Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Smart People Are Better Able to Keep a Beat

In the intellectual hierarchy of rock and roll, drummers aren’t typically perceived as the most brilliant of band members. But a Swedish study published in April found that the ability to keep closely to a beat is a sign of superior intelligence. Investigators from Karolinska Institute in Stockholm and Umeå University asked 30 men recruited from the general population to listen to the steady clonk of a sampled cowbell and then tap out the same plain beat on a drum pad. The test was repeated at seven different tempos, and the results were then compared with the recruits’ IQ scores. Although the subjects’ deviations from the test rhythm were too subtle to be detected by the ear, the study found that the subjects with the highest IQs kept closest to the beat. “It’s an extremely simple and boring task—it doesn’t involve any kind of thinking,” says neurologist Fredrik Ullén of Karolinska Institute. Ullén and his colleagues designed the study to circumvent “top-down” powers of higher reasoning and test basic, “bottom-up” neurological functioning instead. The neural mechanisms that control the accuracy and stability of the subjects’ tapping operate below the level of conscious attention, the researchers claim, and reflect the precision of neural firing itself. Millisecond variations in neural activity are known to affect learning and information processing, so it makes sense that those with the best timing are also the brightest, the researchers say. Their brain networks probably have less “noise.” In areas of the brain previously linked to IQ, the star percussionists also had more white matter—the fatty material that sheathes connections between neurons and boosts signal speed—indicating a larger amount of neural hookups there. “In intelligence studies, distinguishing between top-down and bottom-up processes is damn difficult,” Ullén says. “I think we’re on to something.”

Letter to Bush on Gaza Crisis - by Ralph Nader

Dear George W. Bush--- Cong. Barney Frank said recently that Barack Obama’s declaration that “there is only one president at a time” over-estimated the number. He was referring to the economic crisis. But where are you on the Gaza crisis where the civilian population of Gaza, its civil servants and public facilities are being massacred and destroyed respectively by U.S built F-16s and U.S. built helicopter gunships. The deliberate suspension of your power to stop this terrorizing of 1.5 million people, mostly refugees, blockaded for months by air, sea and land in their tiny slice of land, is in cowardly contrast to the position taken by President Dwight Eisenhower in 1956. That year he single handedly stopped the British, French and Israeli aircraft attack against Egypt during the Suez Canal dispute. Fatalities in Gaza are already over 400 and injuries close to 2000 so far as is known. Total Palestinian civilian casualties are 400 times greater then the casualties incurred by Israelis. But why should anyone be surprised at your blanket support for Israel’s attack given what you have done to a far greater number of civilians in Iraq and now in Afghanistan? Confirmed visual reports show that Israeli warplanes and warships have destroyed or severely damaged police stations, homes, hospitals, pharmacies, mosques, fishing boats, and a range of public facilities providing electricity and other necessities. Why should this trouble you at all? It violates international law, including the Geneva Conventions and the UN Charter. You too have repeatedly violated international law and committed serious constitutional transgressions. Then there is the matter of the Israeli government blocking imports of critical medicines, equipment such as dialysis machines, fuel, food, water, spare parts and electricity at varying intensities for almost two years. The depleted UN aid mission there has called this illegal blockade a humanitarian crisis especially devastating to children, the aged and the infirm. Chronic malnutrition among children is rising rapidly. UN rations support eighty percent of this impoverished population. How do these incontrovertible facts affect you? Do you have any empathy or what you have called Christian charity? What would a vastly shrunken Texas turned in an encircled Gulag do up against the 4th most powerful military in the world? Would these embattled Texans be spending their time chopping wood? Gideon Levy, the veteran Israeli columnist for Ha’aretz, called the Israeli attack a “brutal and violent operation” far beyond what was needed for protecting the people in its south. He added: “The diplomatic efforts were just in the beginning, and I believe we could have got to a new truce without this bloodshed… send dozens of jets to bomb a total helpless civilian society with hundreds of bombs—just today, they were burying five sisters. I mean, this is unheard of. This cannot go on like this. And this has nothing to do with self-defense or with retaliation even. It went out of proportion, exactly like two-and-a-half years ago in Lebanon.” Apparently, thousands of Israelis, including some army reservists, who have demonstrated against this destruction of Gaza agree with Mr. Levy. However, their courageous stands have not reached the mass media in the U.S. whose own reporters cannot even get into Gaza due to Israeli prohibitions on the international press. Your spokespeople are making much ado about the breaking of the six month truce. Who is the occupier? Who is the most powerful military force? Who controls and blocks the necessities of life? Who has sent raiding missions across the border most often? Who has sent artillery shells and missiles at close range into populated areas? Who has refused the repeated comprehensive peace offerings of the Arab countries issued in 2002 if Israel would agree to return to the 1967 borders and agree to the creation of a small independent Palestinian state possessing just twenty two percent of the original Palestine? The “wildly inaccurate rockets”, as reporters describe them, coming from Hamas and other groups cannot compare with the modern precision armaments and human damage generated from the Israeli side. There are no rockets coming from the West Bank into Israel. Yet the Israeli government is still sending raiders into that essentially occupied territory, still further entrenching its colonial outposts, still taking water and land and increasing the checkpoints This is going on despite a most amenable West Bank leader, Mahmoud Abbas, whom you have met with at the White House and praised repeatedly. Is it all vague words and no real initiatives with you and your emissary Condoleezza Rice? Peace was possible, but you provided no leadership, preferring instead to comply with all wishes and demands by the Israeli government—even resupplying it with the still active cluster bombs in south Lebanon during the invasion of that country in 2006. The arguments about who started the latest hostilities go on and on with Israel always blaming the Palestinians to justify all kinds of violence and harsh treatment against innocent civilians. From the Palestinian standpoint, you would do well to remember the origins of this conflict which was the dispossession of their lands. To afford you some empathy, recall the oft-quoted comment by the founder of Israel, David Ben-Gurion, who told the Zionist leader, Nahum Goldmann: “There has been anti-Semitism the Nazis Hitler Auschwitz but was that their [the Palestinians] fault? They only see one thing: We have come here and stolen their country. Why should they accept that?” Alfred North Whitehead once said: “Duty arises out of the power to alter the course of events.” By that standard, you have shirked mightily your duty over the past eight years to bring peace to both Palestinians and Israelis and more security to a good part of the world. The least you can do in your remaining days at the White House is adopt a modest profile in courage, and vigorously demand and secure a ceasefire and a solidly based truce. Then your successor, President-elect Obama can inherit something more than the usual self-censoring Washington puppet show that eschews a proper focus on the national interests of the United States. END.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The 10 Worst Corporations of 2008

What a Year for Corporate Criminality!

By ROBERT WEISSMAN; December 29, 2008 - Counterpunch

What a year for corporate criminality and malfeasance!

As we compiled the Multinational Monitor list of the 10 Worst Corporations of 2008, it would have been easy to restrict the awardees to Wall Street firms.

But the rest of the corporate sector was not on good behavior during 2008 either, and we didn't want them to escape justified scrutiny.

So, in keeping with our tradition of highlighting diverse forms of corporate wrongdoing, we included only one financial company on the 10 Worst list.

Here, presented in alphabetical order, are the 10 Worst Corporations of 2008.

AIG: Money for Nothing

There's surely no one party responsible for the ongoing global financial crisis. But if you had to pick a single responsible corporation, there's a very strong case to make for American International Group (AIG), which has already sucked up more than $150 billion in taxpayer supports. Through "credit default swaps," AIG basically collected insurance premiums while making the ridiculous assumption that it would never pay out on a failure -- let alone a collapse of the entire market it was insuring. When reality set in, the roof caved in.

Cargill: Food Profiteers

When food prices spiked in late 2007 and through the beginning of 2008, countries and poor consumers found themselves at the mercy of the global market and the giant trading companies that dominate it. As hunger rose and food riots broke out around the world, Cargill saw profits soar, tallying more than $1 billion in the second quarter of 2008 alone.

In a competitive market, would a grain-trading middleman make super-profits? Or would rising prices crimp the middleman's profit margin? Well, the global grain trade is not competitive, and the legal rules of the global economy-- devised at the behest of Cargill and friends -- ensure that poor countries will be dependent on, and at the mercy of, the global grain traders.

Chevron: "We can't let little countries screw around with big companies"

In 2001, Chevron swallowed up Texaco. It was happy to absorb the revenue streams. It has been less willing to take responsibility for Texaco's ecological and human rights abuses.

In 1993, 30,000 indigenous Ecuadorians filed a class action suit in U.S. courts, alleging that Texaco over a 20-year period had poisoned the land where they live and the waterways on which they rely, allowing billions of gallons of oil to spill and leaving hundreds of waste pits unlined and uncovered. Chevron had the case thrown out of U.S. courts, on the grounds that it should be litigated in Ecuador, closer to where the alleged harms occurred. But now the case is going badly for Chevron in Ecuador -- Chevron may be liable for more than $7 billion. So, the company is lobbying the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative to impose trade sanctions on Ecuador if the Ecuadorian government does not make the case go away.

"We can't let little countries screw around with big companies like this -- companies that have made big investments around the world," a Chevron lobbyist said to Newsweek in August. (Chevron subsequently stated that the comments were not approved.)

Constellation Energy: Nuclear Operators

Although it is too dangerous, too expensive and too centralized to make sense as an energy source, nuclear power won't go away, thanks to equipment makers and utilities that find ways to make the public pay and pay.

Constellation Energy Group, the operator of the Calvert Cliffs nuclear plant in Maryland -- a company recently involved in a startling, partially derailed scheme to price gouge Maryland consumers -- plans to build a new reactor at Calvert Cliffs, potentially the first new reactor built in the United States since the near-meltdown at Three Mile Island in 1979.

It has lined up to take advantage of U.S. government-guaranteed loans for new nuclear construction, available under the terms of the 2005 Energy Act. The company acknowledges it could not proceed with construction without the government guarantee.

CNPC: Fueling Violence in Darfur

Sudan has been able to laugh off existing and threatened sanctions for the slaughter it has perpetrated in Darfur because of the huge support it receives from China, channeled above all through the Sudanese relationship with the Chinese National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC).

"The relationship between CNPC and Sudan is symbiotic," notes the Washington, D.C.-based Human Rights First, in a March 2008 report, "Investing in Tragedy." "Not only is CNPC the largest investor in the Sudanese oil sector, but Sudan is CNPC's largest market for overseas investment."

Oil money has fueled violence in Darfur. "The profitability of Sudan's oil sector has developed in close chronological step with the violence in Darfur," notes Human Rights First.

Dole: The Sour Taste of Pineapple

A 1988 Filipino land reform effort has proven a fraud. Plantation owners helped draft the law and invented ways to circumvent its purported purpose. Dole pineapple workers are among those paying the price.

Under the land reform, Dole's land was divided among its workers and others who had claims on the land prior to the pineapple giant. However, wealthy landlords maneuvered to gain control of the labor cooperatives the workers were required to form, Washington, D.C.-based International Labor Rights Forum (ILRF) explains in an October report. Dole has slashed it regular workforce and replaced them with contract workers.

Contract workers are paid under a quota system, and earn about $1.85 a day, according to ILRF.

GE: Creative Accounting

In June, former New York Times reporter David Cay Johnston reported on internal General Electric documents that appeared to show the company had engaged in a long-running effort to evade taxes in Brazil. In a lengthy report in Tax Notes International, Johnston reported on a GE subsidiary's scheme to invoice suspiciously high sales volume for lighting equipment in lightly populated Amazon regions of the country. These sales would avoid higher value added taxes (VAT) in urban states, where sales would be expected to be greater.

Johnston wrote that the state-level VAT at issue, based on the internal documents he reviewed, appeared to be less than $100 million. But, he speculated, the overall scheme could have involved much more.

Johnston did not identify the source that gave him the internal GE documents, but GE has alleged it was a former company attorney, Adriana Koeck. GE fired Koeck in January 2007 for what it says were "performance reasons."

Imperial Sugar: 14 Dead

On February 7, an explosion rocked the Imperial Sugar refinery in Port Wentworth, Georgia, near Savannah. Days later, when the fire was finally extinguished and search-and-rescue operations completed, the horrible human toll was finally known: 14 dead, dozens badly burned and injured.

As with almost every industrial disaster, it turns out the tragedy was preventable. The cause was accumulated sugar dust, which like other forms of dust, is highly combustible.

A month after the Port Wentworth explosion, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) inspectors investigated another Imperial Sugar plant, in Gramercy, Louisiana. They found 1/4- to 2-inch accumulations of dust on electrical wiring and machinery. They found as much as 48-inch accumulations on workroom floors.

Imperial Sugar obviously knew of the conditions in its plants. It had in fact taken some measures to clean up operations prior to the explosion. The company brought in a new vice president to clean up operations in November 2007, and he took some important measures to improve conditions. But it wasn't enough. The vice president told a Congressional committee that top-level management had told him to tone down his demands for immediate action.

Philip Morris International: Unshackled

The old Philip Morris no longer exists. In March, the company formally divided itself into two separate entities: Philip Morris USA, which remains a part of the parent company Altria, and Philip Morris International. Philip Morris USA sells Marlboro and other cigarettes in the United States. Philip Morris International tramples the rest of the world.

Philip Morris International has already signaled its initial plans to subvert the most important policies to reduce smoking and the toll from tobacco-related disease (now at 5 million lives a year). The company has announced plans to inflict on the world an array of new products, packages and marketing efforts. These are designed to undermine smoke-free workplace rules, defeat tobacco taxes, segment markets with specially flavored products, offer flavored cigarettes sure to appeal to youth and overcome marketing restrictions.

Roche: "Saving lives is not our business"

The Swiss company Roche makes a range of HIV-related drugs. One of them is enfuvirtid, sold under the brand-name Fuzeon. Fuzeon brought in $266 million to Roche in 2007, though sales are declining.

Roche charges $25,000 a year for Fuzeon. It does not offer a discount price for developing countries.

Like most industrialized countries, Korea maintains a form of price controls -- the national health insurance program sets prices for medicines. The Ministry of Health, Welfare and Family Affairs listed Fuzeon at $18,000 a year. Korea's per capita income is roughly half that of the United States. Instead of providing Fuzeon, for a profit, at Korea's listed level, Roche refuses to make the drug available in Korea.

Korean activists report that the head of Roche Korea told them, "We are not in business to save lives, but to make money. Saving lives is not our business."

Robert Weissman is editor of the Washington, D.C.-based Multinational Monitor and director of Essential Action.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Zapatistas Digna Rabia video


Sunday, December 28, 2008

Cantico del Sole, by Ezra Pound

The thought of what America would be like
If the Classics had a wide circulation
Troubles my sleep,
The thought of what America,
The thought of what America,The thought of what America would be like
If the Classics had a wide circulation
Troubles my sleep.
Nunc dimittis, now lettest thou thy servant,
Now lettest thou thy servant
Depart in peace.
The thought of what America,
The thought of what America,
The thought of what America would be like
If the Classics had a wide circulation...
Oh well!
It troubles my sleep.

Tenzin Gyatso Quote

"In the practice of tolerance, one's enemy is the best teacher."

The absurd persistence of domination: Of speciesism, capitalism, and shaking their foundations

December 28th, 2008


By Jason Miller Print This Post Print This Post


Even the most ardent reactionaries, deluded ‘patriots,’ and apathetic cynics, whose myopic, Panglossian perspectives ensure that they continue to reflexively genuflect to the deeply criminal enterprise of American Capitalism and rationalize the savage imperialism of US foreign policy, are beginning to concede that we are in the midst of a crisis of epic proportions.

So lack of awareness, which is usually the first obstacle to solving a problem, isn’t the real enemy here. Our chief foe is a swarm of greed-driven, self-absorbed, mean-spirited locust-like human beings who are dedicated to “reforming” and perpetuating capitalism, the very system that has led us to this woeful state of environmental, economic, social, and political affairs.

Capitalism, the systemization of greed, selfishness, subjugation, and exploitation camouflaged by the narcotic of consumerism, the irresistible illusion of equal opportunity for all, and its ostensible compatibility with liberal democracy, has seduced hundreds of millions of people into ignoring its contradictions, injustices, and malevolence.


Capitalism has inflicted deep wounds upon the Earth and is the persistent infection that must be eradicated to avert the sixth mass extinction, the ongoing torture and murder of billions of non-human animals, an acceleration of Climate Change, further economic collapse, mass starvation, severe shortages of potable water, perpetual resource wars, and a host of other catastrophic events.

While much of its foul stench emanates from the United States, the foul odor of capitalism has wafted its way into the nostrils of nearly every citizen on the globe. Capitalism’s cockroach-like apologists, propagandists, beneficiaries, enforcers, and power brokers scurry in and out of nearly every nook and cranny of the planet.


Cyrano’s Journal Online and its semi-autonomous subsections (Thomas Paine’s Corner, The Greanville Journal, CJO Avenger, Tant Mieux, and VoxPop) would be delighted to periodically email you links to the most recent material and timeless classics available on our diverse and comprehensive site. If you would like to subscribe, type “CJO subscription” in the subject line and send your email to


Global and dominant as it is, capitalism is the culmination and perpetuator of a number of vile social, economic, political, and cultural elements and dynamics, many of which began rearing their ugly heads with the advent of agriculture, domestication and civilization. Starting about 10,000 years ago, as humans became “civilized,” we alienated ourselves from nature, psychologically enabling us to exploit non-human animals and savagely abuse the Earth for our enrichment, amusement and comfort.

As a collective, we human animals have hubristically determined that we are the master species, endowing ourselves with the right to dominate, enslave, torture, humiliate, murder, and eat any sentient being on the planet (with the almost universal exception being the taboo of cannibalism–which is a bit perplexing considering the numerous other evils we inflict upon one another and the fact that human over-population is a tremendous problem).


Speciesism, the mental perversion that afflicts most people–causing them to view themselves as superior to all other species, is the one of the most blatantly exploitative and reprehensible of all human ideologies. Yet it remains “socially acceptable.” Inextricably linked with the bourgeois belief in the supremacy of profit and property over life, speciesism reveals the ferocity and grotesquery of savage capitalism. Animal exploiting capitalists of all stripes, including ranchers, biomedical researchers, meat processors, egg producers, fast food restaurateurs, and their ilk spend billions of dollars on agitprop each year to ensure that both the law and those who consume their products continue to view non-human animals as property, worthy of no more consideration than a lawn-mower. In fact, many people treat their Lawn Boys far better than factory farmers treat “their” sows.

Remember that human slavery, in which certain members of the human species were reduced to the status of property, was once institutionalized. The United States, the self-proclaimed land of the free (and not coincidentally the nexus of parasitic and decaying capitalism), was one of the last “advanced” nations to abolish slavery. And abolition wouldn’t have occurred had it not been for great sacrifices by many people of conscience and a civil war. Such is the pernicious and relentlessly cruel nature of capitalism.

Patriarchy and racism were once institutionalized too. Yet despite the fact that women and minorities have made significant legal, political, and social strides, the white man still wields tremendous power in this world, much of it economic in nature.


Overt and unapologetic imperialism and colonialism may be relics of the past, but conquest and subjugation still thrive under the guise of humanitarian intervention, loans to developing nations requiring corporate-friendly economic reforms, and aid to puppet regimes amenable to the rape of their country. All this to satisfy capitalism’s insatiable appetite for new markets, cheap labor, and natural resources.

Many people are concerned about the devastating and noxious impact we humans are having upon the Earth. But thanks to corporate green-washing, the globalization of the American Way of Life, and the deep allegiance many people have to capitalism (a system that is based on infinite growth on a finite planet), the rape and plunder of Mother Nature continues at an alarming rate. Relentlessly bludgeoned by the unquestioned supremacy of capitalist “ideals,” potential solutions that might interfere significantly with growth and profit are beaten to death before they can fully emerge from the womb.

Meanwhile, anti-capitalist radicals, including Marxists, socialists, anarchists, deep environmentalists, anarcho-primitivists, animal liberationists, members of indigenous movements, feminists, and many others who recognize that the problems we face are systemic in nature and that capitalism must go, remain marginalized, persecuted, ridiculed, vilified, and perhaps worst of all, divided.


An example of the agitprop the ruling elite successfully deploys (despite its obvious absurdity) to throw the true left to the margins of society. Obama is, AT BEST, center left on the political spectrum, yet the deeply indoctrinated amongst the working class–who remain faithful to their capitalist exploiters–swallow this nonsensical portrayal of him as a communist as if it was gospel….

American Capitalism’s power elite, comprised of the upper strata of the economic, corporate, political, and military hierarchies, enjoy tremendous advantages over those who oppose them. Despite their obvious economic and military might, their most powerful weapon is actually their seemingly omnipotent abilities to prevent any ideology from challenging the national religion of capitalism, to maintain the allegiance of most of the working class, and to demonize those who dare to blaspheme against their economic rape.

In a recent interview, internationally-renowned progressive political analyst Michael Parenti described the means by which the ruling class manipulates the masses into supporting such an obviously wretched system:

“Through control of the universe of discourse, including the media, the professions, the universities, the publishing industry, many of the churches, the consumer society, the job market, and even the very socialization of our children and the prefiguring of our own perceptions, the ruling interests are able to exercise a prevailing ideological control that excludes any reasoned critique of the dominant paradigm.”

It is imperative that those of us who recognize that electing a Democrat who is a racial minority and who talks a progressive game is a band-aid, at best, and that the real solution is to drive a stake through the heart of vampiric capitalism by uniting and by finding a means to take on the corporate media in such a way that we begin winning significant numbers of hearts and minds.

Anti-capitalist academics, writers, publishers, organizers, speakers, community leaders, politicians, and activists need effective conduits through which they can meet, communicate, educate one another, derive a sense of solidarity, and coordinate their efforts.

It is essential that we break down the perceived barrier between intellectuals and activists so that we can unify against regressive forces that thrive on inequality, injustice, environmental abuse, speciesism, and hierarchy—or in other words let’s come together and crush those loathsome bastards who prosper via the domination and abuse of the Earth and its sentient inhabitants.


Derrick Jensen has called on rational people of conscience to form a culture of resistance against the soulless insanity of a status quo that empowers and rewards those who are the most sociopathic and the most devoid of empathy. And if we are to create this culture of resistance and strive to forge an egalitarian, just, ecological, non-speciesist and democratic society, it is crucial that we expand our moral circle and bring animal liberation into the fold.

Aside from the morally indefensible fact that we enslave, torture, and murder sentient beings who feel pain and fear just as we do, consider Charles Patterson’s powerful argument he advanced in Eternal Treblinka. Patterson demonstrated that there is a frighteningly thin line between the abuse, objectification, and industrial torture we routinely inflict upon cows, for example, and that which we inflict upon other members of our own species. Many of the techniques the Nazis employed in the Holocaust came directly from the livestock and meat-packing industries.

Because our delusional notion of superiority is so deeply ingrained in our psyches, even many people of good conscience ignore the fact that non-human animals, who have no voice, no legal rights, and no viable means to defend themselves, are the ultimate victims of the ‘might makes right’ capitalist mentality. As the radical front line of a culture of resistance against a brutal social structure that thrives on abuse and exploitation, we need to attack the problem at its root. Leaving racism, sexism, classism and even Zionism in the dust, speciesism is the most enduring, savage, and widely accepted of the cultural ethos that enable capitalism to thrive, as it enables morally retarded wretches to pitilessly damn billions upon billions of innocent beings to a nightmare of Hobbesian proportions.


If we truly intend to subvert the dominant rapacious paradigm and replace it with something that will serve the greater good and heal the Earth, we must put animal liberation on our agenda.

So, how can we create a formidable culture of resistance and establish animal rights as one of the pillars of the radical agenda?

The Transformative Studies Institute (TSI) at, a radical educational entity that “fosters interdisciplinary research that will bridge multidisciplinary theory with activism in order to encourage community involvement that will attempt to alleviate social problems,” is sponsoring Thomas Paine’s Corner (TPC) at, which partners with Cyrano’s Journal Online ( to provide a media platform for radical writers, scholars, poets, playwrights, activists, and groups. No significant social movement will take place if the intelligentsia is cloistered in ivory towers, alienated from the activists who need them for education and guidance. We have an abundance of theory, but a dearth of praxis. TSI and TPC intend to get ideas into the heads of those who will translate them into action!

Both TSI and TPC will work in conjunction with the Institute for Critical Animal Studies (ICAS) at to promote “critical scholarly dialogue and research on the principles and practices of animal advocacy, animal protection, and animal-related policies in the fields of social sciences and humanities.” ICAS, TSI, and TPC will push to catalyze the inclusion of animal liberation into the broader radical agenda through critical pedagogy and again through facilitating the conversion of theory into praxis.

With noted scholars, activists, thinkers, and writers such as Steve Best, William Blum, Ward Churchill, Anthony Nocella II, Richard J. White, John Asimakopoulos, Lisa Kemmerer, Gary Corseri, Jason Bayless, Michael Parenti, Adam Engel, Ed Duvin, Gore Vidal, Richard Kahn, Joe Bageant, John Steppling, and many others behind this ambitious under-taking, the project has great potential. We desperately need ventures like this one to succeed.

As Adorno wrote in Minima Moralia, “A breed of men has secretly grown up that hungers for the compulsion and restriction imposed by the absurd persistence of domination.”

Capitalism and speciesism are woven into most of the world’s cultural and socioeconomic DNA. This ensures that the sociopathic “breed of men” to which Adorno referred enjoy the perpetual existence of the “absurd persistence of domination.” Which in turn is ensuring the rapid acceleration of widespread suffering and calamitous events.

As radical scholars or activists, we face the daunting task of exterminating capitalism and speciesism. And time grows short. Yet we can find solace in the fact that resistance is NOT futile!

Jason Miller is a tenacious anti-capitalist and vegan animal liberationist. He is also the founder and editor of Thomas Paine’s Corner, associate editor for Cyrano’s Journal Online, blog director for The Transformative Studies Institute and associate editor for the Journal for Critical Animal Studies.

TSI and ICAS do not endorse the content of TPC. TPC and CJO are independent media sources for writers to express themselves in an open democratic manner. TPC, CJO, ICAS and TSI do not intend to encourage illegal/unethical activity or behavior. The information herein is solely intended for entertainment, educational, research, academic, or other lawful purposes.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Greece: World Revolution Manifesto

Saturday, December 27 2008

The planet is under a state of siege from corporations. The people who own them (i.e. this neurotic, criminal minority) use tools such as the States in order to increase their monetary income to the maximum, to meet their desire for total authority and to maintain the postmodern industrial production apparatus called Planet Earth.


Planet Earth

December 27, 2008

A. The state of corporatism that we live in

The planet is under a state of siege from corporations. The people who own them (i.e. this neurotic, criminal minority) use tools such as the States in order to increase their monetary income to the maximum, to meet their desire for total authority and to maintain the postmodern industrial production apparatus called Planet Earth.

There is no doubt that it is the banks controlling the States (and not the other way round) since, as we passively observe at this moment, the masks in the birthplace state of capitalism have fallen: the US government supports the panicked moves of this Corporatist regime and prepares its army for a “possible social unrest in the face of an upcoming crisis”.

In turn, states hold the people in a divided and idle state so that they will compete with one another instead of rising up against the obvious enemy of humanity. Those in authority bring up individuals teaching them their differences to the person next to them; implanting them “values” such as the nation, gender, success, consumption, health, beauty and sanity of mind. These produce behaviours observed globally and are, more or less, known to us all: nationalism, racism, consumerism, sexism, ableism, ageism and lookism.

States would have been unable to mark our bodies with such rotten scars if it wasn’t for the Cops, the Medical Regime, the Educational Regime, the Establishment Media, Religions and Bureaucracy in all its forms.

Humans end up beings with a hyper-emphasised “ego” since they are a unique amalgan of heterogeneous identities. Proletarian and muslim. Respectable housewife and lesbian. Student and depressed. Sexist and communist. Successful yuppie and sensitive in ecological issues. Woman and nationalist. Shattered in thousands of small pieces, which prevent them from seeing who it is that enforces their repressed class status. Most importantly, they prevent them from understanding themselves as something more collective, such as the globalised neo-proletariat: all the humans of the planet, that is, who experience daily everything from the darkness and depression to the abjection and non-voluntary death. A proletariat of this type that, numerically only, prevails.

The plenitude of constructed identities creates a condition of “cultural war” in each of the planet’s societies (as well as trans-nationally) where identities compete with one another, often in favour of the Regime, as this will lead its respectable citizens to demand even tighter security.

The dictatorship of the Corporatist Bourgeois Democracy makes sure to repress all and any spontaneous resistance to the power: it sucks social nuclei of resistance into political parties, trade unions and other political formations that reek of death. It does not hesitate, only too often, to “democratise” locales of the planet, to repress liberating movements and to deny the right to self-determination (the US in Iraq; Israel in Palestine; Greece in Macedonia).

It does not hesitate to destroy the nature of Earth, exterminating whole eco-systems, altering the environment and disrupting our bodies with the quality of food we receive. All in the name of progress, science and civilisation.

The civilised world is an amalgam of all these authoritarian patterns which, over time, have convinced us of having a quality of life without which (ironically) humans lived much better in the past.

The rise of population and of the average life expectancy, with the blessings of the Medical Regime, simply increases the number of the waged slaves, shrinking, at the same time, the quality of their life to the absolute minimum.

Life in the city has distanced humans from the experience of living, observing and learning from natural phenomena; it has destroyed the experience of the physical space and has made them vulnerable in the face of experience that used to be commonplace (physical labour, outdoors survival etc).

B. The World Revolution must be against civilisation

- The catalyst of our organising is the world wide web: We call all the disgruntled and revolted to get their own voice on the web, either by sending contributions to counter-information media or setting up their own blogs, creating collective discussion boards or hacking established and capitalist websites.

- We call all workers around the world to discuss about self-organising in their workspaces and to make proposals in regard to exiting trade unions. We call them to occupy the places of production and to manage their units horizontally, in a self-organised manner, under the guidance of consensus.

- We call all high school and university students to occupy their buildings, shoving aside all political party henchmen; to co-form with tons of imagination and humour, ideas on theory and practice! To turn these buildings into nuclei of anarchist life and social outreach.

- We call all who have lived under the burden of Clinical Depression to come together, to reject the chemicals of the pharmaceutical corporations and to co-shape ideas for the destruction of the civilisation that slashed our brains.

- We call all migrants to join together their rage for the way in which the Establishment turned them into people without a place and to destroy the civilisation that alienated them.

- We call all scientists to resign from the Science Regime and to investigate autonomously and collectively how autonomous and inexhaustible energies can be provided – such as solar, wind and geothermal.

- We call all the people who have forgotten that the revolution can happen, to expropriate immediately all that belongs to them and to sabotage, to the maximum extent possible, the production line. We can hold – and it’s worth it!

- We call all bourgeois artists to stop wasting their imagination in bourgeois creations and to join in our struggle, pouring their imagination into the shaping of the World Revolution!

- We call all farmers and agricultural producers to collectivise their production and to stop over-producing for capital. To teach their co-humans techniques on how to live autonomously by farming.

- Meat production must seize immediately and all animals should be freed! Meat is murder!

We call all anarchists, communists and libertarians to not cease their actions of revolt and to continue with the counter-information, which is so important.

Sabotaging or self-organising the process of production, creating autonomous food production, expropriating existing supplies, creating autonomous zones in cities and planning for autonomous forms of energy, we can render money obsolete. We can create pockets of anarchist culture which, thanks to their existence, counter-information and the world wide web, will spread like the hot wind of freedom.

Any attempts by the states to stop us will be met with the revolted; the revolted of poverty, depression and exclusion. We’ll take time in our hands!

Let Athens’ December revolt become an organisational inspiration for revolutionaries across the world.

Humans of the world, unite!

For anarchy and libertarian communism!

For freedom!

For the absolute!

Long live World Revolution!

Greek riots 2008 - Agent Provocateur Cops Caught Red Handed

From Dedroidify
Cops disguised like anarchists are burning and breaking shops in Athens. In the video you can see the "anarchists" talking with other cops in uniforms as if that's normal. This video was aired on a Greek TV show. Thanks 8DagenInEenWeek (dutch blog)

Friday, December 26, 2008

Random Jane Roberts/Seth Quote

"in a basic way, it is possible for present beliefs to actually modify beliefs of a life that is seemingly a past one." The Way Toward Health Session 6/15, Page 284

Thursday, December 25, 2008

A road to revolution? By Uri Gordon

... The mainstream media simply cannot stomach the notion that what is happening in Greece is by now a proactive social revolt against the capitalist system itself and the state institutions that reinforce it. It is time to acknowledge that the Greek anarchist movement has successfully seized the initiative after the killing of one of its own, framing the issues in a way that appeals to a larger - albeit mostly young - public. Few people realize that the Greek anarchist movement is appreciably the largest in the world, in proportion to its country's population. It also enjoys wide social support due to its legacy of resistance to the military dictatorship from 1967 to 1974. Highly confrontational demonstrations are a matter of regularity in Greece. It is practically a bimonthly occurrence for anarchists and police to engage in fiery street battles in Thessaloniki or Athens. The current events are only marked by their breadth and duration, not by their level of militancy. Another rarely appreciated factor is that Greece is a country in which the security apparatus is normally kept on a relatively tight leash. For example, Privacy International's 2007 assessment of leading surveillance societies found Greece to be the only country in the world with "adequate safeguards" against the abuse of government power to spy on its citizenry. The legacy of the dictatorship has created a lasting image of the police as inherently oppressive, even among the middle class. Will the riots in Greece lead to an anti-capitalist revolution? Only if the opening they have torn in the social fabric widens and deepens, involving ever-growing sections of society and creating new grass-roots institutions alongside the destruction of the old. This seems unlikely in the short term, as bureaucratic labor unions and the Communist Party attempt to domesticate the revolt and cut their own political coupon with their demand to disarm the police. But there is no doubt that a new benchmark has been set for what can be expected in Western countries during the coming era of economic depression and environmental decay. European governments will no doubt ratchet up their policies of surveillance and repression in anticipation of growing civil unrest. But that may not be enough to keep the population subdued, as crisis after crisis calls the existing arrangement of power and privilege into question. Uri Gordon is the author of "Anarchy Alive!: Anti-Authoritarian Politics from Practice to Theory" (Pluto Press);

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Where's al-Zaidi's Pulitzer?, By JOHN ROSS

"Que Huevos!" ("What Balls!") grinned Don Juanito the tailor, sipping his tea across the counter and extolling the bravery of Muntadhar al-Zaidi, the Iraqi reporter who gained instant hero status for hurling his shoes at U.S. president George Bush during a Baghdad news conference last week (Dec. 13th). "He should have thrown clown shoes - that way he wouldn't have missed Bush," Daniel the greeter chimed in. An avid wrestling fan, Daniel was impressed by Bush's stutter step dodge of the incoming missiles. "The shoes must be the weapons that Bush was looking for, no?" smiled Manuel the waiter, "now they will take all the shoes from Iraq!" Berta the nurse invited the crowd to bring their old shoes to the U.S. Embassy here to bid goodbye to George Bush.

The chatter over evening coffee was not taking place in a downtown Baghdad café but rather at the venerable La Blanca, an old quarter gathering spot here in Mexico City. This reporter, a regular customer for a quarter of a century, could not remember when events half a world away had so animated conversation around the cafeteria counter.

Indeed, Mexico, like much of what used to be hailed as the third world, was following the fortunes of the Iraqi reporter with avid interest. Televisa and TV Azteca, Mexico's two-headed television monopoly, had both led with the story two nights running on primetime news - Televisa ran footage of al Zaidi's audacious fling from three distinct angles in slow motion. La Jornada, the left daily, splashed the flying shoes frame by frame across its front page and the political cartoonists are having a field day with the shoe toss. "We need this to divert us from our troubles," chuckled Daniel. "If you are writing something please say that we thank Mr. al-Zaidi for throwing his shoes at Bush."

The conversation around the counter of La Blanca was one more proof positive that the visceral anger stirred up by George Bush during eight years of misgovernment crosses oceans and cultures. The Iraqi reporter's courageous act was a catalyst for universal rage and frustration at the Bush regime's unbridled arrogance that has been boiling over down below ever since the outgoing U.S. president stole the White House in 2000 and invaded Afghanistan and Iraq, murdering as many as million citizens of the third world, most of them, as Zapatista spokesperson Subcomandante Marcos puts it, "the people the color of the earth."

Daniel's kudos for Muntadhar al-Zaidi were echoed in Middle Eastern capitals. In Damascus, a shopkeeper who would only identify himself as Muhammad to a nosy New York Times reporter was on his way to a party with friends. "This is a holiday! This is what we needed for revenge!" From the Middle East to Washington D.C., Bush's many detractors held shoe-tossing parties to demand an end to the ongoing bloodshed in Iraq and the Iraqi reporter's immediate release from prison. "To us he is a hero!" Berta the nurse saluted al-Zaidi.

There is no insult more demeaning in Arab culture then to have a shoe tossed at one's person except perhaps to be called a dog and Muntadhar al-Zaidi invoked both in throwing his left shoe at the most powerful politico on the planet. "This is for the widows and orphans and the people that died!" he shouted, tossing the right one at Bush's head. A Saudi millionaire has reportedly offered $10,000,000 USD for the hero's footwear.

Muntadhar Al-Zaidi's shoe fling has effectively penned George Bush's political epitaph. As the YouTube clips girdled the globe, the image was stamped on popular memory. Even more unflattering than the film of George Bush pere puking all over the Japanese prime minister at a state dinner, Bush Jr's shoe dodge is the picture that will accompany eight years of his genocidal administration to the grave.

The imprisonment of the al-Baghdadia television reporter by the quisling Maliki government for allegedly assaulting a foreign dignitary has sparked renewed street demonstrations in Iraq where the unpopularity of the recently ratified Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) that allows U.S. occupation forces to remain in country for at least three more years, is patent.

Protestors in Sadr City where the U.S. bombed without remorse earlier this year threw their shoes at American patrols in disgust. Al-Zaidi, a former leftist student leader who admires Che Guevara, covered the bombings for Al-Baghdadia television and colleagues pin his fury at Bush on the devastation wrought by the Americans in that Shiaa-controlled slum city. Black-clad supporters of Shiaa cleric Muqtada al-Sadr whose legendary father gave his name to Sadr City, disrupted parliament demanding al-Zaidi's release.

Meanwhile, U.S. troops who came under shoe attack in the Sunni stronghold of Fallujah fired on protestors, wounding one according to press reports.

Curiously, while Iraqis of all denominations rallied to the reporter's defense, the Baghdad press pack was unimpressed by al-Zaidi's shoe scoop. Indeed, one Iraqi journalist wrestled the al-Baghdadia correspondent to the floor while Maliki's goons beat on him, breaking his hand and fracturing two of his ribs. The Prime Minister, who apparently fancies himself a press critic, condemned the shoe toss as a "savage act which is unrelated to journalism in any way." Others in the Iraqi journalism community dissed al-Zaidi's performance as "unprofessional."

Even al-Jazeera, the powerful Qatar-based TV titan, was unusually standoffish in its reportage of the celebrated incident, which the powerful Arab network seemed to suggest, reflected poorly on the integrity of "responsible" Arab media. The New York Times, a paragon of corporate journalism, looked down its nose at the great shoe fling with its usual snottiness, disdaining Muntadhar al-Zaidi's credentials as a bona fide journalist and dismissing his activism as folkloric. Reporter Timothy Williams expressed surprise that the war in Iraq was "still unpopular."

The Times and its ilk have a hard time dealing with activist journalists. Josh Wolf, the young blogger who broke the U.S. record for being jailed for his journalistic efforts (over 200 days in the federal slammer for refusing to identify participants in a San Francisco anarchist march that was attacked by the police), was treated in the corporate press as just another drug-addled adolescent. Like al-Zaidi, Brad Will, the Indymedia photojournalist cut down by Mexican cops during the Oaxaca urban rebellion in 2006, was tarred as "unprofessional", a radical activist masquerading as a reporter. As an older activist reporter covering social turmoil in Mexico, I am regularly questioned by the representatives of the corporate press for my "lack of objectivity."

The "objectivity" so championed by j-school journalists is a weapon of class war that ascribes equal weight to the wronged and the wrongers alike. Held sacrosanct by "professional" journalists who are more attentive to their own career tracks than to the righteous indignation of the victims of Bush's war on the peoples of the earth, this vaunted "objectivity" neutralizes injustice and negates responsibilities.

I tell my students that they have no "career" in journalism, only what we call here an "oficio", a responsibility to tell the stories of those who are never heard, an obligation to stand on the front lines and report the story from the peoples' side of the barricades.

Muntadhar al-Zaidi is a distinguished activist journalist. Like all those who practice this trade under the gun in the never-ending class and race war, he is painfully cognizant that you cannot cover injustice without taking sides.

Activist journalists do not grab a cab to Dachau to get the commandant's side of the story. Bush is that commandant and he deserves to be showered by our shoes for his repeated crimes against humanity. Muntadhar al-Zaidi's shoes told this story. He deserves nothing less than the Pulitzer Prize.

John Ross has El Monstruo on the canvas and is awaiting the decision of the judges. These dispatches will continue at ten-day intervals until the word is in. If you have further info write

Tuesday, December 23, 2008


This is the midnight hour of the year, and of 8,000 years of Empire in which humans ceded authority (Saturn) to socio-pathic dingbats. Until now! This Solstice poses the question: "What must we die to, within and without, lest we die from." The I Ching chimes in: 24. The Turning Point -- Winter Solstice "After a time of decay comes the turning point. The powerful light that has been banished returns. There is movement but it is not brought about by force. Societies of people with a unifying vision are formed. But since these groups come together in full public knowledge and are in harmony with the time, all selfish tendencies are excluded, and no mistake is made. Everything comes of itself at the appointed time." "From deep stillness comes replenishment and the gathering of strategy and wits. Not striving, but calm and merriment. "The Winter Solstice has always been celebrated as the resting time of the year. In winter the life energy is still underground. Movement is just at its beginning; therefore it must be strengthened by rest, so that it will not be dissipated by being used prematurely. "The return of health after illness, the return of understanding after an estrangement; everything must be treated tenderly and with care at the beginning, so that the return may lead to flowering." Now more than ever. All of Creation is holding its breath at this deep time, anticipating the birth, within each human heart, of wonder and a willingness to cooperate with everything. May we kindle the warm glow of Trickster kindness, within us all, transform our emotional default setting to one of "Woof Woof, wanna play!?!" Each moment awaits our imaginative dedication. So let's toss all that is neither beautiful nor useful into the roiling cauldron of re-birth, that Time is so kindly providing us. Let's compost all past- patterns of self-sabotage, personal and collective, for starters. And let's bow at the threshold of this New Year, to release and redeem all that we do not wish to take with us through the door. Remorse is said to be the highest of the negative states, the closest to clarity --because we see and feel all those times when we didn't respond to life's "woof woof wanna play?!" When we fell for the compelling illusion of separateness, and forgot that we are all in one large, pulsing, shape- shifting-according-to-collaborative-intent dream. The Sufi, and we with her, gently pats her heart and whispers "estafirahlah" "forgiveness of self and others." And may "forgive" mean "to give energy for change." The protoplasm of reality is particularly susceptible to imprint now, by the power of word, language, story and metaphor. Allowing ourselves one true hyperbole: Never before has the power of human story-telling been so essential in determining what dies and what lives. Let us dedicate ourselves to animating the desirable story. (To do otherwise would be complicitous with the evolutionary dead-end of empire.) We suck the chi of our complicity from that which is dying, and exhale into the blooming of dynamic collaborative kinship. We are here to re-dedicate ourselves to the responsibility of dreaming the desirable world into being. Saturnalia: Deeper Dedication is the anti-dote to fear, as feeling useful is the anti-dote to depression. There -- that's handled. So, let's visualize and dedicate, wherever we are around the Solstice time, and journeying on into this powerful Winter, that we are offering our unique and necessary Medicine, into the collective cauldron brew, and ladling ourselves a cup of All-Heal. Trickster Medicine is really the sine qua non that brings all the other medicines into bubbling accord to produce the elixir of Dynamic Reverent Ingenuity.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Mexico Approaches the Combustion Point, by John Ross

Mexico City. The Congress of the country is ringed by two-meter tall grilled metal barriers soldered together apparently to thwart a suicide car bomb attack. Behind this metal wall, 3000 vizored, kevlar-wearing robocops — the Federal Preventative Police (PFP, a police force drawn from the army) — and members of the elite Estado Mayor or Presidential military command, form a second line of defense. Armed with tear gas launchers, water cannons, and reportedly light tanks, this Praetorian Guard has been assigned to protect law and order and the institutions of the republic against left-wing mobs that threaten to storm the Legislative Palace — or so the President informs his fellow citizens in repeated messages transmitted on national television. No, the President’s name is not Pinochet and this military tableau is not being mounted in the usual banana republic or some African satrap. This is Mexico, a paragon of democracy (dixit George Bush), Washington’ third trading partner, and the eighth leading petroleum producer on the planet, seven weeks after the fraud-marred July 2 presidential election of which, at this writing, no winner has been officially declared. One of the elite military units assigned to seal off congress is indeed titled the July 2 brigade. MEXICO ON A KNIFEBLADE headlines the British Guardian, but the typically short-term-memory-loss U.S. print media seems to have forgotten about the imbroglio just south of its borders. Nonetheless, the phone rings and it’s New York telling me they just got a call from their man on the border and Homeland Security is beefing up its forces around Laredo in anticipation of upheaval further south. The phone rings again and it’s California telling me they just heard on Air America that U.S. Navy patrols were being dispatched to safeguard Mexican oil platforms in the Gulf. The left-wing daily here, La Jornada, runs a citizen-snapped photo of army convoys arriving carrying soldiers disguised as farmers and young toughs. Rumors race through the seven mile-long encampment installed by supporters of leftist presidential challenger Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO) three weeks ago who have tied up big city traffic and enraged the motorist class here, that PFP robocops will attack before dawn. The campers stay up all night huddled around bum fires prepared to defend their tent cities. The moment reminds many Mexicans of the tense weeks in September and October 1968 when 12 days before the Olympic Games were to be inaugurated here, President Gustavo Diaz Ordaz ordered the military to massacre striking students in a downtown plaza not far from where AMLO’s people are now camped out. 300 were killed in the Plaza of Three Cultures, their bodies incinerated at Military Camp #1 in western Mexico City. The Tlatelolco massacre was a watershed in social conflict here and the similarities are sinister. In fact, Lopez Obrador has taken to comparing outgoing President Vicente Fox with Diaz Ordaz. Fox will go to congress September 1 to deliver his final State of the Union address. The new legislature will be convened the same day. The country may or may not have a new president by that day. In anticipation of this show-down, on August 14, newly-elected senators and deputies from the three parties that comprise AMLO’s Coalition for the Good of All attempted to encamp on the sidewalk in front of the legislative palace only to be rousted and clobbered bloody by the President’s robocops. With 160 representatives, the Coalition forms just a quarter of the 628 members of the new congress but they will be a loud minority during Fox’s “Informe”. Since the 1988 “presidenciales” were stolen from Cuauhtemoc Cardenas, founder of AMLO’s Party of the Democratic Revolution, PRD legislators have routinely interrupted the president during this authoritarian ritual in orchestrated outbursts that have sometimes degenerated into partisan fisticuffs. The first to challenge the Imperial Presidency was Porfirio Munoz Ledo, a hoary political warhorse, who in 1988 thrust a finger at President Miguel De la Madrid, accusing him of overseeing the theft of the election from Cardenas. Munoz Ledo’s J’Accuse stunned the political class. He was slugged and pummeled by members of De la Madrid’s long-ruling PRI when he tried to escape the chamber. Munoz Ledo now stands at AMLO’s side. But perhaps the most comical moment in the annals of acting out during the Informe, came in 1996 when a brash PRI deputy donned a Babe the Valiant Pig mask and positioned himself directly under the podium from which President Ernesto Zedillo was addressing the state of the nation, and wiggled insouciant signs with slogans that said things like ‘EAT THE RICH!” Like Munoz Ledo, Marco Rascon was physically attacked, his mask ripped off like he was a losing wrestler by a corrupt railroad union official who in turn was hammer locked by a pseudo-leftist senator, Irma “La Tigresa” Serrano, a one-time ranchero singer and in fact, the former very close friend of Gustavo Diaz Ordaz. This September 1, if martial law is not declared and the new congress dissolved before it is even installed, the PRD delegation, which will no doubt be strip-searched by the Estado Mayor for incriminating banners, is sworn to create a monumental ruckus, shredding the tarnished decorum of this once-solemn event forever to protest Fox’s endorsement of electoral larceny. Some solons say they may go naked. But no matter what kind of uproar develops, one can be secure that it will not be shown on national television as the cameras of Mexico’s two-headed television monstrosity â_” Televisa and TV Azteca â_” will stay trained on the President as he tries to mouth the stereotypical clichés that is always the stuff and fluff of this otherwise stultifying séance. The images of the chaos on the floor of congress will not be passed along to the Great Unwashed. There is a reptilian feel to Mexico seven weeks after a discredited Federal Electoral Institute (IFE) cemented Lopez Obrador into a second place coffin by awarding the presidency to right-winger Felipe Calderon by a mere 243,000 votes out of a total 42,000,000 cast. Both Calderon and IFE czar Luis Carlos Ugalde (Calderon was best man at Ugalde’s wedding) make these little beady reptile eyes as they slither across national screens. Those screens have been the scenes of some of the slimiest and most sordid political intrigue of late. One of the lizard kings who is fleetingly featured on Televisa primetime is an imprisoned Argentinean construction tycoon, Carlos Ahumada, who in 2004 conspired with Fox, Calderon’s PAN, and Televisa to frame AMLO on corruption charges and take him out of the presidential election.”El Peje” (for a gar-like fish from the swamps of Lopez Obrador’s native Tabasco) was then leading the pack by 18 points. Charged by Lopez Obrador, then the mayor of this megalopolis, with defrauding Mexico City out of millions, Ahumada had taken his revenge by filming PRD honchos when they came to his office to pick up boodles of political cash. Although the filthy lucre was perfectly legal under Mexico’s milquetoast campaign financing laws, the pick-ups looked awful on national television. AMLO’s former personal secretary was caught stuffing wads of low denomination bills into his suit coat pockets as if he were on Saturday Night Live. Ahumada subsequently turned the tapes over to the leprous, cigar-chomping leader of Fox’s PAN party in the Senate, Diego Fernandez de Cevallos (”El Jefe Diego”) who in turn had them delivered to a green-haired clown, Brozo, who was then reading the morning news on Televisa. Then the Argentine blackmailer fled to Cuba in a private plane. Televisa would air the incriminating videos day and night for months. Apprehended in Veradero after his lover Robles was shadowed to that socialist beachfront, Ahumada spilled the beans to Cuban authorities: Interior Secretary Santiago Creel, who was then AMLO’s lead rival for the presidency, had cooked up the plot with the connivance of reviled former president Carlos Salinas, Lopez Obrador’s most venomous foe, the then attorney general, and Fox himself, to remove AMLO from the race. The Mexican government did not ask for extradition and Ahumada’s deportation from Cuba was not seen as a friendly gesture. Within a month, diplomatic relations between Mexico and Cuba were broken off and ambassadors summoned home. The construction tycoon has been imprisoned in Mexico City ever since he was booted out of Cuba and was last heard from when he had his rogue cop chauffer shoot up the family SUV, a charade both Fox and Televisa tried to pin on AMLO. Ahumada had suggested he was about to release two more incriminating videos. These dubious events took place on June 6, the day of a crucial presidential debate between AMLO and Calderon. Then last week, Ahumada abruptly resurfaced, or at least his videotaped confession to Cuban authorities did. Filmed through prison bars, he lays out the plot step by step. Yes, he affirms, the deal was fixed up to cut AMLO’s legs out from under him and advance the fortunes of the right-wing candidate who turned out to be Felipe Calderon and not the bumbling Creel. The conspiracy backfired badly as his supporters rallied around him and Lopez Obrador’s ratings soared. The origins of the confession tape, leaked to top-rung reporter Carmen Aristegui, was obscure. Had Fidel dispatched it from his sick bed to bolster Lopez Obrador’s claims of victory as the PAN and the snake-eyed Televisa evening anchor Joaquin Lopez Dorriga hissed? The air grew serpentine with theories. There was even one school that speculated Calderon himself had been the source in a scheme to distance himself from Fox (there had always been bad feelings between them) and Creel, now the leader of the PAN faction in congress. AMLO advanced a variant of this explanation: the specter of Ahumada had been resuscitated to divert attention from the evidence of generalized fraud the Coalition had submitted to the TRIFE and the panel’s impending verdict that Calderon had won the election. Perhaps the most nagging question in this snakepit of uncertainty is what happened during the partial recount of less than 10per cent of the 130,000 ballot boxes ordered by the TRIFE to test the legitimacy of the IFE’s results. Although the recount concluded on August 13, the judges have released no numbers and are not obligated to do so. Their only responsibility is to certify the validity of the election. Although AMLO’s reps in the counting rooms came up with gobs of evidence — violated ballot boxes, stolen or stuffed ballots, altered tally sheets and other bizarre anomalies — only the left-wing daily La Jornada saw fit to mention them. The silence of the Mexican media and their accomplices in the international press in respect to the Great Fraud is deafening, although they manage to fill their rags with ample attacks on Lopez Obrador for tying up Mexico City traffic. According to AMLO’s people, 119,000 ballots in the sample recount cannot be substantiated in about 3500 casillas, 58,000 more votes were cast than the number of voters on the voting list. In nearly 4000 other casillas, 61,000 ballots allocated to election officials cannot be accounted for. The annulment of the casillas in which these alterations occurred would put Lopez Obrador in striking distance of Calderon and in a better world, would obligate the TRIFE to order a total recount. But given the cheesy state of the Mexican judiciary this is not apt to happen. One of the judges who will decide the fate of democracy in Mexico is a former client of El Jefe Diego for whom the PANista senator won millions from the Mexico City government in a crooked land deal. Meanwhile, thousands continue to camp out in a hard rain for a third week on the streets of Mexico City awaiting the court’s decision. They have taken to erecting shrines and altars and are praying for divine intervention. Hundreds pilgrimage out to the shrine of the Virgin of Guadalupe, some crawling on their knees, to ask the Brown Madonna to work her miracle. “God doesn’t belong to the PAN!” they chant as they trudge up the great avenue that leads to the Basilica. “AMLO deserves a miracle” Esther Ortiz, a 70 year-old great grandmother comments to a reporter as she kneels to pray before the gilded altar. At the Metropolitan Cathedral on one flank of the Zocalo, a young worshipper interrupts Cardinal Norberto Rivera and is quickly hustled off the premises by his Eminence’s bouncers. The following Sunday, the Cathedral’s great doors are under heavy surveillance, and churchgoers screened for telltale signs of devotion to Lopez Obrador. Hundreds of AMLO’s supporters mill about in front of the ancient temple shouting “voto por voto” and that Cardinal Rivera is a pederast. AMLO as demi-god is one motif of this religious pageant being played out at what was once the heart of the Aztec theocracy, the island of Tenochtitlan. The ruins of the twin temples of the fierce Aztec war god Huitzilopochtli and Tlahuac, the god of the rain, are adjacent to the National Palace against which AMLO’s stage is set. Lopez Obrador sleeps each night in a tent close by. Many hearts were ripped out smoking on these old stones and fed to such hungry gods before the Crusaders showed up bearing the body and blood of Jesus Christ. AMLO is accused by right-wing “intellectuals” (Enrique Krauze and the gringo apologist George Grayson) of entertaining a Messiah complex. Indeed, he is up there every day on the big screen, his craggy features, salt and pepper hair, raspy voice and defiantly jutted jaw bearing more of a passable resemblance to a younger George C. Scott rather than The Crucified One. AMLO’s devotees come every evening at seven, shoehorned between the big tents that fill the Zocalo, rain or shine. Last Monday, I stood with a few thousand diehards in a biblical downpour, thunder and lightening shattering the heavens above. “Llueve y llueve y el pueblo no se mueve” they chanted joyously, “it rains and rains and the people do not move.” The evolution of these incantations is fascinating. At first, the standard slogan of “Voto Por Voto, Casilla por Casilla!” was automatically invoked whenever Lopez Obrador stepped to the microphone. “You are not alone!” and “Presidente!” had their moment. “Fraude!” is still popular but in these last days, “No Pasaran!” — they shall not pass, the cry of the defenders of Madrid as Franco’s fascist hordes banged on the doors of Madrid, 1936 — has flourished. In this context, “No Pasaran!” means “we will not let Felipe Calderon pass to the presidency.” AMLO, who holds out little hope that the TRIFE will decide in his favor, devotes more time now to organizing the resistance to the imposition of Calderon upon the Aztec nation. Article 39 of the Mexican constitution, he reminds partisans, grants the people the right to change their government if that government does not represent them. To this end, he is summoning a million delegates up to the Zocalo for a National Democratic Convention on Mexican Independence Day September 16, a date usually reserved for a major military parade. Aside from the logistical impossibility of putting a million citizens in this Tiennemens-sized plaza, how this gargantuan political extravaganza is going to be financed is cloudy. Right now, it seems like small children donating their piggy banks is the main mode of fund-raising. Because AMLO’s people distrust the banks, all of which financed Calderon’s vicious TV ad campaign, a giant piggy bank has been raised in the Zocalo to receive the contributions of the faithful. Dreaming is also a fundraiser. 10,000 raised their voices in song this past Sunday as part of a huge chorus assembled under the dome of the Monument to the Revolution to perform a cantata based on the words of Martin Luther King and Mohandas Gandhi. This too is a form of civil resistance, Lopez Obrador commended his followers. The first National Democratic Convention took place behind rebel lines in the state of Aguascalientes in 1914 at the apogee of the Mexican Revolution when the forces of Francisco Villa and his Army of the North first joined forces with Zapata’s Liberating Army of the Southern Revolution. The second National Democratic Revolution took place 80 years later in 1994, in a clearing in the Lacandon Jungle of Chiapas when the Zapatista Army of National Liberation wedded itself to the civil society in an uprising that rocked Mexico all throughout the ’90s. Eclipsed by events, the EZLN and its quixotic spokesperson Subcomandante Marcos have disappeared from the political map in the wake of the fraudulent election. What this third National Democratic Convention is all about is now being debated in PRD ruling circles and down at the grassroots. Minimally, a plan of organized resistance that will dog Felipe Calderon for the next six years, severely hampering his ability to rule will evolve from this mammoth conclave. The declaration of a government in resistance headed by Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador is one consideration. The National Democratic Convention could also result in the creation of a new party to replace a worn-out PRD now thoroughly infiltrated by cast-offs from the PRI. The Party of the Democratic Revolution has always functioned best as an opposition party. With notable exceptions (AMLO was one), when the PRD becomes government, it collapses into corruption, internecine bickering, and behaves just as arrogantly as the PAN and the PRI. No Pasaran? Seven weeks after the July 2 electoral debacle, Mexico finds itself at a dangerously combustible conjunction (”coyuntura”) in which the tiny white elite here is about to impose its will upon a largely brown and impoverished populous to whom the political parties and process grow more irrelevant each day. “No Pasaran!” the people cry out but to whom and what they are alluding to remains to be defined.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Ernst Haeckel

Art Forms In Nature
(free book)

[Thanks to dada for this link]

A Very Haeckel Christmas

Real-life Mowgli kept alive by cats

[Thanks to Annette for this link] A one-year-old boy has been found living rough on the streets, apparently being kept alive by cats. By Chris Hastings 20 Dec 2008 The boy, whose ordeal mirrors that of the character Mowgli from Rudyard Kipling The Jungle Book, was discovered by police in Misiones, in Argentina, surrounded by eight wild cats. Doctors believe the animals snuggled up with him during freezing nights which would otherwise have killed him. The boy was seen eating scraps foraged by the animals while they licked him, it has been claimed. Policewoman Alicia Lorena Lindgvist discovered the child by a canal in the Christ King district of the city. She said: "I was walking and noticed a gang of cats sitting very close together. It is unusual to see so many like that so I went for a closer look and that's where I saw him. The boy was lying at the bottom of a gutter. There were all these cats on top of him licking him because he was really dirty. "When I walked over they became really protective and spat at me. They were keeping the boy warm while he slept." The officer, who noticed scraps of food near the boy, added: "The cats knew he was fragile and needed protecting." Police have found the boy's father who is homeless and said he had lost the boy several days ago while out collecting cardboard to sell. He told officers cats had always been protective of his son. A spokesman for Thames Valley Animal Welfare, which deals with feral cats and strays in Berkshire, said: "They would have viewed the baby like a big hot water bottle. Cats will cuddle up to anything to keep warm, even dogs. He added: "In our experience of cat colonies when a mother has a litter, all the other cats will go and fetch food. The baby could have been feeding off the scraps they brought. Cats in Argentina stay in large packs to survive - much more than cats over here." In the Jungle Book, Mowgli is raised in the Indian Jungle by wolves.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

The Art of Patience, by Alex Blackwell

Today’s world is a need it right now world. Emails, text messages, and cellular telephones have made us much more accessible and our level of accountability much higher. The expectations for immediate attention are overwhelming and can negatively impact our productivity and patience.

