Friday, July 31, 2009

Ralph Nader Quote

From: ... “You are going to see the biggest waste, fraud, and abuse in American history,” Ralph Nader told me when I asked him about the bailout. “Not only is it wrongly directed, not only does it deal with the perpetrators instead of the people who were victimized, but they don't have a delivery system of any honesty and efficiency. ...

3 Summer Songs, 2 Summer Poems

Summer - Allegro non molto.mp3            
Summer - Adagio - Presto.mp3    
Summer - Presto.mp3



I Know I Am But Summer To Your Heart

I know I am but summer to your heart,
And not the full four seasons of the year;
And you must welcome from another part
Such noble moods as are not mine, my dear.
No gracious weight of golden fruits to sell
Have I, nor any wise and wintry thing;
And I have loved you all too long and well
To carry still the high sweet breast of Spring.
Wherefore I say: O love, as summer goes,
I must be gone, steal forth with silent drums,
That you may hail anew the bird and rose
When I come back to you, as summer comes.
Else will you seek, at some not distant time,
Even your summer in another clime.

=Edna St. Vincent Millay=


Before Summer Rain

Suddenly, from all the green around you,
something-you don't know what-has disappeared;
you feel it creeping closer to the window,
in total silence. From the nearby wood

you hear the urgent whistling of a plover,
reminding you of someone's Saint Jerome:
so much solitude and passion come
from that one voice, whose fierce request the downpour

will grant. The walls, with their ancient portraits, glide
away from us, cautiously, as though
they weren't supposed to hear what we are saying.

And reflected on the faded tapestries now;
the chill, uncertain sunlight of those long
childhood hours when you were so afraid.

=Rainer Maria Rilke=                    

Peace and Freedom Party to form national political effort at San Francisco conference

The Peace and Freedom Party is having a national conference in San Francisco that may turn out to be a historic gathering in American political history as the California party seeks a national role in electoral politics. Meeting at Hiram Johnson State Building the four-decade old party has invited a cross-section of the political left to help plan for the 2010 and 2012 elections. The Peace and Freedom Party held its first national convention in 1968 in Ann Arbor, Michigan and nominated Black Panther Eldridge Cleaver as its first presidential candidate. A self described feminist, socialist party, Peace and Freedom was born in the turbulent 1960's and has remained a home for radical and alternative activists maintaining an important ballot line in the nation's most populous state. In the 1970's Peace and Freedom joined with the People's Party coalition but outlasted the larger group which faded by 1980. Some other presidential candidates following Eldridge Cleaver's nomination include Benjamin Spock, Leonard Peltier, and most recently, Ralph Nader. The socialist movement in the United States has a long history for over a century of factionalism and has at times been its own worst enemy with ideological divisions and partisan splits. The goal of the San Francisco conference is to end the fragmentation and several drafts of a "unity" document are circulating to be discussed at the gathering. Often the Democratic Party lures leftists to its ranks as happened in 2008 with Obama fever swelling the Democratic vote. Groups that have found themselves comfortable with Democrat candidates include the Communist Party, the Democratic Socialists of America and Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism. The Peace and Freedom Party already shares some members with the Party for Socialism and Liberation, Socialist Party USA, and the Workers World Party. There has also been discussion of a merger or alliance with individual state parties like the Liberty Union Party of Vermont or some of the parties formed by Ralph Nader for his 2008 independent presidential bid. Independent 2008 vice-presidential candidate Matt Gonzalez, who was Ralph Nader's running mate, won the Peace and Freedom nomination at its convention last year and has worked to maintain a good relationship with the party following his departure from the Green Party where he was a recognized leader. Gonzalez will be speaking to the conference and is expected to encourage the party to continue its efforts at growth. The main guest speaker is Richard Winger, editor of Ballot Access News, and the nation's acknowledged expert on third-party ballot access requirements. Winger can be expected to identify states where the ballot requirements are less burdensome than others and Peace and Freedom has a realistic chance of ballot access in time for the upcoming election cycle. Winger has already helped the party several years ago when the California Secretary of State sought to decertify Peace and Freedom with his research and extraordinary memory of political events. Peace activist Cindy Sheehan will attend and speak at the conference. Sheehan, after years of activism following the war death of her son, sought a seat in Congress last year and is expected to make another attempt in 2010. Kevin Akin, party chair, says that over a dozen national organizations will be represented at the conference and the base of support may extend to twenty states. The goal of the conference is to mold an umbrella national organization that can unify all the factions and splinter groups to field as many candidates throughout the country as possible. Akin sums up the change that Peace and Freedom is offering to the public. "The capitalist system is addicted to militarism and war, regardless of who is administering the government. The new government in Washington, in which so many people have placed their hopes for real change, has made it clear that it intends to continue the occupation of Iraq, escalate the war in Afghanistan, continue the occupation by proxy of Palestinians and Haitians, and perpetuate hostility against progressive movements and governements in Latin America and around the world." The author is an outgoing member of the Peace and Freedom national organizing committee.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

An apple a day keeps healthcare reform away

July 30th, 2009 · No Comments offers news and advocacy for online prescription drug consumers.

apple a day prescription drugsWe would still like healthcare reform legislation to succeed this year — but we are not nearly as enthusiastic about it as we were just a few short months ago.

For starters, the Obama Administration isn’t calling it “healthcare reform” anymore. Now it’s “health insurance reform.”

Reformers have lowered their sights. They aren’t trying to fix Big Pharma’s stranglehold on the American consumer anymore. All they are trying to do now is to offer a public alternative to Big Insurance. And even this small measure of reform may not become law.

If it doesn’t, and so-called “universal health care” passes, it will simply be another handout to corporations, paid for by taxpayers, just as Medicare Part D was. The government will simply pay to have everyone “covered,” but won’t fix the underlying problems that make America’s healthcare system so overpriced and inefficient.

What a shame.

I haven’t given up hope that the public option will succeed. But I have given up all hope that the bill will include meaningful improvements in prescription drug prices.

As Ralph Nader explains:

Obama invites (drug companies) to the White House, where they presumably pledged to give up nearly $300 billion dollars over ten years without any specifics about how this complex assurance can be policed.

No matter, in return Obama and his aides agreed not to press Congress to authorize the federal government to negotiate drug prices with the drug industry. Don’t worry: the taxpayers will pay the bill.

At a meeting on July 7 at the White House between drug company executives, Obama’s chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, and Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT), the industry, according to The New York Times, was promised that the final legislative package would not allow the reimportation of cheaper medicines from Canada or other countries even if they meet our drug safety standards.

Do you see anything odd about the pharmaceutical industry promising “X dollars over X years” in lower prices to consumers? Does that sound like a free market process to you?

In other words, if I had a business selling apples, and I sold them for 25 cents each, you would assume that this price would be based on what the market would bear. That is, if I sold them for 30 cents, I would not sell them all and some of them would rot. But if I sold them for 20 cents, I would sell them all too fast and not make as much money as I could have. That’s the market setting the price.

Big Pharma doesn’t operate by such rules. It has a friend — the U.S. government — that decides how much money it can make on the drugs it develops.

The government decides this by giving drug companies patents, and then extending these patents again and again, so that they can have a monopoly on the drugs they sell.

If I’m the only one in the world who’s allowed to sell apples, I can probably get a lot more than 25 cents an apple, can’t I?

In fact, I can start marketing apples as a sweet, juicy alternative to Russian caviar if I want to. I can sell them for $100 each if I want, right?

And what would be even better is if your doctor informed you that, for your health, you had to have an apple every day. Then you would have to find a way to get one, whether you could afford it or not, wouldn’t you?

Gee, it’s great to be in the apple-selling business, isn’t it?

So here I am, selling my apples at an outrageous profit, buying G4s to fly me around, spending billions of dollars on TV ads to ensure that consumers “ask their doctors” whether they need to eat more apples, when all of a sudden President Obama calls.

“Hey,” he says, “what would you say about selling your apples for $95 instead of $100 for a few years? And maybe selling them for $50 to seniors in the Medicare Part D doughnut hole? That way we could say that you have contributed $X billion in cost savings to our healthcare reform bill.”

“Hmm,” I think. “Why not? It’s good PR — and how funny that people will think they’re actually getting a bargain by paying $95 for an apple.”

If you want to pay $95 for an apple, you can wait for the benefits of Obamacare. Otherwise, you should seek the immediate benefits of licensed Canadian pharmacies.

...Rolling into the weekend....

Roller Derby Queen, by Psychobilly Kadillaks - mp3

Book Excerpt: ‘Empire of Illusion’


Read this brilliant and humorous chapter from Chris Hedges’ new book and marvel as the Pulitzer Prize-winning war correspondent makes sense of reality television.

Adapted from “Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle,” available from Nation Books, a member of the Perseus Books Group. Copyright © 2009.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009
[Thanks to the lovely and talented bibimimi for the douchebaggery!]

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The Iron Cage of Movement Bureaucracy, by thomaspainescorner



Humane Society Teams Up With Michael Vick: The Humane Society of the United States says Michael Vick wants to work with the group on a program aimed at eradicating dogfighting among urban teens. Society president Wayne Pacelle tells The Associated Press that he met with Vick at the federal prison in Leavenworth, Kan., and that the meeting came after Vick’s legal team approached the animal-rights group.

(Photo and caption from ABC May 19, 2009)

Essay by Steve Best

Republished on 7/28/09

Hegel remarks somewhere that all great, world-historical facts and personages occur, as it were, twice. He has forgotten to add: the first time as tragedy, the second as farce.” Karl Marx

The modern animal “rights” movement is only a few decades old. In a relatively short time, it has clearly made its presence felt in society. There are many promising signs of evolution in the social attitudes and treatment of animals, ranging from increased legal penalties for animal abuse to the growth of the animal law field and growing popularity of animal studies in higher education. Nonetheless, it would be a serious mistake to conclude that we are “winning” or making “progress” in a truly significant way, or that we can ride into the future on the wings of the mainstream organizations and their legislative-based tactics.

Fallacies of the Mainstream

Consider this: after over three decades of growth and advocacy, the US environmental movement has not accomplished any major goals and easily succumbed to eco-fascists such as Ronald Regan and George W. Bush. No amount of protests, demonstrations, lobbying, or mass mailings has been able to stop the mounting global ecological crisis which plays out in global warming, rainforest destruction, chemical poisoning, species extinction, and countless other ways. As Mark Dowie shows his must-read book, Losing Ground, the situation, in fact, has steadily deteriorated and has reached crisis proportions, despite the emergence of huge environmental organizations and growing popularity of the environmental cause.

Similarly, whatever PR gloss one cares to throw on the last few decades of the animal advocacy movement, one has to confront the startling facts that ever more animals die each year in slaughterhouses, vivisection labs, and animal “shelters,” while the fur industry has made a huge comeback. Similarly, after three decades of activity, the animal advocacy movement remains overwhelmingly a white, middle-class movement that has gained few supporters in communities of color or among other social justice movements.

So if we are counting the number of casualties in this war of liberation, to single out one criterion, our side is hardly winning. Over the past two decades, Americans have dropped $40 billion on animal protection issues, some $2 billion a year, as 3,000 volunteer organizations worked billions of hours. And for what? More death and bigger cages?

As activists lounge around swank hotels preaching to the choir in endless conferences and Ego Fests, the enemy is growing in number and strength. Meanwhile, the key tactics that have truly proven their worth and work where others fail – the methods of the ALF, SHAC, and direct action in general – have been rejected and reviled by vast swaths of the movement. Mainstream ideologues are under the spell of Gandhi, King, and “legalism,” the system-created ideology that urges dissenters to seek change only in and through non-violence and the pre-approved legislative channels of the state. As the opiate of the masses, legalism disempowers resistance movements and leaves corporations and governments to monopolize power, deploy violence at will, and flout the laws – created by and for them — whenever necessary and convenient.

Many individuals and organizations – none more aggressively than the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) — in fact have unctuously adopted the murderous voice of the corporate-state apparatus and denounced direct action as violent, terrorist, and antithetical to the values of the animal advocacy movement. The lethal virus of McCarthyism has infected our own movement. The moral purists and legalists implore direct action advocates to purge the “violent and extremist” element so that the voices of reason, compassion, and moderation can prevail. And prevail they will, we are asked to believe, with enough professionals, bureaucrats, lobbyists, and lawyers filling the hallways and chamber rooms of Congress, persuading our “elected representatives” who — of course! — serve only the interests of the people, and never the will of corporations.

It is unfortunate that such naiveté still impedes social movements today, for the entire history of state repression, political corruption, and corporate hegemony belies this bullshit at every turn. In the accelerating phase of ecological crisis, it is now do or die and we do not have the luxury to wait for change to unfold in the long march through the institutions.

Lessons from the Environmental Movement

The animal advocacy movement is poised for ever greater failures as it replicates the mistakes of the environmental movement. At the turn of the decade in 1970, the future of the new environmental movement seemed bright. Riding the crest of 1960s turmoil and protest, environmentalism quickly became a mass concern. The first Earth Day in 1970 drew millions of people to the streets throughout the nation. The 1970s became “the Decade of Environmentalism,” as Congress passed new laws such as the Clean Air and Water Act and the government created the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Environmental organizations planted roots in Washington, DC, grew vast membership bases, spewed out expensive mass mailings, and walked side-by-side with the rich and powerful as they lobbied for a better world.

The movement’s recipe for success, however, quickly turned into a formula for disaster as large environmental groups increasingly resembled the corporations they criticized and, in fact, themselves evolved into corporations and self-interested money-making machines. Behemoth organizations such as Friends of the Earth, the Wilderness Society, and Nature Conservancy formed the “Gang of Ten.” They were distinguished by their corporate and bureaucratic structures whereby decision-making originated from the professionals at the top who neither had nor sought citizen input from the grass roots level.

The Gang of Ten hired accountants and MBAs over activists, they spent more time and energy in mass mailing campaigns that actual advocacy, and their money was squandered on sustaining their budgets and bureaucracies rather than protecting the environment. They brokered compromise deals to get votes for legislation that was watered-down, constantly revised to strengthen corporate interests, and poorly enforced. As an entrenched bureaucracy with its own interests to protect, they not only did not fund or support grass roots groups, they even fought against them at times. They formed alliances instead with corporate exploiters and legitimated greenwashing/brainwashing campaigns that presented polluters and enemies of the environment as friends of the earth – as when the Environmental Defense Fund bragged that something significant happened when they partnered with McDonalds to end plastic foam containers, as the rainforests continued to be pillaged for Big Macs and Quarter Pounders. The EPA became a farce that protected the interests of corporations over citizens and the earth, while lulling the populace into thinking that there was genuine “regulation” of corporations and environmental hazards.

The significant gains in the environmental movement came in the late 1970s and early 1980s, with the emergence of thousands of grass roots organizations not beholden to patrons, corporations, and politicians, along with the direct action tactics of Paul Watson and the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, Earth First!, and the Earth Liberation Front.

Problems in Our House

Looking back on the last two decades of environmental politics, it is clear that mainstream organizations are an impediment to the radical changes necessary in society to stop corporate ecocide. With ecological crises mounting, an ever-growing division between the world’s rich and poor, and transnational corporations gaining increasing power and control over all nations, it is clear that tactics of compromise, reform, and moderation cannot stop the juggernaut of capitalism and speciesism and that more radical and confrontational methods are necessary.

Unfortunately, the same problems and pathologies that crippled the potential power of a mass environmental movement are replicating themselves in the animal advocacy movement. As Gary Francione, Joan Dunayer, and others have complained, it is hard even to find a consistent animal rights philosophy and politics in the movement, as most campaigns in fact are corporate-compromising, welfarist campaigns dressed up in a rights language and seek a reduction in suffering rather than the abolition of the root causes of exploitation.

Through the influence of the ALF and SHAC, a militant direct action presence has entrenched itself in the animal advocacy movement (the ALF beginning in the 1980s and SHAC in the late 1990s), but in most cases direct action is either shunned or vilified for fear of state repression or losing the almighty funding and patron dollars through contamination with controversy.

The New Goliath

HSUS, in particular, has distinguished itself as a divisive force by pulling out of national and regional conferences that include direct action speakers. Rather than evince respect for diversity and debate instead of run, HSUS not only has withdrawn into its own insular conference world, it has publicly attacked the ALF and SHAC. In a recent interview, Mike Markarian, HSUS Executive Vice President of External Affairs, crossed a clear line when he demonized ALF activists as criminals and applauded the FBI for going after them (see Volume I Number 4 of the North American Animal Liberation Press Office newsletter at:

HSUS is a vast, global empire unto itself, with offices throughout the world, 10 regional offices in the US, and tentacles in a web of other organizations and affiliates. While it has no relation to local humane societies and animal shelters anywhere in the US, HSUS does control dozens of legal corporations throughout the world, such as Earthvoice, the Wildlife Land Trust, Earthkind USA, and the UK World Society for the Protection of Animals. Like other transnational corporations, the HSUS conglomerate survives through endless expansion and growth. In 2002, it took over Ark Trust, producers of the Genesis Awards for animal-friendly TV and film. It absorbed the Fund for Animals in 2004, and in 2005 it snapped up edgy activists Miyun Park and Paul Shapiro from Compassion Over Killing, a pro-open rescue group willing to break the law to rescue animals, a clear no-no for HSUS.

From its 30,000 members and annual budget of $500,000 in 1970, it has morphed into a body of 9 million members with an operating budget of nearly $100 million in 2005. Such a behemoth has a homogenization effect on the movement whereby it monopolizes donations to animal causes, commands ever more media, disseminates welfarist ideology, co-opts activists useful to its programs, and maligns direct action approaches, all the while staying disengaged from local humane societies and animal shelters as a whole (unless they are willing to pay HSUS a fee for services and advice).

Certainly, HSUS has helped animals in various ways and helped to chalk up a number of legislative victories against cockfighting, horse slaughter, and other atrocities, and under Pacelle’s leadership it progressively advocates a vegan agenda. But it also is a vast bureaucratic organization with its own interests and needs (such as paying Pacelle’s $300,000 annual salary) that has adopted many of the unfortunate characteristics of mainstream environmental movements.

No such empire and bureaucracy can be sustained without its lifeblood – money – and fundraising, patron satisfaction, and forging corporate ties thereby occupy a good deal of HSUS time and energy. In 2003, HSUS had $116,205,882.00 in total liability and net assets, yet spent around $3.5 million on the crucial problem of animal sheltering (far better than in 2002, when they gave less than $150,000 to local humane societies and shelters). They did, however, spend over $15.6 million on fundraising and accrued $6.3 million in administrative costs.

HSUS acquired over countless millions of dollars in donations to aid animals gravely affected by hurricane Katrina. They worked to save many animal lives, but also came under intense fire from activists on the ground who claimed that they were inept and inefficient. One has to wonder if a more flexible organization structure would not have been more effective. And how much of that largesse supports its bloated bureaucracy and fundraising needs, and how much goes directly to the animals? Would such funds not have been better utilized by shelters and rescue organizations at the grass roots?

In 1994, Pacelle told Animal People that his goal was to build “a National Rifle Association of the animal rights movement,” suggesting he seeks a powerful organization dominated by single-issue politics. Such an approach means in practice the kind of compromise politics that vitiated the environmental movement, such that HSUS is prepared to bargain with or support nearly any politician (however right-wing) or corporation for a vote. This was evident in their recent support for the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA, a neo-liberal economic policy modeled on NAFTA), whereby they gained tenuous support for some animal issues, but lent their support in turn for a “trade agreement” that threatens small farmers, violates the rights of workers, promotes factory farming (and thus greater meat and dairy consumption), and favors transnational corporations that grow wealthy through the plunder of Southern nations.

Do or Die

If the animal rights movement is ever to become more than just another “interest group,” if it is to achieve it goals of animal liberation, and if it is to realize its potential for radically transforming human identity and society, it will have to study past social movements and learn from their successes and failures – the environmental movement in particular — in order to draw the right lessons and not repeat the same mistakes. Activists need to be critical of large mainstream organizations, fight to maintain philosophical and tactical diversity, and demonstrate the vital importance of grass roots, direct action, and underground approaches.

As frustrated as activists become for far greater degrees of progress, it is also true that we need patience, foresight, long-term vision and strategies, and use of non-violent tactics where these are viable. Where legal and non-violent tactics are not viable, however, where they are not enough to stop exploiters from killing innocent animals, it is our duty to use stronger tactics to bring this violence against animals to an end. As we would not argue any differently if we were defending human beings against violence and terrorism, we should apply the same arguments to animals who have equal rights to life and freedom. As with past human liberation struggles, any and all tactics that prove themselves effective in the field of battle must be used for animal liberation, thus demanding a pluralist and non-dogmatic approach.

For a long time, the direct action community has tolerated the opprobrium of mainstream organizations like HSUS, which claims that direct action approaches have discredited the values of the movement and impeded its progress. As we consider the level of radical tactics necessary to defend animals and the earth, and ponder the fallacies that have guided the animal advocacy movement for too long, maybe it’s time to turn the tables and expose the fallacies and hypocrisies of the mainstream.

The message of the animal rights/liberation movement has nothing to do with profits, corporations, and fundraising, and everything to do with a revolutionary transformation of human consciousness and all existing social institutions.

