Thursday, April 30, 2009

Wow a female owned Mexican business without BRIBES!

[This older segment was repeated on NPR yesterday and just made my day]

Look at my hands. Do you see pretty hands with painted nails? No. These are the hands of a working woman. —Vicki Ponce, Electronics Recycler


Ingrid Lobet

When I met Vicki Ponce, I was surprised at the level of siege she and her business partners had to endure as they fought to create a recycling shop in their town. Small towns can be insular and intolerant, sure. But the hostility in Fronteras, in the northern Mexican state of Sonora, bordered on vicious.

Vicki and her colleagues (they're known in Fronteras as Las Chicas Bravas, or "The Tough Girls") told me about a time when they when they left a meeting, and townspeople surrounded them, blocking any escape. The crowd began jeering. Someone yelled, "Tough girls! Not so tough now, are you, now that we've got you corralled?" Children held up placards. One said: Fuera Chicas Bravas de Fronteras! ("Out of Fronteras, Tough Girls!")

"How do you think it made us feel?" Vicki asked me. "These were our neighbors. All we were doing was trying to create employment for as many of them as possible."

For a while, as I poked around Fronteras, I thought there might be a religious angle hiding in this story. I've been in small towns in Latin America where Catholics and evangelical Christians spread mean rumors about each other. Maybe that would explain the rage the Chicas seemed to engender. But Vicki and the other core members of the recycling group have no church in common. Even Vicki and her husband attend different churches. Religious tolerance may be one kind that does exist in Fronteras.

So what was the Chicas' crime? Why are some locals, including the mayor, so incensed by their efforts? I think it's partly the fact that Vicki and the others have refused to pay bribes. And that they have the temerity to insist on working into middle age. In Mexico, job ads still openly require attractive, young candidates, and older workers find it almost impossible to compete.

But I suspect that their biggest transgression is simply refusing to accept their circumstances. They are striving. Their entrepreneurialism is subversive. They dare to have modest, rather than truly low, expectations. And for that they inspire envy, and resentment.
But Mexico is changing, and the Chicas, with their can-do spirit, no longer find themselves alone. There's the lay lawyer who defended them in court and who also refused to pay bribes. There's the judge who ruled against the mayor, telling him that the era of the omnipotent cacique (political boss) is over. No, he said, the mayor had no basis for evicting Vicki and her coworkers from their building.

Vicki told me she's changing, too. She was never a firebrand. Her favorite activity is cooking, and she used to enjoy volunteering at the local health clinic. Standing up for herself went against her girlhood training in subservience – to men, to the way things are, to the powers that be. Now she goes to the governor's office, and meets with executives from the multinational metals giant, Grupo Mexico.

Her change was a question of necessity, she told me, not choice. Three years ago she and her husband were selling tamales on the street, sometimes crossing the Arizona border to clean houses. She was desperate for a job, but there were none. So she made one.

Now the recycling business is growing, and Vicki is earning money. And, quiere o no quiere — whether she wants to or not — she's helping make Mexico a place where success isn't only about bribes, birthright, and connections. Sometimes, Vicki says, effort and steadfastness are enough to get you through.

LINKS: Retroworks

journal of art and issues from Mainstay Press
Liberation Lit publishes progressive and revolutionary fiction, and other liberatory art. Works are published online on a rolling basis, periodically collected in book form, in part.
What is art in face of torture, aggression, domination? Art may be liberatory. The artworks of Liberation Lit - personal in especially public as well as private focus - are gathered toward that end - to engage, to enlighten, to liberate.
Lib Lit prefers to publish fiction that may be deemed too partisan or didactic, or otherwise overtly factual and political, for publication by most corporate presses. Writers Guidelines.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Obama's 100 Days -- The Mad Men Did Well, by John Pilger

By Pilger, John

The BBC's American television soap Mad Men offers a rare glimpse of the power of corporate advertising. The promotion of smoking half a century ago by the "smart" people of Madison Avenue, who knew the truth, led to countless deaths. Advertising and its twin, public relations, became a way of deceiving dreamt up by those who had read Freud and applied mass psychology to anything from cigarettes to politics. Just as Marlboro Man was virility itself, so politicians could be branded, packaged and sold.

It is more than 100 days since Barack Obama was elected president of the United States. The "Obama brand" has been named "Advertising Age's marketer of the year for 2008", easily beating Apple computers. David Fenton of describes Obama's election campaign as "an institutionalised mass-level automated technological community organising that has never existed before and is a very, very powerful force". Deploying the internet and a slogan plagiarised from the Latino union organiser César Chávez - "Sí, se puede!" or "Yes, we can" - the mass-level automated technological community marketed its brand to victory in a country desperate to be rid of George W Bush.

No one knew what the new brand actually stood for. So accomplished was the advertising (a record $75m was spent on television commercials alone) that many Americans actually believed Obama shared their opposition to Bush's wars. In fact, he had repeatedly backed Bush's warmongering and its congressional funding. Many Americans also believed he was the heir to Martin Luther King's legacy of anti-colonialism. Yet if Obama had a theme at all, apart from the vacuous "Change you can believe in", it was the renewal of America as a dominant, avaricious bully. "We will be the most powerful," he often declared. Perhaps the Obama brand's most effective advertising was supplied free of charge by those journalists who, as courtiers of a rapacious system, promote shining knights. They depoliticised him, spinning his platitudinous speeches as "adroit literary creations, rich, like those Doric columns, with allusion . . ." (Charlotte Higgins in the Guardian). The San Francisco Chronicle columnist Mark Morford wrote: "Many spiritually advanced people I know . . . identify Obama as a Lightworker, that rare kind of attuned being who . . . can actually help usher in a new way of being on the planet."

In his first 100 days, Obama has excused torture, opposed habeas corpus and demanded more secret government. He has kept Bush's gulag intact and at least 17,000 prisoners beyond the reach of justice. On 24 April, his lawyers won an appeal that ruled Guantanamo Bay prisoners were not "persons", and therefore had no right not to be tortured. His national intelligence director, Admiral Dennis Blair, says he believes torture works. One of his senior US intelligence officials in Latin America is accused of covering up the torture of an American nun in Guatemala in 1989; another is a Pinochet apologist. As Daniel Ellsberg has pointed out, the US experienced a military coup under Bush, whose secretary of "defence", Robert Gates, along with the same warmaking officials, has been retained by Obama.

All over the world, America's violent assault on innocent people, directly or by agents, has been stepped up. During the recent massacre in Gaza, reports Seymour Hersh, "the Obama team let it be known that it would not object to the planned resupply of 'smart bombs' and other hi-tech ordnance that was already flowing to Israel" and being used to slaughter mostly women and children. In Pakistan, the number of civilians killed by US missiles called drones has more than doubled since Obama took office.

In Afghanistan, the US "strategy" of killing Pashtun tribespeople (the "Taliban") has been extended by Obama to give the Pentagon time to build a series of permanent bases right across the devastated country where, says Secretary Gates, the US military will remain indefinitely. Obama's policy, one unchanged since the Cold War, is to intimidate Russia and China, now an imperial rival. He is proceeding with Bush's provocation of placing missiles on Russia's western border, justifying it as a counter to Iran, which he accuses, absurdly, of posing "a real threat" to Europe and the US. On 5 April in Prague, he made a speech reported as "anti-nuclear". It was nothing of the kind. Under the Pentagon's Reliable Replacement Warhead programme, the US is building new "tactical" nuclear weapons designed to blur the distinction between nuclear and conventional war.

Perhaps the biggest lie - the equivalent of smoking is good for you - is Obama's announcement that the US is leaving Iraq, the country it has reduced to a river of blood. According to unabashed US army planners, as many as 70,000 troops will remain "for the next 15 to 20 years". On 25 April, his secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, alluded to this. It is not surprising that the polls are showing that a growing number of Americans believe they have been suckered - especially as the nation's economy has been entrusted to the same fraudsters who destroyed it. Lawrence Summers, Obama's principal economic adviser, is throwing $3trn at the same banks that paid him more than $8m last year, including $135,000 for one speech. Change you can believe in.

Much of the American establishment loathed Bush and Cheney for exposing, and threatening, the onward march of America's "grand design", as Henry Kissinger, war criminal and now Obama adviser, calls it. In advertising terms, Bush was a "brand collapse" whereas Obama, with his toothpaste advertisement smile and righteous clichés, is a godsend. At a stroke, he has seen off serious domestic dissent to war, and he brings tears to the eyes, from Washington to Whitehall. He is the BBC's man, and CNN's man, and Murdoch's man, and Wall Street's man, and the CIA's man. The Madmen did well.

Manly P. Hall - Love

Tim DeChristopher - NOT guilty

Student Pleads Not Guilty in Utah Land Case

In Utah, a college student who prevented a mass sell-off of public wilderness has pleaded not guilty to charges of interfering with a public auction. Tim DeChristopher made headlines in December when he disrupted the Bush administration’s last-minute move to auction off oil and gas exploitation rights on vast swaths of federal land in Utah. DeChristopher was arrested after he posed as a bidder and bought 22,000 acres of land in an attempt to save the property from drilling. He faces up to ten years in prison and a $750,000 fine. The trial is set to begin in July. On Tuesday, some 200 supporters rallied for DeChristopher outside his arraignment at the federal courthouse in Salt Lake City.

Anti-Torture Activists to Commit Civil Disobedience at White House on Obama's 100th Day

[From http//]

Demand Prosecution of U.S. Torture and Release of Innocent Detainees

This just in from the 100 Days Campaign:

On April 30th, hundreds of human rights activists will gather near the White House to call on the Obama administration to support a criminal inquiry into torture under the Bush administration and to fully break with past detention policies.

At a rally at Lafayette Park at 11:15 am, members of Witness Against Torture, Amnesty International, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the Torture Abolition Survivors Support Coalition will speak out about the need for accountability and an end to Bush-era policies. At noon, sixty activists from Witness Against Torture — each representing one of the Guantanamo inmates cleared for release but still imprisoned – will risk arrest.

“Despite early, encouraging signs,” says Matthew Daloisio of Witness Against Torture, “the Obama administration has been a disappointment with respect to detainee issues and torture. President Obama has been reluctant to investigate possible, past crimes, and many of the immoral and illegal policies of the Bush administration — from the denial of habeas rights at Bagram Air Base, to the continued detention of innocent men in Guantanamo — remain in place. We need accountability, not immunity, and an end to the abuse of detainees. This president and many members of Congress are in office partly because of their promise to repudiate Bush’s detention regime. It’s time they live up to that promise.”


10:15am: Rally at the Capitol Reflecting Pool, followed by detainee procession to Lafayette Park

11:15 am: Rally at Lafayette Park and detainee procession to the White House

Noon: White House Protest

Witness Against Torture formed in 2005 when 25 activists went to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to protest outside the detention camp. The April 30 demonstration concludes Witness Against Torture’s 100 Days Campaign to Close Guantanamo and End Torture. During the campaign, WAT activists have held a daily vigil at the White House, brought protest signs to confirmation and other congressional hearings, lobbied lawmakers to change detention policies, and hosted numerous public events in the Washington area.

Background on the campaign and WAT demands,

Details for April 30th,

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Picture of Dorian Gray-Obama's Iraq, By JEREMY SCAHILL

Remember when Barack Obama made that big announcement at Camp Lejeune about how all US combat troops were going to be withdrawn from Iraqi cities by June 30? Liberals jumped around with joy, praising Obama for ending the war so that they could focus on their “good war” in Afghanistan. Of course, the celebrations were and remain unwarranted. Obama’s Iraq plan is virtually identical to the one on Bush’s table on January 19, 2009. Obama has just rebranded the occupation, sold it to liberals and dropped the term “Global War on Terror” while, for all practical purposes, continuing the Bush era policy (that’s why leading Republicans praised Obama’s plan). In the real world, US military commanders have said they are preparing for an Iraq presence for another 15-20 years, the US embassy is the size of Vatican City, there is no official plan for the withdrawal of contractors and new corporate mercenary contracts are being awarded. The SoFA Agreement between the US and Iraq gives the US the right to extend the occupation indefinitely and to continue intervening militarily in Iraq ad infinitum. All it takes is for the puppets in Baghdad to ask nicely… In the latest episode of the “Occupation Rebranded” mini-series, President Obama is preparing to scrap the June 30 withdrawal timeline. As The New York Times reports: “The United States and Iraq will begin negotiating possible exceptions to the June 30 deadline for withdrawing American combat troops from Iraqi cities, focusing on the troubled northern city of Mosul, according to military officials. Some parts of Baghdad also will still have combat troops.” According to the Times, the US is playing with the definition of the word “city” when speaking of withdrawing combat troops from all cities: [T]here are no plans to close the Camp Victory base complex, consisting of five bases housing more than 20,000 soldiers, many of them combat troops. Although Victory is only a 15 minute drive from the center of Baghdad and sprawls over both sides of the city’s boundary, Iraqi officials say they have agreed to consider it outside the city. In addition, Forward Operating Base Falcon, which can hold 5,000 combat troops, will also remain after June 30. It is just within Baghdad’s southern city limits. Again, Iraqi officials have classified it as effectively outside Baghdad, so no exception to the agreement needs to be granted, in their view. Combat troops with the Seventh Field Artillery Regiment will remain in the heart of Baghdad at Camp Prosperity, located near the new American Embassy compound in the Green Zone. In addition to providing a quick reaction force, guarding the embassy and noncombat troops from attack, those soldiers will also continue to support Iraqi troops who are now in nominal charge of maintaining security in the Green Zone. Camp Victory is of tremendous strategic importance to the US occupation. In addition to the military’s share of Baghdad International Airport, it includes four bases—Victory, Liberty, Striker and Slayer—as well as the US-run prison “Camp Cropper.” That’s where the US keeps its “high value” prisoners. While the US officially handed control of Forward Operating Base Freedom to “Iraqi control,” the US military is keeping the swimming pool. Meanwhile, future plans are being laid for other US bases. Camp Prosperity is going to house US contractors and other personnel, while at Camp Union III housing is being built for several thousand soldiers, trainers and advisers. What is abundantly clear is that there are enough cosmetic changes going on in Baghdad intended to make it look like the occupation is ending, while continuing it. Again, from the Times: The Green Zone was handed over to Iraqi control Jan. 1, when the agreement went into effect. In addition to the United States-Iraqi patrols, most of the security for the Green Zone’s many checkpoints and heavily guarded entry points is still done by the same private contractors who did it prior to Jan. 1. “What you’re seeing is not a change in the numbers, it’s a doctrine change,” said First Sgt. David Moore, a New Jersey National Guardsman with the Joint Area Support Group, which runs the Green Zone. “You’re still going to have fighters. Every U.S. soldier is trained to fight.” The Iraq occupation is like The Picture of Dorian Gray. No matter what public face the Obama administration attempts to present, it only grows more heinous with each passing day. Jeremy Scahill, an independent journalist who reports frequently for the national radio and TV program Democracy Now, has spent extensive time reporting from Iraq and Yugoslavia. He is currently a Puffin Writing Fellow at The Nation Institute. Scahill is the author of Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army.His new website is

Monday, April 27, 2009

The REAL Face of War


Be advised that these images are extremely graphic and disturbing. These are not cosmeticized pictures of this terrible reality that now threatens to expand to yet more regions of the world.

