democracy, because liberalism and true democracy are not the same. Liberalism began as a preserve of the elite in the 19th century, and true democracy is never handed down by elites. It is always fought for and struggled for.A senior member of the antiwar coalition, United For Peace and Justice, said recently, and I quote her, "The Democrats are using the politics of reality." Her liberal historical reference point was Vietnam. She said that President Johnson began withdrawing troops from Vietnam after a Democratic Congress began to vote against the war. That's not what happened. The troops were withdrawn from Vietnam after four long years. And during that time the United States killed more people in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos with bombs than were killed in all the preceding years. And that's what's happening in Iraq. The bombing has doubled since last year, and this is not being reported. And who began this bombing? Bill Clinton began it. During the 1990s Clinton rained bombs on Iraq in what were euphemistically called the "no fly zones." At the same time he imposed a medieval siege called economic sanctions, killing as I've mentioned, perhaps a million people, including a documented 500,000 children. Almost none of this carnage was reported in the so-called mainstream media. Last year a study published by the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health found that since the invasion of Iraq 655, 000 Iraqis had died as a direct result of the invasion. Official documents show that the Blair government knew this figure to be credible. In February, Les Roberts, the author of the report, said the figure was equal to the figure for deaths in the Fordham University study of the Rwandan genocide. The media response to Robert's shocking revelation was silence. What may well be the greatest episode of organized killing for a generation, in Harold Pinter's words, "Did not happen. It didn't matter."Many people who regard themselves on the left supported Bush's attack on Afghanistan. That the CIA had supported Osama Bin Laden was ignored, that the Clinton administration had secretly backed the Taliban, even giving them high-level briefings at the CIA, is virtually unknown in the United States. The Taliban were secret partners with the oil giant Unocal in building an oil pipeline across Afghanistan. And when a Clinton official was reminded that the Taliban persecuted women, he said, "We can live with that." There is compelling evidence that Bush decided to attack the Taliban not as a result of 9-11, but two months earlier, in July of 2001. This is virtually unknown in the United States—publicly. Like the scale of civilian casualties in Afghanistan. To my knowledge only one mainstream reporter, Jonathan Steele of the Guardian in London, has investigated civilian casualties in Afghanistan, and his estimate is 20,000 dead civilians, and that was three years ago.The enduring tragedy of Palestine is due in great part to the silence and compliance of the so-called liberal left. Hamas is described repeatedly as sworn to the destruction of Israel. The New York Times, the Associated Press, the Boston Globe—take your pick. They all use this line as a standard disclaimer, and it is false. That Hamas has called for a ten-year ceasefire is almost never reported. Even more important, that Hamas has undergone an historic ideological shift in the last few years, which amounts to a recognition of what it calls the reality of Israel, is virtually unknown; and that Israel is sworn to the destruction of Palestine is unspeakable.There is a pioneering study by Glasgow University on the reporting of Palestine. They interviewed young people who watch TV news in Britain. More than 90 percent thought the illegal settlers were Palestinian. The more they watched, the less they knew—Danny Schecter's famous phrase.The current most dangerous silence is over nuclear weapons and the return of the Cold War. The Russians understand clearly that the so-called American defense shield in Eastern Europe is designed to subjugate and humiliate them. Yet the front pages here talk about Putin starting a new Cold War, and there is silence about the development of an entirely new American nuclear system called Reliable Weapons Replacement (RRW), which is designed to blur the distinction between conventional war and nuclear war—a long-held ambition.In the meantime, Iran is being softened up, with the liberal media playing almost the same role it played before the Iraq invasion. And as for the Democrats, look at how Barak Obama has become the voice of the Council on Foreign Relations, one of the propaganda organs of the old liberal Washington establishment. Obama writes that while he wants the troops home, "We must not rule out military force against long-standing adversaries such as Iran and Syria." Listen to this from the liberal Obama: "At moment of great peril in the past century our leaders ensured that America, by deed and by example, led and lifted the world, that we stood and fought for the freedom sought by billions of people beyond their borders."That is the nub of the propaganda, the brainwashing if you like, that seeps into the lives of every American, and many of us who are not Americans. From right to left, secular to God-fearing, what so few people know is that in the last half century, United States adminstrations have overthrown 50 governments—many of them democracies. In the process, thirty countries have been attacked and bombed, with the loss of countless lives. Bush bashing is all very well—and is justified—but the moment we begin to accept the siren call of the Democrat's drivel about standing up and fighting for freedom sought by billions, the battle for history is lost, and we ourselves are silenced.So what should we do? That question often asked in meetings I have addressed, even meetings as informed as those in this conference, is itself interesting. It's my experience that people in the so-called third world rarely ask the question, because they know what to do. And some have paid with their freedom and their lives, but they knew what to do. It's a question that many on the democratic left—small "d"—have yet to answer.Real information, subversive information, remains the most potent power of all—and I believe that we must not fall into the trap of believing that the media speaks for the public. That wasn't true in Stalinist Czechoslovakia and it isn't true of the United States.In all the years I've been a journalist, I've never know public consciousness to have risen as fast as it's rising today. Yes, its direction and shape is unclear, partly because people are now deeply suspicious of political alternatives, and because the Democratic Party has succeeded in seducing and dividing the electoral left. And yet this growing critical public awareness is all the more remarkable when you consider the sheer scale of indoctrination, the mythology of a superior way of life, and the current manufactured state of fear.Why did the New York Times come clean in that editorial last year? Not because it opposes Bush's wars—look at the coverage of Iran. That editorial was a rare acknowledgement that the public was beginning to see the concealed role of the media, and that people were beginning to read between the lines.If Iran is attacked, the reaction and the upheaval cannot be predicted. The national security and homeland security presidential directive gives Bush power over all facets of government in an emergency. It is not unlikely the constitution will be suspended—the laws to round of hundreds of thousands of so-called terrorists and enemy combatants are already on the books. I believe that these dangers are understood by the public, who have come along way since 9-11, and a long way since the propaganda that linked Saddam Hussein to al-Qaeda. That's why they voted for the Democrats last November, only to be betrayed. But they need truth, and journalists ought to be agents of truth, not the courtiers of power.I believe a fifth estate is possible, the product of a people's movement, that monitors, deconstructs, and counters the corporate media. In every university, in every media college, in every news room, teachers of journalism, journalists themselves need to ask themselves about the part they now play in the bloodshed in the name of a bogus objectivity. Such a movement within the media could herald a perestroika of a kind that we have never known. This is all possible. Silences can be broken. In Britain the National Union of Journalists has undergone a radical change, and has called for a boycott of Israel. The web site Medialens.org has single-handedly called the BBC to account. In the United States wonderfully free rebellious spirits populate the web—I can't mention them all here—from Tom Feeley's International Clearing House, to Mike Albert's ZNet, to Counterpunch online, and the splendid work of FAIR. The best reporting of Iraq appears on the web—Dahr Jamail's courageous journalism; and citizen reporters like Joe Wilding, who reported the siege of Fallujah from inside the city.In Venezuela, Greg Wilpert's investigations turned back much of the virulent propaganda now aimed at Hugo Chávez. Make no mistake, it's the threat of freedom of speech for the majority in Venezuela that lies behind the campaign in the west on behalf of the corrupt RCTV. The challenge for the rest of us is to lift this subjugated knowledge from out of the underground and take it to ordinary people.We need to make haste. Liberal Democracy is moving toward a form of corporate dictatorship. This is an historic shift, and the media must not be allowed to be its façade, but itself made into a popular, burning issue, and subjected to direct action. That great whistleblower Tom Paine warned that if the majority of the people were denied the truth and the ideas of truth, it was time to storm what he called the Bastille of words. That time is NOW. JOHN PILGER ON YOU TUBE*P.S. Yes, Peter I do know who John Pilger is... :)
