Sunday, November 30, 2008
"The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion that stands at the cradle of true art and true science..." Uncle Albert said that and I love the concept.
I'm working on a project preparing for a residency that requires a 90 minute Art Theory presentation each morning. So I'm sifting through the archives and creating a visual 'influences, inspirations and fundamental practices' approach.
This piece 'Emergence' is an old friend from 1981.
I was reading Seth. I wrote a fan letter to Jane Roberts. I still love that material...the idea of consciously choosing intuition, truth, love, joy and creativity.
By Joshua Brandt
When Jeff Moss, general manager of 24th Street's Streetlight Records, recalled the store's humble beginnings, he couldn't resist a wistful smile.
"I was just a kid looking for some spending money. It was a placeholder job. We had one sign, about 50 square feet, and saggy cardboard boxes with used records--and this was before anyone understood the concept of used records.
"I was always kind of waiting for the other shoe to drop," Moss said.
Despite his trepidations, for over three decades--from rock to disco to hip-hop to hyphy--Streetlight thrived as a magnet for music collectors. People would come from miles around to sift through the store's dusty bins, crammed with the hottest new--and hippest old--albums, tapes, and CDs.
But that other shoe may be dropping now. After 33 years in Noe Valley, Streetlight owner Robert Fallon gave word to employees last month that he will close the store at 3979 24th Street on Jan. 31, at the end of the holiday season.
"It's really hard to swallow," said Moss, who has been with the shop for all but two of those years. "On an emotional level it's very difficult. I've gone through all the stages, I guess you could say. There was anger, denial, bargaining, and finally, acceptance."
Still, he understands the factors that went into Fallon's decision to give up the store: the sour economy, competition from other retailers and the Internet, and an iPod culture that promotes one-hit wonders instead of whole albums.
"The music industry doesn't promote full-length artistic works like [Pink Floyd's] Dark Side of the Moon anymore," said Moss. "The big-box stores offer the name groups way below cost, and people just download one song per album. It's tough for a small, local store to survive under those conditions. The unfortunate reality is that the day of the neighborhood record store has come and gone."
Fallon, who launched Streetlight in 1976, thought long and hard before deciding to close the Noe Valley location, instead of his other San Francisco location on Market Street. (Streetlight also has stores in San Jose and Santa Cruz. Many of the 24th Street employees will be switching over to the Market Street store in some capacity.)
In the end, it was a decision based on hard facts. "I happen to love Noe Valley, and I was a member of this community for over 20 years before I moved to Big Sur. This area has one of the world's best promenades, and I have many fond memories of the store and neighborhood.
"But emotions don't pay the bills," Fallon said, "and we've been losing money steadily since 2001."
The Market Street store had better foot traffic and visibility, he said, so the Noe Valley store was the logical choice.
'Like a Bad Dream'
The reaction from longtime customers was swift and visceral.
"Wow, I'm shocked and stunned," said Dennis White. "Shocked and stunned," repeated White, an employee of nearby Noe Valley Music and a Streetlight customer for 20 years.
"The street is not going to be the same. That's just terrible. I talk to those guys at the shop all the time. They're so passionate and knowledgeable. I thought that some of those guys should run for Mayor of 24th Street.... They would've won in a landslide."
Over at Phoenix Books and Records, store manager James Koehneke was equally dismayed.
"I'm devastated. It's like a bad dream. We consider them old friends because we kind of grew up together on the block. But I guess stores like this may just be the products of another era, where the economic conditions were more merciful and artists and musicians who supported the independent stores could live in the neighborhood.
"I'm really sorry. It's really sad," Koehneke said. "People need to think about what kind of city they want to live in when we lose stores like Streetlight."
Calls for Wake-Up Calls
Neighborhood resident Chuck Hubbell agreed, saying the store's demise should be a wake-up call for Noe Valley.
"People should be pissed about this," said Hubbell, who has made almost daily stops at Streetlight Records for 18 years. "The times are changing, and they aren't changing for the better. This is a real village here, and healthy villages are comprised of healthy small businesses. Without it, neighborhoods are stale and irrelevant. Period."
Coral Reiff, a Noe Valley resident since 1972, called Streetlight's closing "an outrage. I saw many of these employees--mostly young men--grow up, go to college, and get married. They were like family to me. Whenever I walk into the store, someone will call me by name and tell me about a new opera release, or a new digitized Hendrix recording.
"You know, I could easily shop online, but I choose not to because of Streetlight. This is just a microcosm of what's going on in the world, and people have to wake up before more precious institutions are lost."
Don't Discount Passion for Music
Another fan, Kenn Durrence, who drove up from San Jose on a recent weekend just to shop at Streetlight, thinks the store is making a big mistake.
"First of all, sales of vinyl have doubled every year since 2000, and the sale of record players was up 80 percent last year. It used to be that vinyl just appealed to middle-aged guys like me in big Hawaiian T-shirts, but now a lot of kids aged 18 to 22 are getting into it.
"I mean look at these two beauties that just came out," said Durrence, holding up copies of the Pixies' Bossanova and Trompe le Monde.
"This is 180-gram vinyl, which is really substantial. You can feel the magic when you hold it. You can frame it. This is really art. And at places like this store, you can always find hidden treasures like rare deejay-stamped promotional albums that aren't available in other places. I'll tell you one thing--never discount the passion people have for their music."
That's exactly the sentiment that buffers store manager Sunlight Weismehl during a time of "disbelief."
"I've worked at this store for 20 years. I got hired when I brought an old Jethro Tull album back because the liner wasn't in mint condition."
Weismehl laughed at the memory, adding that any "flute-rock devotee" had to be considered an excellent candidate to work behind the counter.
"I have a memory of every nook and cranny in this place. I know where the floors creak or the paint on the walls is chipping. This store is all I've thought about for two decades. I have to admit that my optimism is shrinking, but I still have that little ray of hope that the store will remain open.
"I just can't fully give that hope up."
LA PAZ (Reuters) - Bolivia's leftist government said on Sunday it was preparing to charge a top leader of an autonomy movement with "terrorism" after violent protests in September.
The government of President Evo Morales said Branko Marinkovic, who helped lead an autonomy push by Bolivia's four richest provinces, would be charged for instigating attacks in which at least 17 people were killed.
"We have enough evidence in this investigation to allow us to link Mr. Marinkovic with the acts of terrorism that occurred in several parts of the country in September," government minister Alfredo Rada told state radio.
Twenty people, including a governor and another civic leader, are already behind bars for the violence that erupted in four opposition-controlled regions when anti-Morales protesters stormed government buildings, sabotaged natural gas pipelines and battled with the president's supporters.
Morales, Bolivia's first indigenous president, boosted his political standing through his handling of the crisis while his opponents, including wealthy landowner Marinkovic, emerged weakened.
Marinkovic, behind the autonomy movement in resource-rich Santa Cruz, did not comment on the government case. His supporters say he is a victim of political persecution.
Rada said Marinkovic's possible arrest would depend on the justice system.
"What Mr. Marinkovic has to do is prepare his defense and not try to run," he said.
Marinkovic and Santa Cruz governor Ruben Costas led the so-called Half Moon group of eastern provinces, also including Tarija, Beni and Pando, seeking autonomy from the government so that they could have more control of vast oil, gas and agricultural resources.
Bolivia is South America's poorest country and has a long history of political instability.
Morales came to power as a champion of landless Indians and promptly nationalized the energy industry to return resource wealth to the people.
(Editing by Alan Elsner)
The Venezuelan leader, Hugo Chávez, has not had things all his own way recently, but at least he has famous friends
Falling oil prices and some significant losses in recent elections may have delivered blows to Hugo Chávez's self-styled socialist revolution, but he can still count on the support of Sean Penn.
In the video above, the actor defends the democratically elected Chávez against US allegations of dictatorship and voices concerns that America is "becoming increasingly gullible to the demonising of foreign states or leaders".
The video includes clips of commentators on Fox News variously describing Chávez as an "economic terrorist" and (horror of horrors) "a socialist".
In an article accompanying the video on the Nation, in which Penn also talks about his meeting with another US bogeyman, the Cuban leader Raul Castro, he writes:
It's true, Chávez may not be a good man. But he may well be a great one.
Penn, a renowned liberal (and we all now how that word goes down in the US), will no doubt attract the ire of rightwing commentators (in this 2007 interview on Fox News, a New York councilman is called a "son of a bitch" by a reporter for defending Chávez, after 7mins 22s), but his support illustrates how the Venezuelan leader polarises opinion.
The Russian president, Dimitry Medvedev, is the latest leader of a state on not exactly friendly terms with the US to reach out to the Venezuelan president. He is due to arrive in Caracas today.
According to Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty, "the unstated reason he is in Venezuela now is that both he and Chávez want to express defiance to the United States".
Supporters credit Chávez with increasing access to education and healthcare and trying to improve the lot of the impoverished majority.
But the CIA website lists concerns such as "a weakening of democratic institutions, political polarization, a politicized military, drug-related violence along the Colombian border, increasing internal drug consumption, overdependence on the petroleum industry with its price fluctuations, and irresponsible mining operations that are endangering the rainforest and indigenous peoples".
Is Chávez a "great man", or is he the demon portrayed by the US? Or is the truth rather more mundane: that he lies somewhere between the two extremes?
Saturday, November 29, 2008
Decisive revolutionary defeat of capitalist class still a must
A record 10 million Venezuelan voters turned out for state and municipal elections on Nov. 23, in the first electoral run of the new Unified Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV).
In the country’s popular vote, 5.3 million people supported the PSUV candidates, and 4 million backed the right-wing opposition. The 65.45 percent voter turnout is the highest ever for regional and local elections
Venezuelans waiting to vote,
The PSUV candidates won 17 of the 22 governorships, or 77 percent, and 265 out of 327 municipalities, or 81 percent, in an election widely seen as a referendum on the socialist vision of the Bolivarian revolution. There are 23 states in Venezuela, but the southernmost one, Amazonas, did not have elections this year.
This was also the first election to take place since the pro-Chávez forces lost a major December 2007 referendum on some 60 economic and social reforms. This time, almost 6 million people voted for the newly-formed PSUV, a gain of 1.5 million more than in Dec. 2007.
Chávez and other PSUV leaders declared the day after the vote that from the elections must come a deepening of the revolutionary process.
While the country’s right-wing and U.S. imperialism are trying to extract an assessment of victory for those who oppose the Bolivarian revolution, it is clear that there is majority support among the masses for the PSUV.
In the municipalities, the pro-Chávez forces have steadily gained more seats in the 2000, 2004 and 2008 elections. In 2000, 105 municipalities voted Bolivarian and 146 went for the right wing; in 2004, 220 municipalities voted Bolivarian and 60 voted opposition. This year, 265 out of 327 of the country’s municipalities, or 81 percent, voted for the PSUV, and little more than 50 municipalities voted for the opposition candidates.
Still, some of the elections around the capital reflected discontent with quality-of-life issues and an unpopular incumbent governor running on the PSUV ticket in Miranda. The state of Miranda is next to Caracas federal district, and much of the capital resides within that state.
Many people were unhappy with the extremely high rates of violent crime, drug trafficking and deteriorated infrastructure in the city and surrounding area. They blamed PSUV incumbent candidate Deodato Cabello for failing to resolve these problems and corruption.
That left a wide opening for the U.S.-financed right-wing candidate Henrique Capriles Radonsky. Capriles was one of the coup plotters against Chávez in April 2002, when he helped lead a violent demonstration against the Cuban embassy in Caracas when he was mayor of the Baruta municipality of Caracas.
The day after the elections, Chávez warned the opposition politicians not to continue with their counter-revolutionary actions, and referred specifically to Capriles, now newly-elected governor of Miranda. "I will be evaluating him, because five years ago he was one of the leaders of the coup d’état and was assaulting the Cuban embassy here in Caracas."
Chávez has issued two messages: He has cautioned the right-wing not to use its new offices as a base for organizing against the revolution, and he has pointed to the gains of the Bolivarian revolution since 1998 as a strong mandate to deepen the revolutionary struggle.
The right-wing opposition won the governorship in five states—Táchira, Carabobo, Nueva Esparta, Zulia and Miranda. However, Táchira and Carabobo were extremely close votes. The states of Zulia, Miranda and Carabobo have the largest populations in Venezuela.
Additionally, the right wing lost three states—Sucre, Guárico, and Aragua—whose governors were elected on a pro-Chávez platform in 2005 but who joined the opposition in 2007.
In the capital city of Caracas, there were two contending victories. Opposition candidate Antonio Ledezma was elected mayor of metropolitan Caracas, the capital’s executive office, while PSUV candidate Jorge Rodríguez was elected mayor of Libertador, the most important of Caracas’ five municipalities. Ironically, Ledezma, an ally of right-wing ex-president Carlos Andrés Pérez, was Caracas mayor from 1992 to 1995, when conditions were at their worst in the capital city.
The importance of Washington’s support for the counter-revolutionary forces cannot be underestimated. The U.S. government has funneled millions of dollars to subversive groups that are targeting communities and regions in order to build an opposition and destabilize Venezuela’s society. The U.S. Agency for International Development—closely coordinated with the CIA’s subversion strategy—channels funds through the U.S. Embassy-based Office of Transition Initiatives. Venezuela and Bolivia are the only countries with OTI offices that are not emerging from civil wars.
Investigator Eva Golinger’s new book, "The Imperial Spiderweb: An Encyclopedia of Invasion and Subversion," details the extensive network of U.S. agencies providing that counterrevolutionary funding and direction.
She writes: "USAID and [the National Endowment for Democracy], and others like Freedom House, the National Democratic Institute, the International Republican Institute, the Konrad Adenauer Foundation (Germany), FAES (Spain), FOCAL (Canada), Friederich Ebert Stiftung (FES), among others, have been working in Venezuela for years, advising and financing parties such as Justice First, A New Time, and We Can, to help them create platforms and political strategies that reflect the needs and desires of the Venezuelan people, but that are directing a hidden agenda that promotes a neo-liberal and anti-socialist vision."
Venezuela cannot escape U.S. imperialist designs to subvert and sabotage the revolutionary process without inflicting a decisive defeat on the capitalist class and their organizations and agents. Presently, those reactionary elements are still free to function. The class polarization and extreme poverty in Venezuela requires the expropriation of the wealth and resources of the ultra-rich capitalists and the use of those resources to solve the economic and social problems that beset Venezuela.
Progressive activists in the United States must first and foremost extend real solidarity with the Bolivarian revolution and expose the schemes of the CIA and the Pentagon, which aim to smash the revolutionary process.
On November 23, Venezuela held regional and local elections for governors, mayors and other municipal offices. Over 5000 candidates contested in 603 races for 22 state governors, 328 mayors, 233 state legislative council members, 13 Caracas Metropolitan area council members, and seven others for the Alto Apure District Council.
As mandated under Article 56 of the Bolivarian Constitution: "All persons have the right to be registered (to vote) free of charge with the Civil Registry Office after birth, and to obtain public documents constituting evidence of the biological identity, in accordance with the law."
It's a constitutional mandate to let all Venezuelans vote. Once registered, none are purged from the rolls, obstructed, or prevented from having their vote count like so often happens in America. In Venezuela, democracy works.
In 2003, Hugo Chavez undertook a major successful initiative called Mision Itentidad (Mission Identity) to implement the law. Prior to it in 2000, 11 million Venezuelans were registered to vote. By September 2006, it was 16 million, and now it's 16.8 million in a country of 27 million people.
How the Process Works
The electoral process is administered by the National Electoral Council (CNE). Unlike America's privatized system, it's an independent body, separate from the Executive, Legislative and Judicial branches of government or any private corporate interests. It's comprised of 11 members of the National Assembly and 10 representatives of civil society, none of whom are appointed by the President.
Elections are conducted using Smartmatic touchscreen electronic voting machines with verifiable paper ballot receipts. Voters can thus check to confirm their votes and their accuracy. The CNE then saves them as a permanent record to be used in case a recount is needed. It also requires voters to leave an electronic thumbprint to assure no one votes more than once.
The machines work as intended, and, after the 2006 election, the Carter Center said: based on its observations, Venezuela's "automated machines worked well and the voting results do reflect the will of the people." Further earlier independent studies verified the same thing, including ones carried out by vote-process experts at the University of California Berkeley, Johns Hopkins, Stanford and elsewhere.
In design, great care was taken to eliminate the possibility of tampering. It required a special technology that split the security codes into four parts. As a result, numerous voting security reports endorse the process they say makes Venezuelan machines the most advanced and accurate in the world.
On November 23, CNE president Tibisay Lucena said voters turned out in unprecedented numbers at 65.45%, the largest ever total for a regional election. The people spoke and registered a resounding, but not one-sided, victory for Hugo Chavez's United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) candidates - and sent a message. They affirmed the success of Bolivarianism and want it continued.
As the Venezuela Information Office reported, PSUV candidates won 77% of governorships (17 of 22), 81% of mayoral offices, 77% of all contests, and 58% of the popular vote - an impressive result by any standard anywhere in an election that 134 independent observers from 54 countries (from America, Europe, Asia, Africa and the 34-member country Organization of American States - OAS) judged open, free, fair, and efficient like all others under Chavez. OAS secretary general Jose Miguel Insulza called this one "peaceful and exemplary" and described it as a powerful expression of democratic maturity and the trust Venezuelans have in it under Chavez.
Other observer comments were as follows:
- Colombia's CNE representative, Joaquin Vives, called Venezuela's electoral process "a pioneer in the world (and added) Many things dazzled us" about it, such as voters "great desire to construct democracy in Venezuela;"
- Greek legislator Sofia Sakorafa called the process "one that expresses the will of the people and is characterized by a commitment to social and political inclusion;"
- Costa Rica's Maria Elena Salazar said the election was "beautiful, participative, of which all Latin Americans should be proud;" and
- Anthony Gonzales from America admired well-equipped and secured voting centers and that the election was held on a weekend to make it easier for working people.
Long-time Latin American expert James Petras commented on the significance of the victory:
- few European, North or South American parties have as high a level of support as the PSUV; certainly none in the United States in particular where growing numbers of voters have little faith in a deeply corrupted process;
- the PSUV is popular "in the context of several radical economic measures, including the nationalization of major cement, steel, financial and other private capitalist monopolies;" even so, business in Venezuela remains strong (though slowing) at a time of a global economic crisis;
- the PSUV won in spite of declining oil prices; fluctuating around $50 a barrel, they're down about two-thirds from their peak price; even so, "the government maintained most of its funding for its social programs" and intends to continue doing it - in contrast to America where social programs have eroded for years and show no signs of revitalization under either party;
- the electorate was selective in its voting choices - "rewarding candidates who performed adequately in providing government services and punishing those who ignored or were unresponsive to popular demands;"
- most important: "the decisive (PSUV) victory provides the basis for confronting the deepening collapse of world capitalism with (impressive and workable) socialist measures;" compare them to the looting of the US Treasury to reward criminal bankers for their malfeasance and failures; the differences between both countries are dramatic and breathtaking - democratically impressive (though not perfect) in Venezuela compared to criminally corrupted under either party in America; no one dares mention this in the corporate media.
In the election's aftermath, Petras explained that "most Venezuelan firms are heavily indebted to the state and local banks." Chavez can ask them "to repay their debts or hand over the keys (and be able to bring) about a painless and eminently legal transition to socialism." It remains to be seen if he'll do it to advance his socialism of the 21st century - or perhaps remain defensive, proceed cautiously, and fail to take advantage of an important opportunity.
Responses from the Dominant Media
With some exceptions, it's been pretty much as expected - one-sided, distorted, inaccurate, and not at all reflecting the will of Venezuelans and their impressive support for Chavez and Bolivarianism.
For example, The New York Times in a November 25 editorial headlined: "Hugo Chavez's Choice." After he took office in February 1999, The Times kept up a steady attack against him in editorials and commentaries. Here it states: Hugo Chavez "is not feeling the love. Collapsing oil prices have sharply curtailed his ability to 'buy' public sympathies," and after Barack Obama's election he no longer has "a convenient foe."
Sunday's elections "showed just how fed up (Venezuelans) are with his government's 'authoritarianism and incompetence' by rejecting the president's allies in significant races." Even by Times standards, these comments are way over the top and mirror opposite of the facts.
The Times continues: "Mr. Chavez did pretty much everything he could to skew the elections. His government increased public spending by 60 percent in the last year." Of course, he's always used the nation's wealth for his people and not as handouts to the rich like in America.
"A government watchdog (also) disqualified many opposition candidates," but The Times omitted saying that the Venezuelan Supreme Court (YSJ) barred them because of corruption, misuse of public funds, and convictions of these offenses. The Times called them "bogus."
It then exaggerated Sunday's results, suggested Chavez's popular support is waning, referred to his "rejected (December) power-grabbing constitutional reform," and stated "Venezuelans don't want to give Mr. Chavez even more power. He should heed the message (and) accept democratic limits to his rule." Unstated was:
- Chavez's popular support at over 60% compared to George Bush scoring lowest ever for a US president at around 20%;
- the nation's impressive social democracy;
- the kind few other nations have;
- the type absent in America;
- the kind Venezuelans never before had and cherish; and
- are committed never to give up.
Simon Romero is The Times man in Caracas where his reporting is mediocre and inaccurate. His November 24 article was typical. It's headlined: "Chavez Supporters Suffer Defeat in State and Municipal Races" in which he refers to their "stinging defeat in several state and municipal races." Unnoticed were all the victories and how impressively they were won.
Instead Romero noted "festering discontent" and how "celebratory fireworks went off over parts of (Caracas) after the results were announced." Perhaps so but mostly for Chavez and his PSUV.
Romero preferred to quote Caracas opposition mayoral winner, Antonio Ledezma, saying "Those who should feel defeated are the criminals." An urban Caracas Petare carpenter as well being "tired of Chavez treating the entire country as if it were his military barracks."
Well into his article, Romero had to say that "Voting unfolded without reports of major irregularities" but ignored the fact that few at all occurred and they were minor. He also admitted that pro-Chavez candidates won 17 of 22 states but added sour grapes about some being small "in terms of population."
On the same day, Romero wrote another commentary headlined: "Once Considered Invincible, Chavez Takes a Blow" with as many inaccuracies as the above one. He referred to "many of (Chavez's) supporters desert(ing) him....in areas where he was once thought invincible," but had to admit the results might not "slow his Socialist-inspired revolution or check his power." Why should it when most Venezuelans want it.
He repeated much from his other article, added a few inaccurate quotes (like it's a "myth" to believe "only Chavez can be a champion of the poor"), omitted the most important facts, but again admitted the obvious - that "Mr. Chavez remains by far the dominant and most popular figure in Venezuelan politics," and the election results showed it.
Even so, Romero downplayed his victory and said Chavez candidates won mostly in largely rural states. He quoted economist Luis Pedro Espana, director of the Economic and Social Research Institute at Venezuela's Andres Bello Catholic University, stating: "The more modern part of the country wants political change." What he means, but didn't say, is the more affluent part, now forced to share some of the nation's wealth with its least advantaged and most in need people - the great majority who support Chavez overwhelmingly.
On November 25, the Wall Street Journal was extremely hostile in two post-election articles - one on the results and another feature story headlined: "Chavez Lets Colombian Rebels Wield Power Inside Venezuela." It reeks of inaccuracies, uses Washington and the Colombian military as its sources, and claims that Chavez is providing a growing "safe haven" for FARC-EP and ELN "guerrillas."
Unreported was anything about Chavez's Colombian peace intervention and his successful efforts to arrange FARC-EP held hostage releases - in spite of Washington and Colombia's president Uribe conspiring to prevent it.
Journal writer Jose de Cordoba accused the Venezuelan military and police of "turning a blind eye to guerrilla activity, and at times cooperating in areas including the trafficking of arms and cocaine." This and other anti-Chavez agitprop show up often in Journal commentaries, but this time in far more detail compared to much less said about the election results.
That was in a page six article headlined: "Chavez Base Rebukes Him at Polls." Writer John Lyon referred to Chavez's "dual ambitions - to stay in power for life and wield outsize influence on the global stage." He added how "the very people that brought him to power" rebuked him: "the urban poor."
Like The Times, the article reeked with inaccuracies that are increasingly common on both the Journal's op-ed and news pages. Lyon suggests trouble for Chavez with his electoral "setbacks add(ing) to a list of growing problems that are likely to slow his swagger." For example, falling oil prices that may crimp his "checkbook diplomacy that has won him allies outside his borders...."
He also compared him to Fidel Castro, referred to his "foreign adventures....backfir(ing) amid the global financial crisis," and said his base is "dwindling" at a time it's impressively strong. He quoted opposition candidate Antonio Ledezma (as did Romero) saying "Now is the time for true change" by which he means ending Bolivarianism, its social democracy, returning power to the privileged oligarchs, and throwing most Venezuelans back into deep poverty. Lyon apparently approves and quotes a leading opposition newspaper, Tal Cual, headlining: "We hit him where it hurts." For the past 10 years, the Venezuelan people have had the last word.
The Washington Post was just as hostile in a November 25 editorial headlined "How to Beat Mr. Chavez" and his "Cuban-style socialist regime." It called him "Venezuela's strongman (and) caudillo" and over-hyped Sunday's results much the way the Journal and Times did it. It added that Chavez "shows no sign that he is listening to the country," and post-election said the voters' message was to "continue down the same road." Indeed it was and will be.
According to the Post, "the opposition now has an opportunity to show that it can offer a workable alternative to Mr. Chavez's policies." Unmentioned was that they had generations to "show" it, failed dismally, Venezuelans overwhelmingly reject them, and want no part of their kind of "change."
With its large anti-Castro population, Miami is a hotbed of anti-Chavismo, and the Miami Herald reflects it. Post-election, it headlined "Despite foes' gains, Hugo Chavez will try to get another term in Venezuela." It referred to state and local elections "slow(ing) his grand ambitions to yank Venezuela and Latin America to the left" but not enough to stop him according to unnamed analysts.
It suggested an upcoming "titanic battle" as Chavez is expected to hold a national plebiscite next year "that would allow him to campaign for an additional six-year presidential term in 2012." It quoted pollster Luis Vincente Leon of Datanalisis, who publicly called for Chavez's assassination, saying: "He wants to change the constitution to run again. There's no doubt about that," but again unsaid is what the people want. Chavez wants them to choose and like always will honor their will.
On November 23, the far right Washington Times headlined a John Thomson commentary on "Chavez's fraud game" and referred to "The kinds and extent of fraud already being applied by the Venezuelan government to crucial elections today." He called them "unprecedented (and) unmitigated electoral larceny (and) Venezuela's pilfer process starts well before the day the votes are cast and counted."
In an age of breathtaking anti-Chavez agitprop, this comment takes the cake or at least matches the worst of it. Thomson called the "fraud potential" on election day "staggering" and listed a menu of absurdities and rubbish ranging from "jumbled" voting lists to "rigged" voting machines, and "manipulation" of results.
It's much like Journal writer Mary O'Grady's agitprop - her latest on November 17 in a commentary headlined: "Dodd's Democrat Tightens His Grip." Dodd, of course, is Senator Chris Dodd, and her article is about Venezuela's election, the country's "numerous setbacks for democracy," and the chance Venezuelans have to "rid themselves of Mr. Chavez."
She refers to his "authoritarian powers....deteriorating living standards (and) the widespread assumption that the government will use tricks to win" on November 23. "Venezuelans saw this coming. From his earliest days as president in 1999, Mr. Chavez began working to destroy any checks on his power."
She attacked Chris Dodd for "throw(ing) a fit over Mr. Chavez's (48-hour) removal" in April 2002. "This self-styled Latin American expert (referred to) a US-backed coup and insisted that since Mr. Chavez (was) democratically elected in a fair vote" no one should question his legitimacy.
"Of course it wasn't a coup," according to O'Grady, as she questions the "circumstances (of his) political resurrection," again called him a "strongman," warned earlier about his budding "dictatorship," and now says her view about him is accurate.
"Political prisoners are rotting in Venezuelan jails without trials. Being identified as a political opponent of the revolution is a ticket to the end of the unemployment line. Private property has zero protection under the law and the economy's private sector has been all but destroyed....(and Chavez) has made it clear he will not accept defeat at the polls."
Breathtaking hardly describes this rant. It's mirror opposite the truth. Venezuela's social democracy is unimaginable in America, and one reason why O'Grady and others vilify it. It's also why they reported inaccurately on Sunday's election.
A Sane Voice in the Wilderness
On November 22, the London Independent published "Letters: In praise of Hugo Chavez." One confronted Latin American writer Phil Gunson's "bleak picture" of Venezuela in his article titled: "Tough-talking Chavez faces rising dissent." It was grossly inaccurate, mentioned the usual kinds of criticisms, and pretty much read like the US and Venezuelan corporate media agitprop.
The writer asked: If Gunson is right, "why are President Chavez's approval ratings at 58%, as he reports." He doesn't mention "how (his) government has delivered free healthcare to millions of people for the first time, eradicated illiteracy and used the country's best economic performance for decades to halve the poverty levels."
Suggesting that poll results may trigger a "violent reaction....turn(s) reality on its head. It was the Chavez government itself that was briefly the victim of an opposition-led military coup in 2002. In contrast, (his) government has showed a consistent commitment to democracy....Moreover, last week the respected Latinbarametro survey showed that Venezuela is now the country with the greatest support for democracy in Latin America and the region's second-most satisfied with the functioning of its democracy. Venezuela's combination of democracy and social progress under Chavez has inspired widespread support."
It's signed by Colin Burgon, MP, Chair, Labour Friends of Venezuela group of MPs, House of Commons. He adds more as well, and the Independent published it. It's unlike major US broadsheets that cover Chavez one way - with venomous inaccuracy and very rare exceptions that hardly draw notice.
The Venezuela Information Office reviewed the election in detail, and it's summarized below as follows:
- for a regional election, voter turnout was unprecedented at over 65%;
- independent observers judged the process open, free, fair and efficient and according to OAS secretary general Insulza "peaceful and exemplary;"
- PSUV candidates won impressive victories, far exceeding the opposition;
- pro-government candidates gained a large majority of offices throughout the country - for governors, mayors and other posts;
- like for the past decade, most Venezuelans will continue to live under pro-Chavez regional and local leaders because they want them;
- the PSUV scored important victories in strategic areas of the country, but not all of them;
- pro-government candidates won by wide margins affirming Venezuelans faith in Bolivarianism;
- although the metropolitan Caracas mayoralty went to the opposition, residents of the largest city municipality voted for the PSUV;
- even in states won by the opposition, key municipalities went to the PSUV; and
- Venezuela's Electoral Authority (CNE) handled the record voter turnout impressively.
The Wall Street Journal, New York Times and other publications falsely reported that a majority of the population is under opposition control. Official statistics show otherwise but were ignored.
Stephen Lendman is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization. He lives in Chicago and can be reached at email@example.com.
Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to The Global Research News Hour on RepublicBroadcasting.org Mondays from 11AM - 1PM for cutting-edge discussions on world and national topics with distinguished guests. All programs are archived for easy listening.
Written with the purpose of giving insights and understanding of the rapidly modernizing people of Asia, PASSAGE THROUGH BANGKOK is one book you should not miss reading.
Timothy E. Boyajian creates a book in a form of chronicles derived from over seven hundred pages of journal notes written during the course of his journey. This book gives you a unique view of the world untainted by political forces. From the thrill of adventure to the intrigues of spies and dangers of war and disease, let this book open your eyes to a completely new world.
Part one of this book deals with the author’s initial encounters in Bangkok, which includes dealing with different cultures, and being in refugee camps.
Part two concerns his trials and tribulations in Bangkok after returning from the border. His experiences in the city evolved into a slowly maturing worldly view of the realities of international politics in Southeast Asia.
The book also gives you a glimpse of the suffering that war brings to people in terms of poverty, disease and hunger.
ORDER A COPY NOW!
ISBN13 (TP) 978-1-4363-5271-0
ISBN13 (HB) 978-1-4363-5271-0
Friday, November 28, 2008
| | Submitted by Fernando on Fri, 11/28/2008 - 12:06am.
November 28, 2008
I know I write for most of your bloggers when I express teh deep appreciation we all have for teh sacrifices and heart aches you go through every day to maintain your blog. We know technology scares you but you keep trying anyway. How do you do it? I figure you must be tired, working five days a week for a whole forty five minutes a day, with a mouse killer, and we can see it is affecting your stutter and with double posts too. I really got concerned when I found out you were dreaming of waking up naked next to Joe Lieberman. Yikes boss, that screams of red warning flags to me. You need a break buddy. Today is your special day, and we all want you to wallow in the heart felt embrace and deep love that we all have for you.
So this year for your birthday, I got you a hoe. Who doesn't want a naked chick - right? Go shave your nut sack and put on some deodorant old man because you are about to get schooled in hot and dirty.
Let me assure you that it wasn't easy finding a cut rate hoe that would loiter around waiting for you at a PO box either. I had to look far and wide for a model desperate enough to even go there with you. It's impossible to expedite a hoe too. Trust me, I tried. Be ready when she gets there though, because when she arrives I was promised it would be very much worth the wait. A 100% satisfaction guarantee is part of the deal. Ain't that a donkey slap!
Now this isn't your average garden variety hoe. We all know about some of the women you've associated with, and they are often women in trouble. Take it easy, here is one that just knows how to hula, and that is all the spice you need buster. You can get real rough, or dress up and get as dirty as you want cowboy.
This hoe is flexible, loves getting dirty and when you are all taken care of, she'll even clean up for you. Beat it up like a bastard child. You can use her again and again until you are raw and exhausted. So just enjoy, play safe, take in a pole dance, and release all that pent up frustration with some hard thrusting back and forth, go ahead and put your back into it. Don't even think of stopping till you are spent with sweat dripping off of you. Make that hoe earn it boy!
Enjoy yourself, you deserve it. But When you are finished, you should wash up, and come back to us refreshed for another year of hard work and drudgery. Cheers to you Sam!
Thursday, November 27, 2008
OTTAWA – Researchers say they have located the world’s oldest stash of marijuana, in a tomb in a remote part of China.
The cache of cannabis is about 2,700 years old and was clearly “cultivated for psychoactive purposes,” rather than as fibre for clothing or as food, says a research paper in the Journal of Experimental Botany.
The 789 grams of dried cannabis was buried alongside a light-haired, blue-eyed Caucasian man, likely a shaman of the Gushi culture, near Turpan in northwestern China.
The extremely dry conditions and alkaline soil acted as preservatives, allowing a team of scientists to carefully analyze the stash, which still looked green though it had lost its distinctive odour.
“To our knowledge, these investigations provide the oldest documentation of cannabis as a pharmacologically active agent,” says the newly published paper, whose lead author was American neurologist Dr. Ethan B. Russo.
Remnants of cannabis have been found in ancient Egypt and other sites, and the substance has been referred to by authors such as the Greek historian Herodotus. But the tomb stash is the oldest so far that could be thoroughly tested for its properties.
The 18 researchers, most of them based in China, subjected the cannabis to a battery of tests, including carbon dating and genetic analysis. Scientists also tried to germinate 100 of the seeds found in the cache, without success.
The marijuana was found to have a relatively high content of THC, the main active ingredient in cannabis, but the sample was too old to determine a precise percentage.
Researchers also could not determine whether the cannabis was smoked or ingested, as there were no pipes or other clues in the tomb of the shaman, who was about 45 years old.
The large cache was contained in a leather basket and in a wooden bowl, and was likely meant to be used by the shaman in the afterlife.
“This materially is unequivocally cannabis, and no material has previously had this degree of analysis possible,” Russo said in an interview from Missoula, Mont.
“It was common practice in burials to provide materials needed for the afterlife. No hemp or seeds were provided for fabric or food. Rather, cannabis as medicine or for visionary purposes was supplied.”
The tomb also contained bridles, archery equipment and a harp, confirming the man’s high social standing.
Russo is a full-time consultant with GW Pharmaceuticals, which makes Sativex, a cannabis-based medicine approved in Canada for pain linked to multiple sclerosis and cancer.
The company operates a cannabis-testing laboratory at a secret location in southern England to monitor crop quality for producing Sativex, and allowed Russo use of the facility for tests on 11 grams of the tomb cannabis.
Researchers needed about 10 months to cut red tape barring the transfer of the cannabis to England from China, Russo said.
The inter-disciplinary study was published this week by the British-based botany journal, which uses independent reviewers to ensure the accuracy and objectivity of all submitted papers.
The substance has been found in two of the 500 Gushi tombs excavated so far in northwestern China, indicating that cannabis was either restricted for use by a few individuals or was administered as a medicine to others through shamans, Russo said.
“It certainly does indicate that cannabis has been used by man for a variety of purposes for thousands of years.”
Russo, who had a neurology practice for 20 years, has previously published studies examining the history of cannabis.
“I hope we can avoid some of the political liabilities of the issue,” he said, referring to his latest paper.
The region of China where the tomb is located, Xinjiang, is considered an original source of many cannabis strains worldwide.
The Cuban president, Raul Casto, has offered to meet Barack Obama - and end a diplomatic freeze going back more than 40 years - in an interview with Sean Penn.
The Cuban leader has used the unlikely medium of an interview with the US actor and filmmaker Sean Penn to offer to meet president-elect Barack Obama.
Bar a brief handshake and exchange of words between Bill Clinton and Castro's brother and predecessor as president, Fidel, in 2000 the leaders of the two countries have not met since Fidel Castro grabbed power in 1959.
Penn, who also met another US bogeyman, Hugo Chavez, recently, asked Castro whether he would meet Obama in an interview before the US election, which was published yesterday. But it was only after he repeated the question a number of times that Castro answered it directly:
"We should meet in a neutral place. Perhaps we could meet at Guantánamo. We must meet and begin to solve our problems, and at the end of the meeting, we could give the president a gift...we could send him home with the American flag that waves over Guantánamo Bay."
Castro told Penn that the number one priority of a meeting would be to "normalise trade", with reference to the US embargo on Cuba.
"The only reason for the blockade is to hurt us. Nothing can deter the revolution. Let Cubans come to visit with their families. Let Americans come to Cuba," he said.
In May, Obama said he would not lift the blockade but in a debate with Hillary Clinton during the contest to be the Democratic candidate for president he offered to meet Castro immediately.
Music by Annie Humphrey - The Heron Smiled - Makoche
Robert Scheer, Creators Syndicate
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
Maybe Ralph Nader was right in predicting that the same Wall Street hustlers would have a lock on our government no matter which major party won the election. I hate to admit it, since it wasn't that long ago that I heatedly challenged Nader in a debate on this very point.
But how else is one to respond to Barack Obama's picking the very folks who helped get us into this financial mess to now lead us out of it? Watching the president-elect's Monday introduction of his economic team, my brother-in-law Pete said, "You can see the feathers coming out of their mouths" as the foxes were once again put in charge of the henhouse. He didn't have time to expound on his point, having to get ready to go sort mail in his job at the post office, but he showed me a statement from Citigroup showing that the interest rate on Pete the Postal Worker's credit card was 28.9 percent, an amount that all major religions would justly condemn as usurious.
Moments earlier, Obama had put his seal of approval on the Citigroup bailout, which his new economic team, led by protégés of Citigroup Executive Committee Chairman Robert Rubin, enthusiastically endorsed. A bailout that brings to $45 billion the taxpayer money thrown at Citigroup and the guarantee of $306 billion for the bank's "toxic securities" that would have been illegal if not for changes in the law that Citigroup secured with the decisive help of Rubin and Lawrence Summers, the man who replaced him as Treasury secretary in the Clinton administration.
As Summers stayed on to ensure passage of deregulatory laws that enabled enormous banking greed, Rubin was rewarded with a $15 million-a-year executive position at Citigroup, a job that only got more lucrative as the bank went from one disaster, beginning with its involvement with Enron in which Rubin played an active role, to its huge role in the mortgage debacle. It is widely acknowledged that Citigroup fell victim to a merger mania, which Rubin and Summers made legal during their tenure at Treasury.