"...and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks: Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more."

The poetic prophesy above is not likely to come true any time soon. War has been romanticized in innumerable books and movies, and made fortunes for those who exploited the subject well. (Clint Eastwood is still at it, among others, with his latest opus, Flags of Our Fathers, while movie and television tycoon Jerry Bruckheimer, of Top Gun fame, a perfect example of what a cynical cultural prostitute is all about, has willingly become a one-man propaganda ministry for the Pentagon). In most movies-at least until recently-soldiers died "beautifully"-no hideous wounds, no real gasping fear in their eyes, they even got to say a few noble words for posterity, proof of a charitable destiny that, despite assigning them death, did not deny them their fifteen seconds of fame.

"There, for the Grace of You Know What, Go I."

But war is ugly. And war is also ruthless, sordid, and ill-mannered. It doesn't give most people time to proffer pretty speeches. And like death-which is its normal and inevitable companion-war remains in some ways unfathomable and mysterious. Wars can be depicted as noble only by those who are too naive, too young, too deluded, too corrupt, too sociopathic, or too stupid to understand the obscenity that killing in such an organized fashion represents. Are there "good wars"? Maybe. Nothing is absolute, not even something as heinous as war. But we'll leave that question for another day, another article. Let us say however this much: most wars in the history of our species have been useless, stupid enterprises; for all the suffering and mayhem they have caused, they have been utterly unnecessary...the instruments of knaves and the glory of fools, a massive carnage unleashed by every single form of human defect and backwardness: greed, deceit, ignorance, fanaticism and mass stupidity.

So whether a war is "good" or "bad" -while certainly an important consideration-there is one thing that all wars share, and that is they are unvelievably, obscenely ugly-as the images that accompany this article attest.

This is the real face of war, which our engines of mass misinformation will never show you. We owe it to them, to those who died, those who were hideously maimed, to look at these uncompromisingly distressing images, and reflect upon this criminal madness, to ponder the reasons why such people were put, found themselves, in harm's way...and who put them the hope that eventually, more and more people will come to understand the actual mainsprings of war, to spot and reject the big lies the masses are constantly fed, and mobilize to make them-at last-a thing of the past.

FADE OUT: So, why do we fight?

Most progressives are fighting to ban this horror from human history, but not all are fully aware or willing to recognize that to do so we must revolutionize society and man. Nothing short of that will get the job done. That's why recipes that seek to neutralize a given individual or administration, while helpful, miss the point. Seeing regimes such as the Bush administration as "aberrations" outside the norm is a dangerous delusion. Bush simply carries the system's DNA in slightly more virulent form. The Establishment will go on without him. And when he's gone, it will probably replace him with a momentarily more congenial face. But the dynamic will soon reassert itself because the problem is systemic, endemic to human civilization at this point, intrinsic to its functioning, and it must be seen in that light before true remedies can be applied.

The unavoidable fact is that a system that embodies in a highly misleading wrapper of dazzling modern technology the most backward instincts that humans are capable of cannot operate for long without revealing its true nature. And that nature, at this juncture in the catastrophic evolution of our morally underachieving species, includes endless war.

Patrice Greanville edits Cyrano's Journal Online.

One last word of caution: We suggest that only adults visit this gallery.


Sunday, April 26, 2009

Let such pure hate still underprop, by Henry David Thoreau

Let such pure hate still underprop Our love, that we may be Each other's conscience, And have our sympathy Mainly from thence. We'll one another treat like gods, And all the faith we have In virtue and in truth, bestow On either, and suspicion leave To gods below. Two solitary stars-- Unmeasured systems far Between us roll; But by our conscious light we are Determined to one pole. What need confound the sphere?-- Love can afford to wait; For it no hour's too late That witnesseth one duty's end, Or to another doth beginning lend. It will subserve no use, More than the tints of flowers; Only the independent guest Frequents its bowers, Inherits its bequest. No speech, though kind, has it; But kinder silence doles Unto its mates; By night consoles, By day congratulates. What saith the tongue to tongue? What hearest ear of ear? By the decrees of fate From year to year, Does it communicate. Pathless the gulf of feeling yawns; No trivial bridge of words, Or arch of boldest span, Can leap the moat that girds The sincere man. No show of bolts and bars Can keep the foeman out, Or 'scape his secret mine, Who entered with the doubt That drew the line. No warder at the gate Can let the friendly in; But, like the sun, o'er all He will the castle win, And shine along the wall. There's nothing in the world I know That can escape from love, For every depth it goes below, And every height above. It waits, as waits the sky, Until the clouds go by, Yet shines serenely on With an eternal day, Alike when they are gone, And when they stay. Implacable is Love-- Foes may be bought or teased From their hostile intent, But he goes unappeased Who is on kindness bent.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Your Brain on Twitter...

Listen Now [4 min 35 sec]

Student Adam Wilson (right) and lab member Leo Walton practice the technology.Adam Wilson (right) and Leo Walton practice the technology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. University of Wisconsin-Madison

All Things Considered, April 24, 2009 · For millions of people, the social media site Twitter has become a way to let the world know what they're thinking in 140 characters or fewer.

But forget fingers flying over keyboards. Adam Wilson, a biomedical engineering graduate student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, has figured out how to "tweet" using just the power of his brain. His method uses brain-computer interface, or BCI, software.

Wilson tells NPR's Michele Norris he got the idea from Roger Ebert's blog in March.

"He was talking about twittering in this article and at one point he said, 'In the near future, people will just be using their brain activity to update their Twitter accounts,'" Wilson says. "I thought, 'I could probably have something like this working tonight.'"

Wilson said he "hacked" the brain-computer interface software and did a test message that night. The next morning, he says, he sent the first message with his brain activity.

"It was a pretty neat experience — just to have that kind of a quick turnaround on a new idea like this," Wilson says. "I ripped off the cap and was running down the halls telling the other members of the lab what I had just done."

That "cap" is a swimming cap that has a series of electrodes that look for the part of the brain related to attention, Wilson says. As letters and numbers flash on the computer screen randomly, the person pays attention to a specific letter.

"Every time their letter flashes, the brain goes, 'Oh wow, the thing I'm waiting for just happened,'" Wilson says. "If we do this enough times, we can go back and see which letter their brain is responding to."

But the letter-by-letter exercise takes a lot of concentration.

"If I space out for five or 10 seconds, it doesn't really work as well," Wilson says.

The target audience is people who have amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig's disease, or a brain-stem stroke.

"On a practical scale, addressing the wants and needs of people who are in this condition, just the ability to kind of keep their family up to date — 'I'm feeling good today, or I'm not feeling so good today, can you come visit?' — I think would be very welcome by the type of people we're aiming this toward.'"

Friday, April 24, 2009

Adult Content. For Mature Thinkers Only

A new season of Entitled Opinions (iTunes Feed Web Site) recently got off the ground, and it doesn’t take long to understand what this program is all about. Robert Harrison, the Stanford literature professor who hosts the show, opens the new season with these very words:

Our studios are located below ground, and every time I go down the stairs to do a new show, I feel like I’m descending into the catacombs where those of us who still read great literature, probe ideas, and explore the recesses of cultural history, practice a persecuted religion. In this neurasthenic world of ours, we are like a dispersed society of secret initiates. We live covertly, as it were. And it’s in special shelters that our reading, thinking and exchange of ideas take place. Maybe someday we’ll once again be able to practice our persuasion publicly. But meanwhile Entitled Opinions comes to you from the catacombs.

You get the drift. This is a show that takes ideas, literature, and life seriously. It’s heady, and it doesn’t dumb things down. If you’re a faithful reader of Open Culture, you’ll find something here for you. If you take a spin through the archives, you’ll find Harrison in conversation with Orhan Pamuk (the Nobel Prize winning novelist) and Richard Rorty (one of America’s most important contemporary philosophers). You’ll also find him talking with scholars about Vladimir Nabokov and his Lolita, World War II and the German bombing of London, the History of Psychiatry, and The Historical Jesus. Each program starts with a 10 minute (or so) monologue, and then Harrison gets down to talking with his guest for another 50. Give a listen. Let us know your thoughts. And know that Entitled Opinions (iTunes Feed Web Site) is included in our Ideas & Culture Podcast Collection.

PS I shamelessly borrowed this titled from a comment made about Entitled Opinions on iTunes. To be honest, my creative well was running dry.

by DanColman

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Appeals Court Rules In Favor Of Sheehan Protesters

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals on Wednesday upheld a ruling that two protesters should not have been arrested for pitching tents near then-President George W. Bush's Crawford ranch during Cindy Sheehan's anti-war campaign. The court ruled 5-4 that the 10th Appeals Court was correct last year in tossing out the convictions of Hiram Myers of Edmond, Okla., and Emily Hardy of Austin, saying they were not obstructing a highway during their 2006 arrests. "I'm really pleased we prevailed," said David Broiles, the Fort Worth attorney who represented the protesters. "The court ruled that you can't use that (statute) to stop a lawful protest." McLennan County District Attorney John Segrest in Waco, whose office prosecuted the case, did not return a call to The Associated Press seeking comment Wednesday. Myers and Hardy were among about two dozen war protesters arrested in late 2005 and early 2006 when they disobeyed deputies' orders to get out of tents in ditches beside the winding, two-lane road leading to Bush's ranch. They staged the protests to challenge a McLennan County ordinance banning roadside camping. The local law, which protesters thought was unconstitutional, had been enacted after residents complained about noise, trash and traffic from the makeshift campsite Sheehan set up in August 2005. But Myers and Hardy -- the only protesters from Sheehan's vigil to go to trial -- were never charged with violating the local ordinance. Instead, they were charged with and later convicted of obstructing a road, a state misdemeanor. Each was fined $150, although the maximum penalty is 180 days in jail and a $2,000 fine. "The state's witnesses all testified that the demonstrators did not actually obstruct the road and that the demonstrators, including (Myers and Hardy), remained at all times in the bar ditch, an area commonly used for standing and parked vehicles," Judge Cheryl Johnson wrote in the majority opinion. The ACLU of Texas called the ruling "a monumental victory for the First Amendment." "We are delighted to hear that the court has decided to uphold the rights of Texans to peacefully assemble and protest the actions of their government," Lisa Graybill, ACLU of Texas legal director, said in a statement Wednesday. In the dissenting opinion, presiding Judge Sharon Keller wrote that videotaped footage presented at the trial provides support for the convictions. "So there was in fact evidence that (Myers and Hardy), by sitting in a tent beside the road, rendered passage unreasonably inconvenient or hazardous, and there was in fact evidence that the tents themselves obstructed passage or made it hazardous," Keller wrote. Broiles said that while pleased with the ruling, the protesters wanted to challenge the local anti-camping ordinance -- and a similar one banning roadside parking within a few miles of the ranch. He said they wanted to be able to return periodically to place tents at Sheehan's original campsite. Even before the restrictions, protesters that summer moved to a vacant lot near the ranch as Sheehan's first vigil swelled to thousands, gained international attention and reinvigorated the anti-war movement. Sheehan, a California woman whose soldier son was killed in Iraq, later bought land in Crawford for the protests. "We contend the ordinance was not necessary, not constitutional and not justifiable because we were just exercising our free speech that was the symbol of Cindy's movement," Broiles said. "All we wanted was to put up a few tents. There was no need to replicate August 2005. We were interested in preserving the symbolism of it and having the close proximity to Bush's ranch." The anti-camping and parking ordinances remain in place. The camping ban aims to prevent temporary living situations and road obstacles for safety, and give "due regard to ... the interests of persons in making use of roads for activities intended to express ideas and messages," according to the ordinance. It still lacks penalty provisions but says a violator could be charged criminal trespassing, obstruction of a roadway or other offense, depending on the circumstances. "It basically says you can protest all you want -- just don't set up and live here," said Mike Dixon, a Waco attorney who represents McLennan County.

The Nature of Personal Reality Session 640, Page 188

"The most rejuvenating idea of all, and the greatest step to any true illumination, is the realization that your exterior life springs from the invisible world of your reality through your conscious thoughts and beliefs, for then you realize the power of your individuality and identity. You are immediately presented with choices. You can no longer see yourself as a victim of circumstances. Yet the conscious mind arose precisely to open up choices, to free you from a one-road experience, to let you use your creativity to form diversified, varied comprehensions. Let us make a clear distinction here: Your conscious beliefs direct the flow of unconscious processes which bring your ideas into physical reality, so while your thoughts cause your experience, you are not consciously aware of how this takes place."