"PRONOIA IS THE ANTIDOTE FOR PARANOIA:How the Whole World Is Conspiring to Shower You with Blessings"is available for sale at http://tinyurl.com/qaj62To read news and features from the book, go here: http://tinyurl.com/lhwx2Below is an essay that I didn't include in my book, but it's in close alignment with the book's spirit.*WAR! FAMINE! PESTILENCE! EARTHQUAKES! CRIME! SCANDAL!The ubiquity of headlines like these suggests that nihilism is the pet philosophy of the storytellers known as "journalists." But they're not the only fabulists to thrive on dread and despair. A majority of the prophets down through the ages have been allergic to the possibility that the future might hold anything besides endlessly tragedy and disaster.The sixteenth century's creepy horror-meister Nostradamus wasn't the first, but he has been one of the most enduring. Ghoulish modern soothsayers have refined and expanded the scare-the-crap-out-of-'em tradition. For instance, in the last 40 years, hundreds of self-proclaimed prophets have foreseen cataclysmic "earth changes" that will flush away America's West Coast and create beach-front property in Nebraska. A multitude of their colleagues agree that most of humanity will be wiped out any minute now, but they see the death blow coming via other means. Lethal solar flares, nuclear war, and fresh plagues are old standbys, though newcomers worm their way onto the list periodically, including my personal favorite: an evil artificial intelligence that achieves sentience on the Internet.As entertaining as modern prognosticators' curses can be, however, their track record is as abysmal as Nostradamus's. The fact that Nebraska is still without a seacoast should be enough evidence to send many of them into disgraced hiding. Amazingly, the ineptitude of the frightful omen-slingers has not diminished their appeal. Their newsletters and websites proliferate. They have spawned the runaway popularity of syndicated radio shows rooted in edge-of-the-seat invocations of imminent global disasters. Tally up the New Age devotees of spooky woo-woo and the Christian fundamentalist worshipers of divine uh-oh and you've got a cast of millions.Cultured, rational folks like you and I chuckle. How can so many people believe in so much nonsense? And yet as the tears of ridicule splash down from my cheeks onto today's *New York Times,* a heretical theory bubbles up into view. Maybe the boogie-man prophets captivate so many imaginations because there are far more influential minds constantly at work nurturing the conditions necessary for apocalyptic thinking to bloom.In our culture, cynicism has come to be regarded as a sign of intellectual vigor. It's smart to expect and look for the worst in everything. Optimism is thought to be the province of sentimental fools with no talent for critical thinking. Entropy and disintegration are inherently more interesting subjects to explore than redemption and renewal, availing greater opportunities to show off one's acumen.And soothsayers are really just bit players in the spreading of these memes. The most potent disseminators are the storytellers known as journalists. They comprise the engine of the myth-making machinery. "The universe is not made of molecules," said the poet Muriel Rukyser. "It is made of stories." Subtly and relentlessly, the journalists weave our universe from narratives of turbulence, loss, decay, and corruption. The poet John Keats said that if something is not beautiful, it is probably not true, but our chief storytellers suggest the opposite: If something is not ugly, it is probably not true.The Nostradamus wannabes are easy to dismiss. Their spectacularly idiotic fantasies are laughable. But journalists churn out measured, seemingly believable doses of doom and gloom. No single mini- armageddon is too much to swallow, but the sum total of their agitated drone adds up in the long run to a far more powerful prophetic vision than the silly New Age and fundamentalist seers: MEDIAPOCALYPSE.
The segments of the trip swing open like an orange.
There is light in there and mystery and food.
Come see it.
Come not for me but it.
But if I am still there, grant that we may see each other.
-John Ashbery, "Just Walking Around"
A few years back, I took a fish to the symphony. Seriously! OK, it was actually a little black-and-white lute shaped like a fish, bought when I was a kid in Dubrovnik-a sparkling seaside resort town in the former Yugoslavia, soon to be drowned in the Balkan War's havoc. The occasion was an interactive performance by the San Francisco Symphony of composer Terry Riley's freaky phenomenal classic In C.
