Monday, June 30, 2008

From Alvin Baltrop's Pier Photographs
THE QUEER ISSUE It's best to begin at the edge. Gay urban photography has a fleeting yet reliably revelatory home at those places where water laps up against land. On the East Coast, from 1975 through 1986, Alvin Baltrop explored the Hudson River side of Manhattan, capturing black-and-white visions of sex, murder, and architecture by cruising the piers as a peer rather than as an exploitative outsider. On the West Coast, during the '50s and '60s, Denny Denfield used Baker Beach and its nearby wooded areas to invent an Adam-only Eden best glimpsed solo through 3-D. And around the same time in Montreal, Alan B. Stone was hiding in a shed, looking through a shutter at the dock-working men and sunbathing boys who populated the city's port. In the zone known as the city's historical heart, his camera cautiously hinted at desires that could lead to prison time. Curated by David Deitcher, the SF Camerawork exhibition "Alan B.
Stone and the Senses of Place" proves Stone's photographic versatility ranged from a low-key form of William Klein–like typographic artistry to extremely subversive pastoral romanticism — in commissioned Boy Scout photos — to the candid portraiture of the beefcake genre. Such a showcase isn't Deitcher's intent, though — he's structured the show (and written about it, in an autobiographical essay) to foreground a specifically gay vision and experience of Montreal from a time when men were arrested and publicly vilified in newsprint for being homosexual.
Stone provides the nuanced vision; Deitcher identifies its facets and identifies with it. His analysis of Montreal through Stone's camera takes on special resonance when placed next to Douglas Crimp's look at post-Stonewall New York through Baltrop's camera in a February 2008 Artforum piece.
The difference between the liberated time of Baltrop and the closeted era of Stone is evident in their views of waterfront lazy sunbathers. Perhaps the brightest — in tone and in quality of light — of the Baltrop photos showcased in Artforum (also on view at gazes from a few hundred feet away at a half-dozen naked men as they soak up the sun, converse, and dangle their feet off the edge of a pier. The gay-lib visibility inherent to the men's affectionate nudity is doubly emphasized by Baltrop's distanced yet full-frontal perspective. In contrast, Stone's 1954 photo Untitled (Lachine Canal) glimpses the back of a boy in a swimsuit seated at the Port of Montreal's shoreline — the identity of his solitary subject remains poignantly invisible to the photographer, who, as Deitcher notes, was stricken with arthritis at an early age.
There's a similar echo to a pair of photos — one by Stone, one by Baltrop — that depict men standing at the sunlit thresholds of waterfront warehouses. Stone's 1954 Untitled (Dock Workers, Port of Montreal) is a furtive from-behind vision of a shirtless, assumedly heterosexual dockworker. One image from Baltrop's "Pier Photographs, 1975-1986" glances at a shirtless man, also from ...
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Mobile Phones Change Birds' Tune

Many wild birds are able to imitate the simple ringtones of mobile telephones, German ornithologists report, underscoring the influence of humans on the evolution of birds. These birds can "sing up to 78 different phrases, and many of the simplest telephone ringtones coincide with them," ornithologist Matthias Werner, of the government's bird protection agency, told Tierramérica.

Go Your Own Way: Gnosis And The Fractal Spiral


You have to work on yourself before you can really get anywhere. No one can do it for you. The magical codex and the dimensional escape hatch remain firmly out of reach for now. The flame will burn those who are unable to hold it safely in their hands. The universe insists, most adamantly, that we learn how to do it all by ourselves. Gnosis, spiritual attainment, esoteric wisdom. Whatever you want to call it. No cheating, no looking at your friend's paper, no plagiarising - you must do your own thing in your own way. Otherwise, we are compelled to repeat the same tests over and over again, through multiple lifetimes, until we finally figure it out. So you have to do the homework. Sharpen your blade. Keep moving. Fortunately, there is no time limit and everyone’s ascendant path is custom-built for their own unique growth pattern. Spiritually, it’s a win-win situation.

To help penetrate the all-pervading mists of the illusion, one must first acknowledge that consciousness is not the accidental and purposeless by-product of the human condition. The perceived world that we appear to be locked inside, like the silver ball in a pinball machine, is wholly a construct of consciousness. The pinball constructs the machine around itself. Whilst a testing notion for even the most elastic of modern philosophical minds, it has been known for aeons by the ancient mystical traditions and experienced directly by the indigenous shamanic cultures of every continent. Now, it is being evoked again as a progressive scientific theory in quantum physics. It is not new information we are bringing to mind, not by any means. It is better described as a remembrance.

Consciousness is a transcendental music with which we can attune, conduct and create. The spiritually synchronized mind instinctively discerns this. Consciousness flows through all things. It follows that consciousness itself does not originate in the brain of the individual. It is at root, a non-local force. The quantum and holographic traces of this have been unfolding for some time now, most intriguingly in the works of Gebser, Bohm, Pribram and Laszlo. The personal experience of consciousness is better conceived of as a tunnel, or an uplink, to the akashic field (aka the universal field, vacuum field, noosphere etc) which is dynamically connected to everything and everywhere. Perhaps the field is composed of the same subspace luminous filaments that Castaneda’s mythical figure of Don Juan spoke of so enigmatically; these being the fractal structures of consciousness itself, elaborately extending themselves across the multiverse, articulating every conceivable resolution. Our thoughts, feelings and articulations are unique expressions [configurations] of the field. Our imaginal thoughtforms sculpt its physical and psychic manifestations.

Subspace And Not-Thinking

Consciousness operates in a field which is not bound by the restrictions of third density conditions (time & space). Consequently, it may seamlessly reach into higher dimensions/fractal resolutions and potentially innumerable parallel universes, as indicated in superstring theory and m-theory. This is how telepathy, precognition, clairvoyance and similar extra sensory perception phenomena function, by jumping into the subspace field and observing any point along it, instantly and completely. Travel without movement. The coherence vector or signal quality is the difference between a faint intuition of something (I think my Aunty Barbara might call this evening) and a full-on vision (a 25ft meteorite will land in my back garden tomorrow at 9:45am and destroy the lawnmower). To maximize signal fidelity, to get the most accurate information, the mind must be trained to quieten the perpetual internal dialogue, the chatter of the brain.

Thinking is brain churn. Knowing is field connection. Whilst deductive reasoning is practical for information processing, it can stand in the way of the coherent field connection necessary to attain wisdom. Many deep mystical experiences encountered in different planes of consciousness are so state specific that they cannot easily be brought back into the third density for adequate expression using the modern linguistic symbol set. Articulation is not always necessary for total comprehension. Standard ‘remote viewing’ technique (the psychic ability to gather information about a distant or unseen target) teaches the student not to think. The collective consciousness within the field knows everything already. It can communicate any information about anything right into your head at supraluminal speeds. So why are some able to remote view and others not? Impulsive brain chatter obscures the incoming data, like static on a TV screen. We need to learn to step out of the way. Meditation brings insight into the thinking process, helping to smooth it out and sometimes stop it altogether, allowing deeper perceptions to be received. Toltec shamanism teaches the apprentice the procedure of ‘stopping the world’ as a means of placing false egoic thinking aside in order to perceive the world shamanically, or if you prefer, to establish a stable uplink to the field.

Interfacing with reality is more instructive than purely theorizing about it. We have long since reached the saturation point of the narrow scientific method with its reliance on separation, measurement and reductionism. Such materialist inferences, no matter how scrupulous, are at odds with the holistic multidisciplinary attitude required for actual conscious evolution. They only obstruct efforts to perceive beyond the particulate cloak of Maya. The primacy of felt experience is consistently more edifying and meaningful than the smug abstractions of ‘scientism’ (the belief that scientific principles are essential to all other disciplines, including philosophical, mystical, spiritual and humanist interpretations of life). The Control System sponsors scientism by overexposing various trenchant physicists, atheists and parapsychologists who all exhibit some form of spiritual devolution. As smart and kooky as some of them are, they lack the psychic integrity and spiritual humility that is so palpable in those who truly walk the path.

Small Is Beautiful

Far from being the exotic anthropological oddity it was once depicted as, shamanism is the original spiritual experience of all indigenous peoples. Present in the savannas of Africa, the jungles of the Amazon, the plains of America, the mountains of Asia and the forests of Europe, shamanism was an integral mystical practice of deep esoteric and spiritual importance to both individuals and communities. Thus it remained, organically ascendant, up until a few thousand years ago when the personal, sovereign right to a spiritual connection with the divine was removed from daily life. This was achieved by hijacking and co-opting all systems of transcendence into the dark canopy of organized religion. The fake priesthood. They took what they liked, pruned the liberating and inspiring bits and threw the rest away. Anyone who sought to practice their own mysticism or dared to resurrect the old ways was executed. Many such religious crusades were prosecuted against ancient spiritual and shamanic practices, campaigns that today would fall under the technical terminology of genocide.

If you trace the origins of the major monotheistic organized religions back far enough, it becomes clear that they were never designed to help the individual grow and develop. They were there to control land, dictate moral and social norms and separate the common man from his divine heritage. Higher consciousness, personal freedom and spiritual communion, far from being the core elements of their basic mystical teachings, were concepts firmly discouraged by the various priest castes. In their place, the disempowering qualities of submission, victimhood, repression and guilt became the preferred tenets of worshipful compliance.

Most who walk the path have long since discarded the unnecessary restraints of organized religion. There are many good people who still operate within the conventions and structures of Christianity, in particular, and that is of course, their prerogative. However, it doesn’t take much research into alternative history and the ancient indigenous chronicles to discover that the sacred texts that form the backbone of today’s megareligions are merely distorted versions of much earlier and authentic methods of spiritual practice. Despite the artful stage-managed resurgence of religious fundamentalism in both the east and west, the crude pious repressions of the Control System are beginning to lose their grip. People are realizing that they can anoint themselves as their own special representative on earth (who else could they be?) and their own personal channel to the holy spirit.

Fractal Dreams

In ‘The Art Of Dreaming’, Carlos Castaneda wrote, "Don Juan contended that our world, which we believe to be unique and absolute, is only one in a cluster of consecutive worlds, arranged like the layers of an onion. He asserted that even though we have been energetically conditioned to perceive solely our world, we still have the capability of entering into those other realms, which are as real, unique, absolute and engulfing as our own world is. Believing that our energetic conditioning is correctable, don Juan stated that sorcerers of ancient times developed a set of practices designed to recondition our energetic capabilities to perceive. They called this set of practices the art of dreaming." When I first read that in 1994, two things sprang to mind. (i) How don Juan was absolutely spot on, and (ii) rather fittingly, how the process of unfolding the onion layers of reality can indeed bring tears to your eyes.

The ‘cluster of consecutive worlds’ is a fractal model. The essential pattern of creation is encoded into everything, all the way down the line, from galaxies to cauliflowers. It helps to examine fractal formations in nature to properly appreciate their properties. I have collated some useful illustrations of fractal geometry in the attached picture (click for large version).

The geometry and mathematics of fractal forms has been studied since the 17th century (in modern history that is) but their complexity and infinite recursive depth made progress slow. The arrival of computers in the 1970’s made things much simpler. Rapid processing, sophisticated graphics and software modelling enabled researchers to explore the depth of fractals to a level never seen before. Researchers categorize fractal generation into three different classes: (1) Escape-time Fractals; Mandelbrot set, Julia set, Nova fractal, (2) Iterated Function Systems; Cantor set, Koch snowflake, Sierpinski carpet and (3) Random Fractals. In random fractals, we see dendritic fractals demonstrate the fundamental natural property of diffusion-limited aggregation (DLA). DLA is best illustrated in the physical manifestations of fern growth, ice crystals, tree branch growth and electrical discharges. See the aforementioned montage image for examples.

Observing the nautilus shell, we encounter the living embodiment of the Fibonacci sequence of numbers 0 1 1 2 3 5 8 13 21 34 55 89 144 233 377 610 987 1597 2584 4181 6765. So important to sacred geometry, Egyptology and the ancient mystery cults. For those who may have discarded their high school mathematics (understandably in most cases), the Fibonacci sequence establishes the first number as 0 and the second number as 1. Each subsequent number is equal to the sum of the previous two numbers.

The sequence presents itself in nature in the branching of trees, the structure of pineapples, artichoke flowering, uncurling ferns, the arrangement of pine cones and the spiralling florets in the head of a sunflower (see image). Stunningly beautiful.

The recursive, self-iterative nature of fractals, clearly visible in the Mandelbrot and Koch snowflake, begin to speak to the higher consciousness and express some of the underlying structures of reality. The fractal holography of the universe imprints the design of itself into each individual component, each creative lego brick. All elements are coded with the entire universal design project. The ancient druidic respect for the oak tree and the acorn were symbols of this core understanding. As then, so now, such meditations lead to a fuller comprehension of the sacred mysteries of creation. Our art is to project into higher and deeper resolutions of the fractal spiral, gathering gnosis and wisdom as spiritual gravitation compels the ascendant homeward journey.

Our life is the journey. We illustrate it with our unique and miraculous stories. Our learning helps to improve the coherence and the elegance of the fractal. Our capacity for consciousness determines how deep we can go. I sense that each lifetime, each self, each frequency of being, emanates fractally from a larger, grander structure, from where our higher self guides us and loves us. Perhaps even these ultra conscious entities are expressions of an even more sublime intelligence. Gazing at the head of the sunflower, it certainly feels that way.


First illustration, “Oversoul” by Alex Grey

Sunday, June 29, 2008

OIL: New Global Energy Order Emerging

by Humberto Márquez ... U.S. economist Joseph Stiglitz, winner of the 2001 Nobel Prize for economics, wrote earlier this month that "Only new patterns of consumption and production -- a new economic model -- can address that most fundamental resource problem. "Two factors set off today's crisis: the Iraq war contributed to the run up in oil prices, including through increased instability in the Middle East, the low cost provider of oil, while biofuels have meant that food and energy markets are increasingly integrated," he added. "America’s subsidies for corn-based ethanol contribute more to the coffers of ethanol producers than they do to curtailing global warming," he complained, after arguing that "rich countries must reduce, if not eliminate, distortional agriculture and energy policies, and help those in the poorest countries improve their capacity to produce food." For poor countries, the steady rise in oil prices has taken on nightmare proportions. At the start of the Jeddah meeting, Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah suggested that OPEC create a one billion dollar fund to compensate poor countries for the rising price of oil. The situation in Latin America was illustrated by Dominican Finance Minister Vicente Bengoa, who said that "in 2004, the oil bill was covered by the remittances sent home from Dominicans abroad, with 560 million dollars left over, while this year remittances are expected to run to 1.9 billion dollars, compared to an oil bill of 4.5 billion." The big oil companies, in the meantime, are raking in tens of billions of dollars each. With these profits, said Poleo, global capital is financing its positioning with regard to the shifts occurring in the global energy scenario. The price bubble continues to swell, to the benefit of these interests, although analysts like Alexander Green, investment director at the Oxford Club, a private, international network of investors, say oil prices will inevitably come down. "Yes, speculative fever has gripped the oil market. This bull is likely to end up just like those in the ring in Mexico City. Current oil prices are simply unsustainable," Green wrote recently.

The Quantum Apocalypse

NAFTA and the Elephant in the Room

By Laura Carlsen It's rare for the junior partners of NAFTA—Mexico and Canada—to have a chance to sit down and discuss regional integration without the dominating influence of the United States. Even when they do, of course, the U.S. is the elephant in the room. The University of the Americas in Puebla, Mexico hosted a conference recently on the Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP) from the Canadian and Mexican perspective. Although most of the presentations were from academics, businessmen or government officials, our panel on civil society participation set me to reflecting on the long personal and political history of the nearly 15-year-old NAFTA and its offspring, the SPP. When negotiations on the free trade agreement with Mexico began in 1991, we had little idea of how a North American Free Trade Agreement would affect the country. But Canada had already been through it all. The U.S.-Mexico agreement sought to extend many of the terms of the 1989 U.S.-Canada agreement and patch them into a regional agreement. In the early nineties, it was clear that NAFTA represented a huge step forward in locking in the kinds of structural adjustment programs from the IMF and World Bank that had devastated sectors of the economy, and that it formed part of President Carlos Salinas de Gortari's project to extend the neoliberal economic model of trade liberalization and export-orientation, privatization, and withdrawal of the state from social programs and economic regulation. But we didn't know the specifics of what to expect and the whole process was being carried out in backrooms hermetically sealed to citizen participation. I felt like kind of a double agent at the time. I was working as a journalist and editor at Business Mexico, the magazine of the American Chamber of Commerce in Mexico, and had also been working with a Mexican non-governmental organization in communications and women's projects. The dual perspective was fascinating, to say the least. The mood in the Chamber of Commerce was one of euphoria, while the citizen movements felt a sense of impending doom. I had trouble reconciling the opposite scenarios being presented until I realized that it wasn't so much that one was right and one was wrong, but that the gap between the winners and losers in Mexico's economy was about to get much, much wider. At the magazine I began to specialize in stories about sectors that would suffer under the agreement, mainly smallscale agriculture and micro-industry oriented toward the domestic market. There was no real argument from promoters about the lack of "competitiveness" of these sectors—the argument was that these workers would be re-employed in new export-oriented, internationally financed industries. In the face of predictions of massive job loss, they blithely assumed that the market and high growth rates would work it all out. For U.S. businesses in Mexico, the greater mobility of capital and investor incentives in NAFTA presented a bright new day with nary a cloud in sight. Meanwhile, small farmers organizations couldn't believe they were being asked to compete with subsidized products from the world's largest exporter. Independent unions thought the trade-off between more maquiladora jobs, and downward pressure on wages and job security due to international competition between workers was sure to be a bum deal in the long term. Mexican trade activists decided on a two-part strategy: 1) demand information on the negotiations and 2) call the Canadians. Canadian citizen groups had developed excellent critiques of the FTA from labor and agriculture perspectives and analyzed the way the agreement could affect the social safety net. Although the two countries had very different political and economic contexts, these studies and the experience helped Mexicans to begin to project outcomes. Later, U.S. groups joined the networks as well. There was very little chance of influencing the negotiations, but the groups did manage to get more public information released. This was the birth of trinational networks that, with ups and downs, have continued to work together to oppose aspects of NAFTA and the SPP to this day. It hasn't been an easy process and mistakes have been made. Canadian and U.S. labor unions at first viewed Mexican workers not as allies but as unfair competition as their factories moved South. It wasn't until they began to see the conditions of the Mexican workers and analyze corporate strategies of pitting workers against workers that real solidarity and understanding set in. Mexican farmers thought U.S. and Canadian family farmers were closer to wealthy hacienda owners than to them, with their large expanses of land and fancy equipment. It wasn't until they heard the stories about the thousands of families going bankrupt and losing their farms and the control of agribusiness over all aspects of agriculture that they understood that they shared a struggle against an international system stacked against them. It was, as always, the human contact that broke the barriers. NAFTA set into motion a series of trinational meetings. If at first, the networks were joined by their victimhood, and they later began to share a vision of changing their respective economies in ways that supported rather than marginalized them. Over the past year the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy and other organizations have sponsored a couple of major meetings to take a look at what we've learned from NAFTA and the fight against corporate-led globalization. It gives me no great satisfaction to report that some of the most pessimistic predictions we made—the displacement of small farmers, lower than expected growth rates, the growing divide between the rich and the poor—have come true. And although many of us did not believe NAFTA would solve the immigration problem as its promoters predicted, few imagined the huge increase that occurred. We've also seen that despite advances, the challenges to our networks today are greater than ever. The extension of NAFTA into security issues under the SPP—in the logic of the Bush National Security Strategy—poses unprecedented dangers to Canadian and Mexican sovereignty. There is no better example of that than the recent Merida Initiative that fundamentally changes the nature of the U.S.-Mexico relationship. The focus on geopolitical goals over human security, and the imposition of U.S. foreign policy objectives on Mexico will have lasting and likely destabilizing effects as Mexico takes on the militarized vision of confronting public security challenges. The hegemonic policies of the U.S. government have made it easier in some ways for Canadians and Mexicans to talk about regional integration than U.S. citizens. Both feel threatened in many of the same ways, particularly by the pressure coming from the U.S. government within SPP and other channels over access to natural resources in their territories. U.S. groups face more difficult obstacles explaining and organizing on their turf, due to misinformation and the climate of fear manipulated to support government actions. Nonetheless, there is no question that we've come a long way. Polls in Canada and the United States show a majority believes NAFTA has not benefited their country. U.S. democratic presidential candidates demanded review and possible renegotiation of the agreement, and 200,000 Mexican farmers marched in the streets demanding renegotiation of the agricultural chapter. The relationships and networks built early on have grown as the trade agreement has filtered into the general public and generated widespread criticism of its effects on society in all three nations. Reflecting on these meetings, I think perhaps the biggest challenge now to our networks is not to centralize the struggle and the critique but to understand our differences. We have a pretty good understanding of the architecture built by NAFTA and added onto in the SPP. We need to continue to work together to analyze its foundations and mainstays. But we, the peoples of three nations, find ourselves in different rooms. Each must decide on priorities and national strategies to reform policies, relieve suffering and build alternative structures. It will be the confluence of these strategies from citizens of sovereign nations that enable us to join together and stop the way the SPP and its handful of corporate executives have imposed regional integration from the top down. Laura Carlsen (lcarlsen(a) is Director of the Americas Policy Program at in Mexico City.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Fermin Rocker...

son of anarchist writer Rudolf Rocker, once sold a painting to rock star Mick Jagger...

Friday, June 27, 2008

Boing Boing - Top 10 TED Talks

Here are the top 10 most-viewed TED Talk videos from June 2006 to May 2008)

Jill Bolte Taylor's stroke of insight

Jeff Han's touchscreen foreshadows the iPhone and more

David Gallo shows underwater astonishments

Blaise Aguera y Arcas demos Photosynth

Arthur Benjamin does "mathemagic"

Sir Ken Robinson says schools kill creativity

Hans Rosling shows the best stats you've ever seen

Tony Robbins asks why we do what we do

Al Gore on averting a climate crisis

Johnny Lee demos Wii Remote hacks

You can also watch the Top 10 TED talks highlights video.

Oaxacan teachers reach agreement with their union and local government

Sección 22, the radical Oaxacan section of the Latin American education workers' union Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadores en la Educación (SNTE), has finally signed deals with both the SNTE hierarchy and Oaxacan local government. However, the strike will continue until this weekend.

The strike (previously reported on Libcom here and here), a contrast of almost blanket support from union members and almost blanket condemnation from the rest of the state, will however continue until this Sunday, five days longer than originally planned, and today, another regional section took over the maintenance of the plantón (encampment) in Ciudad de Oaxaca's main plaza.

The SNTE executive bowed to the Oaxacan local's demands of new union elections within the state this coming September, a core demand of the strike in the context of the national union leadership's breaking of the 2006 strike in Oaxaca in the midst of a statewide revolt. In order to undermine the authority of Sección 22, the SNTE went as far as to form a rival local in Oaxaca, Sección 59. The hierarchy also agreed to hitherto return to them 90% of their dues

While the local government acceeded to the majority of their demands, the most immediately impressive of which being the (supposed) release of "all political prisoners and prisoners of conscience in Oaxaca and the cancellation of all arrest orders on movement members". The government claims this has been enacted in the form of their discontinued interest in some 250 individuals, but even a cursory glance at the track record of law enforcement agencies within the state creates doubts about their sincerity.

Also within the agreement is an undertaking by the local government to do the following:

-$500 million pesos' (around £24.5 million) investment in infrastructure and equipment for Oaxacan schools, including new kitchens and provisions to provide school breakfasts (school starts and finishes early in Mexico), new uniforms, shoes, amongst other things

-the return to Sección 22 of 108 schools "occupied" by Sección 59 (or rather, "a committee to oversee the regularisation of services in schools affected by conflict")

-an increase in the annual compensation of teachers for their personal contributions to the maintenance of school supplies

-an increase in the number of state scholarships for sons of education workers

-an increase in funding for programmes for homeless children and orphans

-more investment in medical centres in rural areas

-more availability of loans and accommodation for education workers (government programmes often offer both to young state workers in order to keep public services [nearly] afloat)

-the recognition of Sección 22 as the sole representation of Oaxacan state education workers (as opposed to Sección 59)

Most of the budget increases will be at a lower rate than the strikers demanded, according to the common practice of barter in industrial disputes. The local's demands of the removal of Ulises Ruíz Ortíz, the incredibly unpopular state governor, and the shelving of the ISSSTE law (which intends to break up state pensions provisions) were also unsurprisingly successful.

However, the striking workers have won a great many gains in their workplace, and have once again demonstrated to their critics - who claim that their annual strike damages the education of their pupils - that industrial action is the only way to improve their working conditions. Moreover, the fractured Sección 59, whose leader today was forced to deny that its members have struck at all, now sound somewhat irrelevant in their pious proclamations about "being concerned with the children's quality of education".

Now talk moves onto the future of this unstable, poor and desperately unhappy region, and a propaganda campaign has started in earnest against Sección 22 in the wake of their forcing of the local authority's hands. One prominent local government minister told journalists that the agreement demonstrates that Sección 22 "will never have to strike again", in an attempt to jettison the almost 30 year old tradition of a yearly work stoppage.

Meanwhile the local itself is accused of corruption, with the disappearance of $5 million pesos (around £245,000) of money set aside by the union for reconstruction work in the main plaza of Ciudad de Oaxaca following the unrest of 2006.

Context of 'Early 1976: US Intelligence Finds Pakistan Has ‘Crash Program’ to Build Nuclear Bomb'

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Print Art and Revolution in Mexico

Although Mexico’s contribution to social-movement murals is well documented, much less is known about Mexico’s activist graphic arts history. Leopoldo Méndez (1902-1969) was a printmaker and activist in numerous political and artistic groups, but he reached his incandescent peak as founding member and de-facto leader of the Taller de Gráfica Popular (variously translated as Popular Graphic Arts Workshop or People’s Graphic Art Workshop, TGP). It is a resounding tragedy that the TGP, one of the most significant loci of mid-20th century social movement printmaking, is virtually unknown in the United States. This is only partly explained by the usual disability of Anglocentrism; the deeper roots have to do with academia’s discomfort with political activism and with the general lack of scholarship in this country about political printmaking. Deborah Caplow’s excellent book goes a long way toward informing us about the explosive combination of art, artists, politics, and printmaking in Mexico during the mid-1900s. More than any previous work, Caplow’s book explains Méndez in the context of his time, analyzed through the organizations in which he participated and the other artists with whom he collaborated. By Lincoln Cushing, Art Historian

Review of a book by: Deborah Caplow, Leopoldo Méndez: Revolutionary Art and the Mexican Print. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2007.

Although Mexico’s contribution to social-movement murals is well documented, much less is known about Mexico’s activist graphic arts history. Leopoldo Méndez (1902-1969) was a printmaker and activist in numerous political and artistic groups, but he reached his incandescent peak as founding member and de-facto leader of the Taller de Gráfica Popular (variously translated as Popular Graphic Arts Workshop or People’s Graphic Art Workshop, TGP). It is a resounding tragedy that the TGP, one of the most significant loci of mid-20th century social movement printmaking, is virtually unknown in the United States. This is only partly explained by the usual disability of Anglocentrism; the deeper roots have to do with academia’s discomfort with political activism and with the general lack of scholarship in this country about political printmaking. Deborah Caplow’s excellent book goes a long way toward informing us about the explosive combination of art, artists, politics, and printmaking in Mexico during the mid-1900s. More than any previous work, Caplow’s book explains Méndez in the context of his time, analyzed through the organizations in which he participated and the other artists with whom he collaborated.

Mexico has a long history of printmaking in the service of social change, largely credited to the seminal work of José Guadalupe Posada (1852-1913), who was a printmaker and social critic during the Mexican Revolution. The TGP was founded in late 1937 after the collapse of the four-year-old Liga de Escritores y Artistas Revolucionarios (LEAR, Revolutionary Writers’ and Artists’ League). It brought together a dedicated cadre of political activists who happened to express themselves as printmakers. They worked collaboratively, issued editions as both fine-art prints for raising funds and free or cheap street posters for propaganda, and engaged in strategic acts of support for progressive candidates and issues. Although they occasionally generated lithographs, screenprints, and other media, their trademark expression was through linocuts –one or two color relief prints created from hand cut linoleum mounted on blocks. Prints were generally single sheet items, although some works are quite large for this medium (35 x 90 cm) and some were printed as two sheets and pasted together into one large poster.

Read the rest of the story here as a PDF

A Contra Corriente (article originally published in this journal)

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Just in case you're interested..

Other Channels Drunvalo Melchizedek Earth Changes Tranceformers Gaia Links Gaia Theory Oceans General Truth Space and Motion World Wide Renaissance Saving Remnant Coastal Post Newspaper New Age Portals to Other Worlds Spiritual Psychic Art Alien Shift From: Links section...

Six Arrested in Front of Schwarzenegger's Office during Anti-War Protest Today!

by Dan Bacher
The California Highway Patrol arrested six anti-war activists at a demonstration opposing the war in Iraq today about 12:15 p.m. at the State Capitol near Governor Schwarzenegger's office.
VERY URGENT NEWS ADVISORY Thursday, June 26, 2008 Contact: Paulette Cuilla 916/956-8678 or Maggie Coulter 916/456-1420 **NOTE: Video of arrests available via an independent videographer** SIX ARRESTED in front of SCHWARZENEGGER'S OFFICE DURING ANTI-WAR PROTEST TODAY SACRAMENTO – Six people were arrested at a demonstration opposing the war in Iraq TODAY/THURSDAY about 12:15 p.m. at the State Capitol near Gov. Schwarzenegger's office. The California Highway Patrol charged the activists with several misdemeanors, including allegedly demonstrating without a permit and illegally entering the Capitol, and released them. The demonstrators have a July 23 court date. The arrests took place following a "Freeze-In for Peace," where about two dozen people participated in a demonstration that required them to freeze in place for five minutes. Similar "freeze-in" actions for peace are popping up all over the country. "This is absolutely linked the budget deficit mess in California. Our share of the war in Iraq is $67 billion," said Maggie Coulter, one of those arrested. "In fact, just spending the money for these officers to arrest peaceful demonstrators doing little more than what happens in a legislative hearing is also a waste of taxpayers' money," she added.

Catching up with Evo Morales in Bolivia...

Bolivian region rejects US anti-drug aid in favor of Venezuelan aid - June 25th Coca growers in Bolivia's Chapare province said Wednesday that they will suspend projects financed by the U.S. government aid agency and instead seek funding from Venezuela's socialist President Hugo Chavez. Leaders in the key coca-growing region accused the U.S. Agency for International Development, or USAID, of using its aid to undermine leftist President Evo Morales, who rose to prominence as leader of the coca growers union. "We want USAID to go. If USAID leaves, we will have aid from Venezuela, which is unconditioned and in solidarity," Chapare coca leader Julio Salazar told The Associated Press by telephone. Venezuela already is a major financial backer of Bolivia. USAID gave US$87 million in aid to Bolivia in 2007, including US$11.9 million to Chapare, mostly for road building and projects to help farmers to grow alternatives to coca. Asterio Romero, vice president of Chapare's main coca-growing group, said growers on Tuesday agreed to cancel the USAID's operations in the region and gave it until Thursday to leave. A U.S. Embassy official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to reporters, said the embassy would not comment because it has not yet been officially informed by the coca growers. Coca leaves are the main ingredient in cocaine, but they also have traditional, medicinal and religious uses among South America's Andean people. Morales has accused the aid agency of financing his opponents, including groups promoting regional autonomy from his government. Foreign Minister David Choquehuanca said Tuesday he wasn't familiar with the coca-growers' decision but said his government wants to make U.S. aid to Bolivia more "transparent." *** Bolivia denies expulsion of USAID revenge tactic he Bolivian government denied Thursday that Bolivian coca growers' decision to expel the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) is a revenge tactic, news reaching here said. The coca growers in Chapare Province of Bolivia's Cochabamba province said Wednesday they will expel USAID from Bolivian territory. Bolivian Foreign Minister David Choquehuanca told the press that USAID is not the first institution that were asked to leave the country and there is no need to worry about. "I haven't got precise information on the work USAID is performing in Chapare. It is said they were helping groups that are against the changing process, but that will be clarified later," Choquehuanca said. He said this is an independent decision made by the coca growers and it does not represent the foreign policy of the Bolivian government. "The coca growing companions have their reasons for taking the action. There is no need for too much worry. This is not a serious issue that could affect the ties between the U.S. and Bolivia," Choquehuanca said. He admitted, however, that these kind of incidents "don't help constructive ties" with the U.S. Choquehuanca said many other agreements singed with the U.S. will be implemented to the end despite the coca growers' decision. More than 85 million U.S. dollars were channeled into Bolivia in 2007 through USAID programs which began providing aid from the U.S. government in 1960. It has programs in 31 cities of Cochabamba, encouraging the growing of banana, palmetto, pineapple and papaya, alternatives to coca, which is the principal ingredient for cocaine. Source:Xinhua *** Bolivia's autonomy-seeking province declares 78.8-percent approval The Provincial Electoral Court (CDE) of Tarija in southern Bolivia said Thursday that 78.8 percent of the electors voted in favor of autonomy for the province in Sunday's referendum. According to the CDE, there were 79,424 "yes" votes against 21,396 "no" ones, with a turnout of 62 percent, news from La Paz, the administrative capital of Bolivia, reported. The gas-rich Tarija is seeking autonomy from the central government of President Evo Morales, along with the provinces of Pando, Beni and Santa Cruz governed by the opposition, moves considered by the central government as separative. In Santa Cruz, the first province to launch an autonomous referendum, 85.6 percent of voters supported its autonomy bid, while Beni registered 79.5-percent approval and Pando 81.9 percent. Bolivians will also vote on Aug. 10 to decide whether President Evo Morales, Vice President Alvaro Garcia and nine regional governors will remain in their posts.

Adopt-an-Activist - Berkeley July 15th - ROCK THE BOAT

HITTING BERKELEY JULY 15, 2008: WORLD CAN'T WAIT youth activists Rock the Boat! World Can't Wait youth organizers are heading to Berkeley, CA to make this a summer of resistance by creating such an intense orange uprising that it will reverberate across the nation! Working collectively with other young people committed to repudiating the Bush program, they will contribute to reshaping the political landscape by focusing on making breakthroughs in stopping the military recruiters and working to fire, disbar and prosecute John Yoo, infamous author of the "torture memos". These summer plans are a crucial part of forging a new generation of leaders that refuse to be bound by "the politics of the possible" and mobilizing others to bring to a halt the whole Bush program that is still setting the terms for official politics today. More on the project This summer, with your financial support, World Can't Wait youth activists will work on making clear: the Bush Regime or any other administration has no right to recruit, invade and occupy. They are wrong to torture, justify it, and lie about it. Several youth are ready to go make history. Your generous contribution today will make it happen! Jamilah Hoffman has lived in Texas her entire life though she now considers herself to be a citizen of the world. It was Hurricane Katrina and the Bush regime's criminal actions which caused her to question the role of government in the lives of its people. Jamilah asked herself at the time, "What's the point of having a government if they can't rescue people from their roofs?" After hearing an ad on Air America Radio about World Can't Wait and mobilizing for November 2, 2005, Jamilah has been active with the Houston chapter of World Can't Wait and focusing on the youth of her community.

Whether it's sleeping in the median of a street in a New Orleans housing project, fighting dehydration at the Coachella Valley Music Festival, or walking the dusty streets of Jackson, Mississippi, Jamilah wants to be active in the struggle to rid the world of the disaster of the Bush regime. She'll be attending The University of Houston this fall where she will be working on a double major in Spanish and Journalism. Meet some others of the youth activists up for adoption! When you adopt an activist you will receive personal updates and photos from the youth organizers.

Debra Sweet, Director, The World Can't Wait - Drive Out the Bush Regime

World Can't Wait - - 866.973.4463 - 305 W. Broadway #185, NY, NY 10013

Here's some simple ways you can help create a summer of resistance: Adopt-an-Activist donations: $50 sponsors a youth organizer in Berkeley, CA for one week $100 provides outreach materials for one youth activist $250 allows the youth to rent space for movie showings and meetings for six weeks $500 covers round trip airfare to send one person to Berkeley. $750 provides 20,000 full-color postcards for the fire, disbar, and prosecute John Yoo campaign $1,000 covers the cost of a passenger van to take youth to the DNC or donate your frequent flier miles or Amtrak rewards

or extend your hospitality by allowing activists to stay with you in Berkeley or Denver, whether at your primary residence or a second home e-mail

or send gift cards (major credit cards or national food chains) directly to these courageous activist to defray the cost of food and gas.

Support World Can't Wait with monthly pledges throughout the summer

Spread the word here with an easy email. Tell all your friends, family, and co-workers to join you in adopting an activist.

What the Government Knows About Cannabis and Cancer – and Isn't Telling You

by Paul Armentano

Senator Ted Kennedy is putting forward a brave face following his recent surgery but the sad reality remains. Even with successful surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy treatment, gliomas – a highly aggressive form of brain cancer that strikes approximately 10,000 Americans annually – tragically claim the lives of 75 percent of its victims within two years and virtually all within five years.

But what if there was an alternative treatment for gliomas that could selectively target the cancer while leaving healthy cells intact? And what if federal bureaucrats were aware of this treatment, but deliberately withheld this information from the public?

Sadly, the questions posed above are not entirely hypothetical. Let me explain.

In 2007, I reviewed over 150 published preclinical and clinical studies assessing the therapeutic potential of marijuana and several of its active compounds, known as cannabinoids. I summarized these numerous studies in a book, now in its third edition, entitled Emerging Clinical Applications for Cannabis and Cannabinoids: A Review of the Scientific Literature. (NORML Foundation, 2008) One chapter in this book, which summarized the findings of more than 30 separate trials and literature reviews, was dedicated to the use of cannabinoids as potential anti-cancer agents, particularly in the treatment of gliomas.

Not familiar with this scientific research? Your government is.

In fact, the first experiment documenting pot's potent anti-cancer effects took place in 1974 at the Medical College of Virginia at the behest federal bureaucrats. The results of that study, reported in an Aug. 18, 1974, Washington Post newspaper feature, were that marijuana's primary psychoactive component, THC, "slowed the growth of lung cancers, breast cancers and a virus-induced leukemia in laboratory mice, and prolonged their lives by as much as 36 percent."

Despite these favorable preliminary findings (eventually published the following year in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute), U.S. government officials refused to authorize any follow-up research until conducting a similar – though secret – preclinical trial in the mid-1990s. That study, conducted by the U.S. National Toxicology Program to the tune of $2 million, concluded that mice and rats administered high doses of THC over long periods had greater protection against malignant tumors than untreated controls.

However, rather than publicize their findings, the U.S. government shelved the results, which only became public after a draft copy of its findings were leaked to the medical journal AIDS Treatment News, which in turn forwarded the story to the national media.

In the years since the completion of the National Toxicology trial, the U.S. government has yet to authorize a single additional study examining the drug's potential anti-cancer properties. (Federal permission is necessary in order to conduct clinical research on marijuana because of its illegal status as a schedule I controlled substance.)

Fortunately, in the past 10 years scientists overseas have generously picked up where U.S. researchers so abruptly left off, reporting that cannabinoids can halt the spread of numerous cancer cells – including prostate cancer, breast cancer, lung cancer, pancreatic cancer, and brain cancer. (An excellent paper summarizing much of this research, "Cannabinoids for Cancer Treatment: Progress and Promise," appears in the January 2008 edition of the journal Cancer Research.) A 2006 patient trial published in the British Journal of Cancer even reported that the intracranial administration of THC was associated with reduced tumor cell proliferation in humans with advanced glioblastoma.

Writing earlier this year in the scientific journal Expert Review of Neurotherapeutics, Italian researchers reiterated, "(C)annabinoids have displayed a great potency in reducing glioma tumor growth. (They) appear to be selective antitumoral agents as they kill glioma cells without affecting the viability of nontransformed counterparts." Not one mainstream media outlet reported their findings. Perhaps now they'll pay better attention.

What possible advancements in the treatment of cancer may have been achieved over the past 34 years had U.S. government officials chosen to advance – rather than suppress – clinical research into the anti-cancer effects of cannabis? It's a shame we have to speculate; it's even more tragic that the families of Senator Kennedy and thousands of others must suffer while we do.

June 26, 2008

Paul Armentano [send him mail] is the senior policy analyst for NORML and the NORML Foundation in Washington, DC. He is the author of "Emerging Clinical Applications for Cannabis and Cannabinoids: A Review of the Scientific Literature" (2007, NORML Foundation).

Urgent! Leonard needs a diabetes test kit now!

You may recall that Leonard suffers from diabetes. To date, his diabetes has been managed by diet but this is difficult to do when the prison won't give Leonard a test kit by which to monitor his blood glucose level. Two weeks ago, I wrote to the warden at Lewisburg asking that Leonard be given a diabetes test kit. I even offered to purchase an approved kit if the prison cannot provide one. I haven't received a response from the warden. Leonard Peltier Update June 26th, 2008 - MEDICAL ALERT !!! Thu, 26 Jun 2008 Urgent! Leonard needs a diabetes test kit now!

[Thanks to Annette for this link]

George Orwell's famous 1938 account of the Spanish Revolution and Civil War, from his point of view as a volunteer in the POUM militia. Though the POUM were socialists, he wrote "as far as my purely personal preferences went I would have liked to join the Anarchists." His vivid descriptions of classless anarchist Barcelona following the revolution and terrorised Stalinist Barcelona after the counter-revolution are a timeless reminder that a 'revolutionary state' is a contradiction in terms. Chapter 01 Chapter 02 Chapter 03 Chapter 04 Chapter 05 Chapter 06 Chapter 07 Chapter 08 Chapter 09 Chapter 10 Chapter 11 Chapter 12 Chapter 13 Chapter 14

The Coming Catastrophe?, by David DeBatto

The finishing touches on several contingency plans for attacking Iran Global Research Editor's note We bring to the attention of our readers David DeBatto's scenario as to what might occur if one of the several contingency plans to attack Iran, with the participation of Israel and NATO, were to be carried out. While one may disagree with certain elements of detail of the author's text, the thrust of this analysis must be taken seriously. "Israel has said a strike on Iran will be "unavoidable" if the Islamic regime continues to press ahead with alleged plans for building an atom-bomb." (London Daily Telegraph, 6/11/2008) "Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany joined President Bush on Wednesday in calling for further sanctions against Iran if it does not suspend its uranium enrichment program." Mr. Bush stressed again that "all options are on the table," which would include military force. (New York Times, 6/11/2008) We are fast approaching the final six months of the Bush administration. The quagmire in Iraq is in its sixth painful year with no real end in sight and the forgotten war in Afghanistan is well into its seventh year. The "dead enders" and other armed factions are still alive and well in Iraq and the Taliban in Afghanistan again controls most of that country. Gas prices have now reached an average of $4.00 a gallon nationally and several analysts predict the price will rise to $5.00-$6.00 dollars per gallon at the pump by Labor Day. This, despite assurances by some major supporters of the decision to invade Iraq that the Iraq war "will pay for itself" (Paul Wolfowitz) or that we will see "$20.00 per barrel" oil prices if we invade Iraq (Rupert Murdoch). One thing the Pentagon routinely does (and does very well) is conduct war games. Top brass there are constantly developing strategies for conducting any number of theoretical missions based on real or perceived threats to our national security or vital interests. This was also done prior to the invasion of Iraq, but the Bush administration chose not to listen to the dire warnings about that mission given to him by Pentagon leaders, or for that matter, by his own senior intelligence officials. Nevertheless, war gaming is in full swing again right now with the bullseye just to the right of our current mess – Iran. It’s no secret that the U.S. is currently putting the finishing touches on several contingency plans for attacking Iranian nuclear and military facilities. With our ground forces stretched to the breaking point in Iraq and Afghanistan, none of the most likely scenarios involve a ground invasion. Not that this administration wouldn’t prefer to march into the seat of Shiite Islam behind a solid, moving line of M1 Abrams tanks and proclaim the country for democracy. The fact is that even the President knows we can’t pull that off any more so he and the neo-cons will have to settle for Shock and Awe Lite. If we invade Iran this year it will be done using hundreds of sorties by carrier based aircraft already stationed in the Persian Gulf and from land based aircraft located in Iraq and Qatar. They will strike the known nuclear facilities located in and around Tehran and the rest of the country as well as bases containing major units of the Iranian military, anti-aircraft installations and units of the Revolutionary Guard (a separate and potent Iranian para-military organization). Will this military action stop Iran’s efforts to develop nuclear weapons? Probably not. It will probably not even destroy all of their nuclear research facilities, the most sensitive of which are known to be underground, protected by tons of earth and reinforced concrete and steel designed to survive almost all attacks using conventional munitions. The Iranian military and Revolutionary Guard will most likely survive as well, although they will suffer significant casualties and major bases and command centers will undoubtedly be destroyed. However, since Iran has both a functioning Air Force, Navy (including submarines) and modern anti-aircraft capabilities, U.S. fighter-bombers will suffer casualties as well. This will not be a "Cake Walk" as with the U.S. led invasion of Iraq in 2003 when the Iraqi Army simply melted away and the Iraqi Air Force never even launched a single aircraft. Not even close. If the United States attacks Iran either this summer or this fall, the American people had better be prepared for a shock that may perhaps be even greater to the national psyche (and economy) than 9/11. First of all, there will be significant U.S. casualties in the initial invasion. American jets will be shot down and the American pilots who are not killed will be taken prisoner - including female pilots. Iranian Yakhonts 26, Sunburn 22 and Exocet missiles will seek out and strike U.S. naval battle groups bottled up in the narrow waters of the Persian Gulf with very deadly results. American sailors will be killed and U.S. ships will be badly damaged and perhaps sunk. We may even witness the first attack on an American Aircraft carrier since World War II. That’s just the opening act. Israel (who had thus far stayed out of the fray by letting the U.S. military do the heavy lifting) is attacked by Hezbollah in a coordinated and large scale effort. Widespread and grisly casualties effectively paralyze the nation, a notion once thought impossible. Iran’s newest ally in the region, Syria, then unleashes a barrage of over 200 Scud B, C and D missiles at Israel, each armed with VX gas. Since all of Israel is within range of these Russian built weapons, Haifa, Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and virtually all major civilian centers and several military bases are struck, often with a result of massive casualties. The Israeli Air Force orders all three squadrons of their F-16I Sufa fighter/bombers into the air with orders to bomb Tehran and as many military and nuclear bases as they can before they are either shot down or run out of fuel. It is a one way trip for some of these pilots. Their ancient homeland lies in ruins. Many have family that is already dead or dying. They do not wait for permission from Washington, DC or U.S. regional military commanders. The Israeli aircraft are carrying the majority of their country’s nuclear arsenal under their wings. Just after the first waves of U.S. bombers cross into Iranian airspace, the Iranian Navy, using shore based missiles and small, fast attack craft sinks several oil tankers in the Straits of Hormuz, sealing off the Persian Gulf and all its oil from the rest of the world. They then mine the area, making it difficult and even deadly for American minesweepers to clear the straits. Whatever is left of the Iranian Navy and Air Force harasses our Navy as it attempts minesweeping operations. More U.S casualties. The day after the invasion Wall Street (and to a lesser extent, Tokyo, London and Frankfurt) acts as it always does in an international crisis – irrational speculative and spot buying reaches fever pitch and sends the cost of oil skyrocketing. In the immediate aftermath of the U.S. invasion of Iran, the price of oil goes to $200.00 - $300.00 dollars a barrel on the open market. If the war is not resolved in a few weeks, that price could rise even higher. This will send the price of gasoline at the pump in this country to $8.00-$10.00 per gallon immediately and subsequently to even higher unthinkable levels. If that happens, this country shuts down. Most Americans are not be able to afford gas to go to work. Truckers pull their big rigs to the side of the road and simply walk away. Food, medicine and other critical products are not be brought to stores. Gas and electricity (what is left of the short supply) are too expensive for most people to afford. Children, the sick and elderly die from lack of air-conditioned homes and hospitals in the summer. Children, the sick and elderly die in the winter for lack of heat. There are food riots across the country. A barter system takes the place of currency and credit as the economy dissolves and banks close or limit withdrawals. Civil unrest builds. The police are unable to contain the violence and are themselves victims of the same crisis as the rest of the population. Civilian rule dissolves and Martial Law is declared under provisions approved under the Patriot Act. Regular U.S. Army and Marine troops patrol the streets. The federal government apparatus is moved to an unknown but secure location. The United States descends into chaos and becomes a third world country. Its time as the lone superpower is over. It doesn’t get any worse than this. Then the first Israeli bomber drops its nuclear payload on Tehran. David DeBatto is a former U.S. Army Counterintelligence Special Agent, Iraqi war veteran and co-author the "CI" series from Warner Books and the upcoming "Counter to Intelligence" from Praeger Security International. Global Research Articles by David DeBatto

George W. Bush (aka FUCKTARD) in 1999: Let States Decide Medical Marijuana Laws

Posted by Anthony Gregory at June 22, 2008 07:49 PM

I distinctly remembered that Bush said something back during his first presidential campaign about leaving medical marijuana laws up to the states. After Clinton's horrendous crackdowns in California, I recall thinking Bush's stance on this, along with his "humble" foreign policy promises, was a reason I quietly rooted for him against Gore. I imagined on civil liberties and war, as well as economics, he'd be slightly less bad. And here it is,in Washington Post article from 1999: "Campaigning in Seattle on Saturday, Bush answered questions about medical marijuana laws by saying, 'I believe each state can choose that decision as they so choose.'"

Of course, we know President Bush has raided marijuana dispensaries in violation of the 10th Amendment. While I do believe federalism is an improvement, and the correct Constitutional position on these issues, I must admit I am somewhat more skeptical of "states rights" conservatives than I used to be – they almost always end up favoring centralizing power in the end, whether we're talking about some of the anti-Union hypocrites who sought federal protection of slavery and then centralism within the Confederacy, or today's politicians who never seem to apply federalism consistently, especially once they have federal power.

(I do still believe anarchism and libertarianism generally imply decentralism, however, but libertarian decentralists tend to be much sounder all around, including on federalism, than conservative decentralists.)

Alley Cat Allies Demands Investigation of Richmond TV Station

For Immediate Release: June 25, 2008 Contact: ELIZABETH PAROWSKI, or 240-482-1984 FRANCIE ISRAELI, or 202-737-8400 ALLEY CAT ALLIES DEMANDS INVESTIGATION OF RICHMOND TV STATION Cites reports that local Fox station hired company to bulldoze outdoor cats BETHESDA – Alley Cat Allies, the nation’s advocate for stray and feral cats, today called for an investigation after eyewitnesses reported a colony of cats living in and around the property of a Richmond television station had been bulldozed. “We are told that Richmond WRLH Channel 35, and its owner, Sinclair Media Group, contracted with a local pest control company to have the cats trapped and killed, and that another company was hired to bulldoze the area where the cats lived, all over the vehement objections of local animal protection organizations,” said Becky Robinson, president of Alley Cat Allies. “We are also told that some of the cats may have been killed at the site.” “If this is true, then we call for an investigation of WRLH and Sinclair Broadcast Group. Plowing through cats with bulldozers is clear-cut animal cruelty, and should not be tolerated in civil society,” Robinson said. She noted that the cats had been living at the site for a long time, and most had been spayed or neutered and vaccinated. The colony was being cared for by local volunteers, and properties neighboring the Fox station reportedly had no concerns about the cats. Robinson also noted that that the station and its owner were offered nonlethal alternatives by several organizations, including the Richmond SPCA, but were not persuaded. “Humane cat repellants are readily available, and the station could have used any number of these to keep cats away from areas where they are not wanted,” said Robinson. “Today’s tragic situation could easily have been avoided.” “It is still unclear whether what happened today is illegal, but we will be working with the local authorities and animal organizations to ensure there is a thorough investigation,” Robinson said. “In the meantime, the cats have been frightened and displaced and their home has been destroyed.” # # # About Alley Cat Allies Alley Cat Allies is dedicated to ending the killing of cats and leading the movement for their humane care. Their web site is ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ related news article : Cats Killed Outside Local TV Station WRIC, VA - June 25, 2008

You want to be a lesser race or use your brain?

From the Alex Jones Show:


Stemmers, Part I

Published by cyrano2


“Simply one of the many biocidal glories of NAFTA…not long after American companies started plopping their most toxic operations just across the border to capitalize on such as lax Mexican environmental laws, a shocking spike in the number of babies born without a brain (anencephalic) became a legacy of the massive industrial pollution.”

By Rand Clifford


Bodies of evidence by the millions make the dumbing-down of Americans the most successful federal program of all time…. Not that a great challenge has been surmounted, nor much of a fight put up, nor any bounds of day-to-day comfort grossly exceeded; insidious is the motif. With shrewd play on human emotion—especially and always fear—people can be manipulated into consistently acting against their best interests, for the best interests of money-hung manipulators. By and large, the dumbed-down believe outrageous lies that defy all evidence if the lies are packaged and repeated appropriately. The official story of 9/11 for example, or its diabolical spawn, the war on terror—would these have any chance at all in a nation of alert and thoughtful people?

America propaganda…into the bouillabaisse of lies, stir in well-crafted bogeymen, along with heaping portions of distraction, envy, selfishness—and double-up on aversion to being different (who wants to be “the turd in the punch bowl” by controverting what we are officially supposed to believe?) In such a context, the term stemmer transcends sheer comic relief, into a realm of sobering relevance threatening to become terminal.

A man called Whizzer in the novel CASTLING, first published in 1995, identifies stemmers as a blight metastasizing among the American people under careful nurture at highest levels of government. A self-described Professor of Social Science, Whizzer deliciously merges charisma with science, employing experiments in human behavior to prove his theories.

Many people keen to America’s profound intelligence deficit cling to solid theories of a chemical dumbing-down…from fluoridation of public water supplies, to aerial spraying (chemtrails), to ubiquitous bisphenol-A plastics, to heavy metal contamination, to the enormous prevalence in our foods of neurotoxins such as MSG (in its many nefarious manifestations), and aspartame, on and on…. But, Whizzer’s extensive research supports his theory of atrophy…the simple, “use it—or lose it”. His theory of stemmers:

“It all has to do with how much of your brain is functioning,” he insists. “Scientific evidence is very clear that about all you really need to survive is a brain stem…your reptile brain.”

Whizzer’s research into stemmers grew from babies born without a brain down along the Rio Grande, such as in Brownsville, Texas. Simply one of the many biocidal glories of NAFTA…not long after American companies started plopping their most toxic operations just across the border to capitalize on such as lax Mexican environmental laws, a shocking spike in the number of babies born without a brain (anencephalic) became a legacy of the massive industrial pollution. Some of the babies born with only a brain stem are still able to live indefinitely with proper care. Enter Whizzer’s trademark comic relief: “But then again,” he says, “maybe nature’s just saying ‘Hey, you wouldn’t use the thing anyway. You’d be better off not lugging around all that waterlogged tissue.’ Yep, looks to me like the hand of evolution at work. Maybe we’re seeing the emergence of a new subspecies. Homo Sapiens Americanus Sans Cerebrum.” Note: Whizzer’s penchant for humor never fouls his fundamental science; his strict adherence to the scientific method puts to shame anything we now must categorize as “Bush science”, or, The Official Stuff. (Please see: Only One kind of science

At a huge kegger wrapping up an annual tournament involving American and Canadian softball teams, Whizzer delivers a monologue regarding stemmers that captivates the crowd (he also uses “The Party” to run a key experiment to expose major differences in “gut-reaction” aggression between Canadians, and Americans; except for the border, these people are virtual neighbors).

Basics of Whizzer’s stemmer theory, in his own words: “The Rio Grande is a sewer and toxic cauldron. But that’s not the point. The point is a lot of babies born nearby have only a brain stem, but they can survive, sometimes for years and years…. Yeah, way way back, millions of years before they invented Canadian bacon or 4X4s, our ancestors had little more than a brain stem. The reptile brain. Over the years, cerebral cortex grew on top of the stem ‘cause they started puttin’ together a lot of abstract thoughts, and figuring out how to make life less of a bugger…how to get a little comfort. They worked hell outa those brains and like a muscle the brains kept growing and growing…. And that’s why now we lug around these big bone casings we call skulls—to protect all that brain mass we inherited. Well, down at the heart of all that grey matter lies the ol’ brain stem—all anyone really needs to survive. With it you can still eat, drink, sleep, reproduce, and fight…which brings us to my theory…. The human brain has stopped evolving. The human brain is currently devolving back toward stemhood, and fast. Proliferation of consumerism, of gadgets and celebrities, spectator sports and lottery, television, mega-religion, fast food, smart bombs, drive-by violence, main stream propaganda and the coolness of being stupid, just to name a few—they’re causing the bulk of Americans to slough their brains. Who needs all that gray matter? Around here we call those obviously running on little or no more than brain stem…we call them stemmers. Basically, they’re lizards in sheep’s clothing….”

In Part II: Stemmers, and the future of The American Experiment. Bilderberg, The Council On Foreign Relations, The Trilateral Commission…with the Nation so poised for martial law to usher in the New World Order, is there even time to identify America’s intellectual nadir for public evaluation of solutions, or will “My Pet Goat” herald our oblivion after all?

Rand Clifford is a writer living in Spokane, Washington, with his wife Mary Ann, and their Chesapeake Bay retriever, Mink. Rand’s novels CASTLING, TIMING, VOICES OF VIRES, and PRIEST LAKE CATHEDRAL are published by StarChief Press:

Out of Balance: ExxonMobil's Impact on Climate Change

[Thanks to Miss Anne for this link]
Trailer for "Out of Balance: ExxonMobil's Impact on Climate Change." "Out of Balance: ExxonMobil's Impact on Climate Change" shows the influence that the largest company in the world has on governments, the media and citizens and what can be done about global warming. While the Earth's climate is pushed further out of balance by increasing use of fossil fuels, ExxonMobil continues to assert undue influence around the world—making record profits while ignoring climate science for which there has been overwhelming consensus for over ten years. "Out of Balance" does not just critique ExxonMobil, it also offers challenging, large-scale ideas for the global social changes that must take place if there's any chance of having a livable planet for future generations.

SFGate & (the new) Seth Talk about "The Hum" - contrast and compare

How to sing like a planet Scientists say the Earth is humming. Not just noise, but a deep, astonishing music. Can you hear it?

Article at SFGate I'm not usually bothered by this at all, since I use the words myself, but his 'hell' placements (4 of them, 2 in one paragraph) & especially the 'goddamn' placement at the end I found insanely out of place in an article like that.

Hello Mark ! Hello Seth ! First I want to thank you for the last newsletter - it was fantastic & witty! Today I have a question for Seth: What is that noise ? The "Hum", a worldwide phenomenon. The "Hum" is a mysterious noise heard by 1 to 10 percent of the population in certain areas, including North America, Europe, Great Britain, and Australia. The classic hum sound is comparable to the sound of a distant diesel engine idling. There have been extensive reports of the Hum in the United Kingdom since at least the early 1970s. The two best-publicized areas in the United States that have been plagued by the Hum are Taos, New Mexico, and Kokomo, Indiana. Since 2005 I hear it too. I don't suffer from but it's scary. I add a PDF for you both. Kind regards from Germany. Julian

6-16-08 3:47 PM Now Julian, as you may know as a reader of my new books, the manifestation phenomenon is one of resonance. Consciousness Units resonate with their counterparts within all of created reality, to form replicas of certain CU's and thus Reality Constructs of all types and purpose. Remember, Reality Constructs also include the molecules of air in front of you, as well as the computer screen in front of you.

With your creative Consciousness you create, then, in alliance with everything else in your environment - other humans, other computer screens, other Reality Constructs of all types - your realities. There is a particular frequency of vibration or vibratory rate that is most congenial for the manifestation of Reality Constructs by the human mentality. And in fact, when one is in direct proximity to certain portals or vortices upon your Earth, through this resonance phenomenon one is brought up to this particular frequency, allowing the manifestation phenomenon to play out in an improved fashion. The great architects of your perceived past knew of the benefits to be gained by building their temples in proximity to these Power Points. The creative energies are facilitated in these places. The search for the Divine is assisted in these places of worship placed on the Power Spots. Your Taos, New Mexico is in proximity to one such vortex. Inter-dimensional communication is facilitated there. The entire area is one in which the ancestors can be contacted quite easily by laymen and practitioner alike.

Now this Hum you describe may well be the perception by sensitive humans, of this resonance phenomenon within close proximity to these vortices. The precise frequency plus its octave variations, may be perceived by the Inner Senses as a distinct Hum. It may be felt also within the body as a not unpleasant pressure from within and from without. Different people experience this breakthrough in sensing in different ways. There is nothing mysterious about it, however. It is the "sound" of atoms/CUs assembling into Reality Constructs within proximity of Power Points of accelerated vibration.

I trust I have answered your excellent question to your satisfaction. Seth. 4:00 PM

Iowa...a glimpse at 2 humans...

Yehuda's Daily Kabbalah Tune-Up

"Where your thought is, is precisely where you are - all of yourself is there." - Baal Shem Tov [Ed. Note: Tres] Where are you today? There is not one moment greater than another. Do you get what that means? If you did, you'd have no worries at all. That's what being connected to the Light is all about. Today, when you are obsessing about what you'll do the next hour for lunch, for dinner, for life - set your obsessions aside and just enjoy the moment. Put all your thoughts into right now. Right now is bliss. Right now.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Cuba approves, makes available lung cancer vaccine to extend lives

Cuban scientists said on Tuesday the first vaccine to extend lives of lung cancer patients has been approved by Cuban authorities for use and is available in the island's hospitals. The drug, CimaVax EGF, has been shown to increase survival rates on average four to five months and much longer in some patients, they said in a news conference at Cuba's Center of Molecular Immunology. In contrast to chemotherapy, the traditional treatment for lung cancer, they said CimaVax EGF has few side effects because it is a modified protein that attacks only cancer cells. ...