However, learning to be more patient can increase feelings of happiness as well as reduce stress and anxiety. Patience can also improve productivity because it creates a better state of mind, a clearer state of mind, for better decision making.

Patience is becoming a lost art. We sometimes feel others becoming more impatient with us if we are not quick to answer or respond right away which will only exacerbate our own impatience. However, most things worth having take time to obtain – they take patience. Art cannot be rushed and patience cannot be lost if the picture is to be finished. Consider the following four strategies to help you restore the art of patience.

Keep the Proper Perspective

An effective way to establish the importance of keeping the proper perspective is to ask the following question which has been asked countless times before: Imagine you are looking at a 16 ounce glass that contains eight ounces of water. How full is this glass?

If your life perspective tends to be more pessimistic and impatient, your answer is half empty.

If your life perspective tends to be more optimistic and patient, your answer is half full.

Patience allows you to see the good things, the positive things in life. It helps you see the good in any situation and to realize the value that does exist.

Keeping the proper perspective makes any situation more tolerable and it provides the patience needed to wait as the rest of the glass is being filled.

Don’t Assume

Too often what you think is what you fear the most. When a particular event or situation is off in the distance, we, as humans, have the tendency to assume the worst. We assume things will not work to plan or we will be disappointed with the results.

Assumptions lead to impatience because the lack of knowledge and uncertainty can make you feel very uncomfortable. Instead, consider the facts. Look to see if there is any history that can tell you what has happened in the past in order to provide assurances for the future.

In my marriage, I sometimes assume the periods of time when our intimacy is derailed, for whatever reason, will never get back on track again. I grow impatient and frustrated.

Even though my edgy attitude and irritation were not the obstacles to our intimacy barrier in the first place, they become the obstacle because my impatience creates such a negative feeling.

I’m learning to remind myself not to assume these dry spells are nothing more than just the realities of life getting in the way. I’m still learning not to assume the worst. Mary Beth still loves me and cares for me – we are just in a busy cycle.

When I’m able to keep these assumptions at bay, and my impatience low, the intimacy is restored in a very natural and loving way.

Show Empathy

Murphy’s Law always seems to be evoked when I have to run to the bank during a short lunch break and upon arriving in the bank’s lobby I’m greeted with a very long line of other exasperated customers.

Not only does my impatience skyrocket, but so does my frustration and anxiety. Neither is good for my health, or my mood.

Rather than focusing on an inconvenient situation, take a full step back and consider how others are reacting to the same situation. When you are the one to provide the levity; the sense of humor, and can turn something negative into something positive, you are in charge of your own level of patience associated with the situation.

Showing empathy to others also helps you to see the circumstance for what it really is, not how it appears to be or feels. Empathy allows you to refocus your energy away from the feelings of impatience and on to something much more productive for everybody.

Providing empathy for others who are becoming increasingly impatient can allow you to hear some good advice coming from your own month – you just need to remember it when it’s your turn to receive it.

Excited by the Wait

The ability to reframe a situation by looking at it from a different point-of-view is another way to restore the art of patience.

Again, is the glass half-full or half-empty? Too often we want to rush through the here and now to get to the thing we are waiting for and anticipating. But rather than dreading the wait, learn to become excited by it. The waiting can be the hardest part when we forget to keep living during this time.

Often the gap of time between when you know something is going to happen and when it actually occurs can be one of the best times for self-awareness to take place. You can learn a lot about yourself during this period.

For example, the time spent in a marriage engagement can be focused on planning how you want to spend the rest of your life. If you are waiting to lose weight and improve your overall health, you can be excited by how you are taking back some control over your life.

The journey, the waiting, may have a more significant impact than the end result. Your impatience may keep you from gaining this experience. Better patience, on the other hand, can be the ideal catalyst for growth to occur.

A renaissance in the art of patience can help to create a beautiful life.

Read more from Alex Blackwell at The


Dear Carson Daly. Thanks for proving what an idiot you and people like you are who cannot fathom crying over the closing of a public library... From:

Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clézio’s Nobel lecture

Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clézio was recently awarded the Nobel prize for literature. His lecture (video) which is rich reading for bibliophiles generally, has a special mention of libraries. [thanks Kári]

Culture, as I have said, belongs to us all, to all humankind. But in order for this to be true, everyone must be given equal access to culture. The book, however old-fashioned it may be, is the ideal tool. It is practical, easy to handle, economical. It does not require any particular technological prowess, and keeps well in any climate. Its only flaw—and this is where I would like to address publishers in particular—is that in a great number of countries it is still very difficult to gain access to books. In Mauritius the price of a novel or a collection of poetry is equivalent to a sizeable portion of the family budget. In Africa, Southeast Asia, Mexico, or the South Sea Islands, books remain an inaccessible luxury. And yet remedies to this situation do exist. Joint publication with the developing countries, the establishment of funds for lending libraries and bookmobiles, and, overall, greater attention to requests from and works in so-called minority languages—which are often clearly in the majority—would enable literature to continue to be this wonderful tool for self-knowledge, for the discovery of others, and for listening to the concert of humankind, in all the rich variety of its themes and modulations.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Jazz, by M. Thompson

She likes To fuck me to Miles Davis Because she says My fingertips Are jazz On her skin.


Equation Me, Nosferatu! I whirl, your saxophone's cool inner thigh veined a fatuous sword, an abacus to spoken light Asiatic synchronicity, eyeless in prison's nicotine December Become media coil. Fellate triumph, no airwaves of a bleeding morning to Tel Aviv minds everywhere. My wetness is also in ruins Speed of thick breasts smile at me And Iesion a chorus of voices, the nearest swampadelica to dervish your mystery in blue cliches the mirror The sun is empty at its molten core But you already drank that lesbian troupe--didn't you? I noun what has perished. Telekenesis my lisp of neurosis, cigarettes a final taxidermy. Boneless, the slow fuck whenever you ultra-left If your own shirt is a cocaine axiom, burn. New Wave arpeggios, four to one glitters your disappearance into ivory Spanish last night, my vernacular Too much blinking is killing me, this mash-up, my diode invasion Cells so far removed from wonky legs and blinking a myriad, I realise The levee shattered, who called the feral eye anyway? Listen brownly, your teeth scream providence in dub. Camera fur. What I meant by the slabs of madness, you and your sci-fi damage. The thinnest skin is not the center of the universe, a blonde whore to distortion alone. Multiplied, it was only the sea's paranoia. The unknown cries my hair, rhythms my animal, my only mist. Last-call fingers the care of loved ones, ethereal, matronly bleeps There are no friends. The Kali-Yuga sounds on sound, inner dust

New York poetry brothel tempts with verse AFP

[Thanks to ellwort for this link]

The prostitute whispers, wets her lips and prepares to bare... her heart with a poem.

Welcome to New York's Poetry Brothel, where punters delve between the lines, not the sheets.

At a weekend session in a Manhattan night club called the Zipper Factory the look was bona fide bordello.

Literary ladies of the night flitted between intimate, candle-lit nooks, red lights and paintings of nudes.

Some of the poetesses for sale sported retro-style garter belts and frilly knickers. One swanned about in a top hat and feather boa.

But transactions at the Poetry Brothel are of the mind, not the body, and a moment with the catalogue, replete with pictures and whimsical descriptions, reveals what's on offer.

Page four boasts The Professor, swearing to have heard "the wail of your striving heart drifting over the spires of skyscrapers."

Harriett Van Os on page 10 promises to "tell you secrets she doesn't know she knows." Cecille Ballroom tempts punters on page 13 claiming she can "coax your drum."

Gigolo poets are available, not least Poetry Brothel co-founder Nicholas Adamski, who goes by the name Tennessee Pink and tops tempestuous, dark looks with an eye patch.

"Poetry is what I love more than anything," cooed The Madame, the sultry spirit behind the whole idea.

The Madame -- real name Stephanie Berger -- came dressed for the part in low-cut dress, elbow-length black gloves and a peacock headdress.

"I'd rather be in the bedroom hearing poetry than listening to some old man sitting on a chair on a stage," she explained by the light of a guttering candle.

One-on-one encounters, for which "clients" pay three to five dollars in addition to a 15 dollar entry fee and one free reading, took place upstairs.

The "whores" read from their own material, much of which is free verse, making for intense, sometimes baffling performances.

But for those needing a break, the Poetry Brothel laid on flamenco guitarists, a fortune-teller, a blackjack table and a bar specializing in port and whisky

The young hedonists, most of them students, appear to have struck a surprisingly successful formula.

"There just aren't that many poetry readings where poets show a lot of cleavage," said The Professor, otherwise known as Jennifer Michael Hecht, aged 43 and a real life professor at Manhattan's New School.

She teaches writing to many of the Brothel's regulars and is proud of the result.

"It's kind of like the Weimar Republic without the Nazis. At two in the morning you have 20- or 30-year-olds lying all over the place reading poetry," she said.

"The custom is to read poetry alone, but we know that from Homer onward, people read it aloud and in groups."

By midnight the Zipper Factory was packed and getting fuller -- and rowdier.

The fortune teller, bedecked in red scarf and blue plumes, mumbled to someone about "choppy waters." The flamenco duo strummed. The Madame, yet another glass of port in hand, introduced poet "whores" in a voice suggesting she appreciated more than their literary charms.

When Patricia Smith, a well-established poet, took the mike to declaim a long and rhythmical poem about love and making love, there were rock concert cheers from the crowd.

"I always shudder when I pray," Smith intoned in a mesmerizing voice, "so your name must be a prayer."

Even for these bohemians there's no escaping the economic crisis sweeping the country.

One of the poets, 22-year-old Nina Cheng, was about to start a job at Bear Stearns this year when the bank collapsed. Now she is writing a play about the experience and applying for a playwright's course at Yale.

"I'd thought I'd do banking and get into the arts when I retired -- not this early," said Cheng, known at the Brothel as The Opium Eater.

Another poetry prostitute, 27-year-old Rachel Herman-Gross, aka Simone, worried that crashing stock markets will pull the rug from under the arts scene. "It's going to be a lot harder. A lot of artists are sustained by grants from people with money."

But one enthusiastic "client" said the ingenuity of the Poetry Brothel proves there are ways to survive.

"Money's always been scarce for artists and they're very resourceful people," said Edmund Voyer, 54, a hefty man described as an "evangelist" on his business card and who came to the Zipper Factory wearing a kilt.

His drinking companion, Jennifer Hoa, 27, agreed money and art would always find ways to meet.

"I've been a sell-out for years as a corporate lawyer, but I come here," she said. "I can't suppress my artistic side."

The Madame promised that the Poetry Brothel welcomed all.

"Many are young men with perhaps a secret interest in poems," she murmured. "Just look at the menu. Get a recommendation. Or say you don't care. Say: 'I need poetry. I'm hungry.'"

Imaginal Hygiene, by M.T. Xen

“Imagination lays the tracks for the reality train to follow.”

-Caroline W. Casey, Visionary Activist Astrologer

A few years ago, I attended a talk given by R.J. Stewart at the International Human and Fairy Relations Congress, an event held annually in the eastern Cascades of Washington. R.J. is a Scottish seer, musician, and author dedicated to regenerating the magical core of Western earth-centered spiritual traditions. He was speaking of the breakdown in communications between the fairy kin-dom and modern humanity, or more simply, why we can no longer easily see or communicate with fairies. He attributed this to the change in our imaginal “landscape.”

The gist of the discussion, which I have heard echoed in other talks and conversations at the many congresses I have attended over the years, is that in previous eras the human imagination was much more attuned to the mythical dimensions of Nature, to the perennial stories and characters through which Gaia dreams the world into existence. This archetypal homeland, shared by all the tribes of Creation, has provided a bandwidth of mutual intelligibility, a lingua franca, a commons of communication. A large faction of humanity has since left this commons, broken the agreement of respectful relationships, and left behind the “talking stick,” the heartfelt way to connect to others.

We moderns have created our own imaginal space. It is a skull-enclosed kingdom that plays the movie of our egoic projections, and the “rush world” we’ve created. We’ve got the electronic media buzzing and flashing through our heads, broadcasting the normalcy of a busy, busy hive mind in pursuit of purchased rewards in an advertised reality. We become saturated, overloaded, with these manipulated sounds and images, to the point where they block out and corrode access to the ancestral stratums of our humanity.

It’s very difficult for the fairies to dial into such an environment. Access is made even more challenging by our materialist assumptions that deny they, and others in the devic realm, even exist. This situation has gotten to the point where some fairies have decided to stop believing that humans exist as well! This has all done great damage to the relations between the fairies and the humans, which percolates up into our various ills of disenchantment with the world. The Human-Fairy Relations Congress was founded to address just this issue, to reestablish a positive harmonic between the realms.

As I listened to R.J. speak on the impurities of the modern imagination, I considered its relevance to my extensive work with the great Amazonian plant teacher ayahuasca. Because this decoction (concentrated tea) detoxifies both body and mind as a prelude to its higher visionary gifts, it is best to be as clear and empty as possible before you drink, to save both it, and yourself, time and trouble. The traditional advice for preparing yourself (and taking care of yourself afterwards) is to avoid what are considered to be disruptive influences, such as sex, gossip, pork, alcohol, and spicy, greasy foods.

In recent years the list has come to include such things as television, violent movies, and shopping malls. Why? Because they pollute your imagination, and on the sacred medicine, what is in your head often becomes your visionary experience, or tryp (from “tryp”-tamine). It appears the spirits use the raw material of your imagination to craft much of your experience, and the quality of the materials you provide determines, to degrees, the quality of their co-creative (with you) handiwork.. More simply, you detoxify by confronting what you’ve entered into your head.

I’ll give you an example. On one of my early trips to the Peruvian Amazon to work with the plantas Maestras (Teacher plants), our group stayed in a local hotel the night before leaving for the forest. My friend in the adjoining room flipped through the channels of late night TV, and came across a gay porno channel. She had never seen such a thing, and sat transfixed before it for close to half an hour. Sure enough, two days later, her first dose of ayahuasca took her right into the gay porno realms, which she had to deal with for most of her journey.

Another example from my own experience illustrates how tryps become influenced by the way the imaginal world is “programmed” in the weeks or months prior to a ceremony. I used to teach university classes in between my sojourns to the Amazon, and on one occasion taught a course entitled “Sociology and Philosophy of Religions” (at a Catholic college contracted to a U.S. Military base no less). I used this opportunity to study and delve deeply into the right wing Christian fundamentalist mind, the one so deeply engaged in the war against Nature. I was aided in this by a woman in the front row of the fundamentalist persuasion, who used to shield herself with her bible whenever my lectures became too blasphemous.

Upon arriving in the Amazon soon after, I thought maybe I would be brought to task to work out my relationship with this woman (who complained about me to school officials, and I never got to teach a religion class again). But no – what I found was that I was to be granted what I had “asked for.” That is to say, it appears that the spirits of the University of the Forest decided to teach me about Christian fundamentalism. And in this university you become that of which you seek to know, a kind of extreme empathy. In essence, I became a Christian fundamentalist, an experience that gratefully lasted less than two hours.

The lead up to this shapeshifting included visions of a Puritan figure, complete with Pilgrim hat. I witnessed him making a deal, a high order of black magic, with predatory forces that appear to feed on human greed, that offer the intoxication of power without responsibility. I saw this deal as the beginnings of a 500-year bad tryp for much of humanity. I saw the confluence of these forces as a black metallic dragon, a thoughtform that has been dining on prime cuts of greed, largely served up by the American dream, for centuries.

What better disguise for this thought-form than as … god. This god will give you all that you ask, all the largesse and ego inflation of empire, in simple exchange for you to cease to think for yourself, for you to go into denial of the feeling wound inflicted by raping others of their rights to a peaceful existence. This god will do your thinking, and feeling, for you! And as the adherents of this god submit to its power, the plundering continues, more enemies are created, the world becomes more chaotic, and the winged juggernaut grows more fearsome and uncontrollable.

As this scenario played itself out, I became caught in a maelstrom of fear that followed in its wake. This was compounded by the effects of living in the U.S., with the perpetual cops on the highway, airport security, the drug war, corporate mafia takeovers of government, negative media, and so on. It reached a point where I became psychically unmoored. Adrift in anti-meaning and a growing terror of insanity, I heard the whispers of “nice” people who are “right.” They invite me into their fold and want to save me. Ah, rescuers! – offering me community, support, money, maybe a wife a place in society – a chance to be … a … normal … good and godly American.

I gave into it and was welcomed by all these “right” people into their world. And there I existed for a time, all the while thinking something wasn’t quite right, but not questioning it too much as I was so glad to be at harbor. However, the incongruities grew to the point that I had to question this god, which these people didn’t like at all, and next thing you know, I vomited my way out of there.

Understanding the Imagination

Among the many teachings I carried away from this experience, I learned that when we are put into a crisis, we have essentially two choices. To either: a) use the opportunity to go deeper into self-understanding, the perennial tradition of “know thyself”; or, b) go deeper into denial, and allow other people think for us, which invariably sweeps all the shit that created the crisis under the rug for it to ferment, and create a bigger stink. No blame. Being human isn’t easy, and we are all capable, at some level, of making the choices of those we so readily judge. However, the latter choice brings with it predictably unpleasant karmic consequences, the payback of a Faustian bargain we see in the world today.

These two choices reflect two ways to understand the imagination. The more positive way defines the imagination as the ability of the mind to be creative and resourceful, the function of a spiritual faculty (as in,“Use your imagination”). The more negative one defines it as the part of the mind that subjectively distorts and fantasizes things, the function of an immature ego (as in, “You are imagining things”).

The question then becomes: To what extent is our imaginal world a house of mirrors reflecting our own fragmented self, and to what extent does it tap into the wellspring of Creation, the anima mundi, the Source of our very existence?

This question can be answered by the quality of one’s life, with misery and happiness attending each end of the imaginal spectrum. However, one can be stuck in misery and not motivated to move out of it because the fragmented self in contemporary life is considered normal, and many such normal people have no reference for a higher state of wellbeing. For those of us drawn to the prospect that there must be something better, we would do well to look for answers long exiled from our world, to such forgotten or suppressed things as fairies and gnomes – and plants that are in many ways smarter than us.

For this, we need a more holistic worldview. We must see through the cracks of the 3-D empire and surface the deeper, more inclusive layers of consciousness, where all beings exist and all is interconnected. This, to me, is the ultimate purpose of the human imagination. It is to give expression to the creative matrix of Nature, to allow the whole to become more conscious of itself. As cosmologist Richard Tarnas puts it, “The human imagination is itself part of the world’s intrinsic truth; without it the world is in some sense incomplete.”

This understanding of imagination and its applications to our lives is how we overcome what philosopher Jacob Needleman calls the “foolish realism that sees only facts of the outer world and is blind to the laws of the inner world.” It is how we can make sense of synchronicities, of the whole breaking through the trance of our separative existence. It is how we can understand inspiration, the pregnancy of the world wanting to birth itself through us. It is how we find our voice, by feeling into the collective unconscious and speaking what the community needs to hear. The whole will draw from us what is needed. This is how we come into our own power, into our humanity.

Imaginal Hygiene

It seems that while a rich, fertile imaginal life is a birthright, it has to be claimed – that is to say, the imagination has to be disciplined and developed. The carrier or the medium of imagination is our attention. Attention is energy, one that can be exercised like a muscle. The high arts of its development include the one-pointed concentration that comes of meditation, the energized focus of unselfconscious creative activity, and the merging of awareness and action in the present moment (often known as “flow”). If it is not disciplined or engaged in a healthy fascination, the attention wanders, is wasted, and often co-opted. The rise in Attention Deficit Disorders, the medicalization of a failure of the contemporary imagination and its mythos (as in, “Don’t understand it, medicate it”), is but one example. We find this reflected in the Internet as well, which has a downside of presenting information in a flurry of bits and pieces that likewise scatters our attention and weakens our skills of concentration.

A more visceral way to understand the imagination is as a clear or clogged channel, not unlike your intestines. When you feed yourself with junk ideas, become bloated with ideologies, create chronic constipation from identity fixations, and infest yourself with the parasites of media hype and its addictions, you cannot expect the nourishing flow of creativity to flow easily through your being and blush your life with its radiance. Nor can you expect to easily become as a hollow bamboo for the Goddess to play her tunes, as a hollow bone for the Great Spirit to sound his whistle. No – what is needed is to flush the system and repopulate it with the flora of rich archetypal perceptions and Divine visions. What is needed is imaginal hygiene!

Imaginal hygiene is the inner art of self-managing the imagination, to defend it from forces that compromise, pollute, colonize, shrink, and sterilize it, and to cultivate those that illuminate, expand, and nourish it. I feel knowledge of this and its application is essential to the story of human survival into the 21st century. Its practice is necessary for us to cultivate the visionary clarity and strength needed to achieve the great personal and planetary transformations that increasing numbers of us are being called to perform, for the capacity to transform is in direct proportion to the capacity to imagine.

The Ego Game

A brief overview of the “ego game” will help us understand the root causes of the sullied imagination (or as R.J. Stewart calls it, “impure”) and give us guidance on its proper care and feeding.

The immature ego is self-possessed. This creates a force field of contractions that distort everything in its range, resulting in anxieties, large and small. These are dealt with by reformulating reality to support various defense mechanisms, such as repression, denial, projection, and rationalization. This fills the imagination with memes of neurosis that interact with various other ego-based social agreements, such as basing an economy on scarcity, or national security on domination.

The resulting warps in reality can be understood as growing pains of our self-awareness. It is a form of the timeless “hero’s journey,” whereby the adolescent must leave the family to go out, be tested through ordeals, and then hopefully survive and come home matured and able to serve and revitalize the community. As a young species in the society of Nature, humanity has, to degrees, gone on a journey of separation from the Gaian community. We have been tested by the various ordeals of mind/body identification and the superiority complex that attends it. This crucible has alchemized a supple and expanding self-awareness in many of us that is leading us home.

As we, collectively, appear to be in the crisis phase of this initiatory journey, the ego-game has intensified in recent centuries. It has made us heir to a left-brain bias, which in its radiant, lopsided glory presents us with an exclusively patriarchal, rationalist, Cartesian, reductionist, and mechanistic-dominator model of existence.

Everything else, all that has been cast out of this story of progress – the body, emotions, other cultures, other eras, other forms of life, the animal kin-dom, the earth community, women, children – all become unconscious. Like buried gold, these are the elements that the impoverished imagination must rediscover to regain its wealth.

Meanwhile, the globalization of empire has created even more inventive permutations of the ego game. It has spawned opportunistic forces that feed our fantasy lives to the point of obsession. Whether it be Internet porn, celebrity gossip, social networking, or sanitized news about a war, the imagination becomes severely degraded by the toxic brew of illusory pleasures mixed up by the control systems of empire.

Cycles of Addiction

A step on the path of cleaning up this mythic mess in our heads is to make us more fully conscious of the vicious cycle of addiction symptomatic of the corrupted imagination.

If we compare the healthy imagination to a verdant and diverse forest, its compromised state is equivalent to the aftermath of a clear-cut. The vacant “land” can then be freely colonized, developed by forces with agendas all their own. I saw a telling example of this kind of this invasion when I visited Southwest China in the early 1990s. It is a traditional Chinese custom to protect houses by putting up poster-sized talismans on the front doors. Walking down the cobbled streets of one rural town, I saw posters with fierce, glaring-eyed Taoist deities brandishing swords. As the streets turned to pavement, I noticed that two Mao-hatted army men on horses had replaced the deities. Further down, I saw a poster with three uniformed members of each of the Chinese armed forces standing at attention with arsenals of weapons behind then. Finally, I came across front doors plastered with pictures of red-starred missiles.

A colonized imagination is often installed with denatured replicas of, or references to, its former self, not unlike a housing development that names itself after what it destroys, like Hawk Ridge or Woodland Park. I call this phenomenon the “Las Vegas effect.” It occurs when the sacred is used to promote secular ends, and results in a succession of diminishing returns. It’s the idea that because the sense of wellbeing based on money and its glamour bardos is inherently short-lived, the only way to prolong the satisfaction is to create ever more novel and intensified stimulations (McMansions, reality TV, boob implants, etc.) to get a rise out of ever more numbed senses. Las Vegas, as the temple city of Mammon, is busily copying the world’s sacred sites and mythic icons, including the Gaza pyramids, great Sphinx, Taj Mahal, Camelot, and Oz, in attempts to milk what imaginal juice it can from the originals to impress its visitors, who in turn need ever larger doses of spectacular spectacles to keep them coming back.

The Las Vegas effect permeates contemporary American culture, as we seem to be particularly susceptible to the con. Democracy becomes a front for imperialist aggression, peace is used to justify war (even naming missiles “Peacekeepers”), and an economy is called healthy that destroys the resources that sustain it. In the throes of what eco-theologist Thomas Berry calls a “mythic addiction” to commercial-industrial power, profit, and technological superiority, we continue to burn the bridges to the Divine and content ourselves with bridges to nowhere. Confronted with a spiritually barren culture, a meaningless cosmos, the only self-fulfillment left is to keep buying, to live to shop. The chronic attempt to satiate a spiritual hunger through empty materialism creates a viscous cycle of self-destruction, which begets more self-hatred, more desire for escape, and so it goes round in, thankfully, unsustainable fashion.

Strategies of Empire

In our attempts to keep our imaginal world healthy, and sovereign, it is useful to be aware of the various strategies the empire uses to keep us enmeshed in this cycle.

The first is the danger of the news. There is a kind of psychological warfare perpetrated through the massive amount of manipulation that passes for the news. Huge negative thought-forms are created when great numbers of people sit fascinated with the latest disaster. When we willingly allow our attention to be used to strengthen these thought-forms, we perpetuate the assumptions that the world is a fearful place. We thereby waste the energy of our attention, which could be more gainfully directed towards enlightening our lives and the world.

The second is the danger of advertising. Advertising is a form of spells. Spells comprise the magical power of language and image to effect changes in the world. When, like with advertising, they are used to compel someone to do something, they encroach on free will. They activate whatever of our energies are in the grips of consumer addiction and deplete the energies we have to counter this drive.

Advertising is one of the great tools of the corporate oligarchy to promote their mythology – not just in the commercial sphere, but also in they way they run governments. Essayist Gore Vidal identifies this quite plainly: “There’s no such thing as a war on terrorism. It’s idiotic. These are slogans. It’s advertising, which is the only art form we’ve invented and developed. It’s lies.”

However the mass media may capture your attention, its intent is to program your imagination with the storyline of its sponsors. We all know the narrative. Commentator Bill Fletcher, Jr. sums up a version this way:

“The settlers were heroes; the indigenous people were either heathens or naive primitives, but in either case they were in the way of progress. Slavery was an unfortunate episode that was cleaned up by the Civil War, though it has never been quite clear that the former slaves were ever meant to rule themselves, let alone anyone else. US foreign policy has generally been benign, nearly always driven by either a God-given imperative to improve the world or our sense that the planet would be better off with our version of capitalism and democracy.”

This is the self-image, the reality of the “real Americans” referred to by Sarah Palin, the “real Virginians” referred to by former senator George Allen. And in case you want to question this story, remember the admonition of George Bush at the 1992 Rio Earth Summit: “The American way of life is non-negotiable!”

When we allow ourselves to be implanted with such a pre-packaged narrative, we eventually become dependent on it, as it erodes the creative drive to manifest our own reality. It is not unlike a heroin addiction. Just as the body responds to heroin by slowing the production of endogenous opioids (endorphins) to the point where the body “forgets” how to produce them, an artificial reality conditions us to forget how to create our own. We then become dependent on the “reality in a box,” and at the mercy of the authorities that control the box. The withdrawal from this reality is very difficult when the creative drive to “know thyself” becomes atrophied from neglect. There are in fact few things more dangerous than a person who refuses to change his or her reality story in the face of changes that make the story impossible to maintain.

When our attention is captured, when our inner voice is silenced, a hostage mentality begins to manifest. Just as the “Stockholm Syndrome” tells us that hostages often identify with their captors as a form of psychological survival, we too easily give up our basic human rights, our prospects for a better future and all that would set us free, to be complicit with our captors. Many of us even wear leashes around our neck, called “ties,” as a sign of our subservience. Is it any wonder then that the U.S. has the world’s highest percentage of its population incarcerated? Even John McCain agrees, referring in his Oct 8, 2008 speech to Americans as “my fellow prisoners.”

The fear that underlies the hostage mentality clouds the reception of the energy currents that bring love and beauty into the world. When this happens, we become so pre-occupied with our problems, themselves the projections of a captive imagination, that we become prisoners of our own design. Cramped, confined, frustrated, and confused, we see little but our own distorted interpretations. Fear begets fear and we see terrorists of every variety, everywhere.

Tibetan Buddhist teacher Pema Chodron tells a story that illustrates this. A woman once told her that her parents had a bought a house in a gated community in Florida for their retirement years. Contrary to expectations, they began to feel less safe then before. They became suspicious of every repair-person or gardener who came through the gates. They quit going to the beach for fear of the uncontrolled possibilities, and reduced their trips outside the gates to a minimum. Similarly, the paranoid post-911 federal administration has done its best to turn the whole country into a gated community, with hundreds of miles of fence building in the works along the Mexican border, the declaration of need for U.S. passports to travel in and out of Canada and Mexico, and stepped up harassment of foreign visitors.

Gardening the Imagination

Being free willed beings, we, of course, do not have to agree to all this – to live in the fear wards of the collective imagination. We can choose to live in the garden! The discovery of this not-so-secret imaginal garden comes as we bring the light of awareness to the unconscious. The world so re-integrated opens up a way of life, a path of personal and cultural renewal. In support of the garden path, what follows are just a few suggestions on how to cultivate an imagination that can flower and fruit in acts of conscious evolution.

We may want to begin with pulling out some of the more invasive weeds. This could involve turning off (or better yet, getting rid of) the TV. A kind of Frankenstein hearth fire burning in so many homes, television is probably the single biggest negative influence on the group mind today. Besides being a prime organ of propaganda, it also shapes children’s imaginations to resonate with a hyperactive reality, leaving them less able to receive and grow with the subtle teachings offered by the world of Nature.

As most of us have grown up with the TV, and similar influences, it is helpful to re-pattern ourselves by spending quality time in untrammeled natural environments. This is where we can recover communication with the normally unheard voices, where we can refine our senses and learn to use them in a more balanced ratio to one another. We live in a society dominated by visual (books and moving screens) and, to a lesser extent, audio information. Touch, smell, and taste are largely undeveloped or, more usually, numbed. With all five senses up and running in interactive relationship, we are restored to a full-spectrum ecology of knowledge and gain a much truer perception of the world. For instance, we are not fooled by things that look or sound good, but don’t feel good. We thereby become more immune to the seductive wares of reality sharks, of the glamour spells cast by the Las Vegas effect.

Working with systems of correspondences (like astrology, the I Ching, or the Tarot) educates the imagination in the language of the transpersonal layers of the psyche. Becoming fluent, or at least conversant, in the soul glyphs of the numinous realms, the apriori realities, allows us to make much greater sense of their expression in the life we see around us in the 3-D world. This helps us to read the world, to become literate in its symbology.

As Nature imparts guidance to humans most directly through visionary experience, it is wise to familiarize oneself with the proper management of altered (or more correctly, restored) states of consciousness. The occasional rite of passage, of death and rebirth, provides us with opportunity to clear away the fixations that keep our imagination anchored to an outworn sense of self. Traditionally, this is done by creating a fluid state of being, not unlike the living soup found in a chrysalis. The human being in this vulnerable state must be held and protected in some kind of safe container. However, in a fear-based culture there is no trust; if no trust, there is no letting go; if no letting go, there is no death to the old self, habits, and ways – which means that there is no rebirth. Without ego surrender, the Source waters of spirit cannot easily flow through us, cannot refresh our souls and renew our lives.

To avoid this path of stagnation, it is important to revision the universe as benevolent, as a great temple, and to live life as ceremony. These are cultural acts. They are inspired by these same Source waters (Its job), and takes perseverance, intelligence, and compassion to enact (our job). Sacralizing the world, however, is necessary for us to restore the relationships needed for us to safely, and gracefully, turn with the seasons of our lives.

Rites of passage happen collectively as well. Unfortunately, they are often reduced to the drunken revelries or staid formalities we associate with national and religious holidays. In contrast, the festivals, fairs, and similar gatherings that appear in the interstices and liminal spaces of mainstream society are often rich in the lost treasures of the imagination, for they allow the exiled archetypes, the forgotten deities, to reappear. These rise in power surges of creativity, for they carry with them the force of a system returning to wholeness, the momentum of Nature rebalancing itself. Such gatherings are significant incubators for new cultural forms, and we would do well to take advantage of them, support their evolvement and, even better, create our own.

Language is among the most important tools we have to tend the garden of our imagination. We want to work with a high ratio of verbs and metaphors, as these are the language of synergy, the magic of growth. Synergy comes when the combined action (a verb) of the parts of any ecology creates something greater than the sum (a noun) of its parts. It draws on the unifying gravity of spirit to effect wondrous, and often unexpected, results: like 1+1=3, or the alchemy of the good marriage. Jungian psychologist James Hillman illustrates something of this when he says, “For a relationship to stay alive, love alone is not enough. Without imagination, love stales into sentiment, duty, and boredom. Intimacy fails not because we have stopped loving but because we first stopped imagining.”

The language of analysis and categorization, on the other hand, is something we need to very careful of, for it excites the ego. We are now collectively crashing our way out of (hopefully) a centuries-long bender of unregulated egoic tendencies that, enabled by the rich analytical language of English, has been chopping up the world in a rampage of self-importance. The world so languaged fuels many nasty habits of culture, such as racism, sexism, and species-ism, and rationalizes the ideologies of separation, such as fundamentalist religions and economies, which tell us to keep doing more of the same. At root, this is all a gratification strategy, for the more people or things one is separated from, the more one can place oneself in a position of being “better than” (or “less than” – the ego doesn’t care, as long as it feels secure in its attachment to who it thinks it is). It’s the divide-and-conquer approach to reality.

In contrast, a healthy imagination is fed by considering what things do have in common – by making connections, and finding similarities. Such an imagination comes to life and breathes with parables, analogies, poetry, songs, and metaphors. When we fertilize our language in this way, we synergize the world. Much like Nature brings emerging properties into being – such as the wetness that comes of combining hydrogen and oxygen, lichen from algae and fungus, and humanity from the biosphere – we, too, can synergize zeitgeists from history, grooves from jamming musicians, and great love through communion with others. These emerge as verbs, processes and relationships, transformations and motion. If we choose to speak more in verbs and surrender to their flow, we will invariably run into the rocky outcrops of nouns so prevalent in the English language.

What, then, to do with all these nouns, with their flow-impeding dualisms? Some we can leave in our wake, while others are being worked on by popular culture. “Story,” “access,” “architect,” “voice,” and “message” are just some nouns that are now converting to verbs. To me, these are more signs that our collective imagination is organicizing – returning to the garden. That words like “e-mail,” “Google,” and “Youtube” have been rapidly verb-ified, is evidence that the process is going virtual, picking up speed.

Work on (re)organicizing our reality is the growing edge of language development. To this beginning, it is useful to mow down some of the mechanistic metaphors we have inherited, such as those that have colonized time (e.g., “The engine of change,” “Time is money”) and seed our speech with those that spiral us back round to Gaian lifeways (e.g., “The tides of change,” “Time is a great healer”).

To move from Machinetime to Dreamtime, it is also useful to make a conscious effort to ascribe life to all things. Name your car; say hello to your computer (my Mac responds with a softly beating light); and ask where things live, rather than where they are. (For some guidance on this, watch episodes of Pee Wee’s Playhouse.) Though some would say this is simply projecting human traits onto things, I suggest this is more about recognizing counterparts of our own traits in other beings, a kind of “Namaste” approach to the world.

The Imaginal Commons

This leads us into the great work of the rebirth of organismic cosmologies, the true home of the spiritually evolving, heart-opening imagination. Also known as eco-cosmologies, cosmologies of resonance, “as above so below” – in these all manner of atom, molecule, element, cell, plant, animal, ancestor, and deity appear less as “others,” and more as participants in the metabolisms of nested “bodies,” not only our own, but regional ecosystems, the earth, the solar system, and beyond. These nested patterns of resonance all work by the same principles, a kind of dharma of the universe that is expounded in all the world’s great scriptures. These scriptures can as well be “read” at their source, in the living world, if one has the imaginal cognition to do so.

I’m defining this cognition as the ability to apprehend form via the vitalistic forces that create it (e.g., sacred geometry, the herbalist “doctrine of signatures”), to know the behavior of things via the spiritual energies that underlie them (e.g., astrology), and ultimately to understand the world completely transparent to its Source. It is a faculty of perception, developed by an imagination that has the vigor to come once again into the great commons of communication, and to engage in council with the tribes of Creation. For those of us who have not yet tuned into the Nature channel in this lifetime, or only cursorily touched into it through various transpersonal encounters, I would like to offer a short discussion of what this re-engagement can look like, and open up to.

The imaginal commons is a place of origin stories, tales of never-ending events. These arise through the Gaian mind as paths of creation that vision, architect, and speak the surface world into existence. The mythic is the actual world behind the real world, the “actuality” that generates “reality.” The stability of the turtle may offer itself as an island; the mercurial intelligence of foxes or river dolphins can teach us to laugh and play tricks; the carrion-eating life of condors gives lessons in recycling; the mind-expansion qualities of peyote reveals itself as a sage; and the flow to a river may connect to the streaming tears of a forlorn woman, carrying away her sorrow. The mythical dimensions of these plants, animals, and elements carry the virtues, the power, the “medicine” of their physical form.

By knowing this internal topology of the world, all manner of divination, healing, sorcery, spiritual illumination, and shapeshifting, can be effected. This is done by linking an imaginative act to the spiritual power of a thing, and then directing it with an intention. This is essentially magic, a science of similarities. It effects change by bringing things together, just as reductionist science effects change by taking things apart. This often involves bringing two things with a mythic affinity (i.e., they come from the same place) together as two strands of an analogy; this to effect remembrance in the one that has forgotten its origins and purpose (and so, is dis-ordered) by connection to the one that retains the memory.

For example, in an act of song healing, the spark of light, the longing for peace buried in so many frozen hearts, can be freed by forging a vision between it and a dawning sun. By singing of this daily event and holding the image of its inevitable rising, the spark of peace will rise as the sun, thawing and melting the heart as it climbs the sky of the mind. There are countless ways to knit the world together through such subtle activism, the potential of metaphor to bridge the world of causality and result, vibration and form.

I feel this magical science of the imagination has to be drawn upon to effect the changes needed in the world. It is a way by which poets and songwriters may reclaim their bardhood to birth stories of renewal, instead of using their talents to dramatize their neuroses. It can also involve scientists and philosophers with work on the higher calling of cosmological unification of the world, instead of feeding the academic industry that has grown up around analyzing irresolvable (and, largely, self-created) dualistic conflicts.

The commons is calling to us, the fairies from the garden are banging on our heads, and though so many of us have lost the imaginal capacity to hear, we are all feeling it at some level. Wiccan earth-activist Starhawk tells of feeling overwhelmed by the escalating crises of the world, of helplessness at the prospect of time running out. And then, in deep meditation a voice came to her, saying, “You’re a witch. Part the curtains of time and plant the seeds of change in that timeless place where change has already happened.”

We, too, need to do our activating from that timeless place, from the commons. Once tuned in, we will find that our ability to imagine our future is inseparable from Gaia imagining hers, and we will gain a direction and power to manifest positive change in the 3-D world. I trust we will find that the darkened times we are in are actually the necessary stimuli for the radical change in consciousness needed to evolve our species into something else. What is that something? Use your imagination!

Image by Creativity+Timothy K, courtesy of Creative Commons license.

the imagination of the revolution

The revolution of the imagination,

drinks the potion of the universe,

the imagination needs a kick in the metaphor

it would have to find itself in the details

or in the tao de chings of things

either the smoky mist sings in the pines

or the black brush stroke vanishes in the bamboo

on the little stage of the rice paper tiger

we enter the arcane alley of the lady finger

the iron wind dances in the windows where the diety goes

pointing down the bitter root street they descend down

the wrath of inch by inch of inchoate increments of power

what the imagination lacks the world turns to art's loss

the lotus flower unfolds on a fire cracker that once

exploded in the hand of a child whose other hand

held the secret of time in a moment of perfect innocence

a yin-yang talisman hanging over the door like a child's

toy trinket

a moment like any other about to give birth to totality

the impossible happens at the crux of events on the verge

great impossible implosions manifest black holes of the

seed in the eye of the dragon as banners of seeing unfurl

the whisper of the manifold ripple clashes with stripes

and spots with gashes in the fabric of reality next to signs

that appear in the reflection in the fishhead soup gutter

wholly without meaning to the fortune of the state

vast nothingness between reasons of existance

and the statistics of nations on the brink

the mouse springs from the cracks in the bagua mirror

at the far end of last chance China town

the one turned toward the moon in the happy buddha

mask behind of which the images fall like musical snow

oh the transparent gestures of flutes and flowers

movements of the nature of symbolic upward shadows

yielding the sharp crescent conture of the torn expression

as fiery tears shooting from the emptiness of form


Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clézio’s Nobel lecture


Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clézio was recently awarded the Nobel prize for literature. His lecture (video) which is rich reading for bibliophiles generally, has a special mention of libraries. [thanks Kári]

Culture, as I have said, belongs to us all, to all humankind. But in order for this to be true, everyone must be given equal access to culture. The book, however old-fashioned it may be, is the ideal tool. It is practical, easy to handle, economical. It does not require any particular technological prowess, and keeps well in any climate. Its only flaw—and this is where I would like to address publishers in particular—is that in a great number of countries it is still very difficult to gain access to books. In Mauritius the price of a novel or a collection of poetry is equivalent to a sizeable portion of the family budget. In Africa, Southeast Asia, Mexico, or the South Sea Islands, books remain an inaccessible luxury. And yet remedies to this situation do exist. Joint publication with the developing countries, the establishment of funds for lending libraries and bookmobiles, and, overall, greater attention to requests from and works in so-called minority languages—which are often clearly in the majority—would enable literature to continue to be this wonderful tool for self-knowledge, for the discovery of others, and for listening to the concert of humankind, in all the rich variety of its themes and modulations.

"Huna" means "The Secret", by Serge Kahili King

There really is a secret process that allows you to achieve just as much health, wealth, happiness, and success as you can ever desire. The funny thing is, it's never been a secret. As some people discovered an unimaginably long time ago, the best way to keep a secret is to tell everyone about it, over and over and over again in many different ways until they stop paying attention and forget about it. Then someone "rediscovers" the secret and everyone gets excited about it until it's old news and it gets forgotten again. Possibly the oldest form of the secret process is found in Huna, a name of convenience given to the very ancient esoteric knowledge of Polynesia. As a word in Hawaiian, ka huna actually means "the secret." Interestingly, this particular word has the connotation of something hard to see, not something intended to be kept hidden. The process itself is described in the Hawaiian proverb, Makia ke ali'i, ehuehu ka ukali (literally, concentration is the chief, energy is the follower), which I first translated in my 1985 book, Mastering Your Hidden Self, as "Energy flows where attention goes." In other words, to achieve all your desires, keep your focus on what you want, and not on what you don't want, a version of the secret expressed frequently in the Seth Books by Jane Roberts. Other versions of the secret process can be found in the Old and New Testaments of the Bible, in Buddhist and Taoist writings, in Yoga sutras and Sufi poetry, and of course in the works of more modern writers such as Wattles, Hill, Emerson, Holmes, and many others. One nice thing about the Hawaiian version of the secret is that it includes specific instructions for putting it into practice. These instructions can be found in the roots of a little-understood Hawaiian word, haipule. The Pukui-Elbert Hawaiian Dictionary defines haipule as meaning "religious, devout, pious, reverent, to worship,, to hold prayers or service, to consecrate a heiau, and a church service," but this is obviously a Christianized interpretation of this very Hawaiian word. More likely, it's original meaning as a whole word was based on the word hai (to offer) plus pule (prayer, blessing, spell). That is, haipule is a term relating to a process for making good things happen. The actual process, according to my Hawaiian uncle, William Kahili, is found in root meanings of the word. More accurately, the roots describe four ways to maintain a positive focus, which is the key ingredient of the secret. Ha, meaning "life, breath, spirit." Breathe deeply and get emotionally excited while thinking about what you want, or at least feel as positive and happy as you can. When you lose your focus, breathe deeply to get back into the present and start over. I, meaning "to speak." Speak the words that describe what you want, aloud or silently. When you find yourself speaking negative words related to what you want, stop, breathe, and go back to saying what you want instead. Pu, meaning "to issue forth, to appear like smoke." This is a poetic description of imagination. Imagine what you want in as much sensory detail as you can. When you find yourself imagining what you don't want, stop, breathe, and imagine what you want again. Le, a short form of lele meaning, basically, "to move." Whenever you are thinking or speaking about what you want, assume a positive posture and move in confident ways. When you find yourself feeling depressed, helpless or disillusioned in relation to what you want, stop, take a deep breath, and change your posture or the way you move into a more positive and confident mode. You don't have to do everything every time you think of what you want, but each method reinforces the other and helps you to maintain your positive expectation. So that's it. The secret is out. Or, as the ancient Hawaiians would have said, Ahuwale ka nane huna "That which was a secret is no longer hidden" (from 'Olelo No'eau, by Mary Kawena Pukui)

Thursday, December 18, 2008

NTC: New School Occupation Attacked by Police

At around Noon today police attacked the Student Occupation at the New School University in New York City arresting at least one person. Breaking News from the New School Occupation! Students have just expanded the occupation to control one side door exit at the occupation, and School President Kerrey just showed up a little before noon. NYPD police have showed up and begun trying to arrest people at the side entrance (13th st.) of the building. Witnesses report at least two people were dragged out onto 13th street and there was as least one person confirmed arrested. The NYPD were their usual violent selves swinging batons and yelling at participants.
read more

Change: Up in Smoke?, by Michel Anderson

The election of Barack Obama not only gave the United States its first African-American president but also its first openly admitting, former pot smoker. Yes, Obama, on many occasions and in humorous ways confessed to his past experimentation with marijuana. In 2004 he spoke out in favor of marijuana decriminalization. During his primary bid, Obama spoke out in favor of drug policy reform and medical marijuana usage, but as he inched closer to the presidency his tune changed. No longer did he mention the word "decriminalization," though at least he continued to support the rights of the sick to be prescribed marijuana by their doctors. Now that he is about to obtain the powers of the presidency, and is assembling his team, our compassionate leader is rumored to be buckling under DC pressure to nominate Republican Congressman Jim Ramstad as his new Drug Czar. Ramstad is a former alchoholic; however, his compassion for the addicted does not move beyond those zombified on state-sanctioned drugs, and his stance on marijuana is just as dangerous.