Riley's a child of Berkeley in the '60s, given then to putting on all-night concerts featuring vacuum cleaner motors and tape-delayed saxophone loops. He wrote In C in 1964, but it might as well have been the 1967 Summer of Love's unplugged soundtrack, with its miraculously simple yet cosmically democratic main idea: Orchestra members are given 53 itty-bitty phrases of music in the basic key of C major. Each musician plays whichever one he or she wants until they get bored, then moves on to another, leading to...gorgeous chaos!
This time, conductor Michael Tilson Thomas had invited the audience to join in, playing whatever instruments we cared to bring. There were oboes and air horns, didgeridoos and comb kazoos, trumpets and tambourines - and you bet I almost lost it when the tranny down the aisle from me whipped out her glistening flügelhorn. In the en masse autonomous cacophony that followed, I heard the woozy call of mermaids and the whirling screech of Black Hawks, a water cannon's body-slamming whoosh and the fiery chants of Buddhist monks. I also heard the sizzle of Chinatown kitchens, the groovy snaps of North Beach beats, Fillmore jazz horn solos, ragged Janis Joplin howls, and the subsonic rumble of the fog as it crests Mount Sutro. In short, I heard the best of the Bay.
Thus, in celebration of the 40th anniversary of the Summer of Love, our Best of the Bay 2007 theme: sensational! A guide to the fantastic, far-out pleasures of the Bay.
Because living here's a total trip, right?
In 1974, Esquire magazine asked the Guardian for ideas for its Best of the USA issue, and we responded by publishing the original Best of the Bay issue. Selected by the people of the Bay Area for the people of the Bay Area, it's our annual chance to celebrate the personalities and places that make this city great. We were the first weekly paper in the nation to print a regular Best Of issue. Thirty-three years later - and 41 years after we opened our doors - it's still going strong.
In this year's installment, you'll find explosive opinions and sensual appreciations, journeys through classic neighborhoods, profiles of heroic hippies (check out our center photo spread picturing more than 200 Summer of Love participants and descendants), and our Editors' Picks of local, independent businesses and organizations that we think offer some of the very best sights, sounds, flavors, aromas, textures, and spirit of life around the Bay. It's a glorious racket, and you're included by way of the Best of the Bay Readers' Poll results, in which you honor the many things you feel capture the essence of your experience here - everything from Best Bowl of Noodles to Best Burlesque Act, from Best Local Animal Rescue to Best Hot Tub Rental.
Editing the Best of the Bay issue is a frantic hoot, a time for me to prove that rehab works - and I couldn't have possibly done it alone. I had the privilege of working with the utterly fierce Guardian staff and an amazing smorgasbord of local talent to kick this year's crazy idea out the conceptual door. Luckily the city's still full of enough crazy dreamers to make it all work. I shower grateful smooches on them all, particularly on my partner in style, Guardian Art Director Mirissa Neff; Mie Hommura, the mind-blowing artist whose compu-psychedelic illustrations grace these pages; my fab assistant, Molly Freedenberg; and the ever supportive Hunky Beau, my own personal Best of the Bay.
And, of course, we at the Guardian thank you, our readers, for continuing to inspire us. Stay cool, stay hot, stay sensational. Peace.
About the Illustrator
Born on the island of Kyushu just south of mainland Japan, multimedia artist Mie Hommura spent time in Miyazuki, Tokyo, and Nagasaki before moving to San Francisco. She describes her work as "playful and Wonderlandesque, a system of contemporary hieroglyphs whose bright colors and organic shapes are meant to express the complexities of the subconscious mind." Hommuru has worked in digital design, illustration, fashion, and plush-toy creation, or "soft sculpture." You can see more of her art online at www.sleepytiger.com or on T-shirts at the My Trick Pony store (www.mytrickpony.com).
Last night was the big fundraiser and debate between San Francisco mayoral candidates Chicken John and Josh Wolf, which took place at Chez Poulet in San Francisco. As it turns out, they actually agree on most issues and generally support each other’s candidacy. John Law challenged them to find an issue that they violently disagreed about, but ultimately they both are in agreement that it couldn’t hurt for Gavin Newsom to have a challenger in the election, especially one who is dedicated to making San Francisco an even better place to live.