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Thievery Under the TARP


By Robert Scheer

We are being robbed big-time, but you can’t say we haven’t been warned. Not after the release Tuesday of a scathing report by the Treasury Department’s special inspector general, who charged that the aptly named Troubled Asset Relief Program is rife with mismanagement and potential for fraud. The IG’s office already has opened 20 criminal fraud investigations into the $700 billion program, which is now well on its way to a $3 trillion obligation, and the IG predicts many more are coming.

Special Inspector General Neil M. Barofsky charged that the TARP program from its inception was designed to trust the Wall Street recipients of the bailout funds to act responsibly on their own, without accountability to the government that gave them the money.

He pointed to the example of AIG, which has acted as a conduit of funds to the banks it had insured without being required to tell the government what it is doing: “Failure to impose this requirement with respect to the injection of yet another $30 billion into AIG would not only be a failure of oversight, but could call into question the credibility of the government’s efforts.”

AIG is just one example in a bailout that has left the financial conglomerates unsupervised as they spend taxpayer money in what the report termed a government program of “unprecedented scope, scale and complexity,” putting the public and the Treasury Department in the dark as to how the money is being used by the very tycoons who got us into this mess. “The American people have a right to know how their tax dollars are being used,” Barofsky wrote in the report, which sharply criticized the government for failing to hold financial institutions accountable.

For all of its criticism of the original program, designed by the Bush administration, the report was equally severe in denouncing the Obama administration’s plan to partner with hedge funds and other private capital groups to buy up the “toxic” holdings of the banks. Charging that the plan carries “significant fraud risks,” the inspector general’s report pointed out that almost all of the risk in this new trillion-dollar plan is being borne by the taxpayers. The so-called private investors would be able to put up money they borrowed from the Fed through “nonrecourse” loans, meaning if the toxic assets purchased prove too toxic and the scheme failed, the private investors could just walk away without repaying the Fed for those loans.

The reason those loans may prove even more toxic than expected and the price paid by this government-underwritten partnership far too high is that the government is purchasing the most suspect of the banks’ mortgage packages. In addition, the plan is to accept at face value the evaluation of those packages by the very same credit-rating firms whose absurdly wrong estimates of the dollar worth of these securities helped create the problem that now haunts the world’s economy. “Arguably, the wholesale failure of the credit rating agencies to rate adequately such securities is at the heart of the securitization market collapse, if not the primary cause of the current credit crisis,” the report found.

As with the entire banking bailout, the new plan of Obama’s treasury secretary, Timothy Geithner, is likely to enrich the very folks who impoverished the rest of us, as the report notes: “The significant government-financed leverage presents a great incentive for collusion between the buyer and seller of the asset, or the buyer and other buyers, whereby, once again, the taxpayer takes a significant loss while others profit.”

At the heart of this potentially massive fraud was the original decision of Henry Paulson, President Bush’s treasury secretary and a former Goldman Sachs chairman, to not require the recipients of the bailout, such as his old firm, to account for how the money was spent. Unfortunately, President Obama’s administration continued that practice.

The only difference is that the amount of public money being put at risk is now far greater, and the hedge funds, which are totally unregulated, have been brought in as the central players. One of the largest of those hedge funds, D.E. Shaw, carried Obama’s top economic adviser, Lawrence Summers, on its payroll to the tune of $5.2 million last year. He may have reason to trust these secretive enterprises that operate beyond the law, but the public does not.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Yet Do I Marvel, by Countée Cullen

I doubt not God is good, well-meaning, kind And did He stoop to quibble could tell why The little buried mole continues blind, Why flesh that mirrors Him must some day die, Make plain the reason tortured Tantalus Is baited by the fickle fruit, declare If merely brute caprice dooms Sisyphus To struggle up a never-ending stair. Inscrutable His ways are, and immune To catechism by a mind too strewn With petty cares to slightly understand What awful brain compels His awful hand. Yet do I marvel at this curious thing: To make a poet black, and bid him sing!
* Biography of Countée Cullen Born in 1903 in New York City, Countee Cullen was raised in a Methodist parsonage. He attended De Witt Clinton High School in New York and began writing poetry at the age of fourteen. In 1922, Cullen entered New York University. His poems were published in The Crisis, under the leadership of W. E. B. Du Bois, and Opportunity, a magazine of the National Urban League. He was soon after published in Harper's, the Century Magazine, and Poetry. He won several awards for his poem, "Ballad of the Brown Girl," and graduated from New York University in 1923. That same year, Harper published his first volume of verse, Color, and he was admitted to Harvard University where he completed a master's degree. His second volume of poetry, Copper Sun (1927), met with controversy in the black community because Cullen did not give the subject of race the same attention he had given it in Color. He was raised and educated in a primarily white community, and he differed from other poets of the Harlem Renaissance like 'Langston Hughes' in that he lacked the background to comment from personal experience on the lives of other blacks or use popular black themes in his writing. An imaginative lyric poet, he wrote in the tradition of Keats and Shelley and was resistant to the new poetic techniques of the Modernists. He died in 1946.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Rare Dolphins by the Hundreds Found in Bangladesh

The discovery of 6,000 rare dolphins in Bangladesh and new guidelines for marine wildlife viewing in the Pacific Islands are among the announcements made this week at the First International Conference on Marine Mammal Protected Areas underway on the island of Maui. ...
An Irrawaddy dolphin in Thailand (Photo courtesy Department of Fishery of Thailand)

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Rethink Afghanistan

[Thanks to dharma41 for this link] Watch Robert Greenwald's brilliant new documentary on why any military escalation in Afghanistan will likely lead to disaster:
Rethink Afghanistan is a ground-breaking, full-length documentary focusing on the key issues surrounding this war. By releasing this film in parts for free online, we are able to stay on top of news of the war as it continues to unfold. We hope to raise critical questions regarding Afghanistan that Congress must address in oversight hearings, which inform the public and challenge policymakers. We strive for more discussion among experts on Afghanistan, like the debates seen below released in conjunction with our documentary campaign.
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Part One focuses on what military escalation will achieve in Afghanistan. Watch part one in it's entirety online for free, or watch the trailer.
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Part Two looks at how the war could further destabilize a nuclear-armed Pakistan. Watch part two in its entirety online for free, or watch the trailer.
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Part Three focuses on the staggering costs of the war, which could easily exceed $1 trillion. Watch part three in its entirety online for free, or watch the trailer.

Latin America Changes By BENJAMIN DANGL

... Morales said that this was the 18th hunger strike he participated in; before becoming president, Morales was a long-time coca farmer, union organizer and congressman. He said the longest hunger strike he had been on lasted 18 days while he was in jail, according to Bloomberg. But Morales wasn’t alone: 3,000 other MAS supporters, activists, workers and union members also participated in the hunger strike, including Bolivians in Spain and Argentina. Early in the morning on April 14, once it was official that the Senate passed the bill, Morales ended his strike. "Happily, we have accomplished something important," he told reporters. "The people should not forget that you need to fight for change. We alone can't guarantee this revolutionary process, but with people power it's possible." ...

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Hola, Obama! Chavez Gifts Obama With Book

[Thanks to tonid for this pic & gloryoski for the story]

Chavez Gifts Obama With Book That Assails U.S. for Exploiting Latin America

April 18, 2009 9:21 AM

At President Obama's meeting with the heads of South American countries this morning, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez stood, walked over to him, and presented him with a copy of "Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent" by Uruguayan author Eduardo Galeano. [There's a link to the Amazon description of the book.]

Obama politely posed for a photograph with Chavez, shook his hand, and accepted the gift.

The book, first published in Spanish in 1971, offers a critique of the consequences of 500 years of European and U.S. colonization of Latin America.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Air America is Live and Kicking With ‘BreakRoom’

[Thanks to MMRules for this link & Thank you Jason Irwin for being so bright and seeing these two great guys and their talent] by Jason Irwin on April 8th, 2009

BreakRoom Live BreakRoom Live with Maron & Seder brings the sharp-witted and informed newsstand conversation of yesteryear to the web today, and five days a week at 3pm EST.

Remember Air America Radio? Remember radio? Well after video killed the radio stars Air America Media buried some bodies and sat Marc Maron and Sam Seder in their break room and started breaking new ground. The show mostly consists of Marc and Sam comically battling and boiling down hot topics and politics, bouncing subjects off guests like Janeane Garofalo, and batting out the occasional sketch or rant. All followed by the post show chat with the online audience.

Marc and Sam have a wealth of experience that helps make a live broadcast look easy. Marc Maron has appeared extensively on Late Night with Conan O’Brien, on the Late Show with David Letterman and was the host of Morning Sedition and The Marc Maron Show on the radio. Sam Seder had his own share of radio shows with The Sam Seder Show and The Majority Report in addition to writing network sitcoms. These guys are sharp and witty and it shows. Producers Carl Ginsburg and Brendan McDonald have given the show the appropriate polish that keeps it feeling real while delivering comedy on par with The Daily Show and Colbert Report.

BreakRoom Live logoWhile I’m a huge fan of the comitics of Comedy Central, I’ve given up cable, and until they decide to simulcast these shows with their web-releases it will continue to feel like a free pittance of day old bread. “May I have some more porridge, Mister Hulu?” After you watch the one-sided conversations your TV delivers you’re done. My favorite part of BRL (BreakRoom Live) is the post show chat. Marc and Sam set themselves apart from candy-coated political commentators by fielding questions and passing along audience insights.

Survival SamWhile this show is live, there is a wealth of comedy to be mined out of the archives. You can find Maron product testing electric cigarettes or ranting about his ex-wife in the reoccurring segment, The Angry Chef. Sam delivers his own laughs with his regular segment, Survival Sam.

You’re going to wish you had these guys in your break room. Tune in and log on, be part of the live web broadcast revolution or stand by the water cooler and wonder about the muffed laughs behind closed office doors at 3pm EST.

Sarah Silverman and Isla Fisher Have a Catfight – for Fun

Originally posted Friday April 17, 2009 12:20 PM EDT

Me-ow! Sarah Silverman and Isla Fisher get their claws out for laughs in's upcoming Web series Pilot Season – and PEOPLE has an extended sneak peek at their hilarious verbal attack scene. The series, which also stars David Cross, Andy Dick and Sam Seder, is a mockumentary that follows the lives of desperate actors, agents and executives during the TV industry's competitive pilot season. Silverman, 38, plays an actress while Fisher, 33, is a personal trainer in the webisodes, which were filmed five years ago and originally aired on the now-defunct Trio channel. The 30-episode Web version of the series debuts its first two episodes on Monday. Marisa Laudadio

Seth: Class, Slavery, and the American Ideal

"When your country (United States) began its own saga, each individual was to be considered equal, regardless of birth. Many of these same people had been denied advantages in Europe. They were upstarts. What they did was establish equal starting lines for an incredible race in which each began with an equal position and then tried to outdo the other, freed of the class distinctions that had previously hampered them. Because there were few ground rules, and because it takes time to develop a culture, this rambunctious group set out to tame the continent, to show Europe that Americans could do Europe one better, without a king and without pomp. "The founders of the country were still largely men of property, however, and of culture--the signers of your constitution, so they were also careful to provide leeway for the existence of slaves, who, not being considered fully human, need not be granted the rights of the constitution (with irony). They left suitable loopholes there. "Now: in a fashion, FOR THE SAKE OF THIS DISCUSSION (underlined), the blacks as slaves partially represented the great creative, exuberant, unattached, unconscious powers that were to be restrained, at least for a while. Their belief in dreams, love of music and song, even a certain mystical feeling of connection with the land--these elements were allowed the Negroes only because they were not considered fully human. White men and women were not supposed to act like that. "A person's sense of worth became connected with the acquisition of land, though to a lesser extent, even as it had in Europe. Later the acquisition of technology's objects became an added embellishment. A man proved his worth as he moved through the new society's levels--an exhilarating experience after centuries of a stratified society." Seth, Book Five of the Personal Sessions, pages 185-186

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Rarest Cat in the World Photographed in the Wild

by Christine Lepisto, Berlin on 04.15.09

Rare Iberian Lynx hiding copyright Pete Oxford photo Image: Wild Wonders of Europe

Rare Iberian Lynx Photographed in Natural Habitat Wild Wonders of Europe has done it again. This month, photographer Pete Oxford undertook the mission to photograph the world's rarest cat -- the Iberian Lynx -- in its natural habitat. The Iberian Lynx is the only feline to be categorized by the IUCN as Critically Endangered and in danger of extinction. These cats are so rare, that a shepherd Pete questioned while attempting to hone in on his "prey" responded, in a thick rural accent: " “I cum ‘ere every day, Never seen a lynx in mi life.”

But Pete fulfilled his mission. The cat in the photo above, coyly peeking out from the brush, is just a teaser. To see the Iberian Lynx in its full glory, click to the extended.

Rare Iberian Lynx copyright Pete Oxford photo Image: Wild Wonders of Europe

More Gorgeous Photos of World's Rarest Cat Unbelievably, Pete lucked out. After days of sitting fruitlessly in a freezing, windy hide, Pete saw not one but three of the rare cats. My favorite photo is captured here in TreeHugger's traditional 468 pixel width. But to see this photo and more in their full glory, check out Pete Oxford's full report on his expedition and the details of his photographic coup at Wild Wonders of Europe

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Whip It! Roller Derby movie Directed by Drew Barrymore

A story of an ex-beauty pageant contestant (Ellen Page) that leaves her crowns behind after joining a roller derby team. Shauna Cross (screenplay) Shauna Cross (novel) Genre: Comedy | Drama
Plot: In Bodeen, Texas, an indie-rock loving misfit finds a way of dealing with her small-town misery after she discovers a roller derby league in nearby Austin.
NewsDesk: Long Quits Barrymore Film After Split (From WENN. 26 July 2008, 7:10 AM, PDT


Ellen Page ... Bliss Cavendar
Drew Barrymore ... Smashley Simpson
Kristen Wiig ... Malice in Wonderland
Juliette Lewis ... Dinah Might
Marcia Gay Harden
Alia Shawkat ... Pash
Ari Graynor ... Eva Destruction
Zoe Bell ... Bloody Holly
Jimmy Fallon ... MC

*POW!* Just Coffee Coop. Cup No. 1

Marc Maron is right when he exclaims, "POW!" after drinking coffee from ....Today I'm drinking my first cup and it smelled wonderful while it brewed and tastes very good...even tho I bought it ground for a french press and since I didn't have time to buy a new one yesterday I put a course grind into my coffee pot today...If you buy this coffee, you can also get the special BRL ( blend and receive a discount for using the promo code BRL....Yum..and POW. Yes. * Just Coffee Coop:

Our politics


Farmworker solidarity
One of the great things about being a politically motivated business is that...well...we get to be out front with our politics.