Shopping for Bargains During THE HOLOCAUST

by Rocco Rococo

While U.S. corporations and their government continue to perpetrate worldwide atrocities on a scale that dwarfs — yes, dwarfs — the German abominations of WWII, most people I come across are shopping.

Deals or no deals.

That, or they’re planning to shop. Or returning some of what they’ve bought. Or going over — thinking about, talking about, etc. — what they’ve purchased. Or criticizing the shopping phenomenon. Or discussing other worthless topics such as Obama, McCain et. al., ad infinitum.

Whilst they dwell midst The Horror. Doing zero. Or merely chatting, writing about the… unspeakable. Marching in circles with placards (or the like) doesn’t count.

Do me a favor. Send me a list of all the conscious, caring people from the 30s and/or 40s who knew about what’s known as The Holocaust… who carried on business as usual. Who didn’t lift a compassionate finger. For all practical purposes didn’t. Who offered only token resistance.

I can certainly support my contention that what’s coming down today is worse — by almost any standard — than what transpired vis-a-vis the Nazis. PLEASE ask me to do so.

The problem isn’t that I’m way out there with my take of the times. Rather, it’s as if we’re all living right next door to Auschwitz, smelling the foul odors and cringing at the arrival of each train, but — ultimately — buying into the notion of American exceptionalism sufficiently to look, smell and listen the other way.

Or simply too invested in shopping.

For personal bargains.

I have a recommendation: Try bargaining with your Soul.

But remember: No Returns. No matter how warm it gets.

Rocco, who asks that most of his articles be read as prose poems, can be reached in Los Gatos, California at He would really like contact for the purposes of acting in solidarity. Publishing more books and lecturing to larger audiences aren’t answers. Not any more than are longer stints with coffee shop blah blah or efforts at formal complaint. Ditto regarding protest plays, candlelight vigils, the usual conscious works of art…. And let’s forget about having our heads bashed in as we high profile our compassion. Bootless cries and the planting of singular seeds, perhaps, should be the exception not the rule for today. Get motivated by listening to a little Carlin? He wasn’t spot-on-target about everything, but the following isn’t a bad point of departure for meaningful action: . Then again, maybe I should be happy if I wind up with enough of a quorum to __________________ on a regular basis whilst everything and everyone burns down.

Anarchist Property


“Men and women who dedicate their lives to the realization of their gifts tend the office of that communion by which we are joined to one another, to our times, to our generation, and to the race.” - Lewis Hyde, The Gift

I just finished The Gift by Lewis Hyde, a fantastic treatise of gift economies and how they relate to artists working in a materialistic world. It is a tonic and a balm to read these ideas. Creating in a world where everything is gaged according to price can be disheartening. Box office receipts, record sales, Neilsens - these are measures of popularity, not necessarily of worth or quality.

That is a simple truth - and I have no beef with popularity, I love plenty of blockbusters and want what I make to reach the largest audience possible. In the making of things, however, it is best to let the muse or genius tell you what it is and how to make it. Self-censorship can be the worst kind of all; doubting whether something will work and be accepted in the world, whether it is “marketable.”

Hyde doesn’t offer specific answers, he presents the dilemma and the problem along with chapters focused on Walt Whitman and Ezra Pound and their varied struggles and successes. The afterword, written last year, addresses the particulars of our current era, which he calls “market triumphalism,” an age where everything is pushed to become professionalized and marketed.

Some things have worth that is incapable of being priced, like quality of life or nature (as a whole, not when it is broken up into “resources”) or spirituality. Art holds power, art binds us, it has purpose and meaning beyond itself when it is wrested from a true place. “Those parts of our being that extend beyond the individual ego cannot survive unless they can be constantly articulated.”

Some of my favorite stuff:

Gifts are “anarchist property,” they are meant to be continually given away, you are not supposed to hold on to them. Since talents are gifts, they are meant to be nurtured and then given away, shared. He is not saying artists should work for free, but also that a gift is not just something to exploit. It’s a fine line, to be sure.

“Pound is right: some knowledge cannot survive abstraction, and to preserve this knowledge we must have art. The liquid light, the nous, the fecundity of nature, the feeling of the soul in ascent — only the imagination can articulate our apprehension of these things, and the imagination speaks to us in images.”

Here is the NPR interview that alerted me to the book.

Healthy lifestyle triggers genetic changes: study

WASHINGTON - Comprehensive lifestyle changes including a better diet and more exercise can lead not only to a better physique, but also to swift and dramatic changes at the genetic level, U.S. researchers said on Monday.

In a small study, the researchers tracked 30 men with low-risk prostate cancer who decided against conventional medical treatment such as surgery and radiation or hormone therapy.

The men underwent three months of major lifestyle changes, including eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes and soy products, moderate exercise such as walking for half an hour a day, and an hour of daily stress management methods such as meditation. As expected, they lost weight, lowered their blood pressure and saw other health improvements. But the researchers found more profound changes when they compared prostate biopsies taken before and after the lifestyle changes.

After the three months, the men had changes in activity in about 500 genes -- including 48 that were turned on and 453 genes that were turned off.

The activity of disease-preventing genes increased while a number of disease-promoting genes, including those involved in prostate cancer and breast cancer, shut down, according to the study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The research was led by Dr. Dean Ornish, head of the Preventive Medicine Research Institute in Sausalito, California, and a well-known author advocating lifestyle changes to improve health.

"It's an exciting finding because so often people say, 'Oh, it's all in my genes, what can I do?' Well, it turns out you may be able to do a lot," Ornish, who is also affiliated with the University of California, San Francisco, said in a telephone interview.

"'In just three months, I can change hundreds of my genes simply by changing what I eat and how I live?' That's pretty exciting," Ornish said. "The implications of our study are not limited to men with prostate cancer."

Ornish said the men avoided conventional medical treatment for prostate cancer for reasons separate from the study. But in making that decision, they allowed the researchers to look at biopsies in people with cancer before and after lifestyle changes.

"It gave us the opportunity to have an ethical reason for doing repeat biopsies in just a three-month period because they needed that anyway to look at their clinical changes (in their prostate cancer)," Ornish said.

From: re: POLLS

I've railed against the media's focus on polls rather than issues, but here I want to discuss polls themselves. A widely reported Los Angeles Times poll shows Obama with a 12-point lead over McCain, or a 15-point lead if Ralph Nader and Bob Barr are included in the poll.

My question is simple: why is there an "if" in that last sentence? Ralph Nader and Bob Barr are running for President, and they will be a choice for voters in November (as, in some states, will other candidates, like the Party for Socialism and Liberation's Gloria La Riva and a Green Party candidate, quite likely Cynthia McKinney). So why on earth, when asking voters who they will vote for, would you not include them in the list? Even if you didn't have the motive of giving voters a not-so-subtle clue that Nader and Barr and the others are not "serious" candidates, wouldn't you want to include them just to make your poll more accurate?

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Alice In Wonderland on

Two Decades After His Death, Visionary R. Buckminster Fuller Continues to Inspire Efforts for a More Sustainable Planet

New York’s Whitney Museum is opening an exhibition this week bringing together the work of architect and visionary, R. Buckminster Fuller. More than two decades after his death, Fuller continues to inspire efforts for a more sustainable planet in the twenty-first century. From his famous geodesic dome to his shunned electric car, Fuller employed design to tackle problems including homelessness and environmental degradation.


Jaime Snyder, filmmaker and co-founder of the Buckminster Fuller Institute. He is Buckminster Fuller’s grandson and studied and worked with him until his passing in 1983.

Dr. John Todd, renowned biologist and pioneer in the field of ecological design. On Monday, he was awarded the first-ever $100,000 Buckminster Fuller Challenge prize for a proposal to transform strip-mined lands in Appalachia into a self-sustaining community. He is currently a research professor at the University of Vermont.

Hunter Lovins, co-founder of the Rocky Mountain Institute and founder and director of Natural Capitalism, which promotes entrepreneurial and sustainable solutions to environmental problems.


AMY GOODMAN: With oil at over $4 a barrel, a lot of people are talking nuclear—nuclear power. John McCain has said he wants to build a hundred new power plants; Barack Obama also supports the expanded use of nuclear power, although he hasn’t laid out a detailed plan on building new plants. But there are also many who feel nuclear power is the wrong way to go.

This week, New York’s Whitney Museum is opening an exhibit bringing together the work of an architect and visionary, R. Buckminster Fuller. More than two decades after his death, Bucky Fuller continues to inspire efforts for a more sustainable planet in the twenty-first century. From his famous geodesic dome to his shunned electric car, Fuller employed design to tackle problems including homelessness and environmental degradation.

This is, well, former Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi introducing Fuller in 1968.

AMY GOODMAN: To talk about Buckminster Fuller and his legacy today, I’m joined now by three guests.

Jaime Snyder is a filmmaker, co-founder of the Buckminster Fuller Institute. He is Buckminster Fuller’s grandson. He studied and worked with him until he died in 1983.

Dr. John Todd is a renowned biologist and pioneer in the field of ecological design. On Monday, he was awarded the first-ever $100,000 Buckminster Fuller Challenge prize for a proposal to transform strip-mined lands in Appalachia into a self-sustaining community. He is currently a research professor at the University of Vermont in Burlington.

And I’m joined by Hunter Lovins. She is co-founder of the Rocky Mountain Institute and founder and director of Natural Capitalism, which promotes entrepreneurial and sustainable solutions to environmental problems.

Hunter Lovins, let’s begin with you on the significance of Buckminster Fuller.

HUNTER LOVINS: Buckminster Fuller was in many ways the founder of what we now call sustainability. He wrote about many of the issues that we’re now talking about twenty, thirty, forty years ago. And it is appropriate that we award the inaugural Buckminster Fuller Award to Dr. John Todd, who is also one of the founders of this area that we call sustainability.

AMY GOODMAN: Before we get to this remarkable project that Dr. John Todd will embark on, Jaime Snyder, give us a snapshot of your grandfather, of Buckminster’s life, if that is at all possible.

JAIME SNYDER: Well, I certainly can’t—I think I can tell you the essence of what he was concerned about easily, and that is—

AMY GOODMAN: Where was he born?

JAIME SNYDER: He was born in Milton, Massachusetts.

AMY GOODMAN: And he died at the age of…?

JAIME SNYDER: Eighty—almost eighty-eight, thirty-six hours before his wife of sixty-six years.

AMY GOODMAN: And he was an architect?

JAIME SNYDER: I don’t think—

AMY GOODMAN: Of a sort?

JAIME SNYDER: Well, others called him an architect. He considered himself a comprehensive anticipatory design scientist. He was interested in solving problems, not by trying to change people’s ways of thinking or trying to convince them to do different things. He felt if you built a bridge over a roaring gorge and it worked, people would begin to use it, because it solved a problem, effectively. And so, he concerned himself with solving and addressing himself to the vexing problems facing our society, in terms of how do we provide life support on a sustainable basis for 100 percent of humanity and how do we tackle the impediments that are facing us now.

AMY GOODMAN: His inventions? The geodesic dome, electric car—when did he invent the electric car?

JAIME SNYDER: Actually, it was not electric. It was a three-wheeled car. It was quite an outstanding car. It was in 1933 that he built it. He built three prototypes. And he was—you know, his inventions were really exploring and prototyping solving problems. So he would invent things. He didn’t then get into getting too involved with the business side of it. He kind of went on, OK, what’s the next problem that’s important to tackle?

AMY GOODMAN: And the geodesic dome?

JAIME SNYDER: And the geodesic dome.

AMY GOODMAN: What is it?

JAIME SNYDER: Well, it was invented in the mid-’50s. And again, his concern throughout his life, an overarching theme, was, how are we really going to be able to use our resources effectively when it comes to shelter, so that we can actually provide a way of providing adequate shelter for a large number of people who don’t have it?

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to turn to Buckminster Fuller himself. A major theme in his writings and speeches was integrity. He’s speaking here in 1983, just months before his death.

AMY GOODMAN: Buckminster Fuller, just months before he died. Hunter Lovins, this whole discussion about nuclear power: oil and gas, too expensive, let’s go to nuclear power. Barack Obama and John McCain agree, perhaps, on that point, though not exactly clear where Obama wants to go with this. What are your thoughts about nuclear power and where Buckminster Fuller would stand?

HUNTER LOVINS: Actually, I think Bucky and I stand in about the same place. We both liked nuclear power, remotely sited 93 million miles away will do just fine, thank you. He was a big fan of using renewable energy. And we can meet all of our energy needs, first of all, by using energy very efficiently—that’s the cheapest thing to do—second, by getting the remaining supplies that we need from the already available cost-effective renewables. And in fact, this is what’s happening.

Nuclear power, the two units outside of Tampa now, are at $17 billion and rising. New nuclear plants will probably come on at something like $12 billion. Neither McCain nor Obama have done the numbers. We simply can’t afford it. If you want very pricy energy, nuclear is a good choice.

AMY GOODMAN: So why is it being pushed?

HUNTER LOVINS: Because people—as Dale Bumpes once said, it’s better to do something big, even if it’s wrong. They think, “Oh, big. Good.” Absolutely wrong.

Again, wind last year came on—we brought on fifteen gigawatts. A gigawatt is roughly a nuclear-sized chunk of electricity. Fifteen gigawatts. If we’d have built fifteen nukes, you would have noticed. Nobody noticed. Wind is simply sweeping the market. It is either the first- or second-fastest growing energy supply, followed or led by solar photovoltaics, which are coming on equally rapidly.

In Germany now, more new jobs are being created by the renewables industry than by any other industry in Germany. If we want a vibrant economy, unleash the new energy economy. Have people fixing up buildings in our communities, putting solar on the roofs, building wind, urban turbines that are now going on the San Francisco PUC building, that will be a net-zero building. It will be producing more electricity than it needs, when the wind is blowing.

AMY GOODMAN: Hunter Lovins, if you can introduce, as you did yesterday at the ceremony, Dr. John Todd and why he has been chosen. You were on the jury of the first $100,000 Buckminster Fuller Award.

HUNTER LOVINS: It was a unanimous decision by the jury, and we received many fabulous proposals. What John is doing is setting forth to not only bioremediate the damaged coal lands in Appalachia—and there are damaged lands around the world that are in need of his technologies, which can bring back life, community, vibrancy in these areas—he is setting forth a new ecological theory of design, which is completely consonant with what Bucky was talking about.

AMY GOODMAN: That theory of design, Dr. John Todd, if you could you speak about it, what you’re planning to do, who you’re working with?

DR. JOHN TODD: Well, my plan is to take the million-plus acres of Appalachia that have been absolutely devastated by surface coal mining and try and restore those lands to create a new economy, perhaps a new kind of economy that’s never been seen before, one based on renewable energies, including the sun and the wind and biomass, and an economy that’s also based on going back to the great legacy of Appalachia, namely its biological basis. And so, my plan basically calls for restoring the soils and restoring the forests and doing these in a highly integrated way that’s never been seen before.


DR. JOHN TODD: But which will—sorry?


DR. JOHN TODD: How—well, first of all, it’s integrated, in that various kinds of economic activities will take place as the land is transformed from bare rock and polluted water over time, measured in decades, to a diverse economy that has forestry and agriculture and many other elements built into it.

AMY GOODMAN: How do you clean up the polluted land? How do you fix the strip-mined mountains, the mountaintop removals?

DR. JOHN TODD: Well, one of the first things you have to do is create soils—rich, world-class soils. And fortunately for us, over the last two or three decades around the world, scientists and others have learned how to create soils in years and decades that previously might have taken thousands of years. So these are ecological concepts, which taken in concert can result in this transformation that I’m proposing.

AMY GOODMAN: How do you create the soil?

DR. JOHN TODD: Well, you start, first of all, with the right kinds of minerals, which you apply. And these are fine rock powders that are ground up. Some of them might be even left over from mining. And then you—from there, you begin to work with various kinds of microorganisms and composting, and you also sequester or get—you take organic—you take carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere, which is a problem, and you introduce it into the soils through the medium of trees.

AMY GOODMAN: And the people of Appalachia? How do you work with them?

DR. JOHN TODD: The people of Appalachia—the plan is quite radical. It basically allows for the transformation of ownership from a large land trust into giving back ownership of the land of Appalachia to the people who are actually working on the land, the people who are working in the forest, on the farms, in the biomass plantations, in the game ranching areas, all of these things. And so, critical to my plan is giving the people of Appalachia a genuine stake and a genuine ownership in the new economy which will be created. It’s the opposite of what is there today. And our plan also is intended to involve the miners of today being part of the restorers of tomorrow. Even some of the machinery that they use to destroy mountains could be used to build soils.

AMY GOODMAN: John Todd, the first recipient of the $100,000 Buckminster Fuller prize. I want to end with Buckminster Fuller’s grandson, Jaime Snyder. In thirty seconds, how you want your grandfather to be remembered, his work carried on?

DR. JOHN TODD: Well, I remember driving with him to the airport not long before he passed on. We had a short ride in Los Angeles, and we got in the car. We’re driving down. He said, “Jaime, what’s the most important thing we can be talking about right now?” He was a person who lived his life very much in touch with the critical survivability of the planet and believed that individuals are the key to fixing those problems.

AMY GOODMAN: On that note, I want to thank you all for being with us, Jaime Snyder, Buckminster Fuller’s grandson; Dr. John Todd, professor at the University of Vermont; and Hunter Lovins, head of the Natural Capitalism Institute.

The New Age Movement, Aliens and Cosmic COINTELPRO

By Laura Knight-Jadzcyk (her blog link), check out this excerpt (3 pages, links at bottom of each page). Well, this will make a lot of seekers reconsider properties of their belief system. It sure did with mine. I'll have to re-read it a few more times even and delve into some more Castaneda, although the fictional & real-life Castaneda aspects make me not trust that man very much either. Though don't let my first lines fool you, I have no idea how truthful this is again, I have no idea what the level of disinfo or cointelpro, bs (belief influenced & censored information) or plain ignorance is in this research. Holy crap has the datastream been corrupted. This text involves channeling ("Cassiopaeans", supposedly us in the future) & negative entities feeding on us so that always raises my BS detector to the max but intriguing nonetheless. If anyone has some comments on this, I'd appreciate it. (will probably update this post once I've re-read the whole thing attentively.) Here are some quotes I liked from it: "One of the greatest accomplishments of the seers of the Conquest was a construct he called the three-phase progression. By understanding the nature of man, they were able to reach the incontestable conclusion that if seers can hold their own in facing [human] petty tyrants, they can certainly face the unknown with impunity, and then they can even stand the presence of the unknowable. The average man's reaction is to think that the order of that statement should be reversed," he went on. "A seer who can hold his own in the face of the unknown can certainly face petty tyrants. But that's not so. What destroyed the superb seers of ancient times was that assumption. We know better now. We know that nothing can temper the spirit of a warrior as much as the challenge of dealing with impossible people in positions of power. Only under those conditions can warriors acquire the sobriety and serenity to stand the pressure of the unknowable." Don Juan - Carlos Castaneda The others are all from the author Laura Knight-Jadzcyk: Evil is REAL on its own level, and the task of man is to navigate the Cosmic Maze without being defiled by the Evil therein. This is the root of Free Will. Man faces a predicament as REAL as himself: he is forced to choose - to utilize his knowledge by applying it - between the straight path which leads to Being, and the crooked paths which lead to Non-Being. Human beings are required to discern between good and evil - consciousness energy directors - at every stage of their existence in this reality. The task of the Seeker is to discover what is immutable within, and to purify and amplify it. This is the development of Will. Will is a relationship, which follows knowledge while knowledge follows the object of knowledge. In the process of "ascension," the object of knowledge is YOU. Knowledge, in and of itself, has no effects. YOU, however, the seeker, can give to knowledge what you actually are, in yourself, thereby displaying YOURSELF in knowledge by your actions in concert with your knowledge. As noted, there are many Names of God that call to us in our present state of existence. But you are not required to answer every one that calls. The fact that human beings are, in general, ignorant of their own true "essence" gives them the illusion of freedom. And the fact is, all paths come from God, and all paths Lead back to God, but again, it can be via different faces. As the Shaykh says: "Unto Allah all things come home, and he is the end of every path. However, the important thing is which divine name you will reach and to which you will come home?" And this brings us to what the Shaykh calls "perspicacity." This is the special development of the "eye of insight," or "seeing the unseen" that is crucial to the Seeker. Just as the physical eye, with the refraction of light from the Sun, can discern between the large and the small, the beautiful and the ugly, colors, the moving from the still, high and low, the ability to see the unseen is a property of an "inner light." This light reveals to the seeker things about external objects that are NOT apparent to the five senses. It reveals to its possessor when a choice that may appear to be benevolent, is a step on the path of Evil. It reveals when a choice that may appear to human estimation as negative is actually a difficult step to felicity for all involved. The Sufis tell us that some individuals have achieved such a level of "seeing" that - upon seeing a person's footprint on the ground, even if the person is not present - they are able to say whether he is following a life of felicity or wretchedness. What is evident is that those who have it possess an immutable nature of Being which is able to "see" good and evil (symbolized also by the masonic checkered game-of-life-floor?) - they do not see "only good." As the reader can easily see by now, the teachings of the current spate of New Age Gurus constitute the idea that we can exert our will and voice that exists "down here" upward to change what is "above" us in order to change our reality down here.They tell us that we can change our lives, our thinking, move our brains into harmony, or aid the "heart in opening," obtaining "harmony and balance" which is then going to "open windows in our mind, our heart, and our spirit," etc. It is claimed that we can do this basically by assuming God's point of view that "all is one, all is love." It is stated, (with some truth I should add, since good disinformation is always wrapped in a warm and fuzzy truth), that, "without Divine Unity inside of us, these windows of inspiration are rarely available." What they do NOT tell you is that the staircase to Divine Unity of Being requires a full field of awareness of Being and Non-being, and this can only be achieved by divesting oneself of the controls of Nonbeing which are, indeed, part of Being, but which seek to obviate Being in a paradoxical sleep of "Unification" which often begins by believing the lie that "knowledge protects" simply by having it. Also check this article: The Positive/Negative Realms of Higher Densities 'Think for a moment, and tell me how you would explain the contradiction between the intelligence of man the engineer and the stupidity of his systems of beliefs, or the stupidity of his contradictory behavior. Sorcerers believe that the predators have given us our systems of beliefs, our ideas of good and evil, our social mores. They are the ones who set up our hopes and expectations and dreams of success or failure. They have given us covetousness, greed and cowardice. It is the predators who make us complacent, routinary, and egomaniacal.' Don Juan - Carlos Castaneda

Bolivia: Straddles Between Popular Reform and Illegal Resistance

  • A thwarted assassination
  • The paradox of widespread poverty in resource-rich Bolivia
  • Populist Evo Morales and the new Bolivia
  • Nationalization of the energy sector
  • Autonomy and the testing of democracy
  • The uncertain future of a leftist, unified Bolivia

Two members from a rightwing Santa Cruz youth group were arrested outside the Trompillo airport on June 19 with a rifle, telescopic sight, and 300 rounds of ammunition in a purported assassination attempt on President Evo Morales. In an unprecedented and highly questionable move, the accused were freed the very next day by a Santa Cruz attorney sympathetic to their separatist cause. This potentially violent scenario is telling of the fractious nature of politics currently unfolding in Bolivia, a country plagued by extreme social inequality and political marginalization.

Three days after the alleged attempt, a referendum aimed at increasing the autonomy of the Tarija department from the national government was resoundingly approved, marking the fourth such victory for the departmental autonomy movement in Bolivia over the past two months. While Morales hopes to strengthen the central government in an effort to equitably redistribute Bolivia’s resource wealth throughout the country, his opposition, a number of departmental political leaders, aspire to increase their autonomy from the central government in order to preserve the privileged status the country’s elite have enjoyed for centuries. The stage is now set for a dramatic showdown that will undoubtedly shape the future of Bolivia, the choices offered to its citizenry, and their prospects for more meaningful lives.

Bolivia’s Natural Wealth Bolivia is rich in natural resources. According to the CIA World Factbook, the landlocked Andean country has more than 650 billion cubic meters of proven natural gas reserves, second only to Venezuela in all of South America. Bolivia exports over 10 billion cubic meters of natural gas annually, making it the sixteenth largest exporter in the world. In addition, the country is home to a variety of mineral deposits, including zinc, tin and silver. Consider also that Bolivia is a net exporter of crude petroleum, and the importance of the wealth of its vast commodity resources – real and potential – becomes abundantly clear. Possession of such valuable commodities should guarantee Bolivia prosperity on a national scale. However the reality for the majority of the population is far from this egalitarian ideal. Indeed, Bolivia is narrowly divided along geographic and ethnic boundaries by ideologies, language, race, cultural and fiscal policies that, until recently, have ensured that the majority remain impoverished while an economic and political elite few inordinately benefit.

Bolivia’s Poor Majority Bolivia’s indigenous peoples, who account for well over half of the population, have been systematically oppressed for centuries. Living primarily as subsistence farmers in the arid western mountainous regions of the country – the Andean Altiplano – Bolivia’s indigenous majority largely lacks access to basic educational, health, and economic opportunities. The Federal Research Division of the Library of Congress reports that over 80 percent of rural residents lack access to clean water and means of sanitary waste disposal. The 2007/08 UN Human Development Report ranks Bolivia languishing behind every country in the western hemisphere except for Guatemala and Haiti, with regards to life expectancy, educational opportunities, literacy, and GDP per capita. One may question how a country so blessed with natural riches can suffer such poverty.

The Rich Minority Living conditions in the eastern lowlands, home to the country’s mestizo (30 percent) and white (15 percent) populations, are dramatically different. Nestled in the corner of the Amazon, the tropical climate allows for much more arable land, evident by greater agricultural production as well as different land usage. In the east, large landholdings are not the exception but the rule. According to the United Nations Development Program, 25 million hectares of prime farmland is controlled by some 100 families. In comparison, the remaining 5 million hectares of farmland in the country are shared among 2 million campesinos. This lopsided pattern of land use is reminiscent of the hacienda system, the form of land organization utilized during the high days of Spanish colonialism.

The case of U.S. national Ronald Larson, who owns more than 140,000 acres of land in the eastern department of Santa Cruz, exemplifies the intensity uneven land distribution. The white landowner employs large numbers of indigenous farmhands, and although he is not an oppressive employer by any means, the fact that the existing land tenure system has tolerated a single individual being able to amass such extensive landholdings essentially guarantees the continuation of the rigid divide between rich and poor in Bolivia. Says one laborer: “We are not slaves, but we are not prospering. We just exist” (New York Times, American Rancher Resists Land Reform Plans in Bolivia). As long as such vast tracts of land are held by a privileged few, the potential wealth hidden in Bolivia’s soil will remain largely inaccessible to most of the population.

The large agribusinesses of the east have normally generated healthy profits, but it is what lies beneath the soil that traditionally has accentuated Bolivia’s grievous earning gap. Most of Bolivia’s natural gas and petroleum deposits are located in the wealthier and more educated eastern regions of the country, in such departments as Santa Cruz, Tarija, Pando, and Beni. Until recently, profits from the exploitation of their resources have been unfairly shared sparsely with the rest of the country through an imperfect tax system. The revenues that the energy sector has generated in the east are largely responsible for the development of the bulk of the financial markets and business services located there. As a result, this region enjoys a much higher cross-the board per capita standard of living compared to the rest of the country.

Evo Morales and Democratic Reform The marginalization of the masses is now being challenged by a populist indigenous movement. Evo Morales was elected President of Bolivia on December 18, 2005, running on the Movement for Socialism (MAS) party ticket. As president, he has introduced a new economic model aimed at the equitable redistribution of the nation’s patrimony. “Capitalismo Andino Amazónico” (Andean-Amazonian Capitalism) represents a pluralist approach to economic growth designed to give every citizen equal access to Bolivia’s literal goldmine. Vice-President Álvaro Gracia Linera explains, “Industry in Bolivia should learn to coexist with forms of self-organization and commercial development owned in particular by the people in the Andes and Amazon.” The Agencia Nodo Sur (South Node Agency) explains that Andean-Amazonian Capitalism is neither socialism nor neoliberalism, but a system catering to the contemporary realities of Bolivia which recognizes communal, state, and private forms of economic organization as being equal under the law.

One of Morales’ primary objectives as president has been to implement a new constitution that protects the rights of all citizens. To this end, the Bolivian Constituent Assembly approved a relatively moderate constitution in December 2007. Still, its approval was highly controversial. Members of the opposition party claimed that they were physically prevented from attending the proceedings by pro-government social movements, such as trade unions and coca growers; the MAS maintains that those who were absent from the vote on the constituent assembly were so in order to boycott the proceedings. Regardless, the draft constitution contains two progressive measures that, if promulgated, should quickly serve to benefit the majority of Bolivians. First, it creates the strong central government necessary to ensure the equitable division of the nation’s natural resources amongst the citizenry. Second, the proposed constitution will respect regional autonomy while protecting the rights of indigenous groups on a level equal to their mestizo counterparts, so as to promote a more pluralist national cultural identity. This arrangement is being contested by some orthodox politicians who fear that allowing indigenous groups to practice traditional customs, especially in those regions with a mixed demographic profile, will further splinter an already badly fractured political system. Other contested issues include agrarian reform and the division of natural gas profits through taxes.

Morales Makes His Move While the new constitution awaits ratification by the electorate, Morales has not waited to make his populist vision a reality. First, he has nationalized the all-important energy sector. On May 1, 2006 – International Workers Day – Morales ordered the army to reclaim gas fields, pipelines, and refineries throughout the country. He announced that “the state recovers ownership, possession and total and absolute control” of Bolivia’s vast natural gas reserves (Reuters, Bolivia’s military takes control of gas fields, May 2, 2006). The government demanded that private firms relinquish at least 51 percent of ownership to the Bolivian state energy firm, Yacimientos Petroliferos Fiscales Bolivianos (YPFB), within 6 months. Although the existing private companies and multinationals based in Bolivia were not pleased by the above moves, they for the most part accepted Morales’ terms. According to the BBC, the 10 largest private firms operating in Bolivia signed new contracts accepting the government’s terms just days before the predetermined deadline lapsed.

However the nationalization process was not as “absolute” as it may seem. Indeed, the appropriation of the energy sector falls in line with the mixed-economic model of Andean-Amazonian Capitalism. The new agreement provides for state ownership of hydrocarbons and control of their sale. Some private companies will continue to operate production facilities, and may receive up to 50 percent of the value of production, so long as they respect the stipulations of law. On June 2, 2008, Morales shifted control of the natural gas pipelines previously owned by Ashmore Energy International and Shell Gas to YPFB because the foreign companies had failed to be in compliance with government regulations.

The idea behind the new arrangement is to retain the efficiency of a private company while securing profits for state use. The dual involvement of state and private interests effectively balances productive capacity and social welfare, a healthy approach to achieving the national prosperity that is too often absent in South America. Although it may be unnecessary in the long run, a strong central government is viewed by many political scientists as being necessary for Bolivia at the present time in order to deconstruct the racial and cultural barriers which have divided society over the decades. In this regard, Morales is attempting to mediate between several competing groups so as to create a unified Bolivia. It is clear that the overall success of Bolivia takes precedence over the benefits to any particular party, regardless of its respective affiliation. As he explained during the nationalization of a processing plant formerly owned by Glencore International AG, a Swiss mining company, “Companies that respect Bolivian laws that do not steal money from the Bolivian people, will be respected. But if the companies do not respect the laws, I have no other alternative than to recover those companies” (Associated Press, Bolivia to Nationalize Mineral Plant, February 8, 2007).

The Moon Rises in Bolivia Morales’ reforms, however, have faced stiff opposition. Indeed, the constituency of his popular movement is fiercely opposed by the far more affluent mestizo minority, as the redistribution of wealth and resources threatens the power maintained by this elite class. The country’s so called “Half Moon,” where most of the opposition forces are based, is made up of the four previously mentioned hydrocarbon-producing departments situated along Bolivia’s eastern border. These departments particularly have taken issue with the aforementioned redistribution of wealth, claiming that the earnings from natural gas production, for example, should stay in the region where the resource was found.

The big political debate, then, revolves around who should have first draw on the profits from the sale of natural resources. The current hydrocarbons tax (Impuesto Directo a los Hidrocarburos), drafted in 2005, divides 12.5 percent of hydrocarbon tax revenues between the four aforementioned producing departments; 6.25 percent goes to each of the five non-producing departments; and 56.25 percent goes to the national government. Having the majority of profits going to the national government seems to be the most appropriate policy in a country sharply divided since Spanish colonial times along ethnic, economic, and political boundaries because it allows the government to address these problems with a unified approach. Indeed, critics of Bolivia’s current situation insist that a strong, transparent and democratic central government is needed to achieve meaningful reform. Morales’ administration has thus far filled this role surprisingly well, given the obstacles it has had to face and the tenacity of his political foes.

The Vote for Autonomy Leading the opposition to Morales is Ruben Costas, the prefect of Bolivia’s largest and wealthiest department, Santa Cruz. Costas spearheaded a referendum, held on May 4, 2008, calling for increased regional autonomy and voiding some of Morales’ reforms to prevent Santa Cruz’s copious wealth from being redistributed to the entire nation. Key provisions of the entirely illegal referendum on autonomy, which Costas’ side overwhelmingly won, reserves Santa Cruz the right to negotiate its own contracts with foreign oil companies and gives it control over the possession, distribution, and administration of its own land holdings. According to Bolivian federal authorities, Morales is in favor of granting some autonomy to both departments and indigenous communities, however only if this condition is pursued through a legal constitutional framework and will preserve the integrity of the nation. The May referendum in Santa Cruz clearly did not meet this criterion.

Nevertheless, pro-autonomy forces received more than 80 percent of the vote in all of the autonomy-seeking departments. Santa Cruz’s results were replicated on June 1 in the smaller departments of Pando and Beni and on June 22 in Tarija, however the legitimacy of the Tarija vote deserves even greater scrutiny than the others. There, the department prefect, Mario Cossío, refused to recognize a similarly illegal vote organized by his opposition on June 15 that selected a sub-prefect and departmental councilor. Cossío’s critics claim that his position, clearly guided by politics and not the law, further undermine the results of Tarija’s autonomy referendum.

A Growing Problem The Tarija case is characteristic of the situation being played out on a national scale. Competing political groups are attacking each other through illegal means and neither side is willing to negotiate with its respective opposition. If these counterproductive methods continue, with neither side conceding to the other, it could trigger the political disaster that has thus far been avoided. Succession was once merely a threat used by the Half Moon departments to bring attention to their cause, but it is once again gaining steam in various forms. In Tarija, for example, residents of the Gran Chaco region have expressed interest in splitting from their current department and forming a new one. The proposed “Chaco” department, which would be the nation’s 10th such political division, is indicative of the multitude of political alliances currently at play in Bolivia.

“MASismo has failed,” said the conservative Costas, in reference to Morales’ political party, “We have set out on a road towards a new republic and modern state that will be forged in the four autonomous provinces, until this becomes the most decentralized country in Latin America” ( The primary point of contention between Costas and Morales is the question of to whom autonomy should be granted. Morales wants to recognize regional, departmental, and indigenous groups in a mixed political system comparable to his diverse economic model. Meanwhile, Costas is trying to divide the country strictly along political and geographic boundaries without granting indigenous groups any special powers, a concession which he opposes because it would undermine his administrative capabilities as well as those of nation’s other prefects. Although Costas is essentially proposing a federalist society, he is careful to avoid the term because of the negative connotations it produces in Bolivia, namely its association with the Federal War of 1899, in which mestizo elites first allied with and then betrayed native Aymara indigenous groups.

The Legal System: A Political Reality Check Regardless of their successes, the aforementioned referendums were blatantly illegal. Two months before the Santa Cruz vote, the Bolivian National Electoral Court (CNE), the nation’s highest governing authority with plenary jurisdiction over elections, declared the then planned referendums unconstitutional. Admittedly, the CNE is loaded with Morales’ supporters – including its president, José Exeni – but the ruling was also backed by the Bolivian Congress and other institutional bodies. Several international organizations have also sided with the government; the OAS and the EU both chose not to send electoral monitors to oversee the referendums due to their illegality, representing a strong show of support for the CNE decision. Furthermore, the results of the referendums also have been rejected by the newly formed South American Union, UNASUR. Up to now, the U.S. has encouraged dialogue between the involved parties, but has otherwise remained mum on the issue.

MAS, using some creative mathematics, has nonetheless claimed victory in the referendums, citing a 38 percent abstention rate in Santa Cruz, 46.5 percent in Pando, 34 percent in Beni, and 35 percent in Tarija, according to the Latin Daily News. When these numbers are combined with those who voted “no” to autonomy, it can be established that the referendums have been rejected by 52 percent, 56 percent, 40 percent, and 55 percent, respectively, in terms of the absolute percentage of the electorate. In addition, MAS has brought attention to numerous omissions on voter registration lists and other irregularities designed to assist the opposition in its illegal bid for autonomy.

It is interesting to note that Costas, Cossío, and Bolivia’s other prefects were elected by popular vote, and not selected by the president as is stipulated by law. Thus, Morales could demand the resignation of the leadership of this regional opposition, but according to Dr. Martin Mendoza, a Cambridge political science professor, this would be far too controversial a step to take during these tumultuous times. Such an action could ignite the political tension into outright violence. At least one person died during the Santa Cruz referendum and many were injured there as well as in Pando and Beni during skirmishes instigated by the anti-Morales, ultra rightwing Youth League (to which the two accused in the assassination attempt belong). Instead of exercising his constitutional power to preserve his presidency, Morales has opted to leave this decision up to the people through a new referendum.

An Uncertain Future Responding to the opposition, Morales has called for another referendum aimed at gauging national confidence in the President and all of the prefects. According to this template, the contested leaders must be affirmed by at least the percentage they received when voted into office. If not, their positions will be vacated and new elections will be held. This “confidence vote” – which is legally sanctioned – is scheduled for August 10th. Some experts, including Juan Carlos Hidalgo of the Cato Institute, have claimed that the recall vote is a ploy by the opposition to delay a vote on the new constitution. Indeed, Bolivian law stipulates that only one national referendum can be held in any given year, so the August 10 vote will push back a vote on the constitution until at least 2009.

However this move by the opposition could very well backfire. Many of the opposition prefects are no longer confident that they will survive the recall vote and have thus joined forces under the Conalde (national democratic council) to voice their disagreement. On June 23, the prefects from the four aforementioned departments, along with Manfred Reyes Villa from Cochabamba, publicly rejected the upcoming referendum. None of these prefects were elected by a clear majority and their newfound hostility to the legally-sanctioned referendum is a telling sign that they fear dismissal by their constituencies in August. Instead they have called for the renewal of “national dialogue,” which although necessary to quell the worsening political turmoil, is in this case guided by self-serving interests and for that reason serves only to confound the problem.

Meanwhile, in a recent opinion poll, 55 percent of respondents approved of the president, a slight increase from April. For this reason, it is widely believed Morales will win the upcoming vote. He was elected by 53.74% of voters in 2005, an unprecedented victory in Bolivian politics, so it is unlikely that he will be ousted in August. What matters, then, is the margin by which Morales wins. A clear victory will further legitimize his government, strengthen the MAS party, and expedite the referendum ballot needed to approve the new constitution. A narrow victory, however, may serve to unify the somewhat divided opposition and give it new leverage against Morales. Even if he loses, there is no constitutional mandate to legitimize the ouster of the president in such circumstances, so Morales will likely be able to stall the impact of any vote until the next scheduled elections in January 2011, at which time it may no longer be relevant.

This analysis was prepared by COHA Research Associate Chris Sweeney


PSL Presidential Campaign on the ballot in Arkansas, Vermont, and Colorado!

Many more states to come!

The La Riva/Puryear PSL Presidential Campaign is proud to announce that we have achieved ballot status in Arkansas, Vermont and Colorado! We are also in the final stages for ballot status in Utah, Florida, New Jersey and Iowa. Over the next two months, we will be working to gain ballot access in many additional states, including Washington state, New York, Louisiana, Wisconsin, Rhode Island, California and other states. VotePSL scrollPlease make an urgently needed donation to help us get on the ballot in states across the country! The name of PSL Presidential candidate Gloria La Riva will appear on the ballot in Arkansas, Vermont, Colorado and many additional states. Workers will have the opportunity to protest the corrupt two-party electoral system of capitalism through their vote, and express support for a socialist solution to society’s ills. This tremendous accomplishment was made possible by the hard work of PSL volunteers. The La Riva/Puryear PSL presidential campaign is truly a grassroots campaign with no paid campaign workers. In order to achieve ballot status in Arkansas and Vermont, we had to collect 1,000 valid signatures of registered voters in each of these states. This meant collecting 2,000 in each state to ensure PSL would be on the ballot. Teams of volunteers traveled to these states in February, March and April. Volunteers braved snow storms and below-freezing temperatures in Vermont, and tornadoes and heavy rain in Arkansas, in order to collect petition signatures. In Arkansas, most of our petitioning was in Little Rock and nearby towns. We focused on large university campuses, like University of Arkansas-Little Rock and University of Central Arkansas. Other petitioning sites included Hendrix College, Pulaski Technical College, and in front of busy restaurants and government buildings in downtown Little Rock. The campaign was received positively in Arkansas. Many people were enthused with our message and agreed with our platform. Others were happy to sign because they felt that the electoral process should include more candidates and perspectives. A progressive student group at UCA hosted a forum which featured a speaker from the PSL’s campaign. In Vermont, most of the petitioning was done in Brattleboro and Burlington at post offices, office buildings, restaurants, food co-ops, convenience stores and at the University of Vermont. PSL presidential candidate Gloria La Riva also spoke to the Vermont Law School about the case of the Cuban Five. At another event, La Riva and PSL vice-presidential candidate Eugene Puryear addressed a public meeting called, "The socialist view of the elections." Speaking to a crowd of supporters and newcomers, the candidates touched on a variety of issues, from the Iraq war to the economy and the Democratic primaries. La Riva and Puryear contrasted the revolutionary socialist position with the positions of the imperialist candidates. We are happy that workers and students in Colorado will also have a chance to vote for the PSL campaign. The necessary number of presidential electors has been submitted to the state, completing the process for ballot access. There is an alternative Everywhere that the La Riva/Puryear PSL presidential campaign has traveled, we have been received with great enthusiasm by working-class people who agree with our message of putting people over profits. Our campaign can inspire more working-class organizing, agitation and revolutionary consciousness. People who have never even thought about socialism are subscribing to our publications and eagerly learning about the inherent contradictions of capitalism. Our volunteers have been thanked and hugged by workers who are sick of being attacked by a system that cares only about profits. They are excited to know that a militant and disciplined party is on the streets fighting for our class’s liberation everyday. We are building a true peoples’ movement. Unlike the campaigns of the Democratic and Republican candidates, who have hundreds of millions of dollars from corporations and lobbyists, the La Riva/Puryear PSL presidential campaign is a grassroots effort. Getting the PSL candidates on the ballot has been carried out on the smallest budget possible. But still there have been many expenses, including travel, supplies and petitioning materials, and the production of campaign flyers, posters, brochures and more. We need your help to continue this effort. In addition to being confirmed on the ballot in Arkansas, Vermont and Colorado, we are in the final stages of filing for ballot status in Utah, Florida, New Jersey and Iowa. Over the next two months, we will be working to gain ballot access in Washington (state), New York, Louisiana, Wisconsin, Rhode Island, California and other states. Presidential candidate La Riva also just traveled with PSL members to Iowa and Illinois where she spoke with people who were affected by the terrible floods. She helped sandbag to stop the flow of the Mississippi’s waters into people’s homes, stores and cropland, meanwhile discussing the PSL campaign and our demand for immediate aid to the people of the Midwest. Ballot access and concrete solidarity and struggle are necessary components of the PSL’s 2008 presidential campaign. Our necessary work can only continue with your assistance. 1) Please make an urgently need donation to the La Riva/Puryear PSL presidential campaign today. 2) Click this link to volunteer with the VotePSL campaign. 3) Click this link to go to and read more about the campaign. 4) Click this link to read a report about the effort to get on the ballot in Utah.

Random Seth Quote

"Intellect and feeling together make up your existence, but the fallacy is particularly in the belief that the aware mind must be analytical and above all. Imagination and emotions are the most concentrated forms of energy that you possess as physical creatures. Any strong emotion carries with it far more energy than, say, that required to send a rocket to the moon. Emotions, instead of propelling a physical rocket, for example, send thoughts from interior reality through the barrier between non-physical and physical into the “objective” world - no small feat, and one that is constantly repeated. No feeling brings you to a dead end. Each feeling is in motion and that always leads to another feeling. As it flows it alters your entire physical condition, and that interchange is meant to be consciously accepted. Your emotions will always lead you into a realization of your beliefs if you do not impede them."

Put Oil Firm Chiefs on Trial, Says Leading Climate Change Scientist

by: Ed Pilkington, The Guardian UK

photo Oil executives are sworn in prior to testifying on Capitol Hill. (Photo: Evan Vucci / AP)

Testimony to US Congress will also criticize lobbyists. "Revolutionary" policies needed to tackle crisis.

New York - James Hansen, one of the world's leading climate scientists, will today call for the chief executives of large fossil fuel companies to be put on trial for high crimes against humanity and nature, accusing them of actively spreading doubt about global warming in the same way that tobacco companies blurred the links between smoking and cancer.

Hansen will use the symbolically charged 20th anniversary of his groundbreaking speech to the US Congress - in which he was among the first to sound the alarm over the reality of global warming - to argue that radical steps need to be taken immediately if the "perfect storm" of irreversible climate change is not to become inevitable.

Speaking before Congress again, he will accuse the chief executive officers of companies such as ExxonMobil and Peabody Energy of being fully aware of the disinformation about climate change they are spreading.

In an interview with the Guardian he said: "When you are in that kind of position, as the CEO of one the primary players who have been putting out misinformation even via organisations that affect what gets into school textbooks, then I think that's a crime."

He is also considering personally targeting members of Congress who have a poor track record on climate change in the coming November elections. He will campaign to have several of them unseated. Hansen's speech to Congress on June 23 1988 is seen as a seminal moment in bringing the threat of global warming to the public's attention. At a time when most scientists were still hesitant to speak out, he said the evidence of the greenhouse gas effect was 99% certain, adding "it is time to stop waffling".

He will tell the House select committee on energy independence and global warming this afternoon that he is now 99% certain that the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere has already risen beyond the safe level.

The current concentration is 385 parts per million and is rising by 2ppm a year. Hansen, who heads Nasa's Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York, says 2009 will be a crucial year, with a new US president and talks on how to follow the Kyoto agreement.

He wants to see a moratorium on new coal-fired power plants, coupled with the creation of a huge grid of low-loss electric power lines buried under ground and spread across America, in order to give wind and solar power a chance of competing. "The new US president would have to take the initiative analogous to Kennedy's decision to go to the moon."

His sharpest words are reserved for the special interests he blames for public confusion about the nature of the global warming threat. "The problem is not political will, it's the alligator shoes - the lobbyists. It's the fact that money talks in Washington, and that democracy is not working the way it's intended to work."

A group seeking to increase pressure on international leaders is launching a campaign today called It is taking out full-page adverts in papers such as the New York Times and the Swedish Falukuriren calling for the target level of CO2 to be lowered to 350ppm. The advert has been backed by 150 signatories, including Hansen.

Biotech's Assault on Mexico: Killing Farmers with Killer Seed

by John Ross As the global food crisis escalates, Big Biotech (Monsanto, Novartis, Syngenta, Dupont-Pioneer, Dow et al) are capitalizing on the desperation of the hungry at runaway prices and rapidly diminishing reserves as a wedge to foist genetically modified (GMO) seeds on a reluctant Third World.

Latin America is a prime marketing target for Big Biotech's little darlings, often tagged "semillas asasinas" or "killer seeds" for their devastating impacts on local food stocks. Now the killer GMOs are suspected of literally provoking murder most foul.

Last October, Armando Villareal, a farm leader in the Mexican border state of Chihuahua, was gunned down after a farmers' meeting in Nuevo Casas Grandes. Villareal had been denouncing the illegal planting of GMO corn in the Mennonite-dominated municipalities of Cuauhtemoc and Naniquipa.

Chihuahua Mennonite communities originally migrated from Canada after a dispute with the Canadian government over education in the 1920s and were granted land by post-revolutionary president Alvaro Obregon. Over the decades, the Mennonites have successfully cultivated up to 60,000 hectares in the northeast of the state. Acutely insular with their signature dress (denim overalls for the men, prairie dresses and calico bonnets for the women) and speaking low-German as befits their European roots, the Mennonites have never integrated into the Mexican mainstream and their success as farmers - they have benefited from Mexican government irrigation projects - has created tensions in a region where aridity limits agricultural production for most farmers.

Hundreds of tractors lined up in a cortege at Villareal's October 15th funeral during which he was compared to another Chihuahua hero, Francisco Villa. Ironically, the slain farmers' leader who claimed to have evidence that the Mennonites' killer seeds had been smuggled in from Kansas, was not opposed to planting GMO corn which his "Aerodynamica" group hoped would save strapped farmers money on pesticides and power costs. His followers had even burnt tractors to demand that the Mexican government grant them permits to plant the transgenic corn.

Eight months later, Armando Villareal's murder remains unresolved.

The Chihuahua farm leader's assassination is not the only death of a militant Latin American campesino being linked to Big Biotech's encroachments. In Parana Brazil about the same time Villareal was gunned down in Chihuahua, Keno Mota, an activist of the Movement of Landless Farmers ("Movimento de Sem Terras" or MST), affiliated with the international poor farmers coalition Via Campesina, was drilled by security guards during an action on an illegal experimental station under cultivation by the Biotech giant Syngenta - the Syngenta plot, adjacent to Iguazu National Park, a protected nature reserve, violated Brazilian strictures as to where such "semillas asasinas" can be planted.

Unlike Mexico, Brazil has few restrictions on GMO crops and indeed under social democrat president Lula da Silva, has become the second-largest GMO soybean producer on the continent. Neighboring Argentina is Numero Uno. Big Argentinean growers, who have been blocking that southern cone nation's highways in a dispute over tariffs on soy exports for weeks, have announced intentions to surpass the United States as the largest grower of genetically modified maize in coming years. Argentinean corn is grown exclusively as feed for the gaucho nation's cattle industry, a cornerstone of its agrarian economy.

Mexico, where maiz was first domesticated 8000 years ago and where corn is at the core of culture as well as nutrition, has been more circumspect in embracing GMO seed. Under the banner of the "No Hay Pais Sin Maiz" ("we have no country without corn") campaign, farmers and environmentalists have joined hands to prevent GMO contamination of native species and the nation's Bio-Security Commission, initialed CYBOGEN, an inter-secretarial government body, declared a moratorium on the cultivation of genetically modified corn in the late 1990s.

Nonetheless, millions of tons of GMO maize pour into Mexican tariff-free each year from the U.S. under provisions of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA.)

Now, in the wake of the much-hyped global food crisis, Big Biotech is pressuring the Mexican government to permit experimental plantations of the semillas asasinas as the only solution to predicted shortages, a ploy that Monsanto and its ilk have successfully sprung on the European Union.

Although GMO corn remains officially proscribed in Europe, seven EU members will grow the modified maize this year. Agribiz combines like the British National Beef Association, insist that "all resistance to GMO crops must be abandoned" in light of the growing international food psychosis.

One motive for the industry's big push, according to Sylvia Ribero who keeps tabs on Big Biotech for the left daily La Jornada: patents for some of the major GMO seed brands like Monsanto's BT corn are set to expire in the next five years.

Buckling under the Biotech barrage, Mexico's CYBOGEN posted regulations this March for applicants who contemplate cultivation of "experimental" GMO corn. Now, with a 60-day countdown ticking, Mexican farmers could be legally planting genetically modified maiz by July.

Under ground rules issued by both the Agriculture and Environmental secretariats (SAGARPA and SAMARNAT), experimental patches of GMO corn must be limited to regions where native corn stocks will not be contaminated by windblown pollens from such fields.

But the Mennonite farmers who occupy huge tracts in Chihuahua apparently jumped the gun. Under the tutelage of Monsanto and Syngenta-Golden Harvest with the SAGARPA and the SAMARNAT turning a blind eye, the Mennonites have sewn GMO corn in at least two of their "camps" or agricultural stations (#102 and #305) in the municipality of Naniquipa where Villareal spotted the illegal patches last year. Decrying insufficient safeguards against windblown pollens, Chihuahua campesinos led by Victor Quintana of the "No Hay Pais" campaign, also affiliated with Via Campesina, and a deputy in the Mexican congress for the left-center Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), have threatened to tear out the Mennonite fields before they flower in mid-summer.

Quintana's group worries that the Mennonite "experiment" will germinate five to 25 million "granos" or kernels, each of which is a potential threat to native corn. SAGARPA regards the Mennonite "experiment" as a field test to see just how far the pollens can be spread by winds and other weather conditions.

Windblown GMO pollens are held responsible for the contamination of maiz in neighboring Sinaloa state where Greenpeace activists found traces of genetically modified corn in 96% of samples taken in nine municipalities in 2007 - Sinaloa is Mexico's top corn producing state. Aleira Lara, Greenpeace anti-GMO campaign coordinator, considers that trying to confine experimental plots to one geographical region is merely cosmetic. Last year, the Greenpeacers listed 39 instances of windblown GMO contamination in 23 countries.

Native Mexican corn was first found to have been infected by NAFTA GMO imports in 2001 when Indian campesinos in Oaxaca's Sierra of Juarez discovered that maiz from a lot introduced from Michigan and sold by a local government DICONSA grain distribution center had been inadvertently planted in the Zapotec-Chinanteco village of Calpulapan. Subsequent investigation by the National Ecology Institute, documented in a report suppressed by the Secretary of Agriculture, turned up traces of GMO contamination (some as high as 60%) in 11 out of 22 corn-growing regions in Oaxaca and Puebla. Maiz was first domesticated in the Puebla-Oaxaca altiplano eight millenniums ago.

Although the CYBOGEN has never until now licensed the production of genetically modified corn in Mexico, the semillas asasinas have almost certainly been cultivated here since the late 1990s. The International Commission for the Betterment of Corn and Wheat (CIMMYT), financed by the Rockefeller Foundation, with experimental fields in Texcoco just outside Mexico City is thought to be one source of windblown contamination. Roberto Gonzalez Barrera, the King of the Tortilla, the owner of MASECA, the world's biggest corn flour miller now a third owned by Archer Daniels Midlands, once boasted that he had thousands of hectares under GMO corn. NAFTA imports fall off DICONSA trucks on rural highways and the pollens are blown into roadside "milpas" (cornfields.)

Now GMO infestation is about to get much more acute. In a move to offset soaring prices and shrinking reserves that invariably generate social discontent, Mexican president Felipe Calderon has announced the tariff-free importation of millions of tons of basic grains (corn, wheat, soy, sorghum.) Because the Cargill Corporation, which has dominated grain distribution in Mexico ever since the government's CONASUPO system was privatized in 1999, claims it cannot separate out GMO from uncontaminated imports, the impacts on native corn and other grains will be greatly magnified - Greenpeace estimates that 60 to 70% of all corn imports are contaminated by genetically modified organisms.

John Ross is in Mexico City pounding away on "El Monstruo - Tales of Dread & Redemption In the World's Most Terrifying Urban Monster" (working title) to be published in 2009 by Nation Books. Ross himself is available at

Monday, June 23, 2008

Vienna Waits for You, Part I (First Draft)

by Rocco Rococo

Dedicated to my invaluable, loving friend from Vienna, H.H., who I trust will want to spread the word among like-minded Europeans

“Too bad but it’s the life you lead….” — Bill Joel

“What took a century to destroy can’t be rebuilt in thirty days.” — The author, paraphrasing Talleyrand, in response to the question of how long a second Congress of Vienna+ might last

Exactly fifteen years ago, there was a two-week Austrian shindig — World Conference on Human Rights — held in Vienna. (1a) By consensus 171 states adopted The Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action. All the pledges and commitments, for the most part very well-intentioned by any standards, have come to exactly nothing. Well, maybe… not enough. Not nearly enough, we can all agree to that, yes?

But that’s only to be expected when the leading state in the world (in terms of POWER) has been so disrespectful of international law, moral conventions. Yes, I know that the U.S. is not the only reason — not by far — that human rights have actually taken a nosedive since the early 90s, BUT (I’m singling it out because) it’s a country that can now be held accountable for its roguish, inhumane behavior, enabling new leaders to step up… to do the right thing, by example.

That’s partly what was done in the early 1800s when Napoleon took a dive, and the leaders of Europe — conquerors of France’s Diminutive Horror — met to make love, war and peace at the Congress of Vienna. (1b) They set the tone, and much more, for the following century, creating international peace of a sort for about 100 years, the various smaller abominations (such as the Spanish-American War, indigenous genocide, cutting off the hands of Congolese on King Leopold’s personal estate, etc.) notwithstanding. One could indeed argue that the Congress of Vienna had more impact than Napoleon in world history.

If John McCain gains an unlikely victory it’s all over in the deepest possible sense, on a truly fast track. I can’t begin to delineate what horror would come down with that scenario. But if Obama wins as expected and isn’t assassinated [a 50/50 proposition, if you ask me (2a)], the U.S. is in for the Biggest Surprise of Its Overrated Life.

And now that it appears as if Barack Obama will take over the Oval Office in Washington, D.C., there’s a terrific opportunity for Europe to have a huge rendezvous once again… to celebrate and make proper plans for the future (dis)respecting the total collapse of America the Unbeautiful. Rating and berating the U.S. appropriately.

Yes, a Second Congress of Vienna+.

A call for like-minded people in Europe to gather for the purpose of joyously jumping out of their skin in happiness in public regarding the Decline and Fall of The Latest Vicious Empire. And a call for the same individuals to put out a call to those in power to do what they can to have the worn-out dollar replaced by the euro as a standard worldwide… where it’ll count for something. For starters.

Hey, for those with little knowledge about such things, I call your attention to the fact that wanting to head off such (euro in lieu of $) trouble at the pass is one of the most significant reasons why the U.S. pushed its troops and others into Iraq in the first place. (2b) And why American leaders have been acting so abominably… forever. When economic competitiveness fails military pressure is applied. Rule of (heavy) thumb.

With an Obama victory American dreams will die… for good. All the “promise” will dissipate in short order. Things won’t get better. Oh no, they’ll get worse. Much worse than anyone can imagine.

I say that not just because he’s lying through his teeth (3a), but because all of the important issues from the dire environment to the country’s economic collapse, and from the soaring health care crises to overseas atrocities, will not be addressed. Because the worst villains on the American stage, like Big Pharma & Co. and Pentagon, Inc., are slated to make the nation more toxic than ever, increasing the intolerable gap between the rich and those who are fighting for survival as they continue to emulate Exxon. And give the shiv to the world like Chevron and Citigroup (3b).

At a time when such cannot be absorbed.

Oh yes, 20% or so of U.S. citizens will make out like bandits possibly for awhile longer, but nothing will keep the Karma of U.S. incessant support of Congo and Palestinian genocide (4) from coming home to roost like a carcinogenic chicken with rabies. A plague will finally descend on Main Street, and the taste of each and every plate of Apple Pie will die… slowly in the mouth.

Freud died of mouth cancer, yes? Yes. Back to Vienna.

Where they discovered on February 26, 1815 that Napoleon had slipped past his guards on Elba, and escaped back to France. That news put quite a damper on the wild waltzes that were dominating the royal 19th century bedrooms. (3c) And on the unbridled, masked fornication (and much else) in other rooms, locales.

By August, 1815, however, the Little Colonel was caught and banished — under stricter terms — to St. Helena, and irresistible Viennese harmonies held sway once again, panic subsiding, debauchery resumed. Once Nappy was finally firmly ensconced, in between relaxed ejaculations the diplomats wrangled over the spoils of his former empire by day, and dined on his china at night with delight.

Those gathering in Vienna to celebrate America’s Waterloo should prepare properly for the demise of the U.S. For one, they cannot afford to slip back into delusions regarding American exceptionalism… or solidarity… or compassion… or freedom. Cannot let Obama escape.

I am America’s Mortician here. And I ask my European brothers and sisters to bury Obama (as he’s burying himself) with an all-out effort to destabilize the dollar, denigrate The Arrogance… and let the chips fall where they may. I know that there will be serious fallout in Europe if that happens, and I know that the leaders of other countries are fully capable of unimaginable horrors too. But it is time to force a radical change in leading players for the world stage. The Tsar, if you will, for Guaranteed Tsuris.

It’s not time to play along with the image of another Napoleon donning the peasant garb and popular speech of a disaffected Italian patriot, and making like he’s going to meet expectations or hopes and dreams of unification. Confusing? I’m trying to paint a picture here of the disingenuous Obama, the guy who I just caught doing a commercial for the new American TV series, Army Wives. He is NOT “Just Folks.” (5)

This is just the very tip of an iceberg’s worth of thought regarding The Second Conference of Vienna+. There’s much, much more to share upon request. The fun of the nuts and bolts, for one. For a production that wouldn’t be the usual star-studded emptiness along Sir Geldorf or Bono or Sting lines. Which leads to nothing significant. Because it refuses to call a spade a spade, preferring the easy route of attacking scarecrows, straw men. PC for PR (6).

No, this shindig would not only address The American Abomination, it would call attention to the scam that is the EU, wherein leaders are logged in along class lines whilst those ruled are encouraged to self-label nationally. Making change from the ground up… unlikely. Oh, there’s a whole lot that can be covered that’s only been covered up before.

Especially when you’re putting on a watershed event. Intending to out-influence Napoleon. Like Talleyrand… who was a guest of honor (of sorts) in 1814, in spite of his previous collaboration with Horror.

In the meantime (until you contact me at, I recommend that you zone out with your own imaginative powers to …or with another version. Or with another song. Or another singer.

As long as there will be music in our lives.

As long as there will be music in our lives.