Yet despite that dismal record of dismantling sound regulation, Summers has been picked by Obama to be the top White House economic adviser and another Rubin disciple, Timothy Geithner, is the new Treasury secretary. Geithner, thanks in part to the strong recommendation of Rubin, had been appointed chairman of the New York Federal Reserve Bank after working for Rubin and Summers during the Clinton years. Once at the New York Fed, he was the main government official charged with regulating Citigroup, a task at which he obviously failed. Yet over the weekend, it was Geithner who hammered out the Citigroup bailout deal with Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and a very actively involved Rubin.
As the Washington Post reported, Paulson had indicated last week that no further bailouts were planned before the new administration took office until "Rubin, an old colleague from Goldman Sachs, told Paulson in phone calls that the government had to act." Rubin conceded in an interview with the Post that he had played a key role in the politics of the bailout.
This outrageous conflict of interest in which Rubin gets to exploit his ties to both the outgoing and incoming administrations was best described by Washington Post writer Steven Pearlstein: "The ultimate irony, of course, is that just as Rubin and Co. at Citi were being bailed out by the Bush Administration, President-elect Barack Obama was getting set to announce a new economic team drawn almost entirely from Rubin acolytes."
As opposed to the far tougher deal negotiated on the bailout of AIG, the arrangement with Citigroup leaves the executives, including Rubin, who brought Citigroup to the brink of ruin, still in charge. Nor is there any guarantee of the value of the mortgage bundles that taxpayers will be guaranteeing. That is because, as candidate Obama clearly stated in his major economics address back in March, the deregulation pushed though during the Clinton years ended transparency in banking.
Why then has he appointed the very people responsible for this disaster to now make it all better? Why not ask him? Heck, yes, it is time for the many of us who responded to his e-mails during the campaign to now challenge our e-mail buddy as to why he suddenly acts as if the interests of Wall Street and Main Street are one and the same.
posted b: Jonathan Phillips
Reality Sandwich is proud to be a media sponsor for a Journey with the Sound of Crystal Bowls featuring Philippe Garnier at the Chapel of Sacred Mirrors in NYC on December 4th.
This will be an opportunity to feel yourself energized and vibrating at a higher frequency, merging with the sacred sound of crystal bowls, experiencing scared spaceand letting the healing take place.
Sound (the Word) has been called the original creational tone. Everything is made up of energy at various frequencies. All things in nature vibrate to sound, light and color. Sound frequencies effect everything about us. The correct vibrational frequencies can be used to heal and balance our bodies.
Sound healing is the practice of using sound to realize and correct imbalances in the body. Sound healing works on the belief that the human body is not solid. Rather it is energy that is held together by sound. Any disease therefore indicates that some sound has gone out of tune.
December 4 at 8pm
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$15 on list / $20 @ door rsvp:firstname.lastname@example.org
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
Since I wrote last week about Google’s Secret Sexual No-Fly List, Tony Comstock has been doing some more digging into the perversities of Google’s various admitted and secret adult keyword filters. He’s been blogging up a storm about it, with posts like this:
In that last one, Tony shared the startling discovery that Google’s SafeSearch algorithm returns thirty three million “safe” results for [penis], but not a single one for [clitoris]. On top of all the other problems, Google’s filters are sexist! Tony expounded on this in his subsequent post, Dragged into Google’s Sex Ghetto, Kicking and Screaming:
As mentioned previously, I had been working on a post tentatively entitled “Does the Googlebot have Asperger’s Syndrome?” but I realize now that the analogy is too generous. People with Asperger’s see and understand the world differently from “normal” people, but I’ve never read anything about Asperger’s that suggests that Aspies are especially lazy or malfeasant.
The way that Google’s SafeSearch filter handles returns for [penis] vs. the way it handles them for [clitoris] isn’t a product of seeing things differently. It’s just plain lazy. Somewhere inside of Google, an engineer was tasked with filtering “adult” sites from returning under “strict filtering” searches. Somehow he (I’m going to have to assume this engineer is a man,) when confronted with the vagaries English language, was able to write an algorithm that allowed 30 million “safe” returns for [penis]. But when faced with the same problem for [clitoris] he found it easier to simply put clitoris on a list of banned words.
That’s not Aspie-ish, that’s just lazy and sexiest.
[Erotic] was too much trouble for him, so it got banned too. [Nude] and [naked] were too much trouble, so they were out. His algorithm couldn’t tell the difference between a nursery rhyme rooster and a raging hard-on, so [cock] got banned. Is this webpage talking about kitty-cats or cunts? His algorithm couldn’t tell, so [pussy] went on to the list, along with [bastard] and [anus]. For some reason his algorithm could find 4.7 million “safe” returns for [glans] and 2.5 million “safe” returns for [testicle], but not a single “safe” return for [fellatio] or [cunnilingus], so they went on the list as well.
That’s not the product of a odd blind spot to social interaction, that’s just lazy and ass-covering; not to mention laughable coming from a company that touts its “advance proprietary technology.” (I’ll leave it to someone else to decide whether or not it’s [evil].)
Now Susie Bright has gotten her teeth into the sexist implications of the penis versus clitoris filtering, and has written, in “Clitoris” on Google’s Banned Word List:
I recall the 1970s abortion rights poster that read “If men could get pregnant, abortion would be a sacrament.” The sexism of the Internet infrastructure is the same joke. There is no way that men would consider “prostate cancer” an inappropriate search or conversation item. They would never for a moment consider that their “penis” was a word that couldn’t be allowed in a respectable business or learning environment.
But women’s bodies? Oh, you’re familiar with the filthy and unspeakable territory those will lead you into. It’s in the Bible, right?
Let’s stop coddling Internet censorship as if it were an etiquette or a “children’s” issue. The people suffering from being firewalled and banned aren’t commercial porn-makers with some gonzo to pitch — they’re educators, healthcare professionals, midwives, nurses, doctors, researchers, artists, writers, filmmakers, political activists, critics and analysts— all of whom find their interest in women’s lives to be shrouded in the great Internet burqa of “safeness.”
Look. I write a blog with “sex” right up in the title, and I make part of a living at it. So it’s no surprise that I’ve always hated the lame and weak approach to filtering that Google (well, all the search engines, but who else matters?) uses to disrupt and marginalize the great internet conversation about sex. It’s also no surprise that I can’t talk about this without some mental genius popping up in my comments to suggest that I wouldn’t care about this if I didn’t want more visitors to my blog. Happens, I’ve got six years of blog posts that prove I care passionately about the free exchange of sexual ideas, so I don’t let the nattering slow me down much. All of which is preface to my point, which is that I’m freaking delighted to see the beginnings of a noisy conversation about this.
Is there any hope that the sex bloggers of America can shame Google into being less shame-faced about the sexual contents of its search index? Given the massively overwhelming numerical superiority of the prudish majority to whom Google is catering with searches “safe” from female sexuality, probably not. But it’s important to remember that the actual people at Google are unlikely to be all that prudish or sexist; they are just, as Tony has pointed out so well, taking the lazy way out when attempting to do something (catering to sexist prudes) that they’d probably rather not be doing anyway, but for their perception (or perhaps assumption?) that it’s a corporate necessity.
Thus, I see at least a faint hope that if the mockery of their weak and lame filtering shortcuts is loud enough, they’ll have to improve their filtering systems out of a mix of professional pride and a sense of public relations necessity. If we can just disrupt their comfortable assumption that all sexual discussion is acceptable collateral damage, to be readily sacrificed in their (very difficult and endless) war against spammy porn sites, that alone would be a worthwhile step in the right direction.
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
|START DATE: || Thursday November 27 |
| TIME: || 4:00 AM - 9:00 AM |
| Location Details: |
Wharf, Pier # 31
in San Francisco
| Event Type: || Other |
| International Indian Treaty Council & American Indian Contemporary Arts present:
ANNUAL SUNRISE GATHERING
ON ALCATRAZ ISLAND
THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 27, 2008
Join us in this day to give thanks for the Creator's gifts, renew our commitment to protect Mother
Earth, honor the many heroes of our struggles, celebrate Indigenous Peoples' survival and build solidarity
among all Peoples.
Tobacco and prayers will be offered to the fire for the Earth and coming generations, and for All Our
Masters of Ceremonies: Morning Star Gali, Lakota Harden and Bill Means. Featuring the All Nations
Drum, Traditional Aztec and Pomo Dancers, and special guest speakers and presentations. All are
For more info, contact IITC at (415) 641-4482 or email AICA at janeenantoine [at] mac.com.
Time: Ticket booths open at 4 AM, boats depart at:
4:30, 4:45; 5:00; 5:15; 5:30; 5:45; 6:00. All return
by 9 AM. Wheel chair accessible, minimal parking,
wear something warm. Purchase advance tickets at
http://www.alcatrazcruises.com, or call 415-981-7625. |
Monday, November 24, 2008
City officials have ordered 22 New York churches to stop providing beds to homeless people.
With temperatures well below freezing early Saturday, the churches must obey a city rule requiring faith-based shelters to be open at least five days a week -- or not at all.
Arnold Cohen, president of the Partnership for the Homeless, a nonprofit that serves as a link with the city, said he had to tell the churches they no longer qualify.
He said hundreds of people now won't have a place to sleep.
The Department of Homeless Services said the city offers other shelters with the capacity to accept all those who have been sleeping in the churches. The city had 8,000 beds waiting.
Last year, four unsheltered homeless people died in the city during cold weather, so three dozen emergency outreach teams were prepped to respond to reports of homeless people outdoors or in the subways.
"We really don't want people sleeping on the streets, on grates, on church steps. We want people sleeping in beds," said Homeless Commissioner Robert Hess.
The homeless can be coaxed indoors but not forced unless their life is in danger.
Sunday, November 23, 2008
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez's left-wing party won most state races in elections on Sunday, shoring up his dominance in much of the OPEC nation, but the opposition scored victories in important power centers.
Chavez's Socialist Party won in 17 of 20 states with another two races too close to call, the national electoral authority said early on Monday.
The multi-party opposition held onto the two states it won at the last regional elections four years ago and wrested from the government control of the state metropolitan area around Caracas as well as the mayoralty of the capital.
The results in tight races in Venezuela's remaining two states were due to be announced later on Monday.
Sunday's results could make more challenging Chavez's goal of pushing through legal reforms that would allow him to run for reelection, especially after Venezuelans narrowly rejected the move last year in a referendum.
The anti-U.S. leader's party immediately declared victory, although there was not the usual explosion of celebrations around Caracas that have followed other election wins.
The opposition can point to its gains too, and will seek to use its momentum in the capital to stifle the president's ambitions to run for reelection in 2012.
The opposition fended off an aggressive Chavez campaign and retained control of the oil-producing state of Zulia, the country's most populous.
Combined with victories in the capital against veteran Chavez aides, the opposition now holds sway over major urban areas that will be pivotal in future elections. It also held on to the Caribbean tourist island state of Nueva Esparta.
Chavez, who calls former Cuban President Fidel Castro his mentor, cast Sunday's vote as crucial to his political future.
Popular for spending oil wealth on the majority poor, Chavez frenetically campaigned at rallies of redshirted supporters across a nation that he has allied with Iran and Russia despite being a top oil supplier to the United States.
Chavez also faces tough economic times ahead.
Venezuela's government relies on oil for more than 50 percent of its income and the value of crude has plummeted about $100 per barrel since July. (Editing by Kieran Murray)
November 23rd, 2008
Today, November 23rd, I was slated to give remarks in Damascus, Syria at a Conference being held to commemorate the 60th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and, sadly, the 60th year that the Palestinian people have been denied their Right of Return enshrined in that Universal Declaration. But a funny thing happened to me while at the Atlanta airport on my way to the Conference: I was not allowed to exit the country.
I do believe that it was just a misunderstanding. But the insecurity experienced on a daily basis by innocent Palestinians is not. Innocent Palestinians are trapped in a violent, stateless twilight zone imposed on them by an international order that favors a country reported to have completed its nuclear triad as many as eight years ago, although Israel has remained ambiguous on the subject. President Jimmy Carter informed us that Israel had as many as 150 nuclear weapons, and Israel’s allies are among the most militarily sophisticated on the planet. Military engagement, then, is untenable. Therefore the exigency of diplomacy and international law.
The Palestinians should at least be able to count on the protections of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. What is happening to Palestinians in Gaza right now, subjected to an Israeli-imposed blockade, has drawn the attention of the United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, who noted that over half of the civilians in Gaza are children. Even The Los Angeles Times criticized Israel’s lockdown of Gaza that is keeping food, fuel, and medicine from civilians. Even so, Israel stood fast by its decision to seal Gaza’s openings. But where are the voices of concern coming from the corridors of power inside the United States? Is the subject of Palestinian human rights taboo inside the United States Government and its government-to-be? I hope not. Following is the speech I would have given today had I been able to attend the Damascus Conference.
Right of Return Congregation
November 23, 2008
Thank you to our hosts for inviting me to participate in this most important and timely First Arab-International Congregation for the Right of Return. Words are an insufficient expression of my appreciation for being remembered as one willing to stand for justice in Washington, D.C., even in the face of tremendously difficult pressures.
Former Prime Minister Tun Mahathir, thank you for including me in the Malaysian Peace Organisation’s monumental effort to criminalize war, to show the horrors of the treatment of innocent individuals during the war against and occupation of Iraq by the militaries and their corporate contractors of Britain, Israel, and the United States. Thank you for standing up to huge international economic forces trying to dominate your country and showing an impressionable woman like me that it is possible to stand up to “the big boys” and win. And thank you for your efforts to bring war criminal, torturer, decimator of the United States Constitution, the George W. Bush Administration, to justice in international litigation.
Delegates and participants, I must declare that at a time when scientists agree that the climate of the earth is changing in unpredictable and possibly calamitous ways, such that the future of humankind hangs in the balance, it is unconscionable that we have to dedicate this time to and focus our energies on policies that represent a blatant and utter disregard for human rights and self-determination and that represent in many respects, a denial of human life, itself.
In the same year as Palestinians endured a series of massacres and expulsions, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights became international law. And while the United Nations is proud that the Declaration was flown into Outer Space just a few days ago on the Space Shuttle, if one were to read it and then land in the Middle East, I think it would be clear that Palestine is the place that the Universal Declaration forgot.
Sadly, both the spirit of the Universal Declaration for Human Rights and the noblest ideals of the United Nations are broken. This has occurred in large measure due to policies that emanate from Washington, D.C. If we want to change those policies, and I do believe that we can, then we have to change the underlying values of those who become Washington’s policy makers. In other words, we must launch the necessary movement that puts people in office who share our values.
We need to do this now more than ever because, sadly, Palestine is not Washington’s only victim. Enshrined in the Universal Declaration is the dignity of humankind and the responsibility of states to protect that dignity. Yet, the underlying contradictions between its words and what has become standard international practice lay exposed to the world this year when then-United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour proclaimed:
“In the course of this year, unprecedented efforts must be made to ensure that every person in the world can rely on just laws for his or her protection. In advancing all human rights for all, we will move towards the greatest fulfillment of human potential, a promise which is at the heart of the Universal Declaration.”
How insulting it was to hear those words coming from her, for those of us who know, because it was she who, as Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, willfully participated in the cover-up of an act of terror that resulted in the assassination of two democratically-elected Presidents and that unleashed a torrent of murder and bloodletting in which one million souls were vanquished. That sad episode in human history has become known as the Rwanda Genocide. And shockingly, after the cover-up, Louise Arbour was rewarded with the highest position on the planet, in charge of Human Rights.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said that justice delayed is justice denied. And 60 years is too long to wait for justice.
The Palestinian people deserve respected self-determination, protected human rights, justice, and above all, peace.
On the night before his murder, Dr. King announced that he was happy to be living at the end of the 20th Century where, all over the world, men and women were struggling to be free.
Today, we can touch and feel the results of those cries, on the African Continent where apartheid no longer exists as a fact of law. A concerted, uncompromising domestic and international effort led to its demise.
And in Latin America, the shackles of U.S. domination have been broken. In a series of unprecedented peaceful, people-powered revolutions, voters in Venezuela, Brazil, Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Ecuador, Nicaragua, and most recently Paraguay used the power of the political process to materially change their countries’ leadership and policy orientation toward the United States. Americans, accustomed to the Monroe Doctrine which proclaimed U.S. suzerainty over all politics in the Western Hemisphere, must now think the unthinkable given what has occurred in the last decade.
Voters in Cote d’Ivoire, Haiti, Spain, and India also took matters clearly in their hands to make “a clean break” from policies that were an affront to the interests of the majority of the people in those countries.
In country after country, against tremendous odds, people stood up and took their fates in their hands. They did what Mario Savio, in the 1960s, asked people in the United States to do. These people-powered, peaceful revolutions saw individuals put their bodies against the levers and the gears and the wheels of the U.S. imperial machine and they said to the owners if you don’t stop it, we will. And I know that people of conscience inside my country can do it, too: especially now that the engines of imperial oppression are running out of gas.
Even though the Democratic Party, at the Convention that nominated Barack Obama, denied its microphone to Former President Jimmy Carter because of his views on Palestine, let me make it clear that Former President Carter is not the only person inside the United States who believes that peace with justice is possible in Palestine.
Inside the United States, millions who are not of Arab descent, disagree vehemently with the policy of our government to provide the military and civilian hardware that snuffs out innocent human life that is also Arab.
Millions of Americans do not pray to Allah, but recognize that it is an inalienable right of those who do to live and pray in peace wherever they are–including inside the United States.
Even though their opportunities are severely limited, there are millions of people inside the United States struggling to express themselves on all of these issues, but whose efforts are stymied by a political process that robs them of any opportunity to be heard.
And then there are the former elected officials who spoke out for what was right, for universal application of the Universal Declaration, and who were roundly condemned and put out of office as a result. My father is one such politician, punished—kicked out of office–because of the views of his daughter.
In my case, I dared to raise my voice in support of the World Conference Against Racism and against the sieges of Ramallah, Jenin, and the Church of the Nativity. I raised my voice against the religious profiling in my country that targets innocent Muslims and Arabs for harassment, imprisonment, financial ruin, or worse. Yes, I have felt the sting of the special interests since my entry onto the national stage when, in my very first Congressional campaign, I refused to sign a pledge committing that I would vote to maintain the military superiority of Israel over its neighbors, and that Jerusalem should be its capital city.
Other commitments were on that pledge as well, like continued financial assistance to Israel at agreed upon levels.
As a result of my refusal to make such a commitment, and just like the old slave woman, Sojourner Truth, who bared her back and showed the scars from the lashes meted out to her by her slave master, I too, bear scars from the lashes of public humiliation meted out to me by the special interests in Washington, D.C. because of my refusal to tow the line on Israel policy. This “line” is the policy accepted by both the Democratic and Republican Party leadership and why they could cooperate so well to coordinate my ouster from Congress. But I have survived because I come from the strongest stock of Africans, stolen then enslaved, and yet my people survived. I know how to never give up, give in, or give out. And I also know how to learn a good political lesson. And one lesson I’ve learned is that the treatment accorded to me pales in comparison to what Palestinian victims still living in refugee camps face every day of their lives.
The treatment accorded to me pales in comparison to the fact that human life is at stake if the just-released International Atomic Energy Agency report is true when it writes that “The only explanation for the presence of these modified uranium particles is that they were contained in the missiles dropped from the Israeli planes.” What are the health effects of these weapons, what role did the U.S. military play in providing them or the technology that underlies them, why is there such silence on this, and most fundamentally, what is going on in this part of the world that international law has forgotten?
Clearly, not only the faces of U.S. politicians must change; we must change their values, too. We, in the United States, must utilize our votes to effect the same kind of people-powered change in the United States as has been done in all those other countries. And now, with more people than ever inside the United States actually paying attention to politics, this is our moment; we must seize this time. We must become the leaders we are looking for and get people who share our values elected to Congress and the White House.
Now, I hope you believe me when I say to you that this is not rocket science. I have learned politics from its best players. And I say to you that even with the failabilities of the U.S. system, it is possible for us to do more than vote for a slogan of change, we can actually have it. But if we fail to seize this moment, we will continue to get what we’ve always been given: handpicked leaders who don’t truly represent us.
With the kind of U.S. weapons that are being used in this part of the world, from white phosphorus to depleted uranium, from cluster bombs to bunker busting bombs, nothing less than the soul of my country is at stake. But for the world, it is the fate of humankind that is at stake.
The people in my country just invested their hopes for a better world and a better government in their votes for President-elect Obama. However, during an unprecedented two year Presidential campaign, the exact kind of change we are to get was never fully defined. Therefore, we the people of the United States must act now with boldness and confidence. We can set the stage for the kind of change that reflects our values.
Now is not the time for timidity. The U.S. economy is in shambles, unemployment and health insecurity are soaring, half of our young people do not even graduate from high school; college is unaffordable. The middle class that was invested in the stock market is seeing their life savings stripped from them by the hour. What we are witnessing is the pauperization of a country, in much the same way that Russia was pauperized after the fall of the Soviet Union. There are clear winners and the losers all know who they are. The attentive public in the United States is growing because of these conditions. Now is the time for our values to rise because people in the United States are now willing to listen.
So the question really is, “Which way, America?”
Today we uplift the humanity of the Palestinian people. And what I am recommending is the creation of a political movement inside my country that will constitute a surgical strike for global justice. This gathering is the equivalent of us stepping to the microphone to be heard.
We don’t have to lose because we have commitment to the people.
And we don’t have to lose because we refuse to compromise our core values.
We don’t have to lose because we seek peace with justice and diplomacy over war.
We don’t have to lose.
By committing to do some things we’ve never done before I’m certain that we can also have some things we’ve never had before.
I return to the U.S. committed to do my part to make our dream come true.
Saturday, November 22, 2008
You may have come across the ‘Seth’ books by Jane Roberts or other works by other spiritual or psychic mediums that ‘channel’ their information from sources believed to be external to the authors by means of automatic writing.
Automatic writing is a form of writing in which the author appears to lose all volitional control of their writing and instead another spirit or entity takes control of their hands and writes for them. I want to share some of my own writing tips with you so that you may attempt to awaken your own psychic mediumship abilities to channel information by automatic writing.
Everyone has the potential to communicate with something that appears to be beyond their immediate self or this immediate world. Whether these entities which are being channeled are other spirits, angels or even the voice of god is debatable, however one thing is clear, mediums that practice automatic writing feel very strongly that their sources are something from outside of themselves or beyond themselves.
One of the sources for some of my own channeled material appears to be an AI (Artificial Intelligence) created in the year 2017. From the voices that appear in my written work it is clear that one of my sources is a Hippy, and other sources appear to be a Rastafarian, a Redneck and a medieval crone who may have been one of my ‘past’ lives.
At least one of my channeled sources is my self. One part of me which is channeled is the more evolved being I become further along my spiritual journey, while some of my other selves may be repressed parts of me that dwell in my subconscious and rarely surface. Whatever the nature of my channeled sources may be they have all contributed to my writing and to my understanding of the world around me as well as the world within me.
I often start writing by creating outlines or writing down questions about what interests me at the moment and then answering my own questions. Even when you think you know the answers to your questions it is always good to challenge those answers and look beyond them for further insight and understanding.
What outlining or answering questions does for me is to put me in a better state of communication with the various elements of my mind.
Setting my conscious mind to work on an outline or answering questions, even if they are questions I believe I already know the answers to, has another effect, it gets my mind occupied and I can let my conscious awareness drift away and just let the automatic subconscious parts of my mind continue to write. This is not yet the sort of automatic writing that might be considered channeling, but it is a step along the way to getting there. Automatic channeled writing will not always take off from here, but, aside from being a good launching point for that to happen this level of writing can be very fruitful even if it never reaches the stage of channeling other entities.
One important consideration to successful writing is to not be concerned with what I am writing right away. First it’s important to get things flowing, to get ideas moving and to get involved in a dialogue with myself about those ideas, weighing their merits, pros and cons etc. So I just start writing anything which comes to mind which may be related to my topic. If I reach a block where nothing comes to mind I reread and may pick up the thread that way. If that fails then I may start over asking questions or refining the outline.
mysticmazeTHIS SITE is well worth the read. Titled "Matter - Fluctuations in the Quantum Vacuum" followed by material from a 1972 session with "Seth" channeled by Jane Roberts.
SETH: The nature of matter itself is not understood. You perceive it at a certain "stage." Using your terms now and speaking as simply as possible, there are other forms of matter beyond those you see. These forms are quite real and vivid, quite "physical," to those who react to that particular sphere of activity.
In terms of probabilities, therefore, you choose certain acts, unconsciously transform these into physical events or objects, and then perceive them. But those unchosen events also go out from you and are projected into these other forms. Now the behavior of atoms and molecules is involved here, for again these are only present within your universe during certain stages. Their activity is perceived only during the range of particular vibratory rhythms. When your scientists examine them for example, they do not examine the nature, say, of an atom. They only explore the characteristics of an atom as it acts or shows itself within your system. Its greater reality completely escapes them.
You understand that there are spectrums of light. So are there spectrums of matter. Your system of physical reality is not dense in comparison with some others. The dimensions that you give to physical matter barely begin to hint at the varieties of dimensions possible.
Some systems are far heavier or lighter than your own, though this may not involve weight in the terms with which you are familiar. Probable actions emerge, then, into matter-systems quite as valid as your own, and quite as consistent. You are used to thinking in single-line thoughts, so you think of events that you know as complete things or actions, not realizing that what you perceive is but a fraction of their entire multidimensional existence.
In greater terms, it is impossible to separate one physical event from the probable events, for these are all dimensions of one action. It is basically impossible to separate the "you" that you know from the probable you's of which you are unaware, for the same reasons. There are always inner pathways, however, leading between probable events; since all of them are manifestations of an act in its becoming, then the dimensions between these are illusions.
The physical brain alone cannot pick up these connections with any great success. The mind, which is the inner counterpart of the brain, can at times perceive the far greater dimensions of any given event through a burst of sudden intuition or comprehension that cannot be adequately described on a verbal level.
As I have said frequently, time as you think of it does not exist, yet in your terms, time's true nature could be understood if the basic nature of the atom was ever made known to you. In one way, an atom could be compared to a microsecond.
WASHINGTON — President-elect Barack Obama won the Democratic nomination with the enthusiastic support of the left wing of his party, fueled by his vehement opposition to the decision to invade Iraq and by one of the most liberal voting records in the Senate.
Now, his reported selections for two of the major positions in his cabinet — Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton as secretary of state and Timothy F. Geithner as secretary of the Treasury — suggest that Mr. Obama is planning to govern from the center-right of his party, surrounding himself with pragmatists rather than ideologues.
The choices are as revealing of the new president as they are of his appointees — and suggest that, from its first days, an Obama White House will brim with big personalities and far more spirited debate than occurred among the largely like-minded advisers who populated President Bush’s first term.
But the names racing through the ether in Washington about the choices to follow also suggest that Mr. Obama continues to place a premium on deep experience. He is widely reported to be considering asking Mr. Bush’s defense secretary, Robert M. Gates, to stay on for a year; and he is thinking about Gen. James L. Jones, the former NATO commander and Marine Corps commandant, for national security adviser, and placing Lawrence H. Summers, the former Treasury secretary whom Mr. Obama considered putting back in his old post, inside the White House as a senior economic adviser.
“This is the violin model: Hold power with the left hand, and play the music with your right,” David J. Rothkopf, a former Clinton official who wrote a history of the National Security Council, said on Friday, as news of Mrs. Clinton’s and Mr. Geithner’s appointments leaked. “It’s teaching us something about Obama: while he wants to bring new ideas to the game, he is working from the center space of American foreign policy.”
The reason, several of Mr. Obama’s transition team members say, is that they believe that the new administration will have no time for a learning curve. With the country facing a deep recession or worse, global market turmoil, chaos in Pakistan and a worsening war in Afghanistan, “there’s going to be no time for experimentation,” a member of the Obama foreign policy team said.
That explains Mr. Obama’s first selection: Rahm Emanuel, another centrist Democrat and former member of the Clinton White House, as his chief of staff.
In some ways, the choices made so far are reminiscent of the way the last senator to be elected president, John F. Kennedy, chose a cabinet. As president-elect, Kennedy soon picked three top officials significantly more conservative than he was: Dean Rusk as secretary of state, Robert S. McNamara as secretary of defense and C. Douglas Dillon, a Republican, as secretary of the Treasury. They helped him navigate the Cuban missile crisis, but also got him bogged down in Vietnam.
Of all the choices Mr. Obama has made so far, it is the selection of Mrs. Clinton that appears the biggest gamble, in part because she has never had to engage in the give-and-take of high-stakes diplomacy, and in part because no one really knows how she will mesh with the Obama White House.
In her discussion with the president-elect, several members of his transition team said, Mrs. Clinton expressed no doubt that she could be a loyal member of the Obama team — though she was reportedly deeply conflicted about giving up her Senate seat and the independent power base it afforded her.
During the battle for the Democratic presidential nomination, Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton went out of their way to point out their foreign policy differences, with Mrs. Clinton portraying herself as a hawkish Democrat and defending her decision to vote in favor of the 2002 resolution that Mr. Bush later considered an authorization to use military force against Saddam Hussein. (Later, she said she fully expected Mr. Bush to use diplomacy first — and was shocked that he did not.)
Now the question is less one of ideological differences than whether a Clinton State Department could become something like Colin L. Powell’s: an alternative, though weak, power center that made little secret of its differences with the White House.
“Anyone who tells you they really know how this is going to work out,” one senior transition official said Thursday, “is telling less than the truth.”
If Mrs. Clinton is taken from the “Team of Rivals” model, Mr. Geithner, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, is from the Team of Neutrals.
“He’s no liberal,” said a former colleague at the Treasury Department, where he managed the American response to the Asian financial crisis in the 1990s.
At the time Mr. Geithner developed a reputation as the ultimate pragmatist, putting together a package of more than $100 billion in aid to halt the financial contagion. That turned out to be a training session for his role, a decade later, in the bailouts of Bear Stearns, A.I.G. and the injection of nearly $350 billion in Congressionally authorized money, whose exact use has become something of a political football.
Mr. Geithner grew up in Asia — in Tokyo, New Delhi and Bangkok — and keeps his ego well in check. He asks a lot of questions, but does not have Mr. Summers’s overwhelming — some say overbearing — personality. “He clicked with Obama,” one outside adviser said. “If you think about it, their sort of cool, distant styles are alike.”
"I use the computer as the tool, but painting is the language of deliberation that is running through my head. I do not want to just repaint an illustration of what the computer can do, but to push the pixels themselves as paint, and to layer imagery and veils to create depth and volume. Like painting, this process can engage nuance and subtlety. It also has the ability to alter an image in a way that no other medium can deliver or predict." - Deborah Oropallo
Friday, November 21, 2008
Poem for a kitty that my friend found in the road yesterday...
Im so sick
Im so sick of it all!
All the pain and suffering!
The misery that comes with living!
I wish it would all just go away!
Im begging you to end it all!
Please help me end it!Im so sick...
[Just off the phone with the vet's office (where that dick gov. schwarzenegger wants to now TAX my vet bills and it is the REPUBLICANS trying to stop that dumb idea)...anyway...the vet tech tells me that they didn't even try to save the kitty but for seeing if it would make it through the night by giving it nutrition. They nested kitty up in a nice comfortable place to pass on. He said the kitty was VERY sick...not hit by a car like we suspected - rest in peace kitty..I'm happy you aren't in so much pain now...]
Thursday, November 20, 2008
PETA Video Exposes Brutality at Turkey Farm
The giant poultry company Aviagen has suspended a supervisor after an animal rights group released a video showing turkeys being abused at the company’s West Virginia farms. The video released by the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals shows workers stomping on the heads of turkeys, twisting their necks and slamming them into metal cages. The video was recorded by an undercover investigator. Earlier this week, PETA filed a criminal complaint against Aviagen alleging animal cruelty. Aviagen describes itself as “the world’s leading poultry-breeding company” and supplies most of the turkey breeding stock in the United States. A supervisor at the farm was secretly recorded admitting that every worker gets agitated sometimes and kills turkeys.
[Be sure to watch the video...and be thankful you aren't a fucking turkey]
Rep. Barbara Lee was named chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus on Wednesday, giving the Oakland Democrat a high-profile platform to push her priorities, from increasing funding for HIV/AIDS to pushing for a speedy withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq.
At a news conference on Capitol Hill, the outgoing chairwoman, Rep. Carolyn Kilpatrick, D-Mich., handed over the wooden gavel and praised Lee as a "stalwart for human rights, global peace and social justice." Lee had considered challenging Kilpatrick for the job in 2006, but bowed out to avoid a divisive caucus fight.
"This is quite a moment for me," a jubilant Lee told reporters and fellow caucus members. "Now, we have an opportunity to really continue to lead and to really continue to be the conscience of the Congress."
As chairwoman during the 111th Congress that starts in January, Lee will take a lead role in pushing the agenda of the 43-member caucus - known by its acronym, CBC - which has historically been among the more powerful voting blocs in the House, with immense influence over legislation, appropriations and even presidential appointments.
Lee, who is stepping down as co-chairwoman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, is known for her fierce anti-war stands and represents one of the House's most liberal districts, including Oakland, Berkeley, Castro Valley and other parts of the East Bay. She was the only member of Congress to vote against the authorization of the use of force after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, which she criticized as a "blank check."
Lee, 62, dodged questions about her agenda, saying she wants to wait until caucus members gather in January to decide the group's priorities. She also downplayed speculation that the caucus will have more clout under President-elect Barack Obama, a CBC member during his tenure in the Senate.
Noting Obama's pledge to be president of "the whole country," she said CBC will be just one of many House caucuses that will seek to influence Obama.
"We'll work together to support his agenda," she said.
CBC members praised Obama at the news conference for signaling that he plans to nominate Eric Holder, a former judge and federal prosecutor, as the nation's first African American attorney general. Holder, a former deputy attorney general in the Clinton administration, earned Obama's trust overseeing his search for a vice presidential nominee earlier this year.
Lee is likely to have little trouble getting her calls to Obama returned. She was an early supporter of his presidential bid, even while other senior CBC members backed his primary rival, New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton. Lee told reporters that she believes Obama remains committed to a rapid redeployment of U.S. forces from Iraq.
"I know he wants to end it," she said. "He was against it from day one. ... We have to see how he wants to do it."
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
||A supporter of the ruling Sandinista National Liberation Front party, FSLN, fires a homemade mortar against opposition supporters, not in picture, during a demonstration in Managua, Tuesday, Nov. 18, 2008. Two police officers and three civilians were reported injured after clashes between supporters of the FSLN and opposition supporters over the Nov. 9 municipal elections. The sticker on the mortar reads in Spanish "FSLM, let's go for more victories." (AP Photo/Esteban Felix)|
Thousands of supporters of Nicaragua's leftist ruling party armed with rocks tried to block an opposition march on the capital to protest alleged vote fraud, setting off clashes that injured at least five people on Tuesday.
Two police officers and at least three protesters were injured by thrown rocks, national police spokeswoman Vilma Reyes said. Riot police came out in force, but some bloodied partisans still wrestled in the streets, throwing punches and tearing at ears.
Sandinista supporters blocked roads to Managua to cut off protests by the Constitutionalist Liberal Party over the outcome of Nov. 9 municipal elections. A similar clash took place Sunday.
An electoral tribunal dominated by President Daniel Ortega's Sandinista party declared his party the winner of most the races, including in the hotly contested Nicaraguan capital of Managua.
Opponents of the government said results were tampered with in Ortega's first major electoral test since reclaiming the presidency in 2006. The government says voting was fair.
Ortega has returned to power two decades after leading a Marxist government that fought U.S.-backed Contra rebels. He has since been a regular critic of U.S. foreign policy and built strong ties with Venezuela, Russia and Iran.
by Jay Michaelson
"Intentional sexuality" refers to the use of sexual practices to attain religious, spiritual or mystical experiences. It is a very broad term, embracing such divergent practices as the yoga of the Kama Sutra, ancient Mediterranean rites of Cybele (at least insofar as such rituals are reported in literary accounts), contemporary breathwork such as that taught in the Body Electric school (which I discuss below), and even the interpretations of marital union found in such texts as the Zohar, the masterpiece of the Kabbalah. In today's parlance, these practices are sometimes referred to as "sacred sexuality" or "erotic spirituality," because they seek to reclaim the link between sexuality and spirituality, an ancient bond severed by the anti-carnal elements within early Christianity, Protestantism, and American Puritanism in its old and newer forms.
From a scholarly perspective, it is difficult to ascertain exactly how fundamental this bond was and whether such a split was ever so radical as it appears. However, my project here is not somehow to conduct a vast intellectual archeology of sexuality in world religions, but rather to explore how intentional sexuality operates in contemplative practice today. Obviously, the mystery of sexuality was extremely important to most earth-based ("pagan") cultures and to primitive cultures around the world; artifacts from the lingam and the yoni to the pendulous breasts and large phalluses of African figurines indicate that our own culture's discomfort with sexuality from a religious perspective is a discrete cultural phenomenon, and far from universal. The use of intentional sexuality in Tantric practice is well known. Moreover, in the West, intentional sexuality figures prominently in the accounts of many Christian mystics, Kabbalists, Sufis, and many others; sexual metaphors are central in these Western mystical traditions, and sexual practices, of one form or another, are described in many of them.
Nor is intentional sexuality confined to esoteric traditions. For example, in ancient Judaism, the cherubs were angelic creatures who resided at the holiest place in the world: above the ark, in the Holy of Holies, in the Temple. According to rabbinic sources, they were in a permanent state of copulation - a later tradition emends that they were making love when the relationship between God and Israel was good, separated when it was bad. Moreover, the Talmud relates that the walls of the inner sanctum were decorated with images of sex. The cherubs' erotic union and separation an embodiment and metaphor for the Divine on earth, and, in their brazen sexuality, represent what some might deem ‘paganism' enshrined in the most sacred place of Judaism. (Indeed, the Talmud in Yoma 54b relates that when the first Temple was destroyed, the cherubs were paraded in the marketplace as evidence of Israel's paganism.) But say "cherubs" today, and you probably think of a fat, sexless baby.
Drawing on such traditions -- and, more frequently, on non-Western practices such as Tantra or suppressed religious practices such as those thought to be practiced by the ancient Canaanites and elsewhere in the Near East -- today's erotic contemplatives see themselves as rediscovering ancient pathways of sacred sexuality. Whether they are renewing old ways or discovering new ones is debatable, but that intentional sexuality now exists as a contemplative practice, widespread in the gay spiritual community and increasingly prevalent in heterosexual communities as well.
It is worth emphasizing that, as its advocates use the term, intentional sexuality (or sacred sexuality) is not a mere code word for orgies and sex-play. Of course, "free love" is sometimes found in spiritual or other intentional communities, particularly since the 1960s, but, as is well known, for long before that as well. However, as I use the term, and as I have experienced its practices today, intentional sexuality does not refer to "free love" per se; it refers to the use of sexuality as a contemplative, mystical, or ecstatic religious practice. It is, in part, a mindfulness practice, because it directs the attention to a particular focus: the erotic energy (however that term is defined or understood) in the body. And it is an ecstatic practice, because it generates so much erotic energy that altered mindstates are created. These mindstates may be conceptualized on a purely physiological level (as, for example, flooding the neurons in the brain) or in terms of the "soul," and the fruits of the practice may be understood as therapeutic, energetic or even prophetic. But the actual effect on the practitioner's mindstate is as undeniable as the effects of sustained meditation. Whatever else is going on in intentional sexuality, the change in mindstate is real.