Where many businesses try to conceal their political leanings for fear of alienating customers, or cannot come to any agreement on the things they believe, we have some basic things that we try to put out there in all of our interactions.

We believe in working for peace and against war. We feel like violence and agression are wrong and only recreate conflict.

We believe in freedom, autonomy, and cooperation. People are at their best when they are able to work things out for themselves. We are purposely non-hierarchical in our organizational structure.

We believe that market interaction can only work when it is based on mutual respect and conducted between equals. Our customers and our suppliers are our partners and we do not seek to exploit you all for the gain of our business.

We believe that non-violent social change needs to happen if we are going to get back on the collective right path as a species.

We believe in using our business to support like-minded groups in their work to achieve non-violent social change in any way we can.

We also believe in roasting and drinking some fine flippin coffee.

♥☪...The Night Shift....Loverly Peeps...♥☪

[Thanks to ellwort, dr, Star Vox, nora]

"Fellatio! Fellatio! Wherefore art thou, Fellatio!"

Submitted by ellwort on Wed, 04/15/2009 - 1:04am.

O how to explain the term "teabagging" to estranged puritanical exwife?

I think "Fellatio for Overachievers" may do. What do you think?


Once again, the bone of contention is the nut of controversy.

Mi Caballero

I had a stunning revelation today.

The thing about always lookin' up at the stars is that you might miss who's in front of your nose.

Sorta like standin' onna whale fishin' fer minnows?

Mi Caballero

Submitted by Star Vox on Wed, 04/15/2009 - 1:30am.

I had a stunning revelation today.

The thing about always lookin' up at the stars is that you might miss who's in front of your nose.


This is sufficiently intriguing as to beg explication.

Wherefore art thou, dr?

Ya - Fellatio does sound like a dramatis persona in Hamlet: "Alas poor Yorick! I knew him, Fellatio."



Mia Caballera, Annie

Sorta like standin' onna whale fishin' fer minnows?

Submitted by dr on Wed, 04/15/2009 - 1:38am.



If I'm a/o in drag, you're Annie.

fault is not in our stars but in ourselves

Submitted by ellwort on Wed, 04/15/2009 - 1:44am. Ya - Fellatio does sound like a dramatis persona in Hamlet: "Alas poor Yorick! I knew him, Fellatio."


More like: "Alas, poor Yorick! He knew not Fellatio."


The cool thing about stars is that, on a clear night in Vermont, you can see a whole bunch of 'em. Maybe where you are it's dark everywhere around to get the same picture - I wish this for you wherever you are, now or sometime. If you look at some stars, they disappear. Those may be novas or blackhole-dominant galaxies: there's stuff going on there that defies our capacity to understand the physics, no matter how deeply piled our education may be. Humans aren't equipped to get what the fuck is going on there. So if you look at it, it's not there. But if you look right next to that strange "star," it hangs in the periphery. Cool, huh? Thank you, Lucy in the sky with that diamond show all those years ago.

OK G'night

I guess everybody ran outside to look at the stars?

Or ran to the fridge to look at the possibilities?

Me, I'm going to brush my teeth.

Can't wait

Sailin' To An Uncharted Land 'n Discoverin' The Stars

No pessimist ever discovered the secrets of the stars, or sailed to an uncharted land, or opened a new heaven to the human spirit.

-Helen Keller

"Ladder To The Pleiades"

Stars Submitted by ellwort on Wed, 04/15/2009 - 1:54am.

OK G'night

Submitted by ellwort on Wed, 04/15/2009 - 2:05am. I guess everybody ran outside to look at the stars?


Stellar, ellwort!

I think you might enjoy this story.

"Ladder to the Pleiades"

p.s. Actually, I ran inside after looking at the stars.

Star V. (on Helen Keller on pessimists)

Don't think Ms Keller ever met my mother (although it lies within the realm of temporal possibilities); if Keller had, she might not have had the vision (hoho) to recognize the journeys Mom had in mind. She welcomed me to tag along too (thank heaven) even though she kept warning me about Worst Things that would certainly happen to me. And was kind of oblivious when some Worst Things actually did. Still - I miss her. If your mom's still around, check in with her. If not, check in with her still. Jeez! Stars and mothers! How come the sky god people always depicted the sun as a male god?

Checkin out "Ladder"

Unfotunately, jack Bruce's "Rope Ladder to the Moon" is not in's library.

To Heal the Waters of the Earth

Concert June 19-21

Using sounds and loving intent to restructure damaged waters...

Thanks, Nora

But still on "Ladder." 'K I'm - slow and acronymistic: ADHD. Better when the toes are at the rippling end of the beach. Let's go wading!

Stars and Mothers - Simply The Best

Star V. (on Helen Keller on pessimists)

Submitted by ellwort on Wed, 04/15/2009 - 2:34am.

If your mom's still around, check in with her. If not, check in with her still. Jeez! Stars and mothers!


When I talk to the stars at night, I check in with my mom.

p.s. My mom was cool. She was a real ping-pong champion and she liked playing w/the boyz. In my family, my mom was the big sports fan. She taught me a few lessons.

Star Mom

As I understand it, the moon is our grandmother - ultra-mom, huh? I had the honor of helping my mom cross over, speaking to her ("It's OK") and stroking her forehead throughout, with my sister massaging her feet. And the mother of my own children in the room.

Yes, you're right: Simply the best.

Every time we look up on a clear night, there they are. Outlasting us.

star that can laugh

Star Mom

Submitted by ellwort on Wed, 04/15/2009 - 3:23am.

As I understand it, the moon is our grandmother - ultra-mom, huh?

I had the honor of helping my mom cross over, speaking to her ("It's OK") and stroking her forehead throughout, with my sister massaging her feet. And the mother of my own children in the room.

Yes, you're right: Simply the best.

Every time we look up on a clear night, there they are. Outlasting us.


Beautiful story.


"All men have the stars," he answered, "but they are not the same things for different people. For some, who are travelers, the stars are guides. For others they are no more than little lights in the sky. For others, who are scholars, they are problems. For my businessman they were wealth. But all these stars are silent. You--you alone--will have the stars as no one else has them--"

"What are you trying to say?"

"In one of the stars I shall be living. In one of them I shall be laughing. And so it will be as if all the stars were laughing, when you look at the sky at night . . . You--only you--will have stars that can laugh!"

-- from The Little Prince

Laughing Stars

Submitted by ellwort on Wed, 04/15/2009 - 3:23am. As I understand it, the moon is our grandmother - ultra-mom, huh?

Yes, you're right: Simply the best.

Every time we look up on a clear night, there they are. Outlasting us.


I learned that my mom was afraid of only one thing in life.

My mom's fear was that her kids would die before her.

I remember when I almost died when I was a kid. My mom and my doc saved my life. I called my mom at night from a hospital phone when I knew that I was seriously sick and dying in the hospital (before I lost my voice and couldn't talk).

I told mom that if she 'n my doc didn't make it on time -- that I would be a shining star in the sky with my best friend and we would be laughing together.

My mom and special doc came running to the hospital.

I remember watching the stars and moon outside my hospital window. I wasn't afraid of dying 'cause I knew that I would never be alone.

However, my tenacious mom and doc had other plans for me.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Fred Astaire in the White House, by Michael Brownstein

"You can never awaken using the same system that put you to sleep in the first place."


This is an appeal, an open letter, a cry in the night: no matter how cranky it may make us to brush the stardust from our eyes, no matter how many friends we think we'll lose by looking long and hard at what's going on around us, let's try to stay awake. Let's not lose touch with what we really want for ourselves. Let's not forget what we know about the nature of consumer capitalism: it is unsustainable and unworkable because it depends on infinite expansion in a finite world. It can only survive by a violent takeover of what belongs to others. Let's not settle for halfway measures.

And let's not wait for deliverance from on high.

Because the president we elected -- out of so much hope for a definitive break with what came before -- is not who he seems. It's true that unlike the previous inhabitant of the White House (remember him?), Barack Obama is sane, intelligent, and mature. He's responsive to what others think. He hopes to institute real change in education, health care, the environment.

But even with his great charisma and silver tongue, he's a proper soldier for the system which is ravishing the planet. As he said in his inauguration speech in January, already aware of the huge financial mess he was inheriting, "We will not apologize for our way of life."

What do these words mean? They mean that the mall-i-zation of the planet will continue. They mean that the commercialization of all of life will not stop. They mean that our massive so-called footprint will never be substantially downsized.

And they mean that the force which has erased indigenous cultures and plant and animal species, which has sullied our air and soil and water, will essentially not be called into question, no matter how many of its most glaring excesses may be curbed.

"We will not apologize for our way of life..." Let's not forget who else used very similar words when insisting that America's energy policy would remain unchanged, no matter how much devastation it might cause: Dick Cheney, soon after taking office in 2000.

Without the active support of those who are running this toxic show into the ground, Barack Obama would not have been nominated in the first place, much less elected. There is no more sure sign of this than the fact that his supposed nemesis, Hillary Clinton, became his Secretary of State.

Forgetting for a moment the eight schizoid years under George W. Bush, Obama's appointees and the policies they represent form an unbroken line back through the Clinton era and beyond. Those in control of our society have always been in control. Decade after decade their names and identities change, but their outlook, their mindset, remains the same. Since infancy they've been raised to aggrandize, to capitalize on their advantage over others-whether "others" is defined as business competitors, indigenous people, foreign nations, or the fruits of the earth itself. This is the culture we have exported to the whole world. And once they get a taste of it, it seems that everybody wants more.

The distinction between Democrats and Republicans -- again, except for the neocons let loose by George Jr. -- has always been more negligible than we've cared to admit. The main difference is that Democrats, when in power, usually have shown concern for the less fortunate in our society. They've advanced social programs rather than contracting them. But the basic story line remains the same: in order to keep turning a perpetual profit, someone or something must be ripped off. The clubhouse filled with those who run things has never changed its size or location. It can be found within the high walls of the ruling class.

I'm not subscribing to a conspiracy theory here. Conspiracy theories are unprovable distractions, like the belief in UFOs. I'll leave it to others to insist darkly that our new president is a member of the Illuminati, the invisible cabal which for centuries has supposedly been running the planet. I don't think the greedy subset of humans drawn to naked, unlimited power are capable of trusting one another long enough to keep such plots afloat, so I won't bother taking seriously, for example, the claim that Michelle Obama is flashing the secret gesture of Illuminati membership on the cover of Vogue magazine's March issue.

Absurd? Of course. But how much more absurd than the program we humans are carrying around inside our heads of institutionalized scarcity and hardball competition? How much more irrational than the obscene military budgets the citizens of all nations pay for, year after year?

It's become fashionable to call what the banks and other financial institutions did to this country a Ponzi scheme, but the same is true not only of capitalism but of Western civilization itself. It's built on absence: the absence of all the indigenous people killed. It's built on ballooning expenditures and the continual depletion of resources with-like the monetary structure on which it depends-nothing supporting it underneath. Nothing at all. And when mindless trust gives way to nameless fear...well, we're now beginning to experience the consequences.

In order to understand how we may still be sleeping, let's remember that we live in a relative universe. Everything exists in relation to something else. After eight years of subzero temperatures, of trying not to lose heart while locked in the deep freeze, when it's suddenly 38 degrees and we've been let outside we feel expansive, liberated, optimistic. But defined in terms of what we actually need-a workable, fair, humane way of life-it's nowhere near summer sunshine out there.

In fact, if we're honest with ourselves regarding some of the moves Obama's administration has made around the economy, the military, commerce, and agriculture, we'll see that replacing Nero with Fred Astaire isn't enough. Stands on issues like state secrets and the rights of detainees are too close for comfort to what came before. The soft shoe may be reassuring, but we deserve more.

The president addressing the marines at Camp LeJeune: "We will not let the pursuit of the perfect stand in the way of achievable goals." But why not? Sure, this sounds level-headed and realistic, except that once these achievable goals go through the legislative wringer of compromise and payback, less than ever will remain.

And two years from now, if (as is certainly possible) the country's still in trouble because of halting economic measures and the Republicans regain control of Congress, where will those goals be then?

Let's not forget what we've always known about politicians: their primary motivation is to get elected and, once elected, to stay in power. These two things are often in conflict. That's why, for example, there's disappointment around the gap between what candidate Obama said in Ohio and Michigan regarding NAFTA and the signals he's sent since taking office. There's disappointment about his hesitation to really hold accountable the very banks and financial institutions which have brought the country to the brink.

And there's disappointment about his determination to extend the war in Afghanistan. Which looks to include Pakistan as well.

Fear of terrrorism is being used in the same way fear of communism was used in previous generations. For decades we've established more and more military bases around the world, allowing us to grab any source of raw material we deem necessary. The fact that other nation-states are playing the same game is no excuse for our behavior. The only way to change is to change, pure and simple. Because all human predators are enemies of the gods, enemies of creation.

Real change can only mean a change of consciouness. On the social level, it means things like a new way of educating our children, alternative forms of exchange and energy, local agriculture. On the macro level, it means adopting an entirely new system, such as Herman Daly's Steady State Economy. This will only come about if we risk what seems impossible. But maybe it isn't impossible.