We still have a chance to influence the president-elect. Spread the message wildly like a virus even to those who you assume may not be open to the idea -- you may be surprised. Represent your convictions and inner truth and flood the Obama Transition Team's website with the message of change we want in our country's drug policy. Below is a short letter if you'd like to copy and paste into the site's provided field; however, personalizing it makes it all the more effectual:

To the President-elect,

During the campaign you spoke out candidly against the United States growing incarceration rate of non-violent drug users. Please embrace the fact that this issue is very much connected to health care reform and our current economic troubles. You fully acknowledge that the War on Drugs is an utter failure and outrageously expensive. Do not forget your stated and heartfelt position on this as you assemble your Health Care team, appoint your Drug Czar officer, and guide the DEA. You understand that drug use is a health issue. Lead us in a new direction with compassion for the rights of addicts, the sick, and non-violent experimenters. Under US Law you got lucky that you were not caught during your innocent, experimental phase with marijuana. Is it fair that others may not be so lucky? You are becoming the President of the United States -- some Americans can not even go to college or find employment for doing the same exact thing you have done, and worse yet some are spending their life behind bars. Prove to us that you believe in equal opportunity for all Americans . . . and not just those that get lucky (like yourself) or have the financial means to protect themselves against these erroneous and racist laws. Do not forget about common people, and who you once were, as you ascend into political power. Make health care and drug policy reform, which are one and the same, a high priority of your administration. The public mainstream opinion on this issue is not being represented in Washington DC right now . . . it is of extreme importance that you appoint receptive, creative, and open-minded thinkers to the positions that will direct these efforts; and not people like Congressman Jim Ramstad whose positions run counter to your inner truth.

Thank you.

Taking Human Rights Watch to Task on the Question of Venezuela’s Purported Abuse of Human Rights: Over 100 U.S. and Foreign Scholars Take Issue with t

December 18, 2008 The following letter has been sent to the Board of Directors of Human Rights Watch, carrying the signatures of over 100 U.S. and foreign Latin American scholars. The letter raises serious concerns over that organization’s recently issued highly critical report on the human rights situation in Venezuela and the conduct of its president, Hugo Chavez. It is now being distributed by the Council on Hemispheric Affairs to its mailing list at the request of a number of signatories of that document. COHA’s staff is taking this step (with considerable reluctance) because it feels that it is obliged for any organization committed to social justice and democratic values, to speak out regarding the dispute now raging over HRW’s recent and very controversial report on Hugo Chavez’s human rights performance. Any reservation COHA may have had over taking issue with a sister organization was voided by the egregiously inappropriate behavior exhibited by HRW. Most specifically it was the issuance of this report and the needlessly venomous tone resorted to by HRW’s head for Latin America, Jose Miguel Vivanco. In his charges, HRW’s lead researcher and writer of the report used intemperate language and patently disingenuous tactics to field a series of anti-Chavez allegations that are excessive and inappropriate. It is not a matter that President Chavez and the Venezuelan government are above reproach—far from it. The problem is the presence of a mean-spirited tone and a lack of balance and fair play that characterizes Vivanco’s reportage and his tendentious interpretation of the alleged misdeeds of the Chavez revolution are demonstrably bereft of scale and accuracy.

The failings of Vivanco’s scholarship are strongly contested by the scholars’ letter and the research compiled by a brilliant student of contemporary Venezuela, Dr. Gregory Wilpert. His study, Smoke and Mirrors, can be found by clicking on this link:

Vivanco demonstrates an inability to distinguish President Chavez’s bark from his bite; and it is a distortion to characterize the Venezuelan leader as a prime human rights violator, a charge which already has attracted a good deal of notoriety. In other words, Vivanco continuously confuses Chavez’ often shamelessly antic style for his otherwise solid, if brassy, democratic credentials. Of course, COHA’s pages will be opened for debate on these issues.

In continuing their discussion concerning the Vivanco’s HRW initiative regarding Chavez, the prevailing sentiment among many Latin Americanists, including those on COHA’s staff, is that some of Chavez’s critics, like the New York Times editorial board and Jackson Diehl of the Washington Post editorial page, have resorted to an unacceptable use of meretricious pseudo-evidence and naked anti-Chavez spleen to buttress their lashing out against the Venezuelan leader. According to the attached material, they also have resorted to the use of specious arguments and undeniable overkill, rather than a measured assessment and unassailable evidence, to make their case.

Some of Vivanco’s critics have come to believe that rather than making a fair-minded evaluation of Chavez’ undeniable shortcomings, Vivanco mainly has created a straw man and then proceeded to thunderously trash Chavez as a human rights violator, a thesis that the evidence he cites, will not admit. The matter is not so much Vivanco’s professional shortcomings as it is that it would be a shame if Human Rights Watch is permitted to become a replica of Freedom House, when throughout the Cold War the New York-based organization became a warehouse for duplicitous double standards, selective indignation and self-administered histrionics intent on establishing that, almost by definition, right-wing human rights derelictions are less condemnable than those of the left.

Larry Birns (COHA Director) and the COHA Staff Venezuela Scholars Letter

For Immediate Release: December 16, 2008

Contact: Professor Miguel Tinker Salas, 909-607-2920 Dr. Gregory Wilpert, 646-541-7212 Professor Greg Grandin, 347-804-6851 More Than 100 Latin America Experts Question Human Rights Watch’s Venezuela Report

Experts Highlight Exaggerations and Inaccuracies in “Politically Motivated” Study

NEW YORK, NY - In an open letter to the Board of Directors of Human Rights Watch, over 100 experts on Latin America criticized the organization’s recent report on Venezuela, A Decade Under Chávez: Political Intolerance and Lost Opportunities for Advancing Human Rights in Venezuela, saying that it “does not meet even the most minimal standards of scholarship, impartiality, accuracy, or credibility.” The signers include leading academic specialists from universities in the United States, including Harvard, Johns Hopkins, and a number of state universities, and academic institutions in Argentina, Australia, Brazil, México, the U.K., Venezuela and other countries. The letter cites Jose Miguel Vivanco, lead author of the report, saying “We did the report because we wanted to demonstrate to the world that Venezuela is not a model for anyone…” , as evidence of its political agenda. The letter also criticizes the report for making unsubstantiated allegations, and that some of the sources that Human Rights Watch relied on in the report are not credible.

“By publishing such a grossly flawed report, and acknowledging a political motivation in doing so, Mr. Vivanco has undermined the credibility of an important human rights organization,” the letter states.

The letter notes that numerous sources cited in the report – including opposition newspapers El Universal and El Nacional, opposition group Súmate, and a mentally unstable opposition blogger – have been known to fabricate information, making it “difficult for most readers to know which parts of the report are true and which aren’t.” The letter also argues that the Human Rights Watch report makes sweeping allegations based on scant evidence. For example, its allegation of discrimination in government services is based on just one person whose nephew claimed she was denied medicine from a government program.

The full text of the letter follows:

December 15, 2008

Human Rights Watch 350 Fifth Avenue, 34th floor New York, NY 10118-3299 USA

To the Board of Directors,

We write to call your attention to a report published by Human Rights Watch that does not meet even the most minimal standards of scholarship, impartiality, accuracy, or credibility. The document, A Decade Under Chávez: Political Intolerance and Lost Opportunities for Advancing Human Rights in Venezuela, appears to be a politically motivated essay rather than a human rights report. Indeed, the lead author of the report, Jose Miguel Vivanco, stated as much when he told the press just a few days after its publication, “We did the report because we wanted to demonstrate to the world that Venezuela is not a model for anyone…”

Clearly Mr. Vivanco is entitled to his views about Venezuela, but such statements run counter to the mission of Human Rights Watch and indeed any organization dedicated to the defense of human rights. By publishing such a grossly flawed report, and acknowledging a political motivation in doing so, Mr. Vivanco has undermined the credibility of an important human rights organization.

We do not make these charges lightly and we hope you will understand the seriousness of such grave errors in judgment. As scholars who specialize in Latin America, we rely on what are supposed to be independent, non-partisan organizations such as Human Rights Watch for factual information about human right abuses committed by governments and sometimes non-governmental actors. So do many other constituencies, including the press, government officials, and the public. It is a great loss to civil society when we can no longer trust a source such as Human Rights Watch to conduct an impartial investigation and draw conclusions based on verifiable facts.

The report makes sweeping allegations that are not backed up by supporting facts or in some cases even logical arguments. For example, the report’s most important and prominent allegation is that “discrimination on political grounds has been a defining feature of the Chávez presidency.” (p. 1) Yet the report does not show, or even attempt to show, that political discrimination either increased under the current government (as compared to past governments), or is more of a problem in Venezuela than in any other country in the world.

What is the evidence offered for such a broad generalization?

“In most cases, it was not possible to prove political discrimination—with rare exceptions, citizens were given no grounds at all for the actions taken—yet many were told informally that they were losing their jobs, contracts, or services for having signed the referendum petition [to recall President Chávez]. For example, in one case reported to Human Rights Watch, a 98-year-old woman was denied medicines that she had long received from a state development agency because, as her family was told by the program secretary, she had signed the referendum petition.” (p.21) (Italics added).

Taking services first, the above paragraph refers to an allegation that one Venezuelan citizen was denied medicines for political reasons. Amazingly, this is the only alleged instance of discrimination in government services cited in the entire 230-page report. In other words, the Barrio Adentro program has provided health services to millions of poor Venezuelans each year since 2003, and the authors found one allegation (as reported to the authors in a phone conversation with the nephew of the alleged victim) of discrimination involving one person. On this basis the authors make the sweeping generalization that “Citizens who exercised their right to call for the referendum—invoking one of the new participatory mechanisms championed by Chávez during the drafting of the 1999 Constitution—were threatened with retaliation and blacklisted from some government jobs and services.” (p. 10, italics added).

This is outrageous and completely indefensible. We do not expect a report of this nature to adhere to rigorous academic standards, but there have to be some standards.

With regard to employment, there is no doubt that there were cases where individual government officials discriminated on the grounds of employees’ political beliefs. (There were also cases of discrimination and firing of pro-government employees in the private sector, which the report mentions in a parenthesis (p.10) and does not investigate). However, the report does not show that there was any organized or systematic effort to purge the government of anti-government employees. Indeed, as anyone who is familiar with the government of Venezuela knows, after nearly ten years since the election of President Hugo Chávez, the civil service is still loaded with employees who are against the government.

The report does not demonstrate whether the firings that occurred, in both the public and private sector, were simply the result of individual actions in a highly polarized society in which the opposition spent at least four years (according to opposition leader Teodoro Petkoff) trying to dislodge the government though a military overthrow. Indeed, it is not hard to imagine that many government officials would, in such a climate, be apprehensive about employing people who are against the government. The report does not consider this possible cause of observed discrimination. Of course this would not justify such discrimination, but neither would it support the sweeping allegations of this report, which attempts to argue that the government is using its control over employment in the public sector in order to repress political opposition.

Indeed, the report’s most serious allegation of discrimination in employment concerns a case where discrimination was not based on political partisanship, but in regards to unlawful subversion that no government would, nor should tolerate: “In the aftermath of the oil strike, PDVSA purged its ranks of thousands of workers who participated in the strike.” (p.29). But as anyone who was in Venezuela at the time can attest, this was quite openly a strike to topple the government, which the opposition had succeeded in doing less than eight months earlier. The oil strike devastated the economy – which lost 24 percent of GDP in the resulting recession — and came close to achieving its goal a second time.

The report implies that public employees, in this case oil workers should have the right to strike for the overthrow of an elected government; we do not support that view. It is especially dubious when that group of employees makes up less than one percent of the labor force, and is using its control over a strategic resource – oil revenues made up nearly half of government revenues and 80 percent of export earnings — to cripple the economy and thereby reverse the result of democratic elections. The view that such a strike is “a legitimate strike” is not, to our knowledge, held by any democratic government in the world.

But most importantly with regard to the credibility of the HRW report, it is profoundly misleading for the authors to argue that “political discrimination is a defining feature” of a government that is not willing to risk the continuing employment of people who have carried out such a strike.

The report’s overwhelming reliance for factual material on opposition sources of dubious reliability also undermines its credibility and makes it difficult for most readers to know which parts of the report are true and which aren’t. The most cited source with regard to political discrimination is the newspaper El Universal. This is not only a stridently opposition newspaper, it has also, for the years during which it is cited, repeatedly fabricated news stories. For example, in a typical fabrication of the type deployed to libel government officials, El Universal reported that then Interior Minister Jesse Chacón had purchased a painting for $140,000. This turned out to be completely false. There are many examples of fabrications in El Universal, as well as other opposition sources cited by the report.

We find it troubling that a report on Human Rights depends heavily on unreliable sources. Would a report on human rights in the United States be taken seriously if it relied so heavily on Fox News, or even worse The National Enquirer? Indeed, this report ventures even further into the zone of unreliable sources and cites a mentally unstable opposition blogger as a source. (p. 20, footnote 30). This is a person who indulges not only in routine fabrications and advocates the violent overthrow of the government, but also has publicly fantasized about killing his political enemies and dumping the bodies from helicopters into the slums, and torturing others by “pour[ing] melted silver into their eyes.”

A disturbing thing about the report’s reliance on these sources is that it indicates a lack of familiarity with the subject matter, or perhaps worse, a deep political prejudice that allows the authors to see most of these sources as unproblematic. Indeed, there is only one passing indication that the newspapers El Universal and El Nacional, are opposition newspapers, and it is a reference to the past , which the reader might therefore reasonably judge to be irrelevant. On the other hand, the report refers to the newspaper Últimas Noticias as “largely sympathetic to Chávez and his government” and “a generally pro-government tabloid.” (p.70, p.89) This is a newspaper that prints articles that are harshly critical of the government on a daily basis, and according to polling data in Venezuela is seen as vastly more independent than any other major newspapers. The authors’ view of the Venezuelan media seems to mirror the view of the right-wing Venezuelan opposition, or the U.S. Right’s view of the “liberal media” in the United States.

Such profound prejudice, in which events are interpreted overwhelmingly through the lens of Venezuela’s right-wing opposition, is apparent throughout the document: for example when the authors describe groups that helped organize and supported the April 2002 coup as “new organizations dedicated to the defense of democracy and the rule of law.” (p. 203).

But the worst thing about the report’s reliance on opposition sources like El Universal, El Nacional, or Súmate, is that these sources have engaged in enough fabrications as to make them unreliable sources for factual material.

In its discussion of the media, the report also paints a grossly exaggerated picture of reality, while presenting some valid criticisms of existing law and practice. It is acknowledged in footnotes buried deep within the text that the opposition still dominates both broadcast and print media (footnote 184, p.74; footnote 181, p.73). Yet the government is reproached for “having significantly shifted the balance of the media in the government’s favor” by creating pro-government TV stations since the 2002 coup, when “Chávez faced an almost entirely hostile private media.” This is an odd position for a human rights organization to take. While it would be nice if the government could create TV stations that had no bias whatsoever, isn’t it better to have some competition in the media – from left-leaning, pro-government stations – than to have a right-wing, anti-democratic, private monopoly? Especially when that right-wing monopoly had, as never before in world history, organized a military coup against a democratically elected government and led a devastating oil strike that nearly toppled the government a second time? Do the authors consider this type of media monopoly to be more protective of human rights than a media that is still dominated by the opposition but also presents some other sources of information?

The report refers repeatedly to the danger of “self-censorship,” but does not provide any examples of this actually happening. This is a major weakness in its argument, since it is not that difficult to find examples of self-censorship in response to government pressure in, for example, the U.S. media.

In the 2004 U.S. Presidential election, the Sinclair Broadcast Group of Maryland, owner of the largest chain of television stations in the U.S., planned to show a documentary that accused candidate John Kerry of betraying American prisoners during the Vietnam War. The company ordered its 62 stations to show the film during prime-time hours just two weeks before the election. Nineteen Democratic senators sent a letter to the U.S. F.C.C. calling for an investigation into this proposed intervention by Sinclair in the campaign, and some made public statements that Sinclair’s broadcast license could be in jeopardy if it carried through with its plans. As a result of this pressure, Sinclair backed down and did not broadcast the film.

This example is directly relevant to the HRW report on Venezuela, because it shows that, in order to have a broadcast license in the United States and other democratic countries, the licensee is expected to follow certain rules and not to become a major political actor, e.g. by intervening in elections. As Vivanco himself has noted, “lack of renewal of the contract [broadcast license], per se, is not a free speech issue.” Yet this report cites the denial of RCTV’s broadcast license renewal as a simple, and indeed its primary, example of the Venezuelan government’s alleged attack on free speech. It does not seem to matter to the authors that the station had participated in a military coup and other attempts to topple the government and would not receive a broadcast license in any democratic country.

The report even uses innuendo to imply that the government is to blame for attacks on journalists, which have occurred against both opposition and pro-government journalists. The authors state that the opposition TV station Globovisión “has received warning letters from CONATEL because of the political tone of its reporting, it has been frequently refused entry to government press conferences, and its reporters and cameramen have been physically attacked and threatened by Chávez supporters.” (p. 117) The authors provide no evidence that the government in any way condoned or supported such alleged attacks.

The major media in Venezuela to this day are practically unmatched in this hemisphere, and indeed most of the world, for their vehement, unfettered, and even vicious, libelous, and violence inciting attacks on the government . While the HRW report presents a number of valid criticisms of existing law and a few cases of unwarranted intervention by government officials, it serves no legitimate purpose to hide or distort the actual state of Venezuela’s media.

The same can be said for the rest of the report, including its treatment of the judiciary. HRW has an obligation to criticize any laws or practices of the Venezuelan government that it sees as endangering human rights, and we welcome the valid criticisms that it raises in its report. But Mr. Vivanco has gravely undermined the credibility of Human Rights Watch by producing a report that, by his own admission, is politically motivated, as well as grossly exaggerated, based on unreliable sources, and advertises broad and sweeping allegations that are unsupported by the evidence.

We therefore request that HRW retract and revise its report so as to produce a credible document. Mr. Vivanco should also retract his remarks as to the political motivation for the report.

We would be glad to meet with you to discuss this issue further, and would welcome a debate with Mr. Vivanco in any public forum of his choosing, should he be willing to defend his report in public.

We hope you will consider these requests with the seriousness they deserve. Our letter is not meant as a justification for the Venezuelan government’s decision to expel the authors of the HRW report from the country. Human rights are too important to be used as a political football, as has so often been the case when Washington singles out another government as an enemy state. This is why we depend on civil society organizations for independent, non-partisan, non-political reporting and investigation.

In the spirit of sharing our concerns with our Spanish-speaking colleagues, we are having this letter translated to be circulated in Latin America.


Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Outrage! Congress to Receive Automatic Pay Raise!


Some things are just plain wrong. One of them is the automatic 2.8 percent — or $4,700 each — pay hike members of Congress are due to receive early next year unless American citizens convince them otherwise — and quickly!

On Jan. 22, 2008, Reps. Harry Mitchell (D-Ariz.) and Ron Paul (R-Texas) attempted to prevent this Congressional “cash grab” by introducing H.R. 5087 as a measure “To prevent Members of Congress from receiving the automatic pay adjustment scheduled to take effect in 2009.”

Today, as the nation sinks deeper and deeper into an economic crisis, H.R. 5087 appears to have little to no chance of passage. The most-supported bill among three introduced to address this Congressional “cash grab,” it has only 34 co-sponsors — far short of the 218 votes necessary for passage.

While the $2.5 million cost of the raise might seem small when stacked up against the multi-billion-dollar bailouts already enacted (financial industry) and those still under consideration (Big Three Automakers), the Congressional pay raise costing taxpayers roughly $2.5 million stinks on principle alone.

That’s why American citizens — please, no illegal immigrants need chime in on this one — need to take action NOW and convince their elected officials otherwise.

If you’re as disgusted as I am about this Congressional abuse of taxpayers, CONTACT YOUR ELECTED OFFICIALS in Washington, D.C., and give them a piece of your mind. Threaten them with your vote. Say whatever it takes to convince them to turn off the spigot spewing cash their way.

Hat tip: The Senior Citizens League

-- Bob McCarty Writes

Pope: the economic crises is an opportunity to rediscover the real meaning of Christmas

[MEANWHILE..THE VATICAN HOARDS GOLD...PSSST...SOME OF IT STOLEN FROM NAZI GERMANY I.E. TAKEN FROM THE JEWS] Stripped of the “accumulations of consumerism”, the memorial of Christ’s birth is “an opportunity to welcome the message of hope” of that “historic” event as a “personal gift”. Thoughts for the many children born into severe poverty, for newborn babies that are rejected and unwelcome, to those families who yearn for the joy of a child and have yet to see this realised.

Vatican City (AsiaNews) – The difficulties of an economic crises that have hit so many families “can become an opportunity and a stimulus” to free Christmas from the “accumulations of consumerism” which reduce it to an occasion for the sole purpose of buying and exchanging gifts” and help us to “rediscover the warmth of solidarity, of friendship” the “warmth of Christmas”, the “message if Christ’s birth”. The “rediscovery” of the true meaning of Christ’s birth, as “an opportunity to welcome as a personal gift the message of hope that irradiates from Christ’s birth” was the appeal that Benedict XVI launched today to five thousand people present at the general audience, during which Christmas hymns resounded throughout the Paul VI hall, courtesy of a group of “zampognari”, pipe players from Northern Italy.

For the Church the beginning of the Christmas novena is moment in which it “prepares to unite itself to the joyous chorus of the angels” that “on that night invited the shepherds to make their way to the stable”. And Christmas, revealed the Pope “is a universal feast and even non believers perceive something extraordinary, something transcendent in this season, which speaks to the heart. Christmas is a feast that speaks of the gift of life. The birth of a child is always something that brings great joy, and the embrace of a newborn moves one to tenderness”. “How can we not think of those many children born into poverty throughout the world – he added -to those newborns who are rejected and not welcomed, those who will not survive because of lack of care and attention, those families who yearn for the joy of a child and have yet to see this realised”.

On the memorial of Our Lord’s birth, continued Benedict XVI, “Christians so not celebrate the birth of a great man or the end of a season", but “the pivotal moment in history: the incarnation of the Divine Word for the salvation of humanity”. “The mystery of our salvation is renewed”. St Paul comes back again and again to this truth in his letter to the Galatians, “God sent his son born of a woman”. Or in his letter to the Romans, “if we are children of God we are also heirs of God….,” but it is above all “St John who meditates on the mystery of the incarnation” and for this in the Christmas liturgy since the earliest of times his “Et Verbum caro factum est…”, the Word was made Flesh, is used.

It is “something so concrete and essential for the faith” a “historic event that Light becomes an essential and concrete part of faith” a “historical event that Light puts into a real context”, the first census. On that “historic night” in Bethlehem, “a really great light was born”: “the creator of the universe became flesh, thus irrevocably uniting himself to humanity”. “But is it possible? A God who becomes a child? We need to bow our heads and recognise the limits of our intelligence. God became a child to defeat our superbia”. He could have demonstrated his power, “but he does not want our surrender”, “he wants to set us truly free, to love Him”. “God came to communicate the truth that saves directly to us” and “make us participants in his life”.

Therefore “May Christmas be a privileged opportunity to reflect on the true meaning of our existence”, and to renew it. “Let us ready ourselves – he concluded – to receive this gift of joy, of light and of peace”, “to become people who do not think only of themselves, but who are open to the needs and expectations of others”. “Happy Christmas”.

God Is Not Neutral

From: by heartsdeesire

I’ve always believed that Source/God/Universe is not neutral. My background as a former nurse really has provided proof positive of that for this ’show me’ girl. The body is so lovingly aligned with balance or what is known as homeostasis. There is nothing neutral about that and so it seems to me that everything in nature is orchestrated to seek balance. What else causes that except a loving, benevolent Universe that has our back. Frankly I’m not sure how I reconcile that with the Law of Attraction which Abraham states is neutral. For one, the so called neutral LOA does not account for the existence of absolute divine grace. So it would seem that there are other factors that surpass neutral laws.

I was so excited to actually run across a quote from one of Seth’s deleted sessions stating that God is not neutral. I include it below. Note that Ruburt is the name and male gender that Seth assigned Jane Roberts. Love, Bethie

Seth: “To begin with, a few comments about some thoughts of Ruburt’s.

He is quite correct: the universe is not neutral.

In the terms in which you understand the word, there is a God.

Obviously I am not speaking of a personification of a Superperson.

For that matter, in the terms of your language, and intellectual concepts, you will probably have to take it for granted that you cannot understand the nature of such a God.

You will know God’s actions, however, through the manifestations of the universe.

That God is not simply neutral energy, for example.

The universe is supportive.

There is a force, if you prefer, that actively loves each individual, each consciousness, and actively works to help that consciousness attain the fulfillment inherent in its nature.

Despite all misinterpretations, therefore, the universe is caring, and so is nature.

The impetus toward creativity is a loving one, and the natural processes in both body and mind as lovingly directed.

The body even lovingly seeks to follow its own nature, and is lovingly directed to do so…

…I realize you are not living in an ideal world, but we are giving that world ideas that can vastly increase peoples’ understanding.”

Deleted session, August 20, 1977

Society without State have given their lives to show us how.

We aspire to a world community without enemy, without war. Man is not enemy of man except through lies of the State and State of the lie. Once violence is chosen as method, falsehood becomes principle. Our direct eyewitness experience shows that the State owes its existence to violence, and maintains itself by lies, coercion, and war.

Stateless society is essentially need-based, and not greed-based. It is essentially self-protecting and self-regulating, without institutionalized compulsion. So we are not going to be governed, knowing that to be governed is to be coerced and violated. We shall govern ourselves.

We must evolve to a higher level of consciousness, or die out on a wasted earth. We hold that Liberty with self-rule is a better way to that peace which is so essential for survival of the human species.

The battle is for the mind of man. The path is made by walking. We are taking steps. These words mark our footprints. We try to live by respect for life. We strive for a life that harms none.

We are declaring our birthright of individual liberty, free of State coercion. Our right to life includes the right to respect the lives of others, for we cannot live without society. Respect for life demands the right of non-cooperation in the tax-financing of State murder. We are advocates of non-political means to achieve freedom. We shall be free.

We feel that mankind is facing a moral and spiritual crisis, of which ecological, social and political problems are but symtoms of a deeper cause. We are working for solutions. We welcome ideas and participation. May you live long, live free.

We declare the building a Liberated Workers' Zone

Since 8 o'clock in the morning the building of GSEE (Patision and

Alexandras) is occupied.

We declare the building a Liberated Workers' Zone.

Open Workers' Assembly at 18.00

The Building is open to all workers all day long.


We will either determine our history ourselves or let it be determined without us

We, manual workers, employees, jobless, temporary workers, local or migrants, are not passive tv-viewers. Since the murder of Alexandros Grigoropoulos on Saturday night we participate in the demonstrations, the clashes with the police, the occupations of the centre or the neighborhoods. Time and again we had to leave work and our daily obligations to take the streets with the students, the university students and the other proletarians in struggle.


-To turn it into a space of free expression and a meeting point of workers.

-To disperse the media-touted myth that the workers were and are absent from the clashes, and that the rage of these days was an affair of some 500 "mask-bearers", "hooligans" or some other fairy tale, while on the tv-screens the workers were presented as victims of the clash, while the capitalist crisis in Greece and Worldwide leads to countless layoffs that the media and their managers deal as a "natural phenomenon".

-To flay and uncover the role of the trade union bureaucracy in the undermining of the insurrection -and not only there. GSEE and the entire trade union mechanism that supports it for decades and decades, undermine the struggles, bargain our labor power for crumblings, perpetuate the system of exploitation and wage slavery. The stance of GSEE last Wednesday is quite telling: GSEE cancelled the programmed strikers' demonstration, stopping short at the organization of a brief gathering in Syntagma Sq., making simultaneously sure that the people will be dispersed in a hurry from the Square, fearing that they might get infected by the virus of insurrection.

-To open up this space for the first time -as a continuation of the social opening created by the insurrection itself-, a space that has been built by our contributions, a space from which we were excluded. For all these years we trusted our fate on saviours of every kind, and we end up losing our dignity. As workers we have to start assuming our responsibilities, and to stop assigning our hopes to wise leaders or "able" representatives.

We have to acquire a voice of our own, to meet up, to talk, to decide, and to act. Against the generalized attack we endure. The creation of collective "grassroot" resistances is the only way.

-To propagate the idea of self-organization and solidarity in working places, struggle committees and collective grassroot procedures, abolishing the bureaucrat trade unionists.

All these years we gulp the misery, the pandering, the violence in work. We became accustomed to counting the crippled and our dead - the so-called "labor accidents". We became accustomed to ingore the migrants -our class brothers- getting killed. We are tired living with the anxiety of securing a wage, revenue stamps, and a pension that now feels like a distant dream.

As we struggle not to abandon our life in the hands of the bosses and the trade union representatives, likewise we will not abandon no arrested insurgent in the hands of the state and the juridical mechanism.



General Assembly of Insurgent Workers

Web Bot Technology


In June 2001 I began to correspond with a reader of my website who said he was willing to share access to a promising new web technology, on the condition that I protect his identity. The person related that he had been a very senior programmer with a software company in the Pacific Northwest (you can guess which company, right?) and besides being a SQL ace, he was also heavily into linguistics and a language called Prolog, which is more like an artificial intelligence language than anything else.

I was skeptical, to be sure, but a few days after we began the email exchange of ideas, he sent me a program he had written that allows a computer to be turned into speed reading tool. It was based on rapidly displaying individual words on a computer screen. He said this was a technology that he had developed and sold for a while on the Internet. He also explained how the development rights to the technology had been sold to a company ( ). In essence, after looking up the patent he held for the technology, I was convinced that this fellow was for real and might be on to something with the method of looking for linguistic shift on the Internet as a tool to forecast future events.

He described how technology worked. A system of spiders, agents, and wanderers travel the Internet, much like a search engine robot, and look for particular kinds of words. It targets discussion groups, translation sites, and places were regular people post a lot of text.

When a "target word" was found, or something that was lexically similar, the web bots take a small 2048 byte snip of surrounding text and send it to a central collection point. The collected data at times approached 100 GB sample sizes and we could have used terabytes. The collected data was then filtered, using at least 7-layers of linguistic processing in Prolog, which was then reduced to numbers and then a resultant series of scatter chart plots on multiple layers of Intellicad ( ). Viewed over a period of time, the scatter chart points tended to coalesce into highly concentrated areas. Each dot on the scatter chart might represent one word or several hundred.

To define meanings, words or groups of words have to be reduced to their essence. You know how lowest common denominators work in fractions, right? Well the process is like looking for least common denominators among groups of words.

The core of the technology therefore is to look at how the scatter chart points cluster - condensing into high "dot density" areas which we call "entities" and then dissolving or diffusing over time as the entities change. Do a drill down into a dot and you get a series of phrases...

Our first published work in the area occurred in early July of 2001 and is available at

What becomes obvious when reading about the technology is that it sometimes reads a bit like the I Ching (the Chinese Book of Changes) because the technology doesn't come out and say "go look for a terrorist attack over there" What it does is gives phrases that would be associated with how people talk about an event, or more accurately, how they change their speech to reflect their thought processes because of an event (after).

The web bot technology apparently taps in to an area of preconscious awareness. It's here that you run into the ramifications of Dean Radin's work at the Boundary Institute and the work of the Princeton Global Consciousness Project - both of which Art has talked about on his show.

The Global Consciousness Project registered what appears to have been a disturbance in "the force" or the regularly orderly operation of life associated with 9/11: Supposed "random" numbers generated all over the world appeared to become less random immediately prior to 9/11.

The second point is contained in Dean Radin's paper at ("Time-reversed human experience: Experimental evidence and implications"). The mind-bending evidence in Radin's work is that in a laboratory, people begin to react to an event as early as 6-seconds before it takes place. In other words, if you are about to show someone a horribly grotesque picture of something, they will already be physically reacting to it before the picture actually becomes visible. Up to 6-seconds, or so, and in a lab! In quantum terms, Radin's work demonstrates that people are physically able to perceive 6-seconds into the future.

Now let's flip back to September of 2001: So there I was, having just completed a sales & marketing job in San Francisco the previous week, wondering was the ABM Missile test the "world changing event" - or was there something else - and we all know that it was something else - the 9/11 terrorist attack.

The second web bot posting forecast an attack on house or assembly - but again, it was I Ching-like in wording.

Also in this timeframe, we responded to a Defense Department Broad Area Announcement - and tried to distill the concepts we've been discussing into a single PowerPoint slide. The project didn't receive funding, although we recently received a note from a venture capital group associated with government projects asking if our information could be kept on file.

Then we forecast an attack to occur the day of a commemorative event. That was the crash of American 587, and although that may eventually be blamed on excessive movement of the aircraft's vertical stabilizer, what people thought at the time was it was another terrorist attack., There is a fair amount of noise in the outputs because we haven't had the resource to build filtering systems.

We forecast many attributes of the D.C. sniper case. This was significant because not only did we get the Army connection right, but there was also discussion of familial dysfunction. This was at a time when it was thought there was only one person involved - and the web bots got right that there was more than one. In fact, one reader sent in the right Army divisional insignia after reading the output. See

More recently, in January of 2003 the web bots were going on and on about a "maritime disaster" - which didn't make any sense to us, until the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster hit. Columbia wasn't a gem of the ocean, it was a space ship. We think of web bot outputs like holding up a sheet of paper with several hundred pinholes in it - and trying to guess what's on the other side by looking through pinholes, but just for an instant.

The most recent run we did was posted in July 2003, and was a mission-specific run designed to assess where the next terrorist attack on the U.S. might come from. As you read the following, please appreciate that the words in black were published about 50 days before the northeast power outage and that when the outage occurred, again everyone thought it was a terrorist attack: The blue text is the closeness of fit after the fact:

The [Wahabi] entity is seen as preparing an attack on a site with aspects of (South) [Niagara power flows where?] with specific references to a place where the (wood) in the (earth) {grows} {upward [perfect fit with the Falls] }. Near by will be an (energy) {plant} [bingo!] filled with {tremendous} (effort/work) [Yup!]. The target chosen for the entity has associations with a (vertical wall/ascent) [more Falls refs] near which is a (low land) or (low lying area) [ the water flows this way] from which there rises (power) [no doubt about it] and (influence/confluence) [like the confluence of the disparate pieces of the river at the Falls?] . This latter may suggest a site where a power plant sits at the base of a cliff or naturally occurring wall [ You're kidding, can we be any more precise than this?} that has the power lines rising to it. Further, there is a form of a (departure) {to the south} close by which suggests some form of transportation hub [the river was a transportation artery historically] with a main focus to the south which lies close to the chosen target [which we assume to be NYC] . Other details suggest that near to the chosen target, is a place where (heaps) of {small things} (rise upward) to some height. The number of both aspects and attributes which related to wood, and woods, and copse, suggest that there is some form of natural woodland setting near to the target. [Yes, it's a generally woody area!] This woodland is near an area where (rivers) {congregate}[Direct hit!] and the (earth) {waters} (flow together) which suggests an estuarine environment [Clear enough?]. There are also references indicating a (waste) {flow} or disposal is nearby [Turbine waste gates?] . This (waste) aspect has the attributes of {dismal} and {abysmal} as well as attributes indicating a {great} (stink/smell) [At about 10PM EDT CBC News reported cities were dumping untreated sewage into rivers in the affected area due to the power outage!].

On Saturday morning after the event, at the suggestion of several readers who had read the entire web bot work, here are some additional points of fit (again in blue) with the black text being the July early July output.

Further, there are references to (empty city) nearby the target. [One reader suggested that an electrical switchyard, with rows and rows of transformers, looks like an "empty city".] Perhaps an area of industrial park which is expected to be deserted at the time of the attack, or could even reference abandoned buildings, though the attributes are not so clear as to be able to make a definitive interpretation. [Who would have interpreted a switch yard 2 months ago?] However, that said, there are a number of words referring to (brakes), and (brake noise) and (dead man switch) and (switches/changes) [Now we're back on track, except maybe we should have gotten "breaker" rather than "brakes" - still, close enough, don't you think?] which would indicate a near by train yard. [Oh yeah, they have cranes on tracks to move the heavy gear around generating stations.] As the aspects bring up noise of the (brakes) as being able to be heard from the site of the attack, this would suggest that a busy train yard is close enough to contribute to the majority of the on-site noise. [Or you can hear the falls as they "break" over the top...] There are also some small number of references which can be interpreted towards petroleum refineries.

In addition to the (empty city) we find a number of aspects relating to (royalty) such as (king) and (courtier) which have attributes which doubly modify both these aspects as well as a primary aspect of (Mount) as in mountain or large hill. [ No question here, Niagara is the "king of falls" and it's a named place with a named "hill". I need to also mention that King's Point Ontario is very nearby.] Being linked to the aspects of (royalty) suggests that there is a named hill involved with the site which has a local connotation with (kings). There are also indicators that a (community) {project} is nearby which is associated with (social status). [This is really curious - as most people go to Niagara Falls to celebrate their honeymoons - a big change in "social status", right?] This (community) {project} has an association with (rhythmic motion) and a {centered} (wall). [Or, centered around the falls, as it turns out.] This latter could be referencing a tidal or sea wall, though this is merely a guess at this stage. [Amazing call, huh?] There are some references suggesting that the chosen target site is very noisy. [Yeah I'd call the site noisy too...]

Further, the entity suggests that there are (steps) involved with the attack, though these are not steps as in stairs but rather are to be interpreted as a many small movements or actions which will be necessary for the attack to be successful. This further suggests that the [Wahabi] entity is planning a significant action which will involve some level of coordination with many parts. [Time will tell on this part.] The other references within this data set further amplify this idea in that the aspects return to the idea of (step by step), (small incremental movements) {bring success}. Oddly, a large component of these aspects include other aspects relating to (drunkenness) or (inebriated). These are modified and amplified by references to (not sober), (stay sober), and (advancing intoxication). This data set includes attributes indicating some need to avoid speed or haste in that the attributes include {step by step}, {steady progress}, (do not) {overleap}.

A series of curious references to (blind) and (darkness) also are part of the attack plan as seen by the model. [Darkness? Like the power going out???!!!] These references also include aspects of (blindly deluded), (tricked), (exhaustion), (blind impulse), (fear of darkness), (leap) {into the dark} and other aspects relating to lack of sight. [Again, absolutely correct: on Thursday evening NYC was basically blinded, tricked and exhausted by the event!]

The sample size for this run was unusually small - and that may have helped get the fit so good. It's hard telling.

Where does the technology stand today? Both Cliff and I are not able to pursue the project further because of personal and economic reasons. The personal reason is that to sit down and work through even the distilled data is a terribly taxing process on Cliff. Picture working on word riddles for a week of 14-hour days... it's very difficult to do. Especially when there's no "right answer" therefore everything has to be checked and rechecked.

Then there's the cost. Bot runs are one-off programming events. So you can spend a month or so building the mission and deploying it. Once deployed you need serious bandwidth - T-1 or better to collect the data and then you need lots of server space to run the Prolog on. This type of processing is not easily adaptable to shared computing like SETI - and developing that would take time anyway.

We also know that the Chinese have a similar project - because we have swept their source code during our runs. The difference is they are doing larger data samples.

We apologize that our data is not as neat and as well preserved as one might hope. Part of that is because I've been through two computers since we started this, and Cliff has been through a couple of ISP's...some of the early files were lost, although most of the outputs were logged in to a dot mil computer so timestamps are available - and some of the information was sent upstream within the military, although we were probably looked at as a couple of software "wingnuts".

Do we have a theory of how it works? Sort of. It's like changes in language precede large emotional events. The larger the emotional impact of an event, the more advance notice the bots seem to give.

If you picture some pin holes in a piece of paper - and you imagine being able to look through each pinhole for a fraction of a second - with the objective of seeing the future on the other side of the paper - that's where the web bots are today.

Ever since Plato's Allegory of the Cave, people have sensed that odd things go on at the archetype level of consciousness. The web bots are an attempt to use the high data density of the internet to sample language and seek linguistic shifts that we believe may precede events. The initial results suggest that language shifts on a macro level begin to occur 45 to 90 days before society-changing events. We believe we've demonstrated, most recently with the Northeast Power Outage forecast, that changes in language do indeed precede events - on a far grander scale than Dean Radin's work first suggested - and these language changes are available by sampling routine internet traffic.

Obama urged to suspend CAFTA

Members of the Stop CAFTA Coalition, along with allies in Central America and the Dominican Republic, have compiled a report that describes the trends and impacts of the first three years of the U.S.-Dominican Republic-Central America Free Trade Agreement (DR-CAFTA). The report, titled "DR-CAFTA: Effects and Alternatives” is the third in a series of reports by the Stop CAFTA Coalition; the first was published in September 2006 and the second in September 2007.

"We believe that the results of CAFTA demonstrate the failure of 'free' trade and justify a definitive split with this model by the incoming Obama Administration," said Burke Stansbury of the Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador (CISPES), a member of the coalition. "Not only should the Democratic Congress reject pending agreements such as the Colombia Free Trade Agreement, but the party in power should take this opportunity to introduce a new trade policy based on human rights, and economic, social and environmental sustainability."

According to Elliott Jones at the Guatemala Human Rights Commission, an editor of the report, "The articles included in the report show that the negative impacts of CAFTA in these countries are not simply 'growing pains,' or the inevitable transitional problems associated with altering a country’s economic system; they are fundamental flaws in the economic theory that drives CAFTA and will likely not improve."

The agreement is still new in many of the signatory countries, but certain trends which have emerged throughout the monitoring process have either continued or been exacerbated. Patterns of growing inequality and ongoing poverty within the signatory countries have only become more extreme, contrary to the promises of supporters of the agreement. According to Katherine Hoyt of the Nicaragua Network, "unless there is a significant shift in the economic model, employment opportunities will continue to be scarce, agricultural prices will continue to fall, the poor will become poorer, and immigration will increase."

The report also illuminates other trade agreements, either proposed or already in effect that relate to Central America and provide possible alternatives to CAFTA's model. ALBA is a cooperative trade agreement that focuses on development and mutually beneficial policies, eschewing the false promises of neoliberalism. The Association Agreement with the European Union shows less promise, but allows for a semblance of cooperation among the Central American countries it affects, and includes clauses relating to cooperation and sustainability, which are missing entirely from CAFTA.

The report concludes with a "Pledge for Trade Justice" developed by the coalition which calls for, among other things: democratic participation and transparency during trade negotiations; provisions that work to protect the dignified lives of small farmers, indigenous communities, and women; strengthened core labor and environmental standards; provisions permitting debt cancellation; and a guarantee that public services like health care, education and potable water will remain public and accessible to poor communities.

According to Jennifer DeLury Ciplet of the Network in Solidarity with the People of Guatemala (NISGUA), "The coalition will work with our partners in Central America to continue challenging privatization, mega-projects, and other devastating policies associated with CAFTA, with the hope of ultimately pushing the Obama Administration to suspend this failed agreement and bring about an alternative."

Via Upside Down World, Dec. 8

Cuba joins hand with Latin America for regional integration

Irish Sun Wednesday 17th December, 2008 (IANS)
Sauipe Coast (Brazil), Dec 17 (Prensa Latina) Cuba has officially joined as a full-fledged member of the Rio Group, a consultative mechanism for Latin American integration, ending 50 years of isolation after it was driven out by the US from the Organisation of American States (OAS). In an extraordinary meeting held on the sideline of first summit of the Latin American and Caribbean countries Tuesday at this seaside resort, the group announced the entry of the island country into Latin America's only consultative body aiming at regional integration, EFE reported Wednesday. Cuban President Raul Castro, who was attending the summit, said it was necessary for Latin America and the Caribbean to gradually move from words to deeds to undo 'global colonization' and achieve solidarity. 'Latin America has the resources, the technological advances and a so far little-used scientific potential which it can turn to the process of integration,' he said. The president said that one of the priorities of the current integration process must be the search for a regional response to the world economic situation. In his welcome note Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said all Latin American integration schemes, such as the Southern Common Market (Mercosur), the Andean Community, the Caribbean Community (Caricom) and the Central American Integration System 'are welcoming Cuba, with open arms'. Cuba was expelled from the Organization of American States (OAS) in 1962, on US insistence on the grounds that its political system was 'incompatible' with the inter-American system.

Creative Visualization Made Easy; Set intention for a sublime 2009

From: This post was written by Andrea on December 17, 2008 I received an email from a friend asking what I meant by creative visualization. He’d written that he was disappointed in the response he was getting to some new YouTube presentations, and I asked him what kind of creative visualization he was doing for the project. He replied asking what I meant by creative visualization. I replied to him:

Creative visualization is simply:

1. Choosing a thought of something I would like to experience. 2. Deliberately thinking that thought until it invokes hopeful emotion in me. 3. Bringing this thought and feeling to mind several times a day, with the intent that I will thus attract the envisioned scenario to me.

HOW DOES A THOUGHT BECOME A THING? In the Jane Roberts’ books, Seth says “When we think a thought, electromagnetic energy units (EEUs) are generated. When we concentrate on an idea or desire, the intensity of the EEUs is so great that a portion of our own consciousness is actually imparted to the form. The greater the intensity of our emotion relative to that thought, the sooner the mass (the physical form corresponding to our thought) enters our experience.”

I keep an ongoing list of things I want to achieve in my life, and I am always adding to it. Every day, I do a few minutes of creative visualization for every item on my list, imagining it and doing it in my mind with the preferred outcome, so the thought comes easier next time. I have learned that the more familiar I am with thinking a particular thought, the closer I am to achieving it. As Abraham-Hicks says, “when it seems like the having of it is the next logical step, it will be”.

Every day, have an intent in mind and energize it with thought several times daily. Create the scenario in your mind of what you would like to experience, then envision fully experiencing it, with full emotion and appreciation during the visualization. Do this several times daily, a few minutes at a time.

Creative visualization is a powerful technology and it is documented in the Dead Sea Scrolls. Gregg Braden in his book The Isaiah Effect, calls it “a lost form of prayer”; a form where you bring to your conscious awareness - with full feeling and emotion - the knowing that what you desire has already been granted. See

HOW DO YOU FOCUS INTENT? Focused intent? What does that mean? You focus your intent when you are thinking of something you’d like to see happen in the future and going over it in your mind until you are actively imagining it happen. You know you are focused intently when you begin to emotionally feel as if it is taking place. You are focused intently when you begin to have quick glimpses and insights from an observer’s standpoint. Focused intent is the basis for creative visualization as well and we do it all the time whether we think we do or not.

HOW DO I KNOW I’M DOING IT RIGHT? A lot of people think there’s some big involved procedure, some specific correct technique for things like meditation, creative visualization, “seeing” in your mind’s eye or attracting what you want. The truth is, it’s easier than you think. Your intent has the most to do with it. If it is your intent to sit in meditation and gain insight, just bringing those words to mind and saying them to yourself sends out a big signal which the Universe responds to. Just taking the time to sit quietly and bring some thoughts to mind will activate your intuition and call forth creative ideas on all areas of your life. You don’t have to sit cross-legged on the floor in front of an altar to meditate or visualize, unless that particularly inspires you to stay focused. It does me.

IS ONE TECHNIQUE BETTER THAN ANOTHER? You can stand at your driveway while watering the yard at sundown and spend a few moments thinking what the perfect world would be like, what it would feel like. What would the perfect job feel like? Or the perfect relationship? How would it be if the whole family got along great? What kind of things would you do together? How would it feel if you were robustly healthy and woke up each day with lots of vitality, and plenty of money to spend? What activities would you want to do? You don’t have to have a special chair and sit in it 20 minutes twice a day in order to meditate or do a little creative visualization, or “prepaving” as Abraham-Hicks calls it. Just spending a little time sending a few thoughts ahead every day is a powerful technique in itself. A little conscious, focused thought goes a long way in smoothing the ruffles of a busy life, as well.

MAKE 2009 YOUR MOST SUCCESSFUL YEAR YET If you didn’t reach your highest potential in 2008, you might want to do things a little differently this year. Spend a little time each day thinking about what you’d like to be doing a few years down the road. Make sure to schedule in plenty of recreation time in 2009, since it’s when we’re relaxed and having fun that we are in a receptive mindset to come up with lots of creative ideas. If you’re feeling overwhelmed and burnt out, if you feel you don’t have 5 minutes in the day free to yourself, that’s a good sign that you need to take a week off. Trust me on this one. If you think you can’t afford to take a week off work without pay, trust me that you will over time earn back much more than that week’s salary just from the relaxation and ideas and insights that can come during that week.

SETTING YOUR INTENTION FOR THE NEW YEAR If you’ve got some intentions for the upcoming year, good for you ~ you’ve already begun to create your own reality. If you haven’t come up with any intentions yet, don’t beat yourself up for it. A few intentions might be to read a little inspirational writing of a spiritual nature every day; contemplate what you’d like your next move to be on the career ladder; consider who do you know that has a job you’d like and who has a lifestyle you’d like? What differences do you see between you and them? A good intention might be to add vitality to your body as you get a little older. Find something fun to do that gets you out of breath and has you moving your arms and legs a lot. I know you still have that old frisbee around, so take it out and toss it at sunset every day. Put a basketball hoop up. A good intention might be to eat more live foods, more fresh vegetables. A good intention for the year 2009 might be to set an intention. You can start anywhere and anytime. Remember, every new moment begins right now and every thought we think and every word we say helps form our experience and create our reality.

The living dead, scientists are finally putting the idea to the test

[Thanks to MMRules for this link]

You are dying. Twenty seconds ago your heart and breathing stopped and your pupils became fixed and dilated. Your brain cells are in a state of panic, trying every trick they know to get hold of oxygen and glucose. An electroencephalogram (EEG) would show no electrical activity in your cortex, the thin outer layer of your brain. You have flatlined.

As usual, a young, inexperienced doctor is first on the scene. They’re fitter and faster. There’s only time to confirm you’re not breathing before starting 30 chest compressions followed by two breaths into your mouth. A cart arrives with a defibrillator, the electric-shock machine, as do a few older, less fit doctors. The machine is not, sadly, one of the sexy, telegenic ones with paddles and George Clooney shouting “Clear!” With this machine the electrodes are stuck to your chest. The paddle variety caused too many shocks to the staff, so they’ve been dropped by the NHS. You are shocked. Nothing. A blood sample is taken and rushed for instant analysis. You’re given repeated injections of adrenaline and, depending on your exact condition, atropine, amiodarine and magnesium. Still nothing. The doctors and nurses work furiously for, say, 10 minutes if you’re an old lady with pneumonia or half an hour or more if you’re a young man who’s fallen into a cold pond. Nothing. Finally, a watching consultant officially announces that you no longer exist. It’s over. The confusing babble known as “your life” has ended. Or has it?

You see, the weird thing is that you may have flatlined, be “clinically dead”, but you’ve been watching the whole thing from the ceiling. As soon as your heart stopped, you just drifted out of your body and found you could float anywhere. You feel incredibly well, bathed in bright light, suffused with a deep sense of peace and knowing that, at last, it all makes sense. Some of your dead relatives are here and, behind you, there is a tunnel from which the light floods down. Perhaps you can see Jesus at the far end of it, or Muhammad or Krishna. The chaos at your bedside is interesting, amusing even, but trivial. Death, you now know with absolutely certainty, is an illusion.

You’re having a near-death experience (NDE). They happen all the time. They may happen to everybody, however they die. Remarkably similar experiences have been reported throughout history in all cultures. Obviously, most are lost to us, because being near death is usually the immediate prelude to being dead. But precisely because high-tech hospital resuscitations are so effective — around 15% of cardiac-arrest victims are revived — we can now regularly hear news apparently from beyond the grave. And it sounds like very good news indeed. You don’t really die and you feel great. What could be nicer?

NDEs are so common, so vivid and so life-transforming — survivors frequently become more compassionate, religious and serene as a result of what they experience — that scientists, philosophers, priests, psychologists and cultists all want a piece of the action. Their problem is that the human mind is unreachable. We can’t see what’s going on in there. Even if we could rush cardiac-arrest patients into an MRI scanner, we’d only see lights in the brain. We wouldn’t know what they meant. But now NDEs are to be scientifically investigated in a US and UK study involving 25 hospitals. This is co-ordinated by Dr Sam Parnia at Southampton University and is designed to find 1,500 survivors of cardiac arrests — “clinical death” — who tell such stories.