Footnotes: (1a) (1b) I almost always expect readers to check out terms, events, etc. with which they’re unfamiliar; I rarely write pieces laying out all the who, what where, etc., believing that my type of communication makes reader research, inititative an integral part of any hoped for solution that I’m focusing on. Short of that, it seems to me, all one has is the usual interesting or fascinating made-for-spectator-at-a-distance writing. (2a) The scenario that would follow such an act would be tantamount to a McCain victory. With or without fires being set nationally a la the sixties, the total psychological and physical damage to the country would far outweigh what happened with Martin Luther King’s assassination. A dream wouldn’t die, dreaming would…within the dominant culture. (2b) For an introduction to this notion, see (3a) (3b) The Citigroup scamming, as is often the case with other shiv-in-the-back shenanigans, involves federal agencies as per (3c) Waltzes at the 1814 balls were not yet the dance of later Vienna fame, but they were still quite controversial… for dancers moved as couples, not in groups, and there was a helluva lot more touching than there had been with any previous dance in modern history. The thrust of it all carried over into the decadent boudoirs. (4) That’s just to name two ongoing, longstanding examples. See for an introduction of sorts to American complicity in Africa. Keith Harmon Snow risks his life to get the information to you. Few Americans know or care about the role of Barrick Gold in the Congo. Let alone who owns major shares in the company. Kind of like the ignorance regarding the role of Rudder Finn in the Balkans. Ad infinitum. Hell, most educated souls in the U.S. would be hard pressed to tell you a single thing about the original Conference of Vienna. Or much about Vienna, for that matter. And people ask me why I don’t want my son Marcel to go to American schools! Why would any parent wish acclimatization to such arrogant complacency on their offspring? (5) As per the not “Just Folks” comment, see None of the major American political candidates are ever any good, all with deep red blood on their filthy hands. The peripheral ones like Cynthia McKinney and Ralph Nader, however, often have much to offer. The ones who will never be given the chance to plant seeds… in the electoral arena. (6) Anything but political correctness clothed in public relations. Just as the original 1814 Vienna Congress was not destined to be a congress, no parliament of equal sovereign states, certainly not any kind of a deliberate assembly of Europe, Vienna Congress #2 would be a site of many individual negotiations, a Europe without distances, wherein people on the ground, of the street, might meet… in lieu of a Central Committee or Directing Committee of Great Powers. This is about as far from the best of what’s been organized to date as a pregnant partridge from a barren, greenless pear tree. Not a gathering of egotistical and/or bootless cries directed at compassionless leaders. A real addressing of balance of power. In spite of my thrill over this whole idea, friends are urging me to drop my “save the world syndrome,” and to simply enjoy myself. What then, open an Anti-American Coffee Central somewhere on Mariahilfer Strasse?

Do Anarchists Believe in Freedom?, by Wayne Price

Fascism, Free Speech, & Self - Determination
Central to anarchism is the belief in self-organization and self-determination of the people. But there are topics on which many anarchists reject the pro-freedom position, paticularly involving free speech and also national self-determination.


Central to anarchism is the belief that people can organize themselves to efficiently meet their needs, without top-down hierarchies, coercion, or rewards and punishments. People will make mistakes, because we are imperfect, but we can learn from our mistakes and improve over time. This is the belief in freedom. Anarchism is usually presented as the most extreme form of a belief in freedom. It has often been said that anarchism is a synthesis of classical liberalism—carried to its extreme—and socialism. Another historical name for anarchism (and antistatist Marxism) is “libertarian socialism.”

Yet there is a certain amount of ambiguity among anarchists about freedom. There are topics on which some—many--anarchists reject the pro-freedom, libertarian, position. For example, concerning freedom of speech. Some anarchists have generalized from our attitude toward fascists (where we attempt to physically drive them off the streets and break up their meetings). These anarchists (and other leftists) have applied this to other groups which are non-fascist--conservatives for example--breaking up their meetings (such as assaulting the platform at Columbia University in New York City of the group which organized “Islamo-fascist Week”). Or anarchists are often against admitting Marxist-Leninists to anarchist gatherings or bookfairs—not only denying them literature tables (which may make sense at an anarchist bookfair) but questioning their right to attend. This is especially true toward the Spartacist League, a Trotskyist group which specializes in “political combat” through being obnoxious, or the Revolutionary Communist Party, a Maoist group which would shoot us if it took power. This denial of free speech has been justified by some with a revival of the 1960s theory of Herbert Marcuse of “repressive tolerance.”

Freedom under capitalism

Capitalist politicians jabber about freedom, liberty, democracy, and more freedom. Revolutionary anarchists point out that freedom under capitalism is limited and hypocritical. Mostly the bourgeois (capitalist) politicians mean the freedom to get rich, including capitalists’ “freedom” not to be bothered by unions or by pesky anti-discrimination laws or environmental regulations. Capitalists want the “liberty” to not promote African-Americans or women at work or to rent out apartments without having to modify them for the physically disabled. This is the “freedom” to oppress others (to deny others their freedom). Needless to say, what I am for is the freedom of the oppressed to be free of their oppression! Even the most democratic bourgeois state protects the rule of its capitalist minority. This minority gets rich by exploiting the working class majority of the population. The people vote for one or another candidate of the rich to rule over us for 2 or 4 to 8 years. But day-to-day we go to work and take orders from unelected bosses who serve the unelected minority which owns the economy. These capitalists decide (under the pressures of the market) whether employment should go up or down, whether prices should rise or fall, whether or not pollutants should be spewed into the atmosphere, and so on. There is “free speech,” but one side owns the printing presses, the radios, and the television, while dissenting voices can barely be heard over the roar of the mass media. That is why even a capitalist democracy is rightly called a “dictatorship of the bourgeoisie.” In its heroic period, the revolutionary bourgeoisie promised all sorts of freedoms: “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” or “liberty, equality, and fraternity,” of the U.S. and French revolutions. This meant the end of all pre-capitalist discrimination and oppression based on anything except wealth (ending oppression based on race, skin color, gender, religion, nationality, etc.). Of course, the bourgeoisie has never lived up to its protestations, as we can see by the slave-holders who made the U.S. revolution. They do not live up to it today, in the epoch of semi-monopoly capitalism and imperialist decline. Every bit of freedom which the people enjoy was won by the struggle and blood of the people, fighting against the feudal lords or against the capitalists themselves. This makes these freedoms precious to us. They are ours. We mean to hold on to them (see my chapter on “Democracy versus the State” in Price [2007]). Bourgeois democracy has benefits for the rich. It lets them settle differences between competing factions without having to shoot it out. It lets them get rid of a lousy leader (e.g. Bush) without a coup. It lets them pretend to the working people that the people control their government. It lets them coopt talented individuals from the bottom of society into the ruling strata (e.g. Obama). But bourgeois democracy also has benefits for working people. It is simply easier to live from day to day in a bourgeois democracy than under a one-party police state. Besides that, it is easier for radical minorities (such as anarchists) to organize, to develop our theory, to publish our literature, and to reach out to others, than under a police dictatorship. We can argue that the bourgeois-democratic regime is hypocritical, contradicting the principles it claims to stand on. Anarchists, socialists, communists, and revolutionaries are a small minority in the U.S. and most industrialized countries. Most working people strongly disagree with us. One of our best defenses is our appeal to traditions of free speech, democracy, and fairness. Anarchists benefit greatly by being able to make this appeal. We would be foolish to give it up. After World War II, in the anti-Communist McCarthyite Red Scare, the capitalists benefited greatly from the fact that everyone knew that the Communist Party was antidemocratic. Everyone knew that if the Communists ever came to power, they would do as they had done in Eastern Europe and set up a one-party police state. So why defend their free speech? people asked themselves. Similarly, the capitalists have previously attacked the anarchists by portraying us as bomb-throwing terrorists, a danger to everyone, and not deserving of free speech. In our own time we have seen how the fear of terrorism can be used to justify the denial of civil liberties--and that many ordinary people were willing to accept this denial out of fear of being blown up by random bombs. Therefore it is important that we do not make it easy for the state to portray anarchists as terrorists and anti-free speech. There is a line, based on the theory of “repressive tolerance,” which says that, since the bourgeoisie (also) benefits from free speech and other freedoms, once we radicals take power we will deny free speech, etc. Right now, of course, we are a minority and use free speech, freedom of the press, freedom of association, etc. But once we take over, this says, we will deny these freedoms to people we disagree with! This is not presented as the control of ACTIONS (such as our stopping counterrevolutionary armies or organized sabotage) but of SPEECH and writing. Its advocates do not apply it just to exceptional circumstances (e.g., if things should develop into a civil war, we would not allow the enemy to make propaganda behind our lines), but even to a peaceful, stable, period, on principle. As everyone knows, this is the position of the fascists as it is of the Communist Parties. However for anarchists to openly state this program is pretty stupid. By doing so, we would forfeit all the sympathy which others give us on the grounds of our right to free speech. That is aside from the sheer wrongness of these politics.

What about the “rights” of Fascists?

In a number of Western countries, the making of racist, pro-fascist, or Holocaust-denying statements are illegal. Not so in the U.S., with its First Amendment. However, most anarchists do not call on the government to suppress fascists or reactionary statements. We oppose laws limiting fascist speech. In this, we are in full agreement with free-speech civil libertarians (such as the American Civil Liberties Union). Quite simply, we do not trust the government, this bourgeois-patriarchial-racist state. Even if suppressing right wing speech were good, we would expect the state to use any speech-suppression powers to focus on suppressing left-wing speech, that is, ours. And so it has. Instead, we organize workers, students, African-Americans, and immigrants, to counterdemonstrate at fascist demonstrations, and, where possible, to bust up their forces, driving them out of the neighborhoods. Why? When people organize a Nazi outfit, they are not organizing the equivalent of a Conservative Discussion Club. They are deliberately choosing to identify with those who broke up unions and left parties, who overthrew bourgeois democracy in favor of bourgeois dictatorship, who exterminated millions of Jews and others, and who waged aggressive wars. Similarly, people who identify with the Ku Klux Klan are choosing to imitate those who covered their faces to gather at night in order to murder African-Americans and their white supporters. By calling themselves Fascists, Nazis, or Klansmen, they are declaring their readiness to engage (in the fairly short-term) in violent, extralegal, ACTIONS against others. It is like forming a chapter of the Mafia. It would be foolish for us to wait until the police catch them doing something illegal. We have every right to protect ourselves, our friends, and our communities from this threat. In 1930s Germany, the problem with the Nazis was not what they said or wrote. It was that they beat up socialists and communists selling their papers, they attacked union or socialist party meetings, they burned down union halls, and they murdered prominent leftists and even liberals. The police would not arrest them, or if they did, reactionary judges let them off with a slap on the wrist. This, not Free Speech for Fascists, was the issue, and should have been the justification for the left to unite and physically drive the Nazis from the streets (see my chapter on “The Fight Against Nazism in Germany” in Price [2007]). It is different when dealing with a real Conservative Discussion Club. For us to just call everyone on the right “fascist” and try to break up their meetings is to put ourselves in a false and vulnerable position. The issue is not really “free speech for reactionaries” any more than the right to a fair trial is “civil liberties for criminals.” We want freedom of speech for ourselves, therefore we must defend it for others, even those whom we hate. The same goes for free speech for Communists, Maoists, and orthodox Trotskyists, who would, after all, establish totalitarian states and throw us in jail, if they could. Yet attacks on their free speech, by the government or anyone else, are attacks on the whole left, on everyone. (So we should allow the Spartacists to attend our gatherings.)

The socialist-anarchist revolution must be freely self-organized

The bourgeois-democratic revolution was based on a lie. Although it may have improved life for most people, its real function was to place a minority elite in power, to rule over and plunder the mass of people. This it could not say openly. Therefore the mass struggles which carried it out had to stay within certain limits. But this was acceptable for the capitalist revolution, because its main task is to break down the barriers to the market. Once the capitalist market is freed-up to run more-or-less automatically, then capitalism can take off in its historic role of capital accumulation and industrialization. How democratic or authoritarian the government is, is not the central issue for capitalism. The revolution of the working class (and its allies among the oppressed) will be qualitatively different. It needs the truth, that all elites must be overturned and the big majority must take power. It needs people to be conscious of what they are doing. It replaces the automatic market with a democratically planned cooperative economy. All this requires awareness, consciousness, and deliberation among the mass of people. This only happens when there is open discussion and democratic decision-making. Of course, a movement can be built on lies, on obedience to leaders, and on unthinking emotionality. That is how the fascists build their movements, how the Communist Parties build theirs. In reality, it is how liberal and conservative movements are built. They do not need--they cannot tolerate--free speech and democracy within their movements. But we do! Concerning freedom of speech, “Here is a proposition: There can be no contradiction, no gulf in principle, between what we demand of this existing state, and what we propose for the society we want to replace it, a free society…. What we demand of this state does constitute our real program…. The kind of movement we build now, on a certain basis, will determine our new society, not good intentions…. Our aim by its very nature requires the mobilization of conscious masses. Without such conscious masses, our goal is impossible. Therefore we need the fullest democracy.” (Draper, 1992; pp. 165-166 & 170; Draper, the coiner of the term “socialism-from-below,” was no anarchist, but he was insightful on this topic.)

Freedom for all includes the right of national self-determination

Capitalism cannot fulfill its own bourgeois-democratic program. But the working class can, and can create a society a thousand times more democratic than Jefferson could ever dream of. We revolutionary anarchists must be the champions of every democratic freedom, every struggle against oppression, whatever its immediate relation to the class struggle as such. This includes the struggle of oppressed nations for self-determination. This is often treated as a special case, but it is not. It is just one of the democratic struggles of masses of people (that is, the workers, peasants, extreme poor, and small shopkeepers) for freedom. Almost all libertarian socialists agree that most of humanity is oppressed by imperialism, but many libertarians do not like the choices which the oppressed peoples would make. At this time in history, oppressed nations are unlikely to chose horizontalized federations of self-managed workplaces and communes. Unfortunately, the Palestinians and Iraqis, say, will (at first) chose national states with capitalist economies. Since this is not what we internationalist anarchists advocate, many anarchists decide that they cannot support the freedom of the Palestinians and Iraqis to make their own choices. These supposed libertarians then refuse to take sides between the imperialist power of the U.S. and the oppressed people of Iraq and Palestine. People of oppressed nations, like everyone else, learn to want anarchist revolution only by open debate, new experiences, and living the alternatives. They will not learn if anarchists turn our backs on them and their struggles, refuse to engage with them, and refuse to show solidarity with them against their imperialist and colonialist enemies. What we advocate is no small change in society but a total one, involving a complete transformation of popular consciousness and practice. That is why anarchists are advocates of extreme freedom and radical democracy, of popular participation in every sphere of society and in every way.

Congressional Resolution Demands Bush Act on Iran

A non-binding resolution to demand that President Bush impose "stringent inspection requirements" on trade with Iran - language that leaves the door open for a military blockade - will likely come to the House floor this week, according to sources close to Congressional leadership. The legislation, H.Con.Res.362, which is paralleled by a similar Senate bill, has gained bipartisan support rapidly, with more co-sponsors signing on by the day. Once it hits the floor, it's bound to "pass like a hot knife through butter," a staffer in House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's office told Chelsea Mozen of the nonprofit Just Foreign Policy. ...

George Carlin: American Radical, John Nichols-The Nation

I think it's the duty of the comedian to find out where the line is drawn and cross it deliberately. -- George Carlin

The last vote that George Carlin said he cast in a presidential race was for George McGovern in 1972.

When Richard Nixon, who Carlin described as a member of a sub-species of humanity, overwhelmingly defeated McGovern, the comedian gave up on the political process.

"Now, there's one thing you might have noticed I don't complain about: politicians," he explained in a routine that challenged all the premises of today's half-a-loaf reformers. "Everybody complains about politicians. Everybody says they suck. Well, where do people think these politicians come from? They don't fall out of the sky. They don't pass through a membrane from another reality. They come from American parents and American families, American homes, American schools, American churches, American businesses and American universities, and they are elected by American citizens. This is the best we can do folks. This is what we have to offer. It's what our system produces: Garbage in, garbage out. If you have selfish, ignorant citizens, you're going to get selfish, ignorant leaders. Term limits ain't going to do any good; you're just going to end up with a brand new bunch of selfish, ignorant Americans. So, maybe, maybe, maybe, it's not the politicians who suck. Maybe something else sucks around here… like, the public. Yeah, the public sucks. There's a nice campaign slogan for somebody: 'The Public Sucks. Fuck Hope.'"

Needless to say, George Carlin was not on message for 2008's "change we can believe in" election season.

His was a darker and more serious take on the crisis – and the change of consciousness, sweeping in scope and revolutionary in character, that was required to address it.

Carlin may have stopped voting in 1972. But America's most consistently savage social commentator for the best part of a half century, who has died at age 71, did not give up on politics.

In recent years, in front of audiences that were not always liberal, he tore apart the neo-conservative assault on liberty with a clarity rarely evidenced in the popular culture.

Recalling George Bush's ranting about how the endless "war on terror" is a battle for freedom, Carlin echoed James Madison's thinking with a simple question: "Well, if crime fighters fight crime and fire fighters fight fire, what do freedom fighters fight? They never mention that part to us, do they?"

Carlin gave the Christian right – and the Christian left – no quarter. "I'm completely in favor of the separation of Church and State," Carlin said. "My idea is that these two institutions screw us up enough on their own, so both of them together is certain death."

Carlin's take on the Ronald Reagan administration is the best antidote to the counterfactual romanticization of the former president – in which even Barack Obama has engaged – remains the single finest assessment of Reagan and his inner circle. While Carlin did not complain much about politicians, he made an exception with regard to the great communicator. Recorded in 1988 at the Park Theater in Union City, New Jersey, and later released as an album -- What Am I Doing in New Jersey? – his savage recollection of the then-concluding Reagan-Bush years opened with the line: "I really haven't seen this many people in one place since they took the group photograph of all the criminals and lawbreakers in the Ronald Reagan administration."

But there was no nostalgia for past fights, no resting on laurels, for this topical comedian. He read the papers, he followed the news, he asked questions – the interviews I did with Carlin over the years were more conversations than traditional Q & A's – and he turned it all into a running commentary that focused not so much on politics as on the ugly intersection of power and economics.

No one, not Obama, not Hillary Clinton and certainly not John McCain, caught the zeitgeist of the vanishing American dream so well as Carlin. "The owners of this country know the truth: It's called the American dream because you have to be asleep to believe it."

Not just aware of but steeped in the traditions of American populism – more William Jennings Bryan and Eugene Victor Debs than Bill Clinton or John Kerry – Carlin preached against the consolidation of wealth and power with a fire-and-brimstone rage that betrayed a deep moral sense that could never quite be cloaked with four-letter words.

"The real owners are the big wealthy business interests that control things and make all the important decisions. Forget the politicians, they're an irrelevancy. The politicians are put there to give you the idea that you have freedom of choice. You don't. You have no choice. You have owners. They own you. They own everything. They own all the important land. They own and control the corporations. They've long since bought and paid for the Senate, the Congress, the statehouses, the city halls. They've got the judges in their back pockets. And they own all the big media companies, so that they control just about all of the news and information you hear. They've got you by the balls. They spend billions of dollars every year lobbying – lobbying to get what they want. Well, we know what they want; they want more for themselves and less for everybody else," ranted the comedian whose routines were studied in graduate schools.

"But I'll tell you what they don't want," Carlin continued. "They don't want a population of citizens capable of critical thinking. They don't want well-informed, well-educated people capable of critical thinking. They're not interested in that. That doesn't help them. That's against their interests. They don't want people who are smart enough to sit around the kitchen table and figure out how badly they're getting fucked by a system that threw them overboard 30 fucking years ago. You know what they want? Obedient workers – people who are just smart enough to run the machines and do the paperwork but just dumb enough to passively accept all these increasingly shittier jobs with the lower pay, the longer hours, reduced benefits, the end of overtime and the vanishing pension that disappears the minute you go to collect it. And, now, they're coming for your Social Security. They want your fucking retirement money. They want it back, so they can give it to their criminal friends on Wall Street. And you know something? They'll get it. They'll get it all, sooner or later, because they own this fucking place. It's a big club, and you ain't in it. You and I are not in the big club."

Carlin did not want Americans to get involved with the system.

He wanted citizens to get angry enough to remake the system.

Carlin was a leveler of the old, old school. And no one who had so public a platform – as the first host of NBC's "Saturday Night Live," a regular on broadcast and cable televisions shows, a best-selling author and a favorite character actor in films (he was even the narrator of the American version of he provided the narrative voice for the American version of the children's show "Thomas the Tank Engine & Friends") – did more to challenge accepted wisdom regarding our political economy.

"Let's suppose we all just materialized on Earth and there was a bunch of potatoes on the ground, okay? There's just six of us. Only six humans. We come into a clearing and there's potatoes on the ground. Now, my instinct would be, let's everybody get some potatoes. "Everybody got a potato? Joey didn't get a potato! He's small, he can't hold as many potatoes. Give Joey some of your potatoes." "No, these are my potatoes!" That's the Republicans. "I collected more of them, I got a bigger pile of potatoes, they're mine. If you want some of them, you're going to have to give me something." "But look at Joey, he's only got a couple, they won't last two days." That's the fuckin' difference! And I'm more inclined to want to share and even out," he explained in an interview several years ago with the Onion.

"I understand the marketplace, but government is supposed to be here to redress the inequities of the marketplace," Carlin continued. "That's one of its functions. Not just to protect the nation, secure our security and all that shit. And not just to take care of great problems that are trans-state problems, that are national, but also to make sure that the inequalities of the marketplace are redressed by the acts of government. That's what welfare was about. There are people who really just don't have the tools, for whatever reason. Yes, there are lazy people. Yes, there are slackers. Yes, there's all of that. But there are also people who can't cut it, for any given reason, whether it's racism, or an educational opportunity, or poverty, or a fuckin' horrible home life, or a history of a horrible family life going back three generations, or whatever it is. They're crippled and they can't make it, and they deserve to rest at the commonweal. That's where my fuckin' passion lies."

Like the radicals of the early years of the 20th century, whose politics he knew and respected, Carlin understood that free-speech fights had to come first. And always pushed the limit – happily choosing an offensive word when a more polite one might have sufficed. By 1972, the year he won the first of four Grammys for best comedy album, he had developed his most famous routine: "Seven Words (You Can't Say on Television)."

That summer, at a huge outdoor show in Milwaukee, he uttered all seven of them in public – and was promptly arrested for disturbing the peace.

When a version of the routine was aired in 1973 on WBAI, the Pacifica Foundation radio station in New York,. Pacifica received a citation from the FCC. Pacifica was ordered to pay a fine for violating federal regulations prohibiting the broadcast of "obscene" language. The ensuing free-speech fight made its way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which rile 5-4 against the First Amendment to the Constitution, Pacifica and Carlin.

Amusingly, especially to the comedian, a full transcript of the routine ended up in court documents associated with the case, F.C.C. v. Pacifica Foundation, 438 U.S. 726 (1978).

"So my name is a footnote in American legal history, which I'm perversely kind of proud of," recalled Carlin. Proud enough that you can find the court records on the comedian's website:

There will, of course, be those who dismiss Carlin as a remnant of the sixties who introduced obscenity to the public discourse – just as there will be those who misread his critique of the American political and economic systems as little more than verbal nihilism. In fact, George Carlin was, like the radicals of an earlier age, an idealist – and a patriot --of a deeper sort than is encountered very often these days.

Carlin explained himself best in one of his last interviews. "There is a certain amount of righteous indignation I hold for this culture, because to get back to the real root of it, to get broader about it, my opinion that is my species--and my culture in America specifically--have let me down and betrayed me. I think this species had great, great promise, with this great upper brain that we have, and I think we squandered it on God and Mammon. And I think this culture of ours has such promise, with the promise of real, true freedom, and then everyone has been shackled by ownership and possessions and acquisition and status and power," he said. "And perhaps it's just a human weakness and an inevitable human story that these things happen. But there's disillusionment and some discontent in me about it. I don't consider myself a cynic. I think of myself as a skeptic and a realist. But I understand the word 'cynic' has more than one meaning, and I see how I could be seen as cynical. 'George, you're cynical.' Well, you know, they say if you scratch a cynic you find a disappointed idealist. And perhaps the flame still flickers a little, you know?"

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Hope in a Time of Elections , by Cindy Milstein

Movement Building at the Summer Conventions Cindy Milstein (Note: This essay is reprinted from the July–August 2008 issue of Left Turn magazine, which features a special section on the elections; it was written shortly before Obama secured the nomination.) “The world as it is, is not the world as it has to be.”(1) Long our basic aspiration, this ideal now springs from a U.S. presidential contender. And yet the gap between the change that Barack Obama promises and the transformation that we know is crucial may offer a space of possibility. For even as liberals are utilizing “hope” to captivate millions this election, embodied in Obama’s “New Politics,”(2) I would maintain that those of us who seek a nonhierarchical world are still the real carriers of utopia. Nevertheless, this election supplies us the opening to reject statism in a way that’s sensitive to the historical moment and prefigurative of a directly democratic society—but only if we mind the gap. As libertarian leftists, we view presidential contests as egregious reaffirmations of the state, and thus challenge electoralism’s connection to statecraft but also hierarchy. Yet often the best we can muster is an anti-politics, where our organizing goes into decrying those institutions and social relations we oppose. We seem to forget that presidential campaigns are one of few times when there’s widespread interest in politics; a public, political culture in this privatized, depoliticized country; and occasionally, such as now, tremendous involvement. Also, uniquely, there will be a female or black Democratic nominee for president. Engaging in a thoughtful, imaginative way with this election could allow us to hold out a reconstructive vision for those thousands who will be disappointed by the new administration, and so potentially looking for alternatives. And we just might learn something about ourselves. Lessons Learned Nearly as early as the candidates, anarchists were crafting their own campaigns, aimed specifically at the Republican and Democratic National Conventions (RNC and DNC). Much good work has gone into these plans; still, it’s helpful to briefly recall several examples during the 2000 and 2004 convention protests, in an effort to build on our achievements and limit similar missteps in 2008. Back in 2000, the conventions followed on the heels of the emergent North American branch of the global anti-capitalist movement, which for its part gave visibility to both anarchism and a horizontalist zeitgeist. This sense of potentiality carried through into the DNC and RNC, translating into lived experiments with self-organization. From convergence centers and Indymedia, to skills trainings and affinity groups, the stress was on direct democracy. We created our own (albeit temporary) counterinstitutions for collective decision-making—a precondition for any egalitarian, nonstate-based society. But the “we” was limited. To cite one example, radicals guarded spokescouncil meeting doors during the RNC to determine who could and couldn’t enter (based on who looked the part?). In turning people away, we disenfranchised those who also wanted to practice face-to-face politics, thereby undercutting our aim: power by all the people. Another case during the 2000 RNC was the March for Economic Human Rights, in which some 15,000 people, pledged to nonviolence, walked single file, flanked by “March Security Teams.” Many anti-capitalists either ignored the poor people’s march or all but taunted its supposed passivity and reformism. Militancy trumped solidarity, even as the police threatened the many at-risk marchers, from single parents and people of color, to children and people with disabilities. The 2004 conventions also saw some intriguing new experiments. First, there was the DNC-to-RNC bike ride, where anti-authoritarians pedaled between the conventions to explicitly relate the two, stopping in small towns along the way to highlight, in contrast, community self-management. This culminated in the cyclists entering New York City for a march for direct democracy, conversing with passersby about a nonelectoral politics. Then there was the “Don’t Just (Not) Vote” campaign, devised from a National Conference on Organized Resistance panel to encourage the idea that politics should be the collective self-organization that’s done 364 days, 23 hours, and 55 minutes of the year—versus the 5 minutes of voting (or not) on Election Day. At its best, this campaign spurred literature on self-governance and shifted our own stance to a proactive one, reflected in the sentiment borrowed from the Argentine assembly movement: “Our dreams will never fit in their ballot boxes.” These and other efforts, despite trying to reach a wider range of people, remained fairly insular, thereby signaling a turn to a politics of (our) everyday life—necessary but not sufficient without larger self-instituted decision-making bodies as eventual replacements for states. Both the 2000 and 2004 counterconvention organizing strove to move beyond protest, and both captured their times. Current Challenges Now we arrive at 2008. The progress here is in the long view taken by the organizers, via a string of consultas, outreach tours, and transparent action frameworks. Much appears to be a step backward, however. There seems to be little thought about accounting for—and acting in relation to—this specific moment in political history. Unconventional Action—an emerging network aiming to complement the work of local organizers in Denver (DNC, August 24–28) and the Twin Cities (RNC, September 1–4)—issued a broadsheet, for instance, that says a simple no to white supremacy and patriarchy. Sure, Obama and Clinton won’t eradicate either, but for millions the viability of a person of color or female president has profound meaning in the struggle against racism and patriarchy. Moreover, the assertion in a more recent Unconventional Action broadsheet, titled “False Hope vs. Real Change,” that the color of the president doesn’t matter, seems almost willfully designed to alienate these millions, and assure that they view anarchists as anything but allies in working through the legacy of slavery, segregation, and so on in the United States.(3) It’s not that Obama is the antidote to racism; it’s that if his self-described “improbable journey” moves many, many people, we should at least be cognizant and perhaps understanding of how a president of color might matter in certain ways, at a certain time and place. One last example here is the “Disrupt the DNC!” zine, which doesn’t even mention Obama at all, thereby signaling offense through omission.4 The trick is to meet people “where they’re at” yet boldly encourage them to venture beyond “the world that is,” toward the “world that could be.” This would involve asking ourselves a series of hard questions, including: Which convention might be best to focus our efforts on? How could we approach the conventions as an explicit campaign toward something, such as mentoring future generations of radicals, linking local and global horizontal experiments, and offering visions? And how do we relate to an election that brings relief globally from the Bush era as well as hope around the idea of a black or female president? Honest answers might lead to different conclusions about the form and content of our actions—and it’s not too late to reconsider, especially given the changing landscape. The DNC may in fact demand flexibility in our responses to questions of gender, race, and even representative “democracy,” depending on the Democratic primaries’ outcome (or fallout, or simply how various social movements choose to engage with the DNC). This relates to our motivations. For many, the conventions appear as an elixir to revive the anti-capitalist movements of the late 1990s, or for some, even the nostalgia of the 1960s. Others feel despondent about our radical milieu or disempowered, and want to cathartically shut something down. Still others claim that since “everyone” will be protesting, we should be part of the spectacle too, and even create a counterspectacle. Sadly, one can’t wish a watershed into existence; nostalgia can blind us to past mistakes—do we really want, as Denver’s “Re-create 68” argues, “to pick up where our predecessors left off”? And in an era when states and capitalism increasingly thrive on creating spectacle, adding to it only seems to linger within the same detestable logic. The Medium and the Message The lack of a substantive “why” in these motivations, despite the understandable feelings behind them, is evidenced in the lack of meaningful messaging—that is, slogans and literature that grapple with this historical moment. It’s hard to express much of anything in a tagline for a mobilization or on a banner, but one thing that’s gotten lost over the past few years appears to be the desire to try. Compare this year’s “Crash the Convention” to the “Convergence against Capitalism” slogan from early 2000. The former is an empty descriptor, mirroring an empty action: blockading the RNC, essentially an expensive party celebrating a done deal. The latter phrase, conversely, holds substance: our convergences were infused with a sensibility that allowed us to reject shifts within capitalism. So when we tried to shut down the World Trade Organization, for one, we were exposing a powerful decision-making body, even as we ourselves practiced a self-organized unity in diversity, thereby prefiguring a world without hierarchy. It is a step back that in 2008, the notion of putting out reconstructive ideas seems to be off the table. The slogans emerging so far speak volumes about the poverty of our own planning and self-understanding, and put us further out of touch with the many people embracing hope. Take such anti-convention phrases as “we’re an ungovernable mass” or we’re in the “serious business of fucking their shit up.” Shouldn’t a nonhierarchical politics assert that “we’re a self-governing society of individuated people,” or that we seriously intend to “unfuck their shit up,” humanely remaking the world, not adding to its crap? The DNC is another story; we might face not a party but a feud. Yet even here, what will our “days of resistance” be addressing, when likely there will be many outside the convention angry over why a female or black has lost, or why the so-called Democratic Party is acting undemocratically or hasn’t adequately dealt with a variety of issues such as the war. We might just want to seize this moment of disillusionment to exhibit a “festival of democracy” that doesn’t reside in one park (as is planned) but lives daily as the very body politic by which everyone self-governs. Perhaps our actions could always combine, coextensively, the best of both social critique and social reconstruction. What’s been lost in both these mass mobilizations is a messaging framework, precisely as a way to bind our aspirations to the action frameworks. Such a unifying slogan, though, should also tie the DNC and RNC together under a clear statement that captures why we’re all there, since as anti-statists we do see a relationship between the two: politics. Of course, for us this means contrasting visions of directly democratic politics to the hierarchical form of representative democracy. Just as self-evident, any such overarching tagline needs to be open enough to meet the diversity of political concerns that will and should be brought to the convergences. It should also, I’d argue, take as a jumping off point the possibility that can be gleaned from this historical moment. In this light, one especially apropos suggestion for a potential messaging framework, made by someone at the recent Unconventional East Coast Convergence in Washington, DC, is this: “Hope comes from people, not from presidents.”(5) Possible Visions? Beyond a single slogan, however, there are three areas that deserve our particular attention, and that could all provide promising, perhaps necessary ground for qualitative forms of engagement. We could queer and trouble identity. We strive to be antiracist, pro-feminist, and so on, but when confronted with a public debate on the meaning of race and gender expression, we remain largely silent. Part of the reason, I fear, is that we have little to say; that alone should be rationale enough for us to struggle with the meaning of race, racism, and antiracism, with sex, sexuality, and gender, in ways that are at once historically situated, complex, and liberatory. Even if we only self-educate, that would be enormous. But this moment could also allow us to act in critical solidarity, particularly with those people of color and female- or feminist-identified people who find meaning in this election. For regardless of who’s the Democratic nominee, many will be moved by this “historic” moment, which is historic within the U.S. context. Maybe it is precisely at the DNC that we can learn from those who feel newly empowered, and also offer them a truly empowering politics beyond electoralism and representation. We could also substantively link hope, change, and needs/desires. Obama has clearly created a space for the hope that millions already hold to visibly manifest itself. We, too, should believe in the human capacity for simultaneously aspiring toward higher ideals while meeting needs—but also connect it to a revolutionary tradition. For unlike the alleged either-or of “Obama as change” or “Hillary as realpolitik,” it is essential to continually couple social transformation with qualitative improvements in daily life. Obama has done far more than we have of late to nurture people’s yearning for hope, yet he won’t fulfill that promise. And that’s exactly why we should assume that the desires for hope, change, and dealing with survival issues are genuine, and that we have much more to offer by pointing to the ways that today’s horizontalist movements are attempting to institute social freedom. We shouldn’t circumscribe hope; rather, we should work to expand its horizon, and the horizons of those who long for change. Finally, we could encourage self-organization and participation while radicalizing the newly politicized. This focus builds on, though contrasts Obama’s community organizing style of top-down politics, which nonetheless has raised expectations. Obama comes across “as a nonhierarchical, collaborative leader who can inspire autonomous individuals to cooperate for the sake of common concerns.”(6) He speaks of the influence of the civil rights and New Left movements. We can scoff at Obama’s organization, or learn from its results and go one better. Even Obama understands that once activated, the desire to self-organize can coalesce into social movements that contest the very institutions or individuals that gave rise to the impulse in the first place. And that’s our task. To pick up where Obama’s liberalism leaves off—encouraging, mentoring, and providing mutual aid to those who soon may want to collectively struggle for a world without messiahs or masters. But this also means that we’ll need to be good community organizers, rather than merely good at countercultural projects. We could, say, counter Obama’s summer 2008 Organizing Fellows program—meant to develop “a new generation of leadership that believes . . . real change comes from the ground up”7—with our own summer 2009 Organizing Radicals camps, promoting them at the conventions, or do our own door-to-door campaigns for everything from neighborhood assemblies to noncommodified food security alternatives. In terms of the DNC and RNC, let’s turn the tables on the spectacle. Rather than playing into it, let’s spend our time conversing with and organizing events for newly politicized nonradicals, to both listen and educate, laying the groundwork for the day when they, too, will want to break with the spectacle. This would imply that we blanket the convention cities with propaganda and projects that speak to our ethics, rather than merely our critiques. So let a million visionary flyers rain on the conventions’ parade! Let gigantic posters and “bike-in” movies depicting our dreams overlay the high-rises! If we do blockade, let’s use the action to wrap the entire convention center in banners—facing outward, with us in between—calling for face-to-face assemblies, on the spot, thereby utilizing our time together to do long-term strategizing and movement building, while publicly illustrating self-governance! Let’s show that the world as it is, already contains glimpses of the world that ought to be! Cindy ( is an Institute for Anarchist Studies board member, co-organizer of the annual Renewing the Anarchist Tradition conference, and a collective member of Black Sheep Books and Free Society in Montpelier, VT. For her essays related to direct democracy and anarchism, see; for a longer, audiovisual version of this essay, see Notes: 1. Barack Obama, “Join,” Super Bowl ad, February 3, 2008. 2. David Brooks, “A Defining Moment,” New York Times, March 4, 2008. 3. Also, as someone pointed out to me, this same broadcast has the word “bullshit” printed over a photo of Obama’s face; see 4. This zine (available at also illustrates one of the problems with ignoring Obama. For better or worse, he inspires tens of thousands to believe that “yes, we can,” again echoing the do-it-ourselves sensibility, albeit stripped of its utopian thrust, that anarchists and others on the libertarian Left have long advocated and practiced. Rather than meeting this circumscribed “yes” with our own many expansive affirmations, as the Zapatista movement should have taught us, this zine as well as the DNC and RNC direct actions all seem to be only capable of loudly proclaiming “no.” For example, there’s a “We Vote No!” direct action planned by anti-authoritarians for August 26 at the DNC, but it would be lovely if we “voted” yes in this direct action instead to everything from self-organization and mutual aid, to a free and ecological society, and so on—as a way to start from where people are at and yet hopefully radicalize the content of their yeses. 5. Thanks here to the participant at the convergence for this intriguing slogan idea, which emerged during a “messaging caucus.” For info on the recent DC organizing weekend, see 6. Brooks, “A Defining Moment.” 7. As described on the Obama Web site, available at

Mentula and Verpa

Obscenis, peream, Priape, si non uti me pudet improbisque verbis sed cum tu posito deus pudore ostendas mihi coleos patentes cum cunno mihi mentula est vocanda ("I'd rather die than use obscene and improper words; but when you, as a god, appear with your balls hanging out, it is appropriate for me to speak of cunts and cocks.") Verpa is also a basic Latin obscenity for "penis". It appears less frequently in Classical Latin, but it does appear in Catullus 47: vos Veraniolo meo et Fabullo verpus praeposuit Priapus ille? ("Did that dick, that Priapus, prefer you to my dear little Veranius (erection) and Fabullus?")

Prison orchestras offer hope in Venezuela

By Simon Romero Sunday, June 22, 2008 LOS TEQUES, Venezuela: When Nurul Asyiqin Ahmad was delivered seven months ago to her cell at the National Institute for Feminine Orientation, a prison perched on a hill in this city of slums on the outskirts of Caracas, learning how to play Beethoven was one of the last things on her mind. "The despair gripped me, like a nightmare had become my life," said Ahmad, 26, a shy law student from Malaysia who claims she is innocent of charges of trying to smuggle cocaine on a flight from Caracas to Paris. "But when the music begins, I am lifted away from this place." Ahmad plays violin and sings in the prison's orchestra. In a project extending Venezuela's renowned system of youth orchestras to some of the most hardened prisons in the country, Ahmad and hundreds of other prisoners are learning a repertoire that includes Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, folk songs from the Venezuelan plains and Mercedes Sosa's classic lullaby "Duerme Negrito." The budding musicians include murderers, kidnappers, thieves and, here at the women's prison, dozens of "narcomulas," or drug mules, as small-scale drug smugglers are called. The project, which began a year ago, is expanding this year to five prisons in Venezuela from three. "This is our attempt to achieve the humanization of prison life," said Kleiberth Lenin Mora, 32, a lawyer who helped create the prison orchestras, modeling them on the system that teaches tens of thousands of poor children in Venezuela classical music. "We start with the simple idea that performing music lifts the human being to another level." Few nations have prison systems as much in need of humanizing as Venezuela, where 498 inmates out of a total population of 21,201 were murdered in 2007, according to the Venezuelan Prison Observatory, a group that monitors prison violence. The women's prison, the scene of gang fights and hunger strikes by inmates in recent months, is not immune to this violence. But it is not all bleak. Inmates have free access to the Internet. They can pay to use cellphones. A dispensary sells soft drinks and snack food. And now the prison, known as INOF, for its Spanish acronym, has its orchestra, which most of the more than 300 women incarcerated here opt to avoid. But the 40 or so who have joined find themselves enmeshed in an experience unexpected in their lives in or out of prison. "Before this my music was reggaetón," said Irma González, 29, a street vendor serving a six-year sentence for robbery, referring to the fusion of reggae, hip hop and Latin pop that emanates from Venezuelan slums. Now she plays the double bass. Her proudest moment, she said, was when her four children, ages 14, 13, 10 and 9, recently came here to watch her play. "When they applauded me, I finally felt useful in this life," González said, flashing an infectious smile that included a tongue-piercing offering a hint of past mischief. Like other participants, she hopes to reduce her term by playing in the orchestra, which judges may consider the equivalent of hours of study. Officials say it is too early to tell whether the project will improve overall conditions here and at the two male prisons where it started, in the Andean states of Mérida and Táchira. No stars have emerged like Gustavo Dudamel, the 27-year-old phenom from the youth orchestra system named as the next music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. For now, the project, which receives $3 million from President Hugo Chávez's government and the Inter-American Development Bank, takes baby steps. It staged its first public performance last month in Teresa Carreño Theater in Caracas. And it focuses on requiring its participants to hew to a few specific rules. For instance, no one can threaten the professors, many of whom are drawn from the youth orchestra system. Everyone must speak clearly during discussions in the daily practice sessions. Everyone must stand up straight and take care of their instruments. Smoking and chewing tobacco are not allowed. The orchestra at INOF (or "enough") is one of the most cosmopolitan in Venezuela. Foreigners arrested on drug smuggling charges comprise much of prison population. Women from Colombia, Spain, Malaysia and the Netherlands play instruments or sing in the chorus alongside Venezuelans. "I drain away by bad thoughts in the orchestra," said Joanny Aldana, 29, a viola player serving a nine-year sentence for kidnapping and auto theft. Like some of the other inmates, she is imprisoned here with her child, a 2-year-old daughter. Still, she despairs sometimes. "There's the pain of my children, of having destroyed my life, my youth," she said. Perhaps no amount of music can make up for such loss. Perhaps that explains the fervor with which some of the women play their instruments or sing. It is not uncommon to see one of them shedding a tear when a certain note is struck. For Yusveisy Torrealba, 18, that moment comes when the orchestra's chorus sings a few words from "Caramba," the folk song by the Venezuelan composer Otilio Galíndez performed with the cuatro, a four-string guitar. Torrealba, caught in April taking cocaine on a flight to Orlando, looks no older than 16. In her soft voice, she sang this refrain for a visitor one recent afternoon: "Caramba, my love, caramba / The things we have lost / The gossip I could hear / Between the rocks of the river." "Caramba," she repeated quietly, as if contemplating how much time remained in an eight-year sentence that began last month. "The only thing keeping me together is this music." Sandra La Fuente contributed reporting.

Venezuela 'taking control' of mines

CARACAS, Venezuela Venezuela's environment minister said that the government will put national interests first in the mining sector and forbid mining in a biodiverse forest reserve that is home to two of the country's largest gold concessions. Minister Yubiri Ortega did not give a direct answer when asked Saturday if the government is planning to nationalize the mines. But she said Venezuela is "taking control" in order to "save and appropriate what is ours." ...

- The Grey Video -

In 2004, Danger Mouse released The Grey Album which layered the rapper Jay-Z’s The Black Album on top of The Beatles’ White Album. Black and white makes grey.

Now, on YouTube, you can find The Grey Video, which experimentally brings Danger Mouse’s concept to video. The video, created by two Swiss directors, meshes clips from The Beatles’ film A Hard Day’s Night with footage of Jay-Z performing. Watch it below, and get more info on The Grey Album here. Also check our collection of MP3 Music Blogs.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Past, Present and Future Changes

By Patricia Grogg HAVANA, Jun 20 (IPS) - Cuba is paradoxically the same, yet not the same, under President Raúl Castro, who said he would change "everything that should be changed" to perfect the socialist path taken by the revolution nearly half a century ago. While most of the expected or predicted transformations have yet to materialise, the stage is being set by ending some of the prohibitions that particularly irritated a society educated for decades to be egalitarian. Digna María likes to say that she now feels like other Latin Americans, because she can have a mobile phone, spend a night at a five-star hotel, or buy a computer. "I may never be able to afford to do any of those things, but I have been given back my right to do them," she said with conviction. She disagrees with those who argue that lifting the restrictions preventing Cubans from staying at hotels reserved for international tourists was merely a "cosmetic" change. "I could never understand the reason for that ban," Digna María told IPS, on condition that her surname be withheld. Her remarks reflect the reception of some of these unaccustomed novelties in Cuban society, where hope is mingled with uncertainty and contradictions, together with frustration in some sectors aspiring to more radical changes, either for or against socialism. Government decisions taken in March and April granted Cubans access to mobile phones, computers, motorcycles, DVD players and other household appliances, sold in the network of shops accepting only hard currency. "They were particularly irksome prohibitions. The fact that Raúl (Castro) eliminated them was understood by many people here as a liberalisation or a vindication," a veteran of the rebel army commanded by Fidel Castro which took power on Jan. 1, 1959 told IPS from Santiago de Cuba, 847 kilometres east of Havana. FUTURE CHANGES Many people are hoping that other restrictions will soon be cancelled, such as limitations on foreign travel, the right to own homes and cars, and broader freedom for self-employment, which has been permitted for an increasingly narrow range of occupations and subject to rules that sometimes make it impracticable, according to economic sources. Cubans wishing to travel for personal reasons need a letter of invitation from a friend or relative abroad, and an exit permit from the authorities, among other requirements that hinder and, in some cases, prevent them from making the trip. In April there were persistent rumours that a reform measure eliminating both these restrictions was about to enter into force, although it was said to exclude doctors, military personnel, and recent university graduates who had not completed their obligatory two years of social service. According to sources knowledgeable on migration issues, these exceptions have complicated the adoption of the new measures. But the very fact that flexibilisation of rules that have been in force for decades is being discussed is seen as another important change. "People feel that they are finally being listened to," a researcher said. These and other changes, regarded as necessary by the majority of Cuba’s 11.2 million people, are part of 1.3 million proposals that emerged from debates convened by the government itself to discuss a critical speech by Raúl Castro on Jul. 26, 2007, when he was still acting president. Among the concerns expressed was the fall in the quality of public education, once an untouchable subject, which was debated at the Seventh Congress of the Cuban Writers and Artists Union (UNEAC), held in early April. Then Education Minister Luis Ignacio Gómez was dismissed before the end of the month. Another sign of the times was the Jun. 4 approval by Public Health Minister José Balaguer of standards for comprehensive medical care for transsexuals, including free sex change operations. RAÚL CASTRO’S PRIORITIES A discreet man known for his outstanding organisational skills, Raúl Castro announced in July 2007 the main planks of his government programme. At that time he was provisionally replacing his 81-year-old brother Fidel, who is still convalescing from the illness that prompted him not to seek another presidential term in February. This week, which featured an official visit to Havana by Uruguayan President Tabaré Vázquez starting on Wednesday, the historic leader of the Cuban Revolution showed that while he has to rest, he has not fully retired from the national political scene. Vázquez held official talks with Raúl Castro and visited the Latin American School of Medicine (ELAM) in Havana, where he thanked Cuban doctors who carried out free eye operations on 2,000 Uruguayans. He also spent two hours and 20 minutes in conversation with Fidel. "Fidel is alive and kicking, thinking, writing and creating important strategic guidelines for Cuba and Latin America. And Raúl has taken up the reins," Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez said during a lightning visit to his ailing friend on Tuesday. Official video images and photographs of the meeting showed the Castro brothers and Chávez talking about the impact of soaring world food prices, which they called "a strategic issue and a national security problem." The issue is of the highest priority for Raúl Castro, a military strategist who had already taken measures to guarantee food for the Cuban people in the economic crisis of the 1990s, arguing that at that time "beans were more important than guns." In his speech last July, Castro admitted that salaries were too low and that farming did not produce enough to supply the food needs of a country where the cost of food imports this year will rise to between 1.9 and two billion dollars. In keeping with his promise "to introduce whatever structural and conceptual changes are necessary" to increase productivity in the Cuban countryside, the agricultural and livestock sector is being restructured, beginning with an increase in the prices paid by the state to farmers for milk and meat. The restructuring is ongoing, and its full extent is still uncertain. As far as is known, it will include giving more decision-making power to the municipalities, establishing new forms of marketing, and even distributing idle land to small farmers. STRAIGHT TO THE POCKETBOOK In regard to wages, a February Labour Ministry resolution widened the system of performance-based payment (with productivity bonuses) to the entire state enterprise system, in order to stimulate production. It was explained that the purpose of the resolution is to "increase productivity, reduce expenses and costs, and decrease energy consumption," as well as improve the quality of goods and services, replace imports, and increase exports and state revenues. As for workers not covered by the performance-based wage system, in May a wage increase of up to 55 percent came into effect for the judicial sector, as well as a general raise in pensions and assistance to low-income families, of up to 20 percent. The Sixth Congress of the governing Communist Party, to be held in late 2009, is regarded as a key milestone in the process of change, especially for determining a forward-looking economic strategy that will supercede solutions improvised on the spur of the moment. The Congress may open up new channels for diversity, in a society that is learning to be more tolerant of difference, and to discuss frankly and without fear of disagreements. "Never before have people talked so openly about their reality in the streets of Cuba," said one local writer.

Cautious Response to Lifting of EU Sanctions

CUBA: By Patricia Grogg HAVANA, Jun 20 (IPS) - Cuba reacted cautiously to the announcement that the European Union would lift the diplomatic sanctions adopted after 75 dissidents received lengthy jail terms on charges of conspiring with Washington to destabilise the Cuban state, and three men convicted of hijacking a passenger ferry were executed, in 2003. The governing Communist Party daily newspaper Granma published the news Friday under the headline: EU Foreign Ministers Revoke Unjust Sanctions against Cuba. The brief article also says "the EU plans to reactivate political dialogue with Havana." But European diplomatic sources consulted by IPS clarified that the article cannot be considered an official response by the government. "There will surely be a response when the authorities see the document on the question," which could be approved next Monday in Brussels, according to one of the sources. "If that has occurred, I believe it is a step in the right direction," Cuban Foreign Minister Felipe Pérez Roque said Thursday night when approached by a Reuters journalist at a reception held in honour of Uruguayan President Tabaré Vázquez. EU ambassadors in Havana held their monthly meeting Friday, in which the decision to lift sanctions, which was already expected, was "just one more point" on the agenda, said a diplomat who spoke to IPS on condition of anonymity. Some dissident groups responded to the announcement with disappointment or outright rejection, while more moderate groups said the EU decision was "the right thing to do." "We support dialogue as a route towards democratisation," dissident leader Manuel Cuesta told IPS. "Now we have to say that the ball is in the Cuban government’s court." The EU temporarily suspended the sanctions in 2005. But in March, the Cuban government insisted that dialogue would only be possible if the measures were officially eliminated. The sanctions included a limit on high-level government visits, a reduction in EU participation in Cuban cultural events, and invitations to dissidents to the receptions held in European embassies in Havana on the countries' national days. The participation of dissidents in embassy receptions particularly irritated the Cuban government, which considers them "mercenaries" at the service of a hostile U.S. policy towards Cuba. According to the news from Brussels, the foreign ministers of the 27 EU countries reached an agreement that proposes, besides the removal of the measures, the start of a political dialogue with the Cuban government, now headed by Raúl Castro. But at the behest of several countries opposed to the decision, the EU will reassess the results of the dialogue on political and human rights questions a year from now. Spain’s Foreign Minister Miguel Ángel Moratinos clarified, however, that the reassessment will not consider a renewal of the measures, which have been definitively struck down. Granma said that condition was "a renewed commitment to the so-called Common Position" on Cuba sponsored in 1996 by the Spanish rightwing government of Prime Minister José María Aznar (1996-2004), which in Havana’s view is "an instrument that meddles in Cuba’s internal affairs." The Common Position was approved by the European Council with the stated aim of encouraging a gradual, peaceful transition towards a pluralist democracy and respect for human rights and basic freedoms in Cuba, and towards improved living standards. That stance, which has complicated relations and has stood in the way of a framework cooperation accord between the EU and Cuba for years, was not mentioned as a hurdle to the normalisation of ties during European Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid Louis Michel’s visit to Havana in March. On that occasion, Michel and his host, Foreign Minister Pérez Roque, agreed that to engage in broad political dialogue encompassing all issues, including human rights, it was essential to lift the 2003 sanctions. Michel said he was in favour of such a move, but clarified that it was up to the European Council to decide, and that the decision had to be unanimous. In a press conference in Brussels, Foreign Minister Moratinos said the aim in removing the diplomatic measures was to initiate a stage of dialogue that is neither conditioned nor limited by measures that, in the view of Spain’s socialist government, have never been especially useful and were even counterproductive. Madrid heads the group of countries in favour of dialogue with the Cuban government, which has repeatedly stated that it will not accept pressure or impositions of any kind.

Norman Finkelstein Talks About Military "Rehearsals" Against Iran

(source: CASMII)
Saturday, June 21, 2008

Norman FinkelsteinNorman Finkelstein please view the video here:

Ambition's Trail, by Ella Wheeler Wilcox

If all the end of this continuous striving Were simply to attain, How poor would seem the planning and contriving The endless urging and the hurried driving Of body, heart and brain! But ever in the wake of true achieving, There shine this glowing trail – Some other soul will be spurred on, conceiving, New strength and hope, in its own power believing, Because thou didst not fail. Not thine alone the glory, nor the sorrow, If thou doth miss the goal, Undreamed of lives in many a far to-morrow From thee their weakness or their force shall borrow – On, on, ambitious soul. *

Friday, June 20, 2008

Pink Floyd :: Peel Session (BBC Radio, July 16th 1970)

From: Aquarium Drunkard

MP3: Pink Floyd :: Introduction by John Peel MP3: Pink Floyd :: Embryo MP3: Pink Floyd :: Fat Old Sun MP3: Pink Floyd :: Green Is The Color MP3: Pink Floyd :: Careful With That Axe Eugene MP3: Pink Floyd :: If MP3: Pink Floyd :: The Atom Heart Mother

Link from the lovely and talented Miss Anne

The Farm is a spiritual intentional community in Summertown, Tennessee, based on principles of nonviolence and respect for the Earth. The Farm was founded in 1971 by Stephen Gaskin and 320 San Francisco hippies. The focus of this eco tour video-pod is on the Ecovillage Training Center, a learning center for sustainability founded by Albert Bates. The Ecovillage Training Center is a living workshop environment where you can learn organic food production, natural building, permaculture and how to create and live in harmony within the means of nature. This video pod is an educated walkthrough intended to create a window into some of these eco methodologies and green technologies as well as thoughts and ideas by Albert regarding the creation of an ecovillage and the need to scale down our wants and needs. [..Miss Anne:

Trash find turns into literary treasure

Chicago native Lily Koppel went Dumpster diving in her Manhattan neighborhood and came up with a treasure trove of memories in the form of a diary from the 1930s. Koppel tracked down the writer of the diary, Florence Wolfson, who is now 90 and living in Florida. Through interviews with Florence and entries from the diary, Koppel has crafted The Red Leather Diary (Harper, 336 pages, $23.95), a story of a curious, creative Upper East Side young woman in Depression-era Manhattan.

Red Leather Diary

Check out the video of Elizabeth Brackett's conversation with Koppel on WTTW-Channel 11's "Chicago Tonight" last week.

Photographer Documents Secret Satellites — All 189 of Them

From: Kevin
By Bryan Gardiner
Artist Trevor Paglen's time-exposure photographs show the streaks of light left by classified satellites. Photo: Trevor Paglen

BERKELEY, California -- For most people, photographing something that isn't there might be tough. Not so for Trevor Paglen.

His shots of 189 secret spy satellites are the subject of a new exhibit -- despite the fact that, officially speaking, the satellites don't exist. The Other Night Sky, on display at the University of California at Berkeley Art Museum through September 14, is only a small selection from the 1,500 astrophotographs Paglen has taken thus far.

In taking these photos, Paglen is trying to draw a metaphorical connection between modern government secrecy and the doctrine of the Catholic Church in Galileo's time.

"What would it mean to find these secret moons in orbit around the earth in the same way that Galileo found these moons that shouldn't exist in orbit around Jupiter?" Paglen says.

Satellites are just the latest in Paglen's photography of supposedly nonexistent subjects. To date, he's snapped haunting images of various military sites in the Nevada deserts, "torture taxis" (private planes that whisk people off to secret prisons without judicial oversight) and uniform patches from various top-secret military programs.

The nearly vertical streak in this image shows a satellite called Keyhole 12-3 crossing the sky near the constellation of Scorpio.

Photo: Trevor Paglen

While all of Paglen's projects are the result of meticulous research, he's also the first to admit that his photos aren't necessarily revelatory. That's by design. Like the blurry abstractions of his super-telephoto images showing secret military installations in Nevada, the tiny blips of satellites streaking across the night sky in his new series of photos are meant more as reminders rather than as documentation.

"I think that some of the earliest ideas in the modern period were actually from astronomy," Paglen explains. "You look at Galileo: He goes up and points his telescope up at Jupiter and finds out, hey, Jupiter has these moons."

More significant than the discovery itself, Paglen says, was the idea that anyone with a telescope could verify it and see the same exact thing that Galileo saw -- an idea Paglen is trying to re-create in his own photographs.

"It really was analogous to a certain kind of promise of democracy," says Paglen, who sees a similar anti-authoritarian premise running through his own work.

Paglen says his most recent project is the culmination of close to two years of trial-and-error experimentation with astrophotography, untold hours of fieldwork and analysis, an ongoing collaboration with amateur astronomers, and many nights in his Berkeley backyard and at California's Mono Lake.

"Lacrosse/Onyx II Passing Through Draco (USA 69)" shows the transit of another surveillance satellite.

Photo: Trevor Paglen

To capture his images, the researcher and "experimental geographer" employs a motorized mount with various combinations of telescopes and digital and large-format film cameras. Paglen uses spy-satellite data compiled by Ted Molczan -- a renowned amateur astronomer profiled by Wired magazine in 2006 -- to predict where a given "black satellite" will be in the sky. Then he decides how he wants to compose the image.

"I'll find where a star will be in the compositional plane," he says. "Then I'll use one telescope, which is attached to a webcam, to focus on that star."

With the help of a computer program that controls the mount of the telescope and keeps it focused on the heavenly body, Paglen says he can get the telescope to swivel with the Earth's rotation.

He then uses another telescope attached to a high-end digital camera for his deep-sky shots, similar to the rig he used for his desert shots.

"I'll see the satellite in the sky, kind of know where it's going to be in the frame, then I'll open the shutter and take a long exposure of the satellite passing through."

Paglen's initial interest in the government's so-called "black projects" took shape while combing through U.S. Geological Survey archives of satellite prison photos in 2002. He noticed that many of the photo frames of prison sites were missing or, in some cases, heavily edited.

"I thought: What the hell is this? We still have blank spots on maps? We've mapped the whole structure of the cosmos and the human genome, so what's this all about?" Paglen said.

Eventually, those blank spots led Paglen to other covert subjects and turned a hobby into a full-time job -- one with a decidedly political stance.

"For a time, people were getting arrested for photographing the Brooklyn Bridge," Paglen notes. "So to me, what it meant to do photography also changed. There was a new kind of politics to it -- something that was very aggressive and dangerous -- and a presumption that it would reveal some kind of truth or evidence."

Ultimately, the satellite photos are an attempt to critique that attitude. While the budget for black military operations has more than doubled in the last 10 years and the government continues to espouse the virtues of secrecy, it can't prevent interested amateur astronomers from calculating the orbital paths of spy satellites.

"The National Reconnaissance Office cannot classify Kepler's laws of planetary motion," Paglen says. "They just work ... and they're unbelievably accurate."

Obama on Patti Solis Doyle

From NBC/NJ's Athena Jones Here's what Obama said about the ex-Clinton campaign manager who is now joining his campaign -- as the running mate's chief of staff: "Patti Solis Doyle I think is a terrific experienced campaign hand. She's from Chicago. Her brother and I organized on the southeast side of Chicago when I first moved to Chicago as a community organizer, so I've known the family for a very long time. I think that she will bring not only a set of skills that we're gonna need as we put our ticket together but shes going to be a terrific adviser and offer insight and judgment that will help us."