This Monday, August 6, join mayoral candidate Josh Wolf at 111 Minna for a fundraiser to help raise the remaining money needed to secure his place on the ballot this November. Josh announced his candidacy last month and offers a much-needed alternative to business-as-usual; his innovative ideas as mayor have been profiled everywhere from Wired online to the San Francisco Chronicle, but in order for these visions to take route he must raise the $5,000 necessary to secure his position on the ballot. To that end, Josh is throwing a fundraising party at 111 Minna on Monday, August 6, at 7:00PM. A suggested donation of $8-$500 will be accepted at the door. read more »
As millions of college students begin preparing to enter college this fall, many have become accustom to increased tuitions year after year. Nationwide college tuitions are climbing and in some states the increase is 10 percent or more going into the fall semester. Stewart A. Alexander, a Peace and Freedom Party Candidate for President, says free education is possible through university level; a position the PFP, Peace and Freedom Party, has supported for 40 years.
Stewart A. Alexander for President Peace and Freedom Party August 3, 2007 As millions of college students begin preparing to enter college this fall, many have become accustom to increased tuitions year after year. Nationwide college tuitions are climbing and in some states the increase is 10 percent or more going into the fall semester. Stewart A. Alexander, a Peace and Freedom Party Candidate for President, says free education is possible through university level; a position the PFP, Peace and Freedom Party, has supported for 40 years. In most states the tuition hikes have out-paced the rate of inflation; in some states double or three times the rate of inflation. States with the highest tuition hikes are Michigan, Illinois, California, Oklahoma, Florida and Colorado; the increase tuitions are creating a financial hardship on working class families nationwide. The higher tuitions are placing an extreme financial burden on students nationwide; many have to work one or more jobs; working part-time or minimum wage jobs that will leave very limited available funds to pay back student loans. Many students will drop-out due to the pressures of work and trying to obtain a quality education. Nationwide college tuitions are up 42 percent from 2002-2003 levels according to data compiled by enrollments from (The College Board); the increases are the highest gains for any decade within the last 30 years. The Democrats and Republicans in the House recently passed legislation to reduce the interest that students will have to pay on loans; however Congress and state governments resist the concept of free education and the candidates, from both parties, have offered no plans to deal with this growing crisis; a tax on the youth of America to receive a higher education. Stewart Alexander is presenting an ambitious short term and long term plan to provide college students a free education through university level. Alexander’s plan goes beyond the next presidential term or the next decade; it’s a plan that will address the needs of students, and society, for the next 300 years. In 2006, while running as a candidate for lieutenant governor, Alexander introduced a three year program that would have offered California students a free education by 2009. The plan was designed to reduce much of California’s wasteful spending on special interest projects; instead redirecting state funds to meet more of the human needs; to include free education for college students. Another part of Alexander’s plan was to have many of the large corporations, doing business in California, to pay their share to educate the students that, in the future, would be the employees of those corporations. The ramifications of that plan was to serve the needs of student in California and the nation; Alexander was proposing that college students should be tax exempt for tips received in service related jobs; such as restaurants, food service, pet grooming, and other services where tips are traditionally paid. Now as a candidate for president, Alexander’s plan has evolved with the demands of the position. Alexander still wants corporate America to invest more to educate the working class. Alexander also wants the US government to eliminate the funds for advancing US imperialism and financing wars; instead investing in the youth of America and all those seeking a higher education. Peace and Freedom Party has supported a Universal Basic Income since the establishment of the party in 1967. Alexander is embracing that concept; to improve the standard of living for students and to make free education a reality. The idea is also designed to elevate young people and the working class above a poverty standard of living. Recently Stewart Alexander introduced a similar concept to assist seniors; a program that would supplement social security and provide seniors a decent standard of living. This concept of a guaranteed basic income is not being offered only to students and seniors, it is a plan for the working class; those without capital in a capitalist society. Peace and Freedom Party is a socialist party, ballot qualified in the State of California. The party is making plans to have candidates on the ballot in other states for the 2008 General Election. For more information search the Web for: Stewart A. Alexander; Alexander Wants Student Tips Tax Exempt; Presidential Candidate Wants to Supplement Social Security. http://www.salt-g.comhttp://peaceandfreedom-sjv.org/home/http://cbs2.com/topstories/topstories_story_199114330.htmlhttp://www.losangeleschronicle.com/articles/viewArticle.asp?articleID=25798
Some 53% back the idea of building a third party to mount presidential candidacy. Support is strongest among men, those younger than 50, professionals and Northeasterners.