“I see no reason why a priest should tell us about death when we have all this technology available,” says Dr Parnia. “Death is a biological process and there’s no reason why we shouldn’t study it through medicine.”

Getting a scientific handle on this phenomenon is fiendishly difficult. Dead people don’t report back, and it is very hard to assess the status of survivor accounts — are they merely hallucinations occurring before the crisis or just after? Perhaps they are no more than the brain’s way of soothing your path to extinction.

Cardiac arrests are a good place to start because they provide a clear-cut moment when the dying process begins and when, clinically speaking, you may be said to be dead. “It might in fact be better,” says Dr Parnia, “to say that experiences after cardiac arrests are actual death experiences rather than near-death experiences.”

Arrests also happen a lot in hospitals, so the experimental conditions are reasonably controllable. But details like bright lights, tunnels and feelings of peace cannot be pinned down experimentally. One aspect of near-death experiences, however, can be: the out-of-body experience (OBE), seeing yourself and your surroundings from outside. When you are looking down from the ceiling, what, exactly, do you see? Many survivors report with remarkable accuracy what went on when they should, in theory, be utterly unconscious. This seems to be hard, testable evidence.

There are thousands of reports of OBEs but the two most famous cases are Pam Reynolds and Maria’s Tennis Shoe. Reynolds, an American singer, watched and later reported on with remarkable accuracy the top of her own skull being removed by surgeons before she moved into a bright glowing realm. But it was Reynolds’s account of the surgical implements used and the words spoken in the theatre that make the case so intriguing.

Maria, meanwhile, underwent cardiac arrest in 1977. She floated out of her body, drifted round the hospital and noticed a tennis shoe on a window sill. It was later found to be exactly where she said it was. The shoe was said to be invisible from the ground and not in any location where Maria could have seen it. Such stories suggest that OBEs should be scientifically verifiable.

Parnia’s study is aimed solely at OBEs in cases of cardiac arrest. It uses a technique known as “hidden target”. In the participating hospitals he is placing pictures on high shelves so that they will be invisible both to patients and staff. But anybody floating near the ceiling would see them. A substantial number of accurate reports of the pictures would seem to establish the reality of OBEs. There are numerous problems with this. Parnia’s study does not have enough money to put laptops on the shelves generating random pictures to ensure that cheating is impossible. Furthermore, previous hidden-target experiments by, among others, Parnia himself and Dr Penny Sartori at Morriston Hospital in Swansea have failed to produce a single positive result. In fairness, this may be because the last thing that a floating dying person, with Jesus behind him and his body being pounded in front of him, will notice is some odd picture left on a shelf. This leaves believers in OBEs with an evidential mountain to climb.

There are plenty of sceptics who will pounce on negative results or even positive ones with any signs of ambiguity. Dr Peter Fenwick, a neuro-psychiatrist who has overseen Parnia and Sartori’s work, admits that, whatever the outcome, there will still be “wriggle room” for sceptics.

“People can say they could have cheated, but if we have 50 or 60 of these cases where people leave their bodies and some see the pictures and some do not, then it looks like from the phenomenology that this does occur,” he says.

Hidden targets are the best key science has for unlocking the true nature of NDEs. If Parnia comes up with positive results, then even the most hardened sceptics will have to pay attention. They will force a serious rethinking of all current ideas about the brain and the mind.

“This is definitely a legitimate scientific inquiry,” says Chris French, professor of psychology at Goldsmiths College, London, and co-editor of The Skeptic magazine. “Refereed proposals of this kind have my full support. There’s no doubt that people have these experiences, and there is something of great psychological interest to be explained here.”

French’s position is important. He specialises in paranormal beliefs and experiences. In some cases his position is that of outright scepticism. For example, people started reporting alien-abduction scenarios — flying saucers, anal probes — in large numbers only after a single case, that of Betty and Barney Hill, was publicised in Look magazine in 1966. This was clearly a kind of mental virus, made more virulent by the fact that most of the accounts were retrieved under hypnosis. But NDEs were widely reported even before they became known to a mass audience through Raymond Moody’s 1975 book Life after Life. And hypnosis has not been involved in retrieving the accounts. The consistency and clarity of these reports across cultures and time zones convince French that, even if NDEs may not prove the afterlife, they do cast light on the human mind.

“There is a core experience that is essentially the same across cultures. Christians don’t see Hindu gods and Hindus don’t see Jesus, so there is some kind of cultural overlay, but we are dealing with people attempting to put an ineffable experience into words. There’s a common core that has as its basis the fact that we all have very similar brains, so when things go awry we are likely to have similar experiences.”

And, as in all things, it is the human mind that is at the heart of the matter. If we can float out of our bodies, then the mind is separable from, and, perhaps not dependent on, the brain. Twelve years after Tom Wolfe famously announced in Forbes magazine that, as a result of developments in neuroscience, “Your soul just died,” it may be time to say: “No, it didn’t.”

But is such a thing as a separable mind poss-ible or even conceivable? The answer is yes. In explaining why, it will be necessary to plunge into philosophy and quantum mechanics. Bear with me: it will be as painless as a cardiac arrest and much more interesting. And at the end of it, you might just believe you are immortal.

The world, on the face of it, is made of two ingredients: thoughts and things. A brick, for example, is, on the one hand, a fact in the world and, on the other, a combination of all my feelings about bricks in general and this brick in particular. This is generally regarded as a very odd state of affairs. My thoughts and feelings are as real to me as the brick, but they don’t seem to be made of the same stuff. Indeed, they don’t seem to be made of any stuff. The belief that they aren’t, that the world is made of two different substances — bricks and thoughts of bricks — is called dualism. Dualism is the default human conviction, embraced by religions, philosophies and, in fact, by everybody in their lives — if we didn’t embrace some degree of it, we’d be constantly worried about crashing our cars into other people’s thoughts. Dualism means that the mind and the brain are not made of the same things and therefore in theory, they can be separated, as in NDEs.

Much of modern science can be seen as an attempt to disprove dualism. In the strictly scientific world view there is only one stuff out of which bricks and brains are constructed. My thoughts and feelings are just what the brain does. The brain gives us thoughts to provide the illusion of control. It’s largely an illusion that the mind has any effect on the world. We’re all imprisoned in the chains of cause and effect that started with the big bang. But in spite of numerous claims, this remains a statement of faith. Neuroscientists may be able to show what happens in the brain when we think or when we exercise “free will”, but this cannot be shown to be proof that dualism is wrong. “Look,” they say, “we’ve proved it. It’s just neurons firing sparks at each other.” Well, no. Those electrical patterns are not thought itself; they may be no more than symptoms of thought. For all our technology, nobody has yet seen a thought, nobody has shown how matter becomes mind. How it does remains one of the most profound questions any human ever asks himself.

Enter quantum mechanics. This started as the study of very small things — subatomic particles. It is the most effective scientific idea ever — it powers your computer, TV, anything dependent on electronics. So we know it’s true enough to work, but it’s also weird enough to defy belief. Everything about the discoveries in this area turned out to be in defiance of reason. Crucially, two things were discovered. First, particles can continue to be connected to each other even though separated by long distances — billions of light years, even: a phenomenon known as non-locality. This is, in our big world, impossible. Second, quantum theory showed that the mind can affect the world. If, for example, you say that light is made of particles, then, obligingly, light will be particles. If you say it is waves, then it will be waves. The questions we ask of nature determine the answers it gives. Anybody who claims to understand why these things should be is lying.

Henry Stapp must come close. He is a distinguished physicist at the University of California at Berkeley. He is convinced that quantum mechanics applies to large as well as small things. The world as a whole is just as weird as the inner workings of the atom. The truth of the world and ourselves is that the whole thing is a chaotic swirl of energy and particles. But we don’t see it, because we make our own reality, our own truth, by only asking certain questions. The brick is a product of our mind; to all-seeing, non-human eyes, it is just a swirl of almost nothing.

“The observer,” Stapp tells me, “is brought into quantum dynamics in an essential way not only as a passive observer but as an active part of the dynamics. He makes certain choices not specified by the physical dynamics which seem to come from the psychologically described realm rather than the physically described realm.

“So what happens when a person dies? Does this psychological part just fade away? That’s what most would think. On the other hand, there are these experiments done by physicians in connection with NDEs which seem to be evidence that brain death or total brain inactivity does not totally put out the psychological aspect. The relationship between the brain and the psychic experience is not as simple as one might have expected.”

On top of that, quantum non-locality could mean the mind is capable of being non-local to the brain, of floating to the ceiling of the room. It can become, as Stapp puts it, “unglued”. His words “certain choices not specified by the physical dynamics” are world-changing. This idea would, if widely accepted, end the reign of scientific materialism, replacing it with a new dualism. It would mean the universe is not a “causally closed” system, locked down since the big bang, as mainstream science has always insisted it is, but open to freedom of choice by the autonomous, floating, matter-altering mind. We would have regained our souls.

Positive results from Parnia’s survey might foreshadow the soul’s return. The effects would be seismic. First, you’d have to accustom yourself to the idea that your mind is not just the little man inside your skull — he really is out there in the world. Second, you’d have to accept that a lot of the things that now seem like products of charlatans and grifters — telepathy, spiritualism, even psychokinesis — will suddenly seem much more credible. Thirdly, you need not anticipate instant oblivion on death but a series of very weird and very illuminating experiences.

This would be a revolution, but it would also be a return to the past. Until the rise of secular mater-ialism over the past 200 years, humans always lived with the conviction that the world was made of far more than brick-stuff, and they also lived with a lively sense of the presence of the dead.

But a bucket of iced water is necessary at this point. Few scientists think any of this is going to happen. Believers in a new dualism — or, indeed, believers that there is anything more to NDEs than a psychologically interesting hallucination — are still in a small minority. The problem is that all the evidence remains anecdotal, and even the most impressive stories, like Reynolds’s, tend to look less convincing on closer examination. “There are many claims of this kind,” writes the prominent psychologist Susan Blackmore, “but in my long decades of research into NDEs I never met any convincing evidence that they are true.”

Sceptics like Blackmore and Chris French may welcome the Parnia study, but others are less tolerant. Attacks have been launched by hard sceptics against all of the most ambitious claims for NDEs. In The Skeptic magazine, Jason Braithwaite of Birmingham University wrote a withering deconstruction of one of the most headline-

generating scientific publications claiming survival of the mind after death, a Dutch paper in 2001 calling for a new science of consciousness as a result of findings from NDEs. “Van Lommel et al provided no evidence at all that the mind or consciousness is separate from brain processes,” Braithwaite concludes. “Their findings are entirely consistent with contemporary neuroscience and are in line with the general dying-brain account of NDE. It appears that the position of the sur-vivalist is still one based on faith.”

That, in a nutshell, is the mainstream position. What Braithwaite means by the “dying-brain account” is simply that NDEs are just what happen when the brain starts shutting down; they may, indeed, be an evolved mechanism to console the psyche by distracting it from the unimaginable and intolerable prospect of its own extinction. They may not even happen when the patient is flatlining but when he is slipping into or out of that state. As with dreams, it is often hard to say when they actually happen. Or, even if NDEs do happen during flatlining, this may be due to deep brain activity undetected by an EEG, which only measures activity on the surface of the brain. Recent evidence from a Cambridge team who used MRI scans to watch the brains of patients in a deep coma, or “persistent vegetative state”, suggests deep brain activity may, indeed, make patients remarkably aware of their surroundings. In other words, the clinically dead may not be quite as dead as we think.

Furthermore, NDE-type experiences may not be such unusual events. Fighter pilots sometimes experience G-Loc — G-force-induced loss of consciousness. This produces high alertness and clarity of thought, pleasurable “dreamlets”, OBE-type floating sensations and sights of family and friends, all very NDE. And, at University College London, the neuroscientist Henrik Ehrsson recently induced OBEs in people by a clever arrangement of head-mounted video displays. In fact, Susan Blackmore argues that we have OBEs all the time. Think about your last holiday. Picture a scene from that holiday. Many will see that scene as if from outside themselves — they will be a character in the picture, as they are in OBEs reported in NDE narratives. It’s just what our brains do, say the sceptics: they secrete mind in all its fabulous variations and with all its incorrigible delusions. There’s nothing there to get all weird about. The soul is not a soul, the brick is a brick and the brain is just a 1.3kg bag of water, fat and carbohydrates, subtly organised to provide us with the illusions of freedom and thought.

But there are, as Peter Fenwick puts it, enough “straws in the wind” to make one wonder. However fierce the sceptical onslaught, fascination at the NDE phenomenon is not likely to be diminished. Survivors are often fundamentally transformed by it, convinced they have been in contact with another world. This has led to NDEs being seized upon as evidence of the truth of religion. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, a psychiatrist and counsellor of the dying, popularised this idea, and her conviction that the bright lights of the NDE were precisely what they seemed to be: a revelation of a divine plan. “In this light,” she wrote, “you will experience for the first time what man could have been. In this presence, which many people compare with Christ or God, with love or light, you will come to know that all your life on Earth was nothing but a school that you had to go through in order to learn special lessons.”

NDEs have fired the imaginations of the religious. But they also fire the imaginations of the investigators. Everybody with an interest in this area has been inspired by a personal experience of a confrontation with death and by the startling vividness and transformative powers of the NDE. Whatever it is, it means something.

The hard sceptics will say that this is all nonsense, that whatever happens in your head when Clooney shouts “Clear!” is just another delusion generated by the material workings of that 1.3kg bag. However, in the present state of our knowledge, this is crude and premature. We should not only wait for the results of Parnia’s experiment, we should also consider the deep weirdness of the world revealed by Stapp and quantum theory. Hard materialism is just one more philosophical position, and the authentic sceptical reaction is not a derisive snort but a humble acceptance that there are more things in heaven and Earth than are dreamt of in any of our philosophies.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Interview with Nikos R., friend of Alexandros Grigoropoulos

Interviewer: Yesterday, on 6 December 2008, were you with Alexandros? Nikos: Yesterday, around 5:50 p.m., I went with a friend to Larisis Station. Before I arrived, however, I had spoken with Alexandros. He told me that he was going to go to a polo match ... I told him to call me when the match was over so that we could meet at Mesolongi St., in Exarcheia. He was going to go to the match with his friends Nikos F. and P. Ch. We used to meet there regularly. We planned to go to Faros Psychikou, to find our friends from our old schools and go do something together, because yesterday I celebrated my name day. Interviewer: In the end, Alexandros called you when the match ended. Where was he going to go? Nikos: Yes, he called me and told me to come and he would set out as well from the athletic field ... From what I see on my cell phone, the call from Alexandros happened at 7:10 p.m. Interviewer: When did you meet with Alexandros on Mesolongi St. in Exarcheia? Nikos: I don't remember exactly. About 45 minutes before the incident. From my friend's house, I walked. I went up Ipeirou St. (if I am not mistaken), then directly to the Museum, left up on Stournari St., up to the square on the right, and 10 meters afterwards is Mesolongi St. I waited for him for 3 to 4 minutes. Interviewer: When he came what did you do? Nikos: When he came we went to a convenience store ten meters further up and we bought something to eat and two soft drinks ... We went back again to the sidewalk on Mesologgiou St. to eat and talk. Interviewer: Where exactly did you sit? Nikos: We sat there by the entrance of an apartment building at the intersection of Mesolongi and Tzavella, on the left side where we could see Zoodochou Pigis St. There they have three railings on the walkway where you can sit. We sat there. (At this point they show the witness a printed map of the area.) We ate the things we had bought and suddenly, as we were talking, we heard a somewhat loud bang. Near enough to us that we could hear it, but far enough away that we couldn't figured out what had happened. We didn't pay any attention ... Interviewer: Did you see light accompany the bang that you described to me? Nikos: No, because from the direction where we heard the bang, we didn't have visual contact, because there was a wall in front of us ... In order to see what happens on Navarinou St., you have to leave down the middle of the walkway of Tzavella St. After a minute and a half we heard about four or five passersby say "the cops are coming, something happened...". So out of curiosity, Alexandros and I went to the middle of Tzavella St. to see what had happened. A distance of two to three meters away ... When we went out into the middle of the walkway, we saw from a distance of 15 to 20 meters two police officers. They were right at the intersection of Zoodochou Pigis and Tzavella. One was taller than the other. Next they stopped at the intersection of the two streets ... In front of us, there was no one else. Alexandros was in front of me and I was behind and to the right of them. When the police stopped at Zoodochou Pigis and Tzavella, they had their hands, left or right I don't remember, on their weapons which were in their holsters, which hang from the belt. Someone from behind me tossed an empty plastic bottle and naturally it did not reach the police. I forgot to tell you that when I saw the police, they started to curse at me and Alexandros, saying "We will f... the Virgin Mary, come here and I'll show you who is the tough guy" and things like that. The guys behind us were yelling "get back" and "go to hell..." at the police ... When someone threw the plastic bottle, the police, both of them if I am not mistaken, took their weapons out of their holsters, aimed in front of them, that is towards the place where I, Alexandros and the other person were, and three continuous shots were heard. I forgot to tell you that I am sure that one of the two police officers held his weapon with both hands. I saw then - and I am absolutely sure - that the police weren't shooting either towards the sky or towards the ground. They aimed towards our location and fired! Alexandros fell down, if I am not mistaken on the first or second gunshot, surely anyways before the third ... Afterwards, I didn't know what was going on. People were yelling and some people lifted up Alexandros' shirt. I saw that he had a hole in the middle of the chest and a little towards the heart. There was blood from the wound ... Let me tell you also that the police who fired, when they saw Alexandros fall, they left. I don't remember in which direction ... Then the ambulance came and took Alexandros, dead. I say this because he didn't have a pulse and there was blood coming from his mouth ... Interviewer: What light was there in the place where you described the incident? Even though night had fallen, there was light from the street lamps on the poles which shines and also from the shops ... Only one lamp wasn't working, to the left of Alexandros ... Interviewer: Do you want to tell us something else from everything you know? The only thing I want to tell you is that they didn't kill Alexandros. They murdered him in cold blood... Related Link:

Monday, December 15, 2008

Last Tickets! 2009 Inaugural Peace Ball - Democracy Now!

Attend the non-partisan 2009 Inaugural Peace Ball on Jan. 20th With Special Guest Host Harry Belafonte Your donation will help Democracy Now! build a new home!

A limited number of tickets for this sold-out event are available for a $1000 donation!

For a donation of $1000, you can celebrate this extraordinary moment in history with food, laughter, music and dance, as peacemakers from all over the globe gather for this once-in-a-lifetime experience.

These are the last tickets left (the Peace Ball has a waiting list of hundreds). We're offering the first group of tickets at $1000 each; the donation level could go up with the next offering.

You will be united with hundreds of friends who believe in, support and work tirelessly for peace, social justice -- and independent media. Confirmed speakers include Alice Walker, Amy Goodman, Eve Ensler, Barbara Ehrenreich, Howard Zinn, Dick Gregory, Laura Flanders, and with performances by Jackson Browne, Michael Franti, Bernice Johnson Reagon, Toshi Reagon, Fertile Ground, Kate Clinton, and Holly Near.

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Sunday, December 14, 2008


by Lawrence Ferlinghetti
I didn’t get much sleep last night thinking about underwear Have you ever stopped to consider underwear in the abstract When you really dig into it some shocking problems are raised Underwear is something we all have to deal with Everyone wears some kind of underwear Even Indians wear underwear Even Cubans wear underwear The Pope wears underwear I hope The Governor of Louisiana wears underwear I saw him on TV He must have had tight underwear He squirmed a lot Underwear can really get you in a bind You have seen the underwear ads for men and women so alike but so different Women’s underwear holds things up Men’s underwear holds things down Underwear is one thing men and women do have in common Underwear is all we have between us You have seen the three-color pictures with crotches encircled to show the areas of extra strength with three-way stretch promising full freedom of action Don’t be deceived It’s all based on the two-party system which doesn’t allow much freedom of choice the way things are set up America in its Underwear struggles thru the night Underwear controls everything in the end Take foundation garments for instance They are really fascist forms of underground government making people believe something but the truth telling you what you can of can’t do Did you ever try to get around a girdle Perhaps Non-Violent Action is the only answer Did Gandhi wear a girdle? Did Lady Macbeth wear a girdle? Was that why Macbeth murdered sleep? And the spot she was always rubbing - Was it really her underwear? Modern anglosaxon ladies must have huge guilt complexes always washing and washing and washing Out damned spot Underwear with spots very suspicious Underwear with bulges very shocking Underwear on clothesline a great flag of freedom Someone has escaped his Underwear May be naked somewhere Help! But don’t worry Everybody’s still hung up in it There won’t be no real revolution And poetry still the underwear of the soul And underwear still covering a multitude of faults in the geological sense - strange sedimentary stones, inscrutable cracks! If I were you I’d keep aside an oversize pair of winter underwear Do not go naked into that good night And in the meantime keep calm and warm and dry No use stirring ourselves up prematurely ‘over Nothing’ Move forward with dignity hand in vest Don’t get emotional And death shall have no dominion There’s plenty of time my darling Are we not still young and easy? Don’t shout.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Quote: by John Adams

There is nothing I dread so much as a division of the Republic into two great parties, each arranged under its leader and converting measures in opposition to each other. This, in my humble apprehension, is to be dreaded as the greatest political evil under our Constitution. Image by Anonymous

Friday, December 12, 2008

Chapter 11 is the right road for US carmakers, by Joeseph Stiglitz

[Thanks to ghettodefender for this link]

Published: December 11 2008 20:02 | Last updated: December 11 2008 20:02

he debate about whether or not to bail out the Big Three carmakers has been mischaracterised. It has been described as a package to help the undeserving dinosaurs of Detroit. In fact, a plan to bail out the carmakers would benefit shareholders and bondholders as much as anybody else. These are not the people that need help right now. In fact they contributed to the problem.

Financial markets are supposed to allocate capital and monitor that it is used to good effect. They are supposed to be rewarded when they do that job well, but bear the consequences when they fail. The markets failed. Wall Street’s focus on quarterly returns encouraged the short-sighted behaviour that contributed to their own demise and that of America’s manufacturing, including the automotive industry. Today, they are asking to escape accountability. We should not allow it.

What needs to be done is to help the automakers get a fresh start and allow them to focus on producing good cars rather than trying to juggle their books to meet past obligations.

With financial restructuring, the real assets do not disappear. Equity investors (who failed to fulfil their responsibility of oversight) lose everything; bondholders get converted into equity owners and may lose substantial amounts. Freed of the obligation to pay interest, the carmakers will be in a better position. Taxpayer dollars will go far further. Moral hazard – the undermining of incentives – will be averted: a strong message will be sent.

Some will talk of the pension funds and others that will suffer. Yes, but that is true of every investment that has diminished. The government may need to help some pension funds but it is better to do so directly, than via massive bail-outs hoping that a little of the money trickles down to the “widows and orphans”. Some will say that bankruptcy will undermine confidence in America’s cars. It is the cars and carmakers themselves – and the dismal performance of their executives – that have undermined confidence. With industry experts saying $125bn (€94bn, £84bn) or more will be needed, with bail-out fatigue setting in, why should US consumers believe that a $15bn gift will do the trick of a turnround?

It is more plausible that confidence will be restored if the industry is freed of the burden of interest payments and is given a fresh start. Modern cars are complex technological products and the US has demonstrated its strength in advanced technology. US workers, working for Japanese carmakers, have shown their hard work can produce cars that are desirable. America’s managers too have demonstrated their managerial skills in many other areas...........

Thursday, December 11, 2008

REAL HOPE - India's govt is NOT PSYCHO

like Bushco and for that matter Obamaco ...
December 12, 2008

India Vows No Retaliation

NEW DELHI — Calling Pakistan the epicenter of terrorist attacks against India, the Indian foreign minister on Thursday urged the government there to do more than detain leaders of extremist groups, even as he all but ruled out the prospect of a military confrontation.

Rather, India’s foreign minister, Pranab Mukherjee, told members of Parliament that India would take time to turn off the tap of support for militant groups operating across the border, and that war was “no solution.”

“We shall have to patiently confront it,” he said. “We have no intention to be provoked.”

In Pakistan, the government signaled limited moves against a charity widely believed to act as a front for the militant group, Lashkar-e-Taiba, that Indian and American intelligence officials say was behind the Mumbai attacks last month. Security officials surrounded the home of Hafiz Saeed, a founder of both the militant group, Lashkar-e-Taiba, and the charity, Jamaat-ud-Dawa.

“Police have encircled the house of Hafiz Saeed in Lahore and told him he cannot go out of the home,” said Abdullah Montazir, his spokesman, according to Reuters. “They have told him detention orders will be formally served to him shortly.

Mr. Mukherjee, speaking in Parliament’s first session since the three-day siege of Mumbai, reiterated India’s demand for Pakistan to hand over about 40 fugitives and suspects whom it says are taking shelter in Pakistan. His comments seemed to avoid directly criticizing the president of Pakistan, Asif Ali Zardari, and his democratically elected government.

Shortly after the Mumbai attacks, Mr. Zardari described the terror suspects as “nonstate actors” over whom the Pakistani government had no control. On Thursday, that statement met with a stinging retort from Mr. Mukherjee.

“Are they nonstate actors coming from heaven, or they are coming from a different planet?” Mr. Mukherjee asked. “Nonstate actors are operating from a particular country. What we are most respectfully submitting, suggesting to the government of Pakistan: Please act. Mere expression of intention is not adequate.”

It was India’s first response to Pakistan’s crackdown on camps and leaders of Lashkar-e-Taiba, accused in the Mumbai attacks that killed 163 people, along with 9 gunmen. Pakistani officials in Islamabad announced the arrests earlier this week.

In Islamabad, Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani said Pakistan “has taken note” of the United Nations Security Council declaration late Wednesday that a charity based in Pakistan, Jamaat-ud-Dawa, was a front for Lashkar-e-Taiba and subject to United Nations sanctions including the freezing of its assets and a travel ban on four of its leaders. One leader was Zaki ur-Rehman Lakhvi, whom the Pakistani government said it arrested Sunday.

The Security Council committee also added Mr Saeed, the Lashkar and Jamaat founder, to a list of people and organizations linked to Al Qaeda or the Taliban.

A statement from Mr. Gilani’s office said he told the American deputy secretary of state, John D. Negroponte, that Pakistan “would fulfill its international obligations,” Reuters reported. The Interior Ministry issued a statement saying Jamaat-ud-Dawa would be put under monitoring and its offices sealed if necessary, Reuters said.

In Lahore on Thursday, Mr. Saeed, the founder of the group, criticized the United Nations’ decision, saying that his charity was a legitimate organization with no links to terrorism, Agence France-Presse reported. Mr. Saeed publicly disowned Lashkar-e-Taiba after it was outlawed by Pakistan in 2002.

“The Security Council took this decision without giving any us any opportunity to respond,” Mr. Saeed said, according to the agency. “We are not prepared to accept this decision, which was taken in haste. We do not accept terrorism, killing innocent people, or carrying out suicide attacks. This has always been our stand.”

On Wednesday, Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, praised the actions taken by the Pakistani authorities, but noted that the United States viewed the actions only as initial measures to deal with the crisis.

“These are first steps, and so there are more steps to follow,” Admiral Mullen told reporters in Washington. “But they’ve moved pretty quickly with respect to these arrests, with respect to shutting down some of the camps. And all of that, I think, is very positive.”

Mr. Mukherjee on Thursday also delivered a message to allies and rivals abroad: India would not be dragged into discussions about Kashmir, which the minister described as a domestic problem.

“This is not an India-Pakistan issue,” he said, referring to the attacks. “This is not an issue related to Jammu and Kashmir. This is a part of global terrorism.”

The home minister, Palaniappan Chidambaram, announced an overhaul of the nation’s intelligence network in a speech to Parliament on Thursday, fulfilling a pledge from the government in the immediate aftermath of the siege. Mr. Chidambaram, the country’s principal law enforcement official, had previously acknowledged lapses in the security forces’ preparedness for the attacks.

He said “the finger of suspicion” points at “our neighbor,” clearly meaning Pakistan. Mr. Chidambaram succeeded Shivraj Patil, who resigned after the attacks in Mumbai.

The opposition Bharatiya Janata Party also pledged Thursday to stand by the government. “We should not be fooled by this kind of operation,” Lal Krishna Advani, the opposition leader, said of Pakistan’s response so far.

The Indian security forces’ slow response to the attack “exposed their lack of intelligence and lax approach to law and order,” said Farhana Ali, a South Asia terrorism expert and former analyst for RAND Corporation, which researches policy and security issues.

The intelligence restructuring will bolster the coast guard and maritime forces, strengthen intelligence agencies with new personnel, establish a national investigative center and set up training courses for antiterrorism officers, police units and commando squads.

The violence in Mumbai began on the night of Nov. 26 and ended more than 60 hours later when the last of the gunmen was killed in a shootout with elite Indian commandos. The assault on the city was apparently staged, the Indian police have said, by a squad of 10 gunmen who used boats to approach Mumbai.

Nine militants were killed and one was captured.

Since the attacks, there has been an outpouring of anger across India.

Last week, tens of thousands of citizens stormed the Gateway of India, a famed waterfront monument near the Taj Mahal Palace & Tower hotel, one of the sites attacked, venting anger at their elected leaders. There were similar protests in New Delhi and the southern technology hubs of Bangalore and Hyderabad. All were organized spontaneously, with word spread through text messages and social networking Web sites like Facebook.

Indian citizens and police officials alike have expressed concern about follow-on attacks by terrorists who might have escaped during the mayhem of the assault.

The Indian police said they had foiled an attempt to destroy landmarks and wreak havoc in Mumbai early this year, breaking up a cell of Pakistani and Indian men.

The foiled plot also involved Lashkar-e-Taiba, which suggested that the militant group conceived its plan long in advance and has deeper contacts with radical Indian Muslims than investigators have been willing to concede. It also pointed out another significant security lapse by Indian intelligence and police forces, who months ago had glimpses of a blueprint for the Mumbai attacks and even a strong indication of the intended targets.

Somini Sengupta reported from New Delhi and Robert F. Worth from Mumbai, India. Mark McDonald contributed reporting from Hong Kong and Eric Schmitt from Washington.


The Next Age, Here and Now, by Daniel Pinchbeck

You've wanted it, waited for it, and now it's finally here! The RS anthology, Toward 2012: Perspectives on the Next Age (Tarcher/Penguin) is about to hit book stores near you. The anthology features many of your favorite contributors and articles from the site, covering a diverse array of topics forging the frontiers of conscioussness. It makes for a great post-holiday gift, both for yourself and your fellow aspiring evolutionaries. The release date is December 26 and you can help our transformational community make a buzz in the publishing world by pre-ordering the book. This lands us on the radar of book stores and distributors, as well as helping our chances of making "bestseller lists." Of course, you can pre-order from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Powell's Books. The best option is to order the anthology at your local shop (independent ideally) and see if they'll order for you, and maybe stock a few extra copies.

Here's what the cover jacket says about the book:

"This fresh and thought-provoking anthology draws together some of today’s most celebrated visionaries, thinkers, and pioneers in the field of evolving consciousness— exploring topics from shamanism to urban homesteading, the legacy of Carlos Castaneda to Mayan predictions for the year 2012, and new paths in direct political action and human sexuality.

"Toward 2012 highlights some of the most challenging, intelligent pieces published on the acclaimed website Reality Sandwich. It is coedited by Daniel Pinchbeck, the preeminent voice on 2012, and online pioneer Ken Jordan, and features original works from Stanislav Grof, John Major Jenkins, and Paul D. Miller (DJ Spooky); interviews with Abbie Hoffman and artist Alex Grey; and a new introduction by Pinchbeck.

"Here are ideas that trace the arc of our evolution in consciousness, lifestyles, and communities as we draw closer to a moment in time that portends ways of living that are different from anything we have expected or experienced."


Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Great post by nora...

Project Censored on Water Privatization...

[excerpt one]

Privately run water concessions in Latin America have a terrible track record. The most notorious example occurred with a project imposed by the World Bank in Cochabamba, Bolivia. The Bank made delivery of a loan conditional on the privatization of the country’s largest water systems. When the Cochabamba water services concession ran by the US-based Bechtel Corporation raised household water bills by 200 percent, it sparked a civil uprising that forced the company to leave the country and the water system to be put under public control (Censored 2001, #1).

After Cochabamba, the World Bank retired the word “privatization” and replaced it with terms like “concessions” and “decentralization,” or “private sector participation.” But critics say whatever the euphemism, the end result is the same: higher rates, lower quality, and less access.

[excerpt two]

Salvadoran police violently captured community leaders and residents at a July 2007 demonstration against the privatization of El Salvador’s water supply and distribution systems. Close range shooting of rubber bullets and tear gas was used against community members for protesting the rising cost, and diminishing access and quality, of local water under privatization. Fourteen were arrested and charged with terrorism, a charge that can hold a sixty-year prison sentence, under El Salvador’s new “Anti-terrorism Law,” which is based on the USA PATRIOT Act. While criminalization of political expression and social protest signals an alarming danger to the peace and human rights secured by Salvadorans since its brutal twelve-year civil war, the US government publicly supports the Salvadoran government and the passage of the draconian anti-terrorism law that took effect October 2006.

Salvadorans, however, maintain that fighting for water is a right, not a crime.

[end excerpt]


1 December 2008

We the undersigned are North American academics who study Latin America. We wish to make known several concerns with regard to the electoral process now underway in El Salvador and which include legislative elections in January 2009 and presidential elections in March 2009. In particular, as academics who have studied electoral processes throughout the hemisphere, we believe that there are a minimal set of norms and conditions necessary for elections to be free, transparent, and democratic. These include the freedom to participate in civic and political activities without fear of violence, repression, or reprisals, and the existence of rules and regulations that assure transparency in the voting process and that safeguard against the possibility of electoral fraud. We wish to make known in this regard the following four concerns:

1. We are against foreign interference in the electoral processes and the internal affairs of other countries. We observe in the Salvadoran case that the United States government has brazenly intervened in previous elections to influence the outcome and that once again it appears to be undertaking such intervention. Among various incidents we draw attention to statements made by the U.S. ambassador to El Salvador, Charles Glazer, in May 2008 on alleged and unsubstantiated connections between the principal opposition party in El Salvador, the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN) and the FARC guerrilla organization of Colombia. Ambassador Glazer stated that “any group that collaborates or expresses friendship with the FARC is not a friend of the United States”1 Also, in February 2008, the U.S. Director of Intelligence Director J. Michael McConnell made public a report that, without any evidence whatsoever, charged that the FMLN was set to receive “generous financing” from Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez for its electoral campaign.2 In October, Ambassador Glazer made public reference to this report. 3

Such statements constitute unacceptable outside interference in the electoral process. They are a veiled threat against the Salvadoran people that, should they elect a government not to the liking of the United States, they will face U.S. wrath and possible reprisals. We consider this interference to be in violation of international norms and we call on the U.S. government to immediately desist from all such interference. The United States government must respect the right of the Salvadoran electorate to choose its government free from threats of U.S. hostility or reprisals.

2. We are alarmed by the increase in political violence in El Salvador over the past two years and the atmosphere of impunity with which this violence has taken place. There has been a spate of assassinations the circumstances surrounding which strongly suggests that they have been political in nature. The victims of these crimes have exclusively been leaders of trade unions, community and religious organizations and members or supporters of the FMLN. In 2007, according to the legal department of the Archbishopric of San Salvador, only 31 percent of the homicides which that office investigated was attributed to maras (gang members) or to common crime, while 69 percent, showed clear signs of “death-squad style” and “social cleansing” crimes 4. The San Salvador-based Foundation for the Study of the Application of the Law has documented 27 murders of young social movement activists and members of the political opposition over the past three years that appear to be death squad slayings.5 In addition, the El Salvador Human Rights Commission has denounced an increase in such death-squad slayings against opposition leaders as the elections have approached and warned that these assassinations are generating a climate of fear.

3. There have been a series of legal changes and reforms to the electoral code that open up the possibility of fraud. Among these, we observe that article 256 of the electoral law was partially derogated unilaterally in December 20076 by the current government. This article (256-D,c) stipulated that all ballots must be signed and sealed by election officials appointed to each voting center in order to be valid, thus safeguarding against tampering with ballots once they are deposited by voters. In addition, the current Salvadoran government unilaterally moved the official opening of the electoral period from September 17, 2008 to September 1, 2008. This meant that the electoral register will be based on the 1992 national census rather than on the new census conducted in 2007. The electoral register at this time lists 4,226,479 Salvadorans registered to vote, on the basis of the 1992 census. However, the new 2007 census indicates that there are only 3,265,021 eligible voters, 961,458 less than the electoral register.7 Relying on the outdated 1992 census opens the possibility of ballot-stuffing and related types of voter fraud by using the names of people who are have died since 1992 or who have migrated and are no longer residents of the country. Moreover, the Organization of American States concluding its audit of the electoral register at the end of 2007 and in early 2008 presented its report, which included a list of 103 recommended measures with regard to the electoral process, including 56 which that international organization characterized as “obligatory,” incompliance with which would put into jeopardy the integrity of the elections.8 To date, the great majority of these recommendations have not been acted upon.

4. Finally, we are highly alarmed by statements issued in Washington D.C. on September 18, 2008, by the Salvadoran foreign minister, Marisol Argueta de Barillas, in a speech before the American Enterprise Institute (AEI)9. Ms. Argueta was personally invited by AEI visiting fellow Roger Noriega, a U.S. assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs during the administration of George W. Bush and a man who shamelessly intervened in the 2004 Salvadoran presidential elections. At that time, and while serving as assistant secretary of state, he threatened that if the FMLN were elected the United States would seek to block the sending of remittances from Salvadorans in the United States to their family members in El Salvador and to deport Salvadorans residing in the United States.10 In her speech before the AEI, the Salvadoran foreign minister openly called on the U.S. government to intervene in her country’s electoral process.

Ms. Argueta declared: “The United States must pay close attention to what is happening in El Salvador and the resulting national security and geopolitical consequences, since our enemies are joining together and becoming stronger. The upcoming municipal and legislative elections in January of 2009 and the next presidential elections in March 2009 will be without a doubt, the closest electoral competitions in the history of El Salvador…The opposition party is a remnant of the former guerrilla movement. Some members of its leadership have been closely related to ETA or to the FARC. Losing El Salvador will threaten the national security of both El Salvador and the United States…It will generate instability in the country and in neighboring countries and it will set El Salvador back 30 years, to when Central America was in turmoil. As President Ronald Reagan said 25 years ago…the security of the United States is at stake in El Salvador.…US foreign policy in the region must be reassessed and there must be a review of growing anti-American sentiment and the coming to power of increasing numbers of anti-American governments in this backyard.”11

These declarations virtually call for U.S. intervention in El Salvador to avoid a possible electoral triumph by the FMLN, and to undermine in this way the right of the Salvadoran people to elect the government of their choosing free from threats, pressures, and interference by a foreign power. Given the long and sordid history of U.S. intervention in El Salvador and in Latin America we view these statements with grave concern and we call on the Salvadoran government to desist from inviting U.S. intervention.

We wish to make these concerns known to the incoming Obama administration. We are hopeful that, with its renewed commitment to better diplomatic relations with Latin America and its message of political change, this new administration will not support any intervention in the Salvadoran elections and nor will it tolerate human rights violations and electoral fraud.

SIGNED (see website for list):

William I. Robinson, University of California at Santa Barbara

Hector Perla, University of California at Santa Cruz

Charles Hale, University of Texas at Austin and past president of the Latin American Studies Association (2006-2007)

Noam Chomsky, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Immanuel Wallerstein, Yale University

Arturo Arias, University of Texas at Austin and past president of the Latin American Studies Association (2001-2003)

Craig N. Murphy, Wellesley College and past president of the International Studies Association (2000-2001)

Ramona Hernandez, City College of New York and Director of Dominican Studies Institute

Helen I. Safa, Emeritus, University of Florida and past president of the Latin American Studies Association (1983-1985)

Carmen Diana Deere, University of Florida and past president of the Latin American Studies Association (1992-94).

Sonia E. Alvarez, University of Massachusetts at Amherst and past president of the Latin American Studies Association (2004-2006)

Lars Schoultz, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and past president of the Latin American Studies Association (1991-1992)

Thomas Holloway, University of California at Davis and past president of the Latin American Studies Association (2000-2001)

John L. Hammond, Hunter College and Graduate Center, CUNY, and former chair of the Latin American Studies Association Task Force on Human Rights and Academic Freedom

Miguel Tinker-Salas, Pomona College

Greg Grandin, New York University

Manuel Rozental, Algoma University

Mark Weisbrot, Center for Economic and Policy Research, Washington, D.C.

Jeffrey L. Gould, University of Indiana

Arturo Escobar, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Mark Sawyer, University of California at Los Angeles

Ramon Grosfoguel, University of California at Berkeley

Peter McLaren, University of California at Los Angeles

Gilberto G. Gonzales, University of California at Irvine

John Foran, University of California at Santa Barbara

Christopher Chase-Dunn, University of California at Irvine

Alfonso Gonzales, New York University

Gary Prevost, St. John’s University and the College of St. Benedict

Sujatha Fernandez, Queens College, City University of New York

Howard Winant, University of California at Santa Barbara

Jon Shefner, University of Tennessee

Daniel Hellinger, Webster University

Agustin Lao-Montes, University of Massachusetts at Amherst

Millie Thayer, University of Massachusetts at Amherst

Jeffrey W. Rubin, Boston University

Ellen Moodie, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Brandt Gustav Peterson, Michigan State University

Adam Flint, Binghamton University

Richard Stahler-Sholk, Eastern Michigan University

Richard Grossman, Northeastern Illinois University

Manel Lacorte, University of Maryland

Ana Patricia Rodríguez, University of Maryland

Beth Baker, California State University at Los Angeles

Aaron Schneider, Tulane University

Misha Kokotovic, University of California-San Diego

Marc McLeod, Seattle University

Michael Hardt, Duke University

Bruce Ergood, Ohio University

Beatrice Pita, University of California at San Diego

Rosaura Sanchez, University of California at San Diego

Nancy Plankey Videla, Texas A&M University

Kate Bronfenbrenner, Cornell University

LaDawn Haglund, Arizona State University

Judith A. Weiss, Mount Allison University, Canada

Susanne Jonas, University of California at Santa Cruz

Robert Whitney, University of New Brunswick (Saint John), Canada

Aline Helg (U.S. citizen), Université de Genève, Switzerland

Stephanie Jed, University of California at San Diego

Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, California State University

James J. Brittain, Acadia University, Canada

Margaret Power, Illinois Institute of Technology

Philip J. Williams, University of Florida

R. James Sacouman, Acadia University

Carlos Schroder, Northern Virginia Community College

Frederick B. Mills, Bowie State University

Judith Blau, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Egla Martinez, Carleton University, Canada

Walda Katz-Fishman, Howard University

Judith Wittner, Loyola University

Yajaira M. Padilla, University of Kansas

Tanya Golash-Boza, University of Kansas

Erich H. Loewy, University of California at Davis

Jonathan Fox, University of California at Santa Cruz

Steven S. Volk, Oberlin College

Marc Edelman, Hunter College and the Graduate Center, CUNY

W. L. Goldfrank, University of California at Santa Cruz

Benjamin Kohl, Temple University

Lourdes Benería, Cornell University

Philip Oxhorn, McGill University

Ronald Chilcote, University of California at Riverside

Judith Adler Hellman, York University, Toronto

Barbara Chasin, Montclair State University

Matt D Childs, University of South Carolina

Sarah Hernandez, New College of Florida

Catherine LeGrand, McGill University

Nathalia E. Jaramillo, Purdue University

William Avilés, University of Nebraska, Kearney

Dana Frank, University of California at Santa Cruz

Robert Andolina, Seattle University

Sinclair Thomson, New York University

Patricia Balcom, University of Moncoton

Josée Grenier, Université du Québec en Outaouais

Manfred Bienefeld, Carleton University

Susan Spronk, University of Ottawa

May E. Bletz, Brock University

David Heap, University of Western Ontario

Dennis Beach, Saint John’s University, Minnesota

Aldo A. Lauria-Santiago, Rutgers University-New Brunswick

William S. Stewart, California State University, Chico

Sheila Candelario, Fairfield University

Erik Ching, Furman University

Marc Zimmerman, University of Houston

Maureen Shea, Tulane University

Héctor Cruz-Feliciano, Council on International Educational Exchange

Karen Kampwirth, Knox College

Marco A. Mojica, City College of San Francisco

Nick Copeland, University of Arkansas

Silvia L. López, Carleton College

Marie-Agnès Sourieau, Fairfield University

Karina Oliva-Alvarado, University of California at Los Angeles

Erin S. Finzer, University of Kansas

Dina Franceschi, Fairfield University

Lisa Kowalchuk, University of Guelph

Amalia Pallares, University of Illinois at Chicago

B. Ruby Rich, University of California at Santa Cruz

Edward Dew, Fairfield University

Nora Hamilton, University of Southern California

Deborah Levenson, Boston College

Linda J. Craft, North Park University

Thomas W. Walker, Ohio University

Jocelyn Viterna, Harvard University

Cecilia Menjivar, Arizona State University

Ricardo Dominguez, University of California at San Diego

María Elena Díaz, University of California at Santa Cruz

Guillermo Delgado-P, University of California at Santa Cruz

Guillaume Hébert, Université du Québec à Montréal

Leisy Abrego, University of California at Irvine

Michael E. Rotkin, University of California at Santa Cruz

John Blanco, University of California at San Diego

Steven Levitsky, Harvard University

John Beverley, University of Pittsburgh

Evelyn Gonzalez, Montgomery College

Tom O’Brien, University of Houston

Pablo Rodriguez, City College of San Francisco

John Womack, Jr., Harvard University

James D. Cockcroft, State University of New York

Mark Anner, Penn State University

John Kirk, Dalhousie University

Jorge Mariscal, University of California at San Diego

Susan Kellogg, University of Houston

Susan Gzesh, University of Chicago

Luis Martin-Cabrera, University of California at San Diego

Lawrence Rich, Northern Virginia Community College

Jeff Tennant, The University of Western Ontario, Canada

Meyer Brownstone, University of Toronto and Chair emeritus, Oxfam Canada

Charmain Levy, Université du Québec en Outaouais, Canada

Liisa L. North, York University

Denis G. Rancourt, University of Ottawa, Canada

Barbara Weinstein, New York University

Kelley Ready, Brandeis University

This analysis was prepared by Various Authors

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Gloria La Riva - Walking the Talk

San Francisco activists demonstrate in solidarity with Republic Windows & Doors workers Tuesday, December 9, 2008 By: Richard Becker Four arrested in support of factory occupation The protest drew the attention of hundreds of people in the downtown area, some of which joined the picket line. Among the speakers at the event were: Clarence Thomas, Executive Board member, International Longshore and Warehouse Union, Local 10; Frank Martin del Campo, member of the Executive Committee of the S.F. Labor Council; Richard Becker, ANSWER Coalition; and Gloria La Riva. The arrested activists were cited and released later in the evening. For more information on the Chicago plant sit-in, visit

Brewster Kahle: A digital library, free to the world

Brewster Kahle is building a truly huge digital library -- every book ever published, every movie ever released, all the strata of web history ... It's all free to the public -- unless someone else gets to it first.

The Moral Imperative to Change "The System"

By Bernard Weiner Co-Editor, The Crisis Papers December 9, 2008 Below are four suggestions for what ordinary citizens can do in our current and growing economic/political /social crisis. But first let's place what follows in some historical context. Back in the day -- for me the decade-and-a-half known as "The Sixties" -- we dissenters railed against the corrupt "System." It seemed clear to all of us in "The Movement" that all the institutions that affected our lives -- government, academia, business, religion, the political parties, mass media, et al. -- were rotten to the core, concerned mainly with money and power and not with the consequences of their policies and behaviors on ordinary people. I know it seems crazy today, but we Movement-activist types really did believe back then that we were riding the wave of history that would sweep away all the old rotten foundations and institutions of the decadent System all across the globe. We radicals (going to "the root") felt we were laying the new foundations, creating the new counter-cultural institutions that would lead to more peaceful, productive, happy societies. Our job as young "revolutionaries," we believed, was to kick out the traces propping up the System's dry-rotted pillars and posts, so we could start the immediate reconstruction processes. In our naïveté, it hardly registered to many of us that maybe the System wasn't as weak as we supposed and might not appreciate our efforts to get rid of those power-supports. We didn't fully anticipate that the ruling forces were likely to strike back, successfully, with all the fearful, angry instruments at their command in order to hold onto their preferred positions in the economic/social pecking order; these instruments included police brutality and even murder of selected radical leaders, e.g. African-American hero Fred Hampton in Chicago. THE GAINS OF "THE SIXTIES" Even given the massive conservative backlash that did come and even aware of the self-righteous mistakes we had made, many of us still feel good about the limited but very real successes in our amateurish attempt at cultural/political revolution: helping stop the immoral war in Vietnam, provoking investigations into widespread governmental and corporate and police corruption and brutality, creating alternative institutions including media sources for news and opinion, providing avenues for minorities and women to create their own power movements, and helping bring down the despised criminal in the White House, Richard Nixon. Looking back on the scene now, it seems clear that the longest-lasting influence of the multi-splintered "Movement" was the tone of idealism and outrage and spontaneity and fun that influenced an entire generation of young people, and beyond. So, other than nostalgia, why am I writing about an era that flourished decades ago? I think you know the answer: The System today in many ways is similarly corrupt and decadent and in need of a major shakeup. And, as in "The Sixties," those who rule the System are not going to simply abandon their perqs and power; it is up to us ordinary citizens to point out the corruption and malfeasance and to do something transformational with that power. CHANGE WINDOW IS OPEN NOW With the massive defeat of the conservative Republicans in the November election and the installation into the White House of a liberal-leaning centrist President, there finally might be a window of opportunity when popular political pressure could actually make a difference. We don't know how long this window will be open to fresh air, so it's important that we get our act together ASAP and move with solidarity to effect as much vital social change as we can. Sometimes, we might be able to do this in concert with President Obama and the Democratic majority in Congress, but because the hyper-cautious (and at times complicit) Democrats are often part of the problem, we may have to raise a mighty voice to get our point of view across in a Washington that is all too prone to wishy-washy compromise, a helleva lot of "spin," and lack of genuine progress for ordinary middle-class and poor citizens. You may question my assumption that the System now is reminiscent of the corrupt System that was facing me and my contemporaries back in "The Sixties." Yes, our society has made great progress in some areas. But in others, it has regressed mightily. So, before moving on to plans for implementation, let's take a look at a few of the various parallels from the two eras: 1. MISADVENTURING ABROAD The U.S., no matter whether under Democrats or Republicans, is still prone to imperialist adventurism abroad. The Democrats tend to run a "soft imperialism" program, making sure the U.S. gets its way through firm diplomacy and economics, with threats of something harsher always looming in the background. The Republicans, especially during the CheneyBush reign of error, tended deliberately and openly to rush to the use of violence, warfare, torture and threats as a club: Accept our way or prepare for some good old-fashioned shock&awe. The CheneyBush method is derived out of a belief that America is exceptionally beloved by God and charged to bring "democracy" and "free markets" to the populations of the world, whether they want it or not. The unexpected result of this mode of operation has been to demonstrate that hi-tech superpowers are limited in effectively exercising their strength against nationalistic, religiously-influenced, guerrilla-style opposition. Ignoring this fact and staying-the-course of various invasions and occupations has brought the U.S. into worldwide disrepute, devoid of moral authority (especially given its widespread use of torture), and stretching our military way too thin across the globe. Obama is much more willing to use diplomacy and to build up solid alliances, but he has indicated that he, too, has adopted much of the neo-conservative militarist mindset about American exceptionalism and our supposed responsibility to police the planet. In short, not all that much has changed from the Vietnam War-era when the U.S. couldn't figure out how or whether to disengage from trying to run other nations' business, and when it conducted an immoral war that wound up killing millions abroad and fomenting a political/generational civil war at home over the wisdom and costs of that misadventure. Our illegal, immoral attack on and occupation of Iraq is similarly the crucible for a generation opposed to this unnecessary, self-defeating war, a war despised by two-thirds of the American people. Despite Obama's announced 16-months-and-out plan, it's not clear how, or when, he will remove the majority of the troops, and whether, even if they go, many of those American troops will simply move one border over to the quagmire in Afghanistan and/or re-deploy to other bases in the Greater Middle East. In fact, Obama has hinted that events on the ground in Iraq might prolong the occupation in Iraq. 2. A RESTRICTED, CORRUPT MASS-MEDIA The corporate mass-media in newspapers, TV networks and cable, radio talk shows, etc. are even more prone these days to serve as little more than stenographers for governmental propaganda and spin; their tendency is to support conservative values and politicians in their editorials and choices of stories to run and highlight. (Olbermann and Maddow are exceptions to the mass-media rule.) There are few mainstream investigative reporters and editors willing to take on the powers-that-be. Example: the New York Times waited until after the 2004 elections to expose the Bush Administration's illegal domestic-spying operation, a story they had ready to go for a full year before that. Those few mainstream reporters who do color outside the acceptable lines run the risk of being fired or disciplined or being forced to resign. Most obvious examples: Dan Rather forced out at "60 Minutes" for pushing a story about Dubya's questionable service at the Texas Air National Guard during the Vietnam War, or war correspondent Chris Hedges having to leave the New York Times after speaking publicly about the truth of U.S. policy abroad. If citizens are to exercise proper oversight of their government, they need accurate information. These days, even more than in "The Sixties," citizens have to consciously search out alternative sources beyond the corporate mass-media to get a clearer fix on what's really going on: For reliable information, the curious must look to the foreign media, to the handful of trustworthy investigative journalists in the mainstream U.S. press, to the satirists and comedians, and, most importantly, to unencumbered political analysis on the internet. 3. DEMS' TIMIDITY & COMPLICITY There are some definite exceptions, but by and large politicians in Washington, as always, seem devoted to watching out for their own interests and covering each others' backs. Maybe that's why they seem tone-deaf to what's really agitating their constituents outside the D.C. Beltway. Lobbyists hired by the powerful interests whose money rules in the nation's capital have an inordinate influence on legislation, much more than they had in the Vietnam era. One shouldn't expect this system to change much in the foreseeable future. Politicians feel the need to suck on the lobbyists' teat because they need the money for their permanent election cycles. Public financing of those political campaigns, which might reduce the influence of special-interest money, appears to be dead in the water. One would hope that now that the Democrats have increased their majorities in the House and Senate that they would be in the forefront of major reform. But the Democrats haven't demonstrated much interest in any drastic alterations of how campaigns are financed, in fixing our compromised and corrupted voting system, in punishing criminal acts and war crimes of high officials by ordering impeachment hearings, in cutting off financing for the occupation of Iraq, in restoring Constitutional protections decimated during the past eight years of Republican rule in the White House, etc. etc. Certainly the Congressional Democrats, and President Obama, will serve average Americans better than when CheneyBush ruled the Executive Branch. But the Democratic leaders, Pelosi and Reid, on key issues tend to be overly-cautious accommodationists rather than true fighters for significant change. I'm prepared to be delighted by being proven wrong, but it appears that the "change" promised by Obama and the Democrats may be measured in small, incremental doses in the next four years, thus protecting the ongoing System, when what is required is a massive overhaul and reform. Just look at the humongous bailout of the financial system by the federal government. We're heading fast toward a major '30s-like Great Depression, with a half-million job-holders losing their positions each month, and an economy that could well grind to a disastrous near-halt as more businesses go belly-up. Billions of dollars are passed out here and there to financial institutions to stabilize the capitalist System, but there is no effective oversight in place to verify where all that largesse is going. We know that precious little of it is filtering down to ordinary American homeowners trying to pay their mortgages, workers laid off, small-business owners forced into bankruptcy, etc. 4. ACCOUNTABILITY "OFF THE TABLE" And, most galling of all for hard-pressed American citizens watching their stock portfolios and IRAs and pensions shrink daily, there is rarely any accountability for those who got us into the various disasters: Congress' obscene deregulation of the financial institutions with no oversight provided. The war-of-choice and occupation in Iraq. The authorization and sanctioning of torture as official United States policy by the highest officials at the White House and Pentagon. The turning of our beloved Constitution into little more than a "quaint" scrap of paper. The saddling of the middle-class and poor (and their children and grandchildren) with massive debt by financially bailing-out Wall Street but giving ordinary citizens, including auto workers and other blue-collar working stiffs, little more than crumbs of social services and tax relief in return. It appears to be the same ol' same 'ol: rescue the rich and powerful -- those "too big to fail," those "too important to fail." One would think that the Democrats, the party of the middle-class, would use their rare opportunity to alter the priorities, to enact major reform, to break from the corrupt politics of the past, to bring criminal charges against the malefactors to keep future officeholders and CEOs from feeling they can get away with anything. But there is no real movement for impeachment, for war-crimes prosecutions, for CEO demotions or firings, etc. Instead, those who created the messes are left in place or are given enormous "golden parachutes," pardons are granted, laws are changed to cover the asses of the miscreants in charge. The lesson to the unscrupulous movers-and-shakers seems to be: Just keep doing what's always been done; you won't suffer any major consequences, and the taxpayers will meekly bear the burden of the massive bailouts of your companies. WAITING FOR OBAMA It's possible that I'm being much too hasty here. Obama isn't even sworn in yet. In spite of his political career as a centrist pragmatist with generally liberal leanings, maybe circumstances will force him in another, more progressive direction. (Good sign: Obama is forcefully supporting the workers occupying their Chicago factory because their pensions and benefits disappeared when the owners suddenly closed the plant. Obama wants to find a way to make them whole.) Maybe, like FDR, Obama will seize the day in this crisis-filled time to lead the Democrats, and the country as a whole, in truly significant, sweeping social/political/economic change. But I'm not holding my breath waiting for it to happen. We need a social/political revolution in this country -- and we progressives must work ceaselessly to make this happen -- but we may have to get used to incremental change, at least in the first few years of the new administration. At the very least, after eight years of regressive, disastrous rule, Obama's America will be moving in the correct direction. Copyright 2008, by Bernard Weiner

Photos and Videos from the Greek Riots

Policemen protect themselves from a Molotov cocktail during riots in Athens, December 8, 2008. Thousands of protesters rampaged through the heart of Athens on Monday, burning and looting shops on a third day of riots sparked by the killing of a teenager by police. REUTERS/Oleg Popov (GREECE)

A sampling of video and pictures from the ongoing riots and protests in Greece.