Large Protest Against Health Insurance Companies in San Francisco

San Francisco Protest Against Health Insurance Companies
On June 19th, between 2,500 and 3,000 people gathered for a very spirited "Heathcare-Yes, Insurance Companies-NO" rally outside the Moscone convention center in San Francisco. The largest contingents came from the CSEA-California School Employees Association and California Nurses Association unions and the California Universal Health Care Organizing Project. Many other labor, community and political organizations mobilized significant contingents including the American Federation of Teachers, Lo. 2121, Senior Action Network, Gray Panthers, Calif. Alliance for Retired Americans, ANSWER-Act Now to Stop War & End Racism-Coalition, United Educators of San Francisco, Cindy Sheehan for Congress Campaign, Iraq Moratorium, and the Party for Socialism and Liberation. Gloria La Riva, PSL Presidential candidate, and Nathalie Hrizi, 12th Congressional District candidate of the PSL and Peace and Freedom Party distributed hundreds of flyers supporting free quality health care for all and calling for the insurance companies to be abolished. Inside the center, insurance executives and their political mouthpieces were attending the convention of the American Health Insurance Association. In order to enter, many of the attendees had to pass by hundreds of workers chanting, "Shame, Shame, Shame." Many of the rally speakers testified about having been denied health care by insurers when suffering life-threatening diseases. Others spoke of family members who had died after denial of benefits. The main theme of the rally was the need for a universal health care system. The rally featured Sen. Sheila Kuehl and included protestors from the groups Physicians for a National Health Program, California Alliance for Retired Americans, California Nurses Association, Senior Action Network and California Universal Health Care Organizing Project. photo Photos: 1 | 2 | 3 | California Alliance for Retired Americans California Nurses Association California School Employees Association California Universal Health Care Organizing Project Gray Panthers of San Francisco Senior Action Network United Educators of San Francisco

The Green Party’s Internal Democracy Problem: Presidential Politics

The Green Party faces a problem — democracy. More specifically, how do you treat each person’s vote equally in a country where the two parties do their best to undermine participation of new parties?

Efforts to craft democracy in the Green Party’s presidential preference process have failed in large part because some states allow third parties to participate in tax-payer funded primary elections (as long as they meet reasonable requirements), while many other states put very high hurdles in front of third parties, effectively blocking their participation. Without being on the ballot, third parties are largely invisible. Another factor affecting party visibility is whether a state lists recognized political parties on their voter registration forms, allowing the voter to affiliate with a party — and how high the hurdles are before a party can be listed.

As a result, state Green parties use a variety of methods: government-run presidential primaries, caucuses, state party conventions, party-run balloting by mail, or some combination. With so many ways to count who is a voter, it is challenging to ensure one-person, one-vote. This confusion has allowed prevention of a truly democratic system by those who want small state parties to have more power than large state parties.

As a result, the Green Party does not have anything close to a one-person, one-vote process. Table 1 below shows the number of Greens voting in their state presidential preference contest, and the number of delegates each state gets at the coming national Green Party presidential convention in July.1 The resulting ratio of Green voters per delegate measures how much weight each Green’s vote will carry at the national convention. (These data are for the first 21 states for which the vote count data is available.)

TABLE 1 — Popular Votes Received by Each Candidate (So Far)

(For the 20 states with data available)

State Greens




Green voters

per delegate

CA 35,844 168 213
IL 2,672 44 61
AR 838 8 105
MA 1,941 32 60
DC 530 16 33
MN 187 12 15
WI 97 24 4.0
NJ 70 12 5.8
RI 36 8 4.5
OH 31 12 2.6
MI 47 19 2.5
WA 103 12 8.6
NC 31 8 3.9
CT 48 20 2.4
CO 27 12 2.3
TN 21 8 2.6
MD 70 16 4.4
VA 88 8 11
DE 12 8 1.5
NE 67 8 8.4
PA 134 32 4.2

If you group the 5 states each having a popular vote count of over 500 Green voters, and you group the other 16 states each having less than 500 Green voters, the average Greens voting per delegate at the nominating convention is shocking:2

An even more shocking way to look at it is that among these first 21 state parties, the GPUS National Committee has given more convention delegates to 6% of the voters than it has to the disenfranchised 94% !!!

(CA+IL+MA together accounted for 40,457 of the 42,894 votes of these first 21 states, or 94.3%. These 3 states have 244 delegates between them. The other 18 of these first 21 states accounted for 2,437 of the 42,894 votes, or 5.7%. Together, these 18 states have 251 delegates.)


The rejection of one-person, one-vote by the GPUS National Committee has guaranteed that Ralph Nader had the deck stacked against him very, very heavily. Nader probably realized this early in the nomination process and thus decided not to seek the Green nomination.

Before Nader dropped out of the Green nomination process on Feb. 29, however, his name was included in some primaries, where he gained a large popular vote lead. This early boost has kept him in the popular vote lead — even to this day. The leader in delegates in those same 20 states, however, is Cynthia McKinney. Here are the standings in those first 20 states, in order of popular vote:3

TABLE 2 — Green Presidential Popular Vote & Delegates Won

(First 21 States, except NE & NJ*)










Ralph Nader** 23,069 37.9% 143 30.5%


or Blank***

18,977 31.2% 35 7.5%
Cynthia McKinney 12,478 20.5% 213 45.6%
Elaine Brown 1,640 2.7% 9 1.9%
Kent Mesplay 1,303 2.1% 22 4.7%
Kat Swift 1,272 2.1% 17 3.7%
Jared Ball 1,009 1.7% 11 2.4%
Jesse Johnson 711 1.2% 17 3.6%
Other 427 0.7% 1 0.2%





* NE & NJ haven’t reported delegate allocations yet (nor NJ its vote breakdown by candidate). ** Nader’s totals include the 498 votes and 8 delegates won by Howie Hawkins, who stood in for Nader in a few early primaries, and who had pledged to urge his delegates to vote for Nader. *** These categories each appeared on the ballot in one or more states. The categories have some overlap, and are thus counted together here: “NOTA”=”None Of The Above”; “NOC”=”No Candidate”; “Uncommitted” means the resulting delegate will not be pledged to any candidate; “Blank” means the voter did not mark any of the listed presidential candidates, though many of these voters may have voted for a write-in candidate (which many state governments do not fully tabulate).

Table 2 shows that Nader, despite having 38% of the popular vote in these first 20 states, has only 32% of the delegates from those states. The disparity is even greater for McKinney, but in the opposite direction. She has only 21% of the popular vote, but more than twice that percentage of delegates so far: 44%. The rejection of one person, one vote is having the same effect in 2008 as it did in 2004 when David Cobb won the GPUS nomination — thwarting the choice of the majority of rank-and-file voting Greens.

Cynthia McKinney will almost certainly be the Green Party nominee in the current four-way race, as she already has an outright majority of the delegates allocated so far. And with Nader out of the race, he is not gaining new delegates.

The former Georgia congresswoman is certainly much stronger than the 2004 nominee, as she has actually served in Congress, where she took strong progressive positions on foreign and domestic policy. She has probably been unaware of how undemocratic the Green process has been because the tabulation of Green popular vote was not published until June 5. No such tabulation was published for the 2004 nomination race. (The tabulation this year has not been compiled and published by the GPUS, either — but by individual, concerned Greens.)


What is the solution to the lack of democracy in the Green Party? One approach is to count the votes in the primaries, caucuses and state party conventions, and give each vote equal weight in delegate representation. Rather than states gaining delegates according to a complex formula of measurements having nothing to do with actual Green participation in the presidential preference process, delegates could be apportioned by counting the actual votes of Greens in that process.

Many people in the Green Party, who have seen their reform efforts come to little over the last four years, have now given up on reforming the GPUS. Two successive presidential cycles have now seen a massive rejection of one-person, one-vote by the GPUS National Committee. Some of these Greens have decided that a new party is needed, though concrete work towards that goal is on hold during the current campaign cycle. However, the Nader-Gonzalez Campaign is creating some new state-level parties in those states where a party can gain ballot access easier than an independent can.

If a new party is created, it would not be surprising to see some state Green parties take stock of the extreme disenfranchisement created by the Green Party National Committee in the presidential selection process, and disaffiliate from the Green Party to help build the new, democratic, progressive party. These state Green parties, along with the new state parties created for Nader-Gonzalez ballot access, would provide the basis for a new party founded on the principle of one-person, one-vote.

On the other hand, Cynthia McKinney is in a unique position. She has the admiration of most Greens, including most Nader supporters. Once McKinney is nominated, she should bring her ‘Power to the People’ campaign inside the Green Party itself and insist that the National Committee enact a one-person, one-vote method of selecting presidential delegates in the future. If she does so, she may save the party’s unity. At this point, she is the only one who can.

  1. Source for Table 1, “Green Voters and Delegates by State”:

    The number of Greens voting and delegate counts come from Table 2 in “Green Party of the U.S. 2008 Presidential Nomination Race So Far: Popular Vote & Delegates Won”, June 7, 2008. The number of Greens voting in New Jersey, however, comes from item #17 in Appendix 4 in the same document. #

  2. The following calculations were made from the data in Table 1:

    CA+IL+MA+AR+DC: (41,825 voters/268 delegates)=156 voters/delegate Other 16 states: (1,069 voters/227 delegates)=5 voters/delegate #

  3. Source for Table 2, “Green Presidential Popular Vote & Delegates Won”:

    Popular vote and percent come from Table 1, delegates and percent come from Table 2, in “Green Party of the U.S. 2008 Presidential Nomination Race So Far: Popular Vote & Delegates Won”, June 7, 2008. #

Chuck Giese has voted Green for many years, and finally registered as a Green voter in California in 2004. He resides in Fremont, California. He may be contacted at: Read other articles by Chuck.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Chomsky Speaks: On Iraq, Iran and Norman Finkelstein

By WAJAHAT ALI ... ALI: What does the Norman Finkelstein tenure debacle at Depaul and his scathing critique and dismantling of Alan Dershowitz’s book, Case for Israel, tell of intellectual honesty and integrity in the United States? Is this a warning for academics and intellectuals who don’t “play by the rules” and openly challenge ideologies espoused by powerful interest groups and lobbies? Or, is this just an isolated incident without profound implications or reflections regarding the intellectual environment of post 9-11?

CHOMSKY: The behavior of the DePaul administration in overturning the faculty recommendation for tenure was of course deplorable, but this case should not be generalized too far. It had special features, notably the role of the desperate and fanatic Harvard Law professor Alan Dershowitz. Finkelstein demonstrated with impeccable scholarship that Dershowitz is a slanderer, a liar, and a vulgar apologist for the crimes of his favored state. Dershowitz turned over heaven and earth to try to prevent the book from being published, and after he failed, launched a hysterical crusade to try to suppress its contents. He is not a fool, and knows that he cannot respond at the level of fact and argument, so turned to what comes naturally to him: a stream of vilification and abuse, and an extraordinary campaign of intimidation, to which the administration finally succumbed, presumably because of concerns that funders would be mobilized. The depraved performance is reviewed with fair accuracy in standard journals, like the Chronicle of Higher Education, and I need not comment further here.

It is true that there are major efforts to prevent honest and independent discussion of Middle East issues, particularly anything relating to Israel. Nonetheless, this is a special case. And it has nothing to do with the post-9/11 environment. ...

Cuban anarchist exiles interview Havana punk band Porno Para Ricardo

by @nonymous - Cuban Libertarian Movement (MLC) Thursday, Jun 19 2008, 12:10pm
* The Cuban Libertarian Movement (MLC) - founded in 1961 and active in exile in Mexico, Spain and France - interviewed via internet a punk musical group active in Havana for over 10 years who are today a significant reference in a counter cultural scene that merits recognition and solidarity.

Without a doubt, Porno Para Ricardo has become a legend of countercultural resistance in Cuba and a milestone inside the Latin American punk scene; likewise we’ve been able to confirm the growing interest in the international anarchist milieu regarding the activities and the anti-establishment attitude of the band’s members who self-describe openly against authority of whatever color. However, we think it’s not enough to advertise the existence against all odds of a growing and every day more important countercultural scene in Cuba where punk stands as the tip of the spear against all authority. It is precisely in this scene where PPR stands out with their independent and do-it-yourself music, full of irreverent lyrics which have resulted in harsh persecution by the bourgeois dictatorship of the Castro brothers. This open repression against Cuba’s countercultural movement leads us, as Cuban anarchists, to add our voice to the necessary international solidarity campaign for Porno Para Ricardo. Therefore we publish this interview with Gorky and other members of the PPR collective as a first step in this campaign. MLC: First we want to inform you that this interview will appear in El Libertario, a Venezuelan anarchist publication, and also in Cuba Libertaria, voice of the Group of Support to Libertarians and Independent Syndicalists in Cuba; besides other anarchist organizations who will surely publish it in their respective media. PRR: We don’t call ourselves anarchists per se because we are not very well informed about what this philosophy means today and we’d like to design “our” anarchy for ourselves because after all this philosophy is very seductive. MLC: When did PPR start as a countercultural musical endeavor? PPR: The group started towards the end of 1998 motivated by unhappiness with the Cuban rock scene, that is, if we wanted to continue doing what we liked we could not continue to be just public, we had to form our own group. Our proposal has evolved but very little, it has been the same or very similar from the beginning, essentially as our hatred of the system increases and our bodies spend more years submerged in it, so has increased our radical stand with respect to that which bothers us – the older we get the more radical we become. Should it be the other way around? MLC: Why Porno Para Ricardo? How did the name come up? PPR: We don’t remember from so much repeating it, let’s have coffee and then we’ll answer you … Ricardo (an individual) + Porn (a censured pleasure) = Porno Para Ricardo – against the famous slogan “Fatherland or Death” MLC: In what context did you decide to come together and express yourselves as a band? PPR: Under official repression and total misunderstanding – we’re talking about the public, our colleagues etc – but also funny because being well liked was never too important for us, if that were the case we would’ve made a Salsa group. MLC: what was the young people’s reaction to the appearance of PPR in the Cuban countercultural scene? PPR: Since the beginning our public was small and to tell the truth our shows were never wholly accepted by the “classic” rock public because the public as well as the artists live in a state of frozen neurons typical of provincial cultures little informed and also because the culture of fear and intolerance that permeates people’s minds. Today more people understand our message, even transcending the boundaries of rock and being listened to by not only the followers of the genre, and that is where we believe we make our impact inside Cuba because a lot of people want to hear what we say in our lyrics since that is what many people think but are incapable of expressing because of fear. MLC: And the state’s reaction? PPR: Same as always, it’s always been obvious to us that we must pay a price for our obstinacy, for our way of thinking. MLC: We know first hand of the persecution and repression the bourgeois dictatorship of the Castro brothers and the thousand and one ways of implementing it against whoever disagrees with the internal order of the Farm. In the case of the PPR collective, how has the Cuban state repressed you? PPR: It is well known because we have denounced it every time we have a chance, summons to the police station, intimidation, acts of repudiation, discrimination, humiliation and even jail. MLC: Porno Para Ricardo has set a precedent in the Cuban punk scene. Are there other punk bands and collectives in Cuba? PPR: There are, but not at the radical level we have, which doesn’t make us proud because we would like to have more groups so we wouldn’t feel so lonely and to have somebody to go to because in many cases we are plague ridden, many people from other bands say they identify with us but when push comes to shove they freeze. What would be very sad for us is that when change comes many of those who kiss the official’s asses suddenly become “radical” and “anti-establishment” and invent stories to present themselves as heroes like it has happened in other occasions. MLC: There are definitely clear differences between the life time totalitarianism of the Castro brothers and the bad copy of it that comandante Chavez tries to implant in Venezuela; perhaps because of it, taking advantage of such differences, the Venezuelan anarcho-punk scene has been able to establish strong links and coordinate among autonomous bands and collectives such as Cooperative of Self-managed Bands, that includes bands such as Apatia No, Doña Maldad, Skoria Social among others and initiatives such as Toche Records, La Libertaria de Biscucuy, the journal El Libertario, etc.; with the goal of organizing concerts and countercultural events in different cities. Is there in Cuba any coordination among punk bands and collectives? PPR: The only thing we have in Cuba is a wrongly named “rock movement” which is even directed by a governmental agency called “Rock Agency” that answers to the government. It is a total aberration of what rock is, when did rock ever had to be institutionalized?, the saddest thing is that some people believe that they need the state to support their creativity and are not conscious of the “do it yourself” spirit that has always been the standard of rock and roll. We certainly would like to make contact with this Cooperative of Self-managed Bands and perhaps learn from their experience and make interchanges since in Cuba there are very few punk bands, to mention a few also in the punk scene: Eskoria, ALbatros, Barrio Adentro, the rest are bands in this new thing of EMO and pop-punk that are in no way anarchist nor anti-establishment but in many ways the opposite. MLC: We spoke of the “clear differences” that can still be observed between the Cuban and the Venezuelan states, but given the more evident similarities, would you like to coordinate efforts with anarcho-punk bands and collectives in Venezuela? PPR: Definitely yes. MLC: What about a joint effort as a first step? PPR: We love the idea, count us in. MLC: PPR lives under very particular conditions due to the scarcities, deprivations and restrictions of which the Cuban people but not its dominant class is victim which, together with the specific repression you suffer due to your anti-establishment position as a group, it multiplies your difficulties regarding your creative labor and its publicity. How can we help you? What do you need and how can we bring it to you? PPR: We suffer necessities of every type but we have always prioritized among material things what we need for our recordings. The most urgent item right now when we’re trying to record our 4th self-managed record is a fast computer because we only have an old Pentium 3 where the software gets stuck when we try to put down several tracks with effects – imagine, we do our own mixes. We could also use a microphone to record voice because not even clandestinely people dare record the lyrics in their home studios for fear of reprisals. A good mike for us would be a Marshall 9000 or something like that. Our records can be bought in our web site: . Buying them is another direct way to help us. MLC: Would you like to add something else? PPR: Thank you for the solidarity … Analchists –as we say here- of all countries Unite! And let everyone do with their ass as they wish. [To learn more about the alternative Cuban scene: To contact the MLC: Current information about Cuban anarchism can be found in El Libertario – Venezuela:]

Demerits of PEMEX Privatization

American oil companies are salivating as Mexico’s president, Felipe Calderón, tries to push the state-owned oil company, Petróleos Mexicanos (PEMEX), towards privatization. Mexico’s behemoth oil company is currently suffering and Calderón and his cronies believe that the cure is to open the market to foreign investment by privatizing certain sectors of the enterprise. In opposition, Mexico’s leftist party, the PRD, vehemently advocates maintaining state ownership of the company.

PEMEX has been nationalized since 1938, when President Cardenas heroically expropriated Mexico’s oil holdings from greedy U.S. and British private oil companies. Cardenas’ audacious stand against foreign oil companies is commemorated as a national holiday called Oil Expropriation Day, every March 18. The national pride for Mexico’s publicly owned PEMEX runs deep.

On April 8, Calderón proposed the reform, which will open 37 of PEMEX’s 41 divisions to private subcontractors. Despite his enthusiasm for the project, Calderón’s conservative, pro-business administration has met obstacles posed by the left-leaning opposition PRD, spearheaded by President Calderón’s former presidential opponent, Andrés Manuel López Obredor (AMLO). The PRD has challenged Calderón’s energy reform in a 71 day debate that began on May 13 and is scheduled to end on July 23.

PEMEX has problems Skyrocketing gas prices are good news for oil companies and usually correspond to an augmentation of gains. However, PEMEX (the sixth largest crude oil producing company in the world) has defied this trend by experiencing a $1.7 billion net loss in 2007. This colossal enterprise, with a workforce of over 150,000 workers, is the single main contributor to the Mexican economy. PEMEX turns 61 percent of its revenue over to the government through taxes which account for 40 percent of the national budget. The government’s dependency on the company stifles PEMEX’s capacity to modernize its infrastructure and technology, as well as hinders its ability to probe the depths of the Gulf of Mexico for new oil deposits.

Weathered facilities also impede PEMEX from performing at its full potential. In order to repair infrastructure troubles, PEMEX requires an immediate $9 billion. A network of 36,738 kilometers of deteriorating pipelines (on average 25 years old) drapes and drips across the Mexican landscape. A reported 45,000 liters have leaked from these aging facilities, polluting the immediate vicinities. On December 22, 2007, a pipeline burst and spewed over 5,000 barrels of oil. The pipelines are also subject to illegal tapping. Mexico only has 6 refineries, all of whose conditions are comparable to the dilapidated pipelines. The country’s refining capacity is unable to swallow PEMEX’s huge crude production rates in order to transform it into gasoline. Much of that excesses oil has to cross the border to be refined by some of the U.S.’s 150 refineries. It is humiliating and inefficient for a state-owned oil company that illuminates so much national pride to have to import 40 percent of its own gasoline.

The production in Mexico’s largest oil field, Cantarell, already has peaked and is now on the decline; the rest of PEMEX’s crude oil and natural gas production has followed the same trend. In 2004, PEMEX was able to extract 3.4 million barrels of crude oil a day, this number now has dropped to 3 million barrels a day. The expected lifespan of PEMEX’s oil reserves is now less than a decade. PEMEX’s expiration date has galvanized the government to compose a farseeing energy reform bill. Only 20% of Mexican territory has been properly explored for oil deposits, and experts hold great hope for large oil pockets to be found in the depths of the Gulf of Mexico. However, “PEMEX doesn’t currently have the technical, organizational, administrative capacity, nor the highly qualified personnel, to begin exploratory drilling in ultra-deep waters” (Ultraprofundas, by Sergio Sarmiento, El siglo de Torreon, March 24th, 2008).

As if putting salt on PEMEX’s wound, rampant corruption presents another formidable impediment. Rogelio Montemayor, a former PRI senator and governor was appointed to be PEMEX’s director. He was soon accused of illegally transferring more than $140 million from PEMEX’s account to support a fellow PRI presidential candidate, Francisco Labastida, who eventually was defeated by Vincent Fox in the 2000 presidential election. PEMEX director, Raúl Muñoz, was fined $80 million and forbidden to hold a public office position for 10 years in July 2007, for the misuse of $170 million in company funds. Among other offenses he used money from PEMEX’s account to pay for two of his wife’s liposuction operations. Apparently PEMEX pumps fat as well as oil.

President Calderón’s Energy Reform President Calderón proposed a bill that he and his party, the PAN, believe to be the blueprint for PEMEX’s convalescence and later good health. His proposal includes allowing foreign investment and “minor” privatization of certain sectors of PEMEX. This energy reform bill would give the oil sector more autonomy from the state in order to contract work and handle its budget more freely. Also, to release the government’s grip on PEMEX, Calderón plans to make tax changes to give the state oil company more financial breathing room. The president believes that more help from the foreign capital market and less government leaching would solve PEMEX’s financial problems and allow it to clean up its present calamitous infrastructure.

Calderón also addresses the issues of corruption by insisting on a heightened sense of transparency. He wants to integrate independent members into PEMEX’s Board of Directors and has called for an independent auditing system. Roger Tissot, director of PFC Energy’s Country Strategies and a specialist in Latin American energy policy, commented that, “foreign investment would force transparency and efficiency, and would go a long way to improving environmental and health practices in these [national] companies.” Calderón’s proposal would have the “invisible hand” use privatization to tighten PEMEX’s loose bolts, resulting in a well functioning oil company.

AMLO’s Rebuttal President Calderón sells his energy reform bill by softening his rhetoric against Mexico’s oil nationalization. He states that PEMEX is not being transferred to the private sectors in its entirety, but will only experience “minor” reforms that will privatize its refining, storing, and transportation sectors. AMLO and his PRD see PEMEX as an integrated entity and consider all those sectors to be components of PEMEX’s conglomerate make up. In his account, to privatize “just those sectors” would be tantamount to privatizing PEMEX. AMLO renounces Calderón’s energy reform bill because he feels it will undermine Mexico’s sovereignty and hurt the country’s working class.

First, AMLO connects the beginning of PEMEX’s decay to the last reigning years of Mexico’s PRI party and the installation of the PAN in December of 2000. According to AMLO, the PAN intentionally neglected PEMEX’s needs in order to create a crisis situation to facilitate a transition into privatization and an inevitable call for foreign help. AMLO states that, “the government, for 25 years, has acted in a deliberate manner to ruin PEMEX because they have only one goal: to make PEMEX into booty to be plundered, and to privatize the oil business.” (Lopéz Obrador told the New York Times on April 8.)

A large portion of the Mexican public agrees with the PRD that Calderón’s energy reform bill challenges national sovereignty and that it will ultimately drive more Mexican families deeper into poverty. Marches, protests, and even hunger strikes have sprouted throughout the country in an effort to hamper the move towards privatization. After President Calderón’s public announcement of plans to modernize PEMEX in April, his approval rating dropped 4 percent from what was January’s all-time-high figure of 66 percent. His disapproval rating also jumped from January’s 18 percent to April’s 25 percent.

Another aspect that induces strife between AMLO and Calderón’s ideal PEMEX reform is the potential violation of 12 articles of the Mexican Constitution if the restructuring is successful. If the constitution is to be amended, AMLO wants the public’s voice to influence the future of its own oil company by way of a national referendum.

Any privatization of PEMEX would go against an international trend whereby private oil companies are being nationalized. Over 77 percent of the world’s oil reserves are now nationalized. Brazil, Venezuela, and Bolivia, some of South America’s most competitive countries in the oil market, have made significant steps towards nationalization of their entire holding revenues. Bolivia’s oil companies have experienced an immense growth in revenues since nationalization- from $172 million in 2002 to $1.57 billion in 2007. The catalysts for nationalization today are the same as they were when Mexico expropriated its oil industry in 1938; principal among them is the transnational oil companies pilfering and pollution in the countries in which they operate. As a result, the trend of nationalizing oil companies is occurring worldwide.

Sheinbaum’s Proposal The PRD has composed its own proposal on how to attend to PEMEX’s obvious ailments. The plan includes strengthening its profit-making potential, diminishing imports, increasing oil reserves, and lowering prices, without making major judiciary reforms. The author of this anti-privatization reform proposal is Dr. Claudia Sheinbaum Pardo, one of PRD’s founding members and adviser of the National Commission for Energy Conservation. Her proposal would instead direct PEMEX towards increased nationalization and less foreign influence.

PRD’s proposed adjustments to PEMEX would reintegrate it as one whole functioning body, unlike its current format of divided sectors. This move towards integration would unify all parts of PEMEX, from exploration of oil fields to commercialization of the final product. An assimilated industry would facilitate and lower the costs in the production/value chain, which currently is costing the company more than $20 billion annually. Sheinbaum’s proposal stresses the importance of internalizing PEMEX’s price system of hydrocarbons by connecting it to the cost of production and national income. It is presently pegged to the price system of the U.S.

The Mexican government would also have to take responsibility for the debt built up in President Fox’s investment setup known as PIDIREGAS (Proyectos de Inversión Diferida En El Registro del Gasto) in order to liberate it from its fiscal burden. This would supply PEMEX a budget of $1.5 billion to be allocated to its necessary areas in order serve and improve production, refining, storage, as well as the exploration of new reserves. Sheinbaum also stresses the importance of investment in renewable sources of energy such as wind and solar power. This enhanced budget would also include the construction of three new refineries that would help wean Mexico from dependence on Houston refineries. The PRD’s plan requires that present private contracts be broken. Sheinbaum claims that PEMEX’s debt exists because of the private contracts and the fees which they impose. The official proposal by the Calderón administration would invite more private contracts, and the strengthening of foreign private businesses participating in Mexico’s oil industry

Sheinbaum’s proposal also focuses on the problem of corruption within PEMEX and guarantees a functioning Anti-Corruption Committee in the Council of Administration. Qualifications for membership on this committee will include Mexican citizenship and no relation to PEMEX or the executive branch of government.

Sheinbaum’s proposal also addresses pollution, exploitation, waste and other negative externalities of the oil industry. First, Sheinbaum would like to close 80 contaminated wells that burn 500,000 barrels of crude daily, releasing 700 million cubic feet of pollution into the atmosphere. The dilapidated infrastructure and sporadic explosions and leaks are in dire need of attention, but the PRD plans to request the help of Mexico’s engineering sector instead of seeking aid from an outside source. A nationalized engineering sector would draft an expert Mexican team to assist PEMEX personnel with all their technological and administrative demands. This group would consist of experts from the IMP (Instituto Mexicano del Petróleo), the UNAM (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México), the Instituto Politécnico Nacional, Intituto de Investigaciones Eléctricas and other prestigious public institutions involved in education and research. This team of engineers and managers would facilitate Mexico’s means of exploration and extraction of crude and natural gas in order to add heft to PEMEX’s dwindling reserves. The PRD proposal would give this challenge of innovation and skill to their very own people and would also fortify Mexican institutions dealing with education, research, innovation, and engineering. This proposal contrasts with Calderón’s which would simply pay private foreign companies to install their own versions of administrative measures and technology in selective sectors of PEMEX.

This analysis was prepared by COHA Research Associate Braden Webb

San Francisco’s Green Party endorses Cindy Sheehan in bid against Speaker Pelosi

Shortly after an extended question and answer session, Cindy Sheehan, anti-war activist and nominative challenger to the Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi in California’s California’s 8th congressional district, easily secured an endorsement from the San Francisco Green Party last night.

Sheehan answered a wide variety of questions helping to overcome a wide perception that she is a one-issue candidate. Sheehan reiterated her widely known stance about ending the War in Iraq and dramatically reducing the amount of money spent by the Pentagon, explaining that the United States’ founders intended for us to have militia, not a multi-trillion dollar military used for “corporate imperialism.”

She also demonstrated a competency in general in topics that are important to party members, underscoring a commitment to the Green Party’s “10 Key Values,” while acknowledging that her campaign’s platform on indigenous rights is still being developed.

She stressed her differences from speaker Pelosi’s positions, and reaffirmed her belief that Pelosi has been complicit in maintaining the US presence in Iraq. Sheehan pointed out that she presently lives in the district, whereas Pelosi only recently purchased a home in Pacific Heights, her first in San Francisco. Pelosi has often been criticized for her absence from the district she represents. Sheehan provided an understanding of local issues including the recent Hunter’s Point controversy, reiterating her commitment to “affordable housing, better mass transit, alleviating traffic, dependence on fossil fuels, rent control.”

Sheehan is receiving support from independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader and likely Green Party candidate Cynthia McKinney—when asked who she would endorse for president, Sheehan replied, “It’s a tossup between Ralph and Cynthia.”

Cindy Sheehan is still collecting the signatures needed to get on the ballot by the July filing date, but is expected to gain a substantial amount at the Gay Pride celebrations in the upcoming weeks. Sheehan is not running as a Green Party candidate, and has the endorsement of the local Peace and Freedom Party.

Also present was Green Party candidate for California’s 12th district, which includes most of the south west quarter of San Francisco, Barry Hermanson

Arrests for War Resistance Increase Again

by Bill Quigley / June 19th, 2008

We can never forget that everything that Hitler did in Germany was ‘legal,’ and everything the Hungarian freedom fighters did was ‘illegal.’ It was ‘illegal’ to aid and comfort a Jew in Hitler’s Germany, but I am sure that if I lived in Germany during that time I would have comforted my Jewish brothers even though it was illegal… we who engage in nonviolent direct action are not the creators of tension. We merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive.

– Martin Luther King, Jr.

There have been over 15,000 arrests for resistance to war since 2002. There were large numbers right after the run up to and invasion of Iraq. Recently, arrests have begun climbing again. Though arrests are a small part of anti-war organizing, their rise is an indicator of increasing resistance.

The information comes from the Nuclear Resister, a newsletter that has been reporting detailed arrest information on peace activists and other social justice campaigns since 1980. Felice and Jack Cohen-Joppa, publishers of the Nuclear Resister, document arrests by name and date based on information collected from newspapers across the country and from defense lawyers and peace activists.

Since 2002, the Nuclear Resister has documented anti-war arrests for protestors each year:

2002 – 1800 arrests 2003 – 6072 arrests 2004 – 2440 arrests 2005 – 975 arrests 2006 – 950 arrests 2007 – 2272 arrests 2008 – 810 as of May 1

“Arrests for resistance to war are far more widespread geographically than most people think,” according to Cohen-Joppa of Nuclear Resister. “Yes, there are many arrests in DC and traditional big cities of anti-war activity — like San Francisco, NYC and Chicago, but there have also been anti-war arrests in Albany, Ann Arbor, Atlanta, Bangor, Bath, Bend, Brentwood, Burlington, Campbell, Cedar Rapids, Chapel Hill, Charlottesville, Chicopee, Colorado Springs, Denver, Des Moines, East Hampton, Erie, Eugene, Eureka, Fairbanks, Fairport, Fort Bragg, Fort Wayne, Grand Rapids, Great Dismal Swamp, Hammond, Huntsville, Joliet, Juneau, Kennebunkport, La Crosse, Los Angeles, Madison, Manchester, Memphis, Newark, Northbrook, Olympia, Omaha, Pittsburgh, Portland, Portsmouth, Providence, Richmond, Sacramento, San Diego, Santa Fe, Smithfield, Springfield, St. Louis, St. Paul, Staten Island, Superior, Syracuse, Tacoma, Toledo, Tucson, Tulsa, Vandenberg, Virginia Beach, Wausau, Wheaton and Wilmington just to name a few.”

“In fact,” notes Cohen-Joppa, “in 2007, anti-war arrests were reported during 250 distinct events in 105 cities in 35 states and the District of Columbia. So far in 2008, arrests have been reported at 65 events in 43 different cities in 19 states and D.C.”

An example of the scope of resistance can be found in the Chicago-based Voices for Creative Nonviolence. They joined with other major peace groups like CODEPINK, Veterans for Peace, and the National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance in early 2007 to launch The Occupation Project, a campaign of resistance aimed at ending the Iraq War. Theirs was a campaign of sustained nonviolent civil disobedience to end funding for the U.S. war in and occupation of Iraq. The Occupation Project resulted in over 320 arrests in spring of 2007 in the offices of 39 U.S. Representatives and Senators in 25 states.

“I am energized by the dedication of so many conscientious activists across the country willing to take the risks of peace and speak truth to power,” says Max Obuszewski of the National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance. “We have been unsuccessful so far in stopping this awful war and occupation of Iraq, but it is not for the lack of direct action. We are taking on the greatest empire in world history, but we will continue to act.”

“There are large numbers of new people being arrested,” notes Cohen-Joppa, “most typically saying, ‘I have tried everything else from writing to voting, but I have to do more to stop this war.’ The profile of people arrested includes high school teenagers to senior citizens, mostly people under 30 and over 50.”

Anti-war arrests are significantly under-reported by mainstream media. For example, around the fifth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq in March 2008, most news stories wrote that there were 150 to 200 arrests nationwide. Cohen-Joppa and Nuclear Resister report there were over double that number, well over 400, many outside the cities where regular media traditionally look.

Though arrests typically drop off in election years, as people’s hopes are raised that a new President or Congress will make a difference and stop the war, this year looks like arrests are likely to continue to rise. In part, that will depend on the attitude of authorities in Denver and Minneapolis, where the political conventions are being held. In 2004, New York City authorities overreacted so much to protestors at the Republican convention that they arrested historic numbers of protestors — including hundreds who had no intention to risk arrest. If Senator McCain is elected, anti-war resistance activities are expected to rise much higher.

Why do people risk arrest in their resistance to war? Perhaps Daniel Berrigan, on trial for resistance to the Vietnam War, said it best:

The time is past when good people may be silent when obedience can segregate us from public risk when the poor can die without defense. How many indeed must die before our voices are heard how many must be tortured dislocated starved maddened? How long must the world=s resources be raped in the service of legalized murder? When at what point will you say no to this war? We have chosen to say with the gift of our liberty if necessary our lives: the violence stops here. The death stops here. The suppression of truth stops here. This war stops here.

Though war resistance activities and arrests have not stopped the war in Iraq, those struggling for peace remain committed. “None of us know what will happen if we continue to work for peace and human rights,” says a handmade poster of one involved in the resistance, “But we all know what will happen if we don’t.”

Bill Quigley is a human rights lawyer and professor at Loyola University New Orleans. Bill can be reached at: Read other articles by Bill.

Dems to OK Bush War Funds Without Conditions

By ANDREW TAYLOR | Democratic and GOP leaders in the House announced agreement Wednesday on a long-overdue war funding bill they said President Bush would be willing to sign. The agreement on the war funding bill, announced by Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., and Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, also paves the way for a quick infusion of emergency flood relief for the Midwest, an extension of unemployment payments for the jobless and a big boost in GI Bill college for veterans.

It would also provide about $165 billion to the Pentagon to fund military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan for about a year. That’s enough time for Bush’s successor to set Iraq policy.

“This is an agreement that has been worked out in a bipartisan way that I think is acceptable to both most Democrats and most Republicans and to the White House,” Boehner said.

Jim Manley, spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said the agreement contains several priorities for Democrats in the Senate but stopped short of issuing a direct endorsement, saying Reid needed to consult with his colleagues.

The agreement would require that the Senate would agree to drop most of the more than $10 billion it added last month for programs such as heating subsidies for the poor, wildfire fighting, road and bridge repair and help for the Gulf Coast.

The House is slated to pass the measure Thursday, but the Senate won’t turn to it until next week, Manley said.

The agreement drops restrictions on Bush’s ability to conduct the war and gives him almost all of the funding he sought well over a year ago for Iraq and Afghanistan. But he also backed away from veto threats he issued earlier over Democrats’ insistence on using the Iraq funding bill to carry a generous boost in the GI Bill and a 13-week extension of unemployment payments for people whose benefits have run out.

Democrats dropped a provision to extend unemployment benefits for an additional 13 weeks in states with particularly high unemployment rates.

The war funding bill had bedeviled Democratic leaders for months. Its passage has become more urgent with looming furloughs next month of civilian employees and contract workers.

Conservative “Blue Dog” Democrats are upset that the new GI Bill benefits, with costs tentatively estimated at $62 billion over the next decade, will be added to the deficit instead of being “paid for” as called for under House rules.

But the White House and Republicans insisted that House Democrats’ offset — a one-half percentage point surcharge on wealthier taxpayers — was unacceptable.

Boehner and Hoyer would not immediately release details, saying the verbal agreement had yet to be written in congressional legalese.

The agreement came just a day after the Bush administration urged Congress to provide $1.8 billion in immediate disaster aid for the Midwest and elsewhere. Congress is likely to add a little more, though details had not been ironed out.

A dozen senators in both parties are pressing to add money for levee repair and help for displaced homeowners, among other pressing needs.

Democrats and governors across the country emerged the victors in a battle with the White House to block new Bush administration rules designed to cut spending on Medicaid health care for the poor and disabled.

Letter to Ian Blair by George Galloway

Thursday, June 19th, 2008

galloway1.jpgI write in connection with the police operation surrounding the President George W Bush to Downing Street today. I am not a habitual complainer about the police, as a scan of the public record and my history of cooperation with Tower Hamlets police and the Muslim Support Unit will quickly show. But I must say I witnessed scenes today, some of them inches from my face, which were both deeply shocking and completely unnecessary.

I was asked by the chairman of the Stop the War Coalition as the only member of parliament present at the demonstration in Parliament Square to march to the police barricade in Whitehall symbolically to demonstrate the outrageousness of the government’s decision to forbid marchers to enter Whitehall . As one of the leaders of the Stop the War Coalition I felt it was my duty to comply with his request, although it was Fathers Day, I had my children with me and had intended to leave Parliament Square shortly after my speech.

I made my way to the front of the putative march and purely by chance found myself in the hottest spot of the confrontation which followed. I was trapped there for the best part of an hour and a half, unable to move forward, back or sideways. Consquently, I was both closer to and for longer exposed to the events as they unfolded.

A considerable line of uniformed officers were in full control of the situation for a substantial part of this time. Most of the officers were impassive throughout. Some did their best to defuse the situation, which was clearly the proper tactic in the circumstances. But a number of your officers behaved with a viciousness and lack of control such as I have not witnessed since the miners strike of 1984-85. Batons were drawn at least prematurely and were used with a level of aggression which frankly took my breath away.

These were not hardened trouble-makers they were facing who’d come for a fight with the police. They were young, peaceful, allbeit frustrated and angry anti-war protesters. You will know that there has never been any trouble on the score of Stop the War marches that London has scene hitherto. One particular officer, I will not give his number at this stage as I intend to make a formal complaint about his conduct and I am releasing this letter to the press, was quite simply out of control. He assaulted a young woman; he deployed his metal baton in a frenzied way; he ripped placards from the hands of several demonstrators when I can assure you the demonstrators in question were not using these cardboard placards in any improper way. He was standing next to a sergeant, whose number I also have, who if he tesitfies truthfully will bear out what I am saying.

A senior officer - I could see no identifying number, but I know he was senior because he was giving out orders - was actually taunting the demonstrators, including me in a display of political partiality such as I have never witnessed.

But the most serious mistake is one I believe you have a duty toinvestigate, and that was the tactical decision to deploy the black-boiler-suited riot squad - when there was clearly no riot. This decision, however, was one which appeared designed to start one. Given the small number of demonstrators involved - far less than the number of revellers on an ordinary Friday night in Romford - it was an unnecessary and provocative overreaction and served as nothing other than a provocation compounding the protesters’ feelings about the denial of what they and I regard as their rights as citizens in a free country.

This squad behaved intolerably. It was as if they were facing a dangerous crowd of molotov cocktail throwing, pike wielding insurrectionists. It was a scene redolent of the Troubles in Northern Ireland and cannot possibly be justified by the scale of this incident. This squad proceeded to deal out a shocking level of violence against unarmed civilan protesters, overwhelmingly young and many of them female. I have no doubt the large number of press photographers present and taking pictures of the scenes will bear this out.

This was not the Metropolitan Police’s finest hour, Commissioner. It was a sledgehammer to crack a nut and did harm to the reputation of your officers and their commanders, and I believe you have a duty to investigate it.

I look forward to a swift reply,

Yours sincerely,

George Galloway MP

What I've Learned About U.S. Foreign Policy

Wordpress Theme A video compilation by Frank Dorrel This video compilation is an excellent and invaluable educational tool that reveals the true nature of U.S. foreign policy. It's been seen in many classrooms, churches, home screenings, on cable TV and shown by many Peace and Justice organizations. People such as Howard Zinn, S. Brian Willson, Blase Bonpane, Michael Parenti, Oliver Stone, Father Roy Bourgeois, Ramsey Clark, Ed Asner, Casey Kasem, Susan Sarandon, Chalmers Johnson and many others have seen this video and find it very informative and empowering! If you're already familiar with this video and would like price information, see our ORDERS PAGE 'What I've Learned About U.S. Foreign Policy' This 2-hour video compilation features the following 10 segments: SEGMENT 1 1. Martin Luther King, Jr., (segment 2:55) read segment He was not only a civil rights advocate, he also spoke out against the U.S. war in Vietnam. Some people feel he was assassinated after he criticized our involvement there and other regions of the world. "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." SEGMENT 2 2. John Stockwell, former C.I.A. Station Chief (segment 6:14) read segment Former CIA Station Chief in Angola 1975, working for then Director of the CIA, George Bush. A 13 year veteran of the agency, Stockwell provides a short history of the CIA, estimating 6 million people have died as a direct consequence of the agency's covert operations since its inception in 1947. This talk was given in the late 1980's. Recommended reading: John Stockwell's The Praetorian Guard : The US Role In The New World Order SEGMENT 3 3. Coverup: Behind the Iran-Contra Affair (segment 19:34) read segment This investigative documentary has been seen in theaters worldwide. Directed by Barbara Trent of the Empowerment Project. The Iran-Contra scandal is not an aberration of U.S. foreign policy. It has been estimated that between 20 to 30,000 Nicaraguan men, women and children were killed in U.S. sponsored terror conducted by the CIA backed right-wing Contra forces. Elizabeth Montgomery narrates. Includes a short history of CIA covert operations by Peter Dale Scott This segment comes from the full-length documentary 'CoverUp: Behind the Iran-Contra Affair' available from The Empowerment Project SEGMENT 4 4. School of Assassins (segment 13:25) read segment The School of the Americas, located at Fort Benning, Georgia - our own terrorist training school right here in the United States. This documentary is narrated by Susan Sarandon and features Father Roy Bourgeois talking about this U.S. Army school where soldiers from Central and South America are trained in the art of torture, terrorism, and assassination. This school has since officially been renamed "Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation." This film was directed and produced by Robert Richter of Maryknoll World Productions. This segment comes from the documentary "School of Assassins" available from the School of the Americas Watch web site. SEGMENT 5 5. Genocide by Sanctions (segment 12:58) read segment Produced and directed by Gloria La Riva in 1998 (long before the current war in Iraq), this film features former Attorney General of the United States, Ramsey Clark, as he shows the terrible conditions the Iraqi's were suffering from due to the first U.S. war on Iraq. UNICEF, the International Red Cross and other world organizations estimate around 5,000 children were dying every month in Iraq after that war and the imposition of sanctions placed on that country. Over 1.5 million Iraqi's died as a result of the sanctions alone. Ramsey Clark goes into the hospitals and talks with Iraqi doctors, who say many of these deaths could have been prevented if they had medicine to give to the children. The United States bombed out their way of life; their water treatment facilities, food delivery systems, sewage treatment facilities, electrical systems, their mass communication facilities and more. And American's were lead to believe that this was a good thing. This segment comes from the documentary 'Genocide By Sanctions.' Check out the Left Books web site for more info. SEGMENT 6 6. Philip Agee, former C.I.A. Case Officer (segment 22:08) read segment Philip Agee spent 13 years in the C.I.A. before resigning in 1969. His book "Inside the Company: C.I.A. Diary" was first published in 1975 and has been translated in to 27 languages. It was a best seller world-wide. His autobiography, "On The Run" was published in 1987. In this speech given in 1991 after the first Gulf War, Agee analyzes why the U.S. invaded Iraq. He also describes "the war against the third world" as being fought for the natural resources, the labor and the markets of these third world countries the United States invaded either overtly or covertly since the end of World War II. SEGMENT 7 7. Amy Goodman, host of Democracy Now! (segment 5:12) read segment Journalist and host of Democracy Now!, a daily radio and TV news program on over 400 stations. Amy is the best at what she does! On this segment, Amy talks about two genocides Indonesia committed, first against its own people in 1965 and then against the people of East Timor in 1975. Both of these mass slaughters were sanctioned by the United States government and aided by the C.I.A. Includes scenes from "Bitter Paradise," a video by Elaine Briere. Amy Goodman was filmed by Ralph Cole of Justice Vision. SEGMENT 8 8. The Panama Deception (segment 22:10) read segment Won the 1993 Academy Award for Best Documentary. Directed by Barbara Trent of the Empowerment Project. This film documents the untold story of the December 1989 U.S. invasion of Panama. The United States military deliberately attacked and destroyed primarily residential neighborhoods, killing an estimated 3 to 4 thousand people in the process. This segment exposes the role the U.S. government and the mainstream media play in suppressing information about U.S. foreign policy. Includes never before seen footage of this invasion. Narrated by (actress) Elizabeth Montgomery This segment comes from the feature-length documentary 'The Panama Deception' available from The Empowerment Project SEGMENT 9 9. Ramsey Clark, former U.S. Attorney General (segment 7:58) read segment Former Attorney General of the United States speaking in 1998 in Los Angeles. I was there that night and it was a very memorable evening called "Save the Iraqi Children." Ramsey's talk is very powerful as he conveys the sorry truth about U.S. foreign policy. He quotes Martin Luther King Jr. saying, "The greatest purveyor of violence on the earth is my own government." The entire evening's event was filmed by Ralph Cole of Justice Vision. Recommended Reading: "The Fire This Time: U.S. War Crimes in the Gulf War" by Ramsey Clark SEGMENT 10 10. S. Brian Willson, Vietnam Veteran and Peace Activist (segment 8:45) read segment Brian is the Vietnam veteran who, in 1987, lost both his legs when run over by a munitions train at the Concord Naval Weapons Station, located in California. The bombs and munitions aboard this train were bound for Central America. Brian is one of the most spiritual, courageous and honest activists who Wages Peace against our violent foreign policies. He is a hero in Central America where the people understand that he has stood up for their rights as equal human beings. Brian says that he doesn’t want mothers and fathers and children to be killed and maimed in our name with our tax money! Brian’s web site features his auto-biography and a series of essays he has written since then. With an introduction by Kris Kristofferson, this segment includes scenes from "The Healing of Brian Willson" by Lori Joyce of Idanha Films and "Nicaragua Diary" by Mark Birnbaum.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Obama: NAFTA not so bad after all

[Thanks to yankeesfanz for this link] The Democratic nominee, in an interview with Fortune, says he wants free trade "to work for all people." By Nina Easton, Washington editor WASHINGTON (Fortune) -- The general campaign is on, independent voters are up for grabs, and Barack Obama is toning down his populist rhetoric - at least when it comes to free trade. In an interview with Fortune to be featured in the magazine's upcoming issue, the presumptive Democratic nominee backed off his harshest attacks on the free trade agreement and indicated he didn't want to unilaterally reopen negotiations on NAFTA. "Sometimes during campaigns the rhetoric gets overheated and amplified," he conceded, after I reminded him that he had called NAFTA "devastating" and "a big mistake," despite nonpartisan studies concluding that the trade zone has had a mild, positive effect on the U.S. economy. Does that mean his rhetoric was overheated and amplified? "Politicians are always guilty of that, and I don't exempt myself," he answered. Obama says he believes in "opening up a dialogue" with trading partners Canada and Mexico "and figuring to how we can make this work for all people." Obama spokesman Bill Burton said that Obama-as the candidate noted in Fortune's interview-has not changed his core position on NAFTA, and that he has always said he would talk to the leaders of Canada and Mexico in an effort to include enforceable labor and environmental standards in the pact. Nevertheless, Obama's tone stands in marked contrast to his primary campaign's anti-NAFTA fusillades. The pact creating a North American free-trade zone was President Bill Clinton's signature accomplishment; but NAFTA is also the bugaboo of union leaders, grassroots activists and Midwesterners who blame free trade for the factory closings they see in their hometowns. The Democratic candidates fought hard to win over those factions of their party, with Obama generally following Hillary Clinton's lead in setting a protectionist tone. In February, as the campaign moved into the Rust Belt, both candidates vowed to invoke a six-month opt-out clause ("as a hammer," in Obama's words) to pressure Canada and Mexico to make concessions. Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper called that threat a mistake, and other leaders abroad expressed worries about their trade deals. Leading House Democrats, including Democratic Caucus Chairman Rahm Emanuel, distanced themselves from the candidates. Now, however, Obama says he doesn't believe in unilaterally reopening NAFTA. On the afternoon that I sat down with him to discuss the economy, Obama said he had just spoken with Harper, who had called to congratulate him on winning the nomination. "I'm not a big believer in doing things unilaterally," Obama said. "I'm a big believer in opening up a dialogue and figuring out how we can make this work for all people." Obama has repeatedly described himself as a free-trade proponent who wants to be a "better bargainer" on behalf of U.S. interests and wants agreements to include labor and environmental standards. In May 2007, congressional Democrats and the Bush administration agreed to a plan to include environmental and international labor standards in upcoming trade agreements. Still, later that year Obama supported one agreement (Peru) and opposed three others (Panama, Colombia, South Korea). Labor leaders - many of whom backed Obama in the primary - were the chief opponents of those pacts. Obama jumped into the anti-trade waters with Clinton even though his top economics adviser, the University of Chicago's Austan Goolsbee, has written that America's wage gap is primarily the result of a globalized information economy - not free trade. On Feb. 8, Goolsbee met with the Canadian consul general in Chicago and offered assurances that Obama's rhetoric was "more reflective of political maneuvering than policy," according to a Canadian memo summarizing the meeting that was obtained by Fortune. "In fact," the Canadian memo said, Goolsbee "mentioned that going forward the Obama camp was going to be careful to send the appropriate message without coming off as too protectionist." In the Fortune interview, Obama noted that despite his support for opening markets, "there are costs to free trade" that must be recognized. He noted that under NAFTA, a more efficient U.S. agricultural industry displaced Mexican farmers, adding to the problem of illegal immigration. We "can't pretend that those costs aren't real," Obama added. Otherwise, he added, it feeds "the protectionist sentiment and the anti-immigration sentiment that is out there in both parties." Obama also reiterated his determination to be a tougher trade bargainer. "The Chinese love free trade," he said, "but they are tough as nails when it comes to a bargain, right? They will resist any calls to stop manipulating their currency. It's no secret they have consistently encroached on our intellectual property and our copyright laws. ...We should make sure in our trade negotiations that our interests and our values are adequately reflected." Republican nominee John McCain, for his part, is emphasizing his consistent position as a free-trader. In a press conference in Boston this week, he attacked Obama as protectionist: "Senator Obama said that he would unilaterally - unilaterally! - renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement, where 33 percent of our trade exists. And you know what message that sends? That no agreement is sacred if someone declares that as president of the United States they would unilaterally renegotiate it. I stand for free trade, and with all the difficulties and economic troubles we're in today, there's a real bright spot and that's our exports. Protectionism does not work."

Criminal Charges vs. Alumbrera Mines in Argentina

by open pit of Alumbrera Mines in Andalgalá, Catamarca, Argentina open pit of Alumbrera Mines in Andalgalá, Catamarca, Argentina For the first time in latin america, criminal charges were brought against the Alumbrera mines (Xstrata, Goldcorp, Yamana) for environmental contamination in the Argentina provinces of Catamarca and Tucumán. An account of the facts and history of this interesting case. First Ever in Latin America: Mining Corporation Charged with “Crimes Against the Environment” in Catamarca, Argentina. 16 June, 2008 Ten days ago, the Federal Chambers of Tucumán in Argentina brought criminal charges of environmental contamination against Julián Rooney, Vice-President of Bajo La Alumbrera, Argentina’s largest mining operation located in Catamarca and Tucumán. Rooney is free, but his possessions are impounded, and the company will appeal the ruling to the Court of Appeals, and possibly to the Supreme Court. This is the first ruling in all of Latin America against a mining company for crimes against the environment. Mina Alumbrera is the largest, oldest and most profitable open-pit metals mine in Argentina. Located in the northwest province of Catamarca, Alumbrera moves 120 million metric tons of earth annually to produce an average of 160,000 tons of copper, 600,000 ounces of gold and other metals in form of a mineral concentrate, or slurry. Alumbrera is joint-owned by three of the largest metals mining transnationals: Xstrata, Goldcorp and Yamana Gold. The ruling has sent shock waves through the mining industry in Argentina and throughout the world, leading the Argentine mining association CAEM to issue a statement claiming that the ruling will paralyze an economic sector that “generates jobs and high-paying salaries.” Not only is Alumbrera on trial for contamination, but also under scrutiny for tax evasion, corruption and contraband. And called for questioning as presumed accomplices in the contamination are local and national government officials including Secretary of Mining Jorge Mayoral. The ruling is a product of a complaint filed ten years ago by citizens groups and biologist Juan González, Secretary of Environment for the Province of Tucumán. They discovered that Alumbrera was dumping millions of liters of toxic liquid wastes into DP2, a canal used by animals and farmers alongside the Alumbrera pumping and filtration station in Tucumán. González ordered a series of tests, and the Provincial Health System (SIPROSA) found lead, cadmium, copper, selenium, mercury, cyanide and arsenic above legal health limits. A claim was filed in 1998 against Alumbrera for violating the laws in Argentina’s National Constitution which regulate toxic waste emissions. Alumbrera’s Chain of Operations: Contamination and Desertification Like every modern mine, at the Alumbrera open-pit in Catamarca, mountains are exploded and ore is removed, crushed and leached with chemicals to produce a thick, metal-rich slurry. The slurry is pumped 140 miles through a pipeline over a 8,000 foot mountain pass to the province of Tucumán, where the slurry is “dewatered” and liquids simply dumped in canal DP2 in Tucumán, headwaters of the extensive Sali-Dulce river basin. The dried “mineral” is then carried by train 450 miles to Puerto Alumbrera on the Paraná river near Rosario, Argentina, and shipped to overseas plants for the extraction and foundry of gold, copper, silver and other minerals within. Alumbrera’s extensive “chain” of operations involves multiple river basins and five provinces. In the twelve years since Alumbrera began operations, the operation has become notorious for the enormous plume of contamination released at the many points along this chain of operations. More ominous still is the large-scale regional desertification attributed to Alumbrera’s operations: The project consumes between 60 and 100 million liters of water a day pumped from depleted water tables, to return contaminated directly to river systems and aquifers. Over the years, as contamination increased, community pressures grew. However, the case languished in the corrupt and inefficient Argentine justice system. Alumbrera continued to produce Environmental Impact Reports every two years, many times even reporting levels above legal limits. The impunity that Alumbrera enjoyed was compounded by economic hardships facing residents of Catamarca and Tucumán, as Big Mining companies such as Barrick Gold, Xstrata, Goldcorp and dozens of others bought off politicians and carried out well-moneyed social insertion PR campaigns while creating a corrupt political system based on patronage to mining interests, while small groups of environmentalists and dedicated officials were marginalized for their opposition. However, two years ago, spurred to action by complaints from citizens, new Tucumán District Attorney Antonio Gustavo Goméz resurrected the case. In a way it came late, years after a series of fish die-offs in 2001-2004 left the Sali-Dulce river system entirely dead. In recent months, environmentalists pushing the courts to take action were threatened as “terrorists” for their advocacy. But they succeeded: On May 30, Tribunal judges finally voted 3-1 to press criminal charges against Alumbrera. But at the mine, production never stops. After twelve years of continuous operations, Alumbrera’s pit is enormous and declining ore grade means the company is literally "running the mine into the earth" by increasing volume and tonnage mined, in order to maintain mine "productivity.” Alumbrera runs two shifts of workers, operating day and night, every day of every year Increased production means more energy and water use, and generates more waste and contamination. The mine and tailings had been constructed on a complex system of fault lines, and the unlined tailings reservoir permits heavy metals infiltration into water tables. The mineral pipeline is aging, and has ruptured repeatedly throughout its 140 miles. What will happen? Alumbrera’s ecological damages are by and large “irremediable” and will require works into perpetuity. But when the mine closes in five years, Alumbrera (Xstrata, Goldcorp and Yamana) is not obligated to clean up or pay for restoration costs: Due to agreements signed by the government and Alumbrera in 1996 responsibility for cleanup will fall upon local authorities. The Argentine state is clearly unable to handle any form of environmental oversight, maintenance and restoration on the scale of Alumbrera. Catamarca is a beautiful desert province of northwest Argentina, with mountain ranges, deserts and verdant oasis valleys. Runoff from snow-capped peaks and underground aquifers once supplied small-farmers throughout the region with pure mineral waters for their crops of fruit, nuts and vegetables. These lands are now dried up and waters undrinkable, contaminated with heavy metals. Family farms have dried up, leaving poverty and creating a culture of exclusion and dependency. The town of Andalgalà in Catamarca is emblematic of the social and ecological conflicts brought on by Big Mining: Miners live in gated communities, while common citizens cannot drink the tap water and schools and health systems languish, and the corrupt mayor just spent $40,000 of municipal to pay Nobel laurate Joseph Stiglitz to speak at a conference in support of Big Mining. Resistance: The problem won’t end with Alumbrera: This is just the first of a series of mega-mining projects under exploration and construction in the region. Residents are bitterly fighting Yamana’s Agua Rica mine, to be located some 40 km from Alumbrera will be three times larger and draw from the same depleted water tables. It is one of dozens of projects slated for Catamarca’s new mining “Sacrifice Zone”. Throughout Catamarca, citizens are taking to the streets to halt these mega-mining operations: Residents of Aconquija blockaded roads to protest ruptures of the mineral pipeline; in western Catamarca, Tinogasta residents blockaded Alumbrera’s which carry explosives and chemicals from Chile and return laden with contraband mineral, and Alumbrera’s “blue train” has been repeatedly blockaded by Santiagueños. Argentines are learning that perhaps the key to stopping contamination and plunder is by applying pressure all along Alumbrera’s chain of operations. Citizens of other countries, especially USA, Canada and Switzerland can, and should support the people of Argentina in their struggle. For more information, here are some key contacts: (English) By David Modersbach National University of Rosario, Argentina

-Albert Einstein, 1954

All of us who are concerned for peace and triumph of reason and justice must be keenly aware how small an influence reason and honest good will exert upon events in the political field.


World’s First Robot Rock Band


Perhaps this is a little off topic, I know. But it’s fairly wild. And it’s the start of summer.

(For more good robot videos click here and here, and for more substantive musical podcasts, click here.)

UC Berkeley Starts To Remove Tree-Sits at Memorial Oak Grove

breaking news: reports are coming in that the injunction was upheld and the Oak Grove may be saved On Tuesday, June 17th, at least five hired contract workers arrived at 6:30am and climbed into the branches of the oak trees to take down tree-sit platforms. Around 5pm, one woman tree-sitter was taken down from a tree and arrested. Police cordoned off the area with barricades as oaks supporters converged on the site. Around 70 people attended an 8pm candlelight vigil. Contract workers continued to take down parts of the tree-sit Wednesday and 3 protesters (all supporters on the ground) were arrested. imc_photo.gif Photos: 1 | 2 | Reports: 1 | 2 | 3 | imc_audio.gifAudio | Shame on UC | You Tube Video On Wednesday, June 18th, a judge was supposed to decide whether or not UC Berkeley could go ahead with its construction plans, which include the destruction of the Memorial Oak Grove that is located on campus. As of 6pm Wednesday, no announcement has yet been made. If the University can proceed, then work, arrests of tree sitters, and cutting of trees may begin immediately. Memorial Oak Grove is located in the 2000 block of Piedmont Ave in Berkeley, one block north of Bancroft Way. It lies adjacent to Memorial Stadium where Cal's football team plays its games and reportedly stands atop a portion of a Native burial ground for the Ohlone tribe. Some of the trees in the Grove were planted in 1923 as part of a World War I Veterans Memorial. The current stadium, which is adjacent to the Oak Grove, stands atop the Hayward earthquake fault. The treesitters have an unlikely ally in Panoramic Hill residents, who reportedly do not look forward to the removal of the trees from their viewscape. photoWednesday Defend the Oak Grove | Save the Oaks | Save the Oaks text messages on Twitter

Refugees From Wars and Persecution Increase, U.N. Agency Says

GENEVA — The number of refugees fleeing to other countries to escape conflict and persecution rose in 2007 for the second year as factors from climate change to over scarce resources threatened to increase the flow, the United Nations refugee agency warned Tuesday. A total of 11.4 million refugees were under the care of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in 2007, including some 400,000 feeling conflict in their home countries, the agency said. The report for 2006 numbered 9.9 million. The total was modest compared with the 17.8 million refugees in 1992 at the time of the Balkan wars, but after a steady drop between 2001 and 2005 it represented a worrying trend , the relief agency said. “We are now faced with a complex mix of global challenges that could threaten even more forced displacement in the future,” Antonio Guterres, the high commissioner for refugees, said in a statement. “They range from multiple new conflict-related emergencies in world hotspots to bad governance, climate-induced environmental degradation that increase competition for scarce resources and extreme price hikes that have hit the poor the hardest and are generating instability in many places.” The number of people displaced by conflict but remaining within their own countries also rose in 2007 to 26 million, the agency said, citing statistics provided by the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre, a private organization. The conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan accounted for more than half the world’s refugees in 2007. ...