Seven of 10 say an independent would enhance the presidential campaign, and just 11% say they wouldn’t consider voting for an independent. Yet in hypothetical independent bid against Clinton and Giuliani, New York City Mayor Bloomberg draws just 16% from self-described independents.
The Peace and Freedom Party grass-roots political organization will celebrate its 40th anniversary with a comedy event headlined by countercultural icon, publisher and Yippie organizer Paul Krassner and Emmy Award-winning writer Rick Overton.
We are spirits. That bodies should be lent us, while they can afford us pleasure,
assist us in acquiring knowledge, or doing good to our fellow creatures,
is a kind and benevolent act of God.
How should a society organize itself? How can one properly resolve the tensions between equal rights and individual freedoms? At the root of both equality and freedom lies the question: What is morality? These are the fundamental questions underlying the pluralist discourse in modern societies. The motto on the Great Seal of the United States ("E Pluribus Unum") suggests a possible nexus between pluralism and its metaphysical origins. The philosophy of Dostoevsky's Ivan Karamazov ("If God is dead, then everything is permitted") suggests a similar nexus between morality and its spiritual foundations. Without this nexus, there can be only error.
There are two errors that must be guarded against in the pursuit of Truth or Reality. These are reductionism and relativism. Both errors derive from a denial of the traditional metaphysical principle that Reality, being Absolute, can be neither reduced to the conditions of existence (hence, reductionism) nor excluded from it (hence, relativism). A corollary of this principle is that Truth has a transcendent aspect (entailing Faith) as well as an immanent aspect (manifesting as the Spirit/Intellect). It is as dangerous, therefore, to isolate either of these aspects as it is to ignore them. The isolation of Faith (or the denial of the Intellect) is a reductionist tendency and can lead to a sclerotic dogmatism and the tyranny of "fundamentalism", while the isolation of the Intellect (or the denial of Faith) is a relativist tendency and can lead to an extreme subjectivism and anarchy. The corrective of dogmatism is deconstruction, and vice versa. Between these two lies the field of engagement, the narrow pathway between reductionism and relativism, the Straight Path of Tradition.
Equality and freedom are two of the pillars of modernity. They are also two of its grandest illusions. For neither equality nor freedom can truly exist extrinsically in reality. Intrinsically (and from the traditional perspective), they exist only as attributes of the spiritual dimension of reality: the Spirit is equal notwithstanding its pluralism, and is free notwithstanding its formal limitations. To understand equality and freedom otherwise is to commit the errors of reductionism (in the case of equality) or relativism (in the case of freedom). Outside of its spiritual dimension, equality tends to become a homogenizing force that reduces itself to the harmony of the lowest common denominator, whatever that may be, however devoid of spiritual value; while, freedom tends to become a permissive liberalism that manifests in the privatization of morality, however devoid of virtue.
Much of the pluralist discourse centers on the term "value". Equality and freedom are touted as fundamental "values", and many a modern society is founded on the "values" enshrined in a Bill of rights or Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Tradition focuses on "virtue" rather than on "value". To be virtuous automatically entails a limit on freedom, a limit that is sometimes expressed as conscience or responsibility. It incorporates the notion of a hierarchical society in which authority derives from virtue, in which diversity is embraced through the moral intelligence of love rather than atomized or homogenized by recourse to secular "values".