Greek Youths Riot After Police Shoot Teen
Students riots - Piraeus
Fresh rioting hits Greek cities
Protests at London's Greek Embassy
Greek riots spread to Patras
read more

Political & Cultural Space in Oaxaca Raided, Fired On

In the early morning of Monday, December 8, 2008, murderer Ulises Ruiz's Oaxacan state government, through its Preventative and Municipal police, onboard various police pickup trucks and motorcycles, violently attacked those who live and work in the political and cultural space of the house located at 408 Crespo Street in the historic center of Oaxaca, "Oaxacan Autonomous Solidarity House of Self-Sustaining (Autogestive) Work" (Casa Autonoma Solidaria Oaxaquena de Trabajo Autogestivo - CASOTA). To the people of Oaxaca To the people of Mexico To Section 22 To the Popular Assembly of the People of Oaxaca To the media In the early morning of Monday, December 8, 2008, murderer Ulises Ruiz's Oaxacan state government, through its Preventative and Municipal police, onboard various police pickup trucks and motorcycles, violently attacked those who live and work in the political and cultural space of the house located at 408 Crespo Street in the historic center of Oaxaca, "Oaxacan Autonomous Solidarity House of Self-Sustaining (Autogestive) Work" (Casa Autonoma Solidaria Oaxaquena de Trabajo Autogestivo - CASOTA). FACTS: At approximately 12:30 AM, two State Preventative Police patrol units violently and without reason stopped two comrades who left the political space, forcing them to show identification and submit to pat-downs. One of them was detained and violently put into a police vehicle, while the rest of the comrades in this political space gathered to try and rescue our comrade, and once we got into the house around 15 preventative police trucks began their repressive aggression, without caring that inside the house was a child of no more than two years old, using tear gas, gunfire, and beatings with bricks. For about an hour they attacked the house, destroying the main door and windows. As a result of the state police's aggression, various comrades have contusions from the rocks and billy clubs they repressed us with, and intoxicated with gas those of us who were inside the house, as well as causing considerable damage to the building, such as the destruction of the main door and windows and the bullet impacts that damaged the facade of the house. WE DENOUNCE: That this action was planned by the bad government of murderer Ulises Ruiz Ortiz as a consequence for our participation in the movement of the Popular Assembly of the People of Oaxaca, it is known that those who make up this space continue participating in the movement and we maintain a complete repudiation of the bad government of Ulises Ruiz and we continue in the search for a profound and radical change in our society in a peaceful but forceful manner and in an open struggle against the state, the bad government and the political classes of all the political parties. Moreover, we denounce that this cultural and political house, where diverse collectives and people in the APPO, among others VOCAL, meet, have been constantly criminalized by the bad government and some segments of the media in a tenacious manner, above all for what happened on November 25, 2008, when we participated in the march commemorating two years of the worst repression the people of Oaxaca have ever faced. WE DECLARE: That this aggression with not stop those who make up this space in their search for a society with justice, freedom, peace and dignity, even though this has awakened the hate, criminal anxiety and violence of the bad government. That this aggression is not an isolated incident but forms a part of the bad government's general strategy to strangle and suffocate the reorganization that is currently happening inside of the APPO. That this cultural and political space located at Crespo 408 is a place where we practice peaceful initiatives to construct a new society in an autonomous manner independent of the state, the economic powers, and the political classes of all political parties. This has been done principally through different workshops where we share our skills freely, as in silk screening, binding, editing and printing of texts, urban agriculture, a peoples kitchen, recycling, electronics repair and activities such as video screenings and talks, performances of resistance music, and other political-cultural events. WE REQUEST in a fraternal and firm manner the backing and solidarity of the people of Oaxaca who struggle and resist, of Section 22 of the democratic teachers' union, and of the Popular Assembly of the People of Oaxaca, that this aggression is a clear display of the repressive and violent climate through which Ulises Ruiz is again trying to suffocate the reorganization of our social movement, and above all, all those sectors the don't give in to negotiations or to the surrendering the principles of the APPO and the just struggle of the people of Oaxaca. WE FIRMLY DEMAND: An end to the repression and harassment of the different collectives and persons who live and work in this space and the complete repayment for the damages caused to the building as well as the immediate removal of the police forces who permanently harass and surveill this space. WE INVITE YOU TO PARTICIPATE IN A BLOCKADE ABOVE CRESPO 408 (ON THE SIDE OF THE RETIREMENT HOME) TODAY, DECEMBER 8, AT 5PM. WE MAKE AN URGENT CALL TO ALL THE PEOPLE OF OAXACA, THE ORGANIZATIONS IN THE POPULAR ASSEMBLY OF THE PEOPLE OF OAXACA, THE DEMOCRATIC TEACHERS' UNION OF SECTION 22, FOR THE REPUDIATION OF THIS AGGRESSION WHICH WE SUFFERED AND WE ASK FOR YOU TO JOIN US TO DEFEND THIS SPACE, WHICH IS OPEN TO THE PEOPLE OF OAXACA, IN A FORCEFUL AND MASSIVE MANNER. BECAUSE TO PROTEST IS NOT A CRIME: FREE POLITICAL PRISONERS! THE APPO LIVES, THE STRUGGLE CONTINUES! JUSTICE, FREEDOM, PEACE, DIGNITY! FRATERNALLY: OAXACAN AUTONOMOUS SOLIDARITY HOUSE OF SELF-SUSTAINING WORK (CASOTA) MAGONIST LIBERTARIAN COLLECTIVE OAXACAN VOICES CONSTRUCTING AUTONOMY AND FREEDOM (VOCAL) Oaxaca de Magon, City of Resistance, December 8, 2008.

Puns Not Pills in 2009 by Mickey Z.

A gymnast walks into a bar…hits his head. What’s funny to you? Does Chris Rock make you laugh or do you prefer the Three Stooges? Witty puns or slapstick? Sight gags or New Yorker cartoons? Fart jokes or Lenny Bruce? Laughter is universal. Everyone laughs…except maybe Leonard Nimoy. When it comes to what produces laughter, well, that’s a different story. After all, Jerry Lewis is revered as a genius in France. In Italy, Roberto Benigni packs ‘em in. We Americans have yet to fully explain Andrew Dice Clay. Obviously, humor can be a matter of opinion. And comedic opinions fluctuate widely. Duck walks into a bar and says: “I’m feelin’ down.” Describing what comedy does to us often has a decidedly humorless tinge. A good joke can be side-splitting and might crack you up, leave you in stitches or in tears…it could double you over or have you busting a gut. “You’re killing me,” we shout to the stand-up comic who has reduced us to putty…as the involuntary, simultaneous contraction of fifteen facial muscles occurs in tandem with a rhythmic series of noises. “Laughter is a reflex,” says journalist Arthur Koestler, “but unique in that it serves no apparent biological purpose; one might call it a luxury reflex.” One might…but one usually doesn’t. A lawyer passes the bar… Children laugh, on average, 400 times a day. For adults, the number is 15. So, it doesn’t matter what makes you laugh…but that you laugh. Doctors Gael Crystal and Patrick Flanagan call laughter “a form of internal jogging that exercises the body and stimulates the release of beneficial brain neurotransmitters and hormones.” Endocrinologist Stanley Tan has found that humor and exercise trigger “similar physiological processes,” i.e. releasing neuro-hormones that act “like an orchestra, each instrument makes a particular note. Laughter makes the entire orchestra more melodious or balanced. In other words, laughter brings a balance to all the components of the immune system.” In America, every house or apartment comes with a medicine chest…but a whoopee cushion is extra. I say we start a new movement to help recapture all those missing laughs…we’ll call it “Puns Not Pills.” A blonde, a rabbi, a transvestite, and a nun all walk into a bar. The bartender asks: “What’s this, some kind of joke?”

Monday, December 08, 2008

Edward VIII's links to a mystic

Edward VIII's links to a mystic

Edward VIII pictured in November 1936
Edward VIII pictured in November 1936 shortly before his abdication

Further evidence has emerged that King Edward VIII was seeing a mystic during the abdication crisis, prompting the Archbishop of Canterbury to intervene.

Previously undisclosed archives tell the story of a king in the grip of a man known as "The Yorkshire Yogi".

Dr Alexander Cannon trained as a medic, and dabbled in alternative treatments, mystic techniques and black magic.

Lambeth Palace was tipped off that the King was receiving hypnotic treatment from Dr Cannon for a drink problem.

The new archive evidence is examined by reporter Sean Stowell in BBC Radio 4's The Archive Hour.

Would you kindly tell me whether you think this Dr Cannon is a really trustworthy person?
Dr Cosmo Lang, Archbishop of Canterbury

Edward VIII reigned for only 11 months, abdicating in December 1936 so that he could marry the American divorcee Wallis Simpson.

The marriage was opposed by politicians of the day and would have caused a constitutional crisis if he had remained on the throne.

Archbishop's concerns

The allegation about the King's contact at that time with Dr Cannon was made in a letter from a country vicar to the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Cosmo Lang.

The Archbishop began an investigation into the claims and alerted the prime minister about his concerns.

In a letter dated 9 December 1936, Dr Lang wrote to William Brown, a Harley Street doctor, that he had been "informed by a credible person that a certain Dr Cannon... has been recently attending the King".

"Would you kindly tell me whether you think this Dr Cannon is a really trustworthy person? He seems from the accounts I have received to be one who encourages somewhat dangerous methods of treatment."

Dr Alexander Cannon, psychic medic with links to King Edward VIII
Dr Alexander Cannon was investigated by the security services

The Lambeth Palace documents have been studied in detail by the programme reporter, Sean Stowell, and Roger Sims, an archivist at the Manx Museum who has led the research into Cannon.

Mr Sims said: "It was believed that Cannon was having an adverse influence on the King, who was at that time under considerable pressure and who was having various treatments for various problems.

"They're very concerned about the influence Cannon is having on the King. He's an unorthodox medical practitioner and is becoming quite close to the King, a confidant."

Exotic remedies

Dr Cannon was the subject of an MI5 investigation and then an establishment cover-up before settling in virtual exile in the Isle of Man, where he put on magic shows and psychic performances.

Taped recordings of Dr Cannon reveal some of his beliefs and theories, from how to be happy to the secret behind magic-carpet journeys across Asia.

They were discovered at the home of an amateur magician on the Isle of Man and are now in the Manx Museum.

He employed two assistants, Joyce and Rhonda Deronda, who helped with performances.

One act involved putting Rhonda into a hypnotic trance to diagnose physical and psychological problems, as she glared at the patient.

The mystery was achieved against the background of exotic music and incense.

Dr Cannon was renowned for prescribing exotic remedies for stress, alcoholism, sex and confidence problems.

Treatments included electrotherapies and Tibetan hypnosis techniques, learned while Dr Cannon was a prison doctor in China.

Joyce Deronda, assistant to Dr Alexander Cannon
Joyce Deronda was one of Dr Alexander Cannon's assistants

He lived at the neo Gothic mansion, Ballamore Castle, and his flamboyant lifestyle and love of black, a flowing cape and winged collars led a judge on the island to describe him as "eccentric".

Before he moved to the Isle of Man, Dr Cannon practised in central London, with consulting rooms near Harley Street.

Further evidence of the King's links to Dr Cannon come in a recorded interview with Piers Compton, the former literary editor of The Universe Catholic newspaper.

He said he had been told that King Edward was in the grip of "the leader of black magic in England", who had been called in to treat him for drunkenness.

Mysticism was all the rage in the cocktail set of the 1930s. The rich and famous made Dr Cannon a wealthy man, spending a small fortune on treatments at his consulting rooms.

In another archived interview, a socialite of the day, John Gastor, said the King had been "entrapped and ensnared" by Dr Cannon.

Lambeth Palace was tipped off just as the news broke about the King's relationship with Mrs Simpson.

Eleven days later, the King abdicated.

His biographer Philip Ziegler, said it was probable the King did receive treatment from "the Yorkshire Yogic", but his major influence remained Mrs Simpson and not Dr Cannon.

World's oldest profession, too, feels crisis,

Monday, December 8, 2008

PRAGUE: On a recent night at Big Sister, which calls itself the world's biggest Internet brothel, a middle-aged man selected a prostitute from an electronic menu on a flat-screen television, pressing his index finger against it to review the age, hair color, weight and languages spoken by the women on offer.

Once he had chosen an 18-year-old brunette, he put on a mandatory burgundy terry cloth robe and proceeded to one of the brothel's luridly-lit theme rooms, an Alpine suite decorated with foam rubber mountains covered with fake snow.

Nearby, in the brothel's cramped control room, two young technicians used joysticks to control the dozens of hidden cameras that would film his performance and stream it, live, on Big Sister's Internet site.

Sex is free at Big Sister, but that is not cheap enough for some men. Customers get the cut rate in return for signing a release form that allows the brothel to film their sexual exploits.

Even with this financial incentive, Big Sister's marketing manager, Carl Borowitz, 26, a Moravian computer engineer, lamented that the global financial crisis had diminished the number of sex tourists in Prague.

"Sex is a steady demand, because everyone needs it, and it used to be taboo, which made a service like ours all the more attractive," said Borowitz, who looks more like Harry Potter than a Czech Larry Flynt. "But the problem today is that there is too much competition, too many free pornography sites and people are thinking twice before making impulse purchases, including paying for sex."

Big Sister is not the only brothel suffering the effects of a battered global economy. While the world's oldest profession may also be one of its most recession-proof businesses, brothel owners in Europe and the United States say belt-tightening caused by the global financial crisis is undermining a once-lucrative industry.

Egbert Krumeich, manager of Artemis, the largest brothel in Berlin, said that the recession had helped dent revenue by 20 percent in November, which is usually peak season for the sex trade. Meanwhile, in Reno, Nevada, the multimillion-dollar Mustang Ranch recently laid off 30 percent of its staff, citing a decline in high-spending clients.

Big Sister is not struggling as much as some of its more traditional rivals; its revenue is largely derived from the €30, or $40 monthly fee each of the company's 10,000 clients pay to gain access to its Web site.

But Borowitz said Big Sister hoped to offset a 15 percent drop in revenue over the past quarter by expanding into the United States. Big Sister also produces cable TV shows that air on Sky Italia and Television X in Britain, as well as DVDs like "World Cup Love Truck" and "Extremely Perverted."

Ester, an 18-year-old prostitute at Big Sister who declined to give her last name, said that big-spending clients had diminished, but noted that she was still earning nearly €3,000 a month, enough to pay rent and to pay for her favorite Louis Vuitton purses.

"The reason I do this is for the money," she said, after gyrating half-naked around a pole. Being filmed, she added, made her feel more like an actress than a sex object.

In the Czech Republic, where prostitution operates in a gray zone but is largely tolerated, the sex industry is big business, generating nearly €400 million in annual revenues, 60 percent of which is derived from foreign visitors, according to Mag Consulting, a tourism research company in Prague that also studies the sex industry.

Since the fall of Communism in 1989, the Czech Republic has become a major transit and destination country for women and girls trafficked from countries farther east, including Ukraine, Russia, Belarus and Moldova, the police say. Czechs and those transiting the country are most often sent to Western Europe or the United States.

Since 1989, tens of thousands of sex tourists have streamed into Prague, the pristinely beautiful Czech capital, drawn by inexpensive erotic services, an atmosphere of anonymity for customers and a liberal population tolerant of adultery.

Mag Consulting said 14 percent of Czech men admit to having had sex with prostitutes, compared with an EU-wide average of 10 percent.

Dozens of cheap flights to Prague have also ensured a steady flow of bachelor parties from across Europe. In 2005, an average of 30 flights arrived in Prague every day from Britain alone, a figure that analysts said has dropped by a third.

Jaromir Beranek, the director of Mag, said that when Germany and Britain - the two countries that send the most tourists to Prague - began to stagnate, sexual tourism suffered too.

The strength of the Czech crown against the euro, lower spending power and competition from even lower-cost sex capitals like Riga, Latvia, and Krakow, Poland, were threatening one of the country's most thriving sectors, he said. "If you ski and there is no snow, you stay home. The same applies to sex."

Many Czechs are more than happy to see Prague shrug off its reputation as one of the world's top-20 sex destinations, but some in the hotel industry are so alarmed by the drop in tourists that they are lobbying the government to legalize the trade, in hope that it will help lure more clients.

Jiri Gajdosik, the manager of Le Palais, one of Prague's top hotels, argues that regulating prostitution would help attract business by making prostitution safer. "We must ensure that the city loses its bad reputation of a city where foreigners are afraid that they will be robbed," he said in an interview with Hospodarske noviny, a Czech financial daily.

While some critics have warned that legalization would effectively transform the Czech state into the country's biggest pimp, the government is considering whether to emulate the Netherlands and Germany by regulating prostitution, just as it would any other industry. It is considering passing legislation by the end of this year that would require the Czech Republic's estimated 10,000 prostitutes to register with the local authorities.

Dzamila Stehlikova, the Green Party minister for minorities and human rights who is shepherding the bill through Parliament, said that forcing the business out into the open would make it harder for human traffickers to thrive, while also helping to assure mandatory health check-ups for prostitutes. Other advocates argue that legalization would generate millions of euros in tax revenue from an industry that now largely operates underground.

Not everyone is enthusiastic, including the prostitutes themselves, who warn that being issued prostitution identification cards would further stigmatize them.

Hana Malinova, director of Bliss Without Risk, a prostitution outreach group, said she feared the current credit crunch was pushing more poor women into prostitution, since they could make more money selling their bodies - about €120 for a half-hour session at some upmarket sex clubs in Prague - than flipping burgers at McDonalds.

Even with the economic downturn, she added, prostitution was far more resilient than other industries, though the downturn was discouraging adultery.

"An Austrian farmer from a remote area who is not married will still cross the border to the Czech Republic looking for sex," Malinova said. "On the other hand, the recession is helping to keep husbands at home who might otherwise be cheating on their wives."

Near the border with Germany, in towns in northern Bohemia that were long blighted by a daily influx of sex tourists seeking cheap thrills, many are rejoicing in the decline.

Only a few years ago, the town of Dubi was so overrun by prostitution that a nearby orphanage was opened to provide refuge for dozens of unwanted babies of prostitutes and their German clients. Sex could be purchased for as little as €5 - the price of a hamburger in nearby Dresden - drawing a daily influx of more than 1,000 sex tourists.

The more than three dozen brothels that once operated in Dubi have been winnowed down to four, with several of the former brothels having transformed into goulash restaurants or golf clubs.

Petr Pipal, the conservative mayor of Dubi whose zero-tolerance policy is largely responsible for the change, said that installing surveillance cameras and police officers at the entrance of brothels had deterred sex tourists by depriving them of their anonymity. Rising prices for sexual services and the global financial crisis, he added, were also helping to tame demand.

"Two or three years ago, we would get 1,000 men coming here for sex on a Friday night, which is a lot for a town of 8,000 people," Pipal said from police headquarters, where members of the anti-prostitution squad sat in a surveillance room, controlling outdoor cameras filming 13 now mostly deserted streets.

"The one good thing about the economic crisis is that it is helping to keep sex tourists away."

Even brothels in areas of the Czech capital most popular with tourists complain that they are suffering from economic hardship. On a recent night near Wenceslas Square in Prague, dozens of young men outside a row of neon-lit sex clubs beckoned tourists with offers of complimentary alcohol and racy strip shows.

Inside Darling, a giant multifloor cabaret famous for cancan shows modeled on the Moulin Rouge in Paris, scantily clad young women stripped on a stage surrounded by leopard skin couches, flashing disco balls and French impressionist paintings of naked women.

Suzana Brezinova, the club's marketing director, said sex tourism to Prague had been hit because prices had risen nearly to the levels of Rome. But she added that some high-spending businessmen still came to Darling to shrug off the economic doldrums, thinking nothing of splurging €1200 for a night of sexual pleasure and escapism.

"People have less money," she said. "But hard times also mean that people want to be cheered up."

Jan Krcmar contributed reporting from Prague and Victor Homola from Berlin.

Venezuela: Democracy Beyond Elections, film Preview and Discussion

by Tom Lacey Monday Dec 8th, 2008 5:35 PM
DATE Tuesday, Dec. 16th TIME: 7:00 PM Location: Niebyl-Proctor Librar, 6501 Telegraph Ave. Oakland, CA $5-$10 Donation requested, no one turned away for lack of funds INFO: 415-924-3227 lwlaura [at]
Following portions of the film Beyond Elections: Beyond Elections: Redefining Democracy in the Americas, Venezuelanalysis reporter James Suggett will provide an update on the status of implementation of social programs based on his personal interviews with grassroots organizations in the barrios of Venezuela. Sugget has lived and worked in Venezuela since August 2005, when he was a delegate at the Wold Festival of Youth and Students in Caracas. Prior to his work in Venezuela, James was a researcher at the institute for Policy Studies and a national youth organizer in Washington , D.C. Sponsors: Venezuela Solidarity Network, Task Force on the Americas, Workers Action, Hands Off Venezuela, San Francisco Peace and Freedom Party, Workers International League. Endorsers: Global Exchange, Green Party of Alameda County

Sunday, December 07, 2008

DECEMBER 10th, 2008 is International Human Rights Day

[Thanks to Nicky Rose for this post] Take a Stand Against Human Rights Violations in México! Stop the Merida Initiative aka Plan Mexico! Join us in actions at each of the 100 Congressional District offices (or in DC). For more information about how to take action read below. For inspiration WATCH THIS VIDEO: Now is the time to get creative. How will you take a stand? ------------------ Here is how to find your representative: But don't just write to them here, call and set up an in person appointment! If you never did that before, it's easy: say this..... "Hello, I want to thank the rep for their work on human rights and would like on Dec 10th International Human Rights Day, to discuss Plan Mexico, Latin America, and the Caribbean etc" And then contact us for more info if needed (and to let us know what district you've called - whether or not a meeting w/Reps is scheduled). Call and set up a December 10th appointment with your Representative's D.C. and/or District Offices this week. Under the guise of the 'war on drugs', the Merida Initiative threatens Mexico, Latin America and the Caribbean with a return to 80s style counter- insurgency targeted at activists like us throughout the hemisphere, namely those that dissent, challenge domination and oppression and offer more fair alternatives to live together - e.g. labor, anti-neoliberal trade, indigenous rights activists. Volunteer to lobby rally, meet, forum or create an event in your local community. Add your issue to the agenda! We need local volunteers across the country! Email h.bubbins((AT))gmail(DOT))com Sponsored by: Friends of Brad Will North American Congress on Latin America (NACLA), WESPAC Foundation Grannies for Peace NYC Chapter of the National Congress for Puerto Rican Rights Committee in Solidarity People El Salvador CISPES UCTP United Confederation of Taino People and a growing coalition, add your name and energy! More on Plan Mexico: Please forward far and wide! (And contact local Congresspersons office to ask for meeting).

ReDo-One Laptop Per Child

Give One. Get One. Now you can purchase the award-winning XO laptop for a child in your world and change the life of children all around the world. The XO laptop was designed especially for children. It has a rugged plastic exterior, built-in wireless, a unique dual mode display that is readable under direct sunlight and software designed for children to encourage exploration, creativity, and collaboration. For $399 you can give a laptop to a child in a developing country and receive one for a child in your life. Alternatively, you can make a cash donation for $199, the cost of a laptop, to help OLPC's mission to provide laptops to children. A third option is to participate in the Give100 or Give1000 program and make a difference to a whole school or community. For more about the project explore the links above or visit OLPC Children

Todo los buenos a tu tambien, alicia.

More GLoyd_Rowsey His trip to Cuba:

My Trip to Cuba in 1998

I was seeing a psychiatrist when I finally decided that the time had come to smuggle $50,000 of my own money into Cuba, and it’s a good thing I was seeing him, because I’d almost decided to talk to some other folks about it before leaving. Fortunately, I mentioned to Doctor X that I intended to talk about the main purpose of my trip, and he suggested that I shut up completely about my smuggling plan, forthwith.

Not that I thought any of my family or friends were untrustworthy. But I was considering informing the travel organization I was going with to Cuba about carrying concealed cash on the trip. But for Doctor X, I might have blabbed; and the travel organization might have scotched my going with them; and I might have lost the resolution to do the deed.

So mum it was, and My Trip to Cuba in 1998 was by far the most wonderful trip of my life. Some day I hope to describe more of it in detail. Here, however, I’ll just describe a humorous event – virtually a trope – that occurred to me going through Cancun customs; and an epiphany I experienced at the Havana airport; and an encounter I had with an old boxer I met in Santiago.

Leaving America for Cancun, Mexico, and entering Cuba from Cancun, Mexico was no sweat in 1998. But entering Cancun from America was another matter. If the Mexican authorities discovered you were carrying 50 long to anywhere, without declaring it, you’d lose the money and likely spend time in jail. And it was the first time I’d ever smuggled anything across an international border. Consequently, I was in a state of suspended frenzy when my turn came to approach the counter and talk to the inspector I’d been compulsively eyeing while standing in line.

Suddenly I was fumbling at everything, including my laughing attempt to converse in Spanish. Nonetheless, after a minute the guy told me to pass on through. I probably flashed something like a smile of appreciation, as I gathered my stuff together and passed on through. Then wave after wave of relief started coursing through me, and I regained consciousness of my moving legs, and of the fact that I was holding my little bag over my shoulder and pulling my big bag on it’s little trolley wheels. Then I became conscious of something else, a voice, not yelling but saying loudly and forcefully, “Senor!!, Senor!!” Yeah, it was directed at ME. At MY back. At me and my life-long dream of smuggling as much money as I could afford to Cuba - para La Gente Cubana, Fidel, y Che.

I turned, a broken shell of a man, and staring at the floor retraced my steps from the counter. Yes, the shouting official was the man who had just allowed me to pass on through. And I wasn’t even focusing on the man’s face when I heard him say, “So Sorry, Senor! You left your passport here on the desk.”

The epiphany occurred more than 12 hours later, in Cuba.

I cleared Mexican customs about 9 AM but my flight to Cuba didn’t leave until midnight. Those nine hours passed like so many minutes. The rest of the group gradually showed up around the Aero Cubana section of the airport, and we greeted and got to know each other. Some of them were sort of self-consciously wondering if those Mexican guys over there, or any of the strangers hanging around, were observing our growing group waiting to line up at the Aero Cubana counter. But my priority status of place and obviously happy self-confidence reassured them. Finally, the plane started loading, with all of us, and with a very varied lot of other passengers. And our little four-engine propjet took off into the darkness.

The flight over the unseen ocean blackness was exhilarating and mysterious, and time itself seemed suspended, as they say. I simply do not remember any conversations I had with my fellow passengers, although I remember talking as well as looking and spacing out in wonderment. I remember seeing clouds below, but no lights were visible until we broke through over Havana itself. God, it was beautiful. And just as suddenly, someone gave a cheer and everyone in the plane seemed to be chattering and laughing while looking around and fastening their seat-belts. And the joy didn’t dissipate; in fact, everyone was getting MORE ramped up, as the airport runways emerged below. The plane set down bumpily, taxied for a short time, and stopped in front of the main building.

My epiphany occurred upon reading the words, still scrawled on the airport’s main building: “Patria es Humanidad”.

The tour group’s itinerary was to spend a day in Havana; then to fly to Santiago de Cuba at the eastern end of the island and spend a couple of days in Santiago and its environs (including the Rio de Plata); then to drive back to Havana by bus, over two or three days, and spend several days in Havana before flying back to Cancun.

Well, that first night, I was so nervous in the hotel in Havana with my $50,000 that I couldn’t sleep. So I hid the money in my room and went out walking around 4 AM -- to view the incredible Spanish colonial architecture and the occasional Cuban couple and the monument of the invasion party’s boat, The Granma, located several blocks from our hotel.

Four or fives hours later, while the rest of the tour group bussed to and visited the Museum of the Revolution, I took a taxi to the Cuban Institute that worked with my travel group, and delivered the cash to a very busy, and surprised, and grateful Cuban lady there. Then I re-joined the group for lunch. We saw sights in Havana the rest of the day. No one asked why I’d missed the morning bus, and I saw no call to tell anyone about what I’d done. The next day we flew to Santiago.

My pre-dawn sightseeing had worked out so perfectly in Havana that I got up and went out before dawn in Santiago. Santiago was a small town compared to Havana, and our hotel overlooked the main square, dominated by a great church to the hotel’s left. I walked down one of the small streets exiting the square. There were no Spanish colonial buildings and instead of deserted, the streets contained occasional workers going to work early, or leaving a bar late, but mainly it was very quiet. No one seemed to notice me; I carried nothing in my hands; and I had only a few pesos in my pocket. July in Cuba is warm, and I was in shirtsleeves.

Suddenly, a small figure accosted me with his hand out for money. I gave him some, and we talked, in broken Spanish and broken English. I can’t remember two words we said, but I discovered he’d been a featherweight in the 1950’s, and he’d persuaded two American promoters to take him to the states and fight. He said he only fought six times, in Florida, and returned to Cuba very disappointed. The American promoters were just crooks and con men. I sympathized, and then invited him to come to the hotel veranda that afternoon at 5PM sharp, and to drink a mojito with me. We parted most amicably.

Several hours later, the group took a morning tour-bus trip around Santiago, and we ate lunch on the road. Then we returned to the hotel, and everyone disembarked for naps and/or afternoon activities by ourselves before our scheduled evening tour-bus trip would leave, at 5:30PM sharp. I tried to nap and couldn’t, so I strolled around the hotel’s environs a while and then hit the veranda around 4 PM, in the shade like the Cubans in the square below. God it was bright and peaceful and beautiful. And my first mojito was incomparably delicious.

As I recall, I was on only my second one when I saw my boxer acquaintance on the street below, heading toward the steps up to the veranda. I greeted him warmly and with relief that he’d actually come. He sat down with relief from exertion in the hot afternoon sum, sweating profusely. I ordered two mojitos, and we continued our conversation about boxing in the United States in the 1950’s. I told him how my father had boxed in college in the 1930’s, and how he took me to see Golden Gloves fights in San Antonio when I was in high school in the 1950’s, and once, to see the great Willie Pep in the San Antonio Auditorium. When the old boxer heard me say Willie Pep’s name, he smiled and told me the American promoters had told him they could get him a fight with Willie Pep. He said his promoters never mentioned Pep’s name again, but just took advantage of him, and how he spent up the tiny purses he got paid, adding that he returned to Cuba totally broke. I commiserated again, and we began talking about living conditions in Cuba at the time, seven years after the “Special Period in Peacetime” of personal sacrifice began, after the USSR became Russia again. The old boxer was bitter about his monthly unemployment payment, and explained that its insufficiency explained his panhandling strangers in the early morning.

Then I noticed several other tour-group members on the veranda, and I realized the evening sightseeing was getting itself together. The old boxer and I continued talking about present-day Cuba, and I ordered two more mojitos. After the drinks came, the light-bulb finally went off.

I asked the boxer if he’d ever heard the funny way some American aficionados of boxing referred to the sport. He said no. “La deportiva dulce,” I told him (the sweet sport.) The word “dulce” was hardly out of my mouth before my companion erupted in a guffaw, the only time I’d heard him laugh. And he was still laughing and smiling as I got up from the table, tears in my eyes, and left to get organized with the group.

Chavez Says Venezuela Economy to Face Difficult Years

By Daniel Cancel Dec. 7 (Bloomberg) -- Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said his country’s economy will face difficult years ahead as the world financial crisis expands and demand for oil, Venezuela’s principal export, wanes. Venezuela is prepared to confront the crisis and should restrict spending to strictly necessary items while saving as much as possible, Chavez said in comments on state television. “The world is in crisis,” he said. “It hasn’t hit Venezuela yet, but we can’t say that a crisis of this magnitude, depth and impact won’t affect us. The economy will go through difficult moments in coming years without a doubt. But Venezuela has what it takes to navigate through the storm.” Venezuela, the biggest oil exporter in the Western Hemisphere, depends on oil for 90 percent of its export revenue and 50 percent of its government spending. Chavez has called on his government to follow an “austere” budget next year and to reduce spending. The Venezuelan oil basket, a benchmark of prices for oil exports, dropped 12.9 percent last week to $34.49 a barrel on Dec. 5, according to the Energy and Oil Ministry which publishes the basket price each week. The price for Venezuelan oil has plunged 73 percent from a record in July. Venezuela’s economy is slowing after years of growth. The economy expanded 4.6 percent in the third quarter from a year earlier, the lowest rate in five years as annual inflation accelerated to a five-year high of 36 percent in September. To contact the reporter on this story: Daniel Cancel in Caracas at

Protest Art series - GLloyd Rowsey

Courtesy of Fraenkel Gallery, Pace/MacGill Gallery, Marc Selwyn Fine Art, and artnet’s Artist Works Catalogues Check out GLloyd_Rowsey's cool "Protest Art" series at OpEdNews: I'm sixty-seven and I live in Northern California. I graduated from college in 1963 and from law school in 1966. I retired in 2001, after working 23 years for the United States Forest Service. I have radical politics, and before going to work for the Forest Service in 1978 I spent ten years trying to contribute to the revolution.

multiple choice poem, by mickeyz

in her left hand, she cradled a (vibrator, remote control, cell phone) he entered, his hands covered with (blood, dirt, whiskey) their eyes met and they felt instant (lust, disgust, confusion) could it be their time to (hope, change, vote for a third party candidate)?

By Cindy Sheehan, Dec 4

From: By Cindy Sheehan, Dandelion Salad, December 4, 2008

“Everybody likes to dance to a happy tune” -Weezer

After President-Elect, Barack Obama, officially appointed Hillary Clinton as his Secretary of State, he had this to say: “Senator Clinton shares my core values.” Really? I thought that the two dueling Senators had diametrically opposing “Core values.” Isn’t that why most of the US anti-war movement supported Obama over Clinton? Wasn’t Obama the so-called “Anti-War Candidate?” I am amazed that there is no outcry from the “US anti-war movement” over Obama’s foreign policy team that includes Robert Gates who will remain as Obama’s Secretary of Defense. I don’t care how any Democratic shill wants to spin this one; it’s not spinnable if one really cares about peace and security.

Hillary Clinton is an unrepentant supporter of the Iraq War. She was, in fact, one of the major cheerleaders for that war and Bush’s policy of preventive strikes and occupation. Obama theoretically opposed the invasion until he became a Senator and then voted for every funding bill. I am sure that Clinton and Gates will be fully on board with the President Elect’s plan of sending more troops to Afghanistan to increase the D-RWoT (the Democrat’s Real War on Terror) and will continue the illegal raids into Pakistan without so much as a blink of their eyes.

After the official appointments were confirmed, I told two of my closest friends that Obama has killed the US anti-war movement that has been on life support while it worked feverishly to elect him. But, in reality, Obama didn’t kill the movement, the movement committed suicide in (again) supporting a non-anti-war candidate solely because he is not George Bush and he knows how to say the words “hope and change” with a straight face and no hint of irony in his voice. Besides it doesn’t hurt that he tacks on a (D) after his name.

One of these good friends told me that I should wait until the P-E is “sworn in” to see how he will implement policies and see if he fulfills his promises (”To keep about 50,000 troops in Iraq and send more to Afghanistan—like those promises?” I asked). My friend served in Vietnam in another insane war that happened to be started by a Democrat. He knows about violence for Empire and he wants to give the new Emperor a chance? As if the conferral of an oath suddenly gives a person some integrity and wisdom? The P-E’s wisdom in his choices, so far, and his lack of honesty in promising “Change We Can Believe In,” and then recycling the nightmare years of the Clinton-Bush regimes are appalling. I don’t know how anyone on the anti-war left can spin these developments as anything but shocking and disappointing.

My friend then said with resignation in his voice: “Look, I just can’t sustain the level of hatred that has consumed me for the last 8 years. I want to have hope. I don’t want to hate the president anymore.”

There’s the crux of the problem. First of all, who is advocating “hating” anyone but If anyone knows about the pain caused by the Bush cabal, it is I. My oldest son was killed for nothing but lies. War criminals and terrorists of the highest degree killed Casey: The US Military Industrial Complex. But if George Bush is a war criminal for ordering the illegal and immoral attacks on Iraq and Afghanistan, then what does that make the P-E and his team? They all voted to give George the authority to attack the countries and they all vote to help him pay for it! We can’t wait until the P-E becomes the serving P, because he was already sworn in as a US Senator and consistently betrayed the Constitution (voting to renew the USA PATRIOT ACT, for the FISA Modernization, and the bankster bailout, for instance) and world peace.

The rock band Weezer sings the mood of the country, aptly: “Everybody likes to dance to a happy tune.” I would like to swallow the empty rhetoric of Obama and believe that everything’s going to be fine; but I know better. Even before he takes the oath of office, Obama has already sold us out to the US Military Industrial Complex. He has also sold out the people of Iraq, Palestine (the forgotten oppressed people), Pakistan, and certainly the innocent civilians of Afghanistan.

How many more weddings in the Middle East will be bombed while the celebrants are trying to dance to a “happy tune?” I was in DC during Bush’s inaugural in 2004. I observed a lot of happy people dressed in furs and jewels (and boots and cowboy hats) there going to parties and celebrating because their guy had “won.” I accused them of dancing while people were dying. Won’t that be what’s going on next January 20th, also?

I don’t want to hear about “institutional momentum” and that the problems we are faced with after 60+ years of overt empire building are too enormous to solve. Obviously, Barack Obama does not want to solve any problems or stop, or even retard, the “institutional momentum” towards disaster because his cabinet picks, advisers and staff (AIPAC hack, Rahm Emanuel) are all deeply mired (quagmire?) in the corrupt institutions and are directly responsible for the profound crap we are in today.

We are now officially in a deep “recession,” which will sooner than later be a “Depression” that some experts say will last for years, not months, and Obama’s financial team helped get us there. We are also officially involved in two illegal and immoral wars that have already lasted longer than any other war the US has been involved in except Vietnam, and Obama’s foreign policy team helped get us there.

If Obama really desired change, then he would appoint people who have been trying to fix the horrible problems that only worsened during the Bush years. George and Dick didn’t begin any of this Empire for Profit, they only perfected it for their themselves and their cronies.

After Obama gained the nomination for the Democratic Party, many Hillary supporters began a group called “PUMA” which stands for “Party Unity My Ass?”

Well, I am starting a new group called: “CWCBIMA” (Quick-be-ma)

“Change We Can Believe in, My Ass.”

Anyone want to join me?

If we engage in a little soul-searching for our “Core Values,” I am sure that we would find that they in no way match the P-E’s and his choice for Secretary of State.

Democratic Lords of War are just as monstrous as Republican Lords of War.

When’s the first mass demo in DC against the Democratic Lords of War and their mayhem?

Sign me up, I can’t wait for that one.


Extortion – Vote for Obama or you get more of the same by William Blum

Ralph Nader Challenges Obama while visiting UB Law School

Who is Paul Volcker? Obama appoints a longtime enemy of the working class

The Economy Sucks and or Collapse 2


The Fourth Spirit is SAMIGINA or GAMIGIN

WYRD ALICE SAMIGINA: The Fourth Spirit is SAMIGINA or GAMIGIN, a Great Female Shaman of a Marchioness. She appears at first as a cracked and broken Hans Bellmer China Doll riding a rocking horse to which she is bound by chains. She will look very much like an elfin Alice in Wonderland to then assume more human form to appear as an angelic young girl at the request of the Magician whose nature is very sexual to hunger much as a Succubus desiring fellatio whence the Magician must beware for she induces Dreams most shocking. She is the one time Little-Girl Spirit whom resided within those Dolls found hanging inside the Shaman drum to know the Healing ways of the ancient ‘Siberian’ Shamans. Samigina can find those tormented lost souls of the living as well as of the dead wherever they be and to return them to their rightful places and is a powerful Girl-Guide and protector into the Wonderlands of the Underworld in order to access Ancestral Memories. She can also take one unto the heights of Heaven via a Looking-Glass Pole-Star portal of a Vaginal Wormhole into other Parallel Universes whereby her Master is then enabled to walk Alternate Worlds to know of the Dead yet Alive for there is no Death, merely Transitions between Universes Parallel to ones own, and when to visit, one is a Ghost. She will at times be seen when in human form to be drumming ecstatically naked with her braided hair wild and free and all serpentine and she to be Mongolian in looks born of the Altai and exceedingly beautiful to look upon. She will, sometimes manifest as a small horse that one can find in Mongolia or that of an eight-legged female centaur of an Unmarked, Marked State operator tethered to the Multiverse world tree upon whose back she will allow her Master to ride. She governs 30 Legions of hybrid Power Animals, which manifest as surreal living toys as well as numerous other playful Little-Lost-Girl Shaman Spirits like unto herself as her inferiors.

Saturday, December 06, 2008


Seth Speaks Jane Roberts As you read the words upon this page, you realize that the information that you are receiving is not an attribute of the letters of the words themselves. The printed line does not contain information. It transmits information. Where is the information that is being transmitted then, if it is not upon the page? The same question of course applies when you read a newspaper, and when you speak to another person. Your actual words convey information, feelings, or thoughts. Obviously the thoughts or the feelings, and the words, are not the same thing. The letters upon the page are symbols, and you have agreed upon various meanings connected with them. You take it for granted without even thinking of it that the sym-bols - the letters - are not the reality - the information or thoughts - which they attempt to convey. Now in the same way, I am telling you that objects are also symbols that stand for a reality whose meaning the objects, like the letters, transmit. The true information is not in the objects any more than the thought is in the letters or in words. Words are methods of expression. So are physical objects in a different kind of medium. You are used to the idea that you express yourselves directly through words. You can hear yourself speak them. You can feel the muscles in your throat move, and if you are aware, you can perceive multitudinous reactions within your own body - actions that all accompany your speech. Physical objects are the result of another kind of expression. You create them as surely as you create words. I do not mean that you create them with your hands alone, or through manufacture. I mean that objects are natural by-products of the evolution of your species, even as words are. Examine for a moment your knowledge of your own speech, however. Though you hear the words and recognize their appropriateness, and though they may more or less approximate an expression of your feeling, they are not your feeling, and there must be a gap between your thought and your expression of it. The familiarity of speech begins to vanish when you realize that you, yourself, when you begin a sentence do not know precisely how you will end it, or even how you form the words. You do not consciously know how you manipulate a staggering pyramid of symbols, picking from them precisely those you need to express a given thought. For that matter, you do not know how you think. You do not know how you translate these symbols upon this page into thoughts, and then store them, or make them your own. Since the mechanisms of normal speech are so little known to you on a conscious level, then it is not surprising that you are equally unaware of more complicated tasks that you also perform - such as the constant creation of your physical environment as a method of communication and expression. It is only from this viewpoint that the true nature of physical matter can be understood. It is only by comprehending the nature of this constant translation of thoughts and desires - not into words now, but into physical objects - that you can realize your true independence from circumstance, time, and environment. Now, it is easy to see that you translate feelings into words or bodily expressions and gestures, but not quite as easy to realize that you form your physical body as effortlessly and unselfconsciously as you translate feelings into symbols that become words. You have heard the expression before, I am sure, that the environment expresses a particular individual's personality. I am telling you that this is a literal and not symbolic truth. The letters upon the page have the reality only of ink and paper. The information they convey is invisible. As an object, this book itself is only paper and ink. It is a carrier of information. You may perhaps argue that the book was manufactured physically, and did not suddenly erupt through Ruburt's skull, already printed and bound. You in turn had to borrow or purchase the book, so you may think, "Surely, I did not create the book, as I created my words." But before we are finished we will see that basically speaking, each of you create the book you hold in your hands, and that your entire physical en-vironment comes as naturally out of your inner mind as words come out of your mouths, and that man forms physical objects as unselfconsciously and as automatically as he forms his own breath. The peculiar, particular aspects of your physical world are dependent upon your existence and focus within it. The physical universe does not contain physical objects of solidity, width and depth, for example, to those whose existence is not within it. Other kinds of consciousness coexist within the same "space" that your world inhabits. They do not perceive your physical objects, for their reality is composed of a different camouflage structure. You do not perceive them, and generally speaking they do not perceive you. This is a general statement, however, for various points of your realities can and do coincide, so to speak. These points are not recognized as such, but they are points of what you could call double reality, containing great energy potential; coordinate points, indeed, where realities merge. There are main coordinate points, pure mathematically, sources of fantastic energy, and subordinate coordinate points, vast in number. There are four absolute coordinate points that intersect all realities. These coordinate points also act as channels through which energy flows, and as warps or invisible paths from one reality to another. They also act as transformers, and provide much of the generating energy that makes creation continuous in your terms. Your space is filled with these subordinate points, and as you will see later, these are important in allowing you to transform thoughts and emotions into physical matter. When a thought or emotion attains a certain intensity, it automatically attracts the power of one of these subordinate points, and is therefore highly charged, and in one way magnified, though not in size. These points impinge upon what you call time, as well as space. There are certain points in time and space, therefore, (again in your terms), that are more conducive than others, where both ideas and matter will be more highly charged. Practically speaking, this means that buildings will last longer; in your context, that ideas wedded to form will be relatively eternal. The pyramids, for example, are a case in point. These coordinate points - absolute, main, or subordinate - represent accumulations or traces of pure energy, minute to an extreme if you are thinking in terms of size - smaller than any particle of which your scientists know for example, but composed of pure energy. And yet this energy must be activated. It is dormant until then - and it cannot be activated physically. A few clues here that might help you, or mathematicians. There is an ever-so-minute alteration of gravity forces in the neighborhood of all of these points, even of the subordinate ones, and all the so-called physical laws to some extent or another will be found to have a wavering effect in these neighborhoods. The subordinate points also serve in a way as supports, as structural intensification within the unseen fabric of energy that forms all realities and manifestations. While they are traces or accumulations of pure energy, there is a great difference between the amount of energy available in the various subordinate points, and between the main and the absolute points. These are points, therefore, of concentrated energy. The subordinate points are far more common, and practically speaking, affect your daily concerns. There are better places than others to build houses or structures - points where health and vitality are strengthened, where, other things being equal, plants will grow and flourish and where all beneficial conditions seem to meet. Some people can sense such neighborhoods instinctively. They occur within certain angles made by coordinate points. The points obviously are not themselves physical - that is, they are not visible, though they may be mathematically deduced. They are felt, however, as intensified energy. In a given room, plants will grow more effectively in a particular area than in other areas, providing that both areas contain such necessary requirements as light. All of your space is permeated by these coordination points, so that certain invisible angles are formed. This is highly simplified, but some angles will be more "on the outskirts" than others, and will be less favorable for all conditions of growth and activity. In speaking of these angles we will treat them as three-dimensional, though they are of course multidimensional. Since the nature of these angles is not the main topic of my book, it is not possible to explain them thoroughly here. They will seem to be stronger during certain times than other times, though these differences have nothing to do with either the nature of the coordinate points or with the nature of time. Other elements affect them, but we need not be concerned with these now. The concentrated energy points are activated by emotional intensities that are well within your normal range. Your own emotions or feelings will activate these coordinates whether you know of them or not. Greater energy will therefore be added to the original thought or feeling, and its projection into physical matter accelerated. Now this applies regardless of the nature of the feeling; only its intensity is involved here. These points are like invisible power plants, in other words, activated when any emotional feeling or thought of sufficient intensity comes into contact. The points themselves intensify whatever activates them in a quite neutral manner. This is highly simplified, but the subjective experience of any consciousness is automatically expressed as electromagnetic energy units. These exist "beneath" the range of physical matter. They are, if you prefer, incipient particles that have not yet emerged into matter. These units are natural emanations from all kinds of consciousness. They are the invisible formations resulting from reaction to any kind of stimuli. They very seldom exist in isolation, but unite under certain laws. They change both their form and their pulsation. Their relative "duration" depends upon the original intensity behind them - that is, behind the original thought, emotion, stimuli, or reaction that brought them into being. Again, highly simplified here, under certain conditions these coagulate into matter. Those electromagnetic units of high enough intensity automatically activate the subordinate coordinate points of which I have spoken. They are, therefore, accelerated and propelled into matter far more quickly, in your terms, than units of lesser intensity. Molecules would appear as large as planets to these units. Atoms and mol-ecules and planets and these electromagnetic energy units are simply different manifestations of the same principles that bring the units themselves into being. It is only your relative position, your focus within an apparent space and time, that makes this seem so unlikely. Each thought or emotion therefore exists as an electromagnetic energy unit or as a combination of these under certain conditions, and often with the help of coordinate points, they emerge into the building blocks of physical matter. This emergence into matter occurs as a neutral "result" regardless of the nature of any given thought or emotion. Mental images, accompanied by strong emotion, are blueprints therefore upon which a corresponding physical object, or condition or event, will in your terms appear. The intensity of a feeling or thought or mental image is, therefore, the important element in determining its subsequent physical materialization. The intensity is the core about which the electromagnetic energy units form. In your terms, the more intense the core, the sooner the physical materialization. This would apply whether the mental image was a fearful one or a joyful one. Now there is a very important problem here: If your turn of mind is highly intense and you think in vivid mental emotional images, these will be swiftly formed into physical events. If you are also of a highly pessimistic nature, given to thoughts and feelings of potential disaster, then these thoughts will be quite faithfully reproduced in experience. The more intense your imagination and inner experience, therefore, the more important it is that you realize the methods by which this inner experience becomes physically real. Your thoughts and emotions begin their journey into physical actualization at the moment of conception. If you happen to live in an area where the coordinate environment is strong, one of those areas I have spoken of as unusually conducive, then it will seem that you are deluged by illnesses or disasters, if these are the nature of your thoughts, because all thought is so fertile in this environment. If, on the other hand, your feelings and subjective experience are fairly well balanced, fairly optimistic and creative in a constructive manner, then it will seem to you that you have been blessed with unusual luck, for your pleasant suppositions will come to pass so quickly. Briefly, in your own country, the West Coast, portions of the East Coast, Utah, the Great Lakes, the Chicago area, the Minneapolis area, and some other southwestern areas, are in those neighborhoods of excellent coordinate activity, for the reasons given. Materialization will quickly appear, and potentials therefore for both constructive and destructive elements are high. These coordinate points themselves activate the behavior of atoms and molecules as, say for example, the sun aids the growth of plants. The coordinates activate the generating behavior of atoms and molecules, and greatly encourage their cooperative abilities; their tendency to swarm, so to speak, into organizations and structural groupings. The coordinate points magnify or intensify the behavior, the latent spontaneity inherent within the properties of physical matter. They act as psychic generators, propelling what is not yet physical into physical form. Now, this is not to be a technical book, so this is not the time nor place to discuss thoroughly the action, behavior or effects of these coordinate points; nor of the electromagnetic energy units - those natural emanations of consciousness of which I spoke. I want it known, however, that thoughts and emotions are formed into physical matter by very definite methods and through laws quite valid, though they may be presently unknown. In other portions of the Seth material these processes will be made very clear for those of you who desire to pursue the question further, or those who may be interested from a scientific point of view. Here, we are discussing such issues only because they touch upon the multidimensional aspect of personality. They allow you to materialize certain subjective experiences into three-dimensional reality. Before I leave the subject, however, let me remind you that these emanations in varying degrees rise from all consciousness, not simply your own. This includes cellular consciousness as well, so that an invisible network of electromagnetic units pervades your entire atmosphere; and upon this webwork and from it, the particles of physical matter are then formed. A whole book could easily be written upon this subject. Information regarding the "locations" of main and absolute coordinate points could be highly advantageous, for example. You pride yourselves on your technology, and the production of durable goods, buildings and roads, yet many of these are insignificant when compared to other structures within the "past." A true understanding of the way in which an idea becomes physical matter would result in a complete revamping of your so-called modern technology, and in buildings, roads, and other structures that would far outlast those you now have. While the psychic reality behind physical matter is ignored, then you cannot use those methods effectively that do exist, nor can you take advantage of them. You cannot understand the psychic reality that is the true impetus for your physical existence unless you first realize your own psychic reality, and independence from physical laws. My first purpose, therefore, is to make you aware of the inner identity of which you are part, and to clear away some of the intellectual and superstitious debris that prevents you from recognizing your own potentialities and freedom. Then perhaps you can begin to learn the many ways in which that freedom can be used.