Popular UN-backed Internet word game feeds Myanmar’s cyclone victims

Survivors of the cyclone which ravaged Myanmar last month will soon be receiving rice generated by the popular United Nations-backed Internet game that allows players to expand their word skills while helping to feed the world’s hungry., in which players donate 20 grains of rice to the UN World Food Programme (WFP) every time they answer a question correctly, has already generated over 36 billion grains of rice – enough for more than 3.7 million meals.

Two consignments of rice for Myanmar have been paid for by YUM! and Unilever, the latest companies to help fund the FreeRice initiative.

WFP will be distributing the rice to many of the 755,000 people it is aiming to feed as part of relief efforts across Myanmar in the aftermath of Cyclone Nargis, which struck the South-East Asian nation on 2-3 May.

The disaster caused the greatest damage to the Ayeyarwady Delta area and the country’s most populous city, Yangon. More than 134,000 people are dead or missing as a result, and as many as 2.4 million people were affected and need humanitarian assistance.

In recent weeks WFP has dispatched at least 11,000 tons of food assistance in the country and now has 10 chartered helicopters flying in the Delta, enabling the delivery of vital relief supplies to those who need it most.

In a related development, the UN World Health Organization (WHO) said today that Myanmar’s health system is “back on its feet” following last month’s tragedy thanks to an all-out response by the Government, the UN and the international community.

The agency noted that within the first 10 days of the disaster, medical supplies had been provided to all major hospitals. Since then, teams have fanned out beyond the major centres and were now examining patients in some of the remote areas.

At the same time, WHO said that a major health concern continues to be the quality and availability of water. The agency is disinfecting some 6 million litres of water daily, enough for approximately 2 million people.

Plutocracy Inc.

by Ralph Nader / June 18th, 2008

Here is a counter-intuitive story for you. Why don’t organized corporate interests challenge damage or risks to their clear economic interests?

Think about oil prices for big consumers, not just your pocketbook. Airlines are groaning, limiting flights, and laying off employees because of the skyrocketing price for aviation fuel. Executives in that industry say that fuel costs are close to 40 percent of the cost of flying you to your destination.

The powerful chemical industry is under pressure from the prices they’re paying for petroleum — probably their main raw material.

The powerful trucking industry is beside itself with diesel fuel going to $5 per gallon.

You can add your own examples — cab companies, tourist industry, auto companies, etc.

Why aren’t these very influential lobbies throwing their weight around Washington to get something done about the speculators on Wall Street determining what is paid for gasoline and related petroleum products? It is in their own economic interests.

To do what? Well, for starters, push Congress to legislate higher margin requirements for the speculators at the New York Mercantile Exchange—the same fellows who, based on rumors, took the price of a barrel of oil up another $10 in one day.

Higher margin requirements (and wider disclosure rules) result in dampening speculation by reducing the amount of borrowed money these traders can use in their gigantic commodities casino.

Long-time member of the New York Stock Exchange, Michael Robbins — an astute and fair analyst — says margin rules have historically been used to dampen speculation on stock exchanges. He mentioned a time years ago when the Federal Reserve raised the margin requirement to ninety percent — meaning the traders had to put up 90% of their own money on trades.

There are other moves that can be made by Washington to ease the oil price crisis that is fueling inflation throughout the economy and shocking consumers. Suffice it to say that ExxonMobile testified earlier this month in Congress that absent the speculators, the price of a barrel of crude oil would be half what it is today. That would mean about $65 a barrel instead of $130 a barrel.

What else do these big corporate buyers of oil need?

Another area of major business firms not acting in their own interests involves the proposal in Congress (HR 676) to establish a single-payer health insurance system. That would mean government health insurance, private delivery of health care, free choice of doctor and hospital and saving about half a trillion dollars in insurance company administrative expenses and computerized billing overcharges a year.

Presently, tens of millions of workers have employer-based health insurance. For years, CEOs have complained that this cost puts them at a competitive disadvantage with their corporate competitors abroad and in Canada where there is universal government health insurance.

Former General Motors CEO, Jack Smith, publicly approved of the Canadian Medicare system, which he had experienced when he was head of GM Canada. Under full Medicare, these companies will pay less even with an assessment.

So, what’s up here? We don’t see these weighty corporate lobbies on Capitol Hill supporting the 91 House members who have endorsed HR 676.

Then there is the small business lobby ostensibly represented by the large National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB). Small business is regularly subject to government policies and market discriminations that put them at a disadvantage with their large competitors.

Presently, for example, a Small Business Administration report concludes the following:

“Small businesses in their commercial sector faced a 30 percent price differential for electricity and a 20 percent price differential for natural gas. In the manufacturing sector, small businesses faced a 28 percent price differential for distillate fuel oil, a 27 percent price differential for natural gas, and a 14 percent price differential for coal.”

Are these volume discounts all fair for the Big Boys? Doubtful. Don’t count on the NFIB to protest. More often than not, the NFIB talks small business but walks the walk of the National Chamber of Commerce, which primarily lobbies for the interests of large companies.

So, why the overall reticence to fight for their own economic interests? First, corporations do not like to fight each other because they may need each other on other matters. Second, hey also have exposable skeletons in their own closets. Third, they do not have to initiate a business war of retaliation. Fourth, they do not want to give their traditional labor, environmental and consumer adversaries cause to strengthen their own power by, in effect, siding with these groups’ traditional causes.

If investors in this country had any power over the companies they own — as individuals, or through mutual funds and pension trusts — an inquiring process could open up on this fascinating question.

But as Robert Monks — a leading shareholder activist and writer — has said many times, those same CEOs have their own economic interests — think CEO compensation — in keeping investors powerless.

The World's First Internet Balloon Race

Barr, Nader each polling three percent nationally

June 18th, 2008 · written by Peter Orvetti

The latest national Zogby poll on the presidential race has Libertarian Bob Barr and independent Ralph Nader each drawing three percent of the vote. Barack Obama leads John McCain 45% to 40%. The survey of 1,113 likely voters, taken Thursday through Saturday, had a margin of error of +/- 3%.

Blogger arrests hit record high

More bloggers than ever face arrest for exposing human rights abuses or criticising governments, says a report.

Since 2003, 64 people have been arrested for publishing their views on a blog, says the University of Washington annual report.

In 2007 three times as many people were arrested for blogging about political issues than in 2006, it revealed.

More than half of all the arrests since 2003 have been made in China, Egypt and Iran, said the report.

Jail sentence

Citizens have faced arrest and jail for blogging about many different topics, said the World Information Access (WIA) report.

Arrested bloggers exposed corruption in government, abuse of human rights or suppression of protests. They criticised public policies and took political figures to task.

The report said the rising number of arrests was testament to the "growing" political importance of blogging. It noted that arrests tended to increase during times of "political uncertainty", such as around general elections or during large scale protests.

Jail time followed arrest for many bloggers, said the report, which found that the average prison sentence for blogging was 15 months. The longest sentence found by the WIA was eight years.

It acknowledged that the true number of bloggers arrested could be far higher than the total it found as, in some cases, it proved hard to verify if an arrest had taken place and on what grounds.

For instance, it said the Committee to Protect Bloggers has published information about 344 people arrested in Burma - many of whom are thought to be be bloggers - but the WIA could not verify all the reports.

It also noted that many nations, perhaps as many as 30, imposed technological restrictions on what people can do online. In nations such as China this made it difficult for people to use a blog as a means of protest.

The report pointed out that it is not just governments in the Middle East and East Asia that have taken steps against those publishing their opinions online. In the last four years, British, French, Canadian and American bloggers have also been arrested.

The report predicted that the number of blogger arrests in 2008 would exceed the 36 seen in 2007 thanks to greater popularity of blogging as a medium, greater enforcement of net restrictions, and elections in China, Pakistan, Iran and the US.

More and More Cubans Entering US through Mexico

The number of Cuban migrants intercepted in Mexico climbed from 254 in 2002 to 1,359 in 2007. And nearly 1,000 were detained in the first four months of this year alone -- the visible face of a people smuggling business that apparently operates in collusion with the police and other corrupt authorities. The statistics came from the national migration institute (INM) which, however, estimates that many more undocumented Cuban migrants come through the country, because some of those who are seized simply disappear, along with the record of their detention, after they pay a bribe, while many others are never detected. The flow of Cubans seeking to reach the United States, without exit permits from the Cuban government or U.S. entry visas, remains steady. Regardless of their migration status, Cubans are eligible to apply for residency a year and a day after they set foot on U.S. soil, under the 1966 Cuban Adjustment Act, although if they are intercepted at sea, they are sent back to Cuba, under what is known as the "wet foot, dry foot" policy. On Jun. 12, a group of armed men hijacked an INM bus that was carrying 33 Cubans and four Guatemalan migrants to an immigration processing centre in the southern Mexican state of Chiapas. The masked men forced the immigration agents and bus drivers out of the vehicle at gunpoint and drove away. The empty bus was found later, but there is no information on the whereabouts of the migrants. The authorities are investigating several state agents suspected of taking part in the hijacking. According to unconfirmed press reports, several well-known Cuban dissidents were among those being transported in the bus. There are also rumours that the operation to "liberate" the migrants was carried out by an organised crime group with ties to the anti-Castro exile community in Miami, Florida. Cuban Ambassador to Mexico Manuel Aguilera de la Paz said the hijacking was no doubt organised by "the Miami mafia," a group that includes Cuban-American Republican legislators Mario and Lincoln Díaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. But Eduardo Matías López, president of the Cuban Mexican Civic Association, questioned these allegations. "There are criminal groups here that smuggle people and drugs, carry out kidnappings and are involved in all kinds of activities, but they are only motivated by the interest in earning money and have nothing to do with politics," he told IPS. "Authorities in both Cuba and Mexico are involved in this case and in trafficking in general; we have abundant testimony to that effect," López added. His anti-Castro group, which was founded in 1996, provides legal advice and assistance to Cuban migrants intercepted in Mexico, to keep them from being sent back to Cuba. "There is total corruption, and the victims are people who leave Cuba with the hope of finding a better life. They aren't criminals," said López. The activist said Cuban authorities take bribes of around 5,000 dollars per person to allow a boat carrying migrants without exit permits to leave the island, on the way to Mexico. And when they make it to Mexico, he said, the migrants must fork over another 4,000 dollars for a tourist visa. Reports from the Mexican government indicate that the majority of the Cuban migrants arrange their journey with groups of traffickers who charge up to 7,000 dollars. The total cost of the trip thus runs 15,000 dollars or more. The traffickers pick up the migrants in Cuba or at sea and take them to different points along the coast of the southeastern state of Quintana Roo, on Mexico’s Caribbean coast. From there, the migrants continue their journey to the United States by land or sea. According to reports last year by the Mexican navy, eight of every 10 undocumented migrants intercepted in Mexican waters were Cuban. Cuban president Fidel Castro complained in 2005 about a supposed people smuggling ring financed by the exile community in Miami, Florida, which he said landed Cuban migrants on Mexico's Caribbean coast, before taking them on to the United States. He said the network was tolerated by authorities in both Mexico and the United States. Mexico, which shares a 3,200-km border with the United States, refutes the allegation, and insists that it rigorously cracks down on people smugglers. But INM officials in Quintana Roo have denounced that some of their colleagues charge the Cuban migrants bribes to refrain from reporting them or to provide them with legal papers. "We have no ties with the Cuban groups in Miami, but it is clear to us that those who leave the island, via Mexico, are trying to reach that city, where they have family," he said. The governments of Mexico and Cuba are negotiating a migration agreement to curb the flow of migrants and regularise their passage through Mexico. Since he took office in December 2006, conservative President Felipe Calderón has worked at rebuilding relations with Havana, which were damaged under the administrations of Ernesto Zedillo (1994-2000) and Vicente Fox (2000-2006). A number of contacts between the two governments have now been made, and there are no major tensions. Cuban Foreign Minister Felipe Pérez Roque is planning an official visit to Mexico in September, when an agreement may be signed. The Cuban government has long complained that the wet foot, dry foot policy encourages Cubans to attempt the dangerous ocean crossing to Florida or Mexico. But Washington insists that Cubans are merely fleeing political and social oppression. Cuba also complains that the U.S. law violates the migration accords signed by the two countries in 1994 and 1995, under which any Cubans intercepted at sea by the U.S. authorities must be returned to Cuba.

Amy Goodman Interviews Ralph Nader on DN

Ralph Nader on Barack Obama: “It is Quite Clear He is a Corporate Candidate from A to Z” Independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader discusses his independent run for the White House, the media blackout of third party candidates, and his stance on the Iraq war, the military-industrial complex, the global food crisis, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and more. AMY GOODMAN: As Barack Obama and John McCain trade barbs over issues ranging from Guantanamo and Iraq to Social Security and taxes, there is little in-depth analysis of their policy positions. There’s even less coverage of third party candidates. Back in February, Ralph Nader announced his third bid for the presidency on Tim Russert’s Meet the Press. RALPH NADER: One feels an obligation, Tim, to try to open the doorways; to try to get better ballot access; to respect dissent in America and the terms of third parties and independent candidates; to recognize historically the great issues have come in our history, against slavery, women rights to vote, and worker and farmer progressives, through little parties that never won any national election. Dissent is the mother of ascent. And in that context, I have decided to run for president. AMY GOODMAN: Tonight, Ralph Nader is holding a rally here in New York at Symphony Space. He joins us now in Washington, D.C., where actually the private funeral for Tim Russert is being held, as people are gathering at this hour. Welcome to Democracy Now!, Ralph. RALPH NADER: Good morning, Amy. AMY GOODMAN: It’s good to have you with us. First, your thoughts on Tim Russert. It was on his broadcast, on Meet the Press, in February, on February 24th, that you made your announcement of your presidential bid. RALPH NADER: Well, the last conversation I had with Tim Russert, maybe a month and a half ago, he told me how much he believed in intellectual tension on his program. He used that phrase, “intellectual tension.” I think that marked his willingness to have, other than the normal redundant Washington politicians on his show, although he had plenty of those, but I think why thousands of people lined up near the Washington Cathedral to pay their respects yesterday is because he had the human touch. He was the busiest mega-journalist in Washington; he ran the Washington office, he was on Meet the Press, he had a book review program on cable, he was on call by MSNBC and NBC all the time. And yet, no Washington journalist of his stature returned more calls to more people. So it wasn’t just an empty PR gesture on his part. I think he really was from South Buffalo. AMY GOODMAN: You don’t have much access to the corporate media. Why do you think that is? RALPH NADER: Well, I think the blackout has been exceptional in the last three, four months. Stephanopoulos was heard to say that the Tim Russert show was about the most publicity I would get for the whole campaign. And, of course, he hasn’t had me on, and Wolf Blitzer hasn’t had me on, and Bob Schieffer hasn’t had me on. It’s rather sad to see, because they get higher ratings, there’s more excitement—Tim Russert said he heard from people all over the world after my announcement on his show. And the networks, of course, have almost blacked out all third party independent candidates, except maybe Ron Paul. Why is it? Well, if you look at our website,, you’ll see why: because we have a shift of power agenda. We want to galvanize the citizenry. We want to get them involved in shaping the campaign in city after city by getting citizen coalitions together to invite these candidates as they go through the city to their own auditoriums to respond to their own agendas. And when we talk about aggressive crackdown on corporate crime, fraud and abuse, that’s on our table; it’s not on McCain/Obama’s table, not on the corporate media’s table to discuss, although the corporate media reports it every day. We have a security speculation tax. $500 trillion in security derivatives are going to be traded this year. A tiny tax on those transactions would relieve the federal income tax up $100,000 on American workers. We have solar energy, instead of nuclear power. We have single-payer health insurance, which replaces the health insurance moguls and their enormous administrative and bureaucratic waste and their denial of doctor discretion and their “pay or die” policies in America, unlike all Western democracies. So, you can see in many ways that we favor workers, and we favor consumers, and we favor small taxpayers, we favor the environment to the expense of corporate power. I mean, the issue here is centralized corporate power. And that’s why day after day, whether through demonstrations in front of toady government agencies and trade associations in Washington to campaigning with people and their controversies for justice all over the country, we have made our website,, a very vivid, vivacious website for people who want to volunteer, who want to get engaged, who want to contribute money to our campaign. We take no commercial money or PACs, so we rely on individuals. So, to sum it up, really, our campaign is to subordinate corporate power to the sovereignty of the people. Why is that a radical notion? Doesn’t the Constitution start with “We the people”? And speaking of the Constitution, we are strongly for the impeachment of Bush and Cheney. It’s never too late for impeachment or demanding a resignation, the way Nixon and Agnew had to resign, or after they leave office as fugitives from justice on January 21st, to invoke appropriate law to prosecute Bush and Cheney for their recidivist, criminal and anti-constitutional behavior day after day, from the criminal war in Iraq to systemic torture, to imprisoning people without charges, to wiretapping them without judicial approval, and to have signing statements that the American Bar Association has condemned, where Bush says, “I’ll sign these laws, 800 of them, but I’ll decide whether I’m going to obey them or not.” I think Chuck Hagel put it all in one sum statement, Amy, when he said a few weeks ago—he’s a Republican from Nebraska, Senator Chuck Hagel—he said, quote, “We tried a monarchy once. It didn’t work,” end-quote. AMY GOODMAN: What do think of Chuck Hagel as a vice-presidential running mate—yes, the Republican senator—for Barack Obama, one of the names that’s being bandied about? RALPH NADER: Well, he thinks for himself. And that’s about the best you can expect of a politician these days. Senator Jim Webb, Senator Chuck Hagel, they think for themselves. They’re not robotic minds. They’re not completely monetized minds. And they’re Vietnam veterans. So, in today’s politics, that puts them forward. AMY GOODMAN: Ralph Nader, on his first day as the Democrats’ presumptive nominee, Barack Obama traveled to Washington to address AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. This is some of what he had to say. SEN. BARACK OBAMA: Let me be clear. Israel’s security is sacrosanct. It is non-negotiable. The Palestinians need a state—the Palestinians need a state that is contiguous and cohesive and that allows them to prosper, but any agreement with the Palestinian people must preserve Israel’s identity as a Jewish state, with secure, recognized, defensible borders. And Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel, and it must remain undivided. AMY GOODMAN: Obama later appeared to backtrack on his comments about the future status of Jerusalem as capital in a follow-up interview on CNN. He said it would be up to the Israelis and Palestinians to negotiate. Ralph Nader? RALPH NADER: Well, I think Barack Obama is in training to become panderer-in-chief. That was really a disgraceful speech. It didn’t further the peace process, the two-state solution favored by a majority of Jewish Americans, Arab Americans, a majority of Israeli and Palestinian people. He basically sided with the militaristic approach to occupying, repressing, colonizing, destroying the Palestinian people in the West Bank and Gaza. He hasn’t even spoken out against the international crime of the blockade of Gaza, one-and-a-half million people, from medicine or drinking water, fuel, electricity, food—lots of silent fatalities in Gaza because of that. Barack Obama really now has to be examined very carefully. He has worn out the word “change.” We now want to know what change is involved. And it’s quite clear that he is a corporate candidate from A to Z. In his voting record, he voted against reform of the Mining Act of 1872, which gives away our hard rock minerals. He voted for a terrible class-action restriction law that the corporations wanted him to vote for. He, in many ways, has disappointed people who had greater hopes for him. He’s voted for reauthorizing the PATRIOT Act. He refuses to even discuss—he’s vigorously against impeachment of Bush and Cheney. He won’t even support his colleague Senator Russ Feingold motion to censure the Bush administration for systemic repeated illegal wiretaps. He—you know, he’s letting the corporate-dominated city of Washington, the corporations who actually rule us now in Washington, determine his agenda. And that does not augur well. He’s just appointed economic advisers right out of the Robert Rubin school of Citigroup and the University of Chicago. His Middle East advisers involve people who actually helped write his AIPAC speech. You know, it’s a sad thing to see, because he knows better, but he’s suppressing himself repeatedly until he becomes a different person, should he be elected president. AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking to Ralph Nader, independent presidential candidate, longtime consumer advocate. He has announced in the last months his third bid for the presidency. We’ll be back with him in a minute. [break] AMY GOODMAN: Our guest is Ralph Nader, Independent presidential candidate, holding a rally this evening at Symphony Space in New York. Ralph Nader, when we interviewed you when you set up your exploratory committee, you said that you would need, to run—you’d like to raise $10 million to have a viable campaign. How is your fundraising going? Have you reached that goal? RALPH NADER: Well, with matching funds, we’re moving in on $2 million, but the Federal Election Commission still doesn’t have a quorum. But we hope to pick up—more and more people now are contributing. We’ve gotten some major contributions from former Hillary Clinton supporters who are turned off the process. And more and more people are coming in at lower denominations—$10, $20, $50, $100—from around the country. And we’re looking for fundraisers. We’re looking for people to help us with media outreach, looking for computer experts. We want fifteen- and sixteen-year-olds to help us on YouTube with our effort to get the sixteen-year-old vote, which will help mature politically our teenagers who are often too wedded to video screens. We’re trying to propose dramatic innovations, like is proposing, to get over this problem where disenchanted Democrats vote for the Democrats because they can’t abide the Republicans, and disenchanted Republicans vote for the Republicans because they can’t abide the Democrats. And what Vote Pact does is it gives people—for example, a disenchanted Republican and a disenchanted Democrat get together, and they say, “Let’s vote for the Nader-Gonzalez ticket.” And that way, a third party has a chance, because we all know that if we don’t break up the two-party elected dictatorship, the duopoly, with instant run-off voting or public financing or ballot access reform, or binding none of the above, all of these can only be done through legislation by the two-parties who don’t want to change the system. So we’ve got to take it into our own hands. AMY GOODMAN: Ralph Nader, I wanted to play for you two clips, one of Barack Obama and one of McCain. This is Barack Obama speaking about Iran. SEN. BARACK OBAMA: We will also use all elements of American power to pressure Iran. I will do everything in my power to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. Everything in my power to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. Everything. AMY GOODMAN: On the campaign trail, John McCain accused Obama of being naive on Iran. SEN. JOHN McCAIN: My friends, they are developing nuclear weapons. Also what is totally unsatisfactory is that the Iranians are making, are manufacturing and shipping into Iraq the most lethal explosive devices that are killing young Americans. That’s not acceptable. And Senator Obama wants to sit down without any precondition across the table and negotiate with this individual. My friends, that’s not right, and that’s naive. And that shows a lack of experience and a lack of judgment. AMY GOODMAN: McCain’s position and then your assessment of Obama? RALPH NADER: Well, it recalls Michael Abramowitz in the Washington Post in March and New York Times reporters a few weeks later saying that if Obama or Clinton were elected president, the foreign and military policy would not be much different than the foreign and military policy of George Bush in his second term. And that illustrates that. The military-industrial complex and the politicians like Obama and McCain who support it—$700 billion, over half of the federal government’s operating expenditure now is the military budget—are desperately looking for enemies, desperately exaggerating enemies. Iran has not invaded anybody in 250 years. Yet it’s obviously frightened. It’s surrounded by the US military west, south, east. It’s been labeled “Axis of Evil” by Bush, who invaded Iraq after he labeled them “Axis of Evil.” We have Special Forces, according to Sy Hersh, that go in and out of Iran. What are they going to do? They talk very belligerently nationally, but they’re really scared. I mean, we supported Saddam Hussein, logistically and with materiel, in invading Iran, which took a half a million Iranian lives. They remember the shooting down of their civilian airliner years ago. AMY GOODMAN: Well, let me ask you something, Ralph Nader. Who do you think would be more likely to bomb Iran, to attack Iran, or have a surrogate do it: John McCain or Barack Obama? RALPH NADER: I don’t know. I would like to say that McCain would be more likely. Bush is more likely, before he leaves office. The point is that we are exaggerating that threat instead of using diplomacy, number one. Number two, Iran does not have nuclear weapons; they’re nowhere near nuclear weapons, according to intelligence estimates. Number three, Israel has 250 nuclear weapons. Does Iran really want to commit suicide? And number four, two major national security experts in Israel have been reported as saying Iran is not a problem. So why are we beating the drums, and why is Obama falling for this kind of trap? And that’s a—you know, Matt Gonzalez, my running mate, wrote a 3,000-word evaluation of Obama, basically saying “count me out,” meaning him from supporting Obama. It’s on our website, But all this, Amy, reflects the non-engagement of the American people. What’s left for the American people to decide? They have to take the reins of their government. They have to become more engaged in this campaign. They have to demand that these candidates come to their cities and towns and listen to them and answer their questions, instead of these slick journeys that these campaigns involve with their advance people and their slogans through one town and state after the other. AMY GOODMAN: Let me ask you about Matt Rothschild, the editor of The Progressive’s piece that he wrote that’s called “Don’t Worry About Nader.” He said, “Hardly any of the tiny few who may vote for Nader would otherwise go to the Democrats in the fall, anyway. They’d vote for Cynthia McKinney or some other third party candidate, or they would write someone in, or they wouldn’t vote for anyone for president. Still, Nader serves as a reminder that the Democrats don’t automatically own the votes of those who disagree with the Republican agenda, and that Barack Obama is not as progressive as many of his supporters would hope.” That was Matt Rothschild, who was your co-treasurer, supported you in 2000 in your bid against Al Gore. RALPH NADER: And worked in our office as a newly minted graduate from Harvard. I think that’s ungracious of him. I think he should look at our website and see what the polls are showing. The most recent Associated Press poll has Nader-Gonzalez at six percent, without any national coverage, against McCain and Obama. But I think his dilemma is what is trying to resolve. I think he supports our agenda, but he goes for the least worst. And he’s very critical of the Democrats, but obviously he dislikes the Republicans more. This is a trap that millions of liberals and progressives have fallen into. That is, by going for the least worst, namely the Democratic nominee, they don’t make any demands on the Democratic nominee, because they’re so freaked out of the possibility the Republican may win; therefore, they’re not pulling Obama in the area of peace and justice and a carbon tax and—see? AMY GOODMAN: Well, let me ask you something. Are you, Ralph Nader, freaked out at the possibility that a Republican would win? RALPH NADER: Oh, yes, I am. And my critique of John McCain, as it was of George W. Bush, will be far more detailed and more excoriating and more grounded than the Democrats are willing to advance themselves. And so, you know, I said to Kerry, “Look at the critique that I’m making of Bush in 2004.” And he didn’t look very hard. He blurred his positions with Gore—with, rather, Bush, and therefore lost more votes than he should have, because he didn’t have a bright line on things like anti-corporate welfare, a crackdown on corporate crime against pensions and workers, etc., strong consumer protection, a carbon tax, etc. I mean, here’s an example. Gore just endorsed Obama. Gore is vigorously for a carbon tax, against his cap and trade manipulation. Is he going the pull Obama toward a carbon tax, or is he going to say, “Oh, Obama is not as bad as McCain. We’ve got to support Obama critically.” The corporations are pulling Obama every day, every day, twenty-four/seven, in their direction. If all these liberal groups with all their single issues are not pulling in the other direction, where do you think the Democratic Party and the nominee is going to go? Even if they’re elected, they won’t have any mandate. And we have to become very rigorous here. And I hope Matt Rothschild writes another editorial that reflects his intellect, rather than his desperation. AMY GOODMAN: Ralph Nader, you said in 2000 it doesn’t really matter whether Gore or Bush is president. Do you feel that way today? RALPH NADER: I didn’t say that. I said the similarities between Bush and Gore tower over the dwindling real differences that they’re willing to argue over. And, of course, my focus is not on some of the single issues. Obviously, Gore is better on Social Security, better on Medicare, better on gay, lesbian rights. Obviously in those areas, the Democrats have a much clearer position, better position, than the corporate Republicans. But in the gross area of corporate power and domination of every agency and department in our government, from the Department of Defense and Department of Labor, the Democrats are moving in the direction of the Republicans. It’s quite clear in terms of their voting record. There are exceptions, like Henry Waxman and Ted Kennedy, Ed Markey. But for the most part, these parties have moved very heavily into the grip, the iron grip of corporate power, corporate money, corporate ultimatums on globalization, for example, and above all, the distortion of the federal budget in the direction of corporate contracts, subsidies, handouts, giveaways, and the swelling of this enormous, corrupt, wasteful military budget that’s draining money. AMY GOODMAN: Ralph Nader, let me ask you a question. For those who want to vote for Barack Obama but are very discouraged about the lack of a strong stance that he has taken or laying out his position, for example, on withdrawal from Iraq, what do you think they should do? RALPH NADER: Just what—they get together with a disenchanted Republican. So you have a disenchanted Democrat who feels he has to vote or she has to vote for the Democrats, because they don’t want Republican. You get a disenchanted Republican friend or neighbor who feels that they have to vote for Republicans; they don’t want to vote for the Democrats. And they both say they’re going to vote for Nader-Gonzalez. There is a self-initiating process here that’s personal and political that people can do all over the country. Nobody can stop them. And we all know that every day at work, in neighborhoods and at play, the Republicans and Democrats, disenchanted with their parties, are meeting, and all they have to do—and they can actually vote absentee over—you know, while they’re having coffee, they can fill out the absentee so they can see that they’re being valid in their promises, and vote for Nader-Gonzalez. AMY GOODMAN: Your assessment of McCain and Obama’s plan to combat the global food crisis? And what is yours? RALPH NADER: Well, I would stop subsidizing corn ethanol, for one, which takes away millions of acres from wheat and barley and other edibles, soy. Obama is for subsidizing corn ethanol. Actually, McCain was fairly critical of it. I don’t know what his latest position is. Number two, we’ve got to straighten out our food export situation. We import far too much food from China, which is contaminated. We’ve got to have much more food grown close to markets. For example, Massachusetts used to grow 80 percent of its tomatoes in 1948. Now, it imports 80 percent of its tomatoes from California, Mexico. There’s no reason for that. There’s plenty of land for vegetable growing, fruit growing near the metropolitan markets. And above all, we’ve got to have a foreign policy that makes us into a humanitarian superpower, that is, more agricultural cooperatives overseas, showing with our technology, appropriate technology, how to greatly increase crops and preservation of crops. 30 percent of food grown in the third world is lost due to rodents, fungus and insects. And we have a lot of knowledge on how to store food and preserve it so it isn’t lost and so people don’t starve and children don’t have distended bellies because of gross undernourishment. It’s an absolute crime against humanity. AMY GOODMAN: The Iraq war—your assessment of the Iraq war, from McCain’s comment, we’ll be there for a hundred years, Barack Obama not clear exactly how withdrawal would happen? And what would you do? RALPH NADER: Six-month corporate and military withdrawal from Iraq, during which we negotiate with the Kurds, Shiites and Sunnis for modest autonomy, which they worked out in the 1950s before the dictators took over. Under a unified Iraq, continue humanitarian aid, some peacekeepers from nearby Islamic countries, and UN-sponsored elections. That’s the way you knock the bottom out of the insurgency. That’s the way you get the authority figures, the tribal leaders and the religious leaders and others, who still have authority over millions of Iraqis, to get together, because the alternative is constant bloodshed and civil strife. So you give them a stake by using the only chip we have, which is to give back Iraq to the Iraqis, including their oil. Now that—otherwise, it’s constant, constant strife. You saw that huge explosion in Iraq, in Baghdad, yesterday. The Pentagon doesn’t count Iraqi civilian tolls. They don’t even count officially US injuries unless they occur right in the middle of combat. So US injuries are triple what their official figure is. And all the press, including the liberal press and the indie press, still uses that figure of some 32,000 injured soldiers, when it’s triple that. I don’t understand why they follow that kind of Pentagon line. So that’s the way to deal with it. AMY GOODMAN: Ralph Nader, the issue of global warming? RALPH NADER: Global warming, solar power. Solar power is the closest thing to a universal solvent that we have. Wind power, solar thermal, solar photovoltaic, passive solar architecture, other forms—biofuels that are not corn ethanol—that’s the way to go. We’ve got to have a national mission of converting our economy and be an example for the world in solar energy. It’s four billion years of supply, Amy. And it’s decentralized, it’s environmentally benign, it makes us energy independent, and it replaces the Exxon Mobil-Peabody Coal-uranium complex. That’s what we’ve got to go for economic, political, health and safety, environmental reasons. AMY GOODMAN: The meteorologists talking “extreme weather,” those two words, but not “global warming”? RALPH NADER: Yes. Well, you know, the connection will be made more and more between extreme weather that’s occurring all over the world, the increase in water vapor, the effect of that. It’s amazing how some people who doubt global warming, I guess like Rush Limbaugh, want to wait until the ocean has overcome our literal landscapes, and I don’t know what more evidence they’re going to require. We’re having a lot of material on our coming up on that subject, as well. AMY GOODMAN: Finally, healthcare—the difference between you, Obama and McCain, and Obama and McCain, on healthcare? RALPH NADER: As clear as could be. McCain and Obama have these cockamamie schemes that do not replace the health insurance companies. When Medicare came for the elderly in the mid-’60s, Medicare replaced the health insurance companies. We have a “pay or die” situation, which is disgraceful in this country. Whether for drugs or for healthcare, physicians have their hands tied, nurses have their hands tied. As the California Nurses Association has so trumpeted, and so specifically, a single-payer system, which is full government insurance with free choice of doctor and hospital; with a reduction of these corporate bureaucratic costs, about $350 billion; with the replacement, because it’s only one single payer, of all these computerized billing frauds and abuses that are now about $220 billion—sources for all these figures—all that can be changed by single payer. 18,000 people, according to the Institute of Medicine and the National Academy of Sciences, Amy, die every year in this country, because they cannot afford health insurance. Nobody dies in Canada, Belgium, Germany, France, Italy, the UK, because they can’t afford health insurance. This is a disgrace. And we must get rid of this inefficient, swollen, redundant, corrupt, “pay or die” so-called healthcare system and focus more on prevention and more on nutrition and more on exercise, but also more on letting doctors be doctors under quality control systems, not have their hands controlled by commercial clerks. AMY GOODMAN: Ralph Nader, we’re going to have to leave it there. You’ll be here in New York tonight, Symphony Space, 7:00— RALPH NADER: Yes. AMY GOODMAN: —for a rally. We will cover that. Thanks for joining us, independent presidential candidate, longtime consumer advocate and corporate critic.

2 Random Seth Quotes, 1 B&W

"Your system is not the most elementary, but it is one of the most elementary, and it is a way that the inner self acquaints itself with certain basic facts. It therefore provides itself with a large variety of environments in various reincarnations, with problems of various natures, and with diverse circumstances." The Early Sessions, Book 9 Session 472, Page 280 *
* "Once more, it is extremely important that Ruburt keep his mind on his goals, and not burden his conscious mind by trying to figure out circumstances and conditions that are best handled by the infinite intelligence that is within his own subconscious mind. The way and the means will be taken care of. They will indeed appear almost effortlessly - but he must let the burden of worry go." The Way Toward Health Session 1/xx, Page 54

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Anybody see any similarities between the Regimes..., by CeeCee

White House Derides Submitted by toniD on Tue, 06/17/2008 - 8:31pm. White House Derides Investigation That Exposed Drug Testing On Vets As ‘Irresponsible Reporting,’ ‘Awful’

...Human experimentation on "captive" patients

In a "Medical experimentation block in Auschwitz...Mengele used Auschwitz as an opportunity to continue his research on heredity, using inmates for human experimentation...In 1955, he bought a fifty per cent share of a pharmaceutical company...and moved to Paraguay...hoped that Paraguay would be safer for him..."

...Property in Paraguay

Extradition ?

PSL Presidential Candidate Gloria La Riva in Iowa

Assisting residents, condemning government negligence, calling for immediate action

Unprecedented flood levels have left hundreds of thousands of people in Iowa, Illinois and Missouri devastated - and the destruction is not over. While George W. Bush has been traveling to Paris and London, the people are left to their own devices, their homes devastated, many who have lost their jobs, and 17 percent of the region’s crops damaged. Party for Socialism and Liberation Presidential Candidate Gloria La Riva, Illinois State Assembly Candidate John Beacham and PSL Chicago organizer Stefanie Fisher visited the flood-devastated areas of Iowa to help in emergency-sandbagging efforts to try to keep the rising Mississippi River from engulfing more towns, and to express solidarity with the affected communities. This important delegation was organized on very short notice and involved expenses for last-minute airfare, car rental, gas and more. Your financial support can help to cover the expenses of this trip, distribute its reports, and continue the political campaign. Click here to make an online donation through our secure server, and to find information on how to donate by check. The delegation is carrying out on-the-spot fact-finding, and issuing reports for and Liberation Newspaper; showing solidarity with the people there who are suffering from the floods; and beginning a political campaign to demand real action by the government.

U.S. Ambassador Maintains: “Without a doubt. There are possibilities in Colombia (for a US military base)”

Last Monday, Colombia’s Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos once again has reiterated that Colombia “does not have, nor will have” any American military bases. However, rumors persist that the US plans to relocate its military facility from Manta, Ecuador to an unspecified location in Colombia. These have been circulating since late last year, but several recent incidents lend additional credence to them. First, the Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff’s visit to Colombia early in January could signal, according to Colombian Liberal senator Juan Manuel Galante, a subtle indication that the U.S. is, in fact, interested in establishing a military base in the country. The Colombian senator assured his listeners at the time that there is a base with the necessary infrastructure at Tres Esquinas, which has already been provided with radar equipment by the U.S. In an April 22 meeting between Santos and US ambassador to Colombia, William Brownfield, the Colombian defense minister was informed that due to an improvement in the country’s human rights performance, as well as in its military operations, the veto against the military base at Palanquero, that in effect, de-certified the base from receiving U.S equipment, had now been lifted. According to Santos, the US now aims to provide intensified assistance in Bogota’s fight against narco-trafficking and terrorism as a result of the removal of this veto. As deputy secretary John Negroponte, who was ambassador to Honduras during much of the Reagan presidency and who at the time served one of the most controversial ambassadorial tenures in Central America when it came to ignoring human rights, stated in a June 2 press conference in Medellin, that the United States and Colombia have a “very extensive relationship of cooperation.” This particularly was the case in the areas of “military cooperation, military assistance, military advisors, and so forth.” Although its suggestions hint otherwise, the Colombian government has posited that the US will not be able to establish bases in Colombia, and as Juan Manuel Santos declared, they “have already discussed this with the Americans.” Furthermore, this past May, Colombian Foreign Minister Fernando Araujo also declared that Colombia did not have intentions to place a US military base on its territory. The question then arises: if the US and Colombian administrations already have concluded discussions on the issue, and if Washington was already aware of the official stance of the Colombian government, then why did US ambassador Brownfield declare on June 7th that “without a doubt. There are possibilities in Colombia” to replace the military base at Manta? One wonders if this statement was the result of a lack of poor communication between Colombia and the United States, or if it was in fact, a demonstration of the sizeable influence wielded by the U.S over Colombia’s basic government decisions. To comprehend Bogota’s motives and actions, the implications of a US base in Colombia for the Uribe administration must be fully understood. Agreeing to a military base publicly, especially after Ecuador’s president has vehemently refused to renew his country’s military contract with the US at Manta, might spell a significant political mistake and a massively imprudent step for President Uribe to take. Furthermore, taking into consideration Colombia’s episodically expressed fear of being dominated by the United States and remembering the humiliating days of the United Fruit Company and the massacre of the “Bananeros,” establishing a US military base in Colombia would be seen by some Colombians as a threat to the nation’s sovereignty and a loss of their country’s sense of dignity. With the prospect of a likely reelection campaign looming in the near future, President Uribe needs to remain as popular as he can and at the same time not lose U.S. support. Furthermore, the Peruvian government also seems to be hoping for a U.S. military base on its territory and the aid that such relationship is sure to bring. Yesterday, according to the Latin News, a Peruvian army general reported that they were in negotiations with the U.S. Army about building an airbase in the zone of Pichari, in Ayacucho, Peru. Perhaps, the Uribe administration, as well as Peruvian authorities view the US military presence as an opportunity to obtain an increase of economic aid under Plan Colombia, or a new version of it for Lima, as well as a more advantageous position with the United States towards achieving a free trade agreement. If this were so, Colombia might come to feel that the price being paid for it was too high and comparable to the nation’s flag being dragged down a dusty street where it could be bought and sold to the highest bidder, while its neighbors contemptuously stare at Bogota’s loss of its sovereignty.

This analysis was prepared by COHA Research Associate Erina Uozumi

The Science of Sarcasm (Not That You Care)

[Thanks again to Lauren from the Sam Seder Show for this link]

There was nothing very interesting in Katherine P. Rankin’s study of sarcasm — at least, nothing worth your important time. All she did was use an M.R.I. to find the place in the brain where the ability to detect sarcasm resides. But then, you probably already knew it was in the right parahippocampal gyrus.

What you may not have realized is that perceiving sarcasm, the smirking put-down that buries its barb by stating the opposite, requires a nifty mental trick that lies at the heart of social relations: figuring out what others are thinking. Those who lose the ability, whether through a head injury or the frontotemporal dementias afflicting the patients in Dr. Rankin’s study, just do not get it when someone says during a hurricane, “Nice weather we’re having.”

“A lot of the social cognition we take for granted and learn through childhood, the ability to appreciate that someone else is being ironic or sarcastic or angry — the so-called theory of mind that allows us to get inside someone else’s head — is characteristically lost very early in the course of frontotemporal dementia,” said Dr. Bradley F. Boeve, a behavioral neurologist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.

“It’s very disturbing for family members, but neurologists haven’t had good tools for measuring it,” he went on. “That’s why I found this study by Kate Rankin and her group so fascinating.”

Dr. Rankin, a neuropsychologist and assistant professor in the Memory and Aging Center at the University of California, San Francisco, used an innovative test developed in 2002, the Awareness of Social Inference Test, or Tasit. It incorporates videotaped examples of exchanges in which a person’s words seem straightforward enough on paper, but are delivered in a sarcastic style so ridiculously obvious to the able-brained that they seem lifted from a sitcom.

“I was testing people’s ability to detect sarcasm based entirely on paralinguistic cues, the manner of expression,” Dr. Rankin said.

In one videotaped exchange, a man walks into the room of a colleague named Ruth to tell her that he cannot take a class of hers that he had previously promised to take. “Don’t be silly, you shouldn’t feel bad about it,” she replies, hitting the kind of high and low registers of a voice usually reserved for talking to toddlers. “I know you’re busy — it probably wasn’t fair to expect you to squeeze it in,” she says, her lips curled in derision.

Although people with mild Alzheimer’s disease perceived the sarcasm as well as anyone, it went over the heads of many of those with semantic dementia, a progressive brain disease in which people forget words and their meanings.

“You would think that because they lose language, they would pay close attention to the paralinguistic elements of the communication,” Dr. Rankin said.

To her surprise, though, the magnetic resonance scans revealed that the part of the brain lost among those who failed to perceive sarcasm was not in the left hemisphere of the brain, which specializes in language and social interactions, but in a part of the right hemisphere previously identified as important only to detecting contextual background changes in visual tests.

“The right parahippocampal gyrus must be involved in detecting more than just visual context — it perceives social context as well,” Dr. Rankin said.

The discovery fits with an increasingly nuanced view of the right hemisphere’s role, said Dr. Anjan Chatterjee, an associate professor in the Center for Cognitive Neuroscience at the University of Pennsylvania.

“The left hemisphere does language in the narrow sense, understanding of individual words and sentences,” Dr. Chatterjee said. “But it’s now thought that the appreciation of humor and language that is not literal, puns and jokes, requires the right hemisphere.”

Dr. Boeve, at the Mayo Clinic, said that beyond the curiosity factor of mapping the cognitive tasks of the brain’s ridges and furrows, the study offered hope that a test like Tasit could help in the diagnosis of frontotemporal dementia.

“These people normally do perfectly well on traditional neuropsychological tests early in the course of their disease,” he said. “The family will say the person has changed dramatically, but even neurologists will often just shrug them off as having a midlife crisis.”

Short of giving such a test, he said, the best way to diagnose such problems is by talking with family members about how the person has changed over time.

After a presentation of her findings at the American Academy of Neurology’s annual meeting in April, Dr. Rankin was asked whether even those with intact brains might have differences in brain areas that explain how well they pick up on sarcasm.

“We all have strengths and weaknesses in our cognitive abilities, including our ability to detect social cues,” she said. “There may be volume-based differences in certain regions that explain variations in all sorts of cognitive abilities.”

So is it possible that Jon Stewart, who wields sarcasm like a machete on “The Daily Show,” has an unusually large right parahippocampal gyrus?

“His is probably just normal,” Dr. Rankin said. “The right parahippocampal gyrus is involved in detecting sarcasm, not being sarcastic.”

But, she quickly added, “I bet Jon Stewart has a huge right frontal lobe; that’s where the sense of humor is detected on M.R.I.”

A spokesman for Mr. Stewart said he would have no comment — not that a big-shot television star like Jon Stewart would care about the size of his neuroanatomy.

A Message by George Carlin:

The paradox of our time in history is that we have taller buildings but shorter tempers, wider Freeways,but narrower viewpoints. We spend more, but have less, we buy more, but enjoy less. We have bigger houses and smaller families, more conveniences, but less time. We have more degrees but less sense, more knowledge, but less judgment, more experts, yet more problems, more medicine, but less wellness. We drink too much, smoke too much, spend too recklessly, laugh too little, drive too fast, get too angry, stay up too late, get up too tired, read too little, watch TV too much, and pray too seldom.We have multiplied our possessions, but reduced our values. We talk too much, love too seldom, and hate too often.We've learned how to make a living, but not a life. We've added years to life not life to years. We've been all the way to the moon and back, but have trouble crossing the street to meet a new neighbor. We conquered outer space but not inner space. We've done larger things, but not better things.We've cleaned up the air, but polluted the soul. We've conquered the atom, but not our prejudice. We write more, but learn less. We plan more, but accomplish less. We've learned to rush, but not to wait. We build more computers to hold more information, to produce more copies than ever, but we communicate less and less. These are the times of fast foods and slow digestion, big men and small character, steep profits and shallow relationships. These are the days of two incomes but more divorce, fancier houses, but broken homes. These are days of quick trips, disposable diapers, throwaway morality, one night stands, overweight bodies, and pills that do everything from cheer, to quiet, to kill. It is a time when there is much in the showroom window and nothing in the stockroom. A time when technology can bring this letter to you, and a time when you can choose either to share this insight, or to just hit delete... Remember; spend some time with your loved ones, because they are not going to be around forever.Remember, say a kind word to someone who looks up to you in awe, because that little person soon will grow up and leave your side.Remember, to give a warm hug to the one next to you, because that is the only treasure you can give with your heart and it doesn't cost a cent.Remember, to say, 'I love you' to your partner and your loved ones, but most of all mean it. A kiss and an embrace will mend hurt when it comes from deep inside of you. Remember to hold hands and cherish the moment for someday that person will not be there again.Give time to love, give time to speak! And give time to share the precious thoughts in your mind.AND ALWAYS REMEMBER:Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away. [Thanks to my friend Michael for this post]

Update on PFP primary trouble


Earlier this month, IPR noted the reports of Peace and Freedom Party voters being given the incorrect ballots during the June 3rd California statewide primary. Since then, Alameda County’s registrar Dave Macdonald has offered an explanation:

He explained that there are two lists that poll workers use, a “roster index”—a master list—and a street-level list. Peace and Freedom Party members were identified on the street-level list as “non partisan,” which means they would be given general ballots, allowing them to vote only on state-wide propositions.

Macdonald said the problem was due to “our printer that made a mistake.”

Macdonald also downplayed concerns about disenfranchisement of PFP members and argued that County officials swiftly handled the situation once it came to light:

Macdonald said that if voters challenged their status, poll workers were trained to give them a provisional ballot on which they could vote as Peace and Freedom Party members.

“If there’s any concern at all, people are allowed to vote provisionally,” he said, adding, “I feel confident that our poll workers did it right.”

Moreover, Macdonald said that as soon as the county office was alerted to the problem “we notified the coordinators to make sure [poll workers] were not using the street index” to determine which ballot a voter should receive.

California Peace and Freedom chair Debra Reiger commented on the issue more fully to The Daily Californian

[Reiger] said that some party members insisted on completing provisional ballots and called in to complain about the proceedings.

“Those who didn’t know better probably voted on non-partisan ballots and only on state propositions,” she said.

Party members said they are worried that this may put their August presidential nomination convention at stake, and are currently filing a complaint with the secretary of state’s office.

…and had some harsh words as to the motivation (or lack thereof) behind the mix-up:

“It was not a deliberate attempt, just a careless disregard for third parties and small parties, and the care was not taken to make sure parties other than Republican or Democrat were represented,” [Reiger] said.

Ballot Access News has also picked up on the story, and provides some insight into the stakes of the primary’s outcome:

Since it is so difficult for an independent to get on the California ballot, the PFP nomination is of great value. Ralph Nader, Gloria La Riva (Party for Socialism and Liberation nominee), and Brian Moore (Socialist Party nominee) would all be greatly advantaged if they could receive the PFP nomination.

The winning nominee must receive a majority of the vote at the convention. Delegates are the members of the state central committee. County central committee members are automatically members of the state central committee. They were elected at the June 3 primary. Not all the absentee or provisional ballots have been counted yet, and some counties haven’t counted write-in votes. Some of the contested races for PFP county central committee are still extremely close; sometimes one vote separates winners from losers.

One commenter on BAN has provided a running tally of the current central committee standings, compiled from the PFP’s published list of candidates and the slates listed on Gloria La Riva and Ralph Nader’s websites. However, with races as tight as they are and the ongoing concern over the ballot mix-up, any preliminary figures should be considered provisional at best.

Transparency Debated in Congress; WHINSEC (Ex-School of the Americas) Continues to Spark Criticism

• Passage of House legislation concerning WHINSEC. • School of the Americas (SOA) legacy continued. • Department of Defense upholds contradictory policy. • US Foreign Policy in Latin America misguided and ineffective. • A demand for transparency and change.

The McGovern/Sestak/Bishop Amendment The Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC), successor to the Pentagon’s notorious School of the Americas (SOA), has once again drawn attention following recent legislation fueled by ongoing opposition to the school’s historically controversial role. On May 22, 2008, the US House of Representatives voted to approve the McGovern/Sestak/Bishop Amendment, which will require the Defense Secretary to release the names, ranks, and countries of origin of all graduates of and instructors at the school upon request. If authorized, WHINSEC will be required to release the aforementioned information from 2005-2008 and all years thereafter. Passage of the amendment was a landmark victory for the social activists and congressmen who have relentlessly fought WHINSEC’s chronic lack of transparency. Representative James McGovern (D-MA) recently told COHA, “I’m very pleased that a majority of my colleagues voted for transparency and accountability. There is simply no reason why the Pentagon should continue to black out the names of WHINSEC attendees. I will be working hard as this process moves along to make the McGovern/Bishop/Sestak amendment the law of the land.” This amendment has already progressed further than its failed predecessors. Past Legislation in Opposition to WHINSEC McGovern first introduced an act on May 10, 2001, entitled the Latin American Military Review Act, which proposed WHINSEC’s closure and the creation of a congressional task force to investigate the nature of the education and training that has been conducted at the school. The bill failed to progress beyond even its preliminary stages, and reintroductions of the bill in March 2003 and 2005 met a similar fate. McGovern reintroduced the WHINSEC issue through an amendment to the Foreign Operations Appropriations Act to halt funding of the school. Though the amendment failed by a vote of 218-188, it led to the first debate in Congress regarding WHINSEC since 2001 and provided an opportunity for McGovern and other representatives to cite multiple reports of human rights violations perpetrated by both SOA graduates as well as some of its current students. In August 2006, shortly after the Congressional discussion of the aforementioned violations, the names of and information about WHINSEC students, instructors and graduates were suddenly classified by the Department of Defense. This was a surprising development considering the very same information had been available to the public upon request for more than 40 years. The following year, a congressional debate regarding WHINSEC funding revealed that a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request filed by a human rights group monitoring WHINSEC – School of the Americas Watch (SOA Watch) – had yielded a blacked out list of the names of attendees for 2005. Students, politicians, and various other human rights organizations both in the United States and throughout Latin America joined in opposition to WHINSEC’s secretive practices and the deplorable record of SOA alumni. A Brief History of the SOA/WHINSEC In 1946, the School of the Americas was established in Panama by the United States Army for the purpose of training Latin American military personnel in combat tactics and strategy. The expiration of the Panama Canal Treaty in 1984 terminated the basis for continuing presence of US military in Panama and forced the SOA to move to its current location in Fort Benning, Georgia. The SOA trained over 63,000 soldiers from some 22 nations. For decades revelations regarding its alumni established that literally hundreds of former students and graduates had been connected with human rights abuses throughout Latin America. The school had invoked persistent criticism for its training tactics and its failure to adhere to its stated mission. The School of the Americas came under even more heightened scrutiny after Salvadoran SOA graduates methodically killed six Jesuit priests, their housekeeper and her daughter at the University of Central America in El Salvador in 1989. This killing involved 26 perpetrators, 19 of whom were SOA graduates. Joining them on the roster of pathological students are Panamanian dictators Manuel Noriega, and Omar Torrijos, as well as, the military personnel responsible for the brutal assassination of Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero, and the culprits of the Mozote massacre in El Salvador. SOA alumni have also been linked to the murder of four US churchwomen in El Salvador, in addition to the gunning down of union leaders, journalists, priests, students and professors across Central and South America and the Caribbean. The numerous examples of the group’s atrocities are the very reason its critics have worked tirelessly to close its doors permanently. What’s in a name? Demands against the institution to change its practices or to close its doors have been mounting annually. In 1996, public pressure forced the Pentagon to release training manuals used at the school, which revealed that tactics such as execution, torture, and blackmail were part of the SOA’s curriculum. In 2001, just as legislation proposed by the opposition movement was posed to win congressional approval, the Pentagon salvaged the school by way of a cosmetic name change approved by the Defense Authorization Bill. The School of the Americas’ closure coincided with the launching of the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, which occupies the same buildings used by the SOA, uses more of the same personnel, and only differs in name, not mission. The Department of Defense claims that the School of the Americas closed because it had fulfilled its Cold War-era purpose. To justify the opening of WHINSEC the Department of Defense cited the need for an institute to foster democracy throughout the hemisphere. WHINSEC asserts its mission as being, “To provide professional education and training to eligible personnel of nations of the Western Hemisphere within the context of the democratic principles set forth in the charter of the Organization of American States [OAS].” Its critics cannot swallow this explanation and insist that name-change and new ideological goals mask the simple fact that the SOA’s legacy lives on. Among its clauses, the OAS charter claims that its members must work to promote representative democracy with due respect for the principle of non-intervention, as well as the promotion and protection of human rights as a prerequisite for the existence of a democratic society. The charter also asserts that the promotion of democracy, peace and development are inseparable parts of a renewed and integral vision of solidarity in the Americas. Finally, WHINSEC’s mission states that it aims to foster mutual knowledge, transparency, confidence and cooperation among the participating nations as well as to promote democratic values and respect for human rights. These principles, however, are categorically inconsistent with a number of basic WHINSEC practices as viewed by its critics. In WHINSEC’s Defense WHINSEC reminds its critics that it offers classes in peacekeeping and human rights, with a mandatory eight-hour instruction on human rights, the rule of law, due process, civilian control of the military, and the role of the military in a democratic society. Similar classes were also included in the SOA curriculum after news of the torture memos broke, but were habitually poorly attended. When WHINSEC replaced the SOA, its sponsors pointed out that the new school would put less emphasis on military training and more on leadership development and peace support. The SOA also claimed to place emphasis on leadership training, but issues of importance to civil society were always sacrificial to skill training, tactics, and coat of arms. WHINSEC, like the SOA, uses academic material aimed at advancing a military education so as to achieve its goals of democracy and peace building. WHINSEC defends its transparency by citing its Board of Visitors (BOV), a group intended to oversee the quality of teaching at the school that is similar to the SOA’s board of overseers. The BOV at WHINSEC is comprised of fourteen members, six of whom are handpicked by the Secretary of Defense, with the remainder coming from the Senate and House Armed Service Committee, the State Department, and other military appendages. The BOV reports on the practices of the institute and its relevance to US foreign policy, but is limited in its capacity to engage in critical analysis of the school’s overall performance. Therefore, there is little assurance that the BOV will provide the kind of scrutiny that the SOA board failed to provide. The Department of Defense’s Inconsistencies Revealed WHINSEC faithfully mirrors the SOA in form and philosophy, as well as in its insistence that it is capable of meeting its self proclaimed goals. If the SOA was deemed outdated, nonresponsive and unnecessary by its critics, what purpose will the nearly identical WHINSEC serve? The same failure of the SOA to claim responsibility for the results of its teaching is manifested in WHINSEC’s shortcomings. There is no procedure in place to analyze the actions of the alumni and how their behavior might reflect the quality of education they received from either the SOA or WHINSEC. Due to the lack of a systematic tracking method, WHINSEC claims that they are not responsible for the human rights abuses that former students have committed. Yet they have boasted, “The vast majority [of students] contributed positively to the region’s transition to democracy,” even though they have made no effort to evaluate the conduct of their graduates in normative terms. If, as they claim, the Department of Defense does not oblige the school to track former students, how can they ensure that these students contribute positively to the region? In fact, the defense that the Pentagon offers in this respect is purely anecdotal, if not a total invention. At the same time, the US government prides itself on conducting a thorough background check of all incoming students to ensure that, “if there is any hint of wrongdoing in the student’s past, the student is not permitted into the United States to attend WHINSEC.” If students come to WHINSEC with a clean past, as suggested, yet commit human rights abuses after they leave, perhaps the screening process is flawed or the school has had some influence on the graduates’ actions. Until August 2006, independent groups such as the SOA Watch had been tracking the institute’s former students. However, when WHINSEC began blocking the names of its students and instructors, this task became nearly impossible. Thus, to carry out the proposed Congressional legislation mandating openness would be an important step in the direction of holding members of the SOA/WHINSEC community accountable for the manner in which their graduates apply what they learned in the classroom. Contradiction and Misrepresentation by the Department of Defense The Department of Defense’s classification of WHINSEC files in 2006 and failure to adhere to FOIA requests coming from the public, demonstrates how transparency is far from being a constant with the Pentagon. Where does the US military stand on the subject, since transparency fluctuates at the convenience of the authorities? A prime example of the contradictions between goals and tactics in achieving its foreign policy ends can be seen in the treatment of Luís Posada Carriles, a notorious SOA student. Today, Posada walks the streets of Miami a free man, though he previously admitted he was the mastermind behind the bombing of a Cuban passenger jet in 1976, which killed 73 people. The US government is fully aware that Posada is charged with terrorism in Venezuela, but he has been allowed to find de facto sanctuary in the US. Further evidence of a policy based on convenience rather than principles is the Department of Defense’s inability to provide a concrete reason for its decision to classify school files, which had never appeared to be a problem before, over four previous decades. What happened in the past three years that left WHINSEC feeling it has something to hide? Why now? The long list of human rights abuses at the hands of SOA graduates could make WHINSEC’s sudden need for confidentiality readily understandable. In recent years, there has been a substantial Latin American backlash against the school that is supposedly committed to aiding society and promoting cooperation. Since January 2004, when Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez became the first regional leader to withdraw his country’s military personnel from WHINSEC participation, four more Latin American countries have reported their intent to withdraw from the school. Over the past two years, leaders from Uruguay, Argentina, Costa Rica, and Bolivia have all declared their withdrawal from the school due to related human rights issues, including torture and social repression and WHINSEC’s negative image in the region. A Misguided Approach to Foreign Policy in Latin America Growing opposition to WHINSEC both in the US and in Latin America demonstrates the flawed nature of its inclusion in US foreign policy. The failure of past US initiatives in Latin America should have been a warning to government officials against employing the armed forces to “promote democracy.” Both direct and indirect US support for military intervention in Latin America on national security grounds, from the 1970’s to the 1990’s, including those in Chile, Brazil, Guatemala, Argentina, El Salvador, and Nicaragua, should exhibit the danger of using military devices to support democracy. Military movements in all these countries employed the calculated use of intimidation resulting in the repression of their citizens’ freedoms, completely contradicting the democratic values professed by the United States. Promoting democracy by means of militarism in Latin America usually is not a successful strategy and carries with it a large potential for negative consequences. Why does the United States continue linking itself so aggressively to the Latin American military if the past is filled with disturbing evidence of this baleful approach? The actions of the Department of Defense with respect to WHINSEC demonstrate that the school’s true goal is not what is advocated in the mission statement, but is instead to act as a vehicle for the Bush administration to project its conservative values and covertly oppose leftist governments and regional bodies. Professor Lesley Gill, author of School of the Americas: Military Training and Political Violence in the Americas, observes that WHINSEC is a “central tool in the construction of US hemispheric dominance.” The aim of US foreign policy as embodied by WHINSEC, is to provide a source of influence and stabilization of the Latin American region, in sharp contrast to the supposed aims stated in its motto, “Libertad, Paz y Fraternidad” (Freedom, Peace, and Brotherhood). A Call for Responsibility With the McGovern/Sestak/Bishop Amendment moving towards deliberation at a joint House-Senate conference committee and the March 2007 Latin America Military Training Review Act still in committee, WHINSEC promises to remain under scrutiny from Congress and regional activists. The mounting pressure against WHINSEC and its contradictory practices could very well persuade the Department of Defense to either more clearly define WHINSEC’s goals and missions, or realize that a new policy is needed. A new policy should encourage constructive engagement between the north and the south and would probably benefit from the absence of an institution that has such a troubled history.