Before considering the opportunities and perils of intentional sexuality, I will offer a brief description of the practice of "Taoist erotic massage," created by Joseph Kramer, Ph.D., a former Jesuit who now heads the New School of Erotic Touch. Kramer is the founder of the Body Electric School, which he left about ten years ago, and which is now a leading institution teaching intentional sexuality, to men and women, in the West. Essentially, Taoist erotic massage combines erotic massage techniques with breathwork in order to -- in its language -- generate erotic energy and spread it through the body. Like many other techniques, the practice is non-ejaculatory. In a metaphor often employed by Kramer, ordinary erotic massage (i.e., masturbation) is like blowing up a balloon so that it can pop and release tension. Taoist erotic massage (Kramer learned from several Taoist teachers, but the practice as it exists today is his own invention and is not Taoist in any historical sense), by contrast, generates the erotic energy, through sensual touch, but instead of releasing it, spreads it throughout the body. (Indeed, practitioners often report orgasm-like sensations in their arms and legs, or moving throughout the body.)
These massage practices are complemented by breathwork, on the part of the person receiving massage, which culminates in a sustained hold called the "Big Draw." The effects of the "Big Draw," as related by hundreds of other practitioners, can be profound. Some describe it as a "full body orgasm," which can last for several minutes. Others describe it in terms of ecstasy or Divine union. On the purely physical level, the perception of energy is acute, and, of course, the level of pleasure is quite intense. On the emotional plane, the intensity of the experience often acts as a cathartic, therapeutic release, opening doors much in the way of 'primal scream' and other such practices. Intellectually, the mind after the 'Big Draw' can be in a state of clarity quite similar to that of samadhi, the concentrated state of mind produced by some forms of meditation. And spiritually, many practitioners report mystical experiences, which I will describe here.
So, what are the opportunities, from a contemplative perspective, offered by intentional sexuality? And what are some of the dangers?
1. Mystical Experience. Great, open awareness can exist in the silence of ecstasy. Essentially, intentional sexuality is an ecstatic practice, a concentration, and an energetic practice -- all three of which lead to a quieting of the ordinary mind, with the attendant cognitive effects noted by mystics worldwide. It is an ecstatic practice not in the sense of the soul literally leaving the body, but in the broader sense of an excitement practice, which "turns up the volume" of sensory input (speaking loosely here) to flood the neurons of the brain. Like ecstatic dance or ecstatic vocal work, intentional sexuality drives out the ordinary faculties of discursive thought, creating a stillness akin to that experienced in samadhi meditative states; thus intentional sexuality becomes a concentration practice as well. Finally, intentional sexuality is an energetic practice because it leads to a direct perception of energetic phenomena -- again, speaking quite broadly, and not specifying in any way what "energy" might mean in this context -- throughout the body.
The result? With one's attention focused, and one's the life-energy flowing, one feels oneself so intimately immersed in the cosmic play (what the Vedas call lila) that many practitioners feel ourselves unified with it. Of course, it is possible to understand the unity of all things intellectually without doing any practice at all. But even if the mind knows unity, our hearts usually feel duality; they feel separation and yearning, and they feel joy at union. So, in ecstasy, we feel the truth with our bodies more than we could know it on a solely intellectual level. We gain true knowledge (in Hebrew, daat), which involves union not just between the "self" and the One but among the different parts of the soul as well: body, mind, heart, and spirit. This knowledge can take place because thoughts have been driven out of the body by ecstasy, and because the energies of the body are so activated that we become hyper-aware of the great love that radiates throughout Being.
Of course, different practitioners will have different experiences, and will also interpret their experiences according to their different conceptual matrices. What one person may experience as union, another may experience as contact with (but not union with) the Divine. Another may label the same experience merely a relaxation response, taking place purely within a materialistic, dualistic universe. But the phenomenal experience itself seems to be extremely widespread among those who practice intentional sexuality in a serious way.
2. Realization. In addition to an experience of union with the world as manifestation, sexuality also is a portal to awareness itself, to the great Emptiness that lies beneath and conditions all that is. The sense of interdependence one gains in sexual practice is quite intense. In a different context, I wrote of the experience in this way: "By knowing ourselves to be a mere pattern of the great flux of Being, we know that everything else is empty of separate substance also. We can directly perceive, with the right intention, that this moment, that this occasion of you reading these words, is but a dream in the mind of God." The mindstate which birthed this sense of realization was conditioned by the heightened awareness that was itself conditioned by intentional sexual practice. More than any drug, but like an entheogen in its seemingly involuntary nature (i.e., one feels oneself brought into a state, rather than cultivating a state) intentional sexuality excites the body and allows the conceptual mind to relax. It is not, by any means, the only way to attain such consciousness, but it is a powerful one.
3. Healing. In many Western religious systems, sexuality in particular and the body in general are often seen as sites of sin or impurity. "What the flesh desires is opposed to the Spirit," Paul wrote in Galatians 5:16. "If by the Spirit you put to death the needs of the body, you will live." (Romans 8:13) Amplified by American Puritan attitudes regarding sexuality and the material world, these kinds of ideas have led many to conceive a split between the spiritual and the sexual, the sacred and the erotic. Given that we all possess sexual desire, the demonization of that desire naturally leads to a sense of pain, or of alienation from oneself. This is true for many people, but even more so for members of sexual minorities (lesbians, gay men, etc.), whose sexuality has been especially demonized by religion.
Experiencing the body as holy can bring great emotional healing. Even if one never has a mystical or realization experience during the practice sacred sexuality, just knowing that the body is a temple instead of a latrine is a precious liberation. Many men in Body Electric, for example, have reported life-changing experiences of repressed emotional pain regarding their bodies, or of unresolved psychological trauma (especially, in gay male contexts, with respect to the father/father figure). The Body Electric practice has thus evolved to include what is sometimes termed "heart-work"; prior to the massage sessions, many hours are devoted to community-building and trust-building, and the "bonding" that takes place in these periods is, for many men, as significant as the practice of intentional sexuality itself. However, the level of sensory stimulation derived from intentional sexuality is so intense, and so grounded in the body, that even without such additional heart-work, the experience itself can often bring about catharsis, ecstasy, healing, and transformation.
Think of the fear, the taboos, the shame, and the insecurities that so many of us carry around when we think about our bodies and our sexuality. Even the most well-adjusted of women is still subjected to societal messaging, every day, about how her body should look. Even the most secure of men still lives in a culture with taboos around nudity, or talking about sexuality. And for those of us who have been wounded -- by trauma, by homophobia, by sexism, or by any number of other factors -- erotic healing is especially powerful. It can mend body, mind, heart, and spirit. And it can address the wound that many carry regarding their sexuality by utilizing precisely the site of woundedness as a site for transcendence.
Finally, healing does not mean a narcissistic licking of one's own wounds and finding palliatives to ease whatever pain we feel. Healing means being more able to exist in the present moment, healthily, in an integrated way -- and in a way that brings about more compassion. It is difficult for me to describe my own experience of compassion arising naturally from wisdom; it simply seems to occur. I remember riding on the subway after a weekend of Body Electric practice, being so vitally aware of the energies within everyone on the train, and so saddened by the way they are thwarted, repressed, twisted, and destroyed. This was true not only for those victimized by Western taboos and fears, but by those truly victimized by economic injustice, illness, and the myriad other causes of pain in the world. Like the compassion that arises in meditation, this compassion did not manifest as a vague "feeling sorry for the world"; it inspired me to change my own behavior, to act in a more gentle way, and to open myself more to the suffering of those around me (and myself). This, I think, is what true healing brings about: engagement, integration, skillful behavior.
4. Play. In case it hasn't been clear by now, intentional sexuality is hot. It's fun, it's erotic, it's a remarkable form of play. It's okay that it's hot. It's great that it's hot; it's Divine that it's hot. For pagans and polytheists, this play is holy and invoking the energies of nature is holy. But even for monotheists and monists, if the manifest universe is an expression of the Divine, playing with Itself, coming to know Itself, loving Itself, then the more we immerse ourselves in that cosmic drama, the more we ourselves are expressing God (or the Goddess, or the One). Becoming fully, electrically alive; growing exquisitely sensitive to eros - this is becoming and becoming aware of God Itself.
There are more benefits to intentional sexuality on the individual and community levels, and one of the interesting facts about it is that different practitioners can be on totally different individual ‘trips,' unified with their co-practitioners more by acts than by intentions. However, because my assumption is that many Reality Sandwich readers have experience with intentional and sacred sexuality, I want to turn now to some of the perils I and others have encountered, which, interestingly, tend to flow directly from the benefits. This next part is a bit insider-y -- but that's what we're here for, right?
1. Idolatry: Mistaking manifestation for essence
A persistent risk with spirituality is that there is no one mind-state that is closer to God than any other. Wherever we are - in ecstasy, sadness, satisfaction, or yearning - if God fills the universe, or if "All is One," then we are fully Divine at that moment. Yet many spiritual practices lead us to believe that ecstasy is enlightenment, or at least a prerequisite for it. There appears to be a goal, and a path to travel from where we are now (which is deficient in some way) to somewhere else (which will be better). At least two errors flow from this view of spiritual practice: first, that the feeling of ecstasy is itself the Divine - rather than one manifestation of It - and second, that other feelings are not quite as filled with God as is joy.
These errors are especially present in sacred sexuality. First, it is very tempting to label the ecstasy, the orgasm, the love as the Ultimate. From a polytheistic point of view, this presents no real problem; the energy of excitement may be experienced as a god. From a monotheistic or monistic point of view, however, it can lead to a mistake: that this is it, we feel, as our bodies take us to altered states of consciousness. But "this is it" is both right and wrong. This is it - the moment we are experiencing is nothing but the One Unfolding Now. And as ecstatic practice drives thought from the mind, we are especially open to be present. But what is "It" about this present moment is not that the body-mind happens to feel so turned on, or that the ch'i is flowing in an excited way. All the energy is no more Divine than boredom, delight, or sadness. And it is not, in any separate sense, real; like all forms, erotic energy is ultimately empty of separate reality.
The notion that a god or goddess is invoked, or summoned, by a given ritual practice has a very long lineage. And, for those who have practiced intentional sexuality, it is easy to see why. The energy shift is so dramatic, one cannot help but notice it, and it seems so other to the usual mode of being, one cannot help but label it as a kind of possession. Even if the sages of monotheism were not as prudish as they are sometimes made out to be, it is easy to see why they would disapprove of such practices.
Even apart from ideology, intentional sexuality can also lead to a kind of contemplative mistake. Spiritual practice enlivens the present, and elevates it to the sacred. But with the delicious, addictive sensations of intentional sexuality (more on the attachment to these feelings below), a very different sense can result. Instead of the practice causing us to appreciate every moment, it can cause us to flee the present in search of more ecstasy. After all, ecstasy is when we are closest to the Divine, and who doesn't want that? To speak by way of analogy, intentional sexuality can make Sunday very special and the rest of the week rather dull.
Classically, this is one of the central problems of idolatry: not the idol so much as the stone which is discarded; the mistake that we can so easily make that "this" is more holy than "that."
2. Confusion: Mistaking the ego for Reality
Another "error" of idolatry, replicated in intentional sexuality, is the easy mistake of supposing that the Power belongs to the self. Here, language can be tricky. If by "Self," one means the True Self, the One that underlies all individuality, then the Power does indeed belong to that Self, because that Self is The One That Is. However, the error comes in when I imagine the power to belong to Jay, an individual with a history. I remember one time, practicing intentional sexuality atop a mountain, I stood in the wind, surveying the desert beneath me, and felt like a god-as if I, in particular, possessed this Power. Really, the Power possesses me -- but it didn't quite feel that way.
This ego danger is omnipresent in intentional sexuality practiced in sexual minority communities. Contemplative practice involves dropping our individual "story," and dropping into the "Now." Therapy, on the other hand, is all about going into the story. Intentional sexuality is a mix of both. When gay men, for example, gather for Body Electric, we mix healing with ecstasy with contemplation. In so doing, we are mixing modalities in a delicate way - at once too noisy for silence and too quiet for therapy. Intentional sexuality can bring up many important heart-teachings -- about the ego, sexual health, emotional wholeness, and so on. Obviously, all of these things are very good! But engaging with the self way makes it all the more tempting to ascribe the powers of the body to the self.
To repeat, none of this is to denigrate the critical work of healing the self. In the world of form, our identities matter. Owning our histories is part of fulfilling our individual soul-prints, and is essential for well-rounded growth. All of us can name spiritual teachers who are very advanced in spiritual practice but still have a lot of work they need to do on their emotional or psychological well-being. This comes from neglecting the fact that, even if we are really all God, those of us who exist in the social world do so in selves which often need a lot of work and love.
So, it's not dissolving in emptiness is good, but exploring form is bad. The problem lies in confusing one with the other. At the fruition of the contemplative path, being a survivor of abuse, or queer, or a woman, means nothing. At other points along the path, it can mean everything. Intentional sexuality, which traverses the whole length of the path, can thus be very confusing. It's not clear when to go into the story, go into the wound, explore the shadow - and when to drop all of that and bask in timelessness. It's great that one practice can take you to all these places; it's just tricky knowing where you are and where you're going.
I admit, I like meditating. It relaxes me, and I've gotten good enough at it that it is simply enjoyable. But, then again, it's not as enjoyable as a ten minute orgasm. This is one of the delights of intentional sexuality, of course, but also one of the dangers. I found, when I practiced too much, that I started to crave it. I became very attached to certain feelings in the body, and my mind grew restless when it wasn't experiencing them. It was very easy to see intentional sexuality as becoming yet another addictive behavior, and we all know, or have heard of, sex addicts for whom the opiate of orgasm has become an intoxicant. How does one ensure that one's own ‘sacred' sexuality does not function in the same way? And how not to attach to the sacred sexuality path at the expense of other practices which are so critical for balance and quiet?
There are answers to these questions, and skilled teachers who answer them. But, like any serious contemplative practice, the teacher is essential and the auto-didact is to be warned.
Moreover, since intentional sexuality often involves a partner, and since there are often multiple partners available, we often want some kinds of bodies but not others, or desire a form of pleasure not necessarily about healing, mysticism, or transcendence. I've experienced attachments in meditation, too-literally, and strongly, wanting a certain color cushion. But when the sex drive is in play, the attachment is far stronger and potentially more destructive.
4. Boundary questions
Connected to the perils of attachment is the critical need for boundaries in intentional sexuality. Mystical practice, one sometimes hears, is anathema to the boundaries of both religion and society. No limits, no walls, no rules; mystics (especially queer mystics) are the in-between people, the boundary-crossers. By defying conventional definitions, we show that these definitions (like everything else) are empty. The last thing we ought to do is import boundaries and limits into our spiritual-sexual lives.
But all creatures draw boundaries, even ants, fish, and doves. Humans designate, through sometimes arbitrary line-drawing, those objects and times which are valuable. For almost the entire world, the important bit of wisdom is that these lines are, in fact, arbitrary; that values are socially constructed; that every boundary can be crossed. But precisely for the sacred boundary-crossers, there is an equally-important reminder: that these arbitrary boundaries have function.
In intentional sexuality, it is essential to draw boundaries around the holy-I'd rather use the Hebrew word kadosh, which means both separate (from the ordinary) and intimate (with the One), especially because it is used, disapprovingly, to refer to hierodules (k'deshim) and other practitioners of intentional sexuality. The drawing of boundaries allows us to say, literally and figuratively, "we're not just fucking around." When I tell some people that I am involved in sacred sexuality, their assumption is that the sacred part is merely a pretext to get laid.
And sometimes, it is true. At one gathering I attended, there were occasions on which some participants were clearly more interested in fondling the hot guy than in unifying sexuality and spirituality. Of course, hot bodies are hot, and that should not be denied; it's fun to play sexually with people we find attractive. But clearly there is a difference between (a) opening up, through sexual intimacy, to the play of energies in the Divine manifestation and to the great Loving Emptiness that underlies all and (b) getting off because you're fondling the hot guy. To be doing the latter practice, in my opinion, validates the skeptics and does a grave disservice and disrespect to God and God's holy lovers.
And it is an inflation of the ego. The path of sacred sexuality is a path of self-fulfillment and self-annihilation. When I practice it, I fulfill my Divine mission, activate as many energies within my particular body and soul as I can, and I am fully "me" in that moment. And yet, precisely through that self-fulfillment, I cease to be the separate "me" at all. Separation disappears; "I am That." But when I'm fondling the hot guy, I am a separate ego that's getting some substitute-love by associating itself with a desired object. I am fulfilling "my" needs or wants. In contrast to becoming fully whole and thus fully empty, I am trying to balm my various wounds with a drug-like medication: the hot guy. It is not service of God; it is the service of the separate self, and eventually it will lead to suffering. This danger exists, and its negative energy can poison erotic rituals, and I've seen it happen. Boundaries and intentions help keep us on track, which is why, in Body Electric and similar contexts, it is not thought of as repressive or "bad" to set them. On the contrary, most teachers of intentional sexuality embrace boundaries as necessary to create the safe space for sacred union to happen. In so doing, they are replicating the ancient forms of the k'deshim themselves, who worked in temples, not brothels or bars.
5. Energy Dissipation
The last of the five intentional sexuality hindrances I wish to discuss is a kind of dissipation of energy which I experienced over the course of practice, and of which I have heard many much more experienced practitioners complain. Most sacred sexuality practices do not involve ejaculation, and are said to enliven the body, not deplete it. However, I have found that even without ejaculation, there is a sort of erotic fatigue that can set in. Perhaps, like bodybuilders, or yogis who can sit, unmoving, for days at a time, experienced practitioners build up their bodies' stamina and do not experience this sort of fatigue. But beginners can feel like Bilbo Baggins after he wears the Ring too long: like butter spread too thinly over too much bread. Like the Ring, intentional sexual practices can give power. But do we know enough about how they take power from us as well?
Once again, it is not that these questions are unanswerable, or even novel. They are omnipresent in spiritual practice. Every contemplative practice carries dangers with it; the fact that they exist is no reason not to engage in the practice. They just remind us that we are playing with serious energy that requires serious intention and attention. Whether we mythologize this energy in terms of angels, or ghosts, or even gods, or whether we regard it as purely physiological in nature, we must approach the quest as a shaman would, mindful of the dangers that await.
I am still working out how to integrate my sexual practice into my contemplative work. There have been times, recently, when I have felt its opiate-like pull, and so I've found it very important to be out in nature, alone, but not "go there" sexually all the time. I'm still working out, in my own Jewish-Buddhist context, whether there are practices or ideas that are in too much tension with my core principles, or whether the framing of the question in this way is itself an invitation to consider my own lurking spiritual materialism.
Most importantly, I am mindful of something that one of my teachers once said, when I asked him about working with eros along the contemplative path. Grounded in the Buddhist tradition, his sharp response gave me much to contemplate. It's what I wrestle with most, these days, as I explore this particular path. "Of course, there is nothing inherently wrong with it," he told me. "But the energy of eros is so strong, it's hard not to think it's real."
An earlier version of this essay appeared in White Crane: Gay Wisdom and Culture (www.whitecranejournal.com)
This analysis was prepared by Research Associate Orion Cruz
According to UN figures, Latin America has the highest concentration of wealth of any region in the world, as well as debilitating poverty levels. While many suffer under these conditions, the indigenous populations of Latin America almost always are among those living the most immiserated lives. During the 1960s and 70s, although there was impressive economic growth in many countries throughout the region, the indigenous seldom benefited from such prospects. Whatever small gains were achieved during those decades were dashed for them when an economic crisis enveloped the hemisphere during the 1980s. The economic ramifications of the crisis led to the widespread implementation of what is referred to today as neoliberal economic policies, which were anything but kind to the average Latin American. Mexico was the first country to be “rescued” under the harsh terms of neoliberalism, which are still being resisted to this day. The defiance of the Zapatistas in the impoverished state of Chiapas, and their subsequent emergence on the world stage, is part of a historical struggle against cultural homogenization and for the ability to live a life consisting of more than mere survival.
Mexico’s Financial Crisis and the Washington Consensus
Like many other countries in Latin America, Mexico ran into extreme economic difficulties in the early 1980s and dealt with these by radically reorganizing its economy through a process of economic liberalization. The causes of the hemispheric economic crisis were numerous, including the 1973 and 1979 oil shocks, a general switch from long-term fixed interest rate loans to short-term variable interest rate commercial loans, financial deregulation and a dramatic drop in commodity prices. The result for many Mexicans was economic disaster. Although the region as a whole experienced massive capital flight and rapid increases in debt, Mexico’s economy was the first to be completely overwhelmed. The economic situation there became extremely worrisome for the institutions and countries to which Mexico was indebted; it was feared that if Mexico was allowed to default on its debt, other Latin American countries might follow its lead. This spurred Washington, the IMF, and international commercial banks to establish a “rescue package” for Mexico conditioned on implementing neoliberal reforms which emphasized fiscal discipline, redirected and reduced public spending, ordered the elimination of barriers to trade and the deregulation of the business environment, and instructed the creation of incentives to attract foreign investment and move expeditiously to privatize state enterprises. Profitable to some, these free market policies immediately began to have a devastating effect on the lives of many Mexicans, particularly to the indigenous population; as the reforms were broadened in scope, Mexico’s economy continued to plummet when it came to adversely affecting the poor and marginalized.
Under the presidency of Miguel de la Madrid (1982-1988), Mexico continued to liberalize its economy despite nationalist criticism that, among other things, this would destroy the country’s industrial base while principally benefiting foreign producers. Surprisingly, as Professors Skidmore and Smith have noted, unlike many other Latin American countries implementing neoliberal economic policies, “Mexico did not resort to pervasive, large-scale authoritarian repression” in order to maintain stability. However, this was not because the reforms were not painful for Mexicans; it was because of the country’s unique political reality that was completely dominated by one party, the Partido Revolucionario Institutional (PRI). This situation was also complemented by “key attributes of the Mexican political system,” such as “its restricted competition, its control of working-class movements, it autonomy from private interests, and its tactical flexibility.” Therefore, liberalization was able to proceed relatively smoothly for the first decade, without the egregious levels of violence which accompanied the process in other Latin American countries.
In 1990, President Salinas took his most dramatic step for the country regarding the neoliberal restructuring process, announcing an ambitious plan to initiate a free trade agreement with the United States. The plan was extended to include Canada in 1992. Despite popular movements in opposition to the regional trade initiative in all three countries, negotiations moved forward. In Mexico, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was sold to its citizens as an opportunity to attract foreign direct investment, ameliorate social problems, build credibility as a democratic state, and to lock in and institutionalize the process of economic growth and liberalization for Mexico. In 1994, NAFTA came into effect, and along with it came the Zapatista insurrection.
Impetus for the Zapatistas
The Zapatista rebellion in Chiapas represented the rejection of a developmental trajectory dominated by an economic perspective that worships the free market, but more importantly, is a part of a historic struggle for land rights, human rights, political autonomy, cultural recognition, and the right to a decent life, for which indigenous people throughout Latin America and across the globe have striven for, but for centuries rarely achieved. The state of Chiapas is the poorest in the country, with poverty rates at a staggering 75.7% in 2005, according to The National Council for the Evaluation of Social Development Policy. Indignation resulting from such mournful statistics played no small role in the approaching insurrection. As the Zapatista National Liberation Army Declaration of the Lacandon Jungle stated in 1993, just prior to its revolt,
“we have nothing to lose, absolutely nothing, no decent roof over our heads, no land, no work, poor health, no food, no education, no right to freely and democratically choose our leaders, no independence from foreign interests, and no justice for ourselves or our children. But we say enough is enough! We are the descendants of those who truly built this nation, we are the millions of dispossessed, and we call upon all of our brethren to join our crusade, the only option to avoid dying of starvation!”
Although social and economic tensions between the wealthy landowners of the region and the normally impoverished indigenous people of Chiapas had long existed, the armed uprising began on January 1, 1994, and purposefully coincided with NAFTA’s debut. The Zapatistas took up arms to culturally distinguish themselves within Mexico and to draw attention to their opposition to the government’s discrimination, neglect, and indifference to their salvation.
These rebels sought a greater degree of political autonomy; to acquire guaranteed access to full justice; to be able to obtain a better standard of living through increased employment opportunities; the ability to exercise control over the education of their children; and finally, the right to defend themselves against the foreign economic homicide that could result from being impaled by NAFTA.
As Cultural Survival Quarterly has pointed out, although the Zapatista rebellion has at least partially “opened the door for indigenous Mexicans to reach the national agenda,” it is not only a struggle against the “ethnocentric, mono-cultural, homogenizing state apparatus,” but it is also a defiant stand against the economic pressure of the United States and the worldwide trend of bowing to the masters of economic liberalization. The most direct effect of NAFTA on the people of Chiapas has been lower market prices for their main local cash crops, coffee and maize; however, the revision of Article 27 of the constitution allowing the privatization of ejido communal land reserved for the indigenous as a sacred trust was also a devastating blow to the traditional indigenous livelihood. This was done so that from that point forward and through a variety of means, land reserved for the indigenous would begin to be lawfully transferred into the hands of private business interests, permanently separating the indigenous from their land. While to some observers this might appear to be an insignificant side effect of trade liberalization, when one realizes that the people of the region were already struggling in a supreme manner to just survive on a daily basis and deriving much of their nutrition from the availability of maize, it becomes clear this constitutional change was far from a negligible matter.
According to a study conducted by the Washington D.C.-based International Relations Center (IRC), between 1999 and 2004, Mexican farmers saw the price of maize fall by half due to an influx of subsidized U.S. agricultural imports. Concomitantly, a North American Congress on Latin America (NACLA) report points out that the cost of tortillas increased from 1.9 to 5.5 pesos per kilo between 1998 and 2003. As if these trends were not taking a sufficient toll on the Mexican way of life, the concentration of tortilla production in the hands of large industry also has increased, contributing substantially to the fraying of the country’s cultural fabric that has formed around the cultivation of maize.
Monetary Roots of Government Repression
The Zapatista movement, otherwise formally known as the Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional (EZLN), has faced unyielding resistance from the Mexican government. The reasons for this are multifaceted, but the fact that the Chiapas region contains a huge amount of natural resources is of unquestionable significance. With 30% of the country’s surface water, this state has proven attractive to hydroelectric developments and is home to the Manuel Moreno Torres facility, the largest plant of its type in the country. In 2005, according to International Energy Annual (IEA), hydroelectricity was responsible for 13% of the country’s electrical generation, with the majority of that being generated by Chiapas’ Grijalva River.
Among the state’s other natural resources are petroleum and natural gas. According to the national petroleum company PEMEX, the country’s southeastern basins, which include the Chiapas-Tabasco-Comalcalco oil producing area, have been among the country’s most important producers since the 1970s. Not only have they been an important source of oil during the last few decades, but they will also continue to play an important role in Mexico’s energy future. In a Prospective Resources report published in January 2008, PEMEX clearly states that, “in the short and medium term, the exploratory activities will be mostly focused on the Southeastern Basins, where oil production is expected to continue.”
Natural gas, which the EIA estimated made up 27% of Mexico’s total energy consumption in 2005, is another resource of critical importance and as the U.S. Department of Energy points out, “most of Mexico’s natural gas is produced in the southeastern part of the country… primarily in the southern Chiapas and Tabasco regions.” Moreover, since “natural gas demand is climbing rapidly in Mexico” there will surely be increased pressure to secure unhampered access to the region. While it is true that the EZLN is not currently preventing the exploitation of all of Chiapas’ natural resources, the region’s strategic importance to the country not only exacerbates the level of conflict between the EZLN and a government fearful of a secessionist movement, it also puts the indigenous rebels of the region in direct confrontation with numerous outside business interests who would prefer not to have to worry about the fate of their present or future investments. This could help explain the government’s resistance to the area’s push for greater autonomy, while also demonstrating that international economic forces are formidable enough to persuade a government to harass, disenfranchise, and even massacre a troublesome segment of its population, if need be, as it proved to be capable of doing at Acteal.
It seems apparent that “there is opposition to a process of redistribution of power that would permit their reconstitution as peoples-their social and political re-articulation, consolidation and revitalization, which would even contest the big business expansion into the natural resources in indigenous regions.” With these incentives for the government to react harshly and swiftly against the EZLN, it is all the more remarkable that the movement continues to exist.
The Role of Global Civil Society
Interestingly, part of the reason that the EZLN movement has been able to perpetuate its existence, despite such a determined effort to crush it, is due to the support the movement has managed to garner from a globalized civil society. Technologies such as the internet and video cameras have made it possible for the EZLN to generate worldwide sympathy and support for its struggles against free trade and for political autonomy. The EZLN was able to mobilize assistance to assemble a group of “highly educated indigenous intellectuals,” who helped to create “hundreds of local and regional grassroots organizations with authentic leadership, and the accumulated wisdom of indigenous struggles throughout Latin America. ” This support has been crucial for the movement, not only to help its plight gain prominence internationally, but also in terms of providing for its physical security. Indeed, as John Ross, author of Zapatista! noted, “if civil society had not risen to their defense and filled Mexico City’s great Zocalo Plaza with 100,000 supporters to force then-President Carlos Salinas to call off the Mexican military and declare a cease fire, the EZLN might never have survived its first month as a public entity.”
False Hope under Zedillo and Fox
While the government’s overall response to the Zapatista movement has generally been repressive in nature, there was a brief period where it looked as if constructive steps forward would be taken. The prospect for progress was encapsulated within the San Andreas Accords on Indian Rights and Culture signed in 1996. If these accords had been implemented, they would have granted autonomy, addressed recognition of the country’s indigenous, returned indigenous lands to communal stewardship, and demilitarized the otherwise rebellious region. The negotiations were considered a landmark for the indigenous struggles within Latin America. Unfortunately, President Ernesto Zedillo vetoed the agreement on the pretext that it would allow Mexico’s indigenous to consider succession from the nation. Since then, attempting to make these accords work has been a primary goal of the EZLN. However, pursuing this goal has not kept them from democratically electing “good government councils” in popular assemblies and constructing autonomous schools and health clinics.
With the election of President Vincente Fox, it appeared there might be hope for progress in the stalled negotiations. After all, Fox claimed during his election campaign that if he won he would solve the Zapatista problem in fifteen minutes. Unfortunately, when he received the opportunity to demonstrate the validity of his claim, he ultimately failed. In the end, what resulted under his administration with regard to the EZLN was twofold. On one hand, in response to the growing opposition to neoliberalism’s affects in Mexico, Fox began “armoring NAFTA,” in the words of then-U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, Thomas Shannon. Although officially this was done to protect the “economic space” from “the threat of terrorism and against a threat of natural disasters and environmental and ecological disasters,” it was obvious that much of this was merely equivocal rhetoric to encourage the steps being taken to protect NAFTA from threats other than those just listed. As Laura Carlson of the Center for International Policy pointed out, it is well known that, “the counter-terrorism/drug-war model elaborated in the Security and Prosperity Partnership and embodied later in Plan Mexico (known officially as the Merida Initiative) encourages a crackdown on grassroots dissent to assure that no force, domestic or foreign, effectively questions the future of the system.”
As this “securitization” of economic policy proceeded, Fox also decided to temporarily de-escalate the situation in Chiapas by ordering the removal of troops from territory held by the EZLN as well as the surrounding areas. Although the sum of these policy initiatives represented a failure on behalf of the EZLN to achieve their aims through negotiation and a deepening of the types of economic policies that fueled their uprising in the first place, the subsequent period of relative peace at least contributed to the functioning of a de facto EZLN government, which is now estimated to extend throughout roughly 15% of the state. By the time Fox left office, it was clear the Zapatista problem was not going to be solved anytime soon, much less in 15 minutes.
Felipe Calderón and the Question of the Zapatistas
Since the questionable election of neoliberal enthusiast Felipe Calderón, the situation of the EZLN has taken a turn for the worse. Although Vincente Fox shared Calderón’s basic economic perspective, Calderón narrowly prevailed in a very contentious race for the presidency against Lopez Obrador, in which the latter as well as most of his supporters were vehemently opposed to the continuation of neoliberal economic policies in Mexico. As Lopez Obrador announced, “We are going to revamp the economic model, because neoliberalism isn’t working.” Calderón’s suspect squeaker victory left him with a weak mandate and a polarized country. In response to this lack of overwhelming popular support and the gradual increase of resistance against the government’s economic policies, especially prevalent in poor and indigenous regions, he has relied heavily upon the military—which has now begun to be subsidized by the U.S.—to maintain a “mano dura” or “iron fist” throughout the country.
The manifestation of this approach is particularly acute in Chiapas, where the government has complemented its “mano dura” approach with a divide and conquer strategy aimed at undermining the EZLN. With regard to the use of such tactics, Calderón is building upon what previous administrations already had begun; an attempt to create and train anti-Zapatista paramilitaries within the state by establishing various programs that can be tapped to yield land grants that often are in EZLN-occupied zones. These questionable land titles that Calderón has been handing out end up in the hands of anti-Zapatista families and organizations, which, according to plan, are commonly indigenous themselves, such as the Organization for the Defense of Indigenous and Peasant People’s (OPDDIC). Frequently, these families and organizations that they often are a part of have ties to the government and/or paramilitary groups. These land titles then eventually provide the pretext for using force to oust those who support the Zapatistas from those newly titled areas just handed out by Calderón. As Ernesto Ladesma, head of the Center of Policy Analysis and Social and Economic Investigations (CAPISE) said regarding the rise of paramilitary violence in connection with land evictions in early 2008, “The situation in Chiapas is serious and violence is on the rise. The public should know this.”
The other component of Calderón’s strategy—increased militarization of the region—has been documented by the Chiapas-based CAPISE, which has reported, “on the fifty-six permanent military bases that the Mexican state runs on indigenous land in Chiapas, there has been a marked increase in activity. Weapons and equipment are being dramatically upgraded, new battalions are moving in, including Special Forces—all signs of escalation.” It seems plausible that if enough violence erupts between the EZLN (which has refrained from retaliation as of now) and the paramilitaries, which could be conveniently framed as indigenous people slaughtering one another, the military may have just the excuse it needs to launch the next stage of its offensive against the defiant EZLN. While it’s true that the mayor of Chiapas hails from the left-leaning Partido de la Revolución Democrática (PRD), it’s unclear whether this anti-neoliberal sentiment would translate into support, considering how many were angered by the EZLN’s refusal to endorse PRD candidate Lopez Obrador in his presidential race.
In the U.S. it is doubtful whether Barack Obama’s election automatically will usher in a new era of U.S.-Mexican relations that would relieve the underlying causes of the EZLN’s current plight. Despite the fact that Obama has consistently criticized President Bush’s neoliberal economic policies for having a ruinous effect on the U.S. economy, he has not yet said or done anything that would allude to a readiness to extend this attitude to the Calderón administration, in order to get it to reverse the progress it has made in liberalizing the Mexican economy. As the Latin News phrased it, Obama has “laid the basis for a close working relationship with the Mexican president,” as opposed to a potentially confrontational or tough one, stoked by such irritants as drugs, immigration and possible unwanted revisions of NAFTA (from Washington’s perspective). While Obama has claimed “our diplomacy with Mexico must aim to amend NAFTA,” what he may desire to alter is environmental and labor standards included in the deal, “which he believes have done little to curb NAFTA’s failures.” In sum, although great change should not be anticipated, under Obama Washington will be more likely to pressure Calderón to halt any prospective bloody military confrontation with the EZLN, if indeed one should erupt, and the new U.S. leader at least recognizes the need to focus on “enhance[ing] the professionalism of [Mexico’s] law enforcement.” Mexico would be well advised to prepare itself to work with another Lula, which Obama may well become, with short spurts to the left, shifting to center-right initiatives when it comes to dealing with the economy. While it is likely that Obama will work to improve labor and environmental standards, it is not in the cards that the new U.S. leader will, at this time, risk substantially roiling the diplomatic waters by assisting the EZLN’s efforts at self-rule.
As 2009 approaches, Calderon’s policies appear to be sedulously aimed at undermining what modest success the EZLN has had thus far. However, due to the attention the EZLN was able to muster during its armed uprising—albeit at great cost—it appears that he will not be able to utilize raw force against the EZLN, without unacceptable political cost, unless his strategy of co-opting indigenous peasants and armed proxies in Chiapas is able to create favorable circumstances for such military action. Unfortunately for the EZLN, Obama’s election doesn’t seem to justify much hope. The White House is not about to undergo an ideological shift of sufficient magnitude to fundamentally affect the root cause of the Zapatistas’ suffering; Mexico’s neoliberal economic policies. Yet, the present Chiapas scenario could play out in a variety of ways; hopefully the iconic Subcomandante Marcos was being overly pessimistic when he stated in late 2007 that, “The signs of war on the horizon are clear. War, like fear, also has a smell. And now we are starting to breathe its fetid odor in our lands.”
Although hundreds of EZLN members have died over the years in this conflict over culture, livelihood, natural resources, participatory democracy, and ‘soft power,’ it could be argued that the movement has met with rather significant success. During the initial stages of its uprising, the EZLN managed to acquire large tracts of land and has been able to retain control of them. These areas are now being governed according to the principles of participatory democracy, close to the way in which the local indigenous community traditionally lived. Most importantly, they are living nearer to the way in which they desire to live. Their struggle has raised awareness about inequality, the devastating effects of NAFTA, and the desire of many in Mexico to have more of a say in decisions that affect their daily lives. Unfortunately for the EZLN, modern ‘globalized’ and ‘liberalized’ economies such as Mexico’s do not question their policies unless forced to. There are deals at stake and profits to be made; central to these concerns are Chiapas and the EZLN. In other words, if measures are not taken by the EZLN to denature prospects of conflict, it appears that squaring off with Calderón’s “mano dura” could mean the EZLN is likely to face a renewal of violence with the Mexican authorities before his term ends in 2012. While the path to peace and autonomy is far from clear, it seems as if defensive preparedness, avoidance of conflict with the paramilitaries and a focused attempt to expose their ties with the government, as well as renewed efforts to preemptively draw the attention of the international community to events in Chiapas, would represent a logical starting point. Whatever decisions the EZLN makes, such efforts will likely require unflinching courage and dedication to the Zapatista cause, as its members will be confronting an opponent that would very much like to make an example out of their resistance to neoliberalism, and which is likely to have the backing of powerful domestic and international political-economic interests.
Bolivian President Evo Morales joins us in the firehouse studio to discuss the election of Barack Obama, US-Bolivian relations, the global economic crisis and more. Morales is visiting the United States at a time when relations between the two countries are deteriorating. Last month, the Bush administration suspended long-term trade benefits with Bolivia over its alleged failure to cooperate in the “war on drugs.” Meanwhile, Morales has given the Drug Enforcement Administration three months to leave Bolivia. He accused DEA agents of violating Bolivian sovereignty and encouraging the drug trade.
JUAN GONZALEZ: Today, a Democracy Now! special. We spend the hour with Bolivian President Evo Morales. He is here in New York for meetings at the United Nations and the Organization of American States.
President Morales told reporters Monday that he hoped to see improved diplomatic and trade relations with the United States under President-elect Obama. Bolivia’s first indigenous president noted the significance of the first African American being elected to the White House and said they “had a lot of things in common if we are talking about change.”
Relations between the United States and Bolivia have deteriorated in recent months. Last month, the Bush administration suspended long-term trade benefits with Bolivia over its alleged failure to cooperate in the “war on drugs.”
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: The Andean Trade Preference Act allows us to suspend trade preferences with countries that do not live up to their promises. And unfortunately, Bolivia has failed to cooperate with the United States on important efforts to fight drug trafficking. So, sadly, I have proposed to suspend Bolivia’s trade preferences until it fulfills its obligations.
JUAN GONZALEZ: Meanwhile, Morales spoke out about this earlier this month and gave the Drug Enforcement Administration three months to leave Bolivia. He accused DEA agents of violating Bolivian sovereignty and encouraging the drug trade.
This Monday, President Morales told reporters at the United Nations he would never permit the US anti-drug agency back into his country. He said he would launch a new intelligence operation to stop trafficking, as well as campaign to remove the coca leaf from the UN list of prohibited drugs. Bolivia is the third largest producer of coca, after Colombia and Peru. The United States is the world’s largest cocaine consumer.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re joined right now here in our firehouse studio by the Bolivian president, Evo Morales. We welcome you to Democracy Now!