Caracas: 10 Years of Revolution

“It still smells of sulphur around here!” Hugo Chavez’s dramatic voice reverberates around our pick-up jeep. Jorge R. is driving but answers his mobile and the rest of us grin. Mr. Chavez’ grand repertoire of sound-bites are very popular here, this ringtone was a rap remix of the wisecrack he made about George W Bush from the UN pulpit. “You can download him singing, giving speeches, almost anything” Jorge assures me as we drive deep into Caracas’ ranchos or barrios (the shantytowns also known as favelas in Brazil) comprising over half the capital’s population and some of the most hazardous neighbourhoods in the world. Or perhaps President Hugo was referring to the acrid aftermath of the gun battles that now plague areas such as these in this vertiginous South American capital.

Jorge looks the part in his red hat and t-shirt, embroidered with the slogan Ahora Venezuela es de Todos (roughly: Now Venezuela is For Everybody). I ask him what if his phone rang while he was in the designer, ultra-posh Centro San Ignacio? He shrugs confidently, “It’s a free country”. With 95% of the media in opposition, Jorge makes his point. “I’m sure they [the opposition] have King Juan Carlos of Spain’s ‘why don’t you just shut up!’” he smiles, and we all laugh at the memory. “People actually ran into the street to celebrate that,” he admits. An amusing anecdote from a city now used to massive demonstrations. Polarization and funny ringtones, Venezuela today could be characterized by this.

With shifting balances of power, ideological evolution in the US and new global rules for finance due to be drawn up, busy months of meetings lie ahead for the G20 states. For many, that Hugo Chavez will not be present is a great pity and to scores more a great relief. In throwing its own alternative into the geopolitical arena, the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela has become a central figure in Latin American politics but at a cost: it has suffered a bitter domestic “divorce,” the repercussions of which continue to fester. As with any rupture, there are two sides to every story. I have come to hear both.

We pull our jeep up in a cul-de-sac of the San Juan barrio beside a new clinic, the elevation grants us spectacular views of the valley that is Caracas. I’m spending the day with four bright young people from the Corazon Adentro Misión Socialista (Heart Inside Socialist Mission). Their vision is to engage citizens in collective combat against inequality by developing culture as a force for socialist change, also to give the underprivileged an outlet for their creative talents. It is a permanent, ongoing program with cultural events or “happenings” occurring throughout the city 365 days of the year, with a special focus on the ranchos. It is 0930 on Saturday and the barrio is sunny and calm, belying its reputation as one of the “harder” slums. I ask Xiomara C. what does she mean, though “hard” is often self-explanatory.

“We can’t get in up there,” she say’s pointing up to not far from where we stand. I pick out a group of young men watching us from one of the shadowy, serpentine stairs that define the barrio. “It’s ‘controlled’ by gangs, last week one of our team was intercepted by armed youths, they didn’t hurt her but menacingly told her to go away. This red shirt is worth something,” she grins “we do get the respect of some gangs and on occasion they afford us their ‘protection’” She confirms this “protection” is not a pseudonym. On one occasion a spectator was shot dead during an act as he stood amongst the children, but such events are rare. “Many of the youngsters have kids too and appreciate what we’re doing. We’ll get in up there eventually,” she adds with a determined smile. Xiomara works mainly in Petare, situated to the east of the city: it is Latin America’s most populous shanty-town with almost a million inhabitants and made up of over 380 distinct barrios.

“Wake up!” shouts a local volunteer through a megaphone to the breeze-block houses crammed all around us, “come see the clowns and jugglers, there’s a magician coming too, get up before the rains hit,” she bellows out. At the far end of the valley dark clouds are gathering, pushing our way. Under an unforgiving sun we tidy up a disused basketball court and carry chairs down many steps for the audience we hope will show. With weed whackers in hand, others clear a green space and the nurses sweep out an old dressing-room.

“When the mothers bring their kids down for the spectacle, we give vaccinations to those who haven’t yet got them,” says Jorge, and he asks me if I’ve had mine. “The Revolution has reduced infant mortality a great deal in ten years,” he adds proudly (18.2% decrease from 1998-2006). The jabs are for hepatitis, polio and tetanus. There is a respectable turnout of women and kids and thankfully the tropical thunderstorm headed our way defies all logic and veers away. Xiomara winks and says she had a word with the man upstairs. I consider making a joke about the Chavez controlling the weather, but I know better, if he did he have these ranchos too. On our way out, San Juan has woken up and there are groups of young men drinking beer out in the narrow streets, it is noon and Ivan E. makes a comment of concern.

Pressing on, we cross western Caracas’s never-ending expanse of extemporized housing, reaching close to the clouds and passing through a “Colombian” rancho of dire poverty. The shockingly flimsy abodes are surrounded by debris and rubbish, yet the vivid hillside vegetation is stunning, tropical flowers and lush grasses provide another contrast in this city of extremes. There is unusual quiet in the jeep as we roll gently by; the only building of note is an army outpost with the soldiers safely grouped together on the veranda clutching automatic rifles. They recognise the jeep, our team’s red shirts and give us an imperceptible nod.

I almost ask Ivan what makes it Colombian around here but stop short; I know “Colombian” and “illegal” are synonymous here. As if reading my mind, he volunteers, “They have buses coming from Colombia that don’t even mention Caracas anymore on the destination, nowadays they specify the barrios.” Immigration has been an issue here since the 50’s when millions of hopeful workers began to pour in and the ‘Tale of Two Cities’ was born. Ivan reckons the population has grown by two million since 1998; most have landed here in the ranchos.

Crossing the Caracas fault line with its seismically wrinkled topography we finally arrive at the aptly named Barrio Nuevo Horizonte. I am transfixed by some breathtaking views and a rainbow arching the new highway viaduct far below. Only up here in the hills have I seen kids running around being kids, an often perilous luxury (stray bullets often hit children) denied those back in the city. We are given a warm welcome by the locals and the staffers of the tiny community centre. We are served some delicious chupe, though I am not enjoying it. My concern is that there is nothing to stop the six young men eyeing me from the steep alleyway outside from “express” kidnapping me or worse. This is a new phenomenon down in the city, people are grabbed from cars, doorsteps or wherever and then the ransom call comes. 80% of the 450 reported cases since January were resolved though the police generally get informed after the fact. A child pushes a visitor’s book under my nose and suddenly this small act banishes all my fears, I sign and look up. The ‘Revolution” are watching me with a clear and steadfast regard, I can see there is pride here in the barrio. This dramatic change of consciousness is what has shaped the last decade for the people of Venezuela.

The Cuban musicians show up and play to a small crowd of women and children. Many more listen from the windows around and above. The band wraps up with Chan Chan just as dusk beckons and the rancho magically transforms into a coruscating wonderland of lights.

“Such a nice change from the sounds of gunfire,” a mother says, leading her children away. Like most of the Ministry workers with us, Xiomara is from a tough barrio. She explains to me why there are long metal tubes lined up against the houses. “We’re improving the sewage system, until now it’s been largely improvised,” she adds pointing to a stack of cement bags. “A lot of stairs have been repaired.” This barrio retrofit is done in conjunction with the locals who lend a hand with their not inconsiderable DIY expertise. “It’s about generating barrio culture, empowerment and avoiding the handout mentality. We build the future together” she says proudly but her smile quickly vanishes “if all this was to end…” she trails off.

December 6, 2008 will mark a decade since Hugo Chavez swept to power in a landslide democratic victory. Much has since been documented about this socialist icon, the truth no doubt generously interspersed with innuendo, propaganda and hidden agendas. Having lived in Venezuela from ’94-’98 it seemed a logical moment to return to Caracas, take stock and analyse what has happened in the intervening years. History tells us they have been eventful years indeed: 12 elections and one defeat for the Bolivarian Republic, a new constitution, catastrophic mudslides, a failed coup, huge oil revenues to leverage sweeping reforms and an overwhelming tide of immigration into the capital. Externally, China had become a major player in the oil stakes, ready and willing to gain on any trade deal that might be the US’ loss.

Recalling briefly the period ’94, from Chavez’ release from jail (for a failed coup against president C.A. Perez in ‘92) to ’98, we can find a paradise in social, political and economic meltdown. Perez wound up under house arrest (corruption), the incumbent presided over a coalition of 17 parties/independents and the IMF was called in to bail out the banks. Chronic Poverty reached new depths and capital flowed out of the country. Pepsi changed to Coke overnight and homicide stats went from the usual morbid to outright horrific. The oligarchs and expats who managed to reconcile living in this near-anarchy could still have a splendid time in amongst the contrasts. Caracas’ pricey restaurants and chic nightspots rivalled the best in Europe, stunning beaches, pristine jungles, Andean idyll and the ancient Tepuys more than made up for the lack of cultural offerings. Most of these jewels lay beyond the financial reach of the average working Venezuelan. In the cities student riots became so regular that Tuesdays became known as Revolution Day. Fatalism had reached such a nadir that jokes such as to be shot for a pair of Nike’s was considered a natural death, appeared on the front pages of national newspapers. At least the famed Caraqueño sense of humour seemed bulletproof.

The first thing that struck me upon my return to Caracas was the traffic. What was once daunting is now epic: a relentless cacophony of horns, engines and alarms combine to provide a wearying soundtrack to a city that is under siege to the automobile. The gleaming cable car being built into the San Augustine barrio looks impressive but it’s not operational yet. One get’s the feeling that if this urban nightmare is not resolved soon, the tenuous link with normality could be broken altogether. The skyline reflects a building boom with many new commercial centres amongst the high rises, including the posh Centro San Ignacio and Centro Sambil. The leafy Las Mercedes neighbourhood now boasts huge car showrooms along its gridlocked avenues and as ever, cutting edge boutiques and bars down the side streets.

Someone has been spending money.

The temples of consumption bear testament to the near decade long windfall of petrodollars and the increase in variety is significant. However, money spenders will notice tucked in amongst the shops are the ubiquitous Bolivarian labour rights offices, a powerful psychological reminder of change. Government murals with red silhouettes of the president proclaiming the value of unity through hard work can be seen from the ranchos to the city proper. Grand murals from the SENIAT (Integrated Customs Administration and Tax Services) remind citizens of the importance of paying taxes, the function of taxation and employers are reminded of their statutory obligations, unthinkable a decade ago. This major shift away from the US influenced ideology to a more European-like system of free education, health and social services with national insurance is the bedrock of the Bolivarian Republic. Passing a once famous Italian restaurant I remark how it must have fallen by the wayside to Paco, a Galician immigrant from the fifties. “Not at all,” he says, “they were shut down for not respecting workers rights!”

Caracas and politics are inseparable. When canvassing opinions about the Bolivarian government the response is swift; issues uttered first off are corruption and insecurity. To imagine a government without corruption in a continent where it is endemic might be stretching the imagination, but this was one of Chavez’ great promises, tackling graft and delinquency. Left wing pilfering always seems worse than when the right caves into allurement but there is no doubt this matter wounds the president’s reputation deeply. Whilst the party faithful will dispute allegations of venality, there is almost universal agreement about El Hampa (insecurity).

“It’s true there have been big changes in ten years…,” Omar, 35, a taxi driver from Petare tells me with a smile, “…our kids get three meals a day in school, some groceries are subsidised and I can get a local doctor (Cuban) if my boy gets a sore tummy, but it’s not enough. Things have gotten too dangerous, we often block the road with our cars to protest the murders of our colleagues, it’s very bad”. Omar’s sentiments are echoed by many others. In last week’s municipal elections the opposition candidate in Petare scored a win right in the Revolution’s heartland, down in part to frustration with incomplete and unfulfilled promises, but mainly safety. Over the past fifteen years violent crime has become ingrained in the psyche of Caraqueños. In the upmarket enclaves electric fences are now an ugly accessory atop the spiked railings once deemed sufficient and private security is still big business. “It’s a source of deep stress,” says Eduardo P., 45, who fits coffee machines and fridges for cafés and bars. “You get stuck in traffic for hours and worry about getting home too late, before the malandros (thugs) set out, though in reality, you could get hit anywhere, anytime.”

But Eduardo is not all critical. “You have to recognise the good things Chavez has done, he’s had great ideas. Millions have overcome their illiteracy thanks to the Robinson Mission, my brother got a national bank loan for his goat cheese farm down on the coast, he’d never have got that before.” I ask him why he’s anti-Chavista then. “I think he’s lost the plot, you know…,” he winks. “Back in ’98 he had a golden opportunity, he should have engaged the opposition not alienate them, and many of his people are opportunist and corrupt, who do you think goes to all these new shops? I don’t know about him but the others…” Eduardo went on to compare the Chavez entourage to the oligarchs of the past and indulged in some salacious rumours before ending with “when Chavez is gone the positive aspects of his time will have to be continued, we expect that from the opposition, we’ll even improve on them. He’s been a very important phase in this country’s development.”

Adolfo B. who voted “red” in ’98 is a professor of economics at a private university in Caracas, evokes harsh condemnation. “The importance of private institutions has been eroded; unilateral action of fundamental economic matters is being taken with neither expertise nor experience. Most of our capable people have been driven out and inefficiency is rife in the government.” He is clearly exasperated: “He seems more concerned with trivial stuff like changing the shield on the flag because Bolivar’s horse used to veer to the right, now it goes to the left. Now we celebrate Indigenous Resistance Day instead of the 1492 landings (el Día de la Raza). Too much symbolism, he’s only interested in holding onto power.” I ask him if he thinks the president will hang on until 2013 when his mandate expires; he shrugs and admits it’s a long shot. “The people are eating their savings, petroleum infrastructure is failing and oil prices are dropping, inflation is around 35% and we still import most our food. We’re in a pressure cooker.”

Bearing in mind the current global financial crisis bewailing the West, perhaps judging a developing country socialist or not, by its current macroeconomic success might seem unfair. Nevertheless, a quick glance some figures is helpful. Thanks to oil, the Venezuelan GDP rose from 85.8 billion USD ’97 to 184.5 billion USD in 2007. Real income increased by 137% from 2003-07 and though the poor are living better, problems such as housing and social mobility remain.

I did not visit the interior so I cannot speak of any infrastructural progress or agrarian reforms.

The scale of the challenge facing the Bolivarian Revolution back in ’98 left no illusions, a decade later both the opposition and pro-Chavez groups can point to failures and successes. The ramifications of last weekend’s local elections will be critical for Hugo Chavez, whether he can ride the challenge of a reinvigorated and young opposition (or how they will react to his recurring proposal to expand presidential term limits), time will tell. The scourge of drugs threatens to undo the successes in the barrios and Caracas’ urban chaos is a genuine environmental emergency.

Ultimately the most durable legacy of this period will lie in the sweeping social reforms and the eradication of a once blanket indifference towards the neglected majority. That may yet be an example, not just to developing countries but to the crisis-hit wealthier nations of the world at large.

Ian Swan is a Barcelona based Irish writer who lived in Venezuela from 1993-98. He can be reached at: Read other articles by Ian.

Idled workers occupy factory in Chicago

By RUPA SHENOY, Associated Press Writer December 6, 2008 CHICAGO Outraged and determined Chicago factory workers who were abruptly laid off this week have occupied their former workplace and say they won't leave until they get the severance and vacation pay they say they're owed. The employees say they received three days notice their plant was closing. In the second day of a sit-in on the factory floor Saturday, about 250 union workers occupied the building in shifts while union leaders outside criticized a Wall Street bailout they say is leaving laborers behind. About 50 workers sat on pallets and chairs inside the Republic Windows and Doors plant, supplied with donated food, sleeping bags and blankets. Leah Fried, an organizer with the United Electrical Workers, said the Chicago-based vinyl window manufacturer failed to give its 300 employees the 60 days' notice required by law before shutting. During the takeover, workers have been shoveling snow and cleaning the building, Fried said. "We're doing something we haven't done since the 1930s, so we're trying to make it work," Fried said. She said the company can't pay employees because its creditor, Charlotte, N.C.-based Bank of America, won't let them. Crain's Chicago Business reported that Republic Windows' monthly sales had fallen to $2.9 million from $4 million during the past month. In a memo to the union, obtained by the business journal, Republic CEO Rich Gillman said the company had "no choice but to shut our doors." Bank of America received $25 billion from the government's financial bailout package. The company said in a statement to news outlets Saturday that it isn't responsible for Republic's financial obligations to its employees. Representatives of Republic Windows did not immediately respond Saturday to calls and e-mails seeking comment. "Across cultures, religions, union and nonunion, we all say this bailout was a shame," said Richard Berg, president of Teamsters Local 743. "If this bailout should go to anything, it should go to the workers of this country." Outside the plant, protesters wore stickers and carried signs that said, "You got bailed out, we got sold out." Larry Spivack, regional director for American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, Council 31, said the peaceful action will add to Chicago's rich history in the labor movement, which includes the deadly 1886 Haymarket affair, when Chicago laborers and anarchists gathering in a square on the city's West Side drew national attention when an unidentified person threw a bomb at police. "The history of workers is built on issues like this here today," Spivack said. Police spokeswoman Laura Kubiak said authorities were aware of the situation and officers were patrolling the area. Workers were angered when company officials didn't show up for a meeting Friday arranged by U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez, a Chicago Democrat, Fried said. Union officials said another meeting with the company is scheduled for Monday afternoon. "We're going to stay here until we win justice," said Blanca Funes, 55, of Chicago, after occupying the building for several hours. Speaking in Spanish, Funes said she fears losing her home without the wages she feels she's owed. A 13-year employee of Republic, she estimated her family can make do for three months without her paycheck. Most of the factory's workers are Hispanic. Copyright 2008 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Cool link from Dedroidify (torrent file)

"The ultimate weapon isn't this plague out in Vegas, or any new super H-bomb. The ultimate weapon has always existed. Every man, every woman, and every child owns it. It's the ability to say No and take the consequences." -Hagbard Celine, Leviathan
All parts of the Illuminatus! trilogy are released and also downloadable on the Pirate bay! Immanentize the Eschaton already!

Socialist Senator [Bernie Sanders] Wants Bailout for the Masses

Posted by: BirchBricker

US Senator Bernie Sanders, an independent socialist from Vermont, has called for a stimulus package of at least $500 billion to assist the working class. Sanders says “If Congress can fork over $700 billion to rescue the Wall Street fat cats from their reckless gambles, why can’t we put millions of Americans to work rebuilding our country as we address the severe economic crisis we face?”

Opinions on Sanders vary widely within the Peace and Freedom Party. Some are supportive and suggest that he does as best he can within the capitalist system while others claim that he’s no different than a liberal Democrat. What do you think?

Read the full story here:

Friday, December 05, 2008

The Colombia FTA: A Less Attractive Face for Trade?

The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which came into being in December 1994, has been one of the more important free trade agreements of its time. The NAFTA pact was signed by Canada, Mexico, and the United States in hopes of strengthening the prevailing commercial climate and promoting trade among the three member countries. NAFTA has been the model for other trade agreements, including the pending Colombian Free Trade Agreement. Both NAFTA and the Colombian FTA have been controversial in terms of market access, creation of jobs as well as the labor and environmental regulations applicable to them.

Free trade apologists argue that the Colombian FTA will produce more jobs and boost a sluggish global economy through the creation of enhanced market competition, leading to innovation and improved products. Members of various sectors that have been crushed and displaced might beg to differ, and claim that in Mexico, while free trade arguably has revamped the manufacturing sector, it has caused the agricultural industry to progressively wilt. While Congress debates whether to pass or to continue blocking the Colombian FTA, a growing number of FTA critics cites the overall negative effects that NAFTA has had on Mexico, claiming that Colombia will be comparably harmed by the ratification of the FTA.

NAFTA Tidbits Mexico is one of the United States’ most important trading partners, as it ranks third in U.S. imports after Canada and China. Essential to Mexico’s financial welfare is its reliance on the U.S. as a dominant source for its foreign direct investment and infrastructural development. The U.S. benefits from the large scale of its agricultural exports to its NAFTA partners which has increased by $4 billion since 1994, with real growth of 95.2% to Mexico and 41% to Canada. U.S. export performance has been exceptionally high due to a strong dollar as compared to other world currencies.

Certainly, the economic relationship between the United States and Mexico has ostensibly strengthened since 1994 with the advent of NAFTA. The two countries have collaborated in forming development links such as the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America (SPP), whereby they advance their joint security and prosperity through a common security strategy and the enforcement of economic growth and competitiveness goals.

NAFTA also has proven to be controversial in many of its economic and social ramifications. Its drafters assumed that the governments involved in formulating and implementing the agreement would behave rationally, markets would respond prudently, and that the agreement would pave the way for Mexico’s entrance into the developed world. Critics of NAFTA claim that the real impact of the agreement has been to destroy the social fabric of existing workers’ rights and the democratic accountability of government authorities, and argue that NAFTA has principally benefited large corporate interests at the expense of small and subsidized farmers. At the end of the NAFTA drafting process, many of its critics speculated that inequality within particular economic sectors in member countries would rise. What was not foreseeable was that the economic gap would steadily increase between Mexico and its northern partners. Additionally, the expropriation of foreign direct investments in Mexico, the imbalance of imports compared to exports, poorly enforced environmental regulations, growing unemployment rates in both the United States and Mexico, negative effects on immigration, and the loss of a competitive edge in Mexico’s agricultural sector, were all unanticipated consequences when NAFTA was being put together.

U.S.-Mexico Relations Influence Colombia NAFTA has been a model for the creation of other Latin American related free trade agreements, specifically the U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement which remains unratified. The U.S.-Colombia FTA was signed in 2006, and if finally passed, the agreement would be the most comprehensive trade pact in the Western Hemispheric since NAFTA. It would conform with many of NAFTA’s market access stipulations for trade in consumer and industrial products, textiles and apparel cooperation, expanded access to service markets, greater protection of intellectual property rights, internationally recognized labor rights, environmental protection commitments, and an open telecommunications market. Due to their numerous similarities, Democratic critics of NAFTA believe that a Colombia FTA could bring about the same economic, social, and environmental disconformities, such as bankrupted farmers, the loss of millions of industrial jobs, and the erosion of health and safety standards.

Both Mexico and Colombia have a particularly close relationship with the United States. Mexico shares a 2,000 mile border with its North American neighbor, as well as extensive interconnections through the Gulf of Mexico. Additionally, Mexico has achieved a priority trade status as the world’s second largest consumer of American imports. As one of the United States’ closest allies in Latin America, the U.S. has assisted Colombia through Plan Colombia, a more than $6 billion counter-narcotics and security operation aimed at eradicating coca crops and shutting down trafficking networks, as well as promoting efforts to dismantle leftist guerrillas operating in that country, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). Colombia, although much smaller than Mexico, is an essential market for exports of U.S. goods, as it imports $6.7 billion in U.S. goods and services annually. Mexico and Colombia not only depend on material assistance from the United States, but are also two of the last countries in the region which have remained relatively close allies to the U.S.

The most revealing flaws in the two agreements underscore the vagueness and inadequacy of the pacts regarding their abilities to provide proper enforcement and administration. Distressing to those who oppose the Colombian FTA are the acute parallels between the Colombian FTA and NAFTA, and how little Washington and Bogotá took NAFTA’s increasingly apparent problems into account when drafting and negotiating the later agreement. NAFTA’s concepts of minimal trade barriers and tariffs might seem uniquely attractive to countries that wish to sign future trade agreements. However, opponents of the Colombian model cannot help but question what improvements can be made in order to save the country from the same fate affecting Mexico.

New Market Access New and expanded market access has always been the grand allure of free trade agreements with the United States. For Mexico, new market access under NAFTA required it to replace import licensing requirements on U.S. agricultural products with either a quota or an ordinary tariff rate that would be phased out over a ten year period. For instance, Mexico and the United States gradually liberalized their bilateral trade regarding sugar, thereby eliminating all restrictions on trade of that commodity over a gradual transition period. The Colombian Free Trade Agreement’s market access regulations are almost an exact replica of those issued under NAFTA. As with NAFTA, where fifty percent of U.S. products entered Mexico duty-free and where the remaining tariffs were eliminated over the following ten years, the Colombian FTA will follow similar guidelines. But, different from NAFTA, the Colombian trade pact uses a more radical approach within its markets. Over eighty percent of U.S. exports of consumer and industrial products, fertilizers, agro-chemicals, and information technology equipment will enter Colombia duty-free and an additional seven percent will graduate to that category within five years. As compared to the very large volume of U.S.-Mexico trade, U.S. goods exported to Colombia in 2005 only amounted to $5.4 billion, making Colombia a much smaller but still viable market for U.S. products.

Laura Carlsen, a highly regarded researcher for America’s Policy, stated in her article, which related Mexico’s lessons to Asia: “the government conceded considerable ground to obtain the access that they claimed would serve to reorient the Mexican economy which was outwardly based on its absolute and comparative advantages.” Washington has maintained the upper hand in choosing the exact nature of the access it will provide to its trading partners, while requiring total liberalization for the products it hopes to export. At the same time, the U.S. demands protection in the form of quotas and non-tariff barriers for its own products. This built-in U.S. advantage has forced Mexico to lose its competitive edge, which will cause it to continuously suffer at Washington’s hand, as countries such as China offer cheaper labor and transportation costs.

Export Boom Causes Deficiencies Supporters of NAFTA repeatedly praise the increase of exports to member countries. However, such praise ignores the impact of imports on the trade balance, which can and has contributed to lower employment rates at home, and has hindered the creation of jobs. Although increases in exports tend to create jobs, this trend may be negated when imports reach high levels, as such imports could displace goods that otherwise would have been produced in the home country by domestic workers. In 1998, the United States accumulated an export deficit with Mexico and Canada that increased 281 percent, to $85 billion, as compared to a $30 billion deficit in 1993.

Although trade is supposed to move workers from low-productivity, low-wage import-competing industries into high-production export jobs with better wages, NAFTA led to job losses in all fifty U.S. states. Jeff Faux, a journalist for the Economic Policy Institute, exclaims in his important piece, Revisiting NAFTA that, “growing trade deficits with Mexico and Canada have pushed more than 1 million workers out of higher-wage jobs into lower-wage positions in non-trade related industries. Thus, the displacement of 1 million jobs from traded to non-traded goods’ industries reduced wage payments to U.S workers by $7.6 billion in 2004 alone.” An increase in the impact of the trade deficit on wages affects workers exposed to foreign competition, limits manufacturing sector jobs, and adds to a surplus in supply of service sector workers, resulting in wage depression.

Market access provisions may not have an entirely negative effect on the trade relationship between the U.S. and Colombia. However, when these provisions are combined with new rules on investment, procurement, and services, U.S. investment may begin to shift overseas, in turn hurting American workers. NAFTA’s inherent flaws in market access regulations have been incorporated in the Colombian Free Trade Agreement. Colombia’s fate could parallel that of Mexico, mostly due to the similarity of the new market access regulations, an increased radicalism regarding tariff barriers, and duty-free implementation practices that will most likely increase Colombia’s prospects for economic impairment.

Open Service Markets – The Fall of the Agriculture Sector NAFTA’s U.S. drafters believed that in order to enhance the efficiency of the market, trade barriers should be fully removed in order for American firms to take full advantage of benefits across all sectors, and those firms should be provided with the right to invest in Canadian and Mexican government enterprises. Colombian authorities must agree to eliminate, or use with restraint, requirements that allow them to apply “unfair” penalties to U.S. companies for terminating their relationships with local commercial agents. Openness could potentially be profitable for all member countries in NAFTA as well as Colombia. However, with open markets, inequality, at least theoretically, becomes an issue in almost every trade settlement, therefore attracting close examination.

NAFTA’s market regulations were drafted to open Mexican markets to Canada and U.S. exports, gradually constraining the robustness of protectionism in each others’ foreign markets. Opening markets moderately was to be a positive initiative when the trade pact was originally drafted. What was not considered at the time was the relatively small size of the Mexican economy and the difficulties that would result in attempting to impact the economies of its northern neighbors. Before the implementation of NAFTA, between 1991 and 1993, the Mexican unemployment rates slightly rose from 2.6 percent to 3.1 percent.

As Manufacturing Grows, Agriculture Industries Fall Mexico’s potential labor supply has been matched by an impressive rate of job growth in non-agricultural occupations: 33.9 million jobs to 39.1 million jobs from 1995 through 1999 (3.7% annually). However, employment in Mexico’s agricultural sector has decreased from 25.7 percent in 1993 to 17.3 percent in 2002, as a result of the large inflow of manufacturing products from its trading partners. An additional disadvantage to Mexico has been the amount of capital that was spent on upgrading the country’s telecommunications system which included equipment in the work place. Unfortunately for the Mexican budget, all of these investments were necessary in order for the country to stand a chance against the competitive power of the North American market.

Import increases have had a substantial effect on the United States, particularly regarding the job market. Agricultural exports to Mexico have increased by 195.3 percent, far surpassing general export growth. Shortly before NAFTA in 1993, Mexico only purchased 8 percent of U.S. agricultural exports, a rate which grew in 2005 to over 15 percent. With the explosion of exports from the United States to its southern neighbor, Mexico’s competitive capacity in the agricultural sector alarmingly has weakened.

A representative from the Michigan Farm Bureau remarked that “an advantage for Michigan agriculture is that most of the imports we have seen from Mexico do not compete with Michigan products, they tend to be seasonal vegetables, which don’t really compete in the Michigan market in our window of production.” Alarmingly, thirty percent of Mexico’s farm jobs have disappeared since the trade pact went into effect, which has translated into 2.8 million farmers being pushed out of their fields by foreign competition. Mexico’s relatively feeble agricultural trade performance, when it comes to the United States, is partly a result of U.S. agricultural subsidies. The U.S. government subsidizes its farmers to the tune of $24 billion a year. Additionally, Washington has authorized an eighty percent increase in subsidies over the next ten years as a result of the 2002 Farm Bill. Such developments make it possible for American farmers to produce and sell below the price of production; therefore, it is out of the question for Mexico and Colombia to equably compete with the U.S. on a level playing field.

Just as Mexico’s agricultural sector has been hard hit, Colombia’s agricultural production vis-à-vis the U.S. also will likely be at a disadvantage. Along with the problem posed by agricultural subsidies, Colombia’s corn and bean crops will suffer greatly. Under the pending U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement, the U.S. will export two million tons of yellow corn to Colombia, jeopardizing the jobs of 300,000 farm workers in the Colombian domestic corn industry. The bean market in Putumayo, Colombia is considered to be one of the largest in the country, with 2,200 acres of beans being planted for internal consumption. Under the agreement, it is estimated that 15,000 tons of beans will enter Colombia duty free, in turn destroying the local bean market. The American Farm Bureau Federation predicts that this arrangement could potentially provide $910 million in gains annually for American agriculture. It remains unclear whether Colombia will experience gains, or whether its fate will emulate Mexico’s appalling agricultural record.

The Rights of the Citizens Due to all of the complicated provisions stipulated by the pending FTA, safety, environment and the enforcement of labor regulations will require compliance. The text of both NAFTA and the Colombia FTA state that workers’ rights must not be forfeited to encourage trade or investment. In both agreements the signatories reaffirmed their obligations to meet the standards of the International Labor Organization (ILO), and ensure that their domestic laws will guarantee labor standards that are at least parallel to internationally recognized labor principles.

In contrast to the Colombian FTA, NAFTA carried out a separate agreement on workers rights, the North American Agreement on Labor Cooperation (NAALC). The NAALC was created in order to ensure the presence of mutual obligation and responsibilities, making member countries agree to promote and comply with their own laws through a policy of shared accountability. The NAALC targets three categories to promote the agreement: the first concerns the freedom of association and the protection of the right to organize, to bargain collectively, and to strike; the second enforces the prohibition of enforced labor, minimum employment standards, elimination of employment discrimination, and compensation in cases of injuries and illnesses; the final sector protects labor rights for children and employment standards pertaining to minimum wages.

The NAALC agreement (as proven by the NAFTA experience), is likely to fall short of efficiently enforcing the pact and conceivably will not use its authority to directly promote workers’ rights. The methodology for filing labor complaints before the NAALC is a convoluted process. First, complaints must be filed through the National Administrative Offices (NAO) of another country, followed by reviews, reports, and the need for ministerial consultation if the complaint appears to have merit. The case will then be brought before a five person panel of experts from the three member countries where an action plan is devised. As under NAFTA, if the plan is ignored, fines are filed against the offending government, and/or the companies involved. The predicament encountered as a result of filing complaints involving the NAALC is that, like under NAFTA, most of the time the complaints will deal with workers rights to organize, which is not an issue adequately protected by the agreement.

All the NAALC is able to do with these cases is to recommend an investigation, and if the NAO’s recommendations are not equivalent to the panel’s rulings in terms of their gravity, no sanctions or fines would be imposed upon offenders. To date, twenty-three complaints of workers violations have been issued through the NAFTA mechanism. These have involved big name companies including General Electric, Honeywell, Sony and Spring. Fourteen cases have been originated by Mexico, seven in the United States, and two in Canada. Critics of the NAALC have concluded that the agreement was not created to harmonize labor standards in the three NAFTA member countries. On account of this shortcoming, it fails to create tribunals and institute other appellate procedures available to individuals to redress grievances. Most importantly, it has been found that the NAALC lacks an independent oversight committee to fully protect and ensure the proper treatment of workers.

No Pressure, No Results Worse still than NAFTA, the Colombian FTA does not include separate legislation promoting workers-rights as has been done in the NAALC. Instead, the Colombian FTA simply promises to respect the principles embodied in the ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work. In this declaration, Colombia must commit to uphold child labor laws, and enhance methods to improve labor administration through social dialogue, occupational safety, and health compliance. Commenting on the workers’ rights regulations in the Colombian FTA, Thomas Buffenbarger, of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers stated, “high-road competition based on skills and productivity can benefit workers, but low-road competition based on workers’ rights drags all workers down into a race to the bottom.”

Regrettably, labor was not a major focus during the two years of intense negotiations over a Colombian FTA. Under the agreement’s terms, Bogotá will be able to roll back its labor laws without the threat of fines or sanctions. Drafters of the agreement declined to change a single labor provision, including improving the labor chapter, or providing a guarantee that the country would take measures to prevent extra-constitutional acts against trade unionists. The only enforceable labor-rights requirement in the Colombian FTA is that the government would be obliged to carry out its own national labor code at a given time. Additional enforcement measures are not explicitly cited in the dispute settlement procedure, making the regulations unenforceable. Critics of the FTA insist that the ambiguity regarding the workers’ rights regulations found in the Colombian agreement is unacceptable, considering the country’s abysmal labor conditions and the shocking number of trade unionist assassinations that have occurred in recent months. High ranking union leaders, in fact, have been brutally murdered in Colombia over the past twenty years.

Unenforceable Measures lead to Unionist Assassinations Since 1986, about 2,500 trade unionists have been assassinated (exceeding the total number of murdered union officials of all other countries ), with 200 murdered during the period of the negotiation of the Colombian FTA. Only 3 percent of these previous occurrences have been successfully prosecuted. The percentage of trade union membership of all Colombian workers is less than 5 percent, and almost all Colombian public workers are excluded from engaging in collective bargaining agreements due to the privatization of large segments in the public sector. Colombian workers are faced with abnormal obstacles in the workplace almost on a daily basis, often receiving death threats due to their trade union activity.

Collective bargaining seeks to maintain a balance between business objectives and the competitiveness of the work force through the establishment of reasonable and equitable goals that should bolster workers’ rights and the integrity of their earnings. Human rights violations often occur during the preliminary stages of union organization negotiations and when strikes are being called to defend legitimate rights. In 2005, union assassinations left seventy workers dead, a figure which increased in 2006 to seventy two unionist assassinations.

Although state-sponsored protection may be responsible for some of the variation in assassination rates, these government schemes still fail to provide substantial protection or any protection at all to workers. The Colombian government has been accused of accounting for twelve percent of human rights violations against union workers, including arbitrary detentions, break-ins, and assassinations.

The NAFTA’s NAALC and the Colombian FTA lack sufficiently comprehensive provisions to enforce workers rights. This results in the competition of Mexican and Colombian businesses in investment programs, further contributing to a weak labor relations system in the country. Considering the violence that underscores Colombia’s labor rights history, the proposed FTA has fallen short of the objectives needed to even minimally protect workers’ rights, as well as safeguard them from being assassinated.

Environmental Obligations Over the past decade, the inadequacy of Mexico’s and Colombia’s environmental regulations has become an important political counter that affects its production distribution, and disposal phases. As with its labor standards, NAFTA created a side agreement regarding the environment called the North American Agreement on Environmental Cooperation (NAAEC). Attempting to broaden narrowly-focused regulations, the NAAEC addresses trade and environmental issues, and partners with the North American Development Bank (NADBANK) to fund projects such as border pollution reduction and maintenance policies. Under the proposed Colombian FTA, the parties commit to objectives set out by Congress in the Trade Promotion Authority (TPA).

Member countries must effectively enforce domestic environmental laws, encourage high levels of environmental protections, avoid the weakening and reduction of environmental standards in order to increase trade and investment, as well as ensure fair and transparent proceedings for administration of environmental and labor protection laws. Along with the TPA’s provisions, the Colombian pact also includes an Environmental Cooperation Agreement (ECA) which aims to strengthen the environmental capacity in the country, and pledges to establish an Environmental Cooperation Commission. The problem with the NAAEC and the ECA is that both agreements only obligate countries to enforce their own environmental standards (similar to the aforementioned labor standards).

The dilemma posed by NAFTA and the Colombian FTA concerning their environmental regulations is that both trade agreements obviously value environmental issues much less than trade and investment provisions. National environmental regulations often times are disguised as barriers to trade, making their enforcement less likely. Environmental policies can be downgraded by trade and investment strategies which tend to emphasize production and physical infrastructure, but which also contribute to the acceleration of trends in environmental degradation.

Inadequate Infrastructure-Building Capacities Optimistically, NAFTA has created the “Border 2012 Program.” The program was initiated to assist border area environmental management and in turn has generated numerous well regarded initiatives that protect the environment and public health. Unfortunately, the Border 2012 Program is dominated by U.S. federal agencies which have failed to provide systematic programming regarding long term commitments on the part of member countries. The Border 2012 Program, along with other post NAFTA initiatives, is often neglected by the government and are deficient in funding programs due to the slow process of citizen submissions. Financing for EPA border projects was threatened in August 1999 by the U.S. House Appropriations Subcommittee, which voted to cut EPA’s border infrastructure fund, an essential financial mechanism for certified projects, from $100 million to $50 million.

The lack of environmental regulations and enforcement in NAFTA’s NAAEC has led to prophecies of similar outcomes in the Colombian FTA, which require member states to follow their own environmental standards, no matter how weak or strong they may be. This is insufficient for monitoring the Colombian environment, which is in need of persistent conservation efforts. The rapid destruction of the upper Amazon basin, one of the most bio-diverse areas in the world, has already lost nearly 150,000 kilometers of forest in recent years. As with NAFTA, the Colombian FTA will carry as few environmental regulations as possible in order to attract U.S. companies who are interested in containing costs in the production of goods and services. Cheap production almost mandates the use of harmful pesticides and toxic chemicals, as well as the disposal of pollutants with minimal safeguards. No reputable environmental group has endorsed the Colombian FTA; instead groups such as Amazon Watch, American Lands Alliance Forest Campaign, and Greenpeace U.S.A have joined forces to actively oppose the agreement.

Both agreements invest reforms with the ability to provide national and transactional corporations with the means to exploit natural resources such as fisheries, water, and minerals. The environment can be threatened by these weak agreements when they are unable to fund positive projects that can sustain ecological procedures. The present regulations simply do not place sufficient pressure on corporations to do right when it comes to the environment. Rather, it gives them room to minimize environmental considerations.

On the Right Track, but Room for Improvement Elements in both NAFTA and the Colombian FTA have potential, but lack the framework or the will to solve internal conflicts within the agreement. Upon NAFTA’s drafting, the initial intentions were to benefit the three signatories, and this has been successful in a variety of aspects. In 1995, only a year after the implementation of NAFTA, Mexico, along with the rest of Latin America experienced economic turmoil as the peso fell to record lows. When the peso crashed, Mexico’s foreign exchange reserves fell to about $3 billion, and a short-term debt of $40 billion was registered in the following year. Faced with these events, the United States rushed to provide Mexico with a $52 billion dollar bailout package, on the condition that Mexico agrees to implement radical adjustment programs in order to reduce its external deficit and to restore its domestic savings.

NAFTA has instituted a useful provision with its member states that utilizes safeguards against import surges. These safeguards were implemented in order to conserve sanitary and phytosanitary measures, protect human, animal, or plant life from health risks, as well as apply grade and quality standards to all Mexican, U.S., and Canadian products. Additionally, NAFTA has been successful in developing two new institutions, including the Border Environment Cooperation Commission (BECC), which assesses and certifies environmental infrastructure projects along the border, and the North American Development Bank (NADBANK) which funds the projects and also backs up community adjustment assistance programs.

Recognizing how important it is to assist signatory governments in promoting economic growth, reducing poverty, and adjusting to liberalize trade, the trade committees plan to discuss programs for small and medium-sized enterprises and rural farmers, and programs to improve transportation infrastructure and telecommunications. In Colombia AECOM, an international development firm, implemented the USAID-funded Trade Capacity Building Support Program (TCBS), which encourages public and private sector institutions to define and implement priority reforms in the areas of trade, investment policy and institutional adjustment.

AECOM strived to cover a wide range of trade and investment areas and designed projects to remove policy rigidities. Its drive to start these programs was to endorse the Colombian government in reaching successful implementation of the Colombian FTA. However, what is needed within these negotiations are prospects of pursuing and further developing these projects ten, or fifteen years down the road, if and when the trade pact has been approved and implemented in a seemly fashion. Active government policies are needed in assessing domestic technological capabilities, infrastructure modernization, and the infusion of time and money to deal with human capital growth. The United States, Canadian, Mexican, and Colombian governments must continue to promote greater integration through investments in road, rail, aviation, and energy to endorse solid growth and development. But at the very least, the implementation of these policies should be carried out in an environmentally conscious manner so as to embed this process into each of these countries’ everyday systems.

Conclusion: An Unknown Future The U.S.’s liberalization efforts, at least when it comes to Mexico, have proved to be uninspiring and unsustainable. Washington brought significant advantages in implementing a free trade program in Mexico, just as it is likely to have in Colombia. For both the Mexican and Colombian governments, President-elect Barack Obama has suggested possible renegotiations which will strengthen the pacts, eliminate their weaknesses and add more enforceable, labor and environmental standards. Such hopeful results in revamping and launching a new free trade agreement that will bring advantages to both of its signatories are not guaranteed to be successful. This is due to the long list of issues that will be tackled in January when Obama takes office. Although he carries somewhat of an anti-free trade reputation, skeptics believe that it is doubtful whether he will re-open talks to vigorously revise NAFTA or launch major revisions of the Colombian FTA. In light of this, President Uribe is desperately looking for an alternative to the unpopular U.S.-Colombia FTA. Uribe has recently met with Japanese Prime Minister, Taro Aso, and Chinese President, Hu Jintao. With both Japan and China, Uribe has negotiated a trade investment pact, in hopes of entering the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC). However, deals with Japan and China are financially incomparable to the business deals regarding investments and the manufacturing sector that are able to come out the U.S-Colombian FTA. If renegotiations are not successful, the consequences should not solely rest on Barack Obama, but also on the Colombian government for not creating policies that allow for change in a trade cycle that has become increasingly important in the Western Hemisphere.

In order to help rebuild the agricultural sector in Mexico and to assure its success when that model is absorbed into a Colombian FTA, policies already in place, such as enforcing market matters, protecting weak industries through government procurement policies and technology transfer mechanisms, will still need to be reworked. A move forward in fixing the agreements will also require Mexico and Colombia to maintain resilient and vigilant, qualities that will benefit all member countries.

This analysis was prepared by COHA Research Associate Jennifer Acosta

Ralph Nader and Medea Benjamin on Obama’s Cabinet and Grassroots Organizing Under the Next Administration

We speak with longtime consumer advocate and former presidential candidate Ralph Nader and with activist Medea Benjamin, founder of CODEPINK, about President-elect Barack Obama’s cabinet selections and how the antiwar and social justice movements will organize under an Obama administration.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to stay with Ralph Nader. We’re also joined by Medea Benjamin, longtime grassroots activist and founder of the group CODEPINK, just returned from a week-long citizen diplomacy mission to Iran, where she met with advisers to the Iranian president, two women Parliament members, NGO leaders and women’s groups. And I want to talk with both of you about the cabinet picks. Juan and I have some questions, starting with Ralph Nader. Just go through the cabinet picks—again, they have to be approved—of Barack Obama, your, well, former opponent. You ran for president, as well, Ralph Nader.

RALPH NADER: Well, it’s symbolized in an article in the newspapers a day or two ago. The headline was “Obama Turns to Consider Liberals for Cabinet Positions.” I mean, you know, after appointing all the heavyweights, keeping Gates as Secretary of Defense, Hillary Clinton at State Department, and other positions—Treasury, for example, coming from Wall Street—the article said, well, it’s time now to consider some liberal appointees.

Well, what’s left? Department of Labor. Now, will David Bonior, who is a genuine progressive and spent many years in the House of Representatives from Michigan, get the job? That remains to be seen.

It’s really interesting. As long as liberals and progressives gave Obama a pass during the election and didn’t demand anything in return, he knew that he had their votes and he had their support regardless and moved right, moved to the corporate. And that’s reflected in the appointments that he has been putting in place.

Now we look forward to the second level. Who’s going to be Food and Drug Administration head? Who’s going to be the head of the Auto Safety Agency or EPA? Will so-called liberals and progressives get their share of the Obama administration at that second level? It remains to be seen. But the signs are not very auspicious.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, the New York Times was reporting today that he may name California Congressman Javier Becerra to be the US trade representative, and Becerra has been a critic of free trade agreements in the past. But, in general, have you been surprised by the number of former Clinton administration officials that he has named?

RALPH NADER: Who hasn’t? You know, he defeated Hillary Clinton in a close race, and now he’s reinstalling the Bill Clinton administration. Now, there are two interpretations, briefly, here. One, it could reflect his insecurity. That way, by putting Clintonites all over the government and keeping Gates, he is basically eliminating a lot of potential centers of criticism and challenge to his administration after January 20.

The second interpretation is more benign, and that is that he wants to elevate the State Department, so it isn’t dominated by the Defense Department and the security apparatus, and push for a more benign foreign policy, with more vigorous diplomacy instead of brute force, more attention to infectious diseases, environmental issues, land erosion, agricultural cooperatives, etc., which are much cheaper than ballooning a huge wasteful military budget. And if that is his goal, then the fact that he’s put Gates there for at least a year means that there isn’t a new Secretary of Defense to build up a powerful base to dominate State Department, and putting Hillary, who’s a world-recognized figure, regardless of her policies, into State Department, which will elevate the State Department. That’s the more benign approach. But we’ll see how it plays out.

AMY GOODMAN: What about Marine General Jim Jones nominated as National Security Adviser? Interestingly, President Bush’s first National Security Adviser, of course, was Condoleezza Rice. She came from the board of Chevron. That’s exactly where Marine General Jim Jones comes from. Jim Jones comes from Chevron and the board of Boeing and the chief executive of the US Chamber of Commerce’s Institute for 21st Century Energy, which has been criticized by environmental groups for, among other things, calling for the immediate expansion of domestic oil and gas production and issuing reports that challenge the use of the Clean Air Act to combat global warming.

RALPH NADER: Well, Jim Jones is basically the representative of what President Eisenhower cautioned us about, the military-industrial complex. He is experienced. He’s clever. And now he’s in the White House. So the question is, who’s going to run what? Is Obama going to transform Jim Jones? Is Obama going to transform all these establishment appointees? Or are they going to, in effect, transform him, in contrast to his more liberal rhetoric?

It’s very hard to appoint people with fixed opinions, fixed constituencies around the country of vested power, and say, well, we’re going to use these to change America, because if they change, that will give great credibility, and that will offset the corporate power structure from Washington, D.C. You know, that’s never been done before, Amy. Usually, when you appoint people who have fixed positions, who have experience in set ways, who represent the power structure, they’re not about to be steered into a progressive path of hope and change by someone at the top in the Oval Office.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, Medea, you’ve just returned—Medea Benjamin, you’ve just returned from Iran and with conversations with various people in the Iranian government and civil society. What’s your sense of how they’re viewing the Obama presidency and what it holds in store for them?

MEDEA BENJAMIN: They’re very cautious. The young people were excited about Barack Obama; the political leaders, not so. They say, “We’re not really interested in words and talk about hope and change. We want to see some real change in policy. We are concerned,” they tell us, “about the Secretary of State, about Hillary Clinton, about Rahm Emanuel, about several other of the people that are advising the President-elect.”

They look at people like Dennis Ross, who said recently in a Newsweek article that the Bush administration wasn’t doing enough to push Iran. There are a group of people that are surrounding Barack Obama that have said that sanctions should be tightened, are talking about a naval blockade that would stop oil exports from leaving Iran and would stop refined petroleum products from going into Iran. It would be absolutely disastrous for the Iranian people.

So they’re very concerned, and rightly so. And that’s why we in the progressive movement have to stake out our positions very clearly. We have to say that Barack Obama promised direct talks without preconditions. We want those talks to happen. And rather than a tightening of the sanction, we want a lifting of the sanctions.

AMY GOODMAN: Medea Benjamin, this issue of organizing, I mean, maybe Barack Obama modeled it—although I think the figures have come out for the amount of money he spent on this campaign. We were closing in, I think, on a billion dollars. Was it $750 million?

MEDEA BENJAMIN: $750 million.

AMY GOODMAN: But the other aspect is the remarkable community organizing, which might be a model now for people to take up critiquing his policies. But you are well known for being co-founder of Global Exchange and now CODEPINK. You’re moving to Washington completely to continue your work, not in the Bush administration, but in the Obama administration. Why? What are you going to do? How are you mobilizing?

