Sunday, May 31, 2009

Free and Equal Elections to sponsor Chicago launch of Amato book

From: Free & Equal Elections is sponsoring the Chicago launch of Theresa Amato’s new book Grand Illusion. The premier will be held at the Union League Club on Thursday, June 4. Amato will also be participating in a forum on Printer’s Row this Sunday.

Amato, who was the campaign manager for Ralph Nader’s 2000 & 2004 Presidential runs, presents a scathing indictment of the current state of ballot access in America in her new book. It recounts the story of the Democratic Party’s attempt to boot Nader out of the 2004 Presidential election, and offers insight into other recent independent and third party campaigns. Amato also lays out specific reform steps that can be taken to improve the state of ballot access in this country.

The book is currently available at Amazon

“Theresa Amato takes the biggest swing–not a jab, but a roundhouse punch–at America’s corrupt electoral system.” –Phil Donahue

“Until you have run, as I did, outside the two major parties, it is impossible to imagine the injustices of the two-party-tilted electoral process. Theresa Amato masterfully exposes the horrors faced by third-party and Independent candidates seeking the chance to compete and provide political choices for the American voter.” –John Anderson, former Independent presidential candidate and chair of the Center for Voting and Democracy

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Bicycles-Only ‘Freeway’ Opens In Detroit

by Jebediah Reed


In Motor City, land of disused structures, an overgrown old rail line has been excavated and turned into a spanking new bike thoroughfare. While, technically, it is more a “greenway” than a “freeway,” there are entrance and exit ramps and multiple lanes separated by yellow lines. (Perhaps to make disused auto executives feel comfortable riding on it, now that they have plenty of free time to explore their community?)

The ribbon cutting ceremony, which took place yesterday, fell conveniently into National Bike Week. Though of late the path had already been seeing some action from pedestrians, stroller-pushing parents and, um, “graffiti artists” according to the Detroit Free Press. So the great battle of use vs. abuse is now underway.

The Dequindre Cut, as the route is called, is only 1.2 miles long, but it is seen as an early section of a planned 100-mile network of greenways that might eventually make Detroit less horribly tragic and depressing than it is today–a city defined by “open spaces” instead of “abject abandonment.”

Speaking of, the Free Press article is called “Abandoned rail line ready for bikes, walking.” We wonder: what percentage of Free Press headlines over the past 5 years begin with or include the word “abandoned”? If it weren’t Friday afternoon we might even do a Nexis search.


The Dequindre Cut, before

Photos: Corine Vermeulen-Smith from a larger body of work called ‘Your Town Tomorrow’ See a video at Treehugger

Friday, May 29, 2009

Live Joyfully, Die Joyfully

"Yes, you do choose how long you will live. And yes, you do choose when you will die, either deliberately or by default. You can even choose how you will die. "Does all that sound like far-out fantasy to you? Probably, at least to some of you. "But it is absolutely true! "Friends, the more joyful you are, the more you will flourish. It's that simple. When you're in a state of joy, a state of feeling good, life just flows perfectly. Everything falls into place for you. All you have asked the universe for comes to you. "But more to the real point of this conversation today -- your physical bodies thrive when you are fully aligned with your higher selves. And when you are feeling good mostly, it's impossible for your bodies to fall ill. Or if they do fall ill and you restore yourselves to that place of feeling good, so too will your bodies restore themselves to that natural state of perfect health, balance, and alignment. "It is just that simple. Joy -- feeling good -- is the key, the "secret" to living the life of your dreams. "As long as you are joyful, immersing yourselves in the pleasures and passions of physical life, the longer you will live. "Do you choose how long you will live? Yes! As long as you choose to be joyful, you will live. Even well beyond what your society considers a "normal" life span. "When you begin to lose that sense of joy, you begin to die. "When you finally lose it, you die. "You will die in whatever way "works" for you -- illness, accident, by your own hand, and so on. "Does it have to be that way. No! "You can live in a state of joy and then one day decide you've done it all, had enough of physical life, and simply move on. "You can die in a state of perfect health. Your bodies don't need to deteriorate as you move through the years. You don't need to invent an excuse to die -- accident, illness, or whatever. "You can simply put your bodies in bed, in a state of joy, and go to sleep intending to wake up on the other side. "Dying can be that easy. It's the easiest thing you will ever do. "Live joyfully. Die joyfully." ---

Nonphysical Teachers

Chief Joseph, though John Cali. You can read more of this transcript and others at their website.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Ralph Nader Interviewed by Pat Buchanan

The long-time progressive’s pitch to the disenfranchised Right

Pat Buchanan; Ralph Nader The American Conservative Magazine

Ralph Nader recently accepted Pat Buchanan’s invitation to sit down with us and explain why his third-party presidential bid ought to appeal to conservatives disaffected with George W. Bush. We think readers will be interested in the reflections of a man who has been a major figure in American public life for 40 years—and who now finds himself that rarest of birds, a conviction politician.

Pat Buchanan: Let me start off with foreign policy—Iraq and the Middle East. You have seen the polls indicating widespread contempt for the United States abroad. Why do they hate us?

Ralph Nader: First of all, we have been supporting despots, dictators, and oligarchs in all those states for a variety of purposes. We supported Saddam Hussein. He was our anti-Communist dictator until 1990. It’s also cultural; they see corporate culture as abandoning the restraints on personal behavior dictated by their religion and culture. Our corporate pornography and anything-goes values are profoundly offensive to them.

The other thing is that we are supporting the Israeli military regime with billions of dollars and ignoring both the Israeli peace movement, which is very substantial, and the Palestinian peace movement. They see a nuclear-armed Israel that could wipe out the Middle East in a weekend if it wanted to.

They think that we are on their backs, in their house, undermining their desire to overthrow their own tyrants.

PB: Then you would say it is not only Bush who is at fault, but Clinton and Bush and Reagan, all the way back?

RN: The subservience of our congressional and White House puppets to Israeli military policy has been consistent. Until ’91, any dictator who was anti-Communist was our ally.

PB: You used the term “congressional puppets.” Did John Kerry show himself to be a congressional puppet when he voted to give the president a blank check to go to war?

RN: They’re almost all puppets. There are two sets: Congressional puppets and White House puppets. When the chief puppeteer comes to Washington, the puppets prance.

PB: Why do both sets of puppets, support the Sharon/Likud policies in the Middle East rather than the peace movement candidates and leaders in Israel?

RN: That is a good question because the peace movement is broad indeed. They just put 120,000 people in a square in Tel Aviv. They are composed of former government ministers, existing and former members of the Knesset, former generals, former combat veterans, former heads of internal security, people from all backgrounds. It is not any fringe movement.

The answer to your question is that instead of focusing on how to bring a peaceful settlement, both parties concede their independent judgment to the pro-Israeli lobbies in this country because they perceive them as determining the margin in some state elections and as sources of funding. They don’t appear to agree with Tom Friedman, who wrote that memorable phrase, “Ariel Sharon has Arafat under house arrest in Ramallah and Bush under house arrest in the Oval Office.”

Virtually no member of Congress can say that, and so we come to this paradoxical conclusion that there is far more freedom in Israel to discuss this than there is in the United States, which is providing billions of dollars in economic and military assistance.

PB: Let me move on to Iraq. You were opposed to the war, and it now appears that it has become sort of a bloody stalemate. You said you would bring troops out of Iraq within six months. What if the country collapses and becomes a haven for terrorists? Would you send American troops back in to clean it up?

RN: Under my proposal there would be an international peacekeeping force, and the withdrawal would be a smart withdrawal during which there are internationally supervised elections. We would have both military and corporate withdrawal because the Iraqi people see the corporations are beginning to take over their economy, including their oil resources. And we would continue humanitarian assistance until the Iraqi people get on their feet. We would bring to the forefront during the election autonomies for Kurds, Sunnis, and Shi’ites. So this would not be like a withdrawal in Vietnam where we just barely got out with the helicopters.

TAC: You often mention corporations. What is the theory behind this or what are the alternatives to corporate economic power? I presume you are not talking about state ownership or socialism, or perhaps you are �

RN: Well, that is what representative government is for, to counteract the excesses of the monied interests, as Thomas Jefferson said. Because big business realizes that the main countervailing force against their excesses and abuses is government, their goal has been to take over the government, and they do this with money and politics. They do it by putting their top officials at the Pentagon, Treasury, and Federal Reserve, and they do it by providing job opportunities to retiring members of Congress. They have law firms that draft legislation and think-tanks that provide ready-made speeches. They also do it by threatening to leave the country. The quickest way to bring a member of Congress to his or her knees is by shifting industries abroad.

Concentrated corporate power violates many principles of capitalism. For example, under capitalism, owners control their property. Under multinational corporations, the shareholders don’t control their corporation. Under capitalism, if you can’t make the market respond, you sink. Under big business, you don’t go bankrupt; you go to Washington for a bailout. Under capitalism, there is supposed to be freedom of contract. When was the last time you negotiated a contract with banks or auto dealers? They are all fine-print contracts. The law of contracts has been wiped out for 99 percent of contracts that ordinary consumers sign on to. Capitalism is supposed to be based on law and order. Corporations get away with corporate crime, fraud, and abuse. And finally, capitalism is premised on a level playing field; the most meritorious is supposed to win. Tell that to a small inventor or a small business up against McDonald’s or a software programmer up against Microsoft.

Giant multinational corporations have no allegiance to any country or community other than to control them or abandon them. So what we have now is the merger of big business and big government to further subsidize costs or eliminate risks or guarantee profits by our government.

PB: Let’s move to immigration. We stop 1.5 million illegal aliens on our borders each year. One million still get through. There are currently 8-14 million illegal aliens in the United States. The president is mandated under the Constitution to defend the States against foreign invasion, and this certainly seems to constitute that.

RN: As long as our foreign policy supports dictators and oligarchs, you are going to have desperate people moving north over the border.

Part of the problem involves NAFTA. The flood of cheap corn into Mexico has dispossessed over a million Mexican farmers, and, with their families, they either go to the slums or, in their desperation, head north.

In addition, I don’t think the United States should be in the business of brain-draining skilled talent, especially in the Third World, because we are importing in the best engineers, scientists, software people, doctors, entrepreneurs who should be in their countries, building their own countries. We are driving the talent to these shores—

PB: How do we defend these shores?

RN: I don’t believe in giving visas to software people from the Third World when we have got all kinds of unemployed software people here.

Let’s get down to the manual labor. This is the reason the Wall Street Journal is for an open-borders policy: they want a cheap-wage policy. There are two ways to deal with that. One is to raise the minimum wage to the purchasing-power level of 1968—$8 an hour—and then, in another year, raise it to $10 an hour because the economy since 1968 has doubled in production per capita.

PB: Say we went to $10 an hour minimum wage. It is 50 cents an hour in Mexico. Why wouldn’t that cause not 1.5 million, but 3 million to head straight north where they could be making 20 times what they can make minimum wage in Mexico?

RN: Because 14 million Americans are unemployed or part-time employed who want full employment or have given up looking for jobs. The more the minimum wage goes up, the more they will do so-called work that Americans won’t do. They are not going to do it at $5.15 an hour and have another used car, another insurance policy, another repair bill to get to work, but they are much more likely to do it at $10 an hour.

The second is to enforce the law against employers. It is hard to blame desperately poor people who want to feed their families and are willing to work their heads off. You have to start with Washington and Wall Street.

PB: Should illegal aliens be entitled to social-welfare benefits, even though they are not citizens and broke into the country?

RN: I think they should be given all the fair-labor standards and all the rights and benefits of American workers, and if this country doesn’t like that, maybe they will do something about the immigration laws.

PB: Should they be entitled to get driver’s licenses?

RN: Yes, in order to reduce hazards on the highway. If you have people who are driving illegally, there are going to be more crashes, and more people are going to be killed.

PB: The Democrats have picked up on Bush’s amnesty idea and have proposed an amnesty for illegals who have been in the country for five years and who have shown that they have jobs and can support themselves. Would you support the Democratic proposal?

RN: This is very difficult because you are giving a green light to cross the border illegally. I don’t like the idea of legalization because then the question is how do you prevent the next wave and the next? I like the idea of giving workers and children—they are working, they are having their taxes withheld, they are performing a valuable service, even though they are illegally here—of giving them the same benefits of any other workers. If that produces enough outrage to raise the immigration issue to a high level of visibility for public debate, that would be a good thing.

PB: The U.S. population now—primarily due to immigrants and their children coming in—is estimated to grow to over 400 million by mid-century. Would that have an adverse impact on the environment?

RN: We don’t have the absorptive capacity for that many people. Over 32 million came in, in the ’90s, which is the highest in American history.

PB: What would you do about it?

RN: We have to control our immigration. We have to limit the number of people who come into this country illegally.

PB: What level of legal immigration do you think we should have per year?

RN: First of all, we have to say what is the impact on African-Americans and Hispanic Americans in this country in terms of wages of our present stance on immigration? It is a wage-depressing policy, which is why the Chambers of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers, Tyson Foods, and the Wall Street Journal like it. The AFL-CIO has no objection to it because they think they can organize the illegal workers—

PB: They switched.

RN: —because they have been so inept at organizing other workers. There is hardly a more complex issue, except on the outside of the issue, the foreign policy, the NAFTA—

PB: I was going to ask you about NAFTA and the WTO—

RN: Sovereignty shredding, you know. The decisions are now in Geneva, bypassing our courts, our regulatory agencies, our legislatures.

PB: I find it amazing that Congress sits there and they get an order from the WTO, and they capitulate. What happened to bristling conservative defiance, “don’t tread on me” patriotism? I think the problem is that a lot of these guys in Congress—I think some of them are basically good guys. But I went up there and was asking about some issue, and they would say things like, “I don’t even know what it is about. My boss tells me �”

RN: Did you hear about my challenge to Senator Hank Brown?

We put a challenge out before WTO was voted in 1995 because we went all over Capitol Hill and had never found any Member of Congress or a staffer who had ever read the proposal. So I said, “I’ll give $10,000 to the favorite charity of any Member of Congress who will sign an affidavit that he or she has read the WTO agreement and will answer 10 questions in public.”

The deadline passed. Nobody. So I extended it a week. A quarter to 5:00 on Friday, the phone rings in our office. It is Hank Brown, and he said, “I don’t want the $10,000 to charity, but I will take you up on it. How much time do I have?” I said, “Take a month.” So he reserves the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for the interrogation.

It gets better. The press is all there, and in the witness chair is Hank Brown. We have 12 questions, and he answers every one. They weren’t all simple either. It was really impressive. And I said, “Thank you very much. That was really commendable,” and we start to get up and he says, “Wait. I have something to say.” He says, “You know, I am a free trader, and I voted for NAFTA, but after reading the WTO agreement, I was so appalled by the anti-democratic provisions that I am going to vote against it and urge everyone else to.”

The next day, almost no press. It shows you the bias against anybody who challenges those multinational systems of autocratic governance that we call “trade agreements.” And he didn’t convince one extra senator.

Once when I testified before the House Ways and Means Committee, I had to say some nice things at the beginning, “Mr. Chairman, distinguished Members of the House Ways and Means Committee, it is indeed a pleasure to testify before a committee of Congress that has read this proposed trade agreement,” and the chair looks up and says, “What makes you think we did?”

Let’s put it this way: it is impossible to exaggerate the dereliction of diligence in the Congress.

PB: Can we move on to taxes? Reagan cut the top tax rate from 70 percent to 28 percent in terms of personal income taxes. Clinton raised it to 39.6. Bush has cut it back to 35 percent. What do you think is the maximum income-tax rate that should be imposed on wage earners?

RN: Zero under $100,000. Now you got to ask me how I am going to make —

PB: What is the rate above $100,000? What is the top rate?

RN: Then you have a graduated rate. Thirty-five percent, in that range, for the top rate. It comes down to the loopholes. When it was 70 percent, did you ever meet anybody who paid 70 percent?

Now, where would I make it up? This is where the creativity comes in. I would move the incidence of taxation, first, from work to wealth. So I would keep the estate tax, number one.

PB: You restore the estate tax to 55 percent?

RN: That is a little extreme.

PB: That is where Bush has it, 55, and he is cutting it down gradually to zero. What do you think it should be?

RN: Again, 35 percent.

PB: Would this be on all estates?

RN: No. Estates above $10 million.

PB: Ralph, you are not going to raise much money with this tax.

RN: There will still be a tax on smaller estates. I think all estates over, say, $500,000 should pay some tax. The estate tax as a whole raises about $32 billion a year, but the thing is the loopholes. Buffett, as an example, won’t pay because all of it is going to his foundation.

I think we should have a very modest wealth tax. I agree with the founder of the Price Club, who thinks it should be 1 percent.

PB: One percent of your wealth each year would be turned over to the federal government?

RN: Right. Then the third shift is why don’t we tax things we like the least? We should tax polluters. We should tax gambling. We should tax the addictive industries that are costing us so much and luring the young into alcoholism and tobacco and drugs. And we should tax, above all, stock and currency speculation.

PB: A short-term capital gains tax?

RN: Like a sales tax. If you go to a store and buy furniture, you pay 6, 7, or whatever percent. You buy 1,000 shares of General Motors, you don’t pay anything. So what we are doing is taxing food and clothing but not the purchase of stocks, bonds, derivatives, and currency speculation. A quarter-of-a-cent tax will produce hundreds of billions of dollars a year because of the volatility. You remember the days when 3 million shares on the New York Stock Exchange was a big day? Now it is 1.5 billion shares.

The point is this: work should be taxed the least. Then you move to wealth, and then you move to things we do not like. And you will have more than enough to replace the taxes of under $100,000 income and to provide for universal health insurance and decent public transit and to repair the public-works infrastructure.

PB: So you have got a $500 billion deficit now, and the early baby-boomer retirements start in 2008, and by 2012, the whole Clinton-and-Bush generation gets Medicare and Medicaid. These are the biggest payers into these so-called trust funds. They are also going to be the biggest drawers out, and 77 million of them retire in 2030. So how do you balance that budget?

RN: You repeal Bush’s two tax cuts in 2001 and 2003. Then you get out of Iraq, and you cut the waste and the shenanigans out of the military contracting. That would more than take care of the deficit.

PB: You bring the troops home from Europe and Korea and the Balkans?

RN: We are presently defending prosperous nations like Japan, Germany, and England, who are perfectly capable of defending themselves against nonexistent enemies.

PB: Let me move to the social issues. Would you have voted against or in favor of the ban on partial-birth abortion?

RN: I believe in choice. I don’t think government should tell women to have children or not to have children. I am also against feticide. If doctors think it is a fetus, that should be banned. It is a medical decision.

PB: Between the woman and her doctor—

RN: And whoever else, family, clergy.

PB: Should homosexuals have the same right in law to form marriages and receive marriage licenses from the state as men and women?

RN: Yes, and if you had that, you wouldn’t have to use the word “marriage.” The reason “gay marriage” is used is because state laws connect certain benefits with that word. As a lesbian leader was quoted saying in the New York Times a few weeks ago, the issue is not the word “marriage.” The word is “equality.”

PB: Let’s go to politics. If you had not been in the race in 2000, who would have won?

RN: That requires me to be a retrospective clairvoyant. If I wasn’t in a race, would the Democrats have gone all-out to get out the vote in certain states because they were worried about the percentages I was drawing? And if I was not in the race, would Gore have made populist statements day after day—“I am for the people, not the powerful”—which polls showed brought him more votes than if he went to Lieberman’s semantic route?

Having said that, exit polls showed 25 percent of my votes would have gone to Bush, 38 percent would have gone to Gore, and the rest would have stayed home and not voted. A month and a half ago, a poll came from New Hampshire that showed that 8 percent were for me: 9 percent Republicans, 11 percent independents, 4 percent Democrats.

PB: If you hurt Bush more than Gore, why are the Democrats trying to keep you off the ballot?

RN: Because they will forever think that my progressive policies will take more Democrat votes and independent votes than they will take from the other side.

PB: If you got 15 percent of the vote this time, who do you think would be the next president of the United States?

RN: I don’t know how it would break.

PB: Let me ask you about your ballot position because it was around this time that we were wrapping up getting on the ballot in all 50 states. How many ballots are you on right now?

RN: None yet, but we’ll be on more than 43 states, which is the number we had last time. We want to get on them all. The problem is, we haven’t concentrated on the easy states.

TAC: Is there any circumstance in which you can come to an arrangement with Kerry campaign not to run?

RN: The time to drop out is before you drop in. You cannot build a national campaign and get tens of thousands of volunteers working their hearts out and then in October feed the cynicism of American politics by cutting some sort of deal. The answer is no.

PB: What are the reasons a conservative should vote for Ralph Nader?

RN: Well, largely—

PB: Rather than Kerry.


RN: I’m not expecting conservatives to change their minds on certain issues that we disagree on, but if we look at the issues where we have common positions, they reach a level of gravity that would lead conservatives to stop being taken for granted by the corporate Republicans and send them a message by voting for my independent candidacy.

Here are the issues. One, conservatives are furious with the Bush regime because of the fantastic deficits as far as the eye can see. That was a betrayal of Bush’s positions, and it was a reversal of what Bush found when he came to Washington.

Conservatives are very upset about their tax dollars going to corporate welfare kings because that undermines market competition and is a wasted use of their taxes.

Conservatives are upset about the sovereignty-shredding WTO and NAFTA. I wish they had helped us more when we tried to stop them in Congress because, with a modest conservative push, we would have defeated NAFTA because it was narrowly passed. If there was no NAFTA, there wouldn’t have been a WTO.

Conservatives are also very upset with a self-styled conservative president who is encouraging the shipment of whole industries and jobs to a despotic Communist regime in China. That is what I mean by the distinction between corporate Republicans and conservative Republicans.

Next, conservatives, contrary to popular belief, believe in law and order against corporate crime, fraud, and abuse, and they are not satisfied that the Bush administration has done enough.

Conservatives are also upset about the Patriot Act, which they view as big government, privacy-invading, snooping, and excessive surveillance. They are not inaccurate in that respect.

And finally, two other things. They don’t like “Leave No Child Behind” because it is a stupidly conceived federal regulation of local school systems through misguided and very fraudulent multiple-choice testing impositions.

And conservatives are aghast that a born-again Christian president has done nothing about rampant corporate pornography and violence directed to children and separating children from their parents and undermining parental authority.

If you add all of those up, you should have a conservative rebellion against the giant corporation in the White House masquerading as a human being named George W. Bush. Just as progressives have been abandoned by the corporate Democrats and told,”You got nowhere to go other than to stay home or vote for the Democrats,” this is the fate of the authentic conservatives in the Republican Party.

I noticed this a long time ago, Pat. I once said to Bill Bennett, “Would you agree that corporatism is on a collision course with conservative values?” and he said yes.

The impact of giant corporations, commercialism, direct marketing to kids, sidestepping parents, selling them junk food, selling them violence, selling them sex and addictions, selling them the suspension of their socialization process—years ago conservatives spoke out on that, but it was never transformed into a political position. It was always an ethical, religious value position. It is time to take it into the political arena.

PB: Well, it’s a pleasure. Thank you very much for coming over, Ralph.

RN: Thank you very much.

SOURCE: The American Conservative Magazine

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Democrats’ Stockholm Syndrome: DUI, Democrats Under the Influence

It’s more common to describe the Democratic Party as largely living (always exceptions) in obsessive, cowering, self censoring fear of the Right — the abused wife syndrome by which many Dems exist in denial or silent fear of being beaten up politically by the Right. But I think the Stockholm Syndrome makes even more sense. The Democrats are a party “under the influence” of the Right wing, a party held mentally hostage so long by the aggressive, adroit, dominant conservative movement, that they have come to identify with their captors, adopt their paradigms, to think like them and then offer us lite versions of conservatism. The entire political landscape and decades of recent history are littered with the examples. I used to think it was the party leadership and its elected officials, and while they represent a special problem of lowest common denominator politics, and extremely risk adverse personalities who will sell out every progressive cause if there’s the least doubt it might hurt their career, or take the path of least resistance through politics, including campaigns, and won’t do the hard hard work of creating grassroots issue-coalitions and door knocking that could elect them and create the progressive power to back a bold agenda, I’ve realized the syndrome extends down to the tips of the grassroots. Except for the exceptions, the Florida Democratic Party grassroots and to a lesser extent the broader progressive movement, nationally, but especially in Florida, are pathetic.

The most overt symptom of the Democrats’ Stockholm Syndrome is the flight from the “liberal” label to the once-but-no-longer-meaningful “progressive” label. I’m struck when I hear the Director of Americans for Democratic Action dismiss “progressives” as “liberals who don’t have the courage of their own convictions” and blame Michael Dukakis at the top for surrendering in his 1988 campaign. And Ralph Nader says so many liberals are “deserting the liberal ship and swimming over to the progressive ship, you have people calling themselves progressives that make me laugh.” It’s true.

Look at the Democratic Party’s agenda, Florida and national, it’s the same mushy platitudes the party’s been selling since it was kidnapped by the right back in ‘68. It’s great that the party supports public education, but it’s safe, passe, and not enough. Stockholm Syndrome: most of the grassroots probably still think the endless Afghanistan occupation is The Right War. The party is holding its annual Jefferson-Jackson convention this weekend and I doubt there will be a single substantial speech made. When the convention at the least could be passing an Out of Afghanistan Resolution, the Stockholm Syndrome will be at work and the conventioneers will sit through platitudinous speeches. I attended JJ in 2002. I quickly got tired of applauding the platitudes with everyone else. Then I became very uncomfortable sitting there motionless while hundreds of people around me gave thunderous applause to meaningless party cheerleading lines.

We need a politics that actually stands for something other than the Lite Conservative Stockholm Syndrome. The original progressive movement of 1890-1929 brought women’s suffrage, child labor limits, workers’ compensation, open government, minimum wage, the progressive income tax, open primaries and bold limits on corporate power.

What’s the agenda today? There really isn’t one, other than watered down Lite Conservative Stockholm Syndrome, such as health reform that leaves insurance middlemen in complete tact when that is the main barrier, of several, to affordable healthcare. The party is so conflicted and Republicanized that on the rare occasions its outnumbered genuine progressives mount a bold initiative it is gutted by the strong, Republicanized elements in the party.

If the Dems had the bold “progressive” agenda of the 1900s they would be demanding abolition of the electoral college, instant runoff voting in all elections, a progressive income tax in Florida and serious restriction of regressive property taxes, banning construction in the hurricane storm surge zone along the coast (or building codes that require structures to withstand 20 foot bashing waves), serious curbing of coersionary plea bargaining, decriminalization of marijuana, oppose government subsidies of nuclear power, phased increases in the gasoline tax, repeal of cruel and once-unusual sentencing, particularly for puritanical “moral” crimes, full public financing of all elections, gay marriage, before birth parent training and licensing, serious curbing of the American military empire, bases and spending, measured-in-months extrication from Iraq and Afghanistan, demand an end to Israel’s expansionism into Palestinian territory and an end to military aid if it doesn’t and wear “I Love Israel — Inside her 1967 Borders” buttons ) to name a few. Notice how the party’s president, where federally applicable, is doing nothing to advance this agenda. And instead of nominating attorneys and corporate attorneys and bankers and war hawks for office they’d be nominating grassroots community leaders and public interest, social justice and anti-war advocates. Of course there is a party that does all of this: The Florida Green Party.

Rachel Maddow: Indefinite detention? Shame on you… President Obama

Janeane Garofalo on politics, the media, and being a liberal

Citizen Radio interviews comic and activist, Janeane Garofalo, about the media, Republicans, feminism, and what makes her happy. Listen to the interview here.

Topics of discussion include Janeane’s own experience with crazy right-wing protesters, Wanda Sykes, censorship, and being an anti-war voice in the mainstream media. Though she’s a proud liberal, Janeane also has a few harsh words for Barack Obama about his timidity in prosecuting Bush officials for war crimes, and his abandonment of the gay community.

Upcoming guests on Citizen Radio include: Howard Zinn, Matt Taibbi, Glenn Greenwald, and Jeremy Scahill.

A transcript of the interview can be found behind the cut and is free for use. Please credit Citizen Radio for the interview.

Follow hosts Allison and Jamie’s Twitters.

Citizen Radio airs every Wednesday on BTR and is available for free on I-Tunes. Archived episodes can be heard here.

Kilstein: What does the word “liberal” mean?

The word liberal is, A: Something to be very proud of, and it is the finest traditions of democracy in this country and any other. In fact, without liberalism, or liberal thinking, we would have none of the things politicians brag about that we have in this country from public schools to public services to social services to voting rights, civil rights, any of these things. That’s from liberal thinking.

Now, about 30 - 35-years ago, right-wingers got it into their mind that they need to make this into a pejorative; they need to turn it into an accusation because all of the social justice issues, all of the empathy that comes along with liberalism flies in the face of Conservative principles, or what Conservative principles have turned into. [Liberal values] are a real obstacle for Conservatism. If people were proud to be liberal - if people utilized the tenants of liberalism, or if it was something that politicians could run on then Conservatism would be completely dead.

Now, it is obviously something that politicians should be proud to call themselves. But because most politicians are cowards, they back down to any bullying no matter how tame the bullying. So now, a large majority of Democrats, and a large majority of political advisers, and media talking heads, are loathe to use the word. Why? Because they’re cowards.

Kilkenny: Why do you think they’re cowards?

Because they’ve been bullied by a right-winger saying - or a moderate, even - saying that you can’t win on it - you can’t run on it. It’s not something that’s good to be. A coward responds to bullying especially in the marketplace of ideas. It’s one thing to back down to someone punching you in the face repeatedly. It’s another thing to back down to somebody using political spin.

So when a news anchor - and I use the word “news” loosely - says something like, ‘Is so-and-so too liberal?’ What the answer should be is ‘that would be a great thing if he, or she, was.’ But no, there’s no people that we could qualify as too liberal anywhere near the halls of power in this country.

Kilstein: [Would Democrats benefit from defining what liberalism means to the public instead of empowering the Republicans by running from the word?]

You’re exactly right. Running from - it’s Joe McCarthy. That stuff has to be nipped in the bud. The average person - the average John and Jane Q. Public tend not to want to rock the boat. That’s unfortunately part of the human condition in any era, in any country. That’s just part of the human conditions, especially if you’re married with children. The last thing you want to do, usually, is rock the boat.

Now, it shouldn’t be considered boat-rocking to tell the truth, to stand up for the truth. Again, “liberal” is something to be proud of. And by the way, and P.S., we’re all socialist. We all are participants of social security, and like I said, the public school system, the public railways, the fire department. When you flush the toilet, do you like it when your poo goes away? Guess what? We’re socialist.

A lot of people don’t even know what Socialism means. They don’t know what liberalism really means. And again, if you want to break it down to basic components, what is a liberal? It means you believe in social justice, gender equality, human rights, it means you care about other people, and about yourself, and about society, and your place in it.

These are all very simple things to be. It takes participating in your own life, but also if most politicians were really, really rugged individualists, or really able to stand up for themselves, and make a good accounting of themselves, they wouldn’t be as high up in the echelons of the people we’re talking about as they are. You have to compromise a hell of a lot along the way to get to the top.

Most journalists, and again I’m using the word very loosely, should not be anywhere near that business. Most of the talking heads, most of the people that calls themselves news anchors, or journalists, should turn in their press cards because they’re not qualified, they don’t have any integrity, they don’t give a shit, basically. So that feeds into this. It’s semantics. It’s all semantics.

Kilkenny/Kilstein: [Journalists are also close to the people who are in power. There's a lot of cronyism in the mainstream media, and they seem preoccupied with maintaining their access to people in power.]

Yeah, a lot of peer pressure. A lot of bad editorial policy. A lot of who’s popular - who’s in, who’s out. It’s like high school…It’s always been that way. If you’re a really good journalist like Amy Goodman, you’re not in the front row [of a White House press conference.] It’s no different than any other crappy high school situation. It’s John Hughes or Cameron Crowe. It’s whatever description of high school peer pressure, or who’s in or who’s out in rock-n’-roll, or who’s in or who’s out in your junior high class. These are still the same high school schmucks who are just grown older, and they’re Twittering each other in the White House press corps. It’s just a bunch of nerds, or bullies, or both. They’re still human beings, and they have all those flaws of human beings.

What politics does shine a big light on is human frailty. I think what Conservatism has shined a light on, also, is human frailty. What does it mean to be a Conservative or a Republican anymore? I’m not quite sure, but it clearly shows you’ve got a lot of frailty. You’ve got a lot of flaws. Now, you’re arrogant as fuck about that, and you’re belligerent, and you have very little self-awareness.