PRESIDENT EVO MORALES: [translated] Thank you very much.
AMY GOODMAN: First, you come here after the election of the first African American president of the United States. You are the first indigenous leader of Bolivia. What is your message to President-elect Obama?
PRESIDENT EVO MORALES: [translated] First of all, I thank you for the interview. I feel that the world goes round and round. Three or four years ago, it would be impossible to think that a peasant president would be there. Nevertheless, the awareness of the Bolivian people keeps on growing. All the excluded people, all the marginalized people, the most abandoned people in the history of Bolivia have a president now.
And I feel the same thing is happening in the US. According to the information we do have, our brothers, our Afro-American brothers, and Afro-Americans, whatever you call them, they were excluded. And the struggle on this sector has been so important. So there is a growth in the integration of our people. I feel that is what I would say about a brother, as Mr. Obama, as president of the US.
In the same way, in Latin American, women who were excluded had no right to be president. Now we have two women who are presidents, in Argentina and in Chile. And these two presidents are the expression of a plural national state. Fathers of the Catholic Church, Catholics, women, workers—that is Latin America. And now, we have a president—and excuse me if this is offensive, but black. And this is proof of the diversity we have in America. But what is coming, maybe it will be very different, but maybe we can complement each other to look for equality among people, people who are here on Mother Earth.
JUAN GONZALEZ: Mr. President, in the waning months of the Bush administration, relations between Bolivia and the United States have gotten worse. You asked the ambassador, the US ambassador, to leave the country, and now you have suspended relations with the DEA. How do you see—why do you see this getting so bad between the United States and Bolivia? And what’s your expectation under the new administration?
PRESIDENT EVO MORALES: [translated] Our government, our culture has a very close relationship with human beings. We are the culture of dialogue. But we also saw in the presence of the ambassador of the US as a constant conspiracy. And I remember that I talked to you, and I actually denounced the ambassador, because he used to call me the Andean bin Laden. And the coca growers, he used to call them Taliban. That’s when I was a leader, and I was a candidate for the presidency. Permamently, from the State Department of the US, I have been accused of being a drug trafficker and a terrorist. And even now that I’m president, that continues on on the part of the embassy. I know it does not come from the American people.
I need ambassadors who are diplomats and that if there’s a possibility to cooperate, that they cooperate. If they have the possibility of doing good business, they should do it, but also that Bolivia would benefit it. But we don’t need aggression, conspiracies. Unfortunately, the financial resources that come from the US—they talk about corporation, that corporation really is financing destabilization. And so, that makes us want to be respected as a country.
Well, secondly, talking about the DEA, already during in the ’90s, the ex-commander or leader of the armed forces—his name was Moreira—he requested exclusion, that the DEA be excluded. Why? Because they didn’t respect the national police or the armed forces of my country, and they wanted to divide with others or conquer certain loyalties in the national police. I, personally, I’ve been a victim of the DEA, because sometimes they even protected drug traffickers. If they really fought against drug trafficking, it would be very different.
And when they do an operation against drugs, it’s always with political ends. When I was a representative and we had the proper documentation, they asked Evo the information about—personal information about Evo Morales and also the MAS officers. The DEA investigated directly the financial entities. Since they couldn’t find anything, they kept quiet. Once, a reporter from the newspaper called Opinion in Cochabamba told me, not publicly, just in person, that he had talked to the DEA, and the DEA were really doing investigations, but just with political ends. And that newspaper man told me that “the DEA investigated you, and they didn’t find anything.” And lately, when I was already in the government, but when the communications were in hands of the telecom company from Italy, a team of the DEA were listening phone calls to be able to spy on me. This is a political thing. And that is why that happened.
So by talking about drug-trafficking, the fight against that, I mean, this is the most advanced things in Bolivia, because we are talking about the coca growing and the confiscation of the shipments. And so, when we declared persona non grata the US ambassador, we—they say we are protecting, but that is not the culture of the indigenous people—drugs—but we want to reduce, with compensation—well, if we don’t do it the proper way, it’s not going to be any good.
And our proposal has been very clear. There is not going to be zero coca leaves growing. Therefore, we have to actually control the coca growing, but we have a very small portion, per family. It’s forty meters by forty meters—it’s not very big—per family. It’s very, very small. It’s just like the backyard of anybody’s house. And that will allow us to have a self-control, the social control. Even though we do have promise, this is how we are fighting. And we will fight drug trafficking with or without the help of the US, because this is an obligation my government has to fight against the evil that it happens, it causes on human beings.
AMY GOODMAN: So you’ll never let the Drug Enforcement agents from the Drug Enforcement Administration back in?
PRESIDENT EVO MORALES: [translated] We are getting organized, and we are actually setting up a national intelligence in collaboration with our neighbors Argentina, Chile, Brazil. And that way, the fight against drug trafficking is going to be more effective, but it’s going to be something that has a political element into it. If we don’t permit the DEA to come back, that doesn’t mean we’ll break relationships with the US.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking to the President of Bolivia, Evo Morales. He’s joining us in our firehouse studio for the hour. Stay with us.
AMY GOODMAN: Our guest for the hour is the President of Bolivia, the first indigenous president of Bolivia, Evo Morales. He is here in New York. I wanted to ask you about this unprecedented meeting that took place in September, led by the presidents of Argentina and Chile, took place in Chile, as the crisis in Bolivia was deepening. You were accusing the right-wing opposition governors of staging a violent—attempting to stage a coup against you, a violent coup. A number of peasants were killed there in Bolivia. Do you think the United States was involved with this?
PRESIDENT EVO MORALES: [translated] Well, from the time I was sworn in as president of the republic in 2006, the opposition continually tried to stop my presidency. During the first few months, they said, “Oh, poor little Indian,” that “he’s going to be four, five, six months as president, and then he’s going to leave. He’s not going to be able to lead, to be in the government.” Nevertheless, a year went by, and I was still president. I gave my speech to the Bolivian people.
And from that time on, what did the opposition do? They said, “We think that this Indian is going to stay here for a long time. We have to do something.” That something is like, get him out. In the financial and political issues, with false arguments that I was going to end with private property in Bolivia, they tried constantly to wear me down.
AMY GOODMAN: Who is they?
PRESIDENT EVO MORALES: [translated] The opposition, the right-wing parties, the fascists and the racists, the rest of the neoliberalism.
And since they couldn’t do anything, well, they also realized with a dirty campaign against Evo Morales, they wanted a hard vote against Evo Morales. And this year in September or October, they decided to do a civil coup, a violent coup, even though last year a commander of the armed forces announced publicly that they wanted to use the armed forces for a military coup.
But this year, what are they doing? These opposition groups, first of all, they try to overtake the national police. They couldn’t do it. They hit the members of the armed forces, they attacked them. But they couldn’t occupy the headquarters. But they did—they were able to secure some airports in the eastern part of the country, so that when the president and the ministers had to use those airports, they couldn’t use it. And they overtook more than sixty communities in Tarija and other places. And this is terrorism. They bring guns. They destroyed gas tax between Bolivia and Brazil. So that is really messing up the patrimony of the state, really.
Finally, there was a reaction of the peasant movement to recuperate INRA, which is the National Institute for Agrarian Reform, the offices. It has the charge of actually giving back the land to the indigenous people and to the peasants. And then there was a massacre. Look, they tried to occupy and take over the armed forces [inaudible]—that is sedition—and then to take the national patrimony and to burn gas. And this is terrorism. And as UNASUL declare, that there was a massacre in Pando, and this is genocide. We went through that.
But in those three aspects, you can see that there was an attempted coup that didn’t succeed. And I want to salute that, and that is the reason why I’m here in the US. I want to express my respect to the international community, because everybody condemned the coup against democracy to the rule of law, but—everybody but the US, but the ambassador of the US. It’s incredible.
JUAN GONZALEZ: Mr. President, I’d like to ask you, in previous visits, we’ve talked about the long struggle to craft a new constitution for Bolivia. And our understanding now is it’s finally been crafted and that it will go to a referendum in January. What are your expectations on this referendum? And what does the new constitution signify for Bolivia?
PRESIDENT EVO MORALES: [translated] I feel a great optimism, because we suffered a lot of discrimination, and they have called me monkey, animal, not capable of anything. And I don’t think that they have treated [President-elect] Obama the same way they treated Morales, by the opposition. Because I feel this optimism, I think we are going to succeed with the new constitution that will guarantee a united Bolivia, with guarantees for the people and a plural national state with everybody—black, white, mixed breeds, indigenous people—they are going to be united. And the law is going to include a plurality for people. It will guarantee private property, collective communal property, and also state property that belongs to the people, such as the state companies, such as the hydrocarbon industry.
But also, the new constitution will allow the Bolivian state—rather, that we are not going to allow any settlement of any military base on Bolivian soil. We will not. And we also renounce to declaring war against any of our neighbors, because war is not good for any country in any part of the world.
And the most important thing is that public services—water, telephone, energy, electricity—this is a human right. And so, it has to be a public service and not a private business.
Yes, we can talk about a lot of social achievements and civil liberties, and so on and so forth, and equality between men and women, but according some experts, this new constitution is one of the most advanced constitutions socially.
And for the first time in Bolivian history—200 years of republican life, we’ve had—this draft law will be either approved or rejected by the people, by Bolivians. We had twenty different constitutions, but just a few, a few families, a few politicians were ruling. And they didn’t take into consideration the Bolivian people. We will have a referendum, and it will be either rejected or approved, but it will be with awareness through the vote and not through violence, as it happened before with the fascist and racist groups.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to have to go to break again, but when we come back, I want to ask you about the G20 summit and what is called here “free trade.” This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, the War and Peace Report. We’re talking to the President of Bolivia—he’s here in New York in our firehouse studio—Evo Morales. Stay with us.
AMY GOODMAN: Our guest for the hour is the President of Bolivia, Evo Morales. The G20 summit that’s just taken place in Washington, what are your thoughts on it?
PRESIDENT EVO MORALES: [translated] Well, finally, everybody has a right to get together, to meet. But if we are talking about a financial crisis, all countries should actually be there, and it also should be talked about at the UN. If there was a meeting of the G20, I can imagine that they are the only ones who are responsible for the financial crisis, so they have to meet, because they are responsible. Well, as I say, we all have the right to meet in groups, but this is a world problem. And the government of the US and the president of the assembly should actually call for a meeting to listen to everybody and to find solutions all together to the problem.
And according to the measures that the G20 decide upon, they are investing millions and millions of dollars, but these millions only go to the people who caused the crisis, not to the people that need the money. So, those millions of dollars should go to the victims and not to the people who caused the crisis. And so, the people that had mortgages, who couldn’t pay, or loans, or people who lost their employment, I am sure that everybody would think that it would be better that the G20 would do otherwise. I think it’s important not only that the different states participate in this financial crisis. Otherwise, there should be like an authority that will be above nationalities, above the nations that will decide.
So, Bolivia is going to be affected how? Well, the prices of our natural resources are going to go down and also many remittances. But we are ready to face this crisis, this financial crisis, and we will overcome this problem of trade, because the state is an entity that regulates the national economy and not the free market. Besides that, an important question when I became president, the reserves for the Bolivian treasury was $1,700,000. And right now, we have $8 billion. Between 2004, 2005, and in 2004, the reserves were never more than $1 billion in Bolivia. In a little bit of time, we have improved. So this gives us security that we can face this very deep financial crisis.
JUAN GONZALEZ: What do you see this crisis that started in the United States and Britain and other European countries—what does it say about the economic model that the United States has been pressing on the rest of the world now for several decades?
PRESIDENT EVO MORALES: [translated] Well, the present models in place are not a good solution for humanity, for human beings, because it’s based on injustice and inequality. And that’s why I think there is a rebellion in Latin America against that model, that business model. Trade which is actually posed by the International Trade Organization is not a good solution either. According to my experience in my country, it is important to have the state present to overlook not only in social issues, but basically also looking into structural issues. In summary, I want to tell you that the neoliberalism is no solution for humankind, because it’s not viable.
JUAN GONZALEZ: In that vein, Argentina recently decided to nationalize the private pensions that had been developed for many of its workers, something that was not looked upon well by the financial community here in the United States. Do you see Latin American leaders going more in the direction of nationalizing resources that were sold off in previous decades?
PRESIDENT EVO MORALES: [translated] Yes, we started nationalizing in Bolivia the hydrocarbons, for example. That doesn’t mean that the investors are going to lose their investment. As a state, we need partners, but we don’t want them to be owners of our resources. The national government guarantees that the investment can be recovered, but also we have to watch how much of that is recovered.
We also nationalized Entel, which is the telecommunications company. It was in the hands of a transnational. This company invested only where there was more population and to be able to have a lot of clients. But this is a human right. Communication is a human right, as I was saying before. You have to go into the rural areas. It doesn’t matter if you lose money, because we have to give them telecommunications.
And I feel that this process will continue on, because just I’m talking about natural resources and basic services. We want the presence of the state or the different states in social issues and structural issues. But it’s important to have the participation of the state nationalizing different companies or entities.
AMY GOODMAN: President Morales, many saw the election in the United States of Barack Obama as a kind of global election. What do you think is the single most important thing President Obama can do?
PRESIDENT EVO MORALES: [translated] I cannot tell him anything or advise. Well, I think that this is a democracy, and this president has been elected through the vote through the people. And I repeat what I said a few moments ago. The same way as I was talking about the discrimination and offenses that I suffered, in the history of Bolivia, the indigenous movement has kept going on, but it has been always the sector that has been the most humiliated and that suffered the most.
In the past, also here, the Afro-American movement suffered great discrimination. And now, since we have a president as we have, maybe this group won’t be discriminated against. I say that because I have gone through that same experience, because in Bolivia there are some groups who think that indigenous people cannot govern, they cannot be presidents. They think that they are the only ones who went to school and that are prepared to rule, to dominate.
AMY GOODMAN: In terms of attitude to Latin America, from Cuba to Venezuela, the President of the United States?
PRESIDENT EVO MORALES: [translated] I hope enormously that relations can be improved. I hope that the US, with President-elect, will end the trade blockade. I hope that our relations will improve and that journalists will be able to help us and will be able to go deeper into the issues. We want to complement each other to serve our people. We all need each other. What is good for the people is good for the states. So we have a certain hope for our people, because of the elections that will favor the most discriminated-upon segments of the population.
JUAN GONZALEZ: I’d like to ask you, in today’s New York Times, influential paper here in the United States, calls for the Congress to approve a free trade agreement with Colombia. Your sense of how these free trade agreements have been operating in Latin America?
PRESIDENT EVO MORALES: [translated] Any country has a freedom to sign a free trade agreement with any other country. Each region, each nation is different. For Bolivia, this is not a solution, a free trade policy. Trade is important, but we want a fair trade that will allow to solve poverty, that will favor the most poor segments of society. And we also are working on collective companies and also small companies and medium companies. And sometimes we actually have also the collaboration of people who work in these types of businesses. If, for some people, free trade agreements are the solution, well, test time will actually show whether it was good or it was bad. But I can talk about my country. My country, even the agro-industrial people, about five or seven years ago, they were actually protesting against the free importation of goods.
AMY GOODMAN: You are headed from here, New York, today to Washington. You’ll go to the Lincoln Monument. You will be honoring Dr. King there, Dr. Martin Luther King. Why?
PRESIDENT EVO MORALES: [translated] I want to honor my brothers, the movement, the Afro-American movement. I have the obligation to honor the people who preceded us, the ones who fought for the respect of human rights and rights in general.
AMY GOODMAN: I want to thank you very much for being with us. We have been joined for the hour by the President of Bolivia, Evo Morales.
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Monday, November 17, 2008
Submitted by davidswanson on Mon, 2008-11-17
Citing Administration’s Failure and Unwillingness to use funds to Prevent Foreclosures, as Congress Intended
Washington D.C. (November 17, 2008) – Representative Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) today sent a letter to Representative Barney Frank, Chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, recommending that Congress inform the White House that it will not authorize the second $350 billion tranche of the bailout funds to the Treasury Department. The Financial Services Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing tomorrow examining oversight of the implementation of the bailout and of government lending and insurance facilities.
Kucinich heads the Domestic Policy Subcommittee, which held a hearing last Friday at which Mr. Neel Kashkari, the Interim Assistant Secretary for Financial Stability, testified. Two days prior, Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson announced that the Troubled Asset Relief Program, a fund created by Congress to unfreeze credit markets and purchase troubled mortgage assets to prevent their foreclosure, would not be used to purchase mortgage assets.
“It was clear from Interim Assistant Secretary Kashkari’s testimony that, contrary to Congressional intent, the Treasury Department has not and does not intend to use TARP for foreclosure prevention. In addition to breaking with Congressional intent, Secretary Paulson’s policy reversal contradicts public assurances previously made by the Treasury Department and leaves the federal government without an adequate mechanism to stem the rising tide of home foreclosures. Because the Treasury Department refuses to spend the resources Congress made available for foreclosure prevention, I recommend that we inform the President that we will withhold the second installment of $350 billion until a new administration takes office.” Kucinich writes.
The full text of the letter follows:
November 17, 2008
The Honorable Barney Frank
Committee on Financial Services
2129 Rayburn HOB
Washington, DC 20515
Dear Chairman Frank:
I write to commend you for your leadership in addressing the foreclosure crisis and repairing its effects on neighborhoods and to outline what I believe are the insufficient efforts of the Department of Treasury to combat the crisis. When the magnitude of the subprime and Alt-A mortgage crisis threatened the entire financial system, you led Congressional efforts in negotiating and drafting the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 (EESA) to achieve the twin objectives of unfreezing capital markets and preventing unnecessary foreclosures. Giving the Department of Treasury broad latitude, EESA nonetheless explicitly authorized the purchase of troubled mortgage assets by the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), to be accompanied by a plan to minimize foreclosures on those properties. Unfortunately, the Department of Treasury has not exercised its authority properly.
On November 12, 2008, Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson, Jr. announced that TARP would not acquire troubled mortgage assets, as Congress had envisioned. My Subcommittee held a hearing on November 14, 2008, where we heard testimony from Interim Assistant Secretary for Financial Stability Neel Kashkari, the top Treasury official in charge of the TARP, as well as a number of noted industry, academic, and legal experts. It was clear from Interim Assistant Secretary Kashkari’s testimony that, contrary to Congressional intent, the Treasury Department has not and does not intend to use TARP for foreclosure prevention. In addition to breaking with Congressional intent, Secretary Paulson’s policy reversal contradicts public assurances previously made by the Treasury Department and leaves the federal government without an adequate mechanism to stem the rising tide of home foreclosures. Because the Treasury Department refuses to spend the resources Congress made available for foreclosure prevention, I recommend that we inform the President that we will withhold the second installment of $350 billion until a new administration takes office.
Treasury Profoundly Misunderstands the EESA and the Mortgage Crisis
At the hearing, Interim Assistant Secretary Kashkari demonstrated a profound misunderstanding of both the purposes of EESA and the mortgage crisis underlying the financial crisis. Mr. Kashkari testified that the TARP must be limited to “investments” rather than other uses, such as the proposal by Chairman Sheila Bair of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation for federally guaranteed loan modifications. Not only is his interpretation inconsistent with the clear statutory authority granted the Treasury Department in EESA, it is inconsistently applied by Mr. Kashkari. As Ranking Minority Member Darrell Issa pointed out at the hearing, the Treasury Department’s use of TARP to make preferred equity purchases under its Capital Purchase Program hardly qualify as pursuing an investment strategy with TARP funds, if investment is understood as a means of maximizing profit. Mr. Kashkari was forced to admit that the equity purchases were subsidies, rather than investments: “our objective was to create a program that would encourage thousands of banks across our country to voluntarily apply… so we intentionally made it attractive for them to want to apply.”
Second, Mr. Kashkari displayed a misunderstanding of the cause of and solution to the mortgage crisis. For instance, he testified, “[B]ringing mortgage rates down for borrowers is the best thing we could do to try to help homeowners avoid foreclosure and stabilizing our housing sector.” While low interest rates would help to stimulate home sales and new home construction, they would neither protect current borrowers from imminent foreclosure nor provide certainty to lenders or the secondary market about the true cost of existing toxic mortgage assets, a crucial building block to restoring mortgage lending.
Third, Mr. Kashkari employed a verbal sleight of hand to create the impression that the EESA was being implemented to help prevent foreclosures, when in fact it was not. Mr. Kashkari often referred to “Treasury” to discuss foreclosure prevention efforts, when the subject of his testimony and his relevant job responsibilities is “TARP.” We know, of course, that these terms relate to distinct entities and are not interchangeable. TARP is an asset acquisition fund, a subdivision of Treasury Department, created by EESA. Treasury, meanwhile, is the overarching regulator of the financial services industry and chief interpreter of the nation’s tax laws. The Treasury Department issued three Revenue Procedures in the past year aimed at encouraging mortgage servicers to perform more loan modifications. TARP was created by Congress after those Revenue Procedures failed on their own to effect a sufficient increase in loan modifications.
Fourth, Mr. Kashkari argued that TARP’s primary function was reestablishing liquidity and stability to the financial system. It is commonly known, however, that the troubles of the broader financial system trace their roots to millions of troubled subprime and Alt-A mortgages. Without addressing the underlying damage posed by troubled mortgage assets, Mr. Kashkari’s strategy cannot accomplish the stabilization goal of EESA.
Reducing Principal is the Necessary Federal Objective
TARP is being misused from the standpoint of EESA’s twin objectives of unfreezing credit markets and preventing foreclosures. Loan modifications, rather than low interest rates, hold the key to realizing EESA’s objectives. Indeed, as Professor Anthony Sanders testified, “[I]t is clear that home preservation and solving system risk problems can be accomplished with a sensible loan modification template of Treasury decides to deploy it.” Treasury should be pursuing
mechanism by which troubled mortgage loans can be modified in large numbers to achieve the twin goals simultaneously.
However, not all loan modifications are equal. Research by Credit Suisse demonstrates that traditional loan modifications, including extensions of term, temporarily lower interest rate, and forbearance have high redefault rates, indicating that many borrowers are not more able to make mortgage payments after receiving traditional loan modifications. However, two kinds of modifications demonstrated much lower redefault (higher success) rates: interest rate freezes for loans facing imminent reset of an adjustable rate mortgage, and principal reduction modifications for loans in default.
There is ample evidence that so-called “reset modifications” are being aggressively deployed by mortgage servicers. According to Credit Suisse, the real growth in loss- mitigation activity is largely attributable to reset modifications, while other traditional modifications that result in a lower monthly payment—including forbearance, repayment plans, extension of loan terms, lower interest rate—have also grown to a lesser extent. Notably, the servicing industry increased its performance of reset modifications after Treasury issued a Rev. Proc. 2007-72, creating a safe harbor from loss of the REMIC tax status for performance of reset modifications.
Principal reductions are seen by experts as solving both a borrower’s inability to make mortgage payments and unwillingness to make mortgage payments when the loan greatly exceeds the value of the house. Providing for a solution to this latter problem is extremely significant, especially in large portions of the nation where housing prices inflated fastest and longest. As Professor Sanders testified, “[W]e are in unchartered territory to the extent that there has never been a period in our history where homeowners could be as much as 50% upside down on the mortgage.”
However, the mortgage servicing industry has not moved toward making large numbers of principal modifications. In fact, all but a few servicers avoid performing principal modifications. Only one company, Ocwen, accounted for 70 percent of all principal modifications found by Credit Suisse. In spite of Rev. Proc. 2008-28, which created a safe harbor for principal modifications, they remain a rarely exercised option by mortgage servicers.
Thus, principal reduction must be at the centerpiece of a program of loan modifications, and the role of the Federal government should be to facilitate massive numbers of them. Clearly, the private market is unable or unwilling to perform principal modifications in sufficient numbers, and the Treasury Department’s rulemaking is not an adequate stimulus on its own. In addition, the federal government should learn lessons from mortgage servicers that have distinguished themselves for aggressively performing principal modifications. Mr. Larry Litton, Chairman, Litton Loan Servicing LP, and one of the nation’s leading performers of principal modifications, testified that while principal modifications are necessary, they are not sufficient if they do not go far enough to make the loan affordable to the borrower. In an effort to curb redefault rates among loans receiving principal modifications, his company is now aiming toward reducing enough principal to result in a debt-to-income ratio of 31%, down from 39%. Many others also believe that modified loan-to-value ratio should not exceed 100% to 110%.
Options for the TARP to Prevent Foreclosures
Witnesses at the Subcommittee’s hearing testified to a number of ways to use TARP to facilitate a massive program of principal modifications. For example, Professor Michael Barr’s written testimony outlined a mechanism where the Treasury Department would use TARP to purchase whole troubled mortgages out of securitized trusts. While there are a number of technical challenges to doing this, testimony at my hearing made clear that the industry believes they can be overcome. Indeed, Mr. Tom Deutsch of the American Securitization Forum, a trade association representing all parties to asset-backed securitizations, testified that the barriers are surmountable and investors would be willing to sell troubled assets to the government at a discount from face value. TARP funds could be used to guarantee home mortgages meeting Treasury Department guidelines, similar to a recent proposal by FDIC. This idea was effectively disqualified by the Treasury Department for violating the fictitious “investment” rule. Professor Barr also recommended that TARP could find a way to pay servicers to restructure loans according to Treasury Department guidelines.
It is also possible that a new Treasury Department and Congress will want to consider further rulemakings and legislation. Barring some acute financial breakdown, I believe Congress should withhold the second installment of $350 billion for the TARP, and that we should inform the President before his administration requests it. In fact, every expert that testified in front of my Subcommittee last Friday agreed that it would be prudent of Congress to preserve these resources pending the new Administration. Withholding the second installment would preserve the ability of the incoming administration to reconsider Secretary Paulson’s policy reversal, and allow Congress to legislate further, while preserving a significant portion of the funds Congress has already made available for the purpose of preventing foreclosures.
Dennis J. Kucinich
Domestic Policy Subcommittee
cc: Darrell Issa
Ranking Minority Member
 See EESA, Section 109(a) (“[T]he Secretary may use loan guarantees and credit enhancements to facilitate loan modifications to prevent avoidable foreclosures.”).
 Credit Suisse, Subprime Loan Modifications Update, (October 1, 2008).
 Id., at Exhibit 3.
 Id., at 7.
 Rev. Proc. 2008-28 allows principal write-downs for residential mortgage loans on dwellings of less than 5 units. Treasury imposes a relatively loose standard allowing servicers considerable latitude: the servicer “reasonably” believes that the loan faces a “significant risk of foreclosure,” and “reasonably” believes his loan modification is less risky than the terms of the original loan. Treasury goes on to explain that “[t]his reasonable belief may be based on guidelines developed as part of a foreclosure prevention program similar to that described in … this revenue procedure or may be based on any other credible systematic determination.” Rev. Proc. 2008-28’s effective duration is until December 2010.
 Three month rolling average of principal modifications, as a percent of total modifications, has risen from 1.4% in September 2007, to 3.9% in August 2008. Source: Staff calculations from Credit Suisse data.AND
Conservative senator: Paulson may have given bailout money to friends
On Election Day, Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! went to Malcolm X Boulevard in Harlem to interview voters. She asked 18-year-old Diamond, a first-time voter, why she voted for Barack Obama: “Because he’s the best … Obama’s going to make a change, going to cure everything, make everything perfect. I believe in him.”
Listening to Diamond and her friends, with shouts of “yeah Obama!” in the background, one might have gotten the impression Goodman was interviewing the just-saved at a pay-for-heaven revival instead of young voters in a historic presidential election. Diamond’s palpable enthusiasm and her refreshingly naïve faith in her candidate are, paradoxically, both reassuring and unsettling.
Diamond and her friends are among the 95 percent of African American voters 18-29 who voted for Obama. Seventy-five percent of Hispanic and 54 percent of white voters in that same age group cast their ballot for him as well.
That a handsome, intelligent, charismatic man whose genome was sufficiently ambiguous enough to break the color barrier has reached savior status and motivated 2.2 million more young people than in 2004 to vote is a reassuring sign that democracy in America can compete with the insularity of ipods and cell phones.
However, the religious-like furor and blind faith that young—and many older—voters have in Obama that he will single-handedly raise America up from the ashes of the Bush presidency and create a “shining city upon a hill” are unsettling.
President-elect Obama is, first and foremost, a consummate politician who has no doubt compromised himself to become the zenith star of one of the two political parties that control the electoral process, and whose well-heeled and connected sponsors are not at all interested in “change you can believe in” if it adversely affects their bottom line or their particular agenda.
Diamond and her friends should let the post victory euphoria subside and then ask Obama a few questions. They need to call in some chits, which will be redeemable only until November 2012.
Diamond might ask him why he was too busy on the campaign trail last February to go on congressional record by voting for the Intelligence Authorization Bill, which banned torture as an interrogation technique. He owes Diamond more of an explanation than it was a politically prudent absence.
Diamond might ask the President-elect why early in his campaign he promised to begin withdrawing troops from Iraq on day one of his presidency, which played well with the dove vote, only to later adjust his withdrawal policy “based on the advice of military commanders,” which played well with the hawk vote. She might also ask about his apparent support for the Bush Doctrine of preemptive strikes against any country deemed to be a threat to US security. Obama owes Diamond more of an explanation than Bush-era bromides about winning the “war on terror.”
Diamond might ask the first president of color—though not a descendant of American slaves—how he can support and defend Israel’s brutal apartheid policies regarding the Palestinians, or what signal his appointment of Rahm Israel Emanuel as Chief of Staff sends to Arabs in the Middle East. Emanuel is literally a son of Israel who rabidly supports its occupation of the West Bank, its imprisonment and unconscionable blockade of the Gaza Strip, and its 2006 invasion of Lebanon. This is not a good faith move for brokering a just and lasting peace in Middle East.
Obama owes Diamond more of an explanation than Israel is our most important ally in the Middle East whose “security is sacrosanct” and “non-negotiable.” He needs to explain to Diamond that national politicians must first pledge allegiance to Israel before they can swear to “protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.” Diamond and her friends need to know that Israel’s shadow government on K Street dictates Middle East policy to American presidents. Consequently, in the “war on terror” America’s security is second to that of Israel’s.
Most importantly, Diamond might ask the new president who will be heard the most often. Will it be the voices of the 1.5 million small contributors ($200 or less) to his staggering $850 million war chest, or will it be the whispers of a relatively few on Wall Street and K Street? If Diamond knew that Obama’s economic advisors are the same people who a decade ago helped dismantle Depression-era banking regulations, which has lead to the current economic meltdown and trillion-dollar-plus bailout, she would have her answer.
Moments after Amy Goodman interviewed Diamond, she asked an older, unidentified woman—a mother who wants her daughter to go to college—why she had voted for Obama: “I was going to give my vote to someone else, but since she didn’t win, I gave it to him … I just hope he do—I know he can’t do everything, but just do something better than what it is. That’s all.”
President Obama does not owe Diamond perfection, neither can he “cure everything,” but he does owe her the promise to ”do something better than what it is.”
And “something better” will only happen if Diamond and her friends have not already plugged in their earphones and flipped open their cell phones waiting for President Obama to “cure everything.” If they are not calling or text messaging the White House and making their voices heard above the whispers, their “savior” will continue to be nothing but a politician.
by Mickey Z.
Let’s say the New York Times hired a charismatic black man in his late 40s to run the newspaper and this popular man promised change. And let’s say I wrote an article that talked about what this man should do, what I hoped he’d do. For example: reduce the business section to a page, add a labor section, start covering people’s movements and protests, refuse advertising dollars from corporations that pollute, and hire me to run the op-ed page. Justifiably, I’d be called delusional and I’d be ridiculed for even suggesting such insane expectations.
Let’s say Perdue hired a charismatic black man in his late 40s to run the company and this popular man promised change. And let’s say I wrote an article that talked about what this man should do, what I hoped he’d do. For example: renounce the chicken slaughter business, shift operations to selling organic, locally-grown vegan food, and donate vast amounts of money to farm sanctuaries. Justifiably, I’d be called delusional and I’d be ridiculed for even suggesting such insane expectations.
Let’s say America elected a charismatic black man in his late 40s to run the country and this popular man promised change. And let’s say Howard Zinn wrote an article that talked about what this man should do, what he hoped he’d do. For example: “announce the withdrawal of our troops from Iraq and Afghanistan” and “renounce the Bush doctrine of preventive war as well as the Carter doctrine of military action to control Mideast oil.” Also: “radically change the direction of U.S. foreign policy, declare that the U.S. is a peace loving country which will not intervene militarily in other parts of the world, and start dismantling the military bases we have in over a hundred countries. Also he must begin meeting with Medvedev, the Russian leader, to reach agreement on the dismantling of the nuclear arsenals, in keeping with the Nuclear Anti-Proliferation Treaty.” Then raise taxes on the rich and combine that windfall with the hundreds of billions of dollars freed from the military budget to “give free health care to everyone (and) put millions of people to work” and thus “transform” the United States and “make it a good neighbor to the world.”
Well, Howard Zinn has written such an article (“Obama’s Historic Victory,” Nov. 12, 2008) but is anyone calling him delusional and ridiculing him for even suggesting such insane expectations? The tens of thousands of readers who look to Zinn as a trusted voice of wisdom and reason are being dangerously misled by an article that omits the reality that every indication points to Barack Obama doing the exact opposite of what Zinn writes. Zinn knows as well as anyone that not an iota of evidence exists that Obama would do anything approaching what is described above. For a man of Zinn’s stature on the Left to even hint of such a possibility is a shockingly irresponsible act and one that only contributes to the misguided perception that Obama’s election is somehow a victory for the progressive Left.
Mickey Z. can be found on the Web at http://www.mickeyz.net.
The Zapatista Army of National Liberation is an armed revolutionary group based in Chiapas, one of the poorest states of Mexico. Since 1994, they have been in a declared war “against the Mexican state.” Their social base is most indigenous but they have supporters in urban areas as well as an international web of support.
Their main spokesperson is Subcomandante Marcos. The group takes their name form Emiliano Zapata, the anarchist commander of the Liberation Army of the South during the Mexican Revolution, and thus see themselves as his ideological heirs. In reference to inspirational figures, in nearly all EZLN villages exist murals accompanying images of revolutionaries Emiliano Zapata, Che Guevara, and Subcomandante Marcos.
Some consider the Zapatista movement the first “post-modern” revolution: an armed revolutionary group that has abstained from using their weapons since their 1994 uprising was countered by the overpowering military might of the Mexican Army. The Zapatistas try to garner support by making use of the Internet to disseminate their communiqués. Awareness has also been raised due to the support by the band Rage Against the Machine. The Zapatista feature prominently in the band’s songs, in particular “People of the Sun.”
Critics argue that for over a decade, the United States has been striving to create commercial inroads into Latin America by way of bilateral free trade agreements that benefit U.S. economic interests to the detriment of those of Latin America. A recent example of this trend was the passage of the Dominican Republic–Central America Free Trade Agreement (DR-CAFTA), a pact designed to promote trade and foreign investment between the U.S. and its Caribbean Basin neighbors. The agreement was signed in 2004 by El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Costa Rica, Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic. Most DR-CAFTA countries finalized the deal a few years later; El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua implemented the agreement in 2006, and the Dominican Republic followed in 2007.
This analysis was prepared by COHA Research Associate Mary Tharin
When it was being negotiated, advocates of DR-CAFTA repeatedly assured skeptics that the agreement was a “win-win” situation, arguing that it would economically benefit all countries involved. The White House issued a statement proclaiming that “expanded trade opportunities will improve life in Central America and the Dominican Republic.” The World Bank concurred, reporting that “the treaty holds the potential of increasing trade and investment in the region, which in turn is key to lifting economic growth and improving the welfare of the people of Central America and the DR, including those living in poverty.” Similarly, El Salvador Ambassador Rene León enthusiastically stated that “people are expecting from DR-CAFTA better living conditions, more economic opportunities, and more social equity.” It was argued that DR-CAFTA would expand Central America’s export market, create jobs in textile production and other manufacturing industries, and lower the prices of consumer goods. However, two years have now passed since some Central American countries implemented DR-CAFTA’s mandates, and governments, farmers, and workers across the region are beginning to suffer the consequences of an unfair deal.
Nothing Gained on Trade
Contrary to initial promises, DR-CAFTA has largely failed to expand Central American export markets, instead bolstering imports from the U.S. to the region. In fact, Central American countries were better off prior to DR-CAFTA. Before this new deal was signed, 80 percent of Central American exports already entered the U.S. duty-free under existing agreements including the Caribbean Basin Initiative, which was implemented in 1984. Under this previous initiative, Central American countries maintained tariffs on many U.S. imports to prevent goods from flooding domestic markets and paralyzing the growth of nascent industries in the region. However, in a push to implement DR-CAFTA, the Bush administration threatened Central American governments with the removal of existing trade preferences, thus strong-arming them into signing an agreement that was not truly in their best interests. Despite rhetoric about DR-CAFTA’s benefits to Central America, the accord was in fact designed to remove the region’s existing protective tariffs, “leveling the playing field” to give the U.S. significantly more access to Central American markets.
Upon implementing DR-CAFTA, Central American governments removed all tariffs on 80 percent of U.S. industrial goods and most agricultural products. United States Trade Representative Robert B. Zoellick enthusiastically pointed out that “small countries can be big export markets for the United States,” and went on to say that “CAFTA will expand opportunities for U.S. exports in everything from construction equipment to high-tech software, from fruits and vegetables to financial services.” Indeed, many Central American countries have seen imports from the U.S. grow dramatically since the implementation of DR-CAFTA. In 2006, imports to El Salvador from the United States jumped 16.7%, turning the country’s previous trade surplus of $118 million into a deficit of over $286 million. Likewise, in Honduras and Guatemala, trade deficits with the U.S. multiplied by 2 and 3 times in the first year after DR-CAFTA’s implementation. Not surprisingly, these uneven trade balances are causing negative repercussions in a number of Central American and Caribbean countries, and consequently lowering the standard of living across the region.
Agriculture Loses Out
With the loss of protective import tariffs, most Central American farmers have no chance of competing with the U.S. government-subsidized agricultural sector. For example, economist and CAFTA specialist Adolfo Acevedo explains that farmers in the Sébaco Valley of Nicaragua can produce rice for about US$8.45 per 100 pounds, while U.S. farmers produce the same amount for US$9.40. According to Acevedo, this should imply a comparative advantage for Nicaraguan farmers. However, due to government subsidies, U.S. rice enters the Nicaraguan market at the artificially low price of $7.65 and beats out domestic producers. Rice and corn, two of the most heavily subsidized U.S. crops, have flooded into Central American markets as a result of DR-CAFTA. Between 2006 and 2007, rice exports to the region rose 31 percent, while corn exports rose by 36 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Nevertheless, DR-CAFTA enthusiasts argue that Central American farmers can gain through the production of “specialty products” – fruits, nuts, and other goods not produced in the United States – for which the region would have a comparative advantage. However, the vast majority of Central American farmers do not have the capacity to trade these products on the international market. Small to medium-scale producers, a category that includes about 80 percent of farmers in countries like Nicaragua, are unable to produce such product lines on a large enough scale to compete in the export market or to comply with strict sanitary standards imposed by U.S. regulations. According to Matilde Rocha, a Nicaraguan activist, “the producers of specialty products are [often] too small to export individually and they lack knowledge about the rules of the market and trade regulations.” Thus, most of these farmers are forced to either sell their products to intermediary export companies (which skim off most of the profits) or to sell their land to large-scale agro-businesses.
This has led to the concentration of the food export industry into a very limited number of hands. In Nicaragua, 70 percent of the country’s export earnings go to a mere fifty businesses that possess the facilities and capital to take advantage of trade with the U.S. To cite an example, only one dairy processing plant in the entire country has the capacity to pasteurize milk according to USDA standards, and that plant is owned by a foreign dairy conglomerate, Parmalat. Thus, while Central American economies may have experienced a moderate amount of growth over the past few years, the benefits of U.S. trade are being reaped by only a select few, causing economic inequality to sharpen throughout the region.