MEDEA BENJAMIN: We feel like this is the moment for us as organizers. Yesterday, there were 2,000 organizers that were brought into Washington, D.C., many of them coming from the community organization where Barack Obama was trained in Chicago, talking about how we have to be there to push this administration forward. Groups are planning, January, February, bringing thousands of people to Washington, and also to be a part of this ten million email list that has been created.

In fact, today they sent out a message from Barack Obama’s people saying we want you to organize house parties December 13th and 14th to give us your ideas, and it’s called “Change Is Coming.” We tell progressives go to those meetings, whether you voted for Ralph Nader, Cynthia McKinney or Barack Obama. Go to those meetings and be part of this community that’s going to have the ear of this new administration. You can go to, find out where the events are, create ones in your own community, and, you know, essentially, have progressives infiltrate this vast network of organizers.

AMY GOODMAN: Do you have any sense you’ll have the ear of the administration?

MEDEA BENJAMIN: We have people we know that have been appointed or are advisers. I mean, we’re excited that some people with some progressive views are going to be in this administration. We have friends who are moving to Washington to take lower-level positions. And we feel like we cannot give up and say, just because we don’t like the cabinet positions, we don’t like a lot of the people he’s appointed, that we’re going to say, OK, you know, he’s already betrayed us. No, no. We’ve got to get in there and be in there from day one.

We’re even part of organizing an inaugural peace ball on the day of the inauguration that sold out in one week, a thousand people—Amy Goodman is going to be there; I hope Juan will be there—to say peace is on the agenda. We’re going to be at the airports. We’re going to be at Union Station in Washington, D.C. when people arrive to the inauguration with quotes of Barack Obama and other people saying, you know, this is what he stood for. He stood for getting the troops out of Iraq. He stood for talks without preconditions. We’re going to remind people as they come in that this is what we’re hoping will happen.

AMY GOODMAN: And how will you deal with Afghanistan? He supports a surge in Afghanistan.

MEDEA BENJAMIN: Afghanistan is one promise we don’t want him to fulfill. And we have to get out there very quickly, and we are building up as a peace movement to take on the issue of Afghanistan to say that this is not a, quote, “good war,” that this has to be a negotiated solution, and that we want to get our troops out of Afghanistan.

More than that, Amy, we have to start taking on the Pentagon budget. Barney Frank came out recently and said cut the Pentagon budget by 25 percent. That’s a great way to start. Let’s put our support behind that and say, let’s close down these bases that we have overseas. Let’s take the $10 billion that we’re spending on the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, use them for domestic purposes, and let’s start reining in the empire.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, Juan, last comment?

JUAN GONZALEZ: I just wanted to ask Ralph Nader about the dangers, the potential dangers that occur in periods when there are political shifts like this and progressives come to office. What happens in terms of the popular movement and the dangers that the popular movement faces in these times of change?

RALPH NADER: Well, they do have to mobilize, as Medea said, I mean, mobilize in the streets and marches and pressure on members of Congress. The issue now moves to Congress. That’s where the action is going to be on healthcare, that’s going to be on issues of war and peace, constitutionalism, etc. So that definitely is the case.

But it certainly would have eased the mission of progressives all over the country had they conditioned their support of Obama in return for certain concessions and certain recognitions in policy before the election, rather than just wait until after the election, when he’s draped around himself corporate and other establishment figures from the national security apparatus and the Wall Street apparatus. So it’s an uphill fight, but there’s no alternative.

I mean, there’s got to now—basically say, OK, Barack, you gave us a lot of rhetoric, hope and change, change and hope, and it’s time to produce. And that’s what people have to do in every congressional district. We’re looking at, the website, to invite people to see whether they want to form Congress action groups in congressional districts to focus, for example, on single-payer healthcare, which has ninety-five members of the House already supporting the Conyers bill, HR 676.

So, it is mobilization time. And the hope, of course, is like Nixon opened up relations with China. The Democrats couldn’t do it, because they were concerned of being accused of being soft on communism. So maybe Barack Obama’s corporate establishment can be steered in that direction.

AMY GOODMAN: Ralph Nader, we want to thank you for being with us.

RALPH NADER: Only if Obama is a transforming leader.

AMY GOODMAN: Thank you very much for being with us, longtime consumer advocate, also former presidential candidate. His first book that catapulted him to fame, Unsafe at Any Speed, that took on the auto industry. Medea Benjamin, co-founder of CODEPINK, moving to Washington for this administration.

MEDEA BENJAMIN: Thank you. And can I just add, come to Washington on a regular basis, go to the hearings. If we pack those hearings, the people’s voices will be inside of Congress. And contact us at CODEPINK. We have a house. You can come and stay there.

AMY GOODMAN: Your website?


AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!,, the War and Peace Report. When we come back, what happened in Nigeria earlier this week, the killings of perhaps 400 people, then the The Blogging Revolution. Stay with us.

Dynamic spread of happiness in a large social network: longitudinal analysis over 20 years in the Framingham Heart Study

James H Fowler, associate professor1, Nicholas A Christakis, professor2

1 Department of Political Science, University of California, San Diego, CA, USA , 2 Department of Health Care Policy, Harvard Medical School, and Department of Sociology, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, USA

Correspondence to: N A Christakis


 Abstract  Introduction  Methods  Results  Discussion  References
Objectives To evaluate whether happiness can spread from person to person and whether niches of happiness form within social networks.

Design Longitudinal social network analysis.

Setting Framingham Heart Study social network.

Participants 4739 individuals followed from 1983 to 2003.

Main outcome measures Happiness measured with validated four item scale; broad array of attributes of social networks and diverse social ties.

Results Clusters of happy and unhappy people are visible in the network, and the relationship between people’s happiness extends up to three degrees of separation (for example, to the friends of one’s friends’ friends). People who are surrounded by many happy people and those who are central in the network are more likely to become happy in the future. Longitudinal statistical models suggest that clusters of happiness result from the spread of happiness and not just a tendency for people to associate with similar individuals. A friend who lives within a mile (about 1.6 km) and who becomes happy increases the probability that a person is happy by 25% (95% confidence interval 1% to 57%). Similar effects are seen in coresident spouses (8%, 0.2% to 16%), siblings who live within a mile (14%, 1% to 28%), and next door neighbours (34%, 7% to 70%). Effects are not seen between coworkers. The effect decays with time and with geographical separation.

Conclusions People’s happiness depends on the happiness of others with whom they are connected. This provides further justification for seeing happiness, like health, as a collective phenomenon.


 Abstract  Introduction  Methods  Results  Discussion  References
Happiness is a fundamental object of human existence,1 so much so that the World Health Organization is increasingly emphasising happiness as a component of health.2 Happiness is determined by a complex set of voluntary and involuntary factors. Researchers in medicine,3 economics,1 4 5 psychology,6 7 neuroscience,8 and evolutionary biology9 have identified a broad range of stimuli to happiness (or unhappiness),1 including lottery wins,10 elections,7 income,1 job loss,11 socioeconomic inequality,12 13 divorce,1 illness,14 bereavement,15 and genes.9 16 These studies, however, have not addressed a possibly key determinant of human happiness: the happiness of others.

Emotional states can be transferred directly from one individual to another by mimicry and "emotional contagion,"17 perhaps by the copying of emotionally relevant bodily actions, particularly facial expressions, seen in others.18 19 20 People can "catch" emotional states they observe in others over time frames ranging from seconds to weeks.17 21 22 23 For example, students randomly assigned to a mildly depressed room-mate became increasingly depressed over a three month period,24 and the possibility of emotional contagion between strangers, even those in ephemeral contact, has been documented by the effects of "service with a smile" on customer satisfaction and tipping.25 26

Yet, despite the evidence that certain emotions might spread over short periods from person to person, little is known about the role of social networks in happiness or about whether happiness might spread, by a diverse set of mechanisms, over longer periods or more widely in social networks. As diverse phenomena can spread in social networks,27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 we investigated whether happiness also does so. We were particularly interested in whether the spread of happiness pertains not just to direct relationships (such as friends) but also to indirect relationships (such as friends of friends) and whether there are geographical or temporal constraints on the spread of happiness through a social network.


 Abstract  Introduction  Methods  Results  Discussion  References
Participants The Framingham Heart Study was initiated in 1948, when 5209 people in Framingham, Massachusetts, were enrolled into the "original cohort."36 In 1971, the "offspring cohort," composed of most of the children of the original cohort, and their spouses, was enrolled.37 This cohort of 5124 people has had almost no loss to follow-up other than death (only 10 people dropped out). Enrolment of the so called "third generation cohort," consisting of 4095 children of the offspring cohort, began in 2002. The Framingham Heart Study also involves certain other smaller cohorts (such as a minority over-sample called the OMNI cohort, enrolled in 1995). At regular intervals participants in all these cohorts come to a central facility for detailed examinations and collection of survey data.

Network ascertainment We used the offspring cohort as the source of 5124 key individuals to study—whom we term "egos." Each ego in this cohort is connected to other people via friendship, family, spousal, neighbour, and coworker relationships. Each relationship is a "social tie." Each person who has a relationship with an ego was called an "alter." For example, one ego in the offspring cohort had 18 alters: a mother, a father, a sister, two brothers, three children, two friends, five neighbours, and three coworkers. We wanted to know how each of these alters influences an ego. Many of the alters also happened to be members of a studied cohort in Framingham, which means that we had access to detailed information about them as well. Overall, within the entire Framingham Heart Study social network, composed of both the egos and any detected alters in any Framingham Heart Study cohort, there were 12 067 individuals who were connected at some point in 1971-2003.

  • Ego: the focal individual; this is the person whose behaviour is being analysed
  • Alter: a person connected to the ego; this is the person who is potentially influencing the behaviour of the ego
  • Node: an object that may or may not be connected to other objects in a network; here, these are people in the Framingham Heart Study cohorts
  • Tie: a connection between two nodes that can be either one way (directed) or two way (bilateral, or mutual); here, all family and spouse ties are bilateral (sibling, coworker, spouse), but friendship ties are directional as a person might name someone as a friend who does not name them in return
  • Homophily: the tendency for people to choose relationships with people who have similar attributes
  • Component: a group of nodes that is a subset of a full network and in which each node is connected by at least one path to every other node in the same component
  • Cluster: a group of nodes of a certain type that is a subset of a full network and in which each node is connected by at least one path via nodes of the same type to every other node in the same group—for example, a cluster of happy people connected by at least one path via other happy people to all the other people in their cluster
  • Degree of separation: the social distance of two individuals as measured by the smallest number of intermediary ties between one individual and the other within the network. For a given ego, alters are degree 1 as they are directly connected to the ego. Nodes that are connected to the alters but not the ego are degree 2 (alters’ alters). Nodes that are connected to the alters’ alters but not the ego are degree 3, and so on. This is also known as the "geodesic distance"

To create the network dataset, we computerised information about the offspring cohort from archived handwritten administrative tracking sheets that had been used since 1971 to identify people close to participants for the purpose of follow-up. These documents contain valuable social network information because participants were asked to identify their relatives, "close friends," place of residence, and place of work to ensure they could be contacted every two to four years for follow-up. In the field of network science, such procedures for identifying social ties between individuals are known as "name generators."38

The ascertainment of social ties in the Framingham Heart Study was wide and systematic. The study recorded complete information about all first order relatives (parents, spouses, siblings, children), whether alive or dead, and at least one close friend at up to seven examinations from 1971 to 2003. Detailed information on home address was also captured at each time point, which we geocoded to determine neighbour relationships. Specific information about place of employment at each wave allowed us to identify ties to coworkers within the network.

Our dataset identifies the network links among participants longitudinally, an unusual and advantageous feature. Over the course of follow-up, the participants spread out across the United States but continued to participate in the Framingham Heart Study. As a person’s family changed because of birth, death, marriage, or divorce, and as their contacts changed because of residential moves, new places of employment, or new friendships, this information was captured. For any given ego, a particular alter can be in only one mutually exclusive category—that is, spouse, sibling, friend, coworker, or neighbour.

There were 53 228 observed social ties between the 5124 egos and any other alters in any of the Framingham Heart Study cohorts, yielding an average of 10.4 ties to family, friends, and coworkers over the course of follow-up. Additional ties to neighbours were also ascertained, based on information about place of residence, but they are not included in the foregoing count as the number of neighbour ties depends on how "neighbour" is defined (for example, whether we restrict the definition to immediate, next door neighbours, or neighbours residing on the same block within 25 or 100 metres, etc).

Given the compact nature of the Framingham social network in the period 1971-2007, many of the nominated contacts were also participants in one or another Framingham Heart Study cohort32 34 so we have detailed survey and physical examination information about both the ego and the alter. For example, 83% of egos’ spouses were directly and repeatedly observed and 87% of egos with siblings had at least one sibling who also participated in the Framingham Heart Study. For 39% of the egos, at least one coworker participated in the study. For 10% of the egos, an immediate neighbour was also in the Framingham Heart Study.

Importantly, 45% of the 5124 egos were connected via friendship to another person in the study; there were 3604 unique observed friendships for an average of 0.7 friendship ties per ego. There was substantial variation from person to person, ranging from several people with no friends to one person who was nominated as a friend by eight different Framingham Heart Study participants. Because friendship identifications are directional, we can study three different types. An "ego perceived friend" means the ego nominates an alter as a friend, but the nomination is not reciprocated. In this case the ego thinks of the alter as a friend, but the alter might not think of the ego as a friend. An "alter perceived friend" means that an alter nominates the ego as a friend but not vice versa. Here, the ego might not feel any closer to the alter than he or she would to a stranger. Finally, a "mutual friend" is one in which the nomination is reciprocal.

We can be reasonably confident that when someone names someone else as a friend, then the namer feels close to or esteems the namee. We should not, however, read too much into a particular failed nomination. The namer might have several equally good friends and might simply have omitted one or more of them. On the other hand, we would expect on average that people feel closer to the people they name than the people they do not name. By the same reasoning we expect on average that, in one way nominations, the namer feels closer to the namee than vice versa. We therefore hypothesised that the influence a friend has on an ego would be affected by the type of friendship, with the strongest effects occurring between mutual friends, followed by ego perceived friendships, followed by alter perceived friendships.

At inception, 53% of the egos were women; the egos’ mean age was 38 years (range 21-70); and their mean education was 1.6 years of college (range 0-≥17 years of education). Measures of occupational prestige for each ego at each wave were also available (see appendix on

We studied 4739 of the 5124 egos who were alive in 1983 (which was the first time happiness was measured in the Framingham study). All participants were followed until 2003 (at exam 7), as were any ties to alters noted during the time period 1983-2003.

Measures We took happiness to consist of positive emotions and used a conventional measure. We focused on individuals who were assessed with the Center for Epidemiological Studies depression scale (CES-D) in 1983-2003 at times corresponding to the 5th, 6th, and 7th examinations of the offspring cohort. The median year of examination for these individuals was 1986 for exam 5, 1996 for exam 6, and 2000 for exam 7.

To measure happiness, we use four items from the CES-D in which people were asked how often they experienced certain feelings during the previous week: "I felt hopeful about the future," "I was happy," "I enjoyed life," "I felt that I was just as good as other people." This subcomponent of the CES-D has been shown to be a valid instrument for measuring positive affect,39 40 41 and it has been taken as interchangeable with the concept of happiness.42 43 We defined "happy" as a perfect score on all four questions, but we obtain similar results if we treat happiness as a linear 0-12 scale that sums answers to all four questions (data not shown), with 0=rarely or none of the time (<1 1="some"> 2=occasionally or a moderate amount of the time (3-4 days/week), and 3=most or all the time (5-7 days/week). We performed confirmatory factor analysis and found that responses to these four questions were highly correlated with one another and therefore could be treated as additive measures of a single "happiness" scale, as documented by previous research (see appendix on 40 41 The response rate among those who answered at least one question was 98.8%. We imputed missing items using Amelia, a multiple imputation procedure.44

We were interested not just in whether individuals were happy or not but also in changes in their happiness over time. We used the previous wave as a baseline measure and evaluated the probability of an ego being happy at a succeeding wave. At follow-up, the prevalence of happiness was 61% in exam 6 and 59% in exam 7. The mean index score was 10.7 in exam 6 and 10.6 in exam 7. Between exams 6 and 7, for example, 16% of individuals became happy, 13% became unhappy, 49% remained happy, and 22% remained unhappy.

Network analysis Social networks consist of two elements: individuals (nodes) and the relationships (social ties) between them. Once all the nodes and ties are known, one can draw pictures of the network and discern every person’s position within it. Within a network, one can speak of the "distance" between two people (also known as the "geodesic distance" or "degree of separation"), which is the shortest path in the network from one person to another. For example, a person is one degree removed from their friend, two degrees removed from their friend’s friend, three degrees removed from their friend’s friend’s friend, and so on. Often, real social networks contain collections of subnetworks or "components." A component is a part of a network in which everyone is connected by at least one path to every other person in the same component. Logically, this means that for two different components, no one in the first component can be connected to anyone in the second component. The basic idea in social network analysis is that individuals are influenced by their location in a social network and by the happenings among people who are "nearby" them in the social network (for example, at one, two, or three degrees of separation).

Once a full set of individuals and ties is observed, there is only one "network" per se. This network, however, can be analysed or drawn in various ways. For example, within this network, one might include only ties between people and their friends and spouses, or one might include only ties between family members. One might look at just the largest component or sample several hundred nodes from the network to study part of its structure more closely.

We used the Kamada-Kawai algorithm to prepare images of networks (fig 1Go).45 This algorithm is a visualisation tool that iteratively repositions nodes to reduce the number of ties that cross each other. The fundamental pattern of ties in a social network (known as the "topology") is fixed, but how this pattern is visually rendered depends on the analyst’s objectives.

To test whether clustering of happy and unhappy people in the network is due to chance, we compared the observed clustering to the clustering in 1000 randomly generated networks in which we preserved the network topology and the overall prevalence of happiness but in which we randomly shuffled the assignment of the happiness value to each node.46 If clustering is occurring, then the probability that an alter is happy given that an ego is happy should be higher in the observed network than in the random networks. This procedure also allowed us to generate confidence intervals and measure how far, in terms of social distance, the correlation in happiness between ego and alters reaches.

Measures of centrality in networks capture the extent to which a node connects, or lies between, other nodes, and hence its tendency to be positioned near the centre of his or her local network. Centrality is also taken as a marker of importance. The simplest measure of centrality is a count of the number of friends (this is called "degree" centrality). People with more friends will tend to be more central. But this measure does not account for differences in the centrality of one’s friends. Individuals who are connected to many well connected peers are more central than those who are connected to an identical number of poorly connected peers. In other words, those who befriend popular people will tend to be more central than those who befriend the unpopular. We used eigenvector centrality to capture this aspect.47 This measure assumes that the centrality of a given person is an increasing function of the sum of all the centralities of all the people with whom he or she is connected (see appendix on Eigenvector centrality values are inherently relative: an individual connected to every other person in the network would have the maximum possible value, and a person not connected to anyone else would have a value of zero. In large networks, eigenvector centrality will not necessarily produce a measure of importance to the overall network but rather to a person’s local network. It is therefore possible that the most central individuals might not necessarily be located near the centre of a visualisation of the whole network—instead they will be located at the centre of their local networks.

Statistical analysis The association between the happiness of individuals connected to each other, and the clustering within the network, could be attributed to at least three processes: induction, whereby happiness in one person causes the happiness of others; homophily, whereby happy individuals choose one another as friends and become connected (that is, the tendency of like to attract like)48; or confounding, whereby connected individuals jointly experience contemporaneous exposures (such as an economic downturn or living in the same neighbourhood13). To distinguish between these effects requires repeated measures of happiness,35 49 longitudinal information about network ties, and information about the nature or direction of the ties (for example, who nominated whom as a friend).

We evaluated regression models of ego happiness as a function of ego’s age, sex, education, and happiness in the previous exam, and of the happiness of an alter in the current and previous exam. Inclusion of ego happiness in the previous exam helps to eliminate serial correlation in the errors and also substantially controls for ego’s genetic endowment and any intrinsic stable predilection to be happy. Alter’s happiness in the previous exam helps to control for homophily.35 49 We evaluated the possibility of omitted variables or contemporaneous events or exposures in explaining the associations by examining how the type or direction of the social relationship between ego and alter affects the association between them. If unobserved factors drive the association between ego and alter happiness, then directionality of friendship should not be relevant. We also examined the possible role of exposure to neighbourhood factors by examining maps (see appendix on

The main coefficient of interest in these regression models is the one related to contemporaneous happiness in alters—that is, the extent to which an alter’s present happiness, net of the alter’s previous happiness, is associated with an ego’s present happiness, net of the ego’s previous happiness.35 49 We used generalised estimating equation procedures to account for multiple observations of the same ego across waves and across ego-alter pairings.50 We assumed an independent working correlation structure for the clusters.51

The generalised estimating equation regression models provide parameter estimates in the form of β coefficients (as shown in the appendix on, whereas the results reported in the text and in figures 4Go and 5Go are in the form of risk ratios, which are related to the exponentiated coefficients. We calculated mean effect sizes and 95% confidence intervals by simulating first difference in alter contemporaneous happiness (changing from 0 to 1) using 1000 randomly drawn sets of estimates from the coefficient covariance matrix and assuming all other variables are held at their means.52

We explored the sensitivity of our results by conducting numerous other analyses, each of which had various strengths and limitations but none of which yielded substantially different results from those presented here (see appendix on

The networks in this study, like those in all network studies, are only partially observed. Therefore, there will be measurement error in individual network attributes. For example, we measured a person’s centrality based on the observed social network, but that same person might be highly central to an unobserved network of individuals who did not take part in the study. If there is a correlation between this measurement error and happiness, it could bias our results. We evaluated this potential source of bias by measuring the Pearson correlation between the number of social relations named outside the Framingham Heart Study and subject happiness. The association was both small and not significant ({rho}=–0.01, P=0.33),suggesting that the unobserved parts of the network do not bias the inferences we make within the observed network.


 Abstract  Introduction  Methods  Results  Discussion  References
Examination of the social network indicates that happy people tend to be connected to one another. Figure 1 shows the largest connected network component in 1996 and 2000 based on a restricted set of ties among siblings, spouses, and friends (coworker and neighbours are excluded to simplify the image).Go To highlight the clustering of happiness, each node is coloured according to the person’s happiness on a spectrum from blue (unhappy) to yellow (happy).

Figure 1 View larger version (84K): [in this window] [in a new window] [PowerPoint Slide for Teaching] Fig 1 Happiness clusters in the Framingham social network. Graphs show largest component of friends, spouses, and siblings at exam 6 (centred on year 1996, showing 1181 individuals) and exam 7 (year 2000, showing 1020 individuals). Each node represents one person (circles are female, squares are male). Lines between nodes indicate relationship (black for siblings, red for friends and spouses). Node colour denotes mean happiness of ego and all directly connected (distance 1) alters, with blue shades indicating least happy and yellow shades indicating most happy (shades of green are intermediate)

The clusters of happy and unhappy people seen in the network are significantly larger than expected by chance. We can calculate the relationship of ego and alter happiness at various degrees of separation by measuring the probability that an ego is happy when an alter is happy and comparing it to the same probability in a simulated network in which we retain the observed network ties and prevalence of happiness, but randomly shuffle the observed happiness between nodes. Figure 2 shows that the association between ego and alter happiness is significant up to three degrees of separation.Go A person is 15.3% (95% confidence interval 12.2% to 18.8%) more likely to be happy if a directly connected alter (distance 1) is happy. The effect for distance two alters is 9.8% (7.0% to 12.9%) and for distance three alters is 5.6% (2.4% to 9.0%).

Figure 2 View larger version (20K): [in this window] [in a new window] [PowerPoint Slide for Teaching] Fig 2 Social distance and happiness in the Framingham social network. Percentage increase in likelihood an ego is happy if friend or family member at certain social distance is happy (instead of unhappy). The relationship is strongest between individuals who are directly connected but remains significantly >0 at social distances up to three degrees of separation, meaning that a person’s happiness is associated with happiness of people up to three degrees removed from them in the network. Values derived by comparing conditional probability of being happy in observed network with an identical network (with topology and incidence of happiness preserved) in which same number of happy people are randomly distributed. Alter social distance refers to closest social distance between alter and ego (alter=distance 1, alter’s alter=distance 2, etc). Error bars show 95% confidence intervals

Figure 1 also suggests a relation between network centrality and happiness: people at the core of their local networks seem more likely to be happy, while those on the periphery seem more likely to be unhappy.Go We tested this by computing eigenvector centrality measures for each subject. Generalised estimating equation regressions show that ego centrality is significantly associated with improved future happiness: a 2 SD increase in centrality (from low to medium or medium to high) increases the probability of being happy at the next examination by 14% (1% to 29%, P=0.03). Moreover, the relation between centrality and future happiness remained significant even when we controlled for age, education, and the total number of family and non-family alters. Thus, it is not only the number of direct ties (at one degree of separation) but also the number of indirect ties (at higher degrees of separation) that influence future happiness. The better connected are one’s friends and family, the more likely one will attain happiness in the future. Conversely, happiness itself does not increase a person’s centrality at subsequent time points (see appendix on That is, network centrality leads to happiness rather than the other way around.

Figure 3Go shows the positive association between the total number of happy alters and ego’s future probability of being happy in the raw data. To test the relation more rigorously, we specified generalised estimating equation regression models of ego happiness with the number of happy and unhappy alters in the previous exam as key predictors. The relation is highly significant, with each happy alter increasing the probability the ego is happy by about 9% (P=0.001), and each unhappy alter decreasing it by 7% (P=0.004). Hence, on average, having additional social contacts is helpful to ego’s happiness only if the extra social contacts are happy themselves. We also evaluated the simultaneous effect of total number of alters (whether happy or unhappy) and the fraction of alters who are happy. These models show that happy alters consistently influence ego happiness more than unhappy alters, and only the total number of happy alters remains significant in all specifications (see appendix on In other words, the number of happy friends seems to have a more reliable effect on ego happiness than the number of unhappy friends. Thus, the social network effect of happiness is multiplicative and asymmetric. Each additional happy alter increases the likelihood of happiness, but each additional unhappy alter has little or no effect. The emotional state of a person’s social relationships is more important to one’s own emotional state than the total number of those relationships.

Figure 3 View larger version (18K): [in this window] [in a new window] [PowerPoint Slide for Teaching] Fig 3 Happy alters in Framingham social network. Mean probabilities observed in raw data with standard errors. Ego happiness in exams 6 and 7 (dichotomised between those who are maximally happy and everyone else) is positively associated with number of happy alters in previous exam. Generalised estimating equation regression models in appendix (see confirm relation is strongly significant, even with numerous controls

We examined the direct ties and individual level determinants of ego happiness in more detail. The principal determinant of a person’s happiness was their previous happiness; individuals who were happy at one wave were roughly three times more likely than unhappy people to be happy at the subsequent observation. Age, sex, and education had effects consistent with previous research, with women being less happy then men and educated people being slightly happier (see appendix on

Our main interest was the impact on an ego of the happiness of others. Figure 4 shows the results of generalised estimating equation models that distinguish effects for friends, spouses, siblings, coworkers, and neighbours.Go We can use these results to estimate what would happen to the happiness of the ego if the alter were "switched" from being unhappy to being happy—that is, if the alters "become" happy. "Nearby" friends (who live within a mile (1.6 km)) and who become happy increase the probability ego is happy by 25% (1% to 57%). "Distant" friends (who live more than a mile away) have no significant effect on ego. Among friends, we can distinguish additional possibilities; as each person was asked to name a friend, and not all of these nominations were reciprocated, we have ego perceived friends (denoted "friends"), "alter perceived friends" (alter named ego as a friend, but not vice versa) and "mutual friends" (ego and alter nominated each other). Nearby mutual friends have a stronger effect than nearby ego perceived friends; when they become happy it increases the probability ego will be happy by 63% (12% to 148%). In contrast, the influence of nearby alter perceived friends is much weaker and not significant (12%, –13% to 47%). If the associations in the social network were merely caused by confounding, these effect sizes for different types of friendships should be more similar. That is, if some third factor were explaining both ego and alter happiness, it should not respect the directionality of the tie.

Figure 4 View larger version (27K): [in this window] [in a new window] [PowerPoint Slide for Teaching] Fig 4 Alter type and happiness in the Framingham social network. Friends, spouses, siblings, and neighbours significantly influence happiness, but only if they live close to ego. Effects estimated with generalised estimating equation logit models of happiness on several different subsamples of the network (see table S6 in appendix on

We also found similar effects for other kinds of alters. Coresident spouses who become happy increase the probability their spouse is happy by 8% (0.2% to 16%), while non-coresident spouses have no significant effect. Nearby siblings who live within a mile (1.6 km) and become happy increase their sibling’s chance of happiness by 14% (1% to 28%), while distant siblings have no significant effect. Next door neighbours who become happy increase ego’s happiness by 34% (7% to 70%), while neighbours who live on the same block (within 25 metres) have no significant effect. All these relations indicate the importance of physical proximity, and the strong influence of neighbours suggests that the spread of happiness might depend more on frequent social contact than deep social connections. On the other hand, we found no effect of the happiness of coworkers on an ego, suggesting that the social context might moderate the flow of happiness from one person to another.

Past research on emotional contagion indicates that close physical proximity or coresidence is indeed necessary for emotional states to spread.23 To further explore whether distance affects the spread of happiness, we varied the cut off for nearby friends. Figure 5 (top) shows that the probability that an ego becomes happy in response to an alter varies for friends who live at different physical distances. An ego is 42% (6% to 95%) more likely to be happy if a friend who lives less than half a mile (0.8 km) away becomes happy (net of controls, including ego’s baseline happiness). In contrast, the effect is only 22% (2% to 45%) for friends who live less than two miles (3.2 km) away, and it declines and ceases to be significant at greater distances.

Figure 5 View larger version (26K): [in this window] [in a new window] [PowerPoint Slide for Teaching] Fig 5 Physical and temporal separation and spread of happiness in Framingham social network. Figure shows probability that ego is happy given that alter friend is happy, for different subsamples. Top: effect of gradually increasing maximum distance allowed between ego and alter households. Friends who live less than half mile (0.8 km) away have the strongest effect on ego happiness, and effect decreases with distance. Bottom: effect of gradually increasing maximum time allowed between ego and alter exams. Friends who report becoming happy within past half year exert strongest influence on ego happiness, and effect decreases as time between ego and alter exams increases. Effect sizes are based on generalised estimating equation models of happiness in tables S9 and S10 in appendix on

Past research also suggests that changes in happiness are temporary and that there is "hedonic adaptation" to diverse stimuli4 (in other words, people get used to good or bad fortune after some time). Figure 5 (bottom) shows such an effect for the interpersonal spread of happiness. An ego is 45% (4% to 122%) more likely to be happy if a friend who was examined in the past half year becomes happy. In contrast, the effect is only 35% (6% to 77%) for friends who were examined within the past year, and it declines and ceases to be significant at greater periods of time.

Sex also plays a part in the spread of happiness. Happiness spreads significantly more through same sex relationships than opposite sex relationships (P=0.02, see appendix on, possibly helping to explain why friends and next door neighbours might exhibit stronger effects than spouses (who in our sample were all opposite sex). This result also accords with previous evidence on sex effects in the spread of obesity32 35 and suggests that people might be more likely to take emotional cues from members of the same sex.

Finally, similarity in socioeconomic status probably cannot explain the clustering of happy people as next door neighbours have a much stronger influence than neighbours who live a few doors down in the same neighbourhood (and who consequently have similar housing, wealth, and environmental exposures). Moreover, the geographical distribution of happiness is not systematically related to local levels of either income or education (see maps in appendix on Both of these observations suggest that contextual effects are probably not driving our results.


 Abstract  Introduction  Methods  Results  Discussion  References
While there are many determinants of happiness,1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 whether an individual is happy also depends on whether others in the individual’s social network are happy. Happy people tend to be located in the centre of their local social networks and in large clusters of other happy people. The happiness of an individual is associated with the happiness of people up to three degrees removed in the social network. Happiness, in other words, is not merely a function of individual experience or individual choice but is also a property of groups of people. Indeed, changes in individual happiness can ripple through social networks and generate large scale structure in the network, giving rise to clusters of happy and unhappy individuals. These results are even more remarkable considering that happiness requires close physical proximity to spread and that the effect decays over time.

Our results are consistent with previous work on the evolutionary basis of human emotions and with work focusing on the fleeting direct spread of emotions. In addition to their internal and psychological relevance,53 emotions have a specifically social role: when humans experience emotions, they tend to show them. Like laughter and smiling,54 the emotion of happiness might serve the evolutionarily adaptive purpose of enhancing social bonds. Human laughter, for example, is believed to have evolved from the "play face" expression seen in other primates in relaxed social situations.55 Such facial expressions and positive emotions enhance social relations by producing analogous pleasurable feelings in others,17 by rewarding the efforts of others, and by encouraging ongoing social contact. Given the organisation of people (and early hominids) into social groups larger than pairs,56 such spread in emotions probably served evolutionarily adaptive purposes.8 There are thus good biological, psychological, and social reasons to suppose that social networks—both in terms of their large scale structure and in terms of the interpersonal ties of which they are composed—would be relevant to human happiness.

Our data do not allow us to identify the actual causal mechanisms of the spread of happiness, but various mechanisms are possible. Happy people might share their good fortune (for example, by being pragmatically helpful or financially generous to others), or change their behaviour towards others (for example, by being nicer or less hostile), or merely exude an emotion that is genuinely contagious (albeit over a longer time frame than previous psychological work has indicated). Psychoneuroimmunological mechanisms are also conceivable, whereby being surrounded by happy individuals has beneficial biological effects.

The spread of happiness seems to reach up to three degrees of separation, just like the spread of obesity32 and smoking behaviour.34 Hence, although the person to person effects of these outcomes tend to be quite strong, they decay well before reaching the whole network. In other words, the reach of a particular behaviour or mood cascade is not limitless. We conjecture that this phenomenon is generic. We might yet find that a "three degrees of influence rule" applies to depression, anxiety, loneliness, drinking, eating, exercise, and many other health related activities and emotional states, and that this rule restricts the effective spread of health phenomena to three degrees of separation away from the ego.

Our findings have relevance for public health. To the extent that clinical or policy manoeuvres increase the happiness of one person, they might have cascade effects on others, thereby enhancing the efficacy and cost effectiveness of the intervention.33 For example, illness is a potential source of unhappiness for patients and also for those individuals surrounding the patient. Providing better care for those who are sick might not only improve their happiness but also the happiness of numerous others, thereby further vindicating the benefits of medical care or health promotion.

There is of course a tradition of community approaches to mental health,57 58 but this longstanding concern is now being coupled with a burgeoning interest in health and social networks.59 More generally, conceptions of health and concerns for the wellbeing of both individuals and populations are increasingly broadening to include diverse "quality of life" attributes, including happiness. Most important from our perspective is the recognition that people are embedded in social networks and that the health and wellbeing of one person affects the health and wellbeing of others. This fundamental fact of existence provides a conceptual justification for the specialty of public health. Human happiness is not merely the province of isolated individuals.

What is already known on this topic
Previous work on happiness and wellbeing has focused on socioeconomic and genetic factors
Research on emotional contagion has shown that one person’s mood might fleetingly determine the mood of others
Whether happiness spreads broadly and more permanently across social networks is unknown

What this study adds

Happiness is a network phenomenon, clustering in groups of people that extend up to three degrees of separation (for example, to one’s friends’ friends’ friends)
Happiness spreads across a diverse array of social ties
Network characteristics independently predict which individuals will be happy years into the future

Cite this as: BMJ 2008;337:a2338

We thank Laurie Meneades, Rebecca Joyce, Molly Collins, Marian Bellwood, and Karen Mutalik for the expert assistance required to build the analytical data. We thank Chris Dawes, Dan Gilbert, Tom Keegan, Erez Lieberman, Andrew Oswald, Mark Pachucki, and Holly Shakya for helpful suggestions regarding the manuscript.

Contributors: Both authors participated in the conception and design of the study, analysis and interpretation of data, drafting and revising the article, and its final approval. Both authors are guarantors.

Funding: This was work was supported by NIH (R-01 AG24448, P-01 AG031093) and by the Pioneer Portfolio of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation; NHLBI’s Framingham Heart Study is supported by contract number N01-HC-25195. Neither author has a dependent relationship with any of the funding agencies.

Competing interests: None declared.

Ethical approval: This work was approved by the Harvard institutional review board; the parent Framingham Heart Study has separate IRB approval. All participants gave informed consent.

Provenance and peer review: Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.


Thursday, December 04, 2008

Is Hemp Seed Oil a Good Health and Beauty Supplement? Dr. Weil Thinks So

by April Streeter, Gothenburg, Sweden

Industrial hemp plant photo Textile hemp plant photo by Eric Martinez @ flickr.

Quick, what do you picture when you see the word "hemp" - old-fashioned hippies in rope sandals and scratchy shirts? Or do you go right to the 'evil weed' cannabis-hemp connection? Whatever you imagine, you are probably not alone, influenced by decades of government's viewpoint equating the industrial hemp plant with its close cannabis-genus cousin marijuana (the U.S. forbids domestic hemp crops, though two North Dakota farmers are fighting in court for the right to do so). But the sturdy, fast-growing and pesticide-resistant hemp plant has made its way into many, many eco-friendly imports - clothing, insulation, biodiesel, biodegradable packaging, and even foods such as granola bars and vegan milk. Hemp is great. Now a well-known hemp grower wants you to drink hemp seed oil daily to get your essential fatty acids, but is this a good idea?

Well, famous health food guru Dr. Andrew Weil says yes.

"If Americans ate more hemp I think it would correct the imbalance of fatty acids in the diet. I think we'd see a decrease in inflammatory diseases and...heart disease,"
Weil commented on a You Tube paen to hemp's promise on the web site.

What Weil says is based on the fact that Americans eat a lot more Omega 6 fatty acids compared to their intake of Omega 3 fatty acids, to our health detriment, according to most researchers. Evolutionarily, humans might have had about a 1-to-1 balance of 6's to 3's. Today, the ration can be someplace around 15-to-1! That's because so many of the processed foods we eat contain polyunsaturated fatty acids in vegetable oils like corn oil.

Just shy of greenwash? Some mainstream health sources say to maintain a 4-to-1 ration of Omega 6 to Omega 3, with others recommend something nearer to 2-to-1. Manitoba Harvest said its hemp seed oil (available in either no-pesticide or organic versions) is a healthy choice - it has a ratio of 3.75 to 1. They suggest using the oil in salad dressings, sauces (though not as a cooking oil) and even drinking it directly up to 1 to 2 tablespoons each day. Manitoba also says hemp seed oil is a good "beauty" oil because an Omega imbalance has been indicated in skin conditions such as excema.

While Manitoba's claims might not rile a normal greenwash meter, it bears saying that flax seed oil might be a preferable diet supplement if you are in any way trying to even out your Omega 6 to Omega 3 ratio. Flax oil has a 1-to-4 Omega 6 to Omega 3 ratio. (Manitoba Harvest thinks hemp seed oil tastes better and compares it to flax seed oil here). And, good old cod liver oil might be even better because it also contains Vitamin D, which most health professionals agree is needed, especially in winter, and is possibly more efficiently converted than plant-based Omega sources.

So perhaps we should leave the hemp seed oil for the biofuel crusher. Via: Manitoba Harvest

Read more It's Not Easy Being a Hemp Farmer

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Some Graceful Effortlessness

"As the times change you tire of the old ways. Even your dreams begin to reach out into new avenues. The relationships between nature's natural conservative behavior and nature's need for innovation are stretched. More and more remarkable events begin to occur, both in private and mass experience, in physical and mental behavior, in the events, say, of both stars and man. People want, then, to throw aside old structures of belief. They yearn, often without recognizing it, for the remembered knowledge of early childhood, when it seems that they experienced for a time a dimension of experience in which the unexpected was taken for granted, when magical events occurred quite naturally. They begin to look at the structure of their lives in a different fashion, that attempts to evoke from nature, and from their own natures, some graceful effortlessness, some freedom nearly forgotten." Session 936 SETH Jane Roberts

Biodiesel Plant for Chiapas

From: At the same time that she announced that Pemex will renew oil drilling in the Lacandon Jungle, Mexican Energy Secretary Georgina Kessel Martinez also announced a biodiesel plant for Chiapas, the exact location not as yet determined. The plant was agreed to as part of the Mesoamerica Project (formerly the Plan Puebla-Panama), which includes Colombia. Not surprisingly, the biofuel plant will be constructed with Colombian technology. This poses a threat to indigenous and campesino lands, as well as the region’s ecology and food security because of the large tracts of land needed to grow monocrops for conversion into bio-fuels. The cultivation of monocrops ruins the soil on which it is grown, so that food cannot be grown on the land after it is exhausted by monocrop cultivation.

Foreign Intervention Won The Venezuelan Elections

Years of work penetrating communities and financing "democracy" programs and projects with an anti-socialist vision in the communities of Petare, Sucre Municipality of Miranda State, and Catia, Libertador Municipality in Caracas, and in other zones where the vast majority of the population of Caracas and Miranda is located, allowed the opposition to retake control of these areas. The strategic political consultation, with its separatist vision and in favor of the infiltration of paramilitaries in Zulia and Tachira, allowed these areas that are of such importance to the security of the Venezuelan state to be controlled by an opposition that is subordinate to the agenda of Washington and the objectives of Plan Colombia that plague the region. It's not just the 4.7 million dollars invested in the opposition's campaign for the regional elections in 2008 by the United States Agency of International Development (USAID), the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), and their affiliated agencies, but also the 50 million dollars, along with expert political consultation, donated by the US and used since 2000 to construct a solid base of the Venezuelan opposition, who, beginning in 2004, began to set their sights on infiltrating communities supportive of Chavez as well as students. Still, we can't rule out or ignore the responsibility of certain politicians who used the revolution and the good faith of President Chavez to come to power and then abused it with their corrupt practices that hurt the people they represented. But the media campaign that blames the Pro-Chavez movement for crime and corruption in the in the country – mainly in the large capital city of Caracas – had a major impact, and the local and national government didn't respond effectively. The short memory of those Venezuelans who forgot how the mayor-elect, Antonio Ledezma, governed as mayor of the Federal District in 1993 when he prohibited any protest or rally in the city. Or how Ledezma was one of those responsible for the deterioration of public services in the city, along with its infrastructure. As a result, the Chavista elected officials of 2000 and 2004 inherited a capital city in total ruin – the historic center almost destroyed, streets full of potholes and buildings stained after being forgotten and abandoned for years. Could the same mayor who destroyed the city 15 years ago be the one to save it now? Only time will tell, but the odds are slim and the unfortunate short-term memory of some Caraqueños will make them to pay for their impulsive decision. The most strategic and populated states of the country, Carabobo, Miranda, Tachira, Zulia, and the metropolitan mayor of Caracas, have been handed like a prize to the same political players who, in the last seven years, have carried out attacks against Venezuelan democracy, including a coup d'état (all of these new elected officials were top leaders in the coup d'état of April 2002), the economic sabotage that almost destroyed the country and its petroleum industry in 2002-2003, and the numerous protests and attempts to destabilize since then that have tested the patience of Venezuelan society. Why then did these important regions fall back in the hands of coup-plotters? The answer is simple and complex at the same time. There is a lack of understanding within the revolution about the importance and about the impact of subversion and the interference of foreign agencies in the country. We aren't just talking about the financing of opposition political parties – something that should be strictly prohibited by law – but a complex web of different actors, entities, front groups, and agencies that have managed to infiltrate the ranks of the pro-Chavez movement, and have been able to snag and remove political parties like PPT (Homeland for All) and Podemos (We can), which previously sided fully with the revolution. This web – which I call the Empire's Spider Web – also penetrates communities and barrios and promotes alternative projects and programs to those proposed by President Chavez that may be more attractive in the short term, providing instant satisfaction to these needy sectors. These foreign agencies, like the aforementioned USAID and the NED, and others such as Freedom House, the National Democratic Institute (NDI), the International Republican Institute (IRI), the Konrad Adenauer Foundation (Germany), FAES (Spain), FOCAL (Canada), Friedrich Ebert Foundation (Germany), among others, have been working in Venezuela for years, advising and financing parties such as Primero Justicia (Justice First), Un Nuevo Tiempo (A New Era), and Podemos to help them create political platforms and strategies that reflect the needs and wants of the Venezuelan people, but maintain a hidden agenda that promotes a neo-liberal, anti-socialist vision. Remember that we are in a battle of ideas and in this war without a battlefield all weapons within reach are employed to neutralize the enemy. The work of these agencies has also been extremely effective with the NGOs and within right-wing student groups, such as Súmate, Cedice, Hagamos Democracia, Sinergia, "White Hands" student movement, and others. With this help, these groups have taken over sectors of society that have been neglected by the revolution, if not forgotten entirely. The ability and effectiveness of foreign interference, like an imperial fist, cannot be underestimated. The strategy of "promoting democracy" in countries like Venezuela is more dangerous than a military invasion. Why? Its detection is difficult and the cover-up is almost perfect – it is hidden behind NGOs and programs with noble-sounding names and missions that claim to help communities and improve the country, but in reality they aim to destabilize and implement an agenda against the sovereign interests of the nation. Its web is immense and it is seen in Venezuelan society through the mainstream media, the touching speeches of spokesmen such as Yon Goicoechea, who try to trick Venezuelans with poetic and comforting phrases, and the complaints of human rights organizations like Human Rights Watch, Inter American Press Society, and the Human Rights Commission of the Organization of American States (OAS). This is the most dangerous foreign interference that the Bolivarian Revolution faces. Its deadly web extends across the country after the results of November 23. The people and national government need to act now to neutralize this growing threat to their future. The fact that the new United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV, Spanish acronym) won 17 governors races with nearly six million votes is an important step for the strengthening of the revolution. It also shows the revolutionary commitment of the majority of Venezuelans. Despite this, the strategic victory of the opposition forces can't be denied or discounted, and its recovery of these regional governments should be a wake up call for the revolutionary citizens and the Venezuelan government. They will use these spaces to introduce and promote their individualist, anti-socialist vision, shrouded in the message of "democracy and liberty." And they will open up their regions even more to the imperial web. The border area is in serious risk. The Venezuelan "half moon" could further strengthen with Zulia and Tachira in the hands of the most reactionary right-wing political players in the country. Its time for strong actions to combat the interference of foreign agencies in the country. If they aren't neutralized now, they will embed their followers so deeply in the country that they will be here for good. Eva Golinger is a lawyer, researcher and writer, and author of The Chavez Code, Bush vs. Chavez: Washington's War against Venezuela, and The Empire's Web: Encyclopedia of Interventionism and Subversion (in Spanish), which was published in Venezuela in November 2008. Contact her at

Translated by Erik Sperling

Political Prisoner Begins Hunger Strike in Oaxaca

On November 27, Pedro Castillo Aragon and Victor Hugo Martinez were removed from the Santa Maria Ixcotel prison in Oaxaca, separated, beaten, and returned to the prison at different times. Both are members of the APPO in Oaxaca and also adherents to the Other Campaign. Pedro Castillo has now begun a hunger strike, demanding his freedom and that of other political prisoners in Oaxaca. He was imprisoned in 2002 in retaliation for his work with the Citizens Defense Committee (Codeci) in support of Oaxaca’s indigenous peoples.

Pemex Will Drill for Oil in the Lacandon Jungle of Chiapas

From: Mexico’s Energy Secretary, Georgina Kessel Martinez, announced this month that in 2009 Petroleos Mexicanos (Pemex) will solicit bids for oil drilling contracts in southeastern Mexico, including Chiapas. What was a bit surprising about her announcement was that she mentioned the Lacandon Jungle as one of the areas. After ecologists became alarmed, Kessel Martinez clarified that drilling would not take place in natural protected areas. As early as July/August 1996, Subcomandante Marcos asserted that a primary motive for the government’s counterinsurgency zeal had to do with oil and the fact that some of that oil was located right next door to the then Zapatista Aguascalientes (now a Zapatista Caracol) of La Garrucha, located in the canyons east of the city of Ocosingo, not a natural protected area. Another Zapatista area thought to contain oil is Amador Hernandez, deeper in the jungle and right on the edge of the Montes Azules Biosphere Reserve. Sometime toward the end of 2009 the bidding process will begin for oil exploration contracts. It will be interesting to see if Halliburton will try to expand its operations in Chiapas.

Mexican Government Tries to Pin New Charges on Juan Martinez in Brad Will Case

The government likely knows that murder charges won’t stick in a fair trial, so it hopes to imprison Martinez for firearms possession Oaxacan newspaper Quadratín reports that the Federal Attorney General’s Office (PGR in its Spanish initials) has opened a new criminal investigation against Juan Manuel Martinez Moreno in the Brad Will murder case. Martinez is the Popular Assembly of the Peoples of Oaxaca (APPO) activist that the Mexican government has charged with murdering Will on October 27, 2006, as he filmed clashes between APPO supporters and paramilitaries affiliated with the Institutional Revolution Party (PRI). Quadratín reports that Federal Investigation Agency (AFI, the PGR’s police force) Agent Fernando Gómez Monjarraz entered Martinez’s cell yesterday to interrogate him about how he obtained the gun they claim he used to murder Will. Despite significant pressure to answer the questions immediately, Martinez refused to answer without his lawyer present. The November 25 Liberation Committee, a prisoner solidarity organization in Oaxaca, said that this was an act of intimidation and harassment, and that Mexican law states that any interrogation should have occurred in an interrogation room outside the jail, not in the jail itself. The November 25 Liberation Committee believes that the government has opened the new criminal investigation against Martinez because it wants to bring more charges against him to ensure that Martinez is not set free. The government’s case against Martinez and the other eight accused men is not likely to hold water—if the men receive fair and impartial trials, that is. Will’s family and friends, Physicians for Human Rights, Reporters Without Borders, and the Mexican government’s own National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) have contradicted or outright denounced the PGR’s theory that APPO supporters shot Will at close range. All of them claim that all evidence points to a long-range shot, quite possibly shot by local police and local and state government officials. The government’s case, however, relies almost entirely on the testimony of Adolfo Feria, the mayor of Santa Lucia del Camino’s cousin. Feria claims an unidentified person told him that s/he saw a thick man in a pickup truck kill Will. Martinez does not own a pick up truck. He told the Mexican daily Milenio, “I don’t even own a bicycle.” The government has charged an additional eight APPO supporters of covering up the crime. At least five of the nine accused voluntarily presented themselves to the PGR as witnesses to Will’s murder in March 2007. The PGR is now using their testimony as evidence against them to prove that they were present when Will was murdered. In a statement following the announcement of the arrest warrants, the witnesses said, “We gave statements before the Federal Attorney General, contributing information, we supplied testimony based on the real events, and we presented counter arguments to those of the State Attorney General, given that the information and investigation led by this institution has always been full of irregularities, ambiguities, and omissions…. We are men with great dreams and social activists but that does not make us murderers. Those responsible are other people and there is sufficient proof of this…”

Plan Mexico

At least 19 other people were killed during the 2006 uprising in Oaxaca. The government has not made arrests in any of these other cases. In late October, the head of the CNDH, José Luis Soberanes Fernández, stated his opinion on why that is the case: "It's said that they weren't going to give them [the Mexican government] the Merida Initiative resources if they didn't resolve this case, and therefore they had to clear it up at any cost, and now we see the results." The Merida Initiative, also known as Plan Mexico, is a multi-year military and police aid package from the US government. It is worth well over a billion dollars. An explanatory statement accompanying the law that authorized 2008 Plan Mexico funds required the US State Department to submit a report to Congress "detailing progress in conducting a thorough, credible, and transparent investigation to identify the perpetrators" of Will's murder. It also called for the State Department to work with the Mexican government to assist in the investigation of the case.

Prior to Plan Mexico, it seemed as though the Mexican government was going to allow the Will case to go unresolved just like the other 19 cases. Soberanes pointed out that the federal government dragged its feet for two years investigating the Will case. Then, suddenly, "in 15 days they resolve the case."

The State Department's priliminarly report on the Will murder investigation confirms the Mexican government's continual delays and lack of progress. The report, which outlines the steps the Mexican government has taken to investigate the case over the past two years, only constitutes nine pages written in 12-point font. Two-and-a-half of those pages are commentary from the State Department itself. The report documents repeated requests for information from the US Embassy and the Will family that went unanswered, sometimes for months. And the answer from the Oaxacan prosecutor's office was--when an answer came at all--that the "office was continuing to investigate the case."

Under significant pressure to resolve the case, the PGR needed to make arrests. It was faced with a choice: arrest the police officers government officials shown in photographs and videos shooting at Will around the time of his death, or blame someone else. Given that a bulk of the pressure came attached Plan Mexico--which includes armament and training for police--arresting police officers and government officials for the murder of a US journalist was not likely to grease the way for Plan Mexico funds. So the PGR arrested the witnesses.

While Martinez states that he was not present when Will was murdered, the Mexican government singled him out as the man who pulled the trigger. Martinez was likely chosen because, unlike the men accused of merely covering up the murder, he was a very easy target. During the uprising he supported the APPO as an indivudual, not as a member of an organization like the other witnesses. Martinez became further isolated when he, like some other APPO supporters, took a job working with the Democratic Revolution Party (PRD, Mexico's center-left party) in the local government. The integration of some APPO members caused a division within the movement, with anti-government APPO members showing up at public events to heckle their former comrades who had taken positions within political parties and the government.