Dr. Steve Best is TPC’s associate editor. Associate professor of philosophy at UTEP, award-winning writer, noted speaker, public intellectual, and seasoned activist, Steven Best engages the issues of the day such as animal rights, ecological crisis, biotechnology, liberation politics, terrorism, mass media, globalization, and capitalist domination. Best has published 10 books, over 100 articles and reviews, spoken in over a dozen countries, interviewed with media throughout the world, appeared in numerous documentaries, and was voted by VegNews as one of the nations “25 Most Fascinating Vegetarians.” He has come under fire for his uncompromising advocacy of “total liberation” (humans, animals, and the earth) and has been banned from the UK for the power of his thoughts. From the US to Norway, from Sweden to France, from Germany to South Africa, Best shows what philosophy means in a world in crisis.

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Social Intelligence, by Antero Alli

When we know what is worth fighting for, there is no point in wasting our time and energy fighting against anything or anybody. Link

Afghan insurgent tolls not needed - U.S. military

The U.S. military in Afghanistan stopped releasing the number of insurgents it kills some time ago because it is often inaccurate or incomplete and distracts from the purpose of the overall mission, the military said on Tuesday. ...

'SMILE' starring John Lennon - by Yoko Ono

by Yoko Ono
Still from Film No. 5 by Yoko Ono, 'SMILE' starring John Lennon How To... SMILE by Yoko Ono I told you to smile when you are feeling down. However, there are steps you should know. First you go to the mirror and smile to the mirror in anyway you can. You probably will not feel any different. Smile a few times that way. If that is not enough, smile a few times every morning when you see the mirror. That won't do much, either, right? Because there is a way to smile and change not only your mood, but make your body healthy and young, and change your life for the better! 1) Smile just by twisting the ends of your mouth up. That doesn't get you anywhere, I bet. But that's a start. 2) Smile with your eyes and mouth. That's better. Your smile will make somebody feel good, maybe. Add a little giggle, and they will either think you're crazy or like you for it. 3) If you really want to smile so it will make yourself feel good as well - you have to smile from your heart and your lungs. Don't worry, if you are ending the smile with a quiet sound like ummm. 4) The next step will make you feel still better. Smile from your solar plexus. This has an added benefit of making your solar plexus healthier, and active. 5) The next step is to smile right down from your stomach. When you do this, make sure to breathe deeply and pull your stomach muscles in as you smile. 6) The next step - yes, there are more steps! - you should smile from your knees. Again, just pull your knees in - as you pull your stomach in - at the same time you use your lungs, heart and solar plexus. You'll see that by then, you are smililng with your whole body. You won't forget to smile with your eyes and mouth at the same time. It will happen anyway. That's how you will get the true benefit of smiling. How about giving a smile to others? Should we forget that? Don't worry. They'll notice your smile. Only, this time, you'll feel good, too. Very, very good! I love you! yoko Yoko Ono 24 July 2009

Positive Feeling Emergency Kit

From: Seth, channelled by Jane Roberts, gives here very good advice on how to act in case of emergency. It is an excerpt from his book Seth – The Way Toward Health: A Seth Book, one of the fantastic and inspiring Sethbooks, written in 1984. A Must-Read if you want to know more about how to be effortlessly healthy and happy in your life…

There are certain simple steps that can be followed, whenever you find yourself in a difficult situation, whether the condition is one of poor health, a stressful personal involvement with another, a financial dilemma, or whatever.

These steps seem very obvious, and perhaps too easy—but they will bring an immediate sense of ease and peace of mind while your inner reserves are being released and activated.

I have mentioned these steps many times, because they are so vital in clearing the conscious mind, and bringing some sense of relief to the frightened ego.

1. Immediately begin to live in the present as much as possible. Try to become as aware as you can of present sense-data—all of it. Often, while you are in pain for example, you concentrate upon that sensation alone, ignoring the feelings of ease that may be felt by other portions of the body and unaware of the conglomeration of sounds, sights and impressions that are also in the immediate environment. This procedure will immediately lessen the pressure of the problem itself, whatever it is, and give you a sense of refreshment.

2. Refuse to worry. This fits automatically with step 1, of course. Tell yourself you can worry all you want tomorrow, or on some other occasion, but resolve not to worry in the present moment.

3. When your thoughts do touch upon your particular problem in that present moment, imagine the best possible solution to the dilemma. Do not wonder how or why or even when the ideal solution will come, but see it in your mind’s eye as accomplished. Or if you are not particularly good at visual imagery, then try to get the feeling of thanksgiving and joy that you would feel if the problem was solved to your complete satisfaction.

These steps will allow you breathing time, and actually help minimize the pressure of your situation, whatever it is. Then quieted, you will be able to consider other more suitable steps that may more directly address your particular solution.

Ira Glass on Why Creative Excellence Takes Time

Ira Glass, host of the beloved radio show This American Life, offers a helpful reminder that excellence doesn’t come automatically. It takes effort, years of it. And he revisits some of his early radio work in order to prove it. A good reminder for anyone with serious artistic or creative ambitions. July 27th, 2009 by Dan Colman @

Atomic Punk

From: Here Punk Chartbusters v.4 CD1: (A punk chart?It's not punk if it's on a chart, no? Hmm..) 01-Gwyllions-I Can Hear Music.mp3 02-The Billy Rubin-Overload.mp3 03-Die Toten Hosen-Hang On Sloopy.mp3 04-The Unknown-You Might Think.mp3 05-Humam Hamster Hybrids-Conquered Love.mp3 06-Peace Brothers-Frozen.mp3 07-Raubertochter-Major Tom.mp3 08-The Living End-Tainted Love.mp3 09-ZSK-Eve Of Destruction.mp3 10-Schandfleck-Torn.mp3 11-Skin Of Tears-Suburbia.mp3 12-Tabascos-You Got It.mp3 13-Terrorgruppe-Love Machine.mp3 14-Socks-Dont You Want Me.mp3 15-Second Floor Daycare-Baby One More Time.mp3 16-Squatweiler-Call Me.mp3 17-Ruths Hat-Please Please Me.mp3 18-The MC Rackins-Talk Dirty To Me.mp3 19-Stimilion-Ill Be There For You.mp3 20-Backlash-I Dont Like Mondays.mp3 21-Nichts Gelernt-Du Tragst Keine Liebe In Dir.mp3 22-Payback-Nice Girls.mp3 23-Dragster-Livin La Vida Loca.mp3 24-In Case Of Emergency-Time Of My Life.mp3 25-UK Subs-Something In The Air.mp3 26-Funeral Dress-Leaving On A Jetplane.mp3 27-Tagtraum-Eternal Flame.mp3

Monday, July 27, 2009

Blue Monday...Music...Melancholia...Monsters

From: Music for Maniacs The Dickies' remake "Banana Splits", mp3
Melancholia the history of melancholia includes all of us. -Charles Bukowski-

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Military Weighs Private Security on Front Lines

The U.S. military command is considering contracting a private firm to manage security on the front lines of the war in Afghanistan, even as Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates says that the Pentagon intends to cut back on the use of private security contractors.

On a Web site listing federal business opportunities, the Army this month published a notice soliciting information from prospective contractors who would develop a security plan for 50 or more forward operating bases and smaller command outposts across Afghanistan.

Although the U.S. military has contracted out security services to protect individuals, military bases and other facilities in Iraq and Afghanistan, this contract would award a commercial company unusually broad "theater-wide" authority to protect forward operating bases in a war zone. ...

Secrets of CIA 'ghost flights' to be revealed

From: Guantánamo detainee's lawyers hail UK air firm's U-turn that allows rendition case to go to court Confidential documents showing the flight plans of a CIA "ghost plane" allegedly used to transfer a British resident to secret interrogation sites around the world are to be made public. The move comes after a Sussex-based company accused of involvement in extraordinary rendition dropped its opposition to a case against it being heard in court. Lawyers bringing the case against Jeppesen UK on behalf of the former Guantánamo Bay detainee, Binyam Mohamed, claimed last night the climbdown had wide-ranging legal implications that could help expose which countries and governments knew the CIA was using their air bases to spirit terrorist suspects around the world. Jeppesen UK, a division of the Jeppesen Corporation, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Boeing, is alleged to have provided a range of services that allowed planes owned by shell companies operating on behalf of the CIA to fly suspected terrorists to "black sites" . Jeppesen is alleged to have provided flight planning services, secured permits for travel, arranged fuel provision and filed flight plans for the clients in the knowledge that the planes were being used for extraordinary rendition. "Jeppesen's embarrassing U-turn vindicates our fight to expose corporate collusion in torture," said Clive Stafford Smith, director of the legal charity Reprieve, which has led the campaign on behalf of Mohamed. "Binyam Mohamed, and perhaps many others, are one step nearer to making the directors of companies stop and think before they commit criminal acts for profit." ...

god art


God of merchandise

God of entertainment

God of food

nitzan klamer

Anarchist Olympics in San Francisco this August!

This summer UA in the Bay will be hosting an Anarchist Olympics in San Francisco. The general idea is to host mock competitions, short demonstrations, skillshares, full length trainings, and games that help to prepare our community with tactical knowledge for upcoming protests, demonstrations and actions. We believe sharing this knowledge and gathering socially will better prepare us all for success and safety on the streets. Schedule of events, speakers, participating groups, parties, and more will be up on our website ( soon. Check back often for updates.
Title: Anarchist Olympics
START DATE: Saturday August 15
TIME: 11:00 AM - 6:00 PM
Location Details:
Event will be held at an outdoor space in San Francisco. Location specifics will not be released until the night of August 14.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

RAW - Governments & Anarchy

Friday, July 24, 2009

In case you don't know some of his accomplishments, or what his intentions are...

Green Activists Ask: What Would Ralph Nader Do? Nader's legacy and influence go far beyond presidential elections. by MickeyZ

Ralph Nader sez: "A great problem of contemporary life is how to control the power of economic interests which ignore the harmful effects of their applied science and technology."

Nader (b. 1934) has been called "the most vigilant citizen in America," and citizen Ralph’s first high-profile salvo against the automobile industry was a 1959 article called "The Safe Car You Can’t Buy," in The Nation. Nader wrote: "It is clear Detroit today is designing automobiles for style, cost, performance, and calculated obsolescence, but not - despite the 5,000,000 reported accidents, nearly 40,000 fatalities, 110,000 permanent disabilities, and 1,500,000 injuries yearly—for safety."

Six years later, in 1965, Nader published Unsafe at Any Speed: The Designed-In Dangers of the American Automobile and the consumer movement was born. The book meticulously detailed how car companies sacrificed safety in the name of profit, e.g. General Motors' Chevrolet Corvair had a suspension that made it liable to roll over.

The response from GM made Nader a folk hero. Private detectives were hired to trap the consumer crusader in a compromising situation, but they failed. Nader caught wind of the plot and sued the auto giant for invasion of privacy. The fallout was swift and far-reaching. GM President James Roche was forced to appear before a nationally televised Senate subcommittee and apologize to Nader; GM improved the Corvair's suspension; and Congress passed the 1966 National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act.

Nader used the majority of his $284,000 settlement to lay the groundwork for a long-term consumer rights movements. Public Citizen, the NGO founded in 1971, has been credited with helping to pass the Safe Drinking Water Act and Freedom of Information Act and prompting the creation of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), and spawned divisions such as Citizen Action Group, Congress Watch, Global Trade Watch, and Tax Reform Research Group. Non-profit organizations created by Nader include the Corporate Accountability Research Project, Disability Rights Center, National Citizens’ Coalition for Nursing Home Reform, and the National Coalition for Universities in the Public Interest.

"Nader’s accomplishments have become part of the fabric of American public life," Karen Croft writes in. "He works harder than any president or member of Congress," says Croft. "He has affected your life as a consumer more than any man, but you didn’t elect him and you can’t make him go away."

Croft asked Nader how he wants to be remembered, to which he replied: "For helping strengthen democracy, for making raw power accountable and enhancing justice and the fulfillment of human possibilities."

Sounds like a template for all green activists, huh?

*There's a new Patriotism brewing in America, and it's got green written all over it: Patriotism 2.0.

More on Ralph Nader Video: Ralph Nader Talks About Global Warming In 2000 (15 Sec)

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Shel Silverstein on "The Johnny Cash Show"

* The Giving Tree

Tim Burton's Alice In Wonderland

BEETHOVEN: Concerto in D Major for Violin and Orchestra, Op. 61.

Jascha Heifetz, violin. NBC Symphony Orchestra. Arturo Toscanini, conductor. Victor 78rpm Album DM705 (048066-048074). Recorded March 11, 1940 I. Allegro ma non troppo (Cadenza by Auer - Edited and reivsed by Heifetz) II. Larghetto (Cadenza by Joachim-Heifetz) III. Rondo (Allegro) (Cadenza by Joachim-Auer-Heifetz)

Wednesday, July 22, 2009


[Yes, Josh Orton...even if it's Obama...] Obama Has Met At Least 27 Times With Private Health Care Industry Executives * Secrecy, Even If It's Obama

This is disappointing:

Invoking an argument used by President George W. Bush, the Obama administration has turned down a request from a watchdog group for a list of health industry executives who have visited the White House to discuss the massive healthcare overhaul. ... The Secret Service sent a reply stating that documents revealing the frequency of such visits were considered presidential records exempt from public disclosure laws. The agency also said it was advised by the Justice Department that the Secret Service was within its rights to withhold the information because of the "presidential communications privilege." ... Having promised transparency, the administration should be willing to disclose who it is consulting in shaping healthcare policy, said an attorney for the citizens' group. In its letter requesting the records, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics asked about visits from Billy Tauzin, president of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America; Karen Ignagni, president of America's Health Insurance Plans; William Weldon, chairman and CEO of Johnson & Johnson; and J. James Rohack, president of the American Medical Assn., among others.

There's not much excuse for this. During the campaign, Obama loudly derided closed-door governing. In fact, it's still on his website:

The Problem
  • Lobbyists Write National Policies: For example, Vice President Dick Cheney's Energy Task Force of oil and gas lobbyists met secretly to develop national energy policy.

Barack Obama and Joe Biden's Plan

Bring Americans Back into their Government

  • Make White House Communications Public: Obama will amend executive orders to ensure that communications about regulatory policymaking between persons outside government and all White House staff are disclosed to the public.
  • Conduct Regulatory Agency Business in Public: Obama will require his appointees who lead the executive branch departments and rulemaking agencies to conduct the significant business of the agency in public, so that any citizen can see in person or watch on the Internet these debates.

Back in primary season, Obama attacked Hillary specifically on healthcare reform transparency:

During one of the recent Democratic debates, Obama, criticizing the secrecy of Clinton's 1993 effort to reform healthcare, talked about how he would open up the entire process -- "Not negotiating behind closed doors, but bringing all parties together, and broadcasting those negotiations on C-SPAN ..."

To be sure, Barack Obama isn't Dick Cheney - the current White House isn't crafting policy with industry executives exclusively. But it's painful to see such an obvious gap between an inspiring campaign promise and a cynical governing reality.

The Bush Administration increased the power of the presidency while pushing public accountability farther away from that power. And given the enormity of the challenges Obama inherited, I'm sure there's temptation to retain at least part of that expanded authority...our new president needs all the help he can get.

But the long-term damage isn't worth it - Bush's abuse of power can't become precedent.

Cornel West and Carl Dix, Harlem last week...BRILLIANT!

Watch the video of the Dialogue between Cornel West and Carl Dix on "The Ascendancy of Obama... and the Continued Need for Resistance and Liberation" To hear the full evening, including Q&A session, click here.

Don't miss one minute of this discussion....!!

Oakland, CA First in Nation to Tax Pot

Henry Louis Gates, Troy Anthony Davis, and the 21st Century Color Line, by Amy Goodman

W.E.B. Du Bois' classic 1903 work "The Souls of Black Folk" opens with "The problem of the Twentieth Century is the problem of the color line." Du Bois helped form the NAACP, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, which just celebrated its 100th anniversary.

Henry Louis Gates Jr., who directs Harvard University's W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research, knows much about the color line -- not only from his life's work, but from life experience, including last week, when he was arrested in his own home.

Gates' lawyer, Harvard Law professor Charles Ogletree, said in a statement that the arrest occurred as Gates returned from the airport:

"Professor Gates attempted to enter his front door, but the door was damaged. Professor Gates then entered his rear door with his key, turned off his alarm, and again attempted to open the front door. With the help of his driver they were able to force the front door open, and then the driver carried Professor Gates' luggage into his home." Both Gates and his driver are African-American. According to the Cambridge [Mass.] Police report, a white woman saw the two black men attempting to enter the home and called police.

Ogletree continued: "The officer ... asked Professor Gates whether he could prove that he lived there and taught at Harvard. Professor Gates said that he could, and ... handed both his Harvard University identification and his valid Massachusetts driver's license to the officer. Both include Professor Gates' photograph, and the license includes his address." Police officer James Crowley reported that Gates responded to his request for identification: "Why? Because I'm a black man in America?" Despite his positive identification, Gates was then arrested for disorderly conduct.


Meanwhile, in Philadelphia, more than 60 mostly African-American and Latino children attending the Creative Steps camp were disinvited from a suburban Valley Swim Club, which their camp had paid for pool access. Suspicions of racism were exacerbated when Valley Swim Club President John Duesler said, "There was concern that a lot of kids would change the complexion ... and the atmosphere of the club." The U.S. Department of Justice has opened an investigation.

The Senate Judiciary hearings on Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor were permeated by the race question, especially with white, male senators questioning her comments on how a "wise Latina" might rule in court. If confirmed, one of the first cases she will hear will be that of Georgia death-row prisoner Troy Anthony Davis, an African-American.

As it moves into its second century, the NAACP is, unfortunately, as relevant as ever. It is confronting the death penalty head-on, demanding Davis' claims of innocence be heard and asking Attorney General Eric Holder to investigate the case of Pennsylvania death-row prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal. Another new NAACP initiative asks people to record instances of bias, discrimination and police brutality with their cell-phone cameras, and upload them to

At the group's centennial, longtime board chair Julian Bond said, paraphrasing Jay Leno: "When I started, my hair was black and my president was white. Now my hair's white, and my president is black. I hold the NAACP responsible for both." While the Cambridge Police Department has dropped the charges against Gates, his charges of racial discrimination remain. W.E.B. Du Bois' color line has shifted -- but it hasn't been erased. *

Police Accused of Bias After Arresting Harvard Scholar Inside His Own Home

One of the nation’s most prominent African American scholars, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., has accused police in Cambridge, Massachusetts, of racial profiling after he was arrested in his own home late last week. Gates is the head of Harvard’s W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and American Studies. Gates arrived at his home in Cambridge last Thursday afternoon to find his front door jammed. As he tried to pry it open, a neighbor called the police department and reported that a robbery was in progress. Gates grew frustrated when an investigating officer did not believe he was the owner of the home despite proof of residence. According to a police report of the incident, Gates called the officer a racist and said, “This is what happens to black men in America.” Eventually Gates was handcuffed and taken to the police station. Gates was charged with disorderly conduct.

Fix your eyes on perfection

"Fix your eyes on perfection and you make almost everything speed towards it." -William Ellery Channing

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes: Wake Up Everybody

Excerpt: "Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle", by Chris Hedges


I / The Illusion of Literacy

John Bradshaw Layfield, tall, clean-cut, in a collared shirt and white Stetson hat, stands in the center of the ring holding a heavy black microphone. Layfield plays wrestling tycoon JBL on the World Wrestling Entertainment tour. The arena is filled with hooting and jeering fans, including families with children. The crowd yells and boos at JBL, who has had a long career as a professional wrestler. Many chant, "You suck! You suck! You suck!"

"Last week I made Shawn Michaels an offer, and I have yet to hear back from the Heartbreak Kid," drawls Layfield. Michaels, another WWE wrestler, is a crowd favorite. He is a self-professed born-again Christian with a working-man persona. "So earlier today I made Shawn Michaels an offer that was a lot easier to understand," Layfield continues. "I challenge Shawn Michaels to a street fight tonight! So Shawn, I know you're back there. Now what's your answer?"

"HBK, HBK, HBK!!!" the crowd intones. A pulsing rock beat suddenly shakes the arena as action shots of the Heartbreak Kid flash across the Titantron, the massive screen suspended over the ring. The crowd cheers, leaping up as Shawn Michaels, in jeans and an army green shirt, whirls onstage, his long, blond hair flying. Pyrotechnics explode. The deafening sound system growls, "I know I'm sexy ... I got the looks ... that drive the girls wild...."

Michaels bursts into the ring, fists pumping, stalking back and forth. The ref steps in to begin the match.

"HBK! HBK! HBK!" chants the crowd.

"Hold on, hold on, referee," Layfield says, putting his hand on the referee's shoulder. People in the crowd begin to heckle.

"Shawn," he says, "you got a choice to make. You can either fight me right now in this street fight, or you can do the right thing for you, your family, and your extended family, and take care of them in a financial crisis you never dreamed would happen a year ago today." Michaels stands silently.

"You see, I know some things, Shawn," continues Layfield. "Rich people always do. Before this stock market crashed, nobody saw it coming, except, of course, my wife, but that didn't help you, did it? See, I was hoarding cash. I was putting money in gold. While most Americans followed the leader—blindly, stupidly followed the leader—I was making money. In fact, Shawn, I was prospering while you were following the herd, losing almost everything, right, Shawn?"

"Fight!! Fight!! Fight!! Fight!!" urges the crowd. Michaels looks hesitantly back and forth between the heaving crowd and Layfield.