Labor and the Maquiladora
In response to the contraction of agricultural sectors in Central America, supporters of DR-CAFTA promised a boom in manufacturing jobs as a result of direct investment from the United States. However, jobs at “maquiladoras” (U.S.-financed assembly plants) not only provide low wages and poor working conditions, but they are also proving to be more scarce than had been predicted by overly optimistic proponents of DR-CAFTA.
Maquiladora workers in Nicaragua earn about $0.70 per hour, making them some of the lowest paid garment workers in the world. According to a report by Witness for Peace, these workers often put in “10-12 hours a day in hot, airless facilities with few breaks and little choice about how many hours they work.” Furthermore, the ability of workers to protest and bargain collectively is severely limited in many Central American countries. A recent analysis by the International Labor Organization (ILO) found that labor laws in the region fall short of international standards in a number of areas, including restrictions of workers’ rights to strike. In April 2008, the AFL-CIO and five Guatemalan labor unions co-sponsored a petition to the U.S. government, which addressed several cases of failure on the part of the Guatemalan government to enforce its labor laws. The petition reported two incidents of union leaders being murdered, others receiving death threats, and many more being fired illegally due to union membership. With respect to DR-CAFTA, AFL-CIO president John Sweeney observed: “Guatemalan workers are being targeted for their union activity. Without the freedom from fear to join unions and bargain collectively, how can we expect any workers to benefit from a trade agreement?”
Many of these hardships facing Central American workers can be traced back to the weak language of DR-CAFTA’s labor charter. According to a Human Rights Watch report, “DR-CAFTA only has one enforceable labor rights requirement: that countries apply their own labor laws—even if they are grossly inadequate.” Governments are also allowed to modify their labor laws at any time. Thus, the United States is directly contributing to the daily strife facing Central American workers by promoting an economic arrangement that depends on low wages and poor labor standards, without ensuring reliable protections for workers’ rights.
A Race to the Bottom
In order to draw foreign investment into a developing country, governments often lure corporations by ensuring lower production costs through lax environmental and labor regulations. This creates a “race to the bottom,” with countries all over the world striving to offer the cheapest labor force, and the least protections against corporate exploitation of workers, communities, and the environment. This trend is being replicated across Central America. Earlier this year in Honduras, government officials and business interests struck a deal that lowered the wages of workers in the country’s poorest regions to 20 lempiras less than the national minimum wage. The Honduran popular mobilization coalition, Bloque Popular, reported that “this ‘incentive’ to investment in one of the poorest zones of the country was established so that the transnational companies do not leave for cheaper Nicaragua.”
Despite efforts to draw foreign investment through the exploitation of the region’s labor force, global competition is nevertheless hitting Central America particularly hard. In recent years, the United States has been importing an increasing percentage of textile goods from China and other Asian countries where labor is even cheaper. The New York Times reported that between January 2004 and January 2005, the number of cotton shirts imported by the U.S. from China jumped from less than 1 million to 18.2 million. As a reaction, Guatemala’s textile industry declined in 2007, forcing 35 factories to close and approximately 17,000 workers to lose their jobs. Although the Guatemalan textile industry originally backed DR-CAFTA, the Comisión de Vestuario y Textiles recently reported that textile export revenues have dropped since the accord was signed. These statistics point to a broader trend of investment flowing across the Pacific and away from Central America, despite the free trade agreement. Thus, people of the region are now left with fewer industrial jobs just as their agricultural sectors are disappearing and labor standards declining.
The Consumer Gets Squeezed
Free trade advocates have argued that, under DR-CAFTA, consumer prices in Central America would fall as a result of cheaper products flowing in from the United States. However, so-called cheap imports have failed to balance the dire effects of the global food crisis, which has caused food prices to rise drastically in the region. According to the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), between September 2006 and February 2008 the nominal cost of the basic food basket in Guatemala rose by 22.1%; in Honduras by 12.8%; and by 17% in El Salvador. As a result, an increasing proportion of the region’s poor must reduce the quality and quantity of their food intake, “creating a major risk of under-nutrition,” according to the WFP. Additionally, with their domestic agricultural sector crippled, Central Americans are replacing their traditional diet with unhealthy, processed imports from the United States. According to William Rodriguez at Managua’s Center for International Studies, “because the more accessible food to Nicaragua’s poor majority is unhealthy…the people are poisoning themselves by buying artificial food like cookies and chips.”
Certain restrictions written into DR-CAFTA are taking a further toll on the health of Central Americans by reducing access to affordable medications. According to an OXFAM report, the agreement has forced governments “to impose new, more stringent patent and related protections that seriously limit or delay the introduction of generic competition and reduce access to new, affordable generic drugs.” The Washington Post reported that “CAFTA imposes a five -to-10 year waiting period on generic competitors,” extending the ability of pharmaceutical monopolies to keep prices high. Indeed, six months after DR-CAFTA was implemented, imported medicines in the Dominican Republic almost tripled in price, according to a report by The Stop CAFTA Coalition.
A Sinking Ship
The recent economic downturn in the United States and across the world has caused significant alarm in Central America, especially due to the region’s close links with the U.S. economy. Some Central American officials have begun to question the wisdom behind integration with an economy that seems to be imploding, and are taking steps to immunize their own economies from the effects of the crisis. Member states of the Central American Integration System met on October 4, 2008 in Tegucigalpa, and agreed on a strategy to promote regional economic cooperation and development. The plan includes the investment of $5 billion into the region’s agricultural sector, with a special emphasis on grain production. However, it will be no easy task for Central America to withstand the economic decline of their number one trade partner, especially since economic integration with the U.S. has been developing over the past several decades. Costa Rican economist Eduardo Lizano summed up the problem by stating: “The chief hope was that Central America would receive increased investment to produce goods for export to the United States. With a considerably lower level of consumption in the United States, those investments will not be made and the expected benefits will not materialise, or will be diminished.” This points to one inherent danger of global integration: that it leaves countries vulnerable to the ripple effects of poor economic decisions made elsewhere in the world.
Where do we go from here?
Two years into the agreement, DR-CAFTA has failed to fulfill its promises in Central America. The pact has been controversial since its onset, drawing criticism from across the globe and sparking numerous popular protests in El Salvador, Costa Rica, and Guatemala. DR-CAFTA has plenty of critics in Washington as well; it passed the U.S. Senate and Congress by very slim margins of 54-45 in the Senate and 217-215 in the House. A new administration under Barack Obama, who voted against DR-CAFTA in the Senate, may re-address the stipulations of the accord, as the President-elect has promised to do with NAFTA. However, solving the chronic problems caused by this trade pact would require a vast overhaul of U.S. foreign policy, as well as a fundamental shift in its economic ideology. The United States should promote a foreign policy that values and promotes strong and stable allies through a fair-minded economic program that no longer rewards global exploitation. A major reassessment of DR-CAFTA, and the unbridled capitalistic profiteering which it embodies, could be an important step in this country’s path to progress and positive change in Latin America, and across the globe.
Many people with albinism are living in fear in Tanzania
A six-year-old albino girl in Burundi has been found dead with her head and limbs removed, in the latest killing linked to ritual medicine.
Albinos in the region have been targeted because of a belief peddled by witchdoctors that their body parts can be used for magic potions.
The girl, who was attacked on Sunday, was the sixth person with albinism to be killed in Burundi since September.
There have also been a number of attacks in neighbouring Tanzania.
The latest attack took place in Burundi's eastern province of Ruyigi.
The BBC's Prime Ndikumagenge in Burundi said the child and her family had only just returned to their family home.
Armed attackers broke into the family home and tied up the girl's parents before shooting her in the head, local officials say.
They had been among a group of about 50 people with albinism to have fled to a provincial centre because they feared for her safety.
The head of the Burundi Albinos' Association, Kasim Kazungu, says people with albinism had not suffered any discrimination until other Burundians heard about the lucrative trade in albino body parts in neighbouring Tanzania.
Last week, police in south-western Tanzania arrested a man who was attempting to sell his albino wife to Congolese traders. Two mothers in western Tanzania were also attacked with machetes after gangs failed to find their albino children.
Sunday, November 16, 2008
Astral Sex ~ Mmmm Yessss....
Once the exit out-of-body has been mastered and projectors begin tentatively exploring their new environment, another natural barrier will soon raise its ugly head. As projectors begin expanding their horizons they will soon begin encountering other projectors. Out-of-body sex (more commonly called astral sex) is a human-nature complication of consciousness and bioenergetic incarnation. It forms a strong natural barrier in the way it can hinder serious out-of-body operations. It severely limits projectors' time out, and hence what can be accomplished, in the control they have over sexual thoughts and urges. Sexual thoughts are veritable time bombs waiting to go off in the minds of projectors.
In real life, sexual thoughts and fantasy type sexual imagery pop into peoples minds all the time, privately and harmlessly. These are perfectly natural and do no harm whatsoever. In the sensitive out-of-body environment though, where projectors really are what they think, thoughts are not quite so private and harmless. Sexual thoughts not only affect the sensitive environment, but are also inflicted upon other projectors, often against their will. The quality of projectors' thoughts have a strong influence on OBE operations, as well as on any other projector or being they happen to come across. If sexual thoughts are not well controlled, projectors will not get very far or last very long in the OBE environment.
The telepathic, energetic and empathic linkage provided by the Silver Cord, between the physical/etheric body and its projected double(s), transmits energies and emotions back and forth between them. This includes sexual urges and energies generated by erotic thoughts. The sex instinct is one of the most powerful primal urges and, like all strong emotions, can cause serious energetic problems if allowed to flourish unchecked in the sensitive out-of-body environment. Unchecked sexual thoughts and urges can cause powerful energies to compound back and forth between the physical/etheric body and its projected double. This can cause a type of sexual energy feedback to occur which can have a powerful effect on projectors.
Real Time Sex:
Out of body sex is much more intense during a real time projection. The closer to real time a projector is, the more sensitive and vulnerable he/she is to sexual energies. There is a more direct energetic connection between the physical/etheric body and its real time projected double, than there is with its astral double; this being dimensionally more remote. Because of this, primary energy centers can become heavily involved when triggered by real time sexual encounters, especially the genital and base centers. These are the underlying causes of the intensity and speed of real time sexual encounters. Real-time sex can be almost instantaneous, as compared with an astral or lucid dream types of sexual encounters.
A real time sexual encounter, accidental or deliberate, always has the same outcome. It results in almost instantaneous orgasm for the physical body of the initiator. The same thing can also often happen to the initiator's passive or unwary sexual partner as well, when another projector is involved.
With real time sex between two living projectors, there is more at work than just emotional and sensory feedback between the physical and projected bodies of a single projector. The genital centers of both projector's can connect in a powerful way. This causes a flooding exchange of male and female sexual energies to occur between the physical bodies of both projectors, via their connecting Silver Cords, regardless of the genders of the projectors involved.
Once real time sex is triggered between two projectors, a strong two-way energetic connection forms. This can cause them both to experience uncontrollable sexual arousal which may be completely out of character for either of them. The sexual urge compounds back and forth, causing a shared real-time sexual experience and energy exchange. Each projector contributes to the intensity of the real time sex act, albeit often unwittingly. In most cases there is no deliberate intent on the part of the initiator of the real-time sex act; only a few stray sexual thoughts gone awry. Both projectors are victims of their own built-in sensitivity to sexual urges and energies, with these being greatly intensified in the sensitive out-of-body environment.
Real-time sex does not require physical close contact as it does in the physical dimension. Sex can be initiated and consummated from a distance of several meters or more, with the two projectors involved never getting any closer. But some attempt to enact a semblance of physical copulation will normally occur once the real-time sex process is triggered.
Enhanced Genital Sensitivity:
When a genital center connection (genital chakras) is made during the real-time sex act, both projectors become intimately aware of the sensation of their genitals interacting with each other; as if their physical bodies were actually copulating. But as with all other senses of the projected double, the sensation of touch is enhanced, thereby greatly magnifying OBE genital contact sensations. I would say genital sensitivity is multiplied by a factor of at least ten. It can be so sensitive that orgasm can occur in the physical bodies of both projectors within only a few seconds. This will normally end both projections, for obvious reasons.
Because of this enhanced sensitivity, genital sensations experienced during real-time sex encounters are highly abnormal and feel nothing at all like they do in the physical dimension. The nearest I can describe this abnormal sensation is that both projectors feel themselves expanding into and becoming their oversensitive genitals. They become their genitals and then feel they are copulating with another set of whole-body genitalia, those of their real time sex partner.
A male real time sex initiator (his projected double) perceives the rapid extrusion of a giant penis-like limb as extending from his genital area. He then flows into and becomes this penis-like limb. This extends rapidly and deeply penetrates the body of his real-time sex partner in the genital area, even from several meters distance. It rises up through and fills his partner's whole body. The initiator has the sensation that the inside of his partner's body is made of dense, warm, energetically tingling and throbbing, ultra-erotic jelly.
A female real time sex initiator (projected double) feels a similar sensation to the above. But her genital limb is usually perceived by her as more of a vagina-like tube extension. This tube grows from her genital area and she flows into it, becoming it. This then extends and deeply penetrates her real-time sex partner's body in the genital area. It then rises up through her partner's body. Her sensation is more of an engulfing of the inside of her partner's body rather than one of simply penetrating. This variation in female genital sensations has also been described to me as an engulfing of the spine of her real-time sex partner.
Real Time Sex Process:
There are as many possible variations of the real-time sex act as there are variations with physical body sex acts, including gay and lesbian varieties. Also the type of genital-like extension sensations that can be experienced, male or female, are not limited by gender. However, the genital and base centers are always involved somewhere in the sexual energy feedback equation. The coming break-down of a real-time OBE sexual encounter is therefore best considered as being the basic real-time sex process only.
1. Some variation of boy meets girl happens between two real-time projectors. Sexual thoughts and imagery cause desire to be felt by the initiator. This desire reflects back and causes immediate sexual arousal to occur in the initiator's own physical body.
2. Physical sensations of sexual arousal now rebound back into the initiator's own projected double, from their own sexually aroused physical body.
3. Sexual thoughts, imagery and erotic sensations flood back and forth, compounding swiftly on telepathic, emotional and bioenergetic levels. This rapidly intensifies sexual arousal in both the initiator's projected double and physical body.
4. Now fully aroused, the initiator's physical body floods its projected double with sexual energy from its now highly active genital center, via the Silver Cord, as his/her physical body rapidly approaches orgasm. This sexual energy flooding momentarily strengthens the initiator's projected double, but sexual urgency now consumes the initiator and results in a total loss of control. Once this stage is reached there is no way to avoid the inevitable consummation of the real-time sex act.
5. The initiator's own projected double will now usually attempt some form of rapid and urgent copulation with his/her ensnared passive partner. This forms a remote energetic connection between the physical bodies of both projectors, via both their projected double's Silver Cords. This connection is much stronger if the passive projector becomes sexually active at this stage.
6. Erotic thoughts and sensations, emotional and sexual energies feed back and forth between the initiator's physical body and its projected double, resulting in a type of erotic sexual energy feedback, swiftly compounding and increasing. This will usually involve the passive partner as well, especially if he/she has become aroused and more or less involved. This creates something like a four sided sexual energy feedback loop, greatly increasing its intensity.
7. Orgasm now occurs in the physical body of the initiator, and very often in his/her passive partner's physical body as well. Physical body orgasm usually ends the projection immediately.
Depending upon the speed and intensity of this type of real-time sexual encounter, the passive partner may or may not become actively involved in the real time sex act. Therefore his/her physical body may or may not experience orgasm. This depends greatly upon the timing of the encounter: on whether or not there is enough time before the energy connection is broken by the initiator, when he/she consummates their side of the real-time sex act. The entire real-time sex process can take place, from the first stray sexual thought to orgasm, in under ten seconds; with either male or female initiator.
The above real-time sex process can have many variations and subtle nuances. Orgasm will almost always occur in the initiator, and more often than not in his/her passive partner as well. The above process can happen so fast that the initiator will often be unaware he/she has initiated sex. That is, until a rapidly approaching physical body orgasm signals the end of his/her projection.
Age, physical condition, sexual orientation and inclination do not have any effect on out-of-body sex. Many people, although they may be old and think they have outgrown the sex urge, find they feel young and sexually active again during OBE. In the out-of-body environment everyone is young and vital and therefore has an inherently sexual nature. And you will never see an old, fat, skinny, crippled or ugly projector. The innate sense of whole-body self-awareness that everyone has sets when a person is in their prime, usually around the age of thirty-five. This sense of whole-body self-awareness shapes the image of the projected double, which is not limited by the true appearance and condition of the actual physical body.
Because of the above, sexual identity can also affect perceptions of the physical body during OBE. For example, a male with female sexual identity can appear as having a female body during OBE. In the fluid OBE environment you are what you think and can become what you feel. (See 'Shape Shifting' -- Astral Dynamics)
Astral sex (and even lucid dream sex) is dimensionally more remote and thus causes far less sexual energy and sensory feedback than real-time sex; although this will still occur to some degree. Astral sex is therefore slower and more like normal physical body sex. The enhanced genital sensitivity and abnormal genital sensations, as discussed above, are also greatly reduced during astral sex. Because of this, astral sex can provide extremely realistic sensations: much more like normal physical body sex. Astral sex can also sometimes be orgasm-less due to this reduction in sensitivity, and because of the lengthier time it takes to achieve orgasm and hence consummate the astral sex act.
Apart from other living projectors, many of the characters encountered during astral projections do not appear to be real; although some are what could be called native inhabitants of astral realms. Also, as I mentioned earlier, most of the characters encountered during lucid dreams do not appear to be real. Many seem to be something like created shells, whose sole purpose is to form a temporary part of the scenery.
It is possible to have sex with a created or unreal character, although the genital contact sensations resulting from this type of sexual encounter are greatly reduced; seemingly more distant than sex with other projectors. The sensations of sex, in this case, appear to be provided by the subconscious mind of the projector/dreamer; probably based on memories of past real-life sexual encounters. The erotic mental imagery and sexual sensations are, however, just as real to the physical/etheric body and energetic feedback will still occur, albeit less strongly and in a kind of solo sexual energy feedback loop.
In my experience, other people encountered during real-time OBE's are usually other living projectors. However, this does not hold true once a projector shifts out of the real-time zone and into the lower astral; which will often happen unnoticed. There is one main way to tell real projectors and sentient astral beings from unreal created characters. Real and unreal beings behave and react quite differently to interference, including sexual advances. An unreal character will simply stand there and let anything be done to them, be it sex or murder. They will not resist or complain in the slightest, no matter what is done to them. However, real astral beings and other projectors, even unaware sleep projectors, will be found to object, resist, fight, verbally abuse and even attack interfering projectors; although they will usually just leave the area.
In the crowded areas of the lower astral (the lower astral is heavily populated, mainly with unaware sleep projectors) projectors may find themselves occasionally passing through the bodies of other projectors. This often cannot be avoided, given the usual directional control problems. If they are not careful, this in itself can often trigger the astral sex process, especially when passing through the projected doubles of the opposite sex. Even if a projector keeps his/her mind clear they will still feel a sexual stirring; although this can be controlled and overcome if his/her stays focused and keeps moving. This type of accidental astral sex will only snare projectors if they are careless.
As I said, the majority of OBE sexual encounters are unintentional and/or accidental affairs; although there most definitely are exceptions. Sex just happens when sexual thoughts, fantasy imagery and sexual energies get out of control. Either male or female can initiate the out-of-body sex process with the same end result. This can also happen between two projectors of the same gender.
Only one projector is needed to initiate out-of-body sex, which in most cases is usually enough to involve and consummate sex for both projectors. If projectors do not wish to have out-of-body sex, they have to be aware of what can happen and act quickly. If they meet another projector and think or sense a sexual encounter may be likely, they must move away very quickly to avoid it, especially in real time. But this is easier said than done. It can happen very quickly and the initiator may not even intend to have or cause a sexual encounter. He/she will often be just as shocked by what transpires as their unwitting partner may be.
One comforting thought here is that no one can get seriously hurt through chance out-of-body sexual encounters; no matter what or how it happens. It is not only very quick, but there is no actual physical contact. It is also rarely remembered by either party; and if remembered then only as a dream. And as there is no actual physical contact, it really is the ultimate safe sex. In my opinion, OBE sex can cause no more psychological scarring than a bad dream might.
An important aspect of the natural barrier which out-of-body sex forms, which deserves consideration, is just what this can do to the energetic value of a projector. In the out-of-body environment like attracts like in a very big way. If projectors deliberately seek out and engage in disreputable sexual behavior during a projection, they will find the dimensional level they are capable of operating on will begin to lower significantly. Repeated deliberate sexual encounters (one could call this astral rape, with all this implies) could well mean projectors will begin sliding down the dimensional scale until they find themselves frequenting the very low astral sub-planes. This new level will have a more predatory sexual nature and theme to it; better suited to this type of projector.
For all the above, occasional chance or unintentional out-of-body sexual encounters do not appear to cause any significant or lasting drop in projector's natural dimensional level of operations. And this does not apply to out-of-body love and romance: where there are shared feelings of love, intimacy and desire. The energetic values involved with love and sex are, I believe, quite different from those generated by lust and sex merely for the sake of release. Consummation of the out-of-body sex act will, however, still be found to cut OBE short, especially real-time OBE sex.
Privacy, Ethics & Projection:
There is a widespread belief stemming from early this century that has not only remained unchanged but has been continually propagated ever since. This belief is that if a projector deliberately invades the privacy of another person for immoral purposes or unethical gain, or engages in any disreputable or sexual behavior during OBE, they will be banned or stopped from further projecting -- grounded by a higher authority. It is even believed by some that there is a kind of astral police force watching out for ethical, moral and astral rights transgressors.
According to my experience this belief is a total myth. There are many natural barriers associated with OBE, but there are no ethical nor moral limitations. No higher authority is interested in the activities of projectors. No astral police force will appear and punish bad or naughty projectors.
The ethical and moral correctness of any out-of-body action depends entirely upon the judgment and conscience of the projector concerned. With out-of-body sex especially, strong natural barriers are encountered and there are natural repercussions for repeated disreputable behavior. If projectors cannot control their behavior they will not last very long nor travel very far while out of body. Their experiences will tend to be quickly curtailed whenever they meet any potential sex partners, real or unreal. This cuts their OBE's very short indeed and keeps them off the astral streets, so to speak.
If projectors go actively seeking sex, they will come across an ever increasing number of potential sex partners. The lower astral planes teem with these. Like attracts like in a big way in the sensitive out-of-body environment. The only repercussions stemming from habitual bad behavior, as far as I am aware, are a lowering of energetic values and of the levels of operation possible. In this case the attraction of other like-minded projectors and beings is, I consider, natural consequence enough. This has the effect of keeping sexually overactive projectors away from more serious-minded projectors. This has, I feel, a certain poetic justice to it.
As to invading the privacy of people in the real world, or other projectors in the out-of-body environment, even for deliberate unethical gain or immoral purposes, there are no restrictions. In my experience there is no astral police force or astral overseer who will suddenly blow a whistle and say: "OK mate…I saw what you just did! Get straight back into your body and stay there…Right Now!" Imagine the enormous number of astral police that would be required just to keep tabs on several billion people day and night?
The intentions involved with privacy issues are important. Continual deliberate breaches of privacy will cause a serious alteration in a projector's energy values. This will attract other like-minded projectors and negative-type beings into their OBE's as well as into their real life; which is consequence enough methinks.
It seems the whole idea that out-of-body behavior is policed was started by early researchers and authors on OBE and related subjects, early last century and late in the century before this. Most would have realized the real truth of this matter, of this I am quite sure. However they seem to have worried that if the public knew the whole shocking truth about the sheer freedom of OBE, they might use OBE for what they considered to be immoral purposes. In a way, these researchers and authors tried to impose their own set of moral judgments and values upon the public with a "Stop it or you'll all go blind!" kind of attitude and blanket warning. They hoped by this, I am sure, to influence people into using OBE for good and noble purposes only.
Stemming from this, these early writers and researchers have unwittingly imposed this same set of values upon the present day. Consider the early written works in OBE and related fields, and how these have been used as reference and source material by all researchers, authors and teachers ever since. All of these early works have had some influence on present day thought, concerning behavioral limitations of OBE. As a result of this we now have many versions of 'The Astral Overseer' and 'The Astral Police' types of beliefs to deal with; all stemming from the original morally inflicted Victorian fallacy. (RB)
Authors Details: 'OBE Astral Sex' Robert Bruce Authors Web Site
Related article http://orgonevibes.blogspot.com/2006/10/orgone-and-sex.html
Since taking office in February 1999, America’s dominant media have relentlessly attacked Chavez because of the good example he represents and threat it might spread in spite of scant chance it will in today’s climate.
Yet some of his fiercest critics maintain pressure and show up often on the Wall Street Journal’s op-ed page. Most recently on November 10 by its America’s columnist, Mary O’Grady. Her style is agitprop. Her space a truth-free zone. Her latest is an article headlined “Hugo Chavez Spreads the Loot,” referring to what the New York Times calls “Suitcasegate.”
It played out in a Miami show trial that concluded on November 3 with Franklin Duran found guilty of acting as an unregistered agent of the Venezuelan government in the US. He’s co-owner of the private Venezuelan motor oil company, Venoco. It’s unconnected to the government, but that’s not what prosecutors charged, what jurors were pressured to conclude after initially being deadlocked, and what O’Grady picked up on and claims.
She calls Hugo Chavez “the intellectual author of his crime,” whatever that means, but O’Grady doesn’t explain. “The problem for Mr. Chavez is that, for almost a decade, Latin American ‘democrats’ (i.e. Colombia’s fascist and US vassal leader Alvaro Uribe) have been accusing Venezuela of violating the sovereignty of its neighbors by supporting the radical left with money and weapons.”
With no proof whatever, she means the FARC-EP (the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) and wrote about it in her March 10 column titled “The FARC Files.” In it, she accused Chavez, Ecuador’s Correa, Bolivia’s Morales, and Nicaragua’s Ortega of being “four best friends of terrorists.” Citing bogus laptop documents “show(ing) that Mr. Chavez (& Co.) and (the FARC-EP are) not only ideological comrades, but also business partners and political allies in the effort to wrest power from Mr. Uribe.” She listed a menu of charges that were bogus on their face, then later exposed and dropped for lack of evidence.
Of course, they were preposterous in the first place, but were resurrected in September by the US Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Control (OFAC) in designating one former and two current high-ranking Venezuelan officials as FARC-EP collaborators. Accused are Hugo Carvajal, head of the Military Intelligence Directorate and Henry de Jesus Rangel Silva in charge of the Directorate of Intelligence and Prevention Services (DISIP).
These charges came after Chavez expelled the US ambassador in solidarity with Bolivia’s Evo Morales. A day earlier, he dispatched the US envoy for instigating violent anti-government protests.
What’s happening relates to Colombia’s early 2008 Ecuadorean incursion. An illegal cross-border raid with the help of US Special Forces. They attacked and slaughtered 20 or more people while they slept, including 16 FARC-EP members — one being its second in command, Raul Reyes. Reyes was its public voice, key peace negotiator since the 1990s, and lead figure in the Chavez-arranged releases of hostages they held. A humanitarian effort he was vilified for with the usual kinds of political charges often made against him.
Noted Latin American expert James Petras calls the FARC-EP the “longest standing, largest peasant-based guerrilla movement in the world (that was) founded in 1964 by two dozen peasant activists (to defend) autonomous rural communities from” Colombian military and paramilitary violence. It’s a “highly organized 20,000 member guerrilla army with several hundred thousand local militia and supporters….” It now numbers about 10,000 - 15,000 “distributed throughout the country” and still a force to be reckoned with.
When its leader, Manuel Marulanda, died in March, Petras paid homage to him in a powerfully moving article. He explained that for over “60 years he organized peasant movements, rural communities and, when all legal democratic channels were effectively (and brutally) closed, he built the most powerful sustained guerrilla army and supporting underground militias in Latin America.” Besides its fighters, it included (and still largely does) “several hundred thousand peasant-activists, (and) hundreds of village and urban militia units” united against the most brutally repressive Latin American government (regardless of who leads it) and his vast supportive entourage.
Marulanda “defied them all — those in their mansions, presidential palaces, military bases, torture chambers, and bourgeois editorial offices.” These brave fighters nonetheless persist. The same ones O’Grady attacks and the Venezuelan leader as equally committed to justice and freedom as they are.
She takes full advantage of Duran’s conviction for supposedly conspiring to conceal the “origin and destination” of a suitcase filled with $800,000 and for acting as an “unregistered agent” for his country on US soil. Prosecutors claimed it was for Argentina President, Christina Kirchner’s successful campaign last year. A charge both presidents deny. Venezuela’s foreign minister, Nicolas Maduro, as well (earlier in the year) calling the case “absolutely rigged (and that) the person who said he is an agent of our government lied.”
As a Miami trial approached, Maduro questioned the impartiality of the venue, saying: “Those who appoint the public prosecutors and judges in Florida are those who run the mafia, linked to people of Cuban origin who are totally opposed to the sovereign process in our country” and, of course, are committed to removing Castro and his brother.
Today, “Suitcasegate” is front-page news in Venezuela and Argentina. In America as well at times and in O’Grady’s November 10 commentary.
In December 2007, Duran and three businessmen came to Miami. Their purpose: to advise their business partner, Guido Antonini, a Venezuelan-American businessman who was caught with the money months earlier in a Buenos Aires airport. At the time, Argentine judge Marta Novatti ordered his arrest, but he evaded authorities and returned to Miami where he lives in its wealthy Key Biscayne suburb. Argentina twice requested his extradition on charges of money laundering, but US authorities refused and instead used him to advantage.
Antonini wasn’t charged. In return, he allowed the FBI to wire him to record conversations with Duran and the others. At trial, he was the star witness after proceedings were at first delayed. All four defendants originally pleaded not guilty. Then, after threats and bribes, three agreed to plea bargains, including Venoco’s co-owner, Carlos Kauffman, who testified against Duran at trial.
Edward Shohat represented him. He denounced it as a “political circus” and said he plans to appeal because the FBI entrapped Duran, the charges are false, and the whole scheme is an attack against America’s ideological Latin American enemies, especially Chavez.
Early in the trial, Shohat filed a motion to dismiss and was rejected. He argued that the law Duran supposedly broke is unconstitutional because it’s vague as to what type behavior is illegal so its use is solely for political purposes.
He referred to 18 USC, 951 - “Agents of foreign governments.” It states:
the term ‘agent of a foreign government’ means an individual who agrees to operate within the United States subject to the direction or control of a foreign government or official, except that such term does not include –
(1) a duly accredited diplomatic or consular officer….;
(2) any officially and publicly acknowledged and sponsored official or representative of a foreign government;
(3) any officially and publicly acknowledged and sponsored member of the staff (thereof - from paragraphs 1 and 2); or
(4) any person engaged in a legal commercial transaction - except if “such person agrees to operate within the United States subject to the direction or control of a foreign government or official.”
Most often, this law only applies to enemy spies in wartime or against agents committing espionage. In other words, individuals engaged in activities violating the nation’s security. Against Duran, it involved a mysterious cash-filled suitcase having nothing to do with security or any connection to Chavez and his government. Antonini and Kauffman testified otherwise. That Venezuela’s state oil company, PDVSA, supplied it, and Chavez directed the operation and cover-up from his office. Of course, it’s their word with no proof.
On tape, Duran and his co-defendants said Chavez and Kirchner promised Antonini protection if he was charged in an Argentine court. At trial, Duran said that he lied to convince Antonini to be tried in Argentina if it came to that. For its part, Argentina accused Antonini of working for the CIA. It’s quite possible given his known links to Chavez opposition groups. He worked for Venoco from 2000-2002 when its then owner, Isaac Perez Recao, was involved in the April 2002 (two-day aborted) coup. Venezuela’s 48-hour president, Pedro Carmona, also headed Venoco at the time. The connection between him, Recao, and Antonini seems more than coincidental.
Duran’s defense learned more about Antonini as well. That the FBI paid him $30,000 and, through a letter, he asked Chavez for $2 million to stay silent about the affair. It also came out that the FBI tried to bribe an Argentine customs officer to testify falsely for the prosecution. The usual type FBI shenanigans seen often in other show trials. Against innocent targets of political persecution. Most often Muslim victims of the “war on terrorism.” A topic this writer frequently revisits and discusses on-air.
In her commentary, O’Grady continued her attack and accused Chavez of directing his “intelligence chief to find a way to shut up (his) bagman (Antonini).” She claims Duran and Kauffman “were sent to Florida to warn Mr. Antonini to remain silent…. The exposure of this thuggish behavior of the Venezuelan government is embarrassing enough.” What’s worse, she claims, is that there was another $4.2 million with Antonini on the same plane “and that there had been other operations to smuggle cash into Argentina for political purposes. Another “$100 million to spend on Bolivia” as well.
Not a shred of evidence for proof, and she forgets about the open-ended millions Washington directs to CIA, the National Endowment for Democracy, International Republican Institute, USAID and other US agencies for political mischief, including coups against democratically elected leaders. Funds also to opposition groups and candidates in Venezuela, Bolivia, and wherever else less than fully US-supportive governments exist, either democratic or despotic.
In contrast, Chavez supplies low-cost oil to his neighbors and to US cities that accept it. He also engages other nations cooperatively as opposed to Washington’s global predation. He seeks unity, promotes world solidarity, and practices the kind of democracy Americans can’t even imagine.
He champions human rights. Has no secret prisons. Doesn’t invade his neighbors or practice torture. He’s a true social democrat and the reason Venezuelans overwhelmingly support him in elections independent monitors judge free, open and fair.
But O’Grady keeps hammering with accusations that “the Venezuelan ambassador (to Bolivia) travels the country handing out checks to mayors who support President Evo Morales.” In Colombia also for “pro-Chavez Senator Piedad Cordoba recently (with) a PDVSA subsidiary (donation of) $135,000.” Nicaragua as well “where the old Sandinista Daniel Ortega is now president (and Chavez) is supplying 60 - 70% (of his crude) through a program that allows Mr. Ortega to pay only half the bill….Nicaragua’s state oil company Petro-Nic sells the oil to private companies and collects the full value.”
O’Grady’s says one-fourth of this revenue goes for “giving away goodies like kitchens and houses ahead of yesterday’s municipal elections (to buy votes she implies),” and much of the rest is for an Orgega “slush fund government critics say.” Something similar is going on in El Salvador, she claims and continues:
“The Duran case has blown the lid off Mr. Chavez’s covert Argentine activities. But his imperialist ambitions go far beyond that country (and) he may get away with it.” If she means spreading Bolivarianism, let’s hope so and that its spirit takes root in America. What country is more in need at a time its leaders plan even greater world domination with hardened repression for enforcement.
Through a secret new scheme now revealed. To unleash IMF orthodoxy globally - “austerity, sacrifice, deregulation, privatization, union busting, wage reductions, free trade, the race to the bottom, prohibitions on advanced technologies,” and to crush the human spirit along with it.
To make Venezuela and all countries banana republics. Its workers serfs. Its industry destroyed to empower corporate giants. Mostly American ones. To suck global wealth to the top. To render freedom, democracy and Bolivarianism dead letters. To use agents like O’Grady to support this “best of all possible worlds.”
Those in the know must expose her. Back leaders like Chavez for the type world all humanity wants. It’s there for the taking but won’t ever come down from the top. A message all readers should consider. At a perilous time in our history staring down the likelihood of the greatest ever world economic crisis with imperialists in Washington planning to milk it to maximum advantage. It’s for freedom loving people everywhere to stop them.
Saturday, November 15, 2008
On November 4th, 2008, I rode my bike to Voting Precinct 006 at St. Stephen’s Lutheran Church and School in Waterford Township, Michigan. I stood in line, I presented the proper credentials, I was issued one voting ballot, and I filled it out. I did not vote.
I had come to my polling-place intending to cast my vote for Presidential and Vice Presidential candidates that had not made it onto the Michigan ballot: Gloria La Riva for President and Eugene Puryear for Vice President. These are the candidates of The Party for Socialism and Liberation. As a small, mostly-marginalized political party, the names of these candidates were not listed among the options before me. So, when I approached the voting booth - ballot in hand - I meant to write-in these candidates’ names; whom I felt best represented my interests and desires for the nation at large.
In these politically nepotistic and insular times it seems that a majority of the populace cannot understand why anyone would vote off-ticket. These unnamed, third-party candidates have no real chance of being elected, after all. So why not choose one of the mainstream candidates who, at least, represent the better of the options we are presented with?
There are two main reasons that I decided to vote for Gloria La Riva. First, I wanted to encourage the party she represents. It is supremely important - in a Democracy - that we support those groups which rise to champion our beliefs on the national stage. If I cast my vote for some other party, Gloria La Riva and The Party for Socialism and Liberation would never know that I support them. They would never know that I am grateful for their efforts and wish them to continue doing the hard work of carrying my hopes and aspirations into the public limelight.
Second, I want it on the record! I want the state to recognize, even if only by a meaningless act of bureaucracy, that the options I have been presented with by this system do not represent me; that I, and those sharing my beliefs, have been marginalized by a system that drawls on endlessly about “democracy” and “freedom,” but falls short when presenting us with meaningful options.
For these reasons I stood in that voting booth looking at my ballot, wondering how to fill it out. The Presidential and Vice Presidential seats were presented to me as a unified ticket. In other words, if I wanted to vote Obama for President, I had no choice but to vote Biden for VP. The two distinct offices were represented by a single choice: “Obama / Biden.” The problem for my write-in candidates was that I couldn’t possibly fit both of their names into the empty write-in block provided on the ballot.
Unsure how to proceed, I finished filling out the rest of my choices and I approached the man supervising the tallying machine. I began to say, “I think I need a new ballot. I’m trying to write-in my choice for presidential candidate.” He interrupted me.
“You can’t write-in a Presidential choice. You have to pick from what’s listed.”
I stared at him with what must have been a supremely dumbfounded expression. After a long silence I reeled in my hanging jaw and managed to squeeze out a sarcastic, “Democracy, huh?”
He started to fumble out an excuse: “Well, if your candidates really wanted to be on the ticket then they needed to register with the state in advance. They’ve had all this time to register…”
“And that would cost them several thousands of dollars per state they registered in, right?” I fired this comment angrily toward the lanky, unsympathetic man before me.
He shrugged his shoulders and I told him I needed a few minutes to decide what I was going to do.
I had read up on Michigan’s election procedures in the days approaching November 4th, anticipating that there would be some oddities voting off-ticket. In retrospect, I’m sure I read something, somewhere that told me I couldn’t write-in candidates who weren’t pre-registered with the state. I must have just filtered it out in disbelief. I suppose I couldn’t accept - until confronted with it face to face - that my state and my nation would deny me the right of making my own voice heard until or unless they’d collected a pound of flesh from a specific candidate.
Dumbfounded as ever I stood there leaned against the wall as other voters passed happily by turning in their ballots; gleefully participating in Democracy. What was I going to do? I could, of course, just request a new ballot and only vote for the other positions and proposals that I had intended to. Or I could take a moment and choose a President from one of those “lesser of two evils” I’ve heard so much about. But there was another option wrestling with these seemingly more sensible choices deep inside my head: Don’t vote.
Here I stood, disenfranchised by a system that only allows the people to exercise any real authority over the make up and function of their government once every two years. They hadn’t allowed me to vote for the candidate I wanted. They had removed me of the option to separate my Presidential choice from my Vice Presidential choice. And as a supporter of run-off voting, campaign finance reform, and “none of the above” ballot options, I had walked in to this voting precinct carrying a ten-pound bag full of reasons to find this whole process illegitimate from the get-go.
It took me a good couple of minutes to settle on a choice and my heart pounded fast and heavy in my chest as I did. But in the end I summoned myself against the fear and intimidation I felt from these smugly self assured state-pollsters and turned again to the lanky man who placed himself between me and democracy. And before the line of waiting voters, loudly and clearly I spoke.