What does it mean to be the type of journalist who kowtows to a Conservative? What does it mean to the type of politician who kowtows to a Conservative? These are all character flaws. It is one big character flaw. And because the truly good movers and shakers we don’t hear about or see very much ’cause you can’t get much done if you’re in the mainstream — You know, until the human condition is perfect, this is going to be an imperfect system.

Kilstein: [And the press tends to mock outsiders like Dennis Kunich so they become a joke.]

Mock and marginalize, yeah. [And they're only a joke] to some. They have to mock Kucinich, right? Because if they don’t, they have to admit what they’re not doing. You have to admit Kucinich is right. Failing that — because they have very little integrity, a lot of these people — they’ve got to mock him. And they’ve got to make George McGovern look like a bozo. Years ago, Emma Goldman: mocked and marginalized, Margaret Sanger: mocked and marginalized.

…Our shitty media is not new. It’s just that you guys are experiencing it now more than before. But it’s always been shit. The mainstream media has always been shit. It is not in the business of delivering news. It is not in the business of informing the electorate. That is not what it does, and if you keep expecting it to do that, you’ll get your heart broken every time.

Luckily, though, we have many more options than our parents or our grandparents. That’s a very good thing. But if we still keep looking to the networks, and the cables, to give us satisfaction — except for MSNBC, occasionally, and PBS, and a lot of good radio out there, and a lot of good political writing if — you’ve got to do your homework. That’s what I meant by ‘it takes work to become a good citizen.’ It takes work to be a good liberal. It takes work to be a good Democrat. And there’s a lot of weak Democrats, but thank God there are some good Democrats.

Kilstein: [Most Americans don't have time to seek out that independent news.]

I agree with you. Most people don’t have time — the time that the three of us have. Plus, we have interest in it, and a lot of people don’t have an interest in it. But I’m sick of that “dumb Americans” rap. I’ve travelled enough to know there are smart people and dumb people everywhere. It’s just easy to point the finger at America, and unfortunately our mainstream media makes it easier. But I’m sick of that “dumb Americans” because as you may or may not discover, anywhere you go you will find lunkheads anywhere.

But what can you do if you don’t have time? Take thirty minutes that you can spread out throughout the day. Download’s news headlines in the morning, print it out, put it in your bag. Get to it throughout the day. If you have the ability to leave the radio on in the background throughout the day, do that. Subscribe to Mother Jones. Subscribe to The Nation. Subscribe to The Progressive. Put it in your backpack. Read it when you can.

People make time for flossing their teeth, they make time for working out, they make time for all kinds of wasteful things on the computer. Taking care of your brain muscle is more important than taking care of a lot of other muscles in your body. It’s the main muscle.

Look for a news source that is not for profit. You look for a news source where there’s no gain for the people in it, like [Democracy Now's] Amy Goodman. She barely makes enough money to live, and she’s beholden to no corporate entity. That’s how I know she’s not lying to me…She does it because she’s compelled to do so. And I know she’s not lying to me. I know she cares about her own life as much as other people’s lives, and she’s a good citizen.

…Order books online. Get a library card. Get a public library card, and read books that you can carry with you at all times so you can get to it when you get to it. But always have a book on you because you never know when nothing is going to happen. Always have a book on you.

Kilkenny: Define “feminism,” and what it means to you.

Feminism and liberalism are the same to me. Feminism, to me, means that you believe in gender equality and social justice issues. Same thing. It’s just that gender equality is something that some people may leave out sometimes. Sometimes, I don’t think people see women’s rights and gay rights as human rights. They seem to ghettoize it as some strange thing, but it’s human rights. I think feminism sort of puts a finer point on that sometimes…If you’re a good liberal, you’re a feminist, and vice versa. So they’re the same thing to me.

Kilstein: [Do you see MSNBC's Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow as the left's version of FOX's Bill O'Reilly, and do you think that the news is becoming ghettoized?]

First of all, [Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow] aren’t counter to Sean Hannity and Bill O’Reilly. [Hannity and O'Reilly] are professional liars. Rachel Maddow and Keith Olbermann are not liars. Don’t put them as two sides to the same coin. They’re not.FOX News, and their ilk, and their apologists are in the business of disinforming the electorate whether it be for Rupert Murdoch or Pepsi Co, or Monsanto.

Secondly, if you want to call liberal “telling the truth,” good. You do that. I’m proud to have that. That’s fine. There isn’t two sides to every story. It’s not spin, what Rachel Maddow is doing. It’s not spin, what Keith Olbermann is doing. It’s not spin, what Amy Goodman, or Bill Moyers — they are telling you the truth.

Now, does MSNBC break it up into little half hour shows that reflect a similar time span that FOX does for their shows? Yeah, but they’re not the same thing. They’re not doing the same thing. And you know what? I don’t give a shit that Keith Olbermann doesn’t “debate.” There isn’t two sides to every single story. There is a thing called absolute truth. Now, I don’t always love that Keith has the same five people on, and they go, ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah’ but you know what? It’s his show, and when you have your show, you’ll do it your way.

But I’ve had enough of listening to whatever we call the other side, which is the lie.

Kilkenny: But Amy Goodman and Bill Moyers are very different than Olbermann and Maddow, two pundits on corporate news channels. So Olbermann and Maddow don’t have the same journalistic freedom as Goodman or Moyers.

Right, but Rachel’s not a liar. Ultimately. I hear what you’re saying, but Rachel will never lie to us. If she accidentally gives us misinformation, then she’s been misinformed because she works hard to get to the bottom of it.

Kilstein: [And Maddow did recently called out GE on something, even though GE owns MSNBC]

If you keep your ratings up, you can do whatever the fuck you want. GE doesn’t give a shit. It’s self-censoring. If there are journalists or reporters, who decide to not call out certain things, that’s self-censoring because if they have the ratings, they can do whatever they want.

Then, if somebody steps in and gives them an even harder time, then hopefully they’ll tell anybody who will listen about it, and shame the person into leaving them alone. The way David Letterman would always do. The more GE tried to censor him, the worse it got for GE. I think that you might be creating a problem in your own mind where there need not be one.

A lot of time, people say [about shows like Olbermann's and Maddow's], ‘Oh, just preach to the converted.’ First of all — if it was indeed preaching, which it is not — it’s giving information. Second, what’s wrong with giving information to the converted? Then shut down every church, then shut down every organization, every rotary club, every club you’ve ever joined, every book club you’ve ever been to where like-minded people get together and share ideas.

What I would say the only problem is that mainstream media is still wired for Republicans. It still tends to serve the message of the Republicans, first and foremost, and it tends to never give a Democrat the benefit of the doubt. Whereas Republicans get away with murder — literally. Literally. George [W.] Bush has to destroy the fucking world to get some criticism. And Democrats can’t do jack shit.

Kilstein: [That was demonstrated in the treatment of John Kerry as a pussy during the 2004 Presidential season.]

The media kept feeding into it. Again I want to go back to…the type of people on these buses, and in the press corps, who want access are the pussies. They’re not very good at their job…They’re lazy!

Kilstein: [Does money or popularity and ratings influence the media more? Right now, Obama is popular, so clearly it isn't just popularity and ratings driving the media coverage because they're being critical of liberal values. Is it driven more by money?]

[Republicans] still have more money and clout. It’s been 30 years in the making. After Watergate went down, there was a concerted effort in the think tanks on the right to make sure that there’s not gonna be a lot of Woodwards and Bernsteins running around. And when Dick Cheney, and [Donald] Rumsfeld, and those guys came in with Gerald Ford, and they had this mantra ‘Never Again,’ they didn’t mean a scandal. They meant transparency.

And there has been so much money and time and energy put in to counteract the ’60s, and counteracting the change of the tenor of the country after Watergate…This has been a project in the making, and it’s highly successful because people are easily bullied. Think about in terms if a network gets five angry e-mails from an angry right-winger. They will respond as if 500,000 people - even though they have no idea how much the other people love it. Networks will run and turn tail in two seconds on a sitcom or on a comedy thing. Look at what Wanda Sykes is having to endure. Look at what happened to [Jamie Kilstein] and I with this Ken Pittman nonsense. And last night we did a comedy show, and they had to hire extra security because — what — maybe two assholes called the club last night?

Kilstein: I did a show in Ohio and there were a thousand people in the theater — a thousand people — and 50 people left, and the comedy tour that they booked me on isn’t allowed back. And it’s like, 950 people stayed.

Because bullies make a lot of noise, and if you’ve got a person who’s susceptible to that crap — a lot of people are very weak. A lot of people are very weak.

Kilkenny: I feel like this is a larger theme, though, where Republicans are always saying we have to sacrifice our freedom for more security. Would you rather sacrifice your security for more freedom? Meaning, when they say there might be a threat to America out there, should we always constantly be on the offense, and seek them out, and Ken Pittman may have two little cronies come out and shout during your show, should we have extra “security” in case that happens?

I think you’re conflating two unrelated issues. Are you talking about Ken Pittman or are you talking about terrorism?

Kilkenny: Well, it has to do with security.

It’s not an either, or. You don’t have to give up anything to have more security. You really don’t. If somebody’s doing their job right, and if the government and CIA, and all these hundreds and hundreds of people, whose job it is to work on these national security issues — if they are doing their jobs really well, and if they’re doing the best they can ’cause nobody can do everything, then hopefully you don’t need all this take-off-your-shoes at the airport, and all of this stuff that means nothing anyway at the end of the day. It’s an empty gesture.

Secondly, you’ll never really stop a really determined terrorist. I think a really determined terrorist is going to get you, or a building — whatever they want to do. It doesn’t matter. Now, having said that, when it comes to the ridiculous Ken Pittman nonsense, that is all peer theater for him. He just wanted to get on FOX. He’s a real loser. Like, he’s a real loser. You can see it when you met him…listen to his show. He’s a real low-level schmuck, who wanted to get on-

Kilkenny: [And him aside, there are always these asshole Republicans that will threaten you -- threaten Wanda [Sykes] — and I feel like it’s much more important that you two have the freedom to say whatever you want]

But see, we’re not shooting off our mouth either. They get mad over nothing. Wanda Sykes told a joke. It’s fine. People pretend to get angry. Then the mainstream media pretends people are angry. The average Jon, Jane Q. Public, in the same way they don’t have time to look at the news, they don’t give a shit.

Kilstein: There was a rare, brilliant, honest moment on CNN where Wolf Blitzer had some Democratic strategist in, and Wolf goes, ‘Do you think the joke went too far?’ and the guy goes, ‘Wolf, I saw you laughing!’

Oh thank God! And what did Wolf say?

Kilstein: He just laughed!

See?! That’s what I mean! Going back to what we said: people have to start telling the truth and this will all stop. It will all stop. If more and more people sit in the pundit chair, if you will, and say there’s no story here, let’s stop wasting people’s time; no, there’s no story here. Or say, you infantilize us all by bringing that up. Why are you using these lazy talking points? If people started saying that, or just in the genre of “Wolf, you were laughing,” it ends! It ends right there!

And Keith Olbermann should be ashamed of himself for picking on Wanda Sykes. That was absurd. I love Keith Olbermann, but that was bullshit. And it’s lazy. And Wanda Sykes did nothing wrong, and as soon as people start admitting that, it all goes away…Now, the reason Ken Pittman, who’s probably the only guy who’s mad — we’re literally talking about tens of people here, who pretend to be angry.

Kilstein: I believe everyone in that theater stood up at the end of the show [in Boston where Janeane and Jamie performed during the non-protest led by Ken Pittman] — standing ovation. They were quite happy.

Well, not even that. [The audience] didn’t even know what we were talking about when we complain about the tea-baggers.

Kilstein: That was the funniest part. I was on stage and I had one tea-bagger stab, and I was like ‘Yeah! The place is gonna go nuts!’ I heard one person - I heard [Rob] Riggle laugh in the back, and Allison.

Marc [Maron] kept bringing it up, and it slowly dawned on me that [the audience] doesn’t know what we’re talking about. And that’s what I mean. To you and I, it felt personal because we got ambushed, and then they put it on FOX, and it was on MSNBC, and then for me — like last night, when [the owner of the club] came in and said, ‘We got phone calls.’ Now, that could be one phone call. But people overreact.

Kilstein: It also sucks because it’s like who are you hurting? You’re hurting the scared receptionist. You’re hurting the guy who had to come in and do security. You’re going after comics.

…First of all, they’re not well-informed. Your average right-winger is completely disinformed, and their life is not working. Somehow, something’s wrong. You can’t be a happy, well-adjusted person and be a right-winger. You just can’t. It’s mutually exclusive.

Secondly, you do realize that if they’re not picking on a comic or something, they got nothing. They got nothing. It goes back to — and I’m going to say Republican and Conservative, they call themselves that. They’re not, but they call themselves that, but to be a modern day Republican or Conservative — to be a George [W.] Bush type of Republican or Conservative, to be a [Sean] Hannity type — it’s a character flaw. It’s a character flaw. Or it could also be neurological. I’m not joking at all. Limbic brain: seed of your emotion. Something’s not working, whether it’s your private life or your literal neuroanatomy, something is not working.

Kilstein: When I find myself describing [Conservatism ideology,] I feel like I’m using elementary school rhetoric where I’m like, ‘It’s just fucking mean.’

Kilkenny: It’s selfish. It’s an ideology of selfishness.

Yes, it is.

Kilkenny: You don’t take care of each other, you don’t help the weak –

It’s all about your own.

Kilkenny: Right, “rugged individualism” except when you need help, and then you look to the government.

It’s bootstraps. Bootstraps for people born with great boots and stretchy boot strings, you know what I mean? Really easy bootstraps. All of that stuff — it’s not even relevant because the Conservatism that we thought maybe Barry Goldwater was, or whatever, that doesn’t exist anymore. It is, I think, a neurological issue.

It’s also the part now — big tent party — for racists, or sexists, for homophobes, for closet queens. Whatever, again, is wrong with you. Because a tent full of hate has elastic walls, so it’s a very big tent.

Kilstein: [So what do you make of this talk about bipartisanship and pragmatism where we can't go for Bush official prosecutions because we need Republican votes for healthcare?]

It’s such bullshit. It’s classic just like we gotta pardon Richard Nixon, we can’t prosecute. It’s classic fucking cowardice bullshit, and Obama lets us all down. It’s crap. And you know, if it’s one of those things where they’re protecting some Democrats too — let’s say there’s some Democrats in on the torture thing — then they gotta go down, too. You gotta bring those Democrats down, too. It is fucking political crap. There is no excuse for it.

Now, do I think we need to see pictures — us — on the news? No. But do I think war criminals needs to be prosecuted? Yes. I do not believe that it is in anyone’s interest to see more naked pyramids. I don’t feel like it will do anything but tear us all apart again. Or tear America’s fragile reputation further asunder. But I do think that [the photos] should be in the courts, adjudicated through the courts, the pictures should be shown in the courts. I don’t think anywhere is not aware of what these photos look like. And they will be — if they haven’t been already — leaked, some of them. But I do think it’s illegal what [Obama] is doing, not perusing [the prosecution of Bush officials' crimes].

And this bipartisanship? Fuck it. Bullshit. You cannot bring a tennis racket to a baseball game. These Republicans — again, they call themselves that — now, there may be a handful of moderate Republicans, I’ve heard of them, I think it’s a wonderful idea, it’s adorable. I think it’s like a unicorn. There is no such thing as bipartisanship that’s going to work with the Republican party anymore, or the Conservative movement. They have shown us over the last 30 years that they are not interested in it. They are not willing to do it. They have never reached across the aisle in the last ten years, and Obama does the nation a disservice for trying to be a nice guy about this, and for showing weakness there. I think it’s weak. There’s no reason to think they’ll be pragmatism or bipartisanship from this current incarnation of this Republican party.

Kilkenny: What first inspired you to become politically active? You talk about this a little in your act that your family is not in the same vein as you.

They’re all Republicans. I was always interested in — I was a History major at school. I always had an interest in politics and media. And then in my stand-up — you know, from when I started it enters in, in the way it enters in because it’s part of the fabric of your life. You know, little bits here and there.

But what got me motivated was the stolen election of 2000. Sam Seder and I watched those returns come in, and watched the tragedy unfold and the miscarriage of justice when Antonin Scalia installed [Bush]. And it just got me very, very upset, and more interested in learning about the electoral process, and this, that, and the other.

Then, 9/11 happened and I started volunteering at this warehouse that was providing clean clothes and uncontaminated things to first-responders. And even at the beginning there, right off the bat, they were being — the first-responders were being not given full information on their health care and the toxins — right off the bat.

And then Afghanistan happened, and I was concerned. I mean, I didn’t know enough to know that it was gonna be pulled off so badly, and then I heard about a group called Peaceful Tomorrows that was against [the] Afghanistan [war], which was a very rare, rare thing. And a lot of these were 9/11 families.

Then, of course when Iraq started ramping up. Then it really, really, really did, and I started getting involved — hearing about Air America, and wanting to get involved.

But why did I get involved as a public face of it? Not because I wanted to, believe me. Not because I wanted to. I was asked to by Robert Greenwald, who is the director of Outfoxed, and WALMART, the Wal-mart movie. He had directed me in [Steal This Movie,] a movie about Abbie Hoffman’s life, so I was friends with him. And he had gotten in touch with me a couple times saying, look we are having a great deal of difficulty getting anybody booked on these shows — on these news shows — to speak out against the war, who are actually involved in the military and involved in the government because the assholes, who work at these networks, will only book an actor.

Now, there’s a couple reasons for that: A) They think it’s gonna make for more interesting TV, but mostly it’s to mock and marginalize the anti-war position. They want to put people from the military, from the Pentagon, from the CIA for the pro-war position, and then opposite that, here’s this person from that TV show…so that you, as a viewer, go, ‘Ew! I’m for the war!’

If you flip-flop that, say you had people from the Pentagon — there’s plenty of them from the CIA, Pentagon, who were against Iraq, believe me there were plenty of them…This is way back in 2000. The former head of [the United Nations Special Commission, UNSCOM] was trying to get on to say that they were lying about Iraq. If you had all those people that people could respect against this war, and the only people for it were Bruce Willis and Chuck Norris, what would the public idea be? “EW!” It’s an editorial process, it’s rigged from the beginning, but if the “actor” won’t go on, nobody will say anything, you know what I mean? That’s your only option.

So Robert Greenwald asked myself, and Tim Robbins, and Mike Farrell, and others that I’m forgetting their names now, but don’t mean that disrespectfully. And he said, look, it’s gonna be bad. It’s gonna be bad, but we have to do this, and I didn’t want to do it because I was scared, and I also thought if I’m the person speaking, no one’s gonna listen. And I knew it would be bad. I had no idea how many assholes are out there. I had no idea what was gonna come.

Kilkenny: So what were the immediate ramifications of doing that?

Immediate castigation. Immediate posting of my address and phone number on things like The amount of death threats and hate mail coming in was so much that I had to hire a security person to go through it. And not just coming to me, but they would print where my manger’s office, and phone number, and agent. I had a development deal at ABC at the time — that was printed, who to get in touch with there. That deal was dropped, luckily though because that sitcom sucked. Tour gigs were cancelled…This is hatemail and death threats coming from citizens because you’re trying to tell them that their government is lying to them. I had no idea how fucking stupid and mean that many people could be.

Now, granted, the majority were always very supportive. The majority of citizens I would run into even at that time were very nice at the street level and stuff like that. But the majority of cowards I met in my own peer group — my own family — in my own fellow comedians…I heard a story, I don’t know if this is true — secondhand — that Dennis Miller (just being one) and a couple of other comedians called my manager, Dave Rath, and said, ‘You’ve got to get Janeane off TV, man, she’s embarrassing herself. That’s really unpatriotic.’ And then Dave won’t tell me who some of the other names are. You would be shocked at how many cowards you know in your own peer group, who A) Wouldn’t take a stand, and B) Blindly supported this thing.

A lot of my friendships have not recovered because I got no respect — no respect — for the way they acted, especially at the height of the death threats and the mocking, and FOX News on a regular basis shitting on me, or morning drive guys just shitting on me. And then the glee that Bill O’Reilly would say, ‘And she can’t get a job!’ and ‘She lost her old job!’ And that my own friends, who could have given me a job just to say in their face ‘bullshit, we’re gonna hire her to do this,’ who didn’t.

It really separates the chaff from the wheat in times of war, if you will. You really learn who’s really awesome. And then I got the same thing on the other side. I learned who the great people are. Sean Penn called. Woody Harrelson called. And I’m not just saying that because they’re actors. They called just to say keep it up the good work, I know what it’s like, we’re getting it too. And then just friends from high school, who I hadn’t talked to in years [called] to say the same thing.

So I have to say that the majority of people were great. But the people who were cowards, it’s ridiculous and stupid.

[Kilstein: A lot of those people who were angry with you may have now lost someone in the wars, and all you were saying is that you didn't want people to die.]

Not just die, but I don’t want to be lied to. I don’t want to be fucking lied to, and I don’t like being treated like a chump. And I don’t want to have to pay for this. Literally. Our culture and society will be paying for this for years, years, years, years, years. Not just with money. Emotionally. All the [soldiers suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, PTSDs]. All the marriages that will fall apart. All the children that will go unparented. All the social ramifications of this. And then some people spent that time to write hate mail to the Dixie Chicks, or spent that time shitting on peace activists, who stood alone with a sign in the rain in Washington Square Park.

[Kilstein: I think the most heartbreaking example of that is how Cindy Sheehan became a late show punchline.]

It’s embarrassing. And it’s not just this country. It’s human nature. Until human nature is cleansed of frailty, we will always have this. It’s gonna happen again. People thought it couldn’t happen after Vietnam, we couldn’t be lied to like that again, this, that, and the other. It will happen again. Give it time.

[Kilstein: That's the power of reading. I think the majority of people are good, and once they have that knowledge, they'd find it difficult not to act.]

Well, also, what’s the point of living an unexamined life? What is the point? There’s a phrase I just heard recently: If you don’t do politics, politics do you. And it’s true. It’s am more interesting way to live your life, to actually pay attention.

Now, granted, there are a million things going on that we don’t know about, never will know about, and just the scams that we know about are the ones we know about. We’ll never know about a million others that go on behind our backs, and the people that are really in charge we’ll never see their face, we’ll never know their names — the people that really pull the strings, internationally and domestically. We’ve never met them. We’ll never see them.

[Kilstein: Atheists always get a bad rap for being heathens, but do you think religion actually harms humanity because it places the burden of caring for people on God instead of on society?]

It’s not mutually exclusive. You can have God and you can have eternity. Agnosticism is playing it safe in a way, meaning you don’t know whether there is or there isn’t. It’s Pascal’s Wager. You’re gonna hedge your bets that there might be [a God] so that I can go to heaven.

But just because there’s a heaven, and there’s another life beyond that may be a paradise, if you will, doesn’t mean you’re not supposed to help others. Saying that God has a plan is a way to let yourself off the hook. It’s just a way to let yourself off the hook. Also, it’s a way to deal with universal contingency. Universal contingency means that anything can happen at any time. That’s a little too much for some people. It’s too random. If you think about it, we live — say we’re on 23rd street here in New York [City]. Now, what prevents any of us from dying any day from just an idle toss of a rock out a window? Every single day on the streets of Manhattan, how is it that more of us aren’t getting clocked on the head? Think about just children playing. Just think about an accident — an air conditioner falling off [a window sill].

…Now, how to some people deal with that fear? …God. You go, ‘God would not allow me, and my children, to be hit on the head by a rock that somebody else threw. That’s not a part of God’s plan.’ Or, if something happens and that’s how your friend dies, it’s so awful you gotta say, ‘That must have been God’s plan.’ Because that’s the only way to get through it.

Now, I personally don’t have a religion that makes me think that way. I just feel like bad things happen sometimes, good things happen sometimes, nobody’s special enough to avoid that. And that’s just the way it is. I also don’t fear death. I don’t fear mortality…I don’t remember what it was like in my mind before I exited my mother’s womb. I was presentient. There was nothing. There was no consciousness. Then I exited my mother’s womb, and there was consciousness. When I die, I will be post-sentient. There will be no more consciousness. I’m not gonna miss it. I didn’t miss pre-womb, right? I’m not gonna miss post-womb.

…How I deal with my anxieties is through science, or I try to learn about something. Or I just get eaten up by anxiety…Because of God’s plan, I don’t think the homeless thing fits into that because I don’t think people walk past homeless people and think, ‘God has a plan for that homeless guy.’ They either do or don’t give him a dollar, or a quarter.

Kilkenny: Or they blame the homeless person.

Or they blame the homeless person. That’s what a Conservative does. A Conservative blames a homeless person themselves. That’s Conservatism in a nutshell.

[Kilstein: I wonder if they use that anger as a defense mechanism.]

It’s a defense mechanism! It is a defense mechanism against having to feel. Now, I don’t know whether they feel bad or not, but it’s a defense mechanism against having to feel. You just accuse the victim of being somehow responsible for their plight.

…Are some homeless people responsible for their plight? Sure. I don’t know, though. See, I can’t say…until I know for sure. And I don’t always give homeless people money — at all — by any stretch of the imagination. Sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t. If a person has a dog or child, I always do because I feel sorry for the dog or the child. But I’m sure plenty of homeless people have gotten themselves into a hell of a mess, but them I’m sure there’s just as many — if not more — who have nothing to do with getting into that mess.

[Kilstein: You're credited with being one of the founders of alternative comedy.]

I’m not. There’s always been “alternative comedy.” It’s just a journalistic construct. I don’t know what alt comedy means. It’s something that happened — this is my recollection of what happened — when Nirvana broke and alt music became what it was called (it used to be called college radio when I was younger,) then it called alt radio, or alt rock. At the time, some journalists started doing articles about some stand-up [comics] in the early ’90s, who were doing stand-up shows that were not in comedy clubs proper, and they were titled alternative comedians.

It just so happened that a couple of the articles were written — that I was included in more than one article. I don’t know what it means. What it means to me is a comedian who is not writing jokes, per say, punchline, punchline, punchline, bang, bang, bang. They’re more of a storyteller, if you will…What they tell is true for the most part, embellished for humorous purposes, but true. It’s a more thoughtful approach to the medium of stand-up comedy. A lot of people use it as a pejorative. A lot of people resent the title, and they’re like, ‘Aw, all that means alt comedy is that they’re not funny’ like I’ve heard people say that all the time. Or ‘they can’t write jokes,’ or blah, blah, blah.

But I certainly didn’t coin the phrase. I certainly didn’t invent it. It was popular in the 1960s, and early ’70s.

[Kilstein: It seems like alt comedy is doing very well right now like with Patton Oswalt and the Comedians of Comedy selling out massive rock clubs.]

Not me. They’re doing much more than me…I can’t count myself among the hot, new– like Tim and Eric and Patton [Oswalt], and Zach Galifianakis, and Mike Birbiglia. These people have — are even more alt. It’s a web presence. They’ve used a whole new medium in a new way whereas in the early ’90s, there were comics who wanted to go outside of the comedy club proper, and they wanted to do shows in venues that were not for comedy traditionally. Now, what’s happening is it’s a whole new wave of comedians who are using new technology to build huge followings. I am not selling out huge venues, and I’m not saying that in a way like ‘[Wah, wah] I’m not selling out huge venues,’ you do me too much credit to put me in the same category as those guys you were mentioning.

Kilstein: What would you say to a comic who is trying to do something different and isn’t getting work in mainstream clubs?

In this current stand-up comedy world that we live in, it’s not like the ’80s and early to mid-’90s where there were so many open mikes, so many venues to do stand-up, so many places to do it that even if you weren’t getting any time in the mainstream clubs, there were places you could get time.

I would say, now, expand your web presence. You post and post, you do whatever it takes to get people to start — whether it be a Youtube video, or you start your own night somewhere. And that’s where you will get time. You will ask a proprietor of some venue, ‘Can I have Tuesday nights? You can have the door.’

Kilstein: Books, music, or comedians that have inspired you to be you.

Howard Zinn books have inspired me to learn about the official story for history. He has been instrumental in me wanting to get more involved in my own history, and the stories that are told to me. And also his biography, You Can’t [Be Neutral] On A Moving Train, that you can’t. That is literally true. And a biography I just read — that I just finished — has been so inspirational to me, Sean Penn’s biography, the authorized biography of Sean Penn. Fascinating and inspirational. I couldn’t put it down. You’ve got to read it. Fantastic.

Music that has inspired me? I don’t know if it’s inspired me to be me, but during the Riot Grrrl era — and I don’t blame those ladies for hating and loathing that term — I’m so sorry, but that DIY girl band era was really inspiring, and also magazines likeBust and Bitch . And Punk Planet, the late Punk Planet…Magazines like Found inspire me in strange ways. SCTV [Second Ciy Television] inspired me unbelievably. SCTV as a kid, Woody Allen as a kid, Albert Brooks when I got older, and George Carlin really, really inspired me, the late Bill Hicks, Paula Poundstone. And then as I got older, more of my contemporaries: Mr. Show with Bob and David, David Cross, Bob Odenkirk, and Zach Galifianakis, and Patton Oswalt, and Jamie Kilstein.

Kilkenny: What makes you happy?

Dog-walking. I love walking my dog. When people that I admire, I get to meet them, and they’re as wonderful as I could have ever imagined. Reading makes me very happy, but when I get into a bum book — because I feel obligated to finish it, and so I hate getting stuck in a mediocre book…I will skim…I have to finish it, but then I will not consciously really, really read it anymore. But I do feel obligated to go to the end. Oh, it ruins my day ’cause I know almost immediately I’m in a lemon…by the end of the first chapter, I’ll know this writing style — and a lot of the time with fiction — I love reading fiction.

As much as I love reading factual books, I enjoy more than anything a great fictional read, and I love collections of short stories, and I also love Victorian era novels — just love them. And you must read Pride and Prejudice with Zombies, which just came out. It’s a retelling of Pride and Prejudice with zombies. I loved it so much. It’s just a great fictional fluff read, but you’ll enjoy it. It’ll put a little spring in your step.

Arizona Secretary of State Interprets Nader v Brewer Narrowly

From: May 27th, 2009

The Arizona Secretary of State has submitted proposed election law changes to the legislature, including changes concerning the two issues won by Ralph Nader in the 9th circuit last year. The Secretary of State asks the legislature to move the independent presidential candidate petition deadline to only 60 days before the general election, but only for independent presidential candidates. Independent candidates for other office would still need to submit their signatures by early June.

Also, the Secretary of State proposed that only independent presidential petition drives be allowed to use out-of-state circulators. Independent candidates for office other than president, and initiatives, would still be required to use only in-state circulators. Since the state’s entire defense of the residency requirement was that out-of-staters cannot be located if they commit fraud, the Secretary of State’s proposal seems inconsistent. For independent presidential petitions, the proposed amendment says that out-of-staters must register with the Secretary of State before starting work.

Paul Hawken's Commencement Address in Portland

From: posted by Nipun Mehta

Paul Hawken is a friend of CharityFocus, renowned entrepreneur, visionary environmental activist, founder of Wiser Earth and author of many books -- most recently Blessed Unrest.

Last week, he was presented with an honorary doctorate of humane letters by University of Portland, when he delivered this superb commencement address.

Commencement Address to the Class of 2009 University of Portland, May 3rd, 2009

When I was invited to give this speech, I was asked if I could give a simple short talk that was "direct, naked, taut, honest, passionate, lean, shivering, startling, and graceful." No pressure there.