Let's not forget that many of the changes happening in our lives now are taking place outside the political structure. We need that structure with its cynical baggage and tunnel vision much less than we think.

We're not interested in dragging solutions from the past into the future. If they didn't work then, why should they work now? We're not interested in lifelong defensive postures. We have no more patience for indulging our fear and paranoia simply because that's what our so-called enemies are doing. Let's either go for broke or "fade away into our own parade."

In fact, we have no choice. Systemic breakdown awaits us otherwise. We can no longer maintain American hegemony, even the reasonable, personable, happy-face version. We can no longer maintain rampant materialism, even of the green variety.

Remember Obama's campaign slogan? "Yes we can."

Yes we can what? Stand the robot of monoculture up on its wheels again? Our challenge goes beyond universal health insurance or fixing the economy or saving the environment. In fact, it's no less than pulling the plug on 8000 years of Empire. We need to rid ourselves of what has made us a consuming, semi-psychotic collective.

And that means we have no further use for nationalism, either. Flushing down the tubes that pattern of knee-jerk reaction to the Other constitutes the most important change of all. Let's take a cue from the Internet, all lit up around the globe with communication among people having no more identity than their names.

"We are one" is the only acceptable slogan. What's happening to the Bushmen in Botswana is also happening to us. What's happening to the Amazon rainforest is also happening to us.

Obama's narrative that everything went wrong only eight years ago disregards the history of this country and the policies which for decades have set us on a collision course with reality. George W. Bush did not invent military hegemony. He did not magically create uncontrolled greed or global warming. He did not loose on the world mortgage-backed securities and other forms of "toxic waste." (What about the toxic waste in landfills that reach to the sky? Can't we show the kids in our schools how the two are related?)

Naomi Klein reminds us in a recent interview ( that it was Bill Clinton who periodically bombed Iraq and tightened economic sanctions which killed one million Iraqis. It was Bill Clinton who axed Depression-era restrictions preventing investment banks from also being commercial banks. It was he and Alan Greenspan who resisted regulating the huge derivatives industry.

As we've seen, these policies were in place long before Bush and Cheney took them to new levels. Let's not forget that the United States didn't recover from the Depression until the Second World War amped the economy up to speed, and that this lesson was not lost after the war. Ever since then, the internal contradictions of a system which depends on limitless growth have been dealt with by a ballooning military industry. They've been dealt with by a post-modern colonialism which, now called economic globalization, nevertheless fulfills the same function: eviscerating less developed cultures around the world for profit.

If we succumb to amnesia about this, then, as Naomi Klein says, "you do exactly what Obama is doing. You resurrect the Clinton economic and foreign policy apparatus, and you appoint Larry Summers, the key architect of the economic policy that has imploded at this moment. The amount of money that's at stake in the bailout, if you include everything -- the deposit guarantees, the loans, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, AIG -- is now up to $9 trillion. The American GDP is only $14 trillion. So they've put more than half of the American economy on the line to try and fix a mess that actually cannot be fixed in this way."

In our desire to be reassured, let's not lose track of the fact that Obama's bailout plan refuses to admit the obvious: the banks are zombies, they're the walking dead, and as such they should be allowed to go under or else be nationalized. And the people responsible for this state of affairs need to be held responsible. Otherwise the freefall of foreclosures, unemployment, and frozen credit may go on for longer than we care to imagine.

And it's equally important that we come to terms with our recent history instead of being so quick to consign to oblivion the criminal acts of the last eight years. Obama is already making noises for impunity, for not dwelling on the past, for brushing ourselves off, picking ourselves up, and getting on with our lives.

Naomi Klein again: "So much comes down to whether there's going to be any accountability for what happened, whether it's the illegal occupation of Iraq or torture or the economic crimes that led to this disaster."

Is she right? Do we have no choice but waiting around to find out?

Instead, no matter how unfashionable this may sound, we need to protest. Rather than finding clever new ways to beat the cellphone bills that have suddenly become onerous, now's the time for something we Americans seemingly have forgotten how to do, as opposed to the Greeks, the Latvians, the French, even the Chinese. We need to mobilize.

We need to turn off that comforting DVD of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers -- of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton --dancing across our field of vision, and make our voices heard.

Otherwise, let's just head down to Baja and hang at the beach. After we've had our fill of swimming, we'll turn and watch from afar as the global power game vaporizes, whirling like a dust devil out on the desert floor. Maybe there'll even be some water left to bathe in before we go to sleep under the stars.

Image by Photo Giddy, courtesy of Creative Commons license.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Shareholders spoke and McDonald's listened

[Thanks to ToniD for this story]

by Chris in Paris on 4/13/2009 03:27:00 AM

This is the way the system should work. Well done by the shareholders for forcing the issue and equally well done by McDonald's for listening and taking action. McDonald's aims for a low-pesticide potato for its french fries

McDonald's, the largest fast-food chain the world and the largest buyer of potatoes in the United States, is under pressure from shareholders to do something about pesticide use on the potatoes it buys. To avoid a shareholder resolution on the subject, McDonald's has agreed to "survey its U.S. suppliers to compile a list of best practices in pesticide reduction and recommend those best practices to its global suppliers," according to Reuters.

Potatoes have been on or near the list of the Environmental Working Group's dirty dozen foods with the most pesticide residue for years. That means, according to a government analysis, that after a typical person buys a typical potato and prepares it in a typical way, it's among the fruits and vegetables most likely to be laced with pesticides. (The government regulates pesticide residue, so any chemical left on food is deemed to pose no health risk; that said, pesticides are designed to kill something -- a bug, worm, fungus, or weed -- and most people don't like the idea of taking each meal with a little drop of poison.)

It's not always easy supporting producers who make efforts to do the right thing. Organic foods do taste better but the price can often be much too high to afford on a daily basis. Our local grocery store has been floating more and more organic products ranging from ready-made meals, saucisson (dried sausage), cheese, fruits, veggies and wine. Overall the prices are fairly competitive, which helps a lot and makes it an easier choice for everyone to support.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Sarcasm Society - We would love to hear what you think!

[Thanks to Jamesbennett for this link]

Sarcastic Quotes

» Sometimes I need what only you can provide: your absence. - Ashleigh Brilliant

» It's always darkest before it turns absolutely pitch black. - Paul Newman

» It's a catastrophic success.

» I feel so miserable without you, it's almost like having you here. - Stephen Bishop

» History teaches us that men and nations behave wisely once they have exhausted all other alternatives. - Abba Eban

» No, Groucho is not my real name. I am breaking it in for a friend. » I never forget a face, but in your case I'll be glad to make an exception. » I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book. » I have had a perfectly wonderful evening, but this wasn't it. » I didn't like the play, but then I saw it under adverse conditions - the curtain was up. - Groucho Marx

» The United States is a nation of laws: badly written and randomly enforced. - Frank Zappa

» The 100% American is 99% idiot. » The trouble with her is that she lacks the power of conversation but not the power of speech. - George Bernard Shaw

» He has no enemies, but is intensely disliked by his friends. » Between men and women there is no friendship possible. There is passion, enmity, worship, love, but no friendship. - Oscar Wilde

» He was happily married - but his wife wasn't. - Victor Borge

» I didn't attend the funeral, but I sent a nice letter saying I approved of it. » Honesty is the best policy -- when there is money in it. » Familiarity breeds contempt -- and children. » Reader, suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself. » I would like to live in Manchester, England. The transition between Manchester and death would be unnoticeable. - Mark Twain

» I have never killed a man, but I have read many obituaries with great pleasure. - Clarence Darrow

» If you ever become a mother, can I have one of the puppies? - Charles Pierce

» You have delighted us long enough. - Jane Austen

[More Sarcastic Quotes]

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Street drug–related deaths from overdoses drop and the rate of HIV cases crashes

[Thanks to Annette for this link] 5 Years After: Portugal's Drug Decriminalization Policy Shows Positive Results

By Brian Vastag

DRUG PLAN: Portugal decriminalized the use and possession of marijuana, cocaine, heroin and other illicit street drugs in an attempt to cut down on related deaths and infections

In the face of a growing number of deaths and cases of HIV linked to drug abuse, the Portuguese government in 2001 tried a new tack to get a handle on the problem—it decriminalized the use and possession of heroin, cocaine, marijuana, LSD and other illicit street drugs. The theory: focusing on treatment and prevention instead of jailing users would decrease the number of deaths and infections. Five years later, the number of deaths from street drug overdoses dropped from around 400 to 290 annually, and the number of new HIV cases caused by using dirty needles to inject heroin, cocaine and other illegal substances plummeted from nearly 1,400 in 2000 to about 400 in 2006, according to a report released recently by the Cato Institute, a Washington, D.C, libertarian think tank. "Now instead of being put into prison, addicts are going to treatment centers and they're learning how to control their drug usage or getting off drugs entirely," report author Glenn Greenwald, a former New York State constitutional litigator, said during a press briefing at Cato last week. Under the Portuguese plan, penalties for people caught dealing and trafficking drugs are unchanged; dealers are still jailed and subjected to fines depending on the crime. But people caught using or possessing small amounts—defined as the amount needed for 10 days of personal use—are brought before what's known as a "Dissuasion Commission," an administrative body created by the 2001 law. Each three-person commission includes at least one lawyer or judge and one health care or social services worker. The panel has the option of recommending treatment, a small fine, or no sanction. Peter Reuter, a criminologist at the University of Maryland, College Park, says he's skeptical decriminalization was the sole reason drug use slid in Portugal, noting that another factor, especially among teens, was a global decline in marijuana use. By the same token, he notes that critics were wrong in their warnings that decriminalizing drugs would make Lisbon a drug mecca. "Drug decriminalization did reach its primary goal in Portugal," of reducing the health consequences of drug use, he says, "and did not lead to Lisbon becoming a drug tourist destination." Walter Kemp, a spokesperson for the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, says decriminalization in Portugal "appears to be working." He adds that his office is putting more emphasis on improving health outcomes, such as reducing needle-borne infections, but that it does not explicitly support decriminalization, "because it smacks of legalization." Drug legalization removes all criminal penalties for producing, selling and using drugs; no country has tried it. In contrast, decriminalization, as practiced in Portugal, eliminates jail time for drug users but maintains criminal penalties for dealers. Spain and Italy have also decriminalized personal use of drugs and Mexico's president has proposed doing the same. . A spokesperson for the White House's Office of National Drug Control Policy declined to comment, citing the pending Senate confirmation of the office's new director, former Seattle Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs also declined to comment on the report.

Friday, April 10, 2009

My Hero, Zero [Thanks, Dean]

Rahm Emanuel's Think Tankers Enforce 'Message Discipline' Among 'Liberals'

[Thanks to ghettodefender for this link] The White House is ‘helping’ liberal groups to get their political messages in sync with the official line.

by Jeremy Scahill

Over the past several weeks, independent journalists and anti-war activists have tried to shine a spotlight on how groups like the Center for American Progress and MoveOn, which portrayed themselves as anti-war during the Bush-era, are now supporting the escalation and continuation of wars because their guy is now commander-in-chief. CAP has been actively pounding the pavement in support of the escalation in Afghanistan, the rebranding of the Iraq occupation and, more recently, Obama's bloated military budget, which the group said was "on target." MoveOn has been silent on the escalation in Afghanistan and has devoted substantial resources to promoting a federal budget that includes a $21 billion increase in military spending from the Bush-era.

What is clear here is that CAP and MoveOn are now basically psuedo-official PR flaks targeting "liberals" to support the White House agenda. This, though, should not come as a shock to those who have closely monitored these groups. They were the primary force behind Americans Against Escalation in Iraq (AAEI), "a coalition that spent tens of millions of dollars using Iraq as a political bludgeon against Republican politicians, while refusing to pressure the Democratic Congress to actually cut off funding for the war." Now, according to John Stauber, executive director of the Center for Media and Democracy, the Center for American Progress is now running "Progressive Media which was begun by Tom Matzzie and David Brock in 2008 and now ‘represents a serious ratcheting up of efforts to present a united liberal front in the coming policy wars....' [These groups] are working hard to push Obama's policies, including rationalizlng or defending his escalation of the wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan as "sustainable security."

On Wednesday, Ben Smith at Politico reported on the latest development in this White House-coordinated campaign to use these think-tankers to whip up support for its agenda. It is a newly formed coalition, the Common Purpose Project, which blogger Jane Hamsher describes as "one of the many groups Rahm Emanuel has set up to coordinate messaging among liberal interest groups." This one includes the direct participation of White House officials, according to Smith:

The Common Purpose meeting every Tuesday afternoon at the Capitol Hilton brings together the top officials from a range of left-leaning organizations, from labor groups like Change to Win to activists like, all in support of the White House's agenda. The group has an overlapping membership with a daily 8:45 a.m. call run by the Center for American Progress' and Media Matters' political arms; with the new field-oriented coalition Unity ‘09; and with the groups that allied to back the budget as the Campaign to Rebuild and Renew America Now.

Unlike those other groups, however, the Common Purpose meeting has involved a White House official, communications director Ellen Moran, two sources familiar with the meeting said. It's aimed, said one, at "providing a way for the White House to manage its relationships with some of these independent groups."

Common Purpose was founded by Erik Smith, a former aide to Dick Gephardt. The group's political director is former Obama aide, Miti Sathe. "Common Purpose is formed as a 501(c)(4), which leaves it focused on policy, rather than electoral, work," notes Smith. "Part of the group's role is to enforce a kind of message discipline." He tells the story of how last month "some of the more liberal members of the coalition" were launching a campaign against conservative Democrats under the banner "Dog the Blue Dogs." The White House, Smith alleged, "was in the midst of discussions with members of the congressional Blue Dog caucus, and objected to the slogan, which was promptly changed, and the page describing the drive is gone from CAF [Campaign for America's Future, a participant in the Common Purposes calls]'s website."