“I think I’ve decided not to participate in a system that doesn’t want to hear what I have to say.”
And I tore my ballot in half.
If you can believe it, the lanky man, along with another voting official, rushed to my sides, grabbed me by each arm, and attempted to restrain me from tearing up the smaller voter-registration form that is submitted with the ballot. I managed nonetheless to destroy it; my captors being quite elderly gentlemen.
These men who had volunteered their time in order to enable the functions of a democratic state, actually tried to physically deny me even of the right to protest my own disenfranchisement. In the process of attempting to cast my vote I was technically assaulted by election officials.
I didn’t report these crimes as I have no desire to see two elderly volunteers, who were simply flustered and unsure of what to do, brought before charges for the failures of Michigan’s Oakland County election organizers, who did not properly instruct or prepare them.
Nonetheless, I truly feel violated. Before November 4th 2008 I couldn’t have imagined that this would be my voting experience. I couldn’t have dreamed that I would count myself among those who have been meaningfully removed of their rights to vote, and to vote for whom they wish. In the land of the free and the home of the brave I find that I have been denied my liberty by an institution too timid to let sound my voice.
Here’s hoping your voting experience did not mimic mine.
Roy Tousignant is a writer and part-time computer repair technician with a skull cap, a borrowed bicycle, and a pocket full of miracles. In his spare time he plays drums for the Dead Letters and avoids success and decision making with uncanny skill.
Friday, November 14, 2008
it came today to visit
and moved into the house
it was smaller than an elephant
but larger than a mouse
first it slapped my sister
then it kicked my dad
then it pushed my mother
oh! that really made me mad
it went and tickled rover
and terrified the cat
it sliced apart my necktie
and rudely crushed my hat
it smeared my head with honey
and filled the tub with rocks
and when i yelled in anger
it stole my shoes and socks
that's just the way it happened
it happened all today
before it bowed politely
and softly went away
Thursday, November 13, 2008
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
Published: Nov. 11, 2008 at 3:03 PM
HOUSTON, Nov. 11 (UPI)
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has contracted KBR to provide power during emergency or disaster situations.
U.S. company KBR was awarded a $75 million deal from the Army Corps of Engineers for disaster relief services. Under the contract, KBR will supply emergency power for the Western region of the United States in case of a natural or manmade disaster.
KBR officials say during an emergency situation they will provide labor, transportation and equipment, among other services, to support power requirements for designated critical public facilities.
"This award allows KBR the opportunity to expand our capabilities portfolio in the government and infrastructure business to include emergency response, an area of growth due to recent natural disasters," Bruce Stanski, KBR government and infrastructure president, said in a statement.
"We look forward to continuing our relationship with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in this new area and are committed to providing the premier services the Army Corps has come to expect of KBR."
By Gareth Porter*
WASHINGTON, Nov 12 (IPS) - The promotion of Robert M. Gates as President-elect Barack Obama's secretary of defence appears to be the key element in a broad campaign by military officials and their supporters in the political elite and the news media to pressure Obama into dropping his plan to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq in as little as 16 months.
Despite subtle and unsubtle pressures to compromise on his withdrawal plan, however, Obama is likely to pass over Gates and stand firm on his campaign pledge on military withdrawal from Iraq, according to a well-informed source close to the Obama camp.
Within 24 hours of Obama's election, the idea of Gates staying on as defence secretary in an Obama administration was floated in the New York Times, which reported that "a case is being made publicly by columnists and commentators, and quietly by leading Congressional voices of Mr. Obama's own party -- that Mr. Gates should be asked to remain as defence secretary, at least for an interim period in the opening months of the new presidency."
The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday that two unnamed Obama advisers had said Obama was "leaning toward" asking Gates stay on, although the report added that other candidates were also in the running. The Journal said Gates was strongly opposed to any timetable for withdrawal from Iraq, and it speculated that a Gates appointment "could mean that Mr. Obama was effectively shelving his campaign promise to remove most troops from Iraq by mid-2010."
Some Obama advisers have been manoeuvering for a Gates nomination for months. Former Navy Secretary Richard Danzig publicly raised the idea of a Gates reprise in June and again in early October. Danzig told reporters Oct. 1, however, that he had not discussed the possibility with Obama.
Obama advisers who support his Iraq withdrawal plan, however, have opposed a Gates appointment. Having a defence secretary who is not fully supportive of the 16-month timetable would make it very difficult, if not impossible for Obama to enforce it on the military.
A source close to the Obama transition team told IPS Tuesday that the chances that Gates would be nominated by Obama "are now about 10 percent".
The source said that Obama is going to stick with his 16-month withdrawal timeline, despite the pressures now being brought to bear on him. "There is no doubt about it," said the source, who refused to elaborate because of the sensitivity of the matter.
Opposition to Obama's pledge to withdraw combat troops from Iraq on a 16-month timetable is wide and deep in the U.S. national security establishment and its political allies. U.S. military leaders have been unequivocal in rejecting any such rapid withdrawal from Iraq, and news media coverage of the issue has been based on the premise that Obama will have to modify his plan to make it acceptable to the military.
The Washington Post published a story Monday saying that Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, opposes Obama's timeline for withdrawal as "dangerous", insisting that "reductions must depend on conditions on the ground". Along with Gen. David H. Petraeus, now the head of CENTCOM and responsible for the entire Middle East, and Gen. Ray Odierno, the new commander in Iraq, Mullen was portrayed as part of a phalanx of determined military opposition to Obama's timeline.
Post reporters Alec MacGillis and Ann Scott Tyson cited "defence experts" as predicting a "smooth and productive" relationship between Obama and these military leaders "if Obama takes the pragmatic approach that his advisers are indicating, allowing each side to adjust at the margins." But if Obama "presses for the withdrawal of two brigades per month," the same analysts predicted, "conflict is inevitable."
The story quoted a former Bush administration National Security Council official, Peter D. Feaver, who was a strategic planner on the administration's Iraq "surge" policy, as warning that Obama's timetable would precipitate "a civil-military crisis" if Obama does not agree to the demands of Mullen, Petraeus and Odierno for greater flexibility.
Underlying the campaign of pressure is the assumption that Obama's 16-month timetable is mainly posturing for political purposes during the primary campaign, and that Obama is not necessarily committed to the withdrawal plan.
Feaver, who has returned to Duke University, said in an interview with IPS that he did not believe such a crisis was likely, because, "It is unlikely Obama will come in and do what he said he would do during the campaign." Obama has given himself "enough wiggle room to change the plan", Feaver said.
Similarly CNN Pentagon correspondent Jamie McIntyre also reported Nov. 7 that Obama "gave himself some wiggle room" to respond to military demands for more flexibility. McIntyre said he had "pledged to consult U.S. commanders and adjust as necessary".
Obama's website makes no such pledge to "adjust" the timetable. Instead it says the "removal of our troops will be responsible and phased, directed by military commanders on the ground and done in consultation with the Iraqi government." It defends the rate of withdrawal of one or two brigades per month and offers to leave a "residual force" in Iraq to "train and support the Iraqi forces as long as Iraqi leaders move toward political reconciliation and away from sectarianism."
When Obama met with Petraeus in Baghdad in July, Petraeus presented a detailed case for a "conditions-based" withdrawal rather than Obama's timetable and ended with a plea for "maximum flexibility" on a withdrawal schedule, according to Joe Klein's account in Time Oct. 22.
But Obama refused to back down, according to Klein's account. He told Petraeus, "Your job is to succeed in Iraq on as favourable terms as we can get. But my job as a potential commander in chief is to view your counsel and interests through the prism of our overall national security." Obama defended his policy of a fixed date for withdrawal in light of the situation in Afghanistan, the costs of continued U.S. occupation and the stress on U.S. military forces.
Opponents of Obama's plan outside the Bush administration appear to be unaware of the fact that the Bush administration has already given up the "conditions-based withdrawal" that the U.S. military has called for in agreeing to Iraqi demands for complete U.S. withdrawal by the end of 2011.
Feaver, the former strategic planner for National Security Adviser Stephen J. Hadley, said he assumes that, "if the U.S. agreed to it, it preserves the flexibility that Petraeus and Odierno say they've needed all along."
But even the small loophole left in previous versions of the text, allowing the 2011 deadline to be extended if the pact were revised with the agreement of the Iraqi parliament, has now been closed in the "final" version which the Bush administration submitted to the Maliki government last week, according to a Nov. 10 report by Associated Press, which had obtained a copy of the text.
*Gareth Porter is an investigative historian and journalist specialising in U.S. national security policy. The paperback edition of his latest book, "Perils of Dominance: Imbalance of Power and the Road to War in Vietnam", was published in 2006.
Update: Paypal account for Kevin
I am accepting donations on Kevin's behalf to be used to pay his utilities and rent. If you care to contribute, please make a check or money order payable to Shelly McFarland, with Kevin's name in the memo
You may also send correspondence here that I can forward to him since his location could change at any time
c/o Shelly McFarland
13775A Mono Way, #220
He is in Chino, CA for an undetermined amount of time
You may want to send correspondence to him there -
again not sure for how long he will be there.
5353 G Street
Chino, CA 91710
He can be phoned from 9am - 9pm PST
You can post any notes you'd like for him here and
I will read them to him on the phone when I call him each day.
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
November 11th, 2008
Posted at VoteNader.org
Ralph Nader released the following letter and campaign summary today.
To staff, volunteers, supporters, donors, and voters
Authoritative public sentiments have always been there, have they not? From the Declaration of Independence’s majestic prose to the preamble of our constitution which begins with “We the People of the United States …” to Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address “toward a new birth of freedom … for a government of the people, by the people and for the people” to the last words of the pledge of allegiance — “with liberty and justice for all.”
Sentiments remain mere words; heralding hopes, wishes and poignant nods. Unless they are grounded in reality, behavior, respect, attitude, and renewal, they become the words of controlling processes, pacifying the resigned, fortifying the concentrators of abusive power, and ever manipulating the trusting populace by the latest politicians climbing up the electoral hills.
The Nader/Gonzalez independent ticket set standards for presidential campaigns that were authentic, honest, factual, far-seeing, and committed to a deliberate, deep democracy that creates high expectations and dedicated actions from the people themselves. Democracy is revered all over the world because it brings the best out of people. But the people have to want it, to work for it, and to use it daily in its many splendid varieties.
Elections are a temptation for abstraction, soaring rhetoric without roots in the daily experience of those who are impoverished, ailing, defrauded, and indebted. The vast majority of citizens are marginalized and excluded from the freedom to participate in power — to paraphrase Marcus Cicero.
Our campaign started with the realities of our country on the ground where the people live, work, and raise their families. Politics must never be an abstraction. For if allowed to be such, it will be a mirage that stokes the hopeful emotions while detaching people from a critical recognition that they and only they — individually and organized — can make their representatives truly their representatives, dutifully producing more leaders. Leaders who cannot betray the trust of the people, and that of their children and grandchildren, know from whence they came.
It is with these thoughts that all of us at the Nader/Gonzalez campaign headquarters tender our gratitude to all who stood with us. We thank your enlightened self-interest, your awareness of the necessity for enlightened communities from the neighborhoods and workplaces all the way to our national government. We must make this government a tribune of peace, justice and freedom throughout this tormented world of ours.
While I was campaigning in Syracuse, New York this October in a city beset with hard times, a middle-aged blue-collar worker with calloused hands approached me after our discussion and said: “I’m voting for myself … which is why I’m voting for you.” I took that declaration as a serious trusteeship and later on the campaign trail turned it into a basic question: “Isn’t it about time that we all voted for ourselves?” Isn’t it about time that we planned our futures rather than ceding that essential function of citizenship to giant rootless corporations?
What follows is a summary of what we achieved together in the Presidential campaign of 2008, despite being obstructed by the Democrats and Republicans ballot access hurdles and traps, despite being excluded from speaking to tens of millions of Americans through the Presidential debates (polls repeatedly showed the people wanted us — by name — included), and despite being willfully ignored by the national television and national newspaper/magazine media. These achievements represent persistence, stamina, and the willpower to penetrate this political bigotry so as to give choice to those voters who knew we were running.
We believe history will treat the Nader/Gonzalez initiative kindly in part because its reading of the necessities of the American people was accurate as was its condemnation of the concentrated powers that have for so long denied them livelihoods of decency, security and voice.
We thank you who made all this possible. Looking forward, we thank all who will make the campaign’s legacy proliferate through all seasons at all times wherever human beings seek the fulfillment of their human possibilities.
ACHIEVEMENTS OF NADER/GONZALEZ 2008
Moving Progressive Agenda Forward in the Electoral Arena. Nurturing anew the survival seeds and sprouts for a functioning democracy, so that someday the fruits of this campaign will be traced back to the political pioneers of 2008 who carried forward the torch of conscience and justice high across the land.
1. We followed the model of Presidential candidates Eugene Debs and Norman Thomas; if they had not run within the electoral arena many people would not know key elements of the progressive agenda. As Thomas Paine once said, “a long habit of not thinking a thing wrong gives it a superficial appearance of right.”
2. In 2008, without third party and independent candidates there would have been no opposition to the bailout, no discussion of single-payer, no opposition to nuclear power plants, no support of living wage or peace advocacy over blow-back militarism, no advocacy of electoral reforms, or crackdown on corporate crimes, etc.
Civil Liberties for Independent and Third Party Candidates
1. Working to break down unfair ballot access laws that shred the rights of minor party candidates to run for office.
2. Example: Victory in Arizona, declaring in-state petitioning law unconstitutional at the 9th circuit court of appeals.
3. Example: Victory in Ohio case at the 6th circuit, declaring Secretary of State Blackwell was wrong to throw us off the ballot in 2004 and that the Ohio law requiring in-state petition circulators was unconstitutional.
Bringing in New People to the Political Process
1. We will be over 700,000 votes in 2008 as absentee ballots and write-ins are counted over the coming days and weeks. Many of those voters would have stayed home and not voted if Nader/Gonzalez had not been on the ballot.
2. 60% of Nader/Gonzalez donors have never contributed to any other political candidate before.
3. Thousands of citizens developed skills in clean politics and many will run for office where they live in coming years.
Documenting the Multi-faceted Oppressiveness of the Two Party Controlled Dictatorship of Our Country
The exclusion from the debates and the media blackout helped deflate the myth of a competitive electoral democracy. Exposing myths is the first step toward reforms.
The Nader/Gonzalez campaign helped show the rest of the world that there are voices inside the Presidential campaign who speak vigorously to the United States becoming a humanitarian superpower that knows how to both wage peace, advance justice and enhance the security of all peoples, as envisioned by the UN Declaration of Human Rights.
Ballot Access & Voting Success
1. Bronze Medal: Nader/Gonzalez got more votes than any other Presidential third party or independent candidate.
2. 45 State Ballot Lines and the District of Columbia: We got on more state ballots than in any previous Ralph Nader Presidential campaign (including the state of Idaho for the first time).
* Ralph Nader and Matt Gonzalez were on the ballot in 36 states and the District of Columbia as independents.
* The Nader/Gonzalez campaign was nominated by the Independent Parties of Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Maryland and New Mexico.
* Nader/Gonzalez was also nominated by California’s Peace and Freedom Party, Florida’s Ecology Party, Michigan’s Natural Law Party, and Oregon’s Peace Party.
* Nader/Gonzalez qualified as write-in candidates in Georgia, Indiana, North Carolina and Texas.
* Only Oklahoma voters did not have an opportunity to vote for Nader/Gonzalez.
3. Former Nader 2000 & 2004 campaign manager Theresa Amato will be coming out in 2009 with a devastating indictment of the political duopoly that crushes diversity and dissent in American elections. Her forthcoming book is titled Grand Illusion: The Myth of Voter Choice in a Two-Party Tyranny (New Press).
4. Party formation was more active than in 2004 and Nader/Gonzalez achieved several notable ballot access accomplishments.
* Independent Party of Maryland. Obtained ballot status and the party will be able to field candidates in 2010 without petitioning.
* Independent Party of New Mexico. Obtained ballot status and achieved .5% vote threshold allowing 2010 candidates without petitioning.
* Independent Party of Hawaii. Obtained ballot status. Because of low vote totals the party must petition candidates for two more elections to obtain a 10 year ballot access status. Chairman Shaun Stenshol pledges to keep party alive and field candidates in 2010.
* Peace Party of Oregon. Obtained ballot status by securing 1% of the statewide vote total and the party will be able to field candidates in 2010 without petitioning.
* Preserved ballot status of Natural Law Party in Michigan and the Connecticut Independent Party.
* Ballot status of Delaware Independence Party, California Peace and Freedom Party, and Florida Ecology Party continues because of criteria other than vote totals.
Some Memorable Campaign Accomplishments
1. Our Vice Presidential Candidate Matt Gonzalez was the first Mexican-American VP Candidate in American History.
2. Debates: We participated in 3 successful Presidential and Vice Presidential Debates:
* Thursday, October 23, in Washington DC at the Mayflower Hotel between Ralph Nader and Chuck Baldwin, sponsored by Free and Equal — covered by CSPAN.
* Thursday, October 30, in Cleveland, between Ralph Nader, Bob Barr and Chuck Baldwin sponsored and hosted by the Cleveland City Club — covered by CSPAN.
* Sunday, November 2nd, Vice Presidential Debate in Las Vegas sponsored by Free and Equal which included Libertarian Party VP candidate, Wayne Allyn Root, Constitution Party VP candidate, Darrell Castle, and Independent Ralph Nader running mate, Matt Gonzalez.
3. Wall Street Rally, October 16, 2008. Thousands of people gathered in front of the New York Stock Exchange to protest the bailout and demand a crackdown on corporate crime.
4. Massachusetts Marathon: Saturday, October 25, 2008. Dozens of organizers helped Ralph Nader set the Guinness Book of World Records for most campaign speeches in a single 24 hour period. We made 21 campaign stops in 21 different towns in a single day.
5. Uplifting Facts
* When issues, not personality mattered, Nader won: In a local Brooklyn High School on Oct. 28, 2008, students were allowed to vote for five Presidential candidates but only were told what the candidates stood for not their names. Nader/Gonzalez won the election with 46%. Read about it at http://berkeleycarroll.org/news/detail.asp?pageaction=ViewSinglePublic&LinkID=3614&ModuleID=183
* One of the eldest voters in 2008 cast a vote for Nader/Gonzalez. She is Geneva Garner, a 108 year old lifelong Republican from Gaithersburg, Maryland. Read about it at http://www.gazette.net/stories/11042008/montnew171838_32513.shtml
Aug. 30, 2004
Page(s) : n.p.
State Department (DOS)
Interview with Professor J. David Gillespie, Presbyterian College
The Republican and Democratic parties have long dominated the American political landscape. Since 1856, every president elected by U.S. voters has belonged to one of those two parties. Almost every state's governor, members of Congress, and state legislators are also members of these two political groups. But they are not the only political parties active in the United States. There are more than 30 others, which are referred to as third parties.
J. David Gillespie, professor of political science at Presbyterian College and author of "Politics at the Periphery: Third Parties in Two-Party America," notes that third parties have always been a part of America's political process and although a third-party candidate has never won the presidency, the organizations play several important roles--from educating voters on specific issues to affecting real change in government policy.
Third parties actually strengthen the government, Gillespie says, by providing a legitimate outlet for those unhappy with the status quo. They give "dissidents a chance to air their grievances within the confines of the electoral process," he explains. "And that, then, probably reduces the prospect of more violent or more aggressive kinds of approaches to political action in this country."
According to Gillespie, however, third-party candidates find the chances of actually getting elected very slim. Factors like ballot-access rules, campaign-finance laws, debate-participation policies, and media focus on the Republican and Democratic candidates all combine to keep other parties out of the White House.
In a recent interview with the Washington File, Gillespie talked about dualism in American politics and provided his views on the important roles of third parties.
Following is the transcript of that interview:
United States Department of State
Interview of J. David Gillespie
Professor of Political Science
Presbyterian College, South Carolina
"Third Parties in American Politics"
QUESTION: The general perception around the world is that the U.S. is a two-party system. But, recently, I saw a website listing of 37 independent American political parties. So, clearly, third parties play a role in American politics. Could you explain a little about their role?
MR. GILLESPIE: I would say that the American two-party system is probably the most stable two-party system on Earth, and there are a number of reasons for that. But third parties have been around since the Anti-Masonic Party [which campaigned against secretive, privileged societies] back in the 1820s at the national level, and local third parties existed even before the 1820s. They have been part and parcel of our electoral process throughout most of American history.
The roles that they play in some ways overlap with the roles of the major U.S. parties, the Republicans and Democrats. They help to organize the electoral system by educating voters, and, thereby, organizing voter choices. They play some, usually, rather transitory or peripheral roles, in helping organize the government.
QUESTION: How do they accomplish that?
MR. GILLESPIE: They do some very specific things--one of which, and it's an ironic role that they probably don't aspire to play, is that they can be sources of release of steam, so to speak. In this way, they can actually strengthen not just the two-party system, but also the government itself by giving dissidents a chance to air their grievances within the confines of the electoral process. And that, then, probably reduces the prospect of more violent or more aggressive kinds of approaches to political action in this country.
Third parties also do a number of other things. I think they serve certain psychological needs: the big fish in the little pond syndrome. When you create a third party, it may be a very limited-interest party that doesn't have much access to many people. But if you're the candidate, the big celebrity in that party, there can be considerable psychological gratification.
There is also an individual's need to feel a part of a select community, to belong to a certain group of like-minded people, and that is also served by participation in a third party.
QUESTION: Aside from looking at third parties as fulfillment of individual needs, whether of candidates or party members, is there another way to classify them?
MR. GILLESPIE: I think there are three kinds of third parties in the United States.
One of those is the "continuing doctrinal party," and I would say that these are the true minor parties of the United States. They last for several decades at least. They don't have any rational reason for thinking that they're going to ever challenge the duopoly of the Democrats and the Republicans. But whether that happens or not, these people tend to find their gratification in principle and vision and that sort of thing.
These might, for example, include what's left of the Prohibition Party, the oldest living third party in the country [founded in 1869 to oppose the manufacturing and sale of alcohol as a beverage]. The various Marxist parties and some right-wing parties would also qualify for that designation.
These are parties where faithfulness to principle, whatever those are for that particular party, and loyalty to their vision take priority over electoral success.
There is another kind of third party that is associated with what I believe are the most important political functions of third parties, and that would be the contribution to policy making and the potential for actually transforming the two-party system.
These are what I would call the "short-lived party eruption." The Reform Party, which was founded by Ross Perot, an independent presidential candidate in the 1990s, was an example of that, as was the American Independent Party founded by the George Wallace for President movement in the 1960s and the early 1970s.
There was, also, the Progressive Party in the second decade of the 20th century and the Populist Party in the last decade of the 19th century, and one can go back to the Anti-Masons and the Know-Nothings and all of that back even earlier in the 19th century.
These are parties that made the greatest contribution to what we usually think of as the most important role of third parties: the contribution to policy making.
Such change in policy usually happens because of fear that a third party is going to become either a viable alternative to a major party candidate, or will contribute negatively to the outcome of an election in a way that will most probably hurt a major party candidate by siphoning off votes from the candidate who is closer to the beliefs of that third party. Right now, for example, the Democrats fear that the third party candidacy of Ralph Nader will take away votes from their candidate in the upcoming presidential election.
What happens then is that the major party that feels threatened will appropriate certain policy positions of the third party.
As to the ability of third parties to affect the transformation of the party system, I think the most important third party of the second half of the 20th century, whatever you think about it ideologically, was George Wallace's American Independent Party movement because it forced the Republican Party to develop a Southern strategy to reorient itself from being a Northern party to being a national party with a strong base in the South, and by taking on the Wallace issue positions like state's rights regarding law and order, and a strong national defense.
I would say the Republicans' Southern strategy in 1968 was a direct result of Richard Nixon responding to those people the George Wallace movement appealed to.
The third kind of third party is what I would call the "nonnational significant other." These are third parties organized either locally or statewide but not nationally. The prime example now, I think, is the Progressive Party of Vermont, which has 15 elected officeholders--including four members of the state legislature, is a true major party in the largest city of Burlington, Vermont, and can claim long affiliation with Bernie Sanders, the only real Socialist in Congress. There have been many of these effective, non-national parties the Farmer-Labor Party of Minnesota and the Progressive Party of Wisconsin, for example.
QUESTION: Does the American political system make it difficult for third parties to compete? Are there disincentives in the system?
MR. GILLESPIE: Absolutely.
I would say that there are, basically, three kinds of constraints on third parties.
One of those is what I would call cultural constraints. There has been a lot written in the political science literature about the sort of natural dualism in American politics: that we divide on many issues, that on any one particular issue, we tend to divide into two camps--unlike the French, who divide on any given issue into many different gradations. You know, we are prolife or prochoice; we're prolabor or promanagement; we're globalist or antiglobalist, we're feminist or antifeminist, et cetera.
Our cultural divide tends to support a two party system--according to that theory, at least. My own feeling about that is that it oversimplifies the complex society of the United States, a heterogeneous society in which things are a lot more complicated than that model would seem. But there are some things that could be said by way of cultural dualism that are disincentives to third parties. If we, in the United States, are naturally dualistic, then it is not undemocratic for that cultural dualism, and the two-party system that represents it, to prevail.
Beyond that, however, there are structural barriers to third parties.
QUESTION: Such as?
MR. GILLESPIE: The number one structural barrier is state ballot access requirements. It is still very difficult to get on the ballot in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. It's improved in recent years, because of third-party candidates like George Wallace, Eugene McCarthy, John Anderson, and Ross Perot who brought court cases against the ballot access system. They got a lot of the most restrictive access laws overturned in federal courts. But it still takes somewhere between two thirds of a million and a million signatures collected nationwide to get a candidate's name on the ballot in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
There are all kinds of rules and they vary in each state--if you're a third party or independent candidate, you have to have a lawyer who's an expert on ballot access, and you've got to have a lot of money. Third party campaigns, which tend not to be well financed anyway, spent a good portion of their money just getting on the ballot in each state.
The major party candidates, on the other hand, are able to use their money for advertising and for getting the percentage of popular support that entitles them to federal matching funds.
QUESTION: What about the ability of third party candidates to present their principles, their ideas, to the general public?
MR. GILLESPIE: Well, debate access is another constraint. You know, we've very rarely had a third party candidate on the debate stage with major party candidates. Ross Perot and John Anderson are the only ones that have ever been on a presidential debate stage because, generally, it takes 15 percent of popular support as registered in the various polls to qualify for being part of the presidential debates. Since a candidate cannot gain popular support if he cannot get his views heard, this is a classic example of "them that have is them that gets."
So the fact that third parties are excluded from the debate stage is a real disincentive to third-party participants.
Still another constraint, probably not intended, is the primary system, an ingenious part of our two-party structure. The United States has the most open nominating system in the world, and it encourages dissidents who might otherwise go to third parties to try their hand at winning the major party nomination. But, in many states, by the time a candidate does not finish successfully as a major party candidate in the primary election, it's usually too late to go the third-party route.
QUESTION: So the two major parties absorb a lot of dissention that might otherwise turn into third party challenges?
MR. GILLESPIE: That's right. Anyone unhappy with how the government is being run can, if he has enough supporters to sign the necessary petitions, put himself on the ballot to change specific things within the system. Even if he doesn't get elected, if he gets a large enough percentage of votes demonstrating popular public support for his party's appeals, at least one the major parties will adopt some of that third party's agenda to stave off defections and gain those votes.
QUESTION: How does a third party get its message out to the general public?
MR. GILLESPIE: There is a lack of media coverage of third party candidates. But, you know, the broadcast media, except for CSPAN, no longer provide gavel to gavel coverage of even the Democratic and Republican National Conventions--they, certainly, don't give any coverage at all to the party conventions of the Greens or the Libertarians.
Generally speaking, however, there's not much third party activity this year, but you can remember four years ago how much attention was given to Ralph Nader's Green Party candidacy and to Pat Buchanan's Reform Party campaign. There's just not much going on this year with regard to third parties, other than the Nader independent presidential campaign.
So I don't have a lot of reason to indict the media this year. I think the media tend to look at the horse race, and they tend--even when they're covering presidential primaries--they tend to want to get it down to two horses in the race. They think that Americans can follow two candidates better than they can follow a larger number of entries in the race.
So I would give them that and, in addition, say that the media do better now than they used to do in regard to covering third party candidates.
QUESTION: Can a third party candidate ever be successful in the American electoral process?
MR. GILLESPIE: I have thought, throughout the 1990s and into this century, that the most likely successful candidate for a major third party campaign--and the American people have consistently said in surveys that they would like a third major party--would be a candidate at the militant center. That is, a third party candidate who was not really ideologically left or right, but could pick up on a single, emotional issue and would, then, pose a real third party challenge.
I think, right now, the issue that the two major parties most leave out is an antiglobalist perspective, and I think you see Ralph Nader and Pat Buchanan representing the left and rightwing of the antiglobalism issue.
But if anti-globalists came together from both sides of the political spectrum, it would result in a party, basically, that is not separate from the major parties on ideological grounds so much as on antiinsider grounds. If successful, it would be the sort of Jeffersonian-shakeup of the people in power that the United States has every 20 years or so.
I think that's what the Reform Party under Ross Perot offered, but it got off track and is now, to a large extent, dead. That's where to watch, though--not so much on the left or the right--but at the militant center.
• The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the U.S. government.
• (The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)
2008 Presidential Election: The Popular Vote Count
Here are the vote tallies for all the candidates. And you thought there were only two? Hehe.
1. Barack Obama: 62 million votes
2. John McCain: 55 million votes
3. Ralph Nader: 644,000 votes
4. Bob Barr: 482,000 votes
5. Chuck Baldwin: 172,000 votes
6. Cynthia McKinney: 140,000 votes
7. Alan Keyes: 34,000 votes
8. Ron Paul: 19,000 votes
9. Gloria La Riva: 7,000 votes
10. Roger Calero: 7,000 votes
11. None of These Candidates: 6,000 votes
12. Brian Moore: 6,000 votes
13. Richard Duncan: 3,500 votes
14. James Harris: 2,400 votes
15. Charles Jay: 2,300 votes
16. John Joseph Polachek: 1,300 votes
17. Jeffrey Wamboldt: 760 votes
18. Frank McEnulty: 735 votes
19. Thomas Stevens: 675 votes
20. Gene Amondson: 630 votes
21. Jeffrey Boss: 600 votes
22. Ted Weill: 467 votes
23. George Phillies: 434 votes
24. Jonathan Allen: 276 votes
25. Bradford Lyttle: 97 votes
Monday, November 10, 2008
The November issue of ArtReview contains the latest Power 100 list, apparently the art world's equivalent of the charts in business magazine Forbes.
At the top is British contemporary artist Damien Hirst and his production/marketing/publicity company Science. Hirst found fame with works like The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living (a shark preserved in a tank of formaldehyde) and For the Love of God (a diamond-encrusted skull he sold for $US100 million - pictured right).
It's not the first time ArtReview have awarded him the number one spot. Their explanation this time:
In a year that began with the setting of new auction records for contemporary art and ended in global financial crisis, Hirst overshadowed and outshone, becoming the first artist to bring his work directly to auction (at Sotheby's London in September), and grossing £111 million in the process.
Continue reading "Good business - the best art?" »
Posted November 9, 2008
The US military admitted Sunday that it had killed 37 civilians in an air strike on a wedding party in Kandahar Province early last week. Previous US strikes which killed large numbers of civilians and repeated denials have damaged the credibility of international forces with both the Afghan government and the civilian populace .
Posted November 9, 2008
The New York Times reports that a secret military order signed by former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld in spring of 2004 gave the military formal authority to conduct attacks against al-Qaeda anywhere in the world, including nations not current at war with the United States, without prior specific approval.
Sunday, November 09, 2008
There are plans to deploy ‘black boxes’ in UK ISPs’ networking hubs so that the government can capture and record every website that UK citizens visit. A similar operation is in full swing in the United States, where the NSA has hooked up their own ‘black boxes’ to American Internet Service Providers’ (ISPs) networks to capture ‘questionable content’ passing through these networks. Unlike the Americans, who only examine questionable content, the UK government is planning to develop a database to hold the contents of all messages passing along their nations’ telecommunications networks.
While this issue has recently been sensationalized in the media, I have yet to find a source addressing the actual technologies that will (likely) drive these ‘black boxes’. I want to address that deficiency, calling attention to the Deep Packet Inspection (DPI) technologies that will presumably be responsible for examining, categorizing, and heuristically evaluating the data flowing across British ISPs’ networks. In this piece, I want to briefly explain how DPI technology works, its technical limitations, and modes of actively evading its surveillance powers. Evading DPI-enabled surveillance is essential to participate in free, unsurveyed discourse in the contemporary digital environments that Western citizens find themselves within.
ISPs are uniquely situated to survey all of the data traffic that their customers are involved in. ISPs, unlike Google, Yahoo!, or Microsoft, act as gateways that individuals must pass through to access the Internet-at-large. Thus, any attempt to comprehensively survey an individual’s online activities must occur at the ISP-level. While simultaneously monitoring millions of customers might seem a Herculean task, or one firmly situated in the realm of science fiction, networking hardware vendors such as Cisco, L-1, Ellacoya Networks, and Procera Networks have risen to the challenge, producing devices that can survey, filter, alter, and censor content in real time, as it passes through ISPs’ networks.
Packets of data traversing the Internet are composed of two parts: a header and a payload. The header holds the general addressing information – where the packet is going, what order it should arrive at its destination in, and so on. The payload holds information about the application that sent the packet, as well as the particular contents of the packet itself – in the case of email, each packet holds the address that it should be delivered to, a bit of information that notes that an email application sent the packet, and some of the email’s text. Metaphorically, a packet can be thought of in the terms of postal mail: the header corresponds with the address on the outside of the envelope, and the payload the letter itself.
DPI equipment lets ISPs examine the header information as well as the payload. This means that ISPs can examine the text of email, instant messages, cellular phone text messages, and unencrypted Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) communications, in real time, as these messages are transmitted. Given the present state of available networking equipment that the world’s networking vendors have made available to the market, I strongly expect that the UK government’s ‘Black Boxes’ are, in essence, DPI devices that capture data as it moves across UK ISPs’ networks, and will transmit the contents of those packets to government databases while analyzing packets’ contents to identify if they are carrying ‘questionable’ payloads.
The Effectiveness of DPI
The Internet Evolution actually tested DPI equipment provided by Ellacoya and Ipoque earlier this year. In their tests, they found that these vendors’ devices could not filter ‘unwanted’ content 100% of the time – the applications targeted by the devices continued to function, although at reduced speeds, in spite of the censoring and filtering heuristics that the devices employ. This suggests that attempting to capture unencrypted Voice over Internet Protocol conversations, as an example, will never be fully successful because some packets associated with a conversation will not be correctly identified, captured, and saved in meaningful ways by the UK government’s ‘black boxes’. Moreover, and pertaining to the following section, the tests that the Internet Evolution performed suggest that data-encryption strategies can prevent the capture and filtering of data traffic.
Evading DPI Surveillance
It seems that every day we hear about a new data scandal in the UK; some new database is accidentally leaked, putting the information of hundreds, thousands, or millions of UK citizens at risk of being used for nefarious purposes. The suggestion that all citizens’ digitized conversations and online actions be captured and stored by the UK government only heightens worries: what will happen when (not if) this proposed database is breached? How much information will be accessible to criminals?
Fortunately, UK citizens can prevent their government’s DPI equipment from ever capturing conversations or online actions, and thus simultaneously limit exposure to the risks of identity theft and ubiquitous government surveillance. A core weakness of DPI equipment is that it cannot read the contents of fully encrypted communications. This means that when you send or receive encrypted data packets that the government’s devices will be unable to capture the contents of your email, your VoIP sessions, or your instant messages.
Encryption isn’t something that is terribly hard to set up; Voltage Security has a product that will let Windows users encrypt their sent email at a low annual cost. By default, Skype encrypts its data traffic to prevent surreptitious snooping of your private conversations, actually providing more privacy than talking on the phone. When it turns to instant messaging, there are several open source clients such as Trillian (for Windows) and Adium (for OS X and Linux) that have built-in encryption and compatibility with all major messaging services. Finally, when browsing websites, access the ‘https’ versions of the sites whenever possible to encrypt data traffic to and from the websites.
Why Hide from Her Majesty?
You may be asking: why should I bother with this encryption nonsense? I don’t have anything to hide – as a law-abiding citizen I find it offensive, but not necessary ‘dangerous’, that my government is snooping on me. Only criminals have something to hide!
The collection and centralization of large amounts of personal data gives criminals a single point that they can attack to access to vast swathes of information about law-abiding citizens. As the UK government persistently demonstrates, it cannot be trusted to secure the citizen data that it holds. By continuing to predominantly send unencrypted messages, you greatly enhance the chances that your personal information could be used to open lines of credit, create phony identification documents, and generally cause mischief in your good name. Encrypting your data, hiding your personal thoughts and communications from the proposed UK ‘black boxes’, is essential to prevent your identity being stolen, and ensures that you can continue to engage in free speech without worrying feeling the chilling effects of persistent government surveillance. Protecting your communications isn’t about hiding because you’re a criminal: it’s about limiting criminals from taking advantage of your good name while protecting your enshrined right of free speech. Christopher Parsons is a PhD student in the Department of Political Science at the University of Victoria researching ubiquitous digital surveillance, and is a member of the New Transparency Project.
Saturday, November 08, 2008
Friday, November 07, 2008
[Thanks to ToniD for this post]
Melissa Etheridge has decided to take a drastic approach to the passing of Proposition 8...
[YOU GO MELISSA!!! FUCK THESE STUPID FUCKS! LET THE PEOPLE WHO VOTED YES ON HATEFUL LAWS PAY THE TAXES IN THE STATE THEY THINK THEY HAVE MORE RIGHT TO BE MARRIED TO WHOM THEY CHOOSE!]
Talking to Nader about the Campaign, on November 5
Alexander Cockburn: In 2000,you drew nearly 10,000 people to a speech in Portland, Oregon. This year you got barely 2,000 in in the whole of Multnomah County where Portland lies, perhaps the most progressive county in the nation. Is this a sign of the withering of the progressive ggleft or the dead end of independent political campaigns?
Nader: It’s a sign of the swoon in the voting booth by people who told pollsters that they were going to vote for me at a level of 4 to 7 million; that is, 6 per cent nationally in the summer and 3 per cent the day before the election, according to CNN. In Washington DC district Obama got 94 per cent. I said to people, how many years have you known me? And they answered, it’s a historic occasion. I wanted to be part of history. The real issue in this campaign is the voters. These are people who knew all about Obama’s flipflops, his support for offshore drilling, for FISA, his role as the number one corporate cadidate.
When you in prison and you’re told you can’t get out and to chose between TB and cancer you’ll chose. It’s beyond politics, it’s psychology. This is what happens when we’re trapped in the winner take all closed system, watching tv.
The pattern is: Progressive politics for three years, and in the fourth year it renews itself with heavy doses of regressive politics and charges forward again.
I thought we’d get two to three millon votes. We had a huge internet presence.
AC: How many votes did you get? This year and in the last two campaigns?
Nader: Probably 700,000. In 2000 it was 2.8 million. In 2004, 450,000. But those figures don’t tell the story. In New York this time for example it was almost impossible to find me on the ballot.
AC What about you calling him an Uncle Tom on Fox?
Nader: On Fox I said that as the first African American president we wish him well. The question is, will he be Uncle Sam for the people or Uncle Tom for the giant corporations which are driving America into the ground. Fox cut it off after “corporations”.
He is less vulnerable to criticism and harder to criticize because of his race. When I said he was talking White Man’s talk, the PC people got really upset.