For more information regarding SOA and WHINSEC see COHA’s past articles: WHINSEC Remains Open… School of Americas - A Black Eye to Democracy Torture is Un-American - The SOA and Its Devastating Legacy

This analysis was prepared by COHA Research Associates Michael Katz and Elizabeth Reavey

La Riva/Puryear campaign makes demands on behalf of Iowans

In light of the recent flooding in Iowa, the Gloria La Riva/Eugene Puryear campaign has issued a statement calling for generous government financing for disaster relief and condemning DC’s current spending priorities:

When big investment banks were in trouble because of the housing crisis, the government gave them $200 billion literally overnight. That is 200 times more than the estimated losses from the flooding in Iowa. We demand that similar action be taken for the working people and farmers in Iowa.

Yesterday, the Bush administration and Congress spent $430 million to occupy Iraq. Today, another $430 million will be spent—and it will continue until the war is stopped. The U.S. government and its private corporate allies have limitless resources, equipment and people, but only the tiniest fraction will be directed to help Iowans.

The full statement and list of demands can be found here.

Thomas Paine - Common Sense - (excerpt)

"We may be as effectually enslaved by the want of laws in America, as by submitting to laws made for us in England. After matters are made up (as it is called) can there be any doubt, but the whole power of the crown will be exerted, to keep this continent as low and humble as possible? Instead of going forward we shall go backward, or be perpetually quarrelling or ridiculously petitioning. —WE are already greater than the king wishes us to be, and will he not hereafter endeavour to make us less?"

Monday, June 16, 2008

Anarchist bibliography

by Dimitri (MACG, ex-OAE) - Anarkismo Monday, Jun 16 2008, 1:35pm international / history of anarchism / opinion/analysis And historical research
The history of the anarchist movement must not be a barren and unrealistic presentation of elements for a few certain "enlightened" anarchists or any alteration and bourgeois-inspired theory served by every shrewd person, but that of the anarchists and libertarian revolutionary movements of the working class in a way that would also corresponds in the today’s needs.

In issue No.10 (2nd Period - March 2007) of “Epi Ta Proso” (“Forward”) the newspaper of Eleftheriaki Syndikalistiki Enosi (ESE – Libertarian Syndicalist Union) – from Greece – there appeared a 4-page review of 3 books published during the same time in Greece, on the history of the Spanish Revolution and Civil War 1936-1939. These books are by Anthony Beevor "Spanish Civil War 1936-1939" (Govostis Edition), Gabriel Ranzato "The Spanish Civil War" (Kedros Editions) and Helen Graham "The Spanish Civil War. All you must know" (“Ellinika Grammata” Publications and as an inset in a book format in the mainstream Sunday newspaper “To Vema”).

I generally agree with the arguments in this book review by its author, but only for the book by A. Beevor (on which I have read a litle bit in its English edition) as well as for the book by H. Graham, for which the only thing I have to say is that it simply constitutes the worst presentation ofall of those published in Greece last year. I still do not know the book by G. Ranzato.

However, beyond the Greek publòication and the review of these books, I feel there is an enormous question arising and this is the anarchist historiography or, at least, that relative bibliography, which is not only dealing with the history of the Spanish Revolution and Civil War, but more generally with every aspect of the history of the international anarchist revolutionary movement since its beginnings until its present phase. That is to say, in my opinion – the question of anarchist historical research is an enormous and crucial question. By giving as an example the history of the Spanish anarchist movement and its peak during the 1930s, I believe that I could advance my subject.

I know very well that an enormous bibliography exists, specifically in Spanish , made up of books, albums, magazines, monographs, manuscripts, photographs, posters as well as audiovisual material, with regard to the Spanish Revolution, but also with the almost whole history of the Spanish anarchist movement before the Revolution. This enormous wealth is squeezed onto bookshelves etc at the anarchist and libertarian historical and research institutes and archives in Spain, in the archives of the CNT (Anselmo Lorenzo Foundation etc) and other libertarian organisations, as well as anarchist archives and research institutes around the world.

Despite all of these, the undeniable fact remains that from this enormous wealth not even 10% of it has been translated and published in other languages, specifically in English. (I do not know for French or Italian though). In particular, the available bibliography on the Spanish Revolution in English, although there have been published some works of direct participants in this, organisations and individuals (such as "The Friends of Durruti" Group, J. Peirats, M. Garcia, A. Paz, G. Leval, A. Souhy, J. G. Casas, A. Telez and others) or even some amous anarchist writers and historians who did not directly participate (such as S. Dolgoff, E. Goldman, V. Richards, S. Christie, the anglophone bulletin "Spain and the World" etc.), the relevant bibliography in English still remains poor.

Even poorer than the English, though, remains the relevant bibliography in Greek . This bibliography is made up of roughly 20 books and pamphlets, all translations. Certain of these translations are bad, by no means instructive or functional and, consequently. Also many of these translations did not come from the Spanish prototype, but, mainly, from English and French, that is to say they constitute a translation from second or third hand with a danger of alterations, misinterpretations and misundestandings.

Moreover, the problem in Greece becomes bigger and more intense, since that a significant number of anarchists or all those who use other labels such as anti-authortitarians, libertarians etc, but who they try to refer to anarchism are not interested so much for the historical research and it appears they prefer everything to be ready, by someone "enlightened" or "initiated" to research offerring them a certain history of any movement in the… dish.

Consequently, an important problem exists: that of historical research, indexing, re-examination and publication of history, with an authentic and useful way.

The present anarchist movement - and I talk about the organised anarchist movement, which is constituted from cohesive, ideologically and theoretically, organisations, federations, unions etc, with a processedly decided strategy, content of action and prospect and not for loose groupings which are form and dissolve as shooting stars, with ideological and theoretical confusion, not clear strategy and action - needs historical archives, libraries or institutes, specific groups of comrades charged with the historical research, translators, people to come in contact with collectors of books and other publications, to follow systematicly academic and other historical seminars, to read regularly historical magazines and reviews, to collect, sort and store electronically or/and not various documents, to organise launches, presentations, discussions and lectures, to publish or/and republish historical documents etc.

All this process - which of course is insistent and laborious - should be the subject of information, learning and friction that will allow and will contribute at its biggest in the acquisition of a revolutionary historical conscience and, at extension, in the constitution of a cohesive anarchist movement with strategy and clear prospects.

Finally, what is the aim of research and presentation of the history of the anarchist movement? The resistance against the alteration of this history begun decades ago and is continued up to today, against the deliberated refusal to the working class of every effortlessly contribute in its own theory and history and against the assisted by every government or other falsification of the anarchist movement by academics and other similar writers. Also the as much as possible genuine recording and publication of this history in combination with the social struggles of today and tomorrow.

The various academics who write any anarchist history can research without problem files and other installations granted and offered to them by the state and other institutions, but they degrade blatantly not only the historical facts but the very substance of anarchism. Moreover, there are other academics who write what they write supposedly in the name of anarchism, but their histories lead them to degrade facts and significances.

The history of the anarchist movement we called to research and bring in the light must not be a barren and unrealistic presentation of elements for a few certain "enlightened" anarchists or any alteration and bourgeois inspired theory served by every shrewd person, but that of the anarchists and libertarian revolutionary movements of the working class in a way that would also corresponds in the today’s needs.

It is said many times that if someone doesn’t learn from the history is condemned to commit the same errors again. This is deeply genuine. But the same deeply genuine is also that if someone has taught you your own history with some exterior influences then you are condemned to commit those the errors which they who exctract a profit from this want you to commit.

* This article was written in Greek in 12 June 2007 and published in the next day.

Human cost of Brazil's biofuels boom

[Thanks to Lauren from the Sam Seder Show for this link]
The country is a key producer of ethanol. Many of those cutting the sugar cane used to make the fuel are said to endure primitive conditions.
By Patrick J. McDonnell, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer June 16, 2008
BOCAINA, BRAZIL -- For as far as the eye can see, stalks of sugar cane march across the hillsides here like giant praying mantises. This is ground zero for ethanol production in Brazil -- "the Saudi Arabia of biofuels," as some have already labeled this vast South American country. But even as Brazil's booming economy is powered by fuel processed from the cane, labor officials are confronting what some call the country's dirty little ethanol secret: the mostly primitive conditions endured by the multitudes of workers who cut the cane. Biofuels may help reduce humanity's carbon footprint, but the social footprint is substantial. "These workers should have a break, a place to eat and access to a proper restroom," Marcus Vinicius Goncalves, a government labor cop in suit and tie, declared in the midst of a snarl of felled stalks and bedraggled cane cutters here. "This is degrading treatment." More than 300,000 farmworkers are seasonal cane cutters in Brazil, the government says. By most accounts, their work and living conditions range from basic to deplorable to outright servitude. "Brazil has a great climate, great land and technology, but a lot of the competitive edge for biofuels is due to worker exploitation -- from slave work to underpayment," said Leonardo Sakamoto, a political scientist who runs a nonprofit labor watchdog group in Sao Paulo. In the last four years, said a lawyer from the Public Ministry, which acts as the Sao Paulo state district attorney, at least 18 cane cutters have died of dehydration, heart attacks or other ailments linked to exhaustion in this region, where the forests long ago gave way to agriculture. That does not include an unknown number of others who died in accidents, said the lawyer, Luis Henrique Rafael, part of a two-attorney team from the Public Ministry's office that recently toured the area to investigate abuses of the labor code. "They died from excess work," Rafael said. "Even prisoners have a better life. These men's only form of leisure is cachaca," he added, referring to the liquor distilled from sugar cane. In its annual report, Amnesty International last month highlighted the plight of Brazil's biofuel workers, more than 1,000 of whom were rescued in June 2007 after allegedly being held in slave-like conditions at a plantation owned by a major ethanol producer, Pagrisa, in the Amazonian state of Para. Although slavery cases tend to grab headlines, advocates say laborers typically face more quotidian abuse -- low pay, excessive work hours, inadequate safety gear, an absence of sanitary and health services, and exposure to pesticides and other toxic chemicals. "The cases analogous to slavery seem not to be the norm," said Tim Cahill, Brazil researcher for Amnesty International. "But this is very much a case of long work hours, the destruction of workers' health through extreme conditions, a lack of access to quality food, problems of accommodation, and the impacts of agro-toxins." The technological advances that have facilitated the biofuel revolution have not reached the fields. Although mechanized harvesting of cane is on the rise, rough terrain dictates that much of the crop must still be cut manually. Industry officials acknowledge some abuses, but insist that safety has improved and that the allegations of slavery are greatly exaggerated. "If there is an industry that has bettered the situation of the worker, it is the sugar cane industry," said Rodolfo Tavares of Brazil's National Confederation of Agriculture, a trade group. "It's an example for the world." With international scrutiny growing, leftist President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva says the government and producers are keen to ameliorate conditions. "Everyone knows that sugar cane labor is tough," Lula said in Rome this month during a food crisis summit at which biofuels were called a major culprit. But "it's not tougher than labor in coal mines, which was the basis for the development of Europe. Take a big knife to cut cane and then go down in a mine, 90 meters deep, to explode dynamite. You'll see which is better." Brazilian officials acknowledge that fines and prosecutions have largely failed to improve the workers' lot. Cases drag on in court until sanctions are reduced or owners cleared. Few, if any, violators go to jail. Too few inspectors are available to police this giant country and its behemoth agribusiness, which have made it a world leader in exports of soybeans, beef and coffee, among other foodstuffs. In the last year, Brazil has stepped up cases filed under antislavery statutes, which can land offenders in prison. Authorities say that last year they "liberated" nearly 6,000 agricultural workers from slave-like conditions, which under Brazilian law can include debt servitude, forced labor and a "degrading" work environment. More than half toiled in the sugar cane sector. "Brazilians only understand justice when they get arrested," said Goncalves, the labor investigator. "These days, slaves aren't necessarily chained." Interviewed workers agreed that conditions were harsh and hours long -- sometimes 12 hours a day, six or seven days a week, inevitably beneath an unforgiving sun or drenching rain. Still, the workers said the pay was relatively good, typically the equivalent of between $420 and $550 a month, or up to double the minimum wage here for a 40-hour week. Like migrant farmworkers in many nations, they displayed a grudging acceptance of their plight and lack of employment alternatives. Field laborers attack so-called streets of cane using a machete-like tool known as a podao, which has been employed since colonial times, when millions of African slaves were imported for the European sugar trade. They constantly crouch to cut swaths of the cane and must negotiate paths through the thickets and step over the slippery stalks, advancing steadily into forest-like stretches of the stuff. "The job is tough, but that's the way it is," said Roberto Santos Lopes, 25, taking a break from chopping cane here. "Some of this cane is broken and twisted and it's harder to cut, so we earn less." A common complaint: Owners cheat them in measuring the amount of cane harvested, which determines earnings. Some of the cutters come here on their own; others are recruited by intermediaries known as gatos (cats) who provide transport, sometimes taking recruits 1,000 miles or more. Some cutters have moved to this region semipermanently, living in ramshackle company dormitories and commuting to work in grower-supplied buses. "In my town there are no jobs," said Vandailson dos Santos Silva, 22, from Pernambuco, traditionally one of Brazil's poorest states. "At least here we can find some work." Dos Santos, the eldest of seven siblings, said he first came to the cane fields here four years ago. A younger brother has since followed in his footsteps. He lives in a run-down company complex in the nearby town of Dois Corregos, a cane hub, and $50 a month is deducted from his paycheck for housing. The grower charges extra for food "and even some cachaca," Dos Santos added. The $370 or so he clears each month allows him to live modestly, send some cash home and even go out some evenings to dance and meet girls. "It's the best I can do with the little education I have," said Dos Santos on a recent balmy evening, standing in the frontyard of the dormitory he shares with other cane cutters. He said he would like to be able to study, even become a lawyer someday. But he acknowledged that such grandiose notions were unlikely to be fulfilled, saying, "We must be content with what we have." He then went back to his stuffy room, needing a good night's sleep before another day of harvesting Brazil's biofuel bounty.

Anarchism and Libertarian Currents in the Oaxaca Insurrectionary Movement

From Anarkismo - By Sergio de Castro Sanchez (translated) - Capital Terminus Collective

Translated from Sergio de Castro Sanchez's article, Journal of the CGT Rojo y Negro (Spain)

Between June and November of 2006, the Mexican state of Oaxaca lived through a popular revolt that both astonished and shocked the world. While the mass media took its characteristic perspective on the conflict, the people of Oaxaca rejected Governor Ulises Ruiz Ortiz (URO), of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) and took the capital city demanding his ouster as the starting point for the creation of a new political and economic order to wipe out the huge social inequalities that submerge the mostly indigenous state.

To talk about the historical background that led to this uprising can be misleading. And it is because our discussion is imparted with an essential difference between that which occurred before and that which occurred after June 14th. In reality, the struggle in Oaxaca, Mexico and Latin America is a continuum in which only the limits of our thinking and of our language that impose dates and events with special historical interest, while ignoring the "silent" processes and " marginal of history "(at least media-wise) that occur within the society, as well as the struggles and the repression exerted upon them.

Knowing this, however , we do advise that the fight in Oaxaca goes back to the arrival of the Spaniards, here we will just focus on the recent past.

A brief history

On June 14th 2006, 3,000 troops from different bodies of the Mexican State Police tried to enter the main city plaza or Zocalo with the intention to evict the annual encamped "sit-in" that the Mexican National Educational Workers Union (SNTE) union had established at the Zocalo for the past 25 years as a means of pressure for a series of demands. The people of Oaxaca joined together under this movement and went to the streets forcing the police to retreat. From that moment on and despite the authoritarian and repressive policies of Ulises Ruiz Ortiz (URO), the ouster of the governor became the unanimous demand of the people. A few days later, several organizations joined with the teachers in the creation of the famous People's Assembly of the People of Oaxaca (APPO), which in its first instance would be led by thirty members who comprised the "Interim Committee" and of various groups who saw only a opportunity by which some would seek to use the revolt to fill their lust for power. From that moment began the repression: arbitrary arrests, torture and killings become the norm in Oaxaca while the popular move movement would meet in mega- marches of up to 800,000 people and developed actions that the APPO's direction could not control.

June 14th provides one of the first examples of such popular effervescence that builds upon itself and takes the decision to confront the police. There are many more examples of this type. On August 1st, a "cacerolada" (pot and pan banging brigade) composed exclusively of women decided to take the state television station in a peaceful manner. For weeks all programming was in charge of these women until they were violently evicted by vigilante groups. But that same night it was decided to seize all the commercial radio stations in the city . Days later, an attack by the "convoy of death" upon Radio La Ley resulted in a casualty and this leads the people take another decision: thousands of barricades were installed as a defense against the paramilitary and vigilante attacks. For weeks, and every night, the town jumps to the streets to defend the city until October 28th, one day after 5 people were killed, when the Federal Preventive Police (PFP) managed to enter the main plaza or Zocalo of the city. Then a few days later, on November 2nd, the police attempt to evict Radio University in viola- tion of university's autonomy. As the leaders of the APPO offered support to the members of the barricades that protected the voice of the movement to the left, the people went back out into the streets forcing the PFP to withdraw. The APPO secured a victory .

On November 25th, following a mega-march that was intended to besiege the PFP in the Zocalo and before the police assault, clashes were unleashed leading to a night of brutal repression that would only be the prelude to torture, illegal arrests and while others negotiate with the government to end the movement.

The outcome of the whole process: 26 dead, dozens of detainees and an undetermined number of missing. When the repression continued and at same there was debate on the participation of certain groups of APPO in the forthcoming elections to State Congress that was threatening to break the fragile unity of the APPO, provides an ideal time to review how the anarchist groups participated in the movement outside of the electioneering perspective and the criticism of some groups such as the Revolutionary People's Front (RPF) that is effectively Marxist-Leninist-Stalinist and which showed its true face in trying to eliminate all opponents participating in the election game.

Excerpted from Issue #8 of The Capital Terminus, Anarchist theory, news, and analysis, June 2008.

Climate bill defeated by filibuster in Senate

Politicians say the environmental crisis will have to wait On June 6, the Warner-Lieberman-Boxer climate bill was defeated in the Senate by a Republican-led filibuster. In addition, President Bush had promised to veto if it passed the Senate. The bill, which had significant problems from environmental and social justice perspectives, was nonetheless the first bill with bipartisan support to address global warming and set carbon reduction targets.

... Senators Barack Obama and John McCain, the presumptive Democrat and Republican nominees for President, were not present to cast a vote on cloture, which would have ended the filibuster. McCain said he would have voted for cloture but against the bill itself, because it did not give enough support to nuclear power. Obama, while trying to claim the mantle of the environmental movement, has a poor environmental track record and has supported liquefied coal technology, one of the worst offenders in terms of greenhouse gas emissions. Capitalist politicians cannot take real action on global warming if it means reduced profits for their true constituents, the corporations. PSL presidential candidate Gloria La Riva and vice presidential candidate Eugene Puryear stand for protecting the human needs and the environment over profits. Their campaign statement on environment affirms: "Capitalism is the greatest threat to our environment. As long as we live in a society where profits are prioritized over people’s needs, our planet will continue to be destroyed as corporations are allowed to continue polluting to cut costs and make more profit. ...

Peace & Freedom Nomination is Difficult to Predict

The ballot-qualified Peace and Freedom Party of California holds its state convention in Sacramento on August 2-3. The meeting will choose the party’s presidential nominee. Since it is so difficult for an independent to get on the California ballot, the PFP nomination is of great value. Ralph Nader, Gloria La Riva (Party for Socialism and Liberation nominee), and Brian Moore (Socialist Party nominee) would all be greatly advantaged if they could receive the PFP nomination.

The winning nominee must receive a majority of the vote at the convention. Delegates are the members of the state central committee. County central committee members are automatically members of the state central committee. They were elected at the June 3 primary. Not all the absentee or provisional ballots have been counted yet, and some counties haven’t counted write-in votes. Some of the contested races for PFP county central committee are still extremely close; sometimes one vote separates winners from losers.

Several California counties made election administration errors at the June 3 primary. The worst was in Alameda County, where some PFP members were told that they could only vote a non-partisan ballot. Also in Los Angeles County, in some districts the PFP primary ballot was two ballot cards, but some PFP voters were only given one of the two cards. Thanks to Bob Richard for that news. Here is an article from the Daily Planet of June 16 about the Alameda County problem.

44 - Radical Songs from the 60’s

From: Here

Friends turn mental mountains into molehills

Having a friend at your side can turn a mountain into a molehill.

Simone Schnall at the University of Plymouth, UK, and her colleagues asked students to estimate the steepness of a hill by tilting a board to match its slope.

Students with a friend nearby assessed the hill at 10 to 15 per cent less steep compared with those who were alone during the test. The longer the friends had known each other and the warmer their relationship, the less steep the hill appeared.

Schnall's team also found that just thinking about a close friend or family member - as opposed to a neutral person, or someone you dislike - made the hill appear up to 20 per cent gentler (Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, DOI: 10.1016/j.jesp.2008.04.011).

The Human Brain - With one hundred billion nerve cells, the complexity is mind-boggling. Learn more in our cutting edge special report.

Mysterious Strangers Pay For Everyone’s Expensive Fill-up At U.S. Gas Station

Whoever these guys are, there's no doubt we could use them here. An entire city is abuzz about the mysterious identity of two men who are as close to being living legends as you can get in this mortal life.

Welcome to a location so ordinary, it's actually called Plainville. But what happened in this small Connecticut town last Thursday was anything but plain. Like most cities around the world, the folks in the hamlet near Hartford are struggling to make ends meet due to the high cost of gas.

Several patrons were at a local Citgo gas station in the area contemplating how much they were going to have to pull out of their wallets as they filled their tanks, when two oddly dressed men suddenly showed up. Both were wearing matching green golf shirts, baseball caps and sunglasses to hide their identities. At first the customers feared they might be there to rob the place. And then they discovered they weren't dealing with robbing hoods but Robin Hoods, as one by one, the men went up to each motorist and handed them a $100 bill to help them buy their gas.

They also doled out a card to each person that read "Re-Fueling Our Community." It was signed "The Gas Men."

Gayle Kilburn was one of those lucky customers who met the pair. "I was like, 'Oh my God, I just got my gas paid for,'" she exults. She admits she thought at first they were handing out Monopoly money but when she looked down, she was shocked to discover it was the real thing.

In fact, everyone present was so stunned it took them a few minutes to realize what had just happened. They all went in to pay for their purchases, as the incredulous clerk inside refused to believe their stories. By the time they came out, the two men had disappeared.

No one is sure where they went, who they are or why they did it - and most importantly whether they'll be back.

But the like old ending to the Lone Ranger series, you can hear the five or six drivers who got handed the $100 bills saying to themselves, "Who were those masked (sunglassed?) men? I just wanted to thank them."

It remains to be seen if they'll ever get the chance.

Working people relying on stimulus checks, coins and lotto, bt Stewart Alexander

Nominee for Vice President Socialist Party USA Candidate for Vice President Peace and Freedom Party June 16, 2008 During the month of February, President George W. Bush announced to the nation that the U.S. government was preparing to issue more than $160 billion to millions of Americans as a means to help stimulate the sagging U.S. economy. Thomas Lee, a resident of Lake Elsinore, California responded to the president’s announcement like millions of Americans nationwide; with joy and excitement. Thomas Lee had calculated that his family of four would receive a check for $1,800; looking forward to the extra money, Thomas made plans to take a mini vacation, to include a little gambling, and to purchase some things for his two girls. Four months later, Thomas is not doing much better than the U.S. economy; working as an automobile sales consultant, Thomas is earning less than what his wife earns as a school bus driver. Now that gasoline prices are hovering above $4.50 per gallon, his planned mini vacation has been put on hold. Thomas says his new plan is to stay at home and to get a few things done around the house. Millions of working people are waking up to the harsh reality that the Bush stimulus package is not working and that the U.S. economy is already in a recession. Many economic indicators are revealing that the economy is in serious trouble. Just last week the U.S. Labor Department reported the lost of 49,000 jobs for the month of May, it was the highest lost of jobs since 1986; and as inflation continues to spread, the cost of energy and food will continue to weaken the U.S. economy. Working people are struggling to survive under the leadership of the Democrats and Republicans and the signs are everywhere. Recently, as I entered the local State Bros. Market, in Murrieta, California, I observed a woman depositing her coin savings into a Coin Star Center. Over the past two years, some local television stations have publicized how coins are easily deposited into the Coin Star Center to offer customers the convenience of redeeming cash. As I returned to the check-out, there were three people in line at the Coin Star Center and two others filling out their lottery tickets at a near-by lottery station. This is a by-product of modern day capitalism. Within the past few days, President Bush announced that his administration is exploring other measures that may help to stimulate the U.S. economy. The $168 billion stimulus package has failed to energize the weak U.S. economy, while more and more working people are facing job loss, foreclosures, evictions, automobile repossession, depleted savings and an uncertain future. President Bush has refused to accept the one option that would stimulate the U.S. economy and restore world peace, and that would be to end the U.S. occupation in Iraq and Afghanistan. As the United States approaches the final six months of the Bush administration, there will not be any creative programs that will reverse the economic set backs of the past seven and a half years; and the Democrats and Republicans, Barack Obama and John McCain are only the representatives for the corporate ruling class. Both parties and both candidates are firmly committed to advancing U.S. imperialism and protecting the interest of the few over the needs of the many. Socialists believe it is necessary to transform our entire U.S. economic system from capitalism to socialism; a system that will establish a new social and economic order in which workers and community members will take responsibility for and control of their interpersonal relationships, their neighborhoods, their local governments, and the production and distribution of all goods and services; that program can be found in the National Platform of the Socialist Party USA and the Platform of Peace and Freedom Party. Millions of working people do not understand that capitalism only benefit the capitalists and will never offer working people any long term benefits. Below, I am presenting an economic plan that was introduced in February 2008; this plan has been design to meet the needs of working people; this plan has been modified to address critical needs. First, we must end the occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan. These wars, whose tremendous cost is not offset by taxes, are the immediate cause of the weakness of the dollar, skyrocketing oil prices, and the widening trade deficit, as well as being a pointless waste of precious lives. We must put an end to the present housing market crisis; the weak measures that have been taken by the Democrats and Republicans are not enough. The federal government needs to take action to protect the millions of Americans that could lose their homes in 2008 and 2009, and shift the cost of this disaster from working people to the financial operators who created the problem. An immediate change in tax policy must reverse the trend of the last thirty years of shifting the tax burden to those least able to pay. Income taxes should end on individuals earning less than $60,000 annually and couples earning less than $100,000 annually, and increased federal taxes on those with incomes in the millions, who pay less proportionately than they have for a century; this would replace tax revenues. A real national rebuilding program is needed. The federal government must invest $3 trillion within the next five years and a total of $5 trillion over the next decade to rebuild the nation’s utilities, communications, and rail infrastructure, refurbish public buildings, strengthen bridges, and repair low income housing across America. The federal government must invest in constructing low income housing, providing jobs for low income families and providing good paying jobs for women and men. The federal government must develop programs to relieve working people from the tremendous debt burden that modern capitalism constantly creates. We need universal health care, free education for college students, a Universal Basic Income (UBI) for all working people, and full comprehensive assistance for the aging. See Basic Income Earth Network: The laws that tilt the scales against union organizing need to be repealed or changed; this will free millions of workers to fight effectively for better wages, hours and working conditions. To break the stranglehold of the big energy corporations and associated financial institutions on our government and economy, natural resources including oil must be brought under public ownership and democratically managed by the people, not controlled and owned by private corporations. Public transportation, electric cars and hydrogen vehicles must be developed to meet the needs of our people in the 21st Century. This will not be fully accomplished without public ownership of the economy under democratic management, as only in this way can the drive for private profit at the expense of society and the environment will be defeated. The platforms of the Socialist Party USA and Peace and Freedom Party outline similar approaches that will promote economic policy that will benefit working people. Both socialist parties are rejecting the economic strategies of the Democrats and Republicans, and their candidates; advancing U.S. imperialism and waging war is not the answer for our economy that is now in economic free fall. For more information search the Web for: Stewart A. Alexander; Socialist: Federal tax relief package is welfare for billionaires; U.S. Federal tax relief vanishing at the pumps.

California weddings one more step on long road

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When Senior Assistant Attorney General Christopher Krueger was leaving home to represent the state in opposing same-sex marriage during a historic hearing before the California Supreme Court in March, his wife kissed him on the lips and said, "Good luck, but I hope you lose." He did. ... Soon after the state high court cleared the way for same-sex marriage, Ellen DeGeneres announced her engagement to her longtime partner, Portia de Rossi. "We are all the same people, all of us. You're no different than I am. Our love is the same," DeGeneres told Arizona Sen. John McCain, the presumptive GOP presidential nominee, when she needled him about his views on same-sex marriage during his guest appearance on her show. "When someone says, 'You can have a contract, and you'll still have insurance, and you'll get all that,' it sounds to me like saying, 'Well, you can sit there, you just can't sit there.' " When the Arizona senator disagreed with her, DeGeneres joked: "So, you'll walk me down the aisle? Is that what you're saying?" McCain backs the November ballot measure to limit marriage to a man and a woman. It still takes acts of courage for gays and lesbians to come out. About 30 states do not have laws on the books that protect gay employees from being fired because of their sexual orientation. ... The first marriage licenses are to be issued in a handful of districts from 5:00 pm (0000 GMT) on Monday, before an expected state-wide stampede by thousands of couples gets underway the following day.
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Bird, by Pablo Neruda

It was passed from one bird to another, the whole gift of the day. The day went from flute to flute, went dressed in vegetation, in flights which opened a tunnel through the wind would pass to where birds were breaking open the dense blue air - and there, night came in. When I returned from so many journeys, I stayed suspended and green between sun and geography - I saw how wings worked, how perfumes are transmitted by feathery telegraph, and from above I saw the path, the springs and the roof tiles, the fishermen at their trades, the trousers of the foam; I saw it all from my green sky. I had no more alphabet than the swallows in their courses, the tiny, shining water of the small bird on fire which dances out of the pollen.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Boycott the War


Mark E. Smith
Saturday, June 14, 2008

America's wars of aggression and crimes against humanity continue in Iraq and Afghanistan despite the opposition of the majority of Americans. Whenever people tell me that they oppose the wars, I ask them why they continue to vote for war. They have numerous excuses. Some think they have no choice because peace isn't on the ballot, so the only way they can exercise their franchise is to vote for war. Some don't think that voting for a candidate committed to war, is the same as voting for war. Some think that despite the trillions of dollars in war profiteering, if they just allow their candidate to kill a few more million innocent people, they might then be able to persuade their candidate to stop the wars. Others think that the only alternative to war is violent revolution--haven't they ever heard of peace? None of these arguments make any sense, yet people keep repeating them, hoping that repetition of illogical arguments might justify the fact that they claim to want peace but keep voting for war. Let's look at the candidates for the November election. There are some third party and independent candidates committed to peace, but thanks to our two-party system even they know that they have no chance of winning. The two who have a chance of winning, Obama and McCain, are both committed to war. McCain is more assertive about his desire to expand the wars and start new wars. Obama doesn't hide his plans to do the same, but is more subtle about expressing them. Obama has taken a page from Bush, who declared victory in Iraq years ago with his "mission accomplished" photo op on the aircraft carrier, and stated that he will declare the war in Iraq over by 2009. But he does not plan to ever withdraw from Iraq. He plans to retain indefinite U.S. control over the Green Zone, the U.S. embassy in Baghdad (built with slave labor), and the Iraq International Airport. He plans to retain U.S. control over Iraqi territory by using fewer U.S. troops and more private mercenary corporations like Blackwater. This was the Bush plan also -- private contractors already outnumber U.S. military troops in Iraq. Everyone knows that the Iraqis will never accept such insults to their sovereignty, and that as long as the U.S. has a presence in Iraq, the war will continue. It is also obvious that mercenaries are more expensive than our military, so Obama will have even less money than Bush to use for domestic purposes like health care. And Obama plans to continue the war in Afghanistan without any changes. The assumption that somebody who is committed to war crimes might baulk at nuking Iran if there was a false flag operation staged by the neo-cons to justify it (read Naomi Klein's book, "The Shock Doctrine") is a pipe dream. Both candidates are committed to war crimes and you cannot bring about peace by voting for war criminals. Informed Americans are fully aware that the presidential elections of 2000 and 2004 were stolen and that our electoral system is corrupt. We know that the leading candidates are preselected by the military industrial complex, and that if the "wrong" one wins, they will promptly concede to the loser. Those decisions are made by policy-making bodies like the Council on Foreign Relations, the Trilateral Commission, and the Bilderbergers, to which all the candidates owe their loyalty, so even if the popular vote goes against the preselected candidate, they will take office anyway as happened in 2000 and 2004. Nothing has changed. But there has been some change among the U.S. electorate. We are becoming better informed. And some of us have realized that we cannot bring about peace by continuing to vote for war. We know that a vote that is not counted or is flipped to another candidate is not a voice in government. We know that once in office, candidates cannot be held accountable. And we have decided to boycott the war and express our sincere yearning for peace by not voting in the November election. This decision was not taken lightly. We debated for years. Every possible argument was examined and discussed carefully in all its minutiae. Our decision has been made. We will not continue to allow wars we oppose to be carried out in our name. We will not delegate our power by voting in rigged elections for candidates who cannot be held accountable to us. Instead, we have decided to withdraw our consent, withhold our mandate, and retain our power to ourselves as we work together to establish a citizen-owned transparent participatory democracy where every vote will be counted, candidates can be held accountable, and government is restored to the people as democracy demands. Please join us. There is no formal organization, no fundraising, and no affiliation with political or corporate organizations of any kind. When we say citizen owned, we mean that our democracy belongs to its citizens, not to the military-industrial complex, the big multinational corporations, or the corrupt political parties, but to us--to we the people. Once you sign the pledge not to vote in November, you are committed to work with us towards citizen owned transparent participatory democracy and you are the one who will decide how you can do that best. Some blog, some talk to family, friends, and neighbors one on one, some give talks to local groups, some wear buttons or t-shirts and pass out flyers, some design those buttons, t-shirts and flyers, and some merely pledge their support. You might even think of new ways in which to spread the word. Americans have always been a resourceful people and there is nothing that we cannot do when we put our minds to it. If you really want a voice in government, stop voting in rigged elections where you cannot be sure if your vote is even counted. If you really want democracy, government of the people, by the people, and for the people, withdraw your consent and your mandate from tyranny and work to establish true democracy. If you really want peace, don't vote for war criminals. Boycott the war! End the hypocrisy! No in November!

Are Astral Projection And Lucid Dreaming Safe For Everyone?

by William Ember

Yes, it is entirely safe - you cannot get hurt while consciously in term assurance Astral Plane any more than you can while dreaming 'normally'. Astral Projection and Lucid Dreaming are natural experiences reported in every culture and society of the world. (However, anyone who has acute psychological problems should probably avoid it until such issues are resolved. Normal dream therapy may be far more beneficial in such cases.)

Lucid Dreaming is obviously no more dangerous than 'normal' dreaming, and Projection is no more dangerous than sleep - probably the safest activity around. So you could say Astral Experience is the safest of sports! It's certainly fun, and you will always be able to return to your physical body whenever you wish. Again, whenever we sleep, our consciousness is out of our physical body anyway, we just usually aren't aware of it. Just as we return to our body after sleep, we do the same after projection.

The surprising thing is that it can be difficult to stay out of the body. Getting back into your body is pretty instantaneous and automatic, but staying out longer can require some training. But you can rest assured, you will always return 'home' from your journeys away from the physical. To repeat, there is zero need for any worries at all as Astral Experience is as safe as sleep.

Some people will try to tell you there are reasons to be afraid of Astral Travel for example, that there are 'demons' homeowners insurance 'negative entities' to be wary of. I suppose these people have never had a nightmare? What is the difference? Neither your dream body nor astral body can be 'hurt', as they are composed of energy. With this in mind, don't you find the idea of being faced by a big scary monster who can't hurt you in any way whatsoever rather funny? I certainly do.

And if you think about it, what's disturbing about a nightmare? The contents, or the emotion of fear? And we are generating both! Consider these words from the psychic Jane Roberts, who in all her years was never bothered by such 'negative' Chocolate It doesn't take a genius to work out why:

"Because we were so innocent about psychic literature, we weren't hampered by superstitious fears about such phenomena. I didn't believe in gods or demons, so I didn't fear them. I wanted to learn."

- Jane Roberts, Seth, Dreams and Projections in Consciousness p.84

And similarly, you can't be possessed by other entities while projecting either, any more than you can during normal sleep. The process is exactly the same, it is simply that you are doing it consciously. Your astral body is always connected to your physical body by a Silver Cord, which stretches infinitely, it sends messages between one body and the other. This ensures that you - and no one else - can always get back in. Your body remains your own, and a portion of your consciousness always remains Office Space it anyway, so there's no need to be concerned over this at all.

While we're on the subject, we can note that spirit mediumship requires an invitation, opening, and agreement on the mediums' part. Channels can temporarily make their bodies available for the transmission of data, however this process is quite different to projection, as it is done with that specific intention in mind. Some channels can project while channelling (eg. Edgar Cayce) others can remain 'cohabitants' or project (eg. Jane Roberts) and still others receive the data direct to their conscious mind (eg. Ken Carey.) So channelling and projecting are independent phenomena, though it is possible for them to occur at once. Further than this is beyond the Trailer Park Boys of this book.

Astral Experiences will not lead to madness or insanity either. A spontaneous experience is not a sign of psychological problems (to many peoples relief.) For those interested, there is a book call 'With the Eyes of the Mind' by Gabbard and Twemlow that contains an in-depth study of the psychology of OBEs. Compared with other psychological phenomena, an OBE shouldn't be grouped with psychological disorders such as dissociation, schizophrenia, autoscopy and other 'body boundary' disturbances. Those reporting their experiences are fully capable of living 'normal' lives, which is how most people define 'sane' I suppose!

On the other hand, you may end up finding, like many others before you, that overall, astral projectors and lucid dreamers are often insurance quotes on line more sane and spiritually engaged than they were before they started. Self-reflection is really quite a natural part of learning, so there is plenty of opportunity to grow and expand with these experiences.

William Ember is an self-trained explorer of Lucid Dreaming and Astral Projection experiences and has recently authored the most comprehensive and in-depth training guide to these experiences available anywhere.

It is available at: ultimateastralexperience http://ultimateastralexperience

Co-operatives Turn Idle Landed Estates Green

By Humberto Márquez*
BARINAS, Venezuela, Jun 14 (Tierramérica) - "As far as you can see, there was not one litre of milk produced, not even an ear of corn," says José Tapia Coirán, turning with his arms outstretched, pointing to the horizon of the Venezuelan savannah dotted by trees. "Now we produce 500 litres of milk per day and we harvested one million kilos of maize." He is referring to the achievements of the Brisas del Masparro co-operative, set in the plains of Barinas, in southwest Venezuela. Coirán, as he is known by everyone, is a former day labourer and tractor driver for large farms in the area, and is now the co-operative's president. "Once there was a forest here, but the large estate owners took all the lumber. They left a few trees and thousands of hectares of stubble that we are cleaning up little by little and planting with forage grass and maize," says Coirán, adding "they had abandoned this, left it lying fallow, and that is why we took it over." He and his fellow co-operative members show this reporter vast stretches of plains that are as flat as a billiard table amidst weeds, a marsh here and there, pastures and fields being ploughed for planting, underscoring the co-operative’s explanation that what they had occupied was unproductive land. We come across flocks of herons, scarlet ibis, and some flickers. "We want to conserve all that we can. We decided not to take down any trees, but rather get rid of weeds and pests as we progress," says Miguel Méndez, another co-operative member. President Hugo Chávez launched a "war" against large estates with a 2001 land act that laid the groundwork for a government "recovery" of rural land whose private ownership and productivity could not be proved. There continue to be clashes over land between large landowners and small farmers. In 1999, large rural estates covered six million hectares in Venezuela. Two million hectares have been confiscated by the government, which handed over 60 percent of that to more than 100,000 rural families, according to official figures. Furthermore, 98,500 farms that cover 4.3 million hectares have been regularised through the agrarian charter, which grants possession, but not ownership, of the land, which belongs to the government. The Santa Rita "hacienda", or rural estate, on the banks of the Masparro river, extends across 31,000 hectares but has no more than 1,800 head of cattle, according to the co-operative. Peasant groups occupied it in 2002 and 2003, and the government assigned them some 16,000 hectares, leaving the rest to the former owners. The co-operative that has made the most progress is Brisas del Masparro, with 56 members on 803 hectares. Five years ago they received a loan of 156,000 dollars that was invested in cattle, horses, equipment and inputs, and in the first crops. They now have a double-purpose herd, for meat and milk, based on crosses between Cebú and Holstein breeds acclimated to the tropical plains. COMMON PROPERTY A large house once used as a bunkhouse for labourers and as a storage facility by the former estate has been turned into a community centre. The first impression is one of disorder. A pile of tractor parts in the yard marks the only point in the area where there is a signal for the satellite phone. Pigs and chickens follow a young man as he rubs the kernels off corn cobs. Another man cleans the floor of the corridor, which is also the site of co-operative assemblies. It has been a while since the walls have received a fresh coat of paint. In the back are a kitchen and a large dining table for those who are working on a given day and the families that have settled in improvised homes in the surrounding area. On one wall there are faded posters of Chávez and of the Salvadoran revolutionary Farabundo Martí (1893-1932). "We are socialists. We work as a community, according to the abilities of each, and we take turns so that we aren't always doing the same thing, and to learn about everything. We realised that if we were each on our own it would be very difficult to get ahead and leave behind our days as labourers, as employees enriching someone else," says Neptalí Quintana, who for many years worked in artificial insemination of cows on the region's large ranches. He is leaning against a fence of the dairy, where children are milking cows for the second time today. "We get about five litres of milk per animal per day -- above the average" in the area, which is less than four litres per cow, says Quintana. Every day, the co-operative donates 20 litres of milk to the two small schools nearby. "We provide the cup of milk that each child needs," says Méndez proudly. "But if in addition to communally owned animals one of us has a cow or a horse, or gets a pig, it can be raised with the others and sold by the individual owner. Some portion will be given to the co-operative, but we don't oppose that sort of ownership. What we do want is the land and other life-sustaining projects," says Coirán. The income "is used for the expenses that are also shared, for production or for food, and each member receives an additional 400 bolívares (186 dollars) per month as an advance of what would be due for their role in managing the co-operative at the end of the year," explains Iraima Benaventa, a young mother of two who is in charge of logistics. Benaventa, who is taking part in a secondary-level distance learning programme, records the purchases that another member has brought from the city -- pasta, rice, cattle vaccines -- and supervises the younger members in clean-up and kitchen activities. The meal today is rice and beef. Brisas del Masparro will begin construction this year of housing units for 56 families, with a self-construction plan backed by the government. "We will build them together in the style of a little town in order to facilitate and reduce costs of services like water, electricity and gas, with a sports field, a town square and a community centre, and perhaps even a pool," says one member. BETTER COMMUNITY Las Piedras, one corner of the Masparro co-operative, is an hour's drive from Barinas, the regional capital, passing by Sabaneta, President Chávez's birthplace. Then comes another hour of driving over open land and gravel that the co-operative members are requesting to be paved in benefit of the entire community. "The farms in this sector were very unproductive five years ago. But with our efforts, the government programmes arrived. The road was opened up, a land plan was begun, possession papers were given to individual farmers or co-operativists, and credits were granted," says Coirán. In Las Piedras "we went from nearly zero to 21,000 litres of milk per day (national output is 1.3 to 1.7 million litres daily, according to different sources). Now there are people raising more cattle, planting maize, fruit trees and pastures," says the co-op president. Caracciolo Ramírez, an independent farmer, has around 40 hectares near the co-operative’s land. "The government has helped with agrarian charters, with some financing, and with the road. I will do some home improvements, my oldest daughter began university -- I am seeing the results," says Ramírez, offering this reporter a cool oat drink with ice under the porch roof at his brick home. Meanwhile, the co-operative is preparing a larger area than last year to plant maize, building a new cow barn and refurbishing the old one for mechanised milking, and seeking financing to install some cooling tanks that will help them benefit more from each litre of milk. "All around the world there is a food crisis. They want to take food and make it into fuel. We don't agree with that and we pay back the government's support by producing more food. This country can't continue feeding the people based on imports when there is so much land waiting to be worked," says Coirán. In the 2004-2007 period, Venezuela's food production grew 3.4 percent, from 18.9 to 19.6 tonnes annually, according to government figures. But former agriculture minister Hiram Gaviria points to how much is still lacking: in per capita terms, Venezuela today produces 88 percent of the food it generated in 1998, he told Tierramérica. A long way from Barinas, across the Atlantic in Rome, world leaders gathered Jun. 3-5 at the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) summit to debate ways to overcome the current food crisis. At the former Santa Rita hacienda, thousands of hectares "recovered" by the government were handed over to other co-operatives or small farmers' associations that have not had the same success as Brisas del Masparro. "We hold assemblies for the zone and we offer support. Even farther away, to Apure (in the country's far southwest) we have taken our experience and the young milk cows we have produced, which we sell them at low prices, but the individualism of many people means that what they are looking for is their own land," says Coirán. Back in Barinas, one such individual, Alejandro, accompanies Tierramérica through the countryside. "We want to form a co-operative to work, but each one has his parcel of land that is free to be sold. With the agrarian charter, the land can't be transferred and will always belong to the government." But Alejandro says that the neighbours of Brisas del Masparro are sympathetic to the experiment of the co-operative, and would like to take it as testimony of what can be achieved when working together. "They have their reasons, the support of the revolutionary government, and that's good, but what will happen tomorrow if the government changes? One wants a piece of land to work, but also to leave to one's children," he says, as the orange sun sets over the plains of southwest Venezuela. (*Humberto Márquez is an IPS correspondent. Originally published by Latin American newspapers that are part of the Tierramérica network. Tierramérica is a specialised news service produced by IPS with the backing of the United Nations Development Programme, United Nations Environment Programme and the World Bank.)

Government Deports US Citizen Wanted for Child Sex Abuse

The Cuban government deported a U.S. citizen accused of sexually abusing a young girl in Costa Rica, less than two weeks after Washington included the Caribbean island on a list of countries that it says are not doing enough to combat child trafficking. Leonard B. Auerbach was sent to the United States at the request of U.S. authorities who issued an arrest warrant for him "for the crimes of sexual exploitation of a minor, and transportation and possession of child pornography," a Cuban Foreign Ministry press release said Friday. According to the communiqué, Auerbach was arrested in Cuba on May 7 "based on information provided by U.S. authorities." On investigation he was found to have entered Cuba from Mexico on Apr. 8 in order to evade the U.S. justice system. Since there was no evidence that he had broken any laws in Cuba, and "the crimes of which he is accused in the United States are of a serious nature and are vigorously combated by our authorities, including cooperating with other countries in the fight against them, it was decided to return this citizen to his country of origin," the Foreign Ministry said. On Jun. 8, the Cuban government harshly criticised a report issued by Washington on Jun. 4, which includes Cuba on a Watch List of countries it accuses of not making significant efforts to combat internal trafficking of women and children for the purposes of sexual exploitation. "The Foreign Ministry categorically rejects the content of this new report from the State Department, which ignores and distorts Cuban reality in an attempt to justify the criminal U.S. policy of blockade, aggression and hostility against Cuba," the statement said. According to Havana, the State Department report was intended to "denigrate the social and moral achievements of the Cuban Revolution, in particular the priority it accords to the care of women and children, which is widely recognised at the international level, and also attempted to discredit the healthy growth and development of the tourist industry." After stating that Washington lacks the credibility to accuse Cuba, the Foreign Ministry says it places "no value" on the contents of the report. Thanks to the work of the revolution and in spite of U.S. policy towards it, since 1959 Cuba has raised the level of social welfare, it said. Cuba’s free healthcare and education systems often achieve results comparable to those of industrialised nations. In 2007, for instance, the infant mortality rate for children under one was 5.3 per 1,000 live births. Worldwide, the infant mortality rate is 52, and in Latin America, 26, while in West Africa it is 108 per 1,000 live births, according to statistics published in The State of the World’s Children 2007 report by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). In 1999 new crime categories were introduced along with stiffer penalties for international trafficking and corruption of children and other acts against normal child development. The reform to the criminal code added the crimes of money laundering, trafficking in persons, and sale and trafficking of children. Prison sentences of from seven to 15 years were established for those who use children in any form of international trafficking. These forms include corruption, pornography, prostitution, trafficking in organs, forced labour, activities related to drug trafficking or the consumption of illicit drugs. The penalty can be greater if there are aggravating factors. Since Cuba and the U.S. broke off diplomatic relations in 1961, the only matter that has obliged them to negotiate and adopt mutually beneficial agreements is migration, although they do cooperate from time to time to combat drug trafficking, according to sources consulted by IPS. In 2002, Washington refused an offer by the Cuban government to negotiate bilateral cooperation agreements to fight illegal emigration, terrorism and drug smuggling. Cuban officials have cooperated by handing over information to U.S. authorities about violent acts against Cuba, allegedly committed by Luis Posada Carriles and other anti-Castro exiles living in the United States, but they complain that the government of President George W. Bush "lacks the political will" to put them on trial. Posada Carriles escaped from jail in Venezuela in 1985, blocking the prosecution against him for his part in blowing up a commercial Cuban airliner in mid-flight in 1976 and killing all 73 people on board, most of whom were young athletes. Caracas has requested his extradition from the United States. In an interview with the New York Times, Posada Carriles admitted responsibility for several explosions set off in Cuban hotels in 1997, one of which killed Italian businessman Fabio di Celmo. The Cuban government accuses the United States of violating U.N. Security Council resolutions and a number of anti-terrorism treaties, under which it is obliged to bring Posada Carriles to justice or extradite him to Venezuela.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Is the Internet Making Us Stupid?

In case you missed it, a new piece in the Atlantic Monthly — Is Google Making Us Stupid? — raises some questions about whether the internet is changing the way we think. Or, to paraphrase, is it tinkering with our brains, remapping the neural circuitry, reprogramming our memory, shortening our concentration, making it harder to read books and long articles, etc. Anecdotes confirming this trend abound. But now there’s new scientific research that seems to back it up. Have a read.

In the meantime, if you want some internet content that will unquestionably make you smarter, check our list of 225 Free Courses from Great Universities.

via The Wired Campus

Noam Chomsky: Bush is a catastrophe and gambler

Source Noam Chomsky believes that everything the Bush administration has done has turned into a catastrophe, calling war on Iran a wild gamble.

When interviewed by Press TV about the possibility of a US-led attack Iran the world renowned US foreign policy analyst said, “It is conceivable that they would be willing to enter a wild gamble and to see what happens. Remember that everything Bush administration has done almost without an exception has turned into a catastrophe for the interests they represent.” “US intelligence seems to oppose it. The US military opposes it. The Americans and surely the whole world oppose it,” he said while acknowledging his own doubts if the Bush administration would be swayed by those pressures. “People like Dick Cheney are unpredictable,” he said in the live Friday interview. About Iran's nuclear talks with the IAEA, he said, “The right solution to this problem is to declare a nuclear weapons' free zone in the entire region which would include Iran, Israel, American forces deployed there and so on. About three quarters of Americans favor it and I think that's the right idea.” About the controversial US long-term security treaty with Iraq which stipulates American investors are to be given concessions denied others to Iraq's resources, he said, “That's brazen imperialism, saying we invaded you so that we could control your country, and so that our corporations can have privileged access to your resources.”

On the Future of Israel and Palestine

On the Future of Israel and Palestine June, 08 2008 By Noam Chomsky and Ilan Pappéand Frank Barat [ZNet Editors Note: Frank Barat sent a set of questions to Pappe and Chomsky, each independently. They sent back answers, again, independently. Neither saw and so of course neither made any reference to what the other had to say. They weren't ignoring each other. Rather, they were operating in isolation from one another.] Barat: Thanks for accepting this interview. Firstly I would like to ask if you are working on something at the moment that you would like to let us know about? Ilan Pappé: I am completing several books. The first is a concise history of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, the other is on the Palestinian minority in Israel and one on the Arab Jews. I am completing an edited volume comparing the South Africa situation to that of Palestine Noam Chomsky: The usual range of articles, talks, etc. No time for major projects right now. Barat: A British M.P recently said that he had felt a change in the last 5 years regarding Israel. British M.Ps nowadays sign E.D.M (Early Day Motions) condemning Israel in bigger number than ever before and he told us that it was now easier to express criticism towards Israel even when talking on U.S campuses.Also, in the last few weeks, John Dugard, independent investigator on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for the U.N Human Right Council said that "Palestinian terror 'inevitable' result of occupation", the European parliament adopted a resolution saying that "policy of isolation of the Gaza strip has failed at both the political and humanitarian level" and the U.N and the E.U have condemned Israel use of excessive and disproportionate force in the Gaza strip. Could we interpret that as a general shift in attitude towards Israel? Ilan Pappé: The two examples indicate a significant shift in public opinion and in the civil society. However, the problem remained what it had been in the last sixty years: these impulses and energies are not translated, and are not likely to be translated in the near future, into actual policies on the ground. And thus the only way of enhancing this transition from support from below to actual policies is by developing the idea of sanctions and boycott. This can give a clear orientation and direction to the many individuals and ngos that have shown for years solidarity with the Palestine cause. Noam Chomsky: There has been a very clear shift in recent years. On US campuses and with general audiences as well. It was not long ago that police protection was a standard feature of talks at all critical of Israeli policies, meetings were broken up, audiences very hostile and abusive. By now it is sharply different, with scattered exceptions. Apologists for Israeli violence now tend often to be defensive and desperate, rather than arrogant and overbearing. But the critique of Israeli actions is thin, because the basic facts are systematically suppressed. That is particularly true of the decisive US role in barring diplomatic options, undermining democracy, and supporting Israel's systematic program of undermining the possibility for an eventual political settlement. But portrayal of the US as an "honest broker," somehow unable to pursue its benign objectives, is characteristic, not only in this domain. Barat: The word apartheid is more and more often used by NGO's and charities to describe Israel's actions towards the Palestinians (in Gaza, the OPT but also in Israel itself). Is the situation in Palestine and Israel comparable to Apartheid South Africa? Ilan Pappé: There are similarities and dissimilarities. The colonialist history has many chapters in common and some of the features of the Apartheid system can be found in the Israeli policies towards its own Palestinian minority and towards those in the occupied territories. Some aspects of the occupation, however, are worse then the apartheid reality of South Africa and some aspects in the lives of Palestinian citizens in Israel, are not as bad as they were in the hey days of Apartheid. The main point of comparison to my mind is political inspiration. The anti-Apartheid movement, the ANC, the solidarity networks developed throughout the years in the West, should inspire a more focused and effect pro-Palestinian campaign. This is why there is a need to learn the history of the struggle against Apartheid, much more than dwell too long on comparing the Zionist and Apartheid systems. Noam Chomsky: There can be no definite answer to such questions. There are similarities and differences. Within Israel itself, there is serious discrimination, but it's very far from South African Apartheid. Within the occupied territories, it's a different story. In 1997, I gave the keynote address at Ben-Gurion University in a conference on the anniversary of the 1967 war. I read a paragraph from a standard history of South Africa. No comment was necessary. Looking more closely, the situation in the OT differs in many ways from Apartheid. In some respects, South African Apartheid was more vicious than Israeli practices, and in some respects the opposite is true. To mention one example, White South Africa depended on Black labor. The large majority of the population could not be expelled. At one time Israel relied on cheap and easily exploited Palestinian labor, but they have long ago been replaced by the miserable of the earth from Asia, Eastern Europe, and elsewhere. Israelis would mostly breathe a sigh of relief if Palestinians were to disappear. And it is no secret that the policies that have taken shape accord well with the recommendations of Moshe Dayan right after the 1967 war: Palestinians will "continue to live like dogs, and whoever wishes may leave." More extreme recommendations have been made by highly regarded left humanists in the United States, for example Michael Walzer of the Institute for Advanced Studies in Princeton and editor of the democratic socialist journal Dissent, who advised 35 years ago that since Palestinians are "marginal to the nation," they should be "helped" to leave. He was referring to Palestinian citizens of Israel itself, a position made familiar more recently by the ultra-right Avigdor Lieberman, and now being picked up in the Israeli mainstream. I put aside the real fanatics, like Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz, who declares that Israel never kills civilians, only terrorists, so that the definition of "terrorist" is "killed by Israel"; and Israel should aim for a kill ratio of 1000 to zero, which means "exterminate the brutes" completely. It is of no small significance that advocates of these views are regarded with respect in enlightened circles in the US, indeed the West. One can imagine the reaction if such comments were made about Jews. On the query, to repeat, there can be no clear answer as to whether the analogy is appropriate. Barat: Israel has recently said that it will boycott the U.N conference on Human Rights in Durban because "it will be impossible to prevent the conference from turning into a festival of anti-Israeli attacks" and has also cancelled a meeting with Costa Rican officials over the Central American nation's decision to formally recognize a Palestinian state. Is Israel's refusal to accept any sort of criticism towards its policies likely to eventually backfire? Ilan Pappé: One hopes it will backfire one day. However, this depends on the global and regional balances of power, not only on the Israelis 'over reacting'. The two, namely the balance of power and Israel intransigence, may be interconnected in the future. If there is a change in America's policy, or in its hegemonic role in the politics of the region, than a continued Israeli inflexibility can encourage the international community to adopt a more critical position against Israel and exert pressure on the Jewish state to end the occupation and dispossession of Palestine Noam Chomsky: One can agree or disagree with these decisions, but they do not imply "refusal to accept any sort of criticism towards its policies." I doubt that these particular decisions will backfire, or will even receive much notice. Barat: How can Israel reach a settlement with an organization which declares that it will never recognize Israel and whose charter calls for the destruction of the Jewish state? If Hamas really wants a settlement, why won't it recognize Israel? Ilan Pappé: Peace is made between enemies not lovers. The end result of the peace process can be a political Islamic recognition in the place of the Jews in Palestine and in the Middle East as a whole, whether in a separated state or a joint state. The PLO entered negotiations with Israel without changing its charter, which is not that different as far as the attitude to Israel, is concerned. So the search should be for a text, solution and political structure that is inclusive - enabling all the national, ethnic, religious and ideological groups to coexist Noam Chomsky: Hamas cannot recognize Israel any more than Kadima can recognize Palestine, or than the Democratic Party in the US can recognize England. One could ask whether a government led by Hamas should recognize Israel, or whether a government led by Kadima or the Democratic Party should recognize Palestine. So far they have all refused to do so, though Hamas has at least called for a two-state settlement in accord with the long-standing international consensus, while Kadima and the Democratic Party refuse to go that far, keeping to the rejectionist stance that the US and Israel have maintained for over 30 years in international isolation. As for words, when Prime Minister Olmert declares to a joint session of the US Congress that he believes "in our people's eternal and historic right to this entire land," to rousing applause, he is presumably referring not only to Palestine from the Jordan to the sea, but also to the other side of the Jordan river, the historic claim of the Likud Party that was his political home, a claim never formally abandoned, to my knowledge. On Hamas, I think it should abandon those provisions of its charter, and should move from acceptance of a two-state settlement to mutual recognition, though we must bear in mind that its positions are more forthcoming than those of the US and Israel. Barat: During the last few months, Israel has accentuated its attacks on Gaza and is talking of an imminent ground invasion, there is also a strong possibility that it is involved in the killing of the Hezbollah leader Mughniyeh and it is pushing for stronger sanctions (including military) on Iran. Do you believe that Israel's appetite for war could eventually lead to its self destruction? Ilan Pappé: Yes, I think that the aggressiveness is increasing and Israel antagonizes not only the Palestinian world, but also the Arab and Islamic ones. The military balance of power, at present, is in Israel's presence, but this can change at any given moment, especially once the US withdrew its support. Noam Chomsky: I wrote decades ago that those who call themselves "supporters of Israel" are in reality supporters of its moral degeneration and probable ultimate destruction. I have also believed for many years that Israel's very clear choice of expansion over security, ever since it turned down Sadat's offer of a full peace treaty in 1971, may well lead to that consequence. Barat: What would it take for the U.S to withdraw its unconditional support to Israel? Ilan Pappé: Externally: a collapse of its Middle East policy, mainly through the downfall of one of its allies. Alternatively, but less likely, the emergence of a counter European policy. Internally: a major economic crisis and the success of the present coalition of forces working within the civil society to impact such a change. Noam Chomsky: To answer that, we have to consider the sources of the support. The corporate sector in the US, which dominates policy formation, appears to be quite satisfied with the current situation. One indication is the increasing flow of investment to Israel by Intel, Hewlett-Packard, Microsoft, and other leading elements of the high-tech economy. Military and intelligence relations remain very strong. Since 1967, US intellectuals have had a virtual love affair with Israel, for reasons that relate more to the US than to Israel, in my opinion. That strongly affects portrayal of events and history in media and journals. Palestinians are weak, dispersed, friendless, and offer nothing to concentrations of power in the US. A large majority of Americans support the international consensus on a two-state settlement, and even call for equalizing aid to Israel and the Palestinians. In this as in many other respects, both political parties are well to the right of the population. 95% of the US population think that the government should pay attention to the views of the population, a position rejected across the elite spectrum (sometimes quite explicitly, at other times tacitly). Hence one step towards a more even-handed stance would be "democracy promotion" within the US. Apart from that eventuality, what it would take is events that lead to a recalculation of interests among elite sectors. Barat: CounterPunch featured an interesting debate on the 1 state vs 2 states solution last month. It started with a Michael Neumann article saying that "the one state solution was an illusion" and was followed by articles from Assaf Kfoury entitled "One-State or Two-State?" - A Sterile Debate on False Alternatives" and Jonathan Cook entitled "One state or two, neither, the issue is Zionism". What's your opinion on this and do you think that in view of the "facts on the ground" (settlements, bypass roads...) created by Israel a 2 state solution is still possible? Ilan Pappé: The facts on the ground had rendered a two states solution impossible a long time ago. The facts indicated that there was never and will never be an Israeli consent to a Palestinian state apart from a stateless state within two Bantustans in the West Bank and Gaza totally under Israeli control. There is already one state and the struggle is to change its nature and regime. Whether the new regime and constitutional basis would be bi-national or democratic, or maybe even both, is less significant at this point. Any political outfit that would replace the present racist state of affairs is welcome. Any such outfit should also enable the refugees to return and even the most recent immigrants to remain. Noam Chomsky: We have to make a distinction between proposal and advocacy. We can propose that everyone should live in peace. It becomes advocacy when we sketch out a realistic path from here to there. A one-state solution makes little sense, in my opinion, but a bi-national state does. It was possible to advocate such a settlement from 1967 to the mid-1970s, and in fact I did, in many writings and talks, including a book. The reaction was mostly fury. After Palestinian national rights entered the international agenda in the mid-1970s, it has remained possible to advocate bi-nationalism (and I continue to do so), but only as a process passing through intermediate stages, the first being a two-state settlement in accord with the international consensus. That outcome, probably the best that can be envisioned in the short term, was almost reached in negotiations in Taba in January 2001, and according to participants, could have been reached had the negotiations not been prematurely terminated by Israeli Prime Minister Barak. That was the one moment in the past 30 years when the two leading rejectionist states did briefly consider joining the international consensus, and the one time when a diplomatic settlement seemed within sight. Much has changed since 2001, but I do not see any reason to believe that what was apparently within reach then is impossible today. It is of some interest, and I think instructive, that proposals for a "one-state solution" are tolerated within the mainstream today, unlike the period when advocacy was indeed feasible and they were anathema. Today they are published in the New York Times, New York Review of Books, and elsewhere. One can only conclude that they are considered acceptable today because they are completely unfeasible -- they remain proposal, not advocacy. In practice, the proposals lend support to US-Israeli rejectionism, and undermine the only feasible advocacy of a bi-national solution, in stages. Today there are two options for Palestinians. One is US-Israeli abandonment of their rejectionist stance, and a settlement roughly along the lines of what was being approached at Taba, The other option is continuation of current policies, which lead, inexorably, to incorporation into Israel of what it wants: at least, Greater Jerusalem, the areas within the Separation Wall (now an Annexation Wall), the Jordan Valley, and the salients through Ma'aleh Adumim and Ariel and beyond that effectively trisect what remains, which will be broken up into unviable cantons by huge infrastructure projects, hundreds of check points, and other devices to ensure that Palestinians live like dogs. There are those who believe that Palestinians should simply let Israel take over the West Bank completely and then carry out a civil rights/anti-Apartheid style struggle. That is an illusion, however. There is no reason why the US-Israel would accept the premises of this proposal. They will simply proceed along the lines now being implemented, and will not accept any responsibility for Palestinians who are scattered outside the regions they intend to incorporate into Israel. Barat: During my recent trip to Israel/Palestine it became obvious (talking to people, reading newspapers, watching the news) that something scared Israel a lot: a Boycott. Are you in favor of this type of actions and do you think that they could bare fruit? Ilan Pappé: Yes I am and I do think it has a chance of triggering processes of change on the ground. Noam Chomsky: Boycotts sometimes make sense. For example, such actions against South Africa were effective, even though the Reagan administration evaded congressional sanctions while declaring Mandela's ANC to be one of the "more notorious terrorist groups" in the world (in 1988). The actions were effective because the groundwork had been laid in many years of education and activism. By the time they were implemented, they received substantial support in the US within the political system, the media, and even the corporate sector. Nothing remotely like that has been achieved in this case. As a result, calls for boycott almost invariably backfire, reinforcing the harshest and most brutal policies towards Palestinians. Selective boycotts, carefully formulated, might have some effect. For example, boycotts of military producers who provide arms to Israel, or to Caterpillar Corporation, which provides the equipment for destroying Palestine. All of their actions are strictly illegal, and boycotts could be made understandable to the general public, so that they could be effective. Selective boycotts could also be effective against states with a far worse record of violence and terror than Israel, such as the US. And, of course, without its decisive support and participation, Israel could not carry out illegal expansion and other crimes. There are no calls for boycotting the US, not for reasons of principle, but because it is simply too powerful -- facts that raise some obvious questions about the moral legitimacy of actions targeting its clients Barat: Coming back from Israel/Palestine a few weeks ago, the director of ICAHD U.K said that, in spite of Annapolis, "not one thing on the ground has improved{...} witnessing Israel judaisation of the country left me feeling cold and angry". Seeing this, could Palestinian resistance (which has mainly been non violent so far) go back to an armed struggle and start the most brutal 3rd intifada? Ilan Pappé: It is difficult to understand the 'could' - theoretically they can and they may, the question is whether it is going to produce different results from the previous two uprisings, the feeling is that it is not likely. Noam Chomsky: My opinion all along has been that the Palestinian leadership is offering Israel and its US backers a great gift by resorting to violence and posturing about revolution -- quite apart from the fact that, tactical considerations aside, resort to violence carries a very heavy burden of justification. Today, for example, nothing is more welcome to Israeli and US hawks than Qassam rockets, which enable them to shriek joyously about how the ratio of deaths should be increased to infinity (all victims being defined as "terrorists"). I have also agreed all along with personal friends who had contacts with the Palestinian leadership (in particular, Edward Said and Eqbal Ahmad) that a non-violent struggle would have had considerable prospects for success. And I think it still does, in fact the only prospects for success. Barat: What NGO's and charities working for justice in Palestine should focus on in the next few months? Ilan Pappé: They know best and I hesitate to advise them. I think they gave us guidance with their call for boycott and if they continue with initiatives like this it can be very helpful. But most importantly it would be great if they could continue to work for reconciliation and unity in the Palestinian camp. Noam Chomsky: The daily and urgent task is to focus on the terrible ongoing violations of the most elementary human rights and the illegal US-backed settlement and development projects that are designed to undermine a diplomatic settlement. A more general task is to try to lay the basis for a successful struggle for a settlement that takes into account the just demands of contesting parties -- the kind of hard, dedicated, persistent educational and organizational work that has provided the underpinnings for other advances towards peace and justice. I have already indicated what I think that entails -- not least, effective democracy promotion in the reigning superpower. Frank Barat lives in London. He is a member of Palestine Solidarity Campaign London and ICAHD UK.