"You lost your 401(k). You lost your retirement. You lost your nest egg. You lost your children's education fund," Layfield bellows into the mic, his face inches from Michaels's. "You got to support your extended family, Shawn, and now you look around with all this responsibility, and you look at your beautiful wife, she's a beautiful lady, you look at your two little wonderful kids, and you wonder: 'How in the world ... am I going to send them ... to college?' "

Layfield pauses heavily. Michaels' face is slack, pained. Small, individual voices shout out from the crowd.

"Well, I've got an answer," Layfield goes on. "I'm offering you a job. I want you to come work—for me."

"No! No! No!" yells the crowd. Michaels blinks slowly, dazed, and lowers his eyes to the mat.

"See, there's always alternatives, Shawn. There's alternatives to everything. You can always wrestle until you're fifty. You might even wrestle till you're sixty. In fact, you could be a lot like these has-beens who are disgracing themselves in high school gyms all over the country, bragging about their war stories of selling the place out while they're hawking their eight-by-tens and selling Polaroids. Shawn, you could be that guy, or you could take my offer, because I promise you this: All the revenue that you're goin' to make off your DX T-shirts will not compare to the offer that I ... made ... to you."

He tells the Heartbreak Kid to look in the mirror, adding, "The years haven't been kind to you, have they, Shawn?" He reminds him that one more bad fall, one more injury, and "you're done, you're done."

The crowd begins to rally their stunned hero, growing louder and louder. "HBK! HBK! HBK!"

"What else can you really do besides this?" Layfield asks. "You get a second chance in life."

Layfield sweeps off his white Stetson. "Go ahead," he screams into Michaels's face. "Ever since you walked out here . . . people have been wantin' you to kick me in the face. So why don't you do it? I'm gonna give you a free shot, Shawn, right here."

The crowd erupts, roaring for the Heartbreak Kid to strike.

"HBK!! DO IT!! DO IT!! HBK!! HBK!!!"

"Listen to 'em. Everybody wants it. Shawn, it's what you want. You're twitching. You're begging to pull the trigger, so I'm telling you right now, take a shot! Take it!"

The Heartbreak Kid takes one step back, his stubbled face trembling, breathing rapidly like a rabbit. The crowd is leaping out of their seats, thrusting their arms in the air, holding up handmade banners.

"HBK!!! HBK!!! HBK!!!"

"Do it, Shawn," Layfield hollers, "before it's too late. This is your second chance, but understand this, understand this—"

"HBK!!! HBK!!! HBK!!!"

"—Listen to me and not them! If you take this shot ... then this offer is off the table ... forever."

The crowd stops chanting. Different cries are heard: boos, shouts to attack, shouts to stop. There is no longer unity in the auditorium. Layfield holds his head outstretched until the Heartbreak Kid slowly turns his back. Layfield leers. Shawn Michaels climbs through the ropes out of the ring and walks heavily back to the dressing room, his dull gaze on the ground. "Lookin' forward to doin' business with ya, Shawn," Layfield shouts after him.

The crowd screams. Layfield, like most of the wrestlers, has a long, complicated fictional backstory that includes a host of highly publicized intrigues, fights, betrayals, infidelities, abuse, and outrageous behavior—including goose-stepping around the ring and giving the Nazi salute during a wrestling bout in Germany. But tonight he has come in his newest incarnation as the "self-made millionaire," the capitalist, the CEO who walked away with a pot of gold while workers across the country lost their jobs, saw their savings and retirement funds evaporate, and fought off foreclosure.

As often happens in a celebrity culture, the line between public and fictional personas blurs. Layfield actually claims to have made a fortune as a stock market investor and says he is married to the "richest woman on Wall Street." He is a regular panelist on Fox News Channel's The Cost of Freedom and previously appeared on CNBC, not only as a celebrity wrestler but as a savvy investor whose conservative political views are worth airing. He also has written a best-selling book on financial planning called Have More Money Now. He hosts a weekend talk-radio program syndicated nationally by Talk Radio Network, in which he discusses politics.

The interaction between the crowd and Layfield is vintage professional wrestling. The twenty-minute bouts employ the same tired gimmicks, the same choreographed moves, the endless counts to two by the referee that never seem to get to three without the pinned wrestler leaping up from the mat to continue the fight. There is the desperate struggle of a prostrate wrestler trying to reach the hand of his or her partner to be relieved in the ring. This pantomime, with his opponent on his back and his arm outstretched, can go on for a couple of minutes. There are a lot of dirty shots when the referee is distracted—which is often.

The bouts are stylized rituals. They are public expressions of pain and a fervent longing for revenge. The lurid and detailed sagas behind each bout, rather than the wrestling matches themselves, are what drive crowds to a frenzy. These ritualized battles give those packed in the arenas a temporary, heady release from mundane lives. The burden of real problems is transformed into fodder for a high-energy pantomime. And the most potent story tonight, the most potent story across North America, is one of financial ruin, desperation, and enslavement of a frightened and abused working class to a heartless, tyrannical, corporate employer. For most, it is only in the illusion of the ring that they are able to rise above their small stations in life and engage in a heroic battle to fight back.

Excerpted from the book Empire of Illusion by Chris Hedges. Reprinted by arrangement with Nation Books (, a member of the Perseus Books Group. Copyright © 2009.

Sirota's tour to nowhere, David Bliven explains why The Uprising is about anything but an uprising.

I HIGHLY anticipated David Sirota's book The Uprising: An Unauthorized Tour of the Populist Revolt Scaring Wall Street and Washington. So highly that I went out and purchased a hardcover edition hot off the presses.

The book was billed as one exploring the history of social movements in the U.S. and their recent revival. I thought immediately of the contrast between Hillary Clinton's comments on the campaign trail (how the civil rights movement wouldn't have been successful, but for Lyndon Johnson) and Barack Obama's (that "change doesn't come from Washington--change comes to Washington").

With that in mind, I eagerly set about reading Sirota's book. I was greatly disappointed.

Sirota's book reminded me of a article by Todd Chretien, "The case for a socialist alternative," [1] in which he contrasts, among other things, liberalism from above with liberalism from below. By contrast, Sirota makes the case throughout his book that liberalism from above (putting one's stock in the Democratic Party) is the way to go, and liberalism from below (grassroots social movements independent of electoral politics) is a waste of time.

Sirota's lead chapter is emblematic of the book's approach. Instead of looking at a particular social movement, he details the exploits of a Democratic senator he happens to work for, Jon Tester of Montana.

His next chapter on the antiwar movement frankly made me sick. Sirota attends one antiwar demonstration (as if going to one event is enough to dissect and analyze an entire movement) and apparently sees only "freaks"--or as he puts it "twenty-somethings with Goth-style black T-shirts, lots of earrings, cheek rings and other assorted piercings. Interspersed in the crowd are people in various costumes. A guy on stilts is wandering around as a 15-foot-tall Abe Lincoln."

No doubt there are people like that at antiwar protests. But the questions that Sirota doesn't ask are: (1) Is there anything wrong with wearing "lots of earrings" or even dressing in costumes? and (2) Is walking on stilts characteristic of most people who attend them?

I suspect those who dress weird in Sirota's eyes are only distasteful to the people Sirota is trying to please--Democratic Party politicians.

But Sirota doesn't stop there. He turns his hostility on everyone else at antiwar protests (or at least the one he bothered to go to). He states that those who blame Dick Cheney for everything are "mildly mentally unstable"--and then writes, "which, frankly, is what I think of a lot of people at this march when I talk to them."

I was shocked when I first read this statement, since Sirota comes across as a progressive who at times has had sharp criticisms of establishment Democrats. But his clarification brings out his perspective. He doesn't think antiwar protesters are "mentally unstable" because they're antiwar, but because "this group doesn't look, dress or even talk like two-thirds of Americans who oppose the war."

If Sirota had checked his history, this tracks almost word for word a comment made by Nixon about antiwar demonstrators in the 1960s.

Sirota supports his case by claiming, "By the time the Vietnam War was really raging, the federal government stopped listening to marches based just on the size of the crowd," and "the establishment discovered it could basically ignore hundreds of thousands of people on the National Mall."

Any history of the Vietnam era--at least, any one that's remotely sympathetic to the opponents of the war--refutes such claims.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

SIROTA ALSO goes on to make a number of other misstatements regarding social movements of the past. For example, he claims that only recent protests that "officialdom" reacted to were those at the 1968 Democratic National Convention and 1999 Seattle World Trade Organization meeting.

Sirota caps off his tirade against protest with the comment, "At least half the folks who marched voted for Ralph Nader"--and therefore "bear some vague, indirect responsibility" for the war.

So there you have it! At the end of the day, Sirota turns to the tired, old and entirely false complaint that Ralph Nader--because he dared to stand up to both Republicans and Democrats--was responsible for Al Gore losing the 2000 election, and George Bush winning.

Never mind that in 2004, after Bush invaded Iraq, the Democratic candidate John Kerry was prowar, and greeted the Democratic National Convention with the words "John Kerry, reporting for duty"--while Nader made opposition to the U.S. war on Iraq a centerpiece of his independent campaign.

The International Socialist Organization even gets a mention in Sirota's book. He claims that one of the ISO's signs at the antiwar protest declares our desire for "the overthrow of the U.S. government in the name of 'regime change.'"

Sirota also spends time with one of the anti-immigrant Minutemen groups. It's another telling choice--instead of analyzing the rise of the immigrant rights movement, which put millions of people on the streets for the May Day marches in 2006 and after, Sirota devotes an entire chapter to a borderline-neo-Nazi group as further evidence of his "uprising."

The only illuminating portion of the chapter is a conversation he has with a Minuteman who admits that border-crossers are motivated by poverty, and that what should be done is to lobby Congress to support global antipoverty initiatives--but he doesn't "know how we'd do that."

In another thoroughly boring chapter, Sirota interviews Lou Dobbs as another representative of "the uprising." Dobbs' immigrant-bashing, right-wing populism is the polar opposite of a progressive agenda.

Finally, Sirota discusses so-called "shareholder activism," in which activists buy stock in companies like ExxonMobil in order to show up at meetings to protest. He gives no evidence for how widespread this tactic really is. But more importantly, these activists are investing their hard-earned money in corporate polluters rather than in building social movements.

But doesn't this just fit with Sirota's apparent philosophy--grassroots social movements are secondary (if that), and the inside-outside strategy comes first?

For a much better book on the history of revolt from below in the U.S. I'd recommend Subterranean Fire: A History of Working-Class Radicalism in the United States [2]--and for a good book outlining why the inside-outside strategy doesn't work, try Democrats: A Critical History [3].

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

Review: Books
  1. [1]
  2. [2]
  3. [3]
  4. [4]
  5. [5]

Send more petitions, make more calls ...

and then keep voting for the people whose arms you need to twist with your time, energy, and mostly your cash to make them do anything you remotely believe no no no...DO IT....

Everything I know I learned from Marc Anothony...

Monday, July 20, 2009

Support Iran Protesters Without Meddling By Sean Penn, Ross Mirkarimi and Reese Erlich

Posted on Jul 20, 2009

By Sean Penn, Ross Mirkarimi and Reese Erlich

Two of us (Sean Penn and Reese Erlich), during our travels to Iran in 2005, interviewed numerous ordinary Iranians. People were very friendly toward us as Americans but very hostile to U.S. policy against their country. We visited Friday prayers where 10,000 people chanted “Death to America.” Afterward some of those same people invited us home for lunch.

That contradiction continues today as Iran goes through its most significant upheaval since the 1979 revolution. Iranians are rising up against an authoritarian system but don’t want U.S. intervention.

Many Iranians believe that they have experienced a coup d’état in which the military and intelligence services have hijacked the presidential election. Through vote buying and manipulation of the count, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad guaranteed himself another four years in office.

In June over a million Iranians marched in the streets of major cities across the country. The spontaneous demonstrations included well-to-do supporters of opposition candidates, but also large numbers of workers, farmers, small business people and the devoutly religious. They were fed up with 30 years of a system that used Islam as an excuse for union labor strikebreaking, lack of women’s rights and repression.

The Iranian government responded to these peaceful protests with savagery, killing dozens of people. Some human rights groups put the number at over 100. The government admits arresting 2,500 people nationwide and continues to hold at least 500. Most are being held without charges or have simply disappeared.

The repression hasn’t killed the movement. On July 17, over 10,000 people came to Friday prayers in support of the opposition. Instead of chanting “Death to America,” they chanted “Death to the Dictator,” a reference to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. Police attacked them with clubs and teargas.

Meanwhile in Washington, some politicians tried to use the crisis for their own ends. Sen. John McCain criticized President Obama for not taking a stronger position against the Iranian government. It’s ironic to hear McCain and other conservatives proclaim their support for the people of Iran when a few months ago they wanted to bomb them.

That doesn’t exactly build credibility among Iranians.

President Obama faces tough choices on Iran. If he speaks out loudly against Ahmadinejad, he is accused of meddling in Iran’s internal affairs. If he says too little, then right-wingers in the U.S. accuse him of being soft on Ahmadinejad.

In reality, the U.S. has very little ability to impact what has become a massive, spontaneous movement for change. And it shouldn’t. The CIA overthrew the democratically elected government of Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh in 1953, bringing the dictatorial shah back to power. The Bush administration attempted to overthrow the Iranian government by funding and arming ethnic minority groups opposed to Tehran.

The U.S. government has no moral or political authority to tell Iranians what they should do. Iranians are perfectly capable of deciding for themselves.

That’s why citizen diplomacy is so important. Iranian demonstrators welcome the support of ordinary Americans. Joan Baez recorded a Farsi language version of “We Shall Overcome” that has shot around the world on YouTube.

Iranian activists are holding a hunger strike in front of the U.N. in New York from July 22 to July 24 demanding that Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon send a special commission to Iran.

We urge you to participate in the July 25 demonstrations around the U.S. and in Europe. Stand in solidarity with Iranians and against U.S. intervention in Iran (

3,000 plus guitar players playing Purple Haze

In Honor of Jimi Hendrix, Who Headlined the Festival in 1969, 3,000
Guitar Players Will Attempt to Break the World's Record for the Largest
Guitar Ensemble playing "Purple Haze" -- All at the Same Time!

Event: Woodstock 40th SF

Produced By: 2b1 Multimedia Inc and the Council of Light in association with
Artie Kornfeld the original producer for "Woodstock 1969"

When: October 25, 2009, 9am to 6pm

Where: Speedway Meadows, Golden Gate Park

Non-Profit: 501-(c)3


Info Contact: Boots Hughston,,, Green village vendor contact,

Woodstockwas not just an event, a happening or a concert with 400,000 people. It
was a pivotal moment of realization for an entire generation, an epiphany,
amoment of realization for the entire country. The hip movement started in San
Francisco a couple of years earlier in the Haight Ashbury and the Summer of Love
had spread across the nation. There were now millions of hip people with 400,000
of them converging on Woodstock.

Woodstock was a statement to the world, "humanity had evolved", coming together
through Peace, Love and Spirituality. An event whose original intent was to make
money became the largest FREE event in history. The hip movement had come of age
and was recognized by the world. The principles of love swept the country and we
had become the `Woodstock Nation".

Hundreds of San Francisco stars and musical luminaries will perform at this
event to commemorate the original principles of Peace, Love and Spirituality.
The Woodstock 40th will begin with a blessing by the American Indigenous People
and several Beat Generation poets. There will be many speakers from the Peace
Movement, the Free Speech Movement and the Anti-War Movement along with many of
the acts who originally performed at Woodstock (to be announced). There will
also be a "Green Vendor Village" with merchandise highlighting the emerging
Green Movement.

Smash the Guinness Book of World Records Playing "Purple Haze"

Guitar Players: Help set a new record for the WORLD`S LARGEST GUITAR ENSEMBLE,
acoustic and electric guitar, gathering in honor of Jimi Hendrix.

Players are encouraged to register for this event at:

So bring your ax, be part of history and play "Purple Haze" with thousands.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Thoughts and images are formed into physical reality and become physical fact -Seth

Seth channeled through Jane Roberts: "Thoughts and images are formed into physical reality and become physical fact. They are propelled chemically. A thought is energy. It begins to produce itself physically at the moment of its conception. Mental enzymes are connected with the pineal gland. Chemicals as you know them, body chemicals, are physical, but they are the propellants of this thought energy, containing within them all the codified data necessary for translating any thought or image into physical actuality. They cause the physical body to reproduce the inner image. They are sparks, so to speak, initiating the transformation. Chemicals are released through the body through the skin and pore systems, in an invisible but definite pseudo-physical formation. The intensity of a thought or image largely determines the immediacy of its physical materialization. There is no object about you that you have not created. There is nothing about your physical image that you have not made. The initial thought or image exists within the mental enclosure of which I have spoken. It is not yet made physical. It appears within the physical system, but apart from it. Then it is sparked into physical materialization. This is the general procedure. All thoughts or images are not completely materialized, however. The intensity may be too weak. There is a struggle of sorts among ideas for expression. The chemical reaction sparks certain electrical charges, some within the layers of the skin. There are radiations then through the skin to the exterior worlds containing highly codified information and instructions. The physical environment can be seen in many ways as direct extensions from the physical self. Physical formations of other images, you see, radiating outward; these subject to continual change, as is the physical image, and all of this reflecting the inner and basic action. The physical environment is as much a part of you, then, basically you see, as the physical image. Your control over it is quite effective, for you create it as you create your fingertip. You are not consciously aware, consciously underlined, of your control over the physical object that may be touched by that fingertip. The physical objects are made or constructed of the same pseudo- material that radiates outward from the physical image, only the higher intensity mass is different. When it builds up enough, you recognize it as an object. At low intensity mass it is not apparent to you. Every nerve and fiber within the physical image has an inner purpose that is not seen, and that serves to connect the inner self with physical reality-in other words, that allows the inner self to create physical reality. The physical image is a part of objective reality. This should not be overlooked, when speaking of the self. In one respect the physical image and physical objects go flying out in all directions from the inner core of the whole self. There is always impetus, action, and motion; that is, of intensities and not of space. A thought is indeed faster than a locomotive. Or a rocket." -excerpt from Session 302, November 21, 1966

Most complete Earth map published

The most complete terrain map of the Earth's surface has been published.

The data, comprising 1.3 million images, come from a collaboration between the US space agency Nasa and the Japanese trade ministry.

The images were taken by Japan's Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer (Aster) aboard the Terra satellite.

The resulting Global Digital Elevation Map covers 99% of the Earth's surface, and will be free to download and use.

The Terra satellite, dedicated to Earth monitoring missions, has shed light on issues ranging from algal blooms to volcano eruptions.

For the Aster measurements, local elevation was mapped with each point just 30m apart.

"This is the most complete, consistent global digital elevation data yet made available to the world," said Woody Turner, Nasa programme scientist on the Aster mission.

"This unique global set of data will serve users and researchers from a wide array of disciplines that need elevation and terrain information."

Previously, the most complete such topographic map was Nasa's Shuttle Radar Topography Mission, covering 80% of the Earth's surface. However, the mission's results were less accurate in steep terrain and in some deserts.

Nasa is now working to combine those data with the new Aster observations to further improve on the global map.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Play is the Mother of Social Innovation

From: I don't know about you, but sometimes I can get a little, err, serious while trying to do work that makes a difference. I make list after list of things to do, and then create schedules on top of work plans to get those things done. What I don't always do is make time for play, but after listening to a fantastic interview with Stuart Brown about Play, Spirit and Character on Speaking of Faith, I'm changing my ways. According to Brown, not making time to play can be detrimental to human health and development:
"[W]hen one really doesn't play at all or very little in adulthood, there are consequences: rigidities, depression, lack of adaptability, no irony — you know, things that are pretty important, that enable us to cope in a world of many demands."
In her review of Brown's book, Play: How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul, Liz Massey of Creative Liberty relays an anecdote from Brown's book about the connection between play and innovation
"Play juices our problem-solving abilities. Early in the book, Brown writes about a recent problem Cal Tech’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory faced with its newest crop of young engineers—many were talented and academically distinguished, yet had difficulty creating solutions that required them to take a theoretical insight and put it to practical use. When the managers looked at the backgrounds of JPL’s 'old guard' of retiring engineers, they found that many of them had engaged in vigorous hands-on play as children—they were the children who took apart clocks and tried to put them back together again, built soapbox derby racing cars, fixed appliances, etc. The lab shifted its interviewing process to capture which engineering job candidates were oriented towards this sort of playful activity, and this improved their staff’s ability to tackle and resolve tough engineering design challenges."
How many nonprofits or advocacy campaigns do you know of that facilitate regular time for play as a tool for fostering innovation and problem-solving? Why are the folks in business the only ones who seem to have caught on to the power of play? As a voiceover played during a break in the Speaking of Faith interview said,
"You can say, if you're in a company in Silicon Valley, 'OK. You guys, here's the general space of what we want you to find out about. And we're just going to let you play around until you do."
How do you think nonprofits, NGOs, activists and other social innovators can incorporate more play into their work? In his post, The Importance of Play in Innovation, Bradley Kelley of Blogging Innovation links to an excerpt from an article about LEGO Serious Play workshops which the LEGO Serious Play site describe as, "A powerful tool designed to enhance innovation and business performance." Maybe instead of the dreaded nonprofit retreat where everyone sits around in small groups and talks about the organization's mission, they need to play with some LEGOs instead. You can read more about Stuart Brown's work on the National Institute for Play's website and watch a video of him talking about the importance of play on

Growing Up Psychic

Jennifer Flynn

Authors Caron B. Good and Tara Paterson share their experience as a parenting coach and parent, respectively, providing guidance for other parents and caretakers of children gifted with powers of intuition and other parapsychological talents. From recognizing intuitive talents to developmentally appropriate guidance, Raising Intuitive Children offers support for parents in nurturing these childhood talents and offers stories from families who have worked with their children to improve the talents of intuitives and empaths.