Of the nine accused men, only Martinez is in prison. The rest are free thanks to an agreement negotiated between Section 22 of the teachers union (which led the 2006 protests with the APPO) and the state government. Their arrest warrants are on hold, and the men have to report to the local district attorney's office every week. If the men are taken into custody, the teachers union has vowed to shut down Oaxaca yet again.

"Prop 8 - The Musical" starring Jack Black, John C. Reilly, and many more...

[Thanks to GBC for this link]
See more Jack Black videos at Funny or Die

You Wanted Change With That?, by William Blum

Vote First, Ask Questions Later

Okay, let’s get the obvious out of the way. It was historic. I choked up a number of times, tears came to my eyes, even though I didn’t vote for him. I voted for Ralph Nader for the fourth time in a row.

During the past eight years when I’ve listened to news programs on the radio each day I’ve made sure to be within a few feet of the radio so I could quickly change the station when that preposterous man or one of his disciples came on; I’m not a masochist, I suffer fools very poorly, and I get bored easily. Sad to say, I’m already turning the radio off sometimes when Obama comes on. He doesn’t say anything, or not enough, or not often enough. Platitudes, clichés, promises without substance, “hope and change,” almost everything without sufficient substance, “change and hope,” without specifics, designed not to offend. What exactly are the man’s principles? He never questions the premises of the empire. Never questions the premises of the “War on Terror.” I’m glad he won for two reasons only: John McCain and Sarah Palin, and I deeply resent the fact that the American system forces me to squeeze out a drop of pleasure from something so far removed from my ideals. Obama’s votes came at least as much from people desperate for relief from neo-conservative suffocation as from people who genuinely believed in him. It’s a form of extortion — Vote for Obama or you get more of the same. Those are your only choices.

Is there reason to be happy that the insufferably religious George W. is soon to be history? “I believe that Christ died for my sins and I am redeemed through him. That is a source of strength and sustenance on a daily basis.” That was said by someone named Barack Obama.1 The United States turns out religious fanatics like the Japanese turn out cars. Let’s pray for an end to this.

As I’ve mentioned before, if you’re one of those who would like to believe that Obama has to present center-right foreign policy views to be elected, but once he’s in the White House we can forget that he misled us repeatedly and the true, progressive man of peace and international law and human rights will emerge . . . keep in mind that as a US Senate candidate in 2004 he threatened missile strikes against Iran2, and winning that election apparently did not put him in touch with his inner peacenik. He’s been threatening Iran ever since.

The world is in terrible shape. I don’t think I have to elucidate on that remark. How nice, how marvelously nice it would be to have an American president who was infused with progressive values and political courage. Just imagine what could be done. Like a quick and complete exit from Iraq. You can paint the picture as well as I can. With his popularity Obama could get away with almost anything, but he’ll probably continue to play it safe. Or what may be more precise, he’ll continue to be himself; which, apparently, is a committed centrist. He’s not really against the war. Not like you and I are. During Obama’s first four years in the White House, the United States will not leave Iraq. I doubt that he’d allow a complete withdrawal even in a second term. Has he ever unequivocally called the war illegal and immoral? A crime against humanity? Why is he so close to Colin Powell? Does he not know of Powell’s despicable role in the war? And retaining George W. Bush’s Defense Secretary, Robert Gates, a man against whom it would not be difficult to draw up charges of war crimes? Will he also find a place for Rumsfeld? And Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano, a supporter of the war, to run the Homeland Security department? And General James Jones, a former NATO commander (sic), who wants to “win” in Iraq and Afghanistan, and who backed John McCain, as his National Security Adviser? Jones is on the Board of Directors of the Boeing Corporation and Chevron Oil. Out of what dark corner of Obama’s soul does all this come?

As Noam Chomsky recently pointed out, the election of an indigenous person (Evo Morales) in Bolivia and a progressive person (Jean-Bertrand Aristide) in Haiti were more historic than the election of Barack Obama.

He’s not really against torture either. Not like you and I are. No one will be punished for using or ordering torture. No one will be impeached because of torture. Michael Ratner, president of the Center for Constitutional Rights, says that prosecuting Bush officials is necessary to set future anti-torture policy. “The only way to prevent this from happening again is to make sure that those who were responsible for the torture program pay the price for it. I don’t see how we regain our moral stature by allowing those who were intimately involved in the torture programs to simply walk off the stage and lead lives where they are not held accountable.”3

As president, Obama cannot remain silent and do nothing; otherwise he will inherit the war crimes of Bush and Cheney and become a war criminal himself. Closing the Guantanamo hellhole means nothing at all if the prisoners are simply moved to other torture dungeons. If Obama is truly against torture, why does he not declare that after closing Guantanamo the inmates will be tried in civilian courts in the US or resettled in countries where they clearly face no risk of torture? And simply affirm that his administration will faithfully abide by the 1984 Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment, of which the United States is a signatory, and which states: “The term ‘torture’ means any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining information or a confession . . . inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or any other person acting in an official capacity.”

The convention affirms that: “No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political stability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.”

Instead, Obama has appointed former CIA official John O. Brennan as an adviser on intelligence matters and co-leader of his intelligence transition team. Brennan has called “rendition” — the kidnap-and-torture program carried out under the Clinton and Bush administrations — a “vital tool”, and praised the CIA’s interrogation techniques for providing “lifesaving” intelligence.4

Obama may prove to be as big a disappointment as Nelson Mandela, who did painfully little to improve the lot of the masses of South Africa while turning the country over to the international forces of globalization. I make this comparison not because both men are black, but because both produced such great expectations in their home country and throughout the world. Mandela was freed from prison on the assumption of the Apartheid leaders that he would become president and pacify the restless black population while ruling as a non-radical, free-market centrist without undue threat to white privilege. It’s perhaps significant that in his autobiography he declines to blame the CIA for his capture in 1962 even though the evidence to support this is compelling.5 It appears that Barack Obama made a similar impression upon the American power elite who vetted him in many fundraising and other meetings and smoothed the way for his highly unlikely ascendancy from obscure state senator to the presidency in four years. The financial support from the corporate world to sell “Brand Obama” was extraordinary.

Another comparison might be with Tony Blair. The Tories could never have brought in university fees or endless brutal wars, but New Labour did. The Republicans would have had a very difficult time bringing back the draft, but I can see Obama reinstating it, accompanied by a suitable slogan, some variation of “Yes, we can!”.

I do hope I’m wrong, about his past and about how he’ll rule as president. I hope I’m very wrong.

Many people are calling for progressives to intensely lobby the Obama administration, to exert pressure to bring out the “good Obama,” force him to commit himself, hold him accountable. The bold reforms of Roosevelt’s New Deal were spurred by widespread labor strikes and other militant actions soon after the honeymoon period was over. At the moment I have nothing better to offer than that. God help us.

The Future as We Used to Know it has Ceased to Exist, and Other Happy Thoughts

Reading the accounts of the terrorist horror in Mumbai has left me as pessimistic as a dinosaur contemplating the future of his grandchildren. How could they do that? . . . destroying all those lives, people they didn’t even know, people enjoying themselves on vacation . . . whatever could be their motivation? Well, they did sort of know some of their victims; they knew they were Indians, or Americans, or British, or Zionists, or some other kind of infidel; so it wasn’t completely mindless, not totally random. Does that help to understand? Can it ease the weltschmerz? You can even make use of it. The next time you encounter a defender of American foreign policy, someone insisting that something like Mumbai justifies Washington’s rhetorical and military attacks against Islam, you might want to point out that the United States does the same on a regular basis. For seven years in Afghanistan, almost six in Iraq, to give only the two most obvious examples … breaking down doors and machine-gunning strangers, infidels, traumatizing children for life, firing missiles into occupied houses, exploding bombs all over the place, pausing to torture . . . every few days dropping bombs on Pakistan or Afghanistan, and still Iraq, claiming they’ve killed members of al-Qaeda, just as bad as Zionists, bombing wedding parties, one after another, 20 or 30 or 70 killed, all terrorists of course, often including top al-Qaeda leaders, the number one or number two man, so we’re told; so not completely mindless, not totally random; the survivors say it was a wedding party, their brother or their nephew or their friend, mostly women and children dead; the US military pays people to tell them where so-and-so number-one bad guy is going to be; and the US military believes what they’re told, so Bombs Away! … Does any of that depress you like Mumbai? Sometimes they bomb Syria instead, or kill people in Iran or Somalia, all bad guys . . . “US helicopter-borne troops have carried out a raid inside Syria along the Iraqi border, killing eight people including a woman, Syrian authorities say” reports the BBC.6 . . . “The United States military since 2004 has used broad, secret authority to carry out nearly a dozen previously undisclosed attacks against Al Qaeda and other militants in Syria, Pakistan and elsewhere, according to senior American officials. . . . The secret order gave the military new authority to attack the Qaeda terrorist network anywhere in the world, and a more sweeping mandate to conduct operations in countries not at war with the United States,” the New York Times informs us.7 So it’s all nice and legal, not an attack upon civilization by a bunch of escaped mental patients. Maybe the Mumbai terrorists also have a piece of paper, from some authority, saying that it’s okay what they did. . . . I’m feeling better already.

The Mythology of the War on Terrorism

On November 8, three men were executed by the government of Indonesia for terrorist attacks on two night clubs in Bali in 2002 that took the lives of 202 people, more than half of whom were Australians, Britons and Americans. The Associated Press8 reported that, “the three men never expressed remorse, saying the suicide bombings were meant to punish the United States and its Western allies for alleged atrocities in Afghanistan and elsewhere.”

During the recent US election campaign, John McCain and his followers repeated a sentiment that has become a commonplace — that the War on Terrorism has been a success because there hasn’t been a terrorist attack against the United States since September 11, 2001; as if terrorists killing Americans is acceptable if it’s done abroad. Since the first American strike on Afghanistan in October 2001 there have been literally scores of terrorist attacks against American institutions in the Middle East, South Asia and the Pacific, more than a dozen in Pakistan alone: military, civilian, Christian, and other targets associated with the United States. The year following the Bali bombings saw the heavy bombing of the US-managed Marriott Hotel in Jakarta, Indonesia, the site of diplomatic receptions and 4th of July celebrations held by the American Embassy. The Marriott Hotel in Pakistan was the scene of a major terrorist bombing just two months ago. All of these attacks have been in addition to the thousands in Iraq and Afghanistan against US occupation, which Washington officially labels an integral part of the War on Terrorism. Yet American lovers of military force insist that the War on Terrorism has kept the United States safe.

Even the claim that the War on Terrorism has kept Americans safe at home is questionable. There was no terrorist attack in the United States during the 6-1/2 years prior to the one in September 2001; not since the April 1995 bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City. It would thus appear that the absence of terrorist attacks in the United States is the norm.

An even more insidious myth of the War on Terrorism has been the notion that terrorist acts against the United States can be explained, largely, if not entirely, by irrational hatred or envy of American social, economic, or religious values, and not by what the United States does to the world; i.e., US foreign policy. Many Americans are mightily reluctant to abandon this idea. Without it the whole paradigm — that we are the innocent good guys and they are the crazy, fanatic, bloodthirsty bastards who cannot be talked to but only bombed, tortured and killed – falls apart. Statements like the one above from the Bali bombers blaming American policies for their actions are numerous, coming routinely from Osama bin Laden and those under him.9

Terrorism is an act of political propaganda, a bloody form of making the world hear one’s outrage against a perceived oppressor, graffiti written on the wall in some grim, desolate alley. It follows that if the perpetrators of a terrorist act declare what their motivation was, their statement should carry credibility, no matter what one thinks of their cause or the method used to achieve it.

Just Put Down That Stereotype and No One Gets Hurt

Sarah Palin and her American supporters resent what they see as the East Coast elite, the intellectuals, the cultural snobs, the politically correct, the pacifists and peaceniks, the agnostics and atheists, the environmentalists, the fanatic animal protectors, the food police, the health gestapo, the socialists, and other such leftist and liberal types who think of themselves as morally superior to Joe Sixpack, Joe the Plumber, National Rifle Association devotées, rednecks, and all the Bush supporters who have relished the idea of having a president no smarter than themselves. It’s stereotyping gone wild. So in the interest of bringing some balance and historical perspective to the issue, allow me to remind you of some forgotten, or never known, factoids which confound the stereotypes.

* Josef Stalin studied for the priesthood.

* Adolf Hitler once hoped to become a Catholic priest or monk; he was a vegetarian and was anti-smoking.

* Hermann Goering, while his Luftwaffe rained death upon Europe, kept a sign in his office that read: “He who tortures animals wounds the feelings of the German people.”

* Adolf Eichmann was cultured, read deeply, played the violin.

* Benito Mussolini also played the violin.

* Some Nazi concentration camp commanders listened to Mozart to drown out the cries of the inmates.

* Charles Manson was a staunch anti-vivisectionist.

* Radovan Karadzic, the Bosnian Serb leader, charged with war crimes, genocide, and crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, had been a psychiatrist specializing in depression; the author of a published book of poetry as well as children’s books, often with themes of nature; and a practitioner of alternative medicine.

I’m not really certain to what use you might put this information to advance toward our cherished national goal of becoming a civilized society, but I feel a need to disseminate it. If you know of any other examples of the same type, I’d appreciate your sending them to me.

The examples above are all of “bad guys” doing “good” things. There are of course many more instances of “good guys” doing “bad” things.

  1. Washington Post, August 17, 2008. []
  2. Chicago Tribune, September 25, 2004. []
  3. Associated Press, November 17, 2008. []
  4. New York Times, October 3, 2008. []
  5. Nelson Mandela, Long Walk to Freedom (1994) p.278; William Blum, Rogue State, chapter 23, “How the CIA sent Nelson Mandela to prison for 28 years.” []
  6. BBC, October 26, 2008. []
  7. New York Times, November 9, 2008. []
  8. Associated Press, November 9, 2008. []
  9. See my article. []

William Blum is the author of: Killing Hope: US Military and CIA Interventions Since World War 2, Rogue State: A Guide to the World's Only Superpower, West-Bloc Dissident: A Cold War Memoir, Freeing the World to Death: Essays on the American Empire. He can be reached at: Read other articles by William, or visit William's website.

Welcome Secretary Clinton:

Obama's Promises to Be Kept - Posted by Al Giordano - December 1, 2008 at 8:01 pm ... Now, let's take a look at some of the actions in this American Hemisphere that Secretary Clinton, once installed, will have to undertake to comply with the campaign promises made by candidate Obama, some of which run counter to her own campaign stances, others that she evolved to adopt during the campaign, and some big ones that are time bound, in which Obama and sometimes Clinton pledged to do them within "six months" or within "one year" from assuming office on January 20... ... Promise #1: Renegotiate NAFTA within six months Promise #2: Block the US Colombia Trade Deal Promise #3: Meet with US-Shunned World Leaders in First Year Misc. Promises... Of course, not all of Obama's promises regarding US-Latin American policy will go through the State Department. Immigration reform - putting twelve million undocumented Americans on the same path to citizenship that virtually all our ancestors had the opportunity to gain - will more be the domain of other cabinet members and the White House staff setting priorities in Congress. But it's another "red zone" to watch that will give indications "in the first year" of the Obama presidency, because that's the timeline - one year - that Obama himself put on it. Obama has yet to break a single campaign promise. Hooray. Of course, he's not president yet. But in this hemisphere, these are the flash points through which we will know, during his first year in office, whether he told us the truth. I'm not alone in looking forward to the day, one year into Obama's presidential term, when we can congratulate him - and his Secretary of State, who would make even her historic critics proud and whose redemption will not come through a mere cabinet appointment but by whether she complies with the goals promised for it. Good luck, Mr. President and Madame Secretary. Those are big and important promises to keep. And please do never forget, they are promises. * COHA will be releasing the following memorandum to the press in the upcoming weeks concerning the Obama Administration’s Policies toward Latin America, Argentina’s Water Measures and Washington’s Potential New Take on the Cuban Embargo.

• The Obama Administration and Washington’s Evolving Latin American Policies

• Argentina’s President Fernández de Kirchner Makes One Big Mistake in Vetoing Water Commodification Measure

• Degaussing Cuba: Washington Might Show Some Class When It Rids Itself of Its Mindless Vendetta Politics towards Havana

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

U.S. Supreme Court: State Medical Marijuana Laws Not Preempted by Federal Law

[Thanks to Fernando for this link] Medical marijuana case appealed by the City of Garden Grove was denied review today

Washington, DC -- The U.S. Supreme Court refused to review a landmark decision today in which California state courts found that its medical marijuana law was not preempted by federal law. The state appellate court decision from November 28, 2007, ruled that "it is not the job of the local police to enforce the federal drug laws." The case, involving Felix Kha, a medical marijuana patient from Garden Grove, was the result of a wrongful seizure of medical marijuana by local police in June 2005. Medical marijuana advocates hailed today's decision as a huge victory in clarifying law enforcement's obligation to uphold state law. Advocates assert that better adherence to state medical marijuana laws by local police will result in fewer needless arrests and seizures. In turn, this will allow for better implementation of medical marijuana laws not only in California, but in all states that have adopted such laws. "It's now settled that state law enforcement officers cannot arrest medical marijuana patients or seize their medicine simply because they prefer the contrary federal law," said Joe Elford, Chief Counsel with Americans for Safe Access (ASA), the medical marijuana advocacy organization that represented the defendant Felix Kha in a case that the City of Garden Grove appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. "Perhaps, in the future local government will think twice about expending significant time and resources to defy a law that is overwhelmingly supported by the people of our state." California medical marijuana patient Felix Kha was pulled over by the Garden Grove Police Department and cited for possession of marijuana, despite Kha showing the officers proper documentation. The charge against Kha was subsequently dismissed, with the Superior Court of Orange County issuing an order to return Kha's wrongfully seized 8 grams of medical marijuana. The police, backed by the City of Garden Grove, refused to return Kha's medicine and the city appealed. Before the 41-page decision was issued a year ago by California's Fourth District Court of Appeal, the California Attorney General filed a "friend of the court" brief on behalf of Kha's right to possess his medicine. The California Supreme Court then denied review in March. "The source of local law enforcement's resistance to upholding state law is an outdated, harmful federal policy with regard to medical marijuana," said ASA spokesperson Kris Hermes. "This should send a message to the federal government that it's time to establish a compassionate policy more consistent with the 13 states that have adopted medical marijuana laws." Further information: Today's U.S. Supreme Court Order denying review: Decision by the California Fourth Appellate District Court: Felix Kha's return of property case:

# # #

Police chief of Tijuana replaced by an Army Officer

Army in government positions? Extreme decisions for extreme situations.

The police chief in the Mexican border city of Tijuana has been removed from his post following a weekend in which 37 people were killed.

State authorities say Jesus Capella, who had received numerous threats, will be replaced by an army officer.

Mexico's border with the US is facing spiralling drug violence, and several police chiefs have either been murdered or arrested on corruption charges.

Three months of violence in Tijuana have claimed more than 300 lives.

Even by the current violent standards of the city, last weekend was particularly gruesome.

Of the 37 people killed, nine men - including three police officers - were found decapitated.

Four children also died, apparently caught in the crossfire.

World Festival Updates


(NOTE: If any additional updates on this festival are released between now and when it begins on December 26th, I'll link to them at THIS post... also stay tuned for a future post with links to images, text, video and audio from the festival itself -along with some zapagringo commentary- coming in late Dec/early Jan --> and please be in touch if you are going as I would love to get your thoughts, reportbacks, etc.) COMMUNIQUÉ FROM THE INDIGENOUS REVOLUTIONARY CLANDESTINE COMMITTEE—GENERAL COMMAND OF THE ZAPATISTA ARMY FOR NATIONAL LIBERATION

MEXICO. Sixth Commission and Intergalactic Commission of the EZLN 26th of November 2008.

To the adherents to the Sixth Declaration from the Lacandona Jungle in Mexico and in the world: To the guests of the First World Festival of the "Digna Rabia": To the people of Mexico: To the peoples of the world:







26th of December 2008.


1100 hrs. The Four Wheels of Capitalism: EXPLOITATION. Open forum with the participation of maquila workers from Baja California and Tamaulipas, the National Confederation of Workers (CGT from the Spanish State), workers from Solano (Argentina) and workers from the Middle East (Iran), as well as those workers who wish to participate and who let us know in advance. Moderator: Multidisciplinary Analysis Centre (CAM, UNAM, Mexico).

1700 hrs. The Other Paths: ANOTHER CITY. Open forum with the participation of the National Union of Popular Organizations from the Independent Left (UNOPII Mexico), the Workers and Socialist Unity (UNÍOS Mexico), young people from anarchist, punk, and libertarian collectives (Mexico). Street Brigade (Brigada Callejera Mexico), as well as those who struggle in the cities who wish to participate and who let us know in advance. Moderator: UNOPII (Mexico).

27th of December 2008.

1100 hrs. The Four Wheels of Capitalism: PLUNDER. Open forum with the participation of the National Indigenous Congress (CNI Mexico), dwellers of Lomas de Poleo (Ciudad Juárez) (Mexico), Indigenous Cabildos Association from the North of the Cauca (Colombia), as well as those who have a say on capitalist plunder who wish to participate and who let us know in advance. Moderator: Bárbara Zamora (Mexico).

1700 hrs. The Other Paths: OTHER SOCIAL MOVEMENTS. Open forum with the CNUC -Tlaxcala (Mexico), Indigenous Chinanteca Force (Fuerza Indígena Chinanteca Mexico), People’s Front (Frente del Pueblo Mexico), Blanca Navidad Neighbourhood of Nuevo Laredo (Mexico), Independent Francisco Villa Popular Front (FPFVI Mexico), CACTO-Oaxaca (Mexico). Moderator: CNI (Mexico).

28th of December 2008

1100 hrs. The Four Wheels of Capitalism: REPRESSION. Open forum with the Doñas of Sinaloa and Chihuahua (Mexico), message from the Atenco political prisoners (Mexico), recorded message from Gloria Arenas, political prisoner (Mexico), We are all prisoners collective (Tod@s somos Pres@s (Mexico), National Network against Repression and for Solidarity (Red Nacional contra la Represión y por la Solidaridad (Mexico), and Bárbara Zamora (Mexico). Moderator: UNÍOS (Mexico).

1700 hrs. The Other Paths: ANOTHER HISTORY, OTHER POLITICS. Roundtable with the participation of John Holloway, Felipe Echenique (Mexico), Francisco Pineda (Mexico), Raúl Zibechi (Uruguay), Olivier Besacenot (France), Mónica Baltodano (Nicaragua), Sergio Rodríguez Lascano (Mexico). Moderator: Revista Rebeldía (Mexico).

29th of December 2008.

1100 hrs. The Four Wheels of Capitalism: CONTEMPT. Open forum with the Anarcho-Punk Collective La KURVA (Mexico), National Indigenous Congress (Mexico), Braceros National Assembly (Mexico), Mercedes Oliveira (Mexico). Moderator: CNI (Mexico).


Adolfo Gilly (Mexico) Pablo Gonzalez Casanova (Mexico) Monica Baltodano (Nicaragua) Luis Villoro (Mexico) Oscar Olivera (Bolivia) Michael Hardt (USA) Walter Mignolo (Argentina) Pier Luigi Sullo (Italy) Sylvia Marcos (Mexico) Jotxe Iriarte (Basque Country) Paulina Fernandez (Mexico) Marcos Roitman (Chile-Spanish State) Gustavo Esteva (Mexico) Jean Robert (Switzerland) Arundhati Roy (India) (who will send her participation) Barbara Zamora (Mexico) Carlos Aguirre Rojas (Mexico) Raul Zibechi (Uruguay) Carlos Gonzalez –CNI- (Mexico) Juan Chavez –CNI- (Mexico) John Berger (England) (who will send his participation) Olivier Bensacenot (France) Jaime Pastor (Spanish State) Landless workers movement-MST (Brazil) Sergio Rodriguez Lazcano (Mexico) Via Campesina (International).








From the Mexican South-eastern Mountains.

Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos. EZLN’s Sixth Commission

Teniente Coronel Insurgente Moisés. EZLN’s Intergalactic Commission

Mexico, November 2008.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Obama Exploits Liberal Denial, By Mickey Z.

By now, we should expect the soft Left (and more than a few radicals) to gleefully guzzle the Democrat Kool Aid every four years. In 2004, it was Anybody-But-Bush. This year, it was Attack of the Obamatrons. Hey, when you’re a liberal, harboring multiple delusions comes with the territory, e.g.

* Sooner or later, the Democratic Party is gonna wake up and help us “take back” the country.

* No matter what we think of war, we must always support the troops because sooner or later, the men and women in uniform are gonna wake up and help us “take back” the country.

* There’s a mysterious mass of Americans out there—just sitting on the proverbial fence as they wait for us to convince them we are right so they can wake up and help us “take back” the country.

* There was once a time when the people actually “had” the country.

During presidential election years, of course, the most contemptible liberal lie is this: We shouldn’t vote for the third party candidates who actually represent our deeply held values because (drum roll please) they can’t win. It should be obvious that the only reason a third party candidate “can’t win” is because almost everyone who claims to be progressive votes for a Democrat instead.

This self-fulfilling prophecy comes courtesy of the same folks who apparently believe that marching with giant puppets might help end a war.

The same folks who apparently believe that holding a candlelight vigil might help end hate crimes.

The same folks who apparently believe that a giant rock concert might help end global warming.

The same folks who apparently believe that adhering to state sanctioned free speech zones is a legitimate method of expressing dissent.

I could go on but I’d rather ask this simple question: Why is anyone still trusting the entrenched Left on anything? Thanks to their archaic tactics and dogma, we now face four years of genuflecting before the Pope of Hope as he blatantly spits on every effort toward peace, justice and solidarity.

It’s gotten to the point where I wouldn’t be surprised if Lord Obama announced that he’s decided to keep Dick Cheney on as vice president … you know, in the name of bipartisanship and all. What would be most amusing is how quickly 90% of those on the Left would find a way to justify it (and call me “cynical” for not being stoked).

To paraphrase a certain Mr. Diderot, the planet will never be free (or detoxified) until the last politician is strangled with the entrails of the last liberal.

More from Mickey

Interview: New York activist and writer MICKEY Z says that we're all responsible for looking after Earth for future generations.

"TAKE up yoga, lefties, because you're gonna need an awful lot of flexibility to perform the contortions necessary to explain and justify President Obama's actions over the next four years."

Press Action Dynamic Dozen 2008

Press Action celebrates the most dynamic reporters, authors and commentators of 2008.

Derrick Jensen

Jensen leads the 2008 class of Press Action’s Dynamic Dozen based on his tireless efforts to inspire us — through his books, essays, speeches, correspondence, etc. — to save the planet. This honor may not rank as high as Utne Reader naming him one of the “50 Visionaries Who Are Changing Your World.” Utne Reader says Jensen is the “green thinker and writer who’s out to tell us not what we want to hear but what we need to hear.” Press Action agrees.

Pattrice Jones

“One of my favorite people, the blackest white woman I know, the author I quote the most, the lady who turned me out and into a black vegan,” Thefreeslave writes on Afro Spear, describing Jones. Jones also is one of Press Action’s favorite writers and thinkers. Check out the excellent work Jones is doing as a teacher of composition at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore.

Mickey Z.

Mickey Z. continued to work nonstop in 2008 as an essayist, blogger and speaker. He alerted us to the perils of humans dominating nature, the perils of the Republicrats dominating American politics and, in the spirit of Emma Goldman, the perils of avoiding laughter and joy as we struggle to make the world a better place. If all of those activities weren’t enough, Mickey also published two books in 2008: CPR for Dummies and No Innocent Bystanders: Riding Shotgun in the Land of Denial

Paul Street

Unlike many of his fellow commentators on Z Net, Street did not get duped by the Obama hype. In one of his columns since the election, the straight-shooting Street explains: “Obama is a ruling-class candidate with the mission of restoring democratic legitimacy to a rotten and authoritarian state-capitalist American System and Empire. … Our supposed ‘left’ President-Elect’s first statement was NOT a call for peace, justice, and equality. It was a declaration bolstering the American plutocracy’s ridiculous claim that the U.S.—the industrialized world’s most unequal and wealth-top-heavy society by far—is home to a great democracy and limitless opportunity for all.”

Stephanie McMillan

The Minimum Security cartoonist and coauthor of As the World Burns: 50 Simple Things You Can Do to Stay in Denial penned a strip a couple days after the November elections that said it all about the Obama mania.

Bananabelle: I can’t believe you won’t let me tell you who won. Bunnista: All I care about is that the long nightmare is finally over. Bananabelle: The Bush regime? Bunnista: The election. Boring politicians, preposterous speeches, and fools who take them all seriously.

Viva Bunnista! Viva Stephanie McMillan!

Margaret Kimberley

In one of her many incisive pieces leading up to the 2008 presidential election, the Freedom Rider essayist and blogger lambasted progressives for fawning over Obama after he received Colin Powell’s endorsement in October. “A Powell endorsement ought to be the kiss of death, but liberals have silently colluded with Obama all year long. Why should they stop now? So what if the architect of death and destruction in Iraq has endorsed their beloved leader. They just want to win,” Kimberley wrote.

Adam Engel

As one of Press Action’s favorite writers, Engel did not disappoint in 2008. His writing is offbeat and gripping. In his essay on Obama’s victory, titled “The Irony of the Ecstasy,” Engel describes the raucous celebrations outside his house in New York City. “I couldn’t help thinking how ironic it was that thousands of people expressed ‘political commitment’ not by gathering together to soberly plan the Next Move (i.e. putting the president elect in the hot seat), but by behaving like a bunch of typically arrogant, indulgent, selfish, drunk, overbearing Americans,” he writes.

Naomi Klein

During a recent trip to London, Press Action saw a billboard alongside a street near Hyde Park advertising Klein’s book The Shock Doctrine. Now that’s an advertisement you’d never see on any billboard in the United States. The other members of the Press Action Dynamic Dozen may not have a Shock Doctrine-size PR machine promoting their writings and work, but they shouldn’t be jealous. Klein provided an important service in 2008, especially during the fourth quarter, dissecting the U.S. government’s giveaway to Wall Street and how the Obama regime will carry on the neo-liberal economic tradition of the Bush/Clinton era.

William Blum

During another presidential election year, when many liberals, progressives and leftists supported a business-as-usual Democrat, Blum described how Barack Obama’s foreign policy positions would not veer too far from the “Bush Doctrine.” In his regular Anti-Empire Reports, Blum dissected many topics aside from U.S. foreign policy, including the worthlessness of presidential debates, the make-believe world of financial capitalism and … sports. In his Oct. 1 Anti-Empire Report, Blum commented on the 2008 U.S. Open tennis tournament in New York. Blum focused on the jingoism and militarism that accompanies sporting events in the United States, even those events in which the overwhelming majority of competitors, especially the competitors in the upper echelons, are not American.

Ali Abunimah

Abunimah, one of the founders of Electronic Intifada, is the author of One Country: A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse, a recently published book that offers a refreshing vision of the future: one democratic state for Palestinians and Israeli Jews, living side by side with equal rights. In the meantime, the Palestinians will be forced to cope with another staunchly pro-Israel regime in Washington. Abunimah finds some reason for optimism in the short term. “Israel will find it increasingly difficult to justify its policies to global public opinion and will face a growing challenge from the international boycott, divestment and sanctions movement. Efforts to pursue Israelis accused of war crimes in the occupied territories through universal jurisdiction will intensify and may begin to bear fruit. Palestinians in Gaza will refuse to remain besieged. Palestinian citizens of Israel will continue their own struggle for democracy,” Abunimah writes in an essay following Obama’s victory.

Jeremy Scahill

The investigative journalist is exhorting liberal and left-wing bloggers who scrutinized the appointments and policies of George W. Bush during his first term to be similarly aggressive in their treatment of Obama. On a recent episode of Democracy Now!, Scahill said: “I think the time is now to call the question on the involvement of some of these people, that this is the precise moment when this kind of journalism matters, when we have to remind people of the history and the previous policies implemented by the people that are at the center of Obama’s foreign policy team right now, because we’re going to be living with these people for the next four years running the show. And I think it’s incredibly important to be all over this right now, before they’re named.”

Jeffrey St. Clair

Earlier this year, soon after Sarah Palin spoke at the Republican National Convention, the CounterPunch editor once again reminded Press Action of the magnificence of cow punk diva Maria McKee.


Seth Speaks Jane Roberts Chapter 17 Christian dogma speaks of the ascension of Christ, implying of course a vertical ascent into the heavens, and the development of the soul is often discussed in terms of direction. To progress is supposedly to ascend, while the horror of religious punishment, hell, is seen at the bottom of all things.

Development is therefore considered in a one-line direction only, in Christian terms. Seldom, for example, is it thought of in horizontal terms. The idea of evolution in its popular meaning promulgated this theory, as through gradual progression in a one-line direction, man emerged from the ape. Christ could just as well have disappeared sideways.

The inner reality of the message was told in terms that man at the time could understand, in line with his root assumptions. Development unfolds in all directions. The soul is not ascending a series of stairs, each one representing a new and higher point of development.

Instead, the soul stands at the center of itself, exploring, extending its capacities in all directions at once, involved in issues of creativity, each one highly legitimate. The probable system of reality opens up the nature of the soul to you. It should change current religion's ideas considerably. For this reason, the nature of good and evil is a highly important point.

On the one hand, quite simply and in a way that you cannot presently understand, evil does not exist. However, you are obviously confronted with what seem to be quite evil effects. Now it has been said often that there is a god, so there must be a devil - or if there is good, there must be evil. This is like saying that because an apple has a top, it must have a bottom - but without any understanding of the fact that both are a portion of the apple.

We go back to our fundamentals: You create reality through your feelings, thoughts, and mental actions. Some of these are physically materialized, others are actualized in probable systems. You are presented with an endless series of choices, it seems, at any point, some more or less favorable than others.

You must understand that each mental act is a reality for which you are responsible. That is what you are in this particular system of reality for. As long as you believe in a devil, for example, you will create one that is real enough for you, and for the others who continue to create him.

Because of the energy he is given by others, he will have a certain consciousness of his own, but such a mock devil has no power or reality to those who do not believe in his existence, and who do not give him energy through their belief. He is, in other words, a superlative hallucination As mentioned earlier, those who believe in a hell and assign themselves to it through their belief can indeed experience one, but certainly in nothing like eternal terms. No soul is forever ignorant.

Now those who have such beliefs actually lack a necessary deep trust in the nature of consciousness, of the soul, and of All That Is. They concentrate upon not what they think of as the power of good, but fearfully upon what they think of as the power of evil.

The hallucination is created, therefore, out of fear and of restriction. The devil idea is merely the mass projection of certain fears - mass in that it is produced by many people, but also limited in that there have always been those who rejected this principle.

Some very old religions understood the hallucinatory nature of the devil concept, but even in Egyptian times, the simpler and more distorted ideas became prevalent, particularly with the masses of people. In some ways, men in those times could not understand the concept of a god without the concept of a devil.

Storms, for example, are highly creative natural events, though they can also cause destruction. Early man could see only the destruction. Some intuitively understood that any effects are creative, despite their appearances, but few could convince their fellow men.

The light-and-darkness contrast presents us with the same kind of picture. The good was seen as light, for men felt safer in the day. The evil was therefore assigned to nightfall. Within the mass of distortions, however, hidden beneath the dogma there was always a hint of the basic creativity of every effect.

There are, then, no devils waiting to carry anyone off, unless you create them yourself, in which case the power resides in you and not in the mock devils. The Crucifixion and attendant drama made sense within your reality at the time. It arose into the world of physical actuality out of the inner reality from which your deepest intuitions and insights also spring.

The race brought forth the events, then, that would best convey in physical terms this deeper nonphysical knowledge of the indestructibility of the soul. This particular drama would not have made sense to other systems with different root assumptions than your own.

The symbolism of ascent or descent, or of light and dark, would be meaningless to other realities with different perceptive mechanisms. While your religions are built around an enduring kernel of truth, the symbolism used was craftily selected by the inner self in line with its knowledge of those root assumptions you hold as valid in the physical universe. Other information, in dreams for example, will also be given to you

with the same symbolism, generally speaking. The symbolism itself, however, was simply used by the inner self. It does not inherently belong to inner reality.

Many probable systems have perceptive mechanisms far different from your own. In fact, some are based upon gestalts of awareness completely alien to you. Quite without realizing it, your ego is a result of group consciousness, for example; the one consciousness that most directly faces the exterior world, is dependent upon the minute consciousness that resides within each living cell of your body; and as a rule you are only aware of one ego - at least at a time.

In some systems the "individual" is quite aware of having more egos than one, in your terms. The entire psychological organization is in a way richer than your own. A Christ who was not aware of this would not appear in such a system, you see. There are kinds of perception with which you are not familiar, worlds in which your idea of light does not exist, where almost infinite gradations of thermal qualities are absorbed in terms of sensation, not of light.

In any of these worlds, the Christ drama could never appear as it appeared within your own. Now the same thing applies to each of your great religions, though as I have said in the past, the Buddhists come closer, generally speaking, to a description of the nature of reality. They have not understood the eternal validity of the soul, however, in terms of its exquisite invulnerability, nor been able to hold a feeling for its unique character. But Buddha, like Christ, interpreted what he almost knew in terms of your own reality. Not only of your own physical reality, but your own probable physical reality.

The methods, the secret methods behind all of the religions, were meant to lead man into a realm of understanding that existed apart from the symbols and the stories, into inner realizations that would take him both within and without the physical world that he knew. There are many manuscripts still not discovered, from old monasteries par-ticularly in Spain, that tell of underground groups within religious orders who kept these secrets alive when other monks were copying old Latin manuscripts.

There were tribes who never learned to write in Africa and Australia who also knew these secrets, and men called "Speakers" who memorized them and spread them upward, even throughout northern portions of Europe, before the time of Christ.

Offhand, the work involved could take five years, for there were several versions, and a group of leaders, each going in different directions, who taught their people. The world was far more ripe for Christianity than people suppose, because of these groups. The ideas were "buried" already throughout Europe.

Many important concepts were lost, however. The emphasis was on practical methods of living - quite simply - rules that could be understood, but the reasons for them were forgotten.

The Druids obtained some of their concepts from Speakers. So did the Egyptians. The Speakers predated the emergence of any religions that you know, and the religions of the Speakers arose spontaneously in many scattered areas, then grew like wildfire from the heart of Africa and Australia. There was one separate group in an area where the Aztecs dwelled at a later date, though the land mass was somewhat different then,

and some of the lower cave dwellings at times were under water.

Various bands of the Speakers continued through the centuries. Because they were trained so well, the messages retained their authenticity. They believed, however, that it was wrong to set words into written form, and so did not record them. They also used natural earth symbols, but clearly understood the reasons for this. The Speakers, singly, existed in your Stone Age period, and were leaders. Their abilities helped the cavemen survive. There was little physical communication, however, in those days between the various Speakers, and some were unaware of the existence of the others.

Their message was as "pure" and undistorted as possible. It was for this reason however, through the centuries, that many who heard it translated it into parables and tales. Now, strong portions of Jewish scriptures carry traces of the message of these early Speakers, but even here, distortions have hidden the messages.

Since consciousness forms matter, and not the other way around, then thought exists before the brain and after it. A child can think coherently before he learns vocabulary - but he cannot impress the physical universe in its terms. So this inner knowledge has always been available, but is to become physically manifest - literally made flesh. The Speakers were the first to impress this inner knowledge upon the physical system, to make it physically known. Sometimes only one or two Speakers were alive in several centuries. Sometimes there were many. They looked around them and knew that the world sprang from their interior reality. They told others. They knew that the seemingly solid natural objects about them were composed of many minute consciousnesses.

They realized that from their own creativity they formed idea into matter, and that the stuff of matter was itself conscious and alive. They were intimately familiar with the natural rapport existing between themselves and their environment, therefore, and knew that they could alter their environment through their own acts.

Generally speaking, once a Speaker always a speaker, in your terms. In some incarnations, the abilities might be used so powerfully that all other aspects of the personality remained in the background. At other times the capacities might be timidly used. The Speakers possess an extraordinary vividness of feeling and thought pro-jection.

They can impress others with greater import through their communications. They can move from inner to outer reality with easy ability. They know instinctively how to use symbolism. They are highly creative on an unconscious level, constantly forming psychic frameworks beneath normal consciousness that can be used both by themselves and others in dream and trance states. They often appear to others in the dream condition, and they help dreamers in the manipulation of inner reality. They form images with which the dreamers can relate, images that can be used as bridges and then as gateways into kinds of consciousness more separated from your own.

The symbolism of the gods, the idea of the gods on Olympus, for example, the crossing-over point at the River Styx - that kind of phenomenon was originated by the Speakers. The symbolisms and frameworks of religion, therefore, had to exist not only in the physical world but also in the unconscious one. Outside of your own framework,

houses as such or dwellings as such are not needed, and yet in trance encounters or dream encounters with other realities, such structures are frequently seen. They are transformations of data into terms that will be meaningful to you.

After death, for example, an individual may continue to create these - masses of individuals may - until they realize that the frameworks are no longer necessary. The Speakers were not confined in their activities, therefore, to waking consciousness. In all periods of your time they went about their duties both in the waking and sleep state. Much of the most pertinent information, in fact, was memorized by trainees during the dream condition, and passed on in the same manner. These unwritten manuscripts therefore were also illustrated, so to speak, by dream journeys or field trips into other kinds of reality. Such training still goes on. The particular psychic or story framework may vary. For example, conventional images of the Christian God and the saints may be utilized by the Speakers, with all of this highly vivid. The dreamer may find himself then in a magnificent harem, or instead in a brilliantly illuminated field or sky. Some Speakers confine their abilities to the dream state; and, waking, are largely unconscious of their own abilities or experience.

Now it is meaningless to call such dreams or dream places hallucinations, for they are representations of definite "objective" realities that you cannot perceive as yet in their own guise. The Egyptian religion was largely based upon the work of the Speakers, and great care was given to their training. The outward manifestations given to the masses of the people became so distorted, however, that the original unity of the religion finally decayed.

However, efforts were being made then to map inner reality in ways that have not been attempted since. It is true that in the dream state and in some other levels of existence close to your own, there is strong individual play in the creation of images, and a magnificent use of symbolism, but all of this takes place, again, in an "objective" definite environment, an environment whose characteristics make such phenomena possible - a field of activity, then, with its own rules. Now the Speakers are familiar with those rules, and often serve as guides. They have at times worked within organizations as in Egypt, where they worked through the temples and became involved with the power structures. As a rule, however, they are far more solitary.

Because of the true simultaneous nature of time, they are, of course, speaking to all of your ages at once through their various manifestations. On occasion they also serve as mediators, introducing to each other two incarnations of one personality, for example.

The rules within physical reality say that objects appear to be stationary and permanent. The rules of other realities are often far different, however. The nature of mental activities will follow different lines, and "continuity" in terms of time will not exist. Perceptual organization will exist by the use of different psychological groupings.

From the outside, such systems would seem meaningless to you even if you were able to perceive them. You would not be able to observe the pivot points about which actions occurred. The very definite rules of that system then would be quite obscure to you.

Now the Speakers are familiar with the rules within many systems. Still, however, most of these systems in larger terms are somewhat connected with your own kind of reality. There are an infinite number of inner universes. Only the very highest, most developed gestalt consciousness can be aware of anything like their totality. In this larger context, then, the Speakers must be called local. There is something like a chart mapping many of the nearby systems of reality, and I hope some day in your terms to make this available. In order to do so, Ruburt must be trained somewhat more intensely. There are points of coincidence where under certain conditions entry may be made from one of these systems to the other. They need not exist separately in space as you know it, of course.

These are called coordination points, where one camouflage merges into the other. Some of these are geographical in your system, but in all cases, a tuning-in of consciousness is a necessary preliminary. Such entries can only be made in an out-of-body condition. Each individual in his dreams has access to the information possessed by the Speakers. There are adjacent states of consciousness that occur within the sleep pattern, that cannot be picked up by your EEG's - adjacent "corridors" through which your consciousness travels.

The higher centers of intuition are activated while physically oriented portions of consciousness remain with the body. The "absent" portion of the self cannot be traced through brain patterns, though the point of its departure and the point of its return may show a particular pattern. The "time out" itself, however, will not be detected in any way, the tracings showing only whatever characteristic pattern was being given immediately before departure.

Now this happens in every night's sleep. Two areas of activity are involved, one very passive and one acutely active. In one state this portion of consciousness is passive, receiving information. In the next stage it is active as it takes part through action - the concepts given it are then vividly perceived through participation and examples. This is the most protected area of sleep. The rejuvenating characteristics enter in here, and it is during this period that the Speakers act as teachers and guides.

This information is, then, often interpreted on return by other layers of the self such as the body consciousness and subconscious, where it is formed into dreams that will have meaning to these areas of the self and where general teaching, for example, may be translated into practical advice involving a particular matter.

There are several very definite stages of sleep, and they all perform various services for the personality. They are also signals for different layers of consciousness, realization, and activity. They are accompanied by some physical variations, and there are some variations having to do with age.

In our next chapter I will speak of these in some detail. For now it is sufficient to realize that specific steps, definite alterations, occur as consciousness is shifted from the exterior to the interior reality, and that these changes are not random; that consciousness leaves through a very predictable route to its many destinations. Through the ages the Speakers have taught dreamers how to manipulate in these other environments. They have taught them how to bring back information that could be used

for the good of the present personality. According to the intent, present purpose, and development, an individual may be aware of these travels to varying degrees. Some have excellent recall, for example, but often misinterpret their experience because of conscious ideas.

It is very possible for one dreamer who is a Speaker, to go to the aid of another individual who is having some difficulties in an inner reality within the dream state. The idea of guardian angels of course is highly connected here. A good Speaker is as effective within one reality as he is within the other, creating psychic frameworks within physical reality as well as within interior environments. Many artists, poets, and musicians are Speakers, translating one world in terms of another, forming psychic structures that exist in both with great vitality - structures that may be perceived from more than one reality at once.

There are also various states of consciousness in waking life, upon which you do not focus, and of which you are usually quite unaware. Each state knows its own conditions and is familiar with a different kind of reality.

"You" presently have a once-centered consciousness, in that "you" close off from your experience these other stages of consciousness in which other portions of your entire identity are intimately involved. These other stages of consciousness create their own realities as you create your own. The realities are, therefore, byproducts of consciousness itself. If you could become aware of these, they might appear to be other places to you, rather than realms or fields of different kinds of activities. If you probe into these realms you will be forced to perceive them with the root assumptions of your own system, translating feelings of warmth and comfort, for example, into images of warm shelters or buildings, or feelings of fear into images of demons.

On occasion even in waking life a personality may spontaneously shift gears, so to speak, and suddenly find itself for a second or perhaps a few moments within another such realm. Disorientation usually occurs. There are those who do this quite deliberately with training, but often they do not realize that they are interpreting the experiences they have with the values of their "home" consciousness.

All of this is not as esoteric as it might seem. Almost every individual has had bizarre experiences with consciousness, and knows intuitively that their greater experience is not limited to physical reality. Most dreams are like animated postcards brought back from a journey that you have returned from and largely forgotten. Your consciousness is already oriented again to physical reality; the dream, an attempt to translate the deeper experience into recognizable forms. The images within the dream are also highly coded, and are signals for underlying events that are basically not decipherable.

The Speakers help you in the formation of dreams which are indeed multidimensional artistic productions of a kind - dreams existing in more than one reality, with effects that dissect various stages of consciousness that are real, in your terms, to both the living and the dead and in which both the living and the dead may participate. It is for this reason that inspirations and revelations are so often a part of the dream condition.

Divorced from physical focus, you are in a better position to hear the Speakers, to

translate their instructions, to practice with the creation of images, and to be guided in the methods of maintaining the health of the physical body. In the most protected areas of sleep, the apparent barriers between many layers of reality vanish. You are aware, for example, of some probable realities. You choose which probable acts you want

to actualize in your system. You follow other probable acts through in the dream state. You do this individually, but you also do it en masse on national and global levels.

Consciousness at different levels or stages perceives different kinds of events. In order to perceive some of these you have only to learn to change the focus of your attention from one level to another. There are minute chemical and electromagnetic alterations that accompany these stages of consciousness, and certain physical changes within the body itself in hormone production and pineal activity.

You usually glide from wakefulness through to sleep without ever noticing the various conditions of consciousness through which you pass, yet there are several. First, of course, with various degrees of spontaneity, there is the inward turn of consciousness away from physical data, from worries and concerns of the day. Then there is an undifferentiated level between wakefulness and sleep where you act as a receiver - passive but open, in which telepathic and clairvoyant messages come to you quite easily.

Your consciousness can seem to float. There are varying physical sensations, sometimes of growing large, sometimes of falling. Both sensations are characteristic of moments in which you almost catch yourself, almost become aware of this undifferentiated area, and then translate some of its experiences into physical terms. The sensation of largeness, for example, is a physical interpretation of the psychic expansion. The feeling of falling is an interpretation of a sudden return of consciousness to the body.

This period can last for only a few moments, for half an hour, or can be returned to. It is a cushioning, supportive, and expansive stage of consciousness. Suggestions given during this time are highly effective. Following this period there is an active state, that can occur, of pseudodreaming, where the mind busies itself with physical concerns that have managed to cling through the first two stages.

If these are too vigorous, the individual may awaken. This is a vivid, intense, but usually brief stage. Another undifferentiated layer follows, this time marked quite definitely by voices, conversations, or images, as consciousness tunes in more firmly to other communications. Several of these may compete for the individual's attention. At this point the body is fairly quiet. The individual will follow one or another of these inner stimuli to a deeper level of consciousness, and form into light dreams the communications he is receiving.

Somewhere during this time he will go into a deeply protected area of sleep, where he is at the threshold to other layers of reality and probabilities. At this point his experiences will be out of all context to time as you know it. He may experience years though only minutes have passed. He will then return toward physical reality in an area marked as REM sleep by your scientists, where physically oriented dream productions will be created, putting the knowledge he has gained into use. The cycle would then be

repeated. Almost the same kinds of fluctuations and stages occur even when you are waking, however, though you are even less aware of them because then the egotistical self acts quite purposefully to blanket out these other areas of experience.

The precise stages are present beneath waking awareness, however, and with the same chemical, electromagnetic, and hormonal fluctuations. You simply are not aware of what your consciousness is doing. You cannot yourselves keep track of it for five full moments of your time. The dimensions of it can only be sensed by those determined enough to take the time and effort required to journey through their own subjective realities. Yet intuitively each individual knows that a part of his experience escapes from him all the time. When you suddenly cannot remember a name that you should know, you have in essence the same kind of feeling of which you are always subconsciously aware.

The purpose of the Speakers is to help you correlate and understand this multidimensional existence, and to bring as much as possible of it to your conscious attention. Only by learning to feel, or sense, or intuitively perceive the depths of your own experience can you glimpse the nature of All That Is. By becoming more aware of your consciousness as it operates in physical life, you can learn to watch it as it manipulates through these other less familiar areas. Probable realities are only probable to you because you are not aware of them.

These stages of consciousness are all a part of your own reality. A knowledge of them can be most useful. You can learn to "shift gears," stand aside from your own experience, and examine it with much better perspective. You can prepare questions or problems, suggesting that they be solved for you in the sleep state. You can suggest that you will speak with distant friends, or convey important messages that you cannot convey verbally, perhaps. You can bring about reconciliations, for example, at another layer of reality though you cannot do so in this one.

You can direct the healing of your body, telling yourself that this will be accomplished by you at one of the other levels of sleep conscious

ness, and you may ask for the aid of a Speaker to give you any necessary psychological guidance that is needed to maintain health. If you have particular conscious goals and if you are reasonably certain that they are beneficial ones, then you can suggest dreams in which they occur, for the dreams themselves will hasten their physical reality.

Now unconsciously you do many of these things. You often go back In time, so to speak, and "relive" a particular event so that it has a different ending, or say things that you wish you had said. A knowledge of one state of consciousness can help you in other states. In a light trance the meaning of dream symbols will be given if you ask for them. The symbols may then be used as methods of suggestion that will be tailored for you personally. If you discover, say, that a fountain in a dream represents refreshment, then when you are tired or depressed, think of a fountain. In another layer of reality, of course, you will be creating one.

In the most protected areas of sleep you are dealing with experience that is pure feeling or knowing, and disconnected from both words or images. As mentioned, these experiences are translated into dreams later, necessitating a return to areas of

consciousness more familiar with physical data. Here a great creative synthesis and a great creative diversification takes place, in which any given dream image has meaning to various layers of the self - on one level representing a truth you have lived and on other levels representing this truth as it is more specifically applied to various areas of experience or problems. There will be a metamorphosis, therefore, of one symbol turning into many, and the conscious mind may only perceive a chaos of various dream images, because the inner organization and unity is partially hidden in the other areas of consciousness through which the reasoning mind cannot follow.

The unconscious and subconscious areas, however, are aware of much more of this information than the ego, for it receives only the minute residue of dream material as a rule. The Speakers therefore may appear within dreams as historical characters, as prophets, as trusted old friends, or in whatever guise will impress the particular personality.

In the original experience, however, the true nature of the Speaker is apparent. The production of dreams is as "sophisticated" an endeavor as is the production of the objective life of a given individual. It is simply living on different terms.

These various stages of consciousness and fluctuations of psychic activity can also be examined through direct experience from the waking state. In the following chapter we will let you become more aware of these ever-active portions of your own reality.

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