Let's begin with the startling part. Class of 2009: you are going to have to figure out what it means to be a human being on earth at a time when every living system is declining, and the rate of decline is accelerating. Kind of a mind-boggling situation... but not one peer-reviewed paper published in the last thirty years can refute that statement. Basically, civilization needs a new operating system, you are the programmers, and we need it within a few decades. This planet came with a set of instructions, but we seem to have misplaced them. Important rules like don't poison the water, soil, or air, don't let the earth get overcrowded, and don't touch the thermostat have been broken. Buckminster Fuller said that spaceship earth was so ingeniously designed that no one has a clue that we are on one, flying through the universe at a million miles per hour, with no need for seatbelts, lots of room in coach, and really good food—but all that is changing. There is invisible writing on the back of the diploma you will receive, and in case you didn't bring lemon juice to decode it, I can tell you what it says: You are Brilliant, and the Earth is Hiring. The earth couldn't afford to send recruiters or limos to your school. It sent you rain, sunsets, ripe cherries, night blooming jasmine, and that unbelievably cute person you are dating. Take the hint. And here's the deal: Forget that this task of planet-saving is not possible in the time required. Don't be put off by people who know what is not possible. Do what needs to be done, and check to see if it was impossible only after you are done. When asked if I am pessimistic or optimistic about the future, my answer is always the same: If you look at the science about what is happening on earth and aren't pessimistic, you don't understand the data. But if you meet the people who are working to restore this earth and the lives of the poor, and you aren't optimistic, you haven't got a pulse. What I see everywhere in the world are ordinary people willing to confront despair, power, and incalculable odds in order to restore some semblance of grace, justice, and beauty to this world. The poet Adrienne Rich wrote, "So much has been destroyed I have cast my lot with those who, age after age, perversely, with no extraordinary power, reconstitute the world." There could be no better description. Humanity is coalescing. It is reconstituting the world, and the action is taking place in schoolrooms, farms, jungles, villages, campuses, companies, refuge camps, deserts, fisheries, and slums. You join a multitude of caring people. No one knows how many groups and organizations are working on the most salient issues of our day: climate change, poverty, deforestation, peace, water, hunger, conservation, human rights, and more. This is the largest movement the world has ever seen. Rather than control, it seeks connection. Rather than dominance, it strives to disperse concentrations of power. Like Mercy Corps, it works behind the scenes and gets the job done. Large as it is, no one knows the true size of this movement. It provides hope, support, and meaning to billions of people in the world. Its clout resides in idea, not in force. It is made up of teachers, children, peasants, businesspeople, rappers, organic farmers, nuns, artists, government workers, fisherfolk, engineers, students, incorrigible writers, weeping Muslims, concerned mothers, poets, doctors without borders, grieving Christians, street musicians, the President of the United States of America, and as the writer David James Duncan would say, the Creator, the One who loves us all in such a huge way. There is a rabbinical teaching that says if the world is ending and the Messiah arrives, first plant a tree, and then see if the story is true. Inspiration is not garnered from the litanies of what may befall us; it resides in humanity's willingness to restore, redress, reform, rebuild, recover, reimagine, and reconsider. "One day you finally knew what you had to do, and began, though the voices around you kept shouting their bad advice," is Mary Oliver's description of moving away from the profane toward a deep sense of connectedness to the living world. Millions of people are working on behalf of strangers, even if the evening news is usually about the death of strangers. This kindness of strangers has religious, even mythic origins, and very specific eighteenth-century roots. Abolitionists were the first people to create a national and global movement to defend the rights of those they did not know. Until that time, no group had filed a grievance except on behalf of itself. The founders of this movement were largely unknown -- Granville Clark, Thomas Clarkson, Josiah Wedgwood — and their goal was ridiculous on the face of it: at that time three out of four people in the world were enslaved. Enslaving each other was what human beings had done for ages. And the abolitionist movement was greeted with incredulity. Conservative spokesmen ridiculed the abolitionists as liberals, progressives, do-gooders, meddlers, and activists. They were told they would ruin the economy and drive England into poverty. But for the first time in history a group of people organized themselves to help people they would never know, from whom they would never receive direct or indirect benefit. And today tens of millions of people do this every day. It is called the world of non-profits, civil society, schools, social entrepreneurship, non-governmental organizations, and companies who place social and environmental justice at the top of their strategic goals. The scope and scale of this effort is unparalleled in history. The living world is not "out there" somewhere, but in your heart. What do we know about life? In the words of biologist Janine Benyus, life creates the conditions that are conducive to life. I can think of no better motto for a future economy. We have tens of thousands of abandoned homes without people and tens of thousands of abandoned people without homes. We have failed bankers advising failed regulators on how to save failed assets. We are the only species on the planet without full employment. Brilliant. We have an economy that tells us that it is cheaper to destroy earth in real time rather than renew, restore, and sustain it. You can print money to bail out a bank but you can't print life to bail out a planet. At present we are stealing the future, selling it in the present, and calling it gross domestic product. We can just as easily have an economy that is based on healing the future instead of stealing it. We can either create assets for the future or take the assets of the future. One is called restoration and the other exploitation. And whenever we exploit the earth we exploit people and cause untold suffering. Working for the earth is not a way to get rich, it is a way to be rich. The first living cell came into being nearly 40 million centuries ago, and its direct descendants are in all of our bloodstreams. Literally you are breathing molecules this very second that were inhaled by Moses, Mother Teresa, and Bono. We are vastly interconnected. Our fates are inseparable. We are here because the dream of every cell is to become two cells. And dreams come true. In each of you are one quadrillion cells, 90 percent of which are not human cells. Your body is a community, and without those other microorganisms you would perish in hours. Each human cell has 400 billion molecules conducting millions of processes between trillions of atoms. The total cellular activity in one human body is staggering: one septillion actions at any one moment, a one with twenty-four zeros after it. In a millisecond, our body has undergone ten times more processes than there are stars in the universe, which is exactly what Charles Darwin foretold when he said science would discover that each living creature was a "little universe, formed of a host of self-propagating organisms, inconceivably minute and as numerous as the stars of heaven." So I have two questions for you all: First, can you feel your body? Stop for a moment. Feel your body. One septillion activities going on simultaneously, and your body does this so well you are free to ignore it, and wonder instead when this speech will end. You can feel it. It is called life. This is who you are. Second question: who is in charge of your body? Who is managing those molecules? Hopefully not a political party. Life is creating the conditions that are conducive to life inside you, just as in all of nature. Our innate nature is to create the conditions that are conducive to life. What I want you to imagine is that collectively humanity is evincing a deep innate wisdom in coming together to heal the wounds and insults of the past. Ralph Waldo Emerson once asked what we would do if the stars only came out once every thousand years. No one would sleep that night, of course. The world would create new religions overnight. We would be ecstatic, delirious, made rapturous by the glory of God. Instead, the stars come out every night and we watch television. This extraordinary time when we are globally aware of each other and the multiple dangers that threaten civilization has never happened, not in a thousand years, not in ten thousand years. Each of us is as complex and beautiful as all the stars in the universe. We have done great things and we have gone way off course in terms of honoring creation. You are graduating to the most amazing, stupefying challenge ever bequested to any generation. The generations before you failed. They didn't stay up all night. They got distracted and lost sight of the fact that life is a miracle every moment of your existence. Nature beckons you to be on her side. You couldn't ask for a better boss. The most unrealistic person in the world is the cynic, not the dreamer. Hope only makes sense when it doesn't make sense to be hopeful. This is your century. Take it and run as if your life depends on it.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Does DNA Have Telepathic Properties?-A Galaxy Insight

DNA has been found to have a bizarre ability to put itself together, even at a distance, when according to known science it shouldn't be able to. Explanation: None, at least not yet.

Scientists are reporting evidence that contrary to our current beliefs about what is possible, intact double-stranded DNA has the “amazing” ability to recognize similarities in other DNA strands from a distance. Somehow they are able to identify one another, and the tiny bits of genetic material tend to congregate with similar DNA. The recognition of similar sequences in DNA’s chemical subunits, occurs in a way unrecognized by science. There is no known reason why the DNA is able to combine the way it does, and from a current theoretical standpoint this feat should be chemically impossible.

Even so, the research published in ACS’ Journal of Physical Chemistry B, shows very clearly that homology recognition between sequences of several hundred nucleotides occurs without physical contact or presence of proteins. Double helixes of DNA can recognize matching molecules from a distance and then gather together, all seemingly without help from any other molecules or chemical signals.

In the study, scientists observed the behavior of fluorescently tagged DNA strands placed in water that contained no proteins or other material that could interfere with the experiment. Strands with identical nucleotide sequences were about twice as likely to gather together as DNA strands with different sequences. No one knows how individual DNA strands could possibly be communicating in this way, yet somehow they do. The “telepathic” effect is a source of wonder and amazement for scientists.

“Amazingly, the forces responsible for the sequence recognition can reach across more than one nanometer of water separating the surfaces of the nearest neighbor DNA,” said the authors Geoff S. Baldwin, Sergey Leikin, John M. Seddon, and Alexei A. Kornyshev and colleagues.

This recognition effect may help increase the accuracy and efficiency of the homologous recombination of genes, which is a process responsible for DNA repair, evolution, and genetic diversity. The new findings may also shed light on ways to avoid recombination errors, which are factors in cancer, aging, and other health issues.

Posted by Rebecca Sato.

Activism 101, by Mickey Z


Okay, short attention span crowd: Grab your remote (or mouse) and get ready to click, click, click…

“How much can you know about yourself if you've never been in a fight? I don't wanna die without any scars.”

- Tyler Durden (Fight Club)


William Burroughs once wrote about how we humans—like the bull in a bullfight—tend to focus on the elusive red cape instead of the matador. Indeed, we are all-too-easily distracted from real targets by an attractive image or illusion.

Of course, some bulls see right through the red cape, uh, bullshit...and quite justifiably introduce the matador to the business end of their horns. Before you mistake that for a lesson and/or inspiration, don’t forget that such bulls are promptly killed while the matador is mourned as a brave hero.

Here’s my question: If every bull in every bullfight were to gore every matador, how long would it be before bullfights were a thing of the past?


Malcolm X sez:

“It is criminal to teach a man not to defend himself when he is the constant victim of brutal attacks.”


In the late 1960s—thanks to Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers (UFW)—deciding whether or not to buy grapes became a political act. Three years after its establishment in 1962, the UFW struck against grape growers around Delano, California...a long, bitter, and frustrating struggle that appeared impossible to resolve until Chavez promoted the idea of a national boycott. Trusting in the average person’s ability to connect with those in need, Chavez and the UFW brought their plight—and a lesson in social justice—into homes from coast-to-coast and Americans responded.

“By 1970, the grape boycott was an unqualified success,” writes Marc Grossman of Stone Soup. “Bowing to pressure from the boycott, grape growers at long last signed union contracts, granting workers human dignity and a more livable wage.”

Through hunger strikes, imprisonment, abject poverty for himself and his large family, racist and corrupt judges, exposure to dangerous pesticides, and even assassination plots, Chavez remained true to the cause...even if meant, uh..."stretching" the non-violent methods he espoused:

Once in 1966, when Teamster goons began to rough up Chavez’s picketeers, a bit of labor solidarity solved the problem. William Kircher, the AFL-CIO director of organization, called Paul Hall, president of the International Seafarers Union.

“Within hours,” writes David Goodwin in Cesar Chavez: Hope for the People, “Hall sent a carload of the biggest sailors that had ever put to sea to march with the strikers on the picket lines...There followed afterward no further physical harassment.”


To me, the following quote reads like a that’s how I’ll present it:

You’ve got to learn that when you push people around, some people push back. As they should. As they must. And as they undoubtedly will. There is justice in such symmetry.

- Ward Churchill


When early American revolutionaries chanted, “Give me liberty or give me death” and complained of having but one life to give for their country, they became the heroes of our history textbooks. But, thanks to the power of the U.S. media and education industries, the Puerto Rican nationalists who dedicated their lives to independence are known as criminals, fanatics, and assassins.

On March 1, 1954, in the gallery of the House of Representatives, Congressman Charles A. Halleck rose to discuss with his colleagues the issue of Puerto Rico. At that moment, Lolita Lebrón alongside three fellow freedom fighters, having purchased a one-way train ticket from New York (they expected to be killed) unfurled a Puerto Rican flag and shouted “Free Puerto Rico!” before firing eight shots at the roof. Her three male co-conspirators aimed their machine guns at the legislators. Andrés Figueroa’s gun jammed, but shots fired by Rafael Cancel Miranda and Irving Flores injured five congressmen.

“I know that the shots I fired neither killed nor wounded anymore,” Lebrón stated afterwards. With the attack being viewed through the sensationalizing prism of American tabloid journalism, this did not matter. She and her nationalist cohorts became prisoners of war for the next twenty-five years.

Why prisoners of war? To answer that, we must recall that since July 25, 1898, when the United States illegally invaded its tropical neighbor under the auspices of the Spanish-American War, the island has been maintained as a colony. In other words, the planet’s oldest colony is being held by its oldest representative democracy—with U.S. citizenship imposed without the consent or approval of the indigenous population in 1917. It is from this geopolitical paradox that the Puerto Rican independence movement sprang forth.

This movement is based firmly on international law, which authorizes “anti-colonial combatants” the right to armed struggle to throw off the yoke of imperialism and gain independence. UN General Assembly Resolution 33/24 of December 1978 recognizes “the legitimacy of the struggle of people’s for independence, territorial integrity, national unity and liberation from colonial domination and foreign occupation by all means available, particularly armed struggle.”

Prison did not dampen Lebrón’s revolutionary spirit as she attended demonstrations and spoke out to help win the long battle to evict the US Navy from the tiny Puerto Rican island of Vieques in 2003.


Emma Goldman sez:

“No great idea in its beginning can ever be within the law.”


In her excellent 1995 book, Bridge of Courage, Jennifer Harbury quotes a Guatemalan freedom fighter named Gabriel, responding to a plea to embrace non-violent resistance: "In my country child malnutrition is close to 85 percent,” he explains. “Ten percent of all children will be dead before the age of five, and this is only the number actually reported to government agencies. Close to 70 percent of our people are functionally illiterate. There is almost no industry in our country—you need land to survive. Less than 3 percent of our landowners own over 65 percent of our lands. In the last fifteen years or so, there have been over 150,000 political murders and disappearances... Don't talk to me about Gandhi; he wouldn't have survived a week here. There was a peaceful movement for progress here, once. They were crushed. We were crushed. For Gandhi's method to work, there must be a government capable of shame. We lack that here."


Huey P. Newton sez:

“In the spirit of international revolutionary solidarity, the Black Panther Party hereby offers ... an undetermined number of troops to assist you in your fight against American imperialism. It is appropriate for the Black Panther Party to take this action at this time in recognition of the fact that your struggle is also our struggle, for we recognize that our common enemy is U.S. imperialism, which is the leader of international bourgeois domination. There is no fascist or reactionary government in the world today that could stand without the support of United States imperialism. Therefore our problem is international, and we offer these troops in recognition of the necessity for international alliance to deal with the problem … Such alliance will advance the struggle toward the final act of dealing with American imperialism. To end this oppression we must liberate the developing nations … As one nation is liberated elsewhere, it gives us a better chance to be free.”

(Excerpted from an October 29, 1970 letter to the National Front for Liberation and Provisional Revolutionary Government of South Viet Nam)


Arundhati Roy sez:

"People from poorer places and poorer countries have to call upon their compassion not to be angry with ordinary people in America."


In his book Endgame, Derrick Jensen tells of a discussion he had with a longtime activist. “She told me of a campaign she participated in a few years ago to try to stop the government and transnational timber corporations from spraying Agent Orange, a potent defoliant and teratogen, in the forests of Oregon,” Jensen writes. All too predictably, the dedicated demonstrators assembled to protest the toxic spraying were, “like clockwork,” ignored by the helicopter pilots. Both humans and landscape ended up thoroughly doused with Agent Orange—time and time again. The protest campaign obviously had no effect, so a different approach was taken. “A bunch of Vietnam vets lived in those hills,” the activist told Jensen, “and they sent messages to the Bureau of Land Management and to Weyerhauser, Boise Cascade, and the other timber companies saying, ‘We know the names of your helicopter pilots, and we know their addresses’

“You know what happened next?” she asked.

“I think I do,” Jensen responded.

“Exactly,” she said. “The spraying stopped.”


MLK sez:

“When you're right, you can never be too radical.”

Until the laws are changed or the power runs out, Mickey Z. can be found on the Web at

Grand Illusion: The Myth of Voter Choice in a Two-Party Tyranny, by Theresa Amato

Spring 2009 Titles:

A smart, provocative, and wonderfully entertaining analysis of our stifling two-party system and the importance of third-party and Independent candidates—from Ralph Nader’s campaign manager

Winner of love your body campaign poster

Marie Bushbaum Minneapolis, Minnesota Grand Prize Winner

Monday, May 25, 2009

Your Greatest Gift To Humanity

From: "We do not believe you should take on the pain of others, but we do believe you should show compassion and caring toward those in pain, as John did. "Compassion is one thing. Sympathy is quite another, a very different vibration. If you're sympathizing you're taking on other people's pain. "You cannot take on other people's pain and be of any good to them, or to yourselves. Nowhere is it written you have to feel bad because someone else is, no matter how close you are to them or how much you love them. "The best thing you can do to help someone in pain is to be happy. "Then envision them also being happy. They will eventually move through and beyond their pain or sadness. You have the power to help them speed up that process. But not by feeling their pain or by sympathizing with them. That only amplifies the negative feelings and energies. Be happy. See them happy. That is absolutely the best thing you can do to help anyone. Your happiness is your greatest gift to humanity." --- Chief Joseph, through John Cali. You can read this and other transcripts at their website.

La Cage aux Democrats, by Frank Rich


So what’s stopping the Democrats from rectifying that legacy now? As Wolfson said to me last week, they lack “a towering national figure to make the moral case” for full gay civil rights. There’s no one of that stature in Congress now that Ted Kennedy has been sidelined by illness, and the president shows no signs so far of following the example of L.B.J., who championed black civil rights even though he knew it would cost his own party the South. When Obama invoked same-sex marriage in an innocuous joke at the White House correspondents’ dinner two weeks ago — he and his political partner, David Axelrod, went to Iowa to “make it official” — it seemed all the odder that he hasn’t engaged the issue substantively.

“This is a civil rights moment,” Wolfson said, “and Obama has not yet risen to it.” Worse, Obama’s opposition to same-sex marriage is now giving cover to every hard-core opponent of gay rights, from the Miss USA contestant Carrie Prejean to the former Washington mayor Marion Barry, each of whom can claim with nominal justification to share the president’s views.

In reality, they don’t. Obama has long been, as he says, a fierce advocate for gay equality. The Windy City Times has reported that he initially endorsed legalizing same-sex marriage when running for the Illinois State Senate in 1996. The most common rationale for his current passivity is that his plate is too full. But the president has so far shown an impressive inclination both to multitask and to argue passionately for bedrock American principles when he wants to. Relegating fundamental constitutional rights to the bottom of the pile until some to-be-determined future seems like a shell game.

As Wolfson reminds us in his book “Why Marriage Matters,” Dr. King addressed such dawdling in 1963. “For years now I have heard the word ‘Wait,’ ” King wrote. “It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This ‘Wait’ has almost always meant ‘Never.’ ”

The gay civil rights movement has fewer obstacles in its path than did Dr. King’s Herculean mission to overthrow the singular legacy of slavery. That makes it all the more shameful that it has fewer courageous allies in Washington than King did. If “American Idol” can sing out for change on Fox in prime time, it ill becomes Obama, of all presidents, to remain mute in the White House.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Four More Years: The Obamavore’s Dilemma, by Lorna Salzman


Can we survive the conundrum of Obama’s presidency: a decent, intelligent man promoting weak and dangerous policies?

I don’t want to say “I told you so”. But the fact is that many people, including Ralph Nader and Matt Gonzalez, his former VP running mate, exposed Obama’s voting record and political stances long before the 2008 election.

Gonzalez sent out a long memo which I myself distributed to all my lists but apparently few paid attention to Obama’s actual voting record: in favor of the death penalty; support for most Iraq authorization bills; favors for Exelon, Illinois’ nuclear industry, support for “clean coal”, opposition to class action lawsuits and to limits on credit card interest rates, and (hold your breath), active support for neo-con U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman, whom Obama praised as his mentor.

So none of what Obama is now doing (or not doing) comes as a surprise. My reaction and that of many independents and greens was a big DUH. Or, what is it about a centrist capitalist that you don’t understand?

Some progressives moan that Obama has reneged on his promises. But in fact he never made these promises. All his statements, with possibly a few exceptions, made it quite clear that he was in lock step with traditional centrist Democratic Party capitalist beliefs and ideologies. Now, when these facts have become clear, too many people are too ready to believe that he changed his mind rather than admit that they were fooled.

Why were they fooled? The answer is obvious. Because he is African-American. Millions of people voted for him because of this alone, thinking that the color of one’s skin and one’s experience as a minority come hand in glove with progressive or radical thought. This is in its own way a converse variant of racism: thinking that one’s skin color is somehow linked on its chromosome with progressive principles.

These people forget that he comes out of the Ivy League, Harvard Law School, and the eerily prescient Democratic Party machine in Chicago, which has carefully groomed him as The Great Black Hope. They really put their money on the right number.

More people voted for Obama because he was African-American than voted against him because of that. Ponder that fact. Ponder the fact that even now, many blacks and liberals are bending over backwards to cut him slack, even after he brought with him the worst most regressive white collar criminals into his private abode and put them in charge of our economic future: slime buckets like Larry Summers, and, overlooking possible “minor” crimes, Eric Holder. The list goes on and on.

And then there were the Wall St./bank bailouts, done without setting the most minimal conditions on this huge payout, and without demanding anything in return. The Democrats railroaded this through for their friends in finance and banking. The Republicans, whose regressive agenda we fully recognize and which in fact called their sincerity into question on this issue, opposed it.

They were right to do so, though for the wrong reasons (although the far right and conservatives had the right reason: keep government from getting its hands into the pants of private business even if it means bankruptcy for businesses and banks). At the very least Obama could have laid down one condition: support universal single payer health care and you will get your bailout. He didn’t. That isn’t what I call a shrewd businessman.

My point is that Obama didn’t change direction or positions. He stayed firm in his commitment to capitalism, corporatism, and Wall St., so firm that he wasn’t going to demand anything in return for rescuing the financial community. I call that not stupid but an intentional betrayal of all those progressives who voted for him blindly, thinking that his election meant a new era.

But lots of people didn’t fall slavishly at the feet of this idol; they saw very clearly what he stood for and where he would go. And he clearly wasn’t going to diverge from traditional centrist capitalist politics. The believers exhibited “the audacity of hope”… blind hope. That’s par for the course for knee jerk Democratic Party members, for paleo-liberals, for African-Americans. There is always an audience for well-trained dog-and-pony shows. They have four years to brush up on their tricks before every presidential election.

The 2008 election was yet another example of Democratic Party blackmail: “do you want another four years of Bush in the person of McCain”? and all that crap, knowing that there was no alternative to either of them, realistically. The usual lesser of two evils argument that we saw offered when Ralph Nader had the cojones to get up and say what we all know (liberals excepted): that the difference between Democrats and Republicans is, generously, the difference between the two slices of buttered bread squashed together.

Unless and until voters acknowledge this last fact, they are destined to continual groping in the dark for something that will forever elude them. So let’s be blunt.

1. There is no chance in hell that Obama is going to adopt the progressive agenda on ANY of the relevant issues (Iraq, Afghanistan, health care, climate change, civil liberties and protection of privacy, bringing Bush war criminals to justice, energy policy, etc.). No chance.

2. The complacency of the electorate in the face of massive bail-outs, including that of the auto industry which should fold up shop and go home unless they are forced to build electric vehicles, trains and buses and wind turbines, must be brought up short.

3. The prayers and reliance of the public on the federal government to save their jobs and homes need to be aligned with reality, by a push for massive relocalization of the economy, which must for survival’s sake become leaner, smaller and non-reliant on continued economic growth and consumption. Republicans fear socialism but so should we, though for somewhat different reasons. Socialism and corporatism are the Tweedledum and Tweedledee of a deluded and disinterested citizenry.

4. The recession needs to be welcomed and augmented by a wholesale drawback by all citizens from compulsive shopping and consumption, shredding of credit cards, demand for public transportation, willingness to pay the full cost of energy and goods by ending all subsidies and tax breaks for energy and corporations, among other things. We should be helping push capitalism over the cliff; it is Wall St. and the banks that will go first. Afterwards, we can reassemble the pieces we want reassembled, in the way we want them to be. Americans still haven’t learned that democracy comes before the economy. The Russians didn’t learn this lesson soon enough.

5. Here is the sine qua non: a grassroots political and electoral movement that will unite behind some basic principles and demands and then put this into practice in a citizens’ PAC that will focus on unseating those phony liberals (mostly Democrats) who are mainly responsible for the betrayal that is being led by Obama. Max Baucus might be considered as a first target for his outrageous behavior on health care, with Waxman and Markey a close second for their huge energy bill, one of the biggest scams to ever get support from the liberal media and pundits.

Yes, the Republicans are repulsive and mendacious. But they always were and don’t pretend to be otherwise. We don’t need their phony cry for “bipartisanship” and “ending the stalemate” in Washington; the Democrats are doing a fine job of sitting in for the Republicans.

We have two years to put these people up in front of a political firing squad. Yes, some of you will say that the alternative might be right wingers lurking and ready to replace them. But consider this: the Dems might get re-elected but in the meantime they will have to face the wrath of the public and the possibility, even if slim, that their political careers might be over. This is the only way to hold them accountable for their brazen arrogance. They need to be told two things: we don’t like them, and we don’t like the things they stand for.

This message will trickle into the White House soon enough. A grassroots revolt against the deceptions and blackmail of the Democratic Party. A statement that we will no longer accept their contemptuous attitude that continues to lecture us that the alternative is worse. The Democrats in congress, NOT the Republicans, are the ones who need to be put on trial. They need to be told that they do not own our vote and that they must earn it. They have failed. They need to be booted out. Are progressives willing to admit their mistakes and take appropriate action to regain their power as citizens and voters? How long will Democratic Party members fete and re-arm their executioners?

This is the question progressives need to answer. They will be met by clever Democrats telling them to just keep quiet and things will work out. But right now things are working out only for Wall St. The rest of us will be lucky if we get an extension in unemployment benefits or a tiny reduction in mortgage rates. If we listen to the Democrats, we will never get universal health care or get our troops back from Iraq. Come on now, you already knew this, didn’t you?

Time for a reality check about the Democrats. Without it we are doomed to hand wringing and regrets, and a permanent apathy and pessimism that the Democrats will welcome as an accompaniment to the voters’ permanent recusal from civic life.

Lorna Salzman has been an environmental writer and activist since the mid-1960s and served as natural resource specialist for the New York City Dept. of Environmental Protection in the early 1990s. In 2004 she was a candidate for the U.S. Green Party's presidential nomination.

Visit Lorna's website.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Actions Strengthen Against Mining in Oaxaca Teachers Union Declares Broader Mission to Include Social Justice and Community Education

By Nancy Davies Commentary from Oaxaca

May 19, 2009

“Mexicans are screwed,” asserted Juan Carlos Ruiz Guadalajara of the Broad Opposition Front (Frente Amplio Opositor) of San Luis Potosi. He participated, along with representatives of other organizations, at the second forum For Life We Defend Our Mother Earth, convened in Ocotlán by the Committee for Rights of the People (CODEP), on May 16 and 17, 2009.

D.R. 2009 – Photos Nancy Davies
They are screwed, he declared, because in Mexico there is no justice. Laws are ignored, judges and lawyers are bought off, and environmental regulators take bribes. In his own experience in San Luis Potosi, the small town at Cerro de San Pedro, San Xavier, residents voted 97-99 per cent against the mining project in Cerro de San Pedro, in a statewide public referendum held in October 2006. The project moved ahead anyway. San Xavier, outside the capital city, was devastated by the Canadian gold mine. Ruiz Guadalajara told the forum that by the time the people of the town had won in court recognition of their rights and of the environmental depredation, it was a pyrrhic victory: the water and land had been irrevocably poisoned, and this happened within kilometers of the “cultural patrimony” of the capital city.

Ruiz advised the people of Ocotlán not to rely on the non-functional Mexican law but to go for direct action. His warning to the activists of Oaxaca did not fall on deaf ears; Oaxaca has been targeted for 13 different mining projects. The state is rich in gold, silver, copper and uranium. Furthermore, most of the land involved is sparsely populated by marginalized indigenous peoples, a population with absolutely no power –or so the mining companies hope.

The main purpose of the forum was to bring together the many small organizations and groups who presently struggle alone, to form a united front. A first forum began this work on May 5.

Present at the second forum, on May 16, was the representative from the Isthmus, Carlos Beas Torres of the Union of Communities of the North Zones of the Isthmus (UCIZONI, in its Spanish initials), which has faced the same scenario of overriding the local population’s rights, in two violations: the wind generators, and the cement manufacturer’s removal of literally entire hills for their sand. The organization CACTUS represented the Mixteco area which holds uranium. Other panelists included the wife of Augustin Rios Cruz, People of Cuicatecos, Filemon Sanchez from San Jose del Progreso, and the Chiapas group FMIN (front against mining).

The Sierra Sur contains gold and silver as does the Central Valley of Ocotlán. According to Beas Torres, what happens repeatedly is that the mining companies – almost all Canadian transnationals– contact the federal government to purchase a concession to extract the underground minerals, because by the constitution, everything beneath the surface of Mexican territory belongs to the nation. The companies pay the federal and state governments a fee, which may include one to three percent of declared future profits. It is not known how much was paid for Oaxaca’s concessions, nor where the money is, or went. However, neither government informed the local people on whose land the transnationals intend to excavate; no public information was made available about the mines or their environmental consequences, in violation of Treaty (Convenio) 169 of the International Work Organization which Mexico signed, and in violation of indigenous land rights.

San Luis Potosi struggled for fifteen years to win a court acknowledgement of the legal violations, but by then it was too late. The gold mine in San Luis was an open pit mine which proceeded during all those years to more or less carry away a small hill, leaving irreversible water and soil damage. The Canadian companies must obey environmental laws in Canada; in Mexico (and in Africa and in Latin America) they pay for favorable environmental reports, or may simply bribe officials to overlook what is going on, according to Ruiz.

In 2006, the Fortuna Silver company sent engineers to explore the feasibility of mining in Ocotlán, and to lease thirty-year concessions from about thirty owners. (This is now ejido, privately owned land due to the work of privatizing communal land which was set in motion by Carlos Salinas de Gortari.) Unfortunately, water and soil do not respond to land boundaries, so the entire area will be affected by any water pollution. Opposition activists have entered the mine tunnel which inclines downward to 960 feet. There the water begins, and is rising.

One of the collateral consequences of a thirty year lease means that the original owner will leave, and his children with him. Where will they go? Often to add to the ring of impoverished dwellers around big cities, that is, to urban slums, with concomitant job, housing and water problems, as has happened in Mexico City. How much money does each lease pay to the owner? That information is not available.

Beas Torres points out that not all those who leased their land for wind generators on the Isthmus could speak Spanish, or read it. They were initially offered 100 pesos per year per hectare, and a long struggle has followed to amend that unjust quantity. It is curious that nobody names owners in Ocotlán who signed leases; to shield them, or perhaps that information was false ― it was sent to me in an email from a Fortuna Silver Mine office. Perhaps only the governments received money.

Cástulo Lopez Pacheco, a member of both the Committee of Defense of the Rights of the Peoples (CODEP), and the Asamblea Popular de los Pueblos de Oaxaca (APPO), described the current situation as “a rabid campaign of threats, hostilities and repression” against the people of San Jose del Progreso Ocotlán in complicity with Fortuna’s front company Cuzcatlan, owner of the Trinidad mine. Protesters camped at the mine entrance were attacked by the Federal Preventive Police on May 6 after a month-long blockade. One local activist, Augustín Rios Cruz was badly beaten, but his immediate arrest was avoided because of media observers. Rios Cruz, an Ocotlán dentist, has been hiding and healing since then, but participated by telephone in the forum. The arrest order against him accuses him of injuries, pilfering, and attacks against access to roads.

On the second day the forum discussion focused on how to implement a push-back against both the military force and the pro-mine policy of the government.

Meanwhile, on Teachers Day, May 15, Section 22 of the National Union of Education Workers (SNTE) marched in force. In the zocalo at the conclusion of the march, the secretary general Azael Santiago Chepi re-affirmed that Section 22 will work not only for education but also for justice. He specifically mentioned political prisoners, Ocotlán, and the toll highway being constructed around Oaxaca City to reach the coast; it crosses indigenous lands. On May 16 SNTE was in assembly; on May 17 they headed to Ocotlán.

About a hundred representatives of the union, another hundred from the APPO, and an equal group from San Jose del Progreso staged an inaugural celebration in Magdalena, with a ribbon cutting ceremony for its new municipal building. The benediction was offered by the priest Martín Octavio García Ortiz, of the parish of San Pedro Apóstol, Ocotlán. In other words, the supporters stated, “We are here.”

On Monday, May 18, Section 22 opened a “permanent” site in the city of Oaxaca to serve for denunciations and forums. Azael Santiago Chepi repeated again the new stance of the union. Their mission, he assured the audience, must include not only student education and needs such as sanitary facilities inside schools, but also social justice, and what Santiago Chepi calls “alternative education”. That, he defines as a community interaction between parents, teachers and students, to overcome lack of knowledge and/or dependence on the government agents.