Raising Intuitive Children explores how to determine if a child is intuitive, but the book may be beneficial to all parents and those who would like to develop their own adult intuition. Parenting styles, environmental toxins and diet and nutrition are addressed as contributors to the sliding scale of intuitive capabilities.


Latin America: Energy Workers in Time of Crisis by James Petras

The situation of the energy sector in Latin America is determined by both internal and external correlations of political forces, the level of class organization and power within the ruling and the working classes, the condition of the world economy and the strength and weakness of US imperialism. The ‘situation of the energy sector’ refers to several variants in terms of ownership, weight in the economy and distribution of oil revenues within the class structure.

Internal and External Correlation of Forces

The correlation of forces between capitalists and workers in the energy sector in Latin America varies greatly: In Venezuela, the Chavez government, with the backing of the oil workers union, has extended public ownership and distributed oil revenues to the popular classes through food subsidies, universal health and public education programs. At the other extreme in Colombia under President Uribe, private foreign oil companies are increasingly in control, profits are repatriated to the imperial countries or taken out of the country by the domestic elite, government revenues subsidize the oligarchy and government-backed death squads and the military to assassinate and threaten trade union and community leaders.

Between these two poles of the nationalist left and the neo-fascist right, several other variants exist: Social democrat, social liberal and neo-liberal.

Bolivia and Ecuador, under Evo Morales and Rafael Correa, represent the social democratic approach, proposing ‘partnerships’ between ‘state’ and foreign capitalist oil companies, which share the profits from exploitation of crude petroleum. The foreign companies still control most or all of the refining and trading and the social democratic government have yet to establish their own ‘marketing systems.’

The ‘social liberal’ policies are found in Brazil and Argentina where the major oil companies are ‘state’ only in name only, as they are traded on the stock markets in Latin America and Wall Street. State revenue is distributed in an unequal proportion, the bulk used to subsidize the agro-mineral sector and minority share to fund social programs – including basic anti-poverty programs.

The neo-liberal policies are found in Mexico and Peru where former publicly owned oil companies and energy resources have been handed over to foreign oil and energy companies. In Mexico only the militancy of the electrical workers union(SME) has prevented the government from privatizing this strategic industry. Under the neo-liberal regimes the oil and energy revenues have been distributed almost exclusively among the foreign and domestic ruling class and only a minimum’ trickles down’ to the workers, peasants and Indian communities in the form of subsistence “poverty programs.” Neo-liberal regimes disinvest and plunder the public enterprises, decreasing their share of production and leaving them with debts, obsolete technology and declining capacity to fulfill overseas obligations.

The Impact of the Economic Boom and Global Recession (2003-2009)

The performance and ownership of the energy sector is influenced by the internal class struggle, the condition of the world economy and the rise and decline of US imperialism. The crisis of neo-liberalism and the popular rebellions between 1999-2005 ended the principal phase of large-scale privatization in many countries of Latin America. The overthrow of the governments of de la Rua in Argentina, Sanchez de Losado in Bolivia and Noboa and Gutierrez in Ecuador, the defeat of the golpistas in Venezuela (April 2002) and the bosses lockout (December 2002-February 2003) led the radical mass movements to set a new agenda: The re-nationalization of the energy sector: petroleum, the electrical sector, mining and other strategic sectors.

The popular rebellions however, with the exception of Venezuela, did not lead to worker-peasant governments. Instead, center-left middle class-led alliances with the popular classes led to some partial reforms. In Bolivia, Evo Morales increased the role of the state in partnership with 42 foreign-owned oil and gas companies. Kirchner set up a state company but refused to re-nationalize YPF/Repsol in Argentina. In Ecuador, Correa increased taxes on petroleum companies, but the foreign multinational companies still produce 57% of the oil. In Brazil, Lula refused to re-nationalize the privatized enterprises – and the majority of shares in Petrobras have remained in the hands of private investors.

The major struggle against the energy and mining companies’ exploitation in Peru, Colombia, Ecuador and Chile were led by the Indian movements and in some cases were supported by petroleum workers and peasant organizations. The reason is clear: The energy companies were not merely exploiting labor, they were destroying their economies and living conditions through massive contamination of the environmentand seizure of their traditional.

In Brazil, Lula’s large-scale, long-term promotion of huge multi-national sugar plantations and refineries producing ethanol displaced thousands of small farmers and Indian communities and intensified the exploitation of the rural workers. The rural landless workers’ movement (MST) and other rural social movements, allied with Lula, engaged in defensive struggles. However, without urban allies, they were unable to defeat the combination of Lula and agro-business.

Urban Workers and Trade Unions

The major driving force in the popular rebellions against neo-liberalism varies in different countries and at different times.

In Ecuador, the oil, mining and factory workers joined the mass peasant movements to overthrow Noboa at the beginning of the decade. In Argentina, the unemployed workers and the middle class led the struggle to overthrow De la Rua. In Venezuela, the petroleum workers split with a minority supporting the bosses’ lockout and the majority took control and operated the wells in support of President Chavez. Throughout the decade, however, the energy sector workers have been organized and militant in defense of their economic sector, opposing privatization and protecting their living standards through mass struggle. But their presence in the popular rebellions has been scarce. In many cases the leadership of the energy trade unions has supported the center-left regimes in order to secure wage concessions and job protection. In the best of cases, the energy trade unions have engaged in solidarity demonstrations with the mass struggle of the peasants, Indians and unemployed.

Paradoxically, the strong and militant organization of the energy unions has led to economic gains and sectoral reforms, which have led to highly segregated islands of affluence among a mass of urban and rural poor. The past decade has witnessed the decline of the energy workers as a vanguard in the popular rebellions: Other classes have taken their place. This has created a strategic danger because in the course of large-scale privatizations of the energy sector, the workers will fail to secure the support of the rest of the working class and peasants.

While oil exploitation in the Amazon creates ‘jobs for oil workers,’ it destroys the livelihood of the Indigenous communities and sets off a deadly conflict between the oil companies and their workers against the mass of artisans, small farmers and Indigenous communities dependent on farming, fishing, and handicrafts in proximity to the petroleum and mining operations.

The World Recession and the Energy Sector

The world crisis cannot be resolved by strikes and protests alone. Even re-nationalization cannot, in itself, create the basis for a national recovery. The only alternative facing the energy sector workers is an internal ‘cultural-political revolution’ in which they rethink their basic strategy and move beyond sectoral struggles.

The current prolonged deep recession can only be confronted at the national-political level – by a turn to forming a broad-mass political alliance with the popular classes with a strategy for taking state power. In the face of the collapse of capitalism, the trade union struggle is no longer effective. The trade unions can only succeed by taking a decisive turn toward anti-capitalist movements – a turn toward an explicit embrace of socialism.

Today the entire capitalist class has seized control of the state, specifically the state treasury, to finance their survival and recovery at the expense of the workers, peasants, Indians and the urban poor. As the crisis deepens, mass urban and rural rebellion will once again break the bonds of bourgeois hegemony. The question will arise: Will the energy workers be part of a socialist solution or part of the capitalist problem? Will the energy workers return to become part of the vanguard or remain part of the rearguard? What is absolutely clear is that the energy workers occupy a strategic position in the world capitalist system – without petroleum nothing moves, without electricity the bankers cannot count their profits and the investors cannot read their dividend payments.

Never has the capitalist system in its entirety demonstrated today in real life that it is a failed system – neither producing goods and services, nor providing credit and finance, nor employing labor.

Karl Marx’s famous phrase comes to mind: “A specter is haunting the capitalist class: The coming of the socialist revolution.”

  • Presented at a plenary session of the international meeting of electrical workers in Mexico organized by the Sindicato Mexicano de Electricistas
  • James Petras, a former Professor of Sociology at Binghamton University, New York, owns a 50-year membership in the class struggle, is an adviser to the landless and jobless in Brazil and Argentina, and is co-author of Globalization Unmasked (Zed Books). Petras’ most recent book is Zionism, Militarism and the Decline of US Power (Clarity Press, 2008). He can be reached at: Read other articles by James, or visit James's website.

    Friday, July 17, 2009

    Freedom from Wage Slavery

    Waking Up: Freeing Ourselves from Work By Pamela Satterwhite Publisher: Humming Words Press (2009) ISBN: 978-0-9649465-1-4

    Every effort under compulsion demands a sacrifice of life energy.

    – Nikola Tesla, quoted in Waking Up: Freeing Ourselves from Work

    Tesla’s quotation captures the reality of the working world for many people. People trudge off to work, do work, return home, recuperate, and go to work the next day. Most people will do this five days a week for most of the year.

    Who likes having to work five days a week, having the days and hours of their week decided by someone else, receiving a few weeks in the year as a vacation time, or having to obey orders from a boss? This is the situation for the masses of people who are workers. Capitalist society is structured such that most people are either unemployed or wage slaves.

    Pamela Satterwhite has written a book, Waking Up: Freeing Ourselves from Work, that seeks, as the title states, to free people from the wage slavery, job drudgery, and submission. At its core, Satterwhite reveals that freedom from work is achieving social justice: freedom from exploitation, racism, warring, etc.

    The author asks questions: “Is survival at work the highest good? The goal, the objective? …to endure …in a job?”

    Satterwhite likens workers to stressed caged animals and bosses to “masturbatory puppeteers” who get off on controlling the labor of others. This is inculcated in the public education system where students submit to teachers, who submit to their principals.

    She derides submission to authority. She finds this to be unnatural.

    Satterwhite refers to capitalists as podrunks (a term abbreviated from author Mark Crispin Miller’s pitiful-power-drunk few) and sometimes as vampires. They control the labor.

    Satterwhite harkens to Friedrich Engels that labor is capital. Therefore, if people work together and share in the work they create the wealth. Her solution is simple: a mass movement to end wage work. Solidarity and cooperation are crucial.

    Satterwhite finds that most people are complicit in the system, caving in for some infinitesimal portion of political power (which she defines as “the ability to induce others to labor”). She relates one striking example of selling out in which English parents allowed their 7- to 11-year olds to become commercials selling products to other children.

    She acknowledges that solidarity is difficult to maintain, being always under assault by the system, which is designed to wear people down and make them complicit.

    Podrunks are Machiavellian; they oppress and wield racism to their ends. They seek to atomize and separate the workers. This is accomplished by nstilling fear among them.

    She argues that work can be worse than slavery. Slave owners had vested interests to care for their slaves. Podrunks can always hire new workers.

    Satterwhite criticizes the illusion/con that work is a sharing of wealth. She says workers have three sources of power: the ancestors, the earth, and each other. She laments that most people don’t pay attention to the earth in them.

    She analyses progress, that lofty term that is used to justify the system — the system that separates people into classes. They order and we obey. The orders, Satterwhite argues, compel people to carry out all kinds of morally repugnant work that leads to environmental destruction, mass killing, and genocide.

    Nonetheless, Satterwhite argues, “Human solidarity will easily trump the politics of ‘divide and conquer’ when we decide to look at our ancestors’ stories unvarnished …”

    Satterwhite calls force the podrunk’s mantra. Culture is a tool to confuse and demoralize people. Freedom, she holds, will come when people build their own cultures.

    “Podrunks are organized. So must we be.” The people must grab control.

    Many people call for a retooling of capitalism. Satterwhite says capitalism has to be ditched. She finds the notion of saving capitalism from itself silly. She focuses on the needs of the masses of people and not a system that enslaves the people and renders them soulless.

    What to Do?

    wakingupbookcoverThe first the author says is to answer the question: What do we want? Step-by-step planning is required, as well as solidarizing. She sees this being achieved through mutual aid and fellowship, Earthships (living in harmony with the environment), a product and services exchange, refusal of division work, and freeing children from coercive education.

    She identifies the starting points as: boycotting big corporations, organizing via the internet, building bridges, claiming the commons, and the general strike.

    Parecon is another take on gaining freedom from capitalist work drudgery and submission to podrunks. Forging a solidarity with pareconists would broaden and strengthen the movement against wage slavery.

    Re parecon, Satterwhite responded by email: “There are many points on which [pareconist] Michael Albert and I agree. Where we differ, I think, is probably in our analysis of the problem.” Satterwhite continued, “I think that in order to be effective advocates and activists for our future freedom without bosses we have to premise our advocacy and action on correct analysis. When I read elaborate visions of our future freedom that are offered because they’re ‘rational,’…’make sense’…etc. I’m not convinced that that analysis has been done.”

    One wonders what convincing evidence of analysis is — certainly not irrational and nonsensical visions. Important to both visions, however, is solidarity.

    Satterwhite writes in a relaxed, colloquial style. A few times I found myself lost, wondering about quotations. Who is speaking? Nonetheless, the book is eminently readable.

    Satterwhite has drawn upon a variety of sources from personal anecdotes, dreams, literature (Herman Melville, Virginia Woolf, etc.), media (especially cinema), self-disclosure, economists (Karl Polanyi, Immanuel Wallerstein, Friedrich Engels, etc.) to the psychologist Erich Fromm, the scientist-inventor Nikola Tesla, other writers on topic of work like Jeremy Rifkind and Studs Terkel, and even Martin the Warrior mouse.

    Satterwhite quotes often the writings of Barack Obama, and she goes easy on him because he “may well have concluded that the people aren’t ready to roll, and who could argue…” I would argue: because a person who runs for the presidency is, usually, a person who covets leadership (among other attributes such as fame, power, money, etc.), and it is a leader’s job to lead the people and not be led by them … otherwise that leader is merely a follower. (As an aside, I eschew leadership and followership. In a system with representative “leaders” and politicians, they should serve the informed masses of people and not impose on the people. However, that is another topic.)

    Can freedom from work be achieved? Satterwhite points to the workers’s victory in the tiny Caribbean country of Guadeloupe following a 44-day general strike as a start. Does this sound promising?

    Waking Up: Freeing Ourselves from Work can be read online at The Nascence to End Work or you can request a free hard copy (a donation is appreciated). Pamela Satterwhite can be contacted at

    Thursday, July 16, 2009

    Health Insurance Whistle-Blower Knows Where the Bodies Are Buried, by Amy Goodman

    Posted on Jul 14, 2009 By Amy Goodman Wendell Potter is the health insurance industry’s worst nightmare. He’s a whistle-blower. Potter, the former chief spokesperson for insurance giant CIGNA, recently testified before Congress, “I saw how they confuse their customers and dump the sick—all so they can satisfy their Wall Street investors.” Potter was deeply involved in CIGNA and industrywide strategies for maintaining their profitable grip on U.S. health care. He told me: “The thing they fear most is a single-payer plan. They fear even the public insurance option being proposed; they’ll pull out all the stops they can to defeat that to try to scare people into thinking that embracing a public health insurance option would lead down the slippery slope toward socialism ... putting a government bureaucrat between you and your doctor. They’ve used those talking points for years, and they’ve always worked.” In 2007, CIGNA denied a California teenager, Nataline Sarkisyan, coverage for a liver transplant. Her family went to the media. The California Nurses Association joined in. Under mounting pressure, CIGNA finally granted coverage for the procedure. But it was too late. Two hours later, Nataline died. While visiting family in Tennessee, Potter stopped at a “medical expedition” in Wise, Va. People drove hours for free care from temporary clinics set up in animal stalls at the local fairground. Potter told me that weeks later, flying on a CIGNA corporate jet with the CEO: “I realized that someone’s premiums were helping me to travel that way ... paying for my lunch on gold-trimmed china. I thought about those men and women I had seen in Wise County ... not having any idea [how] insurance executives lived.” He decided he couldn’t be an industry PR hack anymore. Insurance executives and their Wall Street investors are addicted to massive profits and double-digit annual rate increases. To squeeze more profit, Potter says, if a person makes a major claim for coverage, the insurer will often scrutinize the person’s original application, looking for any error that would allow it to cancel the policy. Likewise, if a small company’s employees make too many claims, the insurer, Potter says, “very likely will jack up the rates so much that your employer has no alternative but to leave you and your co-workers without insurance.” This week, as the House and Senate introduce their health care bills, Potter warns, “One thing to remember is that the health insurance industry has been anticipating this debate on health care for many years ... they’ve been positioning themselves to get very close to influential members of Congress in both parties.” Montana Sen. Max Baucus chairs the Senate Finance Committee, key for health care reform. Potter went on, “[T]he insurance industry, the pharmaceutical industry and others in health care have donated ... millions of dollars to his campaigns over the past few years. But aside from money, it’s relationships that count ... the insurance industry has hired scores and scores of lobbyists, many of whom have worked for members of Congress, and some who are former members of Congress.” The insurance industry and other health care interests are lobbying hard against a government-sponsored, nonprofit, public health insurance option, and are spending, according to The Washington Post, up to $1.4 million per day to sway Congress and public opinion. Don’t be fooled. Profit-driven insurance claim denials actually kill people, and Wendell Potter knows where the bodies are buried. His whistle-blowing may be just what’s needed to dump what’s sick in our health care system. Denis Moynihan contributed research to this column. Amy Goodman is the host of “Democracy Now!,” a daily international TV/radio news hour airing on more than 750 stations in North America. She is the co-author of “Standing Up to the Madness: Ordinary Heroes in Extraordinary Times,” recently released in paperback. © 2009 Amy Goodman

    Wednesday, July 15, 2009

    This large scale mandala depicts the names of one million organizations around the world that are devoted to peace....

    [From:] This large scale mandala depicts the names of one million organizations around the world that are devoted to peace, environmental stewardship, social justice, and the preservation of diverse and indigenous culture. E. Pluribus Unum, 2009 This large scale mandala depicts the names of one million organizations around the world that are devoted to peace, environmental stewardship, social justice, and the preservation of diverse and indigenous culture. The actual number of such organizations is unknown, but Paul Hawken's "Blessed Unrest" project estimates the number at somewhere between one and two million, and growing. If the lines in this piece were straightened out, they would make an unbroken line of names, in a ten point font, twenty seven miles long. Many thanks to Paul Hawken, Craig S. Kaplan, and Robert Bosch for their collaboration in creating this piece. ~chris jordan The image is built from lines of text, made up of the names of the organizations described above. Standing up close, you can read these lines intersecting at different angles: ...and stepping a bit further back: Stepping even further away, a complex geometric pattern begins to emerge: Back further still, the names are not legible anymore-- but remember that's what all the lines are: From this distance the names are so small that the lines look solid: Now we’re standing about thirty feet back from the piece, and the panel you are looking at is the size of a movie screen: ...and back even further (we're almost there): The title, "E. Pluribus Unum," is Latin, and translates to “The Many Become One." The two figures are drawn in for a scale reference: This piece is available for temporary or permanent exhibition in two different forms: 1) An indoor wall hanging, printed on white cloth, sized 45x45 feet (13.7 meters by 13.7 meters)--almost five stories high. 2) A set of about 2000 laser etched metal tiles that can be installed on the ground, either indoors or outdoors. The diameter could be between 50 and 100 feet, depending on the font size used. Viewers could walk on the tiles and read the names, and ideally the installation would be done somewhere where the whole piece could be viewed from above also. I am hoping to exhibit this piece (either the wall hanging or the tiles) in a prominent public space such as Grand Central Station in NY, or somewhere in Washington D.C., or at a conference or summit of some kind, or perhaps internationally. If you have ideas or can help, please contact my studio. Thank you for visiting. ~cj

    Tuesday, July 14, 2009

    Cornel West and Carl from Harlem Today...