Tradition provides both the doctrine (theoria) and the method (praxis) for apprehending and conforming to Truth or Reality. From the perspective of Tradition, Truth is Presence, the meeting-point of knowledge and love, of Intellect and will. This ontological reintegration of knowing and being expresses itself as "virtue". Morality from the traditional perspective is, thus, more than merely a form of good behaviour. It is the love motivating the ideal of equality and the knowledge underlying the ideal of freedom. It is the Spirit that conforms to the Truth it embodies.
Hank Brown and the CU Regents say they fired Ward Churchill because he engaged in “research misconduct.” Further, CU even claims its decision was based on a “unanimous” faculty recommendation.
There are a lot of things wrong with this picture, the most obvious being:
1. Only two committees directly examined evidence in this case. One was an Investigative Committee which found violations on seven counts, but only one of its five members recommended dismissal. After throwing out come of those charges, three of the five members of an Appeal Panel recommended a one-year suspension. In other words, a majority of both groups examining the evidence did not recommend firing Professor Churchill. We fail to see any unanimity.
2. CU President Hank Brown decided to override the recommendation of the Appeal Panel. In doing so, Brown—apparently now an American Indian Studies expert—decided that the Panel was wrong regarding Professor Churchill’s interpretation of the General Allotment Act of 1887 and the Indian Arts and Crafts Act of 1990.
3. CU has characterized the charges against Ward Churchill as falsification and fabrication of evidence and plagiarism. In fact, the specific findings of the Appeal Panel were that he (a) failed to provide sufficient evidence on three facts relating to an 1837 smallpox epidemic; (b) cited to material he had ghostwritten (tho’ no one can point to any standard prohibiting this); (c) published an article in which a co-author’s name was deleted by the magazine; and (d) copyedited a piece (written and edited by others) which, unknown to him, plagiarized Fay Cohen.
Even if these were true, they don’t constitute grounds for firing a tenured full professor with nearly 30 years of exemplary service.
4. Brown’s recommendation to fire relies exclusively on the Investigative Committee’s Report, yet that Committee itself has been charged with research misconduct in five separate research complaints. Click here to read them:
These complaints extensively document instances of falsification and fabrication of evidence, misrepresentation of sources, and plagiarism in the Investigative Committee’s Report.
5. Just before the Regents’ meeting, the University of Colorado dismissed all five of these complaints without investigation. The reason? All of a sudden, the Investigative Committee Report wasn’t “research” subject to scholarly standards.
Never mind that the Report runs 124 pages, with 254 footnotes, and was published by the University. Never mind that the professors on the committee claimed to be adhering to scholarly standards in their Report.
The Investigative Committee, apparently, can engage in plagiarism, misrepresentation, falsification, and/or fabrication of evidence with impunity, and their Report can then be used to dismiss Professor Churchill on the same charges. And we are to believe that CU fired Ward Churchill, not for his political statements, but to uphold “academic integrity”?
Chicken vs Wolf
Mayoral debate at the Chez Poulet
With little more than a week before the filing deadline, mayoral candidates “Chicken John” Rinaldi and Josh Wolf have announced a joint fundraiser to help raise the necessary money to secure their status on the ballot. The highly anticipated Chicken v. Wolf debate will square off two of the most talked about, most controversial mayoral candidates and be moderated by permit consultant Jeremy Paul. The debate will feature questions from the audience and streamed live over the internet for those unable to attend. Take part in what could be the most captivating debate this campaign season this Monday at 9PM at 3359 Cesar Chavez St. (near Mission). A $10 suggested donation will be taken at the door, but supporters are encouraged to donate up to $500 to either or both candidates at the event.
Josh Wolf is a journalist, an activist, a blogger, and would like to be the next mayor of San Francisco. He has been involved in local politics for some time and helped manage Julian Davis campaign for District 5 Supervisor, and he is best-known for spending 226 days in a Federal Detention Center for refusing to testify about a protest he filmed as a journalist. Josh plans to create a campaign based on participatory democracy and hopes to build it as a model for the future. His platform is focused on working with the progressive board of supervisors and the community at large to solve the problems plaguing our city. He’s committed to open government and has pledged to a wear a webcam during all city business in order to eliminate backroom deals and insure accountability.