It doesn’t matter that he sides with destruction of the Palestinians, and sides with the embargo. It doesn’t matter that he turns his back on 100 million people and won’t even campaign in minority areas. It doesn’t matter than he wants a bigger military budget, and an imperial foreign policy supporting various adventures of the Bush administration. It doesn’t matter that he’s for the death penalty ,which is targeted at minorities. But if you say one thing that isn’t PC, you get their attention. I tell college audiences, a gender, racial or ethnic slur gets you upset, reality doesn’t get you upset.
Can Obama speak truth to the white power structure? There’s every indication he doesn’t want to. For example, in February he stiffed the State of the Black Union annual meeting in New Orleans. He’s a very accommodating personality.
AC: Ralph, Why do you think Ron Paul was able to excite younger voters and you weren't?
Nader: Ron Paul? There’s the novelty aspect. It was his first try. He hasn’t been losing. He gets the hard core people focused on the gold standard, and abolishing the federal reserve. The “Get government off our back”, rock-ribbed Goldwater people. He says the things mainstream Republicans can’t.
AC: Are the Republicans down for the count for a while?
Nader: Any time there’s a terrorist attack they’re back in business. Enough people will soon forget what Bush and Co actually did. At the moment conservatives have been subjected to Obama’s shock and awe, but they still have all these social issues. As a candidate Obama dodged the Gay Marriage Ban ballot, but they’ll throw the social issues at him. The Republican inventory is intact: “tax and spend”, “over regulation”, plus all these social issues.
AC Does Palin have a future?
AC: How about the liberals and the left now?
Nader: The real crisis is the self-destruction of the liberal progressive community. It’s got nowhere to go, other than to renew its three out of four year cycle of criticism of the Democrats. They’ve nowhere to go because they’ve made no demands. He’s been a candid right-center Democrat and they’ve given him a free ride. No demands. From Labor? No demands. He gave them a sop on the card check. He campaigned for two years, promised blacks nothing, Latinos nothing, women’s groups nothing, labor nothing. Contrast the lack of demands on the liberal progressive side to what the Limbaugh crowd exacted from McCain.
AC: You think Michael Moore could have made some demands in return for his support?
Nader: Moore knows were his bread is buttered. He’s seen what the Hollywood set and the others did to me.
AC: How do you see the next phase playing out?
Nader: Obama faces three crises: wars overseas, economic collapse and the deficit. They can’t use fiscal policy very much, so he’s going to be strapped by things like Medicare.
He’s got along on general rhetoric, but now each decision will shake some section of the liberal constituency.
They need to launch a comprehensive program dealing with poverty, low income housing, corruption and extortion in the ghettoes, and doubling the minimum wage to compensate for inflation.
They need to address the right of labor to form trade unions without coming up against the steel wall of Taft Hartley
Health insurance? He’ll extend tax supports which will give the insurance companies more business. He should deal with drug prices, but that’s a battle he won’t undertake.
How’s he going to deal with the auto companies which are in deep trouble? Take the proposed GM-Chrysler merger hich makes no sense and will mean lay-offs for 90,000 workers. If people don’t want the cars then the sacrifices and subsidies are to no avail.
The only way this guy can ever get his head above water is if he is courageous. What he’s basically doing so far is giving the Clinton crowd a second chance. Rahm Emanuel? He’s the worst of Clinton. Spokesman for Wall Street, Israel, globalization.
Second: demilitarize foreign policy, establishing the international stability that flows from our becoming a respectful but energetic humanitarian superpower, confronting world issues like drinking water and infectious diseases.
He has to reverse course on Afghanistan. As Ashraf Ghani former finance minister for Karzai has said, the approach to Afghanistan should be the need for justice, the fundamental basis of all public order.
Third, he’s got to develop economic policy for the greatest good for the greatest number. Public works not bailout. Put money where it matters.
He’s got to say to the rich and powerful, you have to give up your greed. It should be a two-track presidency, dealing with issues day to day, and strengthening the fiber of democratic society. That’s partly a matter of shareholder authority, worker-owned pension funds, which is a third of Wall Street. If every such fund was given the authority to control what they own, it wd be over. Look at all institutional shareholderd in Fannies. Their holdings are worth one per cent of what they were and these were the second safest investments after Treasuries! Believe in first principles: what you own, you control. If you screw up you’re free to sink -- the first and second principles of capitalism.
I’m going to write Obama a letter in the next month saying, what you have to do is a pre-State of the union where you lay out exactly where the Bush Administration has left America, in category after category, so you will not be hung with it. In the pre-state of the union, Obama should say,
This is the mess I’ve inherited.
Second, Obama has to cut the sequence of war crimes and high crimes and misdeameanours. If not, he’ll become a war criminal himself within a month. Shut down Guantanamo with strict directives, no torture. If he continue his policies, then he’ll become a war criminal. If you going to restore the rule of law, you have got to draw the line between what you’re going to do and what you refuse to inherit. Then it’s a real fresh start.
Obama’s a guy who’s got away with a ten minute speech for two years. He won too easily. He didn’t have to respond to the liberal constituencies. He’s really had it very easy, because he had an easy act to challenge and an easy act to follow ,
AC: How do you feel about your run?
Nade: I’m happy I ran, because the alternative is total surrender. I carried the banner to 50 states. I surprised myself. Look at the abolitionist Liberty Party in the mid-19th century. It didn’t get a tenth of one per cent. Did you think those people wasted their vote? We were quite successful this time in beating back ballot access barriers , in Arizona and Ohio. It’s like the early stages of fighting Jim Crow laws.
AC: The history of third parties over the past thirty years is not very encouraging.
Nader: We’re advancing majoritarian programs and the majority voters are trapped into the two party choice This is what happens. Obama sank public funding. Not only did he betray the principle and therefore shattered his credibility. In so outdoing he way outraised McCain. I read the trade literature. Not one of these industries -- banking, insurance, automotive, oil, agribusiness, international trade – is worried. They’re all totally calm. The corporate state moves on.
Corporate power has unique characteristics. It is perfectly willing and able to corrupt, regardless of sexual or ethnic preference. It offers equal opportunities to be corrupted or coopted . That’s why it’s very difficult for the civil community, which is affected by principles, nuances, honest disagreements, to confront the monistically commercial corporations. No one says ‘the big debate inside Exxon is whether to go more for oil or solar. That’s why every religion in the world, in their scriptures, issues a warning not to give too much power to the merchant class. The commercial instinct is relentless, consistent, limitless in achieving its goal. It will run rough-shod to destroy, co-opt or dilute civic and spiritual values that stand in its way.
Why Mrs. Blake Cried
Like a lot of folks drawn with almost equal power towards spirituality and the delights of the senses, I count William Blake as a hero and mentor. When an older chick in a Unitarian Youth Group I ran with turned me on to The Marriage of Heaven and Hell in high school, my already dangerously expanded mind was thoroughly blown with Blake's carnal theosophy, raging humor, and imaginal fire. The fact that I studied the longer and even wackier prophetic works of this delirious visionary radical at a buttoned-up Ivy League school also blows my mind, as does the enormous amount of critical literature and commentary that has grown up around Blake. That said, most of this literature downplays the esoteric influences on the poet. While academics love to trace influences, there remains a romantic sense about Blake that his peculiar visionary fire came more or less as a bolt from the blue.
In Why Mrs Blake Cried, repackaged for a more prosaic American market as William Blake's Sexual Path to Spiritual Vision, the freelance Ph.D Marsha Keith Schuchard makes a strange and compelling case that Blake's imaginative universe was deeply shaped by a thriving London subculture of spiritual sexuality -- a mixture of Swedenborgianism, hermetic alchemy, Kabbalah, Tantra and Moravian mysticism that she unearths with somewhat shocked fascination. Transmitted partly through the poet's parents, these esoteric sources not only inspired many Blakean themes and images, but -- and this is the key part -- probably provided Blake with certain bedroom practices that helped the already inspired fellow, uh, further penetrate the veil.
I knew a little something about some of these groups, gurus, and spiritual paths, but I had no idea that orgasmic mysticism was as rollicking and widespread in 18th-century England and Europe as Schuchard shows. Even if you don't know or care much about Blake, this rich historical backdrop is eye-opening. Besides its intrinsic interest -- who knew followers of Jesus could get so sex-positive!? -- this material goes a long way to correcting the mistaken assumption that spiritual sexuality is exclusively the property of Hindus or Chinese Taoists, and only comes into Western esoterica late in the game. In addition to the deep sexual lore embedded in the Kabbalah, many hermetic and mystic Christian groups discovered that the emotional and sensual intensities of sex --especially when properly "tabernacled" -- can lead to visionary trance. In Blake's words,
"He whose Gates are opend in those Regions of the Body
Can from those Gates view all these wondrous Imaginations."
Schuchard traces the dense and appropriately interpenetrating sources for all this spicy sex mysticism: heretical Kabbalists, early Orientalist texts, underground Rosicrucian rituals, and the obsessively physiological researches of the amazing Swedenborg. Beside that Swedish mystical polymath, who was fascinated with cremaster muscle and believed that angels fuck, Schuchard trots out a series of characters who must be read about to be believed. These include Count Zizendorf, the controversial Moravian prophet who called on his congregation to snuggle into the vaginal "side hole" of Christ's spear wound, and Dr. James Graham, a Scot who built a "Celestial Bed" for his Temple of Hymen, where couples seeking beatific bliss could avail themselves of a Pacific King-sized contraption that was infused with electromagnetic currents, perfumed with incense, and decorated with sculptures of horny Greek gods. Schouchard also touches on the significant links between this subculture and the radical politics of the day, suggesting that the tie between visionary hedonism and social transformation was not restricted to the hippies.
Though admirably possessed by the demon of research, Schuchard is, unfortunately, at best an average writer. There is a fuzzyness about much of the prose, with many sentences seemingly inserted willy-nilly, and important points left unclarified. The vague prose is particularly unfortunate given the subject, because the issue of sexual imagery in spiritual texts and religious records demands the utmost degree of clarity -- or at least a clear acknowledgement of the limits of knowledge. Take the texts of alchemy, which are rife with erotic energy and images. Is this material a code for explicit sexual practices? And do these sexual practices take place in the imagination or in the bed? While Schuchard deserves a prize for digging out all this whitey tantra, she is frustratingly loose with her own metaphors, as when she describes a wild performance at the pervert William Beckford's manse as "orgiastic" when an actual orgy cannot be inferred. Her tin ear for literary ambiguity also mars some of her interpretations of Blake's poetry, which can come off as overly reductive. The full meaning of Blake's concept of "emanation," for example, cannot be exhausted with reference to some ungainly theory in Swedenborg's Conjugial Love.
That said, biographical criticism often raises that problem. And sometimes her emphasis on explicit erotic practices can be wonderfully, uh, penetrating. Here, for example, is a portion of Blake's poem "The Crystal Cabinet," which is sometimes interpreted as a failure of the erotic imagination.
"I strove to seize the inmost Form
With ardor fierce & hands of flame
But burst the Crystal Cabinet
And like a Weeping Babe became
A weeping Babe upon the wild
And Weeping Woman pale reclind
And in the outward air again
I filld with woes the passing Wind."
Schuchard argues that this poem depicts Blake's attempt to restrain ejaculation and use the resulting near-orgasmic bliss to enter the imaginal realms of "the inmost Form." Unfortunately, our man can't keep it together. Like so many male tantric trainees, he bursts the crystal cabinet with a spurt that sends him hurtling back to the outward earth.
For all her refreshing frankness about the arcana of sex, Schuchard often seems more than faintly critical of the horny excesses of her cast of characters. While admiring their audacity and radical imagination to some degree, she is also sensitive to the suffering it causes, especially to wives. Mrs. Blake cried because she married a mystic horndog who wanted to be flush with virile potency 24-7. As readers of Blake's often sexually frustrated verse know, this conflict was a major and painful issue in their lives. At the same time, Schuchard presents a rather happy conclusion to this struggle when she comes to discuss their late middle age. In a fascinating if somewhat wobbly argument, Schuchard claims that the growing body of decent knowledge about Indian tantra -- brought back by East India Company employees and randy packs of amateur Orientalists -- allowed the Blakes to expand their world view to include a more balanced view of sexual polarity. As the yantra-like yonis that Schuchard describes in Blake's late prophetic texts seem to indicate, Blake was able to shift his obsession from seminal retention and masculine visionary mastery towards a more holistic and expanded worship of female sexual powers.
So what's the take-away for us today? I'd say it's the recognition that human visionary potential can be stoked through the creative, if sometimes risky, intensification and transformation of the sexual urges and habits. By going against the grain, whether through sacred sublimation or dangerously uncorked desire, the reproductive urge fires the imagination. The belief structures that emerge from these visionary experiences may themselves be wacky or off base. That said, the imaginal faculty, and the realm accessed through these practices, does itself seem to be a real place, or at least as real as art and poetry.
Which is where our marvelous Mr. Blake comes back in. In addition to transmuting erotic energy into visionary experiences, so did he perform the far more rare and difficult transformation of visionary experiences into spectacular art and poetry, as well as an intransigent politics of liberation. The alchemical vessel of "conjugial love" has not lost its appeal or power either, and remains a fiery refuge for those who, like Blake, are devoted to "keeping the Divine Vision in Time of Trouble."
This article originally appeared on Erik Davis's website, Techgnosis.
Paul "We Own Them Both" Volcker...Obama's Economic Advisor
Juan Camilo Mourino, 37, had been traveling in a small plane that crashed near the capital's main avenue, setting dozens of cars on fire. The cause of the crash was unknown, but the pilot had reported a breakdown to the air traffic control at Mexico City airport moments before losing contact.
Mourino had led a government campaign against mounting drug-related violence -- in which some 4,000 have died so far this year -- including the deployment of some 36,000 troops across the country.
Security advisor Jose Luis Santiago Vasconcelos also died in the crash, in a massive blow to the government's anti-drug strategy.
"Nine died in the Interior Ministry plane," said Mexico City mayor Marcelo Ebrard late Tuesday, updating a previous toll of eight, including three crew.
"Forty were injured, including 20 hospitalized with different burns or injuries. Seven have serious burns because when the plane crashed there was a fire," Ebrard said on Televisa news.
The Interior Ministry Learjet crashed at 6:40 pm (0040 GMT) on a pedestrian street near the capital's main Reforma avenue.
"The explosion was enormous, the flames rose higher than the buildings on Reforma," a witness told AFP.
"It was horrible. I saw an enormous column of black smoke and I heard three explosions," said another witness, Nelly Cabrera.
Security forces evacuated the accident site shortly after the crash.
The plane had taken off from the central state of San Luis Potosi where Mourino had earlier signed a security accord.
President Felipe Calderon paid homage to "one of my closest collaborators and one of my best and closest friends," in a brief statement to journalists.
The government "will carry out all necessary investigations to find out the causes of the tragedy," Calderon said.
Black boxes from Mexican plane crash sent to US
MEXICO CITY (AP) — Two flight recorders from a plane crash that killed Mexico's No. 2 government official were sent to the U.S. for examination, officials said Thursday, amid widespread speculation — but no evidence — that drug cartels were to blame.
Both "black boxes" were found where the Learjet 45 slammed into rush-hour traffic in a posh Mexico City neighborhood, Transportation Secretary Luis Tellez said at a news conference. Five people on the ground and nine people on the plane were killed in Tuesday's crash, including Interior Secretary Juan Camilo Mourino.
Officials say they have few clues as to why the plane suddenly dropped from the evening sky.
But they have been unusually open in publicizing details of the investigation, trying to discourage conspiracy theories that thrive in a country on edge from relentless news of drug-related shootings, kidnappings and beheadings. The violence has surged during a 2-year-old army and police offensive to wrest control from drug cartels.
The 37-year-old Mourino, one of President Felipe Calderon's closest confidants, was Mexico's equivalent of vice president and domestic security chief. Also on the plane was former anti-drug prosecutor Jose Luis Santiago Vasconcelos, who had been the target of at least one assassination attempt.
"Nobody is more interested than me in the truth emerging and the cause of this incident being cleared up," Calderon said at a memorial ceremony for the dead.
Tellez said experts would need at least a week to analyze the plane's voice and data recorders for clues to what went wrong.
The crash occurred in clear weather, and in their last recorded radio conversation, the plane's flight crew calmly discussed radio frequencies and speed with controllers. The tape went silent just as radar lost the plane's altitude reading.
"Everything was normal on the flight, and a few seconds before the accident, something happened that significantly altered" the situation, said Gilberto Lopez, a pilot overseeing the probe. "At this moment, all the possibilities are potentially important."
He said experts are following the normal lines of investigation for any crash, including possible human error, mechanical failures, maintenance problems or turbulence caused by other aircraft.
Experts from the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration and Britain's Civil Aviation Authority are in Mexico helping with the investigation.
On Thursday, Calderon's office said that U.S. President-elect Obama had expressed his condolences for the deaths in a phone call with Calderon, who had called to congratulate Obama on his victory.
In an editorial Thursday, El Universal newspaper urged people to wait for results of the investigation before jumping to conclusions. But it also noted that Mexico's "history is filled with assassinations that have never been cleared up or whose resolution does not deserve the trust of public opinion."
In an unrelated incident, a small plane owned by a flight school made an emergency landing in a field just outside Mexico City, injuring both people aboard the craft. There was no immediate information on their condition or the cause of the mishap.
The Wonderful Art of Michael Parkes
Thursday, November 06, 2008
"The Net of Indra is a profound and subtle metaphor for the structure of reality. Imagine a vast net; at each crossing point there is a jewel; each jewel is perfectly clear and reflects all the other jewels in the net, the way two mirrors placed opposite each other will reflect an image ad infinitum.
"The jewel in this metaphor stands for an individual being, or an individual consciousness. Every jewel is intimately connected with all other jewels in the universe, and a change in one jewel means a change, however slight, in every other jewel."
This analysis was prepared by COHA Research Fellow Alex Sanchez
• As Morales accuses DEA agents of spying, Bolivia approaches Russia and Venezuela for military aid
• Admiral named interim governor of Pando amidst peasant massacre
• Is Bolivia’s military being increasingly used for internal peacekeeping/enforcement?
• The good news: no apparent interest by Bolivia’s military for another coup
Last September, Rear Admiral Landelino Bandeiras was sworn in as interim governor of the Bolivian province of Pando. His election came after its civilian governor was arrested by the military, and charged with orchestrating the murder of more than 18 Bolivian peasant supporters of President Morales, in the town of Porvenir. The designation of Admiral Bandeiras as Pando’s new ranking authority brings up issues surrounding the current role of Bolivia’s military vis-à-vis the country’s persistent internal security problems.
The protests and continuous tensions involving the autonomy issue have gained the attention of regional officials as well as the international media. Many local and national political figures have thrown themselves in the battle of whether Bolivia will remain one unified nation or break up into separate states. The recently created Union of South American Nations (UNASUR), called for an emergency meeting which resulted in all of South America rallying behind President Morales and the unity of Bolivia.
However, there is one factor in the ongoing confrontation, whose presence is not immediately apparent: the Bolivian military.
It is time that the tasks entrusted to the country’s armed forces increase: they continue to be the protectors of the country from outside threats (namely Chile’s continuous aggressive military purchases), and have all but become a domestic security force, entrusted with the responsibility of maintaining internal peace, as well as preserving the unity of the country. The positive side of things is that the military remains unlikely to carry out a coup against Morales in the near future, which is a feat in itself, as Bolivia is renowned for its history of military overthrows of its constitutional governments. Morales, should learn the lessons some of its predecessors to not overuse the military or force it to carry out missions that its high command is reluctant to perform. Nevertheless, the Bolivian armed forces are likely to be a critical player in Bolivia’s day-to-day political life in the future.
Highlights of a Troublesome Military History
Bolivia lost its province of Antofagasta, and hence its access to the sea, as a result of the 19th century’s War of the Pacific, in which Bolivia fought alongside Perú against British-backed Chilean forces. Bolivia has never quite overcome this trauma and to this day routinely demands the return of its lost territory. Proof of Bolivia’s national goal to regain its littoral zone is that this landlocked country continues to possess a navy, which is used to patrol Lake Titicaca (which it shares with Perú) as well as the country’s numerous other waterways. Bolivia and Chile do not have normal diplomatic relations. From 1932 to 1935, Bolivia fought the infamous Chaco War with Paraguay, which it also lost. That war was particularly bloody, with around 100,000 casualties, most of them Bolivian. In fact, most of the fatalities occurred as a result of diseases such as malaria rather than from actual combat.
During the 1960s, Bolivia turned its attention to domestic security threats, with Bolivia’s armed forces concentrated on domestic strife rather than outside threats from the country’s neighbors. The fear of leftist revolutions was at its peak and South America was essentially ruled by military juntas or strongmen. During this period, the country gained particular notoriety when its forces, with U.S. aid, killed the Argentine revolutionary Ernesto “Ché” Guevara on October 1967, after he had been captured on Bolivian soil.
Bolivia was a member of Operation Condor (along with Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay); Operation Condor was a Washington-orchestrated intelligence scheme to exchange covert data among the region’s rightwing governments, which were mostly under military control during the 1960s and 1970s. Thousands of dissidents and leftists were murdered throughout the region as a result operation, which, through computer methodology, was able to monitor the movements of dissidents that had gained sanctuaries throughout the region.
The landlocked country is well known for its history of military coups. For example, during the Chaco War Bolivian generals, triggered a coup against President Salamanca in November 1934 and replaced him with Vice President Jose Luis Tejada. The decision to stage the coup was that the military was disenchanted by the way Salamanca was handling the war. A series of military coups occurred one after another in the 1970s. Coronel Hugo Banzer staged one against President Torres in 1971. In 1978, General Juan Pereda staged a coup against Banzer. In 1979, General Busch staged a successful coup against President Guevara. In 1980, it would be the turn for General Garcia Meza to overthrow the government and become head of state. In an interview with COHA, Jim Shultz, director of the Democracy Center, explained that the resignation of former Bolivian President Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada had to do with placing an overload of duties on the military, which the armed forces were not prepared to bare. Shultz explains that “Sanchez de Lozada would visit army headquarters and bribe military commanders to ensure their loyalty, but when he pushed for more repressive measures towards the population, the commanders simply refused, that signed the end of his presidency.”
The President and the Military
Current Bolivian leader Evo Morales seems to have cannily asserted his influence over a wary officer corps as he presses forward with efforts to promote indigenous conscripts into the upper ranks of the Bolivian armed forces, where a light-skinned, Europeanized elite have remained dominant.
One of Morales’s first moves as president was to purge a number of senior generals and other officials from the army as a result of a scandal in which they were accused of allowing U.S. military technicians to dismantle more than two dozen antiquated Chinese-made shoulder-fired missiles, considered Bolivia’s sole antiaircraft defense.
Some of the deposed officials have been explicitly critical of Morales’s ties to Chávez and to the Cuban government. General Marcelo Antezana, who Morales had dismissed as army commander, said in September that there was discontent in the armed forces over what was viewed as subjugation to “Caribbean mulattos.”
The question then arises regarding how much confidence the military’s high command has in affecting Morales’s leadership capabilities. In May, prior to a vote on Santa Cruz’s autonomy, Bolivia’s Supreme National Defense Council issued a proclamation regarding what was widely considered by Morales as an illegal and unconstitutional vote: “We cannot dismiss that a serious danger exists as a threat to the territorial integrity and we urgently demand a process of dialogue,” the Defense Council’s permanent secretary, Mario Ayala Ferrufino, told reporters.
The Bolivian military’s role in the country’s growing crisis took a decisive turn in mid-September, when soldiers arrested the provincial governor of Pando (in the northern part of the country). Prefect Leopoldo Fernandez is being accused of staging a “massacre” in the village of Porvenir, when peasants and students were ambushed by hired killers. Over 15 people were killed and more than 30 others injured. The governor was flown in a military plane to La Paz, as the military took control of Cobija (the province’s capital) and arrested an additional 12 individuals on charges of politically-motivated violence. As a sign of the enlarging militarization of the situation, and the growing role of the military as a domestic peacekeeper (if not peace enforcer), Navy Rear Admiral Landelino Bandeiras was sworn in as interim governor of Pando.
It will be interesting to see what security related operations Bandeiras carries out, particularly as the region is known for being a drug trafficking corridor between Perú and Brazil. Regarding the increasing silhouette of the Bolivian armed forces, a senior Peruvian military officer, interviewed by the author on a condition of anonymity, explained that “this action exemplifies that the Bolivian armed forces will follow presidential orders, regardless of what they are; Morales certainly has the loyalty of the military’s high leadership.” Shultz agrees and adds “Morales has been wise so far by not demanding more than the military can carry out.” The Bolivian head of state has also placed individuals with military pasts in high positions, like Presidential Minister Juan Ramon Quintana, who is known for his past ties to the Banzer regime.
A Mission: Protect the country from threats, internal and external
When Evo Morales came to power on January 2006, championing his indigenous descent, he believed that having an indio in power would appease secessionist feelings, at least among part of the population. He has since been proven wrong. Attempts at secession by other sectors of the population continued, as did calls for referendums to provide greater autonomy to regions such as Santa Cruz, which had nothing but scorn for the indigenous. On May 2008, Ruben Costas, a prefect of Santa Cruz, proclaimed amidst an autonomy referendum, which had been labeled illegal by the central government, that “we have placed the first stones for a cathedral of liberty, democracy and a Bolivia of autonomous regions.” Parallel to this, Morales has carried out his own vision of what the country should look like, namely by forcibly nationalizing several industries owned by foreigners.
As servants and protectors of the state, the Bolivian armed forces have become a vehicle to maintain a fragile status quo, as well as to carry out Morales’ nationalist intent. For example, Bolivian soldiers were sent to take over the oil and natural gas installations of previously foreign-owned enterprises at his administration’s outset in 2006. The military continues to be used as an internal security force as it is deployed to quell protests and guard sensitive installations. In April 2007, around a thousand protesters seized the control of the gas installations of Shell’s subsidiary Transredes in Yacuiba, near the country’s border with Paraguay. Soldiers and police were sent to retake control of the facilities; one protester died.
In October 2007, military units were sent to take control of Santa Cruz’s Viru Viru airport. Their mission was to block hundreds of protesters from taking control of the airport, amid a dispute over landing fees. About 220 air force troops and military police stormed Viru Viru after airport workers detained an American Airlines plane on the runway, demanding the carrier pay them landing fees in cash. The plane was bound for Miami with 140 passengers aboard. The airport “has been stolen by the government using army troops,” insisted Omar Mustafa, one of the Santa Cruz protesters.
On November 2007, soldiers clashed with students who were protesting Bolivia’s constitutional assembly. A university student was killed during protests that took place in the southern city of Sucre. It was never made clear who fired the shot, with government officials insisting that neither the Bolivian police nor the military units sent to quell the protest were using “deadly weapons.”
This past September, a group of protesters went to the National Service of Taxes in Trinidad, capital of Beni province, where they attempted to seize the facilities of the Internal Taxes office. However, the building was guarded by military police who quelshed the effort. Military forces have since been reinforced in Trinidad.
Recently, troops were once again deployed to Pando, firing shots in the air to disperse protesters. Morales has issued a state of siege for the province, particularly the capital of Cobija. The move came at the time when Presidential Minister Juan Ramon Quintana, according to reports, “denounce[d] before the entire world” that the U.S. had “participated in the massacre” in Pando that ended with the arrest of Governor Fernandez and the installation of Admiral Bandeiras.
The Canadian Centre for Research on Globalization published a provocative story on September 13, stating that “amongst the military officers, many of whom are opposed to the government anyway, there is already talk of the need for a coup to restore law and order. From their point of view, the institution of the military has been humiliated, having been over-run by civilians, while carrying out their duties loyally.”
In spite of these events, Bolivia experts such as Shultz explain that the role of the military in the current internal tension should not be blown out of proportion. He states that “many people actually believe that Morales waited too long to use the military for internal use […] furthermore the times when the military has been deployed has been very specific and for relative short periods of time.” It would seem, thus, that Morales has learned from his predecessors, and even after putting friendly leaders at the top of military command, he remains reluctant to test the patience of the country’s armed forces.
Don’t Forget Chile, Drug Trafficking Etc.
As if internal policing of a country finding itself in a high degree of instability was not enough, the Bolivian military also has had to deal with the nation’s “normal” security problems. Chile’s military buildup in recent years is being seen as a security threat both by Bolivian and Peruvian military forces. While Santiago purchases Leopard II tanks from Germany and F-16 planes from the U.S. and Holland, the best La Paz can do is to build more military bases with Venezuelan economic assistance along its borders. An interesting development took place in December 2007, when Bolivia and Chile signed an agreement to promote military cooperation, an unprecedented move. At the signing ceremony, Chilean Defense Minister José Goni declared that “our armed forces have been tasked to start the thawing of our relationship.” Bolivia and Chile broke off diplomatic ties in 1978 over a territorial dispute dating back to the 19th century War of the Pacific.
Finally, there is the monumental problem of drug trafficking. Bolivia is the world’s third largest producer of cocaine, after Colombia and Perú. Numerous laboratories for processing cocaine have been found in the remote areas of the country. Insufficient checkpoints and outposts make it relatively easy not just for drug trafficking, but for other crimes, including transporting contraband, to routinely occur.
Hugo Chávez: Unsolicited Godfather of the Bolivian Military?
Evo Morales came under fire from Bolivian opposition groups as well as dissident members of the country’s security community in 2006, when 30 Venezuelan military personnel disembarked at Bolivia’s Trompillo Airport on December 26. Bolivian Defense Minister Walker San Miguel explained that the foreign troops were there to help train Bolivian military forces to provide maintenance for two Super Puma helicopters that Venezuela had authorized for use by Bolivia’s military. Venezuela’s Defense Minister General Raul Isaias Baduel said that “This could be qualified as humanitarian aid, with what we know of Bolivia’s economic limitations,” denying speculation that the Venezuelan troops were in any way guilty of violating Bolivia’s national sovereignty. It should be noted that the arrival of foreign military personnel on Bolivian territory did not have the formal approval of the Bolivian Congress.
This event would mark the beginning of a growing military alliance between Bolivia and Venezuela, with the axis being the personal friendship between Evo Morales and Hugo Chávez, and their mutual distrust of Washington. In 2006, both leaders signed a military cooperation pact. A second such treaty was signed in May of this year when Morales visited Caracas.
Venezuela is also financing a number of Bolivian military projects, including the construction of military bases along Bolivia’s borders, one in the northern city of Riberalta, and another in Puerto Quijarro, a river port on the border with Brazil.
Caracas also donated the two Super Puma helicopters to its ally, for the use of the Bolivian leader. On July 2008, one of the two Pumas assigned to Morales crashed, killing four Venezuelan military personnel and one Bolivian soldier. In June 2007, another helicopter, also donated by Venezuela, crashed in Cochabamba, killing three Bolivian soldiers and one Venezuelan.
On December 6, 2007, a number of Riberalta residents demonstrated their anger at having Venezuelan troops on their soil, even if it was only temporary. On that day, a Hercules aircraft, part of the Venezuelan air force, landed at the local airport for refueling. Reports indicate that up to 200 Bolivians showed up to protest the act. The place was forced to prematurely depart.
Due to the September protests that initially appeared aimed at overthrowing Morales from power, Chávez came forth with a declaration of intent, stating that “if they topple Evo, or kill him, those carrying out Bolivia’s coup should know they are giving me a green light to support any armed movement in Bolivia.”
The Bolivian military has not been particularly amused by Chávez’s declarations. According to the Bolivian daily La Razón, the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, General Luis Trigo, declared at a press conference that the country’s armed forces will defend and preserve the independence and unity of the nation and that they will not allow any foreign military force to set foot on Bolivian territory, thereby transgressing Bolivia’s national sovereignty: “To the president of Venezuela, Hugo Chávez, and to the international community we say that the [Bolivian] Armed Forces emphatically rejects external interference of any nature, no matter where that interference may come from,” the General stated. “Only in extreme cases will [the Bolivian military] be used to ensure internal order and in such cases they will respond with persistence and patriotism to any threat by those groups of vandals and criminals who have come to subvert our internal order,” he added.
Global Ties of Bolivia’s Military
In early October, Russia’s ambassador to Bolivia, Leonid Golubev, announced that the landlocked Andean country is contemplating the purchase of five Russian civil defense helicopters, and perhaps an additional two for anti-narcotics operations. The Russian envoy explained that “we also have interests in various spheres, including military ones.” He went on to add that “this creates a favorable opportunity for us to return to Latin America, to help and to cooperate.”
In recent years, Russia has attempted to restore its influence in the Western Hemisphere, particularly using arms trade negotiations to approach regional governments and their militaries. Apart from increasing weapon sales to Venezuela since 2006, it seems that Bolivia may be next with an order list to receive Russian military hardware. The purchase would be only a “first step: Buy the five helicopters and see how things go,” Golubev said. “You can’t do everything at once,” he added
Indeed, the hardware used by the Bolivian armed forces is in dire need of an upgrade. In January 2007, a “mechanical failure” occurred aboard a Cessna Centurion airplane used by the air force, forcing it to crash-land as it approached the airport of Tarija. All eight passengers aboard the plane were killed.
It would seem that Bolivia has focused on aircraft purchases in recent years. SIPRI Arms Transfer Database reports that the acquisitions made in the last ten years include trainer aircraft such as the Universal-1 from Brazil, transport aircraft like the C-212 from Spain and several types of light helicopters donated by Venezuela. The Bolivian army’s website reports that La Paz is in negotiations with Spain and EADS to acquire another transport plane type CASA C-212.
In March 2008, the governments of Bolivia and the Czech Republic announced that negotiations had failed for La Paz to purchase ten subsonic L-59 combat planes. The reason for the failure was that Bolivia did not have sufficient funds to pay for six of the ten planes that were being offered. The goal was to swap the combat planes for Bolivian medium-sized CASA transport planes, which the Czech military could use to move its own troops.
Regarding the Bolivian military’s training needs, Morales met with Argentine Defense Minister Nilda Garre in November 2006. During the meeting, they discussed defense-related cooperation between Argentina and Bolivia. Another issue addressed was the participation of Argentine instructors to train Bolivian military personnel in technical matters. Finally, the Argentine defense minister expressed Argentina’s “interest” in consolidating permanent military exchanges with Bolivia within the framework of goodwill and integration that exist between both nations.
In mid-September of this year, the Bolivian daily La Prensa announced an antinarcotics alliance between Russia and Bolivia. According to reports, Bolivian military and police narcotics personnel will receive training, advisory services on logistics, and necessary funds as a result of the pact. This announcement was made the day after the United States released a “blacklist” of countries, Bolivia among them, that have failed to carry out antidrug cooperative programs developed by Washington.
The Soul of Bolivia’s Armed Forces
Regarding the cadres that make up the rank and file of the Bolivian armed forces, it is essentially the same old story that can be found across the region. The foot soldiers are of Indian descent, poor young men who do not have the connections or the money to escape mandatory military service. “The armed forces remain the tool of the elite,” as Shultz explains, “the wealthy families of the country usually have military connections, it’s one of the few ways to advance and gain social status and economic wealth in an otherwise poor country.”
The Bolivian military also has had a tense history with the country’s police force. For example, in February 2003, protests and demands by the International Monetary Fund ended with the clash of military units against police officers in La Paz, an event known as “Black February.” The result of two days of fighting between security forces against protesters ended with 34 people dead and over 100 injured (see the Democracy Center’s upcoming book entitled “Desafiando la Globalización,” which explains this tragic event in greater detail.) “Black February” occurred during the final days of the Sanchez de Lozada administration, further adding to the general belief that the Bolivian military can be kept loyal and quiet, as long as it is not pushed to carry out actions that its leadership does not want.
Loyalty and mission
The Bolivian military is, at the present time, in an odd situation. Not only does it have a number of “external” security issues to face, such as that posed by Chile, but also internal security threats. Internal tensions between the country’s ethnic and political groups are nothing new, and the Bolivian military historically has been involved in recurrent conflicts posed by the nation’s ethnic makeup. It also has had to take control of the government on numerous occasions to maintain national unity.
Evo Morales has increased tension within the country as a result of his political vision. Radical political decisions, including the privatization of companies and the security alliance with Venezuela have continuously upset an already nervous and divided population.
In spite of Bolivia’s history of military interventions, the armed forces so far have not shown a willingness or interest to take any action against Morales. This may be because, in spite of the leader’s radicalism and political tension within the country, the military itself has not been affected, and has only been employed in a limited way. The decision to appoint an Admiral as interim governor of Pando may signal a growing role in internal security for the armed forces, a move which may not be advisable. Bolivia’s armed forces do not want to be assigned more responsibilities than they can handle, so Morales will have to be careful to not demand too much of his military, unless he wants to jeopardize its loyalty. The aforementioned Peruvian military official, under a condition of anonymity, remains optimistic, in any case, explaining that “the Bolivian military, in my view, has not demonstrated any intention to take control of the country, they are ok with following the orders of the civilian rulers…. as long as, of course, such decision is aimed to maintain the national integrity and sovereignty.”
Wednesday, November 05, 2008
Dear Senator Obama:
In your nearly two-year presidential campaign, the words “hope and change,” “change and hope” have been your trademark declarations. Yet there is an asymmetry between those objectives and your political character that succumbs to contrary centers of power that want not “hope and change” but the continuation of the power-entrenched status quo.
Far more than Senator McCain, you have received enormous, unprecedented contributions from corporate interests, Wall Street interests and, most interestingly, big corporate law firm attorneys. Never before has a Democratic nominee for President achieved this supremacy over his Republican counterpart. Why, apart from your unconditional vote for the $700 billion Wall Street bailout, are these large corporate interests investing so much in Senator Obama? Could it be that in your state Senate record, your U.S. Senate record and your presidential campaign record (favoring nuclear power, coal plants, offshore oil drilling, corporate subsidies including the 1872 Mining Act and avoiding any comprehensive program to crack down on the corporate crime wave and the bloated, wasteful military budget, for example) you have shown that you are their man?
To advance change and hope, the presidential persona requires character, courage, integrity — not expediency, accommodation and short-range opportunism. Take, for example, your transformation from an articulate defender of Palestinian rights in Chicago before your run for the U.S. Senate to an acolyte, a dittoman for the hard-line AIPAC lobby, which bolsters the militaristic oppression, occupation, blockage, colonization and land-water seizures over the years of the Palestinian peoples and their shrunken territories in the West Bank and Gaza. Eric Alterman summarized numerous polls in a December 2007 issue of The Nation magazine showing that AIPAC policies are opposed by a majority of Jewish-Americans.
You know quite well that only when the U.S. Government supports the Israeli and Palestinian peace movements, that years ago worked out a detailed two-state solution (which is supported by a majority of Israelis and Palestinians), will there be a chance for a peaceful resolution of this 60-year plus conflict. Yet you align yourself with the hard-liners, so much so that in your infamous, demeaning speech to the AIPAC convention right after you gained the nomination of the Democratic Party, you supported an “undivided Jerusalem,” and opposed negotiations with Hamas — the elected government in Gaza. Once again, you ignored the will of the Israeli people who, in a March 1, 2008 poll by the respected newspaper Haaretz, showed that 64% of Israelis favored “direct negotiations with Hamas.” Siding with the AIPAC hard-liners is what one of the many leading Palestinians advocating dialogue and peace with the Israeli people was describing when he wrote, “Anti-Semitism today is the persecution of Palestinian society by the Israeli state.”
During your visit to Israel this summer, you scheduled a mere 45 minutes of your time for Palestinians with no news conference, and no visit to Palestinian refugee camps that would have focused the media on the brutalization of the Palestinians. Your trip supported the illegal, cruel blockade of Gaza in defiance of international law and the United Nations charter. You focused on southern Israeli casualties, which during the past year have totaled one civilian casualty to every 400 Palestinian casualties on the Gaza side. Instead of a statesmanship that decried all violence and its replacement with acceptance of the Arab League’s 2002 proposal to permit a viable Palestinian state within the 1967 borders in return for full economic and diplomatic relations between Arab countries and Israel, you played the role of a cheap politician, leaving the area and Palestinians with the feeling of much shock and little awe.