    PROMO Vid
    ... July 14th promises to be a crackling evening of passionate and penetrating conversation over matters that many are seriously concerned about but have not dared to discuss out loud and in public - and it's time to change that. Cornel West and Carl Dix will break the silence and address from their different philosophical perspectives what the election of Obama really means for people in the US and around the world. And they will exchange over the need for resistance and the prospects for and path to liberation for the oppressed in the US and indeed, for all of humanity. ... PRESS RELEASE:
    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE July 6, 2009 DDPA WATCH GROUP ENDORSES CIVIC DIALOGUE EVENT A Revolution Books Event: The Ascendancy of Obama ... and the Continued Need for Resistance and Liberation – A Dialogue Between Cornel West and Carl Dix Tuesday, July 14, 2009 7:00 PM at Harlem Stage at Aaron Davis Hall On July 14th, Revolution Books will sponsor a groundbreaking event: "The Ascendancy of Obama ... And the Continued Need for Resistance and Liberation: A Dialogue between Cornel West and Carl Dix" This event will be held at Harlem Stage at Aaron Davis Hall at 7:00 PM on Tuesday, July 14th. Millions in the US and even around the world celebrated the election of Barack Obama as the end of the Bush regime nightmare of wars for empire, legitimized torture and contempt for international law and human rights. Many also saw it as meaning the US had turned the corner on its long ugly history of brutally subjugating Black people. But Obama has continued the essence of Bush's foreign policy and the oppression of Black people continues unchecked. Now those who envisioned Obama ushering in a period of change are being asked to embrace the continuation of the horrors of imperial America, or at least to remain silent. As Carl Dix has written, "Is having a Black commander in chief enough to get you to enlist in America's wars for empire, to kill people, and maybe get killed yourself, trying to keep America's stranglehold on the world in effect?" [From "Don't Be a Buffalo Soldier!" available at] July 14th promises to be a crackling evening of passionate and penetrating conversation over matters that many are seriously concerned about but have not dared to discuss out loud and in public - and it's time to change that. Cornel West and Carl Dix will break the silence and address from their different philosophical perspectives what the election of Obama really means for people in the US and around the world. And they will exchange over the need for resistance and the prospects for and path to liberation for the oppressed in the US and indeed, for all of humanity. The international human rights coalition, the Durban Declaration Programme of Action Watch Group [DDPA Watch Group] endorses the event. "Most Americans already recognize our various social structures require reform. The economic, health care and educational systems come immediately to mind; and the judiciary and prison-military-industrial complex have adversely impacted African descendants and Latinos in particular. Public discourse among African Americans especially must be maintained at the highest levels. Whether or not we agree with their respective points of view, the conversation between Dr. Cornel West and Mr. Dix is a unique opportunity to begin the hard work of thinking through these issues within our communities [first.] This important dialog reminds us to stay engaged if we want to create meaningful strategies for change!" emphasized Dowoti Désir, Founder of the DDPA Watch Group. This special event will be a benefit for Revolution Books in New York City ( and the Prisoners Revolutionary Literature Fund ( Carl Dix is available for interviews. ### For more information, or to schedule an interview with Carl Dix, contact Steve Yip at 866-841-9139 x2670; Cell Phone: 917-868-6007; Email: About Carl Dix: CARL DIX is a longtime revolutionary and a founding member of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA. In 1970 Carl was one of the Fort Lewis 6, six GI's who refused orders to go to Vietnam. He served 2 years in Leavenworth Military Penitentiary for this stand. In 1985 Carl initiated the Draw the Line statement, a powerful condemnation of the bombing of the MOVE house in Philadelphia. In 1996, Carl was a co-founder of the October 22nd Coalition to Stop Police Brutality. In 2006 Carl coordinated the Katrina hearings of the Bush Crimes Commission. Carl Dix's articles on the Obama campaign and presidency are available at the website of Revolution newspaper,, including "Don't Be a Buffalo Soldier!"] and "Obama's 'Yes We Can' Illusion ... And the Killing Reality for Black People,"] About Cornel West: CORNEL WEST is one of America's most provocative public intellectuals and has been a champion for racial justice since childhood. His writing, speaking, and teaching weave together the traditions of the black Baptist Church, progressive politics, and jazz. The New York Times has praised his "ferocious moral vision" Dr. West currently teaches at Princeton University. ### Revolution * Books or Office of Carl Dix Contact: Steve Yip Tel: (866) 841-9139 x2670 Cell Phone: 917-868-6007 Email:
    Corinne Innis
    Executive Director
    Penn Fleming Public Relations
    New York, NY

    Bastille Day, July 14, 1789


    France celebrates Bastille Day as a national holiday on July 14 every year which was known as Fete Nationale or le quatorze juillet. Bastille Day is celebrated to commemorate the Storming of the Bastille on July 14, 1789. Storming of the Bastille, a fortress-prison which housed many political prisoners, arms and ammunition, symbolized uprising by the oppressed people in France and end of Monarchy in the country.

    History of the Bastille Day

    Oppressed by the rule of Louis XVI, people of Paris stormed Bastille to challenge the absolute rule of monarchy in the country and to get hold of arms and ammunition to protect the general public. Bastille, which was known to house many prisoners who had displeased the royalty, had only seven inmates when people attacked it. Seeing a huge turnout of mob outside the fort, Bastille’s commander Governor de Launay surrendered. However, fighting resumed due to some misunderstanding. Around 108 people, mostly attackers, were killed in the fighting.

    The storming of the Bastille led to abolition of feudalism on August 4 and proclamation of the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen. On the first anniversary of the storming of the Bastille Day, the Fete de la Federation was held on Champ de Mars where a mass was organized and King Louis XVI along with his confidant General Lafayette took oath to the Constitution. A four-day feast was also organized and fireworks display dazzled the people with its sheer extravagance.

    Celebrations of the Bastille Day

    The celebration of Bastille Day was proposed by Benjamin Raspail on May 21, 1880, who proposed a law to celebrate July 14 as a national holiday everywhere. Assembly and Senate passed the bill and it was on July 6, 1880, that the law became official. The first official celebration of Bastille Day as a national holiday on July 14 was magnificent.

    France President presides over the Bastille Day celebrations held at Champs Elysees Avenue in Paris on July 14 in the morning. Cadets from different military contingents followed by motorized troops and aviation troops are the highlights of the parade. France follows a tradition wherein it invites troops of Allied forces. President addresses media on the recent events and future projects and holds a party at Palais de l’Elysee. France’s Constitution empowers the President to pardon offenders. President has been pardoning some offenders since 1991. However, President Nicholas Sarkozy put an end to this practice in 2007. In 1979, a Guinness World record was made on the day for the largest outdoor gathering at a concert by Jean Michel Jarre on Place de la Concorde in Paris.



    Queen Marie Antoinette- Remembering Bastille Day 14 July 1789 by Doc Kazi.
    Josephe Jeanne Marie Antoinette von Habsburg-Lorraine, aka Marie Antoinette, Queen of France (November 2, 1755 – October 16, 1793) It may be that the champagne glass so familiar today was modeled upon the famous breast of Marie Antoinette, and that her most famed and inflaming quote "Let them eat cake," is fabricated political propoganda, but hindsight renders much of what was so scandalous in her own day, down right trivial by our own standards. From sycophantic tyrantess, to an obsolete, fluffy-headed haute grandeur, to doomed teen queen, Marie Antoinette's image has been somewhat resurrected in recent years. The truth, in the early years, lies somewhere inbetween this laundry list of feminine archetypes. But it was towards the end, when most of us grow up (she was 37 when she was executed), that her spirit and fortitude shone most. In the end, all pomp gone, she was a dedicated mother, sister, and wife. Brave as a tigress and willing to sacrifice all for her family, this is the picture that is rarely shown in our history books, literature and cinema. Bastille was a fortress and state prison in Paris, located, until its demolition (started in 1789), near the site of the present Place de la Bastille. Arbitrary and secret imprisonment by lettre de cachet gave rise to stories of horror, but actually the Bastille was generally used for persons of influence, and its regime for most political prisoners was mild. On July 14, 1789, a Parisian crowd stormed the Bastille in the hope of capturing ammunition. The governor was killed; the seven inmates, none of them political prisoners, were freed. The storming of the Bastille marks the beginning of the French Revolution, and July 14–Bastille Day–became the national holiday of republican France. From the fall of the Bastille, July 14th, 1789, til the day of her execution on October 16, 1793, her life became a series of ever shrinking spaces. In 1790 the royal family was taken by force from the palace of Versaille fifteen miles outside of Paris, to a carefully guarded Tuileries Palace in Paris. After a failed attempt to escape in disguise in 1791 to Austria (they were captured in Varenne), rather than bend and except a Republican Monarchy, Marie Antoinette machinated a war with Austria (her home country) that she'd hoped France would lose, and the family would be rescued. The parisienne masses were incensed at such gall, and on August 10, 1792 the mob stormed the Tuileries and massacred the Swiss Guard, while the royal family fled. A few days later Louis XVI was arrested and on September 21 1792 the monarchy in France was officially abolished. The family was moved to the Temple Fortress and put under heavy guard. The Princesse de Lamballe, who up until this point had shared the fate of her closest friend, was seperated from Marie Antoinette and forced to repudiate her. When she refused she was attacked by the mob and beaten to death with a hammer. The story goes that she was torn apart, her head paraded on a pike in front of the Queen's prison window, but the story cannot be substantiated beyond hear say.

    Monday, July 13, 2009

    Swearing Makes Pain More Tolerable

    [Thanks to toni for this link]

    That muttered curse word that reflexively comes out when you stub your toe could actually make it easier to bear the throbbing pain, a new study suggests.

    Swearing is a common response to pain, but no previous research has connected the uttering of an expletive to the actual physical experience of pain.

    "Swearing has been around for centuries and is an almost universal human linguistic phenomenon," said Richard Stephens of Keele University in England and one of the authors of the new study. "It taps into emotional brain centers and appears to arise in the right brain, whereas most language production occurs in the left cerebral hemisphere of the brain."

    Stephens and his fellow Keele researchers John Atkins and Andrew Kingston sought to test how swearing would affect an individual's tolerance to pain. Because swearing often has an exaggerating effect that can overstate the severity of pain, the team thought that swearing would lessen a person's tolerance.

    As it turned out, the opposite seems to be true.

    The researchers enlisted 64 undergraduate volunteers and had them submerge their hand in a tub of ice water for as long as possible while repeating a swear word of their choice. The experiment was then repeated with the volunteer repeating a more common word that they would use to describe a table.

    Contrary to what the researcher expected, the volunteers kept their hands submerged longer while repeating the swear word.

    The researchers think that the increase in pain tolerance occurs because swearing triggers the body's natural "fight-or-flight" response. Stephens and his colleagues suggest that swearing may increase aggression (seen in accelerated heart rates), which downplays weakness to appear stronger or more macho.

    "Our research shows one potential reason why swearing developed and why it persists," Stephens said.

    The results of the study are detailed in the Aug. 5 issue of the journal NeuroReport.

    Sunday, July 12, 2009

    I Speak Not, by George Gordon Byron

    * I speak not, I trace not, I breathe not thy name; There is grief in the sound, there is guilt in the fame; But the tear that now burns on my cheek may impart The deep thoughts that dwell in that silence of heart. Too brief for our passion, too long for our peace, Were those hours - can their joy or their bitterness cease? We repent, we abjure, we will break from our chain, - We will part, we will fly to - unite it again! Oh! thine be the gladness, and mine be the guilt! Forgive me, adored one! - forsake if thou wilt; But the heart which is thine shall expire undebased, And man shall not break it - whatever thou may'st. And stern to the haughty, but humble to thee, This soul in its bitterest blackness shall be; And our days seem as swift, and our moments more sweet, With thee at my side, than with worlds at our feet. One sigh of thy sorrow, one look of thy love, Shall turn me or fix, shall reward or reprove. And the heartless may wonder at all I resign - Thy lips shall reply, not to them, but to mine. * Edward Burne Jones, Sleeping Beauty

    Saturday, July 11, 2009


    A new currency, time....


    Time Is Money

    Jessica Pherson

    Looking for a new way to get your window fixed or hair cut without laying out the cash? Time Interchange New York (TINY) can help you to do just that. The alternative currency model just received some much needed attention in a segment on NBC.

    By logging onto TINY’s website, people can find others in need of help and exchange an earned “time dollar” (the equivalent to 1 hour of work) for another task. For example, Jessica Harris, a TINY member who has already earned 8 time dollars through baby-sitting, was able to exchange one of her hours to get her long-time-broken light fixed. Harris, a supporter of the time banking system, stated she, “had great conversations and met [new] people.” This statement supports TINY being more than just an alternative currency exchange, but also a way to form and sustain communities. In describing the time banking system, Jordan Schacter, the founder of TINY, said, “Whether you’re shining shoes or designing a sky scraper, your time will be valued the same.”

    Friday, July 10, 2009

    Quote from a movie day

    from the movie Copying Beethoven: Beethoven is describing his "Song of Thanks to the Deity" No key. It's common time, molto adagio, sotto voce. First violin, quarter notes. Middle C up to A. Measure. G up to C, tied, F. Second violin, bar two. Middle C up to A. Double note E, G, C. Viola clef, 2B pressed. It's a hymn of thanksgiving to God, for sparing me to finish my work. After the pianissimo, the canon resumes. First violin takes the theme. Viola, C to A. It's growing, gaining strength. Second violin, C to A, an octave higher. Then the struggle. First violin, C, up an octave, and then up to G. And the cello, down. Pulled down. Half notes, F, E, D. Pulled constantly down. And then, a voice, a single frail voice emerges, soaring above the sound. The striving continues, moving below the surface. Crescendo. First violin longing, pleading to God. And then, God answers. The clouds open. Loving hands reach down. We're raised up into heaven. Cello remains earthbound, but the other voices soar suspended, for an instant in which you can live forever. Earth does not exist. Time is timeless. And the hands that lifted you caress your face, mold them to the face of God. And you are at one. You are at peace. You're finally free.

    Ralph Nader Asks for Rehearing in Case Against Democratic National Committee

    On July 9, Ralph Nader asked the U.S. Court of Appeals, D.C. Circuit, for an en banc rehearing in his case against the Democratic National Committee for actions in the 2004 election. The original 3-judge panel had ruled last month that Nader’s case had been filed a few months too late in 2007, and that the Statute of Limitations bars the court from hearing the case.

    The main point of the petition for rehearing is that it is impossible to know whether the Statute of Limitations was violated without taking evidence, and no court in this case has ever permitted any evidence-gathering.

    Yes, I Suck: Self-Help Through Negative Thinking

    [Thanks to Sir Real, Emerson Crossjostle for this link] Yes, I Suck: Self-Help Through Negative Thinking by John Cloud Wednesday, Jul. 08, 2009 In the past 50 years, people with mental problems have spent untold millions of hours in therapists' offices, and millions more reading self-help books, trying to turn negative thoughts like "I never do anything right" into positive ones like "I can succeed." For many people — including well-educated, highly trained therapists, for whom "cognitive restructuring" is a central goal — the very definition of psychotherapy is the process of changing self-defeating attitudes into constructive ones.

    But was Norman Vincent Peale right? Is there power in positive thinking? A study just published in the journal Psychological Science says trying to get people to think more positively can actually have the opposite effect: it can simply highlight how unhappy they are. (See pictures of people mourning the death of Michael Jackson.)

    The study's authors, Joanne Wood and John Lee of the University of Waterloo and Elaine Perunovic of the University of New Brunswick, begin with a common-sense proposition: when people hear something they don't believe, they are not only often skeptical but adhere even more strongly to their original position. A great deal of psychological research has shown this, but you need look no further than any late-night bar debate you've had with friends: when someone asserts that Sarah Palin is brilliant, or that the Yankees are the best team in baseball, or that Michael Jackson was not a freak, others not only argue the opposing position, but do so with more conviction than they actually hold. We are an argumentative species.

    And so we constantly argue with ourselves. Many of us are reluctant to revise our self-judgment, especially for the better. In 1994, the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology published a paper showing that when people get feedback that they believe is overly positive, they actually feel worse, not better. If you try to tell your dim friend that he has the potential of an Einstein, he won't think he's any smarter; he will probably just disbelieve your contradictory theory, hew more closely to his own self-assessment and, in the end, feel even dumber. In one fascinating 1990s experiment demonstrating this effect — called cognitive dissonance in official terms — a team including psychologist Joel Cooper of Princeton asked participants to write hard-hearted essays opposing funding for the disabled. When these participants were later told they were compassionate, they felt even worse about what they had written. (See how to prevent illness at any age.)

    For the new paper, Wood, Lee and Perunovic measured 68 students on their self-esteem. The students were then asked to write down their thoughts and feelings for four minutes. Every 15 seconds during those four minutes, one randomly assigned group of the students heard a bell. When they heard it, they were supposed to tell themselves, "I am a lovable person."

    Those with low self-esteem — precisely the kind of people who do not respond well to positive feedback but tend to read self-help books or attend therapy sessions encouraging positive thinking — didn't feel better after those 16 bursts of self-affirmation. In fact, their self-evaluations and moods were significantly more negative than those of the people not asked to remind themselves of their lovability. (See pictures of couples in love.)

    This effect can also occur when experiments are more open-ended. The authors cite a 1991 study in which participants were asked to recall either six or 12 examples of instances when they behaved assertively. "Paradoxically," the authors write, "those in the 12-example condition rated themselves as less assertive than did those in the six-example condition. Participants apparently inferred from their difficulty retrieving 12 examples that they must not be very assertive after all."

    Wood, Lee and Perunovic conclude that unfavorable thoughts about ourselves intrude very easily, especially among those of us with low self-esteem — so easily and so persistently that even when a positive alternative is presented, it just underlines how awful we believe we are.

    The paper provides support for newer forms of psychotherapy that urge people to accept their negative thoughts and feelings rather than try to reject and fight them. In the fighting, we not only often fail but can also make things worse. Mindfulness and meditation techniques, in contrast, can teach people to put their shortcomings into a larger, more realistic perspective. Call it the power of negative thinking.

    Thursday, July 09, 2009

    DN! Ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya Discusses Coup, Costa Rica Talks, U.S. Role and More

    Temp-image_1_7 Talks between the ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya and the leaders of last week’s military coup begin today in Costa Rica. Shortly before leaving Washington DC for Costa Rica, Zelaya sat down with us for a rare U.S. television interview. He discusses how military coup forces forced him out, the upcoming talks in Costa Rica, his domestic policies in Honduras, the role of the United States and more.
    Real Video Stream

    JUAN GONZALEZ: Talks between the ousted Honduran president Manuel Zelaya and the leaders of last week’s military coup begin today in Costa Rica. Speaking late Wednesday Zelaya said he is seeking the resignation of the interim Honduran government within 24 hours. He emphasized he was in Costa Rica for talks but not for negotiations with the forces that ousted him. Citing widespread international support Zelaya added that he expects to be shortly reinstated as president. Zelaya and his rivals agreed to talks mediated by Costa Rican president and former Nobel Peace Prize winner Oscar Arias after Zelaya met Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Washington this week. The interim government led by Robert Micheletti has said Zelaya will not be reinstated as president and tried for abusing the constitution if he returns.

    AMY GOODMAN: Well shortly before the ousted president Manuel Zelaya left Washington, DC for Costa Rica, he set down for brief interview with Juan Gonzalez and me.

    Mr. President, welcome to “Democracy Now!” can you tell us what you have agreed to, what you expect from these talks, and if you been satisfied with your meeting with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton?

    MANUAL ZELAYA:[translated] I think that both President Barack Obama and Secretary Clinton as well as U.S. Ambassador in Tegucigalpa, Hugo Lawrence, and all the other officials have been completely categorical and clear. While there have been other opinions voiced in the United States, they’re not been official government statements. They have condemned the coup, asked for my reinstatement and in addition are not recognizing the de facto government’s decisions. JUAN GONZALEZ: Mr. President, your opponents who engineered the coup claim that you were trying to subvert the constitution of 1982. What were you trying to do with the referendum that you were holding and is it true that as they say, your were trying to illegally extend your term?

    MANUAL ZELAYA:[translated] That is completely false. In Honduras we do not have reelections and I never intended to be reelected. That will be a matter for another government, another constitution and another Constituent Assembly. The Popular Consultation is a survey, just like the Gallup one does or other polling groups. It does not create rights. It has no power to impose. It is not obligatory, its an opinion poll. How could this be a motive for a coup d’etat? No one has tried to me. I was expelled by force by the military. This is an argument made up by the coup plotters. Don’t believe them.

    AMY GOODMAN: Mr. President, the United States has not cut off aid to Honduras. Do you think they should because of the coup?

    MANUAL ZELAYA:[translated] We only have humanitarian aid coming from the United States the U.S. held up military aid, our officials in Washington have been replaced because they left with the coup. They were changed yesterday. And all of the U.S.’s messages have been consistent with the firm condemnation of the coup and supporting democracy in Latin America.

    JUAN GONZALEZ: Mr. President, you came to office thought to be conservative leader, but yet in your time in office, you sharply increased minimum wage, provided for free school lunches for children, you lowered the price of public transportation. Do you think these policies are the reason behind the elite of Hondurans supporting the coup against you?

    MANUAL ZELAYA:[translated] I came to power with a very clear programmatic and ideological platform, to empower citizens in their rights, to empower them economically, socially and culturally and also politically, all the reforms I have proposed are meant to give more power to the population. I do not believe in elites. I don’t believe in military elites or economics elites. I believe that it is the people who have the strength to make the changes. That is why I called my campaign “citizen power." The first law I made was that a citizen participation and the law I was applying with the survey was for citizen participation. We helped the poor along with the First Lady, we have reduced poverty by 10% we’ve had the country growing by 7% economically. So, there is a reactionary group in Honduras. Honduras is controlled by a group of 10 families that control the entire economy. So, they have been jealous of my actions in favor of development for themselves and their families. But they refuse to allow change or transformation. They looked for a political arm and a military arm to stage a coup d’etat.

    AMY GOODMAN: Mr. President, can you describe exactly what happened the morning of the coup and who exactly you think is behind this?

    MANUAL ZELAYA:[translated] They attacked my house at 5:30 in the morning. A group of at least 200 to 250 armed soldiers with hoods and bulletproof vests, and rifles aimed their guns at me, fired shots, used machine guns, kicked down the doors and just as I was, in pajamas, they put me on an plane and flew me to Costa Rica. This all happened in less than 45 minutes.

    JUAN GONZALEZ: Mr. President, some people have speculated there were former members of the Bush Administration that were waging a campaign against you here in the United States. Otto Reich, a former administration official in charge of Latin American affairs had been making allegations about corruption in your country, specifically related to the government-owned telephone company, HONDUTEL. Do you think this had any impact in terms of how the current administration is regarding your presidency?