RNC 2008: A Call to Swarm, Sieze, Stay

*Swarm, Seize, Stay* A call for Crashing the 2008 Republican National Convention The playbill has been printed, the tickets have been sold, and on September 1st , 2008, the Republican National Convention is scheduled to open in St. Paul, MN. The RNC is political theater- meant to showcase the GOP's finest actors and send their chosen into a spectacular final round of campaigning before the November election. But what is spectacular about hiding the repressive show of force necessary to keep this system on its bloody course? Republicans, like all politicians in this two-act tragedy, exist to maintain systems of oppression that keep us down- at any cost. Our Earth is not for sale and we are not mere spectators in this brutal charade….who is going to pull the final curtain in September? The RNC Welcoming Committee calls for anyone and everyone who cares about a better world than the politicians claim to offer to “Swarm, Seize, and Stay,” on September 1st. Our goal for Day One is to blockade Downtown St. Paul, so that the only show worth watching is the one we create in the streets. Generally, Swarm Seize, Stay (3S) means: 1. Move into/around Downtown St. Paul via *swarms* of varying sizes, from multiple directions, and with diverse tactical intentions. 2. *Seize *space through both hard (e.g., lockboxes) and soft (e.g., congestion), fixed and mobile, blockading methods. 3. *Stay* engaged with the situation in downtown St. Paul as long as necessary. Regroup. Reinforce. The RNC-WC has divided Downtown St. Paul into sectors, so that organizing bodies throughout the country can coordinate their actions and make sure that every inch of the map is covered come September 1st. Now it’s up to you. Pick a sector, gather your comrades, and start planning. For a sector map and further info, see: <>; See you in September, the RNC Welcoming Committee

Tree Grown From 2,000-Year-Old Seed

Just over three years old and about four-feet tall, Methuselah is growing well. "It's lovely," Dr. Sarah Sallon said of the date palm, whose parents may have provided food for the besieged Jews at Masada some 2,000 years ago.

The little tree was sprouted in 2005 from a seed recovered from Masada, where rebelling Jews committed suicide rather than surrender to Roman attackers.

Radiocarbon dating of seed fragments clinging to its root, as well as other seeds found with it that didn't sprout, indicate they were about 2,000 years old -- the oldest seed known to have been sprouted and grown.

Sallon, director of the Louis L. Borick Natural Medicine Research Center at Hadassah Medical Organization in Israel, updates the saga of Methuselah in Friday's edition of the journal Science.

One thing they don't know yet is whether it's a boy or girl. Date palms differ by sex, but experts can't tell the difference until the tree is six or seven years old, Sallon said.

She hopes there's a chance to use it to restore the extinct Judean date palm, once prized not only for its fruit but also for medicinal uses.

The researchers have had a look at the plant's DNA, however, and found it shares just over half its genes with modern date cultivars.

"Part of our project is to preserve ancient knowledge of how plants were used," Sallon said in a telephone interview. "To domesticate them so we have a ready source of raw material."

Her Middle Eastern Medicinal Plant Project is working to conserve and reintroduce plants to the region where they once lived.

"Many species are endangered and becoming extinct. Raising the dead is very difficult, so it's better to preserve them before they become extinct," she said.

The oldest documented seed to be grown previously was a 1,300-year-old lotus, Sallon said.

Friday, June 13, 2008


* Don't tell me to stop Tell the rain not to drop Tell the wind not to blow 'Cause you said so, mmm Tell the sun not to shine Not to get up this time, no, no Let it fall by the way But don't leave me where I lay down (Chorus) Tell me love isn't true It's just something that we do Tell me everything I'm not but please don't tell me to stop Tell the leaves not to turn But don't ever tell me I'll learn, no, no Take the black off a crow But don't tell me I have to go Tell the bed not to lay Like the open mouth of a grave, yeah Not to stare up at me Like a calf down on its knees (chorus) Tell me love isn't true It's just something that we do Tell me everything I'm not but don't ever tell me to stop (Chorus) Don't you ever Tell me love isn't true It's just something that we do Don't you ever Tell me everything I'm not but don't ever tell me to stop Don't you ever please don't, please don't, please don't tell me to stop Don't you ever tell me (don't you), ever Don't ever tell me to stop Tell the rain not to drop Tell the bed not to lay Like the open mouth of a grave, yeah Not to stare up at me Like a calf down on its knees *

Picket lines back call to release Cuban 5


Supporters of the Cuban Five demonstrated in a number of cities around the world June 6 to demand the release of the five, and to protest the ruling of a federal court of appeals that upheld their convictions. The Cuban Five have been incarcerated in U.S. prisons since 1998. They were railroaded to jail on frame-up charges that included failure to register as foreign agents, conspiracy to commit espionage, and other conspiracy charges. The five were denied bail and held in solitary confinement for 17 months before being convicted in a trial that was characterized by the use of “secret evidence.”. Several dozen people took part in a picket line and rally in downtown San Francisco to protest the ruling. Speakers addressing the rally included Gloria La Riva of the National Committee to Free the Five, and Alicia Jrapko of the International Committee for the Freedom of the Cuban Five. Jrapko spoke on the phone with Gerardo Hernández, one of the five, prior to the rally. She reported that he told her, “We’ll do all the time we have to do, 30 years, 40, whatever, and as long as a single one of you is outside resisting, we are also going to resist, until justice is done.” Hernández said he wasn’t surprised by the court ruling. “This is the same justice system that has incarcerated Mumia Abu-Jamal, Leonard Peltier, and the Puerto Rican political prisoners for more than 20 years,” he said. Following the speakers, organizers played a recorded message from Abu-Jamal, a Black rights activist facing execution after being framed up by Philadelphia police in 1981. Alianza Martiana, a Cuban American coalition that favors normalization of relations with Cuba, held a press conference in Miami to protest the decision. In New York, more than 60 protestors picketed at the Federal Building. The picket featured signs reading “Free the Cuban Five now!” and “Visas for the wives of the Cuban Five”! A rally following was addressed by attorney Lynne Stewart, Socialist Workers Party presidential candidate Róger Calero, and others. “The case of the five is an example of how the legal system and prison system is used by the ruling class to keep working people in check,” said Calero. He pointed to the growing prison population in the United States and how workers are often targeted by the same measures used against the five.

Actions in support of the Cuban Five also took place in London; Montreal; Boston; Los Angeles; Seattle; Minneapolis; Chicago; Washington, D.C.; and Stockholm, Sweden.

Harry Potter Prequel Now Online

From: The Harry Potter prequel that JK Rowling wrote for charity is now available online. To read it, click here, then click “Read our authors’ stories,” and then click JK Rowling.

Domestics to Gain Healthcare Coverage

Bolivia By Bernarda Claure
LA PAZ, Jun 12 (IPS) - Domestic workers in Bolivia, most of whom are young indigenous women from the highlands region, are about to gain access to healthcare coverage. A law in effect since 2003 already limited their workdays to 10 hours in the case of live-in workers and eight hours for those who live independently, provided them with holiday bonuses and days off, stipulated that they should be able to go to school, and granted them all of the rights outlined in the General Labour Law. But the articles on healthcare and pensions required specific regulations before they could be implemented. The draft regulations on the former were sent to President Evo Morales on May 27. When he signs it into law, domestic workers will finally have broad healthcare and hospitalisation coverage for themselves and their children, with doctors available in the evenings (from 5:00 to 9:00 pm) so as not to interrupt the women’s work schedules. "This is a very positive moment," Basilia Catari, secretary of organisation at the National Federation of Domestic Workers of Bolivia (FENATRAHOB), told IPS. "The members of the unions are currently involved in talks to possibly join the Caja de Salud Bancaria (the health care plan for bank employees)," one of the three health plans mentioned in the draft regulations, said Catari, a representative of the union of Sopocachi, a La Paz neighbourhood, and a former leader of the Latin American and Caribbean Confederation of Domestic Workers (CONLACTRAHO). The draft regulations, presented to the government by the Instituto Nacional de Seguros de Salud (INASES - National Health Insurance Institute), a state agency, and pressed for by the country’s organised domestic workers for five years, codify article nine of law 2,450, which entered into force in 2003. Article nine makes it obligatory for employees to pay social security contributions for their domestics, amounting to the equivalent of 10 percent of their wages. FENATRAHOB has proposed that the money be deposited monthly in the union’s bank account. But the specific mechanisms have not yet been worked out. The draft regulations merely suggest a collection system "that would ensure the sustainability of social security." According to INASES director Romel Rivero, once the president signs the regulations into law, a team of experts will analyse the exact mechanisms for the collection of the social security contributions and determine who will administer the funds in each province. But the two-week delay in signing it into law points to more in-depth problems, said researcher Elizabeth Pardo, author of the study "Young Aymara Women, Wage-Earning Domestics in the City of La Paz". The regulations were drafted with the support of non-governmental organisations, the ombudsman’s office and the Caja Nacional de Salud (National Health Fund), the health plan that provides hospital and healthcare services to the greatest number of workers in the country. The prospect of gaining healthcare coverage has made the regular Sunday meetings of the 13 unions of domestic workers that operate in Bolivia’s nine provinces lively affairs. At the meetings, domestic workers discuss and learn about their labour and social rights. But they also receive training in skills like pastry making, knitting, dressmaking, elderly and child care, and cooking. The unions are the first door that has been opened up to domestic workers interested in branching out into other areas of work, Pardo told IPS. But only a small proportion of Bolivia’s 130,000 domestic workers belong to the unions that make up FENATRAHOB, "perhaps because many hope they will only be household workers for a short time," said Pardo. According to the 2001 census, 24,200 households employ domestic workers in La Paz alone. Some families employ more than one domestic, at wages that range from 350 to 500 Bolivianos (between 50 and 80 dollars) a month. "We teach our members that they must always sign a contract, as the law states," said Catari. But Pardo said that because so many of the domestic workers are young migrants from the countryside with little to no formal schooling, it is easy for employers to violate their labour rights. Domestic workers are a key social sector for Morales, the country’s first indigenous president. In fact, one of FENATRAHOB’s top leaders, Casimira Rodríguez, was justice minister in 2006 and 2007. Also to go into effect this year is a national certification system to define the work of domestics. In coordination with domestic workers, the Ministry of Education and Culture drew up a list of 28 specific tasks in seven different categories, to be used in training and certifying domestics, the ministry’s director of technical training, Elmer Acosta, explained to IPS. Various studies show that domestics in Bolivia suffer triple discrimination: as women, as indigenous people, and as migrants from the countryside, especially in this society "that looks down on domestic work," says the report "Sociolabour Reality in Santa Cruz", by Mario Portugal and Dunia Sandoval. Another study, "Domestic employee needed, preferably ‘cholita’", published in 2006 by Katrina Peñaranda, Ximena Flores and Álvaro Arandia, found that conditions were especially difficult for recently arrived young women from the highlands, who have no other way of making a living. ("Cholita" is a derogatory term for a young indigenous woman). Employers, meanwhile, have their own ways of expressing themselves with regard to initiatives like healthcare coverage and pensions for domestics. "The ladies are looking for young girls who won’t cause problems," said Pedro Mamani, the owner of an employment agency in La Paz. For now, the debate on healthcare coverage is the main focus in the Sunday union meetings. "But it is not our last demand," said Catari. "For us it is very important to push, later, for the right to a retirement pension."

Party for Socialism and Liberation Submits Utah Petition

The Party for Socialism and Liberation has turned in 2,500 signatures to place its presidential candidate, Gloria La Riva, on the Utah ballot. The procedure requires 1,000 valid signatures. Although La Riva is using the independent petition method in Utah, Utah permits independent candidates to choose a partisan label which is printed on the November ballot. The party’s name is so long, for ballot purposes it generally uses the label “Socialism and Liberation.”

ISP's confirm '2012: The Year The Internet Ends'

Update: Bell Canada and TELUS (formerly owned by Verizon) employees officially confirm that by 2012 ISP's all over the globe will reduce Internet access to a TV-like subscription model, only offering access to a small standard amount of commercial sites and require extra fees for every other site you visit. These 'other' sites would then lose all their exposure and eventually shut down, resulting in what could be seen as the end of the Internet.

Dylan Pattyn *, who is currently writing an article for Time Magazine on the issue, has official confirmation from sources within Bell Canada and is interviewing a marketing representative from TELUS who confirms the story and states that TELUS has already started blocking all websites that aren't in the subscription package for mobile Internet access. They could not confirm whether it would happen in 2012 because both stated it may actually happen sooner (as early as 2010). Interviews with these sources, more confirmation from other sources and more in-depth information on the issue is set to be published in Time Magazine soon.

What can we do?

The reason why we're releasing this information is because we believe we can stop it. More awareness means more mainstream media shedding light on it, more political interest and more pressure on the ISP's to keep the Internet an open free space. We started this social network as a platform for Internet activism where we can join forces, share ideas and organize any form of protest that may have an impact. If we want to make a difference in this, we have to join together and stand united as one powerful voice against it.

Join the movement.

Don't let the Internet evolve to this:

For more information:

Mail the I Power team at

The previous news item on the information leak (which quickly became one of the biggest Internet news items of the year)

For media inquiries or urgent issues only: I Power Telephone: +32 (0) 496 93 90 44

Dylan Pattyn (writing for Time Magazine) Telephone:1-514-567-7510

Ex-campus Clinton backers say McKinney more qualified than Obama

On its website, The Nation writes that in an e-mail message endorsing John McCain for president, University of Iowa Students for Hillary Clinton members Cody Eliff and Nikki Dziuban told disappointed Clinton supporters, “For those of you who just can’t stomach McCain, we suggest you look into Cynthia McKinney, the Green Party candidate. She is an African American woman from Georgia and is a former member of the House. We think the endorsement will make more impact if it goes to John McCain, but we see Cynthia McKinney as a viable alternative and someone more qualified than Senator Obama to be President having served for longer in Congress.”

Thursday, June 12, 2008

MEXICO: Murder of Indigenous Reporters Fuels Hatred, Division

By Diego Cevallos MEXICO CITY, Jun 11 (IPS) - No one has been brought to justice for the murders of two young indigenous reporters in the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca in April, a case that has mobilised social activists and drawn condemnation from UNESCO. Local indigenous authorities told IPS that two months after the murders, their communities have returned to "normality," which for them means the presence of paramilitary groups, clashes between rival clans, and the absence of state security forces. On Apr. 7, 22-year-old Felicitas Martínez and 24-year-old Teresa Bautista were ambushed and shot to death on a rural road in their municipality. The two young women were reporters for Radio Copala, "The Voice that Breaks the Silence", a low power, small range community radio station that has been on the air since January. "Just after it happened, people from other countries even came here, and the police did as well, but now no one comes any more," said José Ramírez, the head of the self-declared autonomous municipality of San Juan Copola. "We know who killed our reporters, they belong to rival groups, but they are walking around scot-free," Ramírez complained in a telephone interview with IPS. So far, the Attorney General’s Office, which took over the case in May, has not issued any arrest warrants. The initial investigations were carried out by Oaxaca state prosecutors, who were accused of a number of irregularities by the state’s Human Rights Commission, such as failure to visit the crime scene promptly, collect evidence and examine the bodies of the victims. Tomás Aguilar, secretary of the municipality of Santiago Juxtalhuaca, to which San Juan Copala formally belongs, accused the autonomous community of being responsible for the fact that the murders remain unsolved. "We had police in the area, but they removed the bodies themselves and so evaded the law," Aguilar told IPS. Both Ramírez and Aguilar belong to the Triqui indigenous community, which is divided into different factions in Oaxaca state, several of which have armed groups. Ramírez belongs to the Independent Movement for Triqui Unification and Struggle (MULTI), which created the autonomous municipality in opposition to the local authorities of the legally recognised municipality of Santiago Juxtlahuaca. Aguilar, on the other hand, is a member of the Popular Unity Party (PUP). The groups are longstanding antagonists. According to Aguilar, San Juan Copala made its bid for independence because people there "have a poverty mentality." Sympathisers of the PUP, which governs the municipality of Juxtlahuaca, killed the reporters, Ramírez alleges. "They did it for revenge, because it does not suit them for us to be independent," he said. The Triqui live in the west of Oaxaca state in the Mixteca region, a remote semi-arid mountainous area of 27,500 square kilometres marked by scant agricultural production and dire poverty. Although they have been ethnically and linguistically homogeneous for over 2,000 years, according to experts, the different Triqui factions have been caught up in constant strife over land and political conflicts for the past three decades. In late April, delegates from social organisations, including the non-governmental Reporters Without Borders and the World Association of Community Broadcasters (AMARC) visited Oaxaca to learn more about the double murder in San Juan Copala and urged that it be clarified. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) also declared that it was outraged by the crimes. "Everything is quiet here now, although I have to say that the ‘compañeros’ (comrades) at our radio station are taking precautions and we’re all being more careful," said Ramírez. The head of the autonomous municipality said that San Juan Copala has its own police force. "They are local people, with .22 firearms, as you see, just small calibre guns." The official police are not allowed into "our community, because people don’t want them here at all," he said. Aguilar said that "to avoid problems," his local government sends monthly budget allocations equivalent to between 400 and 500 dollars to San Juan Copala. But the autonomous community "uses the money to buy weapons instead of for infrastructure and services," he maintained. "That’s absurd. They are the ones who are buying large quantities of weapons to distribute to (PUP) followers, not us," Ramírez retorted. A report by the Oaxaca Human Rights Commission says that the police refuse to enter the Triqui area because they say they are afraid of being attacked by local indigenous people. The region "is in a state of collapse due to insecurity and violence, and there is an authority vacuum," the Commission reported. "Lack of action on the part of state and municipal civil servants in the area, in terms of security and the administration of justice, has only generated impunity," it added. Non-governmental groups are demanding that the national government of President Felipe Calderón sponsor negotiations aimed at reconciliation between the Triqui communities in Oaxaca, but their requests have not been heeded. "The division (among the indigenous group) is due to political problems and family feuds that date way back. It is regrettable, but that’s the way it is," said Aguilar. Ramírez, on the other hand, said that the conflicts are provoked by the Oaxaca state government headed by Governor Ulises Ruiz, of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), which has ruled Oaxaca for nearly eight decades. "They don’t want indigenous people to be united; they want us to split into more and more organisations so that they can dominate us," he said.

CHILE: Growing Outcry Over Filmmaker’s Arrest

By Daniela Estrada SANTIAGO, Jun 11 (IPS) - There is growing international alarm over the arrest of Chilean filmmaker Elena Varela, who was taken into custody by police a month ago while working on an investigative documentary on the conflicts between lumber companies and the Mapuche indigenous people in southern Chile. The international organisations that have expressed concern over the case include Amnesty International and Reporters Without Borders. The Platform for Freedom of Expression and Creativity, a group that emerged in support of Varela, is demanding a fair trial and respect for the presumption of innocence, as well as the return of all of the materials that were seized from her and a ban on using them in investigations and trials of indigenous activists, Francisco Gedda, one of the group’s spokespersons, told IPS. Gedda, a documentary filmmaker and a professor at the University of Chile, was one of dozens of demonstrators -- including journalists, filmmakers, academics and intellectuals -- who protested Varela’s arrest outside the Palace of Justice in downtown Santiago Tuesday, holding up banners and signs, and with their mouths covered to symbolise censorship. Varela was arrested May 7 at her home near the city of Villarrica in the southern region of Araucanía, 670 km south of Santiago, on charges of "illicit association with the intent to commit a crime". She was taken to the prison of Rancagua in the region of O'Higgins, 85 km south of the capital. The filmmaker, musician and cultural promoter is well-known in the world of arts for her work with children and young people, and with different social movements. She is the founder of the Escuela de Todas Las Artes art school, the Panguipulli Children’s Symphonic Orchestra, and the Ojo Film production company. When she was arrested, abundant material was seized from her home, including tapes, interviews, scripts, diaries, books, research notes, invoices and receipts, cameras, sound equipment, cell-phones and video footage shot for her documentary "Newen Mapu Che" (Strength of the People of the Heart), on the struggles and demands of the Mapuche people, the main indigenous group in Chile. Varela and four other people were arrested and accused of participating in two robberies as part of a cell of the Movement of the Revolutionary Left (MIR), an insurgent group that was created in 1965 and virtually destroyed by the 1973-1990 military dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet, although there are now attempts to revive it as a political organisation. The first robbery was committed in 2004 at a bank in Loncoche, in Araucanía, and the second was committed in 2005, in a public administration office in Machalí, O'Higgins. Four people were killed in the second incident. According to prosecutor Servando Pérez, the MIR cell to which Varela allegedly belonged carried out the robberies to seize funds to revive the movement, Julio Barría, a lawyer who was defending the filmmaker until Jun. 6, told IPS. Barría is now representing another of the defendants, Flor Domínguez. Varela is accused of being the "intellectual author" of the two robberies and of hiding the "material authors." She has declared herself innocent, as have the other four people who were arrested. All five are to be held in preventive detention until the trial starts in five months. Barría said the filmmaker was implicated because in 2007 she produced the documentary "Los Sueños del Comandante", about young revolutionaries who were active in the 1960s and 1970s, in which she interviewed former members of the MIR. But "her relationship with them is merely tangential," said her former defence attorney. The public prosecutor’s office also believes that Varela was in a relationship with one of the men involved in the holdups, who was apparently known as Gabriel. Varela says she lived with a goldsmith by that name, who died in 2006, and who never belonged to the MIR. "This is a big mix-up," said Barría. One of the most questioned aspects of the case was the confiscation of the footage shot for the "Newen Mapu Che" documentary, which has nothing to do with the investigation of the robberies and which has even received financing from the state. The film, which has not yet been completed, focuses on the long-standing protests and demands by the Mapuche people, who lost a large part of their land in southern Chile to the state in the late 19th century -- land that later ended up in private hands. After Chile’s return to democracy in 1990, several Mapuche communities began to mobilise in demand of their territorial, political and cultural rights, rebelling against the welfare-style policies of the governments of the centre-left Concertación (Coalition) for Democracy and the increasing number of lumber companies and infrastructure projects on land that they claim as their own. As trials against Mapuche activists mushroomed, and a controversial counter-terrorism law dating back to the Pinochet era was invoked in the trials of Mapuche Indians accused of occupying private land, stealing livestock, arson and staging attacks on private property, rights activists and observers have complained that the Concertación governments have "criminalised Mapuche protests." In its annual human rights report 2007, Amnesty International reported police brutality against Mapuche communities. The members of the Platform for Freedom of Expression and Creativity believe there is a link between Varela’s arrest and her work with the Mapuche people. One of the demands set forth in a public statement issued by the Platform is that the documentaries "Los Sueños del Comandante" and "Newen Mapu Che" must not be used in police investigations or trials against the filmmaker’s sources, who should be protected by confidentiality practices. Along with international rights groups, the Chilean associations of documentary filmmakers and journalists, as well as filmmakers from Argentina and Ecuador, have spoken out on Varela’s case. "Amnesty International Chile has taken urgent action on behalf of Elena Varela, issuing a call to hundreds of thousands of activists around the world to take an interest in the case," Sergio Laurenti, executive director of that office, told IPS before participating in Tuesday’s protest. In a public statement, Amnesty says it is worried that "Newen Mapu Che" "could be used by the security forces to intimidate and harass Mapuche activists and other people who took part in interviews taped for the documentary." In an open letter to President Michelle Bachelet dated Jun. 6, Reporters Without Borders says "It is not our job to try to influence the way this case is handled, but we are disturbed by certain aspects of the case, starting with the confiscation of material used or recorded by Varela in the course of preparing her documentary film. "Why was the seizure of this material considered necessary in an investigation into events that had nothing to do with her documentary? It is also legitimate to ask how someone who was accused of such crimes and who was presumably being sought by the police could (be) receiving government funding for a film." Furthermore, Reporters Without Borders points out "that other journalists and filmmakers have got into trouble when trying to cover the sensitive subject of the situation of the Mapuches." The open letter notes that in the last few months, four foreign filmmakers, two from France and two from Italy, were arrested while shooting footage on the Mapuche people. "We are preparing an appeal for legal protection (on behalf of Varela) and we will continue pressing, from within and outside of Chile, for something that we consider an essential right: if journalists and documentary filmmakers cannot promise their sources confidentiality, that spells the end of documentaries, and of freedom of expression and creativity," Gedda told IPS. Chile’s press law does not include a confidentiality guarantee for sources interviewed by documentary-makers, because that genre of filmmaking was in its infancy in this country when the law was passed. Sources close to Varela told IPS that retired Judge Juan Guzmán, director of the Central University’s Human Rights Centre, has been asked to act as the filmmaker’s defence lawyer, something that may be announced within the next few days. Guzmán is internationally renowned as the first judge to prosecute former dictator Pinochet.

Grand Theft Digital: How Corporate Broadcasters Will Hijack Digital TV

On February 17, 2009 a massive, but so far little-noted corporate theft of the public airwaves will be consummated as US analog TV stations switch to digital TV (DTV) broadcasting. Digital broadcast technology enables three, four and sometimes more separate channels to be compressed into the space formerly occupied by a single old-fashioned analog TV channel. So when the transition from analog to digital TV occurs nationwide on February 17, 2009 each of the nation’s more than 1700 broadcast TV license holders will suddenly have two, three or more additional channels, a gift from the taxpayers worth an estimated $70 billion.

Back in the mid 1990s, the owners of TV stations promised Congress that the advent of DTV would bring with it wide selection of new programming, educational and children’s shows, frequently updated local newscasts and interactive content, all free over the new digital broadcast airwaves. Of course, they lied.

“Broadcasters have no idea how they will fill the extra channels they’ll get on February 18, 2009,” Communications Workers of America’s Carrie Biggs-Adams told BAR. They don’t have the content and they don’t have a clue. There are only so many reruns, reality shows and home shopping networks.”

An article by David Hatch in the June 7 National Journal confirms this:

With the February 17 shift to digital broadcasting just over eight months away, broadcasters are finding that the business model for multiple channels is not panning out. An often-repeated refrain is that there’s no money in it. “You’re not creating any new advertisers, and you’re not creating any new viewers,” said Shaun Sheehan, vice president of the Tribune Co., which carried an all-music channel called The Tube on some of its secondary digital stations before the network folded in October.

“It’s just a pure business decision,” said James McQuivey, a media analyst with Boston-based Forrester Research. “Do I run the risk of rolling out new channels that will dilute my audience base?”

The National Association of Broadcasters cited statistics from BIA Financial, a Chantilly, Va.-based research firm, indicating that 351 television stations are multicasting.

But that figure includes public broadcasters, which have invested heavily in extra stations and account for a large chunk of the ones available–compared with their commercial counterparts.

When commercial outlets do multicast, it is often to transmit redundant weather maps, which involves minimal investment and little or no on-air talent. These radar scopes are so widespread that they’ve saturated the airwaves in some markets, including Washington, where viewers have three to choose from. Commercial broadcasters “can say that they do have some content on there,” the FCC source said derisively.

Although the airwaves are the property of the public under US law, and broadcasters receive their licenses from the FCC only on the condition that they serve the public interest, neither Congress nor the FCC, have attached any public service or public interest requirement to the thousands of new DTV channels that current broadcasters will receive. And current broadcasters, according to the deal worked out by Congress and the FCC back in the 1990s, are the only ones upon whom the new stations made possible by DTV will be bestowed. They’re in. Congress and the FCC, in their wisdom didn’t think local governments, schools, colleges, libraries, unions, community organizations, local churches, blacks, Latinos or females deserved a shot at any of the thousands of new DTV channels. They’re out. That’s it and that’s all.

The DTV transition has been engineered at every level to shield broadcasters from public scrutiny or accountability. You’d think four times as many TV stations would mean the FCC would have to issue four times as many broadcast licenses. But the issuance of new licenses would make public debate about who gets them and under what conditions unavoidable. So the new stations will be brought online under existing licenses.

The simple fact that DTV means the number of available channels will increase three or four times without a single broadcast license being issued to any new players is being carefully and deliberately concealed from the American people, lest there be a public debate on whether broadcasters actually deserve the new channels, and to what other use the newly available public spectrum might be put. For example, to find a reference to and definition of “digital multicasting”, the technical name for the ability to place multiple channels in the bandwidth formerly occupied by a single analog channel, you have to hit the “What is DTV” page on the FCC web site, then click the link on the word “multicasting” and read the pop-up to learn that DTV

“allow(s) each digital broadcast station to split its bit stream into 2, 3, 4 or more individual channels of programming and/or data services. (For example, on channel 7, you could watch 7-1, 7-2, 7-3 or 7-4.)”

BAR had to spend 30 minutes on the phone, calling a half dozen FCC numbers and speaking to nine staffers just to find that reference. There are others, but few are easily discovered.

What’s easy to find in the press and on the FCC’s DTV site are the empty promises of broadcasters that DTV will mean more programming choices for the public, along with hundreds of thousands of words about whether old and new TV sets will be able to receive the new DTV signals and how well, who needs set-top converter boxes and who doesn’t and who pays for them and how.

The broadcast industry is a closed club which reaps vast private profits from its monopoly use of a limited public resource, namely the public airwaves. No clever entrepreneur or smart engineer invented the broadcast spectrum that carries radio, TV and other wireless communications. The spectrum is a fundamental property of the physical universe. The FCC is charged with regulating the use of the spectrum in the public interest.

But the FCC is effectively the captive and sock puppet for the broadcasters club. The FCC has managed to spend millions on informing the public about the impending transition to DTV, with a staff of hundreds, public meetings, extensive web sites, dozens of videos, and complete “outreach toolkits” full of sample press releases for government and community organizations to conduct DTV transition awareness programs. The FCC’s desired level of public “awareness” is limited to how to acquire a converter box or a DTV-capable set and turn it on. This treatment of the American people as “consumers” — as commodities to be manipulated rather than empowered citizens, the actual owners of the broadcast spectrum is conclusive evidence that the FCC is wholly captured by and run in the interest of the broadcast industry.

Although the FCC’s digital TV web site and handouts repeat the empty promises of broadcasters for more variety, for educational and public service programming on DTV they do it without mentioning that there will be three or four times as many channels, let alone entertaining the question whose channels those will be. The questions of who owns the limited resource of broadcast airwaves, who is entitled to broadcast licenses and under what conditions, and in whose interest the public spectrum must be managed are entirely absent from the FCC’s public “awareness” programs. The fix is definitely in.

On February 18, 2009, 1700 existing TV broadcasters get multiple new channels with no public service obligation. The rest of us get nothing, unless you count set-top converter boxes and more channels to watch infomercials, “reality” shows, the jewelry channel and the home shopping network in beautiful high-def TV. Although broadcast TV is a local medium with most station footprints only a few dozen miles in radius, the transition will occur simultaneously nationwide. This will make local organizing aimed at opening up distribution of new licenses for the new channels or forcing some degree of broadcaster accountability extraordinarily difficult. But there is one bright spot.

The FCC, in its wisdom, has designated an early test rollout of the new broadcast regime to take effect in a single city; Wilmington NC, on September 8, 2008. Wilmington is an historic port city with a population of about 100,000, a quarter of whom are black.

If there is truly a nationwide movement for media justice it must rear its head in the next few weeks. The people of Wilmington NC know they deserve more choices, more localism, more news and more control over their media than they have now. Right now, they don’t know know that Wilmington’s four local TV stations are about to become sixteen stations with no increase in local accountability, no new local news or public service, no local arts, and certainly no local ownership. They must be told.

If there is a nationwide media justice “movement” worthy of that name it will concentrate its resources in a public education campaign and a mass mobilization, first in Wilmington NC and then nationwide with the aim of overthrowing the cozy deal broadcasters have worked out with their puppets in the FCC and the Congress. There will be another new Congress soon, and another president. This is a political moment when much is possible, but only in the context of a broad and sustained demand to overthrow the secretive sweetheart deal broadcasters have cooked up for themselves to monopolize the newly available digital TV channels. That’s what real movements do — they seize key political moments, they conduct mass education campaigns to take us someplace we would never go without them.

The FCC, the current Congress and candidates for the next one, presidential candidates and everybody else should be forced to explain repeatedly over the next few months why thousands of newly available digital TV channels should not go to thousands of new local broadcasters — to community organizations, local entrepreneurs, local churches, schools and unions, to blacks, Latinos, Native Americans and to women. It’s our spectrum. It’s our public space. It’s our right.

If a nationwide movement for media justice really exists, it must begin to expose the privatization of the public airwaves hidden in plain sight under the guise of the “transition” from analog to digital TV. It must harness the power of the people to challenge this grand theft of our digital destiny.

Bruce Dixon is the managing editor of the Black Agenda Report, where this article first appeared. Read other articles by Bruce, or visit Bruce's website.

Lesbian outrage on Lesbos

Campaigners on the Greek island of Lesbos are going to court to try to stop a gay rights organisation from using the word "lesbian."

The man at the centre of the dispute claims the sexual connotation of the word brings disgrace to islanders.

Washington, D.C., police sets up random checkpoints

On June 7, D.C. police set up checkpoints in the city’s predominantly Black Trinidad neighborhood in response to a recent spike in murders.

The police chief issued a directive allowing officers to record all license plates, verify addresses and ask for phone numbers. The checkpoints can expand to any neighborhood and will occur at random hours for five to 10 days.

Washington, D.C., already has more police than any other city in the nation. According to the Justice Department, the nationwide ratio of federal law enforcement to residents is 36 per 100,000. In D.C. it is 1,700 per 100,000. There are 1,600 Capitol Police assigned to the U.S. Congress—three officers for every legislator.

Amy & Juan with - Iraq Correspondent Patrick Cockburn on the US-Iraqi Clash Over the Status of US Troops

The Bush administration is leveraging tens of billions of dollars in seized Iraqi assets to force the Iraqi government to accept several demands in a long-term deal on keeping US troops in Iraq. The demands have included maintaining fifty-eight permanent military bases in Iraq, immunity for American troops and contractors, a free hand to conduct military operations without Iraqi approval and control of Iraqi airspace. We speak to journalist Patrick Cockburn of the London Independent, who broke the story last week.

Following an outcry by Iraqi lawmakers, the Bush administration is now offering limited concessions in its demands for a long-term “status of forces” agreement between Iraq and the United States.

The deal sought by the Bush administration, details of which were leaked to the press, were seen as a way of extending the US occupation of Iraq indefinitely. The demands included maintaining fifty-eight permanent military bases in Iraq, immunity for American troops and contractors, a free hand to conduct military operations without Iraqi approval and control of Iraqi airspace. According to the London Independent, the US is now lowering the number of bases it wants from 58 to “the low dozens” and says it is willing to compromise on legal immunity for foreign contractors.

The negotiations are being held before the UN mandate authorizing the US occupation expires at the end of the year. The Independent of London reported last week the US is leveraging tens of billions of dollars in seized Iraqi assets to push through its demands.

British journalist Patrick Cockburn broke this story last week. He is the Middle East correspondent for the London Independent and has reported from Iraq for many years now. He is the author of several books including “The Occupation: War and Resistance in Iraq” and his latest, “Muqtada: Muqtada al-Sadr, the Shia revival and the Struggle for Iraq.”

Patrick Cockburn, Middle East correspondent for the London Independent and author of several books. the latest is called Muqtada: Muqtada al-Sadr, the Shia Revival and the Struggle for Iraq.

Video Stream

V.....for ouch... ;)

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Utopian Realism and Anarchism in Education

David Halpin refers to “utopian imagination” as broadening the possibilities of education policy. He attempts to break free from the either-or ideology and envisage the and-also alternative to implementing change while adapting existing structures. I found this idea rather rewarding, for it allowed me to view utopia as something that was not impossible, but rather tangible and existent. The term, which Halpin believes carries a negative connotation due to its seemingly unattainable achievement, can rather be perceived as a rationale applicable to thirst or quest for hope in education. It does not necessarily have to depict a perfect or ideal situation or context that we will strive for and yet never achieve. I found it particularly rewarding that Halpin writes about Tom Bentley, who is sort of a neo-Ivan Illich. Bentley takes alternative education- the exposure away from school- into consideration, and much like Ferrer and Godwin seeks to provide students the ownership of their minds. In a way, utopian education theory and anarchism are relatable. Anarchism similarly carries a heavily negative connotation according to conservatives and even progressives. Why, however, do we not allow ourselves to at least consider its offerings? Anarchism is a logical belief system that has a large breadth of validity. There is even a certain aesthetic beauty in a society not organized by a coercive state. It sounds like modern conceptions of democracy, doesn't it? Anarchism perhaps carries the weight of thematically free democracy far more than a hierarchal empire should. We don’t necessarily internalize this, because we were taught otherwise; we rather internalize that our domestic efforts in public education are as much a noble cause as the foreign act of going to war (conflict) with a defenseless nation to instill a puppet government they wish not to support (Vietnam). Noam Chomksy states, “If you quietly accept and go along no matter what your feelings are, ultimately you internalize what you’re saying, because it’s too hard to believe one thing and say another” (Chomsky, 1992). The whole “for God and country American dream” idealism appears crippling, if not useless; it is an alternate utopia that I have grown quite weary of over the years. However, I am guilty for formerly making it familiar and idealistic. Can I step away from this now and scrutinize the dominant paradigm, allowing for ideas like anarchism to be applicable? Can I apply those ideas to social hierarchies such as public education? A coercive nation yields coercive teaching. It is in the very indoctrination of children that radical education reformists such as Godwin, Illich and Ferrer crafted their work. Anarchism is said to potentially free the minds of the people, provided that reason could be solely possessed above the domination of any ruling class. Halpin points out that Bentley believes that “more and more learning…will have to take place in the contexts where knowledge is actually used and valued, rather than, as is the case mostly now, in recognizable sites of instruction" (Halpin, 1999). Halpin is perhaps making the connection between instructional spaces and dominion. To radical anarchist education reformers, any mass schooling was discouraging and controlling, because the power of the state rested on a submissive population. Public education in America today is only a slight exception to this idea, as best illustrated by Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy who claimed America’s public education system to be “the least bad” attempt to mass-school children (Spring, 1998). Spanish anarchist Francisco Ferrer recognized that the hierarchical structure of capitalism requires certain types of character traits in individuals to conform to monotony and boredom in an obedient manner. In The Origins and Ideals of the Modern School, Ferrer stated “Children must learn to obey, to believe, and to think according to the prevailing social dogmas. If this were the aim, education cannot be other than such as it is today” (Spring). This implies that it is unrealistic to believe that national schooling would be a means of significantly changing the conditions of the lower classes. Since it was the existing social structure which produced the poor to begin with, poor urban/rural public education stigma matriculates by making the culturally submissive class believe that economic improvement depends completely on the individual effort within the existing structure. Meanwhile, the state covertly exists to protect the interests of the rich middle/upper classes. The utilization of extrinsic motivation and anonymous authority provide that children won’t even know who to rebel against if they decided to do so. Marginalized poor children and special needs children in Urban areas are essentially inept in the stratagem of external (Federal and State) influence on education. Presently, accountability and standardization raise the bar for students to globally compete, as teachers are forming their lesson plans to fit the demands of forged policy rather than to meet the minds of their students. Critical analysis is giving way to cognitive factuality, and children are simply not applying their feeling and emotions into their research and writing. Similarly, poor children and “needy cultures” that are geographically bound to urban and rural areas desperately need more funding and are clawing at the facility of public education rather than fighting to own their own education. It is a conundrum of sorts- the very puzzle that plagues the efforts of educators- the more you know, the more dominant you are. However, this separation of knowledge is proportional to the amount of power between two opposing forces. Knowledge in this context is anti-utopian; it is actually oppression. Sources: *Chomsky, Noam. Anarchy in the U.S.A. Interviewed by Charles M. Young. Rolling Stone. May 28, 1992. *Halpin, David. Utopian Realism and a New Politics of Education: Developing a Critical Theory without Guarentees. Journal of Education Policy, 14(4), 345-361. *Spring, Joel. A Primer of Libertarian Education. Black Rose: 1998

Messy Government - Messy Post Dennis J. Kucinich of Ohio In the United States House of Representatives Monday, June 9th, 2008 A Resolution TO IMPEACH THAT BITCH

Mexico and the Merida Initiative - A Difficult Call

A Council on Hemispheric Affairs Memorandum to the Press: The Merida Initiative initially would provide US$550 million in aid aimed at countering criminal organizations in Mexico and Central America. It would supply training, equipment and long-term technical support to recipient governments. However, the plan would impose several conditions on the aid, stipulations which Mexico believes threaten its sovereignty. Mexico’s Foreign Minister Patricia Espinosa was only one of a number of Mexican Public figures who informed the United States Congress that the Merida Initiative does not represent “genuine cooperation and co-responsibility,” and is unacceptable in its current form.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

"...bounty is better than the broth of cabbages..." -Rumi

Why the ruling class chose Obama

The Democrats' deception and the need to build an alternative

The author is the vice-presidential candidate of the Party for Socialism and Liberation. To read more about the PSL's campaign, go to

Barack Obama has clinched the nomination of the Democratic Party. He is the first Black person to become the presidential candidate of a major party, and the first Black person to have a serious chance at becoming the President of the United States. Few thought such a day would ever come. Looking at the two last contenders for the candidacy, it is clear the Democratic Party leadership chose this year to promote a different face of their party. It is worth reviewing the history of what is called the "Obama

phenomenon." Neither a social movement, nor any record of leadership within the Black community initially catapulted Obama into the limelight. Like Hillary Clinton, the ruling class groomed and handpicked Obama for political leadership in the recent period. Any candidate who makes it to the final stage in the selection process, from either the Democratic or Republican party, has to be completely acceptable to the chief sectors of the capitalist class and Wall Street. He first came to nationwide prominence 2004, when the Democratic National Committee tapped him to give the keynote address at that year’s convention. Displaying his message of “one America,” in which “all of us [pledge] allegiance to the stars and stripes,” he urged a vote for the Democratic ticket of John Kerry and John Edwards. Obama stole the show, and speculation immediately began that the Democrats would encourage the Illinois Senator to make a bid of his own in 2008. Obama’s victory in the Iowa caucuses—an overwhelmingly white state in “middle America”—established him as a real contender. Around his campaign formed a coalition of Wall Street financiers and upper middle class liberals. As the campaign gained prominence and revealed its staying power, it absorbed most of the Black electorate. Obama’s abstract message of “change” and “hope” additionally attracted millions of young people of all nationalities, fed up with the war, the state of the economy, the neglect of the Gulf Coast, and a whole host of other policies generally associated with George W. Bush. Although Obama’s campaign has successfully marketed his slogans to broad sectors of the population, he has routinely reaffirmed his support for the basic tenets of the capitalist establishment. In terms of his program, Obama represents politics as usual. He has gone out of his way to support the overall foreign policies of imperialism. He promises to preserve a substantial military force in both Iraq and Afghanistan, has threatened to start a war with Iran, and pledged unconditional support to the Israeli apartheid state. He has pledged to continue the decades-old Washington policy of blockade and counterrevolution against Cuba. He has criticized Bush for being ineffective and counter-productive in stopping the leftist tide that took hold throughout Latin America during his years in office. After a New York City court let Sean Bell’s killers go, Obama issued a statement that he “respected the verdict.” When over 50,000 Black people and their allies descended on Jena, Louisiana, to call for the freedom of six teenagers facing Jim Crow “justice,” Obama was at a fundraiser with big money backers. When his own pastor of 20 years had the temerity to point out the exploitative and racist history of this country, Obama ran as fast as he could in the other direction, and ultimately disowned him. Obama has proven that a Black man can gain the support of the ruling class. They not only tolerate, but even encourage his campaign to take on the appearance of a social movement, as long as he consistently distances himself from actual social movements. The leading figures in the political and economic establishment have supported Obama precisely because of his appeal to Black people, youth, and large sectors of other parts of the population. Why Obama emerged now The Obama campaign has emerged at a moment when the U.S. ruling class is facing considerable difficulties abroad and at home. The Pentagon is immersed in two wars they appear to be unable to win, and the worsening economic situation automatically shines a light on the country’s despicable inequality. In such a moment—when huge numbers of people have become dissatisfied with the state of the country—discontent can quickly turn to protest, and protest to more militant expressions of resistance. Demonstrations, riots, and revolutions all start with fairly mundane social discontent. The bourgeois elections have always played a critical role in channeling this discontent into acceptable avenues. In fact, the illusion of hope and change—through the peaceful and seemingly easy method of going to the ballot box—is the very purpose of the electoral cycle. It exists to create excitement, to give the appearance of debate, and to make working people feel like they have power to rid themselves of bad leaders. Without this power—say, perhaps, if Bush had proclaimed himself president for life—people would rebel immediately. Democratic politicians like Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Eugene McCarthy, George McGovern, and Jimmy Carter have each played a similar role as Obama at different stages of U.S. history. They adopted certain forms and aesthetics of the left, and spoke to the genuine desires of the country’s working class. But they represented the continued rule of a social order based on imperialism and exploitation. The difference with Obama is that he is being used not to channel a vibrant left, but instead to preempt one. As such, he does not come with a package of concessions for workers or the oppressed communities. Obama provides the best of both worlds to the ruling class. He is well within the political mainstream, but can give the impression of being the outsider. Indeed, this was his primary advantage against Hillary Clinton, who he painted as a Washington insider corrupted by years of working around lobbyists and “special interests.” This is pure demagogy. Despite all the rhetoric about making a campaign on 25-dollar donations, Obama’s campaign is financially supported by the same special interests as Clinton and even McCain. Nevertheless, we can be sure Obama will retain a significant measure of support amongst the more progressive sectors of the population, precisely because he has a possibility of winning. This “practicality”—of winning a progressive change in the here and now—will attract those who believe that a systemic challenge is unrealistic at present. For many Black people especially, the prospect of simply having a Black president—regardless of his politics—is enough to arouse excitement. This is perfectly justifiable. The fact that there have been so few Black elected officials in this country is a testament to the country’s deeply-rooted racism. Our campaign has absolutely no quarrel with those who have devoted their time to righting this historic wrong.
La Riva Gloria La Riva, PSL Presidential Candidate
Eugene Puryear speaking in SF Eugene Puryear, PSL Vice Presidential Candidate
The PSL La Riva/Puryear campaign, however, is focused on exposing the systemic problems of racism and capitalism. Gentrification, rampant police brutality against Black and Latino people, the criminal neglect of the Gulf Coast, the disproportionate poverty and unemployment in oppressed communities: these phenomena are not caused by a few bad apples. The President of the United States—regardless of who is elected—will be the manager of capitalist America. Every president in the modern era has waged some sort of war against someone, and has refused to guarantee the basic necessities of life for the majority of the population. This pattern will be repeated in this electoral cycle, regardless of the campaign promises. Revolutionaries cannot be a tail on the kite of the Democrats. Nor can we simply criticize the available candidates and decide to do nothing. We must build an independent alternative inside the electoral process that uses every chance to intervene to bring the demands and voices from the people’s struggles. We have to speak for those locked out of the electoral system altogether. We have to engage in the electoral process in order to fight against it. The idea of fundamental and deep change—revolution—is deeply felt by millions of working people throughout the United States. Ruling-class propaganda aims at convincing them that revolutionary change is “not possible.” The same ruling class wants the people to be involved in politics only so long as it is the harmless politics of the two-party system. Otherwise they want people to be politically apathetic, pessimistic and focus their energy on recreational activities. Our role is to represent and reinvigorate from within the electoral arena, and in the streets, the mass movements against unemployment and for workers’ rights, for immigrant rights, against the war, and to strengthen all small community struggles being waged across the country. The aim of our campaign is to promote every victory—small and large—to analyze every setback, and above all to provide organization to our class. In short, we aim to spark the power and potential, tapped and untapped, into a united mass movement. The Party for Socialism and Liberation is running its electoral campaign not for vanity’s sake, and not to carve out some particular niche. Our aim is to be in as many states as possible, to speak in every forum or debate we can attend, to help people see, through concrete experience, that real change is possible.

Instead of a political process in which we choose the face of our oppression for the next four years, we can tear out the system root and branch. We can build a new society run by the majority of people who already do all the work. We can free all the wealth that has been hoarded by the tiny few that do nothing but sit back and get rich. This vision is what we call a revolution, and that society is what we call socialism.

La Riva/Puryear: Abolish NAFTA, CAFTA, FTAA, WTO, IMF, World Bank

La Riva/Puryear: Abolish NAFTA, CAFTA, FTAA, WTO, IMF, World Bank

June 10th, 2008 · No Comments

Gloria La Riva and Eugene Puryear are the Party for Socialism and Liberation and Socialism’s nominees for president and vice president, respectively. The ticket’s take on neoliberal “free trade” agreements is something most members of the Constitution, Green, and Libertarian parties can agree with: They’re against them. However, the La Riva/Puryear position paper on free trade is uniquely socialist.

Gloria La Riva and Eugene Puryear say that so-called “free trade” agreements negotiated through the World Trade Organization are intended to benefit “the big capitalists” and not working people in industry and agriculture. They also say that Mexico’s experiment with “free trade” has caused millions of Mexicans to flee to the United States in the name of survival.

La Riva and Puryear characterize the Minutemen and Lou Dobbs as “racists” who use immigrants as scapegoats in order to hide what La Riva and Puryear say is the true cause of economic problems — capitalism itself.

However, the PSL candidates are not against all trade agreements. They point to the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas — the Chavez/Castro alternative to the U.S.-led NAFTA, CAFTA, and FTAA — as an example of a trade agreement that should be supported. They say the Bolivarian agreement “offers trade and investment on equal terms based on solidarity with the millions of poor and super-exploited Latin American masses, and the use of each country’s resources for real development.”

Gloria La Riva and Eugene Puryear call for the abolition of NAFTA, CAFTA, FTAA, the World Trade Organization, the International Monetary Fund, and the World Bank. Ironically, libertarian Republican Ron Paul ran on a similar platform, although for very different reasons.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Come hear PSL Presidential Candidate Gloria La Riva in New York City!

Party for Socialism and Liberation NYC Public Meeting Friday, June 13, 7pm 2295 Adam Clayton Powell Blvd. Near the corner of 135th St. (2/3 or B/C to 135th) Come hear PSL Presidential Candidate Gloria La Riva in New York City! La RivaThe Party for Socialism and Liberation's presidential candidate, Gloria La Riva, will be presenting at this week's public meeting hosted by the New York City branch of the PSL. La Riva will be speaking about the status of the Vote PSL campaign, what has been achieved thus far, and what the PSL hopes to achieve by engaging in the electoral process. La Riva is the president of the typographical sector of Media Workers Union, Local 39251, in San Francisco and is the Coordinator of the National Committee to Free the Cuban Five. She has been a leading organizer in many important campaigns, from the fight to desegregate the San Francisco Fire Department in the 1980s to the movement against the Iraq war, from the nationwide campaign to free political prisoners to the relief campaigns for unemployed Latino farmworkers.

In addition, La Riva is an award-winning documentary film maker, who traveled to Yugoslavia and Iraq to document the destruction brought about by U.S. invasion. La Riva has traveled frequently to Cuba, written extensively on the revolution, and spoke at the million-person May Day rallies in Havana in 2000 and 2002. In September 2005, immediately after Hurricane Katrina, La Riva led a delegation to New Orleans, to document the survivors’ heroism. Join us this Friday to hear from the PSL's presidential candidate herself. The presentation will be followed by a lively question-and-answer period. Puerto Rico: Spotlight on U.S. colonialism NYC PR rally 2005 On Sunday, June 2nd the Democratic Party held its sham primary in Puerto Rico. The spectacle of people voting in a primary when they are not allowed to vote in the general election exposes the colonial reality of the island. Join this month's celebration of Puerto Rico and it's people by affirming the struggle for Puerto Rico's independence from U.S. colonial rule. Contact the Party for Socialism and Liberation at 212-694-8762 or to get involved!

Two Quotes About Anarchy

“The roots of the word ‘anarchy’ are an archos, no leaders, which is not really about the kind of chaos that most people imagine when anarchy is mentioned. I think anarchy is about taking personal responsibility for yourself. I believe that fascism is about abandoning your personal responsibility to the group or to society. You say, ‘In unity there is strength,’ which inevitably will become, ‘in uniformity there is strength.’ It’s better if all those sticks are the same size and length, because then they’ll make a tidier bundle, which consequently leads to the kind of fascism we had in the ‘30s and ‘40s.”

– Alan Moore (Watchmen, V For Vendetta, From Hell)


Anarchism is a tendency in the history of human thought & action which seeks to identify coercive, authoritarian, & hierarchic structures of all kinds & to challenge their legitimacy — & if they cannot justify their legitimacy, which is quite commonly the case, to work to undermine them & expand the scope of freedom.

— Noam Chomsky

COLOMBIA: Defending Women’s Defenders

By Helda Martínez BOGOTA, Jun 9 (IPS) - After nearly six years of the "democratic security" policy of the government of rightwing President Álvaro Uribe, women activists in Colombia are as vulnerable to human rights abuses as ever, said female rights defenders who met recently in the Colombian capital. Some 50 peasant, indigenous and Afro-Colombian representatives of social movements and women’s groups from around the country came to Bogotá on Friday, Jun. 6 to take part in a "workshop on strategies for the protection of women human rights defenders in Colombia", where they shared their experiences with female activists from Asia, Africa, Europe and the rest of Latin America. The workshop formed part of the International Campaign on Women Human Rights Defenders. The campaign, which was launched in 2004, is aimed at the recognition and protection of women activists, based on the premise that women fighting for human rights and particularly women's rights face specific dangers and abuses because of their gender. The Colombian women who participated in the workshop face dangers like murder, forced disappearance, rape, torture and forced displacement. "Even thinking has become a cause for being attacked," said Pilar Sánchez from the eastern province of Boyacá, where the far-right paramilitaries and the armed forces have a marked presence. "We women are abused for everything -- for taking on leadership roles, for defending our rights, those of our children, those of our community. But also because of sex, religion -- everything. In border areas it’s even worse, because we have to face the guerrillas, the ‘paras’ (paramilitaries), and the army," said Sánchez. "Uribe’s policies have brought greater insecurity for women. The misnamed ‘demobilisation’ of paramilitary groups, which actually continue to maintain control in regional administrative and judicial structures, has had an especially negative effect on women and girls," María Eugenia Ramírez, of the Bogotá-based Latin American Institute for Alternative Legal Services (ILSA), told IPS. In 2007, for example, activist Yolanda Izquierdo was killed in the northwestern province of Córdoba. Izquierdo represented hundreds of peasant farmers who were demanding the return of their land, which was seized by paramilitary groups led by Salvatore Mancuso, one of the paramilitary chiefs extradited to the United States in May to face drug trafficking charges. And in February 2007, Carmen Santana was murdered in the northern province of La Guajira and four other women were killed in other areas, all for the same cause: their activism in seeking the restitution of their land, in compliance with the Peace and Justice Law. That law governed the recent demobilisation of paramilitary groups that are allies of the government forces in the fight against Colombia’s leftist guerrillas. Under the Peace and Justice Law, paramilitary leaders who confess to all of their crimes and make reparations to their victims are eligible for light prison sentences of no more than eight years. But according to the activists taking part in Friday’s workshop, the law has not been complied with. The Constitutional Court ordered changes to the law, such as a loss of legal benefits for demobilised paramilitaries who conceal crimes when they testify. But the government’s surprise extradition in May of the top paramilitary chiefs cut short several key prosecutions that would have helped shed light on many of the most appalling war crimes committed in Colombia’s armed conflict over the last two decades. Uribe’s controversial "democratic security" policy has extended state control to territory under the influence of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), the main rebel group, and has drawn local residents into the counterinsurgency effort by arming "peasant soldiers". It has also come under criticism from human rights groups, who say direct participation in human rights violations by the security forces has increased. The Escuela Nacional Sindical (National Trade Union School) reports that 13 female trade union leaders were killed in the first 11 months of 2006, 15 in 2005 and 16 in 2004. Yolanda Becerra of the Organización Femenina Popular (OFP), a women's peace group whose members for years have received threats in the northeastern oil-rich river port city of Barrancabermeja, was attacked in her home in November 2007. Members of the paramilitary group Águilas Negras (Black Eagles), which emerged in the wake of the demobilisation process, "broke into my apartment, destroyed documents, threatened and tortured me psychologically, and took me out of the city," Becerra told IPS. "But they didn’t break my will. From Bucaramanga (the capital of the northeastern province of Santander), I have continued to work, fully committed to defending life and democracy," she added. "Anyway, I say I’m in a good mood because I am never threatened all by myself," she joked. "They always threaten me along with respected, well-known figures, like (Jesuit) Father Francisco de Roux." Not only community leaders and activists are targeted by the violence, but also ordinary people living in regions where the leftist guerrillas have traditionally maintained control. "We have put in place early warning and protection systems, and work constantly" to defend women activists, said Ramírez. "Last year, we managed to get eight women and their families out of the country because of the repeated threats against them. But the situation is very serious." Psychologist Claudia Girón said six women community leaders and activists have been killed, and many more have received death threats, in areas near the capital since the Mar. 6 national march against state and paramilitary violence. Girón is the wife of Iván Cepeda, the head of the National Movement for Victims of State Crimes (MOVICE), which organised the Mar. 6 march. "For that reason I am calling on the international bodies to stay alert to the situation in Colombia," Girón told the audience at the workshop. Swedish Ambassador Lena Nordstrom said "we will continue working, as we have in recent years, on behalf of Colombian women affected by forced displacement and rights violations. This is a strong commitment for my country," she said. Ramírez said her group would continue pressing for enforcement of existing laws in Colombia and for the implementation of the recommendations of the United Nations special rapporteur on violence against women and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. "We are also putting into practice protection mechanisms among ourselves, and meetings like these ones are important sustenance for the soul," said Ramírez. Sumila Abeyke, a representative of the International Campaign on Women Human Rights Defenders, said efforts would continue to be made to strengthen strategies aimed at protecting women victims and human rights activists. "This is a challenge that we will face, with a sense of solidarity," she said. Abeyke underlined the commitment to "tell these stories throughout our networks," in order to maintain "a sense of solidarity, and to continue watching out for each other, overcoming the real and imaginary borders that have been imposed on us." The main groups involved in the International Campaign are Amnesty International, Women Living Under Muslim Laws (WLUML), International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC), International Service for Human Rights (ISHR), the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), the Centre for Women's Global Leadership (CWGL), Forum Asia, Inform, Frontline, International League for Human Rights, Amanitare, Isis-Women's International Cross-Cultural Exchange, and the Latin American and Caribbean Committee for the Defence of Women's Rights (CLADEM).