Opposition activities to the government neoliberal policies of “development” now include the hydroelectric dams, the new toll highway, and the Wind Corridor on the Isthmus. Many of the same national organizations, such as Frente Amplio Opositor of San Luis Potosi, and those who opposed the international airport in the Mexico City Valley and Atenco, as well as the hydroelectric dams in the state of Mexico and in Guerrero, have linked up. At the Ocotlán forum on Saturday the parents of Alexis Branamiel, the student killed in the attack on Atenco, were present.

Thus we are in mid-May, the traditional time for teacher negotiations and strikes. Thus far the union has said that the government’s contract offer is unsatisfactory. For Wednesday May 20 a one-day work stoppage has been declared. The encampment in the zócalo of Oaxaca keeps people informed. I asked the teachers’ leader of the Central Valley district if the union will, like some politicians, advise the townspeople of Ocotlán to negotiate with Fortuna, which has already offered school computers and some infrastructure repairs. His reply: “There’s nothing to negotiate”. A mine will contaminate to as much as thirty kilometers distance. And, he added, “We don’t make their decisions, we do what the town assemblies want us to do.”

Along with Fortuna Silver, the other companies named by CODEP as preparing to violate Oaxaca lands include Aura Silver, Intrepid Mines, Continuum Resources, Chesapeake Gold Corporation, Consolidated Spire Ventures Ltd., Horseshoe Goldmining Ltd, Linear Gold Corp., Mauricio Hochschild, Mercantile Gold Company and Pinnacle Mines Ltd.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Thanks to Chubby Bubba for this quote...

"it is not the end of the world if someone takes your tangerine...even monkeys know that."

Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Prisoners, by Robert Hayden

Steel doors – guillotine gates – of the doorless house closed massively. We were locked in with loss. Guards frisked us, marked our wrists, then let us into the drab Rec Hall – splotched green walls, high windows barred – where the dispossessed awaited us. Hands intimate with knife and pistol, hands that had cruelly grasped and throttled clasped ours in welcome. I sensed the plea of men denied: Believe us human like yourselves, who but for Grace ... We shared reprieving Hidden Words revealed by the Godlike imprisoned One, whose crime was truth. And I read poems I hoped were true. It's like you been there, brother, been there, the scarred young lifer said.

America's Poor Are Its Most Generous Givers

[Thanks to nora for this link]

by: Frank Greve Visit article original @ McClatchy Newspapers

photo Retired restaurant owner Gail Sacco fed homeless people in a Las Vegas park, but the city recently outlawed the practice. (Photo: Monica Almeida / The New York Times)

Washington - When Jody Richards saw a homeless man begging outside a downtown McDonald's recently, he bought the man a cheeseburger. There's nothing unusual about that, except that Richards is homeless, too, and the 99-cent cheeseburger was an outsized chunk of the $9.50 he'd earned that day from panhandling.

The generosity of poor people isn't so much rare as rarely noticed, however. In fact, America's poor donate more, in percentage terms, than higher-income groups do, surveys of charitable giving show. What's more, their generosity declines less in hard times than the generosity of richer givers does.

"The lowest-income fifth (of the population) always give at more than their capacity," said Virginia Hodgkinson, former vice president for research at Independent Sector, a Washington-based association of major nonprofit agencies. "The next two-fifths give at capacity, and those above that are capable of giving two or three times more than they give."

Indeed, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' latest survey of consumer expenditure found that the poorest fifth of America's households contributed an average of 4.3 percent of their incomes to charitable organizations in 2007. The richest fifth gave at less than half that rate, 2.1 percent.

The figures probably undercount remittances by legal and illegal immigrants to family and friends back home, a multibillion-dollar outlay to which the poor contribute disproportionally.

None of the middle fifths of America's households, in contrast, gave away as much as 3 percent of their incomes.

"As a rule, people who have money don't know people in need," saId Tanya Davis, 40, a laid-off security guard and single mother.

Certainly, better-off people aren't hit up by friends and kin as often as Davis said she was, having earned a reputation for generosity while she was working.

Now getting by on $110 a week in unemployment insurance and $314 a month in welfare, Davis still fields two or three appeals a week, she said, and lays out $5 or $10 weekly.

To explain her giving, Davis offered the two reasons most commonly heard in three days of conversations with low-income donors:

"I believe that the more I give, the more I receive, and that God loves a cheerful giver," Davis said. "Plus I've been in their position, and someday I might be again."

Herbert Smith, 31, a Seventh-day Adventist who said he tithed his $1,010 monthly disability check - giving away 10 percent of it - thought that poor people give more because, in some ways, they worry less about their money.

"We're not scared of poverty the way rich people are," he said. "We know how to get the lights back on when we can't pay the electric bill."

In terms of income, the poorest fifth seem unlikely benefactors. Their pretax household incomes averaged $10,531 in 2007, according to the BLS survey, compared with $158,388 for the top fifth.

In addition, its members are the least educated fifth of the U.S. population, the oldest, the most religious and the likeliest to rent their homes, according to demographers. They're also the most likely fifth to be on welfare, to drive used cars or rely on public transportation, to be students, minorities, women and recent immigrants.

However, many of these characteristics predict generosity. Women are more generous than men, studies have shown. Older people give more than younger donors with equal incomes. The working poor, disproportionate numbers of which are recent immigrants, are America's most generous group, according to Arthur Brooks, the author of the book "Who Really Cares," an analysis of U.S. generosity.

Faith probably matters most, Brooks - who's the president of the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative Washington policy-research organization - said in an interview. That's partly because above-average numbers of poor people go to church, and church attenders give more money than non-attenders to secular and religious charities, Brooks found.

Moreover, disproportionate numbers of poor people belong to congregations that tithe.

Less-religious givers such as Emel Sweeney, 73, a retired bookkeeper, say that giving lights up their lives.

"Have you ever looked into the face of someone you're being generous to?" Sweeney asked with the trace of a Jamaican lilt.

That brought to mind her encounter with a young woman who was struggling to manage four small, tired children on a bus.

They staggered and straggled at a transfer stop, along with Sweeney, who urged the mother to take a nearby cab the rest of the way. When the mother said she had no money, Sweeney gave her $20, she said. The mother, as she piled her brood into the cab, waved and mouthed a thank-you.

"Those words just rested in my chest," Sweeney said, "and as I rode home I was so happy."

Pastor Coletta Jones, who ministers to a largely low-income tithing congregation in southeast Washington, The Rock Christian Church, thinks that poor people give more because they ask for less for themselves.

"When you have just a little, you're thankful for what you have," Jones said, "but with every step you take up the ladder of success, the money clouds your mind and gets you into a state of never being satisfied."

Brooks offered this statistic as supportive evidence: Fifty-eight percent of noncontributors with above-median incomes say they don't have enough money to give any away.

What makes poor people's generosity even more impressive is that their giving generally isn't tax-deductible, because they don't earn enough to justify itemizing their charitable tax deductions. In effect, giving a dollar to charity costs poor people a dollar while it costs deduction itemizers 65 cents.

In addition, measures of generosity typically exclude informal giving, such as that of Davis' late mother, Helen Coleman. Coleman, a Baltimore hotel housekeeper, provided child care, beds and meals for many of her eight children and 32 grandchildren, Davis said.

Federal surveys don't ask about remittances specifically, so it's hard to know how much the poorest fifth sends back home. Remittances from U.S. immigrants totaled more than $100 billion in 2007, according to Manuel Orozco, a senior researcher at Inter-American Dialogue, a Washington policy institute, who specializes in remittances.

By comparison, individual giving to tax-deductible U.S. charities totaled about $220 billion in 2007.

Much of the money remitted comes from struggling U.S. immigrants such as Zenaida Araviza, 42, a Macy's cosmetics clerk and single mother in suburban Arlington, Va.

Araviza, who earns $1,300 a month, goes carless, cable-less and cell phone-less in order to send an aunt in the Philippines $200 a month to care for Araviza's mother, who has Alzheimer's.

"What can I do?" asked Araviza, an attractive, somber woman. "It's my responsibility."

Carmen De Jesus, the chief financial officer and treasurer of Forex Inc., a remittance agency based in Springfield, Va., said low-income Filipino-Americans such as Araviza were her most generous customers.

"The domestic helpers send very, very frequently," she said. "The doctors, less so."

Why are they so generous? Christie Zerrudo, a cashier who handles Filipino remittances at Manila Oriental, a grocery/restaurant/remittance agency in Arlington, offered this explanation:

"It gives the heart comfort when you sit down at the end of the day, and you know that you did your part," Zerrudo said. "You took care of your family. If you eat here, they eat there, too. It would give you stress if they couldn't. But you love them, they are your family, and your love has had an expression."

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Miles Davis - Live at the Fillmore East, NYC, March 6, 1970 ROIO of the Week [Recordings of Indeterminate Origin]
Click on the panels to download artwork

Miles Davis Fillmore East 1970 [no label, 2CD] Live at the Fillmore East, NYC, March 6, 1970

Imagine Miles Davis as the opening act for Neil Young? But that's the deal in the '70s, especially when you wanted to play New York's Fillmore. The Davis Sextet opened for Neil Young and Crazy Horse and The Steve Miller Blues Band for two nights at the Fillmore East, March 6-7 (Friday-Saturday).

This was the Miles who had released In A Silent Way and Bitches Brew less than a year before, had put out Live-Evil the previous month and would release Jack Johnson the following month.

If playing support act bothered Miles, it didn't show in his music. Miles wrote in his autobiography of that period: "The sound of my music was changing as fast as I was changing musicians, but I was still looking for the combination that could give me the sound I wanted. Jack DeJohnette gave me a certain deep groove that I just loved to play over, but then Billy Cobham gave me a more rock-like sound. Dave Holland played the stand-up bass and I could groove behind that in a way that I couldn't when Harvey Brooks brought in his electric bass sound. The same thing with Chick (Corea), Herbie (Hancock), Joe (Zawinul), Keith (Jarrett) and Larry (Young), too. I was seeing it all as a process of recording all this music, just getting it all down while it was flowing out of my head."

There were two shows each night. Columbia recorded both nights, but this show remains unissued. This two-night gig was Wayne Shorter's last as a member of the Sextet. (He did remain with Davis for a studio date on March 17.) Columbia finally released the March 7 show as It's About Time in 2001. This series of shows at the Fillmore in the '70s was available at Miles Trees and the general consensus was that this March 6 recording sounded much better than the official March 7 release.

As an aside, between these two shows Bill Graham brought in a Sabrett hot dog vendor off the street to feed the bands, the crew, and some members of the audience.

If you like the electric Miles or the jazz-rock Miles, this one's for you.

Click on the highlighted tracks to download the MP3s (these are high quality, stereo MP3s - sample rate of 192 kibit/s). As far as we can ascertain, these tracks have never been officially released.

Disc One: First Show
Track 01 (band warming up) / Directions 8:29
Track 02 Miles Runs the Voodoo Down 13:08
Track 03 I Fall in Love Too Easily/Sanctuary 5:56
Track 04 It's About That Time/The Theme (appl) 14:39
Disc Two: Second Show
Track 01 (band warming up) / Directions 9:58
Track 02 Miles Runs the Voodoo Down 10:16
Track 03 Miles Runs the Voodoo Down (concl)
Track 04 It's About That Time/The Theme (appl)

Lineup: Miles Davis - trumpet Wayne Shorter - tenor & soprano saxophones Chick Corea - electric piano Dave Holland - acoustic & electric basses Jack DeJohnette - drums Airto Moreira - percussion

Tuesday, May 19, 2009


May 17th, 2009 Obama is not only Mr. [fake] Change, Mr. [fake] Hope and Mr. [fake] Yes-We-Can; he’s also Mr. Untouchable. Most of the anti-war ‘left’ bought the Obama propaganda down to the smallest syllable and they are either getting deeply embarrassed by now or resorting to cognitive dissonance to kid themselves they were right. Cognitive dissonance is that filter in the head that explains away contradictions to confirm the original belief. It’s a powerful form of lying to yourself, so powerful, in fact, that you don’t know you are doing it. ‘We must take our freedoms away to protect our liberties’ is a classic example of cognitive dissonance in action. The effect of this can be seen in a report by the Huffington Post: ‘Obama's presidency has not only complicated the anti-war message, but has also made it more difficult to turn out the large numbers that the movement enjoyed during the latter Bush years. Over the weekend, Code Pink held their annual 24-hour Mother's Day Vigil for Peace in Lafayette Park across from the White House. It was the first time since 2006 that they asked people from outside the Washington area to attend. Just over a hundred people showed up to the event according to organizers, a stark contrast to the thousands that Code Pink enjoyed in 2006.’ Most of the left have convinced themselves that Obama is anti-war, a man of peace, and so there is no need for the campaigns of protest that we saw under Bush. But this is patent nonsense. Obama is not ‘anti-war’ at all. This myth comes from a speech he apparently made opposing the invasion of Iraq in 2002, although, as with everything surrounding Obama, the spin is at odds with the substance. The very opening line of that speech said: ‘Let me begin by saying that although this has been billed as an anti-war rally, I stand before you as someone who is not opposed to war in all circumstances’. Clearly, because his very first act in office was to sanction US bombing raids in Pakistan and you are going to see him (his masters through him) increase American military action in that country that will kill and maim still more civilians. And look at Afghanistan. By the end of this year the United States will have more than 68,000 troops deployed there – around double the number at the end of the Bush presidency.

The Disease of Permanent War, by Chris Hedges

Posted on May 18, 2009
AP photo / Rich Pedroncelli

Cold War relic: An F-111 fighter jet on display at McClellan Air Force Base in Sacramento, Calif.

By Chris Hedges

The embrace by any society of permanent war is a parasite that devours the heart and soul of a nation. Permanent war extinguishes liberal, democratic movements. It turns culture into nationalist cant. It degrades and corrupts education and the media, and wrecks the economy. The liberal, democratic forces, tasked with maintaining an open society, become impotent. The collapse of liberalism, whether in imperial Russia, the Austro-Hungarian Empire or Weimar Germany, ushers in an age of moral nihilism. This moral nihilism comes is many colors and hues. It rants and thunders in a variety of slogans, languages and ideologies. It can manifest itself in fascist salutes, communist show trials or Christian crusades. It is, at its core, all the same. It is the crude, terrifying tirade of mediocrities who find their identities and power in the perpetuation of permanent war.

It was a decline into permanent war, not Islam, which killed the liberal, democratic movements in the Arab world, ones that held great promise in the early part of the 20th century in countries such as Egypt, Syria, Lebanon and Iran. It is a state of permanent war that is finishing off the liberal traditions in Israel and the United States. The moral and intellectual trolls—the Dick Cheneys, the Avigdor Liebermans, the Mahmoud Ahmadinejads—personify the moral nihilism of perpetual war. They manipulate fear and paranoia. They abolish civil liberties in the name of national security. They crush legitimate dissent. They bilk state treasuries. They stoke racism.

“War,” Randolph Bourne commented acidly, “is the health of the state.”

In “Pentagon Capitalism” Seymour Melman described the defense industry as viral. Defense and military industries in permanent war, he wrote, trash economies. They are able to upend priorities. They redirect government expenditures toward their huge military projects and starve domestic investment in the name of national security. We produce sophisticated fighter jets, while Boeing is unable to finish its new commercial plane on schedule. Our automotive industry goes bankrupt. We sink money into research and development of weapons systems and neglect renewable energy technologies to fight global warming. Universities are flooded with defense-related cash and grants, and struggle to find money for environmental studies. This is the disease of permanent war.

Massive military spending in this country, climbing to nearly $1 trillion a year and consuming half of all discretionary spending, has a profound social cost. Bridges and levees collapse. Schools decay. Domestic manufacturing declines. Trillions in debts threaten the viability of the currency and the economy. The poor, the mentally ill, the sick and the unemployed are abandoned. Human suffering, including our own, is the price for victory.

Citizens in a state of permanent war are bombarded with the insidious militarized language of power, fear and strength that mask an increasingly brittle reality. The corporations behind the doctrine of permanent war—who have corrupted Leon Trotsky’s doctrine of permanent revolution—must keep us afraid. Fear stops us from objecting to government spending on a bloated military. Fear means we will not ask unpleasant questions of those in power. Fear means that we will be willing to give up our rights and liberties for security. Fear keeps us penned in like domesticated animals.

Melman, who coined the term permanent war economy to characterize the American economy, wrote that since the end of the Second World War, the federal government has spent more than half its tax dollars on past, current and future military operations. It is the largest single sustaining activity of the government. The military-industrial establishment is a very lucrative business. It is gilded corporate welfare. Defense systems are sold before they are produced. Military industries are permitted to charge the federal government for huge cost overruns. Massive profits are always guaranteed.

Foreign aid is given to countries such as Egypt, which receives some $3 billion in assistance and is required to buy American weapons with $1.3 billion of the money. The taxpayers fund the research, development and building of weapons systems and then buy them on behalf of foreign governments. It is a bizarre circular system. It defies the concept of a free-market economy. These weapons systems are soon in need of being updated or replaced. They are hauled, years later, into junkyards where they are left to rust. It is, in economic terms, a dead end. It sustains nothing but the permanent war economy.

Those who profit from permanent war are not restricted by the economic rules of producing goods, selling them for a profit, then using the profit for further investment and production. They operate, rather, outside of competitive markets. They erase the line between the state and the corporation. They leech away the ability of the nation to manufacture useful products and produce sustainable jobs. Melman used the example of the New York City Transit Authority and its allocation in 2003 of $3 billion to $4 billion for new subway cars. New York City asked for bids, and no American companies responded. Melman argued that the industrial base in America was no longer centered on items that maintain, improve, or are used to build the nation’s infrastructure. New York City eventually contracted with companies in Japan and Canada to build its subway cars. Melman estimated that such a contract could have generated, directly and indirectly, about 32,000 jobs in the United States. In another instance, of 100 products offered in the 2003 L.L. Bean catalogue, Melman found that 92 were imported and only eight were made in the United States.

The late Sen. J. William Fulbright described the reach of the military-industrial establishment in his 1970 book “The Pentagon Propaganda Machine.” Fulbright explained how the Pentagon influenced and shaped public opinion through multimillion-dollar public relations campaigns, Defense Department films, close ties with Hollywood producers, and use of the commercial media. The majority of the military analysts on television are former military officials, many employed as consultants to defense industries, a fact they rarely disclose to the public. Barry R. McCaffrey, a retired four-star Army general and military analyst for NBC News, was, The New York Times reported, at the same time an employee of Defense Solutions Inc., a consulting firm. He profited, the article noted, from the sale of the weapons systems and expansion of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan he championed over the airwaves.

Our permanent war economy has not been challenged by Obama and the Democratic Party. They support its destructive fury because it funds them. They validate its evil assumptions because to take them on is political suicide. They repeat the narrative of fear because it keeps us dormant. They do this because they have become weaker than the corporate forces that profit from permanent war.

The hollowness of our liberal classes, such as the Democrats, empowers the moral nihilists. A state of permanent war means the inevitable death of liberalism. Dick Cheney may be palpably evil while Obama is merely weak, but to those who seek to keep us in a state of permanent war, it does not matter. They get what they want. Fyodor Dostoevsky wrote “Notes From the Underground” to illustrate what happens to cultures when a liberal class, like ours, becomes sterile, defeated dreamers. The main character in “Notes From the Underground” carries the bankrupt ideas of liberalism to their logical extreme. He becomes the enlightenment ideal. He eschews passion and moral purpose. He is rational. He prizes realism over sanity, even in the face of self-destruction. These acts of accommodation doom the Underground Man, as it doomed imperial Russia and as it will doom us.

“I never even managed to become anything: neither wicked nor good, neither a scoundrel nor an honest man, neither a hero nor an insect,” the Underground Man wrote. “And now I am living out my life in my corner, taunting myself with the spiteful and utterly futile consolation that it is even impossible for an intelligent man seriously to become anything, and only fools become something.”

We have been drawn into the world of permanent war by these fools. We allow fools to destroy the continuity of life, to tear apart all systems—economic, social, environmental and political—that sustain us. Dostoevsky was not dismayed by evil. He was dismayed by a society that no longer had the moral fortitude to confront the fools. These fools are leading us over the precipice. What will rise up from the ruins will not be something new, but the face of the monster that has, until then, remained hidden behind the facade.

Monday, May 18, 2009


My will to blog happens....

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Health Care’s Enigma in Chief

By David Sirota

The most stunning and least reported news about President Obama’s press conference with health industry executives this week wasn’t those executives’ willingness to negotiate with a Democrat. It was that Democrat’s eagerness to involve those executives in a discussion about health care reform even as they revealed their previous plans to pilfer $2 trillion from Americans.

That was the little-noticed message from the made-for-TV spectacle administration officials called a health care “game changer”: In saying they can voluntarily slash $200 billion a year off the country’s medical bills over the next decade and still preserve their profits, health care companies implicitly acknowledged they were plotting to fleece consumers, and have been fleecing them for years. With that acknowledgment came the tacit admission that the industry’s business is based not on respectable returns, but on grotesque profiteering and waste—the kind that can give up $2 trillion and still guarantee huge margins.

Chief among the profiteers at the White House event were insurance companies, which have raised premiums by 119 percent since 1999, and one obvious question is why—why would Obama engage those particular thieves?

It’s a difficult query to answer, because Obama is a health care mystery, struggling to muster consistent positions on the issue.

Listening to a 2003 Obama speech, it’s hard to believe he has become such an enigma. Back then, he declared himself “a proponent of a single-payer universal health care program”—i.e., one eliminating private insurers and their overhead costs by having government finance health care. Obama’s position was as controversial then as today—which is to say, controversial among political elites, but not among the general public. ABC’s 2003 poll showed almost two-thirds of Americans desiring a single-payer system “run by the government and financed by taxpayers,” just like CBS’s 2009 poll shows roughly the same percentage today.

In that speech six years ago, Obama said the only reason single-payer proponents should tolerate delay is “because first we have to take back the White House, we have to take back the Senate, and we have to take back the House.”

This might explain why when Illinois contemplated a 2004 health care proposal raising insurance lobbyists’ “fears that it would result in a single-payer system,” those lobbyists “found a sympathetic ear in Obama, who amended (read: gutted) the bill more to their liking,” according to the Boston Globe. Maybe Obama didn’t think single payer was achievable without a Democratic Washington. And when in a 2006 interview he told me he was “not convinced that (single payer) is the best way to achieve universal health care,” perhaps he was following the same rationale, considering his insistence that he must “take into account what is possible.”

Of course, even as a senator aiming for the “possible” in a Republican Congress, Obama promised to never “shy away from a debate about single payer.” And after the 2008 election fulfilled his single-payer precondition of Democratic dominance, it was only logical to expect him to initiate that debate.

That’s why the White House’s current posture is so puzzling. As the Associated Press reports, Obama aides are trying to squelch any single-payer discussion, deploying their health care point-person, Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., to announce that “everything is on the table with the single exception of single-payer.”

So it’s back to why—why Obama’s insurance industry-coddling inconsistency? Is it a pol’s payback for campaign cash? Is it an overly cautious lawmaker’s paralysis? Is it a conciliator’s desire to appease powerful interests? Or is it something else?

For a president who spends so much time on camera answering questions, these have become the biggest unanswered questions of all.

David Sirota is the bestselling author of the books “Hostile Takeover” (2006) and “The Uprising” (2008). He is a fellow at the Campaign for America’s Future. Find his blog at

Friday, May 15, 2009

Strobe lights beam. Create dreams. Walls move, minds to do. On a warm San Francisco night

I am EXACTLY where I imaged myself to be a month or so ago..that always feels great...
* Green Day's new album RULES!!!!!!!!!!! She puts her makeup on Like graffiti on the walls of the heartland She's got her little book of conspiracies Right in her hand She is paranoid like Endangered species headed into extinction She is one of a kind She's the last of the American girls She wears her overcoat For the coming of the nuclear winter She is riding her bike Like a fugitive of critical mass She's on a hunger strike For the ones who won't make it for dinner She makes enough to survive For a holiday of working class She's a runaway of the establishment incorporated. She won't cooperate She's the last of the American girls She plays her vinyl records Singing songs on the even of destruction She's a sucker for All the criminals breaking the laws She will come in first For the end of the western civilization She's an endless war Like a hero for the lost cause Like a hurricane In the heart of the devastation She's a natural disaster She's the last of the American girls She puts her makeup on Like graffiti on the walls of the heartland She's got her little book of conspiracies Right in her hand She will come in first For the end of western civilization She's a natural disaster She's the last of the American girls

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Obama Administration Statements on Iran Nukes Not Backed by Intelligence

A recent unclassified CIA report to Congress says that it is not known whether Iran is working towards developing a nuclear weapon, despite consistent rhetoric from the Obama administration that Iran is pursuing the bomb.

The report was drafted by the CIA’s Weapons Intelligence, Nonproliferation, and Arms Control Center (WINPAC) and submitted to the Congress by the Deputy Director of National Intelligence for Analysis.

It discusses the acquisition of technology related to weapons of mass destruction (WMD) for the year 2008 and repeats the assessment of a 2007 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) that Iran “had been working to develop nuclear weapons through at least fall 2003, but that in fall 2003 Iran halted its nuclear weapons design and weaponization activities, and its covert uranium conversion- and enrichment-related activities.”

“We do not know whether Iran currently intends to develop nuclear weapons,” the report states, a tacit acknowledgement that there is little or no evidence that Iran today is pursuing a weapons capability.

Iran “is keeping open the option to develop nuclear weapons by continuing to develop a range of technical capabilities that could be applied to producing nuclear weapons,” the report adds, “if a decision is made to do so.”

The evidence that Iran had previously pursued a weapon capability apparently comes from information retrieved from a laptop computer, referred to in reports of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) as the “alleged studies”.

The laptop, obtained by U.S. intelligence, allegedly came from an Iranian engineer. The U.S. claims that the information obtained from the computer is evidence that Iran had previously been involved in weapon research and development.

The U.S. has only shared a select number of the documents with the IAEA. Iran maintains that the documents are forgeries.

During the buildup to the war on Iraq, the U.S. government claimed that documents showed that Saddam Hussein had attempted to obtain uranium in order to make a nuclear bomb, but the documents proved to have been fabricated.

In that case, the U.S. was reluctant to hand over the documents to the IAEA, but once the agency finally obtained them after repeated requests, it immediately recognized them as fakes.

In the case of Iran, the IAEA has so far declined to take a position on whether the documents are authentic or not, but is taking the matter seriously. The “alleged studies” remain the principle outstanding issue preventing the IAEA from being able to conclude with reasonable confidence that Iran’s nuclear program is not intended for any military purpose.

A staff report to the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations earlier this month similarly framed Iran’s nuclear program as a potential threat, but at the same time acknowledged that “There is no sign that Iran’s leaders have ordered up a bomb.”

The report also noted that the Director General of the IAEA, Mohammed El Baradei, has “resisted pressure from the United States” to “declare Iran in violation of the NPT [nuclear non-proliferation treaty] because, he said repeatedly, the IAEA had no proof of a military program.”

It also claimed that “Publicly available U.S. intelligence reports and published reports show that Iran had been running a military nuclear program” until 2003. But the 2007 NIE and other publicly available information do not show this as a certainty. The 2007 offers its assessment that this was the case, but it’s unclear what actual evidence the intelligence community had upon which it based this assessment.

Prior to the invasion of Iraq, the intelligence community had repeatedly issued reports assessing that the country possessed WMD, but was never able to offer any credible evidence to support that claim. The CIA later admitted that Iraq’s WMD programs had been dismantled by the U.N. and all declared proscribed materials destroyed, and that Iraq unilaterally destroyed its remaining stocks of undeclared WMD in 1991.

Both the CIA and Foreign Relations Committee reports were obtained by Steven Aftergood of the Federation of American Scientists and posted on his blog, Secrecy News.

President Barack Obama and other members of his administration, contrary to the acknowledgment that there is no evidence Iran today has a nuclear weapons program, have repeatedly made statements suggesting that Iran is actively pursuing the bomb and has based its policy on that assumption.

“Iran’s development of a nuclear weapon I believe is unacceptable. We have to mount an international effort to prevent that from happening,” Obama said in his first press conference as the president-elect.

At a speech in Prague, Czech Republic, in April, Obama said, “So let me be clear: Iran’s nuclear and ballistic missile activity poses a real threat, not just to the United States, but to Iran’s neighbors and our allies.”

Vice President Joe Biden gave a speech in Munich, Germany, in which he said that Iran’s “illicit nuclear program” was “not conducive to peace”, and in a speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) earlier this month, he said that the possibility of a “nuclear armed Iran” was “an existential threat.”

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said last month, “We know the imperative of preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons” and characterized its nuclear program as “the threat posed by Iran”.

In an interview with ABC News on March 3, Clinton said, “Iran’s pursuit of the nuclear weapon is deeply troubling to not only the U.S. but many people throughout the world.”

Jeremy R. Hammond is the editor of Foreign Policy Journal, a website providing news, analysis, and opinion from outside the standard framework provided by government officials and the corporate media, particularly with regard to the "war on terrorism". His articles have also been featured in numerous other online publications. You can contact him at:

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Thanks gloryoski....

What would the percentages be if we split up into mean people and nice people? Is that possible even? * Torture When I hear news stories about torture, I think of my poetry professor, who is fond of quoting Carolyn Forche's chilling line: "There is nothing one man won't do to another." Once I quoted this to someone who replied, "Yes, and there's nothing people won't do FOR one another." So there's hope. Posted by Pythea

Edward Abbey Quote

[Thanks to ellwort @ lumpinprollie blog for this quote]
On Anarchism: "Anarchism is not a romantic fable but the hardheaded realization, based on five thousand years of experience, that we cannot entrust the management of our lives to kings, priests, politicians, generals, and county commissioners."