David Levy, a former Israeli peace negotiator, described your trip succinctly: “There was almost a willful display of indifference to the fact that there are two narratives here. This could serve him well as a candidate, but not as a President.”
Palestinian-American commentator Ali Abunimah noted that Obama did not utter a single criticism of Israel, “of its relentless settlement and wall construction, of the closures that make life unlivable for millions of Palestinians. . . . Even the Bush administration recently criticized Israeli’s use of cluster bombs against Lebanese civilians [see www.atfl.org for elaboration]. But Obama defended Israeli’s assault on Lebanon as an exercise of its ‘legitimate right to defend itself.’”
In numerous columns Gideon Levy, writing in Haaretz, strongly criticized the Israeli government’s assault on civilians in Gaza, including attacks on “the heart of a crowded refugee camp . . . with horrible bloodshed” in early 2008.
Israeli writer and peace advocate Uri Avnery described Obama’s appearance before AIPAC as one that, “broke all records for obsequiousness and fawning, adding that Obama “is prepared to sacrifice the most basic American interests. After all, the US has a vital interest in achieving an Israeli-Palestinian peace that will allow it to find ways to the hearts of the Arab masses from Iraq to Morocco. Obama has harmed his image in the Muslim world and mortgaged his future — if and when he is elected president,” he said, adding, “Of one thing I am certain: Obama’s declarations at the AIPAC conference are very, very bad for peace. And what is bad for peace is bad for Israel, bad for the world and bad for the Palestinian people.”
A further illustration of your deficiency of character is the way you turned your back on the Muslim-Americans in this country. You refused to send surrogates to speak to voters at their events. Having visited numerous churches and synagogues, you refused to visit a single Mosque in America. Even George W. Bush visited the Grand Mosque in Washington D.C. after 9/11 to express proper sentiments of tolerance before a frightened major religious group of innocents.
Although the New York Times published a major article on June 24, 2008 titled “Muslim Voters Detect a Snub from Obama” (by Andrea Elliott), citing examples of your aversion to these Americans who come from all walks of life, who serve in the armed forces and who work to live the American dream. Three days earlier the International Herald Tribune published an article by Roger Cohen titled “Why Obama Should Visit a Mosque.” None of these comments and reports changes your political bigotry against Muslim-Americans– even though your father was a Muslim from Kenya.
Perhaps nothing illustrated your utter lack of political courage or even the mildest version of this trait than your surrendering to demands of the hardliners to prohibit former president Jimmy Carter from speaking at the Democratic National Convention. This is a tradition for former presidents and one accorded in prime time to Bill Clinton this year.
Here was a President who negotiated peace between Israel and Egypt, but his recent book pressing the dominant Israeli superpower to avoid Apartheid of the Palestinians and make peace was all that it took to sideline him. Instead of an important address to the nation by Jimmy Carter on this critical international problem, he was relegated to a stroll across the stage to “tumultuous applause,” following a showing of a film about the Carter Center’s post-Katrina work. Shame on you, Barack Obama!
But then your shameful behavior has extended to many other areas of American life. (See the factual analysis by my running mate, Matt Gonzalez, on www.votenader.org). You have turned your back on the 100-million poor Americans composed of poor whites, African-Americans, and Latinos. You always mention helping the “middle class” but you repeatedly omit mention of the “poor” in America.
Should you be elected President, it must be more than an unprecedented upward career move following a brilliantly unprincipled campaign that spoke “change” yet demonstrated actual obeisance to the concentration power of the “corporate supremacists.” It must be about shifting the power from the few to the many. It must be a White House presided over by a black man who does not turn his back on the downtrodden here and abroad but challenges the forces of greed, dictatorial control of labor, consumers and taxpayers, and the militarization of foreign policy. It must be a White House that is transforming of American politics — opening it up to the public funding of elections (through voluntary approaches) — and allowing smaller candidates to have a chance to be heard on debates and in the fullness of their now restricted civil liberties. Call it a competitive democracy.
Your presidential campaign again and again has demonstrated cowardly stands. “Hope” some say “springs eternal.” But not when “reality” consumes it daily.
November 3, 2008
Afghan President Hamid Karzai has said about 40 people were killed in a US air strike in southern Kandahar province.
Many more were wounded when a wedding party was hit. US officials confirmed civilian deaths and are investigating.
"We cannot win the fight against terrorism with air strikes," Mr Karzai said in comments directed at US President-elect Barack Obama.
Mr Karzai has repeatedly criticised the high level of civilian casualties in such bombings.
The latest civilian deaths underline the challenges facing the US president-elect and future commander-in-chief.
The incident happened late on Monday evening in Shah Wali Kot district, a remote part of Kandahar province.
International forces had been involved in an operation against the Taleban - an air strike was called in but the missile struck a wedding party by mistake, killing as many as 40 people, women and children among them.
"My wounded son was in my arms, right here, bleeding," the father of the bride, Roozbeen Khan, told AFP news agency. "He died last night.
"I lost two sons, two grandsons, a nephew, my mother and a cousin."
Villagers said a wedding lunch had just ended when someone, perhaps a Taleban fighter, fired at international troops on a nearby hill, AFP reported. The soldiers returned fire and called in air support.
A spokesman for US forces confirmed there had been civilian casualties and expressed sorrow for what had happened.
An investigation is under way into what went wrong.
In a statement, Mr Karzai demanded an end to civilian casualties.
"My first demand from the US president, when he takes office, would be to end civilian casualties in Afghanistan and take the war to places where there are terrorist nests and training centres," he told reporters.
The BBC's Ian Pannell in Kabul says there may be little sympathy for the Taleban in many parts of Afghanistan, but there is even less sympathy for coalition forces when incidents like this leave innocent Afghans dead.
It is likely to loom large in the new relationship between Presidents Karzai and Obama when the new US administration is sworn in, our correspondent says.
Correspondents say that civilian casualties are hugely damaging to foreign forces trying to wage a "hearts and minds" campaign in Afghanistan.
The issue of civilian casualties is hugely controversial
Last month the US military said that air strikes on 22 August killed 33 Afghan civilians, many more than previously acknowledged.
And in another notorious incident, an Afghan parliamentary investigation in July found that a US air strike in the same month killed 47 civilians in the eastern province of Nangarhar.
Regional officials said those casualties were also attending a wedding party and that the bride had been killed.
Figures released in September by the United Nations said there had been a sharp increase in the number of civilian casualties - some caused by the coalition but most by the Taleban - in Afghanistan in 2008. It said that from January to August 2008, 1,445 civilians were killed - a rise of 39% on the same period last year.
Posted November 4, 2008
Human Rights Watch has determined that Georgian cluster bombs used during the brief August war with Russia landed in at least nine Georgian towns, killing at least three civilians and littering the countryside with thousands of bomblets which could potentially kill and maim civilians for years to come.
Georgia’s Ministry of Defense says the accusation is “impossible” and that it only used cluster bombs in areas that were not “nearby/around civilian populated areas” during the war. But Human Rights Watch’s senior military analyst and former Pentagon official Marc Garlasco says the bombs malfunctioned on an “absolutely massive scale,” leaving bomblets in Georgian towns which in many cases were far from where Georgia admits to having used them.
The bombs were purchased by Georgia from an Israel company, identified as Israel Military Industries. The Israeli military also heavily used such bombs during its 2006 war in Lebanon, though apparently without the approval of the Israeli government.
A ban on the use of cluster munitions is due to be signed next month, but has faced major opposition from the US, Israel, and Russia (who also used cluster bombs during the August war), as well as India, China, and Brazil. A US delegation is seeking an alternative text which would be supported by “those countries that believe that cluster munitions are legitimate weapons.”
Tuesday, November 04, 2008
~It may take forever and you may disagree~ Obama (paraphrase of the first few minutes..)
The Trail of Broken Promises
by Matt Gonzalez
On the street when I am approached by an Obama/Biden volunteer or someone who tells me they’re voting for Obama, I usually ask “What about the FISA vote?” And each time I hear in return “What’s that?” Or if I say, “You know he supports the death penalty,” I usually hear in response, “No he doesn’t.”
At what point will there be intellectual honesty about what is happening? People are voting for Obama because they find him to be an engaging public speaker and like his message regardless of his history of being part of the very problem he professes to want to fix. Most people don’t want the actual facts to interfere with the desperate hope that he is everything they want him to be.
Do you really want to vote for someone who has already voted to take away your civil liberties because of some vague wish that he’ll act differently as president? Obama himself, speaking of Sen. Hillary Clinton, made a remark that could just as easily apply to him, and, unwittingly makes the case for why no one should vote for him: “We can’t afford a president whose positions change with the politics of the moment. We need a president who knows that being ready on day one means getting it right from day one.” (Salem, OR, 3/21/08).
If voting for war appropriations and taking away civil liberties was bringing us closer to a more democratic and egalitarian society, well, I would advocate it. But it isn’t doing that.
What is your breaking point? At what point do you decide that you’ve had enough?
What do they have to do to lose your vote?
Habits of the Heart
...These are people who act on their beliefs. Each is living proof of the magnetic force of Liberty -- that spiked goddess who draws home both the best and worst of her abandoned populations.
[The Royal Bakery]
ELAINE: Ummm, I love the smell of bakeries.
JERRY: Oh look Elaine, the black and white cookie. I love the black and white. Two races of flavor living side by side [mumble?] It's a wonderful thing isn't it?
ELAINE: You know I often wonder what you'll be like when you're senile.
JERRY: I'm looking forward to it.
ELAINE: Yeah. I think it will be a very smooth transition for you.
JERRY: Uhm, The thing about eating the Black and White cookie, Elaine, is you want to get some black and some white in each bite. Nothing mixes better than vanilla and chocolate And yet somehow racial harmony eludes us. If people would only look to the cookie all our problems would be solved.
ELAINE: Your views on race relations are fascinating. You really should do an op-ed piece for the Times.
JERRY: Um, um, Look to the cookie Elaine. Look to the cookie.
"The palm trees that grace the streets of Los Angeles, all planted by man's beautifying hand, none native, are home to thousands of rats' nests. At times a rat, or two, will fall from the top of a bushy-headed palm into a passing convertible car, altering the consciousness of the driver."
David Homel, Rat Palms, Epigraph
Up becomes down. In becomes out. Then becomes now.
Posted October 28, 2008
Imagine being in the voting booth and the only thing you have to go on is the candidates' stand on the issues. Imagine voting purely based on a candidate's record. Imagine not knowing anything about a candidate's personality. Imagine not even knowing a candidate's gender or race.
Imagine that nothing would get in the way of making an educated, informed decision.
The Upper School Student Council imagined such an election and on October 28, 2008 five candidates addressed the entire Upper School. Under the direction of teacher Taylor Black, they presented issue-oriented platforms, presenting their stance on Iraq, Afghanistan, healthcare, abortion, the bailout, gay marriage, drilling for oil, immigration, death penalty, public education, and Israel.
The students listened and then they voted. It was only after they elected Bari Saltman that they learned they had elected Ralph Nader (Bari received 46% of the votes). Zak Sawyer stood in for McCain and received 4%; Emily Graham, being Obama, got 29% of the votes; Nia James represented the Libertarian Bob Barr and earned 2% of the votes; and Jesse Goldberg was Green Party candidate Cynthia McKinney and took 17%.
The National Law Journal
The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request with the departments of Defense, Justice and Homeland Security, seeking an explanation for the Army's decision to station what the ACLU believes is an active-duty military unit inside the United States.
The ACLU says this is the first-ever permanent deployment of an active-duty unit within the country. The deployment threatens "a significant erosion" of the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878, according to the civil rights organization, and raises critical questions "about the longstanding separation between civilian and military government within the United States -- a separation that dates to the Nation's founding."
In its FOIA request, the ACLU asked for records relating to the decision to deploy the unit, as well as documents concerning its purpose, including "contemplated functions; duties; surveillance activities; and relationship to existing civilian agencies or personnel or the National Guard."
The ACLU said media reports indicate that the military unit, entitled the Chemical, Biological, Radiological/Nuclear and Explosive Consequence Management Response Force (CCMRF) will be stationed for one year in Fort Stewart, Ga., with the expectation -- according to Army Times -- that another active-duty brigade will then take over and that the deployment will be permanent.
The first unit to be deployed will be the 3rd Infantry Division's 1st Brigade Combat Team, or "First Raiders," which spent 35 of the past 60 months "in Iraq patrolling in full battle rattle," according to the Army Times.
The unit's explicit mission will be to provide support for civilian law-enforcement branches like local police and rescue personnel: It may be called upon in situations involving civil unrest, crowd control or catastrophes such as chemical, biological or nuclear attack, and it will be trained in skills like search and rescue and crowd control.
MILITARY FOR LAW ENFORCEMENT?
The ACLU said the CCMRF deployment jeopardizes the Posse Comitatus Act, which prevents the government from using the military as a tool for law enforcement, except in situations of explicit national emergency based on express authorization from Congress, for example in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
The release of the records sought in its FOIA request, according to the ACLU, will allow the public to decide whether the deployment is enabling the Defense Department to circumvent limits on its authority to act domestically in violation of federal law.
PRONOIA IS THE ANTIDOTE FOR PARANOIA:
How the Whole World Is Conspiring to Shower You with Blessings*
is available for sale at http://tinyurl.com/qaj62
All hail the Tricky Goddess of Benevolent Mischief, also known as the Cosmic Instigator of Healing Trouble. Let us praise and ratify her ingenious plan to turn the status quo upside-down.
The vivid exposure of greed, corruption, and delusion among the top echelons of the American political and financial hierarchy is a blessing on all of humanity.
The eruption of fertile chaos is making it difficult to carry on with business as usual, and we could not have received a more energizing gift.
Oh Wise Trickster Goddess, You Compassionate Conjurer of Relentless Change, You Righteous Rascal in Charge of Keeping a Steady Flow of Sacred Uproar Pouring into Our Lives:
Please continue to influence the masters of plutocracy and war and their media minions to be ever-more obvious as they spin out their perversions of your glorious creation. In this way, more and more of our sleeping tribe will wake up to the Open Secret of your glorious creation!
Inspire the enforcers of mass hallucination to display their hypocrisy in an ever-escalating melodrama of spittle flecks and sour faces, as in a slapstick morality play from the Middle Ages, so that we, their once- captive audience, may convulse with purgative guffaws that shatter the mass hallucination.
And if you don't mind, Sweet Divine Rebel Goddess, please conspire with us to ensure that the breakdown in the Way Things Have Always Been Done will lead to fresh, hot, tidal-wave breakthroughs of beauty, truth, justice, equality and love everywhere we turn.
[Thanks to Fernando for this link]
An artist's concept of Earth's magnetic field connecting to the sun's -- a.k.a. a "flux transfer event" -- with a spacecraft on hand to measure particles and fields. (Credit: Image courtesy of Science@NASA)
ScienceDaily (Nov. 2, 2008) —
During the time it takes you to read this article, something will happen high overhead that until recently many scientists didn't believe in. A magnetic portal will open, linking Earth to the sun 93 million miles away. Tons of high-energy particles may flow through the opening before it closes again, around the time you reach the end of the page.
"It's called a flux transfer event or 'FTE,'" says space physicist David Sibeck of the Goddard Space Flight Center. "Ten years ago I was pretty sure they didn't exist, but now the evidence is incontrovertible."
Indeed, today Sibeck is telling an international assembly of space physicists at the 2008 Plasma Workshop in Huntsville, Alabama, that FTEs are not just common, but possibly twice as common as anyone had ever imagined.
Researchers have long known that the Earth and sun must be connected. Earth's magnetosphere (the magnetic bubble that surrounds our planet) is filled with particles from the sun that arrive via the solar wind and penetrate the planet's magnetic defenses. They enter by following magnetic field lines that can be traced from terra firma all the way back to the sun's atmosphere.
"We used to think the connection was permanent and that solar wind could trickle into the near-Earth environment anytime the wind was active," says Sibeck. "We were wrong. The connections are not steady at all. They are often brief, bursty and very dynamic."
Several speakers at the Workshop have outlined how FTEs form: On the dayside of Earth (the side closest to the sun), Earth's magnetic field presses against the sun's magnetic field. Approximately every eight minutes, the two fields briefly merge or "reconnect," forming a portal through which particles can flow. The portal takes the form of a magnetic cylinder about as wide as Earth. The European Space Agency's fleet of four Cluster spacecraft and NASA's five THEMIS probes have flown through and surrounded these cylinders, measuring their dimensions and sensing the particles that shoot through. "They're real," says Sibeck.
Now that Cluster and THEMIS have directly sampled FTEs, theorists can use those measurements to simulate FTEs in their computers and predict how they might behave. Space physicist Jimmy Raeder of the University of New Hampshire presented one such simulation at the Workshop. He told his colleagues that the cylindrical portals tend to form above Earth's equator and then roll over Earth's winter pole. In December, FTEs roll over the north pole; in July they roll over the south pole.
Sibeck believes this is happening twice as often as previously thought. "I think there are two varieties of FTEs: active and passive." Active FTEs are magnetic cylinders that allow particles to flow through rather easily; they are important conduits of energy for Earth's magnetosphere. Passive FTEs are magnetic cylinders that offer more resistance; their internal structure does not admit such an easy flow of particles and fields. (For experts: Active FTEs form at equatorial latitudes when the IMF tips south; passive FTEs form at higher latitudes when the IMF tips north.) Sibeck has calculated the properties of passive FTEs and he is encouraging his colleagues to hunt for signs of them in data from THEMIS and Cluster. "Passive FTEs may not be very important, but until we know more about them we can't be sure."
There are many unanswered questions: Why do the portals form every 8 minutes? How do magnetic fields inside the cylinder twist and coil? "We're doing some heavy thinking about this at the Workshop," says Sibeck.
Meanwhile, high above your head, a new portal is opening, connecting your planet to the sun.
Monday, November 03, 2008
Thanks to Emerson for this image]
Monday, November 3, 2008
By: Ian Thompson
Reflecting on the PSL's struggle-based, socialist campaign
In January, the Party for Socialism and Liberation publicly announced its first-ever intervention in the elections. Our candidates for president and vice president were trade union leader Gloria La Riva and student activist Eugene Puryear.
Before us stood enormous hurdles: convoluted state ballot access rules designed to keep independent candidates off the ballot; financial costs that we would have to meet without corporate campaign donors; and a mass media bent on keeping left-wing voices—especially revolutionary Marxists—off the airwaves.
But on our side was an army of socialist organizers, allies and friends, driven by boundless energy, a willingness to struggle, and the ideas of genuine liberation: ending capitalist exploitation, racism and all forms of bigotry. We launched our campaign to provide a revolutionary voice to speak for the working class amidst the unrelenting propaganda barrage of the capitalist elections.
We know that the elections are a rigged exercise under this system. But the attention of over 100 million workers, students and progressives was fixed on the elections this year. The PSL set out to offer a true alternative to the status quo.
After months of hard work, the PSL secured ballot status in 12 states—more states than any other U.S. socialist organization. The PSL’s La Riva/Puryear ticket achieved ballot status in New York, New Jersey, Rhode Island and Vermont in the Northeast; Arkansas, Florida and Louisiana in the South; Iowa and Wisconsin in the Midwest; and Colorado, Utah and Washington state in the West. In all, the PSL’s candidates will appear on the ballot before nearly 30 percent of the U.S. electorate.
Accomplishing this was no easy feat. We had to decode complex ballot access barriers in nearly every state. PSL members and allies gathered a total of 45,000 petition signatures to get on the ballot. In New York state alone, in the course of six weeks of 14-hour days, the PSL collected nearly 30,000 signatures. We recruited over 100 electors and held state conventions across the country. We fought blizzards, tornadoes and hurricanes to win ballot access.
Not only did we field national candidates for president and vice president, we also had 10 additional congressional, state, and local candidates in Washington, D.C., Florida, Chicago, South Dakota and California. All ran openly as socialists and members of the PSL; all received significant local media coverage and support from progressive people. Two PSL candidates for Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors received 53,000 votes combined.
‘People over profits’
Unlike the capitalist candidates, who say anything to win voter allegiance, our goal is to build a movement. The PSL is not a party of professional politicians. We are revolutionary activists, organizers and working-class leaders.
Our campaign has raised the banner of socialism everywhere the PSL has been in the last year. We have championed the cause and struggles of the working class. With our guiding slogan, “People over profits,” our message has reached tens of millions of people. The mass media, along with thousands of independent outlets, blogs, and websites regularly covered the PSL’s campaign.
The La Riva/Puryear campaign allowed the PSL to speak to workers in the arena normally reserved exclusively for the representatives of the capitalist class. We used the elections as a way to expose the deep contradictions of capitalism and the racism inherent in its institutions.
Unlike the Democrat and Republican candidates, the PSL’s campaign spoke out for the interests of workers on every single issue. We also struggled on the streets, in forums and in debates to get our positions heard.
Some of the political issues highlighted by the PSL’s campaign were creating union jobs for the unemployed, ending layoffs, raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour, and the necessity of free, high-quality health care, housing and education for all.
Our candidates organized against the epidemic of racist police brutality and killings, military-style checkpoints, and anti-gang injunctions that target oppressed youth in U.S. cities and towns. In Washington, D.C., the campaign opposed the police checkpoint and dragnet sealing off part of the primarily Black neighborhood of Trinidad. Volunteers maintained a steady presence at the checkpoints and went door-to-door to distribute flyers against the checkpoints.
In Southern California, PSL candidates used their local campaigns to condemn several racist gang injunctions that targeted Black and Latino communities. They intervened in televised Town Hall forums, joined protests, and stood out as the only candidates willing to challenge the forces of repression.
In New York City, the campaign collected testimony on the trend of police harassment, abuse and brutality in oppressed communities. With frequent street meetings to bring visibility to this effort, campaign volunteers tape-recorded, transcribed, videotaped, and then publicized every story of police abuse that they could find as part of a general indictment of the capitalist state.
Our campaign celebrated same-sex marriage victories and marched in Pride parades for full LGBT equality now. The PSL’s candidates strongly denounced the wave of racist raids on immigrant workers, demanding legalization and equal rights for all. We fought to stop the unjust execution of Troy Davis; and we struggled for reparations for African Americans.
The La Riva/Puryear campaign traveled to the Midwest when devastating floods destroyed thousands of homes. Gloria La Riva sandbagged in the Iowa trenches alongside other PSL candidates and workers to stop the rising waters.
The La Riva/Puryear campaign went to Louisiana on the third anniversary of Hurricane Katrina to show solidarity with the people still struggling for adequate housing and social services. Our campaign demanded rebuilding New Orleans for the working-class and poor; we challenged the prevailing racism aimed at its African American residents. We were in New Orleans again with grassroots organizers as Hurricane Gustav threatened further destruction.
The demand for the immediate end of the criminal wars on Iraq and Afghanistan was a central pillar of our campaign. PSL candidates organized and participated in mass demonstrations on the sixth anniversary of the U.S. war of aggression against Iraq. Our campaign demanded U.S. out of the Middle East, justice for Palestinians and the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homeland, and an end to U.S. imperialist aggression worldwide.
The campaign demanded freedom for the heroic political prisoners Leonard Peltier, Mumia Abu-Jamal and the Cuban Five. In September, Gloria La Riva and others were arrested in front of the White House in defense of the Five.
We fought to get into the elitist capitalist debates and forums—and we protested outside them too.
A revolutionary program
As millions of workers stood to lose their homes, the La Riva/Puryear campaign resolutely demanded an immediate moratorium on foreclosures and evictions. This pressing issue will never adequately be addressed by the bourgeois politicians. Decent housing must be a right for all.
When giant banks and lenders crumbled in September, Obama and McCain stumped 24/7 for the capitalist class. Their united cheer was “Bail out Wall Street bankers” and, under their breath, “Workers be damned!” Despite the mass outrage aimed at the bailout, the two main pro-corporate candidates would not be moved. Long ago, they pledged themselves to manage the affairs of the U.S. ruling class.
We exposed the bailout as an unparalleled theft from workers and made concrete demands. The PSL candidates led demonstrations, speak outs, and other militant actions. “Bail out workers, not banks!” was our campaign’s rallying cry.
More than anything, the PSL’s campaign championed the urgent need for socialism—the reconstruction of society in the interests of the working class. Workers have everything to gain by doing away with the outdated, repressive, exploitative, discriminatory, much-hated capitalist state. Socialism does away with private profit and reconstructs society so that people’s needs come first.
Preparing for struggles ahead
The close of this election season does not mean that we will abandon the issues on which we have fought so hard. The opposite is true.
We did not run for office to win. Any and all votes for the PSL's candidates were pointed at the heart of capitalism, but, unlike other candidates, we do not pretend that voting in the elections is where the final showdown with capitalism will happen. We ran to facilitate the building of a multinational working-class movement for real change—revolutionary change—in the United States.
Our campaign gave workers, students and oppressed people the opportunity to vote for and work with candidates from a party that is fighting for their interests. We provided an avenue of struggle for our class in an otherwise one-sided contest of millionaire vs. millionaire.
Along the way, we met countless workers, families, organizers and activists who support our message; people who are sick of the way things are and want something better; people who are struggling for a different world. These new members, contacts and alliances lay the groundwork for greater coordinated action and the spread of working-class consciousness.
We encourage all of you to come to our upcoming National Conference on Socialism on Dec. 6-7 in Los Angeles. Join us as members or supporters of the PSL.
Our party's members will continue to be the most dedicated fighters on every issue that affects our class. The 2008 presidential campaign may be over, but important tasks lie ahead. We will continue to struggle until the working class is victorious.
COHA has been compiling and sorting out a good deal of information and analyses on the policies and personalities likely to be embraced in the eventuality of either a McCain or Obama victory in tomorrow’s presidential contest. Among the themes being assessed, and assuming an Obama victory, there follows a cluster of issues that COHA’s staff has been examining.
This analysis was prepared by COHA
1. New departures under Obama for inter-American relations.
2. Washington’s reaction to the launch of UNASUR.
3. U.S. bilateral relations with Havana and Caracas.
4. How Washington will react to Brazil’s rise to near-superpower status.
5. What the likely outcome of the next meeting of the FTAA in Trinidad will be.
6. Prospects for a U.S.-Colombia FTA under Obama.
7. Obama’s predilections in dealing with South America’s left-leaning governments.
8. Obama’s immigration policies towards Mexico and whether Cuba will continue to have privileged refugee status as opposed to Haiti and all other Latin American nations.
9. Obama’s treatment of the drug-legalization issue.
10. Whether an Obama presidency will put pressure on Peru’s Garcia administration to review the status of U.S. citizen Lori Berenson, thereby extending humanitarian considerations by commuting her 20 year jail sentence, most of which she has now served.
11. Whether economic relief will be extended to the English-speaking Caribbean islands which have been battered by recent hurricanes and which have been hobbled by the lack of a viable economy.
Sunday, November 02, 2008
The Euchromatic Blog officially endorses the candidacy of Gloria La Riva for the presidency of the United State of America. Albert explains why he backs the Marxist, candidate for the Party for Socialism and Liberation.
Category : Res Publica Written by Albert on November 2, 2008 at 6:28 pm
The Chem Blog, in these days of electoral hysteria, has been hit hard. The bloke who writes it is very keen to show everybody that, back in September, he was already mad for Obama.
The main reason why I’d like to see him comprehensively beat the Republicans is because: Bush is an imbecile, Sarah Palin is a bitch and the party have managed to ruin a decent man such as McCain.
My real hope, however, is to see Gloria La Riva to ultimately prevail and finally put a marxist in the White House. I mean, how hilarious would it be?!
Americans still see Marxism and Communism as evil, creepy things. Me, born in Italy, have fairly different perspectives. Let me explain. Italians and Spanish have lived under fascist dictatorships until relatively recent times. Therefore, when people define themselves as communist, we aren’t shocked and don’t try to escape and call the police/army, as, I’ve noticed, people do elsewhere.
It’s acceptable, even if we are aware of what was going on in the USSR or today in places like North Korea or China (two, utterly different ways of interpreting marxism, by the way). Despite this knowledge, our (recent) history make us focus more on far-right extremism, which we perceive as a worse threaten to our democracy, and tolerate opposite ideologies.
America, from this point of view, is even more different from other countries. Diehard Republicans still, today, claim that Democrats such as Barak Obama (whose name also sound like Iraq and surname like Osama, as a British comedian recently pointed out as an explanation for Republicans’ recent speculations of a link between the Democratic candidate and islamic terrorism) would turn free America into a Socialist dictatorship or something. Communism creeps in as the boogyman in many speeches. I wonder how the Yankee, public opinion perceived the presence on its sacred territory of an official communist party during the Cold war.
I tolerate any opinion as long as people do no harm to other people in the name of their ideas. I would vote for the Tories here in the UK, too. So, my endorsement for Gloria La Riva should be taken as a provocation but invite you to reflect about how you normally judge radical political views. And, actually, I have always been fond of desperate underdogs.
I think Obama will win, although not as triumphantly as everybody outside the Republican rallies believes. I don’t think he’ll be able (and willing) to change things that much. But, until Wednesday morning, let me dream of a radical marxist woman that win the American, presidential elections. My Goodness, that really would be a change. Hasta la victoria Comandante La Riva!
Saturday, November 01, 2008
Pedro Matías, a well-known reporter who writes for Noticias, a local daily paper, as well as the national weekly Proceso, was kidnapped, beaten, tortured and robbed on Saturday night in Oaxaca. Reporters Without Borders states that,
Matías was kidnapped as he left the newspaper to go home on the evening of 25 October. His abductors beat him and terrorised him for hours, simulating an execution, asking him how he preferred to die and variously threatening to drag him along the ground behind their car, cut off his genitals, rape him or behead him. They also threatened his family members, saying they had been “located.”
He was released the next morning some 30 km outside Oaxaca in Tlacolula de Matamoros, without his car and without his papers, which his abductors also took from him.
Matías does much reporting on the social movement in Oaxaca, usually giving it fair, if not occasionally favorable, coverage. According to Reporters Without Borders, he also is a contributor to a radio station and on it has criticized the PRI (Institutional Revolutionary Party), the party which has ruled Oaxaca for almost 80 years.
This is not the first attack against Noticias or its reporters, which for several years has been the lone local mainstream media outlet which is critical of the state government. Mexico is also the most deadly country in the Americas for journalists.
On November 19, 2004, masked gunmen took over Noticias‘ warehouses and printing presses, holding it for several days and murdering a 19 year old.
On June 17, 2005, Governor Ulises Ruiz, with the help of a state congressman and a PRI-controlled union called the CROC (Revolutionary Confederation of Workers and Peasants), fomented a fake strike against Noticias in an attempt to shut it down. Union members, paramilitaries and local police blockaded the building with 31 Noticias employees inside, cutting off the electricity, phones and water. After a month, the thugs raided the building, dragging out the 31 employees and destroying the offices.
On August 9, 2006, during the rebellion in Oaxaca, two armed, masked men entered the offices of Noticias, shooting equipment and people, wounding two employees.
This year, on January 16, two Noticias reporters received death threats from Rubén Marmolejo Maldonado, aka “El Dragón,” a leader of porros (paid thugs), who has instigated numerous conflicts on the campus of the state university in Oaxaca (UABJO) as well as organizing attacks against the APPO (Popular Assembly of the People of Oaxaca). He has been denounced by the Chair of the Law and Social Sciences Departments of UABJO of working for the state government.
And now Pedro Matías has been kidnapped and tortured. While this event should be seen as another occurrence of government repression against Noticias, it also has a place in the increasingly tense climate of repression against the social movement which has been escalating these past couple of weeks. Oaxaca has seen the October 16 arrest of three APPO members for the October 27, 2006, murder of Brad Will, the issuing of more that 300 more arrest warrants, and the October 25 warrantless raid and trashing of a house belonging to CODEP, a group aligned with the APPO, by the AFI, Mexico’s equivalent of the FBI.
Things may only get worse as the anniversary-laden month of November approaches. November 2 marks not only the Day of the Dead but also the unsuccessful 2006 Federal Preventive Police (PFP) attack on the barricade of Radio Universidad. And November 25 is the two year anniversary of the massive and brutal PFP, paramilitary, state and local police attacks against the APPO. Clearly, the government of Oaxaca is trying to preemptively intimidate and frighten a rebellious populace that it still very much fears.
by DC Larson / November 1st, 2008
If a person votes someone else’s character, than there is no point in their having cast a ballot, them self. They did not impress their individual perspective upon the process.
Voting in a democracy can be self-declaration. It can say, ‘I exist. I matter. This what I believe.”
But there is that ideal, and then there is a disappointing reality.
In a recent interview with Huffington Post columnist Allison Kilkenny, independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader decried self-described “progressive” voters’s ballot box-betrayals of belief.
“You take the 20 leading groups supporting [Barack Obama] in the liberal-progressive pantheon,” Nader said, “Labor, anti-poverty, civil rights, women’s rights, gay-lesbian rights, environment, consumer — you name it — not one of them is putting any demands on him. Unconditional voting for the least worst of the two parties means that your vote has no political leverage whatsoever. It allows Obama to take it for granted, and not give the anti-war people anything because he knows he has the anti-war vote. Then they go to the right wing and slice off a few votes there by going more corporate and flip-flopping on offshore drilling. This is the same merry-go-round every four years.”
If progressive voters make no demands of a candidate prior to an election, instead uncritically enabling their ascension, they cannot reasonably anticipate subsequent
sympathetic audience. They’ve already demonstrated that they will vote for the candidate not reflective of their views.
And if a candidate is victorious without altering their messages and positions, they will continue in that suit. Why would they change, if they know they’ll get progressives’s votes, regardless?
As Election Day looms only days away, progressives must carefully examine candidate options to discern genuine advocates of their ambitions from opportunists.
- Anti-war pickets have chosen to throw themselves on their plowshares rather than cast votes against Barack Obama, though as Senator he’s voted repeatedly to fund continued US militarism in Iraq, and has announced plans to keep US troops in that country while sending others to Afghanistan.
- Many proponents of equal civil rights protections for gays and lesbians, including full marriage rights, are supporting Obama despite his opposing same-sex marriage and proffering instead the separate-but-equal “civil unions” gimmick. Only a few decades ago, many states’s laws prohibited black and white couples from marrying. According to critics at that time, those couples, too, were “deviant” and “not traditional.” I am happily in one such marriage. Obama was the product of another, and should be more sensitive to unorthodox couples’s legitimate rights to marry; he is instead casting his fortunes with those of discriminators.
- Citizens ordinarily vocal in their condemnation of governmental spying on law — abiding citizens and activist groups are giving Obama a pass on his senate votes to extend the anti-citizen Patriot Act, and to grant immunity from potential prosecution to telecom companies like Verizon and AT&T that might have been complicit in the Bush White House’s illegal spying.
- Advocates for the poor and homeless are largely silent on the Democrat Party’s contemporary indifference toward those issues, an indifference epitomized by Obama’s dwelling on the middle class to the exclusion of persons less fortunate (a group whose number grows, daily). And the candidate’s favor of execution policy mirrors that not only of Republicans, but recent Democrat predecessors: Not since 1988 have Democrats offered a presidential candidate who opposes capital punishment across the board.
- One might expect voters unsympathetic to corporate crime to withhold endorsement from politicians protecting the wealthy and dismissing the rank and file taxpayer. But Obama’s senate vote in favor of the $700 billion bailout bill for Wall Street criminals — that included no new regulations to prevent future such circumstances, or benefits for average mortgage-holders whose homes are being foreclosed nationwide — somehow has not noticeably dampened enthusiasm for his candidacy.
- Those aghast at John McCain’s alliance with John Hagee and other fundamentalist theocratic soldiers would, if consistent, be just as strong in opposition to Obama and his own cultivated and unapologetic ties to the virulently homophobic mega-church evangelical gospel sphere. The candidate’s sanction of Embrace the Faith events on his behalf featuring singer and “gay reparative therapy” advocate Donnie McClurkin, and his stated sympathy for Bush-style public-funding of privately-administered religious efforts, are no less offensive than are such attitudes evinced by the most intolerant conservative.
- When confronted with Senator Obama’s unprogressive record, his supporters offer as final resort the assertion that his Supreme Court appointments would doubtless be more in keeping with progressive sentiment than those selected by McCain. (And to his credit, Obama did as Senator not only criticize but vote against the nominations of John Roberts and Antonin Scalia.) But while it is probably true that he would avoid appointing colorful and controversial right wing jurists, his record of support for the bailout bill, Patriot Act, spying, gay couple discrimination, corporate interests, and executions effectively dispatches arguments that Obama Supreme Court appointments would reflect public interest sympathies. Besides, the obsession with conventional realpolitic attitudes that shapes Obama’s current campaign could be expected to direct any Supreme Court selections he might make far away from the Left end of the spectrum. Concerns for re-election viability would preclude progressive indulgence.
My intention here is not to dissuade persons who genuinely accept Obama’s positions. Rather, it is to argue that others who envision themselves as ideologically distinct from his unprogressive record, and who would see progressive principles one day gain advantage, have no legitimate business voting for him or any candidate who does not advance that ambition. If they do, then progress was not truly their desire, at all.
(A common assertion justifying voting contrary to principle — one frequently made in 2004 by Ariana Huffington — is that, “When the house is on fire, you don’t worry about rearranging the furniture.” That argument’s flaw is obvious. When a structure is by design not suitable for all legitimate dwellers, its razing is not to be mourned.)
If you do not find positions Obama has taken to be off-putting, then vote for him — or for despicable conservative John McCain; exceedingly little of substance distinguishes the pair.
But, if in your heart you feel your true beliefs are at great variance with Obama’s record and apparent sympathies, then I would submit that you have a moral duty to express yourself honestly, by voting for an alternative candidate who better reflects your opinions.
In that way, political cultures change. Causes like ending slavery, womens’s suffrage, the trade unionist movement, and racial civil rights all began in the streets and with political outsiders. Who today would argue that persons advocating those interests should have ignored principle and accepted contrary conventional political realities?
During a 1924 debate on the death penalty, opponent Clarence Darrow noted the many torturous forms of punishment once common. “Gradually, the world has been lopping off these punishments,” he said. “…[T]he only way we got rid of these laws was because juries were too humane to obey the courts.”
Just so, electoral progress in the public interest begins with appropriately-voting citizens.
With each presidential election cycle, it becomes more obvious that not only are the two major parties inadequate to the legitimate task of representing the diversity of American political sentiment, but that they do not even wish to do so. Which means many real citizens with real concerns are not served by the closed duopoly.
The looming “realignment of American politics” of which Nader has of late spoken will ensure that interests presently ignored and effectively disenfranchised by the corporatized major parties will enjoy voice and practical visibility. The changing of the electoral system, its widening to accommodate diverse voices and choices representing all Americans, is a crucial and noble ambition. I believe a multi-party system to be in America’s future.
Work toward that end must begin now, with groundwork construction. It is a long-term proposition, and not one promising instant satisfaction.
But then, an ethical person doesn’t do what they believe to be right only when success looms. They do what they feel to be right, because they feel it to be right.
Only when citizens vote truthfully and by so doing declare their core principles can identifying melody be discerned from the surrounding cacophony of lockstep conformity.
The Bush administration is preparing to suspend longtime trade benefits to Bolivia. The move was announced last month, but the White House has had to wait until the end of a legally required public comment period that ends today. The administration says Bolivian President Evo Morales has failed to cooperate in the so-called war on drugs. The US has been accused of hypocrisy following UN figures that show cocaine production in Bolivia rising five percent last year compared to a 27 percent jump in Colombia. Colombia is the largest recipient of US aid in the Western hemisphere. On Thursday, Morales spoke at a meeting of Latin American leaders on the economic crisis.
Bolivian President Evo Morales: “It’s not about saving capitalism. Capitalism will never resolve the problems of humanity. Capitalism not only generates a financial crisis, capitalism brings on energetic crisis, capitalism brings ecological crisis.”
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