Acquittals for Lawmakers Accused of Taking Bribes in Peru

By Ángel Páez LIMA, Jun 9 (IPS) - A court in Peru acquitted nine former lawmakers accused of taking bribes to switch party allegiance and vote with the government of former President Alberto Fujimori (1990-2000), so as to assure him majority support for his initiatives. Vladimiro Montesinos, Fujimori’s former intelligence chief, who like the ex-president is also in prison, had confessed in court to personally making payments to 13 opposition legislators in the year 2000, with funds from the National Intelligence Service (SIN), and provided details of how he had recruited each of the lawmakers. But the High Court in Lima found that his testimony was insufficient to prove the charges in nine cases, for which verdicts of acquittal were handed down on Jun. 3. In the 2000 elections, only 52 legislators belonging to Fujimori’s Peru 2000 party were elected, while at least 70 were needed to control the legislature. According to Montesinos, Fujimori ordered him to recruit lawmakers at any price to obtain a majority. The adviser said he paid 13 and offered various favours to five others. The Court convicted and handed down four-year suspended sentences to former legislators Roger Cáceres, Waldo Ríos, Gregorio Ticona and Antonio Palomo. Lead prosecutor Avelino Guillén told IPS that "the Court has ruled that Montesinos’ testimony is not enough to convict the turncoat members of Congress, yet it did convict four others based on his testimony." "If Montesinos’ evidence was enough to convict these four, why wasn’t it for the others? There’s a contradiction here," said Guillén, who is also prosecuting Fujimori in a separate trial for human rights violations. "If the Court accepts that Montesinos carried out a recruitment operation in order to gain a majority, would four legislators have been enough? The operation was to recruit 18," he said. The prosecution filed a motion to annul, and now the case will go to the Supreme Court, which will take the final decision. "He (Fujimori) gave me the order to get a parliamentary majority for Peru 2000 at any price, so that he could be sworn in as president on Jul. 28, 2001," Montesinos testified. He also wanted "absolute control of the presidency of Congress and its administrative committee, as well as control of all the congressional committees," he added. "At President Fujimori’s express request, I carried out the operation codenamed ‘Recruitment’ which achieved a solid parliamentary majority for the Fujimorista bloc," he said. The scandal contributed to the downfall of the Fujimori regime, shortly after the president was reelected to a third term. On Sept. 14, 2000, a group of opposition lawmakers released a video showing Montesinos handing over 15,000 dollars to congressman Alberto Kouri in exchange for switching sides. Kouri was convicted and sentenced in an earlier trial. Montesinos even got the members of Congress to sign documents promising to vote with the Fujimori government. "I am utterly disappointed in the Court verdict, and my disappointment is shared by everyone in this country," lawmaker David Waisman, who chaired a special commission investigating the bribery cases from 2001 to 2006, told IPS. During the investigations, "in their own statements, they all admitted to a series of serious irregularities amounting to criminal offences. We obtained their confessions, and yet they were acquitted. Actions like this are the reason why polls indicate that the Peruvian people disapprove of the justice system," Waisman added. The acquitted legislators are Rubí Rodríguez, Milagros Huamán, Juan Mendoza del Solar -- brother of the current second vice president of the Republic, Lourdes Mendoza del Solar -- , Jorge D'Acunha, José Elías, Edilberto Canales, Guido Pennano, Jorge Polack and José Luna. Other defendants in the trial included former members of Congress Víctor Joy Way and Carmen Lozada, and present lawmaker Rolando Reátegui, all Fujimoristas, as well as Luz Salgado. Montesinos testified that they had accepted funds from SIN to finance their electoral campaigns in 2000. The Court also dismissed these cases, in spite of Montesinos’ testimony having been corroborated by his then secretaries Matilde Pinchi, María Angélica Arce and Mario Ruiz, who confirmed having made payments to the former members of Congress. According to the dossier seen by IPS, the former intelligence chief is not the only witness to have given evidence about the bribery. Two former legal advisers for SIN who worked under Montesinos -- Rafael Merino and Pedro Huertas -- testified to having written the agreements signed by the legislators.

Rumsfeld Fraud; Pentagon Tortures Its Own


Rumsfeld Fraud; Pentagon Tortures Its Own Case 10: Rumsfeld Tried to Bribe Me and Worse... Rumsfeld walked into my office at the Pentagon in about late Nov. 2003 and tried to bribe me with an increase in rank, salary, and $20,000. I had previously investigated several cases of Pentagon fraud; Rumsfeld had blocked prosecution of them. I was starting to work on another case. Private contractor's were being charged big fees for setting up trailers at military bases in the war zones. The fees were on the order of $20,000 to $50,000 a year for a water, toilet and electricity hook up on a 60 ft. by 20 ft. piece of desert. In Iraq, $20,000 would have bought you a nice house with water, toilet, and electricity before the US arrived. But what made it a scam instead of just an official rip off was that half the fee had to be paid up front in cash as a kickback to even get the space. Otherwise the request simply never got acted upon in time for the contractor to do his work. The evidence that I had collected so far showed that Rumsfeld was getting that cash when the fee was paid at the Pentagon. ...

A Room With A View

George Emerson: He's the sort who can't know anyone intimately, least of all a woman. He doesn't know what a woman is. He wants you for a possession, something to look at, like a painting or an ivory box. Something to own and to display. He doesn't want you to be real, and to think and to live. He doesn't love you. But I love you. I want you to have your own thoughts and ideas and feelings, even when I hold you in my arms. It's our last chance...

Sunday, June 08, 2008

End struggle, Chavez urges Farc

Hugo Chavez during his weekly TV programme
Colombia has previously accused Hugo Chavez of funding Farc

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has called on Colombia's Farc rebels to end their four-decade struggle and release all their hostages.

Mr Chavez, whom Colombia has accused of financing the Farc, said they were "out of step" and their war was "history".

The Colombian government expressed surprise, but welcomed the statement.

The rebels are believed to be at their weakest point in years, following the death of their long-time leader, Manuel Marulanda, in March.

The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc) hold many hostages, including about 40 high-profile ones they say they want to swap for imprisoned rebels.

In his weekly television and radio programme on Sunday, Mr Chavez urged the Farc's new leader, Alfonso Cano, to "let all these people go".

"There are old folk, women, sick people, soldiers who have been prisoners in the mountain for 10 years," he added.

The Venezuelan president said ending the rebellion could lead to a peace process between the rebels and the Colombian government.

"The guerrilla war is history," he said. "At this moment in Latin America, an armed guerrilla movement is out of place."

Computer evidence

Colombian Interior minister Carlos Holguin said the statement from Mr Chavez, a "great ally" of the rebels, was "surprising".

"He is a great defender and ally of the guerrillas, so it is so surprising," he said.

"But it's great, and I hope Farc hears him."

BBC Americas editor Emilio San Pedro says the message represents an about-face for Mr Chavez, who a few months ago called on the world to regard the Farc as a legitimate army rather than a terrorist group.

Our correspondent says Mr Chavez' critics will wonder whether this change is related to allegations by Colombia's Alvaro Uribe - who accused Mr Chavez of giving the rebels $300m.

In March Colombia said it had found documents on a computer that proved Venezuela funded Farc.

The computer was seized during a raid on a Farc camp in Ecuador, in which another senior Farc leader, Raul Reyes, was killed.

Venezuela said any contacts with Farc were solely made as part of a humanitarian effort to free hostages.

Kidnap capital

The captives include Franco-Colombian politician Ingrid Betancourt and three Americans.

Earlier this year Mr Chavez negotiated the release of two key hostages, Clara Rojas and Consuelo Gonzalez.

Late last year his official mediation role was terminated by Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, who said Mr Chavez had overstepped his responsibilities.

The Farc is the oldest and largest group among Colombia's left-wing rebels - and is one of the world's richest guerrilla armies.

It was founded in 1964 when it declared its intention to use armed struggle to overthrow the government and install a Marxist regime.

But like most of the paramilitary groups in Colombia's forty-year civil conflict, it has become increasingly involved in the drug trade.

Colombia is known as the "kidnap capital of the world", with one person a day, down from 10 a day in 2002, being snatched either for ransom or political bargaining.

Forbidden Library: Censorship Quotes

From Banned and Challenged Books: Censorship Quotes "If your library is not 'unsafe', it probably isn't doing its job." -- John Berry, Iii, Library Journal, October 1999 "Without free speech no search for truth is possible... no discovery of truth is useful... Better a thousandfold abuse of free speech than denial of free speech. The abuse dies in a day, but the denial slays the life of the people, and entombs the hope of the race." -- Charles Bradlaugh "There are worse crimes than burning books. One of them is not reading them. " -- Joseph Alexandrovitch Brodsky, 1991, Russian-American poet, b. St. Petersburg and exiled 1972 (1940-1996) "Everyone is in favor of free speech. Hardly a day passes without its being extolled, but some people's idea of it is that they are free to say what they like, but if anyone else says anything back, that is an outrage." -- Winston Churchill "You see these dictators on their pedestals, surrounded by the bayonets of their soldiers and the truncheons of their police. Yet in their hearts there is unspoken - unspeakable! - fear. They are afraid of words and thoughts! Words spoken abroad, thoughts stirring at home, all the more powerful because they are forbidden. These terrify them. A little mouse - a little tiny mouse! -of thought appears in the room, and even the mightiest potentates are thrown into panic." -- Winston Churchill "The fact is that censorship always defeats its own purpose, for it creates, in the end, the kind of society that is incapable of exercising real discretion..." -- Henry Steel Commager "Burning is no answer." -- Camille Desmoulins' reply to Robespierre, January 7, 1794, on burning his newspaper, Le Vieux Cordelier "If librarianship is the connecting of people to ideas – and I believe that is the truest definition of what we do – it is crucial to remember that we must keep and make available, not just good ideas and noble ideas, but bad ideas, silly ideas, and yes, even dangerous or wicked ideas." -- Graceanne A. Decandido "Don't join the book burners. Don't think you are going to conceal thoughts by concealing evidence that they ever existed." -- Dwight D. Eisenhower, speech at Dartmouth College, June 14, 1953 "Every burned book enlightens the world." -- Ralph Waldo Emerson "This is slavery, not to speak one's thought." -- Euripides, Greek tragic poet (480 or 485 B.C. - 406 B.C) "If the human body's obscene, complain to the manufacturer, not me." -- Larry Flynt "They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." -- Benjamin Franklin, Historical Review of Pennsylvania, 1759 "If all printers were determined not to print anything till they were sure it would offend nobody, there would be very little printed." -- Benjamin Franklin, 1730 "Books won't stay banned. They won't burn. Ideas won't go to jail. In the long run of history, the censor and the inquisitor have always lost. The only sure weapon against bad ideas is better ideas. The source of better ideas is wisdom. The surest path to wisdom is a liberal education." -- Alfred Whitney Griswold, Essays on Education "[O]ne man's vulgarity is another's lyric." -- John Marshall Harlan, Supreme Court justice, 1971 "Where they have burned books, they will end in burning human beings." -- Heinrich Heine "I cannot and will not cut my conscience to fit this year's fashions." -- Lillian Hellman, subpoenaed to appear before the House Un-American Activities Committee, 1952 "To prohibit the reading of certain books is to declare the inhabitants to be either fools or slaves." -- Claude Adrien Helvetius, De l'Homme, Vol. I, sec. 4 "The sooner we all learn to make a decision between disapproval and censorship, the better off society will be... Censorship cannot get at the real evil, and it is an evil in itself." -- Granville Hicks (1901-1982) "Fear of corrupting the mind of the younger generation is the loftiest form of cowardice." -- Holbrook Jackson "Did you ever hear anyone say 'That work had better be banned because I might read it and it might be very damaging to me'?" -- Joseph Henry Jackson "Civil government cannot let any group ride roughshod over others simply because their consciences tell them to do so." -- Robert H. Jackson "Children deprived of words become school dropouts; dropouts deprived of hope behave delinquently. Amateur censors blame delinquency on reading immoral books and magazines, when in fact, the inability to read anything is the basic trouble." -- Peter S. Jennison "Books and ideas are the most effective weapons against intolerance and ignorance." -- Lyndon Baines Johnson, February 11, 1964 "Dat veniam corvis, vexat censura columbas. - Censure acquits the raven, but pursues the dove." -- Decimus Junius Juvenalis (Juvenal), Satires, II. 63. Roman rhetorician and satirical poet (1st to 2nd cent. A.D.) "Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? - Who will watch the watchers?" -- Juvenal "We are not afraid to entrust the American people with unpleasant facts, foreign ideas, alien philosophies, and competitive values. For a nation that is afraid to let its people judge the truth and falsehood in an open market is a nation that is afraid of its people." -- John F. Kennedy "The burning of an author's books, imprisonment for an opinion's sake, has always been the tribute that an ignorant age pays to the genius of its time." -- Joseph Lewis, Voltaire: The Incomparable Infidel, 1929 "Censorship, like charity, should begin at home; but unlike charity, it should end there." -- Clare Booth Luce "One cannot and must not try to erase the past merely because it does not fit the present." -- Golda Meir, Israeli political leader (1898-1978) "And yet on the other hand unless warinesse be us'd, as good almost kill a Man as kill a good Book; who kills a Man kills a reasonable creature, Gods Image, but hee who destroyes a good Booke, kills reason it selfe, kills the Image of God, as it were in the eye." -- Milton, Areopagitica, 1644 "To forbid us anything is to make us have a mind for it." -- Michel de Montaigne, Essays, 1559 "You have not converted a man because you have silenced him." -- John Morley "Senator Smoot (Republican, Ut.) Is planning a ban on smut Oh rooti-ti-toot for Smoot of Ut. And his reverent occiput. Smite. Smoot, smite for Ut., Grit your molars and do your dut., Gird up your l--ns, Smite h-p and th-gh, We'll all be Kansas By and By." -- Ogden Nash, "Invocation," 1931 "Censorship of anything, at any time, in any place, on whatever pretense, has always been and always be the last resort of the boob and the bigot." -- Eugene Gladstone O'Neill, American playwright (1888-1953) "All of us can think of a book... that we hope none of our children or any other children have taken off the shelf. But if I have the right to remove that book from the shelf - that work I abhor - then you also have exactly the same right and so does everyone else. And then we have no books left on the shelf for any of us." -- Katherine Paterson, American author of childrens books (1932-) "A censor is an expert in cutting remarks. A censor is a man who knows more than he thinks you ought to." -- Dr. Laurence Peter, Peter's Quotations: Ideas for Our Time. New York: Morrow, 1977, p. 97 "Free societies...are societies in motion, and with motion comes tension, dissent, friction. Free people strike sparks, and those sparks are the best evidence of freedom's existence." -- Salman Rushdie "What is freedom of expression? Without the freedom to offend, it ceases to exist." -- Salman Rushdie "Censorship ends in logical completeness when nobody is allowed to read any books except the books that nobody reads." -- George Bernard Shaw, Irish playwright and critic (1856-1950) "All censorships exist to prevent anyone from challenging current conceptions and existing institutions. All progress is initiated by challenging current conceptions, and executed by supplanting existing institutions. Consequently the first condition of progress is the removal of censorship." -- George Bernard Shaw, Preface to Mrs. Warren's Profession "Censorship reflects a society's lack of confidence in itself. It is the hallmark of an authoritarian regime..." -- Justice Potter Stewart, dissenting Ginzberg v. United States, 383 U.S. 463 (1966) "Once a government is committed to the principle of silencing the voice of opposition, it has only one way to go, and that is down the path of increasingly repressive measures, until it becomes a source of terror to all its citizens and creates a country where everyone lives in fear." -- Harry S. Truman, message to Congress, August 8, 1950 "Censorship is telling a man he can't have a steak just because a baby can't chew it." -- Mark Twain "Adam was but human - this explains it all. He did not want the apple for the apple's sake, he wanted it only because it was forbidden. The mistake was in not forbidding the serpent; then he would have eaten the serpent." -- Mark Twain "All these people talk so eloquently about getting back to good old-fashioned values. Well, as an old poop I can remember back to when we had those old-fashioned values, and I say let's get back to the good old-fashioned First Amendment of the good old-fashioned Constitution of the United States -- and to hell with the censors! Give me knowledge or give me death!" -- Kurt Vonnegut, author "There is no such thing as a moral book or an immoral book. Books are well written or badly written. That is all." -- Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray, 1891 "The books that the world calls immoral are the books that show the world its own shame." -- Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray, 1891 "An idea that is not dangerous is unworthy of being called an idea at all." -- Oscar Wilde From Banned and Challenged Books: Censorship Quotes

Bill Moyers & Amy Goodman @ NCMR

Bill Amy Click here to watch the event live online
From: Because he's an asshole and a coward, Bill O'Reilly sent his Scott McClellan-look-alike to ambush the excellent Bill Moyers at the National Conference for Media Reform. As usual, Moyers carries himself with limitless patience and class, whilst raising the level of discourse past the O'Reilly henchman's intellectual ability, which incidentally leaves him babbling like an idiot before he runs away entirely. Throughout the awesome confrontation, Moyers refers to the "$20 barrels of oil," which is a reference to something Rupert Murdoch said during the lead-up to the invasion.. Video Here

¡Hugo! The Hugo Chavez Story from Mud Hut to Perpetual Revolution

June 5th 2008, by Matthew Campbell - Sunday Times

The recent election of “red bishop” Fernando Lugo as president of Paraguay is a spectacular example of Latin America's lurch to the left over the past decade. In a region once famed for right-wing dictators, countries are falling like dominoes under the “Chavez effect”. Since becoming president of Venezuela 10 years ago, Hugo Chavez has emerged as one of the most controversial figures on the world stage. Often depicted as a monster, a clown, or an aspiring communist dictator in the mould of Cuba's Fidel Castro, he is accused of everything from undermining democracy to destroying his country's economy.

For Bart Jones, an American journalist, things are more complex. Bringing a racial dimension to the debate, he argues that the media has failed to explain the popularity of Chavez because it views Venezuela almost exclusively “through the lens of the light-skinned elites”. His book is an attempt to redress the balance.

Chavez, 53, the country's first dark-skinned leader, has used Venezuela's immense oil wealth, says Jones, to improve life for millions of impoverished shantytown residents through health and education programmes such as no other leader ever attempted. For Washington, though, the “Bolivarian revolution” (named after Simon Bolivar, the leader of the independence struggle against Spain) is a threat to stability in a region long regarded as America's “back yard”. Not only has Chavez bonded with Castro, but he has built an alliance with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the nuclear-obsessed Iranian leader.

The level of discourse has sunk to the playground, with American officials likening Chavez to Hitler, and Chavez calling George Bush a “fool”, a “drunk” and a “donkey” and comparing him to the devil. Jones asks us to bear in mind American support for the coup attempt against Chavez in 2002, when opposition groups received American funding.

Madman or messiah, the former army major has certainly put Venezuela on the map. Until he erupted onto the stage in his trademark red beret, his country was known mainly for beauty queens and oil.Many of the country's oil tankers were named after the most cherished beauty queens but Chavez set a new tone when he rechristened two of the ships Negra Hipolita and Negra Matea after the wet nurse and governess of Bolivar, his hero since childhood.

Chavez's parents were schoolteachers but, at a time when Venezuela's oil wealth was creating fabulous fortunes for a privileged few, he was brought up mainly by his grandmother, who made boiled sweets for little Hugo to sell on the streets. His early diaries reveal a sense of outrage at the gap between rich and poor: “I feel the blood boil in my veins,” he wrote when he was 19, “and I convince myself of the need to do something, whatever it may be, for these people.”

Although he decided young that he would follow in the footsteps of the great 19th-century “Liberator”, the rise from mud hut to presidential palace might never have happened had it not been for his fondness for baseball: his school grades disqualified him from entering the military academy in Caracas, but the generals made an exception on the strength of his knack for smacking balls out of the stadium.

The army was fertile ground for Chavez's hybrid, Bolivarian ideology. Its soldiers felt disgust at being used to quell food riots in 1989, when an estimated 399 inhabitants of shantytowns were shot dead. The coup attempt led by Chavez in 1992 failed when Carlos Andres Perez, the president, managed to get on television in his pyjamas to show that he was still leading the nation.

Chavez was lucky to serve only two years in prison, and was mobbed by crowds on his release: he had become a popular hero and easily beat Irene Saez, a 6ft strawberry-blonde and former Miss Universe, at the polls in 1998, a presidential election that became known as “beauty and the beast”. Venezuela had never seen anything like it: Chavez dispensed with the presidential limousine, paid surprise visits to decrepit hospitals at 3am and fired doctors he found sleeping; he would stop his convoy to chat with stunned rubbish collectors; attacking profligacy, he put the government's fleet of 128 aircraft up for sale. The street slang he used on Hello President, his television programme, horrified the Caracas upper-crust but endeared him to the masses. For once, someone like them was running the country. The coup attempt against him in 2002, when he only narrowly avoided execution by mutinous troops, collapsed because of divisions within the military and, to the horror of the American-backed opposition, he was reinstated and went on to win re-election.

Twice divorced, he lives alone these days in the palace; he is “married to the revolution”, he says. Herma Marksman, his former lover and comrade-in-arms, thinks all the adulation has gone to his head, and that his “ego has ballooned out of control”. She recently told another Chavez biographer: “Hugo thinks he's Rock Hudson.”

Fortunately, an attempt to change the constitution to allow Chavez to be re-elected indefinitely after his term expires in 2013 was defeated in a referendum last year. Which leaves Venezuelans facing an intriguing question: can Chavismo outlive Chavez? Jones does not say, but his portrait is compelling for its ring of authenticity: he gained unusual access to his subject, spending hours interviewing him in planes, cars and the presidential palace in Caracas. The result is a refreshing departure from the ideologically charged tracts that tend to dominate the debate about Chavez.

¡Hugo! by Bart Jones Bodley Head £12.99 pp608

Prince turns 50: Highs and lows

Prince in concert
Prince is renowned for his high-octane concert performances
Multi-talented multi-instrumentalist Prince is celebrating his 50th birthday on Saturday.

The star cherry-picked the best of rock, funk and blues to redefine pop music in the 1980s - but he has had a turbulent time in the spotlight.

Use our interactive timeline to find out more.

What's My NameEnter alt textDebut albumEnter alt textDirty mindCherry MoonPurple RainSign O The TimesBlack AlbumNothing ComparesSlaveSon diesMusicology21 Nights

Full name: Prince Rogers Nelson

Born: 7 June 1958, Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA

Also known as: The Kid, The Purple Perv, The Minneapolis Midget, Alexander Nevermind, Christopher Tracy, The Artist Formerly Known As Prince.

Biggest hits: Little Red Corvette, Purple Rain, Raspberry Beret, Kiss, The Most Beautiful Girl In The World.

Quotes: "Sex on a stick" (Kylie Minogue). "A dwarf who's been dipped in a bucket of pubic hair" (Boy George).

1958 - WHAT'S MY NAME?

Prince is named after the jazz band - the Prince Rogers Trio - of his father, John. But his parents drift apart and separate when he is two years old, and the youngster chooses to live with his father. But he is thrown out of his family home aged 12 after allegedly being caught in bed with an older girl. He moves in with the family of his school friend, and future band member, Andre Anderson.


Prince records his solo debut album, For You, for Warner Brothers. Despite a popular single, Soft And Wet, it only makes the lower end of the Billboard 200 album chart.

1980-82 - DIRTY MIND

Dirty Mind
Dirty Mind included songs such as When You Were Mine and Uptown

Third album Dirty Mind, containing songs about oral sex and incest, is a critical success but a commercial flop.

Fans include The Rolling Stones, who ask Prince to open two shows in Los Angeles for them. But the crowd do not appreciate the moustachioed musician's sexually ambiguous look and boo him off stage.

A year later, in 1982, he scores his first mainstream success with ambitious double album 1999. It sells three million copies in the US, and sets the template for the Minneapolis sound - buzzing synths and funky drum machines wed together in a lascivious funk groove.


Prince in concert
The Purple Rain album and tour were performed with Prince's band, The Revolution

Purple Rain finally establishes Prince as a bona fide star, and sits at number one in the US for a staggering 24 weeks. The accompanying film - part-concert movie, part-autobiography - takes nearly $100m (£50.8m) at the box office.

Lyrically, the album is unusually restrained for the sex-obsessed singer. But the erotic fantasy of one song, Darling Nikki, enrages one mother, Tipper Gore, to such an extent that she forms the Parents Music Resource Center and gets explicit albums branded with "parental advisory" stickers.


The faux-psychedelia of seventh album Around The World In A Day disappoints, with the exception of pop classic Raspberry Beret. The 1986 follow-up, Parade, is more successful but the star's new film, Under The Cherry Moon, bombs.

"For all those out there who can't get enough of Prince, Under The Cherry Moon may be just the antidote," says the New York Times.


Sign O The Times
Sign O' The Times featured Prince singing in a sped-up voice with vocals credited to "Camille"

Compiled from the debris of three abandoned albums (Crystal Ball, Dream Factory and the untitled "Camille project"), Sign O The Times is hailed as Prince's masterpiece.

Trailed by the sparse blues-funk of the title track, the album spans every genre in popular music including rock (I Could Never Take The Place Of Your Man), funk (Housequake), soul (Slow Love) and pop (U Got The Look).

Rolling Stone says it is "the most complete example of his artistry's breadth, and arguably the finest album of the 1980s".


Prince on stage in 1988
The Lovesexy tour in 1988 was Prince's most ambitious show to date

Prince scraps his next project, The Black Album, days before release, calling it "dark and immoral" (it's also pretty bad). The star says he reached the decision following "a spiritual epiphany", which some reports suggest was the result of an early experience with the drug ecstasy.

The Black Album's replacement, Lovesexy, and follow-up Batman (recorded in just six weeks) keep Prince's profile high, but receive mixed reviews.


Diamonds and Pearls
Diamonds and Pearls featured the hits Cream and Gett Off

Despite another dire film (Graffiti Bridge), Prince's fortunes are on the rise, thanks in no small part to Sinead O'Connor's cover of Nothing Compares 2 U.

Prince responds with two of his most commercial and accessible albums in years - Diamonds and Pearls and Symbol. The only downside is his attempt to embrace hip-hop by enlisting the services of Tony M - a rapper who can't rap.

1993 - SLAVE

With his star back on the rise, Prince releases a greatest hits album, announces his retirement, and changes his name to an unpronounceable symbol.

It turns out that he is embroiled in a legal dispute with Warner Brothers over his music. His independently-released single, Most Beautiful Girl In The World, gives him his first UK number one.

Negotiations with Warner Brothers stall, and Prince takes to writing the word "slave" on his face in eyeliner. The public is not impressed.


Prince's newborn son, Gregory, dies of Pfeiffer syndrome, a condition which causes the bones of the skull to fuse too early. The musician splits from his wife, Mayte Garcia, in 1999.

Unsurprisingly, his musical output during this period lacks its usual fire and inspiration. Critics are particularly harsh about his album, The Rainbow Children, which features the advocacy of Jehovah's Witness dogma (Prince had been converted to the religion earlier that year).


Prince and Beyonce
Prince and Beyonce performed Purple Rain and Crazy In Love at the Grammys

Musicology, Prince's 22nd studio album, is hailed as a return to form, and sees him back in the top five on both sides of the Atlantic. In the same year, he duets with Beyonce at the Grammys, is inducted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and puts on the most profitable US tour of the year.

Having embraced the internet as a way to release music as and when he wants, Prince wins a Webby Award in 2006. But, three weeks later, his site is shut down with no warning.

2007 - 21 NIGHTS

Prince at the Superbowl
Prince's Super Bowl performance won rave reviews
After a dazzling performance at the Super Bowl (in which the rain actually turns purple) Prince shocks the music industry by announcing he will give away his latest album, Planet Earth, on the cover of a newspaper.

He also plays a wildly successful 21-night residency at London's O2 arena, with guests including Amy Winehouse and Elton John.

...Prince music...

New Zine Out for the DNC Protests: Disrupt the DNC! A Primer

From Contributed by: uadenver
Unconventional Denver is proud to announce the release of Expose this Sham Democracy- Disrupt the DNC! In this slick little zine you will find the most recent schedule of events, which should help to quell much of the speculation and false announcements that have been made. The zine also contains information about the upcoming Unconventional Action Camp in Denver as well as the logistics we will be providing and how people can plug into the exciting work being done. We're doing a mass mailing across the country. If you're interested in receiving or distributing bulk orders of the zine. Email us at The zine can also be downloaded for free under the Downloads section of We strongly encourage people to print these out and disseminate them widely. The more that we can decentralize the printing and shipping side of this project, the more we can focus on fundraising for things like the convergence center, tech equipment and other goodies that go into a mobilization of this scale. Solidarity and Happy Reading! Unconventional Denver

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Excerpt: Jane Roberts’ "Seth" book, "The Way Toward Health"

"The ideas you have, then, play a large role in the way the body handles its nutrients, and utilizes health and vitality…it is possible for your ideas to cause chemical reactions that impede your body’s ability to accept nourishment. If you believe that the body is evil, the purest health food diet may do you little good at all, while if you have a healthy desire and respect for your physical body, a diet of TV dinners and even fast foods may well keep you healthy and nourished. If we are talking about health, it is to your beliefs that we must look. It is up to you to form a body of beliefs that is worthy of your physical image – for you are nourished by your beliefs, and those beliefs can cause your daily bread to add to your vitality, or add to your cares and stress."

Gloria La Riva Breaks Down Obama's Speech To AIPAC

Breaking down Obama's speech to AIPAC

The following are some excerpts from the speech of Barack Obama to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee convention in Washington DC, June 4, 2008, with comments . If anything Hillary Clinton's speech that followed was even more aggressive and over-the-top in its pandering, but it is Obama of course who is the Democratic nominee.

"It was just a few years after the liberation of the [Nazi concentration] camps that David Ben-Gurion declared the founding of the Jewish State of Israel. We know that the establishment of Israel was just and necessary, rooted in centuries of struggle and decades of patient work. But 60 years later, we know that we cannot relent, we cannot yield, and as president I will never compromise when it comes to Israel's security."

Ben-Gurion simply "declared" the state of Israel, and it appeared!! No mention here – or anywhere in the entire speech –of the dispossession of the Palestinians. Nor any mention of the role of imperialism and colonialism in the creation of the state of Israel.

"Flying in an [Israeli Defense Forces] helicopter, I saw a narrow and beautiful strip of land nestled against the Mediterranean. On the ground, I met a family who saw their house destroyed by a Katyusha rocket. I spoke to Israeli troops who faced daily threats as they maintained security near the blue line [sic].

No mention of Palestinian casualties in number of deaths have been something like 100 times those on the Israeli side, not counting the hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who have been jailed, tortured, had their villages, homes,, olive groves demolished, etc.

"I have been proud to be a part of a strong, bipartisan consensus that has stood by Israel in the face of all threats. That is a commitment that both John McCain and I share, because support for Israel in this country goes beyond party."

Absolutely right; until Bush, the Democrats were considered the bigger supporters of Israel. But now they're about the same. This "support" is based neither on sympathy for Jewish people nor the supposed control of U.S. foreign policy by a pro-Israel lobby, but is instead due to the vital role Israel plays in the U.S. empire.

"Hamas now controls Gaza. Hezbollah has tightened its grip on southern Lebanon, and is flexing its muscles in Beirut. Because of the war in Iraq, Iran — which always posed a greater threat to Israel than Iraq — is emboldened and poses the greatest strategic challenge to the United States and Israel in the Middle East in a generation."

Apparently Obama thinks the U.S. went to war against the wrong member of Bush's so-called "Axis of Evil.'

"Iraq is unstable, and al-Qaida has stepped up its recruitment. Israel's quest for peace (sic) with its neighbors has stalled, despite the heavy burdens borne by the Israeli people."

Again, only the Israelis have borne the "heavy burdens."

"And America is more isolated in the region, reducing our strength and jeopardizing Israel's safety. The question is how to move forward. There are those who would continue and intensify this failed status quo, ignoring eight years of accumulated evidence that our foreign policy is dangerously flawed."

This section could have been called "Making the Empire Stronger."

"And then there are those who would lay all of the problems of the Middle East at the doorstep of Israel and its supporters, as if the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the root of all trouble in the region."

Here Obama is being truly disingenuous. Knowing full well, as he does, that the dispossession of the Palestinians is a major "root" cause of the conflict in the region, he dodges by inserting the word "all." The vast petroleum reserves and the region's strategic location are of course other root causes.

"These voices blame the Middle East's only democracy for the region's extremism. They offer the false promise that abandoning a stalwart ally is somehow the path to strength. It is not, it never has been, and it never will be . . . "Our alliance is based on shared interests and shared values. Those who threaten Israel threaten us."

This is true only if the word "us" it taken to mean U.S. imperialism. Israel is an extension of U.S. power and instrument of U.S. domination in the region.

"That starts with ensuring Israel's qualitative military advantage."

No other state in the region comes close to Israel's military power, thanks to the hundreds of billions in military assistance and advanced weaponry given over the past four decades.

"I will ensure that Israel can defend itself from any threat — from Gaza to Tehran. Defense cooperation between the United States and Israel is a model of success, and must be deepened . . . "As president, I will implement a Memorandum of Understanding that provides $30 billion in assistance to Israel over the next decade — investments to Israel's security that will not be tied to any other nation."

Has Obama put dollar figures on any other programs he says he will implement, like job training, healthcare, affordable housing, etc., etc?

"First, we must approve the foreign aid request for 2009. Going forward, we can enhance our cooperation on missile defense. We should export military equipment to our ally Israel under the same guidelines as NATO. And I will always stand up for Israel's right to defend itself in the United Nations and around the world . . . .As president, I will work to help Israel achieve the goal of two states, a Jewish state of Israel and a Palestinian state, living side by side in peace and security."

Note: "to help Israel achieve the goal of two states"—an interesting way of framing a supposed "negotiating process."

"The long road to peace requires Palestinian partners committed to making the journey. We must isolate Hamas unless and until they renounce terrorism, recognize Israel's right to exist, and abide by past agreements. There is no room at the negotiating table for terrorist organizations. That is why I opposed holding elections in 2006 with Hamas on the ballot."

Very democratic outlook – no elections should be held if the "wrong" party might win.

"The Palestinian people must understand that progress will not come through the false prophets of extremism or the corrupt use of foreign aid."

Reflecting the sharp rise in extreme anti-Arab racism among the Israeli public, the leader of one of the more influential Israeli parties, Avigdor Lieberman –until recently a deputy prime minister – openly calls for the expulsion of the entire Palestinian population. But that apparently doesn't qualify as "extremism" for candidate Obama, who once upon a time expressed sympathy for the Palestinian cause.

"Let me be clear. Israel's security is sacrosanct. It is non-negotiable. The Palestinians need a state that is contiguous and cohesive, and that allows them to prosper — but any agreement with the Palestinian people must preserve Israel's identity as a Jewish state, with secure, recognized and defensible borders. Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel, and it must remain undivided."

This line caused an angry response from even most U.S.-dependent figures in the Palestinian Authority and throughout the Arab world.. Today, Obama has gone even further in this position in an interview with CNN.

"The threats to Israel start close to home, but they don't end there. Syria continues its support for terror and meddling in Lebanon. And Syria has taken dangerous steps in pursuit of weapons of mass destruction, which is why Israeli action was justified to end that threat."

This is a reference to Israel's unprovoked and illegal bombing of a facility in Syria several months ago.

"There is no greater threat to Israel — or to the peace and stability of the region — than Iran. Now this audience is made up of both Republicans and Democrats, and the enemies of Israel should have no doubt that, regardless of party, Americans stand shoulder to shoulder in our commitment to Israel's security. So while I don't want to strike too partisan a note here today, I do want to address some willful mischaracterizations of my positions.

"The Iranian regime supports violent extremists and challenges us across the region. It pursues a nuclear capability that could spark a dangerous arms race and raise the prospect of a transfer of nuclear know-how to terrorists. Its president denies the Holocaust and threatens to wipe Israel off the map. The danger from Iran is grave, it is real, and my goal will be to eliminate this threat.

"But just as we are cleareyed about the threat, we must be clear about the failure of today's policy. We knew, in 2002, that Iran supported terrorism. We knew Iran had an illicit nuclear program. We knew Iran posed a grave threat to Israel. But instead of pursuing a strategy to address this threat, we ignored it and instead invaded and occupied Iraq . . . Iran has strengthened its position. Iran is now enriching uranium and has reportedly stockpiled 150 kilos of low enriched uranium. Its support for terrorism and threats toward Israel have increased. Those are the facts, they cannot be denied, and I refuse to continue a policy that has made the United States and Israel less secure."

The last three paragraphs emphasize the theme that Iraq was the wrong war in the Middle East.

"Sen. McCain offers a false choice: stay the course in Iraq, or cede the region to Iran. I reject this logic because there is a better way. Keeping all of our troops tied down indefinitely in Iraq is not the way to weaken Iran — it is precisely what has strengthened it. It is a policy for staying, not a plan for victory. I have proposed a responsible, phased redeployment of our troops from Iraq. We will get out as carefully as we were careless getting in. We will finally pressure Iraq's leaders to take meaningful responsibility for their own future."

A "responsible, phased redeployment," "we will get out as carefully as we careless getting in," – are clear statements that an Obama administration has no intention of really leaving Iraq. In hiss CNN interview today, June 6, with Candy Crowley, Obama affirms that he intends U.S. troops to stay in Iraq for a long time to come. Here, too, the colonialist language common to leading Democrats and Republicans about pressuring Iraqi "leaders to take "meaningful responsibility for their own future."

"We will also use all elements of American power to pressure Iran. I will do everything in my power to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon."

What the transcript leaves out here is that Obama repeated the last sentence twice, followed by a one word sentence, "Everything," after which he paused and looked around for emphasis and as if to say, "get it?" Obama also called for tightening economic sanctions, which had such deadly effects on Iraq from 1990-2003, on Iran. Final note: Obama's speech should not be seen as simply pandering to the pro-Israeli faction in the U.S. It was a major foreign policy speech, affirming that while he has serious tactical differences with Bush and the Neocons in regard to the Middle East (due primarily to their failures), he fully and unreservedly shares the strategic objective of long-term U.S. domination in the vitally important region.

Friday, June 06, 2008


[Gracias, Annette...Four eyes are better than have found some pics now and in the past that I've never seen..and that is impressive to me considering the amount of searching I've done...Kevin does sometimes too...anyway...If Logic follows..six eyes are better than four....]

Organize Protests Immediately!Free the Cuban Five NOW! — Extradite Posada!

A federal appeals court has again upheld the politically charged convictions of five Cuban intelligence agents accused of spying in the U.S., but vacated sentences of three of them, including two who are serving life terms.

A three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals returned those cases to a federal judge in Miami for resentencing based on findings in an opinion filed Wednesday that the five gathered no “top secret” information. It was the third time the case had come before the court.

The full 11th Circuit court already upheld the convictions of the so-called “Cuban Five” in August 2006. It rejected claims that their federal trial should have been moved from Miami because of widespread opposition among Cuban-Americans there to the communist Cuban government.

The five have been lionized as heroes in Cuba, while exile groups say they were justly punished.

In the appeal ruled on Wednesday, the five challenged a judge’s refusal to suppress evidence from searches conducted under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, sovereign immunity, discovery procedures, jury selection and alleged lack of evidence to support their convictions.

“We conclude that the arguments about the suppression of evidence, sovereign immunity, discovery, jury selection and the trial are meritless, and sufficient evidence supports each conviction,” Circuit Judge William H. Pryor wrote.

The latest decision included the life sentence for Gerardo Hernandez, who was convicted of murder conspiracy in the deaths of four Miami-based pilots shot down by Cuban jets in 1996. The panel split 2-1 to uphold Hernandez’ life term.

The four slain pilots flew planes that were part of the Brothers to the Rescue organization, which dropped pro-democracy pamphlets on the island.

Hernandez and the others - Ruben Campa, also known as Fernando Gonzalez; Rene Gonzalez; Luis Medina, aka Ramon Labanino; and Antonio Guerrero - were members of what was known by Cuban intelligence as The Wasp Network.

The panel vacated the life terms of Medina and Guerrero and Campa’s 19-year sentence, agreeing with their contentions that their sentences were improperly configured because no “top secret information was gathered or transmitted.” The judges concurred with Campa that his sentence was too strict because he was not a manager of supervisor of the network.

The five acknowledged being Cuban agents but said they were not spying on the United States. They said their focus was on U.S.-based exile groups planning “terrorist” actions against the Castro government.

After a trial that lasted six months, they were convicted in 2001 of acting as unregistered Cuban agents in the United States and of espionage conspiracy for attempting to penetrate U.S. military bases.

A three-judge 11th Circuit panel overturned the convictions in 2005, saying there should have been a change of venue. But the full court reversed that decision, 10-2.

The National Committee to Free the Cuban Five denounced the decision to uphold the convictions.

“It flies in the face of the truth. The five men are not guilty of any crime,” said Gloria La Riva, the committee coordinator. “They were saving lives by stopping terrorism. They never had weapons. They never posed any harm to the people of the United States.”

Demonstrate Thursday, Friday, and in the coming weeks!

Emergency protests have been announced for New York, San Francisco, Washington DC, Miami, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Chicago, Detroit, Boston, Seattle, Philadelphia, Vancouver (BC), Winnipeg, Montreal, Toronto, Calgary, London (UK), Madrid and Seville (Spain), Brussels, and Huancayo (Peru). Add your city to the growing list!


Press Conference denounces decision A press conference was held June 5, featuring Richard Klugh, Attorney for Fernando González, Paul McKenna, Attorney for Gerardo Hernández, Marjorie Cohn, President of the National Lawyers Guild, and Andrés Gómez and Gloria La Riva, coordinators of the National Committee to Free the Cuban Five. READ THE TRANSCRIPT HERE

Registrar Responds: Peace and Freedom Party Members Get Non Partisan Ballots

By Judith Scherr
Friday June 06, 2008
A number of Peace and Freedom Party members were given “non partisan” rather than Peace and Freedom Party ballots on Tuesday in Alameda County, registrar Dave Macdonald acknowledged Thursday in an interview with the Daily Planet. He explained that there are two lists that poll workers use, a “roster index”—a master list—and a street-level list. Peace and Freedom Party members were identified on the street-level list as “non partisan,” which means they would be given general ballots, allowing them to vote only on state-wide propositions. Macdonald said the problem was due to “our printer that made a mistake.” Similar problems were noted in San Francisco and Los Angeles counties. Macdonald said that if voters challenged their status, poll workers were trained to give them a provisional ballot on which they could vote as Peace and Freedom Party members. “If there’s any concern at all, people are allowed to vote provisionally,” he said, adding, “I feel confident that our poll workers did it right.” Moreover, Macdonald said that as soon as the county office was alerted to the problem “we notified the coordinators to make sure [poll workers] were not using the street index” to determine which ballot a voter should receive. In an interview with the Planet on Wednesday, however, Debra Reiger, chair of the Peace and Freedom Party, said that only “some people knew to persist” and got the proper ballots. An unknown number mistakenly voted non partisan. That was particularly significant because voting for the party’s central committee was on the ballot—and the central committee determines delegates to the convention in August where the party will nominate a presidential candidate. Supervisor Keith Carson, who said had no knowledge of the specific problem, told the Planet Thursday that the supervisors had been “outspoken on everybody’s right to exercise their constitutional right to vote.” He added that there is a committee of citizens who looks into such matters, called the Election Advisory Committee. The committee is staffed by Guy Ashley of the registrar’s office. Ashley can be reached at 510-272-6961. There are just under 3,000 persons in Alameda County registered as Peace and Freedom members, according to Macdonald.

Barack, Hillary & I meet Gloria La Riva

Strangely enough, I got a note from Twitter yesterday that a user called massgop was now following my main profile updates. Hmmm. Upon closer inspection, it looks to be the generic profile for the Massachusetts Republican Party. And that they simply wanted to build a large network of people who would check out their postings. The splatter approach, as I call it. I am guessing that they are unaware of my extremely left-wing political views? (/disingenuous). So, I decided to write about some politics today. Of the American brand. Barak Obama seals his win as the Democratic Nominee for President over Hillary Clinton this week. I'm not particularly impressed. The unfortunate two-party-only system Americans have come to embrace leaves little room for honest assessment of priorities and policies that are critical to all, once both parties are effectively corrupted. Which they are. By limiting your choices to mustard and...mustard, you don't really get to have the correct discussion. Instead, memes are circulated about ambiguous differences that can be carefully spun and manipulated so the audience is looking the other way when the sleight of hand occurs. Old magician's trick. Really, at the end of the day, Barak Obama is beholden to the same corporations that Hillary Clinton and John McCain are beholden to. None of these candidates adequately represent leadership for our singular human condition on the planet at this time. All of them will continue the occupation of Iraq, not because they want to, but because they will claim they have no choice. None of them will adequately roll back emissions from this country that would have an impact on global climate change. All would require that members of the population PAY for their own medical care. Tax dollars should do that. And regulations should keep price gouging in check. None will support that. This list goes on. Lip service to war-factions that support continued oppression of Palestinians, making peace in the region impossible. Mock-threatening stance against Iran (while secretly selling and giving nuclear technology to Turkey and Pakistan, who disseminate it to Muslim nations anyway). Failure to support equality for same-sex and transgender peoples. It remains to be seen how Obama will respond to the clear and pressing need for regulation of the financial services industry. His support for the merely showpiece legislation calling for elongated terms for a minority of adjustable sub-prime mortgage holders is weak in tooth and not even of his own. Evolution is slow. It is understandable. BUT we don't have to kid ourselves about it anymore. Barak Obama, like Hillary Clinton and John McCain, is *not* a progressive. Please plan accordingly. The correct progressive candidate is really Gloria La Riva, for the party of Socialism and Liberation. Her policies on reducing expenditures for the military, adequately supporting healthcare for ALL residents through a single-payer sytem funded by taxes, increased regulation to hold corporation proiteering in check, as well as appointing members to the judiciary that will not attempt to insert right-wing ideological influence into precedent are truly what is needed.

Obama and Latin America: a friendly imperialism?

by José Antonio Gutiérrez D. Friday, Jun 6 2008, 4:35pm north america / mexico / imperialism / war / opinion/analysis
The following article seeks to dissipate false hopes in Obama meaning the end of US imperialist policies. This article can be seen as complementary to the one written by Wayne Price on Obama (, but from a Latin American perspective.
Obama... change?

Obama... change?

Obama and Latin America: a friendly imperialism?

With the official nomination of Obama as the Democrat candidate for the next US presidential elections, there are many who are rejoicing in the hope that this will bring an end to the imperialist and aggressive foreign policy of the US [1]. A wise traditional saying states that it really does not matter what colour a cat is as long as it can catch mice. Turning their backs on popular wisdom, many on the Latin American left are full of expectations about Obama, who is almost certain to follow Bush as the White House leader.

What’s the difference between a black Democrat and a white Republican?

Oh, but he’s a black candidate” we are told. As if the presence of one - 1! - black man in a racist institutional machinery was going to make any difference to immigrants and the residents of US ghettos. Obama has, by the way, already been forced to distance himself from his pastor Jeremiah Wright, who denounced institutional racism in the US and had to embrace fully the discredited rhetoric of the “land of opportunities”. Being a black man, with fresh roots in the African continent and thus an alien body in the traditional US spheres of power, Obama has on his shoulders a pressure none of his political rivals have in order to demonstrate that he is trustworthy for the Yankee plutocrats. So there he goes, adhering with greater fervour than anyone else to the values and project of the American Way. With the fanaticism of the religious convert, he proves his credo to his associates, in a way that those born into the faith do not need to. There also those who believe that the colour of the skin, due to some curious intellectual and emotional effect of melanin, would make the potential US head of State more sensitive to the sufferings of the Third World and of its neo-colonies. But has Condolezza Rice’s presence in the government meant any change in the policy of the US towards the Middle East or Latin America? If anything, we could say without much hesitation than it’s been for the worse. Did Colin Powell make a difference in Bush’s government or stop the invasion of Afghanistan, Iraq or Plan Colombia? Ah, but he is a Democrat” we are now told. And do they forget that it was Kennedy, the Democrat, who pushed for the invasion of the Bay of Pigs (Cuba) and that it was he who, applying the theory of the Carrot and the Stick, carried the developmentalist bluff of the Alliance for Progress, while on the other hand he implemented the “National Security Doctrine” towards Latin America? Do they forget that it was Clinton who bombed Iraq (1998) and Somalia (1994)? Not to mention all of murderous blunders in the Balkans... Do they forget the criminal embargo that Clinton imposed on Iraq, which, according to UNICEF, cost the lives of at least 500,000 children? Do they forget it was Clinton who started with the rhetoric of the Iraqi Weapons of Mass Destruction?

Obama and the (Old) New World Order

Obama certainly is a critic of the Iraqi invasion, but he is not for an end to the occupation, only for the reduction of military personnel, which will remain necessary to guarantee the loyalty of the Iraqi regime, to train the Iraqi army and to “fight the threat of Al-Qaeda” [2]. His main criticisms of the Iraqi war are of form, not of substance; they are not about the human cost on the Iraqi people, and certainly he is not to question the ravenous logic of the oil interests behind the occupation, but only criticizes its excessive costs on the US budget. It seems that, when it comes to Iraq, differences between Democrats and Republicans are more of a quantitative than of a qualitative nature. It seems that we can have a Yankee praetorian guard perpetually in the Middle East... On the Palestinian question, Obama has been more than clear: in March, he criticized that “view that sees the conflicts in the Middle East as rooted primarily in the actions of stalwart allies like Israel, instead of emanating from the perverse and hateful ideologies of radical Islam” [3] Can anyone point out to me what the difference is between this view of the Middle East and that of the Pentagon’s hawks? Just like Bush, he fails to “see” the link that the Palestinian conflict has with “minor details” such as the Palestinian occupation, Israeli State terrorism (a State founded on forced displacement and violent land expropriation of Palestinians, it has to be said), the institutional racism in Israel, similar in many aspects to the South African apartheid and worse in some respects, or the strangling of Gaza. If he sees these factors, he quite convincingly plays the fool... But what about his positions towards Latin America? He has made clear what his programme towards Latin America will be, starting with a criticism of Bush’s politics towards the region. “We've been diverted from Latin America. We contribute our entire foreign aid to Latin America is $2.7 billion, approximately what we spend in Iraq in a week. It is any surprise, then, that you've seen people like Hugo Chavez and countries like China move into the void, because we've been neglectful of that” [4]

A New Alliance for Progress? Do we need it? Do we want it?

What is Obama offering to us Latin Americans? Something maybe worse than Bush has already given us: more intervention, more domination, more interference in our own affairs, more death. The lesser evil politics turn into a cruel paradox with the imperial grandeur that Obama adopts when talking of his “backyard”. Now that the US are being displaced from the Latin American markets by China and the EU [5], which are doing a triumphal entrance with their own Free Trade Agreements, as well as by the new emerging regional power of Brazil (not to mention the shivers that the regional unity projects lead by Venezuela cause in Washington, as they also represent a further threat to its hegemony), Obama states openly that he is about to turn our land into a battlefield for the US to recover its lost ground. Competition for our markets is out there, and no matter which global power is to win, we know who will be the certain loser: our people. And not to leave the slightest shade of doubt on his imperial pretensions over our America, he gave on May 23rd, in a meeting with the Cuban American Foundation, FNCA (in Miami, where else?), his complete programme towards Latin America [6]: 1. Direct diplomacy with Cuba, but maintaining the embargo; 2. He stated his intentions to isolate Venezuela and its allies in the region, with the argument that they are FARC-EP supporters; 3. The FARC-EP gets exactly the same role as Al-Qaeda in the Middle East: to be the perfect excuse to justify any intervention in the region. In fact, he goes as far as to declare that he will not tolerate that members of this organisation look for sanctuary beyond Colombian borders nor that local regimes give them any support, in a clear follow up to the Media harassment on Ecuador and Venezuela; 4. Absolute support for Plan Colombia and for the fascist regime of Uribe in Colombia –he, however, remains opposed to the Free Trade Agreement with that country, so as not to contradict his own supporters in the US who remain staunchly opposed to any more trade liberalisation with that country. Let’s see if he remains opposed after the elections; 5. To increase the budget for Merida Plan, which under the excuse of the “War on Drugs” (local variant of the War on Terror), is nothing but the latest mechanism of social control over Latin America. He went further to declare that he was going to expand southwards its current area of operations in Mexico and Central America... maybe will he expand it to the Andean axis which runs from Venezuela down to Bolivia? So, there’s not much of a novelty in this. Unless for the deepening of an aggressive policy of intervention, which is traditional of the US in our region, and the continuity of a dated paternalism, but in more of a blatant form. His view of Latin America is not much different to that of Bush in relation to the Middle East, save for the fact that the villains of the story are adapted to local circumstances: the FARC-EP replaces Al-Qaeda, War on Drugs replaces War on Terror, Chávez replaces Saddam Hussein and Venezuela replaces Iran. The independent regional projects of Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador, which are drifting away from the Washington Consensus, constitute the new “Axis of Evil”. Obama describes Venezuela as an authoritarian regime, with a wallet-led diplomacy and full of Anti-American jargon that reproduces the “false promises” of those “failed ideologies of the past” [7]. But what is it that Obama has to offer instead? Unconditional support for authoritarian regimes such as that of Uribe [8], dollar-led diplomacy –plus more economic intervention, microcredit offers, and some other filthy hand outs to increase our dependency- and hollow promises from failed ideologies such as the Washington Consensus. All of his platitudes are, indeed, stained with the old fashioned National Security Doctrine. And in an attempt to recycle failed intervention programmes, he even literally calls for a New Alliance for the Americas [9], suspiciously similar to the discredited fiasco called Alliance for Progress that Kennedy promoted in the ‘60s.

Obama go home!

It is only natural that Obama increases the virulence of the imperialist politics towards Latin America; after all, he knows that he will be in command of a sinking ship, of an empire stuck in a swamp of political, economic and military troubles. The depth of the US crisis is not, this time, result of the hallucinating desires of a bunch of utopian leftists –tycoons such as Soros or economists such as Stiglitz are turning into the main prophets of the new crisis. And every single empire in crisis has to resort to higher levels of violence, in a similar fashion to a drowning man who tries to remain afloat by blindly slapping the water’s surface. In the same way, Obama is already threatening Venezuela and Iran. Every worn out project needs to refresh its image, to display some renewal on its facade to conceal its exhaustion. This wearing out of the “American Way” made it possible for what was unthinkable to happen... a black candidate! The perfect chief for this crisis, a cosmetic change for the substance of the domination system to remain untouched: imperialism has never been an issue of melanin. The imperial politics of the US are not up to each US president to decide: it is a well engrained element in the Yankee State apparatus, in the social forces which shape the life of that nation, and the single force that can alter this order of things is the grassroots, bottom up, struggle of the people. For let us remember something that we Latin Americans frequently forget: in the US there are also people. There is also working class. Change depends on them. A US president, at most, can decide what version of imperialism does he want to apply, whether a Neanderthal version of imperialism, or a “forced consensus” version. Let us hold no false illusions. Imperialism cannot be reformed, neither will it be defeated in the ballot box. It will be defeated in the streets, in the workplaces, in the schools and universities, through the struggle we lead in the countryside and in the urban centres, the struggle we take to every corner of this world. Difficult as this struggle may seem, is the only realistic option left. I’ll insist, in the US, there are also people. But just like the Salazarist dictatorship in Portugal needed that push from the African anti-colonial struggles to fall (Angola, Mozambique, Guinea-Bissau), needed that stimulus for the blossom of the Carnation Revolution to happen, US imperialism and its global dictatorship will fall with that little push of our anti-colonial struggles in the Middle East and Latin America. But that struggle belongs to the people themselves, to the working class, and it will have no other unconditional allies but their own solidarity: if Ayiti (Haiti), if Colombia, if all of America, if Palestine, if the Middle East, are to wait for the answers to their deep problems to arrive from the White House, they will have to remain waiting for millenia to come, forever and ever...

José Antonio Gutiérrez D. 05 June 2008

HEALTH-CUBA: Free Sex Change Operations Approved

By Dalia Acosta HAVANA, Jun 6 (IPS) - New horizons opened up for transsexuals in Cuba with the approval of a Public Health Ministry resolution that establishes guidelines for their health care, including free gender reassignment operations. "It was just approved. The operations will begin to be carried out as soon as the Cuban medical team is ready to start," Mariela Castro, head of the National Centre for Sex Education (CENESEX), told IPS. Since 2004, Castro, President Raúl Castro’s daughter, has been the driving force in the effort to achieve integral health care for transsexuals in Cuba. With the support of international experts, a team of Cuban specialists has been preparing for months to carry out sex change surgery, said Castro, who added that the operations may begin this year. Only one sex reassignment operation has ever been carried out in Cuba, in 1988. Resolution 126, which was signed Jun. 4 by Public Health Minister José Ramón Balaguer, establishes the creation of a centre that will provide integral health care for transsexuals. It will be the only institution in Cuba authorised to carry out gender reassignment therapy. The decision also "legitimates the work of the National Commission for Integral Care of Transsexual People," created by CENESEX in 2005 as the continuation of a multidisciplinary team that has functioned since 1979, said Castro. "This resolution establishes all of the aspects of care for transsexuals, including the operation for those who qualify and are interested, because not all transsexuals want the surgery," said the sexologist. The functions of the National Commission include drafting, implementing and coordinating the national policy on integral care for transsexuals, approving gender reassignment surgery on a case-by-case basis, promoting research and advising the Public Health Ministry on policy-making questions. The new centre, meanwhile, will provide integral care, including pre and post-op interviews, diagnosis, treatment and follow-up for transsexuals undergoing sex change surgery as well as those who only receive hormonal treatment. Several transgender persons taking part in the activities of the International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia on May 17 in Havana told a crowd of hundreds of people about their lives and wondered how long they would have to wait to win society’s respect and be able to solve what for them is a serious health issue. "Even if I’m 90 by the time the operation is approved, I’ll do it if I’m still alive," said Juani, who was officially diagnosed as a female-to-male transsexual back in 1972. "I would ask the doctors to complete the surgery even if I die on the operating table, so that I could be in death what I could not be in life." A pamphlet put out by CENESEX states that transsexualism is a term created by medical science to define those people who, from early childhood and throughout their lives, identify strongly with the gender opposite to the one they were assigned at birth. Since its creation as a working group in 1979, the National Commission for Integral Care of Transsexual People has received 92 applications and has confirmed the diagnosis of 27 transsexuals, two transvestites and two effeminate male homosexuals, according to "La transexualidad en Cuba" (Transsexualism in Cuba), a book published by CENESEX in May. Of the 27 diagnosed transsexuals, 19 hope to undergo surgery. The other eight do not, but they want to legally change their gender identity. So far, 13 have been able to change their names and replace the photo on their identity cards, and seven are waiting for approval of the process by the Justice Ministry. Only two of the 27 are female-to-male transgender persons, and the statistics include the male-to-female transsexual who underwent surgery in 1988 and has lived as a woman since then. More than half of them live in Havana, and they range in age from 31 to 40. Most are white, only five completed secondary school, and eight have been accepted as members of the Cuban Women’s Federation (FMC), the only women’s association in this Caribbean island nation. "We see transsexualism as a special reality that requires a special response from society," said Castro, who pointed out that many transsexuals drop out of school because of rejection by society and the incomprehension they face in the classroom, from other students and their families, and from teachers as well. Stepped-up efforts to train teachers and to promote aw