Hamsher, who wrote an interesting response to the Politico report with a different spin on the above story, concluded:

There's a big problem right now with the traditional liberal interest groups sitting on the sidelines around major issues because they don't want to buck the White House for fear of getting cut out of the dialogue, or having their funding slashed. Someone picks up a phone, calls a big donor, and the next thing you know...the money is gone. It's already happened. Because that's the way Rahm plays.

Seth: You Can't Blame the Government

You add to society. You are not at its mercy. It is not something outside of yourselves; you are a part of it. Any time you speak or agree or disagree, you are a part of society, and you are contributing to change or to lack of change. "The same applies, of course, in political terms. You cannot blame 'the government' for anything, for that 'government' is a term that is meaningless. It applies to individuals. The individuals in your nation are reflecting your private behavior. You find it shocking. You cheat in your own ways. The leaders have a greater opportunity. You use self-justification in your small cheating, and they simply use more gigantic self-justification in their cheating, and in their activities you see spread across the newspaper for the world to see -- your own private acts, only this time, magnified. "You cheat at your income taxes. You think it is funny. So you have a president who is a cheat and a liar! Then look to yourselves, for he is the reflection of what your nation has become -- one reflection -- one reflection only. There are better reflections, thank heaven! "For you are not all liars, and you are not all cheaters. And you lie in one area of your life and be truthful in another. But until you learn to recognize your own individuality, and to realize that you form your reality, you will place the blame upon others. At the same time, you will not be able to accept your own joy, or your own creativity. (Seth, ESP classes)

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Tengo Hambre: Evo Morales Goes on Hunger Strike

By Jennifer Woodard Maderazo · 9 Apr 2009


BOLIVIAN President Evo Morales has begun a hunger strike to protest opposition moves to block an electoral law they say will ensure Mr Morales's victory in December elections.

"Faced with the negligence of a group of neoliberal lawmakers, we have to take this step,'' Mr Morales said.

"Now is the best time to force opposition senators in the national congress to approve the new law,'' he added, flanked by farmers and labor leaders.

Mr Morales's ruling government controls the presidency and holds a firm grip on congress's lower house, but opposition lawmakers retain control of the senate.

The electoral law, mandated in the new constitution approved in January, would set a December 6 date for a national poll.

The controversial constitution allows, among other things, for Mr Morales - South America's first indigenous head of state - to run for re-election for another five-year term.

Opposition lawmakers continue to block the bill because they say it hands 14 congressional seats to indigenous groups - a move they maintain would simply grant Morales electoral success.

Maine Legislators Call for Single Payer

Meanwhile, in Maine, the state legislature has approved a measure calling for the establishment of single payer. The Maine Senate passed the non-binding resolution Wednesday, one day after its passage in the state House.

The 2009 Shelter+ Challenge begins April 13th

CowCow Helmut Slappy
Dear members, Get ready to GET OUT THE VOTE. is proud to bring you The Animal Rescue Site second $100,000 Shelter+ Challenge. The 2009 Shelter+ Challenge begins April 13th and will provide up to $100,000 to eligible Petfinder member shelters and rescue groups. Visit and click on the Shelter+ Challenge tab. Plan now to rally your staff, volunteers, adopters, and supporters to select your organization – and your pets – to receive one of the over 50 prizes, ranging from $1,000 to $20,000. Use the resources for shelters which are available at now. This includes a press release which you can easily customize with your own name and get out to your local media. You will also find free LINK TO US web buttons which you can place on your Petfinder site, blog and other websites and free e-cards to send to community members encouraging them to vote for you. The contest is open to groups who were active Petfinder members in good standing as of March 20, 2009. We regret that we are unable to add groups who have since joined or reactivated. Stay tuned for future initiatives in which you can take part. Have a great adoption week – and get ready to GET OUT THE VOTE. --K Kim Saunders, Vice President Shelter Outreach & Public Relations Adopt A Homeless Pet!

ArtBabble: The New Destination for Art Videos

This week, ArtBabble, a new video website for the museum & art world, opened its virtual doors. Created by the Indianapolis Museum of Art, ArtBabble brings together videos from various arts institutions (MoMA, SFMOMA, PBS, the New Public Library, etc) and presents them to users in a clean, organized way. The footage, often produced in high definition, features interviews with artists and curators, documentaries and art installation videos. And, collectively, they give you a more direct way to “experience the life of museums.” To learn more about ArtBabble, you can read a piece in The NY Times.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009


Listen Listen

Later I saw Yoko, whom I had known about through her connection with my art-school mentor Gustav Metzger, who – with Malcolm Cecil – had inspired me to make destruction a part of my artistic manifesto on stage. She was performing Happenings at various venues around London in 1967. She was outrageous, challenging, inspired and apparently insane. She was one of the first art terrorists, combining deep morality with confrontation and shock. She was also engaging and deeply erotic. …When I saw her in 1993, I remember being stunned by how young Yoko still looked, and how especially beautiful she had become.

-Pete Townsend, “Memories of John Lennon”

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Resist or Become Serfs! By Chris Hedges

April 06, 2009 "" -- America is devolving into a third-world nation. And if we do not immediately halt our elite's rapacious looting of the public treasury we will be left with trillions in debts, which can never be repaid, and widespread human misery which we will be helpless to ameliorate. Our anemic democracy will be replaced with a robust national police state. The elite will withdraw into heavily guarded gated communities where they will have access to security, goods and services that cannot be afforded by the rest of us. Tens of millions of people, brutally controlled, will live in perpetual poverty. This is the inevitable result of unchecked corporate capitalism. The stimulus and bailout plans are not about saving us. They are about saving them. We can resist, which means street protests, disruptions of the system and demonstrations, or become serfs.

We have been in a steady economic decline for decades. The Canadian political philosopher John Ralston Saul detailed this decline in his 1992 book "Voltaire's Bastards: The Dictatorship of Reason in the West." David Cay Johnston exposed the mirage and rot of American capitalism in "Free Lunch: How the Wealthiest Americans Enrich Themselves at Government Expense (and Stick You With the Bill)," and David C. Korten, in "When Corporations Rule the World" and "Agenda for a New Economy," laid out corporate malfeasance and abuse. But our universities and mass media, entranced by power and naively believing that global capitalism was an unstoppable force of nature, rarely asked the right questions or gave a prominent voice to those who did. Our elites hid their incompetence and loss of control behind an arrogant facade of specialized jargon and obscure economic theories.

The lies employed to camouflage the economic decline are legion. President Ronald Reagan included 1.5 million U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine service personnel with the civilian work force to magically reduce the nation's unemployment rate by 2 percent. President Bill Clinton decided that those who had given up looking for work, or those who wanted full-time jobs but could only find part-time employment, were no longer to be counted as unemployed. This trick disappeared some 5 million unemployed from the official unemployment rolls. If you work more than 21 hours a week-most low-wage workers at places like Wal-Mart average 28 hours a week-you are counted as employed, although your real wages put you below the poverty line. Our actual unemployment rate, when you include those who have stopped looking for work and those who can only find part-time jobs, is not 8.5 percent but 15 percent. A sixth of the country is now effectively unemployed. And we are shedding jobs at a faster rate than in the months after the 1929 crash.

The consumer price index, used by the government to measure inflation, is meaningless. To keep the official inflation figures low the government has been substituting basic products it once measured to check for inflation with ones that do not rise very much in price. This sleight of hand has kept the cost-of-living increases tied to the CPI artificially low. The New York Times' consumer reporter, W.P. Dunleavy, wrote that her groceries now cost $587 a month, up from $400 a year earlier. This is a 40 percent increase. California economist John Williams, who runs an organization called Shadow Statistics, contends that if Washington still used the CPI measurements applied back in the 1970s, inflation would be 10 percent.

The corporate state, and the political and intellectual class that served the corporate state, constructed a financial and political system based on illusions. Corporations engaged in pyramid lending that created fictitious assets. These fictitious assets became collateral for more bank lending. The elite skimmed off hundreds of millions in bonuses, commissions and salaries from this fictitious wealth. Politicians, who dutifully served corporate interests rather than those of citizens, were showered with campaign contributions and given lucrative jobs when they left office. Universities, knowing it was not good business to challenge corporatism, muted any voices of conscience while they went begging for corporate donations and grants. Deceptive loans and credit card debt fueled the binges of a consumer society and hid falling wages and the loss of manufacturing jobs.

The Obama administration, rather than chart a new course, is intent on re-inflating the bubble. The trillions of dollars of government funds being spent to sustain these corrupt corporations could have renovated our economy. We could have saved tens of millions of Americans from poverty. The government could have, as consumer activist Ralph Nader has pointed out, started 10 new banks with $35 billion each and a 10-to-1 leverage to open credit markets. Vast, unimaginable sums are being placed into these dirty corporate hands without oversight. And they will use this money as they always have-to enrich themselves at our expense.

"You are going to see the biggest waste, fraud and abuse in American history," Nader warned when I asked about the bailouts. "Not only is it wrongly directed, not only does it deal with the perpetrators instead of the people who were victimized, but they don't have a delivery system of any honesty and efficiency. The Justice Department is overwhelmed. It doesn't have a tenth of the prosecutors, the investigators, the auditors, the attorneys needed to deal with the previous corporate crime wave before the bailout started last September. It is especially unable to deal with the rapacious ravaging of this new money by these corporate recipients. You can see it already. The corporations haven't lent it. They have used some of it for acquisitions or to preserve their bonuses or their dividends. As long as they know they are not going to jail, and they don't see many newspaper reports about their colleagues going to jail, they don't care. It is total impunity. If they quit, they quit with a golden parachute. Even [General Motors CEO Rick] Wagoner is taking away $21 million."

There are a handful of former executives who have conceded that the bailouts are a waste. American International Group Inc.‘s (AIG) former chairman, Maurice R. Greenberg, told the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on Thursday that the effort to prop up the firm with $170 billion has "failed." He said the company should be restructured. AIG, he said, would have been better off filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection instead of seeking government help.

"These are signs of hyper decay," Nader said from his office in Washington. "You spend this kind of money and do not know if it will work."

"Bankrupt corporate capitalism is on its way to bankrupting the socialism that is trying to save it," Nader added. "That is the end stage. If they no longer have socialism to save them then we are into feudalism. We are into private police, gated communities and serfs with a 21st century nomenclature."

We will not be able to raise another 3 or 4 trillion dollars, especially with our commitments now totaling some $12 trillion, to fix the mess. It was only a couple of months ago that our expenditures totaled $9 trillion. And it was not long ago that such profligate government spending was unthinkable. There was an $800 billion limit placed on the Federal Reserve a year ago. The economic stimulus and the bailouts will not bring back our casino capitalism. And as the meltdown shows no signs of abating, and the bailouts show no sign of working, the recklessness and desperation of our capitalist overlords have increased. The cost, to the working and middle class, is becoming unsustainable. The Fed reported in March that households lost $5.1 trillion, or 9 percent, of their wealth in the last three months of 2008, the most ever in a single quarter in the 57-year history of record keeping by the central bank. For the full year, household wealth dropped $11.1 trillion, or about 18 percent. These figures did not record the decline of investments in the stock market, which has probably erased trillions more in the country's collective net worth.

The bullet to our head, inevitable if we do not radically alter course, will be sudden. We have been borrowing at the rate of more than $2 billion a day over the last 10 years, and at some point it has to stop. The moment China, the oil-rich states and other international investors stop buying treasury bonds the dollar will become junk. Inflation will rocket upward. We will become Weimar Germany. A furious and sustained backlash by a betrayed and angry populace, one unprepared intellectually and psychologically for collapse, will sweep aside the Democrats and most of the Republicans. A cabal of proto-fascist misfits, from Christian demagogues to simpletons like Sarah Palin to loudmouth talk show hosts, who we naively dismiss as buffoons, will find a following with promises of revenge and moral renewal. The elites, the ones with their Harvard Business School degrees and expensive vocabularies, will retreat into their sheltered enclaves of privilege and comfort. We will be left bereft and abandoned outside the gates.

Chris Hedges writes a regular column for Hedges graduated from Harvard Divinity School and was for nearly two decades a foreign correspondent for The New York Times. He is the author of "American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America."

Monday, April 06, 2009

Wake up and smell some truth...

April 3, 2009
William K. Black suspects that it was more than greed and incompetence that brought down the U.S. financial sector and plunged the economy in recession — it was fraud. And he would know. When it comes to financial shenanigans, William K. Black, the former senior regulator who cracked down on banks during the savings and loan crisis of the 1980s, has seen pretty much everything.

Now an Associate Professor of Economics and Law at the University of Missouri, William K. Black tells Bill Moyers on the JOURNAL that the tool at the very center of mortgage collapse, creating triple-A rated bonds out of "liars' loans" — loans issued without verifying income, assets or employment — was a fraud, and the banks knew it.

And while there is no law against liars' loans, Black points out that there are, "many laws against fraud, and liars' loans are fraudulent. [...] They involve deceit, which is the essence of fraud."

Only the scale of the scandal is new. A single bank, IndyMac, lost more money than the entire Savings and Loan Crisis. The difference between now and then, explains Black, is a drastic reduction in regulation and oversight, "We now know what happens when you destroy regulation. You get the biggest financial calamity of anybody under the age of 80."

>>More about the Savings and Loan Crisis

William K. Black, author of THE BEST WAY TO ROB A BANK IS TO OWN ONE, teaches economics and law at the University of Missouri — Kansas City (UMKC). He was the Executive Director of the Institute for Fraud Prevention from 2005-2007. He has taught previously at the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin and at Santa Clara University, where he was also the distinguished scholar in residence for insurance law and a visiting scholar at the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics.

Black was litigation director of the Federal Home Loan Bank Board, deputy director of the FSLIC, SVP and general counsel of the Federal Home Loan Bank of San Francisco, and senior deputy chief counsel, Office of Thrift Supervision. He was deputy director of the National Commission on Financial Institution Reform, Recovery and Enforcement.