Tuesday, May 12, 2009


Webster’s Dictionary – health: the general condition of the body or mind with reference to soundness and vigor, vitality. Psychiatric Dictionary – mental health: psychological well-being or adequate adjustment, particularly as such adjustment conforms to the community-accepted standards of human relations. Some characteristics of mental health are reasonable independence, self-reliance, self-direction, ability to do a job, to take responsibility and make needed efforts, reliability, cooperation, ability to work under authority, rules and difficulties, ability to show friendliness and love, to give and take, to have tolerance of others and of frustrations, a sense of humor, a devotion beyond oneself, and an ability to find recreation. Freud - "In the final analysis, the stabilized personality is one that has achieved, through learning and maturation, a balance or equilibrium between “cathexes” and “anti-cathexes.” The nature of this balance, that is, whether it falls more on the side of fulfillment or more on the side of restraint or somewhere in the middle, is determined by the influences which are brought to bear on the developing personality. By and large, the presence of strong anti-cathexes will increase the tension level of the personality since the anti-cathexes prevent psychic energy from being dissipated. However, in spite of the existence of considerable tension the personality can be quite stable as long as an equilibrium of forces is maintained. Stability is also produced by the resolution of conflicts between opposing instinctual forces or their derivatives." Broch (Pathwork “Guide”) – "Physical health and well-being is totally regulated by and dependent on the state of pleasure a human body is capable of allowing. Health and longevity are the results of the capacity for pleasure. Conversely, to the degree you deny yourself pleasure – due to shames, fears, misconceptions, negativity – to that degree you cut off your body from the wellspring of the universal flow. Any kind of physical illness or deterioration, therefore, also physical death, as it were, is a manifestation of division, conflict and denial of pleasure." Candice Pert ("Molecules of Emotion") – "Health is not just a matter of thinking happy thoughts. Sometimes the biggest impetus to healing can come from jump-starting the immune system with a burst of long-suppressed anger. How and where it’s expressed is up to you – in a room by yourself, in a group therapy situation which can facilitate the expression of long-buried feelings, or in a spontaneous exchange with a family member or friend. The key is to express it and then let it go, so that it doesn’t fester, or build or escalate out of control. Emotions are what unite the mind and the body. Anger, fear and sadness, the so-called negative emotions, are as healthy as peace, courage and joy. All honest emotions are healthy emotions. To repress these emotions and not let them flow freely is to set up a dis-integrity in the system, causing it to act at cross-purposes rather than as a unified whole. The stress this creates, which takes the form of blockages and insufficient flow of peptide signals to maintain function at the cellular level, is what sets up the weakened conditions that can lead to a disease." John Pierrakos – "In the totally healthy organism, energy flowing into and out of the person could move freely as circumstances permit, in something of the way that a rose gives off perfume and takes in sunlight through its petals. Integration and creativity require freedom of movement from the innermost reaches of the unconscious to the outermost perimeters of consciousness. The uniqueness of each person comes from the form of his or her individuation from the universal life principle. The person’s fundamental identity, therefore, is shaped by the purposeful movement of the energy of the core. Illness is a process, or rather an interruption of the life process, that penetrates the entire person because the flow of living energy in the organism is integral to the organism. Armoring anywhere affects the entire organism. Vital force cannot stop moving; thus, when it meets a barrier, it must circumvent this or back up in the opposite direction." Jane Roberts (“Seth”) – “Your health is an extension of your creativity. Your body is an artistic creation, formed and constantly maintained at unconscious levels, but quite in line with your beliefs about what and who you are. The miraculous constant translation of spirit into flesh is carried on with inexhaustible energy by the inner portions of being, but in all cases the inner self looks to the conscious mind for its assessment of the body’s condition and reality, and forms the image in line with the conscious mind’s beliefs. So - once more - you form reality through your beliefs, and your most intimate production is your physical body. You organize on an unconscious level the atoms and molecules that compose your cells to form your body. But the blueprint is made by your conscious beliefs. You constantly give yourself suggestions about your body, your health or ill health. (For example, many individuals are given glasses to correct an eye difficulty at an early age. When you believe that only glasses will correct poor vision, then only glasses will. Left alone, in many cases, the eyes would correct themselves. The glasses can impede any such self-correction by providing a crutch that further weakens eye muscles. Instead, you must discover the reason for the belief behind the physical non-function, and if this is done the condition will automatically clear up. Now, for most people it is easier to get glasses!) You think about your body often. You send a barrage of beliefs and instructions to the inner self that affect your physical image. To change your body, you change your beliefs, even in the face of physical data or evidence that conflicts. Now thoughts in general possess an electromagnetic reality, but whether you know it or not, they also have an inner sound value, the sound of your thoughts within your own head. Inner sounds have an even greater effect than exterior ones upon your body. They affect the atoms and molecules that compose your cells. In many respects it is true to say that you speak to your body, but the speaking is interior. The sound is formed by your intent. Suggestions, repeated often enough and believed in fervently, take on a deeply habitual nature. They are no longer examined, but taken for literal truth. They are then handed over to the more automatic levels of personality, where they may trigger specific actions. These suggestions may be remarkably long-standing, and consist of beliefs received in childhood. You were not given a certain amount of “life force” at birth that you use up as you go along, contrary to many schools of thought. The atoms and molecules within you are quite literally dying and being completely replaced all the time. You are being created physically in each instant. A sick body is performing that function then, in its way, as well as healthy one. [The body] is a mirror of [your] beliefs, and will accurately materialize in flesh those ideas held by the conscious mind. That is one of the body’s primary functions. It is your most intimate feedback system, giving you in flesh the physical counterpart of your thought. So it is futile to become angry at a symptom, or to deride the body for its condition when it is presenting you with the corporeal replica of your own thought, as it was meant to do. It is just as useless to berate your environment or your experience in it as it is to deride your body, for the same reasons. Your ideas of good and evil as applied to health and illness are highly important, for instance. If you are bound and determined that “GOD” creates only “good”, then any physical deficiency, illness or deformity becomes an affront to your belief, threatens it, and makes you angry and resentful. If you become ill you can hate yourself for not being what you think you should be - a perfect physical image made in the likeness of a perfect God. If on the other hand you carry the idea too far that illness can also be a learning process, then you can fall into the other extreme, glorifying sickness or disease as a necessary ennobling experience in which the body is purged so that the soul can be saved. Following such a belief, you will confuse suffering with saintliness, desolation with purity. Under such conditions you can even seek out illness to prove to yourself the strength of your own spirituality - and to impress it upon others. There are people who firmly believe that the pursuit of pleasure will lead to pain, and others whose beliefs cause them to feel very uncomfortable when they are in states of health. For these individuals, poor health brings a sense of security and safety. Some individuals become anxious and worried if they think they are too happy, for to them it means that they are not paying sufficiently for their sins. Quite ordinary people often believe that suffering itself is a way toward personal development and spiritual knowledge. In matters of health, such beliefs can have most unfortunate results. Another attitude detrimental to good health is that of self-condemnation, or dislike of the self. A feeling of self-approval is absolutely necessary for any true sense of well-being. It is not virtuous in any way to put yourself down, or to punish yourself, because you do not feel you have lived up to your best behavior at any given time. All creatures are basically of good intent; even when they commit the most dubious of acts, these are usually caused by misdirected good intent. Worrying about future events, or dwelling upon past unfavorable situations, only confuses the body’s mechanisms because the physical body can only react in the present moment. [Also], while it may seem natural enough to consider disease as a threat, an adversary or an enemy, this is not the case. Many body events that you think of as negative – certain viruses, for example – are instead meant as self-corrective devices, even as fever actually promotes health rather than impedes it. You are not attacked by viruses, nor do you catch a virus, for all kinds of viruses exist normally in the body. There are no killer viruses, but certain feelings and beliefs can promote an exaggeration of viral activity beyond their usual bounds. There is no such thing, basically, as a disease. There are instead only processes. So-called states of health and disease are changing constantly, and in vaster terms, disease in itself is a kind of health. Diseases can be eliminated, even those that seem fatal – but only if the beliefs behind them are erased or altered enough so that their specific focusing effect upon the body is sufficiently released. If you shed the distorted concepts of unnatural guilt and accepted the wise ancient wisdom of natural guilt instead. You would understand the living integrity of each organ in your body and have no need to attack any of them. This obviously does not mean that the time of the body’s death would not come. It does mean that the seasons of the body would be understood as following those of the mind, ever-changing and flowing, with conditions coming and going but always maintaining the splendid unity within the body’s form. You would not have chronic illnesses. Generally speaking, and ideally, the body would wear out gradually while still showing far greater endurance than it does now. For adults, ideas of health and illness are intimately connected with philosophical, religious and social beliefs, and even more entangled with science’s views of life in general. Children, however, are far more innocent, and though they respond to the ideas of their parents, still their minds are open and filled with curiosity, and they still possess a feeling of oneness with the universe, and with all of life, even as they begin to separate themselves at certain levels from life’s wholeness. Seeing themselves as separate and apart from other individuals, they still retain an inner comprehension and a memory of having once experienced a oneness with life as a whole. At that level, even illness is regarded as simply a part of life’s experience, however unpleasant it may be. Children pick up their first ideas about health and disease from parents and doctors, and by the reactions of those people to their own discomfort. Children may be quite conscious of the fact that they will themselves to become ill (i.e. - in order to avoid school or a family event). They soon learn that such self-knowledge is not acceptable, however, so they begin to pretend ignorance, quickly learning to tell themselves instead that they have a bug or a virus, or have caught a cold, seemingly for no reason at all. Parents who are aware of this fact can start helping their children at an early age by asking them simply the reasons for their illness. Again, the reasons for such behavior are often quite clear in the child’s mind."

Monday, May 11, 2009

Rumsfeld’s Tamiflu ...kills people

Media Censoring Lethal Side Effects Of Flu Remedies ... Rumsfeld’s Tamiflu is worse than worthless. It kills people. Japan has banned it. Even the FDA—after review of nearly 600 cases of neuropsychiatric events reported by patients on Tamiflu and 115 cases of neuropsychiatric events by patients taking Relenza—has warned that Tamiflu’s label be strengthened to note: “In some cases, these behaviors resulted in serious injuries, including death, in adult and pediatric patients.” The FDA staff said Relenza, a drug in the same class as Tamiflu, should have a warning label of “reports of hallucinations, delirium and abnormal behavior” observed in some patients taking the drug. Informed Americans would have to be suffering from “hallucinations, delirium” to trust Big Pharma and corrupt, greedy politicians.

Pentagon Requests Record $50 Billion Black Budget


The publication Aviation Week reports the Pentagon is requesting a record $50 billion for its secret black budget. This marks a three percent increase over last year’s total. The Pentagon budget for secret operations is now larger than the entire military budget of Britain, France or Japan.

Motherlover, SNL

From: The Open Piehole

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Karzai's brother threatened McClatchy writer reporting Afghan drug story

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan The ride to Kandahar airport was tense. The Afghan president's brother had just yelled a litany of obscenities and said he was about to beat me.

Ahmed Wali Karzai is feared by many in southern Afghanistan, and being threatened by him, in his home, isn't something to be taken lightly.

In a place like Kandahar, I try to take precautions — letting my beard grow and wearing the traditional Afghan outfit of baggy pants and a long tunic — but at the end of the day, there's no protection when the most powerful official in the region orders you to leave.

So after a quick consultation with locals, I decided to do just that.

I was in my third week of tracking down former Afghan officials and asking them about drugs and corruption. Several had mentioned Karzai, President Hamid Karzai's brother and the head of Kandahar's provincial council.

After talking with poppy farmers, a drug dealer and former officials in Kandahar, it was time to see Ahmed Wali Karzai.

Sitting in his home, Karzai said up front that he had nothing to do with drugs. The political enemies of his brother, the president, were spreading rumors: "I am just the victim of their politics, that's all," he said.

I flipped from one page to the next of my notebook, and started with specifics.

Dad Mohammed Khan, a former national intelligence directorate chief of Helmand province, told me that Karzai had sent an intermediary to force him to release a Taliban commander who'd been arrested in a major drug-trafficking area. Khan was killed by a roadside bomb after our interview.

"He died, so I don't know if he told you that," Karzai said, looking unhappy with the question.

He added: "He's dead, so let's leave it there."

I moved on to a second former security official from the region — I had jotted a long list of names — who'd also made allegations about Karzai.

Karzai said that the official "is alive, I can find him and talk to him." He called for one of his men to bring a cell phone.

He began to glare at me and questioned whether I was really a reporter.

"It seems like someone sent you to write these things," he said, scowling.

Karzai glared some more.

"You should leave right now," he said.

I stuck my hand out to shake his; if I learned anything from three years of reporting in Iraq and then trips to Afghanistan during the past couple of years, it's that when things turn bad, you should cling to any remaining shred of hospitality.

Karzai grabbed my hand and used it to give me a bit of a push into the next room. He followed me, and his voice rose until it was a scream of curse words and threats.

I managed to record just one full sentence: "Get the (expletive) out before I kick your (expletive)." ...

Obama Does Stand Up Comedy

From last night’s White House Correspondents’ Dinner. (Also get Wanda Sykes’ standup appearance here. Rather funny.)

These clips come from CSPAN’s YouTube Channel, which is included in our Intelligent YouTube Video Collection

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Venezuela says weapons cache uncovered, 4 foreigners detained in suspected terrorist cell

[Thanks to Kevin @ Free Democracy Blog for the link] CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) Venezuelan police uncovered a cache of weapons and explosives at a Caracas apartment and later detained four foreigners on suspicion of planning terrorist acts, authorities said Saturday. While announcing the detentions, Justice Minister Tareck El Aissami accused foes of President Hugo Chavez of "looking for violence," although he did not link the case to the political opposition. Chavez has repeatedly charged that the opposition is plotting to assassinate him or spur his ouster. El Aissami said a police raid Friday on an apartment near the capital's center found C-4 explosive, electric detonator systems, thousands of cartridges, and 14 rifles of different models, including five with telescopic sights, five with laser sights and one with a silencer. Documents and a computer found there were being studied, he said. "This type of military arsenal is used for military actions and operations, with the precise objective of wiping out adversaries," he said....... posted by See You On The Other Side

Friday, May 08, 2009

Stop the Single Payer Shut-out! - by Ralph Nader

Among the giant taboos afflicting Congress these days is the proposal to create a single payer health insurance system (often called full Medicare for everyone).

How can this be? Don’t the elected politicians represent the people? Don’t they always have their finger to the wind?

Well, single payer is only supported by a majority of the American people, physicians and nurses. They like the idea of public funding and private delivery. They like the free choice of doctors and hospitals that many are now denied by the HMOs.

There are also great administrative efficiencies when single player displaces the health insurance industry with its claims-denying, benefit-restricting, bureaucratically-heavy profiteering. According to leading researchers in this area, Dr. David Himmelstein and Dr. Stephanie Woolhandler, single payer will save $350 billion annually.

Yet, on Capitol Hill and at the White House there are no meetings, briefings, hearings, and consultations about kinds of health care reforms that reform the basic price inflation, indifference to prevention, and discrimination of health insurers.

There is no place at the table for single payer advocates in the view of the Congressional leaders who set the agenda and muzzle dissenters.

Last month at a breakfast meeting with reporters, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) responded to a question about health care with these revealing and exasperating words: “Over and over again, we hear single payer, single payer, single payer. Well, it’s not going to be a single payer.”

Thus spake Speaker Pelosi, the Representative from Aetna? Never mind that 75 members of her party have signed onto H.R. 676—the Conyers single payer legislation. Never mind that in her San Francisco district, probably three out of four people want single payer. And never mind that over 20,000 people die every year, according to the Institute of Medicine, because they cannot afford health insurance.

What is more remarkable is that many more than the 75 members of the House privately believe single payer is the best option. Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Ted Kennedy, and Nancy Pelosi are among them. But they all say, single payer “is not practical” so it’s off the table.

What gives here? The Democrats have the procedures to pass any kind of health reform this year, including single payer. President Obama could sign it into law.

But “it’s not practical” because these politicians fear the insurance and pharmaceutical industries—and seek their campaign contributions—more than they fear the American people. It comes down to the corporations, who have no votes, are organized to the teeth and the people are not.

So, when Senator Baucus, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee and a large recipient of health insurance and drug company donations, held a public roundtable discussion on May 5, fifteen witnesses were preparing to deliver their statements. Not one of them was championing single payer.

As Senator Baucus started his introductory remarks, something happened. One by one, eight people in the audience, most of them physicians and lawyers, stood up to politely but insistently protest the absence of a single payer presentation.

One by one, the police came, took them out of the hearing room, arrested and handcuffed them. The charge was “disruption of Congress”—a misdemeanor.

They call themselves the “Baucus Eight”. Immediately, over the internet and on C-Span, public radio, and the Associated Press, the news spread around the country.

You can see the video on

To the many groups and individuals who have labored for single payer for decades, the Baucus Eight’s protest seemed like an epiphany.

Dr. Quentin Young, a veteran leader for single payer and a founder of Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP) e-mailed his reaction: “For our part, when the history of this period is written, we believe your action may well be noted as the turning point from a painful, defensive position to a more appropriate offensive position vis-à-vis Senator Baucus and his health industry co-conspirators.”

Webster’s dictionary defines “taboo” as “a prohibition against touching, saying, or doing something for fear of a mysterious superhuman force.” For both Democrats and Republicans in Congress it is a fear of a very omnipresent supercorporate force.

However, moral and evidential courage is coming. On May 12, 2009, Senator Baucus is having another roundtable discussion with thirteen more witnesses, including those from the business lobbies and their consultants. Word has it that the Senator is about to invite a leading single payer advocate to sit at the table.

Here come the people! Join this historic drive to have our country join the community of western, and some third-world, nations by adopting a state of the art single payer system.

Visit and break the taboo in your region.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Just What the Herbalist Ordered by Mickey Z.

In 21st century America, the health care industry is dominated by pharmaceuticals. According to a 2003 report called “Death by Medicine,” by Drs. Gary Null, Carolyn Dean, Martin Feldman, Debora Rasio, and Dorothy Smith, 783,936 people in the United States die every year from conventional medicine mistakes. Of those deaths, roughly 106,000 were from prescription drugs although—due to underreported cases of adverse drug reactions—that number may actually be as high as 200,000. According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, more than half of all Americans take at least one prescription drug while one in six takes three or more. As reported by, an analysis of 168,900 autopsies conducted in Florida in 2007 found that three times as many people were killed by legal drugs than by cocaine, heroin and methamphetamines combined. To make things a little more dramatic: Statistically speaking, prescription drugs are 16,400% more deadly than terrorists. And that’s not counting the pharmaceuticals that find their way into our drinking water. A 2008 investigation discovered prescription drugs in the water supplies of 24 major metropolitan areas—supplies that provide water to 41 million people. In Philadelphia, for example, 56 pharmaceuticals or byproducts were discovered in treated drinking water. These included medicines for pain, infection, high cholesterol, asthma, epilepsy, mental illness and heart problems.
Does acupuncture still sound crazy to you?
It should come as no surprise that (so-called) alternative medicine has hit the mainstream and is now a $50-billion health care industry in the US. A recent survey found that 14 of the 18 major HMOs and insurance providers cover at least 11 of 34 alternative therapies and 74% of Americans have chosen this approach at least once. The methods commonly deemed “New Age” are more typically ancient modalities that have stood the test of time. The “alternatives,” it seems, have been hiding in plain sight all along—homeopathy, massage, hypnosis, Tai Chi, Ayurvedic medicine, herbs, meditation, etc. To follow is a brief description of how five non-Western disciplines treat individuals, not conditions.
Yoga Long before Madonna and Sting contorted themselves into a pigeon pose, yoga was the exercise of choice for those in the know. How long? Would you believe more than 5,000 years? The website says, “Earliest archaeological evidence of Yoga’s existence could be found in stone seals which depict figures of Yoga Poses. The stone seals place Yoga’s existence around 3000 B.C.” Yoga can offer improvement in areas like strength, posture, breathing, stress relief, concentration and more. According to the decidedly mainstream WebMD: “Yoga stretches not only your muscles but all of the soft tissues of your body. That includes ligaments, tendons, and the fascia sheath that surrounds your muscles. And no matter your level of yoga, you most likely will see benefits in a very short period of time. In one study, participants had up to 35% improvement in flexibility after only eight weeks of yoga.”
Naturopathy This practice dates back to at least 19th century Germany, if not earlier, and today’s naturopathic physicians (NDs) are trained at accredited medical colleges to follow a system of medicine that assists in the restoration of health by following a set of specific rules. The American Association of Naturopathic Physicians explains the basic assumption “that nature is orderly, and this orderliness is designed to result in ongoing life and well being.” They further detail that this orderliness is “guided by a kind of inner wisdom that everyone has. This inner wisdom can be assisted to return a person to their best balance by naturopathic treatments.” Of the Americans who have visited an ND, 62% did so because they believed naturopathy combined with conventional medicine would help while 53% did so because they felt conventional medical treatments would not help. More information can be found at
Acupuncture It’s said that the practice of acupuncture can be traced as far back as Stone Age China when sharpened stones were used as hair-thin needles are today. These needles are placed in various pressure points (called acupoints) throughout the body. “Stimulating these points is believed to promote the body’s natural healing capabilities and enhance its function,” writes Stephanie Watson at Watson adds that according to Chinese philosophy, “the body contains two opposing forces: yin and yang. When these forces are in balance, the body is healthy.” In the Western view, acupuncture likely works “by stimulating the central nervous system (the brain and spinal cord) to release chemicals called neurotransmitters and hormones. These chemicals dull pain, boost the immune system and regulate various body functions.”
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) Dating back some 2,000 to 3,000 years, TCM includes some of the treatments mentioned above—herbal medicine, acupuncture, dietary therapy and Shiatsu massage. The approach has been described as such: “Evaluation of a syndrome not only includes the cause, mechanism, location, and nature of the disease, but also the confrontation between the pathogenic factor and body resistance. Treatment is not based only on the symptoms, but differentiation of syndromes. Therefore, those with an identical disease may be treated in different ways, and on the other hand, different diseases may result in the same syndrome and are treated in similar ways.” TCM examination may involve (among many other things) close observation of the patient, e.g. tongue, voice, hair, face, posture, gait, eyes, ears, and various odors. As a TCM patient, you expect palpation for tenderness or comparison of relative warmth or coolness of different parts of the body and detailed questions about family, living environment, personal habits, food diet, emotions, menstrual cycle for women, child bearing history, sleep, exercise and anything that may give insight into any potential balances or imbalances in your life.
Aromatherapy Close your eyes and imagine catching a whiff of something agreeable—coffee brewing, a fragrant flower or perhaps a delectable spice. Recall the pleasure this scent created and you have essentially begun to understand aromatherapy, which is used to treat a wide range of physical and emotional problems. This basic foundation of aromatherapy dates back thousands of years but the word itself comes courtesy of French chemist René-Maurice Gattefossé. While working at a perfume factory, Gattefossé burned his arm rather badly. The folks at explain what happened next: “By reflex, he plunged his burned arm into the closest liquid which happened to be a large container of lavender essential oil. The burn he suffered healed quickly and left no scar. Gattefossé is credited with coining the term aromatherapy in 1928 within an article where he supports the use of using essential oils in their whole without breaking them down into their primary constituents.” Common aromatherapy oils include patchouli, lavender, tea tree oil, lemon, rose and sandalwood.
Kurt Vonnegut famously said, “The late twentieth century will go down in history, I’m sure, as an era of pharmaceutical buffoonery.” It remains to be seen how we can re-imagine health and medicine in this century. With any medical practice, it’s best to explore such options with caution and curiosity. Often a method is only helpful in the hands of skilled and compassionate practitioner. Whether you choose Pilates or Prozac, do your homework and take responsibility for your own health. Remember: No one knows your mind and body better than you do.

Justice Dept. drops case against war resister Watada

By Stephen C. Webster Published: May 6, 2009 Updated 1 day ago The Department of Justice has dropped its case against 1st Lt. Ehren Watada, a war resister who refused Iraq deployment in June 2006 and denounced President George W. Bush’s decision to invade as illegal and immoral. In Feb. 2007, military judge Lieutenant Colonel John Head halted Watada’s case following possible inconsistencies concerning a “stipulation of fact” agreed before the hearing. The decision led to a mistrial, ending Watada’s court martial. The Army appealed, but a judge said Watada could not be tried again on the same charges, as it would violate his right to be free of double jeopardy. The Justice Department is dropping its appeal of that judge’s decision. “Because there are no longer any criminal charges pending against Lt. Watada, and because (his) military service has been extended far beyond his normal release date, he anticipates that he will soon be released from active duty,” Watada’s attorney, James Lobsenz, said in a media advisory published Wednesday. “He plans to return to civilian life and to attend law school.” “Settle set aside two specifications of the same charge — conduct unbecoming an officer — which stemmed from public statements Watada made against the war and President Bush,” reported Vanessah Ho for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. “Settle left the door open for the United States to pursue those charges later. Fort Lewis spokesman Joseph Piek said he did not know if the Department of Justice intended to refile those charges.” One of the charges was filed for statements Watada made during the 2006 convention of Veterans for Peace, held in Seattle. “I could never conceive of our leader betraying the trust we had in him. As I read about the level of deception the Bush administration used to initiate and process this war, I was shocked. I became ashamed of wearing the uniform. If the president can betray my trust, it’s time for me to evaluate what he’s telling me to do,” Watada said, according to the court martial charge sheet. “In the 2004 fiscal year, the Army court-martialed 176 deserters, just 7 percent of the total who fled for civilian life. Courts-martial, or military trials, must be held for prison sentences to be handed out,” reported Nina Shapiro in Seattle Weekly. “When they are, the standard ranges from three to five months, according to Bill Galvin, who has counseled hundreds of AWOL soldiers in his work for the Center on Conscience and War in Washington, D.C. “‘The Army doesn’t have enough jail cells to accommodate all the people who go AWOL,’ says James M. Branum, an Oklahoma lawyer nationally known for his work with deserters. Nearly 7,000 soldiers deserted in fiscal year 2007, according to figures from each branch of the military. (The military counts soldiers as deserters once they’ve been AWOL for more than 30 days.) “While some branches, most notably the Navy, have seen the number of deserters drop since the beginning of the Iraq War, the total number has risen, largely in the Army, where roughly 4,700 people deserted in the last fiscal year—an 80 percent jump since the beginning of the war—amounting to just under one percent of the Army’s total manpower.” Watada was the first high-profile resister of the Iraq war. With AFP.

Eating Misery: Contamination and Cruelty are Linked in Chickens Raised for Food

Posted by thomaspainescorner on May 7, 2009


[Protest Oprah's Giving Away KFC Chicken Meals

Oprah made this offer to her millions of viewers on yesterday's show (May 5). She said she was helping everyone during this recession by collaborating with Kentucky Fried Chicken in offering a free meal to all who download the coupon from her website.

Please contact Oprah at and tell her what you think.]

Essay by Karen Davis, PhD


Chickens raised for food are treated horribly and they are very unhealthy. They are crammed by the thousands into filthy, dark buildings loaded with bacteria, bird flu viruses, toxic funguses, and poisonous gases that burn their eyes, their skin and their lungs. With no sunshine, fresh air, or normal activities, chickens develop painful skeletal deformities, soft watery muscles, pus-filled lungs, and heart disease. Their immune systems cannot cope with the toxic load. Some people argue that when we eat the flesh and eggs of creatures who are treated so badly, we assimilate something of their experience and carry it forward into our own lives. The possibility that a chicken’s suffering could somehow persist, invisibly, in the body tissues and “juices” is frightful. But is it fanciful?

Once bacteria and other microbes were just a “theory.” We could not see them, yet they existed. Historically, the United States government did not mandate inspection for disease microbes in animals slaughtered for food. However, poultry product contamination is not just the result of an inadequate inspection system. Disease organisms are ubiquitous in poultry-producing facilities throughout the world, and poultry is the most common cause of food poisoning in the home.

In 2005, the Food and Drug Administration ordered the poultry industry to stop using the antibiotic Baytril, because its use was preventing its human-label counterpart, Cipro, from treating people with Campylobacter infections resulting, very frequently, from contaminated chicken and turkey products. The poultry industry counters that limiting antibiotics in birds raised for food actually increases Salmonella and Campylobacter contamination, adding to the human health risk.

Campylobacteriosis - which causes severe abdominal cramps, nausea and diarrhea and can cause a paralytic disease in people with fatal nerve damage known as Guillain-Barre syndrome - has increased dramatically in the past 25 years. Retail chicken products and packaging have been found “literally dripping with campylobacter.”

In 2007, Consumer Reports announced that tests on chickens purchased from U.S. supermarkets and specialty stores in twenty-three states showed 84 percent of chickens contaminated with Campylobacter and Salmonella bacteria - a substantial increase over 2003 tests showing 49 percent of chickens infected.

In addition, 84 percent of the Salmonella and 67 percent of the Campylobacter bacteria showed resistance to antibiotics. Bacteria samples from contaminated chickens tested for sensitivity to antibiotics showed evidence of resistance “not just to individual drugs but to multiple classes of drugs.” People sickened by poultry products might therefore “need to try several antibiotics before finding one that works,” Consumer Reports observed.

Foodborne bacteria such as Salmonella and Campylobacter don’t necessarily just “go away.” They can migrate from people’s intestines to other body parts - blood, bones, nerves, organs, and joints - to cause seemingly unrelated diseases that emerge later in life, such as arthritis.

Plans are not underway to reduce the crowding, filth and stress that sicken birds and humans alike. Chickens have been and will continue to be rendered genetically infirm in order to meet mass-marketing demands. Chicken houses are larger and more densely crowded than ever, and they cannot be made clean. Every part of the house as well as the bird’s own body is a haven and breeding ground for disease organisms.

Now as in the 1990s, only superficial solutions are promoted - food irradiation, chlorine - the most commonly used carcass and equipment disinfectant in the poultry industry - and other fake fixes. Government-industry assurances notwithstanding, consumers of poultry products risk significant health problems from handling and eating products derived from sick, overwhelmingly stressed birds. Nor are infectious diseases the only illnesses to worry about. Bladder, respiratory, and skin cancers have been linked to growth-promoting arsenic compounds in chicken feed. The solution, in the opinion of many people including myself, is to enjoy wholesome and compassionate all-vegetarian (vegan) foods.

Karen Davis, PhD, is the director and founder of United Poultry Concerns, a nonprofit organization that promotes the compassionate and respectful treatment of domestic fowl. Karen is the author of several books including, most recently, Prisoned Chickens, Poisoned Eggs: An Inside Look at the Modern Poultry Industry (Book Publishing Company, 1996; Newly Revised Edition, 2009). All of the information in this article can be found fully documented in this book. This article was written for a forthcoming issue of Total Health Magazine (

United Poultry Concerns is a nonprofit organization that promotes the compassionate and respectful treatment of domestic fowl. Don’t just switch from beef to chicken. Go Vegan.

Thomas Paine’s Corner wants to periodically email you links to the most recent material and timeless classics available on our diverse and comprehensive site. If you would like to receive them, type “TPC subscription” in the subject line and send your email to

For the latest updates on the animal liberation movement, visit NAALPO at

If you have a Facebook account, don’t forget to look up Thomas Paine’s Corner’s Facebook page via the “search” feature and become a fan.

And if you have a MySpace account, don’t forget to friend Thomas Paine’s Corner at

The Essential Nader

The Essential Nader “There can be no daily democracy without daily citizenship.” – Ralph Nader Ralph Nader is one of America's most effective social critics. Named by The Atlantic as one of the 100 most influential figures in American history, and by Time and Life magazines as one of the hundred most influential Americans of the twentieth century, his documented criticism of government and industry has had widespread effect on public awareness and bureaucratic power. He is the "U.S.'s toughest customer" says Time magazine. His inspiration and example have galvanized a whole population of consumer advocates, citizen activists, and public interest lawyers who in turn have established their own organizations throughout the country. For over four decades, Nader has exposed problems and organized millions of citizens into more than 100 public interest groups to advocate for solutions. His efforts have helped create a framework of laws, regulatory agencies, and federal standards that have improved the quality of life for two generations of Americans. Because of Ralph Nader we drive safer cars, eat healthier food, breathe better air, drink cleaner water, and work in safer environments. The crusading attorney first made headlines in 1965 with his book Unsafe at Any Speed, a scathing indictment that lambasted the auto industry for producing unsafe vehicles. The book led to congressional hearings and a series of automobile safety laws passed in 1966, including the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act. Legislation Since 1966, Nader has been responsible for at least eight major federal consumer protection laws such as the motor vehicle safety laws, the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Meat and Poultry Inspection Rules, the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, and the Freedom of Information Act. He was instrumental in the creation of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Consumer Product Safety Commission, and the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration. Many lives have been saved by Nader’s involvement in the recall of millions of unsafe consumer products, including defective motor vehicles; in the protection of laborers and the environment; and, in creating an atmosphere of corporate and governmental accountability. Groups Nader's original research organization is the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Study of Responsive Law. Since 1969, the Center has produced innumerable reports on wide-ranging subjects such as the Interstate Commerce Commission, auto and food safety, water pollution and drinking water contamination, occupational hazards, veterans problems, pensions, corporate welfare, and government procurement. Other Nader inspired groups include the Aviation Consumer Action Project, Center for Auto Safety, Clean Water Action Project, Disability Rights Center, Pension Rights Center, Freedom of Information Clearinghouse, and the Congressional Accountability Project. Nader also helped establish the PIRGs-- Public Interest Research Groups-- the student-funded and controlled organizations which function on college campuses in 23 states. Their impact alone has been tremendous. The groups have published hundreds of ground-breaking reports and guides, lobbied for laws in their state legislatures, and called the media's attention to environmental and energy problems. The largest of the Nader organizations is Public Citizen, founded in 1971. The groups under the Public Citizen umbrella include Congress Watch, Health Research Group, Critical Mass Energy Project, Global Trade Watch, and the Litigation Group. Public Citizen's nationwide membership has grown to over 100,000. Political Action It is hard to keep up with Nader. He has built an effective national network of citizen groups that have had a major impact in areas ranging from tax reform to nuclear energy to health and safety programs. The ultimate goal of this movement is to give all citizens more rights and remedies for resolving their grievances and for achieving a better society. As The New York Times said, "What sets Nader apart is that he has moved beyond social criticism to effective political action." Nader's overriding concern and vision is presently focused on empowering citizens to create a responsive government sensitive to citizens' needs. The top of Nader's agenda has been defending the U.S. civil justice system. Corporate lobbyists and certain legislators have worked on both the federal and state levels to restrain consumers' rights to seek justice in court against wrongdoers in the area of product liability, securities fraud, and medical negligence. Nader co-authored a book on corporate lawyers and the perils of the legal system entitled No Contest. The current financial crisis is also a large concern of Nader's; the deregulation of the banking industry in the early 1980s through the late 1990s led to speculative real estate deals and casino capitalism. Taxpayers are now being forced to pick up the tab for the bailout of the Wall Street speculators. This is one of many examples of corporate subsides taxpayers finance through a system Nader calls "corporate welfare." Nader is also an advocate of insurance reform, including loss-prevention activity and insurance consumer education. He co-authored the book Winning the Insurance Game, and has been working with consumer activists in Massachusetts and California on improving the cost and coverage of automobile and health insurance in those states. Today, Nader writes and lectures on the growing "imperialism" of multinational corporations and of a dangerous convergence of corporate and government power. With the passage of autocratic trade treaties like the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), this merger of corporate and government interests is escalating. Since the 1970s, Nader has advocated for the total abolition of nuclear and fossil fuel energy in favor of solar, tidal, wind, and geothermal sources because of environmental, labor, national security, disaster preparedness, foreign policy, and government accountability concerns. A magazine founded by Nader in 1980, the Multinational Monitor, tracks the global intrusion of multinational corporations and their impact on developing nations, labor, and the environment. Nader is undaunted by the de-regulatory setbacks posed over the last three decades by four successive administrations from both parties. As such, Nader has been building the foundation of a third political party and a robust progressive political movement since participating in the Green Party’s first presidential campaign in 1996 to challenge the duopoly of the Republican and Democratic parties; or, as Nader calls them, “tweedle-dee and tweedle-dum”. Nader’s political motivation is best demonstrated by his recognition that "You've got to keep the pressure on, even if you lose. The essence of the citizen's movement is persistence." The Nader Legacy Nader certainly has remarkable tenacity, as well as an unshakable commitment to his mission. When asked to define himself, he always responds, "Full-time citizen, the most important office in America for anyone to achieve." Nader's impact on the American political spectrum is enduring. As former U.S. Senator James Abourezk observed, "For the first time in U.S. history, a movement exists whose sole purpose is to keep large corporations and the government honest."