    MANUAL ZELAYA:[translated] The bad guys always join together. But there are more of us good people and we’re also united and we will win out over them. So don’t worry about that. I need to tell you I have to leave for Costa Rica and I am grateful for your interview, and I will continue to support you. The only system I believe in is democracy. It is the political system that gives political rights to the citizenry. Human rights guarantee our freedoms, but the political system we must support is democracy. If we allowed armies, drug, trafficking elites or economic elites or international mafia, even the transnational corporations to impose governments or presidents on us by force, we will be losing five decades of democratic reform in America. President Obama has a firm position and I hope it will remain so until we resolve this problem so it will serve as an example. So that a fractious group of military men never again break into the home of a president and without trying him first, without taking into court but rather capturing him and then wanting to try him. This should not happen.

    AMY GOODMAN: The ousted Honduran president Manuel Zelaya spoke with us right before leaving for Costa Rica with the mediated talks with the leaders of the military coup. The U.S. has not cut off economic aid to Honduras which amounts to more than $43 million. But after our interview yesterday, U.S. Embassy in Honduras announced is had suspended $16.5 million in military aid to Honduras shortly after the coup. This is Democracy Now!

    Wednesday, July 08, 2009

    "the Palestinians are treated worse than human beings" -Jimmy Carter

    AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to play a comment made last week by Israeli government spokesperson Mark Regev who dismissed the humanitarian mission of the Free Gaza Movement.

    MARK REGEV: Israel every day is allowing humanitarian support to reach the people of Gaza. Food stuffs, medicines, energy and so forth. This boat was not about that. This boat was about political activists who have been apologists for the Hamas regime who have nothing whatsoever to say about Hamas’s brutal treatment of the people of Gaza.

    AMY GOODMAN: Former Congress member McKinney, your response?

    CYNTHIA McKINNEY: Well, clearly, we just had a visit to Gaza by President Carter, Former President Carter. Basically, he acknowledged that with the complete and utter devastation that the people of Gaza experienced at the hands of weapons that were supplied to Israel by the United States, he said that unfortunately the Palestinians are treated worse than human beings. I challenge the Israelis to respond to what President Carter had to say.

    AMY GOODMAN: Former Congress member McKinney, tell us about the jail. Were you able to reach the Obama administration while you were there?

    CYNTHIA McKINNEY: Well, the jail was very interesting. In fact, the first most interesting thing I witnessed was the seemingly endless stream of people of color who are being processed as we were being processed. And on my cell block, there were women from Africa and Asia who thought they were going to Israel because Israel was the Holy Land. And many of them, not all of them, but many of them had United Nations refugee status. They have been certified by UNHCR as refugees, but what they were told as they faced the threats and intimidation from the police is that the United Nations is not in Israel.

    AMY GOODMAN: Adam Shapiro, you are Palestinian rights activist long known for this. You were on the boat. You were roughed up, you were filming when the Israeli military came on board. Describe what happened.

    ADAM SHAPIRO: Well, they boarded us, four zodiac ships as well as eight naval warships, they surrounded our boat and can immediately towards the wheel house where I was along with the captain and one other crew member. I was documenting the whole trip and filming as they boarded the ship. Two soldiers came after me immediately, recognizing I think that they don’t want any footage of what was happening and they don’t want the world to know how they behave. I tried to keep the camera as long as I could. But I was pummeled repeatedly in the back and arms and choked and eventually they got the camera out of my hands. They have since taken all of our tapes, all of our flashcards and all of that, so we don’t have a record to show the world of what happened on board. The rest of the time we were detained in one room of the ship as we spent the better part of six hours navigating back to an Israeli port where we were processed and ultimately jailed.

    AMY GOODMAN: There was another Al-Jazeera reporter on board as well ?

    ADAM SHAPIRO: There was an Al-Jazeera reporter and cameramen. They lost all of their footage and camera as well.

    AMY GOODMAN: Their computer was taken?

    ADAM SHAPIRO: Yes, it was taken, completely reformatted and erased. And so again, we don’t seem to have a record to show the world what happened.

    AMY GOODMAN: Your response to Israeli Spokesperson Regev?

    ADAM SHAPIRO: Well Mark Regev is known for his colorful descriptions of how great life is in Gaza as far as Israel is concerned. However, all of the reporting, including the most recent International Committee for the Red Cross, shows the number of trucks Israel is allowing into Gaza is completely insufficient for what is needed. And so yes, it is true, he can say Israel allows foodstuffs and medicines to get in, but two trucks a day or 20 trucks a day is far inferior to what is needed. And we have seen, since the international outcry following January’s attack has subsided the number of trucks Israel has allowed in has decreased. And so, what we are saying, Free Gaza is a humanitarian effort to bring in the kinds of medicines and foods that are needed. But the Free Gaza movement is also a political organization in the sense we are human rights organization, And human rights for Palestinians is inherently political. And we are challenging Israel politically too, and this week I think has been a success for those of us who are fighting for Palestinian rights. We were not able to get into Gaza but we have shown the world the true colors of the Israeli occupation, and the double standard by which the United States and other countries are dealing with Israel.

    AMY GOODMAN: Former Congress member McKinney, we only have ten seconds. But, you’ve just been deported. What are your plans right now?

    CYNTHIA McKINNEY: Well, I would like to see the children of Gaza have the coloring books and crayons that we had on board with us. I would like to see the houses that have been destroyed rebuilt. I would like to see the lives rebuilt for the people of Gaza and I would like to see the people of Palestine have, and enjoy their human rights.

    AMY GOODMAN: Do you think president Obama is headed in that direction?

    CYNTHIA McKINNEY: I think you can probably answer that as well as we can, because while we were in detention, the Foreign Ministry of Ireland made protests and asked the government of Israel to release its nationals, several Members of Parliament

    AMY GOODMAN: …We have 5 seconds….

    CYNTHIA McKINNEY: from the United Kingdom…

    AMY GOODMAN: … 5 seconds….

    CYNTHIA McKINNEY: …also wanted to censure Israel. Nothing from the United States.

    Modified invisibility cloak could make the ultimate illusion

    by Lisa Grossman

    AN ILLUSION device that makes one object look like another could one day be used to camouflage military planes or create "holes" in solid walls.

    The idea builds on the optical properties of so-called metamaterials, which can bend light in almost any direction. In 2006, researchers used this idea to create an "invisibility cloak" that bent microwaves around a central cavity, like water flowing around a stone. Any object in this cavity is effectively invisible.

    Now a group of researchers has gone a step further. "Invisibility is just an illusion of free space, of air," says Che Ting Chan, a physicist at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology and a co-author of the study. "We are extending that concept. We can make it look like not just air but anything we want."

    Instead of bending light around a central cavity, the team has worked out the mathematical rules for bending light in other ways. For example, a material could be designed to bend light in the same way as a spoon would. So the light hitting the material would be distorted to make it look as if a spoon were there.

    It is also possible to design a complementary material that has the opposite effect - to exactly cancel out the effect that an object has on light. So light distorted by a spoon could be passed through a complementary material to eliminate these distortions.

    The new illusion device uses these two ideas together. To make a cup look like a spoon, for example, light first strikes the cup and is distorted. It then passes through a complementary metamaterial which cancels out the distortions to make the cup seem invisible. The light then moves into a region of the metamaterial that creates a distortion as if a spoon were present. The result is that an observer looking at the cup through the metamaterial would see a spoon (Physical Review Letters, vol 102, p 253902).

    The idea has some surprising applications. Chan says the technique could be used to change the optical properties of an opaque material, allowing light to tunnel from one side to the other. That could lead to a device that when attached to a wall, creates a "hole" through which viewers could see the other side.

    But although illusion cloaks are theoretically sound, there are numerous engineering challenges to overcome before they might become practical.

    Metamaterials are difficult to build. Their components need to be much smaller than the wavelength of the light they distort, which for visible light is less than a micrometre. It would also be challenging to design both parts of the device so that they don't interfere with each other.

    John Pendry, the physicist at Imperial College London who devised the theory behind invisibility cloaking in the 1990s, thinks these difficulties can be overcome. "I don't see any obstacles to this device being built," he says.

    ~The Cove~

    Tuesday, July 07, 2009

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

    "Our society is run by insane people for insane objectives. I think we're being run by maniacs for maniacal ends and I think I'm liable to be put away as insane for expressing that. That's what's insane about it." -John Lennon
    Third-party candidates are effectively shut out of the presidential race by the two major parties designed to squash the competition.

    The following is an introduction and excerpt by Theresa Amato, author of Grand Illusion: The Myth of Voter Choice in a Two-Party Tyranny. Copyright 2009 Theresa Amato. Reprinted with permission by The New Press.

    In the run up to the 2004 elections article after article appeared documenting the reigning chaos in our electoral procedures, and surmising that another “Florida 2000” could happen. After the election, questions were raised in Ohio and in the gubernatorial race in Washington State, but in 2008, the infatuation with the electoral system was otherwise directed to the early primaries and the “historic” potential to elect Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton. With neither election as razor-close as the 537 vote discrepancy in Florida 2000, some of the prior attention paid to our electoral systems has waned.

    To the extent concern is shown, it tends to focus on the mechanics of registering to vote, keeping accurate lists, and having votes counted by machines of better-than-dubious programming or security. Less concern is directed to the far more disenfranchising systemic problems of having a “winner-take-all” system that results in uncompetitive elections in most congressional and local races. Nor is there a widespread movement toward choice maximizing voting systems, or just better competition by structuring campaign finance systems to encourage participation for more than our millionaires or those who have access to them.

    In this country, we are really just at the beginning of understanding the deep flaws with our arcane electoral processes. Virtually none of the attention is on the rights of third-party or independent candidates to compete on a level playing field with the major parties so that all voters, not just two-party voters, have a chance to vote for whom they want. This book is written for third party and Independents candidates, their voters, the election law reformers and chroniclers, and all those who have tried or will try to grapple with the stunning incompetence and injustice of the broken, two-party dominated American electoral system.

    -Theresa Amato, June 3, 2009


    Once people find out that I ran the Nader 2000 campaign, they often ask me if I am “sorry” that my first venture into electoral politics was to “help elect” George W. Bush. To the contrary, given how the two-party-imposed structural barriers have operated against third parties and independents in the last half century, I could not be more proud of our efforts to reveal and break down this exclusionary system and to help provide more voices and more choices to the American people. Third parties and independents are arguably the only remaining defenders of real political choice in the United States today. The fact that they continue to exist in a system so rigged against their participation, as this book will demonstrate, is nothing short of miraculous. Am I sorry? Oh yes—I am sorry that we have a broken and uncompetitive electoral system that traps Americans into poor choices and delivers worse government in almost every political cycle, failing for decades to fix, and sometimes even to discuss, intransigent problems like access to health care, poverty, immigration, global warming, fair trade, drug policies, a fossil fuel–dependent economy, racism, corporate crime, civil liberty violations, and many more.

    That said, am I sorry that against all odds, with no money, no experience, a ragtag team, and an embryonic Green Party, we put an alternative choice in front of the American people? Hell no. I would do it all again. And did. In 2004, I helped run the only major antiwar candidate for the general election when the Democrats lost their collective nerve and let George W. Bush march the United States into Iraq. And I hope third parties and independents of every stripe will run again and again and again. It doesn’t matter if I don’t agree with a word of what they say. Just like exotic animals I would never make an effort to see, I want third parties and independents to run because I fear for their extinction. It reassures me to see them—like planet ecodiversity. I have never really gone out of my way to see a bird, though millions of Americans apparently do every year. But I wouldn’t want just two bird species or brands of toothpaste or flowers, even if I always do order the red roses. And I don’t want just two-party candidates on my ballot, even if I were never to vote for a third party or an independent such as John Anderson, Ross Perot, or Ralph Nader. I want all individuals to have a fair chance to run—for as long as it takes to get a better electoral system and better leadership for the American people.

    Third parties and independents pollinate our political discourse; they offer alternative thinking on, and discussion of, major issues often ignored by the two parties. They instigate election reform and they offer broader choice, even if you don’t choose to vote for them. As Steven J. Rosenstone and co-authors note in their book Third Parties in America, “The power of third parties lies in their capacity to affect the content and range of political discourse, and ultimately public policy, by raising issues and options that the two major parties have ignored. In so doing, they not only promote their cause but affect the very character of the two-party system.”

    I show in this book how the two parties have developed barriers to political competition from third parties and independents to ensure the two parties’ continued preeminence. I have personally seen this, from the application of byzantine ballot access laws to the federal financing system to the presidential debates. Scholars including A. James Reichley and Theodore J. Lowi have been saying this for years. Writing in The Life of the Parties, Reichley states, “It is no accident that no enduring new major party has emerged in American politics for more than 130 years.” And Lowi wrote in “Deregulate the Duopoly” in The Nation, “It is not Providence that takes an energetic social movement and crushes it as soon as it chooses to advance its goals through elections. It is the laws of the state here on earth that keep the party system on life support by preferring two parties above all others.”

    Lowi goes on to list the single-member districts, the antifusion laws, the gerrymandering, and the “countless state laws that prescribe higher thresholds for the number of correct signatures required on third-party nominating petitions than for regulars on two-party ballots.” He notes that

    [e]ven the laws that apply equally to all parties are discriminatory, because they are written in such detail that ballot access for third-party candidates requires expensive legal assistance just to get through the morass of procedures. That mind-numbing detail is doubly discriminatory because the implementation of these laws thrusts tremendous discretion into the hands of the registrars, commissioners and election boards, all staffed by political careeristas of the two major parties, whose bipartisan presence is supposed to provide “neutrality with finality”—but it is common knowledge that they can agree with each other to manipulate the laws for the purpose of discouraging the candidacies of smaller and newer parties.

    This book demonstrates in concrete detail the accuracy of these Lowi conclusions.

    Our zero-sum, winner-take-all voting system cements the institutional barriers against third parties, protects the incumbents, and at the end of the day, primarily protects the predominance of the two major parties. The Democrats and Republicans have been unresponsive to making our voting system resemble more enlightened, choice-maximizing systems because such a bold move would allow third parties to gain a foothold among voters and thus threaten two-party supremacy. Consequently, the current structural system continues to dictate how our elections are conducted, in which states the presidential candidates will campaign, which voters they cater to, and thus which issues are raised or solutions discussed to move our country forward.

    Political economist Albert O. Hirschman in Exit, Voice and Loyalty has a theory about the behavior of oligopolists in the economic arena that author Alan Ware in The Logic of Party Democracy applies in the political context to party competition. In short, when you get only two oligopolists, the lack of diversity leaves both competing over image and branding, as they both make lower-quality products. When our presidential contests devolve into discussing Hillary Clinton’s or John Edwards’s hairstyles, whether Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton is the more “likable,” or how much money Sarah Palin spends on clothes and makeup, this is exactly what I think Hirschman and Ware are talking about.

    As a result, we get the canned, polled, three-message-point speeches, and a Fourth Estate focused on the placement of stage props. We have a highly developed economic system that prides itself on competition (falsely and securely in the expectation of socialistic corporate welfare, handouts, and bailouts for the “too big to fail,” e.g. banks), and a neo-Neanderthal, uncompetitive political system that has been dumbed down to squash any enlightened discourse. Voters are left to distinguish between two boxes of soap, each resting on a branding strategy to sell their political product even as they erect barricades against entry to the market for all other suppliers of political thought.

    In the political as in the economic arena, the lack of competition produces inefficiencies, and these are most pronounced when the two market leaders collude to keep others out. How many more election cycles will it take until real progress is made on some of our more outstanding problems, such as access to health care or global warming? Why must we suffer through these inefficiencies of a political marketplace when no competitor is allowed to tell the reigning two-party front-runners that their policies have failed? What cost has it been to the American people, not to mention the Iraqis, that neither major party in the presidential debates or on prime-time news would stand up and oppose the Iraq war in the 2004 election, or that both major party candidates supported a massive government bailout in 2008?

    Because the structural barriers against third parties and independents are numerous, this all adds up to a self-fulfilling prophecy: third-party candidates do poorly in large part because people think that they will. Moreover, third-party scholars show how the barriers, the electoral outcomes, the lack of judicial rectification, the lack of knowledge of American history, and the media have all confirmed this “prevalent belief . . . that the two-party system is a sacred arrangement. . . . Third party candidates are seen as disrupters of the American two-party system.” Shut out from the bipartisan political cartel in our country, third parties and independents are labeled erroneously as “spoilers” of a fossilized, entrenched incumbency class—instead of as “defenders” of the right to freedom of electoral choice in the United States.

    In Third Parties in America, Rosenstone, Behr, and Lazarus conclude: “A citizen can vote for a major party candidate with scarcely a moment’s thought or energy. But to support a third party challenger, a voter must awaken from the political slumber in which he ordinarily lies, actively seek out information on a contest whose outcome he cannot affect, reject the socialization of his political system, ignore the ridicule and abuse of his friends and neighbors, and accept the fact that when the ballots are counted, his vote will never be in the winner’s column. Such levels of energy are witnessed only rarely in American politics.” I hope to demonstrate in a kind of gruesome detail typically absent from academic books how difficult the two major parties have made it for third parties and independents to compete in the electoral process, from ballot access barriers and biased deadlines to partisan election administration, elimination litigation, dense election regulations, and faux presidential “debates.” Throughout this book, I explain the many hurdles third parties and independent candidates must overcome just to have a chance to offer their candidacies in our current electoral process, and I ask why we treat our third parties and independents this way when most of the rest of the civilized world has embraced multiparty democracy.

    “Are You Registered to Vote?”

    In August 2004, on the steamy streets of Washington, DC, I found out firsthand that asking whether someone is registered to vote may be one of the more complicated questions in the United States. Registration to vote in a U.S. federal election is not a federal requirement. We let the states dictate the terms of registration. Thus you don’t have to be registered to vote in North Dakota, the only state with no registration requirements, but in all the other states you do, by state-imposed criteria. In most states, including North Dakota, you must be a resident at least thirty days before the election. As of 2007, seven states would let the voter register on the same day as the election. Some states limit eligibility because of criminal status. All states now require you to be at least eighteen and a U.S. citizen, though this was not always the case.

    In Canada, citizens are automatically registered to vote in a National Register, continuously updated by the federal government, but citizens may opt out and are protected by privacy laws. In the United States, however, all of our voters have to “opt in.” We have opt-out policies in the commercial sector for phone solicitations (the Do Not Call List) and privacy violations, but opt-in policies in the public sector for the civic act of voting.

    As one of the few DC residents on the Nader campaign in 2004, and with just a few days to go before the DC deadline to collect valid signatures to put Ralph Nader and Peter Miguel Camejo on the ballot, I decided to help out in the sweltering heat to get a taste of what the valiant circulators were experiencing in trying to collect signatures for the Nader campaign.

    I was asking this question—“Are you registered to vote?”—because if you run for president as a third-party or independent candidate (a candidate who is running as the nominee of several minor parties or no party at all), you are forced to comply with an unimaginably arcane set of rules that are different in each of the fifty states, the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, and the three territories. The two-party-controlled state legislatures pass laws and the election administrators—usually through a board of elections or a secretary of state’s office—apply the laws and establish the regulations that determine how a candidate gets to be on the ballot. The Supreme Court has said that this process cannot be “overly burdensome” and that the regulations, if they are severe, have to be “narrowly tailored” to meet state interests because these state rules butt up against a candidate’s competing First Amendment constitutional rights to petition, to speak, and to participate in free association. Our goal in DC was to collect 5,000 signatures to meet a 3,600 signatures state requirement. If DC were a battleground state, we would have aimed for between double or triple the signature requirements to inoculate against multiple efforts—by Democratic partisans or partisan officials—to strike Nader and Camejo from the ballot in the states where the vote could be close, as described in Chapter 4. So when you need to collect 5,000 signatures of registered voters in the District of Columbia, or in any state, what do you do? Like a good scout, I first made sure I was wearing the appropriate outfit—comfortable shoes and clothing that made it less likely I would be taken for a nut or a mugger! Armed with clipboards, petitions, campaign buttons, and pens, I went to a metro exit, figuring that this would be a very highly trafficked place. Rookie mistake! Of course it is highly trafficked—but with people who live in Maryland or Virginia and thus are not registered to vote in DC, if they even know where or whether they are registered to vote.

    For the 2004 election, approximately 142 million people, or 72 percent of the voting-age citizen population in the United States, were registered to vote, which was the highest since 1992 and up 12.5 million people since 2000.5 So even assuming everyone you meet on the street lives in the state in which you are circulating (an unwise assumption in a place as cosmopolitan as DC), you are already starting with the significant disadvantage of having 28 percent of people not registered. On the order of 15 percent of the eligible voters, or more than 9 million Americans, also move from one state to another each year, and 40 million total move (the difference being those moving in state), making it difficult for both the voters and the state to keep track of voter eligibility in any particular local jurisdiction. And if you were registered at one address and moved, you may no longer be registered to vote, even if you moved in the same jurisdiction. Modern-day mobility, coupled with the lack of ability by the states to maintain accurate voter registration databases, creates registration chaos. Finally, factor in the general lack of citizen interest in voting—only 64 percent of the citizen voting-age population turned out in the 2004 presidential election, which was higher than the 60 percent in 2000—and you will have some sense of the challenge third-party and independent candidates face just getting over the ballot hurdle. Even in 2004, billed as a “high-stakes” presidential election, “more than one in three eligible voters did not participate.” Now add the aversion of most people on the street to being confronted by anyone with a clipboard.