Black developed the concept of "control fraud" — frauds in which the CEO or head of state uses the entity as a "weapon." Control frauds cause greater financial losses than all other forms of property crime combined. He recently helped the World Bank develop anti-corruption initiatives and served as an expert for OFHEO in its enforcement action against Fannie Mae's former senior management.

Published April 3, 2009. Guest photos by Robin Holland

Seth on Government Spending, Public Works, and Taxes

From: The Personal Sessions, Book 5, page 33-34 (Also known as the Deleted Sessions) "Now: in your country, generally speaking, rich and poor alike are provided with a multitude of services--many of course that are taken for granted. "The rich cannot buy a better light bulb than the poor-though they may have chandeliers galore, and electricity flows in your country through the poorest and richest areas as well. The rich and poor alike are provided with fire protection and police protection. The rich do not have purer water than the poor. Rich and poor alike walk down the same city streets. The same street does not suddenly become gold beneath the foot of the rich man and woman-and pot-holes in city, state, or government roads are felt alike by the tires of the Cadillac and the lowly Volkswagen. "The sewer pipes carry away drainage from apartment houses and mansions and from trailers as well, eventually, and all of that must be paid for by the people. "When you were a young man in New York City, bringing in the cash, your paid your taxes without a qualm. After you and Ruburt met, you had little-enough money for some time, as you tried to find your way, and you had little taxes at all. You had enough to eat, and a warm apartment, so you were hardly deprived--either of you. "Though you paid little taxes, the fire and police protection were not withdrawn, and all of the services continued. Later it seemed that the two of you made your way alone almost as aliens in your society, couched only by your own joint courage and determination. Then, when you began to make decent money, you resented giving it to the government--for the reasons just given, and because the government, it seemed, was built upon beliefs with which you could find no accord. So why should you so support it, when all that you had achieved was gained in spite of your society? "Yet that government did indeed couch you, and now through your taxes you couch other younger people, who cannot contribute as yet. There is no doubt that the very wealthy abuse the system, and yet all in all it is a good one, couching the young while they learn, and is so doing, providing a basis from which new beliefs can indeed emerge. "There are many on the edge of the system who are being carried, of course, and who also misuse the privilege. Despite that, however, at a physical level, your money is turned to help others at one level, while your work allows you the freedom of creativity, and the PRIVILEGE of helping at a still higher level. "Ruburt rather good-naturedly appreciates being in the position of paying taxes, since his upbringing was at the taxpayers' expense. I know you understand this-but carried to the extreme, that resentment would allow you barely enough to live on, and you actually would refuse to make money, because you so resent the high taxes connected with a good living. Yet financial security is important to both of you, because it allows you the freedom to create as you choose, and to follow this path. Yet remember that for all of its failings, your peace of mind is also the result of the American services that were available when you did not have much money, as they are now."

Bring out yer dead! First Photos of Fallen Soldier Ends 18-Year Ban

US media publish first photos of returning war dead Washington - Newspapers on Monday published the first photographs of the flag draped casket of a killed member of the military being returned to the United States since a ban on the images went into effect in 1991. A military honour guard was seen carrying the casket of Air Force Staff Sergeant Phillip Myers off an airplane at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware late Sunday. He was killed by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan on Saturday. Images of returning war dead have become a contentious issue during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan with allegations the government was attempting to hide the dead. The Pentagon had instituted the ban under then-president George HW Bush in 1991 during the first Gulf War in an effort to shield the privacy of military families. President Barack Obama lifted the ban and the family of the deceased are now given the option of opening the arrival ceremony to the media. Air Force Captain Michael Andrews salutes as the remains of Staff Sgt. Myers who died near Afghanistan's Helmand province, of wounds suffered from an improvised explosive device. Nikki Kahn-The Washington Post

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Spring ~ 2009

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Stanford Professor Asks, "Can Poetry Save the Earth?"

STANFORD, CA The nexus between poetry and the environment is not self-evident to most. That's why Stanford English professor John Felstiner wrote Can Poetry Save the Earth? A Field Guide to Nature Poems (Yale University Press) in time for Earth Day, April 22. As we hover on the environmental point of no return, Felstiner argues that poetry may have a singular capacity to return our attention to our environment before it's too late. Blending the pleasure of poetry with biography, history, geography, and current environmental concerns, he reveals the tension between a human-centered viewpoint and nature at large. This tension drives both environmental poetry and politics. There are environmental poetry anthologies and scholarly studies; this book gets the best of both without the limitations. Renowned and lesser-known poets come alive in clear, vigorous language enhanced by a unique collection of images: landscapes, portraits, manuscripts. Can Poetry Save the Earth? traces a long arc of awareness about our predicament on earth ranging from joyous to desperate. In forty brief and jargon-free chapters, John Felstiner finds fresh ways to activate familiar poems along with surprising ones, bringing them home to readers of every kind. Each chapter focuses on a poet who has written about the natural world, from the Psalmist to the modern poet. One by one it calls up voices from Blake, Whitman, Dickinson, Hardy, Hopkins, Yeats and Frost to Millay, Neruda, Kunitz, Levertov, Walcott and Gary Snyder. To round out this experience, full-color and black-and-white images, many of them discovered and published for the first time, show sources of environmental imagination. In the last decade, Felstiner has become a passionate advocate for the environment and for the poetry that celebrates it. Noted for his award-winning translations of Paul Célan's poetry, he was working on a project about creative resistance during the Holocaust about ten years ago, when he began to wonder how he could use poetry about nature to help tune people in to their environment. He thought that he could use "the pleasure of poetry to reach their consciousness, and their consciousness to reach their conscience.” Felstiner wrote the book over a nine-year period during most of which he was also teaching an Introduction to the Humanities course titled Literature into Life at Stanford. The need for a human, humanistic sense of our environmental crisis is getting more urgent week by week. Rachel Carson believed that poetry and science had kindred aims. E. O Wilson would say the same. Author Bio: John Felstiner, who teaches English at Stanford University, lives there and in the Santa Cruz Mountains. He wrote Translating Neruda: The Way to Macchu Picchu and Paul Celan: Poet, Survivor, Jew (Yale University Press), winner of the Truman Capote Prize for Literary Criticism and finalist, National Book Critics Circle and MLA James Russell Lowell award. He has also received the Commonwealth Club Gold Medal, and PEN USA, Modern Language Association, and American Translators Association prizes.

Friday, April 03, 2009

The Ones Who Got It Right, by Ralph Nader

Why is it that well regarded people working the fields of corporate power and performance who repeatedly predicted the Wall Street bubble and its bursting receive so little media and attention? Instead, the public is still being exposed to the comments and writings of people like Alan Greenspan, Robert Rubin, James Glassman (of Dow 36,000 notoriety) while others like Timothy Geithner, Larry Summers, and Gary Gensler are newly-appointed at high levels in the Obama Administration. These men were variously architects, rationalizers and implementers of the massive de-regulation and non-regulation that unleashed the epic forces of greed, speculation and ruination of millions of livelihoods and trillions of dollars other peoples’ money worldwide. Here are some of the people who got it right—early and often: 1. William Greider—author and columnist with The Nation magazine—wrote books (including Secrets of the Temple, 1988) and articles warning about the Federal Reserve and the anti-democratic consequences of rampant corporate globalization. 2. Robert Kuttner whose books (e.g. Everything for Sale, 1999) and articles predicted what will happen to workers and pensions when the regulatory state is tossed aside by the corporatists operating inside and outside of government. 3. Jim Hightower whose books (If the Gods Has Meant Us to Vote, They Would Have Given Us Candidates, 2000) and the monthly mass circulation Hightower Lowdown newsletter pointed out again and again the abuses of the “greedhounds” and vastly overpaid corporate bosses that have run consumers of health care, credit, cars and banks into the ground. 4. Nomi Prins (Other Peoples Money, 2004) a former managing director of Goldman Sachs, quit in disgust and began disclosing how these giant Wall St. firms deal and how, with their ideological backers, they wove their webs of deception and fraud against investors, students borrowing money for college, taxpayers ripped off by corporate contractors, sick people gouged and insurance companies denying legitimate claims. (See her book Jacked: How “Conservatives” Are Picking Your Pocket, 2008) 5. John R. MacArthur, author (The Selling of “Free Trade”, 2001) columnist and publisher of Harpers, authored a sharp, prophetic criticism of NAFTA’s effect on U.S. and Mexican workers. Finally, on March 24, 2009 the New York Times featured a report titled “NAFTA’s Promise, UNfulfilled.” 6. Robert A.G. Monks—the leading shareholder rights advocate in our country warned for years in books (latest Corpocracy, 2008) , articles, testimony and standup challenges at corporate annual meetings that keeping investors—the owners of these companies—powerless and dominated by corporate executives would lead to big trouble. Everyday, you can now see the ways that avaricious abuses of executive compensation by Wall Street led to cooking the books, hiding the debts and wildly losing other peoples’ money. 7. Tom Stanton, whose 1991 book State of Risk, exposed the dangerously undercapitalized condition of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and predicted coming disaster if this reckless leveraging continued. By comparison, a year ago Fannie and Freddie’s federal regulator, James B. Lockhart III called fears of a bailout “nonsense” and amazingly further lowered the required capital levels months before their collapse and takeover a few months later. Mr. Lockhart is still in his job heading a new regulatory entity over these two goliaths. 8. Republican Kevin Phillips, (latest book Bad Money: Reckless Finance, Failed Politics, and the Global Crisis of American Capitalism, 2007) whose numerous writings on Wall Street power and money and the dictatorial rule of the plutocracy were wise, historically—rooted premonitions of future collapse. 9. Dean Baker, (latest Plunder and Blunder, 2004) Washington-based economist, warned repeatedly earlier in this decade of the housing bubble and the calamitous consequences once it burst. He even sold his own home in 2004 and became a tenant, so convinced was he of the housing precipice. 10. Then there is Naomi Klein who has been documenting how economic disasters produced by corporations and their governmental cohorts end up not with reforms but with further increasing the power of the corporate state. (See Shock Doctrine the Rise of Disaster Capitalism, 2007) Chances are that outside the independent media and an occasional public tv-radio interview, you have not seen or read them in the mass media. But they were right, so why haven’t you? Well, first of all, they took on commercial interests and called them out by name and specific misdeeds. Take it from one who knows, big advertisers do not hesitate to let their media outlets know about their displeasure. Publishers, editors and producers will deny being affected by such realities of the bottom line but money talks—not always but enough to screen out or marginalize the provocative early warners. Second, these early warners are not like their counterparts such as the market fundamentalists and other active corporatists in the world of writers and commentators. The latter meet and plan often and ferociously attach themselves to political and corporate leaders. While the progressive forecasters do not connect either with each other or with their policy allies on Capitol Hill as much. The media likes to see growing power like that of the intertwined Heritage Foundation with the Reagan regime and their supporters in Congress. Third, there is this sense that these progressives are exposing conditions that the reporters themselves should be revealing. So why not publish staff-driven magazine-style features instead of publicizing outsiders and covering an unfolding story as reportage. Journalistic prizes go to the former. But, they’re not the same either in reader impact or for change. Finally, there are establishment figures who tried, in their own way, to blow the whistle—James Grant, Henry Kaufman and, twenty five years ago, Felix Rohatyn come to mind. Their astute alarms regarding excessive risk-taking were ignored. They are not getting much media play either. Maybe it’s also a cultural thing. Big book deals, radio talk shows, promotions and quotable celebrity status go to the rogues, the grossly negligent, the suppressors of truth and the wrongdoers. They’re just so much more exciting! This is a fast road to a state of decay. End.