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Professors and attorneys urge Judge Naves to reinstate Ward Churchill

Reinstate Ward Churchill
Written by WCSN
Saturday, 18 April 2009 17:57
April 2009
Chief Judge Larry Naves
Denver District Court
1437 Bannock St.
Denver, CO 80202
cc: David Lane, Esq
Re: Churchill v. University of Colorado
Dear Judge Naves:
We, the undersigned professors and attorneys, urge you to grant Professor Ward Churchill’s motion for reinstatement at the University of Colorado.
On April 2, 2009 the jury in this case found that Ward Churchill’s exercise of freedom of speech was a substantial or motivating factor in his dismissal. Furthermore, the jury found that had it not been for Professor Churchill’s controversial essay, which is clearly protected by the First Amendment, the Regents of the University of Colorado (CU) would not have fired him for research misconduct.
Under these circumstances, allowing the University to preclude Professor Churchill’s return to campus would send the message that the First Amendment and academic tenure can be abridged at will by public employers.
Reinstatement is the usual, or “preferred,” remedy in cases such as this. As federal courts of appeal have noted,
When a person loses his job, it is at best disingenuous to say that money damages can suffice to make that person whole.... We also note that reinstatement is an effective deterrent in preventing employer retaliation against employees who exercise their constitutional rights. If an employer's best efforts to remove an employee for unconstitutional reasons are presumptively unlikely to succeed, there is, of course, less incentive to use employment decisions to chill the exercise of constitutional rights.
Squires v. Bonser, 54 F.3d 168, 173 (3rd Cir. 1995), quoting Allen v. Autauga County Board of Education, 685 F.2d 1302, 1306 (11th Cir. 1982), and also citing Banks v. Burkich, 788 F.2d 1161, 1164 (6th Cir.1986) (“The prospect of money damages will not be sufficient for many employees to overcome the otherwise chilling effect that accompanies the threat of termination.”).
In this case, the American Association of University Professors (AAUP)’s national council has passed a resolution which states, “We believe the disputes over Ward Churchill’s publications should have been allowed to work themselves out in traditional scholarly venues, not referred to disciplinary hearings. We believe Churchill should be reinstated to his faculty position at the University of Colorado.”
In opposing reinstatement, University of Colorado officials continue to rely upon the conclusions of their investigative committee, whose report has been discredited not only by the evidence introduced at trial and the jury’s findings, but by numerous charges of research misconduct against its authors.
The University also claims that returning Professor Churchill to his job will cause excessive disruption on campus, a prediction that seems more smokescreen than actuality. Professors work relatively independently and students are free to take or refuse to take particular classes. In his nearly 30 years of service to CU, Professor Churchill received numerous awards for both teaching and service to the University. He continued to teach during the height of the controversy in 2005 and, at the students’ request, taught a successful voluntary class in 2007-2008.
Speculative allegations of disruption should not be a means by which the University can continue to retaliate against Professor Churchill for his protected speech. Invoking similar claims in February 2005, CU administrators attempted to cancel a speech by Professor Churchill, yet the event took place without incident. To the extent that any disruptions are anticipated, it is the University’s responsibility to minimize those disruptions and ensure a smooth transition back to the workplace for Professor Churchill.
In sum, we believe that the chilling effect of the actions of the University of Colorado can only be effectively deterred by granting reinstatement to Professor Churchill, and hope that you will reinforce the importance of the First Amendment in academia by so ordering.
[institutional affiliations listed only for identification purposes]

Against Prosecution (I): A Vicious Fury -- with Nukes

[Thanks to dada for the link] April 26 In the Introduction to "Lies in the Service of Evil," I wrote:
I have discussed the subject of torture at great length, and descriptions of the individual entries in my series, On Torture, will be found at the conclusion of this post. Very often, I dealt with what properly should be an extraordinarily disturbing topic in dispassionate, calm tones. But, and I must emphasize this point once more, that is a large part of the problem: we must never forget what torture actually is. An enormous amount of research and study definitively establishes that all the supposed rationalizations for torture are simply that: not one of them stands up to rigorous scrutiny. All of them have been disproven time and again. (See my full series for further details.) With regard to the primary justification, we know that torture does not lead to useful or accurate intelligence, and that other, humane methods of interrogation are infinitely more reliable. If one's goal, in fact, is the acquisition of information that will lead to the saving of innocent lives, torture is without question not the way to obtain it. That fact alone leads to only one conclusion: the motives that in fact lead people to endorse even the very "limited" use of torture are not ones they care to identify or have known. In some form, they are aware of the deformity of their own souls, and they endlessly seek to hide it from themselves -- and from others. Given these basic facts, I stand by the description of torture I have provided before:
Torture is the deliberate infliction of unbearable agony on a human being -- a human being who is intentionally kept alive precisely so that he will suffer still more and for a longer period of time -- for no justifiable reason. This is the embrace of sadism and cruelty for their own sake, and for no other end whatsoever.
It is immensely difficult to keep the full scope of the monstrousness, inhumanity and evil represented by torture in mind. Yet we must struggle to do precisely this, and we must do so all the time when discussing this subject. It is not acceptable, it is not civilized, and it is not decent to analyze whether and in what fashion one should inflict agonizing pain on another human being for its own sake in the manner of desiccated bureaucrats, utterly devoid of feeling and compassion.
Toward the conclusion of the same essay, after a lengthy analysis of the lies, distortions and fallacies attendant upon the utterly invalid "ticking bomb" scenario, and following discussion of numerous other issues related to the immense evil of torture, I said this:
The crucial point is Foucault's. Let me rephrase it as follows, in connection with torture specifically. Torture does not work. Its use permanently damages all those who are tortured, and those who administer the violence. Its "lawful" use profoundly undermines the broader society and democratic institutions in ways that are irreparable. But its persistent, ineradicable failure is entirely irrelevant for those who seek to consolidate and expand state power. Moreover, its inherent failure underscores their aim: it does not work, everyone knows it does not work, but the state does it because it can. In this view, power is all, and power is its own justification. It is a simple truth, and a terrible one.
In looking over that article from two and a half years ago, I find a few formulations that I now consider somewhat imprecise, together with certain points of focus in my argument that, with the acquisition of further knowledge and understanding, I would slightly alter. But with regard to all the essential and most significant points, I stand by everything I wrote. At present, we are in the midst of a heated debate over whether and to what extent the crimes committed by the Bush administration should be investigated; over what means would be best employed if it is determined that an investigation should proceed, and which particular individuals should ultimately be prosecuted, if any. Considering the above excerpts from my earlier analysis of this subject, my own view on this question might surprise you: Given the prevailing realities of American politics and culture, I am unalterably and unequivocally opposed to investigation and prosecution of these monstrous crimes. I would hope that regular readers of this blog might grasp at least some of the reasons for my position. Yet I recognize that these issues are complex, and that certain of the connections involved are not readily apparent. Therefore, I will present my argument in detail. On a number of points, I will provide links to earlier essays that offer fuller presentations of particular issues. Read in conjunction with the present essay, the earlier articles will offer a more detailed case for my position. But I also understand that many readers do not have the time and/or interest to spend the required time on study of this kind, so I will provide key excerpts from previous articles in what follows. This pattern is similar to the one I employed in "Lies in the Service of Evil," which excerpted the "On Torture" essays, while adding new observations and exploring further connections. Similarly, this new piece will try to add some new pieces to this puzzle, especially as this subject becomes intertwined with the phenomenon of tribalism that I am exploring. (Links to the first four installments of the tribalism series will be found here.) As I contemplate the continuing crackup of the American State and the American imperial project, a disintegration that occurs with a rapidity and comprehensiveness that few would have predicted as recently as a decade ago, it often occurs to me that we are to be spared nothing. On the domestic front, the authoritarian-surveillance state continues to expand its reach, destroying what small vestiges remain of the foundation of liberty identified by Brandeis, "the right to be let alone -- the most comprehensive of rights and the right most valued by civilized men." (In addition to the more recognized forms of the authoritarian-surveillance state, please always keep in mind other programs that escape notice and comment almost entirely. The InfraGard program is a prime example of what I mean; I still see almost no discussion anywhere of that monstrosity.) Simultaneously, the United States descends into unapologetic, full-fledged oligarchy-kleptocracy, as monumental debt piles up higher and higher, ensuring that this and future generations will be reduced to a desperate hope that a lifetime of debt servitude will be the worst fate to befall them. Given the scope of these gathering catastrophes, one might think that those who direct and implement the American imperial project would at least momentarily consider adopting aims somewhat more modest than global hegemony maintained by a worldwide empire of bases. Of course, one would be gravely mistaken. No less an authority on the liberal-progressive mindset than Media Matters informs us, in its typically exhausting tone of outraged moral indignation, that certain conservatives are vicious liars when they accuse the Obama administration of wishing to cut military spending. Oh, no! yelps Media Matters. The Great White Hope -- and the emphasis is on White and don't you forget it, although most people never understood this in the first place, which ignorance constitutes a major part of the diseased heart of Obama's evil genius -- is increasing military spending:
Summary: Sean Hannity falsely asserted that the Obama administration "is taking steps to cut defense spending." In fact, the administration's proposed 2010 budget would increase funding for the Defense Department and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan by billions of dollars.
In the manner of a proud parent boasting of the thoroughly admirable tendencies of its homicidal offspring, as the parent joyously contemplates the countless murders yet to come, Media Matters proclaims:
Rather than cut overall defense spending, the fiscal year 2010 budget recommendations "reshape the priorities of America's defense establishment," in Defense Secretary Robert Gates' words. Gates' recommendations include full funding for the growth of the U.S. military force and a shift in funds to what Gates believes are the "programs that are most needed today and most likely needed in the future." From an April 6 Defense Department press release:
The secretary's recommendations will eliminate some high-cost, under-performing programs, but will "fully protect and properly fund" the growth in the Army and Marine Corps and halt reductions in the Navy and Air Force, Gates said.
Over two years ago, in writing about the alleged necessity for a "bigger military" insisted upon by almost all politicians and commentators at every point in the political spectrum, I observed:
[This] is also one of the clearest proofs of one of my general themes: in terms of fundamentals, there is no difference at all between Republicans and Democrats in the realm of foreign policy. Both parties, our governing elites, and most bloggers all hold the same unchallengeable axiom: that the United States is and should be the unequaled, supreme power in the world, with the capability of directing events across the globe and intervening wherever and whenever we deem it necessary for our "national interests." As [Christopher] Layne notes, all our prominent national voices are united in their conviction that no other state "entertain the 'hope of surpassing, or equaling, the power of the United States.'" Military power on a scale never before seen in world history is the most certain means of ensuring that goal. ... I will be blunt: I submit that, considering these facts and the staggering reach of our global military power, any relatively sane person ought to be aghast that our governing class, together with almost every pundit and blogger, will look at these same facts and say only: "More, please!" But this is the inevitable result for a people who are entirely comfortable with the fact that their nation dominates the world, and of their belief that it does so by right. ... According to this worldview, we are the world's sole superpower, and we should be. We are morally entitled to dictate events around the world, and we are right to have our way. And that is the actual root of almost all the current complaints about the parlous state of Iraq: we have not successfully had our way. This failure, made before the entire world, damages our "credibility," and it lessens our influence. Such an outcome is impermissible for our governing class, and for those who support it. Moral considerations find no place in these calculations. We have power undreamt of in world history -- but our governing elites can never have enough. Our strategy of global dominance causes untold human suffering, it severely (and probably permanently) undermines our economic well-being and causes profound economic dislocation, it increases the threats we face -- and they still can never have enough. After the Iraq catastrophe, one would think that a reassessment of this strategy would be a minimal requirement. But our elites do not agree: we must increase our military budget, and increase the size of our military -- and everyone applauds the further increase of our already immense power. Occasionally, I have referred to the phenomenon of pathology as foreign policy. When one contemplates these facts, it is very hard to conclude that anything other than pathology is involved. Our strategy is indefensible, irrational and immensely destructive, and yet almost no one questions it. But this particular pathology is so inextricably woven into our myths about the United States and about ourselves as Americans, that we believe this is simply "the way things are," and the way things ought to be.
As I have discussed at great length, torture represents an immense evil. Yet the current obsessive focus on torture constitutes only another facet of the same overall pathology. In the manner of a Lady Macbeth compulsively washing her hands, almost all of our ruling class and those who support them believe that if only they can remove this single "damn'd spot," all of their and America's sins will thus be purified. As with Lady Macbeth, this is the route to a final, irrevocable break with reality, and to ultimate destruction. For close to none of our politicians and almost none of our prominent national voices will offer a serious challenge to the view that America is entitled by right to be God on Earth. In the context of this pervasive national denial of the truth of the American State and its explicitly proclaimed goal of worldwide dominance, the preoccupation with torture is another manifestation of the identical denial, just as it profoundly misidentifies the nature of the evil involved and reverses cause and effect. For torture is not some aberrational addition to the American polity; it is not a localized barnacle that can be scraped off an otherwise strong and healthy hull. The truth is precisely the opposite: Torture is an inevitable and necessary part of the American project as envisioned and directed by the ruling class. The American government's systematic use of torture long predated the Bush administration, just as America's foreign policy of endless, aggressive intervention abroad took shape over more than a century, often most zealously directed by Democrats prior to the arrival of the detestable Bush. And more than this, and as we shall shortly see, torture was a foundational element of the American State itself. (On the bipartisan roots and development of America's foreign policy of worldwide hegemony, see my "Dominion Over the World" series, and Parts III and VI, in particular. And progressives might pay special attention to Part VIII, for some "unwelcome history." Links to all the installments will be found at the conclusion of Part IX.) But our ruling class and those who call for anything less than the most radical of reforms refuse to acknowledge any of this. By seeking to localize the evil in only one aspect of the much broader and more fundamental evil involved and within a falsely delimited period of time, the torture obsessives would thus whitewash the American project as a whole. And until our foreign policy of the last hundred years is uprooted entirely, torture will never be eliminated. As I have analyzed in detail (in particular, see "Cui Bono? -- and Bush's Monstrous, Deadly Dare," with special attention to the "dare" part of that discussion), the primary objection to the vile reign of Bush, to the extent such objection made itself known, was not to the substance of his foreign policy or to the nature of his actions. The rejection of Bush arose because Bush and his fellow criminals committed the one unforgivable sin: they stated explicitly, without apology and in an especially crude way what America's goals and methods had been all along. This cannot be allowed; "our" sort of people just don't do this sort of thing, after all. America's genocidal murderers are nothing if not well-mannered. So the selective pursuit and possible prosecution of a few of those who devised, directed and implemented the U.S. torture policies, but only those of recent vintage and not any of those that went before or are yet to come, will conveniently provide the United States with a clean slate upon which to write new chapters of crime. And to those who insist that we must pursue investigations because they may finally allow the entire web of evil to be unraveled, I can only say that such people ought to grow up one of these days. Short of massive, sustained civil unrest, even of the nonviolent kind, the ruling class will not allow it. When in the history of humankind has a ruling class, particularly one which has amassed to itself the kind of power now enjoyed by the American elites, ever fundamentally reformed itself and relinquished a significant part of the power it has obtained through many decades of unrelenting, diligent effort? Only if you answer, "Never," are you correct. We will examine all these issues in more detail. For now, keep in mind the nightmare vision of Lady Macbeth in the last stages before her final destruction. Tragically, we must revise even Shakespeare's powerful imagination. For our Lady Macbeth is not yet a pathetically broken, largely helpless figure, moaning and whimpering as madness consumes her. No, the Lady Macbeth of our time -- a figure who ought to terrify you to the roots of your being -- is very different from that. For America today is broken, but she refuses to acknowledge it. In addition, and this is where the terror takes root, she possesses the most fearsome arsenal of weaponry ever seen in history. This, then, is the waking nightmare that confronts us: America is a hollowed-out hag desperately trying to maintain a fragile, weakening toehold on sanity -- a vicious fury, with nukes. And Part II: Concerning the State, the Law, and Show Trials posted by Arthur Silber

When Same-Sex Marriage Was A Christian Rite

From: Saturday, May 2, 2009 at 9:55PM

Note: This is a reprint of an article that originally ran in the Colfax Record last year. I thought it would be an interesting piece to present after all of the commentary and debate on my blogs last week regarding Miss California, same-sex marriage, and religion.

SS. Sergius & Bacchus - 7th cent.A Kiev art museum contains a curious icon from St. Catherine's Monastery on Mt. Sinai in Israel. It shows two robed Christian saints. Between them is a traditional Roman ‘pronubus’ (a best man), overseeing a wedding. The pronubus is Christ. The married couple are both men.

Is the icon suggesting that a gay "wedding" is being sanctified by Christ himself? The idea seems shocking. But the full answer comes from other early Christian sources about the two men featured in the icon, St. Sergius and St. Bacchus, two Roman soldiers who were Christian martyrs. These two officers in the Roman army incurred the anger of Emperor Maximian when they were exposed as ‘secret Christians’ by refusing to enter a pagan temple. Both were sent to Syria circa 303 CE where Bacchus is thought to have died while being flogged. Sergius survived torture but was later beheaded. Legend says that Bacchus appeared to the dying Sergius as an angel, telling him to be brave because they would soon be reunited in heaven.

While the pairing of saints, particularly in the early Christian church, was not unusual, the association of these two men was regarded as particularly intimate. Severus, the Patriarch of Antioch (AD 512 - 518) explained that, "we should not separate in speech they [Sergius and Bacchus] who were joined in life". This is not a case of simple "adelphopoiia." In the definitive 10th century account of their lives, St. Sergius is openly celebrated as the "sweet companion and lover" of St. Bacchus. Sergius and Bacchus's close relationship has led many modern scholars to believe they were lovers. But the most compelling evidence for this view is that the oldest text of their martyrology, written in New Testament Greek describes them as "erastai,” or "lovers". In other words, they were a male homosexual couple. Their orientation and relationship was not only acknowledged, but it was fully accepted and celebrated by the early Christian church, which was far more tolerant than it is today.

Contrary to myth, Christianity's concept of marriage has not been set in stone since the days of Christ, but has constantly evolved as a concept and ritual.

Prof. John Boswell, the late Chairman of Yale University’s history department, discovered that in addition to heterosexual marriage ceremonies in ancient Christian church liturgical documents, there were also ceremonies called the "Office of Same-Sex Union" (10th and 11th century), and the "Order for Uniting Two Men" (11th and 12th century).

These church rites had all the symbols of a heterosexual marriage: the whole community gathered in a church, a blessing of the couple before the altar was conducted with their right hands joined, holy vows were exchanged, a priest officiatied in the taking of the Eucharist and a wedding feast for the guests was celebrated afterwards. These elements all appear in contemporary illustrations of the holy union of the Byzantine Warrior-Emperor, Basil the First (867-886 CE) and his companion John.

Such same gender Christian sanctified unions also took place in Ireland in the late 12thand/ early 13th century, as the chronicler Gerald of Wales (‘Geraldus Cambrensis’) recorded.

Same-sex unions in pre-modern Europe list in great detail some same gender ceremonies found in ancient church liturgical documents. One Greek 13th century rite, "Order for Solemn Same-Sex Union", invoked St. Serge and St. Bacchus, and called on God to "vouchsafe unto these, Thy servants [N and N], the grace to love one another and to abide without hate and not be the cause of scandal all the days of their lives, with the help of the Holy Mother of God, and all Thy saints". The ceremony concludes: "And they shall kiss the Holy Gospel and each other, and it shall be concluded".

Another 14th century Serbian Slavonic "Office of the Same Sex Union", uniting two men or two women, had the couple lay their right hands on the Gospel while having a crucifix placed in their left hands. After kissing the Gospel, the couple were then required to kiss each other, after which the priest, having raised up the Eucharist, would give them both communion.

Records of Christian same sex unions have been discovered in such diverse archives as those in the Vatican, in St. Petersburg, in Paris, in Istanbul and in the Sinai, covering a thousand-years from the 8th to the 18th century.

The Dominican missionary and Prior, Jacques Goar (1601-1653), includes such ceremonies in a printed collection of Greek Orthodox prayer books, “Euchologion Sive Rituale Graecorum Complectens Ritus Et Ordines Divinae Liturgiae” (Paris, 1667).

While homosexuality was technically illegal from late Roman times, homophobic writings didn’t appear in Western Europe until the late 14th century. Even then, church-consecrated same sex unions continued to take place.

At St. John Lateran in Rome (traditionally the Pope's parish church) in 1578, as many as thirteen same-gender couples were joined during a high Mass and with the cooperation of the Vatican clergy, "taking communion together, using the same nuptial Scripture, after which they slept and ate together" according to a contemporary report. Another woman to woman union is recorded in Dalmatia in the 18th century.

Prof. Boswell's academic study is so well researched and documented that it poses fundamental questions for both modern church leaders and heterosexual Christians about their own modern attitudes towards homosexuality.

For the Church to ignore the evidence in its own archives would be cowardly and deceptive. The evidence convincingly shows that what the modern church claims has always been its unchanging attitude towards homosexuality is, in fact, nothing of the sort.

It proves that for the last two millennia, in parish churches and cathedrals throughout Christendom, from Ireland to Istanbul and even in the heart of Rome itself, homosexual relationships were accepted as valid expressions of a God-given love and committment to another person, a love that could be celebrated, honored and blessed, through the Eucharist in the name of, and in the presence of, Jesus Christ.

Onward to conquer ye Christian Soldier....

Jesus Killed Mohammed

The crusade for a Christian military.

crosstankWhen Sergeant Jeffery Humphrey and his squad of nine men, part of the 1/26 Infantry of the 1st Infantry Division, were assigned to a Special Forces compound in Samarra, he thought they had drawn a dream duty. “Guarding Special Forces, it was like Christmas,” he says. In fact, it was spring, 2004; and although Humphrey was a combat veteran of Kosovo and Iraq, the men to whom he was detailed, the 10th Special Forces Group, were not interested in grunts like him. They would not say what they were doing, and they used code names. They called themselves “the Faith element.” But they did not talk religion, which was fine with Humphrey.

An evenhanded Indianan with a precise turn of mind, Humphrey considered himself a no-nonsense soldier. His first duty that Easter Sunday was to make sure the roof watch was in place: a machine gunner, a man in a mortar pit, a soldier with a SAW (an automatic rifle on a bipod), and another with a submachine gun on loan from Special Forces. Together with two Bradley Fighting Vehicles on the ground and snipers on another roof, the watch covered the perimeter of the compound, a former elementary school overlooking the Tigris River.

Early that morning, a unit from the 109th National Guard Infantry dropped off their morning chow. With it came a holiday special–a video of Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ and a chaplain to sing the film’s praises, a gory cinematic sermon for an Easter at war. Humphrey ducked into the chow room to check it out. “It was the part where they’re killing Jesus, which is, I guess, pretty much the whole movie. Kind of turned my stomach.” He decided he’d rather burn trash.

He was returning from his first run to the garbage pit when the 109th came barreling back. Their five-ton–a supersized armored pickup–was rolling on rims, its tires flapping and spewing greasy black flames. “Came in on two wheels,” remembers one of Humphrey’s men, a machine gunner. On the ground behind it and in retreat before a furious crowd were more men from the 109th, laying down fire with their M-4s. Humphrey raced toward the five-ton as his roof shooters opened up, their big guns thumping above him. Later, when he climbed into the vehicle, the stink was overwhelming: of iron and gunpowder, blood and bullet casings. He reached down to grab a rifle, and his hand came up wet with brain.

Humphrey had been in Samarra for a month, and until that day his stay had been a quiet respite in one of the world’s oldest cities. Not long before, though, there had been a hint of trouble: a briefing in which his squad was warned that any soldier caught desecrating Islamic sites–Samarra is considered a holy city–would fall under “extreme penalty,” a category that can include a general court-martial and prison time. “I heard some guys were vandalizing mosques,” Humphrey says. “Spray-painting ’em with crosses.”

The rest of that Easter was spent under siege. Insurgents held off Bravo Company, which was called in to rescue the men in the compound. Ammunition ran low. A helicopter tried to drop more but missed. As dusk fell, the men prepared four Bradley Fighting Vehicles for a “run and gun” to draw fire away from the compound. Humphrey headed down from the roof to get a briefing. He found his lieutenant, John D. DeGiulio, with a couple of sergeants. They were snickering like schoolboys. They had commissioned the Special Forces interpreter, an Iraqi from Texas, to paint a legend across their Bradley’s armor, in giant red Arabic script.

“What’s it mean?” asked Humphrey.

“Jesus killed Mohammed,” one of the men told him. The soldiers guffawed. JESUS KILLED MOHAMMED was about to cruise into the Iraqi night.

The Bradley, a tracked “tank killer” armed with a cannon and missiles–to most eyes, indistinguishable from a tank itself–rolled out. The Iraqi interpreter took to the roof, bullhorn in hand. The sun was setting. Humphrey heard the keen of the call to prayer, then the crackle of the bullhorn with the interpreter answering–in Arabic, then in English for the troops, insulting the prophet. Humphrey’s men loved it. “They were young guys, you know?” says Humphrey . “They were scared.” A Special Forces officer stood next to the interpreter–“a big, tall, blond, grinning type,” says Humphrey.

“Jesus kill Mohammed!” chanted the interpreter. “Jesus kill Mohammed!”

A head emerged from a window to answer, somebody fired on the roof, and the Special Forces man directed a response from an MK-19 grenade launcher. “Boom,” remembers Humphrey. The head and the window and the wall around it disappeared.

“Jesus kill Mohammed!” Another head, another shot. Boom. “Jesus kill Mohammed!” Boom. In the distance, Humphrey heard the static of AK fire and the thud of RPGs. He saw a rolling rattle of light that looked like a firefight on wheels. “Each time I go into combat I get closer to God,” DeGiulio would later say.

The Bradley seemed to draw fire from every doorway . There couldn’t be that many insurgents in Samarra, Humphrey thought. Was this a city of terrorists? Humphrey heard Lieutenant DeGiulio reporting in from the Bradley’s cabin, opening up on all doorways that popped off a round, responding to rifle fire–each Iraqi household is allowed one gun–with 25mm shells powerful enough to smash straight through the front of a house and out the back wall.

Humphrey was stunned. He’d been blown off a tower in Kosovo and seen action in the drug war, but he’d never witnessed a maneuver so fundamentally stupid.

The men on the roof thought otherwise. They thought the lieutenant was a hero, a kamikaze on a suicide mission to bring Iraqis the American news:

عيسى قتل محمدا


Excerpted from the May 2009 issue of Harper’s Magazine.

It's Just Like Porn, Only Very Bad When TJ Miller isn't busy getting his Blerds on (who, by the way, you can see in person tonight at the Irvine Improv), he spends his time occupied with his second favorite hobby - making very bad porn. Literally. Here's a trailer featuring TJ and his Very Bad Porn pals that should give you a good idea of their, uh, work.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

13 things that do not make sense

[Thank to Cranes Are Flying for this link] by Michael Brooks
The Hubble Deep Field. These distant galaxies are racing away from us far faster than theory predicts (Image: NASA)

The Hubble Deep Field. These distant galaxies are racing away from us far faster than theory predicts (Image: NASA)

1 The placebo effect

Don't try this at home. Several times a day, for several days, you induce pain in someone. You control the pain with morphine until the final day of the experiment, when you replace the morphine with saline solution. Guess what? The saline takes the pain away.

This is the placebo effect: somehow, sometimes, a whole lot of nothing can be very powerful. Except it's not quite nothing. When Fabrizio Benedetti of the University of Turin in Italy carried out the above experiment, he added a final twist by adding naloxone, a drug that blocks the effects of morphine, to the saline. The shocking result? The pain-relieving power of saline solution disappeared.

So what is going on? Doctors have known about the placebo effect for decades, and the naloxone result seems to show that the placebo effect is somehow biochemical. But apart from that, we simply don't know.

Benedetti has since shown that a saline placebo can also reduce tremors and muscle stiffness in people with Parkinson's disease. He and his team measured the activity of neurons in the patients' brains as they administered the saline. They found that individual neurons in the subthalamic nucleus (a common target for surgical attempts to relieve Parkinson's symptoms) began to fire less often when the saline was given, and with fewer "bursts" of firing - another feature associated with Parkinson's. The neuron activity decreased at the same time as the symptoms improved: the saline was definitely doing something.

We have a lot to learn about what is happening here, Benedetti says, but one thing is clear: the mind can affect the body's biochemistry. "The relationship between expectation and therapeutic outcome is a wonderful model to understand mind-body interaction," he says. Researchers now need to identify when and where placebo works. There may be diseases in which it has no effect. There may be a common mechanism in different illnesses. As yet, we just don't know.

2 The horizon problem

OUR universe appears to be unfathomably uniform. Look across space from one edge of the visible universe to the other, and you'll see that the microwave background radiation filling the cosmos is at the same temperature everywhere. That may not seem surprising until you consider that the two edges are nearly 28 billion light years apart and our universe is only 14 billion years old.

Nothing can travel faster than the speed of light, so there is no way heat radiation could have travelled between the two horizons to even out the hot and cold spots created in the big bang and leave the thermal equilibrium we see now.

This "horizon problem" is a big headache for cosmologists, so big that they have come up with some pretty wild solutions. "Inflation", for example.

You can solve the horizon problem by having the universe expand ultra-fast for a time, just after the big bang, blowing up by a factor of 1050 in 10-33 seconds. But is that just wishful thinking? "Inflation would be an explanation if it occurred," says University of Cambridge astronomer Martin Rees. The trouble is that no one knows what could have made that happen, but see Inside inflation: after the big bang.

So, in effect, inflation solves one mystery only to invoke another. A variation in the speed of light could also solve the horizon problem - but this too is impotent in the face of the question "why?" In scientific terms, the uniform temperature of the background radiation remains an anomaly.

A variation in the speed of light could solve the problem, but this too is impotent in the face of the question 'why?'

3 Ultra-energetic cosmic rays

FOR more than a decade, physicists in Japan have been seeing cosmic rays that should not exist. Cosmic rays are particles - mostly protons but sometimes heavy atomic nuclei - that travel through the universe at close to the speed of light. Some cosmic rays detected on Earth are produced in violent events such as supernovae, but we still don't know the origins of the highest-energy particles, which are the most energetic particles ever seen in nature. But that's not the real mystery.

As cosmic-ray particles travel through space, they lose energy in collisions with the low-energy photons that pervade the universe, such as those of the cosmic microwave background radiation. Einstein's special theory of relativity dictates that any cosmic rays reaching Earth from a source outside our galaxy will have suffered so many energy-shedding collisions that their maximum possible energy is 5 × 1019 electronvolts. This is known as the Greisen-Zatsepin-Kuzmin limit.

Over the past decade, however, the University of Tokyo's Akeno Giant Air Shower Array - 111 particle detectors spread out over 100 square kilometres - has detected several cosmic rays above the GZK limit. In theory, they can only have come from within our galaxy, avoiding an energy-sapping journey across the cosmos. However, astronomers can find no source for these cosmic rays in our galaxy. So what is going on?

One possibility is that there is something wrong with the Akeno results. Another is that Einstein was wrong. His special theory of relativity says that space is the same in all directions, but what if particles found it easier to move in certain directions? Then the cosmic rays could retain more of their energy, allowing them to beat the GZK limit.

Physicists at the Pierre Auger experiment in Mendoza, Argentina, are now working on this problem. Using 1600 detectors spread over 3000 square kilometres, Auger should be able to determine the energies of incoming cosmic rays and shed more light on the Akeno results.