    So on the hot August nights I was out collecting, I tried to find registered DC voters willing to sign our campaign’s petition. The first thing I noticed is that as a society we have evolved from congregating on the street corners to discuss whether to take on King George III and subject ourselves to taxes to blogging on the Internet and reading “Politico.” People are more likely to be in front of their computers posting a critique or making a YouTube video than plotting a Boston Tea Party. Indeed, a third of the people I encountered could not even be physically approached because they had on headphones or were talking on their cell phones. Unlike candidates in Britain and most other countries, third-party and independent candidates in the United States have to spend substantial percentages of their time and resources petitioning their fellow Americans just to get on the ballot. And if you are not on the ballot, your candidacy does not exist. No ballot access, no votes.


    Our current, deserved obsession with election mechanics has served to obscure many more fundamental problems. Just because the 2008 election margin was not razor-thin does not mean these problems have been fixed. Everything I came to witness or experience in the Nader campaigns in the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections says distinctly that our electoral system does not work for supporters of third parties and independents, but it also doesn’t work well for voters of the two major parties, either. The mainstream media is talking about this at the most rudimentary level, highlighting our collective inability to count and record. But the problems are not limited to getting a better abacus. This may be hard to accept if you share, as I did, our collective bedrock belief that we live in the most advanced democracy on the planet.

    Whether you can vote—and whether your vote counts—depends primarily on where you live. Whether candidates appear on your ballot, and in what order they appear, is conditioned on where you live. How much your vote counts compared to others also depends on where you live. Yes, your vote is conditional. It is based on your location in your state and among states. In Chapter 1 we discussed the as-yet-unfixed problems with voter registration rolls—purged and inaccurate as they are from state to state. Here, I set forth a brief look at additional factors—the Electoral College, the mechanics of vote counting, write-in votes, military and overseas voting, absentee ballots and early voting, provisional ballots, and recounts, because as a country we need to get to the point where we say that where you live in the United States should not affect whether and how your vote counts for president of the United States.

    Though I encountered these issues in the context of whether a voter for a third-party or independent candidate could get his or her vote counted accurately, timely, and fairly, the problems, albeit to a lesser degree, exist also for two-party voters. All voters should demand more federalization to our federal elections to eliminate the arbitrariness of geography on the value of an individual’s vote.

    Click here to buy a copy of Grand Illusion: The Myth of Voter Choice in a Two-Party Tyranny

    Theresa Amato was the national presidential campaign manager and in-house counsel for Ralph Nader in both 2000 and 2004—and the only woman to have managed two high-profile American presidential campaigns outside the two major parties. A graduate of Harvard University and NYU School of Law, she is the founder of the Citizen Advocacy Center in suburban Chicago and a public interest lawyer. Amato lives with her family in Oak Park, Illinois.

    Monday, July 06, 2009

    Media Blackout on Israeli Piracy Keeps Americans in the Dark

    Statement by the Peace and Freedom Party If any other country were to capture a ship carrying humanitarian supplies, and assault and imprison a Nobel Prize-winner and a former U.S. Member of Congress under terrible conditions, surely the U.S. media and even the U.S. government would speak out. The Spirit of Humanity was boarded and seized, and all 21 human rights workers and crew were taken prisoner, on June 30th. But the pirates in this case operate under the flag of the I.D.F., the Israeli military, and the seizure of medical supplies, toys, and olive trees intended for the suffering people of Gaza appears to have the quiet approval of the United States government. Hardly a word has appeared in any of the billionaire-owned newspapers, the case is not mentioned on television, and no statement of condemnation or concern has issued from the White House. Sadly, as activists for peace know all too well, the U.S. mass media cannot be trusted to tell the truth, or indeed anything at all if they can avoid it, about the actions of U.S. proxies and allies in the Middle East. The prison cells, torture chambers and secret police that prop up the utterly despised regime of Mubarak in Egypt are all financed by U.S. aid. The bombs and shells and bullets and tanks that killed so many, including so very many children and non-combatants, in Gaza in January, are financed by U.S. aid that was even increased during the massacre. And now the I.D.F., using U.S. aid again, has captured a humanitarian relief ship and its crew by violence off the coast of Gaza, where the I.D.F. has no legal and legitimate authority, and the brave aid volunteers are being treated abominably - with no outcry from the U.S., and the world-wide outcry not even reported to Americans. Around the world, it has been reported that Nobel Peace Prize-winner Mairead Maguire of Northern Ireland, and former US Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney, along with 19 others, are being held prisoner while being told they must sign confessions (in Hebrew, a language they do not understand) before being deported. They have refused, and are still in jail. Around the world, millions are concerned as vital medicine is being withheld from Mairead Maguire by her jailers. But the White House is not concerned. In Congress, no one from either corporate party, the Democrats or the Republicans, has taken to the floor to demand their release. Imagine the uproar if the ship had been captured by Iran! But because the lawlessness is committed by the Israeli allies of those Democrats and Republicans, the silence is deafening. The Peace and Freedom Party joins in the demands of hundreds of millions of people around the world: that the aid workers be released unconditionally, with all their notes, recordings and personal belongings; that the ship, the Spirit of Humanity, be released after its dismantled navigation equipment is repaired; that the I.D.F. stand away and allow the cargo (that was security-checked at the dock in Cyprus before the voyage) to be offloaded in Gaza; and above all, that the cruel embargo of humanitarian aid to the suffering people of Gaza be lifted by the Israeli government. We further ask that all aid of any kind from the United States to Israel cease until the Israeli government agrees to these conditions. While this statement is being provided to the usual media, having no confidence in the willingness of the corporate media to tell the truth about the Middle East, we are also circulating it by other means. Adopted by the California State Officers of the Peace and Freedom Party, 6 July 2009. (end of statement) For further information: Kevin Akin, State Chair (951) 787-0318

    Sunday, July 05, 2009

    Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib... Bagram? INVESTIGATION: US detention centre under suspicion as eerily familiar claims of torture and rendition flights

    surface from the airbase on the outskirts of Kabul He says he was beaten, threatened with dogs, and deprived of sleep. He also claims there was nothing unusual about his treatment, "everyone else has the same story".

    Habib was an inmate at the Bagram Theater Internment Facility, an American military detention center outside Kabul. Now, for the first time, detailed allegations of widespread abuse and neglect have been made about this top-secret camp.

    "I didn't think a prison like Bagram ever existed on earth. It is a place that has no rules or law," says Sabrullah, another ex-inmate.

    Over a period of more than two months, we tracked down 27 former detainees. There were others, but they were afraid to speak or had been warned not to. Just two said they had been treated well. Many allegations of ill-treatment appear repeatedly in the interviews; physical abuse, the use of stress positions, excessive heat or cold, unbearably loud noise, being forced to remove clothes in front of female soldiers and in four cases, being threatened with death at gunpoint.

    The account of an inmate known as Dr Khandan is one of the most harrowing. He says he was kept in isolation for months and treated worse than an animal: "They deprived us of sleep, they put us in a cold room and turned the air conditioning on and would take away the blanket. They poured cold water on you in winter and hot water in summer. They used dogs against us. They put a pistol to your head and threatened you with death. They put some kind of medicine in the water to make you sleepless and then they would interrogate you."

    All the men who spoke to us were interviewed in isolation and they were all asked the same questions. They were held at times between 2002 and 2008 and they were all accused of belonging to or helping al-Qaeda or the Taliban.

    None of the inmates were charged with any offense or put on trial; some even received apologies when they were released. ... by Ian Pannell, BBC Afghanistan Correspondent

    Saturday, July 04, 2009

    This July 4th, Rebel and Agitate for Change

    By Jim Hightower, AlterNet. Posted July 4, 2009 Agitators created America, and it's their feisty spirit and outright rebelliousness that we celebrate on our national holiday. Are you an agitator? You know, one of those people who won't leave well enough alone, who's always questioning authority and trying to stir things up. If so, the Powers That Be detest you -- you ... you ... "agitator!" They spit the term out as a pejorative to brand anyone who dares to challenge the established order. "Oh," they scoff, "our people didn't mind living next to that toxic waste dump until those environmental agitators got them upset." Corporate chieftains routinely wail that "our workers were perfectly happy until those union agitators started messing with their minds." In each case, the message is that America would be a fine country if only we could get rid of those pesky troublemakers who get the hoi polloi agitated about one thing or another. Bovine excrement. Were it not for agitators, we wouldn't even have an America. The Fourth of July would be just another hot day, we'd be singing "God Save the Queen," and our government officials would be wearing white-powdered wigs. Agitators created America, and it's their feisty spirit and outright rebelliousness that we celebrate on our national holiday. I don't merely refer to the Founders, either. Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, James Madison, Ben Franklin and the rest certainly were derring-do agitators when they wrote the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, creating the framework for a democratic republic. But they didn't actually create much democracy. In the first presidential election, only 4 percent of the people were even eligible to vote. No women allowed, no African Americans, no American Indians and no one who was landless. So, on the Fourth, it's neither the documents of democracy that we celebrate nor the authors of the documents. Rather, it's the intervening two-plus centuries of ordinary American agitators who have struggled mightily against formidable odds to democratize those documents. America's great rebellion didn't end with the British surrender at Yorktown. It was only getting started -- and the rebellion has moved through such great forces of agitation as the abolitionists and suffragists, Sojourner Truth and Frederick Douglass, the Populists and the Wobblies, Fighting Bob La Follette and Huey Long, the Square Deal and New Deal, Mother Jones and Woodie Guthrie, Rachel Carson and Ralph Nader, Martin Luther King Jr. and Cesar Chavez -- and on into today's continuing fight for economic fairness, social justice and equal opportunity for all. Without agitators battling in politics, on the job, in the marketplace, for the environment, on Wall Street, in education, for civil liberties and rights, and all across our society, democratic progress doesn't just stall, it falls back. The Powers That Be -- especially America's overarching corporate and political forces (often the same) -- give lip service to democracy, but tend toward plutocracy, autocracy and kleptocracy. They prefer (and often demand) that We the People be passive consumers of their economic and political policies. Don't rock the boat, stay in your place, go along to get along -- be quiet, they urge. Be quiet? Holy Thomas Paine! How could freedom-loving, democratic citizens shrink into quietude, especially when the Powers That Be feel so entitled to run roughshod over us? Even a dead fish can go with the flow. We've got to be livelier than that. July Fourth is a time to enjoy fireworks, flags, hotdogs, ballgames and such -- but it's also a time to remember who we are: agitators! It's not easy to stand against powerful interests. Sometimes it's lonely, and you get to feeling like the guy B.B. King sings about: "No one likes you but your momma, and she might be jiving you, too." It's not easy, but having those who dare to stand up is essential if our country is ever to achieve our ideals of fairness, justice and opportunity for all. And when the establishment derisively assails you as an agitator, remember this: The agitator is the center post in the washing machine that gets the dirt out.

    The Anti-Empire Report, Much ado about nothing?, by William Blum

    What is there about the Iranian election of June 12 that has led to it being one of the leading stories in media around the world every day since? Elections whose results are seriously challenged have taken place in most countries at one time or another in recent decades. Countless Americans believe that the presidential elections of 2000 and 2004 were stolen by the Republicans, and not just inside the voting machines and in the counting process, but prior to the actual voting as well with numerous Republican Party dirty tricks designed to keep poor and black voters off voting lists or away from polling stations. The fact that large numbers of Americans did not take to the streets day after day in protest, as in Iran, is not something we can be proud of. Perhaps if the CIA, the Agency for International Development (AID), several US government-run radio stations, and various other organizations supported by the National Endowment for Democracy (which was created to serve as a front for the CIA, literally) had been active in the United States, as they have been for years in Iran, major street protests would have taken place in the United States.

    The classic "outside agitators" can not only foment dissent through propaganda, adding to already existing dissent, but they can serve to mobilize the public to strongly demonstrate against the government. In 1953, when the CIA overthrew Iranian Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh, they paid people to agitate in front of Mossadegh's residence and elsewhere and engage in acts of violence; some pretended to be supporters of Mossadegh while engaging in anti-religious actions. And it worked, remarkably well.1 Since the end of World War II, the United States has seriously intervened in some 30 elections around the world, adding a new twist this time, twittering. The State Department asked Twitter to postpone a scheduled maintenance shutdown of its service to keep information flowing from inside Iran, helping to mobilize protesters.2 The New York Times reported: "An article published by the Web site True/Slant highlighted some of the biggest errors on Twitter that were quickly repeated and amplified by bloggers: that three million protested in Tehran last weekend (more like a few hundred thousand); that the opposition candidate Mir Hussein Mousavi was under house arrest (he was being watched); that the president of the election monitoring committee declared the election invalid last Saturday (not so)." 3

    In recent years, the United States has been patrolling the waters surrounding Iran with warships, halting Iranian ships to check for arms shipments to Hamas or for other illegal reasons, financing and "educating" Iranian dissidents, using Iranian groups to carry out terrorist attacks inside Iran, kidnaping Iranian diplomats in Iraq, kidnaping Iranian military personnel in Iran and taking them to Iraq, continually spying and recruiting within Iran, manipulating Iran's currency and international financial transactions, and imposing various economic and political sanctions against the country.4

    "I've made it clear that the United States respects the sovereignty of the Islamic Republic of Iran, and is not at all interfering in Iran's affairs," said US President Barack Obama with a straight face on June 23. "Some in the Iranian government [have been] accusing the United States and others outside of Iran of instigating protests over the elections. These accusations are patently false and absurd."5

    "Never believe anything until it's officially denied," British writer Claud Cockburn famously said.

    In his world-prominent speech to the Middle East on June 4, Obama mentioned that "In the middle of the Cold War, the United States played a role in the overthrow of a democratically elected Iranian government." So we have the president of the United States admitting to a previous overthrow of the Iranian government while the United States is in the very midst of trying to overthrow the current Iranian government. This will serve as the best example of hypocrisy that's come along in quite a while.

    So why the big international fuss over the Iranian election and street protests? There's only one answer. The obvious one. The announced winner, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is a Washington ODE, an Officially Designated Enemy, for not sufficiently respecting the Empire and its Israeli partner-in-crime; indeed, Ahmadinejad is one of the most outspoken critics of US foreign policy in the world.

    So ingrained is this ODE response built into Washington's world view that it appears to matter not at all that Mousavi, Ahmadinejad's main opponent in the election and very much supported by the protesters, while prime minister 1981-89, bore large responsibility for the attacks on the US embassy and military barracks in Beirut in 1983, which took the lives of more than 200 Americans, and the 1988 truck bombing of a US Navy installation in Naples, Italy, that killed five persons. Remarkably, a search of US newspaper and broadcast sources shows no mention of this during the current protests.6 However, the Washington Post saw fit to run a story on June 27 that declared: "the authoritarian governments of China, Cuba and Burma have been selectively censoring the news this month of Iranian crowds braving government militias on the streets of Tehran to demand democratic reforms."

    Can it be that no one in the Obama administration knows of Mousavi's background? And do none of them know about the violent government repression on June 5 in Peru of the peaceful protests organized in response to the US-Peru Free Trade Agreement? A massacre that took the lives of between 20 and 25 indigenous people in the Amazon and wounded another 100.7 The Obama administration was silent on the Peruvian massacre because the Peruvian president, Alan Garcia, is not an ODE.

    And neither is Mousavi, despite his anti-American terrorist deeds, because he's opposed to Ahmadinejad, who competes with Hugo Chavez to be Washington's Number One ODE. Time magazine calls Mousavi a "moderate", and goes on to add: "It has to be assumed that the Iranian presidential election was rigged," offering as much evidence as the Iranian protestors; i.e., none at all.8 It cannot of course be proven that the Iranian election was totally honest, but the arguments given to support the charge of fraud are not very impressive, such as the much-repeated fact that the results were announced very soon after the polls closed. For decades in various countries election results have been condemned for being withheld for many hours or days. Some kind of dishonesty must be going on behind the scenes during the long delay it was argued. So now we're asked to believe that some kind of dishonesty must be going on because the results were released so quickly. It should be noted that the ballots listed only one electoral contest, with but four candidates.

    Phil Wilayto, American peace activist and author of a book on Iran, has observed:

    Ahmadinejad, himself born into rural poverty, clearly has the support of the poorer classes, especially in the countryside, where nearly half the population lives. Why? In part because he pays attention to them, makes sure they receive some benefits from the government and treats them and their religious views and traditions with respect. Mousavi, on the other hand, the son of an urban merchant, clearly appeals more to the urban middle classes, especially the college-educated youth. This being so, why would anyone be surprised that Ahmadinejad carried the vote by a clear majority? Are there now more yuppies in Iran than poor people?9

    All of which is of course not to say that Iran is not a relatively repressive society on social and religious issues, and it's this underlying reality which likely feeds much of the protest; indeed, many of the protesters may not even have strong views about the election per se, particularly since both Ahmadinejad and Mousavi are members of the establishment, neither is any threat to the Islamic theocracy, and the election can be seen as the kind of power struggle you find in virtually every country. But that is not the issue I'm concerned with here. The issue is Washington's long-standing goal of regime change. If the exact same electoral outcome had taken place in a country that is an ally of the United States, how much of all the accusatory news coverage and speeches would have taken place? In fact, the exact same thing did happen in a country that is an ally of the United States, three years ago when Felipe Calderon appeared to have stolen the presidential election in Mexico and there were daily large protests for more than two months; but the American and international condemnation was virtually non-existent compared to what we see today in regard to Iran.

    Iranian leaders undertook a recount of a random ten per cent of ballots and recertified Ahmadinejad as the winner. How honest the recount was I have no idea, but it's more than Americans got in 2000 and 2004.

    By what standard shall we judge Barack Obama?

    Many of my readers have been upset with me for my criticisms of President Obama's policies. Following my last two reports, more than a dozen have asked to be removed from my mailing list. But if you share my view that the numerous atrocities US foreign policy is responsible for constitute the greatest threat to world peace, prosperity and happiness, then I think you have to want leaders who are unambiguously opposed to America's military adventures, because those interventions are unambiguously harmful. There's nothing good to be said about dropping powerful bombs on crowds of innocent people, invading their land, overthrowing their government, occupying the country, breaking down the doors of the citizens, killing the father, raping the mother, traumatizing the children, torturing those opposed to all this ... Barack Obama has no problem with this, if we judge him by his policies and not his rhetoric.

    And neither does Al Franken, who's about to become a Democratic Senator from Minnesota. The former Saturday Night Live comedian would like you to believe that he’s been against the war in Iraq since it began, but he's gone to Iraq four times to entertain the troops. Does that make sense? Why does the military bring entertainers to soldiers? To lift the soldiers' spirits. Why does the military want to lift the soldiers’ spirits? A happier soldier does his job better. And what’s the soldier’s job? All the charming things listed above. Doesn't Franken know what these guys do? He criticized the Bush administration because they “failed to send enough troops to do the job right.”10 What “job” did the man think the troops were sent to do that had not been performed to his standards because of lack of manpower? Did he want them to be more efficient at killing Iraqis who resisted the occupation?

    Franken has been lifting soldiers' spirits for a long time. This past March he was honored by the United Service Organization (USO) for his ten years of entertaining troops abroad. That includes Kosovo in 1999, as imperialist an occupation as you'll want to see. He called his USO experience "one of the best things I've ever done."11 Franken has also spoken at West Point, encouraging the next generation of imperialist warriors. Is this a man to challenge the militarization of America at home and abroad? No more so than Obama.

    Tom Hayden wrote this about Franken in 2005 when Franken had a regular program on the Air America radio network:

    Is anyone else disappointed with Al Franken's daily defense of the continued war in Iraq? Not Bush's version of the war, because that would undermine Air America's laudable purpose of rallying an anti-Bush audience. But, well, Kerry's version of the war, one that can be better managed and won, somehow with better body armor and fewer torture cells. This morning Franken was endorsing Sen. Joe Biden's proposal to send 5,000 NATO troops to close the Syrian-Iraq border, bring in foreign trainers for the Iraqi officer corps, and put Iraqis to work cleaning up the destruction of our invasion. ... Now that Bush has manipulated us into the invasion, Franken thinks we have no choice but to ... stay until we crush the insurgents. It's a humanitarian excuse for open-ended American occupation. And it's shared widely by the professional political and pundit class who think of themselves as the conscience of the American establishment and the leadership of the Democratic Party.12

    I know, I know, I'm taking away all your heroes. But such people shouldn't be your heroes. You can learn to see through the liberal, Democratic Party apologists for the empire. Only a week ago, documents released by the Nixon Library in California revealed that five days before US and South Vietnamese troops made their surprise invasion of Cambodia on April 29, 1970 — which elicited widespread, angry protests in the US, resulting in the fatal shootings by the National Guard of students at Kent State University in Ohio — President Richard Nixon got approval for the invasion from the top Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee, Sen. John Stennis of Mississippi. Stennis told the president: "I will be with you. ... I commend you for what you are doing."13

    Long live the Cold War

    President Manuel Zelaya of Honduras was overthrown in a military coup June 28 because he was about to conduct a non-binding survey of the population, asking the question: "Do you agree that, during the general elections of November 2009 there should be a fourth ballot to decide whether to hold a Constituent National Assembly that will approve a new political constitution?" One of the issues that Zelaya hoped a new constitution would deal with is the limiting of the presidency to one four-year term. He also expressed the need for other constitutional changes to make it possible for him to carry out policies to improve the life of the poor; in countries like Honduras, the law is not generally crafted for that end.