Remember Sami al-Arian? A Ward Churchill Kind of Day

By KURT NIMMO In the midst of errands today, I made the mistake of turning on the car radio twice. Both times somebody was ranting about Ward Churchill, the University of Colorado professor about to lose his job for telling the truth. First, it was Sean Hannity on the radio. Hannity mentioned several violent incidents, most notably the Florida couple accused of torturing and starving five of their seven children, and then felt compelled to throw Ward Churchill in there, calling him an "idiot," and then asked "what the heck is going in this country?" I cursed, snapped off the radio. Second, later in the afternoon, it was a caller to Bill O'Reilly's radio program. Close down all the ethnic studies programs, the caller snarled, and study programs about women, labor, and the environment because they're all infested with hate America types like Ward Churchill. Once again, I punched the radio off. As I moved through traffic, surrounded by cars, SUVS, and big fat pickup trucks with "Support Our Troops" magnetic ribbons attached, I thought about what happened to the last "hate America" prof who had the misfortune of talking with Bill O'Reilly -- Sami al-Arian of the University of South Florida. Sami now wastes away in solitary confinement for the crime of defending the Palestinians, a mortal sin punishable by life imprisonment in America. He's not allowed phone calls, is allowed out of his cell but for one hour a day, endures repeated strip searches, cannot talk with his attorney in private, his case files have been seized, it is even forbidden for him to hug his wife and kids when they visit the prison. Sami al-Arian, thanks mostly to a hateful and self-aggrandizing TV and radio host who likes to make dirty phone calls to conservative female co-workers, is treated like a serial rapist or murderer, even though he has yet to be convicted of a crime, let alone have his day in court. It was much like this, I thought, when the Nazis purged the universities in Germany. As an American, I have this lame propensity to connect things to movies I have seen. For instance, when I think of Sami and Ward, I am reminded of a scene in Fred Zinnemann's Julia, a horrific scene where Nazi brownshirts invade a university, beat up professors, and cheerily throw them from high balconies, presumably to their deaths. Of course, we are a long way from that sort of behavior in America ... or are we? Ward Churchill has received numerous death threats. Millions of people wanted to do harm to John Walker Lindh, the pathetic and confused convert to Islam who made the mistake of going to Afghanistan. Lindh, an obviously emotionally under-developed lad from a broken home, was made-over, thanks to Fox News and the corporate media, into an evil follower of the Taliban and potential killer of kind-hearted American soldiers (who were at the time kind-heartedly invading a sovereign nation). For writing an article critical of Pat Tillman, the "all-American" NFL football player who gave up his career to kill Afghans, and was subsequently killed by his fellow soldiers, I received an email from a person who expressed a strong desire to take a baseball bat to my head. Of course, this sort of behavior is a long way from the organized brutality of Hitler's brownshirts, but the mentality is there, waiting to be groomed. Four more years of Bush, and another war, this time in Iran, complete with the now standard round of Orwellian hate sessions via Fox News and "conservative" radio, complete with unrestrained xenophobia and Muslim-bashing, and who knows, a new brand of brownshirts may emerge. It can be argued -- considering the odious and violent articles now appearing more and more frequently in neocon-infested venues such as the New Republic and Horowitz's FrontPage web site -- it really wouldn't take much for the "all-Americans" to hit the streets with shotguns and pikes and go after the "America haters" who, we are incessantly told, are in Osama's corner, salivating hungrily for the destruction of America. Later in the afternoon, since I am an incurable news junkie and devoted blogger, I made the rounds on the web and found an article about Ward Churchill that actually attempted a degree of objectivity. "Churchill has been the subject of a firestorm of controversy since concerns were raised last week about an essay he wrote on Sept. 11, 2001, in which he compared 'technocrats' working in the World Trade Center to notorious Nazi bureaucrat Adolf Eichmann and said the United States invited the terrorist attacks through a long history of violent domination of other cultures," Charlie Brennan writes for the Rocky Mountain News. Although I am certain to receive the customary round of hate email, maybe containing threats of bodily harm by way of Louisville slugger, I must say that I agree with Churchill: the financial and government institutions housed in the WTC, including the CIA, most certainly did employ "technocrats" comparable to Adolf Eichmann, although I believe Eichmann is an inappropriate comparison, mostly because the Nazi metaphor does not fit when we are talking about neoliberal globalists who are not necessarily racist or specifically genocidal, but rather money-grubbing rich bastards who don't care what happens to millions of people after water and hospitals are "privatized," that is to say stolen for personal gain, or nations invaded to corner the market on precious natural resources. Eichmann and the Nazis are a somewhat better fit for the CIA and the Pentagon, even though they, as well, do not embrace a specifically racist ideology. More to the point, as General Smedley Butler once said, the Pentagon (and the CIA) are nothing more than hit men "for big business, for Wall Street and the bankers," in short, "racketeers for Capitalism." The Joint Chiefs and the DCI don't want to shove Jews in ovens, but simply clear the way for the bottom line and stockholder profit, no matter the cost in human life or, for that matter, the price exacted from our shared biosphere. Or, as Robert Redford's character in Pieter Jan Brugge's The Clearing said to the unemployed character played by Willem Dafoe, unemployment and downsizing and its inevitable privation is nothing personal, it's just business (and there I go with the lame movie comparisons again). Likewise, I'm sure, Osama bin Laden, if indeed Osama had anything to do with those planes smacking into the WTC and the Pentagon, would also say it was nothing personal, just a natural if knee-jerk reaction to decades of the United States propping up Saudi, Iranian, Egyptian, and Jordanian dictators and monarchs -- and let's not forget Reagan and Poppy Bush's friendly relationship with Saddam Hussein -- and supporting Zionist settlers, to the tune of billions of dollars over the years, who seem to actually like murdering Palestinian school children. Nothing personal, just a strike against the institutions and military-industrial-banking infrastructure that not only makes such possible, but profits plentifully from it as well. For Roger Ailes and the Fox pundits, in fact for much of the corporate media, this sort of reasoning does not compute. It's heretical, evil, and demonstrates outright hatred for America. According to Bush and Fox, Osama came out of nowhere -- no mention he was essentially a creation of the CIA -- and is motivated entirely by an irrational hatred for America of the sort shared by Ward Churchill. For history began on September 12, 2001, and all that came after -- the invasions, the mass murder, the violations of international law and the Geneva Conventions, Bush's torture and rape gulag, the occupations and stage-managed elections -- all of it is a noble and moral response to Islamic evil. History, as Henry Ford averred, is bunk. It will go on like this until the machine breaks down and the American people are forced to squarely face reality -- for, as Ward Churchill tells us, the American empire is built on the corpses of incalculable victims over the span of several hundred years. 9/11, by way of comparison, is essentially an exercise in minor league murder and mayhem, the clumsy stuff of amateurs. No doubt tomorrow will be another Ward Churchill day. As I make my rounds, I will invariably, as a news junkie looking for his fix, hit that radio button once again. Since tomorrow is Saturday, the morning radio here in southern New Mexico will be filled with the malevolent shrieking Michael "Savage" Weiner, who will no doubt call for Ward Churchill to be roasted alive. As all of us co-existing together in this nation travel down our collectively shared lunatic path, headed ultimately for disaster, it appears, in lieu of actual roasting, the Ward Churchills of academe will eventually share the fate of Sami al-Arian, as mandated by the Patriot Act. Having accomplished that mission, dear reader, the incipient brownshirts may come for you. Kurt Nimmo is a photographer and multimedia developer in Las Cruces, New Mexico. Visit his excellent no holds barred blog at . Nimmo is a contributor to Cockburn and St. Clair's, The Politics of Anti-Semitism. A collection of his essays for CounterPunch, Another Day in the Empire, is now available from Dandelion Books.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Churchill wins case against CU

Ward Churchill won his case against the University of Colorado today as a Denver jury unanimously decided he was fired in retaliation for his controversial essay on the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.

The jury gave Churchill $1 for past losses, finding he was fired over protected free speech.

Denver Chief District Judge Larry J. Naves will decide in a separate hearing whether the former professor can return to his job or receive pay for years he may have worked at CU.

Earlier this afternoon, Naves summoned the attorneys from each side back to court because the jurors had a question.

The jurors asked: "Judge, we are feeling uncomfortable about the damages portion. Would you be able to meet with us to talk about what is required and other things regarding money? And is $0 an option?"

Naves replied: "I cannot meet with you. Please re-read the instructions concerning damages if you find for the plaintiff but find no damages (you will have to) find in the sum of $1."

The jurors then had another question: "If all but one jury member can agree on a dollar amount for Question 4, can that person be replaced by another juror?"

Naves told them that wasn't possible,

The four women and two men listened to the case for four weeks and heard 45 witnesses testify in the courtroom. Two male alternates were sent home after closing arguments Tuesday.

A day after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, Churchill wrote his essay "Some People Push Back: On the Justice of Roosting Chickens" to criticize America's economic and foreign policies. In the essay, he compared some of the victims in the World Trade Center attack to "little Eichmanns" after Nazi Adolf Eichmann, who engineered the destruction of the Jews in World War II.

CU launched an investigation to determine whether that essay was protected speech. Eventually allegations surfaced that Churchill had committed plagiarism or academic misconduct in other writing, and another series of investigations was launched. A review of his work led to a vote by CU regents in 2007 that the tenured professor be fired.

CU counsel Patrick O'Rourke argued that the university fired Churchill solely because three committees investigated the professor over a two-year period and found he had engaged in fabrication, falsification and plagiarism in some of his writings on American Indians. O'Rourke told the jury that Churchill's termination had nothing to do with the Sept. 11 essay.

"The University of Colorado must diligently prevent misconduct," O'Rourke said during his closing argument. "That applies to every student and every faculty member to everybody who does anything in the university's name.

"You cannot plagiarize, you cannot falsify, you cannot fabricate."

Churchill's attorney, David Lane, told the jury there is no way his client would have lost his job from CU had it not been for the "howling mob" at the university gates who wanted him gone because of the Sept. 11 essay — including three regents who voted for his termination and the former governor.

"The regents, the lying liars, and almost all of them got on the stand — you heard them lie about what was on the table," Lane said in his closing arguments. "So they go through this charade of fairness."

O'Rourke tried to erase Lane's witch-hunt argument and told jurors that CU gave Churchill adequate due process, especially by the Privilege and Tenure Committee, which was made up of fellow faculty.

But Lane told jurors that they needed to find in favor of Ward Churchill if they believe the Sept. 11 essay he wrote was the motivating factor for his 2007 termination.

Nonphysical Teachers


Got two hours? Watch this. - by FilthyRIch

I have been seeing and researching and following global and domestic actions for the last decade or so and cannot discount much of this presentation. The term "New World Order" was (iirc) first spoken by FDR, although many might cite GHWB back in 1990. What is happening now BY DESIGN is nothing new, going back to the formation of the Tri-Lateral Commission, maybe even back to the Devil's Island creation of the Federal Reserve in 1913.

Watch This: The Obama Deception HQ Full length version @ youtube

Now, some may say "Ah heck it's Alex Jones and he's a whack job from way back" or "you're a freakin' libertarian pushing this 'NWO' crap that's been debunked". But, as Jones points out several times, GO CHECK THIS OUT FOR YOURSELF.

If you want to spend more time looking at the role of The Fed since its creation then check out SECRETS OF THE FEDERAL RESERVE to get a sense of what The Fed is all about, especially since this "new" government is full of Wall St. types from end-to-end.

As liberals, we should be open to new ideas, so at least check this stuff out. We know about the domestic FEMA Kamps being erected by KBR and the surveillance cameras being installed by Boeing and the bogus no-fly lists the wiretapping Homeland Security apparatus has created and even the bio-chip technology being imbedded in our passports and the National ID they are pushing. So this is NOT out of the realm or made up of whole cloth.

So give it a watch and read and THINK FOR YOURSELF.

ps nora - thanks for the repost of my critique of The Atlantic's QUIET COUP. I have sent it in to The Atlantic (with some added comments). I doubt they'll post it but if they do I'll bring it over here.

Enjoy the Bread & Circuses!

Now, back to your regularly scheduled blog...........

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Tim DeChristopher - Being Screwed by the Govt, While Ted Stevens takes his old ass into obscurity without paying for his crimes...

Student charged for false bids at Utah land sale

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A college student was charged with two federal felonies Wednesday for what he claims were acts of civil disobedience — making false bids to run up auction prices on oil and gas parcels on public land near Utah's national parks.

At the Dec. 19 lease sale, Tim DeChristopher grabbed a bidder's paddle, drove up prices and won 22,000 acres of land for $1.7 million — an amount he later said he didn't have the means or intention to pay.

DeChristopher "repeatedly said he intended to disrupt the lease bidding process," U.S. Attorney Brett Tolman said in announcing the charges. "Today's indictment is our answer to his decision."

The grand jury charged him with one count of interferring with a federal auction and one count of making false representations at an auction, Tolman said. The possible penalty could be no punishment or a combined sentence of up to 10 years in prison and a fine of $750,000.

DeChristopher, a 27-year-old University of Utah economics student, will be issued a summons to appear in U.S. District Court in Salt Lake City. No arraignment date has been set.

He isn't affiliated with any major environmental group but has said in public speeches that he infiltrated the auction to protest possible drilling on public lands near national parks.

One of his lawyers, Patrick Shea, said prosecutors hinted weeks ago that the case could be settled with a misdemeanor plea bargain instead of a felony punishable by prison time.

"We got hosed," Shea told The Associated Press on Wednesday.

Shea said DeChristopher caused no harm at an auction that was already being contested in federal court by environmental groups, who won a court stay on the sale of some parcels. Weeks later, new Interior Secretary Ken Salazar rescinded 77 of the leases, saying they were too close to national parks and never should have gone up for sale under the Bush administration.

One bidder, however, said DeChristopher cost him money.

"We are angry," said Daniel Gunnell, managing partner of Twilight Resources LLC of Orem, who said he lost parcels when Salazar rescinded them and paid extra for other parcels when DeChristopher ran up bids.

"Tim DeChristopher is a guy who walked in the auction without a penny and cost our company $600,000," Gunnell said.

Communiqué from the Justice Department

Posted by thomaspainescorner on April 1, 2009

Date: February 14, 2009

Institution Targeted: Wake Forest University

Received anonymously

Simulposted with NAALPO

Wake Forest University in Winston Salem, NC currently imprisons and inflicts violence upon over 1,300 non-human primates. Recently, they made the choice to accept the transfer of over 300 non-human primates from the University of California-Los Angeles.

After years and years and years of pleading, protest, letter writing, civil disobedience, these institutions and individuals still don’t get it. They continue to oppress and kill innocent and intelligent beings.

The Justice Department has had enough of waiting and pleading while the animals suffer and die in agony. On behalf of the animals, we mailed razor blades covered in rat poison to some Wake Forest primate murderers.

First on our list was Paul Czoty at 164 Huron CT. in Winston Salem. Paul performs cocaine addiction experiments on macaque monkeys. We hope that the razor blade doesn’t slice open your wife Courtney’s finger. Paul, that razor blade has your name written all over it.

The other envelope was mailed to Linda Porrino at 608 Alpin RD. Winston Salem, NC 27104. Linda also addicts primates to cocaine in her laboratory. This is atrocious and sadistic research.

We are well aware of where the rest of Wake Forest’s primate vivisectors reside. This is only the start. The cowards at the FBI or Postal Police may intercept our mail to you, but can they screen the mail of you primate torturers forever? End the experiments on the primate captives or it only gets worse.

Always for the oppressed, Justice Department

The American Museum of Beat Art

WRITERS AND POETS: Jack Kerouac William Burroughs Lawrence Ferlinghetti Gregory Corso Allen Ginsberg Harold Norse Michael McClure Gary Snyder Jack Micheline Charles Olson Peter Orlovsky Diane Di Prima Lawrence Lipton Bob Kaufman Charles Bukowski Phillip Whalen Herbert Huncke Ted Joans Lew Welch Anne Waldman Emiri Baraka Ted Berrigan Richard Brautigan Kenneth Rexroth Ken Kesey Robert Creeley VISUAL ARTISTS: Jackson Pollock Franz Kline Marcel Duchamp Ed Kienholz Ed Ruscha Jay Defeo Wallace Berman John Altoon Ed Moses Lenore Jaffee

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