Alan Watson, an astronomer at the University of Leeds, UK, and spokesman for the Pierre Auger project, is already convinced there is something worth following up here. "I have no doubts that events above 1020 electronvolts exist. There are sufficient examples to convince me," he says. The question now is, what are they? How many of these particles are coming in, and what direction are they coming from? Until we get that information, there's no telling how exotic the true explanation could be.

Update: Follow the latest hunt for GZK neutrinos.

One possibility is that there is something wrong with the Akeno results. Another is that Einstein was wrong

4 Belfast homeopathy results

MADELEINE Ennis, a pharmacologist at Queen's University, Belfast, was the scourge of homeopathy. She railed against its claims that a chemical remedy could be diluted to the point where a sample was unlikely to contain a single molecule of anything but water, and yet still have a healing effect. Until, that is, she set out to prove once and for all that homeopathy was bunkum.

In her most recent paper, Ennis describes how her team looked at the effects of ultra-dilute solutions of histamine on human white blood cells involved in inflammation. These "basophils" release histamine when the cells are under attack. Once released, the histamine stops them releasing any more. The study, replicated in four different labs, found that homeopathic solutions - so dilute that they probably didn't contain a single histamine molecule - worked just like histamine. Ennis might not be happy with the homeopaths' claims, but she admits that an effect cannot be ruled out.

So how could it happen? Homeopaths prepare their remedies by dissolving things like charcoal, deadly nightshade or spider venom in ethanol, and then diluting this "mother tincture" in water again and again. No matter what the level of dilution, homeopaths claim, the original remedy leaves some kind of imprint on the water molecules. Thus, however dilute the solution becomes, it is still imbued with the properties of the remedy.

You can understand why Ennis remains sceptical. And it remains true that no homeopathic remedy has ever been shown to work in a large randomised placebo-controlled clinical trial. But the Belfast study (Inflammation Research, vol 53, p 181) suggests that something is going on. "We are," Ennis says in her paper, "unable to explain our findings and are reporting them to encourage others to investigate this phenomenon." If the results turn out to be real, she says, the implications are profound: we may have to rewrite physics and chemistry.

5 Dark matter

TAKE our best understanding of gravity, apply it to the way galaxies spin, and you'll quickly see the problem: the galaxies should be falling apart. Galactic matter orbits around a central point because its mutual gravitational attraction creates centripetal forces. But there is not enough mass in the galaxies to produce the observed spin.

Vera Rubin, an astronomer working at the Carnegie Institution's department of terrestrial magnetism in Washington DC, spotted this anomaly in the late 1970s. The best response from physicists was to suggest there is more stuff out there than we can see. The trouble was, nobody could explain what this "dark matter" was.

And they still can't. Although researchers have made many suggestions about what kind of particles might make up dark matter, there is no consensus. It's an embarrassing hole in our understanding. Astronomical observations suggest that dark matter must make up about 90 per cent of the mass in the universe, yet we are astonishingly ignorant what that 90 per cent is.

Maybe we can't work out what dark matter is because it doesn't actually exist. That's certainly the way Rubin would like it to turn out. "If I could have my pick, I would like to learn that Newton's laws must be modified in order to correctly describe gravitational interactions at large distances," she says. "That's more appealing than a universe filled with a new kind of sub-nuclear particle."

Update: Some scientists are trying to create the stuff themselves. See our free feature, Let there be dark matter.

If the results turn out to be real, the implications are profound. We may have to rewrite physics and chemistry

6 Viking's methane

JULY 20, 1976. Gilbert Levin is on the edge of his seat. Millions of kilometres away on Mars, the Viking landers have scooped up some soil and mixed it with carbon-14-labelled nutrients. The mission's scientists have all agreed that if Levin's instruments on board the landers detect emissions of carbon-14-containing methane from the soil, then there must be life on Mars.

Viking reports a positive result. Something is ingesting the nutrients, metabolising them, and then belching out gas laced with carbon-14.

So why no party?

Because another instrument, designed to identify organic molecules considered essential signs of life, found nothing. Almost all the mission scientists erred on the side of caution and declared Viking's discovery a false positive. But was it?

The arguments continue to rage, but results from NASA's latest rovers show that the surface of Mars was almost certainly wet in the past and therefore hospitable to life. And there is plenty more evidence where that came from, Levin says. "Every mission to Mars has produced evidence supporting my conclusion. None has contradicted it."

Levin stands by his claim, and he is no longer alone. Joe Miller, a cell biologist at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, has re-analysed the data and he thinks that the emissions show evidence of a circadian cycle. That is highly suggestive of life.

Levin is petitioning ESA and NASA to fly a modified version of his mission to look for "chiral" molecules. These come in left or right-handed versions: they are mirror images of each other. While biological processes tend to produce molecules that favour one chirality over the other, non-living processes create left and right-handed versions in equal numbers. If a future mission to Mars were to find that Martian "metabolism" also prefers one chiral form of a molecule to the other, that would be the best indication yet of life on Mars.

Update: Also see our Top 10 controversial pieces of evidence for extraterrestrial life.

Something on Mars is ingesting nutrients, metabolising them and then belching out radioactive methane

7 Tetraneutrons

FOUR years ago, a particle accelerator in France detected six particles that should not exist (see Ghost in the atom). They are called tetraneutrons: four neutrons that are bound together in a way that defies the laws of physics.

Francisco Miguel Marquès and colleagues at the Ganil accelerator in Caen are now gearing up to do it again. If they succeed, these clusters may oblige us to rethink the forces that hold atomic nuclei together.

The team fired beryllium nuclei at a small carbon target and analysed the debris that shot into surrounding particle detectors. They expected to see evidence for four separate neutrons hitting their detectors. Instead the Ganil team found just one flash of light in one detector. And the energy of this flash suggested that four neutrons were arriving together at the detector. Of course, their finding could have been an accident: four neutrons might just have arrived in the same place at the same time by coincidence. But that's ridiculously improbable.

Not as improbable as tetraneutrons, some might say, because in the standard model of particle physics tetraneutrons simply can't exist. According to the Pauli exclusion principle, not even two protons or neutrons in the same system can have identical quantum properties. In fact, the strong nuclear force that would hold them together is tuned in such a way that it can't even hold two lone neutrons together, let alone four. Marquès and his team were so bemused by their result that they buried the data in a research paper that was ostensibly about the possibility of finding tetraneutrons in the future (Physical Review C, vol 65, p 44006).

And there are still more compelling reasons to doubt the existence of tetraneutrons. If you tweak the laws of physics to allow four neutrons to bind together, all kinds of chaos ensues (Journal of Physics G, vol 29, L9). It would mean that the mix of elements formed after the big bang was inconsistent with what we now observe and, even worse, the elements formed would have quickly become far too heavy for the cosmos to cope. "Maybe the universe would have collapsed before it had any chance to expand," says Natalia Timofeyuk, a theorist at the University of Surrey in Guildford, UK.

There are, however, a couple of holes in this reasoning. Established theory does allow the tetraneutron to exist - though only as a ridiculously short-lived particle. "This could be a reason for four neutrons hitting the Ganil detectors simultaneously," Timofeyuk says. And there is other evidence that supports the idea of matter composed of multiple neutrons: neutron stars. These bodies, which contain an enormous number of bound neutrons, suggest that as yet unexplained forces come into play when neutrons gather en masse.

8 The Pioneer anomaly

THIS is a tale of two spacecraft. Pioneer 10 was launched in 1972; Pioneer 11 a year later. By now both craft should be drifting off into deep space with no one watching. However, their trajectories have proved far too fascinating to ignore.

That's because something has been pulling - or pushing - on them, causing them to speed up. The resulting acceleration is tiny, less than a nanometre per second per second. That's equivalent to just one ten-billionth of the gravity at Earth's surface, but it is enough to have shifted Pioneer 10 some 400,000 kilometres off track. NASA lost touch with Pioneer 11 in 1995, but up to that point it was experiencing exactly the same deviation as its sister probe. So what is causing it?

Nobody knows. Some possible explanations have already been ruled out, including software errors, the solar wind or a fuel leak. If the cause is some gravitational effect, it is not one we know anything about. In fact, physicists are so completely at a loss that some have resorted to linking this mystery with other inexplicable phenomena.

Bruce Bassett of the University of Portsmouth, UK, has suggested that the Pioneer conundrum might have something to do with variations in alpha, the fine structure constant. Others have talked about it as arising from dark matter - but since we don't know what dark matter is, that doesn't help much either. "This is all so maddeningly intriguing," says Michael Martin Nieto of the Los Alamos National Laboratory. "We only have proposals, none of which has been demonstrated."

Nieto has called for a new analysis of the early trajectory data from the craft, which he says might yield fresh clues. But to get to the bottom of the problem what scientists really need is a mission designed specifically to test unusual gravitational effects in the outer reaches of the solar system. Such a probe would cost between $300 million and $500 million and could piggyback on a future mission to the outer reaches of the solar system (

"An explanation will be found eventually," Nieto says. "Of course I hope it is due to new physics - how stupendous that would be. But once a physicist starts working on the basis of hope he is heading for a fall." Disappointing as it may seem, Nieto thinks the explanation for the Pioneer anomaly will eventually be found in some mundane effect, such as an unnoticed source of heat on board the craft.

Update: For a recent approach to the mystery, see Computer sleuths try to crack Pioneer anomaly.

9 Dark energy

IT IS one of the most famous, and most embarrassing, problems in physics. In 1998, astronomers discovered that the universe is expanding at ever faster speeds. It's an effect still searching for a cause - until then, everyone thought the universe's expansion was slowing down after the big bang. "Theorists are still floundering around, looking for a sensible explanation," says cosmologist Katherine Freese of the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. "We're all hoping that upcoming observations of supernovae, of clusters of galaxies and so on will give us more clues."

One suggestion is that some property of empty space is responsible - cosmologists call it dark energy. But all attempts to pin it down have fallen woefully short. It's also possible that Einstein's theory of general relativity may need to be tweaked when applied to the very largest scales of the universe. "The field is still wide open," Freese says.

Update: For a novel approach to the dark energy problem, see Superconductors inspire quantum test for dark energy, and our free feature, published in February 2007, Dark energy: Seeking the heart of darkness.

10 The Kuiper cliff

IF YOU travel out to the far edge of the solar system, into the frigid wastes beyond Pluto, you'll see something strange. Suddenly, after passing through the Kuiper belt, a region of space teeming with icy rocks, there's nothing.

Astronomers call this boundary the Kuiper cliff, because the density of space rocks drops off so steeply. What caused it? The only answer seems to be a 10th planet. We're not talking about Quaoar or Sedna: this is a massive object, as big as Earth or Mars, that has swept the area clean of debris.

The evidence for the existence of "Planet X" is compelling, says Alan Stern, an astronomer at the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado. But although calculations show that such a body could account for the Kuiper cliff (Icarus, vol 160, p 32), no one has ever seen this fabled 10th planet.

There's a good reason for that. The Kuiper belt is just too far away for us to get a decent view. We need to get out there and have a look before we can say anything about the region. And that won't be possible for another decade, at least. NASA's New Horizons probe, which will head out to Pluto and the Kuiper belt, is scheduled for launch in January 2006. It won't reach Pluto until 2015, so if you are looking for an explanation of the vast, empty gulf of the Kuiper cliff, watch this space.

11 The Wow signal

IT WAS 37 seconds long and came from outer space. On 15 August 1977 it caused astronomer Jerry Ehman, then of Ohio State University in Columbus, to scrawl "Wow!" on the printout from Big Ear, Ohio State's radio telescope in Delaware. And 28 years later no one knows what created the signal. "I am still waiting for a definitive explanation that makes sense," Ehman says.

Coming from the direction of Sagittarius, the pulse of radiation was confined to a narrow range of radio frequencies around 1420 megahertz. This frequency is in a part of the radio spectrum in which all transmissions are prohibited by international agreement. Natural sources of radiation, such as the thermal emissions from planets, usually cover a much broader sweep of frequencies. So what caused it?

The nearest star in that direction is 220 light years away. If that is where is came from, it would have had to be a pretty powerful astronomical event - or an advanced alien civilisation using an astonishingly large and powerful transmitter.

The fact that hundreds of sweeps over the same patch of sky have found nothing like the Wow signal doesn't mean it's not aliens. When you consider the fact that the Big Ear telescope covers only one-millionth of the sky at any time, and an alien transmitter would also likely beam out over the same fraction of sky, the chances of spotting the signal again are remote, to say the least.

Others think there must be a mundane explanation. Dan Wertheimer, chief scientist for the SETI@home project, says the Wow signal was almost certainly pollution: radio-frequency interference from Earth-based transmissions. "We've seen many signals like this, and these sorts of signals have always turned out to be interference," he says. The debate continues.

Update: Also see our Top 10 controversial pieces of evidence for extraterrestrial life.

It was either a powerful astronomical event - or an advanced alien civilisation beaming out a signal

12 Not-so-constant constants

IN 1997 astronomer John Webb and his team at the University of New South Wales in Sydney analysed the light reaching Earth from distant quasars. On its 12-billion-year journey, the light had passed through interstellar clouds of metals such as iron, nickel and chromium, and the researchers found these atoms had absorbed some of the photons of quasar light - but not the ones they were expecting.

If the observations are correct, the only vaguely reasonable explanation is that a constant of physics called the fine structure constant, or alpha, had a different value at the time the light passed through the clouds.

But that's heresy. Alpha is an extremely important constant that determines how light interacts with matter - and it shouldn't be able to change. Its value depends on, among other things, the charge on the electron, the speed of light and Planck's constant. Could one of these really have changed?

No one in physics wanted to believe the measurements. Webb and his team have been trying for years to find an error in their results. But so far they have failed.

Webb's are not the only results that suggest something is missing from our understanding of alpha. A recent analysis of the only known natural nuclear reactor, which was active nearly 2 billion years ago at what is now Oklo in Gabon, also suggests something about light's interaction with matter has changed.

The ratio of certain radioactive isotopes produced within such a reactor depends on alpha, and so looking at the fission products left behind in the ground at Oklo provides a way to work out the value of the constant at the time of their formation. Using this method, Steve Lamoreaux and his colleagues at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico suggest that alpha may have decreased by more than 4 per cent since Oklo started up (Physical Review D, vol 69, p 121701).

There are gainsayers who still dispute any change in alpha. Patrick Petitjean, an astronomer at the Institute of Astrophysics in Paris, led a team that analysed quasar light picked up by the Very Large Telescope (VLT) in Chile and found no evidence that alpha has changed. But Webb, who is now looking at the VLT measurements, says that they require a more complex analysis than Petitjean's team has carried out. Webb's group is working on that now, and may be in a position to declare the anomaly resolved - or not - later this year.

"It's difficult to say how long it's going to take," says team member Michael Murphy of the University of Cambridge. "The more we look at these new data, the more difficulties we see." But whatever the answer, the work will still be valuable. An analysis of the way light passes through distant molecular clouds will reveal more about how the elements were produced early in the universe's history.

Update: Also see No such thing as a constant constant?

13 Cold fusion

AFTER 16 years, it's back. In fact, cold fusion never really went away. Over a 10-year period from 1989, US navy labs ran more than 200 experiments to investigate whether nuclear reactions generating more energy than they consume - supposedly only possible inside stars - can occur at room temperature. Numerous researchers have since pronounced themselves believers.

With controllable cold fusion, many of the world's energy problems would melt away: no wonder the US Department of Energy is interested. In December, after a lengthy review of the evidence, it said it was open to receiving proposals for new cold fusion experiments.

That's quite a turnaround. The DoE's first report on the subject, published 15 years ago, concluded that the original cold fusion results, produced by Martin Fleischmann and Stanley Pons of the University of Utah and unveiled at a press conference in 1989, were impossible to reproduce, and thus probably false.

The basic claim of cold fusion is that dunking palladium electrodes into heavy water - in which oxygen is combined with the hydrogen isotope deuterium - can release a large amount of energy. Placing a voltage across the electrodes supposedly allows deuterium nuclei to move into palladium's molecular lattice, enabling them to overcome their natural repulsion and fuse together, releasing a blast of energy. The snag is that fusion at room temperature is deemed impossible by every accepted scientific theory.

Cold fusion would make the world's energy problems melt away. No wonder the Department of Energy is interested

That doesn't matter, according to David Nagel, an engineer at George Washington University in Washington DC. Superconductors took 40 years to explain, he points out, so there's no reason to dismiss cold fusion. "The experimental case is bulletproof," he says. "You can't make it go away."

Indian 10 Commandments

[Thank you Sir Real!]

Monday, May 04, 2009

Chess, Goddess and Everything blogger...also reads Seth!


Whoa! Was Seth Right After All?

Those of you who have read Jane Roberts know who "Seth" is - and Seth's mantra - WE MAKE OUR OWN REALITY. Basically, by what we think. Yes, that sounds rather trite these days, doesn't it. But I first read it some 20 years ago (maybe even longer) in a book I think was called "The Nature of Personal Reality," and it's stuck with me ever since. Here is some evidence that suggests Jane Roberts and Seth are correct. From MIND MATTERS Wray Herbert Just Say No to Aging? A provocative new book from a Harvard psychologist suggests that changing how we think about our age and health can have dramatic physical benefits. Apr 14, 2009 Updated: 10:28 a.m. ET Apr 14, 2009 Imagine that you could rewind the clock 20 years. It's 1989. Madonna is topping the pop charts, and TV sets are tuned to "Cheers" and "Murphy Brown." Widespread Internet use is just a pipe dream, and Sugar Ray Leonard and Joe Montana are on recent covers of Sports Illustrated. But most important, you're 20 years younger. How do you feel? Well, if you're at all like the subjects in a provocative experiment by Harvard psychologist Ellen Langer, you actually feel as if your body clock has been turned back two decades. Langer did a study like this with a group of elderly men some years ago, retrofitting an isolated old New England hotel so that every visible sign said it was 20 years earlier. The men—in their late 70s and early 80s—were told not to reminisce about the past, but to actually act as if they had traveled back in time. The idea was to see if changing the men's mindset about their own age might lead to actual changes in health and fitness. Langer's findings were stunning: After just one week, the men in the experimental group (compared with controls of the same age) had more joint flexibility, increased dexterity and less arthritis in their hands. Their mental acuity had risen measurably, and they had improved gait and posture. Outsiders who were shown the men's photographs judged them to be significantly younger than the controls. In other words, the aging process had in some measure been reversed. Rest of article. Herbert writes the blog We're Only Human at
Wray's "review" of Counterclockwise by Ellen Langer does not give ISBN, publisher or cost! Interesting. So, here it is: Counterclockwise: Mindful Health and the Power of Possibility Written by Ellen J. Langer Category: Psychology & Psychiatry - Applied Psychology; Health & Fitness Format: eBook, 224 pages On Sale: May 19, 2009 Price: $25.00 ISBN: 978-0-345-51480-6 (0-345-51480-7) Also available as a hardcover.

Did you know this was happening?, Posted by GottaLaff

[Thanks to Fernando for this link.] One of my former students, Matt, keeps me up on the various events of the ongoing, underreported anarchist movement. He's, erm, very familiar with them, and has sent me some updates on their activities:
PMR Actions Happening. Anti-War Activists Arrested Resisting Afghanistan War Shipments
Activists staged a series of successful direct actions in several locations on the night of May 2, blocking striker vehicles bound for the Port of Tacoma from Fort Lewis. Blockades halted strikers at several points along Interstate 5, and 11 activists were arrested. Demonstrators have pledged to continue resisting the use of the port for war shipments. [...] “The police may see our actions as criminal, but the real crime is the illegal invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq and their continued occupation,” adds Ellis, a demonstrator. [...]

Resistance is ongoing. Demonstrators are available to speak with the press.

More information can be found at
Here's one more:
An anti-war group says 11 of its members were arrested trying to block Stryker military vehicles from Fort Lewis from being shipped to Afghanistan.

The Port Militarization Resistance has been conducting demonstrations at ports in Olympia and Tacoma since 2006.

The Seattle Times reports Saturday's action targeted vehicles as they pulled out of the Fort Lewis gate and at an Interstate 5 exit in Tacoma. The paper says the 11 were cited for disorderly conduct or reckless endangerment. Some were jailed and posted bail Sunday.

The Port Militarization Resistance says it is trying to raise public opposition to the war in Afghanistan where the Fort Lewis 5th Stryker brigade is headed.

And one written especially for TPC, from my pal:
Tacoma Washington.
Once again Port Militarization Resistance groups from Olympia and Tacoma have physically blocked military equipment from leaving for the war in Afghanistan. Based out of Coffee Strong, an Iraq Vets Against The War coffee house located just blocks from the main gate of Ft. Lewis, the groups have been organizing on the fly actions since May 1st when the deployment began.
Most recently a group calling itself the Port Liberation Front blockaded the freeway on ramp used to move military equipment, including Stryker vehicles, using Hug-Bots, protesters dressed as robots who cemented their arms together.
Actions, protests and disruptions will continue as long as the military equipment runs through public ports in the northwest.
Did you see this on the corporate newscasts? No, you didn't. It is ongoing, it's an extensive effort, very organized, very targeted, and we never hear a word. Maybe some of you do locally, but certainly not on the national Tee Vee Machine.

What's Missing From Every Media Story about H1N1 Influenza?

What's Missing From Every Media Story about H1N1 Influenza by Mike Adams the Health Ranger
Saturday, May 02, 2009 by: Mike Adams, the Health Ranger, NaturalNews Editor Key concepts: Medicine, Anti-viral and Tamiflu

(NaturalNews) If you read the stories on H1N1 influenza written by the mainstream media, you might incorrectly think there's only one anti-viral drug in the world. It's name isTamiflu and it's in short supply. That's astonishing to hear because the world is full of anti-viral medicine found in tens of thousands of different plants. Culinary herbs like thyme, sage and rosemary are anti-viral. Berries and sprouts are anti-viral. Garlic, ginger and onions are anti-viral. You can't walk through a grocery store without walking past a hundred or more anti-viral medicines made by Mother Nature. And yet how many does the mainstream media mention?Zero. The totality of influenza preparedness is defined by the mainstream media as the number of doses of Tamiflu a nation has stockpiled. You see it in stories like this one at the Wall Street Journal:

Tamiflu comes from an herb

To live in a world that's saturated with natural anti-viral medicine and then not even acknowledge it in the media is beyond bizarre. It's Twilight Zone-like. It's like we've been teleported to an alternate universe where anti-viral plants have disappeared... or at least everyone is pretending they have. Where do you think Tamiflu comes from, by the way? It's extracted from the Traditional Chinese Medicine herb called Star Anise. It's one of hundreds of different anti-viral herbs found in Chinese Medicine, not to even mention anti-viral herbs from South America, North America, Australia, Africa and other regions. I find it downright comedic that Big Pharma and the world's health authorities extract their "champion" anti-viral drug Tamiflu from a Chinese Medicine herb, and then they go out of their way to announce to people that herbs and natural remedies are useless against influenza. If that's the case then why are they using herbs to make their own medicine? How many stories have you read that bother to tell you Tamiflu is made from the star anise herb that's been used for over 5,000 years in Traditional Chinese Medicine? Virtually none. The powers that be don't want anybody to know they could actually grow their own medicine in a garden or a windowsill. If you can grow cilantro, you can grow medicine. If everybody figured that out, Big Pharma wouldn't be reaping the enormous profits it's making right now from Tamiflu sales, and the governments of the world wouldn't be able to scare and control people by promising to distribute Tamiflu (but only if you behave).

The Tamiflu scam is global

H1N1 influenza is not a hoax. But the way it's being reported by health authorities and the mainstream media certainly is. The scam in all this is what they leave out of the stories -- the fact that human beings live among a huge natural medicine chest of anti-viral drugs found in every city park, every forest, every swamp and every open field. You cannot walk across any patch of natural land in America and NOT find anti-viral medicine. It's everywhere! It's in the weeds growing in the cracks in the sidewalks; it's in weeds on the side of the stream; and it's growing in the small patch of dirt left remaining in the median between highway lanes. In the deserts of the American Southwest, you can't even drive to work without passing mile after mile of abundant anti-viral medicine grown by Mother Nature and just waiting for humans to wake up and be smart enough to recognize it. I have a sobering prediction about H1N1 influenza (formerly "swine flu"): If it does become a global pandemic, many of those people who refuse to recognize the anti-viral medicine provided by Mother Nature will die. Their misplaced faith in Big Pharma will literally cost them their lives. In contrast, those who have the wisdom to get their medicine from Mother Nature will not only survive the pandemic, they'll thrive even as others around them are dying. It is those who embrace Mother Nature's powerful, synergistic and living medicines who will weather any pandemic storm, and they will emerge as the DNA holders of the future of human civilization.
Star Anise, tamiflu - Google Search
Resveratrol is "Nature's Medicine" for Cancer, Heart Disease and Much More (NaturalNews) Just how good is resveratrol at preventing cancer and heart disease? It's so good that drug companies are trying to mimic its molecules in order to claim they're "creating" a new drug to prevent heart disease. But this is Mother Nature's...
IP6 is Highly Effective Alternative Treatment for Cancer Anyone looking for effective alternatives to the treatments offered by traditional cancer specialists might want to look at inositol hexophosphate (IP6). It is a very simple and inexpensive treatment that may easily get written off by people...
Beta-Blocker Drugs Cause 400 Percent Increase in Heart Attacks (NaturalNews) Surgical patients who are given blood pressure drugs known as beta-blockers around the time of surgery are four times more likely to suffer heart attacks and death than patients who are not given such drugs, according to a study conducted...

Swine flu alert clears old stock of Tamiflu

It is almost three years since we faced the hysteria of an avian flu epidemic, when governments bought billions of dollars of Tamiflu – the same anti-viral now being promoted to combat a supposed swine flu pandemic. The shelf life of Tamiflu also happens to be three years.
Palestinian Student's Heartfelt Letter to Obama

'Draconian' powers seen to contain swine flu 03 May 2009 Regional governments can invoke "draconian" powers if the swine flu virus reaches a worst-case scenario, from monitoring people in their own homes to seizing control of entire economies... Australia has also approved the isolation of suspected sufferers against their will. Australia's pandemic action plan, a draft of which is publicly available on the Internet, reveals the government potentially has recourse to even more extreme measures should the threat escalate. The plan, which was updated in April, allows for "extraordinary measures" including the power to manage the supply of goods and services, giving it effective control over the economy.

Swine flu broke out of California: CDC 03 May 2009 The US disease prevention center claims the newly-spread potentially-fatal strain of swine flu virus may have originated from California. The Centers for Disease Control and Protection (CDC) said on Saturday that the state preceded Mexico, the alleged source of the virus, in reporting cases of the affliction. "As we do our investigations here in the US, we may find that there were cases earlier," CDC spokesman, Scott Bryan was quoted by AFP as saying. As early as March, patients were diagnosed in California with a new type of viral infection resulting from the A(H1N1) -- the new strain of the swine flu virus, H1N1. The patients had neither been to Mexico nor had they come into contact with pigs.

'Those cases contradict the conventional understanding of how the strain originated.' In California, Cases Suggest Border Origin 01 May 2009 Growing evidence in California suggests that early flu cases had no apparent origin in Mexico. Many of the early California victims -- including the first two cases -- say they hadn't traveled to Mexico and had no contact with pigs. Some may have fallen ill before the first Mexicans did.Those cases contradict the conventional understanding of how the strain originated.

Search for hundreds on flu plane 03 May 2009 Health officials are hunting for hundreds of airline passengers who may have become infected with swine flu from a Scot returning home from a trip to America. The man was last night revealed to be Scotland's latest "probable" case of H1N1 after falling ill with flu following a trip to Texas, one of the areas affected by swine flu.

113 quarantined after taking flight from Mexico with flu case 03 May 2009 At least 113 people, who were on the same Mexico City-Shanghai flight with a Mexican national later diagnosed with influenza A/H1N1 in Hong Kong, are under quarantine, Chinese health authorities said Saturday. None of them have displayed any flu symptoms so far.

Hong Kong hotel quarantine move stirs controversy 02 May 2009 Travellers quarantined in a Hong Kong hotel for a week after a Mexican guest tested positive for the H1N1 flu expressed dismay on Saturday at the tough steps, while an infectious disease expert said the authorities had over-reacted. Police wearing surgical masks sealed off the Metropark hotel on Friday night after test results on the 25-year-old Mexican man were confirmed, ordering approximately 200 guests and 100 staff to stay in the hotel for the next seven days.

Quarantine units at Iranian airports to stop swine flu 02 May 2009 Iran has set up quarantine centers in its international airports due to the spread of swine flu infection. "Currently, we have established quarantine units in these airports where, in addition to giving information to the passengers, health care services are also offered," Mohammad Mahdi Gouya of the Iranian Health Ministry told the Mehr News Agency on Saturday.

Swine Flu: Israel Raises Alert, New Measures in Effect 29 Apr 2009 The Health Ministry announced Thursday that it has raised Israel's alert level to Phase 5, the second-highest on the scale, following the discovery of two new suspected cases of swine flu in the Jewish State. Following a meeting with senior officials at the Health Ministry, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu issued a series of orders. Among the new measures are the establishment of a temporary clinic in Ben Gurion airport, the stationing of doctors at Israel's borders, and a mandatory trip to the emergency room for travelers from Mexico suffering from flu-like symptoms.

Thank you, sir, for the martial law, KBR detention plans: 'At his news conference Wednesday night, Mr. Obama praised the Bush administration for stockpiling antiviral drugs and establishing a detailed plan for responding to international [Fort Detrick] outbreaks like this one.' President Enlists Cabinet to Prepare for a Pandemic 02 May 2009 A week after his administration first received word about a deadly flu spreading across Mexico, President Obama convened his cabinet on Friday and instructed every agency to play a role in preparing the United States for a pandemic... Mr. Obama said his administration was focused both on the immediate threat posed by the H1N1 virus, as well as the possibility that a more virulent outbreak could be looming months away. [Yes, count on it. This is the dry run -- to gauge public acceptance of the "draconian measures."]

Inflatable mortuaries and 'express' funerals planned for flu pandemic --The 59-page report, "Planning for Possible Influenza Pandemic: A Framework for Planners Preparing to Manage Deaths" has been circulated to local councils, coroners and undertakers. 01 May 2009 Inflatable mortuaries, 24-hour cremations and "express" funerals could all be used to dispose of thousands of bodies in a flu pandemic, Whitehall papers show... Department of Health projections put the total UK death toll from a pandemic as high as 750,000. It was confirmed in 2006 that officials have ordered millions of extra body bags as a precaution. A Home Office contingency planning document seen by the Daily Telegraph reveals the extreme measures that would be required to cope with the sheer number of extra corpses that are expected.

Companies buy flu drugs for 500,000 staff from private stockpile amid shortage fears 02 May 2009 Companies are turning to a private stockpile of antiviral drugs amid fears that Government supplies will be overwhelmed by a swine flu pandemic. Employers, including the banking giant HSBC, have already paid to secure enough doses to treat half a million workers in the event of a mass outbreak.

Swine flu: supermarkets prepare for panic buying 01 May 2009 Supermarkets are preparing for panic buying by shoppers fearful of swine flu, by stocking up on millions of extra litres of bottled water. The leading chains contacted the major water suppliers on Friday and placed orders far in excess of a normal bank holiday -- in anticipation of shoppers panic buying. Orders of about an extra 50 million litres of bottled water were placed with the major suppliers, the Telegraph understands.

WHO says raise to pandemic alert Phase 6 still possible 03 May 2009 The World Health Organization (WHO) said on Saturday that the risk of a pandemic caused by the A/H1N1 virus is still very high and there is still the possibility to raise the alert level to Phase 6 from the current Phase 5. "At the present time, I would still propose that a pandemic is imminent because we are seeing the disease spread," Michael Ryan, the agency's director for global alert and response, told a news briefing in Geneva.

WHO's tally of A/H1N1 cases rises to 615 02 May 2009 The total number of laboratory confirmed A/H1N1 flu infections worldwide has risen to 615 with 17 deaths, the World Health Organization (WHO) said in a latest update on Saturday. A total of 15 countries and regions have officially reported laboratory confirmed cases to the UN agency, including Mexico, whose confirmed number of human cases has increased to 397, including 16 deaths.

Three dozen under swine flu cloud in NSW 03 May 2009 Thirty-six people in NSW remain under assessment as possibly having swine flu, health authorities say. NSW chief health officer Dr Kerry Chant says 237 people have been assessed so far for suspected cases of human swine influenza, with 201 of them cleared after testing. "There are currently 36 people awaiting test results," she said in a statement on Sunday.