    At this writing it's not clear how matters will turn out in Honduras, but the following should be noted: the United States, by its own admission, was fully aware for weeks of the Honduran military's plan to overthrow Zelaya. Washington says it tried its best to change the mind of the plotters. It's difficult to believe that this proved impossible. During the Cold War it was said, with much justification, that the United States could discourage a coup in Latin America with "a frown". The Honduran and American military establishments have long been on very fraternal terms. And it must be asked: In what way and to what extent did the United States warn Zelaya of the impending coup? And what protection did it offer him? The response to the coup from the Obama administration can be described with adjectives such as lukewarm, proper but belated, and mixed. It is not unthinkable that the United States gave the military plotters the go-ahead, telling them to keep the traditional "golpe" bloodiness to a minimum. Zelaya was elected to office as the candidate of a conservative party; he then, surprisingly, moved to the left and became a strong critic of a number of Washington policies, and an ally of Hugo Chavez of Venezuela and Evo Morales of Bolivia, both of whom the Bush administration tried to overthrow and assassinate.

    Following the coup, National Public Radio (NPR) showed once again why progressives refer to it as National Pentagon Radio. The station's leading news anchor, Robert Siegel, interviewed Johanna Mendelson Forman, of the conservative think tank, Center for Strategic and International Studies:

    Siegel: "There hasn't been a coup in Latin America for quite a while."

    Forman: "I think the last one was in 1983"

    Siegel did not correct her.14

    This is ignorance of considerable degree. There was a coup in Venezuela in 2002 that briefly overthrew Hugo Chavez, a coup in Haiti in 2004 that permanently overthrew Jean-Bertrand Aristide, and a coup in Panama in 1989 that permanently overthrew Manuel Noriega. Is it because the US was closely involved in all three coups that they have been thrown down the Orwellian Memory Hole?


    1. William Blum, Killing Hope, chapter 9
    2. Associated Press, June 16, 2009
    3. New York Times, June 21, 2009
    4. See Seymour Hersh, New Yorker magazine, June 29, 2008; ABC News, May 22, 2007; and Paul Craig Roberts in CounterPunch, June 19-21, 2009 for descriptions of some of these and other anti-Iran covert activities.
    5. White House press conference, June 23, 2009
    6. The only mention is by Jeff Stein in "CQ Politics" [Congressional Quarterly], online, June 22, 2009, "according to former CIA and military officials".
    7. Center for International Policy (Washington, DC) report, June 16, 2009
    8. Time magazine, June 29, 2009, p.26
    9., June 14, 2009; Wilayto is the author of "In Defense of Iran: Notes from a U.S. Peace Delegation's Journey through the Islamic Republic"
    10. Washington Post, February 16, 2004
    11. Star Tribune (Minneapolis), March 26, 2009
    12. Huffington Post, sometime in June 2005, but it may no longer be there.
    13. Washington Post, June 30, 2009
    14. NPR, All Things Considered, June 29, 2009

    Friday, July 03, 2009

    A Dream, by William Blake

    * Once a dream did weave a shade O'er my angel-guarded bed, That an emmet lost its way Where on grass methought I lay. Troubled, wildered, and forlorn, Dark, benighted, travel-worn, Over many a tangle spray, All heart-broke, I heard her say: 'Oh my children! do they cry, Do they hear their father sigh? Now they look abroad to see, Now return and weep for me.' Pitying, I dropped a tear: But I saw a glow-worm near, Who replied, 'What wailing wight Calls the watchman of the night? 'I am set to light the ground, While the beetle goes his round: Follow now the beetle's hum; Little wanderer, hie thee home!' *

    Thursday, July 02, 2009

    The Secret Sacred Use of the Belly Button, by Joanna Harcourt-Smith

    Love cannot be imprisoned. --Timothy Leary, 1969

    I always thought my belly button was ugly, it sinks in deep. I have the type of belly button that can swallow up enormous amount of lint. I wanted a belly button that was just a slight scar on my tummy, not a belly button you can sink your finger in. Well my belly button was to come in handy during the time I visited Timothy Leary in prison. He was incarcerated in the bowels Folsom Prison near Sacramento. His cell was below ground in the section reserved for convicted murderers.

    Timothy Leary was not a murderer; he had been sentenced to five to ten years for possession of 00.1 grammes of marijuana, to be precise, a roach found in the ashtray of his car. The prison officials were having a field day; they placed Timothy Leary in a cell next to Charles Manson the mastermind behind the Sharon Tate murders.

    During my three and a half years visiting Timothy in 23 prisons and jails (he was constantly moved so as to make his prison time harder and more traumatic for both of us), I was to learn that the bureau of prison is staffed with people who spend their time figuring out ways to humiliate prisoners and their visitors.

    Almost every time I visited TL in prison, I was stripped and searched, cavities and all, singled out because I was guilty of being in love with "The most dangerous man in America," the one who, according to Richard Nixon, had killed more people than the Vietnam War.

    One day while we were exchanging a goodbye kiss at the end of the visit. Timothy whispered in my ear "Bring me some acid."

    On the drive back to San Francisco, in the evening after the visit, I began to wonder how I could fulfill his wish without getting caught.

    When I woke up the next morning, a fresh idea entered my mind, my belly button was the ideal hiding place for tiny tabs of transparent "Clear Light" acid.

    In those days I had a friend who was an acid chemist; each time I saw him he would give me small transparent vials that contained each a thousand tabs of "Clear Light." I carried one of those vials in my purse at all times. Everywhere I went I seeded the L.S.D with people who wanted to try the experience. Once when I was at the bank I seeded the cashier. The following week my favorite bank employee was gone, I imagined she had actually "turned on, tuned in and dropped out" from her boring bank job. I thought of her hanging out in the Height Ashbury, with flowers in her hair, listening to the Jefferson Airplane.

    The following week I dressed for the visit, a long black skirt and a red tee shirt. The colors of Tantra, the ancient Indian practice of sexual union.

    I carefully placed several peaces of transparent film soaked in Lysergic Acid inside my belly button. This, I thought with a feeling of defiance, is a cavity they will not search.

    On the way to Folsom from San Francisco, just as we were driving through the city of Vacaville, I started to feel a slight change of perception. I realized some of the substance in my belly button, aided by pearls of sweat, had seeped through my skin and into my system. The California sky had turned deep blue, the color of the Lapis Lazuli stone. The friend who was driving me knew nothing of my altered state but I now perceived his feelings as clearly as I felt my own. As we passed huge fields of alfalfa, I saw the grass like hair upon the land, and this made me think of my mother. When she did not like my hair color she said I had green hair.

    Folsom prison appeared to me like a medieval French dungeon where my prince was held under lock and chain. I wondered how the admission and search would go. Would my amplified fear cause me to do something that would threaten my access to the prison?

    Everything went smoothly, that day they did not even bother to strip-search me. I walked down the yard with the other visitors. I felt exhilarated, I was smuggling dangerous drugs into their maximum-security prison. This was a victory over the cruel system that kept my lover away from me. I heard the clunk of heavy metal doors and Timothy appeared dressed in an orange jumpsuit and Adidas shoes. He still had that spring in his in his step that spoke volumes about his indomitable spirit.

    We were allowed a hug and a kiss at the beginning of the visit. I had moved two tabs of acid from my navel to my mouth; I had already taken my dose so I gently passed them from my tongue to his. Our eyes met in a deep look of complicity. A strong feeling of anxiety flashed through me. This must be the worst "set and setting" for an acid trip anyone could chose. Love, I felt, would work it's exquisite magic.

    " My darling wife," Timothy said. I smiled; this man was everything to me. A few months before, I had anchored my whole existence into him. Leaving my old life in Europe dangling in the distance. The visiting room at Folsom was our world, our bubble of intimacy. We sat together at a small table, and for four hours we imagined we were at a sidewalk café sipping champagne cocktails in the sunshine. The other prisoners, their wives and children, acted like normal families on a Sunday outing. The guards watched closely, making sure there was no illegal touching during the visit.

    Timothy's eyes met mine with a great look of tenderness. I could feel he loved me. Even in this dangerous atmosphere I felt protected by his presence. As the full force of the acid began to flood my brain, I cried softly, " I yearn for you, I long for you, get out of here, I need you." Timothy's eyes where soft but the gray of his irises was the color of steel. "Soon, soon I will be with you, we will make a baby together and be lovers forever."

    Underneath the table our feet where touching, sometimes the guards turned a blind eye to these games. I felt the passion in his foot climb up my skirt and ravish me as if we where lying in a luscious bed together. An orgasm shook my body, my eyes narrowed with pleasure, like those of a cat purring with ecstasy. Tim's eyes were locked into mine. We were both travelling on a moonbeam shining on a silver spider's web. There was no more prison, no more freedom to be given or taken away. We were inside each other outside of time and space. Tim whispered, "Come into me deeper, deeper."

    I let myself slide into the endless abyss of his being as he opened his heart to me like no one had done before. I was a newborn baby lost in the gaze of the mother, undifferentiated and totally blissful. I could not talk but I could love beyond love, beyond any sense of separation. Timothy guided us on this extraordinary escape from prison, like Houdini breaking away from his chains, he was free and we were together beyond the restraints of human laws.

    I heard the guard announce the end of the visit "Five minutes before termination."

    Finally we could embrace each other. Timothy said "We will be together again next week, I will write you every day." We held each other, I felt his warm breath on my lips, his body was strong from the hours of yoga he practiced in his cell. Every atom of my body docked onto his .

    Then he skipped out the door and into the belly of the dungeon.

    I felt like I was waking from a dream, the story of the last few hours disappearing into a fog inside my brain. I walked towards the gate of the prison sad and elated at the same time.

    Image by "mangu" wanders by, courtesy of Creative Commons license.

    Wednesday, July 01, 2009

    Depeche Mode - Goodnight Lovers

    mp3 * Here, somewhere in the heart of me There is still a part of me That cares And I'll, I'll still take the best you've got Even though I'm sure it's not The best for me When you're born a lover You're born to suffer Like all soul sisters And soul brothers I, I can see the danger signs They only help to underline Your beauty I'm not looking for an easy ride True happiness cannot be tried So easily When you're born a lover You're born to suffer Like all soul sisters And soul brothers Like all soul sisters And soul brothers You can take your time I'll be waiting in line You don't even have to give me The time of day When you're born a lover You're born to suffer Like all soul sisters And soul brothers Like all soul sisters And soul brothers ssssssshhhhhhhhhhhhhhh *

    Coup Coup Coup Joob

    What’s Behind the Honduras Coup? Tracing Zelaya’s Trajectory

    ... NIKOLAS KOZLOFF:....And so, I think if you were just reading the reports in the mainstream media, you might get the impression that this coup is just about term limits in Honduras and it’s just a conflict over whether Zelaya will be able to extend his constitutional mandate of one four-year term. And my point is that there is an ideological component to this coup. You know, what did the coup plotters do? When they came into power, they roughed up the Venezuelan ambassador. They threatened and harassed a journalist working for Telesur, which is a satellite news network that’s run by Uruguay, Argentina, Cuba and Venezuela. So there’s a definite ideological component to this. And Roberto Micheletti, the new president, had actually opposed many of this—of foreign policy reorientation that Zelaya had favored in recent years.

    JUAN GONZALEZ: Didn’t he also, Zelaya, take other stands that were diametrically opposed to US policy? For instance, he began coming out questioning whether the drug war was a legitimate war and should—there should be a possible legalization of drugs. And also, didn’t he raise the minimum wage substantially in a country where there’s a lot of free trade zones and people working in factories for foreign companies?

    NIKOLAS KOZLOFF: Well, right. I mean, the first salvo against the Honduran elite was his moves to raise the minimum wage by 60 percent. And you’re right. I mean, this is a country where you have these maquiladora assembly plants, and the Honduran elite were, to say the least, displeased by the moves.

    And then, after that, he started taking some very controversial foreign policy initiatives, probably most controversially, as you point out, criticizing the US war on drugs. And that’s not surprising, given that in recent years drug violence has exacted a heavy toll in Honduran society. You have these drug gangs that carry out gruesome attacks, beheadings, eye gougings, very gruesome kinds of tactics. And so, Zelaya actually called for the legalization in order to lessen the violence in Honduras. And then the US ambassador, actually the outgoing US ambassador, Charles Ford, remarked as he was leaving Honduras that, well, actually, remittances of Hondurans to Honduras are mostly drug-related, as I think that was a sort of punishment against Zelaya for taking unpopular foreign policy initiatives. And then, actually, that just prompted Zelaya to shoot back that, you know, the US is responsible for a lot of the drug violence in Central America.

    AMY GOODMAN: Finally, Nik, the letter that President Zelaya wrote to President Obama.

    NIKOLAS KOZLOFF: Well, I think it’s a very audacious move for the leader of a small Central American nation to write Obama personally. And this was in December of 2008, right after the election, even prior to the inauguration. And not only did he criticize US foreign policy in this letter, but what I think is really interesting is that he made it public, because he was upset by some of the remarks that the former US ambassador had made. And in his letter, he criticized the interventionist policies of the US ambassador. ...

    Excerpted from today's Democracy Now...

    Churchill in court to ask to teach again at CU

    Ward Churchill is interviewed in HBO's "Shouting Fire: Stories from the Edge of Free Speech." (Denver Post file photo )
    A University of Colorado professor trying to get his job back says he sued the school over academic freedom and should be reinstated.

    Ward Churchill is in a Denver court arguing for his job. He was fired after writing an essay in which he likened Sept. 11 victims to a Nazi.

    A jury has already sided with Churchill and said the university wrongly fired him after the incendiary essay. But that lawsuit did not settle whether Churchill gets his job back. The University of Colorado is contesting his return, and a judge will decide whether Churchill may resume teaching at the university. Churchill told the judge that he did not sue CU for money, but to stand up for academic freedom.

    A Look at the Venezuelan Healthcare System

    [Thanks to btchakir for this link]


    By Caitlin McNulty, Venezuela Analysis

    Many in the United States fear that people would abuse a free health care system, causing overcrowding and a compromised level of care. Others claim that a single payer system would limit the freedoms of both doctor and patient. These claims, propagated by the corporate media in the United States, are a hollow attempt to keep those in the US from organizing to demand single payer health care.

    The right to health care is guaranteed in the Venezuelan Constitution, which was written and ratified by the people in 1999. Through implementing a state-funded social program called Barrio Adentro, or inside the barrio, free comprehensive health care is available to all Venezuelans. Beginning in June 2003 through a trade pact with Cuba, Venezuela began to bring Cuban doctors, medical technology, and medications into rural and urban communities free of charge in exchange for low-cost oil. The 1.5 million dollar per year program expanded to provide a broad network of small neighborhood clinics, larger regional clinics, and hospitals which aim to serve the entire Venezuelan population. (1) Chavez has referred to this new health care system as the “democratization of health care” stating that “health care has become a fundamental social right and the state will assume the principal role in the construction of a participatory system for national public health.” (2) In Venezuela, not only is health care a right; it is recognized as essential for true participatory democracy.

    Some of what characterizes this movement towards health care for all includes popular participation, preventative medicine, and evaluation of community health issues. Western medicine typically operates in a top-down fashion. Doctors treat symptoms, and often fail to evaluate the larger picture of community health issues or teach prevention. (3) In a private for-profit system, there is little incentive to prevent costly illnesses. In Venezuela, however, Barrio Adentro began constructing clinics within neighborhoods where many had never been to a doctor. Through this program, a community can organize to receive funding to build a clinic and bring in doctors. The community is responsible for creating health committees, the members of which go door to door to assess the specific health issues of their community. Doctors who live in the communities also make house calls. (4) People participate in the process of serving the health needs of the entire population.

    The extensive health program is also being used to train a new generation of Venezuelan doctors. The training program takes place within the clinic system itself and relies heavily on experiential learning. The program seeks to build a new relationship between doctor and patient based on the values of service, solidarity and compassion. Doctors participating in the training program are coming from the communities they are learning in and serving, building on their intimate knowledge of the communities to provide truly compassionate and personalized care. Using popular forums, medical professionals are able to respond to the needs of the community and offer education, treatment and consultation addressing unique public health issues.(6)

    Although the system began by focusing exclusively on preventative health, it has expanded to include emergency health services, mental health services, surgeries, cancer treatment, dental care, access to optometrists as well as free glasses and contact lenses, support systems for those with disabilities and their families, as well as access to a large variety of medical specialists. They have succeeded in taking an under funded, corrupt public health care system and changing not only the quality and accessibility but also the mentality of those working there. Instead of a for-profit industry systematically denying access to large sectors of the population, health care in Venezuela is seen as a basic human right. No one is turned away, and no one is denied care. In Venezuela, they treat whole person, not simply their illness, and money stays where it belongs- outside of the health care system.(7)

    During my time in Venezuela, I developed a cough that went on for three weeks and progressively worsened. Finally, after I had become incredibly congested and developed a fever, I decided to attend a Barrio Adentro clinic. The closest one available was a Barrio Adentro II Centro de Diagonostico Integral (CDI) and I headed in without my medical records or calling to make an appointment. Immediately, I was ushered into a small room where Carmen, a friendly Cuban doctor, began questioning me about my symptoms. She listened to my lungs and walked me over to another examination room where, again without waiting, I had x-rays taken. Afterwards, the technician walked me to a chair and apologized profusely that I had to wait for the x-rays to be developed, promising that it would take no more than five minutes. Sure enough, five minutes later he returned with both x-rays developed. Carmen studied the x-rays and informed me that I had pneumonia, showing me the telltale shadows. She sent me away with my x-rays, three medications to treat my pneumonia, congestion, and fever, and made me promise to come back if my conditioned failed to improve or worsened within three days.

    I walked out of the clinic with a diagnosis and treatment within twenty-five minutes of entering, without paying a dime. There was no wait, no paperwork, and no questions about my ability to pay, my nationality, or whether, as a foreigner, I was entitled to free comprehensive health care. There was no monetary value connected with my physical well-being; the care I received was not contingent upon my ability to pay. I was treated with dignity, respect, and compassion, my illness was cured and I was able to continue with my journey in Venezuela.

    This past year, a family friend was not so lucky. At the age of 56, she was going back to school and was uninsured. She came down with what she thought was a severe case of the flu, and as her condition worsened she decided not to see a doctor because of the cost. She died at home in bed, losing her life to a system that did not respect her basic human right to survive. Her death is not an isolated incident. Over 18,000 United States residents die every year because of their lack of prohibitively expensive health insurance. The United States has the distinct honor of being the “only wealthy industrialized nation that does not ensure that all citizens have coverage”.(8) Instead, we have commodified the public health and well being of those live in the US, leaving them on their own to obtain insurance. Those whose jobs do not provide insurance, can’t get enough hours to qualify for health care coverage through their workplace, are unemployed, or have “previously existing conditions” that exclude them from coverage are forced to choose between the potentially fatal decision of refusing medical care and accumulating medical bills that trap them in an inescapable cycle of debt. And sometimes, that decision is made for them. Doctors often ask that dreaded question; “do you have insurance?” before scheduling critical tests, procedures, or treatments. When the answer is no, treatments that were deemed necessary before are suddenly canceled as the ability to pay becomes more important than the patient’s health.(9)

    It is estimated that there are over fifty million United States residents currently living without health insurance, a number that will skyrocket as unemployment rates increase and people lose their work-based health care coverage in this time of international financial crisis.(10) Already this year, 7.5 million people have lost work-related coverage. Budget cuts for the state of Washington this year will remove over forty thousand people from Washington Basic Health, a subsidized program which already has a waiting list of seventeen thousand people.(11) As I returned to the US from Venezuela, I was faced with the realization that as a society, the United States places a monetary value on life. That we make life and death judgments based on an individual’s ability to pay. And that someone with the same condition I had recently recovered from had died because, according to our system, her life wasn’t insured.

    Many in the United States fear that people would abuse a free health care system, causing overcrowding and a compromised level of care. Others claim that a single payer system would limit the freedoms of both doctor and patient. These claims, propagated by the corporate media in the United States, are a hollow attempt to keep those in the US from organizing to demand single payer health care. Primary care and preventative medicine are seen as the first steps towards sustainable universal health care, keeping people out of costly hospital stays, tests, and treatments down the road. Socializing the costs of medicine keeps costs low by preventing expensive treatments and health problems. It is difficult to understand how much quality, free health care means until you find yourself in a position of vulnerability and need. I felt a sense of security traveling in Venezuela that I do not feel in the United States; in Venezuela, there is a safety net ready to catch you when you fall. People in the US must ask themselves, as a country, where our values lie and how we have not only let people slip through the cracks but worked to systematically exclude them. Do we believe that insurance corporations and the medical industrial complex should be profiting from denying care and keeping sick people from receiving treatment? Or do we believe that care should be separate from an individual’s ability to pay? As a nation, we must embrace our humanity and value life over profits.


    1 Wilpert, Gregory. Changing Venezuela The History and Policies of the Chavez Government. New York: Verso, 2006.

    2 “Mision Barrio Adentro.” Mision Barrio Adentro. 02 June 2009 .

    3 Wilpert, Gregory. Changing Venezuela The History and Policies of the Chavez Government. New York: Verso, 2006.

    4 “Mision Barrio Adentro.” Mision Barrio Adentro. 02 June 2009 .

    6 “Mision Barrio Adentro.” Mision Barrio Adentro. 02 June 2009 .

    7 ibid

    8 “Insuring America’s Health: Principles and Recommendations -.” Institute of Medicine. 02 June 2009 .


    10 “Census Revises Estimates of the Number of Uninsured People – Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.” Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. 02 June 2009 .


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