Pigs infected with A/H1N1 flu in Canada 03 May 2009 Some pigs in Canada have been found to be infected with the A/H1N1 flu, Canadian media reported Saturday citing government sources. This has been the first time that the H1N1 flu virus has been found in pigs, the Canadian Press said, adding federal health officials will announce the news later Saturday.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

The Myth of the Small Donor, by FilthyRich

Fundraising Genius Submitted by FilthyRich on Mon, 05/04/2009 - 12:41am.

Submitted by 60th Street on Sun, 05/03/2009 - 1:48pm.

Just an extended thought before I go walk the mutz. Toni asked: in her post "something I can't understand"

Why is the government so afraid of letting some banks fail?

And why are they afraid of doing away with Health Insurance companies?

I've been thinking about how online small donor fundraising from individuals has recently turned the political establishment on its ear. Groups like MoveOn, DailyKos and pioneer pols like Howard Dean and Barack Obama raked in a lot of cash from small donors. Obama blew everyone away by raising 3/4 of a billion (BILLION!) dollars which must have been a HUGE shock to the system.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ Uh, small donors? Not so much. Meet Obama’s Corporate Backers August 8, 2008 by Jay Morgan

• Donor: Goldman Sachs & Co. How Much: $627,730 • Donor: JP Morgan How Much: $398,021 • Donor: Citigroup How Much: $393,899 • Donor: UBS AG How Much: $378,400 • Donor: Google How Much: $373,212 • Donor: Lehman Brothers How Much: $353,922 • Donor: National Amusements How Much: $352,603 (This is Sumner Redstone's company, btw)

OK. So then there's this from LA Times Nov 28,2008 Obama's small donor base image is a myth, new study reveals

    Everybody knows how President-elect Barack Obama's amazing campaign money machine was dominated by several million regular folks sending in hard-earned amounts under $200, a real sign of his broadbased grassroots support.

    Except, it turns out, that's not really true.

    In fact, Obama's base of small donors was almost exactly the same percent as George W. Bush's in 2004 -- Obama had 26% and the great Republican satan 25%. Obviously, this is unacceptable to current popular thinking.

    But the nonpartisan Campaign Finance Institute just issued a detailed study of Obama's donor base and its giving. And that's what the Institute found, to its own surprise.

    "The myth is that money from small donors dominated Barack Obama's finances," said CFI's executive director Michael Malbin, admitting that his organization also was fooled. "The reality of Obama's fundraising was impressive, but the reality does not match the myth."

    Adding up the total contributions from the same small individuals (in terms of dollar amounts, not their height), the Institute discovered that rather than the 50+% commonly....reported throughout the campaign, only 26% of Obama's contributions through last August and only 24% through Oct. 15 came from people whose total donations added up to less than $200.

60th also notes, "He might be protecting the banks because, at this point, the Democratic party as a whole might just still need them. " Uh, see link & list above.

Good Rant, 60th, but your premise is FALSE. You get to be president BECAUSE Corporate Amerika and their massive media arm says so, not small donations from we da peeps. In fact, Obama WITHDREW from public financing, setting back that effort years.

Just sayin'...


A response....

"60th...your premise is FALSE"

Jesus! I sneak off for eight, or so, hours to do some work and the concept of mathematics along with any attention to detail is tossed out like a condom on a summer evening!

Look, I'm tired Mr. "Filthy Rich" or whoever you really are, and I need to sleep, but allow me to knock a little sense into your pretty head before I retire, as I sip my tasty ale.

First, I want you to promise me that, from now on, whenever you see the words "blog" and "L.A. Times" on the same page with any negative stats or text on Barack Obama (or any Liberal, for that matter) make sure you scroll down and double check that the name "Andrew Malcolm" isn't attached to said text. Chances are high that they are, as was the case in the source you provided. Frankly, it was obvious by the title.

Andrew Malcolm was Laura Bush's press secretary. Yes, I said LAURA Bush, so you're welcome for me having had to introduce you to the sad fact that you cited a right wing cracker who had the second most pathetic job on the planet until he landed, somehow, at the L.A. Times. You might also know him by his oft used Eschaton alias "Wanker of the Day". Malcom, in turn, was citing a since thoroughly debunked report by Michael Malbin, who was a speechwriter for Dick Cheney. So, nice work there as well. I am glad to know you pay close attention to your sources. I'm sure if you google "myth" +"Obama" +"Small donors" you'll find that kernel of lie spread widely across the wingnut-o-sphere. Don't take my word for it, though.

Second, allow me to paste in your paltry figures:

"• Donor: Goldman Sachs & Co. How Much: $627,730 • Donor: JP Morgan How Much: $398,021 • Donor: Citigroup How Much: $393,899 • Donor: UBS AG How Much: $378,400 • Donor: Google How Much: $373,212 • Donor: Lehman Brothers How Much: $353,922 • Donor: National Amusements How Much: $352,603 (This is Sumner Redstone's company, btw)"

Here, I'll even give you a larger (still paltry) list just for fun!

University of California $1,385,675 Goldman Sachs $980,945 Microsoft Corp $806,299 Harvard University $793,460 Google Inc $790,564 Citigroup Inc $657,268 JPMorgan Chase & Co $650,758 Stanford University $580,904 Sidley Austin LLP $574,938 Time Warner $547,951 National Amusements Inc $541,251 WilmerHale $524,292 UBS AG $522,019 IBM Corp $518,557 Skadden, Arps et al $510,274 Columbia University $503,566 Morgan Stanley $490,873 US Government $479,956 General Electric $479,454 Latham & Watkins $467,311

Now, Obama raised about $750 MILLION dollars. Here's where the MATH comes in. Total up all of these corporate donors and tell me what percentage of 750 MILLION that is and THEN we can have a discussion about where we personally feel Obama's allegiances lie. Hell, if you're still feeling lazy, go here and read about the debunking of your stats:

or here:

or here:

And note, for good measure, that in the last source here, the author helps make my point that while Obama made great leaps in public financed campaigns, "[It] doesn't prove that micro-donors can be the primary funders for a presidential campaign, but it sure suggests it is possible." Herein lies the fundraising conundrum for traditional politicians not running for the presidency, but for less popular congressional offices, which was the actual "premise" of what I wrote.

Remember, also, that Obama opted out of accepting TAXPAYER money set aside for Presidential elections which would have put him in the same trap John Kerry found himself swiftboated in as the 527s skirted the campaign finance laws in 2004. Instead, Obama saved the government 85 MILLION in taxpayer dollars and accepted money directly from people, mostly from small donors, roughly 15% of which were "micro" donors donating under $200 dollars each. Thats $117 million dollars from MICRO donors, alone, which is $32 million more than the amount he would have been capped at had he opted into the system. Here's more info on how he outsmarted Republicans in doing that, so stop sticking up for them.

"this machine kills fascists"

Helmut Can Haz Cheezeburger...(Thanks Kevin!)

Saturday, May 02, 2009

With Their Magic Bullet, Dems Have No More Excuses, by David Sirota

By David Sirota

As counsel for the Warren Commission, Arlen Specter described a “magic bullet” that changed America. Four decades later as a U.S. senator, Specter is providing another history-altering magic bullet—one Democrats will either fire off in a starting gun, or use in their suicide. By leaving the Republican Party this week, the five-term Pennsylvania lawmaker eliminated the last Democratic rationale for inaction: the Senate filibuster. With Minnesota Democrat Al Franken expected to be seated soon, and now with Specter, Democrats will have the 60 Senate votes needed to overcome all parliamentary obstructions. This legislative magic bullet will force Democrats to fulfill their policy promises and potentially commence an era of dominance, or fail and get annihilated at the polls. No longer can they blame Republicans for stopping bills to reform health care, tax, defense and trade policy. In command of the White House, the autocratic House of Representatives, and soon a filibuster-proof Senate majority, Democrats will have total authority to do whatever they want, and no scapegoat to fault. That means, as ABC News’ Rick Klein said, “This is Democrats’ turn to govern, no excuses”—and it means we’re about to find out whether their pledges were genuine. Ever since the 1994 Republican takeover of Congress, Democrats have guaranteed “real change” if we give them back control of government. They’ve made this pledge despite helping Republicans deregulate the financial system and plunge the country into the Iraq war. And at every turn, they’ve blamed the GOP, rather than themselves, for gridlock. ...

The modern world collides with the Renaissance in a rediscovered short story by JG Ballard

The Dying Fall by JG Ballard The modern world collides with the Renaissance in a rediscovered short story by JG Ballard
Leaning Tower of Pisa, low angle view
'I felt the tortured rumbling as somewhere the spine of this great edifice began to crack' ... The Leaning Tower of Pisa. Photograph: Getty Images Three years have passed since the collapse of the Tower of Pisa, but only now can I accept the crucial role that I played in the destruction of this unique landmark. Over twenty tourists died as the thousands of tons of marble lost their grasp on the air and collapsed to the ground. Among them was my wife Elaine, who had climbed to the topmost tier and was looking down at me when the first visible crack appeared in the tower's base. Never were tragedy and triumph so intimately joined, as if Elaine's pride in braving the worn and slippery stairs had been punished by the unseen forces that had sustained this unbalanced mass of masonry for so many centuries. I realise now that another element - farce - was present on that day. By chance a passing tourist on the steps of the cathedral had taken a photograph of the tower as the crack reached the third floor and a tell-tale section of cornice began its fall to earth. The photograph, endlessly published throughout the world, clearly shows the four startled tourists on the uppermost deck. Three of them are leaning back on their heels, hands raised to grip the sky, aware that the ancient campanile has moved under their feet. Elaine, alone, has already seized the rail, and is staring at the grass waiting for her nearly two hundred feet below. Using a magnifying glass, one can see that, true to her quirky and mocking character, she shows almost no alarm. Her eyes have noticed the falling cornice, and I like to think that she is already planning to sue the municipality of Pisa for neglecting the safety of its tourists, and is collecting evidence that in due course she will present to her lawyers. The dozen or so tourists visible on the lower floors are still making their way around its canted decks, groping past the narrow columns as they climb the 300 steps to the roof. A father and his young daughter wave to the tourists below them, two Italian sailors in uniform play the fool for their girl-friends, feigning an attack of giddiness, and an elderly couple pause to rest after climbing to the first floor, determined to complete the ascent. None of them sees the falling cornice and the fine cascade of powdered mortar. The only figure on the ground who is aware of the imminent catastrophe is a man in a white jacket and panama hat who stands at the foot of the tower, both hands raised to the marble flank. His face is hidden, but his arms are braced against the shifting stone, his back arched above his straining legs. We can see that in his desperate way he is trying to hold upright the collapsing tower that is about to obliterate him. Or so everyone assumes. The newspaper caption writers, the commentators on TV documentaries, all commend the bravery of this solitary figure. Surprisingly, he has never been identified, and neither his hat nor his white jacket were found in the mountain of rubble that was later removed, stone by stone, from the unhappy site. But was he trying to support the tower or, rather, helping it on its way? I, of course, can answer the question, since I am the man in the panama hat, the husband at whom Elaine, in the last moments of her life, so triumphantly stares. * * * Needless to say, I fled to safety, running through the dust and the shrieking tourists as the ground trembled and a cataract of masonry fell from the air. A vast cloud of pulverised marble enveloped the square, and I remember stumbling past the horror-stricken waiters and taxi-drivers who gazed at this field of devastation - not only had the tower vanished, but it had taken their livelihoods with it. Had they known that I was responsible they would have lynched me on the spot, and to this day I have kept silent, still gripped by my guilt over so many deaths, all but one of them entirely innocent. * * * In a sense the destruction of the tower was inscribed days beforehand in our unhappy tour of Tuscany. Our marriage, problematic from the start, had grown increasingly fraught during the previous year. Elaine had married me on the rebound, to spite an unfaithful lover, but soon decided that her husband, a classics lecturer at a minor university, was minor in all other respects. I was losing my students in a ferment of curriculum changes that would eventually lead to the descheduling of Latin and Greek and their replacement by cultural and media studies. My refusal to sue the university, Elaine decided, was a sign of my innate weakness, a frailty that soon extended to the marriage bed. Claiming that our union was unconsummated, she consulted a solicitor with a view to divorcing me, but was persuaded to make a last effort to save the relationship. Our marriage became a series of negotiated truces, in which I would yield more and more territory. Still hoping to salvage something, and return to the few weeks of happiness we had known after the wedding, I suggested a holiday in Italy. I had arranged to give three lectures at the University of Florence, which would pay for our air fares, and then we would be free to enjoy ourselves in the Tuscan countryside. Elaine agreed, but only grudgingly - her first husband had been a modernist architect, and she always claimed to dislike the past, the territory I had made my own, and pretended to prefer California and Texas. But soon after we landed at Pisa airport and took the train to Florence her interest in the Italian Renaissance revived in a way that I found almost mysterious. Once I had given my lectures she threw us into a hectic round of tourist activities. Tirelessly she insisted on visiting every church and baptistry, every museum and cathedral. I was puzzled by this passion for the past until I realised that our visits to these historic sites had exposed yet another of my weaknesses. As we took the creaking lift to the dome of Florence cathedral Elaine discovered that I was afraid of heights, a fear that I had never noticed in myself but which she immediately set out to maximise. Unsettled by the looming space below the dome, I could barely force myself from the lift. My eyes seemed unwilling to focus on the curving walls, and I felt my heart-beat fall away, leaving me on the edge of a fainting fit. Gesticulating to Elaine, I refused to follow her around the narrow gallery. Scarcely able to breathe, I waited as she proudly circled the dome, calling to me in an insistent voice that embarrassed me in front of the other tourists. Yet as we left the cathedral she became strangely solicitous, holding my arm in a concerned and reassuring way. Far from deriding me, she seemed genuinely alarmed by my moment of panic. Despite this show of affection, I soon noticed that our tour of Tuscany had become a series of vertical ascents. No battlement existed that we did not scale, no worn steps that we did not climb. At the Palazzo Vecchio, under the pretext of showing me the spectacular view over the city, she forced me to lean through the very windows from which Lorenzo de Medici had suspended the strangled plotters against his rule. I saw Siena cathedral from the roof down, almost breathing my last in the confined bell-tower. And all the while Elaine would watch me with her affectionate and lingering smile, like an older sister observing a timid sibling. Was she trying to cure me of my fear of heights, or to rub in my sense of my own inadequacy? A climax of sorts came at San Gimignano, that surrealist township of towers constructed during the 14th century by rival families within this independent city state. As Elaine moved tirelessly from one tower to the next, I retreated to a café beside the cathedral with its macabre images of hell. All afternoon she gazed at the towers, admiring these symbols of an erect masculinity of which her husband was incapable, then sat beaming at me as the tourist coach carried us to Florence. Three days later, when we arrived in Pisa for our London flight, I had been routed by Elaine's campaign. We were both eager to return to England, I to the safety of my university office, she to her solicitor. We had packed in silence, and reached Pisa airport with two hours to spare before our flight. Inevitably we found ourselves taking a taxi into the city. Reading from her guide-book, Elaine described the baptistry and cathedral in glowing terms, but I knew that our real destination was the nearby campanile, this marble phallus that seemed to excite her even more than the towers of San Gimignano. I stepped from the taxi and stared up at the dizzying structure with its dangerously canted floors. Without a word, Elaine strode away from me towards the tower. She paid her entrance fee and began to climb the steps behind two uniformed sailors and a father with his daughter. As she reached each tier she looked down at me with her affectionate but knowing smirk, her contempt rising with each successive storey. I stood on the cathedral steps, still surprised by the steep inclination of the tower, some 17 feet from the vertical. Despite myself, I wished that the structure, tilting each year by a few added millimetres, would decide on this exact moment for its long-predicted collapse. Then, as Elaine reached the penultimate tier, I found myself needing to touch the tower, to feel the unforgiving marble against my skin. I left the cathedral and walked across the worn grass where the tourists sat in the sun, waving to their friends high above them. Ignoring the ticket office, I strolled around the stone well that surrounded the tower. I placed my hand on the antique marble, its surface pitted with the graffiti of centuries, its veins as marmoreal as fossilised time. The tower was both too erect and too old. I pressed against the massive flank, urging it on its way. Eight storeys above me, Elaine had reached the roof and stood beside the panting sailors. Scarcely out of breath, she seized the iron rail and smiled down at me in her most implacable way, slowly shaking her head at my weakness. Angered by her open contempt, I pushed again at the solid marble. The wall refused to yield, but when I lifted my hand I noticed that a small crack had appeared in the surface, running away from a discoloured node of crushed limestone. Curious, I pressed again, only to see that the crack had widened. It inched upwards at a barely visible pace, then darted forward, climbing the wall like a sudden fissure in a sheet of ice. Three feet long, it crossed a decorative moulding and rose swiftly towards the cornice of the first tier. Laughing at this, I pressed both hands at the marble drum. Immediately the crack accelerated, and I heard a distant rumble, the dark groan of an awakening creature deep within the tower. The crack was now an open fissure through which I could see the shoes of the startled old man resting before he and his wife made their way to the second storey. A fine rain of dust and crumbling mortar showered my face. The entire tower was trembling against my hands, and a section of cornice fell through the air, followed by a scatter of fragments each larger than my fist. The Tower of Pisa was about to fall. I gave it one last push, both arms outstretched, and felt the tortured rumbling as somewhere the spine of this great edifice began to crack. I stepped back, aware that the building was about to collapse on to me, and then looked up at the roof, where Elaine was clinging to the iron rail. The tower buckled, its columns spilling like skittled pins at a bowling alley. In the last moments, as Elaine was pitched over the rail, I saw her face falling towards me, and an expression of anger that unmistakably changed, as she noticed me far below her, to one of triumph. * * * A second Tower of Pisa is now rising on the site of the first, financed by the world-wide appeal launched soon after the tragedy. The structure, this time mounted on an immovable concrete base, has reached the third storey and already reveals the modest inclination designed into it. This tower, supported by a rigid steel armature, will never fall, and within a few decades most visitors will have forgotten that it is no more than a replica. For me, though, the original tower remains as real as ever in my mind. I often wake from terrifying dreams as the tons of marble hurtle towards me. Then I remind myself that it was Elaine who died on that day. I remember the expression on her face, the fierce pride that lit her eyes. Did she feel that she had at last triumphed over me, and was happy to see me crushed by the cascade of tumbling columns? I remember the stones pelting my shoulders while I tried vainly to step back from the tower. At the last moment, as an amateur video-film reveals, the structure seemed to buckle, twisting itself in a desperate attempt to remain upright. It slewed away from me, sweeping Elaine, the collapsing masonry and the cartwheeling columns towards the ground by the cathedral steps. I escaped, but that expression of triumph on Elaine's face still puzzles me. Had she seen me pushing against the tower and assumed that I was responsible for its collapse? Was she proud of me for hating her so fiercely, and for at last stirring from my impotence to take my revenge? Perhaps only in her death did we truly come together, and the Tower of Pisa served a purpose for which it had waited for so many centuries. Copyright © JG Ballard. All rights reserved • The standfirst on this story was amended on Thursday 30 April 2009. The previous version said that The Dying Fall was JG Ballard's last short story. Rather, it had never appeared in any Ballard collection and was not widely known. It was published in April 1996 in a UK science fiction journal, Interzone. This has been corrected.

World War III: It’s Happening Today

By Chuck Burr


Simulposted with Culturequake

We are just not using nuclear weapons. Resource war, class war, drug war, gang war, terror war, trade war, plus war on all other species is global. Is this the culture you want to say you belong to? Is your lifestyle worth it?

When you look at anything from our modern culture, think of war. Car, computer, toaster, light bulb, money, water, food, population, government, media—think of war. The more people, the more competition, the more war. Modern Taker culture is inseparable from war.

Our culture was founded on war 10,000 years ago when one group of people in the fertile crescent decided they had a better way to live, population growth supported by totalitarian agriculture-based civilization. It is now almost universally accepted that civilization is unsurpassable and must continue at all costs.

The world now wastes over $1 trillion on military spending. When you add in everything the US spends on present defense, debt on past defense spending, off-budget covert operations, death benefits, injured veteran’s benefits, national guard employment opportunity costs, we spend almost half the total federal budget on the military.

More importantly though, think about the 175 million people who lost their lives to war in the last century. Several times that many were injured—mostly civilians. ...

The Journal of Censorship and Secrecy

Keeping Abreast of Pornographic Research in Computer Science

[Thank to Kevin @ Free Democracy for this link] There are burgeoning numbers of Ph.D's and grad students who are choosing to study pornography. Techniques for the analysis of "objectionable images" are gaining increased attention (and grant money) from governments and research institutions around the world, as well as Google. But what, exactly, does computer science have to do with porn? In the name of academic persuit, let's roll up our sleeves and plunge deeply into this often hidden area that lies between the covers of top-shelf research journals.


One cannot do research in image processing without an encounter with Lena (pronounced Lenna). The image of the woman with a feathered hat has become the de-facto test image for many algorithms, and appears in thousands of articles and conference papers. And it is porn:

Alexander Sawchuk estimates that it was in June or July of 1973 when he, then an assistant professor of electrical engineering at the USC Signal and Image Processing Institute (SIPI), along with a graduate student and the SIPI lab manager, was hurriedly searching the lab for a good image to scan for a colleague's conference paper. They had tired of their stock of usual test images, dull stuff dating back to television standards work in the early 1960s. They wanted something glossy to ensure good output dynamic range, and they wanted a human face. Just then, somebody happened to walk in with a recent issue of Playboy.

The engineers tore away the top third of the centerfold so they could wrap it around the drum of their Muirhead wirephoto scanner, which they had outfitted with analog-to-digital converters (one each for the red, green, and blue channels) and a Hewlett Packard 2100 minicomputer. The Muirhead had a fixed resolution of 100 lines per inch and the engineers wanted a 512 x 512 image, so they limited the scan to the top 5.12 inches of the picture, effectively cropping it at the subject's shoulders.

The rest of the story (and the rest of Lena) can be found here. Indeed, the 70s marked the beginning of a long relationship between computer science and pornography. However, after the birth of the world wide web, things really got hot and heavy.

Finding Naked People

In the 1990s the world wide web began to explode, pumping information of all kinds into the homes of the technologically savvy at rates as high as 9600 bits per second. It was the time when search engines such as Webcrawler, Altavista, and Yahoo began the arduous task of spidering the scattered bits of information in Internet servers everywhere. The problem was that someone might search for a completely innocuous query such as the Trojan Room Coffee Pot, and come up with images that were unexpected and inappropriate, and depending on one's tastes, objectionable.

It's not likely to be on his business card, but David A. Forsyth is an expert in web pornography, having served on the NRC committee for this topic. It is evident from his web page that he has a sense of humour, which explains the superbly descriptive title for his 1996 paper, Finding Naked People. Forsyth was one of the first researchers to study the problem of identifying objectionable content.

One of Forsyth's research areas is tracking people in images and videos and figuring our their pose. In the general case, the system has to cope with the fact that people can wear clothes. It would be easier if the subjects all wore the same colour, or didn't wear anything at all. Finding Naked People describes a way of first masking out areas of skin. The areas are then grouped together into human figures (visualized by drawing a stick figure on the image). The crux of the paper is the grouping algorithm. The grouper knows rules such as how limbs fit together into a body, and the fact that a person cannot have more than two arms. Using the rules, it figures out how to superimpose a body onto the skin patches. If it can successfully do this, the image is probably a naked person. If it cannot, then it is probably something else, like a lamp.

Here is a visualization of the skin probability field from the paper, with the grouper output segments superimposed on top:

More probability masks can be found in Proceedings of the 4th European Conference on Computer Vision, volume II on page 598.

It's better with more than one

Finding Naked People piqued a lot of interest in the field of objectionable images, and the skin matching idea is now the first step in many algorithms. However, as James Ze Wang of Stanford notes, "it takes about 6 minutes on a workstation for the figure grouper in their algorithm to process a suspect image passed by the skin filter."

In their System for Screening Objectionable Images, Wang and his colleagues describe the WIPETM method for screening content. They use a wavelet edge detection algorithm to obtain the shape of the image. Edge detection transforms an image into the outlines of the object. Wavelet edge detection allows them to tune it to detect sharp or increasingly blurry edges until well-defined shapes appear.

Image moments allow one to treat any shape as a flat, physical object (like a plate). You can figure out the centre of gravity, axis of symmetry, and other properties that don't change when you move, rotate, or change the size of the object. This typically results in a set of 3 to 7 numbers that you can use to compare how similar shapes are. They were used in early OCR (optical character recognition) algorithms circa 1962.

Wang uses both edge detection and image moments in the analysis. His algorithm is different from modern ones, because an image must pass a series of five YES/NO tests. Future algorithms would combine the detectors using statistical ways and give a probability estimate.

  1. If the image is small, it is assumed to be an icon, and allowed. Icons (such as a mail envelope) were frequently used on the world wide web in the 1990s.
  2. If the image contains few continuous tones, it is considered to be a drawing and is allowed to pass.
  3. If a great portion of the colours of the image are human body colors, then the image is rejected as porn. The algorithm is pretty smart -- if a patch identified as skin has lots of edges in it, it is probably not really skin and is removed from the analysis. (This also counts as the texture matching step)
  4. Finally, the edge (outline) image is converted into 21 numbers representing the translation, scale, and rotation invariant moments. If the 21 numbers are to close to anything already in the database, the image is rejected.
Here are some examples where the algorithm fails. We have blurred them to protect the eyes of the gentle reader. For high resolution versions, you'll have to refer to  Proceedings of the 4th International Workshop on Interactive Distributed Multimedia Systems and Telecommunication Services on page 20 (the dog-eared one).

Getting a leg up on skin models

Skin detection is an important step in porn detection, but figuring out which colours represent skin is a hard problem. Colour depends on the lighting used in the photo, the ethnicity of the participants, and the quality and noise level. Michael J. Jones and James M. Rehg at Compaq studied the problem in detail. They first manually labeled hundreds of images, highlighting all the areas that were skin using a custom drawing application. Once you have billions of pixels that you know are skin, and billions that you know are not, you can easily classify them using introductory math:

The paper describes how to find the probability function, P, using a database of images painstakingly highlighted by an army of research interns. However, as a porn detector, the method needs work.

It will be obvious to anyone who has bought a digital camera recently how to improve this system. It was even obvious to Google.

Taking the ogle out of Google

In recent years, Google has had its hands full with the problem of pornographic imagery. Henry A. Rowley, Yushi Jing, and Shumeet Baluja at the Mountain View campus, have developed a system that combines skin detection with a number of different features. After applying face detection, they can deduce that the pixels around the face represent skin colour, and therefore find other skin pixels in the image. If the face is the majority of the image, as in a portrait, the image is safe. They use a colour histogram to detect artificial images such as screen shots. (so dirty cartoons are safe?).

Doing what only Google could, they must have set a record for the rate of pornographic analysis. They evaluated the speed of the algorithm on a corpus of around 1.5 billion thumbnail images of less than 150x150 pixels. "Processing the entire corpus took less than 8 hours," the team bragged, "using 2,500 computers."

Bags of visual words (Arm, leg, or . . .?)

In 2008, Thomas Deselaers et al. came up with a unique way of finding porn, from the world of artificial intelligence. Large news databases can automatically classify news articles based on the words in them. Articles containing the names of political figures or sports jargon can be easily categorized by machines, that don't need to really understand what the article is about. Techniques exist so that the machines can learn on their own which words or names are important. The same methods can be applied to images, using visual words.

To create the visual vocabulary, they extract image patches around "points of interest", parts of the image that are likely to contain features. They are then scaled to a common size, and analyzed using PCA to find commonalities. It is similar to face detection, but for things that aren't faces. It also takes colour into account in the analysis. Because colour is a part of the "vocabulary" already, skin detection is unnecessary.

Using this technique, Deselaers is even able to go beyond simple YES/NO classification and reach a new level of precision. The algorithm can rate images into one of five categories of increasing levels of offensiveness, from benign, to lightly dressed, to partly nude, fully nude, and porn. The paper contains examples from each category, and is guaranteed to offend somebody.

Corpus non indutus

At the end of their paper, Rowley, Jing, and Baluja (of Google) speculate on how to spur further advances:

...because of the ubiquity of the Internet, search engines, and the widespread proliferation of electronic images, adult-content detection is an important problem to address. To improve the rate of progress in this field it would be useful to establish a large fixed test set which can be used by both researchers and commercial ventures.

Yes, bring on the grant-sponsored porn, so that researchers can make the world a better place. But despite the years of study, one question remains unanswered: if such a corpus existed, how would we find it?

Friday, May 01, 2009

Oakland Council Backs a Tax on Marijuana

OAKLAND, Calif. -- Leaders of this economically hard-hit city are proposing to tax medical marijuana as a way to help close a record budget shortfall.

Oakland's City Council last week approved a 1.8% tax on medicinal marijuana sold in the city. If voters pass the proposal in a July election, Oakland would become the nation's first city to directly tax the drug, medical-marijuana advocates say.

Such an outcome would further legitimize medical marijuana in California and represent the latest victory for advocates. Prospects for such a tax were made brighter in February, when U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the federal government would no longer raid state-approved dispensaries.

Backers of the Oakland tax on dispensaries said they hope to encourage other cities to follow suit. The tax would prove "that government-regulated dispensaries are good neighbors," said James Anthony, a lawyer who represents the Harborside Health Center, one of Oakland's medical-marijuana dispensaries.

California is one of 13 states that have legalized medical marijuana, allowing it to be sold to people with a doctor's recommendation. It is relatively easy for anyone over 18 years old to obtain such a doctor's note. Advocates estimate there are 200,000 or more approved medical-marijuana users in California. Users already pay a sales tax on the drug.

A city tax on medical marijuana could generate at least $400,000 and perhaps more than $1 million annually, said Rebecca Kaplan, the Oakland City Council member who pushed the proposal. The city of 400,000 residents is facing an $83 million shortfall in a $455 million budget.

The owners and managers of Oakland's four medical-marijuana dispensaries said they approached the city with the idea. "We wanted to further legitimize the medical-marijuana paradigm to show that we are truly willing to assist [Oakland], and to show other cities that there are social benefits to this," said Keith Stephenson, executive director of Purple Heart Patient Center.

No formal opposition has formed against the proposal, and Ms. Kaplan and medical-marijuana advocates said they are confident voters will approve it.

But Paul Chabot, a Southern California resident who recently founded the Coalition for a Drug Free California, is opposed to the idea because he thinks the "quasi-legalization" of marijuana would add more of the drug into the black market. "It's a front; it also sends the wrong message to children," he said. "What are you doing to do next, allow prostitution and tax that? Allow methamphetamine to be sold and tax that?"

Probable Selves

From: Seth (Session 227): "The ego…can only perceive…in a straight-line fashion, so to speak, one event after the other. IT CAN ONLY CHOOSE TO EXPERIENCE ONE EVENT OUT OF ALL THE PROBABLE EVENTS AT A TIME. The ego is, however, the only portion of the self that is, in the main, limited to follow experience along these lines…For when our individual perceives event X, this other portion of the self branches off, so to speak, into all the other probable events that could have been just as easily experienced by the ego…This other portion of the self…can pursue and experience all of these alternate events, and it can do so in the same amount of physical time that it takes for the ego to experience event X alone." (Session 232): "Let us consider the following: The individual within your system--and this is quite simplified--an individual finds himself with a choice of three actions. He chooses one of these and experiences it within the physical field. The other two actions are experienced, however, but not within the physical system. The results of the other two actions are perceived by the inner ego. The results are then checked by the inner ego against the action that was chosen for actuality within the physical system. These results are then sent to certain portions of the subconscious, where through this information knowledge is gained as to whether or not the ego and the subconscious made the best decision under the circumstances. The results are retained, to be checked against future decisions, and to be used by the physical self as an aid in making future decisions." Seth (Session 233): "The decision as to whether or not a particular probable event should be perceived as a physical one depends, of course, upon the nature of the ego which would then experience it. The probable self does not make the decision, but merely passes on the data which it has received through its own experience with the event. The information is sifted, often, through the dreaming self to the subconscious, which has intimate knowledge of the ego with which it is closely connected. The subconscious makes its own value judgments here, and passes these on to the ego. But then the ego must come to its own decision… Occasionally, when a decision has been made by the ego, the subconscious will change it because the decision is obviously such an unwise one." Seth (Session 565): "Ideas that you have entertained and not used may be picked up in this same manner by other probable you's. Each of these probable selves consider themselves the real you, of course, and to any one of them you would be the probable self; but through the inner senses all of you are aware of your part in this gestalt." Seth (Session 656) "What you must understand is this: Each of the events in each of your lives was 'once' probable. From a given field of action, then, you choose those happenings that will be physically materialized." Seth (Session 712): "Any given reality system will be surrounded by its probability clusters."

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Subscribe to Posts [Atom]